The best of Life & Stuff

30 December 2013

Life & Stuff is our lifestyle section: art, music, musings, celebrations and anniversaries, silliness, wisdom.   This is our selection from the past two years.


26 November 2013

In the popular recent ABC TV series Redesign Your Brain , advertising executive and now TV personality Todd Sampson “trained his brain” to enable him to undertake new (for him) and demanding mental challenges, such as memorising the sequence of a shuffled pack of cards and doing a Houdini type of escape trick. Demonstrating what the experts call “brain plasticity”, Sampson shows that anyone can train their brain to be faster, stronger and more responsive – and counteracting the natural slow down of our mental faculties as we age. On the back of the series, the ABC has launched its own subscription “braining training” website, developed in collaboration with the Florey Institute of NeuroScience and Mental Health at the The University of Melbourne.



18 October 2013

Sydney Opera House turns 40


The Sydney Opera House plays a central role in Australia’s life and identity. It’s the world’s busiest performing arts centre, with seven performance venues open 363 days a year, offering audiences the opportunity to experience the best the world has to offer in every performing arts genre.

For a virtual tour of the Opera highlighting its spaces and showcasing the genres it hosts see
The Ship Song Project



19 April 2013

New Zealand passes same sex marriage law

With a love song

The New Zealand Parliament passed a law on 17 April enabling same sex marriage. In an extraordinarily touching scene, after the passage of the law, the public gallery burst into a rendition of a century old Maori love song. When we finally get around to such a law in Australia, which surely can’t be too far away, let’s hope we have something better in our kit bag than Waltzing Matilda.

Read button


22 February 2013

Reaching across borders

1 person in 20 is affected by a rare disease.
Over 6000 different rare diseases affect children and adults.
Most are genetic, chronic and debilitating.
But above all they isolate patients and their families.
International Rare Disease Day is 28 February 2013.
Its theme is

Let’s take a journey together to break the borders of isolation.

Rare disease


15 January 2013

So you think you can dance?

Younger readers of The Scan are possibly familiar with this clip. The dancer is 29-year-old Marquese Scott who goes by the moniker NONSTOP. To watch it fullscreen, click YouTube on the bottom right of the screen.


4 October 2012

Urban Scrawl

Urban Scrawl was the first of the Life & Stuff posts to The Scan on 2 February.  Just some stuff around inner Melbourne , including work by street artist Precious Little Remains, from whom we pinched the theme and acquired a copy of Gas Mask Girl.  There’s a great poem by Michelle of the Takeaway Poetry Service, banged out in half an hour  on old Olivetti typewriter, which comes complete with typos and jumped letters – unfortunately it’s not readable in the gallery but we’ve posted it separately – Is Empathy on the Rise? The Scan has a vastly expanded readership, stretching from coast to coast and over the seas since then, so it’s time to share it again, in slightly amended form, as we do from time to time with some of the Life & Stuff stuff.
Go to

Urban Scrawl Gallery


20 September 2012

On the US website Slate in early 2011, the late Christopher Hitchens advised that “US style of tea is best thrown away”.  In a complaint that will resonate with many travellers to the US,  Hitchen’s main gripe was that Americans seem to offer only cups of tepid water, with teabags served separately.  Indeed, I was once escorted – rather forcefully – from the kitchen of The Jefferson in Washington for offering an accelerated lesson to kitchen staff in the art of making tea.Hitchens  provided a list of guiding principles, the most important of which is making sure that boiling water is added to the tea. “Grasp only this, and you hold the root of the matter.”  Next, he insisted that your teapot be pre-warmed.  As for milk, “use the least creamy type or the tea will acquire a sickly taste. And do not put the milk in the cup first.“The question of whether milk should come first or last is one that has divided polite society for eons, as George Orwell observed in his 1946 instructions on making tea (Orwell is with Hitchens).

Read on for the perfect cup of tea….


5 July 2012

Irish dancing hands

The Irish Hand Dancing clip on YouTube went viral a couple of years ago and has been viewed by almost 9 million people.   But a surprising number of people haven’t seen it, so as a community service we’re  reblogging it.  You’ll need to follow this link –


28  June 2012

Portsmouth Sinfonia

The Portsmouth Sinfonia was an orchestra founded by a group of students at the Portsmouth School of Art in England, in 1970. The Sinfonia had an unusual entrance requirement, in that players had to either be non-musicians, or if a musician, play an instrument that was entirely new to them.  The orchestra started as a one-off, tongue-in-cheek performance art ensemble but became a cultural phenomenon over the following ten years, with concerts, record albums, a film and a hit single. They last performed publicly in 1979.


28 April 2012

Obama slow jams the news

The affordability of university education in the US has become a real issue and costs are set to increase even more with a proposed doubling of interest on student loans.  But the Barak Ness Monster ain’t buying it:

…now is not the time to make school more expensive for our young people.

This is the sort of thing you can only do once but as Mae West said of life, if you get it right you only need one.  Watch how Obama dumps the mike and Jimmy Fallon’s reaction.


16 April 2012

The sounds of silence

The Easter Monday edition of ABC’s Q&A saw Cardinal George Pell (God corner) and Professor Richard Dawkins (non-God corner) square off  (1  million viewers tuned in so odds are you did see it).  Greg Sheridan, who is obviously well versed in theology and metaphysics as well as foreign affairs,  recounted one scene:

 When Dawkins explained that the universe had come from nothing, but that nothing was really very complex and, in fact, consisted of something, people laughed.  Dawkins was annoyed and, like a humourless school marm, peevishly scolded the audience: “Why is that funny?”

Yes, well, “nothing”certainly can be complex.  The Buddhist notion of nirvana approximates “emptiness”  – gate gate pāragate pārasaṃgate bodhi svāhā – which would seem to be like “nothingness” which must be close to “nothing”.  Engage a serious Buddhist on the nature of “you” and “you” (whoever or whatever “you” are, if “you” are anything at all) will come away thoroughly confused (if that is not “your” permanent state of “mind”, – if “you” have one, that is).

This nicely segues to news that researchers at The Australian National University have developed the fastest random number generator in the world by listening to the sounds of silence.   The researchers  have tuned their very sensitive light detectors to listen to vacuum – a region of space that is empty.  Professor Ping Koy Lam says vacuum was once thought to be completely empty, dark and silent until the discovery of the modern quantum theory. Since then scientists have discovered that vacuum is an extent of space that has virtual sub-atomic particles spontaneously appearing and disappearing.  If you ever have need of a random number generator, you can download it here.

See also:


9 April 2012

Everybody knows

The Scan recently relocated to Elwood, a short stroll through the St Kilda Botanical Gardens to Acland St – trams, shops, cafes and restaurants, supermarkets.  The Gardens feature a Little Man standing in a lake, umbrella unfurled, his hand reaching out feeling for rain.  But he’s being rained on by  his umbrella,  A poignant metaphor on life ?

In a recent stroll, we came across a handwritten sign held down by a stone on a post, “See you there!”   See who?  See who, where?  A note perhaps to somebody in particular, perhaps to nobody or perhaps to everybody.   As everybody knows:

Looking through the crowd
I search for something else
But every time I turn around
I run into myself.

At the St Kilda end of the Gardens, you’ll find the Port Phillip Eco Centre, full of all sorts of information, a garden with two Blue Tongued Lizards, tea and coffee on a weekend and a conference room for smallish conferences, staff meetings etc – very reasonably priced.


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