Search results for ‘some non-fiction read recently’

Supplement to “Some non-fiction read recently”

See also Some non-fiction read recently: 2a, Some non-fiction read recently 2b – the personal component, Some non-fiction read recently 2c – tentative conclusions, Some non-fiction read recently: 1.

Two relevant posts have just appeared on 3 Quarks Daily: I want my country back by Sehar Tariq; and INSIDE THE TALIBAN’S ‘GRAVE ERROR’.

The first is, as a comment there notes, heartbreaking.

When there is no hope, no optimism, no security, no justice, no education, no progress, no culture – there is no Pakistan. Maybe it is because I am the grandchild of immigrants who was raised on stories of hope, patriotism and sacrifice that even in this misery I cannot forget that Pakistan was created to protect the lives, property, culture and future of the Muslims of the Subcontinent. It was not established to be a safe haven for terrorists. We fought so that we could protect the culture of the Muslims of the Subcontinent, not so that we could import the culture of Saudi Arabia. Our ancestors laid down their lives so that the Muslims of the Subcontinent – both men and women – could live in a land free of prejudice, not so that they could be subjected to violent discrimination of the basis of sect and gender.

The second states:

"The Taliban finally made a grave error," said Javed Siddiq, editor of the influential Urdu language daily Nawa-e-Waqt.  "Once they challenged Pakistan’s constitution as un-Islamic, Islamic scholars and the Pakistani people no longer saw them as the self-styled defenders of Islam against western infidels – but infidels themselves who want to dismantle the Pakistani state." Siddiq said that challenging the constitution was a wrong step and believes it has backfired. Pakistan’s constitution was carefully forged by a board of Islamic scholars in 1973 – every tenet was crafted to make sure it conformed to the principals of Islam. "Now, all the different sects of the Sunni and Shiite, the religious scholars, the army, the politicians and every Pakistani is against the Taliban," Siddiq said. "They have lost." The Taliban were quick to sense their blunder and the resulting sea change in the country. "The expansion into Buner was the turning point," said Siddiq.

On Jason Burke, whose Al-Qaeda: the true story of radical Islam I so praised in Some non-fiction read recently 2c – tentative conclusions, see a good substitute for those who don’t have the book: Worldview highlights: Jason Burke.



Some non-fiction read recently 2c – tentative conclusions

And I really mean tentative. Further, there is no way a shortish post like this can do more than indicate rather than expound. After all, the books with which this series of posts began comprise around a thousand pages, while this post will most likely be just one to three! And I am about to add to that by recommending another thousand pages or more, which I have either skimmed or, in the case of Jason Burke, read attentively since commencing these posts.

Supplementary texts

star30 star30star30star30star30star30 Jason Burke, Al-Qaeda: the true story of radical Islam, Penguin 2004. This is the most thorough and most convincing book I have read on the subject. The writer has gone to first-hand sources and has relevant language skills, unlike very many who write on this. He speaks Urdu, the principal language of Pakistan and a second language understood by many of the players in Afghanistan. He has been to many of the relevant places and spoken to many of the people involved and thoroughly documents everything he says. His understanding of Islam and of the bewildering array of groups and their connections, or lack of direct connections, with Bin Laden or Al-Qaeda is superior to that of most western commentators. Anyone at all interested has to read this book. It outclasses the derivative work of Burleigh in this area by a factor of what – 1000%? The small sample of his work I attach below barely indicates the strengths of the book, but does indicate the direction Burke takes.

star30star30star30star30star30 Malise Ruthven, A Fury for God: the Islamist attack on America, Granta 2002. There has been an edition since then, which I don’t have. This was the first book of its kind that I read and remains among the best, but some of his conclusions about his subject need to be reconsidered in the light of Burke’s book. He is sceptical about the direction much US and UK policy was taking at that time, particularly about reliance on military solutions. That remains true, but does not rule out all military involvement. Excellent on the ideological background of “Islamist” groups.

star30star30star30star30star30 Karen Armstrong, Islam: a short history, Verso 2001. Short it is indeed, but also scholarly and fair-minded.

star30star30star30star30 John Gray, Al Qaeda and What It Means to be Modern, Faber 2003. Even shorter! The thesis is very interesting, however, and has a lot going for it.

star30star30 Melanie Phillips, Londonistan: how Britain is creating a terror state within, Gibson Square 2006. Burleigh endorses this book, but I still find it tendentious. Phillips does, however, highlight some of the ironies of following our own values of free speech. She overdraws, as does Burleigh, the “multiculturalism is to blame” argument. In The Mighty and the Almighty Madeleine Albright comes almost to the opposite conclusion: that a deep understanding of cultural pluralism and a willingness to respect the Other may be part of the solution. There’s a big difference, I would argue, between that position, which I share, and craven surrender to the bizarre and positively dangerous in our midst. Getting the balance wrong in either direction won’t help us, and may indeed do worse than that. The temptation to divide the world into goodies and baddies, alluded to below under “complexity”, must be resisted.

star30star30star30star30star30 Abdullah Saeed, Interpreting the Qu’ran: Towards a contemporary approach, Cambridge UP 2006. Saeed is Professor of Arab and Islamic Studies at the University of Melbourne. I am sure this book would not please either of the speakers at that 2005 Mine Seminar, but it will please very many Muslims and seems to me, by analogy with my understanding of some parallel dilemmas in Jewish and Christian circles and with my understanding of the nature of text and reading generally, to be a very fruitful approach for all concerned. Accepting, as all observant Muslims do, that the Qu’ran is indeed of divine origin, Saeed argues that interpreters of the Qu’ran are not so blessed.  He distinguishes three approaches, and in that respect adds nuance to the rather too broad idea of “fundamentalism”. The three approaches are: i) textualists, who argue for a strict following of the text and adopt a literalistic approach to the text; ii) semi-textualists, who “essentially follow the Textualists as far as linguistic emphasis and ignoring of the socio-historical context are concerned, but … package the ethico-legal content in a somewhat ‘modern’ idiom, often within an apologetic discourse.” Apologetic there is in the theological sense of presenting scripture in a way meant to refute sceptics. Having broken that sentence structure, I now present: iii) contextualists, who emphasise “the socio-historical content of the Qu’ran and of its subsequent interpretations.” Or, as a Presbyterian minister I knew many years ago was fond of saying, “a text without a context is a pretext.”  Thus, while I agree with the very well expressed statement by Sheik Yasin on context towards the end of that video referred to in the previous post, it is clear nonetheless that he is not a contextualist in Saeed’s sense, and may even be in camp i), though possibly in camp ii).  I still find it unfortunate that contextualism does not, in general, go as far in Qu’ranic studies as perhaps it should, as it has (much to the distress of many) in Biblical Studies.


0402occidental140 So much could be said here! People often resist complexity. They like their boundaries neat. Thus the vision of Al-Qaeda that emerges in Burke’s book may be resisted because the appeal of something resembling a Western or a James Bond movie is far easier to imagine. This can be a fatal trap when the true situation is simply not so neat, as Burke convincingly demonstrates. See too a 2005 post here: Lernaean Hydra – Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia. I posted that at the time of the London bombings.

Let’s just take one example: Did the CIA fund the Taliban?

This is a widely held view. I even shared it myself. However, is it true? It may well be that it is not. There are issues of chronology involved – the Taliban emerged rather late in the day compared to other mujahadeen groups, and Burke is excellent at unpicking all that. (Some thought of by many as Al-Qaeda in many books turn out to have been very loosely connected, or not connected, or even rivals of Al-Qaeda.)  Certainly the CIA, mostly via Pakistan intelligence and along with Saudi and other financiers, did fund some of those fighting the USSR and the Afghan Marxist regime, but it appears the US backed off from that policy during the Clinton years, and that further in the stage when such funding was occurring the Taliban hardly existed. Nonetheless, much of the materiel did fall eventually into Taliban hands.

This video is a typical example of the case for the CIA having funded the Taliban, but looking at it carefully one does see much chronological sliding going on. Rather, when the Taliban did emerge it appears the question really was “Who the hell are they?” See for example The Taliban Files from National Security Archive Electronic Briefing Book No. 97. Various Pakistani groups, on the other hand, were heavily involved, but Pakistan too is another instance of complexity, but there isn’t space here to go down that track. See also Beyond the Burqa: The Taliban, Women and the C.I.A. (September 12, 2001).


shsislam I am really trying not to sound patronising, because I respect idealism and even cling to some to this day, modified as it might be by experience and knowledge, especially of history.

The young, confronted with a world that all will admit is not the best of all possible worlds, may react with cynicism, apathy, or a deep desire to make a difference. Those who desire to make a difference will soon seek out how to make a difference, and therein is some danger, as well, of course, as much of the hope of the world. Those boys at The Mine, just like their confreres in the rather fundamentalist Christian and Jewish or political activist groups in the school, look for people who offer convincing solutions. Now you have to admit that both those speakers in the 2005 seminar (the video linked from the previous post in this series) are quite excellent public speakers. As a former debating coach I wouldn’t mind having them on my team, and it is no accident that one of the two sixteen year old presenters was indeed a valuable member of his age-group’s debating team, as was the brave young lad in cadet uniform who got up to rebut what he had heard. (The body language going on behind him, if you have seen the video, is interesting; it’s almost as if the presenters wish there was a hook in the wings or a trapdoor under the stage.) That lad, by the way, is now one of my Facebook friends.

You will also note on the right that the seminar the previous year directly dealt with the issue of terror. The tactic was definitely not recommended.

We need to remind ourselves that terrorism is a tactic and not an ideology, nor is it inevitable in a Muslim context. The nearest that terrorism came to being a rather empty ideology was in the case of the Russian nihilists and the weird Germans in the 60s and 70s. Burleigh is actually very good on both, especially on the Germans.

On the other hand, when an ideology goes in for group judgements, whether these be based on class, race or religion, there is a likelihood that terror may become an attractive tactic. In my view we need to strenuously resist group judgements. It also must be said that the ideology recommended by the two speakers in the 2005 seminar is ultimately total – they said as much – and you can’t get a higher authority than God as its author. Indeed, if the premises of the speakers were in fact correct it would follow that we should listen, but unfortunately I think the premises are highly questionable.

But as the speakers also said, we do have to all live together. Their solution, however, is not mine. In the world, let alone Australia, we all have to find ways to harmony in difference. It is a challenge, one we have not done too badly on here in Oz, comparatively, much better in fact than much of Europe.


One small but important example. In Blood & Rage (p. 468) Burleigh defines takfir as “the art of deluding infidels”. Burke notes (p. 331) “Takfir: excommunication, a practice in Shia Islam but until recently almost unknown among Sunnis.”  See also this from a conservative Muslim source. The authority referred to there is a key figure in the development of political Islam in the 20th century.

Jason Burke article.


Some non-fiction read recently 2b – the personal component

See also Some non-fiction read recently: 2a.

This goes back to 2005 and a particularly interesting if controversial event. On the day I was not there, as I had to attend a meeting of ESL teachers at Erskineville – or was it Arncliffe, one of the last such meetings for me as I retired the following year. But I did know all the participants at The Mine end, and I posted on it at the time and the following year. See Salt Mine and Islamic Students; 7.30 Report: The Mine and the Islamists; The Mine and the Islamists: cause for concern?. On Floating Life Apr 06 ~ Nov 07 there is also a major entry from April 2006.

What I found yesterday was a video on YouTube of the complete 2005 Seminar referred to in those entries. The controversy centred on the guest speakers, Sheik Khalid Yassin and Hizb ut-Tahrir’s Wassim Doureihi. These people would fall in one of Michael Burleigh’s inner circles (see previous entry) but not necessarily, of course, into the innermost circle. While I had concerns about the Mine students involved, I very much doubt they would have even considered the innermost circle – quite the opposite in fact. (I also refer to these students in my Cronulla 2005 posts.)


Stills from the video.

Mine students often show initiative, of course, and these particular students were very bright indeed and participated in all aspects of school life to the full. An earlier generation some ten years before promised they would have Barry Crocker and Kamahl at their farewell assembly. We thought they were joking, but on the day, there they were! The Tamils were especially happy. So were the office ladies.

Now you have to wait for Part C of this post.

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Posted by on April 20, 2009 in Australia, Australia and Australian, events, ex-students and coachees, faith, interfaith, Islam, multicultural Australia, personal, Postcolonial, religion, reminiscences, Salt Mine, terrorism


Some non-fiction read recently: 2a

See also Some non-fiction read recently: 1.

The first two books have led to much thinking – to that degree they are both good books. The thinking is so profound – in the sense that I am exploring again some important territory, not in the sense that I can offer great depth – that it will lead to post 2b in the near future. I will attempt there to draw out some ideas and will relate them to some things I have said before. I have also downloaded a video I found while looking for something else; it turns out to be a document, in a way, from my own recent past – or at least I know and have spent much time with some who feature in it. It is a video that will knock the socks off some readers. It is related to the issues in the following two books.

star30 star30star30star30star30 Madeleine Albright, The Mighty & the Almighty: Reflections on Power, God, and World Affairs, Macmillan 2006.

Yes, that Madeleine Albright. The thesis is that while there is a place for the military in the struggles that engage us, the more important struggle is in the world of ideas, and that must include a recognition of the significance of religion to the majority of the people in the world. I find this a very wise and persuasive book. Some of the policy moves the Obama administration has made in recent times are less surprising in the light of this book.

Albright was involved too with the Changing Course – A New Direction for U.S. Relations with the Muslim WorldReport of the Leadership Group on U.S.-Muslim Engagement September 2008 (SECOND PRINTING, WITH A NEW PREFACE AND ENDORSEMENTS February 2009). You can download a PDF copy here; I strongly urge you to do so.

See also Madeleine Albright’s Take on Religion and Politics by Jim Zogby on Muslim Media Network.

star30star30star30 Michael Burleigh, Blood & Rage: A Cultural History of Terrorism, Harper 2008

This isn’t really a cultural history of its subject, but rather a series of narratives of selected terrorist movements from 19th century Fenians through Russian Nihilists to of course the current phenomenon of terrorists who claim to be advancing the cause of Islam – a long-winded expression I have devised as more satisfactory than alternatives such as Islamists, Jihadists, or Islamofascists. The last one Burleigh also rejects, and he makes fairly careful use of the first two. He prefers another term that is unlikely to catch on: jihadi-salafist. On p.353 he compares the world of Islam to a series of concentric circles. The largest, outer circle “includes the world’s one and a half billion Muslims, divided into Sunni, Shia, and hundreds of other sects…” He doesn’t have a problem with most in that circle. The next circle inside the larger one includes “Islamists” – people who want Muslim states to introduce or maintain Islamic law. These too are in the main not terrorists. The next and smaller circle are the Salafi, but even there while “most [violent] jihadists are salafists, not all salafists are jihadists.” The final smallest circle Burleigh seems to forget about, but clearly it is those who actually embrace terror.

Now that isn’t too bad, really, as a kind of model. I had approached the book with dread, since he does at one point tell us that John Howard was the world’s most successful conservative leader. He is, on the other hand, not very fond of Rumsfeld and Cheney, it would appear, but does speak fairly kindly of George Bush. The book was after all written in the rarefied atmosphere of the Hoover Institution.

One of the book’s most annoying features is the author’s habit of parading his Aunt Sallys, his King Charles’ Heads, his hobbyhorses, rather too often and sometimes too smugly. You can almost guess what they might be. But the book is not quite as bad as some left reviewers have made out, nor nearly as good as Quadrant thought. Its great strength is that he tells his stories very well, when he’s not doing the right-wing whinging bits, and those stories are fascinating and disturbing enough, and I believe, going on the ones I already knew about, the telling is accurate enough. So the book really is informative. To his credit, too, Burleigh is firmly opposed to torture, and cognisant of right-wing terrorism.

See also a Google search. Especially look at Those who live by the bomb (Jason Burke) and Shadows of the gunmen (Giles Foden). Historian Fred Halliday is particularly pissed off in Blood and Rage, By Michael Burleigh.

Blood and Rage proclaims itself to be a "cultural history of terrorism". In eight far-ranging and fluently written chapters, it covers the Fenians in 19th-century Ireland, Russian nihilists, American anarchists, ETA, the Baader-Meinhof group in Germany and Red Brigades in Italy, as well as the ANC, Black September and – in a long concluding chapter – more recent Islamist groups. All are, for Burleigh, examples of one phenomonon, a cult of death and destruction that has little anchorage in politics and is more the product of "a pre-existing chemical mix" that is set to explode.

The first thing that strikes the reader of this book is its mediocrity. All is based on secondary material, and the main stories, events and characters are well known. Despite the fact that most episodes involve people who are still alive, or who lived through them, Burleigh never sees fit to interview anyone. The overall analytic framework is weak, and unoriginal. We never learn what a "cultural history" means, as if there could be such a thing. Compared to some major works on terrorism, by authors such as Walter Laqueur, Conor Gearty or Gerard Chaliand – who, without any shred of indulgence, do seek political causes, and recognise political context – Burleigh’s account is lacking. Equally, in his discussion of Islamist guerrilla groups, he has nothing to add to the works of such writers as Jason Burke, Fawaz Gerges, Olivier Roy, Malise Ruthven or Steven Simon….

Rushed opinion is buttressed by arrogance, not least towards former colleagues and institutions in which the author worked. A reference to the students of his former institution, the LSE, whom I have had the pleasure of teaching these past 25 years, has them described as "Eurotrash and Americans doing ‘Let’s See Europe’". At one point he sneers at fellow-participants at a conference in Madrid in 2005 on the dialogue of civilisations, "the usual obsfuscatory cloud of ecumenical goodwill". He fails to note that some of those who participated, such as the Egyptian Nasser Abu Zaid, had suffered at first hand from Islamist violence and knew far more than he about the matter.

In predictable vein, the final sections launch a general offensive against academics who write on terrorism for failing to engage with the reality of suffering involved. A survey of books shows, Burleigh tells us, "how unserious academics have become as a group". This would be as much a surprise to the Laqueurs and Geartys of this world as it is to those of us who have worked, over decades, on the Middle East. Bashing academics, the stock-in-trade of the sometimes virulently anti-intellectual Robert Fisk, is best left to others….

And there’s more. I agree about Jason Burke and Malise Ruthven, as I have read them. On the other hand, I did learn quite a bit from Blood & Rage.

star30star30star30star30 James  M McPherson (ed), The American Presidents, DK Publishing 2004 (revised).

This is a set of essays on all the US Presidents up to George W, each essay more or less of equal length and each by a different historian. Considering I knew so little about some of them I found the book worth reading. Some of the essays are brilliant. In the back you’ll find all the Inaugural Speeches. It is lavishly illustrated.

Now I am not promising Part B for tomorrow. I have a lot of thinking to do. But you may in the meantime be interested in this rather Marxist essay: Terry Eagleton, Culture & Barbarism: Metaphysics in a Time of Terrorism.

Why are the most unlikely people, including myself, suddenly talking about God? Who would have expected theology to rear its head once more in the technocratic twenty-first century, almost as surprisingly as some mass revival of Zoroastrianism? Why is it that my local bookshop has suddenly sprouted a section labeled “Atheism,” hosting anti-God manifestos by Christopher Hitchens, Richard Dawkins, and others, and might even now be contemplating another marked “Congenital Skeptic with Mild Baptist Leanings”? Why, just as we were confidently moving into a posttheological, postmetaphysical, even posthistorical era, has the God question broken out anew?

Can one simply put it down to falling towers and fanatical Islamists? I don’t really think we can. Certainly the New Atheists’ disdain for religion did not sprout from the ruins of the World Trade Center. While some of the debate took its cue from there, 9/11 was not really about religion, any more than the thirty-year-long conflict in Northern Ireland was over papal infallibility. In fact, radical Islam generally understands exceedingly little about its own religious faith, and there is good evidence to suggest that its actions are, for the most part, politically driven.

That does not mean these actions have no religious impact or significance. Islamic fundamentalism confronts Western civilization with the contradiction between the West’s own need to believe and its chronic incapacity to do so. The West now stands eyeball-to-eyeball with a full-blooded “metaphysical” foe for whom absolute truths and foundations pose no problem at all-and this at just the point when a Western civilization in the throes of late modernity, or postmodernity if you prefer, has to skate by on believing as little as it decently can…

Eagleton always writes well.

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Posted by on April 19, 2009 in America, Best read of 2009, book reviews, fundamentalism and extremism, generational change, History, Islam, Middle East, politics, right wing politics, terrorism, USA


Some non-fiction read recently: 1

star30 star30star30 1. Rachel Kohn, The New Believers, Harper Collins 2003

Rachel Kohn is the presenter of ABC Radio National’s “The Spirit of Things”. Some love her, others tend to find her infuriating. I have to admit I sometimes find her a bit of a flake, but this book does rather refute that. It is genuinely interesting and quite wide-ranging, and somewhat more critical than she appears to be at times on her program. It has to be said that her sympathies do come through rather clearly, however. Even so, it is a good guide to much in the very diverse world of religion, and that is a valuable service.

star30star30star30 2. William G Naphy, The Protestant Revolution: From Martin Luther to Martin Luther King, BBC Books 2007

This is the “book of the series” for a BBC program that hasn’t appeared, so far as I can tell, in Australia. You can read a thoroughly Marxist review of the series here, albeit predictable.

Engels returned to the scene of Luther and Müntzer’s great schism, but saw in it not the birth pangs of an inscrutable religious force, but an encounter between the social contradictions of an emerging capitalism and the potent ideologies that crystallised newly born class oppositions.

Müntzer, as the theologian of the revolution, gave voice to class grievances in the only vocabulary then available, using the egalitarian aspects of the gospels…

Engels thus introduces us to what remain crucial elements of Marxist theory. There is the idea that socially immature periods demand that class politics is shown through a “religious screen”. There is also an attention to the mobilising function of religion.

But Engels also teaches us that it is concrete social struggles that force religious doctrines to split into progressive and reactionary tendencies, not vice versa. It is this fundamentally materialist lesson that Hunt has missed.

It does rather make me want to scream “Karl Popper” though.

The book is not great, but it is genuinely informative. There is a detailed review here.

…As he points out – somewhat belatedly – in his conclusion, Naphy has written what "in some senses … is not a history at all. Rather it is a consideration of those features that seem unique to Protestantism through the centuries and that, perhaps, explain the societies and cultures that have been largely, if not predominantly, influenced by Protestantism". Beginning with a discussion of the authority of the medieval church and the challenges it faced, and of developments in piety (devotio moderna) and in learning (humanism), Naphy proceeds to consider the Reformation as initiated by Martin Luther in Wittenberg and Huldrych Zwingli in Zurich. He highlights the radical impulses that emerged alongside the more measured approach taken by those who, like Luther and Zwingli, chose to work alongside magistrates and princes…

This is a wide-ranging book with a strong and compelling thesis. It is marred by a disconcerting failure to attend to detail. Thus Zwingli’s death is placed by implication in 1529, although the correct year of 1531 is given in the (very helpful) biographical glossary. The Peace of Augsburg appears to have legitimised "Catholicism or Protestantism", but turn the page and it becomes clear that "Protestantism" here should in fact mean Lutheranism. The number of such misleading passages makes it difficult to recommend this book wholeheartedly to the general reader for whom it is doubtless intended.

More fundamentally, Naphy appears to attribute the rise of reason, liberalism and individual human rights and conscience entirely to the influence of Protestantism. The French Revolution achieves one brief mention acknowledging that "the idea of natural rights played a key role in providing the ideological justification for the American and French revolutions", and that liberal ideas arose "in Catholic, absolutist France and Presbyterian Scotland". That latter observation alone suggests that the stark contrast that Naphy proposes between a Catholic "mechanism of authority" and a Protestant "recipe for chaos" is overdrawn. There is fascinating material here, and considerable depth of observation and analysis, but it is unfortunate that Naphy did not place his fascinating analysis of Protestantism against a more nuanced account of Catholicism.

It is a great source of quotes. For example: “I had believed that [Connecticut was] the last retreat of monkish darkness, bigotry and abhorrence… I join you, therefore, in sincere congratulations that this den of the priesthood is at length broken up, and that a Protestant Popedom is no longer to disgrace the American history and character. If by Religion we mean Sectarian Dogmas … then … this would be the best of all possible worlds, if there were no religion in it. But if the moral precepts, innate in Man … if the sublime doctrine of … Deism taught us by Jesus of Nazareth … constitute true religion, then, without it, this would be … indeed a Hell.” — Thomas Jefferson to John Quincy Adams (1817).

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Posted by on April 15, 2009 in America, Australia, book reviews, faith, faith and philosophy, History, reading, religion, USA


Two non-fiction books that have impressed me lately

star_icons25 star_icons25star_icons25star_icons25 1. Tariq Ali, The Duel: Pakistan on the Flight Path of American Power (2008)

Yes, I know: Tariq Ali, famous 1968 alumnus and “wild man” of the Left. But even London’s Spectator, hardly famous for Marxist leanings, concedes, while also drawing attention to the book’s very pleasing style:

… Tariq Ali’s universal cynicism might have been oppressive, but in fact his narrative is funny and gossipy, the high points being his own encounters with key players, including Zulfikar Ali Bhutto, Benazir and Indira Gandhi. He believes that the country’s satirists, writers and poets serve as Pakistan’s collective conscience and uses writers and poets such as Faiz Ahmed Faiz, Sahir Ludhianvi, Habib Jalib and Ustad Daman to provide the moral compass for his wanderings.

Political turbulence has revived interest in stories from an earlier period of Muslim in the region, Ali says. He relates a 16th-century story that — with some modifications — sums up life in today’s Pakistan with painful accuracy. A man is seriously dissatisfied with a junior magistrate’s decision. The latter, irritated, taunts him to appeal to a senior judge.The man replies, ‘But he’s your brother, he won’t listen to me’. The magistrate says, ‘Go to the mufti’. The man replies, ‘But he’s your uncle’. The magistrate says, ‘Go to the minister’. The man replies, ‘He’s your grandfather’. The magistrate says, ‘Go to the King’. The man replies, ‘Your niece is engaged to him’. The magistrate, livid with anger, says, ‘Go to Hell then’. The man replies, ‘That’s where your esteemed father reigns. He’ll see to it that I get no satisfaction there.’

The government, the political parties, the civil service, the mullahs and the army all have reason to be angry with Tariq Ali and The Duel will outrage as many in Washington as in Islamabad. But Americans should read it for its explanation of why so many in Pakistan hate the US, blaming it for the dire situation in which they now find themselves.

In fact this sprightly romp should be read by anyone who wants real insights into Pakistan. It is as good a primer on Pakistani politics as you will find, with the caveats that it is not the whole story, it is not always accurate and Ali’s prejudices are his own.

Yes, but he makes more sense of this part of the world (including Afghanistan as these stories are inseparable) than most. I see a great love for his subject despite what the Spectator calls cynicism – and indeed cynicism seems to me quite rational in this case.

See also Democracy Now and The Independent. There is also a one hour YouTube and some shorter ones you may access from there.

star_icons25star_icons25star_icons25star_icons25 2. Peter Ackroyd, Shakespeare: The Biography (2005)

THE biography – a touch presumptuous that! But this is nonetheless a feast of a book which until recently I had just nibbled at for reference purposes. Some say Ackroyd speculates too much, but I find many of the speculations fruitful. It is also very grounded in excellent social history. Here’s a quick taste.

… Of his earthly life there was much less certainty. In the sixteenth century, the mortality of the newly born was high. Nine per cent died within a week of birth, and a further 11 per cent before they were a month old; in the decade of Shakespeare’s own birth there were in Stratford 62.8 average annual baptisms and 42.8 average annual child burials. You had to be tough, or from a relatively prosperous family, to survive the odds. It is likely that Shakespeare had both of these advantages.

Once the dangers of childhood had been surmounted, there was a further difficulty. The average lifespan of an adult male was forty-seven years. Since Shakespeare’s parents were by this standard long-lived, he may have hoped to emulate their example. But he survived only six years beyond the average span. Something had wearied him. Since in London the average life expectancy was only thirty-five years in the more affluent parishes, and twenty-five years in the poorer areas, it may have been the city that killed him. But this roll-call of death had one necessary consequence. Half of the population were under the age of twenty. It was a youthful culture, with all the vigour and ambition of early life. London itself was perpetually young.

The first test of Shakespeare’s own vigour came only three months after his birth. In the parish register of 11 July 1564, beside the record of the burial of a weaver’s young apprentice from the High Street , was written: Hic incipit pestis. Here begins the plague. In a period of six months some 237 residents of Stratford died, more than a tenth of its population; a family of four expired on the same side of Henley Street as the Shakespeares. But the Shakespeares survived. Perhaps the mother and her newborn son escaped to her old family home in the neighbouring hamlet of Wilmcote, and stayed there until the peril had passed. Only those who remained in the town succumbed to the infection.

The parents, if not the child, suffered fear and trembling. They had already lost two daughters, both of whom had died in earliest infancy, and the care devoted to their first-born son must have been close and intense. Such children tend to be confident and resilient in later life. They feel themselves to be in some sense blessed and protected from the hardships of the world. It is perhaps worth remarking that Shakespeare never contracted the plague that often raged through London. But we can also see the lineaments of that fortunate son in the character of the land from which he came…

See also Looking at Shakespeare, in 3 Different Ways.



An interlude

This post is being stored ready to spring on you soon after midnight on Tuesday. I am conserving for a few days my off-peak bandwidth, which is running close to the edge. I downloaded that Mine video so I could watch it properly, and it is just on an hour long!

I am also still separating the wheat from the chaff in my proposed final post after Some non-fiction read recently: 2a and Some non-fiction read recently 2b – the personal component. I am trying to be detailed enough yet concise. Not easy, as working against the positives I have noted already in Blood & Rage there really is an awful lot of crap, and Fred Halliday was quite right to locate most of it in the last chapter. Trouble is it is exactly the kind of crap that some – fans of Miranda or Andrew B for example – may most value. Crap nonetheless, though – and potentially dangerous crap too. I see Madeleine Albright as a good counterweight here.

Here’s a coincidence though: in late 1999 M was in Quetta (Pakistan) for a while; so were the 9/11 perpetrators. I doubt they met.

Enough for now. The promised post will materialise in the next day or three.

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Posted by on April 21, 2009 in blogging, site news


2009 Jan -June


Ninglun’s Specials and Memory Hole

1 January: End of decade – or not; 4 January: Mothballed. 14 January: Re-opened as Ninglun’s Specials and Memory Hole; memorabilia 1: overview (also posted on Floating Life); memorabilia 2: great-grandmother — 1940s; memorabilia 3: the telegram – World War II. 15 January: memorabilia 4: the card — 1951; memorabilia 5: soror mea c. 1948. 16 January: memorabilia 6: Papua 1945. 17 January: memorabilia 7: RAAF in World War II. 18 January: memorabilia 8: RAAF in World War II – documents 1. 19 January: Memorabilia 9: RAAF in World War II – documents 2. 20 January: memorabilia 10: cradle roll 19 August 1945. 21 January: memorabilia 11: 1944-1945. 22 January: memorabilia 12: my grandfather in the 1880s. 24 January: memorabilia 13: 1993-4. 30 January: memorabilia 14: the graduation 1965. 31 January: January 2009 Report 1.

Floating Life

1 January: Floating Life and English/ESL in 2008. 2 January: Mendelssohn Bicentenary; Last 2008 in review post: my also-rans… Goodbye, Journalspace!; A whiff of sanity on Israel and Palestine. 3 January: WP stats and my latest; Yes, it’s on again; I hereby ban the word “fascist” from this blog…. 4 January: Hmmm… Been blogging for way too long…; Rationalising resources; Just a quiet Sunday afternoon in Surry Hills… 1; Just a quiet Sunday afternoon in Surry Hills… 2.

5 January: Joshua to Gaza 2009; My blog wordled, and Quote of the Week #1. 6 January: Radio National Poetry special: Five Bells by Kenneth Slessor; It’s hot, but so’s the cricket. 7 January: New Year blogging resolutions; 2009 book notes: 1; Yesterday’s crisis; What an amazing Test Match! 8 January: Breaking the silence on my English/ESL blog!; Two from regulars to this blog; Fascinating blogging and cultural phenomenon; A rabbi on Gaza; I’ve been writing an HSC English essay! 9 January: You can tell Thomas is on holidays…; Friday intellectual spot 1; Behind the news: Rosemeadow NSW. 10 January: DO ANY OF THESE SYMPTOMS FIT YOU?; Five more from regulars to this blog; Reconciling cybercondoms with a low end computer; What’s new: Sunday 11 January to Saturday 17 January. 11 January: Sunday is music day 1; Sunday Floating Life photo 1.

12 January: Only the demons are dancing…; Quote of the week: Week 2 2009; Coming up on the photoblog. 13 January: Transamerica — SBS last Saturday night ****; More top viewing, and the pity of war; Is my blog changing direction?. 14 January: Here’s another “100 best novels of all time” post; Nancy Bird Walton; Memorabilia. 15 January: On this day I blogged… of course; Bloggies, bloggers, and internet filtering; Yes, it is a hot day in Surry Hills today. 16 January: Friday poem: 2009 #1 – Pablo Neruda; Meanwhile in Zimbabwe; Friday intellectual spot 2; Friday school holiday games in Prince Alfred Park. 17 January: Saturday is stats time; This post has no title. 18 January: Sunday is music day 2: Brahms Piano Quintet in Fm, 4th mvmt; Sunday Floating Life photo 2; Bonus poem: Yehuda Amichai (1924-2000).

19 January: Quote(s) of the week 3 2009 – and more; Surry Hills: coming up on the photoblog; Obama in Surry Hills? 20 January: 1949: I was there and even remember it!; We would all do well to read this. 21 January: Slowdown; My blog picks on the Obama Inauguration. 22 January: If the USA can have a new President…; Bishop Robinson’s “lost prayer”. 23 January: Friday intellectual spot 3: Frank Furedi; Friday poem 2009 #2: perhaps the shortest ever!; Freak shows – or how Irfan Yusuf spoiled this post with some bloody facts!; School holidays coming to an end; Cricket in Sydney. 24 January: What scored in the past week; Irfan Yusuf and the ranting nut-jobs. 25 January: What’s new: Sunday 25 January to Saturday 31 January; Sunday is music day 3: nothing if not eclectic!; Sunday Floating Life photo 3; Very rare and special: pics from M’s Chinese New Year Party 1; Very rare and special: pics from M’s Chinese New Year Party 2; Very rare and special: pics from M’s Chinese New Year Party 3.

26 January: If it’s Australia Day expect at least some party-poopers…; I’m not Jewish, and I’m offended…. 27 January: Top viewing last night: Glass: A Portrait of Philip in Twelve Parts (2007) *****; Wet Monday. 28 January: Is it time to consider Linux? 29 January: Change and decay in all around I see…; I’m not an atheist but…. 30 January: Friday intellectual spot 4: Jerry A. Coyne; Friday poem 2005 #3 – Robert Frost “Design”. 31 January: Kevin, Peter, Malcolm … and Jim … on 2009 not being 1996…; RadarSync and other geeky things; January 2009 – posts with 200+ views.


Ninglun’s Specials and Memory Hole

1 February: January 2009 Report 2. 9-15 February: A week of respect and solidarity. 14 February: The bushfire and the Australian imagination. 15 February: Memorabilia 15: 1959 — or thereabouts.

Floating Life

1 February: To think about: CEO ethics; Sunday is music day 4: for Mardi Gras — and the Welsh; Floating Life Sunday photo 4. 2 February: What a pity I am retired… 3 February: Lots to think about – international, national, local. 4 February: Quote of the week, and book reviews 1; Journalspace is back; Jon Taplin on brain-dead economics. 5 February: Book reviews concluded; Rudd in “The Monthly” – but there really is more. 6 February: Friday poem 2009 #4 – Poetry on 3 Quarks Daily; Friday intellectual spot 5: 3 Quarks Daily and Dissent; Nice, but hot. 7 February: Saturday, Saturday…; To market, to market, to buy a fat hen…; Noted: major post by Jim Belshaw.

8 February: Sunday is music day 5 — Mattias Jacobsson – Concierto de Aranjuez, Adagio; Floating Life Sunday photo 5; Church of the holy bicycles…; BlogExplosion has reappeared. 9 February: Thinking about Victoria; 9-13 February: A week of respect and solidarity. 13 February: Re-opening today, but keeping to the bushfire theme; Instead of the Friday poem: Dorothy McRae-McMahon; 13 February. 14 February: Saturday quick stats; Still on the fires.

15 February: Sunday is music day 6: gay anthems; Floating Life Sunday photo 6: Mardi Gras Fair Day. 16 February: Last night I was 15 again…; If there’s a catastrophe anywhere the Jihadists have done it…; Four Corners: Two Days in Hell. 17 February: We also had Media Watch on ABC last night…. 18 February: For many kids Civics is arid, deadly dull and is thus hard to teach. 19 February: Our wet spell in Sydney seems to have receded…; Three blogs from Iraq or Iran; Seduced!. 20 February: Sad but true; Friday intellectual spot 6: Alan Wolfe on liberalism and New Scientist on religion; Speaking of pretty…. 21 February: The Saturday stats – last one for Feb; Breakfast in Glebe.

22 February: Bushfire memorial. 23 February: The 7.30 Report, the Australian War Memorial, Indigenous history. 24 February: Another great Monday night on ABC; Pakistan on the Brink – Four Corners. 25 February: Fifty years on – guess what, nothing is for ever!; Almost decent wireless broadband speed!; Bonds, King Gee owner slashes 1,850 jobs – ABC News. 26 February: Tori Amos on blogging; St Mary’s South Brisbane; Most popular photos February 2009. 27 February: Friday poem #5 – from Thylazine – Michelle Cahill; Friday intellectual spot 7: Tobias Ziegler on perceptions of ideological bias in research; Love Ned the Bear. 28 February: Irony (noun) – the Murdoch press thundering about purity in English Studies (see also “hypocrisy”).


Ninglun’s Specials and Memory Hole

1 March: February blog stats 1 – most visited posts; February blog stats 2 — totals.

Floating Life

1 March: Floating Life Sunday photo 7; Sunday is music day 7 – nostalgia; I’ve seen wordless posts before…. 2 March: Old books, old movies, old mentalities. 3 March: Oh dear, I am – and to my cost rather too often; 2009 book notes 2. 4 March: Surry Hills fauna; Pakistan: Sri Lanka Cricket team attacked; March 09 South Sydney Herald out…. 5 March: Time for a poll; Depression?; Notwithstanding the previous post…. 6 March: One-time pride of Journalspace – John Birmingham’s “Cheeseburger Gothic”; Friday poem #6 – A E Housman “On Wenlock Edge”; Catholic Taliban – very, very ugly…. 7 March: First Saturday stats for March; Recession solving teacher shortage?; Two from The Oz; “Must read” is inadequate for a post like Worldman’s latest.

8 March: Floating Life Sunday photo 8; Sunday is music day 8 — Blues for the Soul – Tropfest Australia 2008. 9 March: Pungent quotes from my Blog Rollers; Compass last night: Bridge Over the Wadi; Blog security — and my favourite blogging tool. 10 March: The American Dream – Vanity Fair, Howard Fast, and some right-wing flummery…; Really good blogging advice; Quote of the week: Iris Erlingsdottir. 11 March: Dr C says yes. 12 March: More on yesterday at Dr C’s; Old Sydney: sandstone terrace near Little Oxford Street; My “Irish Correspondent” is very sad…. 13 March: Friday poem #7 – Ben Jonson. 14 March: Bad Archaeology; March 14 Saturday stats.

15 March: Sunday Floating Life photo 9; Sunday is music day 9 — Paul Simon & Miriam Makeba. 16 March: BlogExplosion back on track. 17 March: Decline. 18 March: On race and policy: worth noting. 19 March: The nitty gritty of English. 20 March: Two issues fellow bloggers have taken up. 21 March: Who read what – week ending 21 March 2009.

22 March: Sunday Floating Life photo 10; Sunday is music day 10. 23 March: Who are you calling an ideologue? 24 March: Strange and sad. 25 March: Just a tad loaded, don’t you think? 26 March: The Great Firewall of Oz debacle. 27 March: Revisited The Mine, after a senior moment… 28 March: Saturday stats 28 March; I too was offered a free trip to China….

29 March: Sunday Floating Life photo 11; Sunday is music day 11: Samuel Barber – Adagio for Strings. 30 March: A rather odd argument?; Power outage.


Ninglun’s Specials and Memory Hole

1 April: Blogs in March 2009 – the stats fetish post. 7 April: Memorabilia 16 – 50 years on. 14 April: Memorabilia 17 – Sydney University: Fisher Library c.1960. 17 April: Memorabilia 18 – to mark retirement – with a local addition; 19 April: Effect of BlogExplosion. 24 April: Memorabilia 19: wartime wedding.

Floating Life

1 April: Wet morning. 2 April: Straying on to Marcellous’s territory. 3 April: Four from Surry Hills Library: 1. 4 April: Good commentary on Australian economy; Saturday roundup 4th April; Uncomfortable but possibly correct thoughts on Afghanistan.

5 April: Sunday is music day 12 — June Tabor; Sunday Floating Life photo 12; Solo Sunday lunch: Batik Courtyard Cafe. 6 April: Four from Surry Hills Library: 2 – and two OzLit blogs; Google translator experiment. 7 April: Four from Surry Hills Library 3 – strange but good; On the juvenile rhetoric of the American Right our Right is right…. 8 April: April South Sydney Herald in colour; Fibre optic network way overdue. 9 April: Four from Surry Hills Library 4 – nasty doings in Iraq and the USA. 10 April: Quiet Good Friday post. 11 April: What was read in the week ending 11 April; Notelets; On OzPolitics and Bishop Holloway.

12 April: Sunday is music day 13 — Jeremiah Clarke (c. 1674 – 1 December 1707); Sunday Floating Life photo 13; Special art work at South Sydney UC. 13 April: Two thought-provoking articles from the SMH; Enjoying “The Story of India”. 14 April: 50 years on – 1: a classmate’s story. 15 April: Some non-fiction read recently: 1. 16 April: Book reviews on hold…; Oz blogs on BlogExplosion. 17 April: Friday poem #8 – Donald Justice; On Ashmore Reef asylum seekers – hold your horses! 18 April: Bean counting time.

19 April: Sunday Floating Life photo 14 – Easter Sunday; Sunday is music day 14 — nostalgia; Some non-fiction read recently: 2a. 20 April: Some non-fiction read recently 2b – the personal component. 21 April: An interlude. 22 April: Second interlude. 23 April: Some non-fiction read recently 2c – tentative conclusions. 24 April: Friday poem #9: Isaac Rosenberg 1890-1918. 25 April: Anzac Day’s bean count; On the Western Front 1917-1918.

26 April: Supplement to “Some non-fiction read recently”; Sunday Floating Life photo 15: Sirdan surveying scene. 27 April: Sunday is music day (on Monday) 15 — “Keating”. 28 April: Some curiosities of scientists; Depression and creativity. 29 April: Microsoft stole my bandwidth this morning; There really IS an autumn light. 30 April: Counting the unemployed.


Ninglun’s Specials and Memory Hole

1 May: So there goes April!.

Floating Life

1 May: Friday poem #10 – Elizabeth Bishop 1911-1979. 2 May: Autumn dawn – Surry Hills.

3 May: Sunday Floating Life photo 16 – not so cool; What’s new Sunday 3 May to Saturday 9 May. 4 May: Overdue DVD reviews. 5 May: Pondering the Defence White Paper. 7 May: Taylor Square Darlinghurst yesterday morning. 8 May: South Sydney and other matters. 9 May: May’s first Saturday stats; Perhaps I’ll write another Kubla Khan…; What’s new Sunday 10 May to Saturday 16 May.

10 May: Sunday is music day 16: Paul Robeson; Sunday Floating Life photo 17. 11 May: Parzania (2007) – definitely worth seeing. 12 May: Three thought provokers. 13 May: Solving the “boat people” issue. 14 May: Other bloggers have been so busy! 15 May: Friday poem #11 – D H Lawrence. 16 May: Tiananmen and all that – 20 years on; Who read what in the past week.

17 May: What’s new Sunday 17 May to Saturday 23 May; Sunday Floating Life photo 18; Sunday is music day 17. 18 May: End-game in Sri Lanka. 19 May: A very neat photo blog. 20 May: Roads taken and not taken. 21 May: Classics all, each in its own way. 22 May: Here it is, in black and white – and green. 23 May: Bean counting; What are they up to?

24 May: China looks back; Sunday is music day 18; Sunday Floating Life photo 19: lunch at The Clarendon. 25 May: Book reviews as promised…; Just site news. 26 May: Perception versus fact on crime in Australia; A Partisan’s Daughter. 27 May: Sol Trujillo as victim of malicious Rudd racist “adios”…; New Surry Hills Library: excellent. 28 May: Jim Belshaw’s new project. 29 May: Friday poem # 12 – Sylvia Plath and Ted Hughes. 30 May: Notelets for end of May. 31 May:


Ninglun’s Specials and Memory Hole

1 June: May stats on Floating Life. 4 June: My June 09 South Sydney Herald piece.

Floating Life

1 June: Sunday Floating Life photo 20 (on Monday). 2 June: I read the news today, oh boy…. 3 June: China, the USA, the car, and the environment. 4 June: June 09 South Sydney Herald; Busker on corner of Hay and Pitt Streets 5pm. 6 June: Obama and the Muslim world – not unexpected or without precedent; June Saturday stats: 1; Fashion victim.

7 June: Sunday Floating Life photo 21; Sunday is music day 19: Simon & Garfunkel. 8 June: Racism? Yes and no…. 9 June: Substantial food for thought on Radio National. 10 June: More on “Racism? Yes and no”. 11 June: And even more, I’m afraid…. 12 June: Pause: cub reporter again. 13 June: Second Saturday “Who’s read what?” for June 2009.

14 June: Sunday Floating Life photo 22. 15 June: BBC World Service: some food for thought. 16 June: Who killed Mr Ward? Four Corners 15 June 2009; Quote of the week: Naj in Tehran. 17 June: Seen in Little Oxford Street Darlinghurst. 18 June: Meme: 5 things I’m proud of. 19 June: More on things I’m proud of…. 20 June: Third stats fetish post for June; Bits.

21 June: Sunday is music day 20 — Korean singer Lena Park; Sunday Floating Life photo 23; Shakespeare Hotel: Rabbit and Sirdan. 22 June: June review catch-up 1; What a crock!. 23 June: June review catch-up 2. 24 June: June review catch-up 3 — “Sylvia” (2004). 25 June: UN Peacekeepers — a quiz. 26 June: Friday poem 13: Emily Dickinson. 27 June: Conflicting perspectives.

28 June: Sunday Floating Life photograph 24; Sunday lunch: Shanghai food to die for!. 29 June: Borrowed plumage; Indian students, racism, theatre news. 30 June: English/ESL nominated; The hidden power of language.


2009 July – December


Ninglun’s Specials and Memory Hole

1 July: June 2009: WordPress and Google Analytics stats. 6 January: More paintings by Gordon Syron — 1. 25 July: More paintings by Gordon Syron 2; Memorabilia 20: M and William Yang.

Floating Life

1 July: June roundup in brief — Sitemeter. 2 July: First July reviews – mainly comic. 3 July: Some serious reading for all Australians. 4 July: Saturday again: time to go counting beans…; Welcoming Russell Darnley OAM.

5 July: Sunday Floating Life photo 25: Gordon Syron at South Sydney Uniting Church; Sunday lunch: Simon H’s place, Randwick. 6 July: Australia third happiest place on Earth; Yet more cyber condoms. 7 January: July 09 South Sydney Herald. 8 July: David Leavitt, “The Indian Clerk” (Bloomsbury 2007); Like this photographer…. 9 July: 66 – since 9 July 1943; Here’s what I have to say to these turkeys…. 10 July: Friday poem 14: not really a poem! 11 July: Warm and fuzzy quote of the week; Second July stats trawl.

12 July: Sunday is music day 21: The Warumpi Band 1988. 13 July: Quick thoughts on China; Glebe revisited. 14 July: Some things that tickle me; I happened along soon after…. 15 July: “Slavery” may be a bit strong, but bad nonetheless…; Oh dear, I agree with Peter Costello!; I have temporarily removed Firefox 3.5 from my computer. 16 July: Meet some blogs. 17 July: Kevin has a blog – and other thoughts on blogs. 18 July: Not again!

19 July:  Sunday is music day 22: Thomas Tallis; Unlikely searches. 20 July: When you become a teacher… 21 July: Just a note on China; Miscellaneous notes. 22 July: In 1998. 23 July: Two rather different experiences: book and dvd review; Photoscape. 24 July: Instead of the planned post. 25 July: Saturday stats times two; New anthology of Australian literature.

26 July: Sunday Floating Life photo 26; What a geek I am! 27 July: Last night: Oz Lit, refugees and other matters; Quote of the week: “Sorry, Ma’am…”. 28 July: First the very local story: Surry Hills Library flooded; Racism is not the main story: Four Corners last night. 29 July: “post-modernistic bogans” – an interesting thought; Chrome without the resource load — SWR Iron. 30 July: More on Indonesian terrorist bombing; One fiction, one non-fiction. 31 July: Adam and Eve, not Adam and Steve — and all that; The Macquarie PEN Australian Literature anthology.


Ninglun’s Specials

3 August: Catching up on the July stats. 10 August: Sirdan’s Birthday Party 9 August: 1. 11 August: Sirdan’s Birthday Party 9 August: 2.

Floating Life

1 August: Have you noticed? 2 August: Summary July stats. 3 August: new What’s New post; Sunday lunch had music too!; Computer tragedy. 4 August: Last night on ABC and this morning’s news…. 5 August: Things to look forward to; Yes the new computer has a webcam…. 6 August: Yacqub Khayre and Holsworthy plot. 7 August: Multicultural Surry Hills, and How to Kill a Toshiba. 8 August: Norm, Ahmed, Shafana, Aunt Sarrinah, radicalisation and Australia.

9 August: Sunday Floating Life photo 27; Sirdan’s birthday party — Rosebery. 10 August: Why the religious Right can be dangerous, but…; From another guest at Danny’s party. 11 August: League tables can play to fears of parents; Playing with last Sunday’s photo. 12 August: Meet some blogs – Muslims I read from time to time. 13 August: Is objectivity about Israel and Palestine possible? 14 August: Two works of fiction from my August reading; Some reading matter for you. 15 August: What recent posts have been attracting attention?

16 August: Sunday is music day 23: Indonesia; Sunday Floating Life photo 28 — warm. 17 August: Two worth watching on ABC1. 18 August: Watching TV again: Jack Mundey; scary computer stuff. 19 August: Another Internet-related entry. 20 August: Framing discussion of Indigenous issues in Australia; More on safer computing. 21 August: A week for mixed messages from China; Spring is closer…. 22 August: Saturday blog news.

23 August: ExperimentSunday lunch – Sirdan at Chinese Whisper. 24 August: Revisiting “The Maltese Falcon”; Respect, yes; fetishism, no. 25 August: Books I am reading, or am about to read. 26 August: Checking out audio possibilities. 27 August: Fear not, brothers and sisters! 28 August: On a handy application and an unhandy mobile service; Korean War Memorial – Moore Park. 29 August: Saturday stats roundup — clicks.

30 August: Sunday Floating Life photo 29. 31 August: Second Rugby League post in 24 hours!; Good news.


Ninglun’s Specials

1 September: August blog round-up. 17 September: *** Nostalgia on D-Day — 2001.

Floating Life

2 September: The things I learn; My latest very odd article published. 3 September: For the fifty million dead — 1. 4 September: Friday poem 15 & For the fifty million dead — 2: W H Auden; Yes it is remarkable. 5 September:Combined geekery and stats post.

6 September: Sunday is music day 24: Click go the shears…, A tale of two gay men; Today’s Sunday lunch…. 7 September: A storm in a coffee cup? 8 September: Australian Opera: Aida — #1. 9 September: About last night; About last night — the video. 10 September: Ripping yarn! 11 September: Friday poem 16: W B Yeats “When you are old and grey…”. 12 September: A five-finger exercise.

13 September: When Snow Drifts Melt – 20 years on. 14 September: Tanveer Ahmed’s interesting insight; …another school term, and much else, going down the tube…. 15 September: Another from the recently found archive. 16 September: Another replay: 10 August 2004; Speaking of John Howard. 17 September: I was led to one of those English Teacher moments…. 18 September: Mary Travers – and more nostalgia. 19 September: Busy day, late – and last archive pick for a while.

20 September: Making love to my computer. 21 September: Reading several books at once may do your head in…. 22 September: Meanwhile, there is a bit of fiction to account for…That US health care debate. 23 September: Sydney turns red: dust storm blankets city. 24 September: Yes, yesterday was amazing if not entirely unique. 25 September: Friday poem 17: Judith Wright; Anyone else being archived? 26 September: It’s back.

27 September: Statistical interlude; Sunday Floating Life photo 30. 28 September: Waltzing Matilda 21st century style – current reading. 29 September: Reading Jasper Fforde; Oral: thoughts while reading Mark Davis. 30 September: I find this case odd and disturbing. Do you?


Ninglun’s Specials

1 October: How went September?

Floating Life

1 October: Today I get a jab; What a week! 2 October: Q&A last night. 3 October: Cheering indeed: from Ramana via Jim Belshaw.

4 October: Geeky post this Sunday; Sirdan in Devonshire Street. 5 October: Support appeals for natural disaster relief. 6 October: Something else to brag about…. 7 October: Bit of a mystery. 8 October: Listening to Gorecki, reading Nowra. 9 October: National Human Rights Consultation Report. 10 October: Instant senescence.

11 October: What a classic! 12 October: Trivialising an important document. 13 October: Two (on the face of it) stories of lack of imagination, even common sense. 14 October: Two (on the face of it) stories of lack of imagination, even common sense. 15 October: Blog Action Day 2009. 16 October: Things I mean to post about.

18 October: Sunday Floating Life photo 31. 19 October: Computer — tragic. 20 October: Afghanistan – on the dollar trail. 21 October: Ross Gittins today and last Monday’s “Media Watch”; Communication, Education, Respect. 22 October: Well here I am again. 23 October: And on and on…. 24 October: Saturday stats again.

25 October: Sunday Floating Life photo 32 — wisdom. 26 October: Politicking boats and people movement. 28 October: The beat goes on. 29 October: … and on 30 October: The 2001st post — to seven or not to seven. 31 October: More computer stuff.


Ninglun’s Specials

1 November:  October – stats up but not amazingly…

Floating Life

1 November: Sunday Floating Life photo 33 AND Friday poem 18. 2 November: Louis Nowra “Ice” (2008). 3 November: Aunty Beryl story – South Sydney Herald. 4 November: Two non-fiction books that have impressed me lately. 6 November: I’m back!; Flock also does this; Adrian Phoon in The Age. 7 November: Something to watch.

8 November: Sunday is music day 25: Pachelbel’s Canon…; Sunday news…. 9 November: Seven. 10 November: Resting. 11 November: On being too clever. 12 November: On climate change sceptics and qualifications.  13 November: Pandora (National Library). 14 November: Mid-month Saturday stats – this blog only.

15 November: Sunday photo 34; Yet another Sunday lunch in Surry Hills. 16 November: Well, I’m enjoying it… 17 November: Apology to forgotten Australians. 18 November: For friends of South Sydney. 19 November: Visit to see through the “Other’s” eyes. 20 November: Not Tehran. 21 November: Tony Parsons “My Favourite Wife” (2008).

22 November: Sunday photo 35: blue sitter and car; Polish food and a very hot day. 23 November: Australian Indigenous film. 24 November: Helen Bamber. 25 November: Aussie icon takes up residence in Japan. 26 November: Homework 😉 27 November: Homework done; My right arm. 28 November: Random but mostly political; To Senator Nick Minchin.

29 November: Sunday is music day 26: for Copenhagen; Stats on Australians and climate change; Sunday lunch – Bird Cow Fish. 30 November: I suspect Malcolm Turnbull would lose at poker….


Ninglun’s Specials

2 December: November 09 – stats back up on Floating Life.

Floating Life

1 December: Zimbabwe; My December-January South Sydney Herald story; And the winner is… an ongoing post. 2 December: South Sydney will be at Copenhagen; Love it!; Resources on Climate Change. 3 December: Everything old is new again. 4 December: Not quite the promised climate change post. 5 December: The promised climate change post — Part One; Brer Abbott – The Ghost Who Walks?.

6 December: To think about; Sunday is music day 28 — tick tick tick; Sunday photo 36 – Surry Hills Village mall Sunday. 7 December: Some ETS YouTubes. 8 December: Kind of Part Two of the promised post…; Meanwhile, how unpredictable is Cricket, eh!. 10 December: Thursday recommended site of the week: 1; The inspirational Muhammad Yunus. 11 December: Two videos found on the God’s Politics blog. 12 December: So that’s where Clover is!

13 December: There is a sensible discussion to be had; Sunday Floating Life photo 37 – closed lane, Waterloo; NSW Schools Spectacular – ABC TV. 14 December: Three unrelated items; Hang on a minute: what tax?. 15 December: Carbon chicken-and-eggery? 16 December: Pause for a pic; Blogging the Noughties: 1 – 2000. 17 December: Blogging the Noughties: 2 — 2001“Guest Post” — Anthony Venn-Brown; My favourites from 2009: 1. 18 December: Blogging the Noughties: 3 — 2002; “Guest post” – Tim Costello; My favourites from 2009: 2; Blogging the Noughties: 4 — 2002 –2004: memorable visuals. 19 December: Blogging the Noughties: 5 — 2003; My favourites from 2009: 3; “Guest post” – Clover Moore; Blogging the Noughties: 6 — 2004.

20 December: Blogging the Noughties: 7 — 2004; My favourites from 2009: 5; Blogging the Noughties: 8 — 2005; My favourites from 2009: 6; Blogging the Noughties: 9 — 2006. 21 December: Blogging the Noughties: 10 — 2007; New blog now up: Neil’s Second Decade.; Blogging the Noughties: 11 — 2008; My favourites from 2009: 8 — Mardi Gras Fair Day: Mad Hatter’s Tea Party; My favourites from 2009: 9; Blogging the Noughties 12: Top individual entries posted in 2009. 22 December: My favourites from 2009: 10; My favourites from 2009: 11; Summer Solstice – transitional doublepost; My favourites from 2009: 12 – Winter Solstice. 23 December: My favourites from 2009: 13 – Aunty Beryl; My favourites from 2009: 14 – warm afternoon 1 March Surry HillsIn 2009 people came to Floating Life after searching for…. Christmas Eve: My favourites from 2009: 15 – Cornstalk Bookshop, Glebe. Christmas Day: My favourites from 2009: 16My favourites from 2009: 17 – Sirdan’s party; My favourites from 2009: 18 — spring in Haymarket: joy!; My favourites from 2009: 19 — bonus monochrome: Taylor Square/Oxford Street; My favourites from 2009: 20 — Surry Hills Festival: people. 26 December: My favourites from 2009: 21 — blue gumboots; My favourites from 2009: 22 — Indian student resting; My favourites from 2009: 23 to 25!


Obama and the Muslim world – not unexpected or without precedent

There has been much comment on Obama’s speech in Cairo, but its tone and direction are not unexpected. One can even hope that it will be effective in focussing on violent extremism (of any kind) rather than confusing the issue, as past policy has done, by intentionally or unintentionally indicting about a third of the world’s population. It comes as no surprise as Obama’s approach closely follows that of Madeleine Albright in her The Mighty and the Almighty and was foreshadowed in Changing Course – A New Direction for U.S. Relations with the Muslim WorldReport of the Leadership Group on U.S.-Muslim Engagement September 2008 (SECOND PRINTING, WITH A NEW PREFACE AND ENDORSEMENTS February 2009). See my earlier post on this.

One might also reflect on the 1797 Treaty of Tripoli.

Art. 11. As the Government of the United States of America is not, in any sense, founded on the Christian religion; as it has in itself no character of enmity against the laws, religion, or tranquillity, of Mussulmen; and, as the said States never entered into any war, or act of hostility against any Mahometan nation, it is declared by the parties, that no pretext arising from religious opinions, shall ever produce an interruption of the harmony existing between the two countries.

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Posted by on June 6, 2009 in America, current affairs, faith, fundamentalism and extremism, Islam, Middle East, pluralism, terrorism, USA


Irfan Yusuf’s book review and his response to a response

Checking my own Annotated Blog Roll (which is due for revision) I looked in on Madhab al-Irfy (Irfan Yusuf), which I hadn’t done in a while. I had noted a book review he did in last weekend’s Australian: What does it mean to be Islamic now? I had thought it rather good. The review begins:

Few Australian Catholics would recognise the popular beliefs and practices of their Latin American co-religionists.
So if I were to make an ambit criticism of Christianity based on the extreme poverty and draconian politics of Latin America, Catholics would be justified in poking their fingers at me and ridiculing my simplistic reasoning. But among those pointing at me in ridicule would be the polemicists and cultural warriors with three fingers pointing back at themselves. Google jihad. Featuring prominently is JihadWatch, a blog moderated by far-right Catholic polemicist Robert Spencer.

Read the rest of this entry »

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Posted by on June 12, 2008 in Australia, Australia and Australian, blogging, book reviews, faith, faith and philosophy, interfaith, Islam, pluralism, religion


Blog Roll

Here is my complete blog roll, all of them of interest to me. Updated June 2008. 🙂 My thumbnail introductions will, I hope, pique your curiosity; don’t take any views expressed too much to heart… Links now open in new windows.


  • Lorelle on WordPress — a really useful blog about blogging: “Helping you learn more about blogging and WordPress every day with help, tips, advice, and techniques for blogging and using WordPress, and The blogging help you need. Now.”
  •  //re:generative divergence — “my own wrestling and journeying with life, God, ministry and the church.” Another Christian blog.
  • 3 Quarks Daily — this is one classy site, a definite 10/10. Not Christian.
  • Adrift — “I left Australia in Nov 1999 to start my big adventure, beginning with a move to the UK. At 27yo I was getting quite vexed by the fact that I’d never been out of Australia. So I decided to go. 6 months later I had the ticket and had sold almost everything I owned. I landed at Heathrow on 1 Dec 1999, and haven’t regretted much at all. Mum’s getting frustrated – told her I’d be away for about 5 years and it’s heading on to 8 now. But I’m not done yet.”
  • Ahmad Shuja: MyScribbles: Write-ups of an Afghan — quiet lately. He is now in the USA. Ahmad is around 20 years old, aspires to a career in journalism, lives in Pakistan and is an Afghan Hazari. The blog is quite wonderful. Worth keeping for the back entries; I hope it revives soon.
  • Aluminium — a young recently married English teacher in regional NSW, and an old Diary-X mate. A very personal and honest blog about daily life mainly.
  • AnonymousLefty (the real one) — mainly on Australian politics.
  • AntBlog701 — Antony is an IT person extraordinaire, with a strange obsession with Channel 7 and a less strange obsession with Macs.
  • Baghdad Burning — Riverbend fled Baghdad for Syria in September 2007; she tends to tell us the truth about Baghdad, where most of the blog was written. This blog is justly famous.
  • Beauty and Depravity: Eugene Cho. “This is my personal blog. The views, words, posts, thoughts, rants, visions, and ideas represented here are my own, not those of Quest Church, Q Cafe, my family, my ethnic Korean countrypeople, the city of Seattle where I live, the USA of which I am a citizen, or the totality of the Christian faith and community.  As I spew out some vomitaceous thoughts for conversation, connection, amusement, and critical discourse, I seek to grant and receive grace.”
  • Benjamin Solah — far more left than I am, or than most people really, Benjamin also gives us a view from the south-western Sydney suburbs we should heed at times. He is also an aspiring writer.
  • Beyond Homophobia: Gregory Herek — in action again, but last post December 2007. Full of useful articles on sexual orientation, prejudice, science, and policy
  • Big Britain continues from Temperama — Novelist and journalist Dave Hill (UK) — “I am a novelist and a journalist who contributes primarily to the Guardian newspaper and to its opinion blog Comment Is Free. I have lived in Hackney in east London since 1981, am married (to Sheila Fitzsimons, the Guardian’s Head of Editorial Development) and have six children, ranging in age from 22 to four.” Great stuff. 
  • — often interesting.
  • Blogger on the Cast Iron Balcony — “a fortysomething mother of two, which might lie idle for a while sometimes. The blog, that is.” Oz Blog.
  • Bloggernista: “I began Bloggernista in November 2006 as a way to indulge in the things that I am most passionate about: men, politics and pop culture. Not necessarily in that order. My obsession (yes, obsession) with men means that I am a big time gay. I’m not just your average garden variety gay. I am as gay as it gets and getting gayer all the time. I have logged more than 15 years working in gay and AIDS activism including stints with the Human Rights Campaign and as an organizing of the Millennium March on Washington for LGBT Civil Rights.”
  • Book of Sand — Gender: Female Occupation: PhD Candidate
  • BryanBoy: le superstar fabuleux — outrageous Asian queen, but you can’t help being drawn in.
  • But Seriously… — “In 1998 Rich Merritt received an honorable discharge from the United States Marines Corps and in 2001 he graduated from the University of Southern California Law School. He is presently an attorney in New York where he enjoys many Broadway shows with his ‘very own Jonathan’.”
  • C’est Moi Political Blog — very thoughtful perspectives on US life and politics. Now on a shiny new site.
  • Club Troppo — various in its range, but mostly on Australian politics.
  • Courting Destiny — “I’m Pia Savage. I’m a city girl, and unapologetically blog to the edge.”
  • Creative Spark — “I live and work in Singapore, though I’m originally from Australia. I’ve been here for 6 years, so in some ways I’m culturally acclimatised, though many would argue that you never really fully absorb a culture and I feel that’s true. Many aspects of me are very Singaporean, some definitely aren’t. I’ve never been an “expatriate” in Singapore. I came here and I’ve lived here on local terms.”
  • Daddy, Papa and Me — “a two dad family with adopted child(ren), transracial, Christian and so much more” deep in the heart of mid-western USA. Supports Barack Obama for 2008.
  • Dancing About Architecture: Blogging Just Got Queerer! “I am a thirty something lesbian geek who works in the crazy world of tech support in the online advertising industry. I am an avid reader of science fiction and crime novels, a RPG enthusiast, a passionate follower of women’s basketball and a lover of bad disaster films…”
  • Danny Yee — not exactly a blog though it does include one. “…Eurasian by descent (my father is second generation Cantonese Chinese, my mother was born in Germany), but was socialised as ‘Australian’ (whatever that means) and might even qualify as ‘Jewish’ (my mother’s mother’s mother was a Polish Jew).”
  • Denys: Homo Homo Sapien — “I am a guy (early forties) whose awareness of reality stops me from being the idealist I would like to be. Although I do believe in social equity and economic justice and I care deeply about the environment and what we humans are doing to it..”
  • Desert Star — Bob Innes: includes some first-rate autobiographical posts, politics, and Aboriginal life and culture. Quiet in 2008 so far.
  • Deus Lo Vult — written by a Sydney Uni student and Rabbit acquaintance from south-western Sydney. The blog persona may sometimes seem a touch supercilious, some might think — tone is a very tricky and subjective thing, but the blog is lively, various, and often very funny. Seriously good on movies and cricket. Lately he has been very impressive on US politics.
  • Easy-Writer: Kanani — Kanani Fong, a writer in California, published here in Oz by Lonely Planet. “Greetings, Kanani. You are one damned fine writer. Keep it up and stretch out to other areas. There’s got to be a book in you.” – Pulitzer Prize winning journalist Al Martinez.
  • el Loco & el Lobo: “I’m an Aussie who has just spent 2 1/2yrs roaming around Europe with my dog, a very large Alaskan Malamute by the name of Bondi. Our adventure began in May 2005. We travelled through nearly every county of the UK, including a week-long walk across Scotland, a coast-to-coast crossing of England on foot along Hadrian’s Wall path; spent 2 months each in Spain & Paris, plus a 5 week circuit of Ireland. I did a lot of family-tree research (UK/Ireland/Sweden/Germany); and a side-trip to dive wrecks in the northern part of the Red Sea. Between March-June 2007 we completed a 20,000km 20-country tour of Europe by car, followed up by 3 months in Scotland.”
  • Eteraz — very non-fanatical Muslim commentary. “I call my God ‘Allah’ and believe in the equality of all people.” A great blog.
  • First Door on the Left — “My name is Len. My last name is on a need-to-know, so if you need to know contact me. I live in Dallas, Texas with my partner of 30 years. I am a liberal Democrat. I started this weblog in April, 2002 mainly just to see if I could. It took a political turn because of the crappy job George W. Bush and the Republicans were doing of running our country. I knew George would do a crappy job — he did a crappy job as our governor, too.” All for Obama.
  • Five Public Opinions — obsesses about “fundies” a bit much, in my view, and far more pomo than I am, but is staunchly antihomophobic and often very perceptive. Covers quite a variety of topics, cricket not least. NOW ON WORDPRESS!
  • Foetid Air and Gritty on WordPress — a trainee Science teacher in Sydney and a denizen of the Oxford Street scene; his reflections on that are disarmingly self-mocking at times. Quiet so far in 2008.
  • GetUp! Blogs — activism of a kind I generally support.
  • Gus at “By day I work as a Broadcast Engineer in the television industry, and am also finishing off an Engineering degree in Telecommunications [Sydney], with a degree in Commerce thrown in for good measure. On the side … I’m a keen glider pilot…” Cute too. 🙂
  • HA: The Happy Antipodean — “reviews © news © commentary © from hemisphere two”
  • Heathlander: Jamie Stern-Weiner “The Heathlander Online delivers important news to your faces.” Intelligent analysis from a left perspective by a very intelligent guy of Jewish background in the UK. Not a fan of the Israeli government. More of a fan of Hamas than I would ever be.
  • Heroes Not Zombies: a medical doctor working in Scotland with wide interests.
  • Hoarded Ordinaries: Dr. Lorianne DiSabato. It can take a while for this blog to download but it is worth it. “Borrowing a phrase from writer Annie Dillard, Lorianne often describes herself as being “spiritually promiscuous.” Raised Catholic, Lorianne was “born again” as an undergraduate student in Toledo, Ohio; soon afterward, she taught herself how to meditate at an evangelical Bible camp. After graduating and spending a year as a Catholic campus minister, Lorianne moved to Boston, where she received her M.A. in English literature from Boston College and took Zen Buddhist precepts through the international Kwan Um School of Zen.” Each beautful entry makes you see that much more clearly. Moved to WordPress May 2007!
  • iMuslim — a Muslim woman in the UK, a graduate Science student and a very gracious person too. Worried about women in head scarves? Then read iMuslim. — 28 May 2006: iMuslim is going into hiatus to pursue her studies, among other things. I hope she does return… 2008: she has. 🙂
  • Indigo Jo — also Muslim and also in the UK. “In which an unemployed graduate has an excuse to use his politics degree. Religious, tech and media issues (and anything I fancy).”
  • Infinite Wisdom — Political Views and Interesting Tidbits from the USA. Independent mind.
  • Iraq Blog Count — a very interesting ongoing list with notes.
  • James O’Brien — another Surry Hills blog.
  • Jeanette Winterson’s columns — famous Lesbian writer from the UK.
  • Jim Belshaw’s Personal Reflections — Jim’s experience in business and the public service and his careful habits of mind make this intelligently conservative Australian blog a must read.
  • Jim Wallis and friends — evangelicals but not rabid fundies or Bushites. Yes, it is possible, even desirable.
  • John Baker — good UK crime fiction writer whose blog covers a range of things, but is mostly literary. There is an excellent ongoing theme on writing there.
  • Jon Taplin’s Blog: “Jonathan Taplin is a Professor at the Annenberg School for Communication at the University of Southern California. Taplin’s areas of specialization are in international communication management and the field of digital media entertainment. Taplin began his entertainment career in 1969 as Tour Manager for Bob Dylan and The Band. ”
  • LEFT is RIGHT (blogging against The Bush-war) — a voice from the American majority.
  • Life is a street car named Desire — expatriate Indian who covers a whole range, often with humour.
  •  Madhab al-Irfy (Irfan Yusuf) — Sydney-based lawyer, occasional lecturer in politics at Macquarie University, freelance columnist. In this blog he focuses on Muslim matters.
  • Man of Lettuce: Sydney Cabbie Blog — I may not always agree with Adrian, but I always learn from him. A right wing blog with heart, very Sydney and very Australian.
  • Matilda: Australian Literary Blog — Perry Middlemiss has been maintaining an ever-expanding Australian literature website since 1996. This keeps you up to date on OzLit.
  • Mike in Tasmania — a fellow refugee from Diary-X, Mike runs a quietly personal blog that is well worth visiting.
  • Natalie Davis: All Facts and Opinions — “to help make a better, cleaner, fairer, safer planet where all are equal under law.”
  • Opinions Of A 21st Century Kashmiri Nomad — the Nomad really is a Kashmiri: “If you think that Islam is evil then that is your problem…” Well worth reading as a counter to media representations of Islam. Sometimes combative, but opposes all terrorism.
  • Pacific Highlander/Post-Kiwi — Duncan Macleod is a Uniting Church minister in Queensland with a host of varied interests.
  • Queer Penguin — left-leaning Sydney 20-something gay blogger and regular columnist in the Sydney gay press.
  • Radical Druid: Poet — “John Litzenberg (AKA Greybeard Dances) [right]. I am a poet and musician who moonlights as Director of Technology for a Seattle-based information technology and project management consulting firm by day.” New site “dyslexic begonias”.
  • Renegade Eye in Minneapolis. “This blog is secular and socialist; influenced politically by Leon Trotsky, musically by Ella Fitzgerald, Miles Davis, Johnny Cash, and the tango music of Astor Piazzolla and Carlos Gardel, artistically by Pablo Picasso and Carlos Paez Vilaro.” Substantial left wing blog.
  • Shalom — occasional blog by a woman of around my age in Sydney.
  • Shalom Rav: “Shalom Rav is a collection of posts that have nothing in particular in common other than my desire to share them with you. I’m the Rabbi of Jewish Reconstructionist Congregation (JRC) in Evanston IL.”
  • Simon Bedak — “Simon Bedak is now a 40 year old cattle-man from the Riverina region of Australia, who grew up in Sydney. Simon attended NIDA, SBHS, Waverley Coll., Holy Cross Junior School and Temple Emmanuel Kindergarten. With a couple of mates, Simon adapted the hilarious John Birmingham book “He Died with a Felafel in His Hand” to become the longest running play in Australian theatre history.”
  • Skeptic Lawyer, a shared blog, previously solo on Legal Eagle’s Legal Soapbox — what with Marcel’s Stumbling on Melons and Irfan Yusuf, I seem to be developing a thing about lawyers! 
  • Strange Maps is a different but fascinating blog. Endlessly fascinating.
  • Stuff White People Like: wicked satire.
  • Stumbling on melons — The blog of one “Marcel Proust”. Music, law and more.
  • Sydney Daily Photo: “…in which I attempt to show some interesting and varied aspects of Sydney apart from the usual tourist images.”
  • The Eclectic Garden — “A leisurely meander through life’s big and little questions.” A beautiful blog from Western Australia.
  • The First Word Blog — “These writings are about my life in Japan but also a bit more about the kind of impact that being immersed in another culture, after spending nearly fourty years in the United Kingdom. It is partly expressed in Fiction and partly expressed in Non-Fiction. The writings are inspired by my love of Japanese contemporary writing and Japanese culture including the unique and in many cases superior contribution Okinawa makes to them.” A welcome new addition here.
  • The Other Andrew: “This is the blog of a 43 year old gay guy in Sydney, Australia. I’m short on stature, but big on ideas. Spending much of my time looking at life through a slightly twisted lens, attempting to unscrew the inscrutible.”
  • The Poet — a former teaching colleague who is now living in Victoria. He was once voted “Erotic Poet Laureate of Hay-on-Wye” at the famous UK Writers’ Festival. Not really active, but it is a friend’s site…
  • The Road to Surfdom — “a venue for discussion, argument, the exchange of information and the glorification of Chickenhawks.” I don’t really get that last bit, but I do know this is a really good Australian political blog.
  • The Tasmanian Times — “a cheeky, irreverent challenge to the mass media’s obsession with popularity, superficiality and celebrity.”
  • The Thinker’s Podium (aka Bruce) — “Surely you are a teacher. I recognize the ‘attitude.’ I’m sure you get away with being the pedantic bully in the classroom. You love to rough up the egos of children? Probably compensates for a myriad of personal insecurities.” – Malott (2007)” So wrote one of Bruce’s fans. Bruce in fact is a very careful thinker and encourages the same in others. He can therefore seem tedious. For example, I described Bill Heffernan’s silly remark about Julia Gillard’s lack of acquaintance with nappies as the utterance of an idiot, but Bruce says: “Bill wasn’t making a valid political statement; he was going into the old-school bag of tricks of invalid ad-hominem and abuse.” With a link at “invalid ad-hominem.” He’s not wrong, of course, and I endorse his views on “political correctness” on that post. He is often very good at close examination of bad arguments.
  • Toast: Kevin from Louisiana. Be warned! I agree with hardly anything the man says… But I thought you should see who writes all those inflammatory comments. 😉
  • Tom’s Place: gay Sydney blog.
  • Wild Reed: Thoughts and reflections from a progressive, gay, Catholic perspective on faith, sexuality, politics, and culture.
  • Wilson’s Blogmanac — Pip Wilson, writer, Bellingen NSW.
  • Winsome Gunning: In Silence I Hear — “The paintings I produce are about working from the creative spirit within.” A nice place to go.
  • Wombat’s Waffles — “Random and inconsistent snippets from an unstructured mind.” Davo is around my age and lives in the country. He’s been generous with his comments here lately.
  • Yawning Bread — (Au Waipang) in Singapore has one of the oldest blogs around: over ten years now. While Singapore and GLBT issues predominate, the net cast by his regular “essays” goes much wider. “Yawning Bread” really is an erudite blog but beautifully conversational, inspired me to do this one (and its predecessors), and continues to reward regular visits.
  • Yarraville Paul — a Melbourne gay blog which just might have n*de m*n on it… “Single, gay man living in Melbourne, Australia. Mental age somewhere between 22 and 40, and varies from day to day. Educated and independent, professional and relaxed.”