Friday, February 22, 2008

boing boing in the brush

Wallabies and possums. Mosquitos and ants. The hot summer weather seems to bring them all out. The mozzies in particular made straight for my sister Julie at the Australia Day barbecue; she had marks all over her legs for weeks.

When I take Julie's dogs out in the evening, the bushes and the trees are full of sound and movement. The irascible possums glare at us from the branches of the trees, coughing noisily at us when we're at a safe distance.

In this weather there's often a wallaby lurking about in the back yards of the homes. They come down from the hills and feast on the flowers in the gardens. I hear some of them are very partial to roses.

It was odd at first to walk down the street and hear a rustle in the bushes, followed by the unmistakable boing-boing-boing noise as it hopped away. One of them got so used to us going past that it would stand there and wait for us to leave -- as long as we stayed on our own side of the road.

A sad day in Australian publishing this month with the country's oldest magazine folding. When The Bulletin's death was announced at a 10am meeting in Sydney, it ended a tradition that began 128 years ago with the likes of Banjo Paterson, Henry Lawson and Miles Franklin, and survived into the time of Donald Horne, Les Carlyon and Laurie Oakes.

I never knew the magazine in its pre-war heyday. By the time I came along, Sir Frank Packer had taken it over and turned it into a modern news weekly. I doubt the magazine would have been axed if his son Kerry Packer was still alive, but today it's owned by a soulless international media corporation.

One of the galling things is that the magazine's end was announced between editions. The editors didn't even have the opportunity to write a farewell note to the readers.

The same thing happened with Australasian Post, which was scuttled at a moment's notice despite its equally long history.

They say Australians are among the world's biggest consumers of magazines. But sentiment counts for little among the bean-counters of the modern business world, and a long history is no guarantee of survival in the marketplace.

Just today I heard a report that Reed Elsevier are selling off their magazine business, which includes titles ranging from Variety to New Scientist. Apparently the company is unhappy with "the cyclical nature" of magazine publishing....

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