1. Child art from those who became great
A few months back Artsy posted a piece What Do the Childhood Works of Famous Artists Look Like? It had works by Dürer, Klee, Dalí and Picasso, but my favourite was the painting by Edward Hopper, Little Boy Looking at the Sea:
The image was drawn on the back of Edward Hopper’s third grade report card dated October 23, 1891, when Hopper was nine years old.
2. The dystopic future with Blade Runner 2049
That scene from Blade Runner 2049 should definitely be seen in theatre on the widest screen you can find, where the rest of the visual field is blotted out, and with a sound system where the sounds waves vibrate your body. This man is right, see it now, while it’s still in the theatres. It won’t last long, because while the critics rave, the audiences have been slow, as they were for the Ridley Scott 1982 original.
The official site has a trailer, The Guardian has a special page of stuff, including a review, and here’s one about filming in Budapest. The acting is superb, and the special effects are, well, out of this world.
I didn’t see it as a big, serious investigation of what it is to be human, or about our possible technology-enhanced future. Just an extraordinary filmic experience. It works on several levels, as an action movie, sci-fi, a love story, a personal quest, with visuals of a planet that has evidently experienced something like a nuclear holocaust.
3. The world is changing
It seems the result is a foregone conclusion, and the place will be run by billionaire businessman Andrej Babis if he stays out of jail. There is an anti-refugee theme, but the bigger problem is that he will run the country like a firm – his firm.
Democracy is at stake.
Richard Fidler’s latest conversation was with Masha Gessen, who has commented copiously on Russia and the Trump phenomenon in the United States. She sees both Putin and Trump with very different inpersonality and style, but both mafia-like figures, who establish a family-like elite, decide who is in and who is out, are quite ruthless in evicting people, and govern the country in the interests of the elite. The mafia analogy is the most appropriate in understanding a wider trend to authoritarian rule in other states where democracy is in retreat. Hungary and Poland are notable European examples.
Lies are a way of demonstrating power – I can do and say anything I like and there is nothing you can do about it.
Important institutions of state are being dismantled or radically changed in the US in plain sight. She mentioned the State Department, which is being disabled from the ability to counter China on the ground in the east, and the judiciary at home, where a raft of younger judges with severe ideological bent will transform ‘justice’.
She says Hillary Clinton’s book is quite thorough in its self-analysis, but Gissen’s big disappointment was that Clinton’s staff persuaded her to drop a Universal Basic Income proposal she had. She had heaps of good policy on her website, but tactically ran a negative campaign pointing out that Trump was unfit for office. Unfortunately it involved saying that we didn’t need to make America great again, because it already was, meaning the pain many were feeling was as good as it gets.
This mafia authoritarianism is not just an episode, easily cured by electing a more suitable candidate next time. The country is changing fundamentally. Civil society has been stirred into action, which is good and will help.
4. Final rites to the car industry
Four years ago Abbott and Hockey succeeded in the relatively easy job of hectoring the car industry out of town.
The best commentary I’ve heard was from Professor Roy Green, outgoing Dean of UTS Business School and board member of the Innovative Manufacturing Co-operative Research Centre. He said assembling the final product here was not the most important part, rather the R&D, the design and the components industry. Some (much?) of this will be preserved, but it is obviously harder without the keystone process of final assembly.
He said a government with a brain (not his words) could have preserved the industry, but there was a genuine question of opportunity cost. Could the government support have been better directed elsewhere?
He said that other smallish economies do scoping studies to see where the best industry opportunities lie, and then have strategies to support development. We don’t, preferring to drive into the future with our hands off the wheel.
He says that there are several thousand companies in Australia which are best-in-world at what they do, mostly small with fewer than 100 employees, and that’s where our future lies. If we had the gumption to recognise this and develop models of action, of which there are plenty examples in other countries, we could do very well indeed.
5. Physician assisted dying
Physician-assisted dying laws have passed the lower house in Victoria, supported by Premier Daniel Andrews and fiercely opposed by Deputy Premier James Merlino. The action now moves to the upper house, where the ‘yes’ vote is favoured, but numbers are tight.
A feature has been the late intervention by Paul Keating who has put forward a cogent argument saying this a threshold moment for Australia, and one we should not cross.
Andrews says that if Keating had read all the coroners reports that he had read, Keating may have a different view. Many of the bill’s supporters say that physician-assisted dying is happening every day in diverse ways, under the radar. Better to clean it up and do it properly.
Please note, I’m not expressing a view one way or the other.