Australian politics, society & culture

April 2014
By Anwyn Crawford
Muppets Most Wanted and The Grand Budapest Hotel both have plots that involve wrongful imprisonments. I know who I felt most sorry for, and it wasn’t Ralph Fiennes as Monsieur Gustave H., a hotel concierge turned convict in Wes Anderson’s latest concoction. No — like Tina Fey, my heart belongs to Kermit the Frog. Fey plays Nadya, a prison guard at a Siberian gulag where Kermit is held for most of Muppets Most Wanted’s running time. She’s tough on the outside, but her locker is a shrine to the green amphibian, and why wouldn’t it be? Kermit embodies the strange magic of puppetry. He’s human and animal; real and make-believe; the most iconic of Jim Henson’s Muppet creations and, since Henson’s death in 1990, an avatar for the joyous, unfettered imagination that Henson brought into the world. Kermit is the heart of...
April 2014
By Michaela McGuire
The ABC is expected to settle a defamation case with News Corp columnist Chris Kenny this week, following ABC Managing Director Mark Scott’s formal apology for controversial sketch that aired last September on The Chaser’s The Hamster Decides depicting Kenny having sex with a dog....
Current Issue
The Liberals' winner-takes-all political payback
By Judith Brett
When Robert Menzies won elections, he would reassure voters that he would govern not just on behalf of those who voted for him but also on behalf of those who didn’t. It was a promise to put the national interest above partisan interests and a recognition that almost half of the electorate...
 Current Issue
Al Hoang’s journey from soldier to prisoner to boat person to a second life
By Alex McClintock
At the Fairfield Showground in Sydney’s south-west, the air is pulsing as two sound systems do battle. R&B is blasting from a deserted stage, while Vietnamese karaoke counterattacks from a nearby tent that bears the logo of the Armed Forces of the Republic of Vietnam (ARVN) Veterans Association. It’s Tet, Vietnamese New Year, but the crowd is yet to arrive. Al Chi...
March 2014
Why doctors second-guess themselves
By Karen Hitchcock
Researchers relate “decision fatigue” in executives to the degradation of sound judgement and to poor impulse control after hours. Nearing the end of a weekend of dealing with a ward full of sick patients, and faced with a particularly challenging case, I recognise I have it by my own sudden irritability and my desire to decide anything, for a bit of relief. Rather than...
Joe Hockey continued his pre-budget softening-up exercise with his speech at an event for the conservative magazine Spectator Australia yesterday. It went largely as expected. Australia's finances are unsustainable, he said, and...
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Kidnapping of Ukrainian patriots has Russia's full support, says Kiev "Over the weekend, Vladimir Rybak's battered body was found in a river... According to investigators, he had been tortured. The gruesome case is the latest in a string...

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How the Morwell coal mine fire has made unlikely allies
By Craig Sherborne
Someone starts a bushfire at Morwell in Victoria’s La Trobe Valley: dips toilet rolls in kerosene (say the locals), lights them and throws them into the forest for his perverse jollies. It blows across firebreaks and bitumen near the Hazelwood open-cut coal mine. Ash...
 Current Issue
Can antibiotics really cure back pain?
By Karen Hitchcock
Last year, when I read in the Guardian that antibiotics could cure chronic lower back pain, I thought it was some kind of joke. Might psychiatrists next declare that depression is caused by an infection of the heart and could be cured by penicillin? I don’t normally keep...
March 2014
Why do Andrew Bolt and company love to hate the national broadcaster?
By Don Watson
It’s such an ABC discussion to end with a discussion about “Lou Reed”. This, you know, heroin addict and transgressional. So ABC … What about Dvořák? … Or Tchaikovsky? … Well? —Christopher Pyne, Q&A, ABC1, 28 October...
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A week among the arts in the City of Light
By Robyn Annear
Barry Humphries likened it to a giant shish kebab. Fifteen artless lumps of ore skewered on a 14-metre pipe from an oil drill, stood upright in a public park. That’s the Ore Obelisk, planted on Perth’s busy St Georges Terrace in 1972 to celebrate Western Australia’s one-millionth citizen and “the harmony of mining and environment”. Twenty kilometres away, at...
 Current Issue
A car accident brings an unlikely collection of people together
By Helen Garner
Melbourne, Friday, 8 am. In the extreme right-hand lane of the Western Ring Road, three social workers and a writer, or two men and two women, or a married couple and two singletons, were heading at speed for South Australia, when Jim at the wheel cursed under his breath and...
March 2014
Can senior citizens bridge the digital divide?
By Robyn Annear
Albert was an early adopter. In 1984, aged 68, my father-in-law bought one of Apple’s first Macintosh computers. He followed the set-up instructions until – magic moment – the screen lit up. But barely had he registered the novelty of the Trash icon when his...
March 2014
An epic desert trek finally reaches the screen
By Gail Bell
In a suite on the 17th floor of the InterContinental Hotel, Robyn Davidson and Mia Wasikowska are preparing for the last interview of a long day. Later that evening, the film of Davidson’s book Tracks, starring Wasikowska as Davidson, will have its Sydney premiere at a...
March 2014
The rise of Queensland's young attorney-general
By Andrew McMillen
One Friday evening last September, some 60 members of the Bandidos motorcycle gang descended on a busy restaurant in the Gold Coast suburb of Broadbeach to confront a man associated with the Finks, a rival gang. In the ensuing melee, four police officers were injured. Later, a...

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The third volume of the epic autobiographical novel ‘My Struggle’
By Anna Goldsworthy
My Struggle, the six-volume epic by Norwegian author Karl Ove Knausgaard, has been described as both novel and memoir. His American publisher prefers “the project”. In an interview with the Paris Review, Knausgaard explains that I wanted to see how far it was possible to take realism before it would be impossible to read. My first book had a strong story, strong narration. Then I...
 Current Issue
The fourth solo album from the Sydney singer-songwriter
By Anwyn Crawford
“Cinematic” is an easy adjective to reach for when describing pop music, but it’s much harder to pin down what it signifies. Does it mean a soundscape spacious enough to evoke a majestic aerial shot of a rushing river, a mountain range or a speeding train? Does...
 Current Issue
The lives of returned soldiers
By Claire Corbett
Ongoing trauma is not easy to honour. We find it simpler to glorify a dead soldier than to look after a physically and mentally wounded live one. In The Long Way Home, the innovative, historic theatre collaboration between the Australian Defence Force (ADF) and the Sydney...
 Current Issue
The man who revolutionised Australian architecture
By David Neustein
What did Harry Seidler say, passing through Australian customs for the first time in 1948, when asked if he had anything to declare? Exiled from his native Vienna, expelled from his adoptive Cambridge, then interned as an “enemy alien” on the Isle of Man and in...
 Current Issue
A joyless, sterile effort from the Danish provocateur
By Luke Davies
Lars von Trier’s Nymphomaniac (in limited release) blends a certain majestic wackiness with von Trier’s increasingly hackneyed desire to rub us the wrong way. The film pathologises the female orgasm – in the sense that von Trier appears to be investigating it...