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Year End 2004   

Interview: The King of Comedy
John Robertson looks back on a year when his comic genius was finally realised.

Unions: Ten Simple Rules
Accepted wisdom has unions all but retired as serious players in the Australian game. A glance through the major industrial stories of 2004, however, suggests improved footwork, and a commitment to boxing clever, might herald a comeback, writes Jim Marr.

Politics: Rampant Indivdualism
CFMEU National Secretary John Sutton gives his take on a year when the political debate took a turn to the Right.

International: Global Struggle
Labourstart's Eric Lee looks back on a year when the struggles for labour increasingly crossed international lines.

Economics: Cashing in the Year
Look back in sorrow or look back in anger? By any standards 2004 has been a hell of a year, writes Frank Stilwell.

History: Grass Roots
Worker solidarity in Australia in the first century of invasion can give us inspiration and clues for our upcoming battles, writes Neale Towart.

Review: Cultural Realities
In 2004 popular culture shifted from reality television to reality movies, and swapped last year's light-weight subject matter for the slightly more substantial, writes Tara de Boehmler.

Poetry: Y-U-C-K
Workers Online resident bard David Peetz takes inspiration from The Village People for his latest prose.


The Crystal Ball
Workers Online consults a raft of leading psychics to find out what readers can look forward to in 2005.

The Soapbox
Scrooge Was Right
Christmas has been cancelled this year, writes our US correspondent Brooklyn Phil.

The Locker Room
The Workers Online Sports Awards
Continuing a tradition that dates back to the Twentieth Century, Phil Doyle dishes out the gongs for all things great and small in the world of sport during 2004.

The Westie Wing
Our favoutrite MP looks for a positive spin on the year at NSW Parliament


Beyond The Law
Despite the all-engulfing gloom emenating from our political wing right now, 2004 comes to an end on a strangely upbeat note for the trade union movement.


 Unions Make Hardie Pay

 Hadgkiss Gives Mourners Grief

 Mum Gets "Hopson’s" Choice

 AWAs Crash on Broken Hill

 No Fun in the Sack

 Tax Office Draws Blood

 Origin Prop a Union Hit

 Good Guy Wears Black

 Security Crisis at Sydney Airport

 Biscuit Bosses Crumble

 Ardmona Urged to Can Racism

 Bomber Predicts Big Bang

 Stolen Wages Cut

 Tomorrow the World…

 Bosses Sack WorkCover

 Activists What's On!

 Costa’s Hike Unfare
 Temporary Arrangements
 The Price Of Tea In China
 Cry For Me, Argentina
 Ho Bloody Ho
 Right Is Wrong
 Business As Usual
 All In The Family
 Swing Left Wishful Thinking
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Cultural Realities

In 2004 popular culture shifted from reality television to reality movies, and swapped last year's light-weight subject matter for the slightly more substantial, writes Tara de Boehmler.

Mike Moore was the clear champion of this trend and, while Fahrenheit 9/11 was hardly a shift from his usual style, its timely nature and clear achievement in hitting its mark on the international stage made it something for others to emulate.

While the US and Australian election results gave the would-be majority plenty to be pessimistic about, Fahrenheit 9/11 and Robert Greenwald's Outfoxed at least provided some of the answers to the question 'why?'.

In fact Fahrenheit 9/11 was considered such a powerful tool by Republicans that they attempted to capitalise on the formula to help boost their own election chances. Not that they needed to and nor did most places outside of the US get to see their efforts after the offering backfired badly.

Meanwhile, Outfoxed revealed the ugly side of media oligopolies by subjecting audiences to 90 minutes more of CNN than could ever be considered healthy. The argument against was easily won, with the producer simply letting CNN supply the flashing slogans and rolling banners, and providing footage of the devout Bush-loving presenters to telling it themselves, as they wanted to have us believe it.

After taking in Outfoxed and Fahrenheit 9/11 hungry audience members steered well clear of McDonalds, thanks to Supersize Me. In this mega non-delicious health catastrophe of a flick, viewers watched, stunned, as their star aimed for suicide by Big Mac - surviving on nothing but Macca's until doctors called the whole thing off.

McDonald's took the disendorsement badly, attempting to challenge the rogue former customer through a counter advertising campaign. Insisting that anyone who lived on fast food was a bloody idiot anyway, the superpower finally settled for boosting its salad bar and withdrawing its offers to supersize.

But this year's overdose of reality did not only play out on the big screen. On the box this brand of television went from bad to worse, yet became only slightly less watchable.

Highlights included Donald Trump's The Apprentice, which confirmed everyone's greatest fears about the personality traits required to claw one's way to the top of the corporate ladder.

In The Amazing Race, the world looked on as a bunch of American couples darted across the globe too quickly to take in any of the surrounds or meet any of the locals. Race contestants bit and clawed and lied and doublecrossed their way their way to the Texan finish line where the one million dollar booty distracted the winner from all sins in the getting there.

Other watchables included Big Brother's bastard club edition, in which the producers outdid themselves by filling the household with as many disagreeable characters as possible and letting them fight it out to the end. One housemate frequently moved to tears and solo boxing sessions on the inside became an instant sensation following his eviction night, at which he covered his mouth with tape and held up the words "Free th Refugees".

Merlin Luck's action signalled a turning point in the reality television department, in which its potential as a political tool of the masses was revealed.

The Movie Show's Margaret Pomeranz and David Stratton were also well aware of the message they were endorsing, refusing to be associated with commercial concerns by quitting SBS for bowing to advertisers. The pair voted with their feet all the way to the ABC.

Stage performances were also used to translate political issues, including Katherine Thomson's 'Harbour' - based on the 1998 maritime dispute. Meanwhile version 1.0 and the Department of Performance Studies' CMI (aka A Certain Maritime Incident) spilled the beans on the Senate inquiry into the 'children overboard affair'.

As for works of wonder and imagination on the fictitious front, the pickings were slimmer on the ground - particularly on the small screen. Aside from 'safe' reality formats, television stations seemed to be letting up in the entertainment department, unless one's idea of fun entailed non-stop crime show marathons and court room accounts of the American legal system, punctuated by the odd, ironically titled, situation comedy.

All in all a rather gritty - sometimes grimy - year on the cultural front, but with consumer dollars doing the steering the fluff is sure to win out in the end.


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