Irving Kristol, who died last week, was probably one of the most influential political figures of the twentieth century. He was one of the Encounter group who during the cold war covertly channeled CIA money into a range of anti-communist cultural front organisations (the story is best told in Frances Stonor-Saunders’ Who paid the piper?). And he famously founded neoconservatism. It was he who, along with figures such as Paul Weyrich, helped reinvent conservatism as a highly organised radical political force, and helped turn the US Republican Party into the political war machine it became in the 1980s. Read the rest of this entry »
On holidays down at the beach (and blogging on the iPhone – pathetic ain’t it?), so as per the usual custom I bought the hard copy versions of the papers. Now, as locals will know we really only have two media proprietors here in Oz: The Australian, Murdoch-owned bell-wether of the loony right, but still a better paper than the directionless, mostly limp Fairfax offerings, like The Age. Hard not not to spot the difference beween the two, though. ‘Troop surge vital for Afghan win’ is the front page screamer on the Oz; ‘Afghan failure looms’ sez The Age. Actually the story is pretty much the same: without troops defeat looms. Moral of the story? Old hawks never say die.
The acclaimed US series The Wire has a cult life of its own among the Oz intelligentsia. The other week a senior publishing figure boasted to me that he’d ordered the final series through Amazon. I heard of another publisher who watched the whole lot from an exercise bike. Publisher and partner are now reduced to watching the ‘bonus features’ on their DVDs out of desperation. An academic colleague told me he recently used a week of his holidays to spend every day watching it again. And I must say that, as a latecomer just getting into series two, I’m loving it. Another publisher, Henry Rosenbloom, has a post here (you may need to scroll down) that sums up most of what I like about it. Moral ambiguity. No easy winners. Grittiness. And, most of all, an unvarnished, unblinking take on what has happened to democratic institutions and the role of money, corruption and careerism in the context of a portrait of the modern city. And how we scrape together vestiges of honour, courage and fraternity amidst all this.
For the uninitiated and nostalgic veterans alike, here’s the season 1 recap:
Over the past year the Australian book trade has been dominated by debate over the prospect of the unrestricted parallel importation of books. The background is that in 2008 the Rudd government called a Productivity Commission enquiry into current copyright provisions. The subsequent report found that the 30 day rule, by which Australian publishers can maintain exclusive rights over an imported title if they publish a local edition within thirty days of overseas publication, be dropped.
The advantage of this, according to the Productivity Commission and a coalition of large book retailers lead by Dymocks, is that it would open the market to competition and the price of books will fall. This, to put it bluntly, is a nonsense. Read the rest of this entry »
It’s time for a confession. I grew up in the 80s. Many of my impressionable, formative years, through my teens and into my twenties, were therefore spent in the wonderful grimy pubs of this here city seeing bands or playing in them. The Beasts of Bourbon, Died Pretty, The Birthday Party, The Sacred Cowboys, News, The Johnnies, the Cosmic Psychos, The Triffids, The New Christs, Blue Ruin and many, many more; I got smashed to them all.
But a great regret is that when I finally put the vinyl in the garage I lost most of the musical archive, especially some very special rarities. My copy of The Scientists’ ‘Swampland’, for example, with the immortal chorus:
In my heart there’s a place called swampland
Nine parts water, one part sand
So it was with total unmitigated glee that the other day I came across a mail-order site, run by none other than muso legend John Needham himself, that sells all this stuff. A hundred bucks later I’m now the proud owner of a whole lot of stuff I thought I’d never hear again. I even found a compilation with The Moffs’ ‘Another Day in the Sun’ on it. Oooh yeah.
And here, for the edification of those who were there and those who weren’t, is Died Pretty’s ‘Everybody Moves’:
One of the nicest things about being a teacher is when your students go out and do stuff. Like start mags and journals. It’s happened to me twice so far. One of my students, Alice Gage, went out and started a wonderful art and culture journal called Ampersand. And the other time was when another student, Julia Carlomagno, joined up with some others to found the literary quarterly Harvest. Harvest is up to edition 3 now and my copy of it just arrived in the mail. Unashamedly literary, it’s one of the most beautiful-looking journals out there. At a glance, my quote of the issue so far would have to be Grey Foyster from his thoughtful essay ‘A new generation of readers’:
In the battle for youth attention, World of Warcraft has vanquished War and Peace.
The local literary critic Peter Craven has always been notable for his somewhat clumsy attempts to police the boundaries of Australian literature. Well, it seems he’s at it again. More here at James Bradley’s literary blog City of Tongues.