Back when I was a kid at intermediate school (‘junior high’ in US parlance) there was an incident involving a trestle table at the back of the class, on which had been placed a lot of craft works. Adjacent to the trestle was a large cupboard in which all the coats and bags were stored, … More The dangers of being a good Samaritan when society is dysfunctional
I am always intrigued by the way that, every so often, western society is seized with a ‘social panic’ in which some recent and usually small-scale event becomes evidence of a supposedly deep-seated problem that is going to bring society crashing down in ruin. The archetype, for me, is New Zealand’s Elbe Milk Bar scandal … More Social panics – when the stupid becomes the normal
When I was a kid, I was always fascinated by the colour schemes of various public buildings around New Zealand – libraries, rest rooms and such like. They were true late-deco era structures, and often they featured late-modernist style mosaics or murals of soldiers and people from the early 1940s, all in period colouring of … More The art deco war – remembered for today
One of the ways we justify going to Mars is that Earth is pretty much on the road to ruin just now, courtesy of human endeavour. We need a new planet. The only problem is that human nature doesn’t change, so we’d probably end up wrecking Mars too, likely while fighting viciously over how to … More Humanity – the scourge of the galaxy
I’ve seen suggestions of late that we shouldn’t call today’s intolerant authoritarians ‘Nazis’, because the word is specific to the political party that came to power in Germany in 1933. Actually, I think ‘Nazi’ is great term to describe such behaviour. Why? Because the underlying forces involved are the same. The crimes against humanity perpetrated … More Why we have to call out intolerance and hatred
The response when a Southern Right Whale spent a week or so in Port Nicholson – Wellington’s harbour – highlights just how much the world has changed in the last while. Back in the nineteenth century the sight of a whale usually set a flurry of action going ashore, just as the whale did the … More Having a whale of a time…
I was reminded the other day of a wonderful 1948 story I read as a kid, ‘In Hiding’, by Wilmar Shiras (1908-1990). I read it in a 1960s-era anthology of sci-fi stories, and it left a huge impression on me. Shiras wrote it, apparently, for her children. And the plot was straight forward: a school … More What makes people smart?