Society

Suzy Freeman-Greene reviews 'Beauty' by Bri Lee

Suzy Freeman-Greene
Monday, 16 December 2019

My local shopping centre has seven nail bars, two waxing salons, and a brow bar. A cosmetic surgery clinic touts ‘facial line softening’ and ‘hydra facials’. A laser skin clinic offers cosmetic injections. Three other beauty temples offer ‘cool sculpting’, ‘eyelash perms’, and ‘light therapy’ for skin. I live in a gentrified, working-class suburb in Melbourne’s inner west. I’ve never set foot in these beauty shops, but they’re replicating like cells.

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It was what Lawrence Durrell described as ‘the flickering of steel rails over the arterial systems of Europe’s body’ that steadily transformed nineteenth-century Europe into a cultural and social unity that would last until the outbreak of World War I. Not everyone was happy about this. Rossini, who was terrified of trains, stuck to coach travel, while others, including the German poet Heinrich Heine, took a sort of reverse-Brexit view, writing: ‘I feel as if the mountains and forests of all countries are advancing on Paris. Even now, I can smell the German linden trees; the North Sea breakers are rolling against my door.’

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In Future Proof, Jon Coaffee, professor in urban geography at the University of Warwick, asks readers to imagine ‘a typical day’: radio reports of an impending cyclone; public-transport posters encouraging the reporting of ‘suspicious activity’; the path to an office (especially in a CBD) protected by hostile-vehicle-mitigation bollards. At work, computer systems will be tested for security from cyber attacks. The train home will be delayed due to a network complication, and the evening’s television will show the cyclone’s impact, discussing the relative ineffectiveness of hazard mitigation.

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Cass Sunstein, a noted American constitutional scholar, once lamented: ‘The notion that the government may control information at its source is at odds with the idea that the purpose of a system of free expression is to control the conduct of representatives.’ In a liberal democracy – supposedly of the people, by the people, for the people – political opacity is inconsistent with the central premise of government.

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If it is the case that we can no longer avoid the effects of living under conditions of globalisation, then increasingly that spatial dimension governs our lives. Look not, therefore, deep into the history of our individual nations or localities to explain what is going on, but lift your eyes to the horizon, and beyond, where a devastated city may be smouldering. Within minutes, a local politician will be warning us that we may be next.

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James Antoniou reviews 'The Drama of Celebrity' by Sharon Marcus

James Antoniou
Thursday, 26 September 2019

According to Angela Carter, who wrote perceptively on the subject, ‘the pleasantest, most evanescent kind of fame … is that during your own lifetime’. By the end of her life, Carter had cultivated her own celebrity: she was interviewed on television, adapted her own work for the BBC, and won several awards. Academia is often interested in celebrity when it is, ...

This is an unusual book. It is, so the title indicates, about guns and firearm regulations in Australia, with some comparison to the United States. But, as a prefatory note to readers cautions, ‘this book is less about guns and more about the continuing tension between the authority and power of the state and the responsibilities and entitlements of citizens ...

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Astrid Edwards reviews 'Three Women' by Lisa Taddeo

Astrid Edwards
Wednesday, 25 September 2019

Lina. Maggie. Sloane. These are the women – real women, albeit with their names changed – in whose intimate lives Lisa Taddeo invested eight years of her own. She spoke to these women daily, uprooting herself to chronicle and share their worlds. Taddeo’s goal was to reveal the hidden desires and erotic longings of women ...

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Peter Rose reviews 'The Henson Case' by David Marr

Peter Rose
Thursday, 19 September 2019

Panic, David Marr has stated since the publication of this book, is what he writes about: why people panic, what they panic about, and how they express it. Clearly, with his investigative skills and his access to different worlds, Marr was the idea ...

Robert Reynolds reviews 'Global Sex' by Dennis Altman

Robert Reynolds
Thursday, 19 September 2019

If there was any doubt about the need for intelligent writing on sex, international relations, and that current political catch-phrase – globalisation – look no further than last month’s United Nations General Assembly special session on HIV/AIDS. Convened by the Secretary-General, the session ground to a halt as Syria, Egypt, and Malaysia ...

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