Archives for February 2012


What is Success?

Ralph Waldo Emerson

Ralph Waldo Emerson

In a recent post for our BJ Seminars International blog, The Sky is Falling, I finished with a quote by Ralph Waldo Emerson.

This reminded me of another piece, attributed to Emerson, entitled “Success”. I remember being inspired by it many years ago, so searched for it again. You may also have come across it in your travels:

To laugh often and much;
To win the respect of intelligent people and the affection of children;
To earn the appreciation of honest critics and endure the betrayal of false friends;
To appreciate beauty,
To find the best in others,
To leave the world a bit better, whether by a healthy child,
A garden patch or a redeemed social condition;
To know even one life has breathed easier because you have lived.
This is to have succeeded.

But you may imagine my surprise, when searching on the web for these words, to learn that Emerson is not in fact the author!

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The World’s Memory

Computer Screen and LibraryBack in 1916, Harry G Aldis wrote: **

Imagine, if you can, the world suddenly bereft of books. What would it mean? Practically, the record of the accumulated sum of human knowledge swept away, and the processes of civilization limited to the experience of a single life-time, supplemented only by tradition and hearsay, dependent upon the memory of individuals. It is only by some such feat of imagination that it is possible to realize in any degree, the great part that books play in the daily life of the civilized world.

Books are the world’s memory. In them is preserved the record of human thought, action, experience, and intellectual activity. We are, it is true, heirs of the ages, but our heritage consists to a large extent of books, and what we are pleased to call progress is made possible mainly through their aid. Books have come to be one of the commonest objects of everyday life. We turn to them instinctively for information of all and every kind, for intellectual recreation, and even for recreation that cannot be called intellectual.

When I came across this passage recently, I loved it – perhaps especially the idea that books are ‘the world’s memory’.

But I also found myself wondering … Does it still resonate for us, almost a hundred years later? After all, in this day and age, we could indeed imagine a world without books – or, at least without printed books.

So then I tried re-reading his words, mentally replacing  ‘books’ with  ‘computers’ as I read.

And I figured what Aldis had to say – with a bit of a twist – is just as true today as it was then. :)


** From The Printed Book by Harry G. Aldis, M.A. Cambridge at the University Press 1916


Audiobooks, Ebooks and Old Friends

AudiobooksI’ve always loved having books read to me.

When libraries first started lending books on audio cassettes, I was one of the early adopters. It was wonderful to be able to kick back, relax and listen. Perhaps especially when I was in the car.

With stories to keep me company, long trips were a breeze. Peak hour traffic when the freeway was a car park? No problem!

Catching every red light on the way? No hassle at all – it just meant I’d get through another chapter.

So it was a very natural next step when I could borrow downloadable audio-books from the library and listen to them on my Android phone instead.

But, once upon a time, if you’d suggested I’d start reading e-books on my phone, I’d have laughed. After all, nothing could replace the ease and enjoyment of holding a real book in my hands. And reading on a small screen? That would be a total pain – no way I’d do it!

I was wrong!  :)

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I’ve Been Everywhere

I've Been Everywhere

Photo: chrisroll

[Another ‘rescued’ post – re-created from memory :) ]

After writing my post The Magic and Music of Place Names, in which I mentioned Lucky Starr’s version of I’ve Been Everywhere, I found a few more fascinating snippets about that particular song.

I found there’s a guy called Peter Harris, who planned a whole trip around Australia based on visiting all 94 places it mentions!  You can read about his travels on his website, complete with photos of the places he visited.

And, as Peter says:

This blog is a record of the visit to each of the 94 locations, and I DID IT! All 94 places in 18 months, over 30,000km!

He also used his trip as an opportunity to raise money for the Fred Hollows Foundation  – and by September 2011 had raised over $3,000.

Way to go, Peter! :)

I also discovered there are a number of different versions of the song, adapted for different parts of the world.  Not long after Lucky Starr recorded it in Australia, Hank Snow wrote lyrics with place names from the United States – a version that Johnny Cash also recorded.

On Peter Harris’s website you can read lyrics for yet more renditions. For example there’s one for New Zealand, created in 1966 by John Grenell , and another for Texas written by Brian Burns.  Wikipedia lists even more – including one for Czechoslovakia!

And finally, over forty years later, here’s a modern example showing just how well the song has survived the test of time.  It’s one for online gamers – a World of Warcraft version!


The Magic and Music of Place Names

Map of Australia

[This is a re-write of a post originally published here a couple of weeks ago, then lost beyond recovery because of our disastrous server crash. Because of Lauren’s kind words I’ve done my best to coax my original muse out of hiding and reproduce the post. It’s not exactly the same, but I think I’ve captured it much as it was. :) ]

Place names around the world have always fascinated me. Some can be particularly quirky, others are an accurate or sometimes wry description of local geography. Still others may simply be music to the ears when you say them aloud.

Australia is no exception – we have our very own collection of magical, musical or just plain quirky place names.

I’ve always been fond of Ferntree Gully the name of the suburb in Melbourne where I live. But there are other names far more unusual and fascinating – many of course drawn from Aboriginal languages.

One of the latter is actually the longest official place name in Australia: Mamungkukumpurangkuntjunya Hill in South Australia. Apparently it means “where the devil urinates” in the local Pitjantjatjara language.

Imagine being able to say you live in Success … What a wonderful thought! There are people in Western Australia who have that advantage. And there are folk in Tasmania and South Australia who are able to say “I come from Nowhere Else…”  Yep – we actually have TWO of those!

The only place in Australia that begins with X is Xantippe in Western Australia. Apparently a name given to the place because of its rock-hard, granite ground in which it was almost impossible to dig post holes. Xantippe was the name of Socrates’ wife – who was supposedly a very hard woman. :)

Then there’s Sheoak Log, also in South Australia. Though I assume local residents don’t crawl out from under a log. ;) And in New South Wales or Western Australia, you can go for Broke.

In South Australia, some folk live in Foul Bay or Coffin Bay. Though I think if I lived in one of those I’d be tempted to move … Perhaps to Wineglass Bay or even Egg and Bacon Bay in Tasmania? Hmm … then again, for some Tasmanians home is a Dismal Swamp or The End of the World.

Queensland can boast a Banana, a Humpybong, a Wonglepong and a Pimpinbudgie. New South Wales has Jimcumbilly, Burrumbuttock, Come By Chance and Tom Ugly. In Victoria there are Cardigan, Manangatang, Mangalore, Upotipotpon and Tittybong – the last just north of Teddywaddy. And if you live in the Northern Territory you may come from Boing Boing or Humpty Doo!

But perhaps the most musical collection of Aussie place names is the song I’ve Been Everywhere, written by Geoff Mack in 1959. It was recorded by Lucky Starr in 1962 and became almost an instant cult classic. Here it is … and here are the lyrics as well, in case you’d like to follow along. :)