Art and Literature

This category contains 13 posts

The things you find on bookshelves

More than a year after doing the grown up thing and buying a house Your Girl Reporter is finally sorting through the books that just got thrown on to shelves when we moved. How did I live with such disorder for so long?  A well-ordered bookshelf gives me a sense of peace and well-being that is hard to match and goes all the way back to my childhood in Hong Kong.

In the bedroom I shared with my sister in our flat in Macdonnell Road, there was a low bookcase between us, so that first and last thing were my books. That’s where it began, the endless idle-minded task of moving them around, by author… by typeface… by subject… by colour – the possibilities went on and on.

One day it was perfectly logical for Kafka’s Letters to Felice to snuggle up next to Ronnie Barker’s Christmas joke book, the next a vile travesty and the rearrangement would begin again. Continue reading


Leonard Cohen bows out before the Age of Indecency 

trumpocalypse-baxterWeep not for Leonard Cohen, for he does not have to witness the ascension of Donald Trump to the most powerful position in the world. And yet, in July this year, it was Cohen’s 2014 album Popular Problems that kickstarted development of my #Trumpocalypse #mixtape.

I said it then, and I say it again now: “If we’re going down in the #Trumpocalypse, I’m going down with Leonard Cohen.”

The ‘popular problems’ he addressed in his penultimate work included past and present horrors of human suffering, entwining the geopolitical with the deeply personal as his best work always does. From the comfort of my bathtub it sounded almost like the blues and a perfect soundtrack for our times. Continue reading

Lord Jones is Dead – a loving kick in the guts for newspapers everywhere

There’s a touch of the eulogy about Lord Jones is Dead, a new film based on the play by Australian journalist Matthew Clayfield.

The film is a loving tribute to the ailing newspaper trade and it’s packed with clever references that will be instantly recognised by any Boy and Girl Reporter who takes a passing interest in the history and traditions of their business.

And it’s also a biting, sniping satire of everything that’s trivial and wrong with mainstream media – a glorious kick in the guts for an industry that’s never been more down on its luck. That’s journalism for you.  Continue reading

Talking about writing with Ryan Haynes

Ryan Haynes is a writer based in California who caused a stir with his first book Unfortunately Human. It’s the story of a young man with an extreme form of a fortunately rare condition called Ankylosing Spondylitis which primarily affects the spine, gradually fusing the vertebrae together into a solid column of bone. Ryan’s spine is completely fused and his description of the minutiae of its effects struck a chord with many readers in the AS community. As someone who also has AS and files the occasional update on the subject, Your Girl Reporter had a couple of questions.  Continue reading

And the Baxter for Best Picture goes to…

One of the better habits I have taken up this year is that of trying to watch all the Oscar Noms for Best Picture in advance of the actual awards night. Yes, I’m unfashionably up to date when it comes to current movies. To appreciate just how unusual this is, consider that I have yet to see Thelma and Louise. For the view from Your Girl Reporter on the eight films up for the Big One, read on. Continue reading

David Bowie’s death means everything. And nothing

David Bowie is dead. Weeks after the event it’s a phrase that still carries an air of incomprehensibility, no matter how many times I say it out loud. Each morning I’m asked, “How are you today?” And each morning I say again, “Alright.” And yet, David Bowie is dead.

There will be a day which doesn’t start that way but it isn’t here yet. Your Girl Reporter is not given to ostentatious displays of mourning. But David Bowie is dead. And, like the great art he made, it means everything. And nothing. Continue reading

To hell and back – a hero’s journey with ankylosing spondylitis

Unfortunately Human by Ryan HaynesWhen a member of Team AS got in touch to say there was a novel going around the ankylosing spondylitis community which was entirely based on the symptoms of this rare and little understood condition, I wasn’t sure I wanted to read it. Here’s my review of Unfortunately Human by Ryan Haynes.

The main player in this extraordinary little book is never named but there’s no doubting its identity. So acutely drawn is the anonymous protagonist that I hesitate to recommend Unfortunately Human by Ryan Haynes to anyone who knows someone with his condition because it will undoubtedly break your heart.

And yet, and yet…if you want to know, if you really want to know the brutal truth of it all, here’s a novel which captures what it’s like to live with ankylosing spondylitis.

Continue reading

Michael Ware walks a fine line on the frontline

Only the DeadAt some point in his service as a war correspondent in Iraq Michael Ware crossed a line. In his documentary Only the Dead, which screened at the Palace Centro in Brisbane on Monday 26 October 2015, he goes looking for it.

Ware was working for Time magazine when he arrived in Iraq just before the 2003 invasion where this story begins. He was there for seven years, reporting for CNN from 2006. Through the personal footage he shot on a handycam, we get to go along for the ride. It’s a bumpy, brutal journey and a rare personal insight into the daily grind of being a war correspondent.  Continue reading

Go set a cat amongst the pigeons

Dads, eh? You think you know ‘em and then one day you grow up and measure them against the complex realities of the world and find them wanting. Before Atticus Finch became everyone’s ideal dad his daughter seems to have written a novel about that painful realisation which comes to each of us the day we realise our dad is not a hero, just a man like other men.  Continue reading

Rock n Roll trolling, California-style

In a scene straight out of childhood, I was sitting at the breakfast table with my father Jack Spackman, both of us with noses buried in the morning newspaper. It was one of the last times we performed this ritual and Hong Kong where it began, further back than I can remember, was far away in both space and time. But, just as he always had, Dad looked up from the paper as I arrived, poured me a cup of tea and peeled off the front and back pages, depositing them on my plate as I sat down.   Continue reading


Your Girl Reporter is now filing as Maria Spackman at www.mariaspackman.com Same great content, whole new website. I’m leaving Sally Baxter up, as I can’t quite bring myself to let her go completely, but it’s time to honour my family name – and use it. Hope you’ll join me for the Further Adventures of a Girl Reporter. It’ll be fun.