Archive | August 2006

New book rag

So, I’m a little slow in mentioning this, I saw it last week in Crikey and had meant to post about it but I forgot.

D.D. McNicoll announces, under the rather modest headline “Literary review a new chronicle of our age” that the Australian is to launch a new literary supplement.

Mitchell said the ALR would not only feature new, unpublished fiction, poetry and literary criticism but also cover issues of wider social impact such as philosophical debate, climate change, international conflict, innovation, education and health
As well as essays on some of the major cultural forces shaping the nation, we will provide a showcase for both established and emerging Australian writers whose distinctive voice and original thinking warrants a wider audience,”

I was a little surprised to see such a development. What I am not surprised about is the fact that it is a supplement as oposed to a fully-fledged magazine or journal. One can not imagine such a venture being risked by those at the Oz. I look forward to the first edition.

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Starving students

Just overhead on campus:

Student 1: I’ve made $110 already!
Student 2: Oh, so you bought in?
Student 1: Yep, Rio Tinto.

The idea of a university

BBC Radio 4 is running a series called ‘The idea of a university‘ which can be listened to via the web. It is based on UK unis but still might be of interest to some.

Martha Kearney looks at how our universities have been transformed by six decades of expansion. Has our idea of what a university is for changed?

Cross-posted on Templatedata.
Via Information Literacy.

I don’t know why I subject myself to this stuff

I don’t know why I read Miranda Devine but I do. The masochist in me? I don’t know. She sets the bar high but every week she seems to top herself. This week’s Sun Herald column is, well, out there. Miranda, I do think you may have outdone yourself.

Headlined “Nuclear families under attack from court of public opinion” the column discussed the weirdo who has copped to the killing of Jon Benet Ramsey. I’m not even going to go into the shit that surrounds that particular freak show but Miranda takes it as an opportunity to point out that the initial and continued suspicion of Ramsey’s parents as the perpetrators was down to some conspiracy to discount and discredit ‘nuclear families’.

But there may have been something else in the glee with which the Ramseys were judged guilty in the court of public opinion.

There is a readiness, which has emerged in recent decades, to believe the worst of a seemingly model nuclear family, a desire to ferret out dark secrets. It is part of a move to undermine the concept of the nuclear family as the basis of social stability, and to strip it of its relative superiority as a vehicle for bringing up children and keeping them safe.

Yep, that well-known progressive nation, the US, used the court of public opinion to go after the Ramseys not because of the fact that they dressed up, exhibited and as Miranda herself says,

unwitting though it probably was,

sexualised their child. No, they were hung out to dry due to some broad-based consipiracy against the nuclear family.

As my sister would say: Miranda, you are IN the bell jar.

5 questions

John Baker has kept his blog going while on holidays by having other lit/book/writing bloggers answer five questions. There are 40 so far in the series. (And yes, mine went up yesterday).

Wot? No new posts?

That’s because I have been writing at Sarsaparilla and Larvatus Prodeo this week. Will be back with you shortly.

Coming over all Mexican

This weekend, quite exceptionally for me, I left Sydney and spent some time in Melbourne. I’ve been guilty of some Melbourne-bashing in the past and to be honest, I have often found it difficult to see its charms. I have to hold my hand up now and say I have been converted. Perhaps, just perhaps, I may have even been taken right over to the Melbourne-shits-all-over-Sydney side. Yes, the dark side.

Although I grew up in the country I have been in Sydney for almost 15 years so it’s been a long time since I’ve lived anywhere else. I have never lived in another city and have not travelled widely. Pathetic, I know.

I always felt Sydney just had too much going for it in terms of physical beauty, diversity, population size and sheer bloody gall for me to start casting come-hither looks the way of Melbourne.

And then I found myself spending a lazy Sunday afternoon in a pub in St Kilda, after having been on and off trams for the past two days, darting hither and tither around Melbourne’s surprisingly grid-like streets.

Unlike the pure organisation of Canberra, there is a certain looseness to the Melbourne’s streets that allow the city to hold some charm without the rat-hole feeling Sydney can give. Canberra’s anally organised grids and perfect circles emanating from their venerated centre lead to confusion and a sense of panic as landmarks for visitors are passed on any number of roads several metres apart.

As I sat in the pub and watched people walk past I definitely knew I wasn’t in Bondi, or Coogee, or any other Sydney beachside suburb. (Ok, so I’ve always scoffed at the fact that St Kilda is called a ‘beach’ but I will explain my ability to put this sort of thing aside later). And I liked it.

I was accompanied by someone who had lived in Melbourne before and my companion did their best to talk up Melbourne at every opportunity. At first I was resistant but slowly my defences were worn down.

The main point of my companion’s argument was that Sydney was always trying to compete on a global scale and that Melbourne just did its thing. Sydney is always wondering what others think of her. She dresses in the latest fashions, even when they don’t suit her. She has rare innate beauty but isn’t sure about how to feel comfortable in it. She uses it as she thinks others feel she should. She wants to make a big impact now, stuff how she feels tomorrow. Conversely, Melbourne dresses herself up for her own enjoyment. She doesn’t give a toss what other people think. She knows how to have fun but won’t be told how to do it. In essence: Melbourne is for the people, Sydney is for show.

A very basic example is the public transport systems. Why Sydney ever thought it would be a good idea to get rid of trams is beyond me. As a Sydney-sider I am always in awe at the ability of trams, cars and pedestrians to share the same space. The rules seem to be less rigid than in NSW, (who allows people to stand in the middle of four lanes of traffic to catch a tram? It’s bloody dangerous!), but it works.

Which, I guess, is like a lot of things in Melbourne. Our public transport is very much separate from our traffic. Car drivers and buses fight a daily battle to gain supremacy. You’re either a driver or a public transport person. In Melbourne you just go with whatever is easier and the public transport system, in both convenience and price, makes it easier to go without a car (hell, I even saw Barry Jones on a tram). In Melbourne it seems, to the outsider, transport all works seamlessly. In Sydney we have rules, we have inconvenience, we have the privilege of driving and we have inadequately planned and expensive public transport.

Victorians deign to allow alcohol to be sold in cafes and in even convenience stores. We in NSW are being saved from ourselves with licensing laws that treat us like children. There seems to be a level of trust between the law, the government and the people. Like their seemingly laissez-faire attitude to road safety, their attitude towards the idea of community is far less bound by laura norder and much more faith in the desire and ability for people to just get along.

Of course, I may be overstating things, I may be just blinded by a trouble-free weekend as a tourist with nothing to do but follow one’s whims. There is though an undeniable difference in the two cities that has less to do with sheer beauty and more to do with an idea of people and society. In Sydney we’re always being saved from ourselves, we are taught to ‘keep things for good’, for when the cosmopolitan relatives come to visit. Melbourne just gets on with living their own lives in a way that makes them happy. Hence Sydney seems more akin to the searingly beautiful but grasping and unconfident one, Melbourne the ‘cool’ and confident one who does her own thing and plays to her strengths. In the end, the one who doesn’t give a toss is always the most attractive to the outsider.