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Preview: Happy Antipodean

Happy Antipodean

A blog by Matthew da Silva since 2006

Updated: 2018-01-18T23:12:47.716+11:00


Brutalism fourteen: Labor Council of New South Wales


This is the 14th in a series of blogposts about brutalist buildings in Sydney. The building is still used for union offices as well as being the headquarters for the NSW branch of the ALP. In Australian politics “Sussex Street” is a highly loaded term, being as it is where the NSW headquarters of the Australian Labor Party is located. It stands for a certain type of institutionalised power that

TV show stirs up hornet’s nest of feelings in the community


It had been going for some days but I decided to chronicle the story this morning. At 8.58am this morning, Jo White (@mediamum who has a PhD in human computer interaction from the University of Colorado, Boulder) tweeted: “This is the most disturbing thing I've seen today. Right wing ‘activists’ meeting and then promising to use social media to get other people (not police) to respond to ‘

Book review: Lost Connections, Johann Hari (2018)


This book claims novelty for its raison d’etre, and is optimistically subtitled ‘Uncovering the real causes of depression – and the unexpected solutions’ but sometimes the journalist’s technique falls down. Hari himself was diagnosed with depression when he was younger, so he approaches his subject from a position of knowledge born of experience. He’ll be talking about a scientific study that

A brief springtime of militant unionism that put a brake on unbridled development


In December I reviewed the book Meredith Burgmann wrote with her sister Verity, ‘Green Bans Red Union,’ about the activities of the NSW Builders Labourers Federation in the late-60s and early-70s. The book had come out in a second edition in 2017. But I had some questions arising from my reading of it, so I organised to interview the author, who kindly invited me to her home. This interview also

Brutalism thirteen: Former Qantas International building


This is the 13th in a series of blogposts on brutalist architecture in Sydney. This building is now referred to as Suncorp Place and is owned by Memocorp, the company that owns the brutalist building at 1 Oxford Street, which I wrote about last year. There are two development application (DA) files for the address 259 George Street in the city archives. One is for a 15-storey building planned

Book review: Grand Hotel Abyss, Stuart Jeffries (2016)


This is an ambitious book and its failure is more a problem of style than anything else. The subject matter itself is intrinsically interesting. Most people at some point in their lives will have come across the names of Theodore Adorno and Walter Benjamin. They might even have heard of the Frankfurt School in the context of discussions of Marxist theory, or at least in terms of the

Book review: Lincoln in the Bardo, George Saunders (2017)


I read about 20 pages before abandoning this disappointing work that stalked along determinedly like a wet cat come in the front door with a dead bird in its mouth, eager for praise. Much of the first little bit of the book is made up of quotes taken from other works published in the 19th century talking about Lincoln’s presidency. One night of it, in particular. By quoting from such

Book review: South and West, Joan Didion (2017)


The foreword of this slim volume – which unhappily takes a mere couple of hours to read – is effusive in its praise of the elderly writer. It’s by young American novelist Nathaniel Rich and it’s hyperbolic. Didion’s notes, “which surpass in elegance and clarity the finished prose of most other writers, are a fascinating record of this time.” There’s plenty of it, too. According to Rich, “the

King tides due to “super moon” in early January


The photo at the end of this blogpost was taken on Thursday 4 January in Darling Harbour as I was walking out to get some lunch. The photo shows the water coming over the pedestrian platform at Convention Wharf, which is operated by the Sydney Harbour Foreshore Authority, a state government agency. The king tide on that day was observed at points around Sydney, including at Farm Cove, also on

Book review: Affluence Without Abundance, James Suzman (2017)


Because this book is subtitled ‘The disappearing world of the Bushmen’, it ends with a portrait of the poverty and disadvantage that Khoisan-speaking San people living in remote Namibian communities in southwestern Africa experience. The book chronicles the history, lives and problems faced by the Ju/’hoansi people of the former German colony. Suzman has lived with the Ju/’hoansi people and

Movie review: Star Wars: The Last Jedi, dir Rian Johnson (2017)


Since its beginning as the brain-child of an independent filmmaker, George Lucas, Star Wars has been bought by giant entertainment company Disney (for $4.06 billion in 2012) so audiences are guaranteed new films in the franchise on a regular basis. The irony of a major US corporation cranking out new episodes to profit from the story of an intrepid band of inspired rebels combating the forces

Experiencing dream remnants


If you wake up in the morning and get out of bed at the usual time, but then get back into bed in the afternoon to take a nap half-way through the day, scraps from the residues of the previous night’s dream return to your waking mind. It’s just shards and threads of the whole of that imaginary conflict, those scenes that came in the hours or minutes before you woke, in that state of sleep that

Protests evince discontent with Iran’s political settlement


As at early in the morning of 4 January, reports were that there had been 22 deaths resulting from the protests. Twitter had also said that there had been over 400 arrests by police in the country. But compared to the actual importance – both internationally and locally – of the protests in Iran, verifiable facts have been remarkably thin on the ground. From TV broadcasts it seems clear that

Photos of mum with fire hydrants


The other day when I was going through a bag of old photos that usually sits in the spare room in my apartment where my library is, I came across one of those envelopes that photo development shops used to put photos they produced into before giving them to paying customers. Not the flimsy wallets with a flap that the photos and the negatives themselves went into, but the envelopes that the

The 1997 surrender of British sovereignty over Hong Kong


When I thought about writing a blogpost about the British handover of sovereignty over Hong Kong to Communist China, which happened on 1 July 1997, I went to my archives to find the photos that I had taken on that day in Shanghai. At the time I was working in the English-language PR unit of a Japanese manufacturing company, so going overseas on business meant chronicling technology

Movie review: Youth (Fang hua), dir Feng Xiaogang (2017)


To be honest, this piece of what appeared to me to be subtitled Party propaganda, is mawkish. It made a woman seated two seats along from me collapse in uncontrollable sobs at a number of points during the screening. If nothing else it’s a real tear-jerker. The film relies heavily on nationalistic tropes to fashion some sort of saddle for shared feeling to ride on the back of ostensibly

Making friends with the new kid on the block


On 19 December a story appeared on the Psychology Today website and on 27 December a link to it arrived in my Twitter feed. It talked about experiments with mice. They studied mice that were either housed together or isolated and tracked their reactions when they were introduced to a new mouse. Mice isolated until that point showed remarkably high activity in that brain region which motivated

Brutalism twelve: Former Prudential Assurance building, Martin Place


This is the twelfth in a series of blogposts about brutalist buildings in Sydney. The building, at 39 Martin Place, is slated to be torn down to make way for a new building to go above a new railway station on the state government’s planned Sydney Metro line. The development application (DA) was received by the city council on 8 November 1965. There were two existing buildings at the site. They

A jacket of the Boxer Rebellion


Earlier this month I wrote about our 1885 colonial participation in the British suppression of the Mahdi Rebellion in the Sudan. That turned out to be the first time Australians were deployed overseas in a war. The following blogpost stems from material gathered on the same visit to the Australian War Memorial (AWM). This time, I’m looking at the first Asian deployment of Australian military

Sandstone from a building site, for building sites


These photos were taken recently as I was walking past the construction site where they are building new townhouses in Pyrmont. Behind the truck in the top photo you can see the old, stone terrace house that is still standing from when it was built in the 19th century. Most of Sydney’s stone buildings are made from Pyrmont sandstone. The truck you see in the photo is an ex-Army truck now

A secularist manifesto


I was talking with my brother about a spiritual side for secularism but he objected saying that the difference between those who believe in God and the rest of us is that only one of these categories of people gives credence to an ephemeral and completely disembodied force in the universe. According to him, secularists must also be materialists, people who lay the blame for and identify the

Seeing the yachties get ready for the big race


As children, my brother and I would drive down with dad in his car to the Cruising Yacht Club of Australia every Christmas Day before lunch. It has long been a tradition starting on Boxing Day to run the Sydney-to-Hobart Yacht Race and on that day our family had our own tradition of having a big lunch with family and friends. But we would kick things off the day before, after the heady combined

Fill the tubes with hours of flimflam


This post samples stories on TV (the “tubes”) and online (the “intertubes”) over the week leading up to Christmas, from Tuesday, 19 December to Saturday, 23 December inclusive. It’s uncontroversial to say that in the holiday season to flag the annual end of routine the media turns to a catalogue of tried-and-true tropes, such as “best of year”, “last of year” and “what to look out for next year

'Yes to equality' sticker, Bay Street, Ultimo


On Thursday I saw this sticker on a post box in Bay Street, near Broadway, outside the shopping centre. There had been the word ‘Yes’ scrawled on the pavement there during the marriage-equality postal survey the federal government held in September, October and November, in the characteristic script used by Arthur Stace to write the word ‘Eternity’ on Sydney pavements and buildings in the 30s

The man with the jacket that spoke


I took this picture in the shopping centre when I went down there yesterday to get some lunch. I tried to understand what it said when I got home, and wrote down the words on it here: Who are U worshipping. Nothing (1) God!!! AD 15th – 17th century The spirit of truth Error: will worshipping The spirit of the Lord God is upon me to warn Oz, Acts 17:26 & 7 Jer:18 … 2013 A.D Aust proclaimed