What became of the Bunyip?

March 24, 2019 by

Ghost Cities

Australia is famous for its huge swathes of untouched wilderness and for the unique, often deadly animals that wander there. You wouldn’t expect that a nation with the likes of the platypus and the killer box jellyfish would need to invent a new creature to add to its allure, yet reports of a mysterious, massive creature lurking in the waters of Australia abound. This creature, the Bunyip, is as much a part of Australian culture as any of its other fantastic beasts. The Bunyip (translated in Aboriginal Australian to mean devil or evil spirit), also known as the Kianpraty, is a creature of Aboriginal mythology. It lives in swamps, billabongs, creeks, riverbeds and waterholes all over Australia. Bunyip in the Wemba-Wemba language means “devil” or “Evil spirit”. the Bunyip has many descriptions. Some say it has a dog-like face, dark fur, a horse-like tail, flippers, walrus-like tusks, and a duck-like bill…

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Just Checked my blog: Still a mess!Have a look at my book cover!

March 21, 2019 by

That UN course is still sprawling. I am still shunting it down.

Suzi just put this book cover together. A few final touches, blurb, my name should be bigger!!! and  it will be off and away! Suzi is wonderful!  The book’s not bad. Don’t buy it until it is published properly.



My favorite cover.jpg

Sprawling UN educational post! Apologies!

March 20, 2019 by

Belinda pointed out that my last post was largely incomprehensible. Sprawling. She was right. The damn thing was a total mess. But don’t let that put you off! It’s a great course. I know! I failed to finish one.

I am not sure how to restore order to this blog. In times past I just stuck up another post, shunting the previous disaster out of sight and out of mind.  I’ll try this tactic again!

Here goes!

And here we are! Meet Tanya Goodin! th-3.jpg

A college friend. She didn’t look like that when I knew her. Looks a bit terrifying now. She has written another book. th-4.jpg

It’s called Off.

A very good idea! Stop looking at screens. Live life! I’ll review it properly shortly.





Great Opportunity: Free United Nations Course on Biodiversity Economics and All Points in Between!

March 19, 2019 by
How would you like to learn the art or is science of biodiversity finance? Check this link out before April 15th!
Do you need to make a stronger business case for biodiversity conservation? Do you want to become more skilled at developing financially sound and politically feasible solutions to conservation and development challenges? Do you need to know how to develop an effective biodiversity finance plan? Do you want access to more tools to assess the policy, institutional, and economic context for biodiversity finance, and to conduct a financial needs assessment to achieve a country’s biodiversity goals?

The UN is offering a FREE seven-week Massive Open Online Course (MOOC) called Biodiversity Finance. It will be facilitated in English, French, Spanish and Russian, and will run from 15 April to 31 May 2019. The course is aimed at conservation planning and biodiversity finance practitioners and policymakers, but is open to everyone.

Biodiversity Finance MOOC highlights and outcomes:
  • Gain an overview of key issues related to biodiversity finance
  • Interact with experts in national biodiversity finance from more than a dozen countries
  • Join a world-wide network of biodiversity finance practitioners and policymakers
  • Receive a certificate of completion from premier development institutions
  • Take a deep dive into rich online lessons, webinars, assignments, finance solutions and discussions
The course will cover the following topics:
  • Week 1: Introduction to biodiversity and sustainable development

  • Week 2: Introduction to biodiversity finance

  • Week 3: Biodiversity finance policy and institutional review

  • Week 4: Biodiversity expenditure review

  • Week 5: Biodiversity financial needs assessment

  • Week 6: Biodiversity finance plan

  • Week 7: Implementing the biodiversity finance plan

Ethiopian Air Disaster: A sequel

March 16, 2019 by

Hugh Paxton’s Blog was delighted to see beloved wife back home this morning from Nairobi.

The UN conference was initially over-shadowed by the Boeing crash and various people sadly didn’t make it. 22 UN passport holders were among the casualties.

I suppose every crash has its share of near miss stories. I remember when Malaysian lost two aircraft, one possibly the fault of a mentally unstable pilot, the second definitely the fault of a surface to air missile though who pulled the trigger on that one, Ukrainian rebel or Russian ultra- nationalist or somebody else entirely, remains as much of a mystery as where the first Malaysian plane went down. One guy was scheduled to fly on both. And missed both. Guardian angel working over time.

In the case of the Ethiopian Airlines catastrophe one of my wife’s colleagues was scheduled for the flight but was told to change his ticket and fly a day earlier to attend a pre-conference meeting. Akiko, a friend we have known for years, flew on the same plane all the way south from Cape Town and deplaned at Addis. The aircraft then made a turnaround and departed for Kenya. Akiko is also UN but biodiversity conservation isn’t her field so she wasn’t due to attend the conference. I find that story rather creepy.

There isn’t much more I can say about the crash that hasn’t been said. But I will add that, despite its bleak and shocking beginning, some great things were achieved.

My favourite was The Lion’s Share, mainly because it has been one of my wife’s many projects for months. Long, long hours, candles burnt at both ends – these marked the buildup. I’ll let David Attenborough tell you about it. Sir David (was ever a knighthood more richly deserved?) does a much better than I could!

Check his short video slot on the following site:


Among other things this press release was issued. Click:

The Lion’s Share Fund partners with JCDecaux, the number one outdoor advertising company worldwide


Ethiopian Airlines Crash: Midori Safe

March 10, 2019 by

Hugh Paxton’s Blog offers all sympathies to victims of the EA crash, their friends and kin. I am however happy to say that my beloved wife, Midori, is not among the casualties. Her flight arrived earlier and she has checked safely into her Nairobi guest house. It seems likely that some of her colleagues may have been aboard – the UN conference is a big one. But I don’t know.

Colorful Stories: Video by Tanya Ishikawa

March 9, 2019 by

Further to recent post on incarceration in the US, Hugh Paxton’s Blog received the following from Tanya Ishikawa, a long term friend from my days in Tokyo. If you are in the Denver area (and not buried in ten feet of snow) it might be worth attending! Alternatively tuck up warm and watch it from home! I enjoyed it – particularly the two clips on the drive by and Lupus. The four black women are eloquent and coherent and make their points well.



I was reading Hugh’s blog post about the incarceration symposium at the school and thought perhaps I forgot to share the link to a video I produced last fall:


It’s not about incarceration but the women in it bring up some of the issues related to incarceration in America. This video got selected for a small film festival in Denver, so that’s cool. (Originally shown at a Nov. 3 luncheon, it’s now going to screen at a theater on March 24. I don’t think I can get to Denver for it but we’ll see- depends on this crazy snow-stormy winter.)


Tanya Ishikawa
BT Multimedia Communications

Homunculus: Hang on to it! (or if you are skint, sell it!)

March 7, 2019 by

th-2.jpgHugh Paxton’s Blog had a bit of a shock just now. I’m planning to relaunch my novel Overland (the original version) and out of curiosity decided to see how my other books were doing. Homunculus was my first English language fiction book. It was published by Pan Macmillan New Writers. How as it doing? Out of print. This didn’t come as a complete surprise. I haven’t received a royalties payment in years.

What did make me blink was how much I’d have to pay if I wanted a copy. $77.02 for a new hardback!!!! Worth every cent, I hasn’t to add! But still, that is quite a lot of cents!

And of course extremely good news if you happen to own one (and haven’t had it mauled by a puppy or drenched it in curry sauce).

In my case I had several hundred. Many I gave away. Others I lent, never to see them again. And the remainder I left in my garage in Windhoek in the safe keeping of my tenant. He was a nice enough chap, nice enough family but I cannot recommend him. I returned after a few years away in Bangkok to find my bougainvillea dead (those trees are impossible to kill but he managed somehow), my lawn a blasted sand dune dotted with potholes dug by his kids and dog, and my garage a sort of Star Trek set mounded with the most extravagant termite architecture imaginable. At the bottom of these concrete towers, bridges, and soaring stalagmites were the largely digested remains of Homunculus, the horde.

Building a termite metropolis on this scale isn’t an overnight event. It takes years! You would have thought he, or his family, might have noticed.  Giving them the benefit of the doubt, they were Japanese, new to Namibia, perhaps they thought this was normal.

Still, as Jeeves so frequently remarked to Wooster, “into each life some rain must fall.”

If you have a copy, keep it safe!





US Incarceration

March 6, 2019 by

My daughter’s high school is organising a symposium this week on incarceration in the US. If the following statistics are anything to go by it is high time a lot of other people, organisations and institutions did likewise! Hugh Paxton’s Blog is not easily shocked and appalled. But reading this I am…well, yes…I’m shocked.

And appalled!

When I moved to New York my image of the city was largely ill-informed by a series of movies I’d watched as an impressionable youth in the 1970s. Death Wish with Charles Bronson blowing away muggers, that sort of thing. I’ve lived in some pretty violent places. Mogadishu was very lively. My wife and I, and our taxi driver got mugged by police in Joburg (Monday morning, downtown,10 am, my wife visibly pregnant, but that didn’t deter them from making off with $1,000), there have been other incidents here and there. I wasn’t expecting New York to be anything on an African or Central American scale but I was expecting something. After all, countless TV shows and movies are crammed with car chases (fat chance of one of those in downtown Manhattan traffic gridlock), shoot outs, sex offenders (Law and Order, allegedly based on real incidents, or at least it is according to my neighbour, is approaching its 200th episode), gangs, mafia, mayhem, race riots, serial killers, and if you see it on a screen it must be true, right? One of my Mexican friends had a tremendous struggle to win her family’s permission to go to study at Cambridge. Her mother had watched A Clockwork Orange and assumed England was actually like that.

New York has proved to be a) extremely polite and friendly and b) safe. There must be crime, I am sure there are neighbourhoods that are, to use one of my daughter’s words, “sketchy” but I haven’t seen any of it or any of them. At no time have I felt unsafe or uneasy.

The following stats, however, make me feel both. Uneasy, actually, rather than unsafe. Something is badly wrong.

The Symposium is aptly named.


T1 Symposium on Mass Incarceration in the USA

Thursday, March 7th and Friday, March 8th, 2019

United Nations International School

The US has just less than 5% of the world’s population, but over 20% of its prisoners. There are over 2 million people behind bars but the number of people under the control of the criminal justice system increases to 6.6 million when those on probation and parole are included. Over 70 million Americans have criminal records, the same number as Americans who have four-year college degrees.

How did it get to be this way? How did the US become the world’s largest jailer?
Is the US criminal justice system broken or is doing exactly what it was designed to do?
Can a system that was designed by men who did not believe that everyone was equal, be just? And if not, how do we change it?
On day 1 of this event, T1 students will have the chance to discuss these questions with formerly incarcerated people, activists, and advocates who are at the forefront of criminal justice reform. On day 2, they will also have the opportunity to explore mass incarceration through theatre, journalism, art, documentary and advocacy.

That’s the Executive Summary.







Hamza Bin Laden: “Bastard Son”

March 4, 2019 by

Hugh Paxton’s Blog picked this up from a local Deli yesterday. Typical New York Post type of header. Like all the city’s tabloids, the Post makes Britain’s News of the World or The Sun look positively intellectual. But the article, if you managed to survive the US authorities “are trying to cut him off at the pass” stuff, raised a few pertinent points. And some anecdotes.

A friend of Hamza Bin Laden recalled that “he was a bit of a rebel.” When I read this I felt briefly hopeful. Had young Hamza hit adolescence and started yelling, “You don’t spare time for me! You are always with your 25 other kids and planning bomb attacks!” or “This extremist compound of yours sucks! I want to get outta here!” or “Hey, Dad!! I’m gay! And if you don’t like it go suck on your beard!” ?

Not quite.

Hamza’s rebel streak manifested itself in a taste for Coke and Tabasco sauce (consumed separately I hope). This probably annoyed his father. Both have been banned by Al Qaeda. But Hamza spent all his life surrounded by Jihadis and, suckled on the curdled milk of his parents, elders, and peers, it is hardly surprising that he has now become if not his father, a wannabe.

What IS surprising is that nobody seems to have anticipated trouble from this pudgy little tabasco swilling cokehead. The signs were there. 12 years old is an impressionable age. The year coincided with the 9/11 attacks on the Twin Towers, Pentagon and (unplanned by the perpetrators who were overwhelmed by brave, doomed hostages) a field in Shanksville, PA.

Two months later footage of the pudgy kid was released by Al Qaeda of him reciting a poem in praise of then-Taliban leader Mullah Omar while three of his brothers, holding AK-47s while picking through the remains of a downed US helicopter. He went on a terrorist training course in Pakistan.

This apple clearly hadn’t landed very far from the twisted tree that bore it. But nobody seems to have thought it was worth keeping an eye on him.

The following may startle you. It certainly startled me! This year the US National Intelligence Program will receive a budget of USD 59.9 billion, The Military Intelligence Program gets USD 21.2 billion, The CIA’s Combating Terrorism (entrusted with “monitoring and disrupting violent extremists and suspected terrorists) will collect USD 17.2 billion (and probably won’t pass GO), and billions more will be handed out to other bodies – The National Geospatial Intelligence Agency etc.

All those billions, all those people…and nobody even knows where Hamza is!

“He could be anywhere,” said a State Department official talking to The Post.

I’m sorry but I find that pathetic! What on earth are all the Intelligence Billions being spent on?

I know where some is going.

The US Govt has issued an award of USD one million for information leading to his capture. If you know where he and his wife and three kids are hanging out claim your windfall at:


PS It is worth noting that Hamza married the daughter of one of the Twin Towers suicide bombers. Might be worth keeping an eye on any children resulting from this joyous union!


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