Mining the Census

Results from the Australian census of 2011 are in, and number crunchers have been working the data. Someone has correlated religious belief with postcodes, and found that belief is highest in remote Indigenous communities and lowest in the counter-cultural town of Nimbin. Within the cities, inner areas are the strongholds of non-sbelievers; if you take a freeway out of the […]

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Remembering the Round Reading Room

For many generations of scholars working in the Humanities, the Round Reading Room of the British Library, for most of its life a subsidiary of the British Museum, was a kind of home. Rows of desks pointed inwards from the circular walls, to an inner circle where the catalogues were kept, in the form of hefty books one had to pull out from […]

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Arriving in Singapore

On the way in to the city from Changi Airport I strike up a conversation with a taxi driver, who informs me that the population of Singapore is growing very slowly. When I ask him why this is so, he tells me that it’s because people in Singapore, like the Japanese, don’t have sex very often. The conversation is taking […]

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Back in the DDR

The excellent DDR (German Democratic Republic) Museum in Berlin presents fascinating material. It’s immensely popular, and clearly arouses mixed feelings among those who attend. On the day I visited the crowd was at its thickest around a machine playing the national anthem of the DDR, to which people were responding in different ways. (Similar emotions are raised by the kitsch but oddly attractive […]

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Making Sense of the Holocaust

At one of the entrances to Wittenbergplatz U-Bahn station in western Berlin, near which I was lucky enough to stay recently, is a sign commemorating those who left on a trip from which they never returned. There follows a list of their destinations which you suddenly identify as one of Nazi death camps, and you realise that these travellers were victims of the […]

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Walking the Streets of Berlin

I hadn’t realised that most of Berlin was bombed to pieces during World War II. One wonders whether this wasn’t excessive even in military terms, for the war ended when Soviet troops occupied the city, and it hard to see how this was aided by such things as the destruction of the Neue Synagoge by British bombing in 1943, an act that deserves […]

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Universities in England and Germany

England has two universities that are invariably included in lists of the top ten in the world. Founded by the early thirteenth century, their immense prestige, the able international students funnelled in their direction by the Rhodes Scholarships and Gates Foundation, their ability to raise money from their alumni, the way in which their leadership is plugged into centres of […]

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An aircraft carrier for Wyoming?

The problem of how to prepare for a potential economic or political collapse of the United States has been exercising members of the legislature of the state of Wyoming, who have been debating the setting up of a task force to deal with the matter. It was initially proposed that it could examine such possible strategies as the state issuing its own currency, raising […]

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Regarding Australia

A history textbook we studied at High School showed pictures of the Australian landscape drawn by early British settlers. The scenes they showed seemed far too domesticated, with trees standing amid grass. This, we were told, was because the artists still looked at things in a British way, and had been in Australia too short a time for their eye […]

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