Cultural Dissent

Toy company Hasbro has taken a lot of criticism in recent weeks regarding the conspicuous absence of Rey, the lead female character in Star Wars: The Force Awakens, from its Star Wars-themed Monopoly game.

A lot of people have made thoughtful and well-articulated arguments about why this is sexist, but probably the most insightful (and concise) critique came in the form of a brief letter to the company written in rainbow colours by an eight-year-old girl:

“Dear Hasbro,

The Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences has filed a lawsuit against Distinctive Assets, the company distributing a luxury gift bag to Oscar nominees that includes an all-expenses paid trip to Israel sponsored by the Israeli government.

“Distinctive Assets has been falsely representing that its extravagant 'gift bags' [are] redistributed by the Academy, at its direction, or with its endorsement or approval,” an Academy spokesperson told the Hollywood trade publication Variety.

Various actors called for a boycott of the 2016 Oscars ahead of the awards night held on February 28, due to the lack of Black nominees for the second year in a row. Many spoke out about Hollywood's racism, with no non-white nominees in major categories for the second year running, via the hashtag #OscarsSoWhite

Punks For West Papua
Directed by Anthony Brennan
46 minutes
www.punks4westpapua.com

A friend's request to film a punk rock concert and a rushed drive across Sydney to do a last-minute interview with West Papuan independence leader Benny Wenda — without even knowing who the twice Nobel Peace Prize-nominated activist was — was the catalyst for filmmaker Anthony “Ash” Brennan to make his award-winning film Punks For West Papua.

Economics After Capitalism: A Guide to the Ruins & a Road to the Future
By Derek Wall
Pluto Press, 2015

Derek Wall, ecosocialist activist and international coordinator of the Green Party of England and Wales, has written a primer on the main strands of economic critique of globalised capitalism.

It is a short and easily readable book, well suited to someone looking for a starting place. For those already embedded in one of these strands, it provides a welcome introduction to some of the others.

Making a Murderer
Written & directed by Laura Ricciardi & Moira Demos
Netflix

The Netflix documentary series Making a Murderer, directed by Laura Ricciardi and Moira Demos, tears the mask off the United States criminal justice system. It reveals, in clear-cut, heart-wrenching detail, the depths of its inhumanity.


Beyoncé's backing dancers display a "Justice for Mario Woods" sign.

In the San Francisco Bay Area in California, where tent cities are slowly re-forming under bridges after being swept away in a “cleansing” of the homeless ahead of the February 7 NFL Super Bowl, there is still a palpable buzz about Beyoncé's performance in the Super Bowl half-time show (sorry, Coldplay).

In fact, it is a topic with far more currency than the actual dud of a game — and for good reason.


Liverpool fans at Anfield protesting against ticket price hike.

Owners of English Premier League side Liverpool FC have caved to fan protests against rising ticket prices, backing down after raising tickets to £77 and apologising to fans.

On February 6, 10,000 Liverpool fans walked out of their team’s home game against Sunderland in the 77th minute in protest against the planned ticket price rise.

Unfinished Leninism
By Paul Le Blanc
Haymarket Books, 2014
237 pp., $23.00

This collection of 12 essays rests comfortably alongside Lars Lih’s Lenin Rediscovered and Canadian socialist John Riddell’s huge work in translating the proceedings of the first four congresses of the Comintern, the international organisation set up by the Bolsheviks in 1919.

These works are part of the renewed interest in the “real” Lenin — separate from the mausoleum that Stalinism built and pro-capitalist commentators’ slander.

Jessica Jones
Created by Melissa Rosenburg
Staring Krysten Ritter, David Tennant & Rachael Taylor
Released by Netflix

Jessica Jones is the second instalment in the fruitful Netflix-Marvel TV collaboration. Like the fantastic Daredevil before it, it is ruthlessly grim, dark and bloody, superbly well-acted and gorgeously produced.

The gore and thematic material may not be for everyone. Viewers who have been looking for a dose of Daredevil's grittiness with compelling, complex female characters at its centre have found their poison.

Full Scale Revolution (formerly known as Full Scale Deflection and then just Full Scale) are an Australian alternative metal band that formed in Perth in 1998, before relocating to Melbourne in 2001.

Fronted by Ezekiel Ox, a frequent performer at protests, Full Scale are an intense live experience. As Full Scale Deflection, the band released their debut album, Symptoms of Chaos in 2000. As Full Scale, they released in 2003, two EPs — Black Arrows and White Arrows — and a self-titled album in 2005.


Police respond to "exuberant fan behaviour".

The Senate has called on Football Federation Australia and A-League clubs to take action to ensure football fans are not over-policed, AAP said on February 2.

A-League fans, especially from clubs with strong multicultural fan bases such as the Western Sydney Wanderers and Melbourne Victory, have long complained about over-policing, as well as unfair bans imposed without any right to appeal by the FFA and frequent media demonisation.

“In a touching tribute to thousands of refugees who lost their lives crossing the Mediterranean from Turkey into the EU, two Greek football teams orchestrated a sit-in at the start of the match to protest against the policies of 'brutal indifference',” RT.com said on February 1.

Police officers from the Diyarbakir Anti-Terror Department in south-eastern Turkey raided the facilities of football club Amedspor after its 2-1 cup win at Bursapo on January 31. The win put the club, with a strong following among Turkey's persecuted Kurdish minority, into the last eight of the Turkish League Cup.

Never Enough: Donald Trump & the Pursuit of Success
Michael D’Antonio
St Martin’s Press, 2015
389 pages

What will the United States and the world be getting from “President Donald Trump” if such a frightful prospect comes to pass?

Michael D’Antonio’s biography of the Republican Party’s front-running presidential candidate gives us some clues — denial of global warming, vaccination, marriage equality and abortion; insults and worse for religious and ethnic minorities, and for women and the disabled; and a turbo-charged US imperial power.


PKMM rally, 1946.

Radicals: Resistance & Protest in Colonial Malaya
By Syed Muhd Khairudin Aljunied
Northern Illinois University Press (NUI), 2015
228 pages

On a night in 2010, a crowd of onlookers gathered to watch the demolition of a 300 metre wall of the century-old Purdu prison in Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia’s capital.

Spotlight
Directed by Thomas McCarthy
Starring Mark Ruffalo, Michael Keaton, Rachel McAdams, Liev Schreiber, John Slattery & Stanley Tucci
In cinemas now

In 2002, the Boston Globe newspaper's Spotlight investigative journalism team dropped a bombshell when they reported that at least 87 paedophile Roman Catholic priests had been actively shielded for decades by the archdiocese.

British band The Hurriers are passionate, independently-driven — both in terms of control of their output, promo and gigs — and, almost as a bonus, a kick-ass in-your-face rock'n'roll act.

The five-piece hails from Barnsley in South Yorkshire, a working-class town with a long history of mining. Their debut From Acorns, Mighty Oaks was released last May and is a cracker.

A History Man’s Past & Other People’s Stories: A Shared Memoir. Part One: Other People’s Wars
By John Tognolini
2015, 160 pages
pb $24, ebook $5
Order the book

British-Tamil musician M.I.A.'s video for her new song "Borders", which expresses solidarity with refugees seeking to flee to safety, has caused controversy. French football team Paris Saint-Germain has requested the video, directed by the artist herself, be taken offline because M.I.A. is seen in the video wearing a modified version of the club's shirt.

This past year there was no shortage of people who tried to leverage the sports world to boldly speak out on issues beyond the field of play.

In the United States, Missouri football players went on strike against racism; the remarkable activists in Boston — led in many neighbourhoods by people of colour and women — kept out the rapacious Olympics; the continuing fight ahead of the 2016 Rio Olympics is taking on both the International Olympic Committee and the Brazilian government.

I BELIEVE that reviewers generally should disclose when they have a vested interest in the thing they're reviewing, so full disclosure: Barring another Jar Jar Binks fiasco, there was about as much chance of me--a geek hurtling toward middle age at light speed--hating J.J. Abrams' Star Wars: Episode VII--The Force Awakens as there is of the Millennium Falcon successfully navigating an asteroid field.

Suffragette
Directed by Sarah Gavron, written by Abi Morgan
Starring Carey Mulligan, Helena Bonham Carter & Meryl Streep
In cinemas now

Suffragette, written by a woman (Abi Morgan), directed by a woman (Sarah Gavron) and co-produced by two women (Alison Owen and Faye Ward) is a paean of praise to the British women who rebelliously demanded the right for women to vote.

"Should Team Autralia Be Disqualified?' was the theme of a comedy debate held as a fundraiser for Green Left Weekly in Sydney on October 17.

The United Nations has a strict definition of the term "refugee," whereby you are only a refugee if you are fleeing war or persecution of some kind. If you are fleeing a place because there is no way for you to feed yourself or your family if you stay, the UN defines this kind of movement as "migration." Until 1967, the only refugees recognized by the original refugee convention were Europeans.

When feminist writer Clementine Ford outed one of her online abusers to his employer, it struck a chord with people who have endured similar sexist harassment and abuse: on their blogs, social media, and even dating websites. However, Ford also been criticised and been told she's doing more harm than good, most famously in the widely discussed opinion piece on independent news site New Matilda by Jack Kilbride titled “Why Courageous Clementine Ford Is Not The Answer”.

The Butterfly Prison
Tamara Pearson 343pps
Open Books
www.open-bks.com

In her debut novel The Butterfly Prison, Tamara Pearson, an Australian journalist working for Latin American news site TeleSUR in Quito, uses a poet’s sensitivity and language combined with a journalist’s eye for reportage. She weaves storylines that situate the poor and alienated as actors in resisting the living prison which dehumanises them.

He fell in Afghanistan
Sometime the day before

The Major from the New Mexico National Guard
couldn't find my house
and it was a stormy night in Albuquerque
So we talked by cell phone instead--
No dress uniforms at my door--
It was a clean three shots
Straight through the heart
He was dead before he hit the ground

The Major was a father himself he said
I could hear his kid behind the phone
I could see my own son reaching up to his dad

The Major called back later
The government could fly me
the Major said
to the Dignified Transfer at Dover base

I asked where that was


Red and Black Bloc banner on November 29.

A large-scale revolt of fans of the A-League, Australia's leading football (soccer) competition, has broken out. With several “active support” fan groups on an indefinite strike and fans from each of the 10 clubs protesting in one form or another, it is one of the largest sporting-related protests in Australia's history.

The Black players on the University of Missouri’s football (gridiron) team — a team in the national title hunt just two years ago — went on strike against racism on November 7.

The players demand was simple: they would not play until school president Tim Wolfe resigned over his inability to address a series of racist incidents on campus.

Born To Rule: The Unauthorised Biography of Malcolm Turnbull
Paddy Manning
Melbourne University Press,2015
442 pages

Coalition Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull likes to downplay his image as a privileged, wealthy silvertail by touting his time as a flat-dwelling young boy from a broken family.

But, writes the business journalist Paddy Manning in his biography of the former investment banker, Turnbull's upbringing was not that humble.

Marx & Nature: A Red & Green Perspective
By Paul Burkett
Haymarket Books, 2014

Marx and Nature is a challenging, but very important book for all those concerned with developing and acting on the ecological insights in Marxist theory.

Joe Hill was a senior organiser, popular songwriter and cartoonist for the Industrial Workers of the World (IWW), more commonly known as the Wobblies. The 100th anniversary of his death is being commemorated worldwide this month.

Hill’s life is best remembered in labour movement songs that are still performed today by such renowned artists as Bob Dylan, Joan Baez and Bruce Springsteen. It could be argued that he is more famous now in death than he ever was in life.

Darwin’s Bagot community launched its Painting Home Project on November 7. It was the culmination of a seven-week collaboration between Aboriginal artists, Bagot residents, street artists from as far away as Melbourne, and other arts and cultural workers.

“Matildas midfielder Hayley Raso says the pay increase gained by Australia's top female soccer players could not have been obtained without strike action,” the Sydney Morning Herald said on November 9.

In the first ever strike by a national sporting team, the Matildas refused to travel to play world women's football champions, the US, in protest at the refusal of Football Federation Australia to meet their demands.

Remembrance Day is marked in Commonwealth nations on November 11 -- to commemorate the end of the bloodbath that was World War I. As a commemoration of fallen soldiers, it is overshadowed in Australia by Anzac Day -- but is a far bigger deal in Britain.

Red Rosa: A Graphic Biography of Rosa Luxemburg
By Kate Evans
Edited by Paul Buhle
Verso Books, London, 2015,
220 pages $16.95.
Order here

Perhaps a new comic-book super hero is about to take the world by storm. An unlikely Frau Luxemburg, who transforms from a tiny and odd-looking outsider into the almost unstoppable Red Rosa — Revolutionary Scourge of the Oppressors.

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