I guess I've read more than 100 military memoirs, mostly of World War II, but some of WWI and the Vietnam War too.
Recently I read Arthur Page's memoir of his service with the Allied Translator and Interpreter Section (ATIS) during the Second World War. Between Victor and Vanquished. It's remarkable for several reasons. Firstly, it is beautifully written. Page evokes people and places through his writing with ease. Secondly, it is meticulously researched and includes footnotes at the end of each chapter. These footnotes include URLs where the reference is an on line one - rare in the military history genre. Fourthly, he has written it within the past few years and if you know any veteran of WWII, you know they are now all over 80 years old. Fifthly, he has led an unusual life and therefore has an unusual story to tell - that means it is not boring..
The book is both personal memoir and unit history of the ATIS. As he tells it, he could write the unit history through no other eyes than his own. He was born in Japan to Greek and Russian parents and was sent tot he English Grammar School in Yokohama. His beloved nanny steeped him in Japanese culture and history, and at the same time learnt the King's English at school. So, he was a natural Japanese linguist, English speaker, and had Greek, Russian and French too. His small boy's love of all things military led him to study ships, arms, soldiers and aircraft which was to stand him and Australia in good stead later. With Japan's growing hatred of foreigners, he and his family fled the country, and almost accidentally ended up in Australia. Ater the outbreak of the War he and his father attempted to join up but were rejected because they were foreigners. Eventually they were permitted to join the Australian Army, but their appeals to have their Japanese language skillsutilised initally fell upon deaf ears. Eventually they found their way to the ATIS in Brisbane where their skills were put to good use. Young Arthur eventually being attached to combat units for the purpose of interrogating Japanese prisoners and vetting captured documents. At war's end he was involved in war crimes investigations, including the atrocities at Bandjermasin in Borneo.
The other book I commend after re-reading it is Steve Martin's Born Standing Up.
Martin tells two parallel stories. This is primarily a show-biz autobiography with the main theme being his early career as an entertainer, right up to the late 70's when he was the biggest comedy concert act anywhere. His early career as a magician, and a banjo player. And a banjo playing magician. Then the transition to stand-up. The secondary theme of the book is his troubled relationship with this father.
The book is not out and out hilarious right the way through (for that in a comic's autobiography read Harpo Speaks) but there are some very funny moments, and there's plenty of famous people with walk-on roles in the story. Martin worked and worked and worked and worked and toured and toured and toured and nearly gave it away a couple of times before becoming a success. I enjoyed it. But you gotta have some knowledge of American popular culture of the 1970's to make it worthwhile I guess.
As Doc Searls has noted, bloggers searching for old blog entries on their own blogs are failing to find them via Google search.
Here's how it works. I'm writing a blog post, and want to incorporate a link to something I previously wrote on my blog on the same topic, but can't remember where or precisely when I wrote it. I used to be able to find it via a Google search, but not for the past few months. Doc got around the problem by using Yahoo search.
As Doc says:
The fact that Google fails to find pages that have been sitting in plain sight of its crawlers for long periods of time, while Yahoo finds those same pages, is rather interesting data.
This photograph is one of my favourites from the Powerhouse Museum's Tyrrell photographic collection which is viewable not only at the Musuem's website, but also on flickr. (follow the links above).
Here we see some swaggies "On the wallaby track" which means there were itinerants searching for work as they walked from place to place on Australia's country tracks. The pic is probably taken in the 1890's and is from the studio of Charles Kerry.
A swaggie was considered an honest worker, and often worked in excahnge for meals from the farmhouse or cookhouse. A swaggie should not be confused with a sundowner, which was a man who turned up at a farm around sundown when work ceases asking for a meal, but who would leave before sunup the next day and therefore could not be asked to make good on the meal with some work on the property.
As I was driving along this afternoon I saw these five ladies walking along, each with backpacks, walking staffs and drink bottles.
Modern day swaggies?
They kindly consented to having their photograph taken - and I told them they could see it on this blog by this afternoon. If one of them would care to contact me and give me their names I shall more accurately caption the 2008 photograph. At the time, it didn't seem right to ask each of them to spell out their names for me.
They did a bit of chiacking about getting their pic taken to compare to the swaggies, and suggested I should title the pic as The Grannies!
One of my minor interests is practiacal or applied chemistry. One of the fundamentals of chemistry is the periodic table.
The crew at theUniversity of Nottingham have put together videos about the table and are working their way through making a video about every single element. It includes stuff like physical samples and simple experiments. And some of the scientists are real characters.
and why. I don't know if the list is definitive, but there's certainly a glimpse here of what some of the best libraries look like now, and how others can improve for the next few years or so.
The other day I was chatting with Paula Bray and Seb Chan of the Powerhouse Musuem, and was fascinated to hear about some of the ideas which will become reality soon to take more of the museum's collection online in ways which give it a much deeper contextualisation and meaning, along with some hot ideas for making it all very relevant to us.
I was in a medical office today and saw this display of Botox.
After I asked permission to photograph the display, the receptionist and cosmetic procedures nurse were both encourageing me to get some botox treatments. I might consider it had it not been for seeing Sarah, Duchess of York on the Fox & Friends TV show last night where her face was looking very smooth, but very very stiff.
The woman as the medical office wanted to know why I wanted to photograph the Botox, so I told them it was an important cultural artifact of our times.