Five years ago I was sitting in a minibus with a whole lot of people who were Americans. (This was in America.) One of them spoke to me and of all the people I talked with on that trip it's only her whose face and voice I can remember. That's because she was the first real person I'd personally encountered to voice that magnificently blended joint insult and compliment that Americans have been giving Australians for the last forty years. She said: "I went to Australia and I thought it was great. It was like how I imagine the US used to be, in the 60s - before it got all crapped up."
When I woke up this morning Sol Trujillo was on the radio giving his views about Australia and when I got in the car this evening to go home the talkback venom was flowing free in a manner that suggested it had been doing so for quite some considerable time.
How long did Trujillo live & work here? Long enough to notice that Australia is a racist country. So it was longer than five minutes. But that's not the reason nobody here liked him. Nobody liked him because he phlegmatically presided over the neverending postapocalyptical demoniac nightmare of hopeless, infuriatingly stupid and expensive fuckups that is the national telecommunications "provider", and he got paid a million billion dollars for doing so. But what's this about having a backward business culture compared to the leaders on the global financial stage? He said that like it's a bad thing.
Now about this whole shiny new editor of The Monthly business. Unlike the first time I gave my unsolicited opinion about The Monthly here, upon the occasion of its appearance on our wide brown mediascape, I've thought quite carefully about what I'm going to say. (Don't bother looking for that other post, because it's long since been deleted. Let's just say that one of the contributors turned up in comments threatening to punch me on the nose.) Sacking the previous editor in that manner was totally shameful and The Monthly can't really be regarded now as much more than a source of trainwreck for those of us interested in publishing.
So, new editor: I have to say that all things considered so far, the appointment strikes me as positively effulgent with possibilities for the richest varieties of farce. 23 is not too young to be editing a big-deal magazine by any means, (but is he really 23? Look at that photo in the paper. Surely he is only 8.) I know The Age has its tongue in Gabriella Coslovich's cheek when pointing out that he numbers Alain de Botton among his facebook friends, as if that's one of the accomplishments that earned him the job, but at the same time they couldn't get away with that if he'd done anything that seemed to indicate he was equipped to handle the very specific difficulties associated with this job.
This interview with Umberto Eco was pointed out in comments at LP and I have seen it seriously mentioned as one of the for-real strings to the new editor's bow. Well, I read that, and to misparaphrase Lucky Jim, it shows he's got some of the qualifications, but unfortunately he's got most of the disqualifications also. The patronising little verbal head-pat bestowed by Morry Schwartz, as quoted in that Age story, bodes extremely well too as a harbinger of future golden entertainment. Anyway, I wish him good luck, but not too good.