Thursday, October 31, 2002

Media Lax Media

They get away with it because it's easier to hide in the shadows of a statehouse than it is in Washington, D.C., because, in general, more activity occurs below the public's radar screen in the states.

Weak Limb of the Fourth Estate

Literature World Bank Literature

Amitava Kumar writes about how "World Literature" should be referred to as "World Bank Literature" and about the influence globalization is having on writers.

When my students and I examine the conditions of work for teachers elsewhere, especially a place like India whose literature we are prepared to consume and where people’s salaries and services have been deeply affected by the World Bank and the IMF—when we do that, are we reading 'World Literature' as 'World Bank Literature?'

Who would link a riot in a suburb of Lyon to a political decision of 1970? Crimes go unpunished because people forget. All the critical forces in society need to insist on the inclusion of social costs of economic decisions in economic calculations.

· Social Costs [McLiterature]
People Politics People show political maturity in desire to vote for their president
Oh, how we shall miss Vaclav Havel. If not only for what he is, then perhaps more intensely for what he is not. He is not a president chosen by petty political designs or for his own thirst for power and fame. Whatever mistakes he may have made during this past decade (and any human being surely must have made several), he has been a symbol of the Czech consciousness and a voice of reason for the nation. He has provided the very ideal of the European figurehead presidency.

· Architect of Charter 77 [Prague Post]

Media Investigative journalism attacked

THE shots fired into the house of a Queensland journalist last week have disturbed even our most renowned investigative reporters, seasoned though they are in threats to their own wellbeing.

The only Australian journalist believed to have been murdered because of her work was heiress Juanita Nielsen, who was publishing a small paper campaigning against development in Sydney's Kings Cross when she vanished in 1975.

Chris Masters has also exposed a crook or three in almost 20 years of digging with the ABC's Four Corners. Over the years people have dumped gravel in his driveway, called fire engines to his house, forged his signature on letters and rung to tell him they know where his kids go to school, among other pleasantries.

Like Bob Bottom, Masters's gut response is that "you can't give in to this kind of intimidation". Ross Coulthart of Nine's Sunday program has also spent time under police protection, as Hedley Thomas and his family are now.

Literarure Write Stuff

· Good News for New Writers [Yahoo]

Lifestyle Self-expression, freedom

You can look original. You can dress to suit yourself. It's easier for women to be fashionable now without having to conform to certain dictates. It's been coming for a long time, mainly because of the relaxed working environment we have now. A lot of women are working for themselves now, so we've seen a shift from corporate dressing to women wearing jeans and whatever the hell else they like because they work in their own offices.

· Boho Bandwagon [My Morning Read]

Ethics When the principle watches you, dare to stare back

Writer Calvin Trillin has a column of 'Unpublished letters to the ethicist':

My husband, who is an anti-abortion activist, sincerely believes that life begins at conception. Recently, he learned that he was conceived while his parents were on vacation in Jamaica, and he has come to the conclusion that he is therefore a Jamaican and is in this country illegally. He is now talking about turning himself in and having himself deported. Am I married to a man of principle or a cuckoo bird?

· Jamaican Alien [New York]
Politics Corruption Seems Ingrained

As graft goes, New Jersey's latest cases are small and old-fashioned: a mayor keeps $50,000 in bribes around the house, most in the pocket of an old suit in his attic. Another mayor has a contractor install a waterfall in his backyard. A county executive takes an envelope full of bills in a hotel room. Big or small, old style or new, North Jersey or South, the game goes on. Most recently, two powerful county executives, one Democrat and one Republican, have been brought down.

Political Courage

Sometimes it seems as if Americans have forgotten what courage means. Here's a hint: talking tough doesn't make you a hero; you have to take personal risks. And I'm not just talking about physical risks — though it's striking how few of our biggest flag wavers have ever put themselves in harm's way. What we should demand of our representatives in Washington is the willingness to take political risks — to make a stand on principle, even if it means taking on powerful interest groups.

A Guy Who Made Us Believe in Politics and Politicians

In this time of immeasurable grief I remember Paul Wellstone -- teacher, mentor, organizer, writer, senator -- but most of all friend. Paul was one of those rare individuals who despite moving in the circles of power and influence, never forgot where he came from, who he was or the people he represented.

This Country, This System, This Election: All Fixable, and It's Up to You

Politics is not a picture on a wall or a television sitcom you can decide you don't much care for. Is the person who prescribes your eyeglasses qualified to do so? How deep will you be buried when you die? What textbooks are your children learning from at school? What will happen if you become seriously ill? Is the meat you're eating tainted? Will you be able to afford to go to college or to send your kids? Would you like a vacation? Expect to retire before you die? Can you find a job? Drive a car? Afford insurance? Is your credit card company or your banker or your broker ripping you off? It's all politics, Bubba. You don't get to opt out for lack of interest. Here's the good news: All of this can actually be fixed. By me, you, us -- no kidding, no bull. Nothing you can do about it? Just one person? As an American at this time, you have more political power than 99 percent of all the people who have ever lived on earth. And should you round up four friends who don't usually vote, you'll have four times that much political power. Why throw that away?

Literature Honing Words

Mr. Delbanco delights in horrifying his students by urging them to imitate rather than innovate ... ‘I was a guy no one would take a chance on," said Elwood Reid, a former Michigan football player who was the largest person at the tribute dinner and is also a novelist and short-story writer. "I was rejected from 27 straight writing programs. Nick met me, looked me in the eye and took me. He gave me confidence when I had no confidence. He's also very blunt and honest. He has no problem tossing your manuscript back at you and saying, `This stinks.' He would dismantle me and then take me into his office and tell me I could be a writer.’

A novel which will make you believe in God?

Yann Martel, a Canadian writer, won the prestigious Man Booker Prize in London last week for writing this tale. In Life of Pi, we have chosen an audacious book in which inventiveness explores belief. It is, as the author says, 'a novel which will make you believe in God’ or ask yourself why you don't.

Tartt Story.

People remember where they were when they read The Secret History, Tartt's 1992 debut, mega-successful (multimillion sales, 23 languages, a combination of Dostoyevsky, Euripides, Easton Ellis and Waugh, according to the New York Times) novel. They remember who recommended it to them, and who they were going out with at the time, and how they held their breath on the bus in to work, finished chapters walking down the street. It was only a thriller, and you knew who did it from the first page. But it was gripping and clever and fantastically erudite, and people became a little obsessed. Tartt's persona fed this obsession: her name (glamorous), her size (pocket), her answerphone message (TS Eliot reading), her fascinating pronouncements ("My life is like Candide" or "I'm the exact same size as Lolita" ["ninety pounds is all she weighs/with a height of sixty inches"]), her chaste aura of another era ("Je ne vais jamais me marier," she once said, winsomely).

Life in Heavy Metal

Several reviewers reacted to the collection with outrage. They were offended that the male characters acted so poorly. There’s not much I can do about this. Most people are deeply flawed. They hurt other people. They hurt themselves. They also achieve moments of grace and forgiveness.

Political Fiction Pretend you're the political adviser to the NSW Labor Party

· Put your best spin forward [Margo Kingston]

Political Humour A Short Story About Dangerous Bikes

· Parliamentary Exchange [Crikey]

Media Fact Alan, you are, as we say in the trade, a liar. Good night.

· Put your best spin backward [Media Watch]

The Australian Broadcasting Authority is to examine allegations

· Sponsorship is dangerous [ABC WorldToday]

Scientific Fact Dangerous Research

· Making Light of Science [Independent]

Dissappearing Family Childless Couples

· Populate or Perish into a definition of a Smart State [Australian]

Internet Ratmailing versus blogging

The thing I hate about chat rooms is how you seem to get these constant eruptions of abuse. It's like being a rat in one of those horrible experiments which prove that rats can't live like that. Every so often fights break out and with every fight that's fought more fur falls out, more immune system damage is suffered, more rats abandon procreation as a life goal, and each rat is one fight nearer to just laying down and dying of a broken heart at the sheer horribleness of it all.

Blogging often gets frisky, especially in the comments sections (which seem to me to be a lot like the nicest of the chatrooms) but basically, I'm convinced, blogging is not like that.

Wednesday, October 30, 2002

Politics Stunning Political Snub

The White House, in a stunning snub of the late Senator Paul Wellstone and the people of Minnesota, has announced that George W. Bush will skip Wellstone's funeral.

Compare and contrast:
George W.Bush Snubs Senator Paul Wellstone
President Bill Clinton Honors Senator John Chafee

Campaign Gifts

Alan Judd of the Atlanta Journal-Constitution has a great story about how some companies avoid Georgia's law limiting gifts to state officials. People connected to such companies have given more than $800,000 since last year to the campaigns of state officials who regulate their industries. The gifts are legal only because they come from people, not the corporations themselves.

Working around the Clock

Sibel Edmonds, hired as a translator of Turkish and other Middle Eastern languages after Sept. 11, has filed a whistleblower lawsuit against the FBI, which she claims fired her for bringing the corruption to light. ‘Let the documents pile up so we can show it and say that we need more translators and expand the department,’ Edmonds says one of her supervisors urged.
Science To Shake of not to Shake

First, maiden, virginish transatlantic handshake over the Internet.
Good News Fountain of Bad Attitude.

Not to sound too negative about it, but there's yet more evidence that this power-of-positive-thinking idea may not be all it's cracked up to be. Cheerful cancer sufferers survive no longer than cranky ones. Election Prophets, Snipers, terrorists, bleeding markets: it’s time for the power of negative thinking.


FIVE YEARS AGO, Richard Carlson was just a regular guy living in Martinez, working several jobs to provide for his young family.

Today, he's a household name, with 22 million books in print in 126 countries, and sales that continue to tick upward, all thanks to one ingeniously simple concept.

Sweating for peanuts: Australia

The Australia Council has a program for ‘eminent’ writers to rescue them from financial hardship. The program gives $80,000 each to authors who have published at least four works, regardless of age, and must 'dazzle' the board with their literary merit, critical recognition and contribution to Australian literature. Taking leaves out of Canadian Can Do literary culture.

Our Country, Our Culture

The days are over when publishers took chances on good writers who were unknown or difficult in order to bring distinction to a list dominated by bestsellers. The arts are under siege from three horsemen of what may be eventually seen as a cultural apocalypse ... From the right gallops the horse of moral correctness, determined to purify the arts according to preconceived standards of decency. From the left canters the horseman of political correctness, committed to laundering the arts of any perceived threat to racial, sexual, or ethnic sensitivities. And from the middle trots the horseman of aesthetic correctness, demanding that the arts conform to traditional, often conventional, rules of creative procedure.

Literary submissions of lightish note.

Tuesday, October 29, 2002

Which Way? The Dark & Swinning Side of Colourful Erections

Most voters love Tally Rooms: they lets see the political struggle in miniature: History of the Pendulum.

Parliamentary elections analyst, Antony, Tony, Green, loves the echo of Foucault’s Pendulum but hates with passion Mackerras’ pendulum .

Among parliamentary insiders Green’s pendulum is now a synonym for Not So Ripe Pendulum. This Pendulum boasts that it can metaphorically and literaly spit accurate results within hours after the elections. Under communism we knew the results years before the election without the aid of a computer program. Not So Ripe Pendulum tends to tell us that the doom is in the air for the major parties. ‘Meanwhile it is going to be tough, but not impossible for Liberal or Labour Party or Festival of Darkness to win,’ Mr Green said. At 2001 Federal election Green exclaimed, ‘Crikey, Roy and HR, but the pendulum swings both ways!’ Since then Green is no longer prepared to tip an increase or a decrease in Labor seats, no matter how safe.

The terms 'Safe Labor' and 'Safe Liberal' refer to all those seats above 10 per cent on the pendulum. Given the regular swing of the pendulum, we might expect that subsequent elections might turn more voters into swingers in every sense of the word. So the red-green-rural-urban-wet-dry parties could lose one seat and gain another. It has become redundant to say that any pedulum released by Green is the best it has ever looked, ripe, ground-breaking, intelligent, and informative, and the presentation to-the-point and attractive.

Here are a few quotes from Fucaust’s Pendulum :
What did I really think fifteen years ago? As a nonbeliever, I felt guilty in the midst of all those believers. And since it seemed to me that they were in the right, I decided to believe, as you might decide to take an aspirin: It can't hurt, and you might get better.

And I began to question everything around me: the houses, the shop signs, the clouds in the sky, and the engravings in the library, asking them to tell me not their superficial story but another, deeper story, which they surely were hiding, but finally would reveal thanks to the principle of mystic resemblances.’

The animal that coils in a circle is the serpent; that's why so many cults and myths of the serpent exist, because it's hard to represent the return of the sun by the coiling of a hippopotamus.

...these are now people lost in a maze: some choose one path, some another; some shout for help, and there's no telling if the replies they hear are other [lost] voices or the echo of their own.

Taken literally, these texts were a pile of absurdities, riddles, contradictions.

I have understood. And the certainty that there is nothing to understand should be my peace, my triumph.

If you're not allowed to laugh in heaven, I don't want to go there.
-Martin Luther, (1483-1546)

Monday, October 28, 2002

If Politics Were Food

Like many people who think about politics, I have grown impatient with the Left/Right distinction. It’s not just the obvious abuses to which media put these terms, as when reporters call hard-line Communist generals in China “conservatives.” It’s more than that; there’s something almost insane about attempting to use a one-dimensional spectrum to describe something as complex as political philosophy. It’s like trying to build a house using only chopsticks and a hammer. You can see this more clearly by trying to apply a left-right distinction to something much simpler, such as cooking.

Food Snobs

What's the difference between a culinary snob and souffle, asks Ben Dutton. One is puffed up and full of hot air, the other you can eat.

The beauty of capitalism is ensuring that prices are already falling for organic food as more producers get into the game. But food snobs have some more tricks up their sleeves. Keep a look out for the current raw food "revolution" sweeping America and sure to pop up on our shores soon. Perhaps the most ridiculous trend yet: raw foodies' idea of a good Sunday roast leaves out the meat and the roasting. Talk about killjoys.
Murder in the heart is murder in the heart.

Consider reading the full text of the recent brilliant column in the Independent by Howard Jacobson, titled ‘Choking in the stink of our own self-hatred’ about the Islamic terrorists' attack in Bali, but more generally about Jewish and Western self-hatred, and how that allows these kind of atrocities to continue:

‘You see, you read, you breathe in the evidence of an unimaginable crime done to you and yours, and you can't comprehend that such a thing could come, causeless, from nowhere. So you become the cause. There must be reason in the universe, so you become the reason. It's partly altruism: you cannot bear the thought of random being, so you supply the system. In that way you also supply the God.
...Here is our decadence: not the nightclubs, not the beaches and the sex and the drugs, but our incapacity to believe we have been wronged. Our lack of self-worth.’

Sunday, October 27, 2002

Did Maxwell jump or was he pushed?

A new book says that the mysterious death of flamboyant Czechoslovak born British media tycoon Robert Maxwell was not suicide, as it was tentatively ruled at the time, but murder at the hands of the Israeli secret services. The book also alleges Maxwell was an Israeli spy and had links to organized crime in Eastern Europe, and that he was murdered because he was threatening to expose his knowledge of Israeli secrets unless he received Israeli help in propping up his failing businesses. Maxwell died in 1991 when he disappeared from his boat off the Canary Islands just as the complex web of financial deals keeping his businesses afloat was beginning to unravel.

The book, ‘Robert Maxwell, Israel's Superspy,’ by Gordon Thomas and Martin Dillon, says ‘Maxwell was killed by Mossad agents who boarded his private yacht under cover of darkness and plunged a needle filled with a lethal nerve agent into Maxwell's neck. They then lowered his body off the deck and into the sea.’

Dead Parrot Society

A few days ago The Washington Post's Dana Milbank wrote an article explaining that for George W. Bush, "facts are malleable." Documenting "dubious, if not wrong" statements on a variety of subjects, from Iraq's military capability to the federal budget, the White House correspondent declared that Mr. Bush's "rhetoric has taken some flights of fancy."

Also in the last few days, The Wall Street Journal reported that "senior officials have referred repeatedly to intelligence . . . that remains largely unverified." The C.I.A.'s former head of counterterrorism was blunter: "Basically, cooked information is working its way into high-level pronouncements." USA Today reports that "pressure has been building on the intelligence agencies to deliberately slant estimates to fit a political agenda."

Reading all these euphemisms, I was reminded of Monty Python's parrot: he's pushing up the daisies, his metabolic processes are history, he's joined the choir invisible. That is, he's dead. And the Bush administration lies a lot.

Let me hasten to say that I don't blame reporters for not quite putting it that way. Mr. Milbank is a brave man, and is paying the usual price for his courage: he is now the target of a White House smear campaign.

That standard response may help you understand how Mr. Bush retains a public image as a plain-spoken man, when in fact he is as slippery and evasive as any politician in memory. Did you notice his recent declaration that allowing Saddam Hussein to remain in power wouldn't mean backing down on "regime change," because if the Iraqi despot meets U.N. conditions, "that itself will signal that the regime has changed"? [More ... ]
Paul Wellstone: 1944-2002
Proud To Be Liberal; Determined To Make A Difference

For economic and social justice activists, there was never any
doubt about the identity of their representative in Washington. No
matter what state they lived in, the senator they counted on was the
same man: Paul Wellstone.

We mourn not just the man, but what he represented, unapologetic advocacy for democratic principle and genuine compassion, in a political world all too tainted by cynicism and self-interest.

· An Appreciation by John Nichols
· In His Own Voice by David Corn

Stories By Wellstone:
· Winning Politics
· If Poverty is the Question.

Maybe in death Wellstone, a supporter of Victory Over Want, will be able to achieve what eluded him in life. He often quoted Franklin D. Roosevelt's admonition that ‘The test of our progress is not whether we add more to the abundance of those who have much; it is whether we provide enough for those who have too little.’ But he had not been able to convince the nation of this.

Friday, October 25, 2002

Women are Dangerous

Yes it's true, they are dangerous but it's worse than you think. When women’s talk turns to food they lit up like a Russian missile: Which bakeries are are the best right now? Have you tried this pastry? How about that one? What about that recipe that was in the Donna Hay? And where do you buy your bread? At New Farm Jocelyn’s Provisions. Ahhh, Tara Calashain has written a little Google program that makes it easy to find any recipe collections. Cookin' with Google.

She should be So angry

Singer Kylie Minogue has her knickers in a twist over the sale of memorabilia in her name at two Labor Party functions in NSW.

Trivia I came across while looking for informations on rivers which formed the Iron Curtain Iron Curtain . Hedwig Eva Maria Kiesler was born in Vienna about half a year before the outbreak of the First World War. Later known as the screen star Hedy Lamarr, the clever Austrian would play an interesting off-screen role as an inventor in the Second World War — on the side of her adopted US homeland. This is just one of many facts that make Lamarr's biography quite unlike that of most film stars.

While she shocked European society and gained notoriety with her 10-minute nude swimming scene in the 1933 Austrian-Czech film Ecstasy (still appearing in the credits as Hedy Kiesler), she is perhaps best known today because of the Mel Brooks Western parody, Blazing Saddles (1973). Brooks used the running gag of a villainous character named “Hedley Lamarr” (Harvey Korman) who had to constantly correct people who kept calling him “Hedy.” (It was in that same classic film that Madeline Kahn masterfully portrayed a lisping spoof of Marlene Dietrich.) But such superficial recognition does an injustice to the attractive and highly intelligent Lamarr, who made her last film the year I was born, 1958 AD.
An ocean apart: literary sea change

Canada does not have a long, rich literary history. In fact, name three Canadian authors of any importance published before 1950. See? Canada's literary world doesn't have the Burns and Stevenson of Scotland, but they spend quite a bit more money from their Arts Council, the results of which can be seen in this year's Booker short list. Since Imrich dived into the Canadian ocean the world of bribery and Booker has changed dramatically ;-)

No-one is suggesting, of course, that subsidy per se creates dazzling fiction. It does, however, create the climate and conditions, the attitudes and the economic structure, in which fiction, poetry, writing for adults and children, cultural commentary, strong independent publishing houses, vibrant and committed bookshops can all flourish.

The Scotsman compares the literary worlds of the two nations and hopes Scotland can learn something from it all.

Thursday, October 24, 2002

Third time lucky and in the arms of a spunky woman

Yann Martel's first two books drowned like a double dragon without trace. But last night he won the Booker Prize with his story about a boy and a tiger stranded on a lifeboat.

The Guardian has Extract and Globe Books has their usual ‘Woo Canada’ piece.

Mr. Martel cried ‘Ahhh,’ threw up his hands and exclaimed: ‘When this started, it felt like being in a plane and all the edges were shaking and the plane was crashing. Now it feels like I'm in the arms of a beautiful woman.’

Still Martel is every editor's nightmare.
Hearing Voices:

Other than seeing their favorite writers in the flesh, why do readers flock to author readings? The thousands who attended the International Festival of Authors in Toronto might have the answer. Putting a public face on the printed page.

This is Dave Eggers country.

Two hundred people, that's a mob for a literary reading, packed the Berkeley bookstore where he debuted his new book: Myths and Reality

PS: If you are anything like me, then you enjoy Professor Irwin Corey's observation: 'In Russia you write a book and go to jail. Here you go to jail, then write a book.' If you are like me, then It would take you 30 seconds, tops, to tell the world everything you know about agents and secret deals.
Duels and Distempers of Note

An Iraqi vice president offered an unusual suggestion Thursday for solving the U.S.-Iraq standoff: Saddam Hussein and George W. Bush should fight a duel to settle their differences and spare their people the ravages of war.
—Associated Press.
Letters exchange

Duels, like Mother-in-laws, are everywhere the same. Trouble with the in-laws

Google Yourself: we all have a little self-Google every now and again

Technology has enabled many things for us, over the years: the ability to have a lacklustre Christmas Day phone-conversation with relatives in a distant country, the elongation of the miserable, batty twilight years of our lives with anticoagulant drugs and the sheer, visceral enjoyment of putting
dogs in space.

Wednesday, October 23, 2002

Men don't cry well

The incomparable Tony Woodlief posts this story about the loss of his daughter 3 years ago. The human side of blokes and bloggers.
Sharing of Pain


Brisket cooked by white men, often of Czech or German descent. Age-old questions were revisited: Wood or charcoal?


Bravo has a new series debuting, Page to Screen. It will chronicle the process of turning a book into a movie, with a different novel profiled each week. The debut episode will focus on Silence of the Lambs. Other episodes include The English Patient, Get Shorty, and The Cider House Rules.
And Christopher Wehner rants about the state of screenwriting today: style over substance.

Here's a question for constitutional scholars:

Can a sitting president be charged with plagiarism?

Orwell's 1984 was intended as a warning about the evils of totalitarianism, not a how-to manual, but President Bush appears to be borrowing heavily from it. The prophetic novel is about a government that controls the masses by spreading propaganda, cracking down on subversive thought and altering history to suit its needs. Big Brotherly Love.
Strangers to the reader too

Kundera’s new work ‘Ignorance’ is the tale of two émigrés — Irena and Josef — who meet by chance upon their return to Prague from, respectively, Paris and Denmark. Both were forced into exile at the time of the revolution 30 years earlier, and both are returning now in search of something of their lost and former selves.
In Milan Kundera’s clumsy new novella, a portenteous, worn-out philosophy that borders on the ironic and absurd stands in for real thinking.

Kafka’s Islands of Dying Stars

Treasure every sunrise. Forget the idea that we live in a youthful universe.

If two American professors are correct, the cosmos is middle-aged. And it has not got an old age to look forward to. Despite what recent observations suggest, Professor Linde and his wife Professor Kallosh say the universe will stop expanding and collapse in the relatively near future.

Auf Wiedersehen Möllemann

The bizarre story of German politician Juergen Moellemann became even more strange this week. Moellemann was forced to resign his remaining party leadership posts over apparent campaign finance violations. He may also face criminal charges.

This is not the first time he has hit the bottom. In the early 90s he was forced to resign as federal Commerce Minister for improperly promoting an in-law's business venture and was subsequently ousted as state party leader ...

In the meantime, the journalists continues to press for an explanation of the campaign contributions and the state prosecutor will want to have a word with him as well.

Tuesday, October 22, 2002

Origins of Measurements

In ancient times, the body ruled when it came to measuring. The length of a foot, the width of a finger, and the distance of a step were all accepted measurements.

Inch: At first an inch was the width of a man's thumb. In the 14th century, King Edward II of England ruled that 1 inch equal 3 grains of barley placed end to end lengthwise.

Hand: A hand was approximately 5 inches or 5 digits (fingers) across. Today, a hand is 4 inches and is used to measure horses (from the ground to the horse's withers, or shoulder).

Span: A span was the length of the hand stretched out, about 9 inches.

Foot: In ancient times, the foot was 111/42 inches. Today it is 12 inches, the length of the average man's foot.

Yard: A yard was originally the length of a man's belt or girdle, as it was called. In the 12th century, King Henry I of England fixed the yard as the distance from his nose to the thumb of his out-stretched arm. Today it is 36 inches, about the distance from nose to out-stretched arm of a man.

Cubit: In ancient Egypt, a cubit was the distance from the elbow to the fingertips. Today a cubit is 18 inches.

Lick: A Lick was used by the Greeks to measure the distance from the tip of the thumb to the tip of the index finger.

Pace: The ancient Roman soldiers marched in paces, which were the length of a double step, about 5 feet; 1,000 paces was a mile. Today, a pace is the length of one step, 21/2 to 3 feet.

Original Scientific willie pull : )

On the heels of a previous report that debunked the notion that a man's shoe size could be used to estimate the length of his penis, a new study now claims that those with inquiring minds need merely take a gander at a man's forefinger.

Take a moment guys while you all look at your hands..........

According to Greek bearing scientists, the length of a man's index finger can accurately predict the length of his penis. The findings are published in the September issue of the journal Urology.

How many are smiling?

How many of you are crying now?
Superiority Complex

We have democratized elitism in this country. Now everybody can be a snob

‘Know thyself,’ the Greek sage advised, but it’s nonsense. ‘Overrate thyself’ would be more like today’s motto: live in the warm glow of self-esteem.

A Bookworm's Battle

Eric Eldred is taking on the federal government in a U.S. Supreme Court showdown that pits him, scholars, and library groups against the nation's largest media companies in a challenge of the Sonny Bono Copyright Term Extension Act. Eldred envisions a society in which literacy and democracy are advanced through the online dissemination and discussion of great literature.
Original Play

Play returns us to life's
original message.
- Fred Donaldson, Ph.D.

Play is a way for us to feel an important sense of belonging. But very quickly in our goal-oriented society, play is turned into a contest in which we must learn to compete in order to survive. Most of us have forgotten what it's like to play for the sheer joy of playing and connecting with other people.

The language of play among children and wildlife, eye contact, a sequence of touch, a certain kindness, and a lack of contest, is very specific and powerful. Understanding this language gives us the ability to communicate kindness, trust, love and compassion to any being with whom we share the earth. O. Fred Donaldson, Ph.D., who has been studying play with children, adults and animals for nearly three decades, coined the term ‘Original Play.’

‘It takes courage to play in a world that does not play.’ (I am grateful for this link to Gina and Peter.)

Monday, October 21, 2002

The Truth about Honesty

We value truth, but lie we must: personal relations would be impossible if everyone told the truth about everything all the time.

The Henry Cabot Lodge-Paul Douglas Brigade: How's that for an example for 2002 on Capitol Hill?

Just what is it about John McCain, the Arizona maverick, that he is not satisfied just being the nation's best known and most admired U.S. senator? McCain, along with his alter-ego Mark Salter, has written a second book, ‘Worth the Fighting For: A Memoir,’ which is earning enormous critical praise and healthy sales. Defenders of Freedom and Honesty.

A tide of compassion washed from Bali to Bondi

I've just experienced something remarkable. I went down to Bondi Beach just before midday, breaking off a twig of bottlebrush along the way as a mark of respect to those poor folk in Bali. It was an average, sunny Sydney day.As I walked on to the sand at North Bondi the shark siren fired up and every person on the beach, man, woman and child, stood up and faced the sea. There was complete silence. After a minute the siren sounded again and people went back to doing their Sunday beach thing.

It was at once beautiful, chilling and singularly Australian. I will never forget it.

Brendan Gallagher, Bondi ( Letters SMH 21/10/02)

For Richer

It was one of those revealing moments. Responding to an e-mail message from a Canadian viewer, Robert NOVAK of 'Crossfire' delivered a little speech: 'Marg, like most Canadians, you're ill informed and wrong. The U.S. has the longest standard of living -- longest life expectancy of any country in the world, including Canada. That's the truth.’

But it was Novak who had his facts wrong. Canadians can expect to live about two years longer than Americans. In fact, life expectancy in the U.S. is well below that in Canada, Japan and every major nation in Western Europe. On average, we can expect lives a bit shorter than those of Greeks, a bit longer than those of Portuguese. Male life expectancy is lower in the U.S. than it is in Costa Rica.

Sunday, October 20, 2002

Notes on War and Peace

Sure, President Bush is surrounded by all sorts of well-meaning consultants, analysts and spin-masters, but it seems that he's been getting some bad advice about story-telling — especially the story about Iraq. I'm no political pundit, but I have taught literature and creative writing for a while, and I had a few lesson-plan notes. I thought President Bush might find useful.

Show, Don’t Tell: La Boheme

Luhrmann quoting Welles' famous remark, the moment a stage director gets behind a camera, he is given ‘the biggest toy train set in the whole world.’ ‘Anyone who tells you there's a set of set rules, you know they're lying. They're covering a deep insecurity. In a nutshell, Welles' naivete about the mechanics of filmmaking freed him in his creativity.

The most creative writer in English is busier than ever.

William Shakespeare is a crowd pleaser. Whether that crowd consists of Elizabethan tradesmen or Harvard postmodernists, Shakespeare entertains his audiences while challenging them to think about
Cold War Documents Double-Dragon Dare You

The National Security Archive yesterday released "a comprehensive documentary history of U.S. aerial espionage in the Cold War and beyond," including 50 declassified documents from the administration and intelligence agencies that worked on aerial reconnaissance and other spying activities. The documents themselves are PDFs but make for interesting reading, especially the CIA debriefing of Francis Gary Powers after he returned to the U.S.
Document 49 The Dragon Lady
People who need politicians are the unluckiest people in the world

MARK STEYN has a piece on celebrities in politics that's too good to excerpt but not too good to ask How Much Is That Doggie In The Window?
Instapundit suggests lots of political news and quotes at Political Wire: ‘When the voters of Hawaii awake the morning after the Nov. 5 election, they are likely to find they have done two extraordinary things: elect a live Republican to the governor's office and a dead Democrat to Congress. Such is the state of politics in Hawaii.' And such is the state of politics in Australia Gong's gone Green

Margo Kingston in an article entitled 'Green Steel' drove her finger on the pulse when she suggested that colourful boys from the right wing should take time out from twisting their knickers over who to blame and look in the mirror:

'The Cunningham defeat is not about poor Simon Crean. It's about the NSW Right and the NSW Premier Bob Carr, who until recently managed to convince voters he had clean hands despite the ugliness of the faction he is in. Good man, Bob, even as his government planned to sell public land all over Sydney to developers and flog off public schools to developers. Bob Carr, Mr Clean, is no such thing. Paul Keating has publicly begged Labor to ban developers making donations to political parties, citing horrific overdevelopment which is ugly to boot. No, says Carr. Carr the complicit.'

Fisk Fisked

Why is it that when politicians and bloggers say they want ‘balance’ in the news, what they really mean is wanting yet another venue to attack people they don’t agree with?

Me, Myself, and I: A Love Story in the tip-jar.

The joy of it is that we still don't know where it's headed; but we're absolutely intent on enjoying the ride. So what if it isn't a money-maker yet? The writing's the thing. And if cash is your primary goal in life, you shouldn't have become a writer in the first place. Meanwhile, please log on. And, if you feel like it, throw some money in the tip-jar. Could you be the buddy who can spare a dime?

Saturday, October 19, 2002

Political power runs in families.

Think of the Kennedys, the George Bushes, père et fils, and all those Nehru relatives. And don’t forget Saddam’s boys. Uday and Qusay are real charmers ...

An Accidental World

Our brains aren’t built to grasp the notion that the world just exists, with no cause, as an accident. We live in a chaos and Randomness that find their shape without the help of the gods
The End Is Near!

A local priest and a pastor were fishing on the side of the road. They thoughtfully made a sign saying, "The end is near! Turn yourself around now before it's too late!" and showed it to each passing car.
One driver who drove by didn't appreciate the sign and shouted at them, "Leave us alone, you religious nuts!"
All of a sudden they heard a big splash, looked at each other, and the priest said to the pastor, "You think maybe we should have just said 'Bridge Out' instead?"

A Recently-Spotted Bumper Sticker:
What if the Hokey Pokey really is what it's all about?

Joke ova

It's all been a bit solemn of late, so here's an extremely silly final titbit from visit to Slovakia.

One of the oddities of Slovakia for the visiting Anglo is their rule of putting "ova" at the end of every non-Slovak female surname. Julia Robertsova. Meg Ryanova. Gwyneth Paltrowova. Odd, but you soon get used to it. One of these ovas did make me smile, however. The Harry Potter books are big in Slovakia, as everywhere, with all the same symptoms being displayed as in Britain. "When's the next one out?" say the kids. "Well at least they're reading something" say the elders. But consider what happens on all the book covers to the name of Harry Potter's creator J. K. Rowling.

Polls: When Measuring is Manipulating

Before decisions get made, and even before most politicians open their mouths about key issues, there are polls. Lots of them. Whether splashed across front pages or commissioned by candidates for private analysis, the statistical sampling of public opinion is a constant in political life.

We may believe that polls tell us what Americans are thinking. But polls also gauge the effectiveness of media spin, and contribute to it. Opinion polls don't just measure; they also manipulate, helping to shape thoughts and tilting our perceptions of how most people think.

Polls routinely invite the respondents to choose from choices that have already been prepared for them. Results hinge on the exact phrasing of questions and the array of multiple-choice answers, as candid players in the polling biz readily acknowledge.
Maynly Survivor

Crikey! MANY believed it couldn't, and many hoped that it wouldn't, but has survived its first 1000 days.

Like Australian Kangaroos, Goannas and Possums, Liverpool's Bulldogs seem to have a knack for socialising loses and privatising profits.

Friday, October 18, 2002

Victory Over Want

"Knowledge is power and permits the wise to conquer without bloodshed
and to accomplish deeds surpassing all others."
Sun Tzu, The Art of War, fourth century B.C.

October 17 2002 is the International Day for the Eradication of Poverty
International Day for the Eradication of Poverty .

In December 1995, the United Nations General Assembly proclaimed the
First United Nations Decade for the Eradication of Poverty (1997-2006)
and named 17 October as the International Day for the Eradication of

"Poverty can be and must be eradicated throughout the world" (Resolution

In December 1996, the General Assembly also declared: "Eradicating
poverty is an ethical, social, political and economic imperative of

The vision of the Brotherhood of St Laurence is for an Australia free of
Contact Details
Phone: 03 9483 1183
Fax: 03 9417 2691
Brotherhood of St Laurence

What People Living in the Poverty Cannot Buy: Power.

Thursday, October 17, 2002

All hail Martyn Goff ...

The current health of English fiction can be explained in two words: Martyn Goff.

For years Goff worked hard and got nowhere. To smart young literary journalists his efforts were a joke. Then he had an idea: ‘The British don't instinctively love good novels but they will drag themselves naked over broken glass to watch a horse race. Why not, Goff thought, combine the two: a literary Derby?’

Shocking but True: Specter of Gough's Researcher is Haunting Darling Point

Latham and bloggers making startling ranting news.

A Media Giant No Longer Following Latham's Speech

‘Shares in Reuters have fallen 23% after the financial information giant reported a drop in sales and warned of continuing problems.’

In order to avoid further ‘market readjustments,’ or god forbid bankruptcy, Reuters executives have sent headhunters to areas west of Sydney

Alas the latest awful moaning you can hear is not the wind:

Mark Latham has predicted that victory for the Greens in Cunningham by-election would force the closure of the BHP steelworks in Port Kembla. Can Labor possibly lose a seat it has never lost in 22 elections across 53 years since Cunningham was created in 1949?
A little girl taught us a lesson about peace: Have we forgotten it?

A little girl in Manchester, Maine, changed the world when she wrote a letter to Soviet leader Yuri Andropov. It said simply:

Dear Mr. Andropov,

My name is Samantha Smith. I am 10 years old. Congratulations on your new job. I have been worrying about Russia and the United States getting into a nuclear war. Are you going to vote to have a war or not? If you aren't please tell me how you are going to help to not have a war. This question you do not have to answer, but I would like to know why you want to conquer the world, or at least our country. God made the world for us to live together in peace and not to fight.

We are the Dead, From David Harthill:

'We are the Dead. Short days ago
We lived, felt dawn, saw sunset glow,
Loved and were loved, and now we lie
In Flanders fields.

Take up our quarrel with the foe:
To you from failing hands we throw
The torch; be yours to hold it high.
If ye break faith with us who die
We shall not sleep, though poppies grow
In Flanders fields.'

Samizdata has nothing to add.
Signs of Times

Time magazine hails the ‘feisty comeback by independent shopkeepers in several industries - books, coffee and hardware.’ Minneapolis store Wild Rumpus is mentioned in particular, along with the Book Sense program. The article also notes that Borders is "experimenting with smaller-format stores" that would compete with the independents.
Timely piece

Wednesday, October 16, 2002

Opus Dei - Letting God work

St. Josemaria blew away the difference between priests and religious, on one hand, and lay people on the other. There is only one Christian sanctity -- the first-rate kind -- and all Christians are called to it, though in different ways. St. Josemaria's life achievement consisted of two things: he spread the above-summarized message by precept and example, and he founded an institution of and within the Church to instantiate this message and to offer to those who desire it (whether they become members or not) practical help in living it out.

Roman Catholic Bishop argues that it isn't enough for us to denounce a military strike against Iraq as unjust if we want to prevent a war.

Tuesday, October 15, 2002

Fyodor v Jeffrey

I am grateful for Theodore Dalrymple's observations on Jeffrey Archer's prison diaries:

A great author was once unjustly condemned to four years' imprisonment. Describing its profound effect upon him, he wrote: ‘In my spiritual solitude I reviewed all my past life, went over it all in the smallest detail, brooded over my past, judged myself sternly and relentlessly, and even sometimes blessed fate for sending me this solitude, without which I could not have judged myself. [ . . .] I believed, I resolved, I swore to myself that in my future life there should be none of the mistakes and lapses there had been in the past.’
The great imprisoned author was Fyodor Dostoevsky, not Jeffrey Archer, extracts of whose Belmarsh prison diaries were published last week. Completely worthless from the literary point of view, and relentlessly banal in thought, observation and analysis, they are nonetheless revealing: of Lord Archer's mind and personality rather than of the prison system. And to be privy to Archer's mind in full cry is a depressing experience indeed.

Sticks and stones ...

Professor Orlando Figes, sitting down to read his copy of the Times Literary Supplement, was scarcely able to believe his ill-luck. If there are two little words that strike fear into the hearts of most recently published writers, it must be these: bad review. And never forget Somerset Maugham's advice to bruised authors: 'Don't read your reviews, dear boy.
Measure them.'

Sticks and stones, anti-bullshit, Evolution and Literary Criticism.
Hitchens vs. Amis: cocky, pompous, conceited

“with their pub bore’s buttonholing manner and with their assumption that we are all as obsessed with them as they are with themselves ...”

Are the sins of the left commensurate with those of the right? Is it just to speak of Stalin's evil in the same breath as Hitler's? English novelists Martin Amis and Christopher Hitchens, former friends, now hate each other. At issue, whether Stalin is as evil as Hitler. Isn't killing 20 million Slavs as evil as killing 20 million Jews?
Good Bites:
* Canada, the world's second largest country, announced it will create 10 huge new national parks over the next five years, which will nearly double the size of the national parks system. The plan also creates 5 new National Marine Conservation Areas along the longest coastline in the world.

* The leaders of 10 Central Asian and Caspian nations, including Iran and Turkey, agreed to establish a fund to help rebuild devastated Afghanistan. The mostly Muslim nations understand that Afghanistan's prosperity would enhance security in the region.

Good of the Day:

House Passes Election Reform 2 Years After Florida Debacle of 2000

The House overwhelmingly passed legislation to give states almost $3.9 billion to upgrade voting equipment and amend election procedures to insure Americans are able to cast their ballots with confidence in the 2004 presidential election.

The bill, produced in a Senate/House conference committee, passed by a margin of 357-48, and now moves to the Senate. It authorizes expenditures of $2.16 billion during the current fiscal year and $3.86 billion over the next three years. Outdated punch-card and lever voting machines will be replaced by modern electronic equipment.

The states will be required to provide "provisional ballots" to voters whose names are missing from official rolls. Their votes would be counted if registration could later be verified. By the 2006 election, the voting process would have to provide a "second chance" for citizens who want to change their ballots before submitting them.

One controversial provision requires voters to verify their identification. But some lawmakers who disliked the requirement, like Rep. Maxine Waters (D-CA), voted for passage of the bill anyway, concluding, 'We have to get started.'

Sex* and Books and Rock 'n' Roll.

The optimist sees the rose and not its thorns; the pessimist stares at the thorns, oblivious to the rose.
-Kahlil Gibran
Problems in getting to the story and getting it out

All theorists agree that the media has some role in keeping government accountable - usually ranked somewhere behind the electorate generally and the parliamentary opposition and marginally ahead of assorted other institutions of democracy like auditor-generals and corruption commissions.

Monday, October 14, 2002

Known as ‘The Island of the Gods’, Bali became the Island of Terror

The bomb attacks add to fears Indonesia has become a haven for terrorists on the doorsteps of Terra Australis.

Australians are very much like Czechoslovaks, Soviets might have punctured our nation's heart but they never broke the Czechoslovak spirit. Terrorists have only created a stronger spirit among one and all in Australia.
Tony Woodlief discusses that little known price we all pay for civilisation:

When dealing with our credit union, for example, there is a probability approaching one (and they test the theoretical limits of the asymptote) that the teller will make some annoying little error -- funds deposited in the wrong account, a withdrawal amount wrong, etc. These errors are usually resolved after about an hour of my wife's labor, and one or two phone calls. Fortunately, we don't have to deal directly with the credit union much more than once a quarter. Factoring in the average hourly wage in the U.S. ($16.23 in 2001, as computed by the Bureau of Labor Statistics), we can thus derive a yearly Incompetence Tax levied on us by our credit union of $64.92. Given a membership of roughly 200,000, this amounts to a total annual Incompetence Tax of $12,984,000.

My Name Is Sei Shonagon

Following reports that editors and agents pay little regard to their slush piles, there was more encouraging news for unpublished authors this week in Chatto & Windus's acquisition of My Name Is Sei Shonagon, a novel that arrived as an unsolicited, unagented manuscript. But the story, about a girl of mixed parentage growing up in Japan, did not entirely sell itself: the husband of the Australian author, Jan Blendsdorf, had given it some extra help, phoning up Rebecca Carter at Chatto to tell her how good it was. 'From his description it sounded wonderful, so when it arrived as an unsolicited submission, I read it,' Carter said.

Literary Exchange

I don't accept unsolicited email submissions.

The vast majority of editors don't even respond to unsolicited email submissions. Thanks. G.

So don't send them. It's the moral equivalent of spam. My two cents: get an agent.

I like sending them. The publishing industry is the moral equivalent of incest. I've got two books, one fiction and one nonfiction, both of which are better than anything Simon & Schuster has published in the last ten years. Here's the sort of thing agents say. This is from Jody Rein: "I hope you find an agent who understands this book better than I do, and can help you find an enthusiastic publisher. You're a terrific and imaginative writer. Maybe you ought to go straight to Farrar Strauss or Knopf or Susan Kamil at The Dial Press and let the dense agents of more linear and transparent literature be damned." Thanks again. G.

Who are you? You must be a virus. I'm deleting your first email. Identify yourself or to hell with your spam.

Dear Mitchell: I'm not a virus. Don't be silly. Go to this website:

Stick your name in the search thingy at the bottom and all will be revealed to you as if by magic. Thanks again. G.

It may not be a virus but it's still SCAM. Can't wait till this is illegal.

What, pray tell, could possibly be a scam about it? I've come up with a better alternative than the LMP which costs $389 a year and I'm giving it away for free. Golly gee. What a scam. It's gotta be a communist plot. Somebody did something nice for a change. The world's gonna fall apart. Or maybe you meant SPAM. Nope. Not that either. Just a brave, free American guy cracking himself up and providing a little insight into the psyche of an average, run of the mill editor at some big publishing company. Now, is there anything about your job that you'd like to say? G.


Thot not. G.

Sunday, October 13, 2002

Stark Hinges of History

'Character cannot be developed in ease and quiet. Only through experience of trial and suffering can the soul be strengthened, ambition inspired, and success achieved.'
Helen Keller

A stark character makes it stunningly clear why he voted against war: ‘The bottom line is I don't trust the president and his advisors.’
Disclosure: The campaign finance is riddled with problems.

The Campaign Finance Institute released a report on the federal government's Internet disclosure for campaign finance information. Summary: It ain't good. The Report knocks the Federal Election Commission, the Internal Revenue Service and the Federal Communications Commission for inadequate disclosure of public information. The report reveals that the main federal campaign finance agency, the Federal Election Commission, has not adequately exploited the potential of instantaneous electronic filing, searchable databases and user-friendly web sites.

Journalism must adapt or die

All of us need to change the way we think. Change the way we practise our craft and we need to keep changing all the time. If we don't, we are going to die and none of our audiences will be at our graveside to mourn us.

Nothing but the truth about Big Brother databases: article by Lynn Peterson and Genie Tyburski on public records searching, includes links to other articles.

Saturday, October 12, 2002


A 233-page book with plenty of skeletons is shaping up to become Sydney’s Bestseller: Stricker & Phelps.

Handle with extreme care: The Bohemian Greenery. A Sign of Election Times - Political Advertising.

'The town is infested with man-eating cockroaches. Repeat: man-eating cockroaches!'
-George Peppard to Jan-Michael Vincent

DISPUTATIONS is doing an awesome monthlong series on the rosary. Go! Read! Pray! (courtesy of my dearest eve tushnet)

One, two, three, four, five, six, seven, eight.
Shlemiel, shlimazel, Hasenpfeffer Incorporated.
We're gonna do it!

Give us any chance, we'll take it.
Give us any rule, we'll break it.
We're gonna watch our blogs come true ...

Once Upon a time a fine statue of the 'Child of Prague' stood proudly on the window sill.

This Man proves we have not all lost our sense of humour.

Last line first: ‘The moral of this story? Be careful when the Buck stops with the Van Man.’
Radio Active Disactivated

Listening to Radio Free Europe under communism was Symbol of defiance for anybody that wanted to show that they weren't in agreement with the regime. My late father was addicted to the Radio Slobodna Europa and like Yann Martel considered himself a pilgrim on the way to a meeting with God. The closure of the radio has not come out of the blue and Havel noted the Radio Free Europe fulfilled important political need in country's communist period ...

Rule of Lawyers; In Lawbreakers we trust to give politicians a helping email

Any standards maintenance function performed by the legal self-regulatory bodies is largely incidental, or at least very much subordinate to their primary focus of maintaining a rigid professional monopoly, allowing lawyers to continue gouging premium prices from captive consumers.

When E-mail Becomes More Than Conversation. Last summer, when journalists in Montana obtained copies of e-mail from the governor's office, they found a story they had never envisioned. A link to a special series about Lawmakers and Lawbreakers.
Let this secret diary remind us of the pure joy of the Bohemian Crikey in his masterpiece entitled Ruben’s Diary.

Thursday, October 10, 2002

Rejecting the rejections . . .

Everybody who is anybody in literary world is sort of talking about a story entitled represent me or die. Anyone involved in the bookselling race is aware that getting published without rejections is like sex without sin or the taste of real freedom without dizziness

I gather that S. L. Viehl's response to every rejection letter she received was : HEY, YOUR LOSS! I would not advice anyone to do that, however, it is wonderful to see the power of individuality even when it comes to rejections. Australian writer Jenny Mounfield adds to rejection her great sense of humour.

Is it really true that authors with promising debut publications often struggle for years writing second book?

In writing, he just follows the ink and considers himself a pilgrim on the way to a meeting with God.

In the 1940s, book reviews were more godly than now, B.R. Myers opines. Today’s verbal pyrotechnics are empty bangs and flashes for people too dull to appreciate natural language.

There is, of course, no row like an academic row.

Ethics: Hot tips on how to socialise losses and privatise profits.

Dear Comrade, Tovarisch Conrad,

‘Right. We're all agreed, then. I shall take a back seat on this one. You'll lead the band. I'll fix Canberra. I'll deal with the State Government. I'll square the banks. All I want out of this one is to see certain people's heads so deep in the shit that the tops of their heads will only be visible through a powerful microscope!"'

Your Tovarisch,

PS: Spaciba to Max who also shows a great respect for Rupert Murdoch in MediaGuardian ...

Definitions -- ‘Liberal & God’

One of the tricky things about "liberal" is that it’s just such a damned attractive word. It’s nice to think of yourself as being a liberal person. “I don’t care if my neighbor’s gay” equals “Thus I’m a liberal.” Sure, why not? But there’s a tendency to extrapolate from that, and that's where the trouble begins: being a liberal person, you want to root for the team that calls itself the liberals. And you get sucked in, because “liberal,” in current American practice, means “Democrat.” And there you are, back in the world of racial quotas, love of bureaucracy and regulations, warring ideals, and dictated and policed outcomes. But lord knows you’re anything but a conservative, heaven forbid…

Mighty illiberal of liberals

You don't need me to tell you to read The Onion, but one bit in today's issue might fly under your radar and is worth catching. A.V. Club interview series is asking a wide range of celebrities, Is There a God? The answers range from the dismissive and the trite to the droll and unexpectedly sincere. My favorite answer, unsurprisingly irreverent, is from Berke Breathed:

Well, I bloody well hope so. Like Ricky Ricardo used to yell, 'Luuuucy... You got some 'splainin' to dooooooo.' I'd start with Hitler surviving the childhood flu in 1902. I'd end with mosquitoes and rap music. What's the plan, fer Chrissake? No offense.

Wednesday, October 09, 2002

Before The Silence and Red Dragon there was ... Media Dragon ...

To understand the origin on evil, you must go back to the beginning.

‘Red Dragon’ is a new movie based on the original 1981 novel of the same name written by Thomas Harris. However, ‘Red Dragon’ is not the first movie to be based on the novel. That honor goes to 1986's 'Manhunter.

What is Red Dragon? An emotion, a terrible moment condemned to repeat itself over and over again. Something frightening which appears at times supernatural. Still why do people swarm around Sir Anthony Hopkins, trying to touch him and get autographs? This guy is a cannibalistic serial killer ...

We admire him in a secret, perverse way. He represents the unspeakable part of ourselves, the fantasy, desires and dark areas of our lives that are slightly unacceptable to us, but actually healthy, if we only acknowledge them. Perhaps, we'd like to be as certain of things and as dare-devil as him.

Year of Red
Myths About Lawmaking

I am an Australian living in Germany where responsibility for alcohol consumption is placed firmly on the individual. All types of alcohol are freely available at most retail outlets, including corner stores, and the difference on the streets during weekends is markedly calmer than in Australia - with drunken, loutish and potentially violent behaviour almost non-existent.

Young adults from 16 are legally allowed to enjoy beer (but not spirits) in a cafe or bar until 9pm, making their transition into unrestricted drinking at 18 overwhelmingly smooth and without incident, as opposed to the rapidly increasing trend of youth binge drinking in Australia today.

It's about time we were trusted to think for ourselves, without legislating against everything, US-style. The US patterns of drug abuse have been shown to have connections with their restrictions on drinking until the age of 21. Let's take the myth out of drinking so our youth can grow up with a reasonable approach to alcohol.

David Theak, Detmold (Germany), Letter to SMH October 8.

Tuesday, October 08, 2002

Inspiration - Pain & Pleasure

When we long for life without difficulties, remind us that oaks grow strong in contrary winds and diamonds are made under pressure.
-Peter Marshall

Under communism Czechoslovakia lost everything but its humour ... In Olde Bratislava 'The Party' knew where history was going and how to get there (like the medieval priests who knew Latin, only they could offer salvation). In Nova Blava we continue to be preoccupied by the most important pleasures in life.

A Star is Born in Betlobbyham

It's a rare day in the media when the SMH's arch-conservative correspondent PP McGuinness and its leftie ABC secondee David Marr actually agree with each other. And even rarer when The Parish Pump concurs with both of them. What could possibly give rise to such an unholy consensus? Answer: the current campaign by the Federal government-sponsored "Farmhand" drought relief appeal to 'drought-proof' Australia by turning our northern rivers inland!

MEDIA WATCH, Auntie's pale imitation of ABCwatch, filed a report on an expensive public works project with sex-appeal.

How to do sex-appeal: Buy the support of the Platinum Parrot and the Golden Tonsils, put Kerry Packer on the cheer squad (he's too rich to do it for money - isn't he?), pummel the opposition in the media (especially yours) until they retire wounded, then present it to the Government as a simple choice: take the votes we've assembled for you or take a pasting in (our) media.

Can't fail.

Just one problem. How do you find a sexy project that'll cost at least 10 billion bucks in funny money the taxpayer will never see?

Of course! Turn the Rivers Inland! Every native-born Australian knows the rest of the fairy-tale by heart.

So Platinum and Tonsils and Packer and Telstra chair Mansfield and others from the Telstra/Packer/Foxtel gang front the media (mostly theirs) conference to break the good news.

But wait, there's more!

They've put their hands in their pockets and found a spare $20 million to hand out to hard cases in the bush. Called this spare change Farmhand. They want you to sling your money in too.

Monday, October 07, 2002


German media giant Bertelsmann has admitted it lied about its Nazi past and that it made big profits during Adolf Hitler's reign in Germany using Jewish slave labour.

Staff at Bertelsmann were notified by Chairman Gunther Thielen in an email on Monday 7 October 2002: ‘I would like to express our sincere regret for the inaccuracies the Commission has uncovered in our previous corporate history of the World War Two era as well as for the wartime activities that have been brought to light.’

Guilty pleasures: What makes one person choose painting and another robbery? A controversial theory suggests that artists and criminals have a lot in common: they both break the rules.

Both express a primal rage. Love, hate, fury, despair and passion can be given utterance with brushes and pens, or with guns and knives. Artists enjoy seeing themselves as raffish outsiders, people of dubious morality.

In Praise of PAPER PLEASURES: Will electronic publishing kill books? ‘The first steps of electronic publishing have been faltering. The e-book has not - yet - been a bestseller, or even a viable commercial proposition. One day, however, such ventures will succeed and when electronic publishing becomes the norm, the more desirable (and expensive) the traditional book will correspondingly become.

A Reader's Cold Revenge

B. R. Myers, the author of A Reader's Manifesto, argues that the time has come for readers to stand up to the literary establishment. Myers's goal, he explains, is to convey to fellow readers that they shouldn't feel cowed into reading and pretending to be engaged by the latest dull and pretentious book just because the literary establishment has pronounced it evocative and compelling. Rather readers should trust their own instincts, and decide for themselves what books speak to them in meaningful ways.
Just like the successful Brisbane Writers Festival my Blogwatch is peppered with international flavour

First, the Good News about Books. We are living in a golden age of book publishing in which quantity and quality rival anything in the past, in which books have never been so well published and in which they occupy a more boisterously visible place in the general culture than ever before.

Do reviews matter? No. Yes. Maybe. Depends. Ultimately, readers decide whether reviews matter. After all, this is Darwinian America. If theaters do poor work, they won't draw an audience. If critics don't offer utility, merit, insight and education, they, too, won't draw an audience. The free market decides.

Blogbib an annotated bibliography of literature about weblogs.

PS: Festivals do matter! The riverside location and balmy subtropical weather are appreciated by international visitors, but so are the soulful volunteers who make the Brisbane Writers Festival such a great success year after year after year ...

Sunday, October 06, 2002

A Bohemian with a perpetual one-way ticket

USA Today had an interesting story about Kevin Barbieux, a homeless man living in Nashville who created a Weblog using computers at the Nashville Public Library. His site,, records his experiences of life on the streets and has received more than 41,000 visitors. Find more blogging sites in the Search Engines section.

Saturday, October 05, 2002

Discovering Survival and Drama

If everything human can be reduced to our being an organic machine, why do people gossip and climb mountains? What’s the survival value?

Artists are intrigued by the drama of science. But intrigue is not enough: to make science the handmaiden of art you also have to understand it.

Friday, October 04, 2002

Reality is what I blog, not what you blog.

Political bloggers hunt in packs, gain momentum, pick enemies, vent spleen, and never, ever, hold back.

The Insider's Insider, Getting It Out on the Web. Vulgarians are thick on the ground in the nation’s capital.

Max Hastings tells us how he had never listened to a big international tycoon discussing a deal until Conrad met Kerry. Kerry's monologue was packed with antipodean colour other than black: 'Right, Conrad. We're all agreed, then. I shall take a back seat on this one. You'll lead the band. I'll fix Canberra. I'll deal with the State Government. I'll square the banks. All I want out of this one is to see certain people's heads so deep in the shit that the tops of their heads will only be visible through a powerful microscope!"'

Dame Marjorie Scardino, the high-flying chief executive of media giant Pearson, has accused journalists of failing to work hard enough to ferret out stories. 'If journalists were better at reading balance sheets, some of these things would be discovered sooner. We could have done a lot more digging. But business journalists often don't know a lot about business. It's a shame, but that's the case.'

Her remarks echoed the words of former Financial Times editor Richard Lambert, who, following the WorldCom and Enron fiascos, asked a seminar at London's City University: Where were the media while all these scandals were brewing.'

The world in statistics downloadable data on 28 indicators (like GDP, health, transport, geographic data) for all countries. The number of countries is 241 and themes 248. From Statistics Finland.

E-government survey The survey found that states are increasingly charging for data online (including a charge to see a legislative bill in Kansas).

If you feel a blogwatch on your shoulder and the touch of a world that is harder to read contact thousands of international affairs experts who will explain what makes some cultures tick.

Wednesday, October 02, 2002

Media Dragon Scoop, Just Say Spaciba Online Powerhouse or Alphabet Soup? Or Worse Ministry Of Truth??

Pravda (Truth), staffed by reporters from the old state-run paper, sees this merger as a way for George Bush to have more control of the U.S. media and turn it into an Orwellian "Ministry of Truth." The merger is not really about declining profits, says Pravda, it's so that "George Bush will never have problems with ratings, and he is sure to gain the support of the American people for any suggestion to wage war anywhere in the world." It's true that the press has given Bush much wider latitude after 9/11, but this goes off the deep end of that conspiracy theory.

White House Stymied as Sydney Morning Herald Oposes Iraq Attack

(2002-10-10) -- U.S. President George Bush withdrew his congressional resolution on the use of force against Iraq today after hearing that Sydney Morning Herald believes an attack is not justifiable.
"We were hoping this wouldn't happen," said White House spokesman Ari Fleischer, who then paraphrased the late songwriter Jim Croce. "You don't tug on Superman's cape, you don't spit in the wind, you don't pull the mask off the old Lone Ranger, and you don't mess around with Fairfax."
The White House will now wait for further instructions from Fairfax, Fleischer said.

(pause for dramatic effect, but business as usual)

‘The owner of the World is also a large owner of property, and I presume that, in common with other newspaper owners who are possessed of wealth, his eyes are beginning to be opened to the fact that he is like Samson, taking the initiative to pull the building down upon his head,’ Rockefeller wrote in a letter to Edwina.
Where have all the book reviews gone?

We at the Cold River can take a good joke as well as anyone ... OUCH!

Virgin Islands to Regain Innocence?

In Australia Julie Bishop tells us about Less taxing ways to oil wheels.

Fermier-général, tax collector: the Chinese Communist Party faces a crisis of governance: officials hire thugs, to collect taxes while public cynicism, and even overt unrest, blooms... reports that Chief Minister and Minister of Finance for the British Virgin Islands, Ralph T. O'Neal has confirmed that the BVI government is seriously considering the abolition of both personal and corporate income tax on the Islands?

Trust you for being up to date with Jeffrey Eugenides's follow up to his mongo bestseller The Virgin Suicides, Middlesex is in bookstores now and getting bang-up reviews. A 'Virgin' Follow-up to regain pleasure?
Toot Toot: Imagined Town Crier

4-6 October 2002'

Is Brisbane living in a golden age of the book?

If you're strolling around Brisbane in the next couple of months, don't be surprised to find someone asking your opinion of Peter Carey's latest novel.

I feel partly responsible for this likely intrusion as on Valentine’s Day 2002 I received an e-mail from the Mayor of Brisbane threatning to follow Chicago's lead.

'Dear Jozef,

Thank you for your recent email and for your kind words and your great enthusiasm for this city. As for the one book project we have taken Chicago's example and chosen an iconic Australian book called "Ned Kelly". Hopefully, our choice for our first venture will have wide enthusiasm. Great to hear from you.
Best wishes,
Jim Soorley
Lord MayorBrisbane'

After this email I took a page out of the book used by the inside information traders at stock exchanges and I bet a local barista that our Mayor, Jim Soorley, will implement One Book For Our City.

The New York based Australian writer, Peter Carey, and his book 'True History of the Kelly Gang' was chosen as the maiden title of what Bribane hopes will become a tradition. Brisbane has a chance to get people talking who might not otherwise meet each other. That's incredibly valuable in a city as diverse and as geographically spread out as the subtropical mecca 'Brissie.'

Carey has spent few days in Brisbane kicking off a ten-week campaign of discussions in libraries, book stores and coffee shops like the Aroma at the Regent Theater.

'Like Chicago ,' Carey noted 'Brisbane had people with the political clout and guts to drive this through.'

Australian Outback Saint/Sinner Ned Kelly. Ned is the Slavic version of Juraj Janosik ... Juraj Who?

Tuesday, October 01, 2002

Why did so many otherwise intelligent people become Communists?

Communism always was a schizophrenic kind of faith, preaching equality for all, while preserving la dolce vita for the Party elite.
The Fourth Estate

My $2 worth (it used to be 2 cents) ... So I say to the press corps: how about a nonaggression pact? How about acting more like Nifties of the political world? If one of you is on to something, let that person finish the line of questioning. Ari Fleischer and his successors might not like it, but the country would be better served. 'Let us all be part of the ABC!

Andrea Harris of Ye Olde Blogge has come up with an analogy illustrating the relationship between old journalists and bloggers:

. . . I'd say that blogs are like any number of musical styles, all either independent (like garage bands) or underfunded (like most symphony orchestras these days from what I hear). . . . . As for journalism, the closest musical comparison is Top 40 MOR "lite" rock.

Some Bloggers are more than just Makers of Cold Diaries ... The hottest novelist, Jonathan Franzen, reminds us that readers and bloggers are united only in their need for solitude, for an inward reach out of loneliness...