Monday, November 26, 2012

Taman Shud mystery code - it's obvious

The weekend Herald ran a recapitulation of the Taman Shud mystery, where an unidentified, well-dressed man was found dead at an Adelaide beach in 1948.

I had come across this before, mainly in the context of cryptography: he had a code that could not be deciphered.  But it wasn't until the Herald article that I actually saw a photo of the code - and it instantly made sense to me.

What else could it be but an initial-letter code?  That is, he's using these notes as a memory jog, for something like a to-do list or a set of options.  Initial letters instead of the full sentence could be because:
  • he wanted to keep it private;
  • he wanted to be brief;  or
  • he didn't have much space
However, I'd clearly go for the former.

It matters not.  But since it's a string of personal reminders, they're unlikely to ever be successfully interpreted.  Some guesses have been made, including a draft suicide note.

The man's clothes were traced back to the US.  The disparity between them and his semi-literate handwriting have been noted.  An exhumation has been advocated, which may provide further DNA clues.

But the code's clear.  I look on it as an application of Occam's razor: don't multiply factors unnecessarily.

Saturday, November 17, 2012

Loud music, and the Buzzcocks

Bazza (see previous post) asked me what I was listening to, and I had to confess it wasn't anything recent.  Mostly I listen while travelling, and depending on mood and distractions, it will usually be podcasts, Ravel piano music, or something loud.

If I stack up the current batch of loud music chronologically, there's:

Jefferson Airplane - Ballad of you and me and Pooneil (live 1970)
Status Quo - Roll over lay down (live 1975)
Warsaw [Joy Division] - No love lost
Warsaw - Warsaw
New Order - Ceremony
Wipers - When it's over
Pretenders - Tattooed love boys (live)
Saints - Ghost ships (Chris Bailey's)
Fall - Realm of Dusk
Fall - Gross Chapel (both from Bend Sinister/Domesday Triad)
EMF - I believe (foetus remix)
Sonic Youth - Theresa's sound world
Sonic Youth - Wish fulfilment (both from Dirty)
You Am I - Berlin chair
Massive Attack - Unfinished sympathy
Dandy Warhols - Get off
Buzzcocks - Useless situation

So there's representation from each decade, but the newest one is only 2003 - and it's an old punk band!  Having said that, I was surprised to bump into this, off a 2003 eponymous album (track listed as 'Useless'). Although I never much cared for the Buzzcocks, this is what they should have been doing - verve, with a punk attitude.  From a bunch of blokes pushing 50!

Thursday, November 15, 2012

Bazza in Australia, art, Alex Snellgrove and Clarice Beckett

Today I met up with Bazza in the flesh, for the first time.

His blog, To Discover Ice, is always interesting and reveals a lively passion for a great variety of interests.

We had a very stimulating and wide-ranging conversation, which reflects at least some of what moves each of us to diarise.

He has a particular interest in art - has in fact studied art history, which he really loved.
I rued the fact that I hadn't encapsulated significant parts of my life in photos, but at least I could show him a recent painting by my 11-year-old daughter:

We both had to get away to meet obligations for our wives.  My wife was, in fact, going out to dinner with local Coogee artist Alex Snellgrove, who has been tutoring my daughter.  We have a painting of hers, which I hadn't been able to show Bazza:

Her luminescent style reminds me of Clarice Beckett, an under-appreciated Melbourne artist from last century.  Here's an example:

More of Alex Snellgrove can be seen here; some more from Clarice Beckett can be found here.  Enjoy, Bazza.

19-Nov-2012 Update: Alex Snellgrove's web site is  She has an exhibition coming up from 29 November to 9 December, at Gallery East, 21 Burnie St, Clovelly (no website), Thu-Sun 11-6pm.

Saturday, November 10, 2012

What makes Australia different from the US

I saw a number of internet memes around the recent US election.  Most were average, a fair few scatological, and a handful were really funny (viz for example Tony Abbott, and Big Bird).

 Having seen the number of Americans who swore they would move to Australia if Obama won, it was gratifying to see such a succinct response:

Further, a clear and consistent majority of Australians preferred Obama to win - as did most of the rest of the world (bar Pakistan).  Doesn't leave much of an option for those wanting to move.

It's important to have heroes - and vision.  And the world is a slightly better place.

Tuesday, November 06, 2012

History of English Podcast: a real treat

Here we have a real gem.  Something that ticks a lot of boxes for me.

The History of English Podcast is a history of the English language, but it's so much more than its prosaic name suggests.

Yes, it's history and linguistics, but it actually crosses several disciplines, including archeology, evolution and genetics.

It has a wealth of information and insights in a number of areas.  For me, it fills in a lot of gaps in my knowledge, and by this I mean it better systematises my understanding of several key fields of study, including the English language, alphabets and writing, comparative linguistics and the history of ancient and classical civilisations.

It's also clear and lucid - to the point of being slightly repetitive (which is not necessarily a bad thing for a podcast - you're not always paying full attention, are you?)

In common with several of my preferred podcasts, it's presented by a gifted enthusiast rather than a professional.  Kevin Stroud is a lawyer by trade - hence his interest - who would seem to come from one of the Carolinas. He has a regional US accent which is reasonably easy to listen to - except when it comes to words like wheel ('will') and field ('filled').

He's been at it since about July 2012, at the rate of about one episode every two weeks.  He'd already put out about 11 episodes when I came across it, and it was quick, easy and pleasurable to catch up.  I don't know how long he can keep it up - he's already finished the Greeks, and will do the Romans later this month.  But I'd be perfectly happy to listen if he wants to string it out.

The History of English Podcast is my vote for podcast of the year.