In any case, Sydney’s response to “Mountain” was one of several experiences this week that got me thinking about Australia’s relationship to culture.
That same day, Sebastian Smee, a wonderful art critic who returned to Sydney this year after winning a Pulitzer with the Boston Globe, wrote for us about the Art Gallery of New South Wales and its struggle to obtain the financing it needed to expand its exhibition and event space.
Later in the week, Besha Rodell, another Australian who has become a standout in the United States — in her case, Los Angeles — explored the battle over how to modernize Melbourne’s beloved Queen Victoria Market.
Both pieces mined the tension in Australia that often seems to come with proposals for the new, the bold, the different. This is something Ben Shewry, the world-renowned Attica chef who Sam Sifton profiled this week as part of a special series of features on Australian food and drink, talked about when we hosted an event with him in Melbourne last month: the degree to which Australia tends to knock down rather than celebrate novelty and excellence.
But how does that jibe with what I saw at the opera house?
What I experienced there suggests that this is a country where the demand for culture is greater than the supply; so did the crowd at Vivid Sydney. And of course, a few hours after we published Sebastian’s story, the Art Gallery of New South Wales announced that public and private financing had come through for its expansion.
So is Australia becoming more open to bold creative expression or is this country just as eager as always to cut down the tall poppies who stick their heads up and stand out?
While you consider that, here’s another question, which may get us closer to an answer: What are your most memorable recent experiences with Australian culture?
Quick, don’t overthink it: What comes to mind? What have you seen, heard, tasted, watched or read lately that’s Australian and that has really moved you or challenged you or made you want to share it with the world?
Write to firstname.lastname@example.org, tell me what it is (multiple examples are welcome; if you’ve got a Top Five, I want to know) and explain your choice. In the next newsletter, I’ll share a few choice contributions.
Don’t feel a need to be snobby, either. What we’re trying to explore here is how Australians experience culture high, low or in-between and what that might reveal about the country’s attitude toward insurgent creativity.
A final note for the skeptics: This is a newsletter experiment, not science. The goal is not certainty. The motivation is curiosity. The result may involve whimsy. And if you don’t want to play along, that’s fine.
Here a few other compelling The New York Times articles from the past week, and a recommendation that I discovered on the drive back to Melbourne from the Latrobe Valley.
As always, share this newsletter if you like it; and if you’re an nytimes.com subscriber, join us in the NYT Australia Facebook Group for more discussion about journalism and the issues that matter.
Manning in the Spotlight
WikiLeaks got all the attention, but this Chelsea Manning profile in The New York Times Magazine sets the record straight. “Without Chelsea Manning,” P.J. Crowley, an assistant secretary of state from 2009 to 2011, told The Times, “Julian Assange is just another fringe actor who resents what he sees as American hegemonic hubris.”
Uber sometimes reminds me of Godzilla in those monster movies from the ‘70s, stumbling around, crushing whatever is in its path and wailing like a testosterone-crazed lizard. This week, in another attempt to repair its bad-boy reputation, its co-founder Travis Kalanick said he would take a leave of absence. A board member also resigned after he made disparaging comments about women, leading our technology columnist, Farhad Manjoo, to argue that we should all think twice before calling an Uber. “There’s a lot at stake,” he writes. “Ride-sharing, as an industry and a civic utility, is too big an idea to be left to a company like the one Uber is now.”
Trump and the TV Pep Talk
Donald Trump gathered together his cabinet this week for a session focused on his own achievements. Our TV critic broke down the deeper onscreen and psychological meaning, comparing the scene to clips from “The Apprentice” and “Monty Python.”
Get Your Comments On
Two bits of news that will affect your experience with The Times: First, we’re expanding the number of stories that include reader comments; second, we’re upgrading our desktop and mobile home pages to give you a smoother experience across devices. The latter will also lead to more flexibility so we can provide you more of what you want to read, see and listen to. As Harvard’s Nieman Lab put it, the redesign “aims to empower the Times newsroom to deliver more timely, more nuanced, and more dramatic products to its readers.”
And We Recommend…
I drove down to the Latrobe Valley of Victoria last week to scout out a story and found myself listening to podcasts during the long drive back and forth from Melbourne.
If you’ve got a two-hour journey, here’s what I suggest: Invisibilia’s two-part series on emotions. The first part will make you drive more carefully and totally scramble what you thought you knew about how emotions work. The second part will deepen your amazement at the power of emotion, across cultures and romance.
And don’t forget to email email@example.com with your favorite expressions of Australian culture!
Until next week…
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