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Books

What is it all for?

By | ABC, Books, Education, History, Media, Politics, Society | 220 Comments

This essay is a companion piece, or a sequel, to my second one this year, on ‘mating’, which I see as the basic dynamo of human societies — not so much the meeting and mating of boy and girl, but the collective consequences of those matings, the growth and shape of human populations over time. This essay takes the argument a little further. My work on political attitudes and behaviour suggested that most young people acquire a more or less tepid version of their parents’ political attitudes while they are at home. Things change when they go out into the wider…

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Another passage to India

By | Books, History, Humour, Language, Music, Religion, Society | 3 Comments

While I have been at least twice to every Asian country save Mongolia and North Korea, South Asia has passed me by (vice versa, more accurately). I’ve not been to Pakistan, Bangladesh or Afghanistan, I visited Sri Lanka only briefly and a long time ago, while India I’ve been to once only. There’s no good reason. I had a very bright Indian doctoral student who has remained a friend through life, my eldest daughter travelled over India on her way home from London (which made her vegetarian for a decade), I think Virat Kohli is a superb batsman, and I have…

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Mating, the core of it all

By | Books, Climate Change, Education, History, Politics, Society | 69 Comments

I did a lot of reading over the holiday period, partly because my January  has been consistently hot — not at all with 40 degrees plus — but day after day of around 33 degrees, which gets the ambient heat of our house right up, forces me to put on the air conditioning, and inclines us to sit and read. This essay is the first of a pair, each looking at what seem to me to be the core aspects of human social life, from which everything else hangs. This one is about mating. We human beings rarely have memories extending…

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A good news story about Australia’s past

By | Books, Environment, History, Media, Politics, Society | 20 Comments

Regular readers will have noticed that the website was down for a few days. My lovely website host says that I shouldn’t take it personally. It wasn’t the Russians: … hackers just send out web crawlers to attempt to hack into any site they can — they run scripts over and over to find any kind of vulnerability and it is all automated. This is the second time it has happened, and it is a total bore to everyone, especially my website host, who has to fix it up. So much of our media news is dire that I thought it would be…

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Two more books, on an important union, and on climate change

By | Books, Climate Change, Economy, Environment, History, Language, Media, Politics, Religion, Research | 89 Comments

This essay is a discussion about two books, widely different in their story. Each was given to me by its author, a friend. They are both excellent accounts, and I recommend them to readers. The first, by Dr John O’Brien, is about a trade union, the National Tertiary Education Union (NTEU). O’Brien is an academic who was also an office-bearer in the NTEU. The second is about climate change, and was written by a geologist, Dr Howard Brady, who has some distinctions which flowed from his work, notably about the past climate history of Antarctica. O’Brien’s book, National Tertiary Education Union. A Most…

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The real war on science

By | Books, Education, Environment, Health, History, Language, Media, Politics, Research, Society | 145 Comments

A post in Judith Curry’s Climate etc pushed me to read a long essay from the City Journal Magazine by John Tierney. I hadn’t heard of either of them. The magazine is published by a right-wing think tank in New York, and focuses mostly on urban issues. John Tierney, according to Wikipedia, is a ‘contrarian’, which I see as a dismissive term. Forewarned, I went off to read the piece, and I think it is insightful. But then, I would probably be called a ‘contrarian’ too, by those who don’t like what I write, and believe they have the truth in them…

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What is exceptional about Australia?

By | Books, Environment, Indigenous, Language, Politics, Religion, Society, Sport | 136 Comments

A year or so ago I was asked to write a chapter for a book on Australian ‘exceptionalism’ by the book’s editor, William Coleman, whose father Peter was my local MLA when I lived in Sydney. William is a well regarded reader in economics at the ANU. I was tempted, but I had a lot of other writing on my plate, and finally said he should try others. Well, he did, and they include Geoff Blainey, Henry Ergas, Nick Cater, Phil Lewis and John Nethercote.  The book is out (Only in Australia. The History, Politics and Economics of Australian Exceptionalism,…

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Globalism and globalisation (and internationalisation)

By | Books, Economy, Environment, History, Language, Media, Politics, Society | 50 Comments

A good deal of the Trump campaign focussed on ‘globalisation’, and the effects that process has had on, for example, the American car industry. I remember Detroit in the 1960s, a vigorous city, the home of the American car, and shortly to come, as Motown, the home of The Supremes. It had a fine civic sense and fine symphony orchestra. Today it is a civic shambles. The orchestra survives, but about half the city’s 138 square miles is unoccupied. I don’t think President-elect Trump will be able to restore Detroit to its former glory, but he will certainly be trying to…

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Books, biographical stuff and uncertainty

By | Books, Climate Change, History, Media, Politics, Society | 52 Comments

Moving On I mentioned in a recent essay that my new novel, Moving On, was about to be launched. Well, launched it has been, and it is now on sale. You should be able to get it by going to your nearest good bookseller and asking them to order it for you, which they will do from me at Danbee Books, unless you live in Canberra, where most bookshops have my books (or in Sydney, at Gleebooks in Glebe and Dulwich Hill). The price is $29.95, which includes post and packing, for those ordering on line. I use PayPal, which…

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Books that have been important to me #3 The novels of C.P. Snow

By | Books, Economy, Education, History, Language, Media, Politics, Religion, Society | 62 Comments

You don’t hear much about C. P. Snow these days. When I was young he was an important figure, both in the literary world and in the world of policy. Born in 1905, the same year as my father, he came from a poor family, and made his way through excelling at school and university to become a fellow of a Cambridge college, then a senior civil servant, and at last a famous writer. I think I first heard of him in connection with his Rede lecture ‘The Two Cultures and the Scientific Revolution’, a lament from the 1950s about the…

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