Tag Archives: writing



Etymology online gives a description for the verb “The etymology of Gawk” as follows:

“stare stupidly,” 1785, American English, of uncertain origin. Perhaps [Watkins] from gaw, a survival from Middle English gowen “to stare” (c. 1200), from a Scandinavian source akin to Old Norse ga “to heed,” from Proto-Germanic *gawon, from PIE *ghow-e- “to honor, revere, worship” (see favor (n.)); and altered perhaps by gawk hand (see gawky). Liberman finds this untenable and writes that its history is entangled with that of gowk “cuckoo,” which is from Scandinavian, but it need not be from that word, either. Nor is French gauche (itself probably from Germanic) considered a likely source. “It is possibly another independent imitative formation with the structure g-k” (compare geek). From 1867 as a noun. Related: Gawked; gawking.

I wonder what people might have gawked at in the late 18th century for the term to have come into usage. It might have been public punishments, such as with the public burning of Hugh Latimer in Oxford in 1555. Public violence against criminals and subversives is a topic that Michel Foucault attended to in the chapter “Spectacle of the Scaffold”. Alternatively, one could think of the magicians, fortune tellers and snake charmers in historic squares such as in Jemaa el-Fnaa. Much like contemporary tourists gawking at astronomical clocks in Prague (photo).

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“Narrative & Proof”: A Mathematician’s Perspective


Recently, I stumbled upon a Guardian article by mathematician and BBC presenter Marcus du Sautoy. I’d missed it when it was originally published in January as I was travelling then. If you are not familiar with Marcus’ work you can access his podcast “A Brief History of Mathematics” (10 episodes) and watch clips of his BBC Four programme “The Story of Maths” (currently not available on iplayer).

Sautoy’s  works remind me of another mathematician Ian Stewart of the ilk who write for the general audience. Stewart’s book entitled “Why Beauty Is Truth: The History of Symmetry” is a real delight to read. I also realised how little I originally understood mathematics when I first read Stewart’s “The Problems of Mathematics”.

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Reflections From Beijing

My recent visit to Beijing brought to mind a number of themes relating to international legal theory/history. Themes that I’ve not, at least since I’d started my doctoral project, had the opportunity to read and reflect upon. Themes such as Cháogòng tǐzhì (‘Tribute system’) and Sinocentrism. These themes are arguably defunct as appropriate descriptions of international order or international ideology these days, but, I think those themes continue to serve as useful prisms through which to understand some aspects of contemporary Chinese diplomacy.

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The ‘beauty’ of the Internet and its images

beauty internet

Modified use of photo under creative commons – see following link for more of the artists’ work: https://www.flickr.com/photos/marcosdemadariaga/16299653009/


There are two things the Internet does really well.

1. Reproduce the world onto a digital screen. (Or a hodgepodge of simulacra)

2. Reproduce us onto a digital screen. (Or a mirror of feelings subject to the screen image)

Their effects are both powerful – only needs ‘one occurrence’ to make long term and perhaps life-long memory. As well as intoxicating – engendering a need for ‘frequent occurrence’.

Should we be concerned with reproducing these kind of images and our consumption of them? Are there problems with this sort of lifestyle and such intensive media immersion? If so, exactly how would we address and define these ‘problems’? Continue reading