President Harry Truman attracted much enmity in the post-Roosevelt era of the 1940s. Sometimes it was based on little more than snobbery about his humble origins. More substantively, programs such as health-care reform incited the hostility of entrenched interests. Decades later, President Bill Clinton liked to say of his now-lionised predecessor: ‘My family supported Truman when he was actually president.’ The memorial service for Bob Hawke last Friday was a similar mix of reality, misremembrance and romanticism. The ingredients of political success remain both obvious and mysterious. It is now broadly acknowledged that Hawke led a highly competent government of […]
In March 1996, three US servicemen stationed in Okinawa were convicted of the abduction and sexual assault of a 12-year-old Japanese girl. It was the first time the US military prosecuted any of its soldiers since they first occupied the island in the 1940s. This is despite the fact that Japanese activists had protested both the occupation itself, and the apparent impunity of the servicemen since one of them raped a six-year-old girl in 1955. Those three servicemen all pleaded guilty to various charges associated with the assault. This caused ripples in a military known to be myopically protective of […]
Last evening Facebook released an extensive whitepaper detailing its new ‘Libra’ cryptocurrency. Cryptocurrencies—like the original, Bitcoin—create a secure, trustworthy and verifiable technology to maintain the entries within an accounting ledger. They’re secure because they use cryptography—similar to what your web browser uses when talking to your bank. They’re trustworthy because transactions are subject to a consensus-based approval of everyone using the currency, so no one can cook the books. And they’re verifiable because anyone can come along and inspect those books—if you claim you have a certain amount of cryptocurrency, that claim can be proven (or disproven) easily. Invented as […]
I was at a dinner party a few weeks ago at the home of an impressive reader and amongst other impressive readers. At some point my sense of inadequacy got the better of me and I made a joke about how I don’t really read much at all. Another dinner guest exclaimed, ‘Me too!’ and we raised our wine glasses like we’d seen done in television shows and movies. Later that evening, the conversation turned to some books that were published recently and, of course, I had a liquored opinion on every single one. The person sitting across from me […]
I am acutely aware while visiting other places that I am in the home of the ancestors whose stories since ancient times are preserved in the land, seas, skies and atmosphere. These stories of country live inside us and are ‘the extraordinary literacy of place’, of ancient land titles, and are similar to understanding the old stories of places that the British landscape writer Robert Macfarlane might describe as being the ‘intricate stories to map the landscape’.
Tell me more about New York, her mother says, shifting on the overstuffed couch to make room for Clara. The green leather creaks. You really are in the big smoke now. But then it’s not all that wet, is it? It’s wet enough, Clara answers. Wetter than it is here in Melbourne. Her mother sighs. I don’t know. Last year Osaka had 1624 millimetres. And New York was what, 58 millimetres in February?
As my 20-year working life at the University of Melbourne was coming to its natural end by teaching for the last time an introductory subject on modern poetry during the first half of 2018, Andrea and I were planning to spend the following four months travelling in the far north of Australia, first crossing the Great Sandy Desert on the Tanami Track up from Alice Springs to revisit a community in that desert where we had lived for most of the past two years, and then crossing and recrossing the area of Western Australia known as the Kimberley, a craggy region of spinifex, boab trees and laterite still sparsely populated and still unforgiving to the unprepared.
What is the peculiar
consolation of a sky
like a violet lamp
above a crunched-foil sea?
Meanwhile, your mother
does not love you.