Star Wars: Episode X – The Dark Side Rises

Just a bit of fun to go with all The Force Awakens hype this week. I know people are starting to think about Episode VIII now but I thought I’d turn my attention further ahead, to the next trilogy. And I think I already know who the villain might be…

(Warning: there are a couple of mild spoilers for The Force Awakens in the video if you haven’t seen it yet).

Apologies for the audio by the way. I used the StarWars.com creator to make this but for some reason the share/export isn’t working so I did a screen capture instead. It made the audio a little tinny.

What did you think of The Force Awakens? I’m going to do a post after Christmas touching on it and nostalgia in general but basically I enjoyed it. I liked it but didn’t love it I guess – I thought it felt too familiar and nostalgic at times. It sets up Episodes VIII and IX well though and hopefully they will be more original.

Great Southern Land

Today was Australia Day, which is Australia’s official national day. It’s a public holiday and commemorates the arrival of Captain Phillip and the First Fleet in 1788. For most people it is an opportunity to display our national pride and you’ll often see flags in windows and people wearing green and gold at barbecues and lunches. It’s a patriotic day that brings unity despite our many differences: the one day where we are just Australian.

For me Australia Day holds a slightly different meaning. I am proudly Australian but my parents were originally English; they lived in Australia for more than 15 years before becoming Australian citizens themselves. Witnessing their citizenship ceremony was one of the proudest moments of my life. But perhaps because of that I have always preferred a quieter observation; while other people attend festivals I prefer to take time thinking about what Australia means to me, how far we’ve come and still have to go.

chris by the harbour

Something I always do around this time is to look back through some of our old photographs and I found this one earlier. I can’t believe it but it must be almost 20 years old now; I still remember some of that day, near the harbour and the botanic gardens. We had ice cream afterwards. And yes, that is me in the picture. I was 4 years old. Ugly little bugger, wasn’t I? 😉

Of all the photographs we have this is one of my favourites, not just because it captures the memories I still have of that day but also because it’s like a snapshot of how I see Australia. To me Australia isn’t a nation in the sense that America is; we’re much younger and don’t have the same history and culture behind us. We’re still growing and finding our identity and culture. That’s what I see in the photo: that I would grow, and Australia would as well.

Over the last 20 years Australia has changed a lot and it has been interesting watching those changes unfold. To be frank some of them have disturbed me, particularly as our civil liberties have unravelled, but we’ve also made progress. The apology to Indigenous Australians last year was a watershed moment in our development as a nation and raises the real possibility for reconciliation one day. That indigenous leader Mick Dodson was named Australian of the Year this year is another step towards that.

But we’re not there yet. There are still a lot of obstacles in the way and Australia Day itself is one of them. Some people think the date should be changed from January 26 so it includes all Australians and I agree; many Aboriginal Australians consider it to be “Invasion Day” and to have a national day which isn’t inclusive of the first Australians seems culturally insensitive to me and always has. Federation Day, January 1st, 1901, seems more suitable, the day we gained interdependence from Britain.

But when I think of all we’ve achieved as a young country, though – from the biggest townships to the smallest farms, from the beaches of Gallipoli to the villages of East Timor -, it makes me extremely proud. We’re a country that came about partially by accident; under other circumstances we could have been a Dutch or French settlement and if not for the American Revolution the events of our colonisation by Britain would’ve been very different. As the descendants of convicts, we’ve developed a stable democracy and are slowly moving towards becoming a republic. That is not a bad start for any country.

Today the thing I find myself thinking about the most is our landscape. That’s what I noticed most looking at that photograph, how after 20 years the harbour is still the same… the water the same brilliant blue. I think it’s something a lot of us take for granted; for many of us Australia is just there but how many of us have really seen it, have seen Kakadu or Kings Canyon? I know I hope to at some stage, to see Uluru at sunset and the ancient art in the Abrakurrie caves. I think it’s our landscape which defines our identity and it’s what I’m most grateful for.

There’s one song that always comes to mind when I think of Australia. It’s Icehouse’s Great Southern Land. I couldn’t hope for a better song to post on Australia Day. Hope you enjoy it.

Wherever you are in the world I wish you peace, hope and a Happy Australia Day. Here’s hoping one day it’ll be Happy Republic Day – a day we can all celebrate as one. 😉

We Shall Overcome

090120-F-3961R-919.jpg

If there’s one good thing about having insomnia it’s that when something happens in the world, you get to see it at the same time as everyone else. Early yesterday morning, while most Australians were still fast asleep, I experienced a moment in history I’ll never forget.

To see an African American in the White House is an amazing thing; it’s not just what it represents for the civil rights movement and how far America has come but also for disadvantaged people around the world. It’s no less than the power to dream, for a child to believe they can grow up to be anything they want to be. It’s a day I was not sure I would see and I’m happy I have.

What struck me watching the scenes from Washington was how joyous they were. When Obama won the election there was an outpouring of emotion, like all the emotions that had been restrained for so long were suddenly bursting forth. But this was different. This was like a celebration and perhaps nothing showed that better than seeing two million people huddled together in the freezing cold, waiting in anticipation. It was an amazing sight.

I’ve never seen crowds like that. The conditions must have been awful and the lines looked like they stretched back for kilometres but they weren’t ideologues or the Democratic faithful; they were just ordinary people who had been touched by Obama’s message and wanted to be a part of history. That’s what was so moving, particularly during Obama’s speech.

The other thing that was interesting was seeing the surviving members of the Tuskegee Airmen from World War II. For so long they had fought against the discrimination that had held them back, trying to prove they could fly as well as any other man, and to see them there, with the pilot of the plane that crashed into the Hudson River, for me highlighted what this moment meant. Seeing two different eras of pilots who once would have been separated by so many divisions being honoured together shows how far America has come.

Of course Obama’s election is at best a stepping stone. It doesn’t end racism; it doesn’t fulfil the dream of Martin Luther King so many years ago. Racism might never be something we can truly be free of, only marginalise. What this moment represents instead is another step forward, another step towards tolerance. And the example it sets for the rest of the world and the hope it gives to minorities is something words cannot describe. For myself, it gives me the belief that I can be more than I am, and gives me hope that one day we will have moved past some of the divisions in Australia as well.

Personally I am hopeful that Obama will be a good president. The world needs stable leadership right now and he seems to be making the right signs but he faces a difficult task with the economy and two wars. But I was impressed by his speech; I thought he struck the right balance between responsibility and optimism. I hope he will be able to bring people together and end some of the division and from an Australian point of view, I hope our relationship continues to grow. Israel & Palestine remain in my thoughts as well.

For me, though, it isn’t about that right now. It’s about this moment in time and I think it transcends your race, political persuasion or where you live in the world. There were over two billion people watching Obama’s inauguration worldwide and watching the crowds and celebrations in Washington, it again reminded me of the moon landing and the fall of the Berlin Wall, events which united all of us together as one. Right now I don’t feel like an Australian but a citizen of the world and I’m glad I was able to watch it live.

I thought I’d post a video to mark the occasion as well. During the civil rights movement We Shall Overcome became a key anthem played at rallies and festivals. I can’t think of a more appropriate song to mark the moment. This is Bruce Springsteen’s version, a tribute to Pete Seeger.

Congratulations to President Obama. Now the hard work begins.

A Piece of History

Barack & Michelle Obama

I was five years old when the Berlin Wall fell. I have few memories of it happening but I do remember some of the scenes; the crowds flooding the checkpoints, the sections finally coming down. I’ve often wondered what it must have felt like at the time, to watch history unfold.

Now I think I know.

Seeing Barack Obama win yesterday is something I will always remember. If you had asked me a year ago if I thought Obama could be elected President of the United States, I would have said no. There were too many divisions; too many obstacles to overcome. And then it happened; Obama won.

I know the election of one man changes little; there is still racism and bigotry in the world and perhaps there always will be. But it’s a step forward and what it means for African Americans and minorities around the world is something words cannot truly describe… it’s the culmination of a dream and just like the Berlin Wall, it’s a moment that will live forever.

For Australia it brings the promise that perhaps things can change here as well. I have long hoped that one day we will have come far enough to have an Aboriginal Prime Minister, that immigrants and minorities will be more readily accepted and the divisions that caused the Cronulla Riots will be healed.

Today that hope doesn’t seem as far away.

I don’t know what kind of president Obama will be but I know this moment is one I will always remember; the scenes in Chicago, the tears at rallies and on the streets. It’s a piece of history. I feel privileged to have watched it unfold.

Old Favourites

I didn’t realise it had been a week since I’d posted. Ever since I wrote my letter to Clare I’ve been a little distracted but I’m feeling better now; the emotion that it brought up is starting to settle down and I’m feeling more like myself again.

I’m working on a couple of new posts but for now I thought I’d post some of my favourite songs… some old gems a few people might have forgotten about. I enjoy new music (love Coldplay) but I’ve found myself listening to a lot of old favourites recently. I love the period leading up to the late 70s, particularly for the songwriting… it shows that a good song is timeless.

I stumbled across these videos earlier and hadn’t seen most of them before. What’s amazing is they’re still good quality; most are well over 30 years old and the audio quality in particular is very good. They’re also a wonderful throwback to their time; the hair, the clothes… it’s like looking at a piece of history.

By far my favourite is this video of Jimi Hendrix performing Purple Haze in Atlanta. The video is incredible but not as good quality as the others, so if you don’t mind that, click over to have a look. I hope you enjoy the others. I wonder what some of your old favourites are?

My favourite Fleetwood Mac song is Rhiannon and this is a great version; Stevie Nicks is almost possessed. I also found a live performance of I’m So Afraid; the video quality isn’t as good but it’s well worth watching if you’re a Mac fan.

I think this is from 1970 although I’m not sure which concert. Both Sides Now is a lovely song; it has such beautiful, simple lyrics.

Layla would make any list of my favourite songs. This version is from the ARMS Charity Concert in 1983 and has Jimmy Page and Jeff Beck with Clapton.

I blame MQ for Stairway to Heaven; she’s been a Led Zeppelin and Jimmy Page fan for years, I inherited it. I love the song and this is a great live version.

And just to confirm, yes, I am 23. But I feel much older. 🙂

The modern face of racism

<em>Racism</em> by temi00 on <em>Deviant Art</em>

Image: Racism by Temi00 on Deviant Art

Has anyone seen Lost in Translation? I’ve been catching up on some DVDs recently and I’d forgotten how good it is. I liked it at the movies but I think it plays better on DVD; it feels more intimate somehow. Bill Murray’s performance is wonderful and it’s a beautiful story.

One of the reasons I like it is the feeling of isolation in the film. Murray and Scarlett Johansson play two characters who feel increasingly isolated in Tokyo; surrounded by unfamiliar customs, they become drawn to each other. I wouldn’t say I feel isolated like that but I spent a lot of my childhood moving and the writer in me is always a little distant… I thought the film captured that feeling well, and Tokyo as well.

That’s why I was surprised when I read a past review of it on The Guardian’s website. Kiku Day is part Japanese and criticised the film as racist. She said that anti-Japanese racism formed the backbone of the film, from the jokes to the depiction of Tokyo and Japanese culture. “There is no scene where the Japanese are afforded a shred of dignity. The viewer is sledgehammered into laughing at these small, yellow people and their funny ways, desperately aping the western lifestyle without knowledge of its real meaning.”

Did we watch the same film? Where she saw a film about stereotypes and an exotic backdrop, I saw a film about disconnection; not just the disconnection between the two Americans and Tokyo but also in the direction their lives are taking. What I found interesting was the directorial style; it’s sparse and because the Japanese dialogue isn’t subtitled, it leaves viewers as disoriented as the characters. Perhaps that’s Day’s point as we see what Bob and Charlotte see, not the “real” Japan; but that doesn’t mean it’s stereotypical.

But I’ve never been to Tokyo. It looks like a beautiful city and I’d love to go there one day but obviously Day knows it better than I do. I thought Tokyo was depicted respectfully but perhaps she sees a caricature of Japanese life. I’m still not convinced, though… the film isn’t about Tokyo as much as the friendship between the characters; perhaps because of that it lacks some detail, but I don’t see anything racist in it.

After reading Day’s review I started thinking about the way race is depicted on screen. Some of my favourite actors come to mind like Denzel Washington, Lucy Liu and Zhang Ziyi, films like Crash, Monster’s Ball and To Kill a Mockingbird. But then I wondered about the films and shows I’d seen recently and with the exception of Crash, I can’t think of many which have depicted race well, particularly in Australia. The last Australian film I can remember seeing like that was Australian Rules, and before that Romper Stomper with Russell Crowe. As far as TV goes, the actors are still part of the supporting cast and are rarely very detailed; the way Indigenous Australians are portrayed is particularly troubling. Ideally a cast should be an accurate representation of our culture and it’s sad seeing such a narrow view still represented in the mainstream.

To be honest I thought we’d come further than that. It’s been 40 years since Star Trek had Uhura and Sulu, longer since To Kill a Mockingbird and In the Heat of the Night… shouldn’t we be seeing a more honest depiction of society by now or is that just naive? Perhaps the problem is as much political correctness. Racism has become such a loaded issue that people are overly sensitive to it; most people are respectful but mindful of what they say in case it’s taken the wrong way, and so for most films it makes sense to stick with a familiar cast and not make waves. I think that’s what happened with Lost in Translation. It’s a different kind of film and if you look long enough, you’ll find racism in anything, and Day saw enough to label it such. Really it’s the opposite of that but it does show how much racism is still a part of our society, the feeling it evokes.

I found this short documentary earlier and it’s a perfect example of the impact racism is still having today. It’s filmed by 17 year old Kiri Davis, who examines the importance young African American women place on colour. What stunned me was a scene recreating a 1940s experiment looking at internalised racism, where children were asked to choose between a white and a black doll and the majority chose the white doll. 60 years later it’s still the same. 15 out of 21 children said they preferred the white doll over the black, associating white with “pretty” and black with “ugly”. Worse they saw white as good and black as bad… it’s heartbreaking. No one should feel ashamed of their culture, their heritage, of who they are… but I guess it’s no surprise; how else could you feel, surrounded by such stigmatisation?

What’s so troubling is it leaves you wondering what we can do to change it and to be honest I don’t know. The problem is that racism has changed; it’s become subversive, an ideology permeating the culture that twists noble intentions to its uses. Economics, welfare, gentrification, poverty, all can be used as tools or justification for racism in the wrong hands. How many times have you heard someone say we shouldn’t donate to Africa because the money will be wasted, or that children should be removed from their parents because of poverty? It’s suggestive and almost makes sense, and that’s why it’s so dangerous.

The modern face of racism isn’t a group like the KKK or an individual. The truth is that it doesn’t have a face; it uses imagery and ideas to spread hate and often someone is not even aware of their own racism. There’s a test from Harvard which measures the difference between what we think we’re prejudiced against and what our impulses suggest. The results are very interesting; they suggest that most people have a higher level of unconscious bias than they thought. It doesn’t make someone racist but it does suggest a conditioning, which just shows how much racism surrounds us without our knowing it.

Perhaps racism is something we’ll never be completely rid of but I think the only way to start is by realising that we need to change the way we look at it. Racism has changed but we’re still approaching it like we did forty years ago; it’s not just a political issue but a personal one and unless people are willing to change the way they look at racism and themselves, nothing will ever change.

That’s why I’m still stunned by the review. Lost in Translation is a film about making connections and you’d think it’s a film that would create greater awareness of Japanese culture, not damage it… I guess Day sees it differently.

Anyway, what do you think? Do you think racism has changed? Have you ever experienced racism? If you’re interested in the IAT test there’s more about it here; I took it and it’s very interesting if you have time to check it out. And sorry for the long post! If you got this far I’ll owe you a coffee or something. 😉

A time of change

So Easter’s over for another year. It’s amazing how quickly it’s gone; I was thinking earlier that it’s hard to believe we’re almost at the end of March… the year’s gone quickly, even if it has been the earliest Easter in years.

I’ve always liked Easter. I’m more spiritual than religious but I like the sentiment that comes with the season; it’s a time of renewal and continuing life and it always makes me think of the changing seasons, the leaves starting to brown. It makes me think of where I am in my life as well and I’ve been doing a lot of that over the last few days.

I’ve been feeling like I’ve been needing a change for a while and so recently I applied for a new job. I’m hoping I’ll get it but I realised over the weekend that that’s not the only thing I’ve been frustrated about. I’ve started to feel like I’ve outgrown some of my friendships and I’m not sure how to feel; it’s natural we’d grow apart after ten years but now I’m not sure if those relationships were as important to me as I thought they were.

I also haven’t been feeling well for a few days, so I’ve had a few things on my mind. But then on Sunday everything seemed a little clearer. I guess I just realised that there was no point feeling frustrated any more; the job was out of my hands and did it really matter how I felt about my friends? Those relationships had changed but how I had felt then wasn’t any less real because the feeling had changed now. Resisting the change was stopping me from moving on and I realised I should honour how I had felt in my heart, rather than trying to recapture it.

I’ve always resisted change a little bit, like most people; we’re comfortable in the world we’ve created for ourselves and it’s scary when that world changes. But I’ve always been quick to embrace change once I’ve recognised it and it seemed apt that it should happen on Easter Sunday, right at the end of a difficult week. Maybe the universe was watching out for me.

It seems like everyone is talking about change at the moment, though, doesn’t it? The election has stirred up a lot of those feelings; even if you wanted to avoid the hype I don’t think you could, it’s everywhere. And I’m half the world away; I can’t imagine what it must be like in the US. It’s funny how “change” seems to have become the motto for this election. It’s electrified people, particularly Obama’s supporters, but you hear about change at every election; politicians promise how they’ll be different but usually it’s just a number of empty platitudes. This election is different in that a black man or a woman could become president for the first time but most of the spin is still the same.

One of my favourite songs is David Bowie’s Changes and I came across this video earlier which captures it perfectly, all the candidates wanting to be the agent of change. I thought it was so funny, particularly at the end when they all started singing the chorus! But it’s true, change really has become the theme for 2008 – but why? It’s too simple to say it’s just Bush; I’m sure Bush is a big factor but the changes being talked about are more widespread than that. It’s a number of factors coming together; the economy, housing affordability, health care, gas prices, climate change, Iraq… but are they any different to the issues normally talked about during an election? I’m a bit confused about why the whole “change” theme has caught on so much, except because the candidates are so different and foreign policy.

To be honest the way the entire election is being reported over here is starting to annoy me, though. I don’t like the way the media thinks we have a right to say who we (or should I say they) think should be president. John Howard criticised Obama in 2007 after Obama announced his presidential bid, saying al Qaeda should “pray” that Obama and the Democrats win in 2008. He was deservedly roasted for interfering but isn’t the media being hypocritical? They often talk about which candidate would be “better” for Australian interests and stories like this one on Hillary Clinton hardly seem balanced. Online Opinion even carried out a poll of the candidates Aussies would pick. I know it’s in the media’s nature to speculate but their attitude has to be influencing their reporting – and they’re already biased because of their distaste for Bush.

I think everyone has the right to an opinion on any election, whether it’s in their country or not, but it should be just that, an opinion; the media’s influencing the way Australians look at the election and therefore how we look at the US. I’m no fan of Bush but I will always be a friend of America; 9/11 was a day that changed my life and the attitude that some people have towards America now disturbs me and doesn’t all come from Bush… it says a lot about us and if we’re talking about change, that’s something I’d like to see change about us as well. Maybe this election can be a catalyst.

I think the candidates need to careful about all this talk of change. If that’s what they promise and in the end little changes, they’re setting themselves up for a backlash. But even if there is change, that doesn’t mean it will be noticeable right away; change takes time to implement and often you only see it later, looking back. As the David Bowie song says – time may change you but you can’t trace time.

So anyway that’s what I’ve been doing over Easter, making some changes. I hope you had a good Easter and I’m looking forward to getting back into the swing of posting and commenting again after a long break. And oh, if you’re a Bowie fan like I am, there’s a great clip of Bowie singing Changes live available here; just don’t blame me when it gets stuck in your head. 🙂

Are you a movie buff?

Raiders
What Classic Movie Are You?

There’s nothing I love more than a classic movie. I grew up with Errol Flynn’s The Adventures of Robin Hood, and Psycho and Citizen Kane are two of my favourites. So I loved stumbling upon this quiz earlier. It’s a fun quiz which will tell you which classic movie you’re most like.

Could this have been any better for me? I love Indy; he has my sense of humour and I love a good adventure. What’s even more incredible is I got this result just as the trailer for the new film came out. How about that for a coincidence?

Seeing Indy again has really reminded me of just how much I love movies. I love the escapism and the thrill of a good movie, of being carried away by a good story and being inspired to think about something in a new way. Movies tell us so much about life and often when I think about something from the past, I’ll think about a movie or a scene, a reminder of what I was doing at that time.

I guess that makes me a big movie buff; I can’t imagine life without movies and I’m always watching a new DVD, showing friends a few gems they didn’t know about. And I haven’t been beaten at Scene It yet either, after 20 games!

What about you? Are you a movie buff? Do you have a favourite movie? If I picked one I’d have to say Metropolis or Schindler’s List. And of course Raiders would be up there too. 😉

Be My Baby

It sucks being single on Valentine’s Day. There’s just something about being out and seeing everyone together that feels very strange. Normally I’m not someone who gets that carried away with Valentine’s Day, particularly with the commercialism, but I like the sentiment.

Whenever I think of Valentine’s Day, I start thinking of Be My Baby by The Ronettes. I grew up with a lot of 60’s music around the house, so I must have picked it up at some stage. It’s one of my favourite songs and so what better way to celebrate Valentine’s Day than to post the video? It’s a great video; you can almost see the lip-synching! Some things never change.

I was remembering my first Valentine card earlier. It would have been about 15 years ago now and was from one of my school friends. She left it in our letterbox and I can’t remember what it looked like but she made it herself and it was very sweet. We’re still friends now, after almost 20 years.

I remember that Valentine because it represents what I like most about Valentine’s Day; the innocence of love. One thing which does bug me about Valentine’s Day, though, is how a lot of people see it as a gesture, using that one day to express their feelings. It shouldn’t be just that one day; we should always want to be honest with each other… in the end it’s better to say too much than to say nothing at all.

Happy Valentine’s Day everyone! Hope you have a good one. 😉