Friday, September 30, 2016

Why did I want to become a Blogger ?

I decided to become a Blogger almost ten years ago. [I prefer to use the term that designates people who work on the blogging platform made available by Google.] Here is my very first post, which attempted to answer the same question that concerns me today:
Saturday, December 9, 2006

Why have I created this blog?

I often find myself saying more or less the same everyday things in e-mails to several friends. Consequently, this blog could be a good way of avoiding such repetition. This doesn't mean that I intend to abandon the idea of sending e-mails to friends. It merely means that certain stuff can be outlined here publicly in my blog, and I can then talk about specific behind-the-scenes things in my personal e-mails. Another down-to-earth reason for this blog is that some of my friends have faulty e-mail systems, which often block my messages because they're judged to be spam. [This is notably the case for Australian customers of Big Pond.] Finally, another good reason for this blog is the possibility of my being able to express freely my feelings in domains that some of my friends judge to be taboo: for example, Aussie politics. So, I'm hoping that this new vector of expression (new for me, that is) will prove to be effective and pleasant to use.
Do I have any better answers today than in 2006? Yes, I do. At Grafton High School, a wonderful teacher named Edith Crane (whose later married name was Bennett) taught us how to understand and appreciate an Australian novel about rural folk who lived in a cyclical fashion. That’s to say, their existence went around constantly in a loop. Instead of moving into new challenges, they would simply return to their point of departure, and start a similar cycle, without ever being aware that they were always moving in circles. Today, I'm convinced that Edith Crane's teaching about that novel was largely responsible for instilling in me an eagerness to become a published writer. And later, a Blogger. I've never thought of trying to make money through my writing. Nor have I ever been interested in having numerous readers. I merely wish to talk about my existence. And a bit about the universe that surrounds me. Above all, I like the idea of moving around in circles. You might say that I resemble the mythical giant bird that flew constantly in circles of an ever-decreasing radius... until it finally flew up its arsehole and disappeared.

End of Rosetta

Click here for a rapid summary of the role of Rosetta

Maybe this blog post should disappear into oblivion along with Rosetta.

Flight MH17 destroyed by a Russian missile

On 17 July 2014, a Boeing 777 bound from Amsterdam to Kuala Lumpur crashed in Ukraine, killing 298 passengers and crew. The Ukrainian army claimed that Russia was responsible for this crime, but Russia blamed Ukraine. Undeniable data confirms that the Boeing was indeed destroyed by a Russian missile. Click here [Pardon the publicity].

Birds of death are disappearing

Human idiots in Africa are destroying these wonderful birds, which are a vital link in the chain of Nature that cleans up my fragile planet.

Rafale jet fighters leave the Charles-de-Gaulle

Here in my bedroom at Gamone, about two hours ago, I received this photo of Rafale jet fighters leaving the Charles-de-Gaulle in the eastern Mediterranean, bound for Mosul. Real-time news of the departure of the planes came from a France 2 reporter aboard the aircraft-carrier. Click here for the article. Amazed by the speed at which we can follow this first French strike against Daesh, I shall now await news of the return of the fighters. I sense that all is well...

TIMING : Here's the time at which the article reached my computer, transmitted by the franceinfo service :

A tweet on the subject wasn't published until an hour later.
Clearly, the news reached me well before Twitter picked it up.

Thursday, September 29, 2016

Big tweets

from Bold Atheism
and Atheist Quote Bot

Bound to strike the buggers

The French aircraft-carrrier Charles-de-Gaulle is about to sail towards a major target: Daesh. Alongside its 1,900 marines, the giant vessel will house 24 Rafale jet fighters. And it will be accompanied by a German frigate and a US destroyer. Its task is to chase the Daesh enemy out of Mosul.

Sailors, we’re all convinced that you’re sailing towards success. Towards a big battle… followed by peace in Syria and Irak. Happy sailing.

My brain hides unpleasant memories

This morning, unexpectedly, I suddenly found one of my favorite French songs floating through my brain, but I couldn't pin it down. Little by little, the melody started to shimmer in my memory, along with a few words, and accents of the singer's voice. But the singer's identity and the title of the song still failed to clarify themselves.

I immediately said to myself that some kind of a psychological obstacle was preventing me from obtaining a complete picture of this data stored in my brain. But there are ways to bring it back into view. Readers may have noticed that my brain has been working in overdrive for several months, simply because it has been “remastering” links that got messed up when I fell down the stairs last year. I promptly decided to start digging... as systematically as possible. I was convinced that, if I handled the situation calmly, but with determination, I would soon discover all the missing elements. So I simply lingered in the warm autumn sunshine and waited patiently, leaving my brain to search, like an obedient computer.

Within a few minutes, the singer's surname flashed onto my cerebral display screen: Moustaki. Fair enough, i remember being fond of this Greek-born singer, who made a name for himself in France.

But why would memories of this sympathetic singer lead to any kind of psychological obstacle in my brain? I recalled that, in 1993 (well before the singer's death in 2013), I had in fact attended a concert in which he performed, at St-Pierre-de-Chartreuse, as part of the village's annual festival in honor of the great Belgian singer Jacques Brel, who had lived there for a short while. In my memory, I tried to turn on an image-retrieval system that might provide me with a photo of Moustaki as I had seen him that evening. No feedback...

All of a sudden, red lights started to flash in my brain, and buzzers made nasty noises. I realized immediately that I had made a hit... but it had nothing to do with wonderful artists such as Moustaki and Brel. Instead of their images, I picked up a cerebral snapshot of a unpleasant fellow named Merri. Here's a recent real picture of this comic artist:

I understood rapidly how this Merri demon had entered my mind, and why he was blocking the works. Let's see if I can explain to you what was happening. Better still, let me point you to a blog post I wrote, ten years ago, which includes a short account of the way in which Merri appeared for an unpleasant instant in my life. It's amusing to see that, in this blog post, I didn't even mention the fact that, on that same evening, I had been listening to Moustaki. I was so disturbed by Merri that I completely forgot about Moustaki. It was only this morning that the two fellows made an unexpected appearance, side by side, in my brain. Here is the 10-year-old blog post, which I urge you to read.

The name of Merri brought together both the name of my son's primary school, Saint Merri, in the heart of Paris, and my fond memories of the blue jacket that François had inherited in Fremantle, which he gave me later on. I remember being happy to wear this elegant jacket in St-Pierre-de-Chartreuse, alongside nice local friends. Then Merri stepped into the picture, and screwed up everything... right up until this morning in the autumn sun at Gamone. I must make a conscious effort to zap him. I wonder if psychological devices such as cerebral drones exist.

Inherited aptitude in logical thinking

Over the last few days, I've been insisting upon a new belief: Most of my major interests and skills were surely picked up by reading. But I believe there's one exception: my alleged aptitude (call it an obsession, if you like) in logical reasoning. I'm convinced that it helped me, in an IQ test, to be considered as a perfect candidate for a job as an IBM computer programmer. Well, I happen to observe a capability in mathematical logic in a line of recent Skyvington ancestors.

• My charming ancestor named Frank Skyvington [1845-1916] was no doubt reacting to a taste for unusually rigorous logic when he decided that his two deceased wives should be buried in the same tomb.

• His crazy son William "Courtenay" Skyvington [1868-1959] used his aptitude for logical thinking to confirm that it was rather easy to behave as a scoundrel. His operations as a con-man were based upon the application of rigorous logic.

• My grandfather Ernest Skyvington [1891-1985] used smart logical subterfuges to abandon his unpleasant childhood universe of London and start a new existence in the Antipodes. He even used his skills in logical reasoning to escape from the threat of being killed as a soldier.

• My father "Bill" Skyvington [1917-1978] used smart logical thinking to acquire his first agronomic property and to join the war effort in an acceptable manner. His most ingenious statement of poetic logic was when he tricked me in a mild way (I was about 15) by suggesting that his bush paddock was in fact his personal "cathedral".

That last incident had a profound lasting effect upon me. More than anything else, Dad's statement led me here to Gamone... where I look constantly upon the giant Cournouze mountain as my spiritual "bride", my Joan of Arc.

If anybody were to imagine a similarity between "Cournouze" and "Courtenay", I would be obliged to say that it's a pure coincidence.

Permanent imprint

On 9 January 2015, this printing-house at Dammartin-en-Goële in the French countryside (Seine-et-Marne) made an unforgettable impression upon TV-viewers throughout the world. It was the arena of a spectacular standoff between police sharpshooters and two defiant brothers, Saïd and Chérif Kouachi, perpetrators of the murders at Charlie Hebdo in Paris on 7 January 2015.

The battered building has been totally renovated. The sparkling premises were inaugurated this morning by François Hollande.

Wednesday, September 28, 2016

Trying to find ancestors who made me smart

A few days ago, I was trying to solve the enigma of a charming ancestor named Frank Skyvington [1845-1916] whose son named William Skyvington [1868-1959] turned out to be a scoundrel. I kept saying to myself that it was strange to find a father and his son who were clearly so different. Why did this madness appear suddenly, before disappearing just as suddenly. I searched around intensely on the web to find an explanation of the ways in which chromosomes of madness might suddenly come into existence, maybe introduced by a baby’s mother. But every article I found on this genetic question was prefaced, as it were, by a huge warning: Be careful. Don’t assume that genes play any role whatsoever in the situation that concerns you. Maybe the factors that interest you were acquired, not from nature, but through nurture.

For ages, that sort of advice always infuriated me. It was unthinkable that environmental causes might have made me interested in science, then computers, then France, etc. To put it bluntly, nobody in my surroundings could have possibly persuaded me to get interested in out-of-the-way passions such as science, computers, France, etc. The only plausible explanation was that one of my ancestors must have supplied me with the necessary “good genes”.

Well, that last statement is utter nonsense. The only causes that make somebody smart come from the people who talk to him, the books he reads, the stuff he learns, etc. There are no magic genes in our bodies that turn on brightness as if we were an electric lamp.

It has taken me a long time to reach this simple conclusion.

Not as bright as I thought I was

I’ve always considered myself as relatively intelligent. That’s what people told me when I was a kid at school. Later, I thought I was bright when I became a computer programmer with IBM Australia. I simply failed to understand that I was merely the proverbial right man in the right place at the right time. Then I thought I was bright when I moved to France, married, raised a small family, and finally became a French citizen. Once again, as in Sydney, I was simply the right Australian in France at the right time. More recently, I started to think of myself as bright when I used my Macintosh computer at Gamone to publish a couple of family-history books. The truth of the matter is that I would have been silly to not take advantage of that excellent environment to produce those books. In any case, their existence doesn’t suggest for an instant that the author/publisher might have been in any way bright, merely fortunate.

A few days ago, for the first time in my life, at the august age of 76, the truth hit me with a bang. I’m not particularly intelligent. Purely lucky. The good old game consists of being in a convenient situation at exactly the right moment. Right place and right time. There’s a tiny bundle of convenient talents in my brain, but nothing whatsoever of an extraordinary nature.

It's high time that I made this clear! To myself, above all.

Still learning to master my dog

Some people ramble on for years about the novel they intend to publish, as soon as they find a publisher. I behave in the same way as far as mastering my dog is concerned. I talk about it constantly, and believe that my leap into mastery is just around the corner. But a bright observer (such as my son François) surely realizes that I’m unlikely to ever gain my diploma in dog mastery. It’s simply not in my genes.

For the last week or so, I had finally decided that the cold season is fast approaching us, and that it was time for me to accept the presence of Fitzroy inside the house. There’s no intrinsic dog-mastery problem in such a down-to-earth decision. All I have to do is to tie up Fitzroy outside, during the day, for at least an hour or so, to give him an opportunity of doing his business and having a pee. I repeat: no problem. If the worst came to the worst, and my dog decided to pee somewhere inside the house, in the middle of the night, it still wouldn’t be catastrophic. Besides, that situation would only arise if I went out of my way to give Fitzroy, late in the evening, a big bowl of milk… which would be a silly act for me.

Yesterday evening, Fitzroy was edging around the kitchen door as if he wanted to move out into the balmy night air. I must be careful about opening the door at such times, because my Gamone property is still a victim of disgusting Pyrale moths which dart towards any light that appears in the darkness. Be that as it may, last night, in the darkness, I did in fact make a single foolish mistake. I failed to attach my dog to a lead before letting him race out into the night air. Consequently, in the darkness, I failed to see where he had disappeared… but I soon learned (after a bit of silly shouting) that the Master’s animal was seated snugly in his kennel. (In daring to use the term “Master”, I was trying to crack a joke.) So, I dashed towards him and attached his collar to the chain alongside the kennel. Then I went back quickly inside the house, hoping that I wasn’t being pursued by too many moths. Once inside the lonely house, I watched some fine television, while listening periodically to check that my dog wasn’t barking.

This morning, at 8 o’clock, I was awoken by my clockwork brain. I saw from a window that Fitzroy, during the early hours of the morning, had performed an impressive wood-moving operation, over a distance of some ten metres. I grabbed my Nikon and took this photo of the result:

I have decided for the Nth time that, this evening, I will surely become, at last, an experienced dog-master. We'll see...

Peace at last for a man of peace

Shimon Peres [1923-2016]

Tuesday, September 27, 2016

French Moslems

Let us take a glance at the results of a recent IFOP poll of 1,029 individuals in France who consider themselves as Moslems. They can be broken into three categories:

 • 46 % are totally secular, or undergoing integration into the system of values of modern France.

• 25 % have a strong religious identity, but accept the existence in France of secularism.

• 28 % are Moslems who've adopted a system of values that are clearly opposed to those of the French Republic.

French specialists should examine the poll, to see if it was indeed conducted correctly. If so, then I'm troubled by the surprisingly large size of that third category.

Clearly I'm an ecumenical tweeter

Click to enlarge

I wonder what the letters FDN mean,
after the name of a Melbourne priest.
Is it possible that Father James Grant
belongs to the French Data Network ?


An old publicity slogan remains well-known in France: « Il se passe toujours quelque chose aux Galeries Lafayette. » There's always something happening at the Galeries Lafayette department store.

For a long time, I've imagined naively that a few modern men's deodorants would keep me as fragrant as white lilies up until the cows come home. I've always liked a joke that doesn't seem to appeal to young generations: "I'm not basically a dirty or smelly person, so I don't need to wash myself regularly." Here's the sort of shit I smear upon my body to keep it fragrant:

Well, I've just come upon a disturbing news article about a typical happening at the Galeries Lafayette. It brings up the question of aluminium salts in deodorants. Apparently they're everywhere... like air pollution. It's almost impossible to understand a label that might warn you of dangers. And the basic danger in question is some kind of cancer, particularly for women.

Ghoulish Catholics

I've never understood why Catholics are so obsessed by blood and guts, as if the Creator had been particularly concerned by human anatomy. Well, yes, I do understand. We humans are obviously interested in such matters, because we often have to spend time getting bodily repairs carried out. So it's normal that we imagine the Creator being interested in the same messy meat as us. And other believers in magic can be more obsessed still.

Saint Padre Pio was a Capuchin friar (an offshoot of the Franciscans) who suffered constantly from an exotic bodily affliction that believers call stigmata. His hands displayed spontaneous flesh eruptions that reminded observers of the wounds inflicted upon their alleged hero of ancient times known as Jesus, about whom modern historians know next to nothing.

Well, preserved parts of the dead monk's internal organs have been placed in a plastic box, and they're currently being transported to places in America. Ghoulish pilgrims are coming out in droves. It's not often that they're offered a fleeting view (?) of a few pieces of relatively well-conserved meat.

I was better off sleeping

I don't suspect that many people in France stayed up late into the night to watch this debate. We've got far more interesting local stuff to see on TV, in prime hours. The New Yorker suggested recently that Hillary Clinton might have been seriously studying self-control.

In the case of such debates, there has to be a winner, otherwise it's not good entertainment. It appears that Hillary won by a big margin.

Click here to view a short talk between a French-speaking journalist and Oliver Stone, who sees the Clinton/Trump affair as a choice between the plague and cholera, between a warmonger and a madman.

Monday, September 26, 2016

Behavioral differences between members of the same family

In my post yesterday entitled Mongrel genes, I spoke of a curious change of behavior between a recent Skyvington father and his son. Well, no matter how hard I try to follow up this question on the web, I simply cannot understand how enormous behavioral differences might affect members of a single family. Explanations evoke inevitably the question of nature versus nurture. But I still fail to grasp the reasons why members of my own family group appear to be so different.

I grew up essentially in the same environment—indeed, in the same houses—as my brother and sisters, in simple rural settings, in similar educational contexts and social circles. But I have the impression that I evolved in totally different directions to my siblings. I often feel that I was "hit by a dose of mongrel genes", which have made me a very different individual to my siblings. For the moment, I simply fail to understand how these differences could have come about. I continue to believe, rightly or wrongly, that they were differences of nature rather than of nurture. But this opinion could well be erroneous.

In any case, I have no recollections of ever getting involved in "philosophical" discussions with specific adults, be they teachers or religious folk. The only individual whose remarks often sent shivers up my spine was my maternal grandmother, whom we called Grandma. She often analyzed critically the personality of my father, suggesting that he was what we might call "bipolar", constantly alternating between one kind of behavior and its opposite. Grandma used a mixed-up metaphor, saying that "the worm would turn". I think he meant that Dad was capable of abruptly reversing his personality. It's a metaphor that even Shakespeare used, but nobody knows its exact origins. Somebody suggests that the worm was a dragon, and that his "turning" simply meant that the beast was no longer about to attack us.

Grandma had lost her beloved husband Charles Walker [1882-1937] when he was still a relatively young man.

I often felt that this premature departure of her husband had destabilized the poor lady, and caused her to adopt a constantly harsh outlook on human existence. Grandma would go out of her way to make me realize that my own dear mother Kath could rapidly find herself placed "in the clay up on the hill at South Grafton" (that is, the local cemetery).

In another situation, Grandma plunged me into a state of despair when I saw her reacting most negatively to the fact that Bill, Kath and our family had failed to make a point of communicating with her when we traveled on vacation up around the Northern Tablelands. Because of our failure to communicate, Grandma said that she no longer wished to hear any words about our supposedly happy holiday. This austere character existed also in her elder sister Henrietta. Besides, let us not forget that these ladies were essentially descendants of Irish Protestants.

Is it imaginable that Grandma was transforming me when I was still a child, as it were, into the objective thinker that I would soon become ? It's certainly a highly recognizable case of nurture that cannot be denied.

Air-borne witch

These photos come from the 43rd annual Icarus Cup event near Grenoble. Here we see a witch running down the slopes:

Click to enlarge slightly

And here she's floating through the air, with a skeleton hitching a ride behind her:

Australia’s preferable mate: USA or China?

The French newspaper Le Monde informs us that this crucial question has arisen Down Under. May the better mate win.

Vehicle-free zone in Paris

In Paris, air pollution is 60 times more deadly than road accidents. Every year, 2,500 Parisians die through having been exposed to atmospheric pollution, caused mainly by automobile exhausts. And that explains why the municipality of Paris is immensely proud to have announced today a new law that will transform permanently the roadway alongside the Seine into a vehicle-free zone.

This will rejuvenate the magnificent City of Light... and make it more like what it used to be when I arrived here in 1962.

Meanwhile, a fellow named Georges Pompidou arrived on the scene, and decided to transform the banks of the Seine at Paris into a highway for motor vehicles. Talking about Pompidou, I remember finding myself just behind him in the queue in a tobacco shop in Houdan around 1968. He appeared in front of me so quickly that I didn't even think of taking a selfie. But how could I? Back in those ancient times, selfies hadn't even been invented. We lived in a peaceful old rural world.

French police records

In colloquial French, a simpleton is said to be "neuneu".
The expression "Je suis neuneu" evokes "Je suis Charlie".
But the police don't necessarily see things in that light.

In French, a card created by the police to identity an individual is called a fiche. Recently, a much-talked-about new kind of police record has come into existence. It’s referred to as a fiche S (S-record), where the letter S stands for « sûreté » (security) as in the expression « atteinte à la sûreté de l’Etat » (state security threat). To call a spade a spade, while simplifying the situation abominably, anybody with an S-record is “largely” on the way to being looked upon as a terrorist threat… where the sense of my last remark depends greatly on the meaning associated with the “largely” adverb. Theoretically, an S-record should be created by French authorities for anybody who might have behaved as if he were a potential terrorist. But the inverse is not true. The fact that a certain individual is associated with an S-record does not indicate that she/he is a potential terrorist. It merely means that this person interests the police, for any of many possible reasons.

Consequently, the subject of S-records must be handled in an extremely subtle manner… which is not easy for the Australian-born author of the Antipodes blog, who knows next to nothing about French police methods. Meanwhile, the general public in France hears a lot about this new variety of police record, and it’s easy to imagine that one knows what it’s all about. But we don’t really understand anything at all, because the basic idea of sound security methods consists of making sure that they remain as enigmatic as possible. And that’s my final word on what I intended to say.... which I wish I'd never started.

Selfie imbecility

These people are turning their backs in order to take selfies with Hillary Clinton in the background. If you want my opinion (which you probably don’t), I look upon such folk as harmless idiots. I often wonder what they do with their shitty photos. I suppose they would show this selfie to equally-idiotic friends and say: “Look, that’s the closest I ever came to the wife of Bill Clinton”. I hope they’re happy to be able to survive with such shitty thoughts. If ever I were to learn that Trump started his presidential career by taking selfies of this kind, that information would provide me with a deeper understanding, both of the candidate and of American politics.

Maybe I should coin a new term: self-idiocy.

BREAKING NEWS : The more I look at this silly spectacle, the more I realize that it was no doubt Hillary herself who either organized, or agreed upon, this ridiculous demonstration of self-idiocy. In other words, Hillary is as stupid as the kids. Probably more stupid still. Media professionals in France were shocked by this silly show of backsides, and believe that it might have negative effects upon the candidate.

Gamone Press books delivered to my doorstep

The mail-woman has just delivered to my doorstep the three copies of A Little Bit of Irish that I ordered recently. Really, the self-publishing solution offered by Ingram is perfect. Bravo!

Back to Brittany

Nantes, last Saturday. Several thousand marchers were crying out for the reattachment of the Loire-Atlantique department to Brittany. [AFP] Here's an extract from Wikipedia:

Loire-Atlantique is one of the original 83 departments created during the French Revolution on March 4, 1790. Its name was changed in 1957 to Loire-Atlantique. The area is part of the historical Duchy of Brittany, and contains what many people still consider to be Brittany's capital, Nantes. However, when the system of French Regions was reviewed by the Vichy Government, the department was excluded from the Region of Brittany and included in the newly created Pays de la Loire Region. Whilst these administrative changes were reversed after the war, they were re-implemented in the 1955 boundary changes intended to optimize the management of the regions. Regular campaigns reflect a strong local mood to have the department reintegrated with Brittany.

Two big poplars at Gamone

The autumn light at Gamone is not ideal for taking a photo of trees. My old Nikon and my eyesight problems don't improve the result. But you should be able to identify the two tall poplars alongside the road leading into my property. [Click the photo to enlarge it slightly]

Often, when I gaze at those gigantic poplar trees, the terrible words of Billie Holiday flash back into my mind:

Southern trees bear a strange fruit
Blood on the leaves and blood at the root
Black bodies swinging in the southern breeze
Strange fruit hanging from the poplar trees

The only nasty fruits that hang from my poplar trees are heavy branches that might be blown down onto the roof of my wood-shed or even my house. Consequently, I have decided to call upon a local specialist to remove these two trees, as soon as possible. It's possible that this operation might also destroy my letter box and/or my old cherry tree. But that's neither here nor there...

Sunday, September 25, 2016

Clever fat clown

The French actor Gérard Depardieu is certainly not a fat clown, even though his bulging body often evokes a clownish sadness. I see him as an extraordinarily brilliant fellow, whose talents as an actor reflect the clarity and depth of his thoughts. Of his inherent cleverness.

Improvement of French social security

On the surface, the forthcoming improvement of the French social security system doesn’t look like a momentous achievement. But, for French citizens, it’s great news. It means that huge money-saving efforts have paid off, and that we can now live in peace, protected by this wonderful service. Thanks, Marisol Touraine, for your fine work.

I like this question

published here

Mongrel genes

Every family has a few black sheep, either in the present or in the past. Most often both. And a family historian, believing that every effect has a logical cause, is inevitably inclined to start looking around for mongrel genes: biological factors that gave rise to the existence of such-and-such a black sheep. Now, in such research, there can be both a bit of good and a lot of bad.

The very notion of a certain black sheep in the family can be frighteningly fuzzy. Relatives might think they’re acting objectively when they stigmatize a particular individual as a black sheep. Or decide rather, for that matter, to praise an exceptionally snow-white sheep. But are the relatives themselves pure merinos with an error-free sense of judgment? As for me, I prefer to believe that the supposed existence of a black sheep in the family must always be taken with a grain of salt. Maybe it’s right… but maybe it’s wrong.

The case of alleged family defects such as alcoholism is worse still. Does such-and-such a past or present member of the family drink because of inherited defects… or simply because he/she happens to have easy access to dangerous beverages? It’s far too easy and too silly to declare that there are, or have been, alcohol problems in the family. If the family historian is not perfectly sure of what is being said, then she/he should simply shut up, because false declarations are worse than no declarations at all. [The current Skyvington family historian is proud to declare—just for the record—that he hasn't tasted a drop of alcohol, or even been vaguely interested in doing so, for well over a year, since falling down the stairs at Gamone and bumping his head.]

To me, one thing is certain. Whenever family members start searching for inherited defects, they should look carefully into the terribly common phenomenon of nasty bumps to the brain. Since falling down the stairs, it has taken me a long time to get back to a state that I myself judge as normal.

At the present moment, I’ve been greatly affected by thoughts about an infamous Skyvington black sheep: my paternal great-grandfather, the crazy fellow who called himself “William Courtenay”. See my blog post here. Over the last few days, I’ve received new information from England revealing the admirable character of this fellow’s father. That renders suspicious the mad fellow’s mother, Mary Ann.

Would that poor girl, who died in Yealmpton [Devon] at the age of 21, have been responsible for the introduction of mongrel genes into the Skyvington line? That idea, though theoretically plausible, is quite unlikely, for Mary Anne Jones belonged to an honorable family of Devon, in which no known cases of insanity have been recorded.

Whichever way I look at things (and I’ve thought a lot about that mad ancestor), only one explanation satisfies me fully. Unknown to archivists in general, and Skyvington family historians in particular, my ancestor William Skyvington [1868-1959] probably ran into the same kind of accident as his future great-grandson, also known as William Skyvington. He fell down the stairs and bumped his head. If that was really what happened (and why not?), then all I can say is that I got off better than my mad ancestor. If only God existed, I would promptly thank him.

Friday, September 23, 2016

Road on top of the Great Wall of China

I've never had an opportunity of visiting the Great Wall of China. If I did, I might be surprised to find that a modern concrete roadway runs along the top.

In many modern cities, concrete has been Man's best friend, giving rise to architectural splendors. In other places, an abominable enemy.

You Want It Darker

Last Wednesday, on Leonard Cohen's 82nd birthday, he announced the forthcoming arrival of a new album, You Want It Darker, produced by his son Adam Cohen, 44. The title song is superb.

Click here for the words (with French translation)

Thursday, September 22, 2016

Church Night

Pleasant US satire. It’s so well done that it could be real. The title, Church Night, is ingenious.

Belgian street art

Brussels is world-famous for its ancient Manneken-Pis.

A bigger sample of prick art has appeared recently on a Belgian wall.

Funnily enough, people apparently walk past this masterpiece without noticing it. My personal explanation is that a prick is so boring that our human visual system simply fails to acknowledge its presence.

Publisher receives copies of his book

This morning, the Choranche postman (who's replacing Martine for a while) brought me a big bag.

Inside, I found three immaculate copies of my book They Sought the Last of Lands. I had ordered them recently through the Internet from the Ingram Spark printing platform in England.

Their technical qualities are perfect: beautiful hard cover, fine illustrations (photos and ancestral charts on nearly every page), heavy paper, excellent printing. They cost me 43 euros per copy, delivered to my doorstep. That price takes into account the fact that I'm the publisher, Gamone Press. Most people would pay a little more. Regardless of the price, for people seeking solid information on the Skyvington family, my book is a convenient economic solution.

Crazy Christian

Christine Boutin is a right-wing French politician. Yesterday, she published a ridiculous tweet:

She had surely received the news of Chirac's death from some kind of divine messenger. As we say in Australia, the woman is clearly as mad as a cut snake. Up until the present moment, she doesn't seem to have provided any kind of explanation for her madness. It might be a good idea for this lady to retire from politics, or from the Holy Spirit, or maybe strong alcoholic spirits...

Wednesday, September 21, 2016


• Wednesday 21 September 2016 was the first day of spring in Australia.

• Tomorrow, Thursday 22 September 2016, will be the first day of autumn in France.

• And Saturday 24 September 2016 will be my 76th birthday... in both Australia and France, of course!

India buys French Rafale fighter planes

India has confirmed the purchase of 36 Rafale fighter planes, totally made-in-France by Dassault. Details of the deal have not been made public, but it's probably in the vicinity of 8 billion dollars.

Vatican's latest saint

Click the comic strip to enlarge

Nice tweet

I like this tweet from


Morandini in police custody

The well-known 51-year-old journalist and TV producer Jean-Marc Morandini has been in police custody since 9 o’clock this morning, in the context of an inquiry into the corruption of youth.

Flash is about to disappear

Once upon a time, Flash was the coolest kid on the block. I worked hard to master it. Most of my old websites of which I'm most proud today were created in Flash. In my wildest dreams, I never imagined for an instant that all these websites would disappear in the near future, simply because no navigator was prepared to display them.

I've just heard that, soon, neither Safari, Chrome nor Firefox will be prepared to display Flash websites.

Theoretically, I might be able to retrieve images from my Flash websites, before they disappear forever, and then rebuild them in HTML 5. I plan to examine this idea, but I'm not sure that it's both easy and worthwhile. Here, for example, are several typical French/English websites that are due to disappear: Master Bruno.

A similar calamity occurred with the Apple Pages tool, which subsided into a brain-damaged state a few years ago, losing many of its major capacities, because its owner wanted to propose a common denominator of talents that could be demonstrated, not only on an iMac, but also on an iPad or iPhone. Personally, I find that goal ridiculous. It's akin to taking a schoolboy and an Olympic athlete, and asking them to be trained together to run the hundred metres in much the same time. One gets pepped up with pills; the other gets castrated.