From under the linoleum
Old newspapers show Mussolini's imperialism looked a lot like today's

I sat on the floor and picked through the tragedy of the country we now call Ethiopia laid out on the yellowing pages. It was eerily reminiscent of the current Iraq adventure.

A tale for our times
The December 1934 assassination of Sergei Kirov

Seventy years on, the killing of Sergei Kirov casts an eerie light on the events of 11 September 2001, the invasions of Iraq and Afghanistan, the “war on Terror” and the state-sponsored hysteria surrounding the shadowy figures of Osama bin Ladin and Abu Musab al-Zarqawi.

Ninety-three years of bombing the Arabs
It was the Italians, hell-bent on acquiring an African empire, who got the ball rolling. In 1911 the Libyan Arab tribes opposed an Italian invasion. Their civilians were the first people in the world to be bombed from the air.

Dispossessed all over again
After spending nearly two months in the West Bank the pull towards my village was growing stronger, especially after being detained twice and threatened with deportation … an Australian Palestinian returns to her ancestral home.

The tragic inevitability of a forlorn hope
Australia slides further into the Iraq quagmire
Cabinet documents recently released under the 50-year rule show that, in 1954, Liberal (conservative) Prime Minister, Robert Menzies, and key figures in his Cabinet were extremely gloomy about the prospects for success in an American war against nationalists in Indochina. But eventually they went to the Vietnam War anyway.

Bombing King David
One man’s freedom fighter is another’s terrorist

Some historians date the beginning of modern terrorism from the 1946 bombing by Zionist terrorists of the British military HQ in Jerusalem.

Don’t loiter near the exit
Military debacle and economic decline haunt the Bush regime

When I was just a young possum in the school cadet corps there was a hoary old war story that we all knew. It was almost certainly apocryphal, but it ruefully expressed a nasty historic truth about the US role in the demise of the British Empire.


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Brushtail Graphics

Tailing the Ikea generation

12 July 2010

I don’t often take matrimonial work, but there was something compelling about the plight of the young lady who came to see me. As per boringly usual, she was sure her husband was having an affair with somebody at work. There were the usual little things that wives notice: large chunks of money disappearing from his account; his Mastercard statements came with line items from jewellers and florists (which he passed off as birthday presents for ‘personal assistants’ and ‘business contacts’); weekend absences for interstate ‘business trips’ and ‘conferences’. 

Her husband told her he was a ‘nomenclature engineering consultant’ for Ikea. As far as she knew they paid him about $150K a year to invent an endless succession of trendy product names. They had two kids, Skyppe and Hyppe and a labradoodle named Kkarma.

Tailing the subject was a nightmare, even with Joadja to help me. We picked up the tail outside the subject’s Abbotsford home and followed him on the backroads to the slightly trendy Majors Bay village and on past Concord Hospital where he turned right onto Concord Road, left onto Homebush Bay Drive and then into the Rhodes shopping centre slip lane.

So far, so good, but trailing a subject in one of those multi-level underground car parks is a nightmare, particularly if it’s nearly full and you’re not familiar with it. It’s almost impossible to keep the subject in sight as you, and they, search for that elusive parking spot. Thinking quickly, I dropped Joadja off near the exit to the shops, equipped with a little two-way radio. She picked up the tail and I caught up a couple of minutes later.

We followed separately at a discreet distance down a long disorienting gallery on a couple of levels with the usual ‘food-hall’and clusters of teenage kids hanging out. Ikea was located at the other end. We followed the subject up a long escalator past a ghastly cafeteria packed with mums and kids. Great Mother of Darwin, I thought, has Scandinavian cool come to this?

The subject strolled into the furniture area and lingered. Strangely, there was no indication that he actually worked  for Ikea: He didn’t put on an ID or greet anyone working there but he was clearly looking out for somebody. Was the whole “I work for Ikea” thing just a ruse?

He glanced at his watch and sat down on an Abbott – a phoney archaic church pew-like thing made from fibreboard with a cheap foil finish – and looked at his watch. I pretended to be interested in a blocky corner lounge called Gillard. The one in the catalogue was a deep red, but the one on display was a conservative shade of blue and according to a photocopied note taped to the tag, only the right wing version was in stock.

I made a great pretense of measuring up the sole remaining, heavily-discounted  and rather badly-used, Rudd and then slumped into a heavy brown leather club-type armchair called Turnbull. Over in a corner, safely isolated in a perspex booth, a furniture testing machine with a big mechanical  bum the size of a mining executive’s was putting a Gillard through its paces, crunching down on the seat every few seconds.

Just then an anodyne blond walked up behind the subject and gently touched his neck. He sprang up and embraced her. I squeezed off a few shots with my nifty concealed camera  and Joadja, showing considerable initiative, got a couple more with her mobile phone by pretending to snap a lounge in which she’d been making a great show of interest.

The new blond was curiously similar to his wife, just slightly different, a bit younger and, well, trashier, and suddenly it struck me as a metaphor for the evolution of Ikea and, indeed the whole shopping mall culture.

I was sure I remembered their stuff as fresh, clean, original, and uniquely Scandinavian, when they first came here. Maybe it was just me, but the whole look seemed to be debilitated by the imperative of shopping mall culture: every year, there’s got to be a whole catalogue-full of must-have new products with an exciting new look and it all has to be built down to a price in a designer race-to-the-bottom.

I got a few more shots of subject and cutey coming out of Flight Centre and kissing in Gloria Jean’s, and there we left off the chase. We got almost hopelessly lost trying to find our car before we gratefully fled to the old-fashioned charms of Werrong Lane and the Brushtail Café.