Boris Johnson opens Melbourne Writers Festival


I went along to see London Mayor Boris Johnson open the 2013 Melbourne Writers Festival last night. The man declared himself impressed with the venue, our city’s quaint mid-nineteenth century neoclassical Town Hall, deeming it more appropriate than his own sterile and modern energy-saver abutting the old Pool of London.

In case any of you are wondering why a politician travelled 16891 kilometers to open such an event, Boris Johnson is a writer with a dozen or so successful books under his belt. He came up through the newspaper ranks Continue reading

Widescreen Radio


My TV channel count is gone up to a much-duplicated 55 but 8 are actually radio channels. “WTF is SBS Radio doing thinking it’s a TV station?” asks Melbourne comedian Dave Hughes in his raucous new live stand-up act. And he’s right! Slyly infiltrating my Electronic Program Guide (EPG) using an alias like ABC Dig exceeds the duplicity of the pirate radio station I was once part of way back in the North Sea radio heydays when I fancied myself as their landlubbing prosopopoeia. But this is legal – though it seems somewhat incestuous. Or at the very least a bit bi.

Imagine all those poor, what…viewers? listeners? – the ‘populi bewilderus’ who just sit there listening to watching the music and waiting for a phantom TV show to start with the patience of Ratzinger’s gay admirer. Continue reading

Patently preposterous


The legislation in place to protect patents seems to have been around since Noah invented bulk livestock carriers. But it hasn’t provided safe harbour since the great ship of modern technology let slip her moorings on the day the music of the rotary-dial telephone died.

Critical junctures such as this one tend to happen cyclically over the eons. Mankind usually trims the sails to manage the winds of change but in this instance there is gale force resistance to changing tack. Historical lessons that prove the benefit of pulling together rather than standing apart are forgotten. Nobody remembers how the Wright brothers destroyed their reputations by defending their patent for aircraft flight control until the American government had to step in to allow the allied air forces equip themselves for World War 1. Continue reading

The Aran Islands


That Celts arrived in Ireland via the Caucasus should come as no surprise to those familiar with Tchaikovsky’s ‘Swan Lake’ which shares elements with the story of the two figures from Celtic mythology, lovers Aonghas and Caer. There is an ancient fortress bearing Aonghas’ name on the Aran Islands off the west coast of Ireland. The location on the receding continental shelf of Europe identifies both the little archipelago’s geographical position, and its extreme isolation.

The dominant feature is not only the grey/white stones, but their layout. They weave a flywire grid of low walls enclosing the tiniest green plots that could never be called paddocks. In a remarkable achievement, the Islanders broke and cleared the stone. To dispose of the shrapnel, they created walls with it, forming the boundary of the cleared patch of dirt. This backbreaking, courageous labour is staggering at first sight. Continue reading

Desert Rose

Asma to blog3

Asma al-Assad (36) is the glamorous First Lady of Syria, a Londoner from a privileged background who graduated from King’s College and worked in international finance at JP Morgan before marrying the wealthy and westernised eye surgeon whose father was the then President of Syria. She must have known at the time that her new father-in-law conducted the (original) Hama massacre back in 1982 when an estimated 20,000 died in a single night.

Despite that, the latest unrest in Syria has taken Asma by surprise. Due to bothersome international sanctions against her adopted country, she is unable to get the (northern) summer collection of the jewel-encrusted Louboutin shoes she is so attached to. It is also reasonable to assume that she has by now emptied her last musical tin of Fortnum & Masons English Digestive biscuits. Worse, the once dubbed ‘English Rose of the Desert’ is today whispered to rank alongside Elena Ceaușescu,  or Lady Macbeth, perhaps even one of the “tricoteuses” of the French revolution who knitted in their front-row seats through the daily performance of another trendy Madame – the guillotine. Continue reading

A history lesson

Greece was occupied by the Axis powers until 1945. Some 300,000 Greek civilians perished during the Nazi occupation of Athens alone. The entire populations (or in some cases, the male population only) of scores of towns and villages were executed and those towns razed to the ground. One million Greek children, women and men lived homeless. An estimated 70,000 Greek Jews were transported to the Nazi motherland.

Golden Dawn supportersToday, May 8, 2012, 21 members of the National Socialist Party (Nazi, or Neo-Nazi) were voted into national parliament by Greek citizens. Their leader insisted that members of the press stand as he entered his first news conference where he announced the swastika as their official emblem and Continue reading

WikiLeaks – Politicians unplugged.

The lead in this morning’s Melbourne Age read: “Foreign Minister Kevin Rudd is an abrasive, impulsive ‘control freak” who presided over a series of foreign policy blunders during his time as prime minister.” This is attributed to US diplomatic cables between Canberra and Washington filtered from the virtual tonnage of such cables released through WikiLeaks.

How strange it was of the Fairfax press to lend such prominence to a revelation that Australians were already aware of. If Assange has dumped a mountain of drivel on a world already suffering from information overload, I would have hoped that a responsible press could be trusted to comb through the dross and print items of public interest, omitting the trivial (and perhaps items genuinely threatening world peace.)

This consummate piece of intelligence sums up the value of WikiLeaks latest mass production. The diplomatic cables contain gossip, innuendo and opinion. The bureaucratic writers are salaried to provide such trite minutiae to the next level in their political hierarchies.

But the biggest international threat they contain is mere embarrassment. Little compares to the reaction of an embarrassed American public servant but they get over it – look at the Bay of Pigs misadventure; J. Edgar Hoover’s cross-dressing; Presidential semen on an intern’s dress; the 2000 election; Dubya vomiting his sushi at a dinner in Tokyo and all that before I even get to Dan Quale! Continue reading