I’ve been thinking lately about one of the eye-opening experiences of my university life, and what it tells us about today’s world. In 1981 I arrived at Victoria University of Wellington as a bright-eyed eighteen year old, filled with the idea that university was the place where people could express their intellectual ideas constructively. I … More How societies get sucked into authoritarianism
When I was at primary school in Napier, New Zealand, all the kids – including me – were terrified of a particular teacher, the ‘go to’ disciplinarian who was invoked when other teachers wanted a kid especially punished. This bellowing drill-sergeant of a teacher demanded total submission to his power, even down to punishing kids … More How authoritarian bullies get away with it
There was, I suppose, a universal sigh of relief when New Year 2017 ticked over and the world left the Year from Hell. We like our arbitrary calendar dates. Reality seldom conforms. After all, Lemmy Kilmister kicked off the big celebrity die-off that marked 2016 on Boxing Day 2015. A friend of mine suggested that … More Why 2016 was a historical trend year – not a one-shot disaster
Merry Christmas, everyone! I hope your festive season’s going well and there’s much fun and merriment for all. Here, for your enjoyment, is the world’s first Christmas card, from 1843. It was commissioned by Sir Henry Cole and drawn by John Callcot Horsley, part of the general commercialisation of Christmas that decade. It’s rich with … More A Christmas card from history…
Last week I retrieved the last of my publishing licenses from Penguin Random House. Yeah, I know. Most authors crawl over broken glass to get a contract with PRH or one of the other big houses. Me? I’ve been asking for my contracts back. I had over thirty of them, all for out-of-print books which, … More Hot titles from my writing past – and they’re baaaaack!
It’s 75 years since Japanese aircraft attacked the US Navy at Pearl Harbor – triggering the Pacific war that finally ended in August 1945 after the atomic attacks on Hiroshima and Nagasaki. Where does the time go? For all the infamy of the moment, it wasn’t quite a total surprise. Relations between Japan and the … More Incredibly, it’s 75 years since Pearl Harbor and war in the Pacific
There’s a vigorous naval enthusiast community out there. And it’s always intrigued me how often their discussions devolve to bitterly personalised argument, often infused with a kind of nationalist machismo in which paper statistics become weapons for invalidating the personal worth of the other party. Setting aside the point that this is basically dick-waving, using … More Why ships are more than just steel and lists of statistics