Rampage at Port Arthur

March 9, 2016 | Posted by Peter Jakobsen | Australian Politics, LIFE |

28 April 1996 TVC has friends who were honeymooning in Tasmania on the above date.  That morning, they had a lovers’ tiff: she wanted to go to Port Arthur, the pretty but desolate and spine-tingling remnants of early convict settlement, vividly recounted in Richard Flanagan’s Gould’s Book of Fish (although that is set elsewhere in Tasmania).  Her beau, however, thought they should take advantage of the mild weather to climb picturesque Cradle Mountain, and his argument prevailed. It’s the kind of argument where you can never say ‘I told you so.’  For that day, a young (28 year old), well-to-do,…

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Damned Whores and God’s Police

Black-eyed Sue and Sweet Poll say goodbye (by Robert Sayers)

(by Anne Summers) (1975) (updated 1994, to 2000s and beyond) The title is a bit of a howler, for it derives from a statement attributed to someone in partial error. But it is still a great title, and it synthesizes the point of the book, which is to reveal and detail how the bifurcation, by colonial authority, of early Australian females into saints and tramps, has formed the nation’s bedrock and permeated the social fabric ever since. This is a difficult case to make.  For instance, such ‘types’ are considered somewhat one-dimensionally cartoonish now.  And wouldn’t the outlook change with the development of a free…

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Vietnam / Iraq

South Vietnamese forces follow after terrified children, including 9-year-old Kim Phuc, center, as they run down Route 1 near Trang Bang after an aerial napalm attack on suspected Viet Cong hiding places, June 8, 1972. A South Vietnamese plane accidentally dropped its flaming napalm on South Vietnamese troops and civilians. The terrified girl had ripped off her burning clothes while fleeing. The children from left to right are: Phan Thanh Tam, younger brother of Kim Phuc, who lost an eye, Phan Thanh Phouc, youngest brother of Kim Phuc, Kim Phuc, and Kim's cousins Ho Van Bon, and Ho Thi Ting. Behind them are soldiers of the Vietnam Army 25th Division. (AP Photo/Nick Ut)

While recently reviewing The Deer Hunter, we strayed In Country, a tangled thicket where the eternal skirmish over Vietnam carries on. Now it is held-up as a mirror to military madness, and as a parable for the incursion / invasion of Iraq.  But whereas the strategic argument for Gulf War II remains opaque to this day despite inquiry after inquiry, I suggest that the escalation in Vietnam, as at 1965, is different to the events of 2003 by a substantial degree, rendering most modern comparisons between the two erroneous. The late 1950s, 1960s and 1970s formed the middle age of the Cold War (a…

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Big Blue Sky

"oh the temper of the time..." (photo Gympie Times)

(by Peter Garrett) (2015) A famous singer in a leading Australian rock band, environmental activist and all-round bien pensant, it was Peter Garrett’s stint as Federal Arts Minister that impelled The Varnished Culture’s perusal of his book. A lot of the time it is a happy memoir – from middle-class childhood in suburban Sydney, with warm milk and bush cricket, trains into the city and boarding school, discovering girls and rock and roll. Garrett’s early account is written with flair and humour.  When as a kid he signed up to Australian Record Club, receiving a record in the mail every few months, it “was the only…

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“A Vast Scene of Confusion”

September 20, 2015 | Posted by Peter Jakobsen | Australian Politics, HISTORY, Ulalume |

"the tide of popular fury returned..."

On the eve of the ides of September 2015, Monday 14th, the Australian Prime Minister, Tony Abbott, was assassinated in the Liberal Party room and his usurper, Malcolm Turnbull, assumed the imperial purple.  One hopes this will end a strained period in the nation’s body politic – over the last 6 and a half years, there has been blood in the corridors of power, and 3 serving Prime Ministers elected by the people have been boned. 1/12/2009 – Leader of the Opposition, Malcolm Turnbull, is defeated by Tony Abbott by one vote.  Mr Abbott becomes leader of the Coalition opposition….

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