Let’s start off this blog about the 23 most beautiful lines in literature by saying these are not the 23 most beautiful lines in literature.

They are just some of them.

I’m sure you can think of others; Feel free to contribute your own favorites at the end.

1. “She wasn’t doing a thing that I could see, except standing there leaning on the balcony railing, holding the universe together.”
— J. D. Salinger, “A Girl I Knew”

2. “Sometimes I can feel my bones straining under the weight of all the lives I’m not living.”
Jonathan Safran Foer, Extremely Loud and Incredibly Close

3. “Whatever our souls are made of, his and mine are the same.” - Emily Bronte, Wuthering Heights

literature4. “The half life of love is forever.”
Junot Diaz, This Is How You Lose Her

5. You don’t have to live forever, you just have to live – Natalie Babbit, Tuck Forever

6. “Tomorrow is always fresh, with no mistakes in it yet.”
—L. M. Montgomery, Anne of Green Gables

7. “I wondered if that was how forgiveness budded; not with the fanfare of epiphany, but with pain gathering its things, packing up, and slipping away unannounced in the middle of the night.”
— Khaled Hosseini, The Kite Runner

literature8.  “Journeys end in lovers meeting.”
—William Shakespeare, Twelfth Night

“And the rest is rust, and stardust.”
- Vladimir Nabokov, Lolita

“I loved her against reason, against promise, against peace, against hope, against happiness, against all discouragement that could be.”
― Charles Dickens, Great Expectations

literature“Why don’t you tell me that ‘if the girl had been worth having she’d have waited for you’? No, sir, the girl really worth having won’t wait for anybody.”
― F. Scott Fitzgerald, This Side of Paradise

“You must allow me to tell you how ardently I admire and love you.” – Jane Austen, Pride and Prejudice.

“I can’t go back to yesterday because I was a different person then.”
― Lewis Carroll, Alice in Wonderland

Give me my Romeo. And when I shall die,
Take him and cut him out in little stars,
And he will make the face of heaven so fine
That all the world will be in love with night
And pay no worship to the garish sun.
- You Know Who, Romeo and Juliet

The woods are lovely, dark, and deep
But I have promises to keep
And miles to go before I sleep
Miles to go before I sleep
- Stopping by Woods on a Snowy Evening, Robert Frost,

Teller, teller, tell me a tale
of love and fear and duty,
I want to die in the arms of love
I want to die for beauty,
For beauty is the only truth
and death the only lie,
I want to sing a final tale
and love before I die
-Troll Bridge, Jane Yollen

“I have one thing to say, one thing only, I’ll never say it another time, to anyone, and I ask you to remember it: in a universe of ambiguity, this kind of certainty comes only once, and never again, no matter how many lifetimes you live.” – Robert James Waller, The Bridges of Madison County

“Oh, Jake,” Brett said, “we could have had such a damned good time together.” Ahead was a mounted policeman in khaki directing traffic. He raised his baton. The car slowed suddenly pressing Brett against me. “Yes,” I said. “Isn’t it pretty to think so?”
The Sun Also Rises, Ernest Hemingway

“Tomorrow, I’ll think of some way to get him back. After all, tomorrow is another day.”
Gone With the Wind, Margaret Mitchell

“Shoot all the blue jays you want, if you can hit em, but remember that it’s a sin to kill a mockingbird.” — To Kill a Mockingbird, Harper Lee

“Many years later, as he faced the firing squad, Colonel Aurelio Buendía was to remember that distant afternoon that his father took him to discover ice.”

One Hundred Years of Solitude, Gabriel Garcia Marquez

Last night I dreamt I went to Manderley again.

Rebecca,  Daphne du Maurier

And my own particular favorite:

23. It’s from the short story Innocence, by Harold Brodkey




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enigma, Brendan Cumberbatch, Turing

photo: Gabbo T

So who was the enigma behind the Enigma in that movie with Brendan Cumberbatch?

His name was Alan Turing and The Imitation Game portrays the seminal moments in the life of one of Britain’s top code breakers.

Turing led Hut 8, the team who cracked the Nazi naval secret cipher during World War 2, and in doing so, saved hundreds of thousands of Allied lives.

He is also considered the father of modern computer science.

Seven years after the war Britain repaid its debt of gratitude to the man with chemical castration.

But just how accurate is the movie?

The question itself raises a fundamental question about writing history: what is more important, making a good story or creating an accurate historical record?

enigma, Brendan Cumberbatch, Turing

an Enigma coding machine

Because if you understand the fundamental principles of story – you most often can’t have both.

The movie received huge critical acclaim – but its critics focused not on the film itself, but historical inaccuracies.

Writer Graham Moore defended his script this way: “When you use the language of ‘fact checking’ to talk about a film, I think you’re sort of fundamentally misunderstanding how art works. You don’t fact check Monet’s ‘Water Lilies’. That’s not what water lilies look like, that’s what the sensation of experiencing water lilies feels like.’

Director Morten Tyldum went further: “A lot of historical films sometimes feels like people reading a Wikipedia page to you onscreen, like just reciting ‘and then he did that, and then he did that, and then he did this other thing.’

I agree with both these gentlemen.

Are we writing stories or are we writing history?

enigma, Brendan Cumberbatch, Turing

photo: Andrea Raffin

Faction is not a story. People seem to get confused about this.

If The Imitation Game was a novel, and it had an afterword explaining the inaccuracies in the script, I would have given it 5 stars on Amazon. As a movie – well I can always look up the discrepancies on Wikipedia.

Which is what I did.

So if you’ve seen this wonderful film and you’re wondering how much was true, here’s the main points.

Joan Clarke, Turing’s one time fiancée actually looked nothing like Keira Knightley.

But then few women do.

Thousands of people – not just a handful – worked on the Enigma project. But then the decipher project was far too complex to encapsulate in a two hour film and if you think it could be, well more fool you.

enigma, Brendan Cumberbatch, Turing

Bletchley Park: photo Draco2008

The code-breaking machine was not called “Christopher”.

The Hut 8 team were never in a position to decide whether to use broken codes to stop a German raid on a convoy that the brother of one of the code breakers is serving on. Such decisions were made at much higher levels.

Turing was never quite as socially difficult as portrayed in the film. Turing actually had friends, a sense of humour and a good working relationships with his colleagues.

The scenes about how Turing found out about his schoolfriend Christopher’s death are fictitious.

The detective in the film who thinks Turing is a spy is pure fiction.

So is the interrogation in the police station. Yet what would the film be without that scene?

Turing's computer: photo andagasow

Turing’s computer: photo andagasow

Turing actually committed suicide fourteen months after his chemical castration ended.

The inquest into his death ruled he had eaten a cyanide-laced apple, re-enacting the poisoned apple scene from Snow White, his favorite fairy tale.

The worst sin in my opinion was the depiction of Commander Denniston as a rigid and hectoring commanding officer, which his grandchildren have disputed utterly and for which there is no evidence.

The espionage subplot involving Turing and John Cairncross is also fictitious.

So there’s the truth about the enigma behind the Enigma.

How many liberties should we take with history?

You can have your say on that point if you’d like to.

For mine, I watched the movie on a warm summer evening at an outdoor cinema in Australia and I think if the writers had kept to the absolute truth I would have fallen asleep in my bean bag after fifteen minutes.

But the story they created out of Turing’s life kept me riveted.

I’ll leave the last word to Turing’s niece, Inagh Payne. After seeing the preview she said: “the film really did honor my uncle.”

It was also a brilliantly executed story.

And surely that was the whole point.

Wasn’t it?


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In 1938 Louis B Mayer called her the most beautiful woman in the world and the press clamored to learn her secret.

Hedy Lamar, secret, beautiful woman

She famously said there was nothing to being beautiful; all she had to do was stand there and look stupid.

But that wasn’t the secret.

Her secret wasn’t even that her name was Hedwig Kiesler and that her husband was one of the Nazi’s major arms suppliers.

Her secret was that she wasn’t stupid.

But no one really cared about her secret. Five years before she had achieved instant notoriety for her role in a Czech film where she appeared swimming in a lake, naked, and with a close-up of her face in the throes of orgasm.

The film – Ecstasy – was banned everywhere, of course, which made copies of it extremely valuable. Even Mussolini got a copy of it.

So who was she?

Hedy Lamar, secret, beautiful womanThe most beautiful woman in the world was the only child of a prominent Jewish banker from Vienna. She was also a math prodigy.

But it wasn’t her intelligence but her beauty that caught the eye of the third richest man in Austria, Friedrich Mandl, an arms dealer. He became her first husband.

Apparently he didn’t like his wife appearing in such a notorious film and he tried to buy up as many copies as he could. She tried to placate him by insisting that her orgasm was simulated, achieved with the aid of the director stroking her butt with a drawing pin.

That must have put his mind at rest.

And Mandl was a man with many things on his mind. At the time he was developing the technology for radio-controlled torpedoes for the Nazis.

His wife, cute bottom now presumably healed from drawing pin lacerations, sat at his dinner parties looking stupid and beautiful while her husband entertained leading Nazis, including Hitler himself, explaining his new invention.

But of course she wasn’t stupid. She understood everything.

Hedy Lamar, secret, beautiful womanAs a Jew, she hated the Nazis. In 1937, she sold her jewelry, drugged her maid, put on her servant’s uniform as disguise, and escaped from Austria.

Good timing. The following year the Nazis seized Mandl’s factory. Mandl, who was half Jewish, was forced to flee to Brazil.

Meanwhile Kiesler was in Paris and arranged a meeting with Louis B. Mayer, the Spielberg of the age. The Most Beautiful Woman in the World signed a long-term contract, and became one of MGM’s biggest stars. She appeared in more than 20 films with stars like Clark Gable, James Stewart, Judy Garland, and even Bob Hope.

But Kiesler soon got bored with just standing there and looking stupid.

Hedy Lamar, secret, beautiful womanIn 1942, at the height of her fame, she used some of the things she had learned listening to Mandl to develop a system that would allow torpedoes to reach their targets.

At the time both the Nazis and the Allies were using single-frequency radio-controlled technology. The drawback was that the enemy could find this frequency and “jam” the signal.

Kiesler collaborated with her neighbor, the world’s first techno-musician, George Anthiel, on a system to solve the problem. Anthiel had just found a way to synchronize his melodies across twelve player pianos, producing stereophonic sounds no one had ever heard before.

Using this same technology they found a way of encoding a radio message across a broad area of the wireless spectrum. If one part of the spectrum was jammed, the message would still get through on one of the other frequencies, in effect making it unjammable.

On August 11, 1942, U.S. Patent No. 2,292,387 was granted to Antheil and “Hedy Kiesler Markey,” Kiesler’s married name at the time.

But the invention met with immediate opposition from the U.S. Navy and was not adopted until 1962, after the patent had expired, when it was finally used by U.S. military ships during the blockade of Cuba.

What has this got to do with you?

Hedy Lamar, secret, beautiful womanBecause despite what the US Navy thought back then, this was one of the most important patents ever issued by the US Patents Office.

Today, Kiesler’s invention is the foundation of spread spectrum technology, which you use every day when you log on to wi-fi or make calls with Bluetooth-enabled phone. The next generation of cell phones would not be possible without it.

You couldn’t take selfies in Time Square, send intimate text messages to your mistress or Facebook pictures of your cat without Kielser.

And all she had to do was stand there and look stupid.

So what happened to her?

Hedy Lamar, secret, beautiful womanShe was married six times – the last time to her divorce lawyer – and claimed to have made and lost thirty million dollars during her life.

Yet she was twice arrested for shoplifting.

Last year she was finally inducted into the National Inventor’

I wonder if you have heard of her. She was the Angelina Jolie of her day.

Her name was Hedy Lamarr.

Bob Mayer and I have written two very different books about the JFK era, THE KENNEDY ENDEAVOUR and NAKED IN LA!

I’m offering all my subscribers a chance to win both as a bundle this week and all you have to do is be on the mailing list to have the chance to win!



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je suis charlie, charlie hebdo, Islam, terrorism, history

photograph: Valentina Cala

The one thing I have learned from history is that we never learn from it.

I’m not an historian. I’m a story teller. But if I am going to write an historical novel, then I can’t just make stuff up. I have to research my period. It’s essential.

And what comes through to me, time after time, is that human history is not a straight line. It’s a circle.

Let’s talk about Charlie Hebdo.

Religious nuts trying to enforce their uneducated opinion on everyone else and being prepared to kill anyone who doesn’t agree with them – this is not a 21st century phenomena.

Ladies and Gentlemen I give you the Holy Inquisition circa the thirteenth century.

The Catholic Church made Dominic Guzman a saint. But in philosophy and theological position he was a fundamentalist who spawned a terrorist movement that brought misery and torture to two continents and turned mass murder into public theater.

Sound familiar?

constantinople, crusaders

‘OK we’ll pose for the portrait – and then we’re going to butcher and rape the lot of you.’

Terrorism and ignorance are not new concepts. Google the destruction of Constantinople in 1204 by the Catholic Pope’s Crusaders.

The storehouse of Greco-Roman and Byzantine art was looted by bogans, the Library of Constantinople utterly destroyed.

The Crusaders desecrated the city’s churches and monasteries and for three days they murdered, raped and looted on a scale that made Islamic State look like a bunch of sissies.

They even raped the nuns.

And this was a Crusade carried out in the name of God.

I am currently researching the Reconquista in Spain. In simple terms, this was a six hundred year period when the Christians recaptured the Iberian peninsula from the Moors and re-established Christian rule and a universal Catholic orthodoxy.

It was also the period when the Jews, persecuted at the hands of the Holy Inquisition, fled to countries under Islamic rule because they found sanctuary there under a far more tolerant administration.

It was known as the Islamic Golden Age.

osama bin laden. al qaida, terrorism, Islamic fundamentalistThe sack of Granada in 1492 is viewed by many as the end of this era, which had begun with the establishment of the House of Wisdom in Baghdad around 750 AD. The inspiration for its founding was drawn from the Q’ran: ‘the ink of a scholar is more holy than the blood of a martyr.’

Mohammed wrote that. Or God did. Whoever you believe scribbles all this stuff.

But for six hundred years Baghdad, Cairo and Cordoba were the leading intellectual centers in the known world for science, philosophy, medicine, trade, and education.

Mohammed ibn Musa al-Khwarizmi played a significant role in the development of al-jebr (algebra); Abd al-Rahman al-Sufi first identified the Andromeda constellation, the nearest spiral galaxy to our own; it was only through 12th-century Arabic translations that medieval Europe rediscovered Hellenic medicine, including the works of Galen and Hippocrates.

Islamic states were the first to establish free medical health care and license doctors. The university of Al Karaouine, founded in 859, was the world’s oldest degree-granting university.

Islam has as much in common with Islamic fundamentalism as a snake handling church in Little Catfish Up The Creek with a Catholic Mass in Saint Peter’s in Rome.

Islamic fundamentalism actually began with the Wahhabi movement in the eighteenth century, and by then Mohammed had been feeding the daises for almost a millennia. It was the brainchild – if you can call it that – of Mohammad ibn Abd-al-Wahhab, a goat botherer born around 1700 in a small oasis town in the Najid region in central Saudi Arabia.

The Wahhabis developed – and still have – very close family ties to the Saudi ruling family.

malala, islam, fundamentalism, Taliban

photograph: Southbank Centre

The first terrorist assault took place against other Muslims in Karbala in 1802. The first systematic terror campaign was conducted against the British Raj around the time of the Indian mutiny.

So – history is not a straight line and it is not simple.

Six hundred years ago the Catholic church were the fundamentalists and the Islamic world was the haven for the poor and the downtrodden, the place where education and knowledge was valued.

Fast forward to 2012 and a Taliban gunman tried to assassinate Malala Yousafzai on her school bus because of her advocacy of the rights to education for women in the Swat valley of Pakistan.

So what we are living through now is just history, what Winston Churchill called ‘just one damned thing after another.’.

The sad thing is not that people are ignorant, violent and stupid. It is the human race is not moving in a straight line.

We’re going round in circles and telling ourselves it’s progress because we can blow each other up with smartphones instead of Mills bombs.

Really – God would have done better giving the Holy Word to goldfish.

Bob Mayer and I have written two very different books about the JFK era, THE KENNEDY ENDEAVOUR and NAKED IN LA!

I’m offering all my subscribers a chance to win both as a bundle this week and all you have to do is be on the mailing list to have the chance to win!



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Last night at dinner my sister in law accused my brother of being lazy.

‘I am not lazy,’ he said. ‘I AM NOT LAZY! … I just can’t be bothered.’

I hope that clears up any confusion.

Oh bro, you’re a classic.

And here are two more classics …

Bob Mayer and I have written two very different books about the JFK era, THE KENNEDY ENDEAVOUR and NAKED IN LA!

I’m offering all my subscribers a chance to win both as a bundle this week and all you have to do is be on the mailing list to have the chance to win!



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Peru_Machu_Picchu_SunriseGod has been in the news a lot lately, the little rascal. Pardon me for breathing, but I reckon there’s too many saviors on his cross, or his Koran.

A few years ago, me and a good mate of mine, let’s call him Craigie, went to Peru on a spiritual journey. We had an apointment with a shaman called Don Antonio deep in the Amazon jungle.

On the way we sidetracked as tourists to Machu Piccu, which seems to be on everyone’s bucket list, and I don’t know why.

My abiding memory is of a tourist clambering on the Inca sacred altar and pulling funny faces for his friend’s camera.

And then someone asked the guide how they cut the grass.

The place is about as spiritual and moving as Disneyland on a wet Wednesday.

Source: MOtty

Source: MOtty

But afterwards our driver, Jose, said to us: Now I’ll take you somewhere special.

And he did.

I won’t tell you the name of the place, but there was no one else there. Possibly because there was nothing to see, nothing you could take a photograph of. It looked like a grassed over amphitheater.

But Jose assured us the Incas used to perform huge ceremonies there.

He performed one for us on a much smaller scale. He used a bunch of herbs and dry leaves and a lighter and he murmured a short prayer in Spanish.

And then he said: I used to be a womanizer and a drunk and I beat my wife. I didn’t believe in anything.

Then a friend brought me here, to this place, and reminded me of the old gods and the old ways and I started to believe again. And I don’t womanize any more, and I don’t drink and I am kind to my wife and my children.

Source: Elya

Source: Elya

And I thought of him this week when I watched those cowardly, ignorant, hate-filled bastards murder those journalists in Paris – oh, and a Moslem policeman – in cold blood.

… bismi-llāhi r-raḥmāni r-raḥīm: in the name of God, the most Compassionate, the Most Merciful.

If you believe in something that’s more than us, then let it make you a better person, a kinder person, like Jose.

That’s the only thing worth believing in.

There’s god, religion and the whole thing right there, in a bunch of smouldering leaves and the mended heart of a once broken man.

Any other kind of God – the kind that would get offended by a cartoon, for instance – is probably not worth taking seriously.



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Telling a love story is much the same as telling any other story. There has to be three acts, a dark night of the soul, an epiphany, a resolution  – all the things you’ll find in every good and compelling story ever written, from Romeo and Juliet to Fifty Shades of Grey.

And this French public service commercial is the perfect example of the story teller’s art.

But if you’re easily offended, don’t watch.

But if you’re easily amused, like me – and a student of story … like me – then you absolutely must!


Posted in HUMOR | 2 Comments


Source: Alno

Source: Alno

So I have a fear of flying.

I am afraid of the safety announcement at the beginning.

I am afraid that I will die of boredom.

Hey I know how to do up a seat buckle. I learned how to do that when I was four. And if the oxygen masks come down you bet your sweet bippy I’ll be grabbing on to that ol’ thing and sucking the air dry.

You don’t have to tell me.

And if I hear the command ‘Brace, brace,’ I’ll know to brace myself for the sweet hereafter because that’s all there’s gonna be.

Just please no more with the safety announcements.

Wouldn’t it be easier to just ask if there’s anyone that hasn’t flown before and if there is such a person still alive in 2014, give them some private tuition and give the rest of us a complimentary champagne?


Now here’s a girl who knows how it’s done. No fear of flying here. This just cracked me up.


Because if you’re not, you could win a copy of two books about the JFK era, Bob Mayer’s THE KENNEDY ENDEAVOUR and my NAKED IN LA!

I’m giving them away as a bundle in January and all you have to do is be on the mailing list to have the chance to win!




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stigmata FB2

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393px-Robert_Kennedy_CORE_rally_speech2There have been difficult times for America lately.

The deaths of two young black men in Ferguson and in Staten Island was followed by the revenge murder of two NYPD policemen in Brooklyn.

But there have been difficult times in America before and good men who tried to lead the way out of them.

In 1968, Sen Robert F. Kennedy was scheduled to address a mainly black crowd in a poor section of Indianapolis. Martin Luther King had just been murdered and the city’s police chief warned Kennedy not to go.

In fact, once inside the neighborhood, his police escort left him.

Kennedy asked an aide: “Do they know about Martin Luther King?”

They didn’t, and it was left to Kennedy to tell them, from the back of a flatbed truck.

This is what happened:

“What we need in the United States is not division; what we need in the United States is not hatred; what we need in the United States is not violence and lawlessness, but is love, and wisdom, and compassion toward one another, and a feeling of justice toward those who still suffer within our country, whether they be white or whether they be black.”


Indianapolis was one of the few cities in America that did not explode into violence that night.

Two months later Kennedy himself was assassinated. But perhaps we should all take inspiration from his spirit in difficult times.


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