Sheilas, Wogs & Poofters

Sheilas, Wogs & Pooters: An Incomplete Biography of Johnny Warren and Soccer in Australia (2002) by Johnny Warren, Andy Harper and Josh Whittington covers Warren’s great career as a very successful football player and Australian soccer manager, commentator and promoter and provides a simultaneous history of Australian soccer from the late 1950s until the early 2000s.

Warren was in Botany on a street that would, incredibly, provide three representatives of Australia in various sports. He somewhat randomly started to play soccer and was superb at it from a young age, playing in much higher divisions as a junior. As a young man he played for St George-Budapest and encountered European and South American players and styles which had a big impact on him. He also met Les Murray, the great SBS broadcaster while playing for them.

The book goes through the era of clubs made by post-war migration in Australia. The state based competitions were dominated by ethnic Italian, Greek, Hungarian, Jewish and Macedonian based teams.

Warren went on to represent Australia from 1964 until 1974, playing as an attacking midfielder. He also captained the team and was later part of the team that qualified for Australia’s first World Cup, that of Germany in 1974.

After playing he went on to manage and then promote soccer and helped the establishment of the NSL in the late 1970s. He coached Canberra and also helped to bring the New York Cosmos out for exhibition games in Australia.

Warren had written as a soccer journalist since the 1960s. He then joined up with Les Murray and became part of the soccer broadcasters at SBS that did so much for the game in Australia.

As well as being autobiographical the book successfully intertwines a history of the game in Australia, Warren’s love of the game as an international game and a history of the Australian national team in Warren’s era.

For anyone interested in Australian soccer this book really is a must read. In conjunction with The Death and Life of Australian Soccer it provides a great view of Australian soccer in the post war era. As well as providing the autobiography of Warren the book provides more details of the teams while Warren played and highlights the huge role that SBS played in popularising  soccer in Australia.




Cosmic Engineers

Cosmic Engineers (1950) by Clifford D. Simak is a fun, short, quickly paced sci-fi story that has quite a few clever concepts and ideas. It was originally published as a short story in 1939. It’s a bit pulpy, but some of the ideas that crop up seem to have been revisited many times. While this might not be their first airing it’s still earlier than I’d thought some of the ideas had appeared.

It’s not great, but it’s fun and worth a read.

Snow Country

Snow Country (1937) by Yasunari Kawataba is a fine, moving and skillfully crafted story set in Western Japan.

Shimamura, a wealthy man from Tokyo meets Komako, a geisha. They fall in love, but he leaves and returns in years following.

The craft of the story, and the great translation I read, is really something. Short and well worth reading.


Coraline (2006) by Neil Gaiman is a delightful, creepy tale of a girl who goes through a door to a weird, eerie world that threatens her life with her parents. It’s short, simple and very well done. It’s very much worth a read.

On Writing

On Writing (2002) by Stephen King is the hugely successful author’s book on writing advice which also includes a brief autobiography. It was recommended to me by a guy I worked with who said that it also had insights into programming. It does. This is the second or third time I’ve read it and I’m sure I’ll read it again at some point.

King is very good at what he does and this book is no exception. King writes about how you have sit in a room and write, do it often and read widely to improve your writing. He says that with effort most writers can become at least competent.

As someone who toys with the idea of writing the book is an interesting look at what it really takes. King wrote short stories for years that he got published and then got his third full novel purchased and the book, Carrie, became a smash hit. But on the way he spent some years working in laundries and then eventually supporting he and his wife and their child by working as a teacher. It’s clear he had to make time to do what he wanted and he had to work at it.

The way he describes writing and then editing has a lot of merit to it. Making sure there is something there and then editing it down. The book also has quite a bit of general writing advice on what to avoid and how to improve dialogue and various other topics.

On Writing is a really interesting read for almost anyone. For anyone who even thinks about writing it would definitely be worth reading. But for anyone who does something in their spare time it’s also something to take in.


Hikikomori: Adolescence without end (1998) (2013 translation) by Tamaki Saitō is a fascinating book about the Japanese phenomenon of the hikikomori, young people withdraw into their parents house in adolescence or early adulthood and stay there for years, often not talking to anyone or just their family. Some have been doing this for a decade or more. The Japanese government estimates there are at least 700 000 Hikikomori in Japan.

Saitō is a psychiatrist who wrote this book after treating a number of Hikikomori and talking to fellow physicians and seeing the numbers increase. When it was published it caused a stir in Japan. It’s not a uniquely Japanese problem, Korea has something similar but with more of their Hikikomori playing games and being online. There are young recluses in the West but with weaker family bonds more people who do this sort of thing leave or are forced out of home. The Not in Education, Employment or Training or NEETs that the Blair government referred are similar. Also in the US the recent decline in the male participation rate looks similar. So world wide there are more adolescents and young adults dropping out in culturally specific ways.

Hikikomori are predominantly male, beyond 4/5 and stay at home. Some only communicate with their parents via written notes. Some are so extreme as to not leave their room to defecate or urinate. It’s pretty amazing. Some are also violent toward their family, particularly mothers suffering from them.

The book first looks at the prevalence of the condition and cases that Saitō has encountered. The comparison with other countries are also explored. The latter part of the book details Saitō’s treatment recommendations. It’s also worth noting that typically a few years, not decades are spent with the condition, but there are Hikikomori in their 30s. With treatment many Hikikomori have gone on to confront their issues and normalize their lives.

It’s an incredible phenomenon and the book gives a great introduction to it. The translation is good and it’s well worth a read for anyone who is interested in the manifestations of dropping out in different cultures.


Balancing on the Blue

Balancing on the Blue : Thru-hiking the Appalachian Trail (2015) by Keith Foskett is the story of Foskett’s tale of doing one of the great American trails. The Appalachian Trail (AT) is amazing trail from Georgia to Maine along the Appalachians.

Foskett had already done the Pacific Crest Trail (PCT) so the AT was arguably a bit easier for him. He’d also already written books about hiking the Camino and the PCT so he’s also more experienced author.

If you like reading these sorts of memoirs this book is definitely worth a read. If you haven’t tried any of them it’s still possibly a good read. It certainly gives some of the feeling of what a long distance hike must be like. Foskett writes good portraits of his fellow hikers and also provides quite a bit of detail about the trail itself and the hardships he had to endure.