What I’m reading, and more

Olivia Joules and the Overactive Imagination by Helen Fielding. It doesn’t quite match Bridget Jones Diary but it’s a good read. Notable for adhering to the romantic convention that the heroine should remain chaste throughout the novel even though it’s made clear this was not the case before the action began.

I also went to see Goodbye Lenin which I thoroughly enjoyed. This charming film says more about the social construction of reality than a shelfload of postmodernist tomes. For those who’ve missed it, the hero’s mother, a devout Communist has a stroke/heart attack and misses the fall of the Berlin Wall. When she awakes from her coma, her son maintains the pretence that the German Democratic Republic is still in existence, eventually fabricating for it an ending far nobler than the one that actually took place.

What I'm reading, and more

Olivia Joules and the Overactive Imagination by Helen Fielding. It doesn’t quite match Bridget Jones Diary but it’s a good read. Notable for adhering to the romantic convention that the heroine should remain chaste throughout the novel even though it’s made clear this was not the case before the action began.

I also went to see Goodbye Lenin which I thoroughly enjoyed. This charming film says more about the social construction of reality than a shelfload of postmodernist tomes. For those who’ve missed it, the hero’s mother, a devout Communist has a stroke/heart attack and misses the fall of the Berlin Wall. When she awakes from her coma, her son maintains the pretence that the German Democratic Republic is still in existence, eventually fabricating for it an ending far nobler than the one that actually took place.

Blogroll update

I’ve been putting off updating my blogroll, but I’ve finally had a first go at the task. I’ve finally accepted that the “hiatus” of some of my favorite sites is permanent, and removed them. I also deleted a few blogs that I can no longer be bothered with, and updated lots of broken links. I’ve added a number of new ones, but I’ve been fairly lazy about this, so I’m inviting anyone (particularly in Oz/NZ) who thinks a link would make sense to email me. In addition, if anyone reading this still has links to my old blog(s), this is the time to update them.

Fame?

I had my first blogging brush with fame today. I was presenting some lectures to a very interested/interesting group of students at the Australia-NZ School of Government , held at the College of Art which is part of Griffith Uni’s Southbank campus. Not only had several of the students (senior public sector people) read the blog, but someone came up to me in the cafe, asked “Are you John Quiggin?” and introduced himself as a reader.

It’s puzzling to me that, although the stats say the blog has far fewer readers than the Fin Review (where I’ve been writing for ten years) my daily experience is the opposite. Far more people in my circle of friends and acquaintances seem to be aware of the blog than have read the column.

Time to pull out

In a recent comments thread, Derrida Derider asks about views on Latham’s proposal to withdraw Australian troops from Iraq. Like DD, I’ve been an advocate of the “you broke it, you own it” view, that, having invaded Iraq, the members of the Coalition had an obligation to stay and restore order. However, in the light of US plans to maintain the status of an occupying power indefinitely, I think the time has come to pull out, unless some more legitimate basis for the presence of our troops can be fashioned.

The central requirement is that the Coalition forces in Iraq (including US forces) would be answerable to some combination of an Iraqi government and the United Nations. Since I see no prospect that the US would even contemplate such a possibility, I think it’s time for our troops to leave.

Is Elvis hiding in Iraq ?

Although there’s been a fair bit of discussion about the Newspoll showing that 65 per cent of people thought the war in Iraq had increased the danger of a terrorist attack in Australia[1], the really striking result was ignored. This concerned the proportion of people who accepted the government’s stated belief that the invasion of Iraq had reduced the danger of terrorist attack. Only 1 per cent of respondents said that the invasion had made a terrorist attack less likely, and less than 0.5 per cent said it made an attack a lot less likely. You can read the details here (PDF file). This is substantially less than the proportion of people who are reported (in other surveys) to believe that Elvis is alive or that aliens are controlling government policy.

fn1. The question doesn’t distinguish between the interpretations “the Iraq war has raised Australia’s profile as a target” and “the Iraq war has increased the risk of terrorism everywhere”. I have previously argued that the latter view is the right one.

Update By complete coincidence, this story in the Oz reports that, in polls for the mayoral election in the Gold Coast, an Elvis ‘tribute artist’ has 8 per cent support. OK, it’s in Queensland, but 8 per cent is still a lot more than 0.5.

Some pleasant news

I’m happy to say that I’ve been selected as an Australian Citation Laureate for 2004. This is more or less the equivalent of a high rank in the blog ecosystem, something which I have certainly not attained – perhaps this is a signal that I shouldn’t give up my day job.

To push the analogy a bit further, a citation is the academic equivalent of a link from one paper to another (these days, with electronic publication, citations may actually be hyperlinks). As in blogging, it’s better to be cited adversely than not to be cited at all. Citation counts are even trickier than blog hit counts (do you count all authors in multi-authored paper, self-citations etc etc). The Technorati of the citation business is Thomson ISI who publish citation indexes for the sciences, social sciences and humanities and who give the “citation laureate” awards.

I’m in Canberra to collect the award right now, but it’s a flying visit so no time to catch up with fellow-bloggers. Maybe next time.