it’s a jungle out there

October 16, 2009

This blog is rapidly turning into a place where I can air my identity crises. The crucial difference between this blog and real life, though, is that around here I can’t be interrupted. In their past lives, my blogs were forums for confidence issues and (barely) veiled jabs at various girls who had gon’ up and don’ me wrong, but I guess these days my problems are more existential in nature, and are probably, in the long run, better off for it.

My desk is a hideous mess of Australiana (dig that rad kookaburra), lollies I use to bribe minors, Japanese textbooks that I have skimmed, not read, and a variety of teaching materials that, surprisingly, have been getting a pretty solid workout of late. While it is true that at times I may have been something of a lazy ALT, that trend has definitely been reversed as I’ve been able to identify the more bothersome areas of my job and work on improving those, rather than the aimless stressing of eras past. I’m steadily realising that bored, unmotivated students aren’t the problem; it’s disorganised co-workers. I am repeatedly inundated by inconsiderate and illogical requests for help with classes that aren’t mine, translations of things of a singularly personal nature, and so on. I believe the thought process resembles something like this: Darren is an ALT, and ALTs aren’t busy or just don’t work very hard. だから、Darren mustn’t be busy. It’s beautifully Socratic.

Anyway, in light of these revelations, job satisfaction is at an unusual high, as I have adopted an even more nihilistic approach to my job: I chat with students whenever I feel like it, and about whatever I please. I play DS with them and snap unflattering photos of them. I ask them about their boyfriends and girlfriends and point out cute girls in magazines. So when it comes to classes, most of them are comfortable enough with me by now to play along with whatever I come up with. However, I think the main thing that has improved my working life is that, as the months have rolled by of late, I have become increasingly willing to strike up a conversation in punctuated Japanese, and the kids have started to realise that I am actually a living organism of equal or greater intellectual capability, one who has thoughts and feelings of his own and the gift of self-expression. Who would have thought – a foreigner!

I’m definitely beyond repair. When I start visiting – and enjoying – websites such as this (a cute girl appears in the day!) there seems to be little chance of redemption. To make things even worse, this link was sent to me by a female Japanese friend of mine. There’s just something irresistible about homely girls posing for coy photos and bashfully describing their personal traits.

The longer I spend observing other cultures, the more convinced I become that the world we inhabit is governed primarily by sex and money. The sex industry in Japan is omnipresent and, as a young woman, there is no better way to make easy money than to become a hostess or waitress in a fancy bar. Middle-aged men pay through the nose to merely be in the company of these creatures, and while prostitution itself is outwardly frowned upon, its no secret that money can buy everything, the porn industry is rampant, and the vast majority of establishments fronting as pleasant, classy lady bars are little more than extortionately-priced brothels. On a more personal level, it seems that wherever I go in the world, the thing that impresses the majority of girls with the most boring regularity is a boy with money and the willingness to flaunt it, both on himself and on his girl. The extravagance that passes for class and style in Japan can be truly sickening, especially when a dude in parachute pants can be considered cool just because they cost hundreds of dollars. Oh, and on that note: fuck you, Ed Hardy. I hate you and everything you create.

I always misspell the word ‘opinion’ and it comes out looking something like ‘onion.’ Perhaps there’s something in that.

Dudes. I’ve been all over this new Paramore single for a week now. How is it better than anything they have done in the past? Let me count the ways: Hayley’s voice isn’t as pitch-perfectly auto-tuned as the last album, and, moreover, she sounds way more pissed off on this track. Whilst ‘Misery Business’ was definitely a catchy (dare I say good?) song, it always seemed a little trite and forced to me. On this one, she simply spits out the lyrics in a much more natural meter, and the whole song is better off for it. Next, this song plays with time signatures and syncopation in a way that would make even the most capable metal bands envious. Its structure consists of multiple layered elements and constantly blurs the verse-chorus-verse-chorus-bridge distinction. The arpeggios in the pre-chorus and breakdown are simply insane. Paramore’s drummer is awesome and is clearly the most impressive thing about the band besides Hayley’s voice. Listen carefully next time!

This movie was rad. The first half of District 9, in particular, takes the now-familiar mockumentary style into pretty interesting and challenging territory, offering a charicature of bureaucracy that is comical, satirical and confrontingly honest. Its themes are superficially obvious, and its a kind of wonder that it has taken so long for sci-fi films to come up with this idea. But the allegory extends further that just ‘how should governments deal with illegal immigrants,’ into far more personal territory: how do we overcome language barriers with foreigners? Is there any way to deal with the issue whilst retaining personal sensitivities? Indeed, can there even be a non-violent resolution to these kinds of problems? It nods towards the pervasive racism issues with a handful of ingenious quips, the kinds of slips-of-tongue usually reserved for mid-level politicians that are likely to see their superiors caught up in some heated PR backpedalling:

“I mean, you can’t say they don’t look like that, that’s what they look like, right? They look like prawns.”

It is amazingly well-acted, particularly by Sharlto Copley, who carries the second half of the film single-handedly and prevents it from ultimately becoming little more than a gruesome FPS-inspired alien blastfest, although even Copley can’t save it from crashing and bashing its way to a somewhat underwhelming end. District 9 combines some of the cinematic elements of Independence Day, Children of Men, The Host and…well, Starship Troopers, but its South African orientation gives it a pretty unique feel overall. Definitely see this movie!

Well, there was going to be more, but now there isn’t. ‘Til next time!

paris syndrome

August 17, 2009

I don’t know what to do! It’s 3pm, I’ll be heading home reasonably soon, but literally nothing awaits me there besides a living room that requires vacuuming. That’s right, I’m so lonely in this tiny little country town attached to my job that I would rather stay at school than go home. At least my workplace has the tell-tale signs of human life in it. I’ve already been for a run today. Last week, I upped my distance from around 6km to around 12km, out of sheer boredom. I was halfway through when I thought to myself, ‘I have nothing to do after I stop.’ So I just kept going.

The last handful of weekends have consisted of some truly devastating nights out, whether measured in terms of financial strain, magnitude of hangovers or accumulated emotional baggage. The cure? Repeating the whole procedure the following weekend (or, ocassionally, during the week). But we won’t get into that now.

For the sake of a yardstick you may use to measure my boredom, I’ve read every book I have with me except one. One of the things I’m most looking forwards to when I visit Melbourne in September is to replace these books with others from my library back home. However my impending trip back hasn’t stopped me from abusing Japanese Amazon and buying copies of books that I already own. Like this one:

Not for some time have I been so captivated by a book. Since living overseas, I have tried to broaden my literary horizons by sampling some of the most well-respected works that those countries and cultures have to offer, from ultra-modern stuff to classics from bygone eras, etc. Along the way I have subjected myself to some real crap, but also to some true diamonds in the rough. Rarely has anything compelled me to (gasp!) blog about it.

I have been reluctant to even open In Cold Blood, simply because I want to savour the whole experience as long as possible and I am scared of taking too big a bite out of it. This might seem like a strange thing to say about a book that is basically a true story, especially one of which everyone knows the ending. But it’s the writing, the pacing…the narrative switches between the reckless road story of two outlaws to a grotesque painting of a once-peaceful town that has been frozen stiff by tragedy and fear. Capote deftly weaves the two together until their numerous inevitable convergences, which, when they finally happen, he treats with simplicity, economy and cool-headedness – the closest he ever gets to plain journalism. There is no fanfare, no cheap page-turning tactics at play here.

The rest of the time, it is so lifelike, so tender, so human that you can often forget that you’re dealing with two murderers. You want to know Perry’s backstory, you want to empathise with him, you want to see him…well, succeed. If there was one failing of the novel, I guess that would be it. But Capote was never trying to pass judgment or condemn anybody; he was only guilty of trying to manipulate his readers, to paint a picture and to bring his characters to life, which every writer invariably strives to do, and in this sense he succeeds completely.

I’m enjoying this so much, especially since the last couple of books I have read have either gone way over my head or just been flat-out not very good.

This one made its Australian debut at the Melbourne Film Festival a couple of weeks ago. I took notice because one day at work the girl who sits opposite me asked if I knew the book she was reading – The Sky Crawlers. I asked her what it was about and got a typically vague Japanese type of answer; I think she said something about ‘romance’ (but let’s be honest – everything in Japan can be classified as roomansu or dorama, usually a combination of the two). She said it was sugoi kanashii, and naturally I was skeptical. But when I saw that it was selected at the film fest, and did a bit of follow-up research, it seemed pretty cool, and it is. The CG animation used for the dogfights is simply astounding, as kinetic as any war film but with just the right amount of artifice and artistry. Anyone who knows me well knows that when it comes to anime, I value art design and mood more than the story itself, and this one is no different.

The one that has really grabbed my attention, though, and subsequently the frontrunner for being the first film I see in general release in Japanese cinemas, is the upcoming Studio 4°C work, First-Squad. International anime collaborations really interest me, and Studio 4°C has a pretty good track record. Monster was, of course, set in Germany, and its strongest attribute in my mind was its representation of Germany in the 1980s. The atmosphere of political suppression and its cultural side-effects permeated every episode/issue. So, long story short, I’m really keen to see First-Squad when it comes out.

This post has succeeded in wasting my time, and yours. Til next time!

There are always a few peripheral characters in the Pixar films that I fall utterly in love with. In the case of Wall-E, it’s the adorable clean-up drone M-O (they always boast clever names, too), whose facial expressions come entirely in the form of LED eyes yet manage to capture all the curiosity of an intelligent animal who is coming to terms with human ingenuity.

Which leads me, of course, to Wall-E. This is a beautiful, breathtaking film in every sense of the word. From the scene it paints of the inevitable convergence of the current human condition (both from an environmental perspect and a social one), to the promulgation of corporation to an extra-terrestrial scale, to our dependence upon automatic processes and loss of love for learning, to the effects of infinite loneliness and longing, Wall-E as a film transcends and redefines animation itself. There, I said it. It has aesthetic value that is surely equal to any film as well as philosophical implications that are relevant to us – today – on countless levels…and it conveys most (if not all) of this without dialogue. Think about it. Everything Wall-E achieves, he does so without words, without a soul, without religion. All he has is his curiousity and his faultless, incorruptible innocence.

The depth of field animation, and in particular, the depiction of weightlessness in space is just beautiful. There is no other word for it. Wall-E and Eve’s dance in space is surely the most beautiful and touching sequence in Pixar’s history. Oh, and just quietly…things are still looking up.

I guess this means I’m gonna have to start thinking about my best and worst of 2008. It will be a bit of a tough call, as I’ve been uncharacteristically occupied, at least over the last few months, and have partied more vigorously, more regularly, this year than I ever have before. The result? I must be getting old. I have that familiar feeling that time is flying by. I feel the year(s) whisking by at unfathomable speed with utter disregard for patience or etiquette. This year, more than any other, I have caught myself in moments of contemplation and admiration at the infinite serenity that the world offers by virtue of its simple existence. There are patterns and balance and beauty to be found everywhere if you’re only willing to take a few minutes out of your day to sit back and think about things

Stop worrying about your job. Stop worrying about your boyfriend. Stop worrying about your deadlines. Stop worrying about money. Take a look around. A speckled bird, humbly inspired, ran across the road, when it could have flown.

I’ve been thinking a bit about Christmas back in Australia, and how I’m kinda really gonna miss it. The weather is always nice (re: not freezing), and it’s always accompanied by a pretty pervasive good mood, plenty of eating and drinking, and of course, the promise of cricket, parties and more amazing weather. Some of my fondest memories of the past few summers have been Boxing Days, Australia Days, New Years’ Eves, that sort of thing. Apparently New Year’s Eve isn’t such a big deal over here, at least not in the same sense. From what I can ascertain, it involves docile trips to shrines and such and reverence for the first sunrise of the new year. It’s a far cry from the utter immorality of New Year’s Eve back in Australia. Back there, you’re lucky if there is a shirt in sight, or a non-alcoholic beverage. My Aussie friends and I have already started plotting a rampage on January 26th. Rain, hail, snow or tsunami, it will definitely involve shorts, thongs, outdoor barbecues and (more than likely) Vegemite and Tim Tams (since they are the only uniquely Aussie foods you can buy over here).

Oh, did you guys hear? A black guy is gonna be President of the United States. There’s something to mull over the old noggin’. I can’t possibly add anything to further elucidate the significance of this. It’s so strange being in a country like Japan, where national pride runs so deep but general knowledge about politics is so limited. Seriously, beyond local council elections, the average Japanese person has no idea about the political situation in their own country, let alone internationally. It’s because their elections are structured differently from the ones we are used to, and because the Emperor and his family still carry such symbolic importance, that the image of solidarity and stability is unfaltering, even during times of severe economic panic. Of course, the fact that the media is so saturated with ‘major’ issues like two Russian-born sumo wrestlers getting caught smoking weed doesn’t do much to raise awareness of ‘lesser’ problems like war. This was front-page news for at least three weeks back in September and August. Why? Because sumo is the national sport, and anything resembling a blot on the integrity of the symbol that is Japanese nationalism is nothing less than the worst thing that could happen in this country.

Take a look at the flag, for further evidence:

It’s, uh, bold. To say the least. Even more so than when I was back in Australia, I have been depending on The Daily Show and The Colbert Report for my news, at least when it comes to America. I’m not quite so keen to read thousand-word articles on The Australian or The Age websites, though, on account of I’m already starting to see the waking world in bleary-eyed, pixelated format, and I don’t want to exacerbate the problem. But you know what’s great about high-speed internet? All forms of media are available on-demand. Give me convenience or give me death. Just don’t spoil the party, Mr. Rudd.

On a related note, I find the routinely inflammatory comments that appear on news websites absolutely fascinating. At the time of writing, the most recent comment on that article I linked to above reads as follows:

“I didn’t vote for the twit, I hope the people who did are satisfied we have a now have a monkey running our economy and our internet.”

So many great things about this post, not the least of which is the level of political engagement with the real issues at hand here. But it’s indicative of the vast majority of what constitutes ‘commentary’ on the internet. I believe most people’s internet practices have evolved so as to completely filter out all user comments, except in the case of community message boards, but the phenomenon of semi-anonymous propaganda is incredible. The ability to conceal one’s real agenda and distill one’s real motivations into a handful of characters is something that we are seeing for the first time in human history, and the manifestations are countless. What is it that compels people to comment on articles like this in the first place? Who do they think is actually reading them? Do they not realise the abstraction that occurs when you substitute your real name and address for an internet handle? It goes without saying that the vast majority of these comments would not be made in a real-life scenario, eg. in general conversation, or even during a political discussion amongst peers over dinner.

I feel like going back to university just to investigate things like this. In fact, I feel like going back to university full stop. Seeing how my students’ eyes widen when I explain that ‘percent’ comes from the Latin words ‘per’ and ‘cent,’ and that ‘per’ roughly equates to the Japanese possessive particle の(no), and that ‘cent’ means ‘hundred,’ is a great feeling. In these rare cases, I truly feel like I’m helping them learn, and that what I have to offer them is actually valuable and rewarding. I want to regain that feeling for myself.

It’s lunch time. I had better sign off and go make my presence felt.

Take care, friends.

the artifice of memory

January 31, 2008

i owe it to myself to write a review of atonement.

the acting was strong. i didn’t know keira knightly could ever be anything other than a gangly, cockney soccer player, a second-rate lizzy bennett or just a sex symbol, but she does alright here. the other dude was pretty good as well. in fact, the movie opens strongly: the first act is a fine display of white-knuckle period drama in the same vein as gosford park, but it’s all completely downhill from there. the one saving grace was an extended tracking shot on the beach at dunkirk which does its damndest to convince us that, yes, war is bad, and it’s ugly, and if you can make any sense out of it then you’re probably already mad. but besides this brief meditation, the narrative remains, for (at least) the entire second half, completely out of focus. the resolution seemed not only forced, but painfully contrived. it was the cinematic equivalent of “…and then i woke up.” obviously, the transposition from literature to cinema hasn’t treated this story well. i’m sure ian mcewan’s novel goes about its business in a more poetic and meaningful way, but i am left with one overwhelming feeling: i sure am glad i didn’t spend 500 pages finding it out.

moreover, the narrative that i have seen described as “jaw-droppingly powerful” and “redemptive,” among other things, failed to convince me. i wanted to see some revenge, but none of the characters had any strength of conviction, nor was there any discernable moral (aside from the tacked-on deus ex machina mentioned above). nabokov said in the epilogue to lolita that a story doesn’t need any moral, and that when writing a book he has “no other purpose than to get rid of that book.” i agree with him, and indeed, his book doesn’t have any particular moral (arguably). but at least that story was stunningly, beautifully told. atonement-the-film went flaccid after the first half-hour. i saw this thing over a week ago now, so my criticism might be a bit blurry, but my frustration remains as virile as ever.

oh, wait…spoiler alert. bit late now. but consider yourself warned.

i was thinking about how many lists i write and how i like to write them and how everybody has a ‘top 10’ this or that and how they are all over blogs and reviews sites and whatnot. here’s a brief example:

top five reasons i should go back to europe:

  • to see sebastian and the grom crew.
  • visit florence and check out what all this ‘renaissance’ hoo-ha is about.
  • two words: minging birds.
  • learn another language.
  • russia and the trans-siberian railway.

i’ve come to the conclusion that blogs and the likes are especially well-suited to these kinds of applications for the precise reason that they are impossible to interrupt and argue with. my reasoning is this: nobody gets listened to on the internet, unless you’re perez hilton or a new york times journalist. chances are you’re not either of these, and so the typical internet user will treat you as a soulless, anonymous moron with nothing intelligent to say. anybody with a keyboard and a phone line can get on a forum and spout their narrow opinions on (literally) any subject conceivable to man. a list is an economically efficient way to streamline these opinions. i’m not saying it’s a bad thing. i like a list. but i recognise their function: getting as many opinions across in as short a time as possible. it’s the fastest way to forge an identity online (besides, i suppose, any arbitrary response to the timeless ‘asl?’ question). anyway that’s just what i was thinking. i should be reading more academic stuff about online culture, but there is hardly time with all the novels i’ve got lying around.

been spending a rather large amount of time fraternising in and around the ‘melbourne independent music community’ lately – partly by choice, partly by association. the upside is, of course, exposure to some truly incredible up-and-coming bands and artists, as well as discovering some of those who are comfortable simply frequenting cosy local sit-ins, playing to an ever-faithful troupe of like-minded bohemian punters. these kinds of shows are often more like poetry recitals than actual gigs, but on the other hand, the scene we have here in melbourne is seemingly infinite, and on some of those lonely drives home, ears still ringing, i often find myself floating in a shallow melancholy. it comes with my realisation that i have a strange tendency to look beyond our shores for music that truly inspires me, when in reality, the intimacy and familiarity of local music always, always hits home harder. and it seems that the homogenous, ever-so-slightly predictable and prevalent indie community at large is finally starting to take notice of some of the unique, vibrant talent we are producing.

but, being the music industry, there’s usually a slight air of arrogance wherever you go. it’s inevitable. even those that begin with the humblest of intentions fall victim to a discerning cycle of rhetoric and ‘integrity versus utility’ judgement at the slightest hint of popularity. i’m not naming any names – i’m not even referring to any particular peeople in particular. it’s just a saddening trend that is all too painfully obvious to anybody who flirts on the outskirts of a scene – something i have been doing a lot of over the last five or six months – and it’s gotten to a point where i find myself torn between reverance and something like inverted jealousy. there’s this delicate balance of genuine warmth and passion on the one hand, and systematic intimidation (in the form of closed-door membership) on the other.

i love my city. i will always love melbourne and i will always come home to it. even at 21 i know that is true. and most of the time i feel like i belong here. but occasionally, i don’t; i get alienated, in over my head, lost, alone, whatever. that’s why i’ve been writing lots of music lately. actually, it’s the most prolific i’ve been since my high school days.

current playlist

the strokes – is this it?
the cribs – men’s needs, women’s needs, whatever
the maccabees – colour it in
over it – silverstrand
the cure – s/t
bright eyes – i’m wide awake, it’s morning
the decemberists – castaways and cut-outs
the psychedelic furs – s/t
trans am – the red line
the clash – s/t
annuals – be he me

notice the jarring lack of aussie bands?

there was so much more to write in this blog, but i kinda like the direction it ended up taking instead. until next time, so long.

the silent disco

January 18, 2008

good evening, readers. i know that my latest absense from the old blogosphere has been pretty lengthy. without making excuses (would i ever do that?) you can attribute this break to my desktop computer and the desk that it sits upon – an awkward height for any boy to deal with. it was giving me headaches and back pain aplenty, so i did what any normal person would do in my situation – bought a new laptop computer!

oh, those koreans! long story short, it wasn’t cheap, but it was worth it. i feel up-to-date again, although this latest macbook air is just plain silly. and all things considered, vista has been running exceptionally well (at least since i installed the service pack release candidate). anyways, this entry isn’t all fun and games.

clinton-grybas1.jpg

i just wanted to say a few words about clinton grybas. now, those of you who know me well know that i have two passions in this world: getting fired up watching afl football, and talking shit about the state of journalism and the media. well, clinton grybas was easily the best afl commentator in the country and – for the first time in a long time – i found myself getting actually emotional hearing all the news reports about the death of a well-known person. he was charismatic, honest, enthusiastic, natural, funny and clearly passionate. it was so refreshing to hear a good young talent calling the football (triple m doesn’t count; i can never tell the difference beteween huddo, damo, richo, stevo, jonno and boof). his on- and off-field interviews were fantastic and quite simply he made most other football callers sound like amateurs. i was a massive fan of this guy and i’m really, really sorry that he’s gone.

anyways. i’ve been making a concerted effort to actually play some of the video games that have been gathering dust on my shelf. notably: call of cthulhu and grid wars.

if we’re talking about geometry wars clones (and you know we are), grid wars is the best you can get. make no mistake: these old-school arcade games are monstrously hard and take years to master. i haven’t been challenged like this by a video game in a long time. there’s a really great review of it here, and i also have to give them credit for the screenshots. true story: microsoft wouldn’t let the developer host grid wars on his site anymore because it was “too good” a clone of geometry wars. i’d say it’s better, actually. you can download it, and other geometry wars clones for the pc, here.

next up is call of cthulhu. having been a casual lovecraft fan for a while, i was really keen to check out this game, not just because of its story but also its design. i can honestly say this is one of the scariest games i have ever played. it’s set in 1922 new england, and the washed-out, grainy graphics really suit.

the whole atmosphere of the game is decidedly morbid, and you will not at any stage feel comfortable while playing it. it’s not all hairy – in fact, you don’t even pick up a weapon to defend yourself until halfway through the game. there is no on-screen health meter, and your sanity will waver whenever you see something gruesome, causing your vision to distort and blur. whether you’re a lovecraft fan or not, this is a great old-school adventure game that’s thick on the story and foreboding setting.

i’m also really looking forwards to spore. i swear this game will be revolutionary. like simcity (and, to a lesser extent, games like civilisation) before it, this is a game that takes reality and makes it playable. well, not literally of course. but it reflects everything we think we know about technology and the world around us. in this case, they have taken on the biological and philosophical implications of evolution itself and transposed them into cute pixelated characters. for those of you that don’t know, players design their own creatures and watch them pass through various stages of evolution, culminating in space exploration.

the creature editor

the entire game universe will be created by the players. that means that every landscape, every character and every character interaction is ‘determined’ by player action (or inaction): a simulated reflection of the cause-and-effect nature of evolution itself. this one will surely be dissected into a billion pieces in any given melbourne university cultural studies subject over the next few years, and with good reason. you can choose to research another planet’s lifeforms, or annihilate them. or you can pump huge amounts of carbon dioxide into the atmosphere to simulate a greenhouse effect. or you can just play around making adorable little creatures.

anyways. i’m in the throes of applying to go overseas. yes, i realise i don’t need anybody’s explicit permission to do this, but since i’m looking for a job in japan, i kinda do. with any luck this will be happening within the next couple of months. that also means that this blog will be getting a lot more attention as it will be one of the only lifelines connecting me to the real world. i might even decide to take a photo or two. i’ve also been writing a lot more music than most of you are accustomed to lately, and have been getting started on numerous short stories and even some script ideas. so don’t touch that dial!

this whole idea stems from my desire to sample as many new things as possible, with a minimum of preconceived prejudice. i know this has probably prevented me from experiencing certain things in the past but i sincerely believe i’m more open-minded these days (within reason, of course), even if i barely remember expressing opinions on anything. for example, who would have ever thought that the amy winehouse album would make it on to my ‘best of 2007’ list? swimming around my head at the moment are aspirations of moving out of home and a career change, to name only the two most pertinent. so, you know, hit me up if you wanna try some peyote or something.

the american election is happening again. i know this entry is already way long so i won’t dwell on it for too long (as much as i would like to), but i will just say this: barack obama is the most sensible, level-headed, likeable and genuine american politian i can remember having ever listened to. it would be an absolute tragedy for democracy and common-sense everywhere were he not to a) win the democratic nomination and b) subsequently win the election. not that i can see the republicans getting up (no pun intended), but i fear that your run-of-the-mill yank is more ready for a female president than a black one, given the choice. ironically, it’s amazing how many americans don’t feel obligated to vote in their own country’s election, and then get up on their high horse about how great their nation is, not to mention wars in other countries that they have no business commenting on (or fighting in).

but perhaps the thing that bothers me the most is the ‘family tree’ of american politics that we’re looking at, should hillary clinton win:

bush (R)-> clinton (D) -> bush (R) -> clinton (D).

courtesy of wikipedia.

surely we can think a little more laterally than that, people. or can we? increasingly, the american (and british, and even australian) governments have been operating on an economy of fear. the ability of regular citizens to think – and indeed, vote – for themselves is carefully controlled by press agents, spokespeople, speech writers, major news networks, and so on. it doesn’t take a noam chomsky to realise how biased all mainstream news outlets are, one way or the other. we’re talking about an irrational, generalised fear: not of any one person, or a single ‘doomsday’ event, but of an imagined, fictionalised, mythologised entity that threatens the (again imagined) ideals of western society. like ‘terrorism.’ or ‘the enemy.’ or ‘those who hate democracy.’ there is enough uncertainty, enough ambiguity, in western cultures as to foster a loss of identity and fear of the unknown (most notoriously, changes in economy and government), which essentially results in people being told how and what to think, and having them buy into it. it’s the only constant we can rely on.

i know this sounds like sensationalist propaganda (no better than the rhetoric that i’m apparently criticising), but the difference is that what i’m saying is true. even letterman is getting in on the joke. funny, yes, but also kinda scary.

seen some good movies lately, notably hotel chevalier and the darjeeling limited. darjeeling was more or less what i expected, but the real surprise for me was hotel chevalier; so simple, but so funny, and so sexy. who knew natalie portman would look great naked?

also got to meet jason schwartzman.

jason-schwartzman.jpg

this was spectactularly awesome, and i wanted to talk to him about how great melbourne is and how ‘west coast’ reminds me of all sorts of sunny polaroid photographs of america and how i could more or less quote every line from ‘rushmore’ and boy oh boy how jealous i am of his career. but alas, there was no time, and i’ll just have to settle for this awesome photograph. super nice guy, it must be said.

i’ve also renewed my interest in anime. i’m about one third of the way through monster, which is an achievement in itself. talk about a mindfuck; this show runs the full gamut of emotions, exploring all kinks of human relationships and motivations. it’s definitely more rewarding the more you invest in it, and unlike most anime, is not flashy at all. there are no special effects (or giant fighting robots), no pretty lighting effects, etc. what it is is a bleak and realistic psychological drama. and, having first-hand experience to draw from, the rendering of germany is spot on.

not that flashy anime is a bad thing.

plug plug.

yes, it’s australia day weekend next week. i always look forwards to it; the weather’s always nice and invariably somebody hosts a wild party. this one threatens to be the biggest yet. what could be more australian? somebody (i won’t name names) once told me that “patriotism isn’t cool, dude.” up the punx! i am proud to be an aussie, even though i’m keen to jetset. and hell, i’ve even gone this whole distance without mentioning that as of november last year, australia is fiercely and proudly left-wing again! fantastic. for the first time in my living memory, we have an eloquent, intelligent and genuine politician leading our country – not to mention one who won’t be cashing in his super-annuation for a few years yet. so, let’s everyone get on it next weekend!

click on through to see my best and worst of 2007!

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