How time flies

Review December 2017 by Dan Byrnes of Alan Burdick, Why Time Flies: A Mostly Scientific Investigation. Melbourne Australia, Text Publishing, 2017.

This is a book not so much about time, as about time perception, how we perceive time and its passages. Yes, that is right, it is all more complicated than we thought.

Burdock says, physical time needs to be translated into what physiology can understand, and since all of us are time dependent, the sense of what time it is is social (and hence can be manipulated, as it once was when the world was divided into time zones to synchronize railway movements in different cities in different countries).

Burdick does update on a few points, but I consider the book a failure as it mostly treats new US research on time perception (down to nanoseconds, which is the direction that psychological research on time has gone, more so in the US). There is no discussion of music (an enormously time bound art) or its appreciation, nor on any scientific differences in international positions on time perception (if any). Memory is indexed but music is not.

I need to mention a proviso here … the best book I have ever read on time was by J. B. Priestley, years ago now. However, Priestley was mostly discussing our perceptions of external time. In comparison with which, the single most valuable section of this book by Burdick is his discussion of physiological or non-physical time (where physical is as in the sense of, physics). Time is outside us (as when night turns to day and time progresses, the arrow of time goes forward) – but it is also inside us, as all the cells of our body heed circadian rhythms that ultimately heed the movements of the Earth around the Sun! Burdick insists this, I feel he is right, but other questions he tends to ignore – particularly musical questions. (Music is the most time-bound art there is!)

I also want to know more than Burdick tells us about how and why children feel time moves so slowly, a question Burdick does address, while old people feel that time moves oh-so-fast, a question my grandmother put me onto as she entered her early 80s. (She lived to be 92.) All this is discussed, but unsatisfactorily.

Burdick does discuss as separate topics, duration, temporal order, tense (the linguistic sense of past, present and future) and the feeling of nowness. These are all different topics. Rather surprisingly, we find time is like wine; it is of many types, it might depend in which culture or at what age it is grown (or experienced). Our sense of time is something we grow into as we get older, which is precisely why I want to know what happens for older people, but Burdick does not tell us clearly. Again, oddly, while he discusses time, Burdick does not discuss space, yet the Einsteinian revolution in quantum physics tells us that you cannot speak of one without speaking of the other. Perhaps these really are questions that are related-but-separate? Burdick also fails to discuss sex, whereas I want to know why when I was having fun in the sack, and the lady involved often seemed to agree, time got to seem to be absent, and very interesting and pleasurable it was too. Burdick does not tell me what was going on here, or seeming to be going on, he simply does not say. (Nor does Burdick index the word – sex.)

Well, enough of the grumbles. The more I grumble the more the reader will grumble, and together we will have to agree; this book on time is taking up far too much time. I think there is an American cultural problem here that Burdick cannot help reporting as by trade he is a reporter who is an American. Still, Burdick warns us that the topic of time is full of rabbit holes – and it is. Somehow, I still prefer the treatment by J. B. Priestley. Burdick, I rather think, got lost in recent American psychological experiments, got lost in their preoccupations with mixing small slices of time with drugs. A waste of time, then?


Movies List by Dan Byrnes

This Movies List is highly truncated, but it is not the beaten path of the Hollywood publicity machine either. It is more a search item that points to good or watchable movies that can often come recommended, but some listings are just entered merely on a spec basis (give them a try). Good watching can generally be expected. I happen to collect movies on historical topics, and the list given here is built around this preference. Now read on and enjoy. The list is chronological and will be regularly updated. Dan Byrnes

One million years ago

One Millions Years BC. (A 1996 movie)

Movies on Adam or Eve?

Primeval. ?

10,000BC. (Released in 2008.)

Noah’s Ark. (See the John Huston movie.) Noah, with Russell Crowe. See also a documentary (maybe a offering the in the Australian style of the SBS network?) The Real Noah’s Ark, on a pre-Gilgamesh set of Mesopotamian instructions for a round-built ark – rather like an Irish coracle. An ark of quite a different shape.

Thor. A 2010 movie with Chris Hemsworth and Natalie Portman.

Wrath of the Titans. Made in 2012.

Underworld. Rise of the Lycans. With Rhona Matra. A 2009 movie.

Secrets of the Dead. The Silver Pharaoh. (Documentary?)

Movie, Joseph and his Brethren. Old movie starring Robert Morley. Fairly bad, quite stagy, on the biblical story re Joseph and his coat of many colours.

Lost Worlds. (Films or documentaries.) Have seen it.

Also, DVD on Immortality: Ancient Glory.

The First Emperor: China’s Entombed Warriors. Have seen it.

Set 1250BC, The Ten Commandments, On Moses etc, classic movie with Charlton Heston.

Exodus, Gods and Kings. (On Moses and the Exodus, quite a different, more modern treatment than the movie with Charlton Heston.

The Bible, a series with Ben Kingsley, three movies, On David, Solomon and Moses.

The Odyssey. TV miniseries on Homer’s famous work. See also a 2014 movie, The Legend of Hercules, with Kellan Lutz.

Troy, movie with Brad Pitt as Achilles the warrior. Have seen it.

Set about year 1000BC. a 1959 movie titled Solomon and Sheba.

Alexander, The Director’s Cut, with Anthony Hopkins. See also a documentary with David Adams, Alexander’s Lost World, (have seen it by August 2014.)

The 300 Spartans. (A very cartoonish movie.) See also 300: Rise of an Empire (a 2014 offering.)

Three Kingdoms. (A Chinese movie.)

Around the time of Jesus …

The Greatest Story Ever Told, a 1965 movie.

The Last Temptation of Christ. See also on the last hours of Jesus, the Mel Gibson movie, The Passion of the Christ.

Mary Magdalene, a movie with Rooney Mar and Joaquin Phoenix. Set at the death of Jesus. A 2018 movie.

Movies on Paul of Tarsus (eg, re his road to Damascus experience.)

The Robe. With Charlton Heston. (Have seen it).

Caligula. (Have seen it.)

I Claudius. A well-done miniseries starring Derek Jacobi. (Have seen it.)

Rome. An excellent miniseries. Only early seasons are extant. The series was truncated as the large set for it, outside Rome in Italy, burned down, a real tragedy in more ways that one.
























In 2000

In 2001

In 2002

In 2003

In 2004

In 2005

In 2006

In 2007

In 2008

In 2009

In 2010

In 2011

In 2012

In 2013

In 2014

In 2015

In 2016

In 2017

In 2018

More to come

2018 documentaries.

More to come

In 2019

More to come soon

On Oldenbourg’s book, The Crusades

Dan Byrnes in review 3-9-2017 of Zoe Oldenbourg, The Crusades. (Trans from the French byAnne Carter) London, Phoenix Press, 2201, first pub in UK in 1966 by Weidenfeld and Nicolson from a French edition of 1965.

A book re the first three crusades and the “emotional climate” that produced them, and a history of Kingship of Jerusalem till the arrival of Saladin the Moslem general and enemy of the Crusaders. And I have to confess that this is one of the oddest books I’ve ever read and perhaps one of the worst, and I have to ask myself, why is this?

Firstly the book seems badly planned, with highly erratic discussions, which seems odd, since the author, Oldenbourg,was a distinct fan of Crusades literature. She gives useful potted histories of certain notables, such as Saladin (1137-1193) (a highly respected Moslem general, Kurdish in origins), or The Leper King of Jerusalem, and yet she doesn’t.

(The Leper King of Jerusalem, seen depicted poignantly in the splendid movie Kingdom of Heaven (2005), was Baldwin IV Anjou (1161-1185), son of King of Jerusalem Amalric I Anjou (1135-1173) and Agnes Courtney (earlier a Saxon name), daughter of Count2 of Edessa Joscelin I Courtney (d.1159) and Beatrice Hethoumia of Armenia. Which none of us will find out usefully from Oldenbourg’s book.)

Oldenbourg (she was a daughter of some Russian journalists who disliked the 1917 Russian Revolution and fled to France) reveals that many of Frances’ senior Crusaders were related (their Crusades were then a family show), but she doesn’t demonstrate it usefully. Continually, the reader finds that Oldenbourg “doesn’t” and so: why is this?

I don’t know why, it has to do with poor design of this book project, but part of the how seems to be her overlooking of women’s names in the genealogies she provides. Women’s names are mentioned in the text and are partly explained in the index, but are not mentioned in the genealogies appended. Nor does she usefully mention any indigenous woman from The Holy Land, Lebanon, Armenia (as with the woman surnamed Hethoumia above), that the Crusaders dealt with. So if anyone wants to pursue relevant genealogies, the index of this book is the best place to look, which is hardly good enough.

We have here a case then of a woman author much relying on contemporary documents, mostly written by men,who is writing a book on male warfare and often ignoring the women they dealt with and often had children by. Oldenbourg seems besotted with The Crusades, but is only a little critical of the fact these Crusades were called in Europe, and is quite unreliable about the Moslem defence against the Crusaders.

Yet she can be alarmingly frank about the depredations of the Crusaders, as when during the fourth crusade they went off the rails and attacked areas they should not have, such as Constantinople in 2014. Which is another problem with this book! What is a story from the fourth crusade doing in a book on the first three Crusades (1095-1192)?

In short, and quite unlike Oldenbourg, who is nevertheless, and paradoxically, quite readable, despite her evident problems of nomenclature and terminology, I feel the Crusades, as far as they affected existing Holy Land placenames and nearby areas, were the greatest nonsense of jumped-up, absurd, French and German feudalism ever foisted on the world. The Kingship of Jerusalem was a sick feudal/medieval joke, but whether it was as sick as the “Caliphate” declared in 2014 by IS (Islamic State), you will not find clearly out from this book, which is just one of the many things wrong with it. A book then to stay well away from … Although Oldenbourg (p. 465) will admit that the Kingship of Jerusalem became “a legal fiction”. I regard it as always and from inception, a fiction. Bah humbug, I recommend you read Runciman’s books on the Crusades.


Review of The Pseudo-Science Wars, by Michael Gordin

Recent reading by May 2017 … Dan Byrnes, review of Michael D. Gordin, The Pseudo-Science Wars: Immanuel Velikovsky and the Birth of the Modern Fringe. University of Chicago Press, 2012. Gordin’s book is more important than it seems. (Gordin was a Professor of History at Princeton University when he wrote this book.)

And I need to defend this position, since as with the US writer Hemingway, we need a good bullshit detector here, about Velikovsky and his ilk, not Gordin.

G. K. Chesterton was quite wrong when he said that if people (he meant people in the English-speaking-world) will not believe in Christianity, they will believe anything. Chesterton is proved quite wrong by the Twentieth Century experiences of a Christian USA, which became a nation in which anything could and would be believed. Including pseudo-science, Creationism, including belief in UFOs – which might by the way be sourced in the old beliefs of American Indian tribes, this up-in-the-air matter remains very up-in-the-air.

The updated finding for our post-Chesterton era is that …. people will believe anything, including Christianity. Period.

We now by 2017 have a USA, an only-in-America, in which, apparently, it is possible to believe anything. We owe this situation partly to the Internet, the fact that anyone can post any fool opinion on the Net (and be believed by somebody), partly to a US education system that seems increasingly poor and which encourages ignorance, and … today, we live in days when denialism about climate change is widespread. Scientists, especially climate scientists, find that their scientific methods used to identify risks arising from climate change are allowed by the media to be questioned by idiots and ignoramuses.

The situation is so bad that I have no panacea, and indeed it has gotten worse, we now live in days of “fake news”. But I do know, from having been a journalist (and a one-time university Geography student), that most journalists are not qualified to discuss the weather, let alone qualified to discuss climate, which produces our weather wherever we happen to live. Enough said.

I also often wonder why/how the idea that the Earth will end one day soon, thus destroying all our lives, really, why is this idea so popular in the USA? Of all places? The answer is probably with Colonial American Christianity, from the Mayflower days, from the days of the Witches of Salem, with Millenarian Christianity, probably, with its eschatology, its belief that relatively few people will be”saved”during the End Times; most of us, like humanity during the Flood of Noah, will be left to perish. Poor us.

Millenarian Christianity, sometimes called “chialism”, is associated with an idea that “religion” will soon be associated with a major, and beneficial, change in society. Belief in an end-of-the-world can also be found in Islam, Buddhism and Zoroastrianism, which leads me to suspect that such a belief should be regarded as universal – as well as destructive.

In Christian beliefs, there will be a Second Coming of Jesus and at the Second Coming, Jesus will not arrive as a harmless male baby, he will come as a fully-fledged Lord of Heaven – doing judging stuff big-time and so kiss goodbye your and my fantasies about continuing to have a nice life on Planet Earth. The idea that the world might or will end has been around for thousands of years in in one form or another, but it was really given a workout in the 1970s when Velikovsky and the zeitgeist popularised his book, Worlds in Collision, first published in the 1950s. Which was about, say, the 15 Century BCE, when Venus was ejected from Jupiter as something like a comet and came close to crashing into Earth. If you can believe that.

This notion was popular with readers but was found so unsatisfactory by scientists that very soon its publishers, Macmillan (a textbook publisher), mostly respected by scientists in the USA, let the publishing be done by Doubleday (not a textbook publisher). Velikovsky ended embarrassing a lot of people including himself – if we respect Science, that is.

And so we had Velikovsky using comparative mythology (based on old holy book writings, mostly Jewish), to drum up his bullshit science, bullshit astronomy, bullshit historical chronology and so on. Gordin thinks the Velikovsky thing blew up in the 1970s and had largely died by 1985. I was living in Melbourne, Australia, during the 1970s, and, indeed, the second-hand bookshops were full of copies of Velikovsky paperbacks; he’d become a sort of unofficial, one-man publishing industry.

I read Velikovsky sceptically, since there was nothing that I  (with my university education fresh in memory) knew about from astronomy or science, geology or ancient history, or Middle Eastern religion, that would support Velikovsky’s views. I sought the advice of a friend’s father who was a scientific geologist. This geologist confirmed my scepticism, but he did surprise me by admitting that reading Velikovsky had jolted him out of the usual old assumption used by geologists (Uniformitarianism, slow, boring, uninterrupted)  and made him wonder anew about Catastrophism (interruptive, sudden and surprising) happening from time to time.

There I left matters till years later I read Gordin, provoked by latter-day findings that in the USA in our Internet days, lots of folks will believe anything, even more than they did in the heyday of Velikovsky. What’s going on? Why would it be that the USA, of all countries in the world, rich and wealthy it is said, has become so truly-rooly only-in-America, the glad home of truly wacky ideas? Why not, well, Iceland? Or India, which has a large enough population to produce a large number of weirdos.

You’ll have to read something like Gordin’s book. Which is a bit dry, a bit slow, and doesn’t exactly tell us exactly what is scientifically wrong with Velikovsky’s views or findings – except in the footnotes. The footnotes are extraordinarily well-done, but of course they slow down a reading of Gordin’s text. The point might be that what Gordin calls “the modern pseudo-scientific fringe” in US life is actually bigger and more dangerous than we thought (in our current world of “fake news”).

But one useful thing Gordin does say, is that pseudo-science is mimetic – it imitates the form and/or substance of the fruits of proper scientific inquiry. Pseudo-science is – science as if.  In Velikovsky’s case, “as if” was written cosmologically large. However, I personally haven’t heard anyone mention Velikovsky, positively or negatively, for years. Whereas, other sorts of US nonsense I have heard mentioned, and too often; unfortunately it is repeated on Australian TV by Australian accents.

Velikovsky is not, I think, the Big Daddy of Pseudo-Science in the USA, but he does stand out, partly as he has a Russian-Jewish name, not an English-based US name. Velikovsky’s scientific nonsense spilled over into all sorts of other unscientific nonsense now popular in the USA; Creationism, religiosity of various kinds, astrology, many kinds of pseudo-science, and non-science or anti-science trends such as today’s anti-vaccination groups, anti-fluoride groups, and so on.

(The anti-vaxxers are right weirdos, encouraged as they are by the USA’s excess emphasis on individualism; they seem to thrive on denying that man is a social animal, liable from time to time to be infected by other social animals near him or her. Particularly with children who are forced by law to regularly gather in institutions known as schools.)

And so, watch out for US mind viruses, they’re deadly and today they’re transmitted not by books, as with Velikovsky, but by the Internet. Given the many weird things that folks in the USA believe today about so many things, including “fake news” … We note also with our heart sinking that a climate-change-denialist buffoon named Trump is currently president of the USA …

I can only say that what the USA needs today, apart from a reliable bullshit detector, is a good solid dose, never to be forgotten, of the usual set of journalistic questions which by the way precede the win-date, November 1783, of the American Revolution.These questions are deceptively simple-seeming … They are: how, what, when, where, why, who?

Because luckily for the rationalists amongst us, there is no bullshit on earth that can stand up for long to sustained attack from these questions. (Ends).

Why does Hollywood make movies out of mere comic books?

Dear Readers, This rant about Hollywood was part-inspired by one of my Australian friends who happens to be a landscape painter. His views about Hollywood are probably more charitable than mine.

I write in August 2016 as “Hollywood” has just released a new DC Comic Books movie starring Will Smith, something about crims who have been given super-hero-type powers. This movie is titled, Suicide Squad. “News stories” (which are really just publicity balloons) arise about an actress or two in the movie being miscast … But who cares? Hollywood, probably in search of dollars, and abandoning artistic integrity, has become just a branch office of the US comic books industry. Thus it deserves everything it gets.

Look at it this way, and it’s appalling … “Hollywood” has been milking the US comic books industry for dollars instead of milking world literature. In literary terms, “Hollywood” has done far worse than turn inward, or become overly-introspective, it has lost touch with reality and yet it remains busy promoting comic-book-reality. So let’s wonder awhile why “Hollywood”, one of escapism’s more luxurious homes in human history, has become this unrealistic.
Let’s be charitable and assume that Hollywood is in fact too big, too-multifaceted, it has to be at least part-populated by people who are still sane, to have become just malicious, or even badly misguided. Let’s assume that “Hollywood” has just lost its imagination for a period that’s temporary, that it’s going through a bad patch, an unfortunate cultural phase, but not as bad even as rock n roll having lost its roots. But even this could be far too charitable.

Not only has Hollywood sold out to comic-booksville. It makes too many remakes, which means that already-made movies have become the chief topic of study in “Hollywood”. One of the latest unnecessary remakes is a remake of The Magnificent Seven, this time around starring Denzel Washington. As if the world needed or wanted another remake of The Magnificent Seven! So ”Hollywood” has two dire problems: it has sunk to the level of making too-many remakes (lost its imagination) and it’s making too many movies drawn from comic books (lost its faith in world literature). This is the end of “Hollywood”.

You can tell this is the end of “Hollywood” when you make just one count about “Hollywood” as a so-called USA industry: why has the USA made so few movies about the American Revolution? For on reflection, we would soon realise that the USA has made far more movies about winning WWII than about winning its American Revolution– why on earth would this be?

But it’s not all bad, movie lovers. The good news is that lots of good movies and excellent TV mini-series are being made in Canada, UK, Ireland, Norway, other Scandinavian countries, in France, Italy, Spain, Germany, in what used to be called Middle Europe. In Nigeria in Africa, in China,South Korea, South America, Australia. Firms such as HBO, Netflix and BBC keep making stunningly watchable material.

While in India, luckily, Bollywood (Hindi Cinema) is fully geared-up, equipment-wise and techo-wise, it’s ready to go. Bollywood is also lately doing a few productions in Australia. All Bollywood has to do is switch more new content to something the Western World wants, milk world literature in the right ways, and everything should be quite ok from Bollywood. So forget Hollywood, think Bollywood. Forget Los Angeles. Forget hollywood magic, it’s gone, time has moved on.

Goodbye, Hollywood. Maybe it had to do with the world’s digital revolution? Maybe it has to do with the politico-cultural decline of the USA? How and why across the years, Hollywood forgot about world literature and adopted for US-written comic books is hard to say, but it was a fatal mistake. Fatal, and very disappointing with it.

On Mervyn Peake’s Ghormenghast

In March 2017amongst my watching of old videos was an unexpected pleasure, a viewing of Ghormenghast by Mervyn Peake. The reason to mention it,and recommend it, is due to what? … the sets, the actors, the general idea of ghastliness? Some of the actors, and wonderful performances they all give, are: Stephen Fry, Christopher Lee, Warren Mitchell, Zoe Wanamaker, Martin Clunes, Spike Milligan, Eric Sykes, Mark Williams.

The actors in Ghormenghast are a mini-who’s-who of the UK acting world. But that’s not the only reason to watch Ghormenghast. The entire Ghormenghast world needs to be seen to be appreciated, and well, I read the three Ghormenghast novels by Mervyn Peake in the 1970s.

Memorable it was, for vague memories of satire about mouldering piles of old stone architecture, decaying aristocracy, things of the past, the pointlessness of human affairs. Ghormenghast in the novels and film is the home of the just-born Titus Groan, the 77th Earl of Groan, who comes from just the kind of lineage of Groaners you’d expect to be living in such a run-down old castle, it’s all simply appalling.

In the movie version the sets are remarkable, while the action is about decaying aristocracy visited by an intelligent-but-feral kitchen hand, ruthlessness itself, who has escaped from the castle kitchens and becomes Chancellor of the Earldom, but is hardly happy.

Then comes a flood to add more chaos to the sets; you might say, a fearsome case of suddenly rising damp. It’s hard to convey how dreadfully depressing-funny it all is. Suffice to say, highly recommended. It’s a BBC Worldwide release dated 2001, a two-disk set.

Stranger to Stranger, by Paul Simon, review by Dan Byrnes

Review by Dan Byrnes of Paul Simon, his 2016 album, Stranger to Stranger. Concord Music Group Records/Virgin/EMI (on 8-9-2016).

Paul Simon (born 1941 so now aged 74 ) is apparently a bit sleepless at night, hence his song, Insomniac’s Lullaby. Stranger to Stranger is Simon’s 13th studio album and follows his 12th album released in 2011, So Beautiful or So What.

Simon is still hip, still writes a good line, a satirical line or a perceptively sad line; sometimes even a timeless line. He also has the reputation and the friends to do pretty much what he likes, and with Stranger to Stranger he’s done it again. Stranger is mostly an experimental album, concerned to explore either unusual instruments, or, Partch’s alternative theory of music itself.

Creatively, Stranger is not a patch on Graceland, far a better-quality album, yet in many ways it is unfair to compare them. The nature of the experiments conducted for Stranger make it a smaller-scale album, but it’s still witty, still interesting, without being what Graceland was, which was riveting.

My favourite line from Stranger is from Insomniac’s Lullaby, where a sleepless Simon, condemned to be up-all-night, prays that God will save him “from questions I can’t understand”. (Not “don’t understand” but can’t understand”.)

My favourite song on Stranger is probably Cool Papa Bell, a blather of seeming satirical nonsense where Simon lets loose a spray on the absurdities of contemporary USA. The song’s maybe a bit unfair to the actual Cool Papa Bell, who was an Afro-American baseball player 1922-1950 (James Thomas “Cool Papa” Bell, a centre fielder, died 1991), reputed to be the fastest baseball player ever. Simon seems to be saying that to avoid today’s USA absurdities, you have to move your mind pretty quickly or risk being eaten-up by rampant stupidity, in the sense that this is how the world is these days: it’s the stupid, stupid. And I quite agree.

But overall with this album, I suspect that the music experiments and the musical ideas came first, the lyrics came second, the artistic satisfaction came in third and late. One of the characteristics of the album is the repetition of lyrical lines (“I can’t talk now, I’m in a parade.”) plus repetition of purely musical lines and motifs. And finally we have it. Two short-but-marvellous guitar instrumentals to give the listener a rest; tracks originally written for a stage play. A few well-done satires. Amused pity for “street angels”, a link back to the guy who pretentiously “can’t talk now, I’m in a parade” (These days, Simon can’t see why an interesting character can’t appear more than once on a music album, and well, why not?)

Stranger also gives us several songs, miscellaneous, about genuine tragedies (Riverbank) or Insomniac’s Lullaby. A moving-mystifying encounter with a Brazilian faith healer (Proof of Love).

Among the musical inspirations were some sessions exploring flamenco spontaneity. Three tracks using ideas from the Italian electronic dance music virtuoso, Clap! Clap! (Digi G’Alessio). Musical ideas from Harry Partch, a 20th Century composer who heard 43 tones in an octave, not the 12 tones we usually hear, so Partch invented instruments (Cloud Chamber Bowls, Sonic Canons) to reveal these notes. Plus a new instrument from a Partch devotee and curator of Partch instruments, Dean Drummond, inventor of the Zoomoozophone.

One of Partch’s ideas was that atonal works derived from his music were akin to the spoken word, and Stranger is an unusual album, in that I at least felt it was full of musical experiments devoted to backing up not so much a good songwriter, which Simon is, but a poet-wordsmith devoted to the spoken word, which Simon also is, but less often.

And so, Stranger is a 74-year-old Paul Simon at play, perfectly happy to mine failure or experiments to finally get success and make it fun as well – wall-to-wall fun if we can believe Cool Papa Bell.

Simon has done it again and given us new things as well. He’s vastly enjoyed some musical experiments, being with his musicians various; and his old recording pal, Roy Halee, whom Simon dragged out of retirement. The interesting cover art is from a portrait of Simon by Chuck Close.

Age hasn’t dimmed Simon’s talents one bit. Stranger to Stranger is an excellent album, but just, not as good as Graceland. And it’s interesting. It’s not as if the music world isn’t awash with a helluva lot of experiments, there is a lot of sampling going on. Paul Simon seems to see it all, keep on top of all of it, and come out on top yet again. More power to his old age. (Ends 757 words)

On Beatles’ lyrics

Dan Byrnes’  review of Steve Turner,  The Beatles: Stories Behind The Songs. Scoresby Victoria, The Five MilePress, 2010. (Text first published in
For an old Beatles fan, what a delight to read this book! Which I got at a 2016 second-hand book fair in Armidale. I ended finishing it in two readings, as bedtime reading, the second time reading it late into the night, to finish it, as it so interesting.

To my mild amazement, I found I had been quite wrong in my views on why some Beatles songs were written as they were, and to my pleasure, right about others. Bono, of the Irish band U2, blurb-writes for this book, “I am a huge fan of The Beatles: The Stories Behind the Songs. It’s an inspiring and humbling book.” I feel much the same.

Nor has the book dispelled one impression I have of The Beatles – they were a remarkably hard-working set of musicians. It’s been said of drummer Ringo Starr (by their producer, George Martin, I think), that you could set your metronome by him. George, Paul and John were all very hard-working musicians, writers, creators. The book has extensive chronologies and discographies, and news on some Beatles songs I still haven’t heard. Which means, there is still more enjoyment waiting for me in Beatles Land. All ultra-enjoyable.

New website on convict transportation by Prof. Gary Sturgess

From an earlier post to Google-Plus, which by late 2019 is to be discontinued by Google…

 February 2016: At long last, Dan Byrnes’ historical work found online, on convict transportation and the convict contractors particularly (the managers of the convict shipping), has a new companion website. This welcome new website is mounted by Sydney historian Gary Sturgess and is still in its early days, but it should grow regularly. Thiswebsite-to-watch is found at PHP-driven pages such as:

Early Australian Convict Transportation – Convict Transportation

Background [edit]. The vast majority of the 162000 convicts sent to Australia between1787 and 1868 were transported by private contractors. And for the first three decades, from 1787 until around 1815, these contractors,and their agents on board the ships – the ships’ officers, the surgeons, …

Unwatchable video from Bondi for 2016 – a spoiler alert

Dear TV-Watching Pals about Bondi, Especially for my pal BR, who lives in Bondi but is still not any kind of consultant for any of the “reality TV”shows set in Bondi, Sydney, although with his insights into Australian social life, he really ought to be …

Follows a list of shows on the drawing boards using Bondi locations, and productions of same could well take the next ten or twenty years, who knows?

(Disclaimer: As we know generically, there is no such thing as reality TV, since anything which has been sent through a TV camera is no longer real, but we knew this already.)

Sneak pre-2016 previews: Follows some kind of a new list updated after Bondi Vet went into its present season. (Shows are presented in order of likely popularity in 2016.)

Bondi Scuba Divers (in the harbour and up and down the coasts of Sydney, co-starring The Shark Bait Boys).

The Bondi Statue Fanciers Club. (in-depth series about Sculpture by the Sea exhibition but cleverly designed in ways to badmouth Coogee and to compete with Antiques Roadshow, could even compete with the new series based on Best Exotic Marigold Hotel).

Bondi Nerds Rule OK. (App developers of the world,stand back now and applaud).

Bondi Newsagent (watch thejaw-dropping decline of circulation of Sydney Morning Herald close up, a no-holds-barred insight into the awful disappearance of respected newspapers).

Bondi Prostitute (the blonde one) and the men who keep her in money, The Bondi Tricks.

The Bondi Rich List: Explore economic inequality in today’s Australia using these in-depth looks at Bondi’s wealth patterns as you go from week to week through your own socio-economic gurglers.

Bondi Storms (where the big waves come from).

Bondi Brainstorms (where the ideas for even bigger and better Bondi reality TV shows come from).

Bondi Vroom (on what kinds of cars the people of Bondi buy these days).

Bondi Riot (surprisingly, not sociology, just a show about where to get the best Internet bargains in Bondi).

Bondi – Navel of the Surf Universe: Watch surf-board based documentaries about gripping aspects of Bondi life such as how to shape a surf board from scratch, how new wax is applied to a 20 year-old surf board, layer by layer, by a 60-year-old surfer (who has a wonderfully photogenic case of skin cancer, is not just good, is wonderful).

Bondi Radio Voila: (Digital TV/radio) Random selections of what Bondi people listen to on those rare occasions when they turn the radio on (either digital, FM or AM, as you like). Streaming (wha?).

Bondi at War: Dead or Alive, but Real! (live footage, albeit vetted byAustralian Defence Forces). Check out soldiers, sailors or air force personnel at war who happened to be from Bondi, from the Boer War to the present day. (Replicas of their medals available online at eBay at designated prices.) Special attention to Kokoda Trail.

Bondi Schoolkids (primary). Bondi HSC (the best years vs the worst years, going back to pre-Schoolies days.)

Lastly, The Bondi Flag. Something new on TV to wrap yourself in before you go out to smite your enemies and send them back to where they came from.

(Reviewed at ultra-secret locations in Sydney by Dan Byrnes, late December 2015. Sorry, not, about a New Year’s Day spoof, it tends to come with the territory.)