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Being David Cohen

Recently, I typed ‘David Cohen’ into Google Books, just for the modest thrill of seeing my name appear. The thrill quickly gave way to dismay when I saw how many other writers there are named David Cohen: dozens of the bastards.

To speak or not to speak

What does silence say about our views, the way we use our platforms, our moral capacities, our ethics, our willingness to be silenced or the (always unstated) pecuniary and reputational purposes for which many use public social media profiles? It’s also helpful to consider the implications of silence.

Mix ’n’ mash 

There's a huge amount of luck and discovery involved with the collage technique where – if it’s not reaching the randomness of aleatory music – it’s pretty darn close to genuine randomness and dumb luck.

Nostalgia on demand

The observed correlation between the Covid pandemic and what we might call the nostalgia boom is in one respect no mystery. The Covid years were a time of stress, and people responded to that stress with behaviours that immersed them in broadly pleasant feelings. But Covid didn’t occur in a vacuum, and the stresses associated with it were not reducible to the fear of getting sick. Indeed, for many, the stress of Covid derived not from the virus itself but from the lockdowns aimed at arresting its spread.

Time plays tricks

Ten years ago, the late, great cultural theorist Mark Fisher posited that our ‘montaging of earlier eras’ had reached such fever pitch that we no longer even noticed our submersion in a sea of bygones. And sitting alongside this purported cultural inertia are our increasingly divergent attitudes towards history – the far-right impulse to romanticise the past, the far-left desire to remedy its wrongs – and how they inflect our politics. 

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

Back in 1995, change, as well as cigarette smoke, was in the air. Smoking was still permitted in hotels in those days. Even in old weatherboard fire hazards. But it wasn’t mist, passive smoke or being trapped inside that so disturbed the conference. For the first time in the eighteen-year history of the Caxtons, there was a sizeable number of female delegates. Nowhere near 50 per cent, you understand, but enough to make their presence felt. They weren’t the usual overworked event organisers or the few battle-scarred older female creatives who’d learnt to match quips, drinks and fags with the blokes. They were a new crowd of ambitious younger women who had persuaded their creative directors to cough up the sizeable registration fee and invest in their career. Their presence so unsettled the blokes that there was a running ‘joke’ about lesbians for the duration of the event. I was still a copywriter in those days, and one of those female delegates. I spent the weekend rolling my eyes so hard I thought they’d work loose in their sockets. Even so, I had no idea that I was witnessing the beginning of the end. The men weren’t wrong to be rattled. That influx of female delegates was the most obvious indicator of the tsunami of change about to overwhelm the cosy world of advertising and the world in general.

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. 

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