It Had to Be Done

For too long, man has yearned to destroy the sun.

14 May 2015 · · Politics

It was a record year for turnover at the top of the UK single charts, but I haven’t had much to say about many of 2000’s number ones. Here are some more of the honourable exceptions.

Read More · 5 May 2015 · Music

Popular has spent 2015 exploring the number ones of 2000, which is starting to tread on musical ground first covered at this very site; but a lot can change in fifteen years. Here are some of my initial comments on the year’s UK number ones, edited and adapted.

Read More · 5 May 2015 · Music

Fixed Terms

With only a few days to go, some legal and economic views on the General Election. Minority governments under the Westminster system. The Fixed-term Parliaments Act. The myth of British Euroskepticism. Paul Krugman on austerity.

Australia, Renovation Nation. Episode 2. Episode 3.

Have these solar-powered blood banks saved lives in Nepal? You can only hope.

Gone.

India searches for the perfect cookstove. (We got a rocket stove to take camping last year. It’s so efficient we’ve ditched our portable barbecue and bags of charcoal; a few handfuls of dry sticks can cook a meal.)

Why can’t we read anymore?

Class privilege and “doing what you love”.

Many undergraduates don’t see plagiarism as a big deal. Looks like they should.

4 May 2015 · · Weblog

I’ve spent the past week and a half preoccupied with Blur’s new album The Magic Whip, which is better than anyone had any right to expect. It’s fast become my favourite Blur album since The Great Escape, possibly even since Parklife, which for an unexpected comeback is some sort of miracle; it’s as if they never went away.

A few blurry links: interviews and analyses at DIY and The Sunday Times; reviews at Drowned In Sound and The Guardian; Graham Coxon and Stephen Street talk about it.

4 May 2015 · · Music

Nutraloaf

What prisoners eat. What astronauts eat.

A school orchestra with a difference.

Taking notes by hand, vindicated.

Lost in emoji translation.

Punk’s Sistine Chapel.

Father Ted’s legacy.

Renewable energy at an industrial scale. Is it too late?

25 April 2015 · · Weblog

Umami

How to talk Comedy Writer.

Let’s Speak English.

Why doesn’t everyone in Asia have a headache?

Paraguay’s awful history.

The man who missed killing Hitler by 13 minutes.

Read More · 19 April 2015 · · Weblog

Lactose Intolerance

“Mars One’s candidates have been vetted by a single person, in a 10-minute Skype interview.”

The foodbank dilemma.

A bee sting saved my life.

The death of Ebola’s unsung hero.

Cheese changed the course of Western civilization.

200 Years of immigration to the U.S., visualised.

The end of the line for the Dictionary of American Regional English.

Read More · 3 April 2015 · · Weblog

Eclipse

2015 Eclipse, Edinburgh

We had great eclipse viewing conditions in Edinburgh yesterday morning. (In your face, Transit of Venus 2004.) Armed with a pinhole camera and just the right degree of cloud cover, I even managed to get a few decent photos. No eyeballs were harmed in the taking of these images.

21 March 2015 · · Events

Rage Quit

I grew up thinking of Malcolm Fraser and Australia’s Liberal Party as the bad guys, a view which only became stronger when I immersed myself in 1975 lore as a political science student in the late 1980s. When Gough Whitlam died last year, I lost a hero. Once I would as happily have danced on Fraser’s grave as on Margaret Thatcher’s.

But while Thatcher’s legacy in Britain becomes more toxic by the year, Fraser’s is more benign. His government presided over some positive changes—welcoming Vietnamese refugees, establishing SBS, opposing apartheid and white minority rule in Rhodesia, and the Northern Territory Land Rights Act—and saw through some of what Gough started. I’ll never approve of what he did in 1975, although I attach most of the blame to Governor-General Sir John Kerr for cravenly going along with it. Dismantling Medibank was a blot on his copybook as well, as was making a minister of John Howard. But after his time as prime minister he did and said a lot worth admiring.

David Pope’s cartoon in the Canberra Times captured it best. I love his reference to the old jokes about how Fraser looked like an Easter Island statue, too.

Time to relinquish the rage.

20 March 2015 · · People

A Magazine, Stickers and a Flute

Illness and work combined to break my blogging habit* for a month, so here’s a backlog of links.

The privileged are taking over the arts—pop culture is doomed.

Kurt Vonnegut on the shapes of stories.

Vanilla Bright Like Eminem.

Frankie Boyle on offence and free speech.

Rain-soaked photographs like impressionist paintings (source).

Wolf Hall was essential television, but how true to history was it? Count up the bodies.

Octopus gets crabby.

Why the Internet could be the next failed state.

The girl who gets gifts from birds.

Read More · 13 March 2015 · · Weblog

Memories of Pterry

A sad day for fans of comic fantasy, a genre Terry Pratchett pretty much came to define.

My copy of The Colour of Magic dates from 1985, the first Corgi paperback edition, which described the story on the front cover as “Jerome K. Jerome meets LORD OF THE RINGS (with a touch of Peter Pan)” and on the back as THE WACKIEST AND MOST ORIGINAL FANTASY SINCE HITCHHIKER’S GUIDE TO THE GALAXY (who knew Death started out as a blurb writer?). The comparisons had a whiff of desperation, but did the trick: as a teenage fan of Tolkien, Douglas Adams and Three Men in a Boat, I paid my A$4.95 and started reading.

Read More · 12 March 2015 · · People

February 2015