Syria Adrift

This blog has been a touch quiet, and the reason is basically Syria, for two interconnected reasons. The first is straightforward enough. I have been finalising a book put together on the basis of my experiences of living in Syria immediately prior to the current tragic events. It is about living in an old Arabic … Continue reading

London Calling

The London Olympics are now under three weeks away, and all the usual media frenzy is gearing up.  Soon, all round the world TV audiences will be subjected to in-depth analysis of major sports like beach volleyball, described breathlessly by people who know nothing about such sports but are major players in their networks.  They … Continue reading

Whatever Happened to Cricket?

This has been the sort of week that makes you realise just how much cricket has changed in recent years, and to wonder what the long term consequences might be. Australia is in England to play just a series of one day matches, nothing else.  An England tour always used to be an Ashes tour, … Continue reading

Old Books and New Technology

Like most academics I have an extensive library that reflects an intellectual journey and a range of sometimes (to others) bewildering interests.  That is in turn reinforced by memories and records of great libraries and archives around the world as part of a search for information and understanding amidst all those interests.  The “historian’s moment”, … Continue reading

Earthquakes, Community, Rugby and Revolution

For rugby union fans the Super 15 competition is now getting interesting, and that interest as always is not only on the field.  Events this week ensured that we think about the game, its social context and meaning, and its reach into events far beyond those we might normally associate with it.  In the playing … Continue reading

Twittering Damascus

It was mesmerising to sit in Phnom Penh and “watch” on Twitter as events allegedly unfolded in Damascus overnight on 19/20 May and over the next 36 hours. Early on Sunday morning I logged on to Twitter as normal, because since signing up a year or so ago, after a lot of initial scepticism, it … Continue reading

Reading Highlights

In any reading life there occasionally comes along a spell where everything picked up (or now, rather, downloaded) turns out a winner. That probably mirrors the broader life itself: for the most part things meander along neither exceptionally nor unexceptionably, sometimes they turn ordinary to mediocre or even poor, every so often abysmal, leavened now … Continue reading

e-Book Crime

One of many consequences of the e-book revolution is the “opening” of both author outlet and reader access avenues. That is, with Kindle, Nook, Kobo and all the rest writers now have an alternative to the old grind of finding an agent and/or a publisher and then getting a deal and then getting published. There … Continue reading

Syria In Vogue But On The Outer

As the Kofi Annan plan peters out and the shelling of places like Hama and Homs resumes, the international focus on Syria is now focused momentarily on a sideshow, the mysterious disappearance from the Vogue website of a profile on Asma al-Assad first published in March 2011. (http://www.theage.com.au/world/vogue-deletes-glamour-story-on-assads-wife-20120426-1xo1i.html ).  However, some of that original piece … Continue reading

Writers, Readers and the e-Book Revolution

The e-book revolution is now clearly with us.  One report suggests that e-books will be a $9.7 billion market by 2016, a threefold increase from 2011. Two years ago, commuting from Wimbledon to the British Library, my random checks showed that the Kindle accounted for about 20% of book reading on the London Underground.  Recent … Continue reading