Book Review: Girt: The Unauthorised History of Australia -David Hunt
My knowledge of Australian history is patchy – I know the basics and much more. History interest me but usually most history books are far too dry. Then along comes this book with that title: GIRT.
Still Lucky, Rebecca Huntley, 2017. This is a good book. The message is clear – Australians are far more optimistic than we have been led to believe by our governments and the media. This researcher has done the research, travelled the country, talked to loads of people over many years. If you are interested in her reports on her research and comments – this book will give you all that and more.
Review: Everywhere I Look, Helen Garner
Here’s a good read. Being a selection of essays and diary notes based on many events and sometimes those quite happenings that one observes.
I have not read any Helen Garner’s work but have a reasonable awareness of the topics she writes on. Other reviewers have related this work to previous writings – for me I had to take it all on face value.
I wrote briefly about this earlier – and as I said before – it’s a book for anyone puzzled by the current loser who is Prime Minister.
Enemy Within: America politics in the time of Trump
This essay by Don Watson, is totally recommended. If you are wondering what is going on with the USA and what is happening to democracy, then read this. It is not necessarily about Trump, but more about Don Watson’s observations of the American people and how they have ended up in this place – it is logical. This is in fact where the USA is today.
Book Review: Places Women Make, Jane Jose, 2016
This book is a celebration of the contribution by women to our cultural, social and urban lives. The book has the secondary title ‘Unearthing the contribution of women to our cities.’
The latest in this great series – Quarterly Essay – by George Megalogenis on Balancing Act: Australia between recession and renewal – hits all the buttons and makes the case for urgent action on how the country is being run – or more to the point how bad our governments have been for at least the last decade on so many things that effect the long term viable of the place.
The Price of Coles and Woolworths’ Dominance
This is yet another excellent quarterly publication by Redbacks Books – a subset of Black inc Books – publishers of The Monthly and the Saturday Paper.
Econobabble: How to Decode Political Spin and Economic Nonsense, Richard Denniss 2016
This is the latest in the excellence series, Redback Quartery. And it is a good read – recommended.
Credlin & Co.
How the Abbott Government Destroyed Itself
Waiting for this one – a book about one of the weirdest periods of Australian politics. From the publishers:
Credlin & Co. How the Abbott Government Destroyed Itself by Aaron Patrick. Tony Abbott and his chief of staff, Peta Credlin, ran a brilliant opposition campaign. But their approach led to disaster in government.
Reviews: Quarterly Essay 60 — Political Amnesia
How we forgot how to govern, Laura Tingle, November 2015
This is a recommended read for those with any sort of interest in how Australia has been and continues to be manged by the political ruling classes for the last couple of decades. I cannot say that anything Laura Tingle wrote about was shocking news, given my own experiences of dealing with governments and their bureaucracies, but her insights and observations are definitely worth the read.
New Book: Mario Vargas Llosa, Notes on the Death of Culture
I suspect that many people would agree that the joys and subtleties of culture is under threat by mass media technologies and the expectations of the immediate. The demise of culture is addressed in a new book “Notes on the Death of Culture”. This is not a joyous read as it is more about being in a state of despair about so many things about us in western society.
As art publication struggle along with other hard copy magazines, there’s interesting news about how ARTnews and Art in America are to merge to form the world’s largest art-media company.
Highly Recommended Reading.
This issue on Property is very timely as the debate around housing, affordability and ownership continue to dominate how we are making decisions about our cities and towns.
The current issue of New Philosopher has the theme of Travel – The Great Escape. As usual with this magazine, there are loads of engaging short essays and heaps of great graphics – and photographs. click here for the link.
Anna Bligh: Though The Wall
I am not going to write my own review of this book as the wonderful Sara Dowse has written a comprehensive piece about the book. I have not read many of the political biographies that seem to be constantly landing on the shop’s bookshelves. click here for Sara’s review and her wise comments.
Book & Exhibition Review
Germany: Memories of a Nation, 2014
I was somewhat aware of the complicated history of the German peoples. Over many years I had dipped into history books about various aspects of German histories. But despite this I had still not quite got my head around just how the German state as we know it today came into being.
This book by Neil MacGregor is recommended not only because it deals very well with the layers of history, but because he does this in a very accessible and enjoyable method. I cannot say the same for the exhibition.
recommended reading: New Philosopher Magazine
From their own marketing: There has been no shortage of health deities over the years, from the Aztec god of medicine Ixtlilton to the Afro-American Babalu Aye, spirit of illness and disease. There are at least 16 in Celtic mythology alone; the Greeks and Romans had more than 20 between them. You would be hard pressed to find a topic that matters more to humans – who are we without our health? Continue reading New Philosopher
Reminder – to download
The Anne Summers Reports
Please find the time to download and read Anne Summers Report # 10. It is online with all the previous reports. click here. and – remember to think about providing support through a donation – see the links on the page – click here
Review: Photography Exhibition Catalogue
Dreams and Imagination: Light in the Modern City, Monash Gallery of Art , until 1st March 2015.
I have just read a copy of a wonderful catalogue of a significant photographic exhibition at the Monash Gallery of Art (MGA). Yet again the MGA lives up to their reputation as ‘The Home of Australian Photography‘.
Chances are that I will not get to Melbourne to see this exhibition. However, the catalogue is a real gem and should be sought after by anyone interested in the development of Australian photography during the early 20th Century. (click on the images to enlarge)
Capital in the Twenty-First Century, Thomas Piketty
There’s a good review of this book online that points to the book being a good read. This theme of the effect of the growing inequity on economics and the basis of capitalism is now commonly talked about. click here
Review of Sanctuary Magazine
published quarterly by the Alternative Technology Association
Given the levels of climate change issues not being addressed effectively by our governments, many people look to various sources for inspiration and ideas to initiate their individual actions. Anyone renovating or building a house with environmental issues in mind will look to any available resources including particular TV programs and magazines for ideas and guidance.
Canberra, Paul Daley, 2012
This is small book is another in the city series published by Newsouth (University of NSW). I have previously reviewed Hobart (click here) and Adelaide (click here). Paul Daley has told a set of stories about Canberra, the National Capital. Sadly he seems to not have invested the time to gather local knowledge about the city, its people, its life style and its complexities as a 21st Century city of 380,000 people.
This Changes Everything: Capitalism Vs. The Climate,
Naomi Klein 2014
Yet to read this, but I am listing as a suggestion for your Christmas reading and/or gift list. We have to move on climate change and I agree that it is an economic discussion, one about capitalism and corporate greed. No wonder our infamous Australia politicians want it off the agenda. It is about dealing with their mates and how they are ripping off the planet.
Quarterly Essay 56 – Clivosaurus
The politics of Clive Palmer, Guy Rundle, November 2014
It has been extremely difficulty over the last year or so to get a clear picture of what the hell is going on with Australian Federal politics given the rise and rise of people such as Clive Palmer and his new PUPs – being the other members of the Palmer United Party. The problem has been the reporting by the Australian media. They took the attitude early on to not treat Clive Palmer seriously. This book deals with this issue very nicely. It is a good read.
Announcement: New Book
Julia Gillard’s – My Story
Happy to promote this book. This story remains complex. There have been several thoughtful reviews of the book published online. As well as the usual crap from the mainstream media, who were part of the problem during Julia Gillard’s time as Prime Minister. Sara Dowse has provided an intelligent and insightful review that is definitely worth reading. click here.
Announcement: New Book
Don Watson’s new book – The Bush
I have read Don Watson’s previous books so I am confident that this new publication will be worth putting aside the time to read. Be warned that this is not a small book. So this one is not for the travellers unless you like to carry a heavy tome with you.
2nd Notice: New Book
Hack Attack by Nick Davies
It has also been interesting to read the story of Rebecca Brooks. The question has been posed elsewhere, was she just a user of the corporate and political systems in order to climb the ladder to join the ranks of those in power?
Announcement: Book – fiction
Mark Henshaw’s The Snow Kimono
The Guardian has it wrong about his former career. Mark was a curator of prints at the National Gallery of Australia, Canberra. He led a double life for many years as curator and as an author.
Commentary: George Monbiot
There are lots of good commentators out there who have loads of intelligent views to offer. George Monbiot, author and contributor to the Guardian, is one of these people.
I have quoted from George before and have a few of his books.
Commentary: Articles by Michael Moore of Canberra
I have mentioned articles written by a local, Michael Moore. While he holds down a very busy job in health, he continues to devote serious time to punching out thoughtful articles in one of the local free newspapers. They are most welcomed.
Review: New Book
The Economics of Just About Everything: The Hidden Reasons for Our Curious Choices and Surprising Successes in Life. Andrew Leigh, 2014
I have had the pleasure of reading books and articles by Andrew Leigh. He happens to be my local Federal member of the House of Representatives. I have been positive about his writings. I am not so sure about this book.
From the publisher: If you like fresh facts and provocative ideas, this is great train and weekend reading. You’ll soon see the world and the people around you in a new light. I disagree. I may now see Andrew Leigh in a different light.
Notice: New photography book
Fashion Photography Next, Magdalene Keaney
With contributions by Eleanor Weber
I have just seen this new book on the tables at Readings in St Kilda, Melbourne. So that means you can order in Australia and they deliver it for free.
This is a WOW book. It is about photography, about contemporary practice of fashion photography, and it is published in a lavish and stylish book.
Announcement: New Book on Architecture
Toward an Architecture of Enjoyment, 2014, Author: Henri Lefebvre
I’m about to get my hands on a copy of this book. Having read some of the commentary about the author and the concepts he is dealing with, the book reinforces the need for more discussion about the topic of enjoyment of architecture and urban spaces.
My life is already involved with dealing with planning bureaucracies that lack vision and any notion of good design. I have posted several times about the blandness of architecture in our cities.
Commentary: Dispute with Amazon gets dirty
the SATURDAY PAPER
I am recommending that you read a couple of articles in last weekend’s Saturday Paper. As a general comment, The Saturday Paper is a good read. At times the combined effect of their well written articles about current issues can be a little depressing. Australia’s has one of its worst governments and most commentators are doing the right thing in examining just how much trouble these people are causing the country. It is not good news. My preference is that I would like to see more regular articles on the visual arts!
Notice: New Book
The Economics of Just About Everything: The Hidden Reasons for Our Curious Choices and Surprising Successes in Life.
Andrew Leigh, 2014
My review will have to follow once I have a copy and have read it. Having received notice of the book, I have been checking several comments online, and knowing Andrew Leigh’s early writings and books, I feel very confident that this will be another good read.
Here is some text copied from the publisher’s site:
Where Song Began: Australia’s Birds and How They Changed the World, Tim Low
Ever now and then along comes a great book. This is one of those. If you already admire Australian birds, this book will still change the way you think about them.
I will never be able to walk past a group of Choughs and not wonder about if one of them has been kidnapped from another group and is now being used as a slave. There are many such fascinating things about birds in this book.
The duopoly of supermarkets in Australia
There is a very hard-hitting article in the August 2014 issue of The Monthly on how the two large supermarkets have been allowed to rip anyone and everyone off. Even more depressing is that it points to how we, as consumers, are continuing to allow this to happen.
The major point raised by the article is how this dominance of the two of these supermarkets has reduced the food security in this country.
Another Amazon story
France takes a stand against the giant Amazon in an effort to safeguard its own culture of having viable bookstores. Good news for the French. Hope other are watching. Again, it may be time to shop anywhere but at Amazon. Click here.
Paul Costigan, 29 June 2014
Some More Comments on dealing with Amazon
I have to admit that I have used an Amazon account often. I became a little worried by stories mentioning the workers in the US. More recently I noticed that Amazon had removed the cheaper postage rates. This made many items not all that different in price especially when booksellers such as Reading in Melbourne provide free postage.
Canberra Architecture, Andrew Metcalf
Watermark Architectural Guides, 2003
I picked up this book quiet a while ago but it is only now that I have had time to look through it. I am glad I did, as after reading through quite a bit of it, I have become more aware that Canberra has a reasonable amount of good and notable architecture.
I have a quiet interest in good architecture and have spent some energies complaining about the current crop of badly designed houses and commercial buildings being thrust onto Canberra. Residents have despaired that good design in our civic areas and suburbs has become a thing of the past.
More on Amazon
It never stops. Amazon is doing another deal that disadvantages everyone. click here
Time everyone shopped anywhere but at Amazon.
Paul Costigan, 29 June 2014
Comment: Book Reviews
Annabel Crabb and the reviews of Hilary Clinton’s Book, Hard Choices
There’s a good chance that I will not buy Hilary Clinton’s Book, Hard Choices. I admit to not reading any of these large political biographies. I do however often follow the media’s comments on such productions to sense just how the media treats the authors (even if they are mostly ghost writers).
REVIEW: The Monthly
This is a recommended read this month
This is not to say that it isn’t a good read in other months, but the July 2014 issue is definitely a sit and read from cover to cover!
The Island at the Centre of the World: The Untold Story of Dutch Manhattan and the Founding of New York, by Russell Shorto, 2004
They probably thought so until the research behind this book surfaced and now they can read about the real history from this author, Russell Shorto.
This book is the precursor to Russell Shorto’s later book, Amsterdam, reviewed earlier – click here. Both are fascinating reads.
50 People Who Stuffed Up Australia; by Guy Rundle & Dexter Rightwad, 2012
The latter applies to this book. I just did not take to his style on this subject. It seemed far too exaggerated an effort to bring about a list of 50 well-known people and to twist the stories to class them as people who stuffed up Australia.
from the Conversation
Clive James on death, dragons and writing in the home stretch
One wonders how Clive James would react to the realities of attitudes within Australia today. His illnesses have restricted him to staying close to his hospital which has meant he will not be coming home for a last visit. Therefore he has to revisit Australia through his memories.
Eureka Henrich has provided a piece on Clive’s presentation at the Australia and New Zealand Festival of Literature & Arts at King’s College London. His appearance there surprised everyone simply as his illnesses are so restricting to his travel. Click here for the piece.
Home: A short history of an idea
by Witold Rybczynski 1986
I bought this book about tens years ago – maybe even more. I can remember starting to read it and thinking what a great little book. Then the business of work interfered with normality and sadly enough time did not materialise again to sit down peacefully and get into this little gem; until now.
I found the book amongst so many other unloved publication the other week and immediately set out to enjoy it fully. I did. I now recommend it highly. What an intelligent and entertaining writer.
Book Review: as posted on Inside Story
Power Failure: The Inside Story of Climate Politics Under Rudd and Gillard
By Philip Chubb, Black Inc.
Andrew Dodd provides a thorough overview of Philip Chubb’s insider account of the demise of Kevin Rudd’s climate scheme.
His review males the book to be essential reading. My stack of books is already too high so I have provided this review as a way of tempting others. Click here.
Review: Visual Arts Book
Art as Therapy: Works from the collection of the National Gallery of Victoria, Alain de Botton and John Armstrong
As a first comment I have to say that I was disappointed and was in fact a little taken aback by the style and contents. I am not so sure about how this effort enhances the gallery visit within the NGV*.
Amsterdam: A History of the World’s Most Liberal City, Russell Shorto, published 2013
Given the threats to these values almost daily by the current Australian government, it is a must to take time out and do a reality check on just how far backwards these elected clowns are trying to take us.
While obviously about the city, this book is really a celebration of the people and their influence on the whole western world.
Hope, Refugees and their supporters in Australia since 1947,
Ann-Mari Jordens, 2012
I have mentioned this book in an earlier blog – click here.
I make reference to this great piece of research again as I have been recently disgusted how particular media voices continue to express pride in the current government claims in that they ‘stopped the boats’. This phase has been used in a totally unfeeling manner as if there were not real people involved.
Comment and Book Notices
Australia and refugees
Hope: Refugees and their Supporters in Australia since 1947, Ann-Mari Jordens, 2012
That Sinking Feeling: Asylum Seekers and the Search for the Indonesian Solution, Paul Toohey, 2014
The above photograph was attached to a 2004 Sydney Morning Herald article. Has it been that long that Australia has been doing these dreadful things to refugees? No. It has been much longer than 10 years. The really sad fact is that in 2014 this country has implemented programs to deal with boat refugees that just cannot get any worse.
The Barbarians are at the Gate
There’s an online report about what is happening at the Mitchel Library. We have colleagues there and they have been talking about this for several months.
At last a journalist has reported on this threat to this much-loved and marvelous institution. click here for the story.
Opinion Piece on Queen Victoria and Motherhood
Queen Victoria, Another Maligned Mother
Julia Baird, New York Times
The Butt-Ugly Allure of Post-Soviet Architecture
The photographs of architecture of the Post-Soviet era.
There’s a review in WIRED online of a book. To quote: Frank Herfort moved to Moscow with no intention to make a book. Like all photographers, the German-born artist always keeps one eye open for potential subjects, but making a book of architectural photos was never the plan. “While scouting the new city for myself, I began to notice these amazing buildings.”
Adelaide, Kerryn Goldsworthy, 2011
This is another of those smallish book published about Australia’s capital cities. I have already reviewed Hobart, by Peter Timms.
I have to confess that I did not take to the book on Adelaide and at times seriously considered giving up. In the end I had a move quickly through whole sections in order to see where the author was going.
Book Review (re-posted): Soils
What Has Nature Ever Done for Us
There is book review on the Guardian site. This is timely as Australia government goes through all sorts of actions to set the clock back on environmental issues. I dread what chance anyone would have right now of confronting this government over the long-term treatment of our soils, our biodiversity; in fact anything at all to do with nature.
Hobart, Peter Timms, 2012
This smallish book I picked up for several reasons. I know Peter Timms, I have read and enjoyed his previous writing, I know several people who live in Hobart and it is a city that I have visited for many reasons over several decades.
Peter writes not as a historian or travel writer, or as one doing a tourism promotion. Instead Peter uses a reportage style, he tells stories about people, the places and events. All this is based on research of available documents and interviews and observations of a diversity of people. In summary, this is an interesting read. For whom is a good question.
Green Wash, Big Brands and Carbon Scams,
Guy Pearse, Black Inc. 2012
The science is in. Climate change is happening and has been happening since the industrial revolution. People who are concerned about climate change are frustrated by all the denials and misleading information being promulgated.
The sad facts are that the chickens are coming home to roost and still there continues to be a complete lack of action to address the issues.
The general outlook has become more bleak in recent years as our elected governments have stalled in taking the required urgent and realistic actions.
We have no leaders within government.
Damon Young, Philosophy in the Garden
Melbourne University Press
Damon Young explores one of literature’s most intimate relationships: authors and their gardens. For some, the garden provided a retreat from workaday labour; for others, solitude’s quiet counsel. For all, it played a philosophical role: giving their ideas a new life. This book reveals the profound thoughts discovered in parks, backyards and pot-plants. It does not provide tips for mowing overgrown cooch grass, or mulching a dry Japanese maple. It is a philosophical companion to the garden’s labours and joys.
The Year My Politics Broke, Jonathan Green 2013
Jonathan Green hits the nail on the head so many times. This is a reality read and one that could leave you completely devastated given the current levels of political debate and the sparsity of good journalism is very much a worry.
Politics in the country is definitely off the rails. The whole Murdoch and Rudd and Rabbott thing has been damaging to any notion of fairness left in the world we live and work.
It seems that within Australia anyone can say they are being open and transparent, that they have plans for the future, are having a governance review, and that they have inherited questionable budgets.
The reality is that they lie, are bullies, and pursue their own interests at the cost of anyone else.
Untangling the Web, Aleks Krotoski 2013
In her book, Aleks takes us through some of the questions such as just how much have we changed because of the world-wide web, Facebook, twitter and google and all internet thingys.
Do not expect her to supply you with all the answers as the internet is very much a work in progress.
End of the Road?, Gideon Haigh, Pengiun Specials, 2013
It’s a tough life taking an interest in your country. Traditionally the main sources of information for most people has been the media. In the last decade this source has become totally corrupted, especially the mainstream media and the ABC.
When it comes to the rhetoric around the car industry in Australia, the ideological arguments that are trotted out do nothing but harm and mislead. Thank god (or whoever is out there) Penguin has these ‘Penguin Specials’ and thank you to Gideon for his research and information that goes a long way to providing a reality check on where the country is at when it comes to having a car industry.
Great Expectations, Government, Entitlement and an Angry Nation, Laura Tingle 2013
an expanded version of her previous Quarterly Essay
The beginning of the 21st Century is a time when something changed in society due to a rise in the lack of civility and anger over expectations not being addressed. This unrest has surfaced within the larger political debates as well as in more discrete arenas such as companies, community groups, societies and associations.
The media has had a great time fueling this dissatisfaction through the constant emphasis on problems, large, small and imaginary, about our governments. Continue reading Laura Tingle Great Expectations
Flat Earth News, Nick Davies 2009
Nick Davies went out on limb as he has criticised his own profession. I suspect he did not win too many friends.
He was reporting on the facts based on his own research and experiences from inside the tent on what had happened to contemporary journalism and why we are now subject to so much ‘churnalism’. Continue reading Flat Earth News
Battlers & Billionaires, Andrew Leigh 2013
As I write this review we are witnessing a millionaire, Clive Palmer, use his wealth to buy personal power in the Australian Parliament. At the same time the millionaire clan of Gina Rinehart and her children are locked in some court battle over a family feud over their millions. Continue reading Battlers & Billionaires
Take Your Best Shot, The Prime Ministership of Julia Gillard, Jaqueline Kent 2013
The media, Tony Rabbot, Kevin Rudd and his ruddites and the shock jocks all part of the murky times. Then there was the uncivilised behaviour that morphed into accepted everyday behaviour and all those supposedly close colleagues who turn on you. What a time for anyone!
Review: Quarterly Essay, The Prince, Faith, Abuse and George Pell.
David Marr, September 2013
This is one of those essays that I picked up knowing some of this story and already having opinions on religion in Australia, the associated politics and the horrible abuse issues.
I read this essay in one sitting and was totally taken aback by the details of events and the nasty side of human behaviour as told by David Marr.
This is recommended reading for anyone interested in the story of where this country has been and the issues we are yet to deal with properly. Continue reading The Prince
The Stalking of Julia Gillard, Kerry-Anne Walsh
The last three years in relation to the governance of Australia were just something totally unbelievable. We all think we know what happened.
I now consider that the labor government lost power well before the election. Was it because it was delivering fantastic economic management or was it because it did not deliver an outstanding set of national programs?
The Misogyny Factor, Anne Summers
It was a month or so after our First Women Prime Minister had been removed from her position and following a number of not so nice events in my own life that I had started to wonder just what is happening to our Australian way of life and culture. What has happened to civility and respect.
There is a generation or two who seem to think that feminism is a cause now won and we should move on.
I find that certain men and women are fully capable of all sorts of weasel words about equality and the role of women in the workplace and act as if they champion such matters. Continue reading Misogyny Factor