The record size of the crossbench in today’s Australian Senate is no accident. It is not a phenomena limited to Australia - democracies in Europe, South America and Asia are increasingly home to a raft of smaller parties exercising political clout. Though ruling governments — Labor or Liberal, Left or Right — rail against the shift, voters are increasingly weary of the ‘two party’ binary, and the ‘politics as usual’ it represents.Read More
The Cold War was brought to an end, not with a hail of gunfire, but the roar of the masses seizing their own future. Mao insisted that “a revolution is not a dinner party”; but what could have been a more revolutionary act than East and West Berliners sharing champagne over the ruins of the wall, or picnickers carousing on the open Austrian-Hungarian border?Read More
A couple approaches the edge of the Angara River, coursing through the city of Irkutsk en route to the vast Lake Baikal in the east. It is a warm, sunny Saturday in the heart of Siberia – an alignment of date and season that brings out the multitudes for wedding photos. Squinting tourists and strolling citizens alike are outnumbered by the small roving bands of brides and bridesmaids, grooms and groomsmen, proud parents and casually clothed photographers descending on the waterfront.Read More
Our bus breaks down on the middle of a mud-mired road on a high mountain pass, halfway between Shangri-la and Xiangcheng. A jolt, a stall, a splutter, then silence. The passengers, split between locals given to an air of resignation and tourists in poorly made, broad-brimmed ‘Ronaldinio’ hats exchanging timid glances, sit patiently until the driver has jimmied the ignition for a futile third time, then filter outside. With no town or further road for hours on either end, we sit and pace in anticipation as mountains unspool on every side, and the plunge into vast green valleys begins inches from our feet.Read More
The Cai Rang Floating Market is just one of dozens that may be found across the length and breadth of the vast Mekong Delta in southern Vietnam, a trading network that helps buoy the most populous region in the country. Yet year by year, the number of boats dropping anchor before sunrise and displaying their wares on a tottering bamboo pole is shrinking. The market is found twenty minutes by motor boat east of the Mekong capital of Can Tho.Read More
Of all my favourite artists, Egon Schiele is the one I find hardest to explain. His art is rarely conventionally beautiful. He tells few stories and fights no political battles. I struggle to point out any single work as a ‘masterpiece’. His scope is small, narrowed down to the souls he could see tossing in his bed and reflected in his mirror, and intensely personal. And yet I cannot escape him. His art has a style that is all his own, a view of the world that feels painfully, and sometimes gleefully, honest.Read More
The key to Zero Dark Thirty comes within the first few minutes. Not the much-discussed opening torture scene itself, no, but the brief interaction in a hallway that follows it. Noting the youth of the Pakistan station’s new analyst, Maya (Jessica Chastain), Dan (Jason Clarke) offhandedly laments this “Children’s Crusade”.
The Children’s Crusade was a strange chapter of history, a conflation of events which quickly slipped into myth.Read More
It is conventional wisdom that we’re now living in a ‘golden age’ of Television. Dozens of fantastic, challenging series have risen from an increasingly fragmented media landscape, buoyed by the censorship-free ethos of cable and guided by impassioned showrunners. When we reach for a comparison for this new generation of on-screen storytelling, with its series-spanning story arcs and rich depth of character, we inevitably alight on novels. “Television today is better than the movies!” we trumpet. Perhaps even as good as a book.Read More
I don’t know if Bond has ever been quite this good. Even in the glory days of Connery, were the visuals this sumptuous, the performances this solid or the scripts this assured? With his first (and hopefully not last) ride at the helm of the relentless franchise, director Sam Mendes manages to find something new to say about the spy who’s been shooting and sleeping his way across cinema screens for 50 years. The moral murkiness that comes with sending men out to kill and die for Queen and Country gives the story its spine and makes for an unromantic, and yet emotionally ripe, review of Bond’s world.Read More
It’s remarkable to see how far Walter White has come over these past five seasons. Who could have imagined that the sad sack in his underwear crying into a cheap camcorder in the series’ opening minutes would hold court over a meth empire? Vince Gilligan and his crew didn’t just grow a gangster in that scorching Albuquerque sun – they made Walt’s criminal rise and moral collapse as believable as it has been compelling. And they did it by creating a series that transformed along with its protagonist.Read More
Today, George Lucas sold Star Wars.
The real story of Star Wars for a long time now has been the story of a business enterprise. It has been the saga of merchandising rights, of toy lunch boxes, of animated spin-offs, of poorly-conceived prequels. So of course the end of this chapter would be its sale for a staggering amount of money ($4 Billion, if you’re counting). Has one story ever made an artist as rich as Star Wars has made George Lucas?Read More
A production of Hamlet lives and dies by its titular Dane. Short of a one-man-show, few plays are as reliant on the protagonist to carry the story on their shoulders. Why does Hamlet endure? Shakespeare gives him more lines than any other character in his oeuvre, and yet he remains beyond our grasp. In any good interpretation, even on the page, he still feels immediate to us, modern. Why have generation after after generation of creatives, critics and audiences been drawn to this verbose, ill-tempered student with a high body count?Read More
The greatest feat of Game of Thrones in this convoluted second season has been its willingness to play with perspective. With the demise of Ned Stark and the beginning of the War of Five Kings, the narrative splintered. The result has been messy – episodes have jumped from character to character, sometimes artfully and sometimes haphazardly, leaving little time to breathe. It is difficult to sustain momentum for nearly a dozen percolating storylines without a few seeming to be little more than vignettes justifying arbitrary moves on a Risk board.Read More
Midnight. Dozens of watches, alarms and grandfather clocks chime in rapid succession. A corpse falls. Lovers pause in the act. Big Ben erupts in flame. Rhett Butler comforts his child. And Orson Welles is impaled by a clockwork soldier.
Welcome to one of the many climaxes of The Clock, Christian Marclay’s remarkable video installation-slash-cinematic mix tape. I wish I could have found a way to watch all 24 hours. I may have to settle for 4 or 5. And I’ll still exit feeling it was time well spent.Read More
The coy and occasionally frustrating game of “is it a prequel?” footsie aside, there’s never been much doubt about the debt Ridley Scott’s upcoming film owes to the Alien series he began in 1979. The iconography of the “space jockey” and the vision of a future subservient to the whims of a distant, remorseless corporation form the basis for the Prometheus’ quest to uncover the origins of life itself. So it seems like the perfect moment, as the long-awaited film begins screening world-wide, to revisit the unique, unsettling and largely fantastic Alien saga.Read More
A King rides through the Savannah, guided by a retinue of men, and lays waste to the great beasts before him. Some flee from the onslaught. Others attempt, in vain, to defend themselves. They are all victims. They are shot and stabbed. They roar and thrash and bleed out. The earth groans beneath the bounty of blood. Today, that image will earn you an earful from environmentalists and activists around the globe. But millenia ago in Ancient Mesopotamia, it was practically a qualification.Read More
The Simpsons are as old as I am.
Or, I suppose, I’m as old as The Simpsons. I was born when Homer, Marge, Bart, Lisa and Maggie were only rough sketches on the Tracey Ullman Show. I started school when Homer went to space. I was Bart’s age when the world said farewell to Troy McClure and Lionel Hutz. In my teens I caught up on their old adventures. In my twenties, I learned to bemoan their new ones.Read More