I write regularly across a wide variety of media -- magazine, newspapers, and on-line.
I developed and wrote Dumbo Feather's popular "Historical Profiles" column from 2011-2013, and my political commentary has been syndicated in Australia's national newspapers. I also write for The Saturday Paper, Pallet Magazine, Time Out Magazine, The Griffith Review, The Lifted Brow, The Smith Journal, The Alpine Review, and a smattering of in-flight interstellar commuter magazines.
Selected Magazine Work
Fight, Flight, Faint
Depending on who you ask, Rosalind Franklin was a lively wit, a fierce debater attracted to intelligent people; or she was a complete arsehole, an obsessive compulsive with no social skills whatsoever who hated people in general and men in particular.
Mousey, stocky, unattractive, a bespectacled blue-stocking; or handsome, with perfect eye sight and a penchant for flashy lipstick. A diligent plodder, a scientific failure without the insight to know what she was looking at; or a brilliant woman who discovered the structure of DNA. Read more...
Branch water, popskull, deep shaft, hillbilly pop, stump hole, stingo, likker. Jet fuel, mountain dew, catdaddy, happy Sally, hooch. Inside each glass Mason jar of white lightning swirls a liquid paradox that is pure America.
Moonshine threatened George Washing-ton and elected Thomas Jefferson. It fueled the American Revolution and the Civil War. It made paupers and millionaires, blind men and happy souls. It was art, or it was murder, depending on who you asked. But at the beginning of the 21st century, it was over. It looked like the long tradition of American moonshine had finally run its course.
Shirley Temple Was All That
Dumbo Feather Magazine
People are always telling me that they hate Shirley Temple. I get annoyed, and so I try to head them off at the pass. If their complaint is that she’s saccharine and stupid, I say things like: she was an American delegate to the United Nations during the Cold War.
They say: no she wasn’t. And I say: yes, Shirley Temple served on the Social, Cultural and Humanitarian Committee. She also ran for Congress. She was the United States Ambassador to Ghana during the Ford administration, too, and then Ambassador to Czechoslovakia in the early 1990s. They say: no she wasn’t. And I say: yes, yes, she was.
Then I say: did you know that she was raped by a top studio executive at Twentieth Century Fox? And of course they say no, and so I say: yes, it’s true, she was. Quite a few of them tried it on her when she took control of her own signings at 18. Afterwards, one particular executive came into her dressing room and told her they should get along, because he was going to be an important man at Fox soon. He said: “Sex is like a glass of water: You get thirsty, you drink. You want sex, you have it.” Shirley Temple is tough; Shirley Temple started taking her dogs into the studios with her to sign contracts.
The Long Now
The Smith Journal, Vol. 10
What springs to mind when you think of “the future”? A flash of Hong Kong, Shanghai or Bladerunner? Probably not Texas. Texas seems very much a product of the present-era: oil booms, Botox, beauty queens and George W. Bush.
But somewhere deep in the West Texan desert is a mountain, and inside that mountain a group of mad engineers are building a clock that will tick for 10,000 years. Long after the last drop of oil is squandered, when the USA is a distant memory and every border in the world has shifted, the clock will still be keeping time.
This is the Clock of the Long Now.
The Hurt Hierarchy
The Smith Journal, Vol. 14
Alan Rabinowitz is a Big Cat Protector
Dumbo feather, Issue 30
Every now and then Dr Alan Rabinowitz will repeat himself: a single, careful, rolling word.
His voice on the phone is deep, forceful, a voice that’s pushed its way through snow storms and flooding rivers, across Southern America, South East Asia, war torn countries and temporary truces, through the corridors of dictatorships and democracies alike, always talking, always insisting on the stories of the animals he’s trying to protect. This man has set up wildlife conservation areas in places no in ever thought possible, including the world’s largest tiger reserve in Burma-Myanmar’s Hukawng Valley. The stutter that plagued him as a child seems long gone. Just those remnant repetitions.
Science has been getting a bad rap lately. Scientists are painted as rational to the point of irrationality, cold, removed. Incapable of ethics. But the reality of scientists’ lives is different. It’s us non-scientists who are irrational.
Now and Zen
Black Blood of the Earth
The Smith Journal, Vol. 9
All Mass is Interaction: Richard Feynman Profile
Dumbo feather magazine
All mass is interaction.
He grew up on a beach, Far Rockaway, New York. Even as a child, the beach was never a place of placid waters and golden sands for Richard Feynman. The natural world was in flux, in the sky as on earth. At night, he woke his baby sister Joan and took her out of their cramped family home and down to the golf course, where they stood on the cold grass and watched an aurora borealis wheel overhead, so beautiful; at once simple and infinitely complex. “No one knows why,” he told her in excitement. “No one knows how, no one knows why that happens.”
In the 1920 and 30s, through long summers, he opened up radios and pulled out their guts, listening for voices and static whispers. Later, people would call him a magician, a trickster. He would draw an unseen world, sit behind the windscreen of a weapons carrier and watch as the first atomic bomb exploded, found quantum electrodynamics, the “jewel of physics”, marry three times—once for love, once for misery, once for life—stomp and drum his way through every convention in his search for answers and insist on doubt at every turn. Read more...
The Smith Journal, Vol. 8
The Brain on Improv
Detroit is bankrupt, Detroit is corrupt, Detroit can never be saved.
Every day, kids growing up in Michigan’s famously troubled city are told by news outlets and the national conversation that their communities are collapsing, violent, and failed. “It’s a message they hear on loop their entire lives,” says Beth Hagenlocker. “The kids are steeping in a sort of hopelessness. But I know that there’s an untapped and unbridled potential in the city of Detroit.”
On What We Have To Learn From Ants
The Smith Journal, Vol. 20
Selected Newspaper Articles
- A click in the wall The Saturday Paper While China’s young generation know their way around online censorship, they aren’t necessarily against it. Read more...
- Biting the onion The Saturday Paper Amid new anti-privacy measures, networks such as Tor -- the Onion Router -- are becoming more popular, and not just among law breakers. Read more...
- Signs of a dotcom crash The Saturday Paper The Nasdaq just hit 5000. For 15 years, the tech world has been waiting for this moment. Read more...
- Encoding the Future The Saturday Paper Born in the computer age, ‘digital natives’ have little clue as to what goes on behind the reflective screen, leaving levels of tech literacy dangerously low. Read more...
- Disney needs to give its princesses a few feisty friends The Age Newspaper Feminist mothers across the world cower in terror at the idea of the "princess phase". Most often, it's the colour pink that bears the brunt of the bile. Read more...
- World in a cup The Age Newspaper No matter the diligence of the athletes, the ferocity of their ambition and skill, we seem unable to instill women's sports with the epic grandeur that we do men's. Read more...
- The ultimate reality The Age Newspaper Almost overnight, the stock market crash has replaced climate change as the primary focus of our concern. Read more...
- The royal wedding, the modern marriage ABC's The Drum Royal weddings have long been commercialized: buy the cup, the tablecloth, the key-ring. This time round there are even Wills and Kate condoms, which boast that they “combine the strength of a Prince with the yielding sensitivity of a Princess-to-Be.” Read more...
- Gillard sustains population myth Eureka Street When politicians use the word 'sustainability', it usually triggers red warning lights instead of flagging the presence of green policies. Political discussion of sustainability encourages misdirection and mirror play. The result departs as far as possible from true environmental policy. Read more...