Say, have you missed my View from the Street column? Then MISS IT NO MORE!

Dear the Internet,

As you’ve probably noticed with the imminent release of The Long and Winding Way To The Top: 50 (Or So) Songs That Made Australiawhich is on shelves in mere weeks! – I’ve been writing a lot more about music of late – and also, somewhat gratifyingly, science (or more accurately SCIENCE!).

However, there’s still a part of my heart which is forever obsessed with Australian politics and after attempts to keep my snarky, lefty View from the Street column as part of the regular column-mix at Fairfax failed during their rationalisations earlier this year, I figured it was the end of it.

Except that I kept getting emails and Facebook messages from readers asking what was going on, which made me think that maybe I wasn’t the only person who missed it. And then when I idly suggested that I start doing columns again as a subscriber-thing on Patreon the response was overwhelmingly positive.

And it’ll only cost THIS MANY MONEYS!

So: last Friday I launched my new twice-a-week politics column, for which folks can subscribe for $3 a month, and the first one went up on Monday. And oh, it felt SO GOOD TO BE WRITING IT AGAIN.

So if you were a fan of V from the S, or the 10 Things column in the Vine that preceded it approximately a million years ago, then you can get it straight to your inbox or browser window simply by joining up here.

I’ve no idea whether this is the brave new crowdfunded future of journalism or a deluded ego trip as barking as a conspiracy theorist YouTube channel, but heck: it’s an excuse to look at the many, many, many wildly silly things happening in politics at the moment.

The posts will be publicly available after a week at the Patreon page, so if you’re reading this in at least six days time you should be able to see what happened back… um, now?

So if you’ve missed my snark, or just think that maybe politics could stand to be a bit kinder and smarter than the current cavalcade of up-fuckery, then come join the new thing. There’s some very nice people there.

Yours ever,

APS

 

 

 

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…and we’re back for 2016!

Dear The Internet,

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A very rugged up APS beside Crick and Watson’s model of the DNA double helix at the British Science Museum, for which they were to win the Nobel Prize. Not shown: both men stealing Rosalind Franklin’s data in order to do so.

We are back!

Sorry for the extended silence. I was taking one of those “break” things that people used to take back in the days when our then-strong unions went “what, work all the time until we die in order that others may profit from our labour? Nah.” I recommend such things, as it turns out that not-working for a bit is pretty awesome and inspiring.

This break was not only wonderful, but also incorporated m’delayed honeymoon which involved Europe and seeing all sorts of incredible pieces of art about which I’d read since I was a kid, getting teary in front of the actual fossils that Mary Anning dug from the cliffs at Lyme Regis over two centuries ago, riding many trains, seeing lovely friends and family, getting colder than I’d ever been (cheers, Berlin!), and drinking in some superb bars. And I got to hang out with my wife for three uninterrupted weeks, which was the actual best.

And now we are back in Australia, feeling refreshed and ready to do stuff again – as perhaps indicated by this Daily Life piece I wrote pretty much upon touching down, regarding Australia’s mighty blindspot regarding non-English speaking visitors – but that is not even remotely all!

First up, View from the Street is back for 2016, providing all your lefty ranty column-sized needs at the Sydney Morning Herald and the rest of the Fairfax family (and it is a family) Sunday-Thursday at as close to 5pm as I can manage.

Here are the first two of the year: a bit of a catch up on the dumbest things that happened over the break, and how Eric Abetz confirmed that the government have no intention of respecting the idiotic plebiscite on same-sex marriage, regardless of the result.

Secondly, with The Short and Excruciatingly Embarrassing Reign of Captain Abbott selling out of its first print run – I’m as surprised as you, frankly, but utterly delighted – it’s possibly not a huge shock that I’m now working on another book for Allen & Unwin.

This one’s about my other great love – music, specifically Australian music, and even more specifically some of the weirder things about Australian music that haven’t been given their due. I’ll give more details as things develop, but suffice to say it’s going to be nice to dig deep into something that doesn’t involve legislative breaches of human rights agreements quite so much.

So the ground has been hit running, friends. And if this is the sort of pace that will characterise the rest of the year, maybe another break is in order. Hopefully involving spending even more time at the Science Museum…

Yours ever,

APS

Hello. Sorry this place has been a bit quiet. But there’s a book coming.

Dear the Internet,

I’ve been horribly neglectful of this site of late. To be fair, I’ve been horribly neglectful of most things in my life for the last few months because I’ve been writing a book. And now it’s actually finished and is going to the magical book-making machine which I like to imagine is sort of like a whimsical Dr Suess illustration rather than what I assume is a large series of printing presses in an industrial warehouse in China or something.

The book has a name and a cover and a release date. The name is The Inexplicably Long and Embarrassing Reign of Captain Abbott. The cover is by my friend and former Time Out Sydney colleague Robert Polmear and looks like this:

The release date is December 2015, making it both the perfect Xmas gift for any progressive type that you love, or the conservative that you are obliged to buy for but really want to annoy.

If you’ve read my regular View from the Street column around the Fairfax sites – and to be honest, I can’t imagine why you’d be here if you didn’t – then you’re probably correctly imagining what’s in the book: snarky rants about how relentlessly silly the last two years of Australian politics has been.

It’s an incomplete overview of many of the most frustratingly ridiculous things said (“I’m a fixer!”, “Poor people don’t drive cars!”, “People have a right to be a bigot!”, “I’m going to shirtfront Mr Putin!”), done (the onions! The helicopters! The submarines! Sir Prince Philip!) and legislated, from offshore detention to Direct Action and all the stupid points in between.

And while it’s relentlessly snarky about Abbott and his merry band of largely terrible frontbenchers, there’s a larger philosophical point in there: we’re better off if we work together and look after one another, and that we can do so, so much better.

I mention this because all this economic turmoil and political division isn’t a tough but unavoidable necessity: it’s a choice that we’re making, and we we can make different ones.

A society is not the same thing as an economy, and pretending that the former is magically sorted out by fixing the latter is straight-up incorrect (not helped by the fact that this government is also failing at that, mind). But I won’t go on about that now: hell, I spent 320 pages going on about it in this thing you can read for yourself in a couple of months.

And I do very much hope you like it. I’ve read it several times during the proofing process and still laughed at jokes I’d forgotten, which means that either there are some really good lines in there and/or I have early onset dementia. Time will doubtlessly tell.

And now that I’m slightly less frantic, I might actually do more stuff on here. Let’s see how that pans out, eh?

Cheers,

Andrew

…And we’re back in the saddle

View from the Street returns, refreshed and a little annoyed that things weren’t all sorted out in its absence

Dear The Internet,

It’s been a frantic 2015 thus far, what with trying to write a book (still on track, by the way: hence my increasing caffeine intake over the last few months) and also – just to add more organisational stress to the process – getting married just over a week ago. Which was, by the way, the best.

Seriously, best day. How goddamn good to we look? Amazing. Photo by Anna Kucera

Seriously, best day. How goddamn good do we look? Amazing. Photo by Anna Kucera

Anyway, I’m almost certainly going to write something philosophical-slash-sentimental on the subject in the immediate future (after all, how often do you get to put a large proportion of the people you adore in the one room? There’s pretty much no other excuse to force people to travel from interstate and overseas to frock up and drink and dine with a bunch of folks whose only connection is that they have people they care about in common).

However, in the meantime please rest assured that I’m alive, a good deal more cash-free, still grinning like a loon and back to pumping out View from the Street for the good people of the Sydney Morning Herald Sun-Thurs after a little mini-honeymoon break. Which was also a freakin’ joy, by the way.

To that end, here’s Monday’s column in case you missed it and were thinking “I wonder if anyone in the Australian federal government has said anything sexist and/or xenophobic of late?” Spoiler: yep!

Anyway, there’s a book to be written and right now I’m going to go make some coffee for my wife. And yes, the novelty of using that word has not worn off.

Yours ever,

APS

Happy new y… um, February 1st!

Dear the Internet,

Yep, my updates are maintaining the usual stately pace in 2015. Sorry. It’s been busy.

Very, very busy.

Very, very busy.

Well, actually, the first few weeks of the year were wonderfully unbusy and I had some time to do things like “not write for a bit”, but then View from the Street started up again, coinciding wonderfully with the Prime Minister deciding to look at the lessons of 2014 and go “yeah, nah.”

So there has been a lot – A LOT – to write about. You can read all of the things here, if you want to feel a little bit worse about Australian politics.

Other than that I’ve written about Better Call Saul, what date we should change Australia Day to, since we’re eventually going to do that anyway, reviewed Abbie Cornish – aka MC Dusk – opening for Nas, and some other musicy writing stuff which should be out shortly in both print and on the prestigious internet.

Also, I’m trying to think of a decent project for this site to make it something other than a series of occasional apologies and links to things, although that would be somewhat predicated on my having time to actually do it. I miss doing Song You Should Rediscover Today Because It Is Awesome (which is even less regularly updated than this, and lives here), so maybe something like that just to remind me that it’s not all being disappointed with politics.

But now I’m off to do an interview. Let’s talk soon.

Yours ever,

APS

One of those wildly overdue update things, with bonus explainer about governments

A special post for newcomers who are itching to tell me I’m a lefty jerk

Our national coat of arms, featuring two emblematic creatures that work brilliantly in a curry.

Our national coat of arms, featuring two emblematic creatures that work brilliantly in a curry.

Hello, internet. You’re looking well.

I’m not going to lie to you, friend: it’s been a busy old time.

That’s mainly been because of my five-day-a-week online column at the Sydney Morning Herald, which is called View from the Street – yes, I’m the titular Street (here’s today’s column, if you’re interested) – and which is most likely the reason you came here. That, or a very creepily specific porn search.

Something that’s coming up increasingly often because of said column is that I have an anti-Coalition agenda. And that’s not really true: I disagree vehemently with most of the things they’re attempting to do, but that’s because I think they’re pursuing lousy policy rather than because I have a deep-seated loathing of conservatism.

See, conservatives can have good ideas. Progressives are occasionally wrong. The way to establish the quality of a political party’s idea, in my opinion, is to ask the question: does this specific policy contribute to human wellbeing and societal stability?

If the answer is yes, then congratulations: that’s a good bit of policy you have there! If not, then it’s bad policy and should be, at the very least, taken back to the shop for some serious remodelling, possibly with a mallet.

And most of the time it’s pretty straightforward to answer those questions, especially if you bother to ask them in the first place.

So, in order to better understand where I’m coming from, here’s an excerpt from my Here’s The Thing column at TheVine entitled “Governments: Why Do We Even?” explaining that governments are around for a reason, and it’s a pretty great one.

Humans are kinda rubbish at survival on our own. We’re naked and weak and we don’t run especially fast and we don’t have tough shells or huge claws or any of those other things that more robust species have.

One major problem is our big stupid heads, which we need because of our enormous brains. We walk upright in part because that’s the best way to distribute that hefty weight, and walking upright necessitates having a narrow pelvis. Combine narrow pelvises and gigantic skulls and you need to give birth to offspring that are basically fetuses that need a hell of a lot of looking after just to survive. In just about every other species a newborn can fend for itself more or less from birth: human babies are notoriously bad at it.

What we do have – the thing that we’re really, really good at – is working together. Our big brains are great at working out what other people are likely to be thinking, and therefore changing our behaviour accordingly so we can work better together. Lots of animals do that, of course, but we’re amazingly good at it.

About ten thousand years ago we started settling down in places rather than moving around, building permanent settlements and inventing stuff like agriculture as a way to feed a growing mass of people.

Societies started to grow, and the societies where people lived better lives became (understandably) more popular with people than those where things were terrible. Stability brought prosperity, and prosperity bought neat stuff like art and science and culture. Turns out that when humans aren’t living hand to mouth, they have time to think about stuff like “y’know, this shovel could be better designed” and “hey, what do you reckon stars are?”

And that’s also where the idea of laws, and for that matter religion, comes from: a series of rules under which society is stable, and in which the constituents live better lives than they otherwise could do on their own. As this became more codified we ended up with things like governments.

And stability doesn’t sound sexy – anarchy gets a cool symbol and everything – but it’s where where big-brained, small-teethed humans turned things to their advantage. We didn’t have to fight, and we had time to think. And that changed everything.

Once you conclude that governments are in place to maintain the stability that leads to prosperity, it becomes a hell of a lot easier to tell whether something is a great idea or a terrible one. Is society made better by a particular policy? Does it hurt people, or does it help people?

If that’s your criteria, you don’t need to speculate on whether a leader is a good and moral person or not, or whether a party is sticking to their guns or betraying their base or any of those other pointless questions. You can ask “is this specific piece of legislation or policy actually helpful to people?”

That’s the important question, and the challenge for governments is to answer that question with “yes, and here’s why”, rather than angrily insist that their opinion is more valid than evidence.

Yours ever,

APS

PS:

Speaking of Here’s the Thing, I wrote one today on why we should be protesting the cuts to the ABC. Yes, I really do write a lot.  That’s why I look so tired all the time.