Monthly Archives: April 2006

Lord Malcolm

I just had a call from Artist Andy: Lord Malcolm discharged himself from hospital, where he had been since 7 April, but it isn’t working out and it seems he will have to return tomorrow. This does not sound good.
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Posted by on April 30, 2006 in Indigenous Australians, Personal


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Dumbed down syllabuses?

Yes, I do accept “syllabuses” as an English plural these days, but you may have “syllabi” if you prefer… See Ask Oxford.

There is some good discussion on education happening on Mikey’s Blog at the moment, particularly on whether the Science courses in schools have been “dumbed down.” Do check the comments there as well. Great to see such thinking in a teacher-to-be.

And now Mikey has gone and written a follow-up entry. I note too he seems to have invented a rather good word in his other entry today: “My bestmate Sarge and I tottled down to uni for the Shute Shield Woods-Uni game yesterday…” I like it: kind of toddled mixed with tottered. Was that the idea?
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Posted by on April 30, 2006 in Aussie interest, Education



Death in the Andes by Mario Vargas Llosa

The first I heard of Mario Vargas Llosa was in the early 1980s when I met Netherlands-based Australian novelist Rowan Hewison, at that time in Sydney for a year; Vargas Llosa was something of a literary patron of Rowan. I read the hilarious Aunt Julia and the Scriptwriter (1977) and loved it. Last year I read The Feast of the Goat, one of my best reads of 2005.

Last week (courtesy of Surry Hills Library) I read Death in the Andes (1996): that somewhat informal review gives you a good idea of what it is about, though the reviewer, an American student, is alarmingly ill-informed about Peruvian revolutionary politics. This issue of New Internationalist addresses that very well indeed.
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Posted by on April 28, 2006 in Politics, Reading, Surry Hills



The (Biblical) Book of Daniel

I have been reading Daniel lately, and a great story it is, even if self-evidently a work of fiction. Nothing wrong with that; fiction can be inspired. Daniel is about as reliable as “history” as Hamlet or Macbeth — slightly less so, perhaps.
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Posted by on April 27, 2006 in Faith and philosophy, Reading, Religion


Blood and Oil by Michael Klare (Hamish Hamilton 2004)

Now $14.95 at the remainder shops, and well worth buying. As this reader says:

Blood and Oil is a great book as an introductory piece to the energy and military troubles of United States foreign policy vis-à-vis the petroleum industry. It is a great source of information for individuals whose area of study is the energy sector, as well as individuals concentrating in the petroleum sector. The book is easy to read and the organization of information is appropriate for the book’s flow. One may find the last two chapters to be particularly thought provoking, thus craving more details than the book provides. Overall, the book is well written and is easy to follow by either experts or novices to the topic.

Such panoptic texts are essential. One can follow the day-to-day saga if one chooses by following many of the sites listed on the right here, but one can also, I fear, be driven a little mad by this incessant parade of dishonesty and incompetence. One needs a perspective. Books such as Klare’s give one that.
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Posted by on April 26, 2006 in Current affairs, Israel, Politics, Reading



J S Mill 200 years on

Prospect has a very good article on John Stuart Mill, whose On Liberty everyone should read: it is not all that hard to read.

…On Liberty also addresses freedom of thought and discussion in terms that remain instructive. His view is that progress depends on truth, that the truth is most likely to emerge from a constant collision of opinions, and that freedom of speech is necessary to generate such collisions. There are three essential components to his argument that free discussion is truth-generative. First, any opinion may be true, no matter how eccentric it seems at first, and so to suppress it is to slow the march of knowledge. Second, few opinions contain the whole truth, while many contain a “portion” of it—and only by bringing them into contact and conflict can any approximation of the whole truth be constructed. In an echo of Coleridge, he declares that usually “conflicting doctrines, instead being one true and the other false, share the truth between them.” Third, even if a received doctrine happens to be true, it becomes less vitally so unless subjected to open critique: “both teachers and learners go to sleep at their post, as soon as there is no enemy in the field.” (He certainly would have opposed the jailing of David Irving.)
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Posted by on April 26, 2006 in Cultural and other, Faith and philosophy, Politics, Reading



My past catches up

Got this email.

Hi Neil,

I was a former student of yours at Sydney Boys High. Perhaps you still remember my name. I certainly remember most of the stories you told us in English class, e.g. the fellow you met as a child named ‘Rear Admiral Sir Leighton Bracegirdle’. I also remember your recital of Caedmon’s hymn with proper old English pronunciation.

To cut a long story short, I am now working as a Computer Systems Engineer in the city and I am still in the office. I decided to do what I do whenever I am bored – an unclaimed money search.

Do you by any chance have ‘Thomas’ as a middle name? If so, the NSW Office of State Revenue has $76.80 of your money. Even if it’s not you, it should mean something that I thought of you when thinking of people to look up.

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Posted by on April 25, 2006 in Diversions, Education, Personal