Love, sex and Cosi fan tutte

By | Books, History, Music, Society, Theatre | 35 Comments

For those who don’t know much about the work, Cosi fan tutte is an opera with music by Mozart, for a libretto by Lorenzo da Ponte, who also worked with Mozart in creating Don Giovanni and The Marriage of Figaro. Indeed da Ponte wrote 28 libretti for eleven composers, and had a most interesting life. The opera has a sub-title The School for Lovers, but it is rarely used. Cosi fan tutte means ‘They all do it’, and ‘they’ means women. If both men and women had been meant, the third word in the title would have been tutti. This little exercise in language is important,…

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Managing comments on the website

By | Climate Change, Economy, Education, Environment, Food & Wine, Health, History, Humour, Language, Media, Music, Politics, Religion, Research, Road Safety, Society, Sport, Theatre | 43 Comments

I’ve had to think hard about how best to moderate the comments on this website. A number of the recent posts have had more than 100 comments, and one has passed 200. Just following them is a decent amount of work, and it gets in the way of other writing important to me. My own practice has been to respond to anyone who I think is seeking a real answer to something, or who has found a weakness in what I have written, or who seems to have misunderstood what I wrote. I learn from such encounters. If I find I…

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‘Kill Climate Deniers!’ More on public funding of the arts

By | ABC, Books, Climate Change, Environment, History, Media, Politics, Religion, Research, Theatre | 34 Comments

Back in 2014 I wrote a piece about accountability, which began with the news that the ACT Government had funded a theatre project with the title as given above. I knew nothing about the play, but its title led me to ask what redress any of us sceptics had, if and when it were conclusively shown that the AGC scare was just that, a baseless scare. As taxpayers we had been forced to contribute to large amounts of expenditure that was simply wasted, on the advice of people who claimed to know the truth. Then Andrew Bolt took up the question…

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What sort of conversation do you get on The Conversation?

By | Climate Change, Economy, Education, Environment, Health, History, Language, Media, Politics, Religion, Research, Road Safety, Society, Sport, Theatre | 22 Comments

Another of my resolutions for the New Year was to get rid of unwanted  regular emails. It’s not as easy as you might think. I’ve tried blocking, and that works, to a degree, for anything generated in Australia. But those from overseas are immune. I looked at sites I’ve subscribed to, such as purveyors of goods of various kinds, like clothes. It seems that if you buy something you are offered a goody if you subscribe, and one does. But I’ve got rid of most of those, too. And that leaves The Conversation, which claims 2 million unique hits a month, and seems…

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The last essay for this year

By | ABC, Books, Climate Change, Economy, Education, Environment, Food & Wine, Health, History, Humour, Indigenous, Language, Media, Music, Other, Politics, Religion, Research, Road Safety, Society, Sport, Theatre | 26 Comments

Even websites need a holiday, and mine starts tomorrow. I’m back at work in the week beginning 12 January, and wish all my readers a relaxing, safe and enjoyable holiday break too. I started this website in June 2012, so it is now two-and-a-half years old. Over that time it has attracted about 27,000 unique readers, who have in total visited the site more than 70,000 times, and read nearly 150,000 pages. Readers have made nearly 3,700 comments to my 608 posts, and of course to one another’s comments. Before I get carried away with such success, I should mention that my…

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The passing of Gough Whitlam

By | Economy, Education, Health, History, Humour, Media, Politics, Society, Theatre | 8 Comments

I wrote about Gough last year, when he turned 97, and I don’t want to repeat any of that. He was the most interesting politician I met, and he and Bob Menzies, for somewhat similar reasons, have been the two most powerful Australian politicians of my time. He didn’t quite get to 100 years, and thereby receive the Queen’s telegram, but he did have long innings, of which the last few years were not at all his most enjoyable. The tributes are pouring in, and they tell a similar story. He made us conscious of who we were as a nation, and…

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What sort of political system do we have? I

By | ABC, Books, Climate Change, Economy, Education, Environment, Health, History, Media, Music, Politics, Religion, Research, Society, Sport, Theatre | 11 Comments

This the first of a two-part essay on the current Australian political system. When I was first interested on politics in the 1950s, it all seemed pretty simple. There was Labor and Anti-Labor, with the Country Party serving as the rural tail of the Liberals. You were Protestant or Catholic. You left school at fifteen,  or you went on (in consequence you were blue-collar or white-collar). You were probably a union member if you were a worker. Your sympathies were to the Left or to the Right. Republicans were just about invisible. You probably inherited your family’s political sympathies, as…

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And a Merry Christmas to all

By | ABC, Books, Climate Change, Economy, Education, Environment, Food & Wine, Health, History, Humour, Indigenous, Language, Media, Music, Other, Politics, Religion, Research, Road Safety, Society, Sport, Theatre | 7 Comments

This is my last post for the year — a phrase my wife says needs a trumpet call, which would be the case had I capitalised the phrase. Ordinary transmission will resume on Monday 6 January. What a year it has been. What other year saw Australia have three Prime Ministers within a few months? The last was 1945, when John Curtin died, to be followed in an interim way by his Deputy Frank Forde, before the Labor Caucus elected Ben Chifley as the new PM. And there were two similar earlier years in my lifetime, 1941, when Menzies, Fadden,…

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What happens when a good novel is turned into a film?

By | ABC, Books, Education, History, Language, Religion, Society, Theatre | 2 Comments

Every few years I go back and re-read some or all of Jane Austen’s novels, and then watch the filmed versions of the one I have been re-reading. I still think that she was the first great novelist, and that in the form she chose she is yet unequalled. That form is the comedy of manners, enlivened with one or more love stories. I am not allowed to call her work ‘chick lit’, but it has inspired thousands of imitators, and that term can at least be attached to a good deal of their work. Much as I like the…

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Sex, Love and Death — Italian style

By | Books, History, Music, Society, Theatre | 3 Comments

Those three capitalised nouns represent the kernel of very many plots in literature, theatre and opera. Seeing Verdi’s La Traviata in Sydney renewed my interest both in those ingredients of story-telling, and also in the disease, then called ‘consumption’, that causes Violetta’s early death — and also Mimi’s in Puccini’s La Boheme. ‘Consumption’ got its name because the disease was seen to consume the body, and it eventually became renamed as ‘tuberculosis’ when the rod-shaped bacterium that caused the illness was identified in the 1880s. The bacterium loves the human lung, and causes a wasting and most painful illness that finally…

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