25 September, 2007


Just in case you weren't already furious about the new Citizenship Test (not to mention the massive advertising campaign to promote it, for which you - yes you - are paying)...

(from The Age website)
One sample test question asks: "Which one of these is a responsibility of every Australian citizen?"

The possible responses are (1) Renounce their citizenship of any other country; (2) Serve in Australian diplomatic missions overseas; or (3) Join with Australians to defend Australia and its way of life, should the need arise.

The correct answer is (3).
Now, they've been carefully vague, avoiding any tight definition of the word "defend", but the inference is clear: should the "need ever arise", it is my responsibility as a citizen to pick up a gun and be shipped off to die somewhere of my government's choosing.

So not only is this disgracefully arrogant Prime Minister now claiming the right to define what it means to be a citizen of this country, not only is he going to refuse people the title of Australian if they fail to identify Don Bradman as a personal deity, he's going to sneakily imply that unless you're willing to take up arms in defense of the Motherland, you aren't truly a citizen of this nation.

I am so sick and tired of the jingoistic, bigotted, exclusionary version of Patriotism that has been allowed to flourish under Howard and his cronies. I am so angry at what these conservative, power-guzzling hate-mongers have done to my country. There are more possibilities to being a good Australian citizen than just being either Donald Bradman or Simpson's donkey. I love this place where I was born and have lived my whole life. I want to be a part of this country. But I want to contribute to Australia without playing a sport. I want to be valued by Australia without fighting in a war.

Mr Howard, you have no right to tell me what makes this nation great. Your personal agenda has no place deciding who can and cannot become a part of my country. Your archaic notion of what makes a great Australian will not dictate to whom my respect is given or how I will contribute to my country.

I will contribute though, Mr Howard. I will do my best to make my country a better place. My contribution will be this: to place your representative last on my ballot paper, when you finally call the election. Perhaps, if enough people do the same, we might shake off the reeking shackles of your notion of Australia once and for all. We might cast aside the moldering chains that have turned this into a fearful, huddled wretch of a nation, and stand up truly proud of who we are and what we stand for. In time perhaps your fetid stench will pass away altogether, allowing us to forget the cripplingly restricted notions of your sporting, fighting Australia, and to celebrate our differences, our many-faceted achievements and our multitudinous opportunities. Without you and your ilk, Mr John Winston Howard, this might finally become the wonderful country it ought to be.

Australia is young and free, Mr Howard. You are old and oppressive. It's time.


20 September, 2007


By now, everyone who spends any significant time on the Internets will have encountered both LolCats and PostSecret. So, what happens when you combine the two?

LolSecretz, that's what.
Honestly, I don't know whether to laugh or cry.

Labels: ,

14 September, 2007


My mother sometimes sat amongst the willow trees, waiting for hours to catch a glimpse of the platypus that lived in the river. More than once, she lost her footing and ended up in the water. My cousin Nicholas teased her about falling in, so she teased him about having red hair and freckles.

My mother loved owls and dutch irises, painting and horse-riding. She unashamedly adored Pachelbel's Canon and "Land of Hope and Glory". She would fondly admire the mold that grew on old cheese in the fridge, and delighted in the rare occasions when Gang-Gang cockatoos would stay awhile in nearby hawthorn bushes.
Once, she led my whole family on a long traipse across a densely forested mountain, searching for a Nargun.

My mother became fiercely enraged during arguments about Aboriginal health-care and the movie Dead Poets Society. She fought like a Trojan to get the best opportunities for my disabled brother, and literally wept with shame when he acted up and got in trouble.

My mother taught me about micro-organisms and being nice to people. She got furious about people who didn't immunise their children, and she told me to read The Old Man and the Sea. From her, I learned what big words mean and how the natural machines of the world operate. If you tell me something that contradicts anything my mother taught me, I don't care how much evidence you provide, I probably will not believe you.

My mother's father died after a long illness, when she was not yet a teenager. She once told me that she had trouble remembering him as anything other than ill and frail. This was something that made her very unhappy, and she was determined not to be remembered in such a way.

My mother died just after midnight, three years ago today.

And everything with wings is restless, aimless, drunk and dour;
Butterflies and birds collide at hot, ungodly hours.
My clay-colored motherlessness rangily reclines

Come on home, now! All my bones are dolorous with vines.


13 September, 2007

a long overdue miff post

So I seem to have dropped the blogging ball again, back around the time of the 2007 Melbourne International Film Festival. I know I know, MIFF was over, like, ten thousand years ago. But it's one of my favourite times of the year, and I like to do a spiel about it on here every year. So this seems as good a subject as ever on which to recommence blogging...


Here are the things I saw:

KHADAK - A dreamy trip through modern Mongolian culture, focussing on the erosion of the traditional/spiritual life by industrial forces. With minimal dialogue and gorgeous imagery, the narrative is stronger in the first half, but remains intriguing and thought provoking even when it shakes off conventional structure altogether.

EAGLE vs SHARK - A charming Kiwi rom-com that is capital-Q Quirky without falling into the dangerous trap of irritating contrivance. Although the characters are, to a large extent, deluded no-hopers, writer/directer Taika Cohen never patronises them, but presents them with affection and - eventually, unexpectedly - pathos.

PRATER - With it's rich history and cultural significance, you wouldn't think it was possible to make a dull documentary about the Wurstelprater - the world's oldest amusement park. Ulrike Ottinger has managed though, avoiding any kind of depth and including only the briefest moments of (seemingly accidental) insight, in his rambling, tedious film.

BEYOND EYRUV - This documentary charts the struggles of 20-year-old Moshe - who after growing up in ultra-orthodox Jewish communities, experienced a profound culture shock when he decided to abandon the Hasidic life and find his way in New York City. His unsuccessful attempts to find his place in the world are uncomfortable and fascinating viewing, but filmmaker John Mounier isn't quite a skillful enough documentarian to do his subject justice.

THE WAR TAPES - Turning down an opportunity to be an embedded journalist in Iraq, Deborah Scranton instead armed three marines with video cameras, as they headed off for a six-month tour of duty. There they captured alarmingly candid footage of themselves, their colleagues, and their missions in Iraq which - it becomes increasingly obvious - have little to do with Iraqi Freedom. The resulting film is by turns shocking, funny, offensive and deeply sad.

GLUE - An intriguing young cast and some very hot bisexual making-out sequences cannot save this ponderous meditation on teenage angst in small-town Argentina. Writer/director Alexis Dos Santos has little new to add to the "kid slowly discovering he's gay" sub-genre, and chooses to shoot his film in wildly underexposed semi-darkness, and with the kind of shaky, hand-held cinematography that makes David Stratton long for a painless death.

BILLY THE KID - Jennifer Venditti's documentary about Maine 15-year-old Billy P. is a warmly endearing portrait of an extremely unusual boy going through universally familiar trials and tribulations. Billy's "issues" (as his wonderful mother lovingly puts it) are extreme, surely crossing the line into undiagnosable mental illness. However while this simple, highly skillful film is often very funny, it never mocks its protagonist. Rather, it draws the audience to identify strongly with him, highlighting the universality of adolescent experience.

MY KID COULD PAINT THAT - Another excellent documentary, this one about Marla Olmstead, who became, in rapid succession, a highly sought after artist, and then a suspiciously regarded potential hoax - all prior to her sixth birthday. Amir Bar-Lev brings the audience with him, as he begins to doubt the authenticity of his young subject, and the increasingly questionable adults around her.

THE BOSS OF IT ALL - Lars Von Trier takes a rare break from neo-Brechtian anti-American 'innocent woman gets downtrodden and repeatedly raped' narratives, to present a light comedy. No, really. Don't worry though, he hasn't given away fucking with our heads entirely. The film is shot using "Automovision", a computer program that randomly selects the camera angles, cuts and movements, and Lars himself makes bizarre interjectory comments throughout the film. It won't change your life, but it's lots of fun (which is more than can be said of Dancer In The Dark, etc.)

BLACK SHEEP - The latest entry in the return of the zombie genre is this highly entertaining film from New Zealand, in which a genetically modified breed of sheep become flesh-eating monsters. It's tightly written, well directed, silly, irreverent, gory and ridiculous. In short: everything you could possibly want from a zombie sheep flick.

CONTROL - Great performances from Sam Riley and Samantha Morton, an understated script and a beautiful visual style make this biopic of late Joy Division frontman Ian Curtis a sombre masterpiece. Famed music photographer Anton Corbijn directs with compassion and restraint: there is a visceral excitement in the phenomenal recreation of Joy Division's first live television performance of 'Transmission', and an effective avoidance of melodrama as Curtis marches towards his final surrender from life, at the age of just 23.

PAPRIKA - Japanese animé at its best, Paprika is complex, vibrant, thought-provoking and logic-defying. Stunning visual design and disarmingly fun music help tell a mind-bending tale of a detective with a guilty conscience who gets involved with a beautiful scientist - part of a team who have developed technology to enter and manipulate each-others' dreams. The plot abandons reason altogether in the final act, but is a fantastic ride if you're willing to take it on its own terms.

SAVAGE GRACE - If you enjoy seeing Julianne Moore gnash her teeth and say "cunt" a lot, this film is for you. This role - a high society mother clinging to her respectability as the sanity of her family disintegrates around her - has Moore's name all over it. And she pulls it off with the kind of shattered dignity and determined poise we've come to expect. The rest of the cast are great too, particularly the intriguing Eddie Redmayne as her troubled gay son. However the subject matter, particularly towards the end of this story - based on the real-life tragedy of the Baekeland family - will leave many squirming in their seats.


So there it is. Some highs and some lows, but overall I had a lovely time as always. It was especially great this year to be sharing the MIFF fandango with Byron for the first time.

Now, I have quite a few other things to tell you about too, so hopefully blogging will continue a tad more regularly from now on (we've heard that before, haven't we!).

Labels: ,