Interpermeable realities, material and digital

Do you ever try to conduct word searches while reading a print book? What an odd sensation. Just for a moment, you mentally reach for a control that isn’t there. Then you realize this is a paper book, and if you want to find that word or passage you have to use the index, if there is one, or else estimate where in all those pages it’s most likely to appear, and then skim the actual material book manually. What … Read more

Tourists in our own and each others’ realities

titanic distancing ourselves

















“[E]ssentially the camera makes everyone a tourist in other people’s reality, and eventually in one’s own.” 

First published in 1973, Susan Sontag’s On Photography speaks to us with even more force today about what cameras and the mass reproduction of images have done to our appreciation of ourselves and our worlds. And she offers this insightful spin on our lemming compulsion to photograph our … Read more

Japanieces & tilefish & things

What have tilefish and superyacht owners got in common?

Collin posed this question at the end of his last post, “Pharaonic fish and flash fatcats.” And now he has invited me, Jack Shackaway, who remains unbound by considerations of political correctness, to explain.

The following passages are from a novel in progress starring yours truly — even written by yours truly though Collin will no doubt try to claim otherwise. The book is a work of … Read more

Peas in a pod: Pharaonic fish and flash fatcats

According to  the people who filmed these tilefish back in 2003, this species had till then remained undescribed by scientists. Once again I’ve been too slow off the mark, because I described this fish in 2001. I can’t find the original video with the associated claim, but here’s some excellent footage of tilefish and their mounds.

I’ve been known to brag about having already been there and done that, years ahead of my time way back when (e.g. see “… Read more

They’re everywhere! More on neural parasites

Soon there’ll be nowhere left in the world to run to, no place to hide.

In response to something I posted on neural parasites some time ago —  “Fable with parasites I: Bravery lies in the brain of the beholder” — Steve Hyde said this: “Reminds me of those tourists that have been taken over by their backpacks … [Like the chickens in your post], they’re … known to fearlessly approach dangerous beasts.” I believe he was referring to … Read more

Dinomynas, flying lizards, other local wildlife

Following my post regarding Nigel’s attempts to kill me, I remembered another myna story, a magazine piece I’d written years ago. How did mynas come to figure so large in my life?

I’m lying there by the pool with last night’s wine pouring out of me, dozing and reading Roddy Doyle by turns, my own Muse stirring within, a touch of the Irish in her voice, rousing me, from time to time, to sit up and drip ink and … Read more

Chronicle of an urban drowning foretold


Almost exactly a year ago I posted “Submarine garrets for starving writers” (4 November 2010), which foresaw the entire city of Bangkok serving as a recreational dive site. And that piece itself contained a link to an article (“One Born Every Minute“) I wrote 25 years ago wherein I interviewed a visiting extraterrestrial who foresaw the submersion of Bangkok within another three decades. The TAT (Tourism Authority of Thailand), I suggested, would hail his proposals … Read more

Our friend the hookworm

Bill the Mathematician—yes, that’s Bill of the unaccountably broken back—is not always fully recognized as the trendsetter he really is. Right now he’s in Phnom Penh, on his way to the Pasteur Institute to ask for a dose of hookworm larvae. “I thought I’d found a source yesterday,” he tells me, “as PP now has a National Parasitological Center. But somehow they can’t help because ‘it’s time for exams.’ But they did suggest I try L’Institut Pasteur, so I’ll … Read more

Freeing the teabags

“Tedium is my medium, and boredom is my game.” (original coinage, Mr Jack Shackaway, Esq.)

Currently I’m producing most of my adrenaline at night. And this morning I awoke tired and anxious, haunted by a dream wherein a gang of Irish writers threatened me with terrible things, the details of which I can’t remember. I do know groupies played a role in developments, which maybe explains why my personal timecock was pointing insistently to noon or thereabouts, even though it … Read more

Digital technologies: The great levelers


Lonely Planet has long made everyone an adventurer, IMHO, thereby sapping much travel of any real adventure. The Discovery Channel and National Geographic, from what I hear in the street, have made nearly any experience you can imagine accessible from the comfort of your own armchair.

“So you went walking in Antarctica? (Yawn.) Whatever. I saw Antarctica on TV last week. Yeah, it was awesome. All those fuckin’ penguins, eh?”


And now Google Goggles will make anyone with … Read more