The Indian Hamlet

Shahid Kapoor stars in Haider Hamlet filmThe tone is uncompromising. The language is harsh. The sovereignty and integrity of India has been attacked with impunity, the court documents claim. The unity of the nation has been undermined. But the source of the alleged threat to the world’s largest democracy is a somewhat surprising one: a cinematic remake of Hamlet. Shakespeare’s great tragedy has always provoked strong emotion but it is rare that anyone seeks to ban productions of it on the grounds of national security.
[More at]

Maybe Barbie should have gone to school in Australia

barbieMaybe Barbie should have gone to school in Australia:… Back in 2010, “Computer Engineer Barbie” was released… The book shows Barbie attempting to write a computer game. However, instead of writing the code, she enlists two boys to write the code as she just does the design. She then proceeds to infect her computer and her sister’s computer with a virus and must enlist the boys to fix that for her as well. In the end she takes all the credit, and proclaims “I guess I can be a computer engineer!” A blog post commenting on the book (as well as giving pictures of the book and its text) has been moved to Gizmodo due to high demand: at
And in Australia? “Teenage boys are often thought to be the geeks of the computer world. But a major international study released Thursday found Australian girls are more computer-literate than their male classmates. Year 8 students from Australia performed higher than students in almost all 21 education systems on the 2013 International Computer and Information Literacy Study – the only exception being the Czech Republic…” More at

Spring in Balmain


Spring in Balmain brings with it lots of hammering rendering the noonday hush horrible as houses are bought and renovated, the city of Sydney baking on the horizon, lots of bamboo sprouting in neighbour’s yards, and a Jacaranda in bloom.

Pucker up!


They say that Annie Liebovitz is proud to be chosen ADC Laureate of Disney Parks. Here’s her latest photo.

Jacarandas in Sydney

two-trees-2014-10-02The sight of Jacaranda blossoms strikes fear into the heart of any poor ex-student of the University of Sydney: the Jacaranda tree in the University quadrangle bursts into bloom just as the annual exams are starting!


John Tranter: Advice to a New Writer

I’ve been writing and publishing poetry for half a century. Now and then I receive enquiries from people starting out to be a writer, asking me to read their manuscripts (for nothing) and tell them what they should do to become a famous published poet, or at least a published poet. I don’t have the time or the inclination to read poetry manuscripts or to write lots of personal letters, and since what I say is always the same, here it is.

Find another career.

Continue reading “Advice…”

Blaise Cendrars

French novelist and poet Blaise Cendrars, with his wife. Photo by

… He is clutching her left hand, not his own right hand: he didn’t have a right hand when this photograph was taken. Photographer unknown. Wikipedia: Frédéric-Louis Sauser, better known as Blaise Cendrars, was a Swiss-born novelist and poet who became a naturalized French citizen in 1916. He was a writer of considerable influence in the European modernist movement. He died in 1961. Some quotes: “Only a soul full of despair can ever attain serenity and, to be in despair, you must have loved a good deal and still love the world.” And: “you make me laugh, with your metaphysical anguish, its just that you’re scared silly, frightened of life, of men of action, of action itself, of lack of order. But everything is disorder, dear boy. Vegetable, mineral and animal, all disorder, and so is the multitude of human races, the life of man, thought, history, wars, inventions, business and the arts, and all theories, passions and systems. Its always been that way. Why are you trying to make something out of it? And what will you make? what are you looking for? There is no Truth. There’s only action, action obeying a million different impulses, ephemeral action, action subjected to every possible and imaginable contingency and contradiction, Life. Life is crime, theft, jealousy, hunger, lies, disgust, stupidity, sickness, volcanic eruptions, earthquakes, piles of corpses. what can you do about it, my poor friend?”
The UK Guardian says: “Blaise Cendrars – or the ‘son of Homer’ as John Dos Passos called him – is himself a strange kind of fiction: born in La Chaux-de-Fonds of a Scottish mother and Swiss father, he claimed that he left home aged 15 to work in Russia during the revolution of 1905. He was a bee-keeper, a film maker, a chef, a picture-house pianist, a watchmaker, and a traveller with drunken gypsies. He spent the first world war fighting with the French foreign legion, where he lost his arm in combat, became an art critic, befriended Picasso, sailed the seven seas, shovelled coal in China, amassed and lost huge fortunes and had his own gossip column in a Hollywood newspaper. Nobody knows how much of this is actually true. Though he certainly lost an arm in the first world war, it is possible Blaise Cendrars was pulling more than one or two legs.”
More — much more — here in the TLS:

What’s wrong with research funding

Here’s an article from that talks about the nightmare of Science funding now in the USA. Just change the word ‘Science’ to the word ‘Humanities’ and you have the problem; the problem that’s turning humanities faculties today into sheltered workshops for dullards:

Like any researcher, [Tim] Berners-Lee had to find support to work on his idea. He wrote up a 14-page proposal and sent it to his boss at CERN, Mike Sendall, who famously scribbled the following on the front-page: ‘Vague, but exciting…’ We are all very lucky that Berners-Lee was in a time and place that gave the young engineer some latitude to pursue his vague but creative idea, one that would ultimately change the world. If Berners-Lee submitted that idea to government funding agencies for support, who knows where the Internet would be today?
‘There’s a current problem in biomedical research,’ says American biochemist Robert Lefkowitz, winner of the 2012 Nobel Prize for Chemistry. ‘The emphasis is on doing things which are not risky. To have a grant proposal funded, you have to propose something and then present what is called preliminary data, which is basically evidence that you’ve already done what you’re proposing to do. If there’s any risk involved, then your proposal won’t be funded.‘[…]
‘A truly innovative idea cannot be judged by peers: if it is truly innovative, no peer has any clue about it; if peers already know about it, it is not innovative’ said John Ioannidis, head of the Stanford Prevention Research Centre in California. Ioannidis and others published a recent analysis called ‘Conform and be Funded’ where they show that safer, established ideas have a much better chance of being funded at the NIH than novel, creative ones. [Emphasis added.] [More here]

Nice police

computercopFor years, local law enforcement agencies around the country [the USA] have told parents that installing ComputerCOP software is the “first step” in protecting their children online. Police chiefs, sheriffs, and district attorneys have handed out hundreds of thousands of copies of the disc to families for free at schools, libraries, and community events, usually as a part of an “Internet Safety” outreach initiative. The packaging typically features a signed message warning of the “dark and dangerous off-ramps” of the Internet.
ComputerCOP is actually just spyware, generally bought in bulk from a New York company that appears to do nothing but market this software to local government agencies. The way ComputerCOP works is neither safe nor secure. It isn’t particularly effective either, except for generating positive PR for the law enforcement agencies distributing it. [The product has] a keystroke-capturing function, also called a ‘keylogger,’ that could place a family’s personal information at extreme risk by transmitting what a user types over the Internet to third-party servers without encryption. That means many versions of ComputerCOP leave children (and their parents, guests, friends, and anyone using the affected computer) exposed to the same predators, identity thieves, and bullies that police claim the software protects against. [More here]

The Kentucky Phone

Kentucky Chicken Phone

Some of the most unusual and amusing digital accessories in the world are coming from the Japanese arm of Kentucky Fried Chicken. The fast-food chain already unveiled a fried-chicken keyboard, computer mouse and USB drive as part of a Twitter promotion and giveaway. KFC Japan looked upon its mighty works and said, “Yes, this is good, but we can do better.” And then it introduced a fried-chicken iPhone case. I think the laughing Colonel is saying “Oh no, she’s actually using the Chicken Phone! This is too much! Talking on it! Wait until she starts trying to eat it!!”

[From: the Wonderful Amanda Kooser at]

Making Marmalade

seville-2Citrus fruit: front left, a Tahitian lime; front right, a Seville Orange; behind that a medium-sized grapefruit and a lemon. Emboldened by a successful sortie into Cumquat Marmalade making, my wife Lyn and I attempted a batch of Seville Orange Marmalade to Stephanie Alexander’s recipe. It worked beautifully, the pectin-heavy pith ensuring a rough, chunky jam of the type known as ‘Oxford Marmalade’, made in Oxford, England, by Frank Cooper, to his wife’s 1874 recipe. The marmalade was especially popular at Oxford University, hence the name. It was taken to Antarctica on Robert Falcon Scott’s expedition to the South Pole.

In Arthur Ransome’s children’s book Missee Lee, Miss Lee, the leader of the Chinese pirates, had been educated at Cambridge University but learned to enjoy Cooper’s Oxford Marmalade.

As she says ‘We always eat Oxford marmalade at Cambridge. Better scholars, better professors at Cambridge but better marmalade at Oxford.’

seville-1-spoonIt’s made from Seville oranges, a large, tart fruit from Spain. Some people call them ‘bitter oranges’ or ‘sour oranges’.

The Internet says that ‘A thousand or so years ago, traders brought Chinese bitter oranges to Iberia and the Mediterranean basin. By the 12th century, Spaniards in the area around Seville were actively cultivating tart oranges. For several centuries, these oranges were the only type of orange being grown in Europe. Sweeter oranges were developed long after this orange became established in Spain… [they] make the perfect base for marmalade.

Carol Twombly again!


Genius font designer Carol Twombly may have left Adobe a decade ago, but her fonts live on. This one, Lithos (used for the phrase “the landmark musical event”), graces a Lion King poster in downtown Sydney in 2014. Every Greek fish and chip shop uses it, all over the world, from Alaska to Zanzibar. It’s everywhere!

Stew with Dumplings


First you cook your stew, then place dumplings on top, then grill them. It takes about ten years to get it right. Delicious! All my wife Lyn’s work! I’m a lucky boy!