The Drum

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.Read More »How arguing about next to nothing teaches student politicians everything

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.Read More »Why Australians aren’t going to cut down on bacon

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.Read More »How to survive the HSC

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.Read More »How did the world’s most boring car company manage such epic fraud?

8 things we learned from @RealMarkLatham

1) If there’s an internet mystery, who ya gonna call?

Mark Di Stefano from Buzzfeed is the answer. The former ABC journo is fast becoming the nation’s leading internet detective, whether he’s trying to ascertain the veracity of an abusive Twitter account or identify the genius who drew those legendary DJ headphones on John Howard (caution – this link features language that is NSFW, but that is very amusing when not at work).

Connecting @RealMarkLatham’s tweets to material appearing in subsequent AFR columns was revealing, but finding a link between the account and Latham’s public email address was a masterstroke of internet-era sleuthing.

His work has been called a “social media campaign” by The Australian’s Sharri Markson, but it could be more accurately described as investigative journalism.Read More »8 things we learned from @RealMarkLatham

A farewell to ABC Shops

It used to be all about the bananas. The ones in pyjamas, of course – B1, B2 and their other pals from Cuddles Avenue. An endearing song from Play School spun off into its own series with all the merchandise imaginable.

In their prime, the Bananas in Pyjamas had a network of embassies across the country, with ABC Shops in most major malls and city centres that sold their replica toys, books, DVDs. The perfect gift for Christmas, if you like anthropomorphic, sleepwear-clad fruit.

There were the Wiggles too, of course, bringing skivvies back into the mainstream where they have always belonged, and let’s not forget Doctor Who. Even before the series returned, it was one of the most highly-trafficked areas in ABC Shops, and the reboot has unleashed a huge range of DVDs, novels, toy Daleks and TARDISes, and even funky Doctor Who cushions.

Sometimes past incarnations of the Doctor would even materialise for an in-store signing, leading to enormous queues and keeping the cash registers beeping more rapidly than the console on a Gallifreyan time machine.Read More »A farewell to ABC Shops

An end to Watto Lotto?

Shane Watson, out leg before wicket. It’s a refrain that has been heard 29 times in his 59 Tests, frequently after a slight break to allow the decision review system to confirm the obvious.

Watto is out. We’ve said it so many times over the years, often as he failed yet again to convert a half-century into a big score. He’s accumulated 24 half-centuries and a mere four tons. Sadly for Watson, four Test centuries is too few for Cricinfo even to bother counting the accomplishment in its league table of Australian century-makers. It’s less than 10 per cent of Ricky Ponting’s record 41.Read More »An end to Watto Lotto?

Texting while driving, and other smart tech to help morons

Do you text while driving? One in three do, apparently. Which means that even though it’s a leading cause of accidents, a lot of us are such utter idiots that it’s a miracle any car gets to its destination intact.

Our capacity to act against our obvious self-interest has inspired inventor Scott Tibbetts to create a device to solve a problem that really shouldn’t be one. It’s a little box that stores the text messages up, only delivering them to our phone when we’ve arrived at our destination. The theory is that we’re all so thoroughly programmed to be distracted by a “little bing”, as he puts it, that we need to ensure that these messages don’t arrive in the first place.Read More »Texting while driving, and other smart tech to help morons

How to enjoy the Midwinter Ball

So you’re heading to Parliament’s Night of Nights, the Midwinter Ball! Or maybe you’re just curious about what our politicians get up to when ordinary Australians are distracted by State of Origin? Here’s an exclusive guide to enjoying the only social occasion within the Parliamentary Triangle that’s more entertaining than Senate Estimates.Read More »How to enjoy the Midwinter Ball

Give us a home among the gum trees

A few summers ago, I was sitting in a beer garden with half a dozen friends who work as commercial lawyers in major firms. The conversation drifted to property, as it always does in Sydney, and each of them confessed that they were looking for a house so their young kids could have access to a backyard. Then they all sighed and said that there was absolutely nothing affordable even remotely near the city, and they couldn’t look too far afield because they didn’t want to spend an hour plus each way commuting.

They were keen to reiterate that they weren’t looking for anything big or fancy, just a little terrace or something with a modest rectangle of backyard so that their kids could burn off some energy within the safe walls of their yard. Maybe, they pondered wistfully, they’d host the occasional barbeque, as well?

Not being a commercial lawyer myself, the conversation made me wince. If these people, who had jumped through all of society’s hoops to guarantee themselves success and a healthy income, and put in long, dedicated hours doing finicky work for demanding commercial clients, were having trouble finding a house that wasn’t a brutally lengthy commute from the CBD, what hope did I have?Read More »Give us a home among the gum trees