The end of the Cold War and the collapse of the Soviet Bloc had opened up whole swathes of Eastern Europe to the benefits of the European Union; the possibilities for expansion, both for the EU and for NATO, were endless. The sober light of EU economic and social management was shone across the old Iron Curtain and into the obscure corners of the Slavic zone. Or so many thought.
Capital flows freely across the globe, picking the cheapest labour force it can; workers of different countries are pitted against each other in a race to the bottom on wages, working conditions and rates of tax on the operation of companies. It seems a quixotic venture to attempt to establish socialism — or even social democracy — in one country, when the benefits accruing to its citizens can be wiped out by currency devaluation, disinvestment and an exodus of industry to a country with lower (or to use the euphemism preferred by politicians, more ’competitive’) labour costs and tax.
Holding the Man is a tough narrative to summarise in a tweet, or on deadline for a six-hundred-word stock-format review. Certain themes predominate in critical and audience responses to the play and the film: the idea of a ‘faithful’ adaptation of the book, that is ‘really’, ‘above all’, or ‘fundamentally’ a ‘love story’ and ‘for all of us’. The remarkable consistency of these responses displays a degree of compulsory affect – the emotion you’re socially obligated to perform, like when you get a new job and you’re ‘daunted’ but also ‘excited’ and ‘determined’, even though your felt emotions may be more complex, ambivalent and unresolved than that.
It’s easy to become despondent about the ‘worst humanitarian crisis of our time’. You become numb to the brutality, to the various daily atrocities, to the enormous figures dead, internally displaced or made into refugees. And that’s just in Syria. In Yemen, Iraq, Sudan and Afghanistan, the trauma of millions continues, unrelenting, day in and day out. It often feels like some kind of Kafkaesque dream: our own government seemingly gleeful in constructing and reinforcing a twisted narrative of ‘death cults’ and ‘unlawful entry, championing the use of hard power as a way to bring peace and stability to countries in turmoil.
During a visit to Wellington by John Howard in 2003, two antiwar protesters – teacher Paul Hopkinson and Overland’s own Dougal McNeill – burned a New Zealand and an Australian flag in protest. The case ended up in court as it was a crime at the time to destroy or damage the New Zealand flag ‘with the intention of dishonouring it’, and Hopkinson was sentenced to pay a fine of more than $700. The conviction was overturned a year later in the High Court, leading subsequent flag-burners to being charged with disorderly conduct instead of the more contentious crime of desecration.
Arts Queensland’s XYZ Prize for Innovation in Spoken Word is Australia’s first arts award that recognises the growing field of spoken word.
The lower house of the Indian parliament is about to debate a private member’s bill on transgender rights that seeks to codify special mechanisms for protecting the rights and welfare of the country’s marginalised transgender community. The government fears, however, that such as debate may inadvertently lead to legislative support for gay rights, which it unambiguously opposes.
Like almost everything about the latest Israeli assault on Gaza that has, as of this writing, claimed around a thousand Palestinian lives, what is happening today on Sderot’s hilltops is not without precedent. Five years ago, a report on Danish television showed a group of Israelis watching shells falling on the Gaza Strip during Operation Cast Lead. A young Israeli woman, Keren Levy, was interviewed. ‘I think they should just clear off all the city [Gaza],’ Levy told the reporter, ‘just take it off the ground. Yes, I’m a little bit fascist.’
Although to my current taste, Medieval Death Bot is one of the funniest things on Twitter right now, Corbyn Warnings is running a close second. Corbyn Warnings is a parody account playing on the drumbeat of hostile Warnings by MPs, Labour ‘grandees’ and former leaders who have spectacularly failed, if the polls are to be believed, to warn the UK party’s membership and supporters against the allegedly unelectable Islington North MP, Jeremy Corbyn.
Although a celebrity’s involvement in health campaigns is a fairly recent phenomenon, history shows a notable trend of illness being aligned with famous figures. By attaching a romantic, intellectual narrative or well-known figure to an illness, it softens the blow of its impact – slightly. It doesn’t relieve the sufferer of their symptoms, but it makes the sufferer feel part of a long, historical narrative that culminates in greatness. While this obviously is rarely, if ever, the case, since not all epileptics are destined for greatness, it allows the sufferer to engage in a fairly innocuous illusion that offers respite from their illness.
When I told people I’d started working in the live department of a closed captioning company, they’d ask what the job actually involved. Then they’d say something like, ‘Some of those captions are terrible. The other day I was watching the footy at the pub, and I saw one that said [insert egregiously unintelligible sentence here].’ Having grown up with several deaf and hearing-impaired family members of varying ages and interests, I was accustomed to watching television with the captions on – so I was also accustomed to their often dismal standard. Sometimes they’re incomprehensible. Sometimes they’re delayed. Sometimes they obscure important graphic information on the screen. Sometimes they’re absent.