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Preview: Happy Antipodean

Happy Antipodean

A blog by Matthew da Silva since 2006

Updated: 2018-04-26T19:37:06.477+10:00


What we should celebrate on Anzac Day


Watching the program on Monash hosted by journalist Peter Greste last night reminded me that there are things that can be celebrated when we think of war. War itself is terrible and should be avoided at all costs, but there is no escaping the fact that it has played a role in our country’s history. The stories surrounding Monash are salutary. Greste, whose family also has German roots, was a

Book review: A Revolution of Feeling, Rachel Hewitt (2017)


This ambitious study subtitled ‘the decade that forged the modern mind’ deals with the 1790s in the United Kingdom and brings together a number of related strands that readers of more conventional histories or biographies might already have met with in their travels, including the debates centring around the French Revolution and the emergence of the Romantic poets. Located at the very

Homeless man, Cross City Tunnel exit


Today on my way to lunch in Darlinghurst I saw a tent set up in the concrete space next to the ramp leaving the Western Distributor where the Cross City Tunnel exits underground in an easterly direction. The eastbound exit to Bathurst Street and Harbour Street is located here as well. The homeless man in this picture is the one wearing the hoodie, I think. Soon after taking this photo I saw the

It’s easier to do democracy than to do literature


Miles Franklin is to Australian letters what Washington Irving is to American letters: a competent practitioner with more than a little talent who nevertheless failed to set the world on fire. In America, the fire was first lit and nurtured by Edgar Allen Poe in the 1830s. In Australia, it wasn’t until about 1940 when Patrick White started to publish the novels that would lead to his winning the

Book review: The Condition of Postmodernity, David Harvey (1989)


This book suffers from so many deficits that it’s hard to know where to start. Initially positing the beginning of modernity in the era of Charles Baudelaire, the French poet, the book then twangs back optimistically to the Enlightenment in the 18th century and talks about “reason” with the same credulity that Steven Pinker does in his ‘Enlightenment Now’, a book I reviewed in March. This book

A celebration of the most determined philistinism


At first blush, the BBC’s ‘Cunk on Britain’, a spoof of mainstream TV history programs featuring Philomena Cunk as host, seems to make gentle fun of British exceptionalism but deep down it celebrates the philistinism that Cunk embodies. I felt like screaming when she sat down, in the professionally-sculpted surrounds that are used to make the program, with one historian or another and asked

Jane Austen and the invention of the modern novel


This blogpost draws on an earlier blogpost from 12 September 2015 on this blog and expands it in the light of recent conversations with friends. I apologise for the undergraduate language used in this piece, but I have forgotten most of the literary theory I read for my first university degree. When I first read Jane Austen, back in 2002, her novels quickly came to represent for me a point of

Periodisation and reform


Someone put up on Facebook the other day an article about our habit of periodisation: giving names to different generations of people coming through in society. So we might talk about Baby Boomers or Millennials with the same familiarity as we talk about the music of the 1970s or of the 1990s. We do it with ease and facility. It’s almost second nature in fact. And so some people are asking

Book review: In Search of Mary Shelley, Fiona Sampson (2018)


This flawed biography attempts to describe the talent that led to the appearance in 1818, 200 years ago this year, of ‘Frankenstein’, a novel that has entered popular consciousness through many different vehicles, most notably through the cinema. The novel’s author was a young woman with an august pedigree and her childhood is trawled by this biographer for intimations of existential disquiet

We need to study Western civilisation again


This month on the news we heard that a number of African athletes in Queensland come to compete in the Commonwealth Games had gone missing, presumably with an intent to seek asylum here. In Australia, the word “refugee” is a term as politically loaded as it is in Europe, where tens of thousands of people embark on the risky business of crossing the Mediterranean Sea from Africa in frail boats

Human head graffito, Market Street, Sydney


This graffito has been on this place sign at the entrance to the pedestrian bridge leading to Darling Harbour for some weeks. The tall, red street sign has big, white letters placed vertically down the length of it. It is in a very heavily-trafficked area, with people walking past this point to and from the city across Darling Harbour on the Pyrmont Bridge, which leads to Glebe and other

Demolition of brutalist building on Martin Place


This photo was taken today on Castlereagh Street. It shows a mechanised jackhammer demolishing the building at 39 Martin Place, a building that I wrote about on the blog in December. This elegant brutalist pile will be replaced with something that gives easy access to the train station underneath. When the building was being planned, in 1969, the Eastern Suburbs Railway was still being designed,

If you wouldn’t say it to someone’s face, don’t say it online


The tone of debate in the public sphere in Australia took a dive when Leigh Sales, the ABC 7.30 program presenter, tweeted a comment that she had seen on Twitter aimed at her, following an interview she conducted on her program with the Opposition leader, Bill Shorten. Ed Hunter (@EdwardJWHunter) had tweeted in reply to someone else online: Absolutely, Any interviewer is supposed to be

Book review: The People Vs Democracy, Yascha Mounk (2018)


At first glance the thesis of this German-educated Harvard academic appears fruitful. Mounk says that there are several engines of change that are affecting the texture of democracy, making it less pluralistic even in countries where liberal democracy had seemed to have achieved undoubted supremacy. He links this to globalisation and the neoliberal consensus that has animated democracies in

We have internalised the partisan habits of the elites


On the ABC’s 7.30 program this week former PM John Howard was interviewed and he made a comment about the troubles that political parties are having these days keeping leaders in place for any length of time. Naturally, he is concerned about rumours that Tony Abbott will try to destabilise Malcolm Turnbull, and he regretted the Liberal Party’s poor showing in the polls. He added that the next

Monash would have promoted renewables


There has been recent discussion about a “ginger group” of politicians who label themselves the Monash Forum asking the government to invest in a coal fired power station or two. Members of the group include Tony Abbott, Barnaby Joyce, Eric Abetz and Kevin Andrews. In other words, the more conservative members of the Liberal Party. I tried to find an etymological definition of the term “ginger

The songs might endure but the singer has gone away


Before Easter one morning I noticed that the original café that operated in the square where the light rail station is, had not opened. I thought it strange because the man who operated the café was very vocal. At any hour of the day, from early in the morning until the late afternoon, when he would normally close his café, he could be heard singing along to songs that played on the stereo that

What I have been doing this week


This past week was spent writing stories for a US-based non-profit, the Urban Land Institute. This is the third time they have asked me to cover an event in Sydney. The first time was in November, when I went to a forum for young leaders they organised. Then in December they had another event which I attended but the sound quality wasn’t good enough to do a transcript, so that gig fell through.

Moschino takes a leaf out of Jeff Koons’ book


These posters I saw on the railway viaduct over Wentworth Park in Pyrmont. There were other posters of the same type in Newtown on the railway bridge over Enmore Road. They show a new brand of scent for men, but the marketing people are here advertising consumer products using tropes made popular in the art world, first by the pop artists of the 1960s, then by Jeff Koons starting in the 1980s.

AJ English foists a lame “gotcha” moment on the world


A video produced by Zab Mustafa and presented on-camera by Tabish Talib appeared on the social graph yesterday and was gaining some support of people opposed to Australia’s offshore detention policy. This is a very emotive subject and people take extreme views without much concern about the truth of the information they deploy to support their positions. This dishonest video provides the media

Book review: The Man Who Spoke Snakish, Andrus Kivirahk (2015)


This is a strange book, part comic masterpiece and part fantasy novel, that explores the roots of nationalistic exceptionalism and the forces that power it in society. The book turns on the life of a forest-dweller named Leemet whose uncle Voortele teaches to speak the language of snakes, which is s skill passed on to most forest-dwellers. At the time the novel opens most of the people living

Book review: Saudade, Suneeta Peres da Costa (2018)


Although unfortunately marred by some proofing errors, this is a lovely little novel about an Indian girl brought up in Angola during the colonial period. With a richness of insight and recall that belong to someone beyond her years we are introduced at the beginning of the book to the circumscribed world of a girl aged about three or four, and in successive chapters accompany her through life

Book review: Russian Roulette, Michael Isikoff and David Corn (2018)


Donald Trump doesn’t care what someone like me thinks of him. He communicates directly with a narrow base of support in the electorate that is shrinking but he ignores what people on the progressive side of politics say, except to rubbish any claims of skulduggery they might make. This book will be treated in the same way. The books looks in detail at the Russian hack of the Democratic

Is the 21st century a promising age for autocrats?


Last year we had the 19th party congress rubber-stamping decisions already made about China’s leadership behind closed doors, and this year we have Putin’s “reelection” in a rigged popularity contest where the only viable contender was forbidden by corrupt justices from running. There were staged elections in Egypt. Cambodia’s Hun Sen, in power for the past 40 years, visited Sydney for an ASEAN

Twitter is becoming more like the world


Facebook might be more in the news lately because of its links to big data firm Cambridge Analytica but Twitter is still chugging along nicely. Yet it is true that it is changing in important ways. In a story at The Verge dated 14 March published to coincide with the annual SXSW conference in Texas, Ev Williams, the founder of both Blogger and Twitter, said: “Fifteen years ago, when we were