Reviews »

[5 Nov 2020 | No Comment | 28 views ]

Born comics die laughing
The Comedy of Error: Why evolution made us laugh.
By Jonathan Silvertown, Scribe, 2020, 192pp, $29.99
ISBN: 9781922310095

   Evolutionary theory is primarily about survival but, as Jonathan Silvertown makes clear in this intriguing book,  as well as having survival value, laughter allows us to share in the fun.
The need to laugh seems to be universal. When I was a child my Uncle George told me, ‘Laughter is the best medicine.’ When, in later life, I told George that he was my favourite relative, he responded, ‘There wasn’t much competition.’ A sense …

Reviews »

[15 Oct 2020 | No Comment | 72 views ]

Son of the Brush
by Tim Olsen
Allen & Unwin, Australia, 2020, pp 485, $34.95
ISBN : 9781743318058 
   Being the son of the revered John Olsen has often been intriguing, and sometimes difficult. 
Olsen, 92, is arguably Australia’s greatest living artist, and is still painting.
His son, Tim, 58, the author of this fine memoir, runs one of Australia’s leading art galleries in Woollahra, Sydney.
In Son of the Brush (a play on the laconic expression ‘son of a gun’ ), Tim Olsen brilliantly encapsulates the contours of what now seems to be his ultimately fortunate life – it’s triumphs its failures, its tragedies and its joys …

Featured »

[2 Oct 2020 | No Comment | 96 views ]

Maybe a Dip. Wellness from The Gunnedah Institute does not qualify a canine like Jackie to become an art critic.  Except for the fact that almost everyone is an art critic these days.  And like most critics Jackie doesn’t know much about  art but she knows what she likes – as the saying goes (or went).
And so it came to pass that Jackie has decided to recommend each year that one portrait from those that made the final cut is currently on display at the Art Gallery of NSW and …

Columns, Reviews »

[19 Sep 2020 | No Comment | 56 views ]

RADIO GIRL: The story of the extraordinary Mrs Mac, pioneering engineer and wartime legend by David Dufty. Publisher: Allen&Unwin, 2020, pp 302, $22.99
Florence Violet McKenzie, nee Wallace (1890-1982), usually known as Violet or Mrs Mac, is someone who, up to now, I’d never heard of.
But thanks to David Dufty, an expert in Australia’s military intelligence during World War Two, I now realise how crucial she  was in training our first women code-breakers (initially in signals, not in code-breaking as such) and also, as an early feminist, in persuading the navy to establish the Women’s Royal Australian Naval Service (WRANS).
Importantly, Mrs Mac was Australia’s first female electrical …

Reviews »

[18 Sep 2020 | No Comment | 66 views ]

Deborah Cassrels, ‘Gods and Demons’ (ABC Books, 336pp, $34.99).
Bali is a special place for Australians. For some of us it’s a touchstone, a much-loved haven.

Until she died in January, my darling wife Lyndal, who spoke Bahasa Indonesian and some Balinese, travelled with me each year to Bali. We always stayed at the Puri Saraswati Bungalows, a home away from home in culturally rich Ubud, next to the Royal Palace.
Indonesia is the world’s most populous Muslim-majority nation. Yet despite an influx of immigrants, mainly from Java, Bali remains predominantly …

Columns »

[10 Sep 2020 | No Comment | 27 views ]


I’m at risk, but I don’t want lockdowns

It’s hard to credit in a democracy like Australia, but five and a half million Melburnians are set to continue under virtual house arrest almost indefinitely. On Sunday, Premier Dan Andrews‘ roadmap to reopening turned out to be a plan for even more lockdowns. Unless cases in Victoria drop to below current New South Wales levels, the curfew will continue beyond October 26; and restaurants won’t be open for indoor service until after November 23, and then only if there are no …

Columns »

[31 Aug 2020 | No Comment | 135 views ]


Cigarettes in Australia have never been subjected to prohibition. Advances in manufacturing, marketing and advertising of cigarettes, starting over a century ago, saw cigarette smoking steadily increase for half a century. Soon after World War II, a majority of Australian men smoked, although smoking rates among women never reached such high levels.

After World War II, shocking research about the dangers of smoking began to appear. First a trickle of research, then a flood. Now we know that up to two of every three long-term smokers will die from …

Columns »

[30 Aug 2020 | No Comment | 23 views ]

It’s time to get a sense of proportion about the virus
One of Scott Morrison’s key innovations, as border protection minister, was to stop the practice of making announcements every time an illegal migrant boat arrived. “I’m not in the business of providing shipping news for people smugglers” he used to say. It certainly helped that government policies, most notably boat turn-backs, were actually defusing the crisis. But by refusing to front the media on a near-daily basis, he avoided elevating the issue and giving a platform to doom-mongers.
It’s hard not …

Columns »

[30 Jul 2020 | No Comment | 93 views ]

The so-called National Cabinet
This is no way to produce sensible policy
Last month, Australia’s top bureaucrat congratulated himself on the creation of the so-called National Cabinet, saying that this had made Australia’s response to the pandemic “one of the best, if not the best, in the world in terms of the federations”. Earlier, the Prime Minister had likewise patted himself on the back for making a monthly National Cabinet meeting with the premiers and chief ministers a permanent feature of Australian governance. These National Cabinet meetings would be, Scott Morrison …

Books »

[28 Jul 2020 | No Comment | 121 views ]

‘Fifty Years Sober: An Alcoholic’s Journey.’

by Ross Fitzgerald, Hybrid Publishers, $27.50.
Reviewed by Rama Gaind
It’s realism at its starkest. “The reality is that if I hadn’t stopped drinking and drugging at twenty-five years of age, I wouldn’t have made twenty-six”. This is Professor Fitzgerald’s 42nd book and an updated edition of his 2010 memoir ‘My Name is Ross.’
Ross Fitzgerald, an Emeritus Professor of History and Politics at Griffith University, has been a successful academic, writer, reviewer and commentator in the media. He acknowledges that it remains a daily battle to remain …

Reviews »

[24 Jul 2020 | No Comment | 255 views ]

One of the best non-fiction books of the year is an elegant memoir by Paul Bugden who, from 1995 at the height of the AIDS epidemic, ran Bugdens Bookshop in Kings Cross for almost 20 years.

Released this month, Tales of an Accidental Bookseller tells the true story of a struggling actor and aspiring filmmaker who, amid great personal loss and tragedy, finds redemption in the most unlikely place – the second hand book trade.

Tales of an Accidental Bookseller is available for $29.99 from

It is an enthralling and fascinating read.

Professor Ross Fitzgerald AM is the …