Films


I am very impressed by the Melbourne International Film Festivals on-line programme and ticketing interface. What used to be a reasonable logistics and scheduling exercise is now a simple affair of clicking around a bit, scanning through one’s online film diary and then making the purchases and booking directly.

I wasnt going to go to more than a couple this year and the interface sucked me into buying a mini pass.

My film schedule follows for those interested in joining me:

Time Venue Films Code
Sunday, 24 July
3:05 PM ACMI STATE OF MIND, A (93 mins) 4023
Monday, 25 July
9:30 PM ACMI THREE OF HEARTS: A POSTMODERN FAMILY (95 mins) 4031
Friday, 29 July
11:15 PM Capitol CASSHERN (142 mins) 5052
Sunday, 31 July
1:00 PM Village YEAR OF THE YAO (87 mins) 1061
5:30 PM Greater Union Pol Pot’s Birthday (10 mins)
CRAZY LEGS CONTI: ZEN AND THE ART OF COMPETITIVE EATING (75 mins)
3063
Wednesday, 3 August
7:00 PM ACMI MODIFY (85 mins) 4079
Friday, 5 August
9:10 PM Greater Union Big Day, The (11 mins)
SWENKAS, THE (72 mins)
3090
11:10 PM Village IZO (128 mins) 1091
Saturday, 6 August
3:00 PM Forum SHAPE OF THE MOON (92 mins) 2094
Sunday, 7 August
3:20 PM ACMI SMASHING MACHINE, THE (92 mins) 4101

Cousin


I bumped into my cousin Kate on the way back from work tonight. She’s one of the very few, actually the only one, from my family whose company I enjoy and who, even though I dont actually see her all that much, whenever I do see her, makes me think I should make more of an effort and organise more things to do with her.

Kate was born here and has a caucasion mother, a white Australian that is but referring to an earlier entry, it’s not like we have a lot of cultural similarities really. We have some peripheral values in common and while she’s not overly conservative, she is mainstream enough and has a reasonably straight up approach to life and relationships in general.

I think it is a matter of temperament. For some irrational and inexplicable reason, Kate reminds me of myself. There’s a part of me that resonates with her manner of being and that makes me identify with her. And there’s enough similarities on a biological blood-relative level, in spite of the whole cross-race thing, for me to see physical resemblances with aunts and uncles.

I’ve got a feeling that this is what a familial bond is about, it’s not an intellectual acceptance of a cultural tie, or a complex of guilt to do with responsibilities and obligation, but an irrational emotional recognition of similarity.

I just wish I felt like that about more of my biological family.

Nostalgia


On Sunday, hungover and tired, I took rainbowfish7‘s digital camera out on a short walk with me through Thornbury and Northcote to collect my bike from the front of the Northcote Social Club where I’d left it the night before.

I took photos of tops of trees, a couple of birds huddled in bare branches under the cloudy grey sky and assorted old cars that dated the streetscapes back into the fifties. Nothing particularly interesting in itself. But it made a longish walk quite short and it got me thinking about how I’d not seen many nostalgic photos of economic recessions.

Portions of High Street, Northcote/Thornbury and other parts of Sydney Road, Coburg are full of perpetually struggling shops which seem to stock nothing that would ever attract the words ‘luxury’ or ‘gourmet’ in its advertising copy. The gentrification of more inner suburbs had not touched these streets yet but at the same time, they do not have the real hardcore poverty that more northern or western suburbs have.

It’s like the fifties and a not very opulent or successful part of the fifties had never left these areas, a forgotten fifties of migrants who were appeared poor not because they did not have cash but rather because their tastes were those of people from poor countries, who were thrifty because they never learned how to spend, who did not feel any lack because there wasnt a lot of stuff to buy in the first place and they’d not got into a habit of owning or wanting much.

So, I thought I’ll take the camera out some weekend Saturday in the morning and make a day of taking photos of smiling people in very poorly stocked shops which look like they havent been renovated in the last fifty years. Photos of places which will never attract food tours or trendy bars, where the supermarkets havent yet killed the greengrocers and chain fastfood places havent put local greaseshops out of business.

Where people dress badly and dont seem to give a damn, and where the coffee, in spite of stereotype to the contrary isnt all that good.

I dont know where my nostalgia for the hot quiet streets of a severe (but not Great Depression level) economic downturn comes from. But I can see and feel it very keenly – a town where most people ride bicycles because they cant afford petrol, where hardly anyone has much money except for food and water and the occasional homebrew and where there isnt much to do at all except sit around in the shade, play boardgames (checkers for some reason with bottlecaps as pieces) at cafes and maybe talk in a desultory fashion about politics, the environment and who’s having an affair with whom.

Actually, that scene is either a composite of Malaysian memories before the double digit growth of the 80s hit it or a vision of a wellpast peak-oil, globally warmed, permenantly recessioned but somehow reasonably benign future.

Better start collecting them bottlecaps I guess.

Asian


I headed to an Asian Australian meetup the other night. The people there were a mix of asian australian academics and writers, most of whom if not born in Australia were very westernised anyway as they were child migrants. I came over at the age of 18 and that made me one of the few 1st generation migrants there. Most were 2nd (born here) or 1.5 (child migrants).

The evening made me think again about my ethnicity and culture, about the choices I’ve made in terms of identity.

I have a good idea of what it means to be a proper Asian person, especially a proper Asian eldest son. That knowledge which is effectively a knowledge of its underlying values is the closest thing to an intuitive culture I have. It’s pretty much a predictable if not stereotypical picture of confucian conservatism. Behave responsibly, respect authority, care for one’s parents, work hard, earn a good living, breed. Add in a particularly difficult language and rather nice food. But other than that, not very different from good old fashioned protestant beliefs. Not very far from what most cultures would consider the values of a solid upstanding citizen either.

At that meetup, I came to realise that when I say I’m not particularly Asian, I really mean that I’m not particularly conservative or materialistic in a flashy way. I actually mean that except for the earning a living bit, I’m pretty much against all the other values I listed above.

It took me a little while to understand that when others say they’re not particularly Asian, they actually mean that they’re not particularly able to speak or understand an Asian dialect or that there are knowledge aspects of the culture they do not intuitively understand, for example the whole heaty food thing or gift exchange protocols or the slapstick humour within hong kong movies.

I dont get the slapstick humour myself but a lot of everything else is there. When I walk through very asian parts of town, I can place a lot of the immigrants there in their original context. I recognise the elements of business and culture they’ve brought with them and have a rich set of memories associated with the majority of stimulus – faces, smells, shopgoods.

That epiphany didnt really do much to shift my identity or my values. But talking to some of the people at the meetup who grew up feeling that they’ve never really been accepted here, never been totally comfortable with Australia and wondering if there is something else out there, it made me appreciate that I do actually know where I’ve come from. Sure I’ve rejected most of it (except for the food) but I have actually had the luxury of being able to do that.

Pub


As a celebration/reward for a long hard day of renovation, I went to the Northcote Social Club, sat at the front bar and ordered a hamburger and a rather good cheap glass of shiraz. Within an hour or so, I was talking to a couple of people I’d never met before, watching a great band I’d never heard of, and a little later dragged along to a party in North Fitzroy which was thankfully not a pyramid selling or evangelical type gathering. At around three, I was back at the NSC for one last drink and nearly got convinced by some rather drunk types that the Tankerville Arms was a great place to continue conversation.

But while I was waiting for my hamburger to arrive, having no clues as to what a stellar night it was going to be, I wrote the following on my pda.

The long front bar of a good pub which serves local beers and counter meals is one of the things I most love about Melbourne and Australia in general. In a great pub, there’ll be regulars at the bar, people around the pool table, the crowd will be a good mix of people who are *not* there to drink cocktails and dont put too much effort in dressing up. Especially, a great pub has patrons who know what the bar is for, who generally prefer to sit there and are in general quite open to having a yarn with strangers.

A great pub will also have reasonably good wine by the glass and a surprisingly good menu with staples at the $10 mark for those people who really want to keep drinking but were brought up to understand that a liquid diet is insufficient in itself. It understands that grease and salt is an important food group and hence has hot chips on the menu.

So, my favourite pubs in Melbourne in no particular order happen to be the NSC in Northcote, the Napier (although the front bar isnt quite as friendly) in Fitzroy, the Curry Family Hotel in Collingwood, the Standard in Collingwood again, the Rose in Fitzroy and the Retreat Hotel and the Cornish Arms in Brunswick. There are others like the Tote, the Espy and the Corner but I tend not to go there as much.

Rather essentially, a great pub has none of that fancy beer which requires its own special four jet cleaning gadget, glass, coaster and secret handshake and does not (barring the Dan O’Connell maybe) have an Irish theme to it.