Wednesday, 24 December 2008

Magic Realist Moment

You know, I'm a bit of a fan of magic realism. Not as a genre, really. Its more that I happen to be a fan of both Gabriel Garcia Marquez and Jose Saramago, and both authors happen to be - more or less - in the magic realist realm.

And here's a magic realist moment, from my own back catalogue. In 1998, after training a few disability support workers in Toowoomba, I was driving back home, down the mountain towards Brisbane. As I passed through Gatton, or thereabouts, and the only car on my side of the road, a huge cloud of white butterflies emerged from the fields and floated across the highway. Sheets of fluttering white wings in the yellow sunshine. There were literally thousands of them, tossed like flotsam on air currents, a mass folding in on itself, expanding, contracting, swerving, fleeing, like an airborne school of fish.

There were so many of them that after about ten seconds, I could no longer see, and had to switch on the windscreen wipers. Driving at 100 kilometres per hour, wiping away white butterflies like snow.

True story.

Wednesday, 17 December 2008

Grandfathers and War

I don't know if anything particularly profound will emerge from writing this, but, inspired by Pavlov's Cat, I offer this reflection on my grandfathers. Seen here enlisting for service in 1941.

On the left, my paternal grandfather, who I never met, though he survived the war. A sapper in the 9th Division, he was wounded in action at the 2nd Battle of El-Alamein in 1942. His casualty record blithely states "Cas Sect. 28-10-42 wounded in action. Confusion, hallux. Evac 2/3 AFA". The 28th October was a critical day in battle against Rommel. He had two shrapnel wounds from a shell, and was evidently found disoriented.

More mundanely, and no doubt demonstrating the constancy of stress, his record shows he was sectioned several times with hemorrhoids. Jesus, I can well imagine. By 1943 he was in Port Moresby, having returned on the fleet that Curtin brought home for the Pacific War. My dad recalled hiding under a bed when his father returned in 1946, yellow with malaria, and scary to behold to 6 year old eyes.

His occupation was listed as 'labourer' upon enlistment. He ended up life as a publican, however. According to my Aunt, he rescued a young solider at El-Alamein whose old man was a Brewery magnate. She remembers their family pulling up at their house after the war to give my Grandad a chance at running a pub.

It has occurred to me before that this near random chance event just might be one key reason I was born securely middle class. He certainly wasn't. Born in Bolton, Lancashire, to cotton mill piecers. The twisted sea of fate!

On the right my maternal grandad, the one I knew and loved all my life. He died a few years back at 91. I met his older brother at his 90th birthday, and also met his near-centenarian mother when I was very young. A teacher, and a Captain in the Australian militia (Citizen's Military Forces), he was transferred to the AIF when a friendly doctor reversed an earlier decision on a childhood spinal injury. He served in Bougainville and once fled his tent on instinct in the dead of night to see it explode seconds later. A grenade had been rolled in. He mentioned the war only twice in the thirty odd years I knew him. Once was that grenade story. The other was when he was a bit tipsy and maudlin, and before he shook it all off, quietly let out that he had found himself covered in a dead mate's blood and body parts after one attack.

He was allergic to any and all tropical foods. "Only since the war", said my grandmother.

No wonder they wanted a quiet life.

Thursday, 11 December 2008

Boom Boom

Well, muchachos, it's that time of year isn't it. I must admit, I'm quite pro-December. End-of-year get-togethers, and seasonal pissups, as summer's long nights and social calenders collide in that month-long inexorable charge to..... the eruption of barely suppressed family tensions over Xmas lunch.

Its been a splendid time blogging in the company of such fine compañeros this year. Why, I even received my first Viagra spam on the blog today. And they said we'd never make it!

So, here's cheers et salutations saisonnières from BmL, home of the France Gall Appreciation Society (Bureau de l'Australie) wishing all of you un gran latte for the party season. Personally, I've been warming up for seasonal soirees with this track, one of my France Gall faves, and a splendid piece of 60s jazz-pop: Boom Boom (1966).

Entonces, felicidades a todos.

Credits roll until 0.30.

Saturday, 6 December 2008

Seasonal Cheer

It would appear one of my local neighbours is somewhat cool on Yule.

Wednesday, 3 December 2008

Lusobeats#2: Nara Leão sings Insensatez

If you're at all interested in Bossa Nova, you'll dig this clip. First, you not only get to listen to Nara Leão's utterly beschmoozling interpretation of the standard Insensatez (starts at 0.45), but you also get to hear her speak a little of the history and milieu of Bossa Nova. Frankly, the mere sound of her Brazilian Portuguese beschmoozles yours truly - but the history she alludes to is interesting.

Its a softly spoken style of acoustic jazz / samba, pioneered by João Gilberto, Tom Jobim, and herself, among others. Its grew up among the middle class of Rio De Janeiro - and all the genre's proponents speak of a great flowering of Brazilian culture and music from 1957 through to 1964 - until the coup leading to the dictatorship lasting until 1985. Like so many Latin American countries, the populist import substitution regimes of the era created a middle class that was later squeezed by dictatorship (and alternative 'economic medicines') in the years that followed. She is missing João Gilberto (Bebel's Dad, and first hubby of Astrud) because like many Bossa Nova artists, he was in exile in this period.

Anyway, its a beautiful song.

Saturday, 29 November 2008

Bargains to kill for

Is there any phenomenon in Western society more demented than massed shoppers on a stampede? Now they've actually trampled someone to death. I struggle to think of the appropriate collective noun. A lobotomy of bargain hunters? I don't know why this bugs me so much. But whenever I see serried ranks of drongos injuring each other in a desperate scramble to buy crap, I truly despair for the future of our species.

Update: More detail here, including market-reassuring news that the blood-spattered horde kept on shopping.

Some shoppers who had seen the stampede said they were shocked. One of them, Kimberly Cribbs of Queens, said the crowd had acted like “savages.” Shoppers behaved badly even as the store was being cleared, she recalled.

“When they were saying they had to leave, that an employee got killed, people were yelling, ‘I’ve been on line since yesterday morning,’ ” Ms. Cribbs told The Associated Press. “They kept shopping.”

Friday, 28 November 2008

The Triffids: A Reverie

If you cornered me at a party and made me choose my favourite Australian band, you'd get quite bored as I pro-ed and con-ed between the Go-Betweens and the Triffids. On balance, (and well after you'd snuck off to fish beers in the esky), I'd give it to the Go-B's by sheer dint of sharing their hometown. They do mean a lot to Brisbaneiros of a certain vintage, like me.

But my favourite individual Australian songwriter is, without doubt, and without peer, David McComb of the Triffids. And what an extraordinary band. These songs live forever! A soundtrack to the endless sunny middays of edited memory. So many greats... to pick but a few: Beautiful Waste (surely the finest song about the all-encompassing madness of first love ever penned on these shores); Spanish Blue; Embedded; the entire album "Treeless Plain"; Place in the Sun; Red Pony; Jesus Calling; and of course, their only genuine hit, Wide Open Road.

For those who are fans, check out this page. Its full of downloadable early gems, thanks to the Triffids site.

I never did see the Triffids, sadly - though I did see David McComb sometime in the late 90s. It was after his heart transplant, so it was low energy, but the show was magnificent, the songs sublime. McComb died in '99, at far too young an age.

And now that I think about it, it was an old girlfriend of mine, many moons ago, who introduced me to the Triffids. I first heard this song, 'Raining Pleasure', when she played it to me on acoustic guitar, as the rain pattered on a Quinceland tin roof. So, here it is, a reverie.

Tuesday, 25 November 2008

Film Noir: what's that all about?

Who knows, but its no doubt referred to as "film noor" in certain northern suburbs of Melbourne that shall remain ... mispronounced.

Anyhow, ill-informed, but keen as always, I trundled down the the Carlton Nova a couple of years back and saw Sin City, on various recommendations. Here's a short review of that: 5 lattes, with a biscotti on the side.

And here's a pre-review of what's next: I've got a small stack of vids lined up to investigate further. These include, inter alia, Jules Dassin' Night and the City (1950) and Allen Baron's Blast of Silence (1961). I might go watch one now!

But before that, any other Film Noir recommendations, oh ye denizens of the internet? And moreover, what is the essence of film noir anyway?

A dinner party one-liner will do - I'm that sort of guy. Shallow, with a heart of pure shiny tinfoil.

Sunday, 23 November 2008

Lusobeats #1: Bolinha da Sabão (Soap bubble)

Ok, I know I'm doing these posts on the cheap since I worked out how to embed video, but the fact is I'm a big fan of Brazilian music - especially Bossa Nova of the early João Gilberto/ Tom Jobim variety - but also 60s Lusopop outfits like Trio Esperança, formed in Rio De Janeiro in 1961. This is partly because I do believe Portuguese to be one of the best world languages for song. This particular track, Bolinha da Sabão is crazy. I just can't get enough of this upbeat Luso-lounge 60s pop.

So, if you ever see some wired-for-sound cat on a Melbourne train singing "tum plec tum pling" a bit too loud for surrounding passengers' comfort ... well, let's just pretend we don't know each other, sim?

Monday, 17 November 2008

50th Post Celebratory Ramble

Yes, bite up, punters, cos its the quinquagenary latte here at BmL!

How far it's all come. It seems like only yesterday that I tentatively posted my first, er, post, and people were saying, 'oh come on, a blog based loosely on Portuguese Forts in Asia will never take off' yada yada.

How right they were. But hey ..... chuck in a few erratic DVD reviews, a dash of forgotten Europop, a couple of quality regulars, some obsessional Luso-miscellany, all topped off with a systematic failure to reflect on current events (fort management concluded a while back this was best dealt with elsewhere, at a proper blog) - and I've thoroughly enjoyed myself, which is surely the main thing.

And hey, 1200 site visitors from 44 countries can't be wrong (even if a surprising proportion of them can in fact be me - or indeed, other Capitãos on clandestine missions Lisbon hasn't informed me of, in their wisdom).

And so, as the sun goes down over the fort parapet at Solor ('Asia-Pacific region'), and the trade winds flutter the lateen sail in the caravel, in sandalwood I dream once more of..... France Gall.

A rather strange, but scrummy-fab clip from 1964, Les rubans et la fleur. Check the dude, who apparently wasn't told the Algerian war of independence was lost two years earlier. When she sings to herself at 0.45 I go all weak at the knees. Mon Dieu. Vive la France!

Wednesday, 12 November 2008

Long Weekend (1978)

Oh boy, I'm just rolling in '70s Australian cinema lately. This one is a mystery/ thriller/ suspense flic in the nature-takes-revenge mode, and one which works far, far better than I'd expected on gazing at the DVD cover. Would have been brilliant at some suburban drive-in in '78, with the Valiant boot facing the screen.

By Dugong Films, as you'll see, should you watch it. Tops!

Again I ask, where have all the good times gone, Australian film? Was it perhaps the rise of the quasi-private "film corporations", and the demise of the old state-based commissions?

Sunday, 9 November 2008

Nauseating Parental Interlude

Hey look, my daughter drew this groovy picture. It's so mature, you'd never guess she was only 14.
Hoho! Actually she's only 4, quite wee. Of but 4 summers. I totally love it. Better than I can do at 40. I will write a song about it and be famous. As soon as Macca drops around I'll play it to him. Ruby in the sky with ladybirds. Aka the moment my blog really went off the rails. But bugger it. Four year olds' pictures are so sweet. This picture makes me as happy as the purple cat. And check him out - he's one gato feliz.

60s French Girl Pop: #3

And so we end the series with my favourite 60s French Girl Pop song: Jacqueline Taieb's 7 Heures du Matin (7:00am). The original French version is the shiznitz, the real deal. However, because the film clip is so good, I'm going to post the English language version below, released the same year (1966). Personally, I think the French version a far better song than the Anglais; but I suppose the medium here is visual.

Incidentally, Taieb was born in Tunisia. And from what I can gather, this is the French-language equivalent of Wild Thing. Every guitar band starting out in a French-speaking garage learns this track. Un corquer!

Saturday, 8 November 2008

60s French Girl Pop: #2

And now my favourite France Gall song, Les Sucettes (Lollipops), composed by that depraved and wicked genius Serge Gainsbourg. Which can only mean two things.

Friday, 7 November 2008

60s French Girl Pop: #1

Ok, so the thing is: I'm a bit of a fan of 60s French Girl Pop.

And since c'est mon blog, well ... voila! It's a new series. Hope you enjoy.

I think we'd best kick off with France Gall's Laisse Tomber Les Filles, non?

Wednesday, 5 November 2008

Summerfield (1977)

You know, I was going to write a post on the excellent Australian film Summerfield (1977) - from the same writer and producer team of Picnic at Hanging Rock, but I then realised I couldn't do better than refer Oz film pundits to this review.

Suffice to say it's a corker, with some groovy twists, and should be better known. Set on Churchill Island, near Westernport, Victoria, it has something of an Antipodean Wickerman vibe, though without the supernatural pretensions.

I'd only add that you should watch for the product placement of a more simple age. Frankly, Milo and Castrol GTX made me feel more warmly nostalgic than irritated.

More generally, I love Australian films of the 70s. What went wrong?

Sunday, 2 November 2008

Quiz time!

Guess where I took this photo. (Click for hi-res).
Winner will be declared November's Capitão do Fortaleza, here at BmL.

UPDATE: Hordes of disgruntled NCOs denied as Capitão Fyodor seizes the parapet; correctly identifying the Comunidades dos Países de Língua Portuguesa (Community of Portuguese Language Nations - CPLP) office in Rua de São Caetano, Lisbon. All hail!

Thursday, 30 October 2008

Coal-Eating Surrender Monkeys

With props to Tim Hollo over at LP for the inspiration, "coal-eating surrender monkeys" are what we here at BmL will be calling the new breed of climate denialist: that is, those who accept the science, but now say "its too late to do anything" and/or "we wont do anything until everyone else does". For example, the Australian Liberal/ National coalition.

When the call for action came, they immediately surrendered. When the global threat arrived, they vacated the field. When others made a stand, they ran a mile. We found them huddled and crying behind the coal sheds. They are the enviro-cowards.

They are the coal-eating surrender monkeys.

What if Churchill had done the same, hmmm? "oh, we wont be fighting them on the beaches unless everyone else does first.... and its probably too late anyway...(etc, whine whine cry)"

Pathetic. Fortunately, people with some semblance of backbone are in charge now. The main game is making sure they don't cop-out under pressure from the carping surrender monkeys, currently flinging their poo from the safety of the treetops.

Sunday, 26 October 2008

The Wreck of the Batavia: why no film?

White settlement of Australia first took place, inadvertently, on June 4 1629 when the Dutch East India Ship Batavia was wrecked on Houtman's Abrolhos (which means "open your eyes" in Portuguese), a small group of inhospitable islands off the West Australian coast. Three hundred civilian passengers were left to wait as Commander Pelsaert and most of the officers sailed in a small boat to Batavia (now Jakarta) for help.

Left under the command of the deputy VOC commander, a psychopath called Jacob Cornelius, the passengers entered a three-month living hell of murder, rape, enslavement, and deranged tyranny under Cornelius' gang. Only 116 survived.

This story has it all. There's even good guys - Wiebbe Hayes, a Dutch soldier who resists Cornelius' thugs after being marooned with other soldiers on a nearby island.

And how's this for a gripping climax? Cornelius is captured by Hayes, but the rest of his gang a still at large as the Dutch rescue ship comes over the horizon. There's a desperate seaborne race to get there first, to win the authorities to their side of story.

SO WHERE'S THE FILM, Australia???? This is sheer madness. This story is unbelievable - and true. Why the constant failure of the imagination in this country? The failure to see how great, how universal even, some of these magnificent tales are.

And I've been watching the fantastic The First Australians series. Same goes for that - perhaps more so. Ok, so we've had The Tracker, yes, but where's the movie about Pemulwoy and the resistance around Sydney? He and his warriors took Parramatta! Its an incredible tale. And Jandamurra in the Kimberleys? The Kalkadoons at Battle Mountain in Queensland? Why are we so pathetic at this? New Zealand is way ahead on this score.

Is it that we daren't offend the pathetic denialist sensibilities of certain high profile culture warriors? Or is it a deeper malaise, a cringing disbelief that any story taking place here is worth telling? Or worse - are we just plain scared of the truth? That we might displace Cap'n Cook from his endless victory in grade 7 social science texts? Or demonstrate how constant was the Indigenous resistance?

Honestly, I'm sometimes genuinely embarrassed by this country's never-ending adolescence. Here's hoping it changes with the apology. I think it might, actually. I'm optimistic. Now, a good start would be some quality films on key episodes of our history - exciting, wild tales, like those above. Do I ask too much?

UPDATE: Hooray! Some googling suggests there may be a film about the Batavia (starring Vinnie Jones) underway. I'll believe it when I see it. This project has been mooted before. But still.... no Aboriginal resistance movies? Come on!!

Monday, 13 October 2008

The Magnificent Gene Clark

You know, The Byrds had some luminaries as members: David Crosby, and Roger McGuinn. But watch their early videos on Youtube, and the only fully-fledged musical genius in that band is the guy playing the tamborine. The magnificent Gene Clark.

Any hit the Byrds had, if not composed by Dylan, you can bet it was written by him. Try "I'll Feel a Whole Lot Better", "She Don't Care About Time" and "Eight Miles High" on fer size. All Clark compositions.

And if "I'll Feel a Whole Lot Better" isn't objectively one of top 5 greatest songs of the 60s, I'll personally eat your hat. Sometimes, when it's late at Keating Towers, and I'm ferreting away here with headphones, while the world sleeps, I believe it to be the finest pop song ever written.

And how many other native American pop stars were there? If anyone knows others, comment away.

Anyhoo, if you like 60s west coast sounds, get yourself his solo album from 1967, after he left the Byrds: its sometimes called Gene Clark with the Gosdin Brothers, other times known as Echoes. It's truly a forgotten gem. In mon humble opinion.

Tuesday, 7 October 2008

Through fields of cane....

It may not surprise you to learn I'm really not much of rural type. But last night I was staying at Ms LE's ancestral German -Australian farm just outside Brisbane, where her Prussian antecedents settled in the 1860s. Her sister and brother still live there; though they don't farm or anything earthy like that.

Anyway, the more genuinely rustic neighbours were burning their cane crop. I watched for an hour, and it was magnificent. Fire licking the sky, cane bark flying high over bulging smoke clouds, big bursts of flame followed by low crackling subsidence, then another rush of hot flame leaping skyward.

In the morning I could see why the method was once favoured (I'm told its used less now, for reasons I don't get). The cane was so clean, black and straight, ready for easy harvest. Awesome!

Saturday, 20 September 2008

Classic Australian Cinema: Petersen (1974)

Yes, from the team (David Williamson scriptwriter, Tim Burstall Director) that brought you the more renowned Alvin Purple, Petersen (1974) starring Jack Thompson in his first lead role is a classic.

Basically, Thompson is an ex-AFL star and electrician who saves up his dough to go to Uni in the pre-Whitlam era. Great scenes from University of Melbourne in the early 1970s. Thompson has an affair with his English lecturer (Wendy Hughes), fails the course when her Professor husband becomes jealous, becomes frustrated with his own wife (Jacki Weaver), and eventually gets beaten up by the cops while mouthy and drunk, sealing the conflict of class cultures theme with a nice little Queensland-style 'police interview'. Bud Tingwell appears briefly - and quite hilariously- as Thompson's agnostic Reverend father. All very raunchy in that frappez le bourgeoisie early 70s mode.

I also saw Stork recently - an earlier incarnation of the same team's work - which is rougher, and doesn't flow nearly as well as Petersen. Mind you, you get to see Monash Uni in that one, so they're both interesting pieces of social history.

Tuesday, 16 September 2008

Strange times at the Yasukuni Shrine

So, if you had this idea that the Yasukuni Shrine (and associated Museum) in Tokyo was probably a grand exercise in historical revisionism, well - you'd be pretty much right.

Naturally, I had a poke around while I was in Tokyo. Actually, the kids (our one, and two of a friend) loved it, lots of Zeros, tanks, even a piloted Kamikaze torpedo to look at. But I will outline the revisionist high (low) points for you.

But firstly, some possible misconceptions:

The Yasukuni Shrine is not a monument to WW2 (known as the East Asian war in Japan). It's a Shinto Shrine, originally built in the late 1860s to commemorate the Imperial Army which ended the 600-year rule of the Shogun warlords, who kept the Emperor around as a quaint figurehead. This was the birth of the modernising Meiji imperial regime which took Japan out of a era of near-complete isolationism, and general Koto-plucking feudal backwardness under the Shogunate. In that sense, the Shrine itself is originally a monument to a wholly unobjectionable -indeed rather positive - development in Japanese history.

Second, well, no one really has a problem with a memorial to the ordinary war dead, do we? The poor schmos in the lower ranks etc. Pretty much no one in the region objects to that, as I understand it.

Nope: its the interment of 1000+ documented war criminals - including several very high profile ones - that really pisses off Japan's Asian neighbours, and a whole lot of other nations for that matter. This is where the Japanese Government goes off the rails at Yasukuni.

And then the revisionism: so, apparently there were loads of "Chinese soldiers in civilian uniform" at Nanking. Oh really? I guess that would explain the indiscriminate massacre of people looking like civilians. I mean.... seriously. Do the kids get taught this? This section of the Museum is a card-carrying outrage in progress.

And oh yeah, Pearl Harbor happened because the US was deliberately denying resource-poor Japan access to steel, energy etc. Actually, that's pretty much true: but what it fails to mention is that by that point the Japanese army had not only been committing major atrocities in China for several years, but had just recently invaded French Indochina.

And can you believe it? Then the Yanks blockaded us! Yeah, what a head-scratcher. Hard to fathom, right?

Moving along, the really notable feature was the emphasis placed on the support the Japanese armies provided to anti-colonial movements in South and Southeast Asia.

Actually - and this can be hard for many in the West to swallow - there's substantially more than a grain of truth in that. Of course, it would have been 'Cheerio George, Hello Hirohito' - but nonetheless, you will find first generation nationalists like Lee Kuan Yew in Singapore ambivalent about the Japanese, and despite the atrocities, publicly acknowledge their role in inspiring post-war, anti-colonial nationalism. And in India too, the veterans of the Indian National Army - set up by the Japanese - still receive state pensions. Unlike the vets from the British Indian Army.

So, there it is. Yasukuni. Hard to fathom why they don't cut their losses and decommemorate the war criminals and move on.

Friday, 12 September 2008

"Asia/Pacific Region"?

Ok, you internet heads, I've got a question. You may have noticed my Neocounter below. Frankly, I get very excited every time a new country appears. I can't wait to see the new flag scroll up. Which will it be? Luxembourg? Paraguay? The more obscure the better. Preferably a member of the CPLP (Comunidade dos Países de Língua Portuguesa) countries, thanks. A really tiny one like São Tomé e Príncipe would do nicely.

So tonight, I saw the magic number had gone up one digit. I waited with baited breath, only to discover it was "Asia/Pacific Region". Huh?

My only thought: Is it a non-self-governing Pacific territory? Like Tokelau or something? Or could it be Norfolk Island? Or American Samoa? I'm assuming it would have to be somewhere without its own url country suffix.

Any thoughts folks?

Wednesday, 10 September 2008

Liberated from ***, and more Portuguese in Asia

Not much of a tech-nerd, me, but let me tell you: my whole system is soooo much smoother and faster since I uninstalled [forced update: a certain browser which appears to bug those who dare criticise it].

I don't mean 'ceased using it'. I did that a while back in favour of Mozilla. I'm talking uninstalled. It's like a new machine. Huzzah!

Now, back to the main game: so, there I was, in this bakery in Kyoto, buying some bread for Little Miss LE when I hear the shop assistant say "pow" - in reference to the well-known leavened flour of yer familiar western variety.

"What the...!" thought I, excitedly. Like you, no doubt, my immediate thought was: That's gotta be straight up Portuguese from 16th century trade contact. That word, Sir, is none other than pão!

And indeed it was. You'll be relieved to know I've since located this handy-dandy page, and you'd be amazed at the number of Portuguese words in Japanese.

However, arigato is not one of them. Lot of myths that this is related to obrigado - but I'm going to have to let you down gently here. It ain't so.

Anyway, as if all that wasn't cool enough, there was a massive Brazilian festival on too. Loads of Brazilian guest workers there of course, many with Japanese ancestry. The ATMs all have Portuguese language options.

Do you see how this is all coming together? Finally?

Tuesday, 9 September 2008

Wi-Fi: The Great Leap Backwards

...for public internet access.

Couldn't help but notice on my recent trip the Japan that most of the touted 'internet cafes' were closed, and replaced by Wi-Fi instalments. The guide book - the latest one - was out of date in most cases. but only by a month or so.

Now, I know Wi-Fi is all bells and whistles etc. But frankly, its a royal pain in the ass. It has this air of increasing internet access, but it doesn't really. It increases private internet use in public - not public internet access. It's actually killing that stone dead.

Indeed, I'd say the internet hasn't been this inaccessible since about 1996. Welcome to the great leap backwards. That's the last time I remember a medium sized, cosmopolitan city like Kyoto having, say, one or two public internet places. So unless you're dragging your own terminal around with you (and let's face it laptops are not cheap), you're increasingly screwed.

I actually own one myself, but who wants to drag it around on a holiday? Not me. But am I still and email junkie? Of course I am.

But more broadly, wasn't there once some idea of public access to the www? The info superhighway? Global connectedness etc? Paying a modest buck and getting some tube-time as global citizen, on the cheap? Forget it. That idea's dead. And unlike telephones, the state never did have a stake in the technology, so there's not even a residual welfare-style system - as there is with public phones.

I doubt the global gulf between the wired and unwired has ever been greater.

Monday, 25 August 2008

Secrets on the interwebs

I don't know about you, but I find this page kinda groovy. People write secrets on postcards and send them in for interwebment, by erm .... interwebbers.

Monday, 18 August 2008

Going to Japan

You know, one of the very few perks of being an academic at one of Victoria's premier lesser universities has been the regular work travel on my grants. Sadly, it only covers yours truly, and there's three of us here at Keating Towers.

So, time to cut Ms. and little Miss LE in on the action. We're going to Japan. Its just like when the Brady Bunch went to the grand canyon. Or something.

Rough itinerary: Kyoto, Nara and a bit of Tokyo. Naturally I plugged for Nagasaki - in case there's a Portuguese brick or two intact - but I have been overruled by majority vote.

Over to you, jetsetters - any hot tips in the vicinity of that itinerary?

Sunday, 10 August 2008

The urge to Serge

And another thing! I'll have you know Serge Gainsbourg is not my favourite French artist. He's one of my favourite songwriters period.

I love every phase of his work. From the late 50s jazz (eg Le Poinçonneur des Lilas), through the Afro-Latin mambo style period (eg Couleur Cafe, Pauvre Lola), and into his classic 60s pop (Les Sucettes), tongue-in-cheek erotica ( is there a better bassline in all history than 69 Annee Erotique?) and hey, even his weirder themed efforts like L'homme à tête de chou and Histoire de Melody Nelson.

Ok, so Im not quite so enamoured of his 80s reggae and disco work - but cut the guy some slack, he was getting on.

I must confess I have never heard Rock around the Bunker - his album about WW2 and Nazi themes; reputedly in the usual form of a clever, lascivious pisstake (1975). But I really have to. In case that sounds tasteless, well ... firstly: welcome to Serge Gainsbourg. But second, Gainsbourg was Jewish, born in 1928, and wore the yellow star in occupied France, and spent some of the war years in hiding from the Nazis and Vichy regime. If that helps you get your head around it.

If you need a Serge start-up kit, I would avoid the trans-period "best of" collections. He's too diverse for that to work. Rather, I'd go for one of Du Jazz dans La Ravine, Couleur Cafe, or Comic Strip - which individually capture his three best periods.

Saturday, 2 August 2008

Balibo Fort: Silent Witness

View from Batugade Fort (border area), to Balibo hills.

Built in the mid 1600s. The 'Balibo five' journalists were filming from the fort on October 16 1975 (as the Indonesian military forces climbed the hills from the border at Batugade), shortly before they were murdered by ABRI special forces and associated militia.

Balibo Fort
The notorious 'Balibo declaration' signed by UDT, APODETI, KOTA and Trabalhista leaders on November 30 - criticising the de facto FRETILIN government's declaration of independence on November 28 - was used as a pretext for Operation Kommodo, the invasion of East Timor. According to the subsequent testimony of all four signatories, the statement was in fact prepared by ABRI Intel; signed in Bali, not West Timor; and (even according to the leader of APODETI - the small pro-integration party) signed under duress.

View from Balibo fort to border areas and West Timor.
A thousand UN troops were stationed here during the INTERFET mission.

Balibo House
In 2003, the Victorian Government bought and restored Balibo House. It now serves as a creche, library and vocational training centre for the town.

Wednesday, 30 July 2008

How 40 broke my brain!

So, stupidly, I resumed smoking in my 39th year, having cut it back to very little in my mid 30s. I dunno why, and frankly, this is no time for recriminations. So back off! I gotta focus here.

Maybe it was because of my deep certainty that there'd be no such behaviour after 40. I think I cleverly reverse wedged myself into going overboard on the toxins in the lead up.

Anyhoo! This is day 3 of being 40, days 3 of not smoking (again) and ..... I'm a moron!! A grumpy moron to boot, so dont gimme any of that chirpy 'life starts at' shit until at least day 7 - e.g when I'm no longer about to yell "#&%$ off" whenever some cute 4 year old comes in, claiming to be my daughter.

Yessir, I can barely string a coherent thought together. Good thing I finished that article on Saturday, before my brain broke. Mind you, doing those footnotes on Monday was painfully slow - like trying to thread a needle drunk, wearing vaseline-smeared goggles, and those crazy anti-masturbation gloves favoured by 19th century nuthouses.

Yes. It was just like that.

Oh yeah, and %$& you, Walter Raleigh. See that Man-o-War closing in off the starboard side?

Ataque!! Dispare em todos os canhões ! Não tome nenhum prisioneiros! Ao fortaleza, marinheiros!!

Ha haaaahahahaa, hahaaa, haaaaaahaaa!

I'll be back.

Monday, 28 July 2008

More Cassavetes

So, last night I watched Killing of a Chinese Bookie, which was a terrific film noir-style effort, while it all hung together. Which was approximately 60 mins, in my view.

Everyone raves about this flic, but am I the only ill-informed film-waller in the room who found it had some major continuity issues? A wee problemo or two, with the olde edit suite?

Mind you: Ben Gazzara rules as Cosmo Vitelli. And its kinda bugging me too. The film, that is. I'm certainly not forgetting it in a hurry. Maybe that's what Cassavetes wants. A piece of my mind.

Frankly, I think I'm getting paranoid watching these Cassavetes films. Still, in the name of science....

Thursday, 24 July 2008


Blimey. This was a discovery. I'm not really one of yer film buffs who nods sagely when Directors' names are dropped. More a film bluff.

But I just watched A Woman under the Influence, and John Cassavetes is the first director I would unreservedly declare a genius. Peter Falk and Gena Rowlands - the latter especially- give performances that are nothing short of harrowing in this psycho-drama. Soo-weeee. I had to watch it two sittings.

Apparently it wasn't going to be distributed until Scorcese threatened to pull his own film from a festival - unless this one got the nod. Which just goes to show Scorcese knows a thing or two about film. Unlike me. But I'd wager Mike Leigh is a big Cassavetes fan, wouldn't you say, erm....Margaret?

Five and a half lattes.

Tuesday, 15 July 2008

Muerda mi Latte: edición Española

Hola! Yo he notado que alguna gente de Suramérica o de España visitan este blog de vez en cuando. Por favor, sienta usted libre de decir hola (en Castellano) aqui, en esta raíz. ¿De dónde es usted, cómo es la vida allí? ¿Qué noticias de su país?

Sunday, 13 July 2008

On turning 40

You know, the median age is more or less exactly 37 these days, here in the western Antipodes - so I slipped over to the old half some time back.

That said, there's no avoiding the significance of one's upcoming fortieth birthday - or is there? Just a couple of weeks of the 30s left now. It's been grand, I must say. At the start of this decade, I was an itinerant musician and part-time mental health worker, avoiding my PhD like the plague.

Now look at me. An academic at one of Victoria's premier lesser universities and part-time fort enthusiast, avoiding my overdue article like the plague.

I'm feeling rather sanguine, truth be told - though a few months back I think I started to go a bit wobbly about around the edges, and acting rather strangely. (For example, I went right off Portuguese forts in Asia for a good couple of weeks).

But now... meh. I'm just looking forward to the party. Otherwise feeling rather insouciant about it all.

So, what should I be thinking about at such a time? Health? Insurance? Comfortable footwear?Wills and probate?!!

Any wise thoughts and reflections from my elders welcome.

Saturday, 12 July 2008

Galbraith on Downer

This is gold, so I cite it in full; regarding Downer's negotiating tactics with the East Timorese government over the Timor gap oil revenues.

Peter Galbraith, the former US diplomat and author of books on foreign policy issues, was attached to the UN office advising the negotiations. He recalls going to Adelaide in 2000 to notify Downer that the East Timorese wanted to renegotiate the "Timor Gap" treaty agreed by the Indonesians in 1989."Somehow he considered this deeply offensive that we were doing it, that I was doing it," Galbraith said. "At the meeting he sort of kept making the point that he'd been more successful than his famous father and perhaps that I'd been less than mine. There was a real psycho-drama there that really had nothing to do with the issue." (Galbraith is the son of the celebrated economist and author J.K. Galbraith. Downer's father, Sir Alexander, was immigration minister in the Menzies government.)

"The thing about the oil negotiations," Galbraith adds, "is that Downer adopted both a condescending and bullying approach both towards the East Timorese and the United Nations that ended up making him one of the most unpopular people in East Timor. "It did considerable damage to Australia's reputation, and ended up for a worse bargain for Australia than a more diplomatic approach would have produced. The matter would have wrapped up sooner and Australia could have had a larger share of the oil."

Galbraith, who is a senior adviser in the presidential campaign of US Democrat candidate Barack Obama, said: "Being Australia's longest-serving foreign minister may not necessarily equal being its best."He won't do any damage in his job as the Cyprus negotiator," Galbraith added, referring to Downer's new job as a UN special envoy. "Because one thing's for sure: if there were any serious chance of making progress between the Greeks and Turks on Cyprus, the UN would not have appointed Downer."

HAMISH McDONALD. 'Downer diplomacy: if you don't succeed, bully again' Sydney Morning Herald July 12, 2008.

Monday, 7 July 2008

A bit of woo

You know, like a lot of latte-swilling inner city leftoids, the overt trappings of nationalism are not really my bag. Not my thing. (Get a new flag and we'll talk though.)

But that doesn't mean I don't have a sense of place. And frankly, I really love a lot of Australian expressions. Especially old school ones that I heard when I was in primary school in the 70s; usually from then 50-60 year olds. You know the sort: blokes called Len, with a sybillant whistle, a 40s hat and form guide under the arm. Old sheilas called Beryl or Esme with a fascinator, and the air of having hatboxes secreted in top cupboards at home.

One of my faves was "let's have a bit of woo" (i.e. everyone calm down).

Another was the favoured declamation of my own grandmother: "my hat!"

Or referring to teenagers as "young blades". Or "tiger". Steady on there, tiger.

Most of these I haven't heard in ages. So, in the spirit of cultural heritage preservation, feel free to like, document any like, disappearing personal faves. Dude.

Tuesday, 1 July 2008

Portuguese Forts in Asia #4: Mysterious Maubara

More forts which are Portuguese and are also in Asia!

Ah, but is it??? Portuguese, I mean. Obviously it's in Asia.
Ah, but is it in Asia? Oh puhleeease, let's not get into the Wallace line debate. Isn't that about fauna anyway?

Well, while those two sort that out, allow me bid you bemvindo to mysterious Maubara. What a cracking little fort it is too. Simple, square design. Looks to me like it was designed primarily for booty storage rather than defence. Imagine the sandalwood piled up in there circa 1680. Woo baby!

Incidentally, its a great little beach too. By chance, I met Kirsty Sword Gusmao there in 2005, when she was swimming there with her three lovely little kids (and a bodyguard or two). Turned out she knew my Timorese pal Alex from the resistance days, so we all had a chat.

Anyway: the mystery. What you need to know is that Maubara is west of Liquica - and that gets us into the ill-defined regions which were contested between the Dutch and Portuguese for some centuries. Therefore the crucial question is: is it of Portuguese, or Dutch provenance?

The enclave of Maubara was certainly among those handed over to the Portuguese in an ill-advised trade, in which the Dutch got the entire islands of Flores and Solor. What a rip-off! That was Governor Lopes da Lima, who lives in infamy for his poor negotiating skills. That was in the 1850s, so one would presume this is originally Dutch. Also its rather regular looking, and frankly, the Portuguese were generally a bit more interesting in the main - although there's also the Batugade fort; which is not entirely dissimilar.

Anyhoo - fact is, no one can be precisely sure, since these sandalwood bearing enclaves passed between the two powers with great regularity in the 1600s. Bottom line is, its a nice little fort, with a full sea wall, which you can visit, and some more than satisfactory cannon stockades and old guns. So where the bloody hell are ya?! etc.

Monday, 30 June 2008

Sunday, 29 June 2008


Well, a week in Cuba can't fail to impress. Not always for the good, it must be said - but more of that below. Havana is a beautiful city in its own run-down, 19th century Hispanic way. Its cars, frozen in time, the grand squares of Habana Vieja, the Capitolio in Habana Central and the magnificent Malecon by the sea, the Hotel Nacional and the great, great people.

First the positives, of which there are many. As a tourist, you'll have a great time. Plus it's way safer than central America. People's most basic needs are essentially met by the government at highly subsidised rates. And the healthcare system is outstanding. So no one is going to stab you from sheer desperation - and I must say, there are places I've in Guatemala and Mexico where that isn't the case.

There, the key words are: Cuidate;Ojo; Atención! But not in Cuba.

However, basic needs, healthcare and education are one thing, and wants are another. One should never underestimate the role of desire (and boredom) in history. If a Cuban wants anything extra - or something major goes wrong with their house, or car,and the government won't cover it - they pretty much have to go into the tourist economy (with its higher value convertible peso).

This may involve starting a 50/50 business with the government (which is how that works), or more commonly, just hit the streets and tout.

So, as a result, there's pretty constant hassle on the streets for your convertible dollar. Buy a cigar. Do you need a tour guide. On and on it goes. Not in any way threatening, as I noted above - but constant. It can be annoying. Mind you, Cuba is hardly alone there for the joys of touts in tourist town. But the constancy of Jiniterismo ('jockeying', i.e. touting) will strike you.

The music is of course fantastic, and the night life hard to beat. Cubans are educated, always literate, friendly for the most part, and proud. I found that I very much liked the average Cuban.
The other thing that struck me: how deeply, deeply stupid the US blockade is. Let me tell you a secret, Miami Cuban: Every night, Fidel and Raul Castro get down on their knees and bless you for the blockade. Why? Because the regime would have been in big trouble post-1990 without it. The net effect of the 45 year blockade has been to recruit nationalism to the Communist cause. That's it. Thats what you achieved in your wasted, pointless lives of vengeful smallness. You kept the regime in place.
Of course, in any other place, a policy that hadn't worked in 45 years would be considered a "failure". But not in Florida! Hell no.

But its worse than failure: the blockade is one of the main things going for the Cuban regime. If there's one thing that unites Cubans behind the Castros, its that.

Indeed, if there are a bigger bunch of plonkers on the globe than the ageing clique of older generation Miami Cuban leaders, I'd like to know who they are. Please write in and tell me here at BmL. The other thing to bear in mind is that its just a bitchy little family feud among the Castros. That's right - the big Miami Cuban leaders are their cousins.

Note that I mention the older generations - surveys among younger Miami Cubans show that some 55% favour easing the travel and economic restrictions. The battle is being lost in their own community.
Plus frankly, it all makes that otherwise grand, powerful nation - the USA - look like a whiny little bitch. Drop into Toronto airport, folks, and its all "Cuba Si!" vacation advertising. Same in Mexico. No one else gives a crap; its all so pathetic and petty. If your system is better - it should win out in the end, right? Face it, you can't round up more than 3 votes in the general assembly to support el bloqueo. The other two are generally Israel and Micronesia.

Don't get me wrong - its great to go to a country where there's no Yanks. The Cuban government and the travelling world thank you. I'm just lost as to how this works for you there in the US. Beats me! You could be ruling that joint with your tourist dollars, and billions in exports tomorrow. But hey, own goal for another 45 years; see if we care. Just bear in mind that while it really hurts the ordinary people of Cuba, it only benefits the regime. Nice one, dufus!
Anyway, here endeth the rant; and starteth the pics! Here's some nice spots in Havana and Trinidad. Travelling down the page:
  • Bookstalls in the Plaza de Armas
  • In the Bodeguita del Medio - Hemingway's favourite bar
  • Havana Streetscape, Capitolio in the background
  • UNESCO listed town of Trinidad

Saturday, 21 June 2008

Bite my Interregnum!

Well, apologies to those happy few who do stop by BmL from time to time. I've been overseas and unable to blog of late. However, I have accrued some interesting material in Havana, and will post it up as soon as I shake this jetlag.

Meanwhile, dig this: Did you know Fidel Castro's HQ during the Bay of Pigs campaign was in a Cuban town called 'Australia'?

Me neither! Apparently there was a sugar mill there in the early 1900s, run by a firm called Central Australian Sugar. Just off the Havana - Santa Clara highway.

Here, then, is a pic taken in Australia, Cuba.

And don't tell me I never get ya nuthin.

Sunday, 25 May 2008

New Eurotrends

You know, with Eurovision, I tend to skim or avoid the songs, and turn up avec popcorn for the regional bloc voting. Then try to annoy Ms LE by guessing as many douze points as possible. I got about two-thirds right tonight - not that its especially difficult.

Briefly, since I've got the flu and must retire, here's my take on a few evident trends:
  • Its all shifting eastward folks. Maybe Rumsfeld was actually talking about Eurovision that time. Old Europe is finito!
  • Is it just me, or was that huge pro-Armenia vote just one big ‘euro-finger’ to Turkey? 'You want in to Europe? Cool! Armenia's coming too. Oh, have you guys met? Hope the seating arrangements aren't awkward.'
  • UK has firmed its place at the bottom, no doubt for linguistic reasons. Let's face it, history has turned - and its all about 2nd language Eurenglish now, and well... you native speakers are just a little embarassing to have around while we're rhyming shady with lady. How many times you gotta come last before you get the hint?
  • Not even the French bother to sing in French anymore. Mind you, that was the only interesting entry for mine.
  • I wonder how the inaugural Kosovo entry went? Make the semis? Non?

Thursday, 22 May 2008

Hoyt Pollard, and war anxiety cinema


Sometimes I'll watch a film just because it was made in that year. Whitlam, Watergate, Fischer v Spassky - it was all happening.

Some great films too: The Godfather, Solaris, Fritz the Cat. But I come to speak of a discrete genre of film, the white male war anxiety flic.

Perhaps we have Australian species of anxiety cinema in Walkabout (1971) starring a young Jenny Agutter (yowza!), The Chant of Jimmy Blacksmith (1978), and maybe the Cars that ate Paris (1974).

But the real deal was in the US: of course, we are talking about Deliverance (1972). Not only that, but also my personal genre fave, Southern Comfort (1981, but set in 1973).

I guess you don't need an SBS film reviewer on staff to work out these are male anxiety psychodramas about Vietnam, with probably also a touch of blowback from the rise of feminism, and the civil rights movements as well.

What do these great films boil down to? This: we're acting tough, but don't know we're the hell we are, or what we're doing. And the local folks we're really pissing off (Hillbillies, Cajuns) really do. They're out there. In here, in the US swamps and hills. Shadows on our peripheral vision.

The protaganists are plainly unequal to the task. They are either civilians with warrior fantasies, like crazy Burt and his bow, or just plain scared (read conscripts). Or literally firing blanks, like the Louisiana National Guard.

The (erm...) climax, of course, is the complete demolition of the fragile masculine psyche on parade. "Can you squeal like a pig, boy?". Apparently that was ad-libbed. Boy, that bit part actor got it. But no less, the mental breakdown of Cpl Bowden, whose insane destruction wrought on civilians to compensate for earlier cowardice seals the fate of all.

Only two will make it: not the showy Rambo. He's toast. Not the scared guy who believed Rambo would protect them either. He dies horribly. The survivor is the quiet American. The one whose reluctant bravery is directed solely at getting out of this insanity, and respected the locals more from the get go. And the other scared guy, who follows him instead. He's got a chance. In Deliverance at least, he's even more interesting: a Phoenix, arising from the ashes of the obliterated faux-macho self.

Oh, and Hoyt Pollard played the banjo.

Wednesday, 21 May 2008

Beatles Art - shock pics exclusive!

Well, if that post title doesn't generate some google hits, nothing will. But hey, I've got a minor Beatles tale, a blog, and a shameless, self-promotional bent, so... you do the sums.

Back in November 1994, I louched up to Liverpool from my job in London (teaching politics at the lowest possible rung of tertiary institutions in the UK; South Thames College, Tooting. No doubt you've heard of it, while quaffing oysters with some ra-ra Oxbridge types).

Anyway, I was just hanging around pointlessly outside the abandoned Jacaranda Club, where Os Beatles - as they are known in Portugal - use to play before they landed the more famous Cavern gig.

Bing! Up comes Alan Williams, the Beatles first manager.
I said "hey, you're Alan Williams".
"yes, hello there ... have you read my book?"
"er, no, sorry. I saw your picture in Peter Brown's one".

Despite this, he invited me down into the low-ceilinged club, abandoned for 10 years at that time. Which was really nice of him - he's a very friendly chap. Thanks Alan! With him was the new prospective owner of the club, having an inspection.

According to your man Williams, the wall art you can see was painted by none other than Stuart Sutcliffe and John Lennon, back in 1960. Have a squiz. Below is a pic I snapped of Alan, with a Sutcliffe original behind him, and above some pre-renovation Sutcliffe and/or Lennon wall art.

I gather you can now go to the refurbished club, and see it yourself, if you're up Liverpool way.

PS if you want to see the restored version of the Stuart Sutcliffe painting behind Alan Williams, there's a picture of it here, half way down the page.

Tuesday, 20 May 2008

Te recordamos, Victor Jara

Here's a news item from a Latin American news list I'm on. The upshot is that the investigation into the death of Chilean singer Victor Jara, killed by Pinochet's forces in 1973, has been closed without a finding; raising the prospect of many other investigations into disappearances under the Pinochet regime being dropped.

I needn't translate the demand: NO A LA IMPUNIDAD.
Lot of it going around.
The Victor Jara Foundation webpage is here


La Fundación Víctor Jara convoca a toda la ciudadanía a una "Acción Cultural Por la Justicia" para repudiar e impedir el cierre del sumario en el caso de la investigación por la muerte del músico Víctor Jara.
Invitamos a los artistas, a los trabajadores, a los estudiantes, a los jóvenes, a los luchadores de derechos humanos y a todas las organizaciones de nuestro país, a participar en esta acción que pretende impedir que se cierre un caso emblemático de la lucha por los derechos humanos.
Creemos que el cierre del sumario en el caso de la investigación por la muerte de Víctor Jara, es el inicio del cierre de esta y otras causas de victimas de la dictadura. Hoy más que nunca debemos levantar nuestra voz para repudiar esta acción de la justicia chilena. Hoy debe ser la ciudadanía y las organizaciones culturales, sociales, sindicales y políticas las que deben pronunciarse.

El desafío es por el futuro de nuestro país, por la justicia y por el NO A LA IMPUNIDAD.
Nos juntaremos el lunes 19 de mayo en el Estadio Víctor Jara a partir de las 19 hrs. en un jornada en la que esperamos encontrar a todos los amigos de Víctor.
- Fundación Víctor Jara

Saturday, 17 May 2008

Latte d'Or Prize winner: The Battle of Algiers (1966)

Woo baby! What a stonking film this is. An Italian production made in 1966, dramatising the Algerian war of independence and French counter-insurgency tactics in the mid to late 1950s.

But really, as interesting as all that is, its the performances. The French commander is so compelling yet understated in his role, I actually started to wonder if that section was documentary footage. It's gripping cinema.

According to sources, the key filmic influences were "Italian neo-realism, French cinema verite and Soviet socialist realism". I have no idea what neo-realism is, frankly, but the rest of that sounds about right I suppose. Whatevs. I hasten to add, there's none of tiresome worthiness and longwinded "mass as actor" shots of lowgrade Soviet agitprop.

More interestingly, this: The Pentagon screened it in 2003 to get their Intel guys thinking about the emerging challenge of the Iraqi insurgency. According to Wiki, the flyer for the Pentagon screening read:
How to win a battle against terrorism and lose the war of ideas. Children shoot soldiers at point-blank range. Women plant bombs in cafes. Soon the entire Arab population builds to a mad fervor. Sound familiar? The French have a plan. It succeeds tactically, but fails strategically. To understand why, come to a rare showing of this film.

Which gave me pause to think - once again, we find the US following the French around, falling in the same traps without really looking at the French experience, and making the same mistakes - the other prime example, of course, being Vietnam.
Anyways - if this film doesn't boot your arse into next Tuesday then .... I guess you're just, erm.... interested in other things.

Oh yes, and props to Fyodor who wins the Lucky d'Or prize for predicting the subject of this post on the basis of some scant clues on the Truffaut thread.

Wednesday, 14 May 2008

Temporary Protection Visas abolished

Huge news - the Rudd Government is said to be abolishing TPVs altogether.

Those 1000 or so still on TPVs will get "resolution of Status' visas (effectively the same as a Permanent Protection Visa), and any future onshore arrivals found to be Convention refugees will get Permanent Protection Visas straight up.

This news will reverberate around the world - as the Australian TPV was the inspiration for many regressive changes in the EU, especially places like Denmark and Germany. It caused untold suffering and harm - and no doubt contributed strongly to the number of deaths of women and children the SIEV X, as it refused TPV holders already resident in Australia rights to family reunion.

Anyone who still claims that Rudd can be dismissed as some sort of 'Howard-lite' character (you know the shtick: maintaining the fiction of some enduring ideological victory, to ease the pain of electoral loss) will now have to reconsider. This is a major departure from the Howard era.

Ruddock in particular will be taking it hard - he really did see this as his international contribution to revising the scope and mode of protection under the 1951 Convention.

Tuesday, 13 May 2008

Truffaut, or not Truffaut?

You know, I don't mind saying, I'm broadly ignorant of film history. So I've been trying to school up at my local vid store, which is rather good, and has things organised under Directors and what have you.

Anyways, I dipped my toes in French New Wave, and I must say, I'm unimpressed. I say a breathless Non! to Godard. The exception is Truffaut. I think Jules et Jim is a classic - pacy, amusing and fun. Fahrenheit 451 as well. How cool is Oskar Werner?

Buñuel is another exception - and probably because he's not French. Maybe not New Wave either - what would I know? Just what I like, and I can recommend practically any film from his French exile period. Particularly Belle de Jour - sporting a young Catherine Denueve and the aging master Fernando Rey - along with the hilarious The Discreet Charm of the Bourgeoisie.

If that fare's a bit too light for your tastes, get Viridiana. His classic subversive satire on Francoist Spain.

Sunday, 4 May 2008

Brisbane Eyesores

I just spent the weekend up in Brisbane, and you know, my original hometown is a beautiful place. You do forget how tropical and verdant it is when you live elsewhere. Not to mention the wonderful riverine suburbs, and the unparalleled views of the CBD.

But I have a complaint. A major complaint, actually. Now, dont get me wrong, I support high density in the inner city, for sustainability reasons. But why, o why is EVERY NEW UNIT COMPLEX IN QLD AS UGLY AS SIN?

Here's my theory on what happened.

In 1982 some 4th year Architecture student at the Gold Coast half-completed the most pedestrian, shitty beige/ off cream box drawings, for an satirical honours project entitled "Yuppie suicide watch house", then lapsed into a coma shortly before submission.

Enter some hideous white shoe fossils of the Surfers era. Taking the unfinished drawings of our averagely talented and now comatose satirical hack, the entire developer class of the QLD chipped in $48 and patented the satirical box plans as 'Quinceland standard issue yuppie slum dwelling', aka the 'Smart state people's unit' , and then proceeded to repeat the one housing design ad nauseum, Poland under Soviet jackboot style.

Sadly, there's no money for improvements on these - the worst designed units in all Christendom - because any extra funds must of course go to the Council in bribes. There's simply no other possible explanation as to how these to egregious assaults against taste keep springing up with council approval.

And here's the final condemnation on you, QLD developer, and alleged QLD 'architect' (and I use the term ironically). The only decent modern architecture in the whole freakin state is Housing Commission. Wow, they even have a few simple nods to the vernacular QLDer style. How hard was that?

Brisbane is a beautiful place. Please stop screwing it up.

Monday, 28 April 2008

New Poll!

Still reliving the Kevin '07 victory? Gripped by the Democrat race? Well the polls don't end there!

Yes, here at Bite my Latte we've added an exciting new reader participation feature on the sidebar.

I think you'll agree, early results are most revealing.

UPDATE: Yes, a sweeping electoral rout for Lautem. Didn't even go to preferences.
Thanks for voting, all 4 of you who weren't me.

On to new forts! Avante!

Sunday, 20 April 2008

Portuguese Forts in Asia 3: Lautem

You know, I talk to lot of people at parties about Portuguese forts in Asia, and they let me go on and on (usually in another room) without asking the obvious question: which is my favourite?
Well, I can't claim to have seen them all. The mysteries of Solor, Alor, Diu, Daman, Malacca (....shamefully) and various enclaves on the Sri Lankan coast still await me. But I have scoured Goa, Macau and East Timor for fortalezas. And Portugal itself - though strictly outside my purview - does provide incomparable period context.
It's not easy to decide - is it Reis Magos in Goa? Embedded in thick jungle, overlooking Panjim? The mysterious Maubara -(of Dutch construction, or Portuguese?). Maubisse, above the clouds?

No, I think we'll have to go with the furthest branch from the tree: Lautem. The easternmost fort in the Portuguese colonial empire. No fort so amply demonstrates the dual character of the Portuguese coastal fort in Timor. To the sea, warding off the Dutch; to the interior, the periodic uprisings of the Timorese kingdoms. A road runs through the fort, dividing the twin functions. Ok, so its not in the best nick - but it has atmosphere to burn. And Japanese WW2 pillboxes nearby, a legacy of yet another invader.

Friday, 18 April 2008

Portuguese forts in Asia 2: The Marathas Strike Back

Say Bom Dia to Chapora Fort, Goa. What a corker!

Right near Vagator beach too, where some tourists evidently congregate. Nerds. Can't they see the quality of this fortaleza?? How I laughed at them from on high parapet.

Ok, so built in 1617, defending the new conquests as Portuguese India expanded North from Old Goa and Panjim. Present structure looks early 18th c to me - which is likely given it was occupied by Maratha tribesman from 1684 to 1717. Definitely a rebuild.

What you really need to visualise is this: 17th century Maratha warriors, festooned in brilliant yellow garb, launching their bold horse-borne attack up this steep slope into the fogo do canhão of the Portuguese garrison.

They were victorious. Fort reclaimed by Portuguese forces in 1717, lost again from 1739-41, abandoned in 1892.

Tuesday, 15 April 2008

Portuguese Forts in Asia: Nailbiting Series Premiere

Oh, where to start? I think I'll have to go Macau's Fortaleza do Monte here - not because its my favourite Portuguese fort in Asia, but because it comes with such a corking story.

Allow me to set the scene: 1640, and the fort is some 20 years old. The century long monopoly of the Portuguese traders in Asia is under grave threat. The Dutch have just seized and sacked the Portuguese entrepot of Malacca - the next target is the enclave of Macau.

The harbour below swells with the victorious Dutch fleet, laying tight seige to the Portuguese foothold in China.

A Priest from St Paul (pictured below fort) strides out angrily. Crossing himself, cursing the enemies of the Crown, the Quina and the one true Church, fires the first cannon shot, high above the harbour on Fortress Mount.

The Dutch ammunition ship is hit - blowing the entire East India Company fleet to smithereens.

Or so the story goes...

Macau was handed back to China in 1999.

Saturday, 29 March 2008

Quarter-arsed blogging

Is this one of the lamest, least-attended blogs of all time? Vote now!

Update: Cripes, I can't even work out how to put a comment on here myself, to give the illusion of traffic. Seems an unnecessarily complex procedure, oh bloglord of google.

Monday, 10 March 2008

Cuatro años más!

Spanish PM, radical democrat, and my pick for a modern mainstream political hero - José Luis Rodríguez Zapatero - is back for four more.

Do some googling on him if you havent been following his work - worth the effort.

Monday, 4 February 2008

Northern Territory News

Photo taken at Charles Darwin University, Darwin.

Tuesday, 15 January 2008

Se pas bon, les Anglais

Well, as if there isn't enough Anglophone monoglot hoohaa about East Timor adopting Portuguese as co-official language, now the Philippines is reintroducing Spanish in schools. There's even talk of it going up a notch from an "auxiliary" language back to the official status it lost in 1987.

Trade reasons appear to be behind the decision. Loads of Spanish speaking countries with resources to burn. Plus a whole of bunch of their historical documents are in Castillian.

Me, I like it. Anglophony is dull as all get up, si me preguntas. The Chinese are training up thousands in Portuguese via Macau schools to get their hands on the booty in Angola and other CPLP (Community of Portuguese Speaking Nations) countries.

Wednesday, 2 January 2008


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