The Christmas (shopping) story for 2014

By | Economy, Education, Health, History, Humour, Media, Research | 6 Comments

My Christmas piece for this year involves a pressure group called No Gender December, which wants us to stop supporting toy-making-firms that use pink for girls’ presents and see guns and trucks as appropriate toys for boys — what it calls ‘gendered marketing’. I would have passed it by had not the Prime Minister mentioned it in passing as an example of political correctness. Then I saw an article about it on The Conversation, and felt moved to comment there, as follows. Interesting stuff, but we’ve been through it before. Those of us who brought up kids in the 1960s and…

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The passing of Gough Whitlam

By | Economy, Education, Health, History, Humour, Media, Politics, Society, Theatre | 8 Comments

I wrote about Gough last year, when he turned 97, and I don’t want to repeat any of that. He was the most interesting politician I met, and he and Bob Menzies, for somewhat similar reasons, have been the two most powerful Australian politicians of my time. He didn’t quite get to 100 years, and thereby receive the Queen’s telegram, but he did have long innings, of which the last few years were not at all his most enjoyable. The tributes are pouring in, and they tell a similar story. He made us conscious of who we were as a nation, and…

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Now for something completely different …

By | Climate Change, Environment, Humour, Media, Politics, Religion, Research | 9 Comments

It’s been quite a while since there was anything remotely humorous on this website, but I came across a funny piece in The Onion, an American satirical news website, and thought it was worth passing on. I’ve written about humour and ‘climate change’ before, and there’s not a lot of it. But The Onion has had a go. The piece begins with a worryingly red map, whose caption went as follows: Scientists say it may be too late to effectively combat climate change deniers, and that humanity may simply have to learn to live with their negative effects. Now read on. WASHINGTON—In a worrying…

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Earth Hour

By | Climate Change, Environment, History, Humour, Media, Other, Politics, Religion, Research | 34 Comments

Some years ago, when Ms Gillard was Prime Minister, I served as the Chairman of the National Capital Authority, the body charged with planning for and managing the ‘national capital’ elements of Canberra. In my mail one day came a message from the Government that all government buildings were to observe Earth Hour by switching off all the lights for the set period. I was astonished. ‘You mean, we have to do this, even if we are working at the time?’ I asked our CEO. (Yes, we might well have had people working at night.) He nodded. I said it…

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And a Merry Christmas to all

By | ABC, Books, Climate Change, Economy, Education, Environment, Food & Wine, Health, History, Humour, Indigenous, Language, Media, Music, Other, Politics, Religion, Research, Road Safety, Society, Sport, Theatre | 7 Comments

This is my last post for the year — a phrase my wife says needs a trumpet call, which would be the case had I capitalised the phrase. Ordinary transmission will resume on Monday 6 January. What a year it has been. What other year saw Australia have three Prime Ministers within a few months? The last was 1945, when John Curtin died, to be followed in an interim way by his Deputy Frank Forde, before the Labor Caucus elected Ben Chifley as the new PM. And there were two similar earlier years in my lifetime, 1941, when Menzies, Fadden,…

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How to write a bad philosophy essay (indeed, a bad essay in anything)

By | Climate Change, Education, History, Humour, Language, Research | One Comment

This lovely spoof came to me from a website in South Africa, but the well-published author is at the University of Sheffield, where you can find out about him on his own website. After reading his advice I reflected that I was not the only pedant in the world! HOW TO WRITE A CRAP PHILOSOPHY ESSAY: A BRIEF GUIDE FOR STUDENTS James Lenman (Sheffield University) Always begin your essay along these lines: “Since the very dawn of time the problem of free will has been considered by many of the greatest and deepest thinkers in history.” Always end your essay…

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Does ‘Climate Change’ have a funny side?

By | Books, Climate Change, Environment, Humour, Politics, Research, Society | 5 Comments

Things that are deadly serious don’t make for easy humour. Jokes and church don’t meld well. I’ve been interested in the phenomenon of political jokes for a long time, and have done a post or two about them. Global warming, more recently known as ‘climate change’, has a churchy sort of feeling to it, and in the past all the jokes were against the deniers — well, nearly all of them: ‘According to a new U.N. report, the global warming outlook is much worse than originally predicted. Which is pretty bad when they originally predicted it would destroy the planet.’…

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Gough Whitlam is 97

By | Education, History, Humour, Other, Politics, Society | 5 Comments

Gough was 97 yesterday. I first met him in the early 1960s, when I was a PhD student at the ANU,  spending a good deal of time at Parliament House. In 1967 I started writing the Monday leader (editorial) for the Canberra Times, and not long after that, to share a weekly column with Geoff Sawer, Professor of Law at the ANU. He decided to leave that work to me in 1968, and thereafter, until I stopped writing weekly columns in 1983 (by then for the much-lamented National Times), federal politics and its stars were very much my interest.  Gough Whitlam was…

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More humour from the former Soviet Union

By | Books, History, Humour, Politics, Society | 2 Comments

I devoted a light-hearted Saturday post to some Soviet-era humour a little while ago, and there was a modest clamour for more. So here is a little more, collected in the late 1980s. In Russian, such jokes were called ‘anekdoti‘ and, if you’ll forgive the pun, were no laughing matter. In the former East Germany you could be jailed for listening to one, and draw a longer sentence for telling one. As a joke of the time went, Polish and Hungarian leaders liked to collect the jokes about themselves, while the East Germans liked to  collect the people who told…

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Academic writing

By | Books, Education, History, Humour, Language, Media, Politics, Research | No Comments

Cleaning up in the loft, I came across a file I started many years ago that contained both awful examples of academic language and writing, and some delicious spoofs of same. A Saturday post seemed the right environment in which to share some of the jewels. I should start by reminding readers that as an undergraduate one is trained in ‘the essay’, and as one progresses towards the award of the degree, the essay becomes longer, more laden with scholastic apparatus, and increasingly heavy. It oughtn’t to be like this, but it is. PhD theses are leaden, and so are…

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