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23rd Aug 2019

22 years after Jennifer Lopez starred in the biopic detailing the rise of Mexican-American singer Selena Quintanilla—a role which immediately proved to be the singer and actress’s big break—it was recently announced that the role will be reprised by Christian Serratos.

Currently starring as Rosita Alvarez on The Walking Dead, the 28-year-old actress—who also starred in the Twilight film series as Angela Weber—has been tapped to play the ‘Queen of Tejano’ music in a series titled Selena: The Series, which has already been locked in for two seasons as reported by Vulture.

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If you never caught the original 1997 film starring Lopez, or are completely unfamiliar with the ill-fated story of the Mexican-American singer, allow us to get to you up to speed ahead of the much-anticipated series.

Beginning her music career at a young age alongside her equally musical siblings, Quintanilla finally got her big break in the ‘90s, becoming one of the more notable latinx artists to have a successful career in both the wider latinx community, and her native United States, in recent history. However, her rise to fame was cut short after she was shot and killed in 1995 at the young age of 23 by her business associate and fan club president, Yolanda Saldívar—who is currently serving a life sentence for the crime.

Not unlike the ‘90s film, the series will track the Texas native’s impressive career trajectory as well as her family life, according to W Magazine.

“Selena’s career achievements are legendary, but our scripted series will focus on the incredible story of a Mexican-American family and how an extraordinary young woman transcended categories and borders to become a global star,” said series producer Jaime Davila.

The series will be scripted by American Crime alum and Mexican-American novelist, Moisés Zamora, and will have father, Abraham Quintanilla Jr., her sister Suzette Quintanilla, and family attorney Simran A. Singh serving as executive producers.

While we haven’t yet had a glimpse of Alvarez, who also shares her Mexican heritage with the singer, in character, we don’t think she’ll have much trouble convincing audiences of her ability to embody the latinx singer, posting this photo just last month that is giving us some series JLo and Selena vibes.

There is no word yet on when the series will drop, but with the news that the series will begin production in Mexico within the next month, we could speculate that a 2020 release date is a definite possibility.

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23rd Aug 2019

With Vogue American Express Fashion’s Night Out slated to return to Melbourne on August 29 and Sydney on September 5, Vogue is bringing you your first peek at the exclusive Vogue x Bassike T-shirt, so you can start planning your outfit for the occasion with ample time.

For the seventh year in a row, Vogue has partnered with the iconic Australian label in an effort to create an item that serves the dual purpose of commemorating the event, in addition to celebrating Vogue Australia’s 60th birthday. Designed in a classic crew neck fit, and made with 100 per cent organic cotton, the style proves to be a timeless piece in a classic black hue, complete with a white Vogue logo.

Thankfully, the classic design of the T-shirt also makes limitless outfit pairings possible. Tuck the front of the T-shirt into your favourite pair of denim jeans, and pair with a leather biker jacket and low pointed heels for the perfect date-night look. Or give the T-shirt the same tuck treatment, but switch out your jeans for a black silk skirt. If you’re one that lives in active wear, you better believe the limited-edition piece also serves to elevate your go-to pair of leggings.

While you’re working away on planning your VAEFNO outfit, don’t forget this one very important element — the event’s theme! This year’s brief is a NYC-inspired block party, so we’re expecting Hailey Bieber, Bella Hadid, and Emily Ratajkowski-inspired outfits aplenty. Bonus points for any glimpses of glitter or metallic. 

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You can shop the exclusive Vogue x Bassike T-shirt for $100 in store at David Jones and Bassike at The Strand in Sydney and Emporium Melbourne, as well as on the brand’s site, for a limited time only.

Earlier this month, after a man acting on Donald Trump’s lies about a Hispanic “invasion” of the U.S. drove to El Paso, Texas, and killed twenty-two people at a Walmart, Beto O’Rourke hit pause on his Presidential campaign. O’Rourke, who grew up in El Paso, and represented it for six years in Congress, went home to meet with victims and attend vigils, and he seemed to rediscover some of the edge that brought him to national attention last year, during his unsuccessful bid to unseat Texas’s junior senator, Ted Cruz. A day after the shooting, when a reporter asked him if there was anything that Trump could do to “make this any better,” O’Rourke, throwing his hands in the air, said, “Members of the press, what the fuck?” O’Rourke’s preferred speaking style is off the cuff—“No notes!” his campaign likes to remind people—which, in practice, can make him seem searching and unfocussed. But, after the shooting, he homed in. “It’s these questions that you know the answers to,” he told the reporter. “I mean, connect the dots about what he’s been doing in this country.”

On Thursday, O’Rourke delivered a speech that was billed as his return to the trail. He spoke outdoors, with El Paso stretched out behind him, in a park he used to walk through to get from his house to his high school. “I gotta tell you,” O’Rouke said. “There’s some part of me, and it’s a big part of me, that wants to stay here, and be with my family, and be with my community.” He spoke of his “overwhelming pride” in El Paso, and addressed his critics in the Democratic Party who have soured on him as a Presidential candidate. “There have even been some who have suggested that I stay in Texas and run for Senate,” he said. (John Cornyn, Texas’s senior senator, is up for reëlection in 2020.) “But that would not be good enough for this community. That would not be good enough for El Paso. That would not be good enough for this country. We must take the fight directly to the source of this problem.” He meant Trump. And yet, in a way, he agreed with his critics. He didn’t want to return to the campaign trail he’d left behind, where he’d been floundering—bad polls, bad press, bad debate performances. “I know there is a way to do this better—and that came to me last week,” he said. He wouldn’t be going back for corn dogs in Iowa. Instead, he said, he’d go “to those places where Donald Trump has been terrorizing and terrifying and demeaning our fellow-Americans. That’s where you will find me in this campaign.”

Picking up ideas on the fly, reacting to the moment, being open to change—this, too, is O’Rourke’s preferred style. Since Thursday, he has been to Mississippi, Arkansas, Oklahoma, Kansas, and Missouri. These are not early-primary states, they are not general-election swing states, and they are not traditional hubs of Democratic Party fund-raising, and, therefore, they are not places where Presidential candidates spend much of their time. In Arkansas, he stopped by a gun show, where he spoke with venders about background checks. In Oklahoma, he visited the site of the 1921 Tulsa race massacre. In Missouri, he toured “a community of transitional tiny homes and on-site services” for veterans experiencing homelessness. Earlier this year, he told a questioner at an event, “Let me learn from you and not try to pretend that I have the answer.” Now, searching for a way to run the kind of anti-campaign he prefers, he appears to want to elevate that notion to a campaign slogan.

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It’s a tempting idea, up to a point. Why should our politicians pretend to know everything? Shouldn’t people outside Iowa and New Hampshire get more of a say in the Democratic Party’s next nominee? But, already, O’Rourke’s campaign has come up against the realities of a Presidential bid. “While focusing on El Paso was absolutely the right thing to do, being off the campaign trail for two weeks has put the campaign at a disadvantage,” his campaign said, in an e-mail to supporters, on Friday. “In fact, our finance team crunched the numbers and we need to raise $467,000 more by the end of this month to close our fundraising gap.”

Was it really the previous two weeks that set O’Rourke back? There was talk of him running for President even before the end of the 2018 Senate race. Then he lost, and those calls were dampened but didn’t go away. It was a moment when the Democratic Party wasn’t at all sure what kind of leader it wanted. But O’Rourke has found it difficult to find broad support outside of Texas. It didn’t help that he wrote meandering blog posts about road-tripping and made a crack about his wife, Amy, raising their kids “sometimes with my help.” More generally, his positions weren’t enough to win the activist left nationally, and his résumé wasn’t enough to impress the more moderate middle. He spoke powerfully about the lessons that El Paso could offer the rest of the nation, but had a harder time convincing people that he understood the rest of that nation. The April Vanity Fair profile that served as his de-facto campaign announcement—“Man, I’m just born to be in it” was the cover quote—has proved a difficult moment to live down. Even at the time, it was an odd thing to say. In retrospect, it is sounding more and more like self-delusion.

On Tuesday, O’Rourke was back in Iowa. Other candidates came into this race having already learned what they want to talk about. Elizabeth Warren tells a story of corruption. Bernie Sanders lectures on inequality. Joe Biden has a case for why Trump must be voted out first and foremost. O’Rourke, even before this latest gambit, wanted his campaign to be a voyage of discovery. “I want to be the leader for this country that we need right now, and that we do not have,” he said on Thursday. But desire alone isn’t a political project. After his visit to Tulsa, he wrote another earnest blog post about what he learned there. A few months ago, he was telling potential voters, “If you own an AR-15, keep it.” Now, after El Paso, he is calling for mandatory gun buybacks and reorienting his entire campaign. It can be maddening to watch a politician stick to a position even when it becomes outdated, hypocritical, or absurd. But watching one change so eagerly and quickly is equally unsettling—even in response to a horror like the El Paso shooting. Unless O’Rourke learns to speak about his experience with something other than earnest awe or surprised heartbreak, his campaign will continue to sound like it is closer to the end than the beginning.

In their book “Finding Her Voice: Women in Country Music, 1800-2000,” Mary Bufwack and Robert Oermann neatly summarize the popular impression of Tanya Tucker that was formed way back in the seventies and has never entirely worn off, even as her career approaches the half-century mark. Tucker, they write, was “the naughty Nashville gal with a rollicking reputation, the jezebel with a string of love affairs, the mother of out-of-wedlock kids, the sexy dresser, and the free-spirited party girl with a saucy outlook and sassy mouth.” Although there are only four women who’ve had more success than Tucker on the country singles chart, each of whom is referred to on a more or less first-name basis by America—Reba, Dolly, Loretta, Tammy—she is still taken less seriously than her musical output has long since warranted.

“A woman’s life ain’t just a list of worst things she has done,” Tucker, now sixty-one, sings on the opening track to her new album, “While I’m Livin’.” Like most of the tracks on the record, the song “Mustang Ridge” was written specifically for Tucker, by the powerhouse Americana singer-songwriter Brandi Carlile and her longtime collaborators Phil and Tim Hanseroth. Like Tucker, the song is both forthright and mysterious, even a little cagey. The narrator is on the run for some unstated reason, dogs and devils at her heels, and she has faked her own death, maybe. What’s certain is that she’s gone. “Got my knee on the wheel and I’m feeling free,” she cackles, an outlaw content with the choices she’s made, which others tsk-tsk.

“While I’m Livin’ ” might be the best record of Tucker’s career; it is certainly one of the albums of the year. Tucker’s first studio album since “My Turn”—a marvelous collection of country standards that she released in 2009—and her first album of new material since “Tanya,” from 2002, “While I’m Livin’ ” is full of gut-punch numbers, single-size story songs that somehow assume universal proportions. The record should help remind people why Tucker has, over the years, inspired so many rebellious country women—from the Dixie Chicks to Miranda Lambert and Gretchen Wilson, who, on her signature tune, “Redneck Woman,” sings, “I know all the words to every Tanya Tucker song.” Tucker doesn’t consider her new project a comeback, though. “I never went nowhere,” she recently told the Associated Press. “I prefer to call it a relaunch.” Her rejection of the term is not hard to understand. Where comebacks are concerned, as with so much else, she’s already been there and done that. But, at a time when women are making the most of the best new country music but are still mostly getting shut out of country radio, the return of Tanya Tucker is about as welcome a comeback as I can imagine.

It is startling to think now of how early on Tucker was defined, in the press, by her sex appeal and her offstage life. Tucker was barely a teen-ager when she cut her first single, “Delta Dawn”—a Top Ten country hit—in 1972. Two years later, she was the subject of a Rolling Stone cover story with the headline “Tanya Tucker: The Teenage Teaser.” Written by the legendary music journalist Chet Flippo, the profile leads with an unsettling anecdote about a man “breathing heavily and swaying in time,” with his wife on his arm, staring at what Flippo calls “the most beautiful navel in show business.” Later in the piece, Flippo writes, “An attractive 15-year-old in body-fitting outfits singing ‘Would You Lay with Me’ draws a peculiar cross section of fans,” and notes that her audience included “lesbians, for one thing,” and also “horny males of all ages.”

In Tucker’s memoir, “Nickel Dreams,” written with Patsi Bale Cox, she says it was mostly fun, at first, and even empowering to flirt with audiences, to bump and grind, à la her oft-cited role model, Elvis Presley, who was reinvigorating his reputation for sensual performance in the years when Tucker was becoming a star. And it’s true that Tucker—along with Johnny Rodriguez, the too-often-overlooked Mexican-American country heartthrob with whom she frequently toured early in her career—brought a degree of youthful sexual energy to her performances that country music hadn’t seen before. She was, in the estimation of Bufwack and Oermann, country music’s “first female superstar with an open, free sexual image.” Loretta Lynn acknowledged Tucker’s influence, if only jokingly, in 1975, when she told a reporter that she’d recorded her controversial single “The Pill” with Tucker in mind. “There she is, just sixteen years old and singing, ‘Would you lie with me in a field of stone,’ ” Lynn told the Tennessean. “She needs to know about the pill!”

But what really made Tucker exceptional was her voice: a husky alto that, from the beginning, had a knowingness to it, honed sharp. She wielded a deadly vibrato and sounded like a grown woman long before she was one. Her material, chosen with the guidance of the producer Billy Sherrill, tackled mature subjects: her signature singles were tragic story songs, obsessed with mortality and regularly featuring a body count. In “Delta Dawn,” Tucker sings of a homeless woman bound for “a mansion in the sky.” “What’s Your Mama’s Name,” from 1973, concludes with the death of Buford Wilson, a man who has been wrongly accused of pedophilia. In the haunted “Blood Red and Goin’ Down,” from the same year, Tucker sings from the perspective of a woman whose father once dragged her along with him as he set out to murder both her mother and a man her mother has run off with. “At times like these, a child of ten never knows exactly what to say,” Tucker sings, somehow lending the matter-of-fact memory of the father’s distress a tone that feels just right, at once forever traumatized and preternaturally sage. Even Tucker’s tender reading of “Would You Lay with Me (in a Field of Stone),” country’s version of “Will You Still Love Me Tomorrow,” has death on its mind. That “field of stone,” after all, isn’t only a metaphor for the struggles awaiting romantic commitment—it’s a graveyard.

Those early- to mid-seventies hits are the recordings upon which Tucker’s artistic reputation rests. In “Nickel Dreams,” she gives much of the credit to Sherrill, whose humid country-soul settings benefitted from “an underlying religious urgency, that old Southern Baptist feel.” But Tucker soon left Sherrill in pursuit of a more pop-rock approach and the larger audience that might result. She continued, for a time, to have major hits on country radio with her new pop sounds, but, as the seventies wound down, successes grew fewer and farther between. “Lizzie and the Rainman,” from 1975, was cut with Cher’s producer and sounds like “Gypsies, Tramps & Thieves.” The next year’s mellow “Here’s Some Love” evoked Olivia Newton-John’s soft-rock balladry. Tucker’s songs “It’s a Cowboy Lovin’ Night” and “Texas (When I Die),” from 1977 and 1978, respectively, should be recognized as rowdy, randy masterpieces of the outlaw-country era—and probably would be, too, if that style weren’t still so widely thought of as a good-old-boys’ club.

1978 is the year that Tucker released a still too-little-appreciated album called “TNT.” On the cover, she poses in black leather pants, her butt cocked and a microphone cord pulled taught between her legs. Not unlike contemporaneous offerings from Linda Ronstadt, “TNT” was more or less split evenly between covers of old rock-and-roll standards and up-to-date arena rock. But, as a play for a wider audience, it didn’t work: Tucker has never had a significant crossover hit. She disappeared from the radio in the first half of the eighties, going a few years without releasing a new album. She was, nonetheless, more visible than ever, partly because of a cocaine-fuelled fling she had with Glen Campbell, a bigger star more than twice her age. The relationship was bookended by a pair of People magazine cover stories, from June, 1980 (“The wildest love affair in showbiz today: Campbell, 44, and Tucker, 21”), and May, 1981 (“It’s kaput for the Rhinestone Couple, and a spurned Tucker tells why”). Tucker’s fame was also magnified by frequent appearances on TV series, such as “The Love Boat” and “Fantasy Island.”

And then she had her first big comeback. In 1986, working with the producer Jerry Crutchfield, Tucker released the album “Girls Like Me.” Featuring four Top Ten hits, the album launched Tucker on one of the greatest runs in country-chart history: in the next eight years, she notched twenty-three Top Tens, including four No. 1s. Though these singles have yet to be canonized in the manner of her earlier hits, several of them should be. Most are sharply observed tales of loss and persistence, delivered in a voice that’s brittle and cracked but still sparkles. Tucker sings the heartbroken revenge fantasy “I’ll Come Back As Another Woman” with bitter, bone-chilling confidence. “Two Sparrows in a Hurricane” is a parable for the cliché that love can conquer all; Tucker phrases it with such gulping generosity, and the synth-cradled melody is so gently comforting that you believe it. On these second-act hits, Tucker was no longer the wild and wise child; she was a full-grown romantic, who managed to be, at the same time, hard as nails.

Tucker’s voice has never had so much rusty texture as it does on “While I’m Livin’.” On this new album, her phrasing never hurries, whether she’s laughing bitterly or falling to a few whispered words for emphasis. In “The House That Built Me,” a backward-glancing Miranda Lambert hit, from 2010, Tucker tweaks the lyrics so that they evoke not a young woman but an empty-nester visiting the house in which she raised her children. “I thought if I could touch this place or feel it, this brokenness inside me might start healing,” she sings. Even before Tucker is through the line, she’s conveyed the futility of that quest.

Carlile, who, in addition to co-writing the songs, produced the album, with Shooter Jennings, might seem like an odd match for Tucker. Her gifts are arena-size, and her default setting is “anthem.” Her best songs emote like power ballads, even when they’re not. She and her collaborators manage a similar trick on “While I’m Livin’,” and to great effect. The narratives are mostly little private moments, and the melodies are mostly slow-rolling—arranged acoustically, with quiet, empty spaces everywhere. But each one strives and triumphs like it’s been packed with key changes and crescendos. “The Day My Heart Goes Still” confesses defeat (“I don’t think I’m ever gonna get my fill”), then repeats it until we understand it as a victory. “Hard Luck” has an irresistible everybody-join-in chorus, pointing to a life’s worth of scars and bad breaks as a reason to keep moving on. “I Don’t Owe You Anything” is a woman’s wise-cracking, jig-dancing little kiss-off to her husband: “Hell, I raised up all your babies!” Tucker sings, opening her heart to the years that will, as Kate Chopin once put it, belong to her absolutely.

Because it’s a late-career country-music comeback, “While I’m Livin’ ” is bound to be compared to Johnny Cash’s “American Recordings.” But Rick Rubin, the producer of the Cash album, succeeded in part by shrinking Cash’s complexity to a kind of two-dimensional rebellion. Carlile and Jennings have done the opposite: Tucker has never sounded so well-rounded. Perhaps the strongest example is “Bring My Flowers Now,” the album’s closing track and the one song on which Tucker gets a co-writing credit. It’s a list of things she wishes she’d done differently—learned to play guitar, been a better daughter and friend—but it’s also filled with sunrises and babies “and the little things I cherish on my way.” Backed only by Carlile playing a churchy piano that feels like a comforting arm slung over your shoulders, Tucker shares what she’s learned and is still learning. “The days are long, but the years are lightnin’,” she sings. “They’re bright and they will never strike again.” The old vibrato trembles with regret but also with anticipation.

“While I’m Livin’ ” is not going to initiate a third string of Tanya Tucker radio hits. Women have very nearly been segregated out of the mainstream country format for years, and sixtysomethings are unwelcome, no matter their gender. But the album does capture one of America’s great vocalists at her peak. One hopes that it will make more people see that Tucker really does belong in the same breath as those first-name-basis superstars—Reba, Dolly, Loretta, and Tammy—and that she should be celebrated accordingly, in the present. “Bring my flowers now,” she sings. “I won’t need your love when I’m gone.”

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The free streaming site Le Cinéma Club, which offers one film each week, has followed its spectacular rediscovery of Claire Denis’s 1991 short film “Keep It For Yourself” with something peculiarly similar yet wondrously distinctive: “Family Business,” a short film from 1984 by Chantal Akerman, in which she also stars.

The seventeen-minute film is a tour de force of comedy, both physical and verbal, about the variety of indignities that the movie business inflicts on its eager and earnest participants. It’s also a dazzling bit of multilevel metafictional whimsy. Akerman portrays herself travelling to Los Angeles with a real-life colleague, Marilyn Watelet, and Watelet’s young son, Leslie Vandermeulen, in quest of financing for an English-language musical Akerman wrote, called “Golden Eighties.” Losing hope in the industry, she’s looking for a wealthy uncle who lives there—and who, like her mother, is a Polish-Jewish immigrant. The search leads them to a house in a suburb, where Akerman is welcomed by two women.

One of those women is the real-life French actress Aurore Clément (the star of Akerman’s quasi-autobiographical 1978 drama “Les Rendez-vous d’Anna”), who is hoping to launch her acting career in Hollywood and is expecting the arrival of an accent coach to help her with the script she’s rehearsing (which just happens to be the one that Akerman wrote for “Golden Eighties”). The ensuing game of false pretenses and misapprehensions leads to an ingenious sequence in which Akerman channels Peter Sellers’s accentuated antics along with a bit of Groucho Marx’s scabrous arrogance. There’s a hint of Buster Keaton’s romanticism in Akerman’s shtick, a hint of Jacques Tati in her gestural geometry—it’s an amateur actor’s performance built with a filmmaker’s movie-love plus a self-scrutinizing, self-revealing artist’s sense of risk and exposure.

“Family Business” is also a work of graceful yet severe precision, distilling a wide range of experience into a tautly compressed style. It conjures comedic pathos and candor through the power of its pictorial compositions, the alternation of angles and rhythms of editing, and the repetition of actions in a sort of dramatic rhyme. Akerman, who died in 2015, is one of the pioneers of the personal cinema, of the candid refraction of first-person experience into drama, into documentary—and into audacious reconceptions of these cinematic forms themselves. She began her career—in 1968, at the age of eighteen—with a short film, “Saute Ma Ville,” in which she starred, front and center, onscreen alone. Her last film, “No Home Movie,” is a nonfiction film about her relationship with her elderly and ailing mother. In between, she created a body of work that’s among the most original, the most inventive in the history of cinema. The only thing that prevents her from being even more celebrated is the extraordinary and dire unavailability here, whether on home video or streaming, of many of her best films—a group that we now know includes “Family Business.”

Stream “Family Business” on Le Cinéma Club.

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The Australian Geographic Nature Photographer of the Year exhibit opened this week at the Powerhouse Museum, showcasing the incredible winning entries from this year’s competition. The winners were selected from over 2000 submissions, with Western Australian photographer Mat Beetson’s ‘Fin Whale’s Demise’ announced as the overall winner. Beetson in his winning drone photograph captured the beautifully surreal moment of a Fin whale that was stranded on Cheynes Beach in Albany, WA, whilst being circled by sharks.

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The competition judges Justin Gilligan, Glenn McKimmin and Tui De Roy said that “despite seeing millions of nature photographs over the decades, we have never seen anything that remotely resembles this image. Unique and exciting, it reveals incredible beauty in death… The image surprises by revealing such a shocking scene in a beautiful setting, and speaks volumes of the new dimension the latest technology has opened up for photographers.”

Winners and runner-ups have also been announced for the ten award categories, including New South Wales-based photographer Charles Davis who was awarded the Portfolio Prize for his many entered works, including his heartfelt ‘Big Step, Little Step’ that captures a mother and baby wombat marching up a snow covered hill leaving only small footprints behind in the snowy hillside. Another is the haunting ‘The Watering Hole’ from South Australian Melissa Williams-Brown, who was the winner of the Our Impact award with her photograph of the dried up Cawndilla Creek where animal remains scatter the lakebed, a stark reminder of the ongoing drought Australia is currently experiencing.

See their photographs and others below in our selection of 20 of our favourite entries from the 2019 Australian Geographic Nature Photographer of the Year exhibition.

The work of these photographers along with the other winners and runners-up can be experienced from Wednesday the 21st of August until Sunday the 20th October at the Powerhouse Museum. The Australian Geographic Nature Photographer of the Year competition is produced by the South Australian Museum.

Above: Fin Whale’s Demise by Mat Beetson

Mountain Echidna by Charles Davis (detail)

Bride in the Bath by Melissa Christi

Decorator Crab by Ross Gudgeon

Cradle Mt Possum by Charles Davis

The Heat Run by Scott Portelli

Life in the Sky by Charles Davis

Gliders’ Home by Charles Davis

Spider on Ice by Raoul Slater

Small but Mighty by Richard Smith

The Ghost of the Forest by Marcia Riederer (detail)

Barron Falls by Neil Pritchard (detail)

Through the Curtain by Nick Monk (detail)

King Pair Conversation by Andrew Peacock

Big Step, Little Step by Charles Davis

Texture by Tracey Jennings

In the Dark by Floyd Mallon

The Watering Hole by Melissa Williams-Brown (detail)

Quoll Reflections by Charles Davis

Curious Encounter by Etienne Littlefair (detail)

It’s remarkable how much time the Democratic Presidential candidates have spent explicating the details of plans that have no chance of becoming law. There is, for example, no possibility at all that the Senate will pass any kind of Medicare for All plan in 2021. But the next President will certainly have a chance to make appointments to the federal judicial bench—with life tenure, no less—and the candidates have had almost nothing to say on the subject. To the extent that Democratic candidates have talked about judges at all, it’s been in the context of opposing Donald Trump’s nominees to the bench. Though the candidates aren’t yet talking about the judiciary, some former officials are trying to force the subject into the political conversation.

A fledgling liberal organization, Demand Justice, is trying to force the candidates to take a stand on a provocative proposal for the next Democratic administration. The group’s founders, Christopher Kang, who helped run judicial selection for President Barack Obama, and Brian Fallon, a former aide to Hillary Clinton and Chuck Schumer, argue that the next President should not nominate any judicial candidates who come out of the world of corporate law. As Kang and Fallon, two insiders to the process, point out, even in Democratic administrations, there is a recurring pattern among nominees to the federal bench: “A typical nominee might have an Ivy League degree and clerkships with one or more respected federal judges,” they write, in a new article in The Atlantic. “But perhaps no qualification is more prevalent than prior work at a major private-sector firm, representing the interests of large corporations.” As they note, roughly sixty per cent of federal appellate judges come from corporate firms.

The moment is especially ripe for this proposal. The story of the Roberts Court is its embrace of corporate power. The court has consistently ruled against labor unions and for big-dollar campaign contributors, polluters, and other wealthy interests. Justices Neil Gorsuch and Brett Kavanaugh, Trump’s appointees to the court, have embraced this agenda and appear likely to push the Court even more dramatically in this direction. Both showed a particular interest in limiting regulations during their time as circuit-court judges. Sheldon Whitehouse, a senator from Rhode Island, has been one of the few Democratic politicians to focus on this issue of corporate power in the courts; he’s even written a book about it. By 2021, it will be especially important to establish some sort of counterweight to this trend, because Trump will have made so many appointments, and because of the possibility of Supreme Court vacancies.

Of course, it’s easy to recognize problems with Kang and Fallon’s proposal. Virtually every private lawyer in the country represents a corporation at one time or another, so it’s difficult to identify with precision what constitutes a “corporate law firm.” Also, many lawyers spend brief periods at firms, even if they devote most of their careers to public service. Sonia Sotomayor was mostly a prosecutor in her pre-judicial career, and Elena Kagan was mostly an academic, but both put in some time at law firms, too. Should that have disqualified them? Indeed, Kang and Fallon’s idea seems like more of a rough guideline than a strict rule. It’s a reminder that even Democratic Presidents like Obama and Bill Clinton have too often limited their searches for judicial candidates to the usual suspects in the usual places—products of selective law schools who work in big law firms. Kang and Fallon write, “There are plenty enough highly qualified individuals with other backgrounds—civil-rights litigators, public defenders, and legal-aid lawyers—that the next president can afford to make identifying new kinds of candidates a priority.” Kang and Fallon are speaking directly to the Presidential candidates, who would be wise to answer, if not to agree.

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Achievable Ways to Feel Accomplished

August 22, 2019 | News | No Comments

Organize your books by color before complaining that you don’t have time to read.

Listen to the last three minutes of the eight podcasts you had almost-but-not-quite completed.

Drink a sip of water at any point during the day—self-care is essential.

Water your plants, and then watch the water leak out while thinking about how you’d be a great mom.

Rearrange furniture (not just yours, anyone’s).

Delete all of your spam e-mails as soon as you wake up and unsubscribe from every self-help-blog newsletter. You already know what you’re doing!

Make a mental note to book “appointments” but don’t specify which ones.

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Write down all the Wi-Fi passwords of every network you’ve ever connected to, just in the off chance you ever return to that same Starbucks in Istanbul.

Charge every electronic device to exactly one hundred per cent, but check constantly to make sure that you stop charging at one hundred per cent, so you don’t kill the battery.

Read that phone addiction kills. Download fourteen new apps to help you use your phone less.

Make your career your top priority. Pitch a half-written essay to several editors you know will never respond. Claim that you’re waiting for feedback on said essay before writing anything new.

Take care of your home by fluffing your pillow, or, if you remember to do it only after you’ve left the apartment, fluff any stray cat you find on the street. Animal rights matter.

Work on nurturing your friendships. Comment “YASSSSS” on your six closest friends’ Instagram stories. You missed two of their weddings.

Make an effort to conserve by bringing a reusable water bottle around with you, then go through six to seven plastic Solo cups at your friend’s houseparty.

Be a good person. Donate twenty dollars to a charity. Spend the rest of the day wondering if you could have spent that money on something useful, like vitamins or those cute earrings.

Foster healthy habits by telling other people to stop eating sugar.

Lie on your floor and wonder what we’re all doing here. Introspection is the most difficult task of all. (It’s true, you learned that from the end of one of your podcasts.)

Finish that half-eaten bag of spicy Cheetos you found on the floor.

Earlier this month, after a man acting on Donald Trump’s lies about a Hispanic “invasion” of the U.S. drove to El Paso, Texas, and killed twenty-two people at a Walmart, Beto O’Rourke hit pause on his Presidential campaign. O’Rourke, who grew up in El Paso, and represented it for six years in Congress, went home to meet with victims and attend vigils, and he seemed to rediscover some of the edge that brought him to national attention last year, during his unsuccessful bid to unseat Texas’s junior senator, Ted Cruz. A day after the shooting, when a reporter asked him if there was anything that Trump could do to “make this any better,” O’Rourke, throwing his hands in the air, said, “Members of the press, what the fuck?” O’Rourke’s preferred speaking style is off the cuff—“No notes!” his campaign likes to remind people—which, in practice, can make him seem searching and unfocussed. But, after the shooting, he homed in. “It’s these questions that you know the answers to,” he told the reporter. “I mean, connect the dots about what he’s been doing in this country.”

On Thursday, O’Rourke delivered a speech that was billed as his return to the trail. He spoke outdoors, with El Paso stretched out behind him, in a park he used to walk through to get from his house to his high school. “I gotta tell you,” O’Rouke said. “There’s some part of me, and it’s a big part of me, that wants to stay here, and be with my family, and be with my community.” He spoke of his “overwhelming pride” in El Paso, and addressed his critics in the Democratic Party who have soured on him as a Presidential candidate. “There have even been some who have suggested that I stay in Texas and run for Senate,” he said. (John Cornyn, Texas’s senior senator, is up for reëlection in 2020.) “But that would not be good enough for this community. That would not be good enough for El Paso. That would not be good enough for this country. We must take the fight directly to the source of this problem.” He meant Trump. And yet, in a way, he agreed with his critics. He didn’t want to return to the campaign trail he’d left behind, where he’d been floundering—bad polls, bad press, bad debate performances. “I know there is a way to do this better—and that came to me last week,” he said. He wouldn’t be going back for corn dogs in Iowa. Instead, he said, he’d go “to those places where Donald Trump has been terrorizing and terrifying and demeaning our fellow-Americans. That’s where you will find me in this campaign.”

Picking up ideas on the fly, reacting to the moment, being open to change—this, too, is O’Rourke’s preferred style. Since Thursday, he has been to Mississippi, Arkansas, Oklahoma, Kansas, and Missouri. These are not early-primary states, they are not general-election swing states, and they are not traditional hubs of Democratic Party fund-raising, and, therefore, they are not places where Presidential candidates spend much of their time. In Arkansas, he stopped by a gun show, where he spoke with venders about background checks. In Oklahoma, he visited the site of the 1921 Tulsa race massacre. In Missouri, he toured “a community of transitional tiny homes and on-site services” for veterans experiencing homelessness. Earlier this year, he told a questioner at an event, “Let me learn from you and not try to pretend that I have the answer.” Now, searching for a way to run the kind of anti-campaign he prefers, he appears to want to elevate that notion to a campaign slogan.

It’s a tempting idea, up to a point. Why should our politicians pretend to know everything? Shouldn’t people outside Iowa and New Hampshire get more of a say in the Democratic Party’s next nominee? But, already, O’Rourke’s campaign has come up against the realities of a Presidential bid. “While focusing on El Paso was absolutely the right thing to do, being off the campaign trail for two weeks has put the campaign at a disadvantage,” his campaign said, in an e-mail to supporters, on Friday. “In fact, our finance team crunched the numbers and we need to raise $467,000 more by the end of this month to close our fundraising gap.”

Was it really the previous two weeks that set O’Rourke back? There was talk of him running for President even before the end of the 2018 Senate race. Then he lost, and those calls were dampened but didn’t go away. It was a moment when the Democratic Party wasn’t at all sure what kind of leader it wanted. But O’Rourke has found it difficult to find broad support outside of Texas. It didn’t help that he wrote meandering blog posts about road-tripping and made a crack about his wife, Amy, raising their kids “sometimes with my help.” More generally, his positions weren’t enough to win the activist left nationally, and his résumé wasn’t enough to impress the more moderate middle. He spoke powerfully about the lessons that El Paso could offer the rest of the nation, but had a harder time convincing people that he understood the rest of that nation. The April Vanity Fair profile that served as his de-facto campaign announcement—“Man, I’m just born to be in it” was the cover quote—has proved a difficult moment to live down. Even at the time, it was an odd thing to say. In retrospect, it is sounding more and more like self-delusion.

On Tuesday, O’Rourke was back in Iowa. Other candidates came into this race having already learned what they want to talk about. Elizabeth Warren tells a story of corruption. Bernie Sanders lectures on inequality. Joe Biden has a case for why Trump must be voted out first and foremost. O’Rourke, even before this latest gambit, wanted his campaign to be a voyage of discovery. “I want to be the leader for this country that we need right now, and that we do not have,” he said on Thursday. But desire alone isn’t a political project. After his visit to Tulsa, he wrote another earnest blog post about what he learned there. A few months ago, he was telling potential voters, “If you own an AR-15, keep it.” Now, after El Paso, he is calling for mandatory gun buybacks and reorienting his entire campaign. It can be maddening to watch a politician stick to a position even when it becomes outdated, hypocritical, or absurd. But watching one change so eagerly and quickly is equally unsettling—even in response to a horror like the El Paso shooting. Unless O’Rourke learns to speak about his experience with something other than earnest awe or surprised heartbreak, his campaign will continue to sound like it is closer to the end than the beginning.