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Welcome to GR Online, a series of short-form articles that take aim at the moving target of contemporary culture as it’s whisked along the guide rails of innovations in digital media, globalisation and late-stage capitalism.

Nostalgia on demand

The observed correlation between the Covid pandemic and what we might call the nostalgia boom is in one respect no mystery.

James and the Giant BLEEP

Common sense alone tells us that what we’re capable of thinking and what we’re capable of saying are not the same thing. When we struggle to find the right words, when a word lingers on the tip of our tongue, when words just won’t do something justice, we understand intuitively that thinking takes place independently of expression. It’s in this way that supposedly untranslatable words, for which our language has no exact or close synonym, are often so deeply pleasurable: not because those words reveal something about a worldview that’s unfamiliar or foreign to us but precisely the opposite.

The fall of the madmen

The problem with a fear-based workplace – and indeed world – is that caution and compliance are not compatible with creativity. Creativity searches for the things that have never been done before, on which, by definition, there is as yet no data. Scott Nowell argues that the obsession with data has made us lose faith in our own instincts, so it’s not surprising that creativity is not valued the way it once was. And the source of creativity has shifted to the ­consumers themselves.

Nothing ever lasts

But I hate thinking of myself as the diversity hire. As I said, I’ve worked in the industry for over a decade. ‘I belong in this room,’ I told myself. I’m not a token – despite being called that so many times in my career that I’ve lost count. I’ve earned my place.

Glitter and guts 

All those years I had been excluded from the Anzac narrative because the Defence Act had outlawed Black enlistment. Lest we forget morphs into satire when you uncover the depths of collective amnesia surrounding Black service in World War I and Black resistance since colonisation. The more accurate catchphrase would be Best we forget. How can we be ‘one’ when we are not allowed to remember equally? Nostalgia is selective about remembrance.

Which way, Western artist?

Shadow for Zavros is cobwebby, a necessary concession to realism, avoided wherever possible. It manifests in surgical lines differentiating the contours of form from the seething morass of nature. Though Zavros indebts the modern Narcissus depicted in Bad Dad to Caravaggio, he has no affinity for the old master’s tenebrism; Apollonian form must triumph over Dionysian murk, lest all the fine things be swallowed. Still, the objectifying amoralist cannot help but be contaminated by the vision of his daughter as Leda, raped by swan-Zeus; his corruption spills across the canvas, an inky oil slick.

Scarlett fever

The competition was notable for its shift away from being a Vivien Leigh lookalike contest. The bid to find a woman who, instead, ‘most closely’ resembled how Scarlett ‘would act and speak today’ and embodied ‘her spirit and sass’ opened up the search to any woman with a bit of chutzpah, including, in theory, Black and other women of colour.

Anticipating enchantment

When an editor works on a book, they balance reader expectations with what they interpret the author’s intentions to be and use their experience to make suggestions. This might mean changing some of the language to ensure the work is comprehensible for general readers, or asking for more detail where a setting has been hastily described. An editor will always be anticipating the market, and their extensive reading of contemporary works makes them well-placed not only to understand the social and political conditions of the day but also trends in publishing and marketing. 

From anchor to weapon

In 1930s Germany, the slogan ‘blood and soil’ was most prominently promulgated by the Reich Ministry of Food and Agriculture, which positioned itself not merely as an administrator but a kind of advocate-guardian of the soil and its workers. In 1930, Adolf Hitler recruited Richard Walther Darré, then a leading blood and soil theorist, to the Nazi Party. On seizing power in 1933, Hitler appointed Darré Reichsminister of Agriculture, a role he occupied until 1942. Recently, for reasons that are unclear but politically alarming, Darré’s works on blood and soil have been translated and republished in English to some fanfare.

Farming futures

The tempo of seasonal food production gives Mildura its seductive groove. The race is on to get food to market when prices are high and before it wilts and rots. But this race is only incidentally about food and mainly about finance. When markets fail or supply chains are disrupted, harvests are bitter. Watermelons, zucchinis and lettuces are ploughed back into the ground. Grapes are left hanging on vines, sitting in coolrooms and rotting in shipping containers grounded at ports.

The ship, the students, the chief and the children

The latest incarnation of the Rainbow Warrior – the third vessel to bear this name – has arrived in the South Pacific to support a campaign of epic vision. In 2019, in a university classroom in Vanuatu, a group of students began earnestly discussing with their teacher how international law might be better used in the existential struggle against climate change. The extraordinary objective that was eventually agreed on was to secure a strong advisory opinion from the International Court of Justice in relation to states’ obligations to protect the human rights of current and future generations from the impacts of climate change. A new organisation, the youth-led Pacific Island Students Fighting Climate Change, was established to carry the case forward and has since forged collaborative relationships with Greenpeace and other civil-society allies to help build impetus around the world.
Improbably, this audacious youth-led stratagem has already achieved success, first securing unanimous support from the nations of the Pacific Islands Forum (which includes Australia) and then winning consent referral from the United Nations General Assembly to the International Court of Justice – the first time this has occurred…

Walking through the mou(r)n(ing of a)tain(ted life)

My big black cloak could probably keep me from freezing overnight. I remember a movie where a character smeared a layer of dirt over their body to stay warm. That would be my ‘break in case of emergency’ action…if my OCD will bury the anxiety of contamination for survival’s sake.

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