July 27, 2005After The Da Vinci Code I have learnt not to trust books that begin by saying that "this is a true story." It is pretty much an admission by the author that what is contained within the covers of the work is, well, unbelievable. It has a plausibility problem.
But the more bizarre elements of Jon Ronsons The Men Who Stare At Goats are anchored in a disturbing reality that we know to be the truth. The shocking images from the Abu Ghraib prison in Iraq were too weird, too perfectly calculated to do psycho-sexual and cultural damage, to be merely a case of a couple of bored, barely literate prison guards having a lark.
June 30, 2005The Big Brother season has begun. The human zoo is open for inspection, and the usual bunch of annoying but oddly fascinating wannabes are about to become as familiar to us as the people we live with. Our celebrity obsession reveals what we really think it means to be human, says MICHAEL JENSEN
June 1, 2005If you close your eyes and inhale the sea air and feel the warm summer sun on your cheek you might just find it possible to believe that a fair go still exists in Australia. We have low unemployment and a high standard of living, a solid social security safety net and plenty of casual work opportunities for those who look for it. Dont we
April 26, 2005Socrates was famously executed in Athens for "corrupting the youth" of the city. In 1989, when I was in my first year of Arts at Sydney University I was ripe for corruption. So I signed up for Philosophy 1.
March 1, 2005This book is an entertaining and informative critique of the Australian medias treatment of women who are prominent in politics. Former Sydney Anglican Synod member and Sydney Morning Herald writer Julia Baird is well aware that she has now joined the ranks of the very press that is under her microscope. But this doesnt hold her back in her quest to discover why, by and large, Australias female politicians of all have promised much and delivered little. In part, Baird surmises, this is because of unrealistic expectations and invidious comparisons with figures like Margaret Thatcher.
February 9, 2005John Carroll, professor of sociology at La Trobe University, Melbourne, is not afraid of big ideas. His 2004 book The Wreck of Western Culture "“ a substantial reworking of a 1993 effort "“ is a passionate, daring and sustained attack on the bloodlines of what we call "the West." He calls his book "a spiritual history of the West." He writes with a refreshing polemical zeal and with none of the hedging and over-qualifying so characteristic of academic prose.
January 28, 2005I learnt about play from Pat Kanes book The Play Ethic "“ A Manifesto for a Different Way of Living. This sprawling website of a book is perhaps a little less fun to read than it ought to be and could be half as long. It swings between groovy journalist chat and would-be academic prose. However, it contains a real and profound challenge to the way we live life in the west.
December 30, 2004In his intriguing new book Urban Tribes, Californian journalist Ethan Watters argues that, in fact, young adults are forming their own significant communities in place of traditional family units; and finding in these groups some of the benefits that family life offers. Watters claims he discovered the mass phenomena of the Urban Tribe almost accidentally.