Since 9/11 and all its attendant horrors, the story of the bomb that exploded outside Sydney’s Hilton Hotel early on the morning of 13 February 1978, killing three people and injuring nine others, has largely been cast aside. However, it is considered the worst terrorist act perpetrated on Australian soil. It had wide ramifications at the time, and murky issues still surround it.... (read more)
When it comes to serial muses, Alma Maria Schindler Mahler Gropius Werfel was in a class of her own. Lou Andreas-Salomé may have included Friedrich Nietzsche, Rainer Maria Rilke, and Sigmund Freud among her conquests, and Caroline Blackwood scored Lucian Freud, Robert Silvers, and Robert Lowell, but Alma’s conquests were more and varied. Antonia Fraser is supposed to have claimed that she ‘only slept with the first eleven’; although Alma would not have understood the reference, she would have agreed wholeheartedly with the concept. Gustav Klimt, Alexander von Zemlinsky, Gustav Mahler, Oskar Kokoschka, and Walter Gropius were major notches on her belt, and if the reputations of the author Franz Werfel and the political theologian Johannes Hollnsteiner have faded, they were big in their time.... (read more)
The worldwide women’s marches of January 2017 were sparked by the election of Donald Trump, a self-proclaimed ‘pussy-grabber’, to the US presidency in November 2016. Among the millions who marched was movie producer Harvey Weinstein. As with Trump, rumours of inappropriate behaviour with women had long plagued Weinstein, but he also had a history of aligning himself with feminist causes. He had supported Hillary Clinton’s failed presidential bid and, as co-founder of Miramax, had helped launch the successful careers of many women, including Oscar-winner Gwyneth Paltrow.... (read more)
Edward Snowden was a model employee of the National Security Agency. After realising that the vast electronic surveillance organisation often failed to backup its advanced computerised systems properly, Snowden offered a solution. His bosses readily agreed to let him build and run a comprehensive backup system. He subsequently copied huge amounts of highly sensitive information, which he took with him when he left the NSA in 2013, aged twenty-nine, to become the most important whistleblower in intelligence agency history.... (read more)
Fred Watson’s inspiration as a lad was the legendary telly astronomer Patrick Moore, who presented the BBC’s show The Sky At Night for more than fifty years. At the end, when others such as Chris Lintott began taking over, Moore was simply wheeled in at the start of the show in his wheelchair, to mumble a couple of sentences, then wheeled off again, out of the way, looking on wistfully.
Watson and Moore have a lot in common: both British, both immensely informed, both musical performers. And they both showed not just deep knowledge of deep space but also the essential emotional commitment to the vast tapestry they were investigating. I well remember the night when the first pictures of the far side of the moon came to Moore, live on air. As he showed them to the television audience, he simply cried, talking in choked tones as tears streamed down his face.... (read more)
Thanks to the internet, the 24/7 news cycle, and social media, certain books are preceded by their reputations. They arrive freighted with so much publicity hype that reading them with fresh eyes is almost impossible. A Constant Hum is one such book, very much the product of a reputation established well before publication, due to the airing of individual stories in places like Seizure and Meanjin, along with several prizes and shortlistings.... (read more)
‘What kind of game is the sea?’ asks the speaker of Tracy K. Smith’s poem ‘Minister of Saudade’. ‘Lap and drag’, comes the response, ‘Crag and gleam / That continual work of wave / And tide’. It is not until the end of The Weekend that the sea’s majestic game is brought into focus, and then the natural world rises, a riposte, to eclipse human trivia ...... (read more)
Bank bashing is an old sport in Australia, older than Federation. In 1910, when Labor became the first party to form a majority government in the new Commonwealth Parliament, they took the Money Power – banks, insurers, financiers – as their arch nemesis. With memories of the 1890s crisis of banking collapses, great strikes, and class conflict still raw, the following year the Fisher government established the Commonwealth Bank of Australia, ‘The People’s Bank’, as a state-owned trading bank offering cheap loans and government-guaranteed deposits to provide stiff competition to the greedy commercial banks gouging its customers.... (read more)
Don Dunstan tended to divide those around him, even his parents. His father, Viv, moved from Adelaide to become a company man in Fiji. Peter Kearsley, a contemporary of Don’s who later became chief justice of Fiji, said Viv was ‘a fair dinkum sort of chap’, ‘the sort who would have been an office bearer in a bowling club’. His mother, according to Kearsley ...
It’s a disconcerting image. Piercing blue eyes stare out at you from the cover of the book. It renders Adolf Hitler somehow human, which is the intent of the author, Peter Longerich, and which sets this biography apart from the many others that have preceded it. Two other notable biographers, Ian Kershaw and Joachim Fest, refused to engage with Hitler’s personal ...