07 Oct 11
One of the very few free thinkers in our time of conformity and fear, he understood that design is not making something look great—design is making something great.
Eulogy from David Pogue.
“In most people’s vocabularies, design means veneer. It’s interior decorating. It’s the fabric of the curtains and the sofa. But to me, nothing could be further from the meaning of design. Design is the fundamental soul of a man-made creation that ends up expressing itself in successive outer layers of the product or service.” Steve Jobs, interview with Fortune Magazine, 2000
10 Jul 11
This ABC news interview is one of the funniest I’ve seen in a long time. Former News of the World executive Paul McMullan—obviously at the end of a long and emotional day—chats about the phone hacking and dirty dealings that went on at the tabloid. It really feels like you’re down at the pub with him having a few pints and getting all the insider gossip. I can just see his lawyer squirming with horror and frantically gesticulating behind the camera…
08 Jul 11
My girl and I went to the opening night of a new exhibition at the Nicholson Museum the other night: The Etruscans. The opening was very well attended—perhaps 200 or so people, nicely catered with drinks and food, and featured an informative talk on the mysterious Etruscans and their equally mysterious origins by Dr. Ted Robinson, an expert on their little-known culture.
The Nicholson Museum is a little gem in the heart of the Sydney Museum, just off the main quadrangle; like a tiny British Museum in the antipodes. Obsessive anglophiles like my girl and I can almost pretend we’re in London, or wandering through a little museum in Cambridge or Oxford. It’s not fashionable to be interested in ancient history and the age of colonial collectors, but we couldn’t care less.
Sir Charles Nicholson (1808-1903) helped establish the University of Sydney , and like so many Victorian intellectuals was an avid collector of antiquities. The standing exhibition has some beautiful pieces, including the largest collection of Egyptian antiquities in Australia, and some Egyptian mummies I remember seeing when I was very young at the old Museum of Applied Arts and Science (mentioned in a past post).
The Etruscan exhibition is small but very interesting, with a notable selection of Etruscan funerary urns, the largest of which is the equal of a similar prized piece in the British Museum. Strangely, the Etruscans liked to decorate their last resting places with violent scenes from mythology, such as the killing of Troilus by Achilles outside the gates of Troy. Surviving accounts describe them as a hedonistic, violent, pleasure-loving people, and their tombs are decorated with examples of explicit pornography and violence. And yet they also seemed to have enjoyed far greater equality of the sexes than the Greeks and Romans—men and women dined together, for example, and women kept their own names after marriage. A lot of their reputation, unfortunately, has come to us from their Romans conquerors, who were not exactly impartial when it came to recording the culture they destroyed, and saw gender equality as a sign of decadence.
It was an excellent evening, a wonderful antidote to the relentless assault of reality TV, sensationalist journalism, footy updates and lowest-common-denominator crap that gets peddled as popular culture in Sydney. In fact in an article from the 1860s when the collection was originally put on public view, a journalist accused Nicholson of being an elitist who was more concerned with collecting the relics of the dead than helping the living. Well, if a lifelong fascination with ancient history and these wonderful objects made by hands long dead is elitist, then consider me an elitist.
Incidently, I was interested to discover that noted British archaeologist Richard Miles (who wrote and presented an excellent BBC documentary called Ancient Worlds) is a Senior Lecturer at the University’s Department of Classics and Ancient History, since moving to Sydney from Cambridge. Here’s an interview with him at the Nicholson Museum.
Photo nicked from the Nicholson Museum Facebook page.
21 Jan 09
To the Muslim world, we seek a new way forward, based on mutual interest and mutual respect. To those leaders around the globe who seek to sow conflict, or blame their society’s ills on the West—know that your people will judge you on what you can build, not what you destroy. To those who cling to power through corruption and deceit and the silencing of dissent, know that you are on the wrong side of history; but that we will extend a hand if you are willing to unclench your fist.
To the people of poor nations, we pledge to work alongside you to make your farms flourish and let clean waters flow; to nourish starved bodies and feed hungry minds. And to those nations like ours that enjoy relative plenty, we say we can no longer afford indifference to the suffering outside our borders; nor can we consume the world’s resources without regard to effect. For the world has changed, and we must change with it.
From Barack Obama’s inauguration speech.
(Now, cast your mind back …)