Lateral ways to convince punters to quit smoking

cigarette-ashtrayForty bucks for a pack of ciggies? That will happen by 2020 if Bill Shorten gets his way and Labor’s proposed increase to cigarette taxes is introduced.

Not everyone agrees with tobacco excise, with NSW’s Senator David Leyonhjelm a prominent recent dissenter, but at both state and federal levels, governments of both persuasions have made cigarettes more expensive, covered the packets with horrifying images, and restricted the places where they could be smoked.

Nowadays, smokers huddle outdoors, away from doors and outdoor eating areas, and the long Aussie tradition of bumming cigarettes has become tantamount to asking for a gold coin donation.

But is this the only way of convincing punters to give up their precious ciggies? I’ve come up with a few more lateral options. Continue Reading →

‘Spectre’ review: A realistic Bond in a ridiculous world

A buttoned-up Bond runs through Mexico City

A buttoned-up Bond runs through Mexico City

Should you see Spectre? If you’ve enjoyed any of the Daniel Craig Bond films, then yes you should. It’s much better than Quantum of Solace, for one thing. But if you saw it, found it not entirely satisfying and are wondering why, then read on as I try to figure it out.

I never thought I’d think this thought, let alone dare to express it publicly, but here goes.

The problem with Daniel Craig’s fourth outing as James Bond is there simply isn’t enough of the spirit of Roger Moore. Continue Reading →

How arguing about next to nothing teaches student politicians everything

The world of student politics is usually trivial and frequently hilarious. And yet, unlike the petty deliberations of most tiny bodies composed largely of unjustifiably self-important people who seem addicted to grandstanding, what goes on is ultimately of great importance. Because student politics is, more often than not, what selects and shapes our future leaders.

Anybody who tuned into the shenanigans of the first meeting of the new Student Representative Council at the University of Sydney last Thursday night, or followed #repselect on Twitter, or read one of the media reports the following day, will have had the chance to see both the triviality and the hilarity up close. Continue Reading →

Why Australians aren’t going to cut down on bacon

Stop the presses, folks. And in particular, stop devouring that bacon and egg roll.

No less a body than the World Health Organisation has come out to warn us that sausages, bacon, ham, salami and other processed meats aren’t good for us. The very idea that we should be cutting down on this stuff! My jaw would have hit the floor if my belly hadn’t helpfully gotten in the way.

Admittedly, the idea that these meats are definitively linked to bowel cancer is something of a revelation, while the prospect that red meat may not be doing us any favours either is a significant shock to a country that has long been told that a lamb roast was worth giving up dinner with Tom Cruise – a proposition that seems more convincing the more Alex Gibney documentaries I watch. Continue Reading →

How to survive the HSC

Today is the first day of the HSC, those three letters calculated to terrify Year 11 and 12 students and which I still can’t hear without experiencing flashbacks.

So, to all HSC and other Year 12 students, please allow me to offer you my sincerest condolenceswish you the very best of luck!

Talk to anyone who’s slogged through and obtained the NSW qualification, or the VCE or WACE or anything like it, and they’ll tell you that end-of-school exams are a uniquely cruel prank to play on 17-year-olds, especially when uni is never anything like as harrowing as the hoops you have to jump through to get there.

On the bright side, today is the first day of a few weeks of inconvenience you have to endure before getting on with the rest of your life, whatever that may entail. Which is hugely exciting. Continue Reading →

Ten things that happened at my wedding in India

Last month, I got married.

Regular readers might wonder how on earth I went from every second column whinging about my dire personal life to blissful matrimony – the answer is 2.5 excellent years with a woman named Divya, whose family hails from Chennai, formerly known as Madras, which is the capital of Tamil Nadu state and the sixth-largest city in India.

One day late last year, we decided to get married. And given the choice between a three-day traditional ceremony in India and a relatively brief event with a celebrant here, the choice was obvious. Continue Reading →

How did the world’s most boring car company manage such epic fraud?

Of all the companies to get busted perpetrating massive environmental fraud, I would have thought Volkswagen the least likely. Even those skinny jeans-wearing eco-hipsters at Tesla might have seemed more willing to capitulate to the huge pressure to produce innovative green vehicles than Volkswagen, the world’s most boringly consistent car company.

How on earth has a company dull enough to name its two most popular models after the world’s two most bourgeois sports managed to concoct a scheme so dodgy that even cigarette company executives must be doffing their tar-encrusted hats?

The more I learn about the scheme, the more astonished I am. Their diesel system was clever enough to know when it was being tested by the likes of the US EPA; during these tests harmful emissions of nitrous oxides would be prevented, whereas under normal circumstances the cars spewed forth between 10 and 40 times the permitted amount. Continue Reading →