Too Loud to Hear

More first-hand accounts are emerging from Tonga.

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23 January 2022 · Comment · Events

Blood Tests

Could microclots help explain long Covid?

A virus likely triggers almost all multiple sclerosis, and mRNA vaccines could prevent it.

Thingu in HD. The blood test scene from Frozen.

Teenage sarcasm is a sign of intelligence.

Brexiters now worry about the judgment of history. The Brexit mug.

Cassetteboy on Boris Johnson’s latest woes. Led By Donkeys on same. What happened to non-Boris-Johnsons who broke lockdown rules. Most have no idea about the set-up of 10 Downing St. Let’s assume he’s going. What then?

Britain’s Defence Secretary on Russia and Ukraine.

The Federal President of Germany (PDF in English) on The Conference: “Bureaucratic and political structures can only resist their misuse as long as there is a stable, democratic constitution that keeps an equally stable government from slipping over the edge into the ideological abyss.”

A story of Easter Island.

What world do we want to live in after Covid?

Always famous.

23 January 2022 · Comment · Weblog


The news of a volcanic eruption in Tonga a week ago threatened to monopolize my attention during a typically busy start of semester; more than news of increasing Covid hospitalizations in the UK, Boris Johnson’s blatant attempts to distract attention from his political plight, Vladimir Putin’s imminent invasion of Ukraine, or Brexit-caused miles-long lorry queues at Dover and Calais. While I was engaging with new students on two different courses and marking and moderating assignments from two more, my mind kept returning to my own postgraduate years, which involved studying and writing about Tonga throughout the 1990s and spending two months there in 1993. Anyone knowing the country will have been taken aback at the sight of the satellite image of Hunga Tonga-Hunga Ha‘apai’s ash cloud.

Tonga volcano satellite image
Taken by the Japanese weather satellite Himawari-8, 15 January 2022.

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22 January 2022 · 1 Comment · Events

Long White Shadow

I spent the final few months of last year gradually working my way through my negatives from late 1997, when I was a visiting scholar at the University of Canterbury in Christchurch, New Zealand—one of the happiest periods of my life, which made revisiting it in 2021 a poignant exercise. J. and I spent our weekends exploring the city and its South Island surrounds, making trips west to Greymouth, south to Dunedin and north to Hanmer Springs and the Marlborough Sounds, discovering for ourselves one of the most beautiful places on earth a few years before Peter Jackson showed it off to the world in The Fellowship of the Ring.

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11 January 2022 · Memory

New Year, Old Links

Happy new year (we hope). The theme this year is chains, as befitting this restricted time, from a set of photos of a giant rusty chain that I took in Shetland and hadn’t found a use for yet. Tune in every month for a new lump of iron.

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9 January 2022 · Site News

Archives for 2021

The pandemic made this another tough year, especially in its early months of lockdown. A brief window of hope in the summer was ended by family Covid infections and periods of self-isolation in August/September and December. There were some new galleries at Detail, most of them of old photos because of the relative lack of new travel, and the usual links and random observation. Here’s the year and its category archives, and here’s a gallery of the banner source images.

January 2021February 2021March 2021April 2021May 2021June 2021July 2021August 2021September 2021October 2021November 2021December 2021

Environment · Events · Film · Infotech · Journal · Memory · Music · People · Politics · Site News · Television · Travel · UK Culture · Weblog

31 December 2021 · Site News

Permission to Speak

What twenty years in Afghanistan taught me about the Taliban.

Error-laden datasets are warping what we know about AI.

The Internet is tricking our brains.

Parents of the social media generation are not okay.

Ethan Hawke on giving yourself permission to be creative.

The myth of an overcrowded Britain.

Any amount of Covid damages children’s blood vessels.

The neurological cost of Covid.

The 60-year-old scientific mistake that helped Covid kill.

The future of the pandemic. The new normal.

“We are being robbed of the illusion that we can predict what will happen in the space of a second, a minute, an hour or a day. How can we prepare—can we prepare—for what is to come?”

31 December 2021 · Weblog

Have Yourself an Isolated Christmas

Self-Isolating Calendar

We had a faint positive lateral-flow test in the family last Saturday and so have to selfisolate until next Tuesday, despite negative PCRs all round and no definitive Covid symptoms (although with Omicron it’s harder to tell). The chance of false positive LFTs is low, so we have to assume this one wasn’t, and Track and Trace want us to isolate either way, even with negative PCRs and multiple jabs. It’s not how we would have liked to spend the week running up to Christmas, but the rapid rise in cases was already putting paid to those plans; everyone here seems to have entered voluntary de facto lockdown in lieu of actual lockdown. The street has been unnaturally quiet all week.

What a fitting end to another difficult year. Looks as if January 2022 won’t be much better either. Hope you and yours can keep safe.

24 December 2021 · Events

Somehow Also No

The seven types of rest.

Did we get anything done this weekend?

How the Home Office forced a British citizen into destitution abroad. The government plans to exempt itself from the rule of law. Britain is becoming a police state by stealth.

Give me slack.

Fear the fungi.

Photographing the ancient baobabs of Madagascar.

The Adam and Joe Show, 25 years on.

Leunig, wellness, and wokeness. It’s been heartbreaking watching these developments over recent years. Like many Melbourne-adjacent Australians, his work has meant a lot to me. I’m trying to hang onto the good elements while reassessing the ones that Moore has highlighted.

7 December 2021 · Weblog

Get Back

I watched the last part of Get Back on Sunday, after working through the others during the week an hour or two at a time. By then I’d already reached the point where I didn’t want it to end, and an eight-hour cut felt too short. The first instalment at Twickenham was sometimes uncomfortable (seeing Paul belittle George without realising he had, and what followed), but the second restored the balance, with moments of pure joy in its final hour: the sense of what good friends they really were, and what good people they all, at the bottom of it, even on the cusp of the band’s dissolution, were, was profoundly moving. The full rooftop performance in Part Three only cemented that impression.

I spent the summer that I turned twenty-one obsessed with Mark Lewisohn’s newly released The Complete Beatles Recording Sessions, and this has taken me right back to it: somehow all of their genius and personalities have been captured in these few weeks of fly-on-the-wall recordings and what Peter Jackson has been able to do with them. A wonderful artifact.

Get Back reviewed. On the trail of Get Back. Paul McCartney on the Beatles’ farewell. Why we’ll keep watching it forever.

7 December 2021 · Music