5 Reasons Why ‘Blinky Bill’ is Way More Messed Up Than You Thought

Blinky Bill. Australia’s favourite lovable larrikin. You may know him from this cartoon …

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… or from the 2015 movie  …

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… or perhaps you have no idea what I’m talking about because you’re not a 90’s kid from Australia who watched too many cartoons. Either way, you are probably not familiar with Blinky’s dark origin story from the 1930’s …

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I was given this book (which is a collection of three stories) as a child, and now that I have a kid myself, I’ve been gifted it again (though I suppose, technically it’s for my child, not me). You would think that seeing that same cheeky koala on the cover would send waves of nostalgia through me – but mostly it just made me think of how disturbing I found the book when I was younger.

Don’t believe me that a story about a koala could be full of unimaginable horrors? Well read on and find out for yourself.

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1. Blinky (Maybe) Kills the World’s Nicest Frog and Doesn’t Even Care

Let’s start with the part I found most troubling.

In the first story the little koala runs away from home to explore the bush, and stumbles upon a school for frogs. Apparently the school has a “No Bears” policy but the teacher, Mrs Spotty, decides its okay for Blinky to join in – because she’s either really nice or she just understands that koalas aren’t actually bears. She even invites Blinky to join in on a game of leapfrog.

And that’s where everything goes horribly wrong.

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Yes, Blinky’s turn results in him squashing poor Mrs Spotty into something resembling a pancake. Thankfully the story points out that she’s not dead. Yet.

“‘Oh I’ve killed her!’ he cried in a frightened voice … She certainly did look flat; but her throat was puffing and one eye moved a little.”

Blinky then pushes her into the water, which you’d think might be the right thing to do (frogs do like water after all). Except that it clearly wasn’t.

“He gave her a push with his paw, and in she went, head first. ‘Now you’ve done it!’ called the frogs in cries of horror. ‘We’ll tell the policeman.'”

With the reader left to think that Mrs Spotty may have met her watery demise, Blinky hightails it out of there. Still, Blinky apparently doesn’t think he’s done anything wrong – because the frog he may have killed was kind of ugly anyway.

“‘I’m not sorry for Mrs Spotty, she had such googly eyes.'”

And if you’re anxious to know that Mrs Spotty was okay – bad luck. The reader has to wait 40 pages for the next story, which has one off-hand, slightly ambiguous comment in a discussion about a bush bazaar.

“Last year Mrs Thrush sang for us … and Mrs Spotty Frog’s pupils gave an exhibition of jumping.”

Not entirely reassuring but I guess it’ll have to do.

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2. Mrs Snake and Granny Goanna Die in Agony Under Blinky’s Command

In the second story, Blinky colludes with an army of bull-ants to launch an ambush attack on an elderly goanna and her snake friend. Here’s an excerpt from this charming moment in children’s literature …

“‘For heaven’s sake save me, save me!’ moaned Granny Goanna, as she hissed until all her hisses had gone.”

And another …

“Oh! Oh! I’m dying!” groaned Mrs Snake, and she fell with a thud to the ground. In another second plopped down Granny Goanna, as dead as a door nail.”

The ants bite the pair to death and then feast on their flesh until only bones are left, and Blinky watches the whole thing with glee.

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To be fair, the goanna and snake were planning to eat the children of Miss Possum, so they kind of deserved it. Still, it’s not exactly the light and fluffy, child-friendly material you’d usually associate with cuddly koalas.

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3. So Much Corpse Desecration

One of the moments that sets the surprisingly macabre tone of the book, comes right at the beginning when Mrs Rabbit is talking about her dead husband …

“‘Poor Mr Rabbit was shot, and I found his skin nearby; but I managed to bite off the tail and bring it home.”

Yes, innocent Mrs Rabbit actually bites off a body part of her deceased lover to keep as a souvenir. To make it worse, the tail is then promptly eaten by a snake who thinks it’s a baby koala – because these stories are also full of attempted infanticide.

The carnage isn’t over though as, not long after, the body of another dearly departed bunny is tampered with. Again it’s as a decoy for a would-be predator but this time the whole corpse is stuffed full of prickles and propped up as if it were alive – making it look like something from a rabbit version of Hellraiser.

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4. A Cute Joke Ends With Someone Buried Alive

Crickets playing a game of cricket. Adorable, right? Especially when it’s coupled with this illustration …

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However, things take a dark turn when the crickets start savagely beating one of their own then burying him alive. Of course Blinky is not phased by this and simply leaves the crickets to their business.

“They pounced on him and gave him a terrible kicking; and as Blinky turned to walk away he saw them piling earth on top of the bowler.”

And what was the victim’s crime that made him deserve such a punishment?

He broke the cricket ball.

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5. Blinky Traumatically Injures an Elderly Rabbit as a Prank

At one point, Blinky ends up at a party for rabbits. He has no business being there but, once again, he is allowed to hang around due to the kindness of the other bush animals. So how does he repay this kindness?

He yanks the tail of elderly, Madam Hare.

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At first this doesn’t seem so bad. Madam Hare is depicted as a bit mean anyway, and Blinky does get rather severe comeuppance when he is found out (he is literally kicked out of the rabbit burrow). But there’s one passage that changes everything …

“She looked a sorry sight with her stumpy tail showing bone”

He ripped the flesh off her tail all the way down to the bone! Suddenly it’s clear that this wasn’t just a harmless prank – it was an attempt to inflict maximum pain and maybe even cause sickness …

“‘My poor tail has been pulled again, and you all know it’s moulting time. I’ll catch a dreadful cold is I lose any more fur.'”

And at this point one thing is as plain as day.

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This is the face of pure evil.

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If you’d like to traumatise your own children with Blinky’s adventures, the three stories are available for free online here, here and here. Or for more overanalysis of kids’ tales, check out my Happy Feet or Winnie the Pooh rants.

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Andy’s Movie List 2015

(Note: Eligibity for the list is based on Australian release dates).

A new year has begun, so why not celebrate by watching some of the best movies of the year just gone?

“But which movies to watch?” I hear you ask.

Well if you’re asking me, the films in the list below should be top priority. And if you’re not asking me, you probably shouldn’t be reading this blog. Seriously, there are plenty of other things you could be doing with your time. I hear that knitting is fun.

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This could be you.

10. Avengers: Age of Ultron

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It packs so much into its running time that it feels like a bit of a mess, but Marvel’s latest mega-blockbuster is still a fine example of crowd-pleasing entertainment. Superhero-fatigue is starting to set in for me though, so it’ll be interesting to see if Marvel can keep me on their side in the coming years.

9. Ex Machina

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A quiet, deliberately paced sci-fi that’s as captivating as it is unsettling. Stunning visuals and complex characters make it a winner, even if one those characters isn’t human.

8. Inherent Vice

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To me, 2015 was the year of seriously strange but brilliant films, and Inherent Vice may have been the strangest of them all. Enjoy it for it’s melancholy and surreal (yet quite funny) take on 1970’s culture – just don’t think too hard about it’s incoherent plot.

7. Paddington

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Recent times have been chock-full of updated versions of children’s shows. Most of them aren’t worth your time (Smurfs, anyone?). But Paddington is a definite exception. It’s about as fun and charming as you could ever hope for from a family movie.

6. The Martian

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Another year, another fantastic semi-realistic space movie (I’m also thinking of Gravity and Interstellar). Despite a couple of far-fetched scenes, this may be the most realistic of the three, yet it never compromises on entertainment value and humour.

5. Imitation Game

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A masterful biopic that just scrapes into the list due to its release date (1st January). It might play fast and loose with the historical details, but its such a well told story that I’m not sure I care. In the end, the audience walks away convinced that Alan Turing was a brilliant man who was unfairly treated by the authorities – and that much seems to be very true.

4. Birdman

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I’ve never been a fan of director Alejandro G. Inarritu’s work. 21 Grams felt like a waste of time, and Babel was just its slightly better cousin. If I’d written a letter to Alejandro a couple of years ago with suggestions for his next film I would have asked him to; add some humour, use more long tracking shots, and make the plot more focused. Turns out that’s exactly what he had planned anyway, because Birdman has all of that in spades. It’s also probably the weirdest film to ever win Best Picture at the Oscars.

3. Inside Out

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Pixar’s return to form is jam-packed full of laughs, creativity and tearworthy moments (but I just had something in my eye, I swear). It’s also great to see a family film with a different sort of message. In a sense it may be another version of the “just be yourself” message that we always see in these films, but it approaches it from such a unique angle that even the adults in the audience are likely to walk away with a new perspective.

2. Star Wars: The Force Awakens

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As a massive fan of the original trilogy (at this moment I’m surrounded by at least three pieces of Star Wars memorabilia) The Force Awakens was never going to live up to my hopes and dreams. But amazingly, it came pretty damn close. My main problem with it is that it follows the formula of first film (Episode IV) a little too closely. I’m glad it came close to recapturing the feel of those older movies, but it also flirted dangerously with being a repackaged version of the same film.

1. Mad Max: Fury Road

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Remember when I said that 2015 was the year of seriously strange but brilliant films? Well, this was at the forefront of my mind. I remember seeing the trailer and thinking it looked like the craziest thing ever. Turns out I wasn’t wrong. So much about it is batshit insane that it makes the original Mad Max films look  like The English Patient – but it’s also a masterclass in energetic, enthusiastic, thrilling cinema and should not be missed.

Honourable Mentions: Selma, Shaun the Sheep, Still Alice

Some of the Movies I DIDN’T See But Probably Should Have: Straight Outta Compton, Crimson Peak, Sicario, Hunger Games: Part 4, Amy, Foxcatcher, Theory of Everything

Worst (That I Saw) of the Year: A Pigeon Sat on a Branch Reflecting on Existence

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Usually I’d use this space to whine about some mainstream blockbuster that I felt was overrated. Not this time though. This time I’m choosing an artsy, relatively low budget film that was seen by few but loved by critics all over the world. Why? Well, just think of all the typical complaints that people usually have about arthouse films, because this time  they’re all valid (e.g. Tedious. Nothing happens. Pretentious. Unfunny. Waste of time.). Feel free to give it a shot if you want to try something different, but remember that different doesn’t necessarily mean good.

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What do you think? Let me know in the comments below! Or check out my movie lists from previous years here.

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A Very Leroy Christmas

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Still feeling Christmassy? Great! This comic I did about Rudolph is just for you.

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Broken World

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Want to see some more stuff? Here’s my report card for Humanity, showing why I think we are slowly fixing the world … and here are more talking animals.

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5 Reasons Why ‘Gulp’ by ECHO KID is One of the Best Albums You’ve Never Heard

They’ve received hardly any radio airplay. They’ve only ever played one show. There aren’t any physical copies of their recordings available anywhere. And they have so few Facebook followers that the whole lot of them could probably fit comfortably in your house.

Yet I believe that Perth act, Echo Kid, have already achieved great things, simply because of the brilliance of their debut recording (which you can stream here or at the bottom of this page).

So here are 5 reasons why you should follow that link right now, devour the entire album, and start spreading the word about this criminally-neglected music-baby.

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1. Every Track is A Winner

People say that a chain is only as strongest as it’s weakest link. People also say that vaccines will give you autism – so obviously they can’t always be trusted – but in this case I think they are on to something. I love being able to listen to an LP all the way through without feeling an urge to skip a track, and that’s no problem with ‘Gulp’. In fact it’d be hard to pick a favourite song (though at a push I think I’d choose the slightly sinister-sounding, Talk). The whole thing flows along nicely, often moving from giddily upbeat to chilled out within the space of one song, but without the transition ever feeling too sudden. It’s the kind of thing that established bands spend decades trying (and usually failing) to achieve.

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2. It’s Fun on a Bun (Without Being Daft)

It takes about 45 seconds for it to become obvious that Echo Kid don’t want to be taken too seriously. Right from the start there is a playfulness to every sound and every lyric, and it’s clear that their main aim is to put a childlike smile on your grumpy, adult face. But there’s nothing here that could be dismissed as novelty – and there are definite smarts behind the silliness. Perhaps that shows through most of all on Meet You at the Bomb Factory – a song that manages to be cute and romantic while also touching on themes of war and detachment.

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3. It Expertly Walks the Fine Line Between Electro and Rock

Call me old-fashioned but, for the most part, I don’t really like electronic music. If given a choice between a guitar chord and a synth squeal – I will take the guitar any day. I may also then smash your synth with the guitar for good measure.

So it’s quite a feat that Echo Kid have made an album that I really like, despite it being full of electronic squeaks and whirrs. It all works because they’ve hit on a great balance where the synths and the guitars complement each other, rather than overpower one another.

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4. It’s Kooky But Never Pretentious

I can’t say that I find Echo Kid’s music all that strange, but it’s telling that the only review by a Triple J presenter on their Unearthed page starts with “This is pretty weird stuff”. The band themselves describe their music as “unorthodox “and “never far from a sense of madness”, so you know that at the very least it’s the kind of thing that would make your nearest commercial radio station run a mile. To me, the kookiness is all part of the appeal, but let’s be clear about one thing – this is pop music through-and-through. Every track is centred around memorable melodies, conventional song structures, and radio-friendly running times. In fact, one of my few complaints about the album is that I wish that the band had given in to self-indulgence every now and stretched out some of the tracks for longer.

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5. The Production is Brilliant

One half of the act is Perth music producer, Laurie McCallum, so as you’d expect, the production is spot on (the other half is illustrator, Johnny Foley). The record has really benefited from Laurie being able to take his time with tweaking different elements and adding plenty of layers. I know that its not the fault of local bands that they can’t afford more than a few hours at a time in a studio, but it’s a nice change to have something that doesn’t sound like it was thrown together within half an hour in a tin shed.

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So that’s enough chit-chat. Now stop wasting time and get listening! You can also learn more about the band here and become a true Gecko Squid (suggested name for Echo Kid fans).

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Top 15 Albums of All Time

It’s the 15th of ’15, which means it’s time for me to join a handful of other bloggers in listing my 15 favourite albums (check out the other blogger’s lists here).

Please enjoy and feel free to share your own list with me …

15. Muse – Showbiz (1999)

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Muse’s debut that most people dismiss as a Radiohead rip-off.

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14. Arcade Fire – Neon Bible (2007)

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The hipsters’ favourite band before they ruined it all by winning a Grammy.

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13. Weezer – Weezer (1994)

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The first of three self-titled albums manages to be genius despite the drummer doing almost exactly the same thing over and 0ver for 40 minutes straight.

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12. Mars Volta – Deloused in the Comatorium (2003)

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Apparently the band were on more drugs when they made this album than at any time afterwards, yet it’s actually the most accessible thing they ever did. Weird.

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11. Radiohead – The Bends (1995)

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Radiohead set out to prove that they weren’t just one-hit-wonders, and accidentally convinced a sizeable portion of humanity that they were the greatest band on Earth … and Thom Yorke is still pissed off about it.

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10. Modest Mouse – Good News For People Who Love Bad News (2004)

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Dance all dance hall everyday gonna dance all dance hall every day dance all dance hall every day gonna dance all dance hall every day dance all dance hall every day dance all dance hall every day …

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9. Smashing Pumpkins – Siamese Dream (1993)

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I don’t know what happened but somewhere along the line the guy that wrote this album turned into the guy that made albums as bad as The Future Embrace. It’s still hard to believe.

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8. Pink Floyd – Wish You Were Here (1975)

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I’ve often had to correct people when they’ve assumed I’m a regular recreational drug-taker. I’m not sure why people keep getting that impression, but my love of Pink Floyd albums probably has something to do with it.

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7. Radiohead – Kid A (2000)

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The band’s apparent attempt to lose most of their pesky, loyal fans by making an album so weird that most people would run away screaming. Unfortunately for the band it’s actually brilliant – even though it takes about 250 listens to start to appreciate it fully.

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6. Queens of the Stone Age – Songs for the Deaf (2002)

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I’m so hardcore that the heaviest band in this list has a singer that sounds like he could have been a 1940’s crooner alongside Sinatra.

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5. Pink Floyd – Dark Side of the Moon (1973)

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One of the most popular albums of all time is, not-surprisingly, very very good … even when it’s not synched up to Wizard of Oz.

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4. Eels – Electro-Shock Blues (1998)

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Suicide, madness, cancer, funerals – all without any metaphors to hide behind. Sound like a good time? If you said “yes”, this is the album for you!

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3. Arcade Fire – Funeral (2004)

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My ex-girlfriend once said that she couldn’t listen past the first song on this album because that one track kept turning her into an emotional wreck. Strangely, I can kind of understand where she was coming from. Though if she hasn’t listened to the rest of it by now, that’s pretty weird.

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2. Flaming Lips – Yoshimi Battles the Pink Robots (2002)

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Who said that great albums can’t have silly titles?

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And number 1 is …..

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1. Radiohead – OK Computer (1997)

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Every track is amazing. Yes … even Fitter Happier.

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Report Card for Humanity (Millenium Development Goals)

Credit: Ron Leishman

Which one is it going to be?  … (Picture: Ron Leishman)

Dear Humanity,

Please see below for an overview of your performance during the assessment period of 1990 to 2015. The grading key is as follows …

A = All targets achieved

B = Significant progress made for all targets

C = Progress made for many targets

D = Worsening for most targets

F = Worsening for all targets

If you have any questions, please see the complete details of your assessment at this link …

 

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SUBJECT 1: POVERTY AND HUNGER

Grade: A-

You have achieved great things in this subject. The ambitious goal of halving the proportion of people living on less than $1.25 per day (extreme poverty) was met, and the proportion of people suffering from hunger was significantly reduced. You must not get complacent though, as there will be new issues to face that could undermine much of your hard work in this subject.

 

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SUBJECT 2: UNIVERSAL PRIMARY EDUCATION

Grade: B+

Universal primary education has not been achieved, but excellent progress has been made, with the number of out-of-school primary-age children being almost halved. Enrolment has increased from 80% to 91% in developing countries, and youth literacy has increased dramatically in all regions.

 

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SUBJECT 3: GENDER EQUALITY

Grade: B

Gender parity has been achieved for primary education in many regions (ie. as many females enrolled as males), and almost all regions have moved toward parity (or toward a higher proportion of women than men) for all education levels. Women still have less access to paid employment, lower wages, and lack of political representation, but progress is being made in most regions. However, it must be acknowledged that the assessment criteria for this period doesn’t cover all aspects of gender equality.

 

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SUBJECT 4: CHILD MORTALITY

Grade: B

Fantastic improvements in the under-five mortality rate were made, but they were not enough to reach the 2015 goal. Vaccines and treatment of preventable infectious diseases must remain a focus if your hard work in this subject is to continue paying off.

 

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SUBJECT 5: MATERNAL HEALTH

Grade: B-

It’s easy to see you made an effort, and the way you almost halved the maternal mortality rate was impressive. Still, you were quite a long way from your reaching your targets. More focus on key aspects like people in rural areas, would have gone a long way to helping you get a better grade.

 

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SUBJECT 6: MAJOR DISEASES

Grade: B+

Your work on halting the spread of HIV/AIDS was tremendous. The number of new HIV infections has plummeted and HIV-related deaths has fallen in a similar way. You have also made excellent progress with other major diseases, like tuberculosis and malaria. That Ebola situation was a pity, but at least you learnt a few valuable lessons from that experience.

 

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SUBJECT 7: ENVIRONMENTAL SUSTAINABILITY

Grade: C-

This was clearly your weakest subject. The 50%+ increase in greenhouse gas emissions was particularly disappointing. Biodiversity trends have been difficult to quantify but the extinction rates generally appear to be getting worse, and the number of coral species you have lost in the last 25 years is alarming. Still, the good work you did must also be acknowledged. The ozone layer is now recovering, and billions of  people have gained access to safe drinking water and sanitation thanks to your efforts.

 

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SUBJECT 8: DEVELOP GLOBAL PARTNERSHIPS

Grade: B-

Although there is plenty of room for improvement, your treatment of the world’s least developed countries did seem to improve over the assessment period. More official assistance was given, tariffs were lowered, and debt burden was generally eased. Progress has also been made on the target of making beneficial technologies and essential medicines available to all.

 

FINAL COMMENTS

You have achieved so much over the last 25 years. You must now work extra hard to ensure that these gains continue and that the few worsening criteria are turned around quickly. The next assessment period will focus heavily on environmental issues, and seeing as you struggle with that subject, it will be a big challenge. However, you have recently shown that you can do amazing things when you really try – so there’s no reason to think that you can’t do the same with the environment.

One last point – you are too hard on yourself. It’s true that it can be frustrating seeing you not realise your full potential, but often it seems that you obsess over your setbacks and only make the situation worse.

You should be proud of yourself, Humanity. You are doing much better than you give yourself credit for.

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