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Cricket's assault on Australian racism

26 March 2015 | Brian Matthews

Frank WorrellDuring the West Indies 1960-61 tour of Australia, Frank Worrell and his predominantly black team transfixed Australians from coast to coast and, without any missionary intent, struck a resounding blow at the White Australia Policy, which was still in place. This jubilant, exciting story prompts questions about today's masses, who enthusiastically support harsh, and arguably racist, treatment of asylum seekers.

Inside the head of an IS martyr

19 March 2015 | Ellena Savage

Jake BilardiThe language of martyrdom is being used to recruit young Australians to brutal stateless warfare. Because martyrs are morally superior to suburban burnouts. IS propagandist Abu Ismail described Melburnian Jake Bilardi as 'a lion on the battlefield although he was at a young age and with a weak body'. So, Bilardi was a weak young lion and therefore ripe for battle. How obscene!

Negotiating climate deniers and plovers

26 February 2015 | Brian Matthews

PloverCall me paranoid if you like, but as I walked away, affecting a nonchalant strolling gait, I knew, I just knew, that she was a climate change denier and was daring me to argue the point. Had I hesitated one more moment, I would have been regaled with statistics about the mild coastal summer and other utterly benign climatological phenomena.

Ciggie butt brains indict Aussie middle class elitism

19 February 2015 | Ellena Savage

Damo and Darren in Train StationWhen Damo and Darren's 'Train Station' — Michael Cusack's animation of an obscene 'part derro, part yobbo, part bogan' duo fighting over a lighter — was published on YouTube, it clocked 2 million views in its first month, and made people very happy. I showed it to a friend who had grown up in England's north under Margaret Thatcher. He was not amused. 'Why are Australians laughing at poor people?' he asked.

Pop up shop of poetic pollie horrors

29 January 2015 | Brian Matthews

Joe Hockey smokes cigarWe all have these abruptly resurfacing images and references that pop up unannounced. For example, Treasurer Joe Hockey’s musings on the poor, who don’t drive very far – ‘O scathful harme, condition of povertie’ (Chaucer). And the rich, who are ‘lifters’. I was invaded mentally by Yeats’s ‘Surely among a rich man's flowering lawns.’ Without pain and with cigars and smirks of self-congratulation. 

US health care a sick joke that’s coming to Australia

22 January 2015 | Ellena Savage

Michael Moore 'Sicko' film posterAmerica's iniquitous health care system is often portrayed with dark humour in popular culture such as the 2007 Michael Moore film Sicko. Our own Federal Government has been putting constant pressure on our system of universal health care as it pursues a course of action that presents class warfare as fiscal responsibility. It raises questions about the vested interests behind dismantling health care protections for poor people. 


How Phillip Hughes' death moved the nation

04 December 2014 | Brian Matthews

Mourning Michael Clarke on cover of The AdvertiserGreg Chappell has already made the comparison with the response to Princess Diana's death, but it goes back further than that, to John Donne, for example, in 1624: 'No man is an island entire of itself; every man is a piece of the continent, a part of the main'. Death haunts the newspapers and the airwaves. Just? Not at all. Every now and then, we cower and weep before Death's undiscriminating might.

Shock of the new bourgeois reality

27 November 2014 | Ellena Savage

San Francisco bourgeois houseThe need for artists to exist inside an economy regulated by middle class tastes and preferences restricts the possibilities for their work. But when our present is rocked by the incredible injustices we are watching unravel in Ferguson, artists are called upon to drop their aspirations for class mobility that is tethered to the material, and instead draw light on the immaterial, Emerson's 'secret'. 

David Cameron's shirtfronting impotence

06 November 2014 | Brian Matthews

David CameronSome aspects of the English/Scottish independence referendum confrontation rang interesting bells for Australia. But British PM David Cameron has had to tread cautiously on foreign policy to avoid adding grist to the 'Yes' campaign's mill. Not so Tony Abbott, for whom strutting the world stage works a treat to lift the pall of governmental confusion and unpopularity.

Looking for depth in the selfie

30 October 2014 | Ellena Savage

Young woman taking selfieI take a lot of selfies. Some of them are silly, coquettish, dramatic. Others are just my face looking into my computer, sitting where I work, dressed in work clothes. They mean more or less nothing. They’re just an inane collection of data on my laptop, or too easy self-portraits. Nothing means nothing, but it says something about the culture. 

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