Sunday, May 29, 2022


Until 2010, the Texan psychologist BrenĂ© Brown was an obscure professor, working in what academic researchers call “the field of shame”. Then she gave a Ted Talk called “The Power of Vulnerability,” which became one of the five most-viewed Ted Talks of all time. She’s published six books since then, all of them best-sellers. Her latest, Atlas of the Heart, came out last year. Now she’s made a five-part docuseries of the same name, which is currently streaming on Binge. 

Self-help is a fantastically lucrative industry. According to Forbes magazine, Americans spend more than $US10 billion a year on self-improvement paraphernalia. Brown is one of the genre’s rising stars, and the blurb for her series suggests she’s invented a radical new form of entertainment: the binge-worthy “interactive” TV show that’s also thoroughly good for you. 

Actually, there’s nothing very groundbreaking about the format of Brown’s show. She stands on a stage in front of a studio audience and imparts the lessons of her book, using slides and movie clips to illustrate her points. There’s a lot of talk about “relatable learnings” and going on journeys together. There’s a lot of thanking each other for sharing ... [READ MORE]

Depp v. Heard

I can’t claim to know everything there is to know about the Depp v. Heard case. But I know enough to know that I wish I knew less. When you stopped watching it long enough to start thinking about it, the trial was a terribly sad affair. Johnny Depp and Amber Heard might be glamorous movie stars, but they’re also real human beings. In court, they were obliged to revisit some of the most painful and exquisitely private moments of their lives. 

Given that there was a lawsuit in progress, these private matters were undoubtedly the jury’s business. My news feed kept telling me they were my business too. They weren’t, but my news feed was insistent ... [READ MORE]

Wednesday, May 4, 2022

Bob Dylan: Overrated

Let’s begin with some clarifications. When I say Bob Dylan is over-rated, I’m not saying he’s no good at all. That would be an absurd claim. I’m not even saying I dislike his work. Some of my favourite songs are Dylan songs.

Nor do I doubt that Dylan’s influence has been profound. From Joni Mitchell to Bruce Springsteen, all the great singer-songwriters have hailed him as a pioneer. 

If people were content to praise Dylan for his actual merits, I’d have no beef. What irks me is that Dylan stands at the epicentre of a tenacious mass delusion, which causes its victims to see qualities in his work that aren’t really there ... [READ MORE]