Saturday, July 04, 2009

This Is Not The Trip


I do plan to bore you mercilessly in the coming while with detailed posts about each city I went to in ten weeks of travelling. But not just yet.

I've been back in Melbourne for three weeks now, and you will hear about that first.

P.S. There was a lot of saved TV to get through, as you'll notice.

Sunday 14 June

Monday 15 June
Back to work, my rostered shift at CASA House. In the evening, my sister arrived from Hobart to spend two weeks with us while she did some additional forecasting training (she's a meteorolgist, a forecaster at the Bureau of Meteorolgy), so we had family/travel chats. Then downloaded the new episode of True Blood. Watched it.

Tuesday 16 June
3CR Tuesday Breakfast Show

  • Rachel spoke to Vicki Fairfax and Jayne Lovelock about the Emerge Festival, celebrating Melbourne's multicultural diversity as part of Refugee Week. Vicki spoke about the Love Burma Love Freedom exhibition.
  • Steph spoke with Joe Lorback, activist with the Melbourne Anti-Intervention Action Collective about the latest on the intervention and the 2 year anniversary rally on 20 June.
  • Jess spoke with Andrew Scott, academic and author of Politics, Parties and Issues in Australia.
  • I spoke with Dr Caroline de Costa about charges being laid in Queensland against a woman and her boyfriend for 'procuring an abortion' using misoprostol. Caroline is an obstetrician based in Cairns and was one of the first doctors there to get the right to dispense medical abortion drugs. We didn't talk directly about the case, but focused on some of the issues it raises for abortion law reform in Queensland (see her previous Crikey article about law reform here), and the ongoing 'controversial' context in which medical abortion appears on the public radar in Australia.
Shugo Tokumaru - Rum Hee - Rum Hee
Tenniscoats - Rolling Train - Tan-Tan Therapy

Spent the rest of the day at 3CR planning that week's Stick Together show, reading up on the proposed Building Inspectorate, begging unionists to talk to me in the midst of tizz about introduction of the legislation in parliament the next day. Went home to catch up on Dollhouse. It's still really good, you guys.

Wednesday 17 June
At 12.30pm, interviewed Dave Noonan, National Secretary of the CFMEU Construction Division. Cobbled rest of Stick Together show around that. Finished with an hour to spare before the 6pm Community Radio Network broadcast. The synopsis went like this:
On today’s show, we get reaction to the Rudd Government’s tabling in Parliament of draft laws for a Building Industry Inspectorate to replace the Australian Building and Construction Commission. The ABCC’s coercive powers over construction workers will be retained, and we hear from Dave Noonan, National Secretary of the CFMEU Construction Division. Before that, we hear from the author of a new book looking at the union and community campaign that brought the Rudd Government into office. Kathie Muir has written the first history of the campaign, and her book is called, Worth Fighting For: Inside the Your Rights At Work Campaign.
The podcast went like this.

Thursday 18 June
Worked at CASA during the day. In the evening, went to the Corner Hotel to see Deerhunter. They looked much younger than I expected. (I suppose being ignorant of their - to my mind - extreme youth probably means I should read more music articles. But I was really struck by it. I had just assumed from listening to their music that they were, you know, mature. But they were quite endearingly not.) Google has since informed me that Bradford Cox is only one year younger than me... but he's just a kid! Anyway, it was their second Melbourne gig, and they were set loose from usual performance boundaries because an organiser had gamely told them to 'do whatever you want'. So it started pretty tight - they knew their stuff backwards and it still burst with vigour - got progressively looser as the night went on, almost broke apart, got adorably hilarious. This review acquaints you with how things proceeded. Somehow, it wasn't obnoxious at all. It was delightful. I can't remember precisely all the stage-talk that made me smile, but it really did. One bit I remember happened after Bradford Cox had been by himself doing Don't Fear The Reaper for ten minutes or so, had tired of it and so had stopped, then became uncomfortable with being on stage all alone. He went almost shyly to the microphone: "Please, come back out here, you guys."

Friday 19 June
Worked at CASA in the morning, then went to 3CR to get briefed about some radio training I'd deliver to Collingwood College students the following Monday, Tuesday, Wednesday. Met Leah and Guy for coffee, as Leah was about to fly away travelling. Went home to watch Silent Witness. Then Caprica.

Saturday 20 June

Damages Season 2. Then, Guy's Alcopops-themed birthday party. I chatted with Lauren's boyfriend Ben about Caprica, Battlestar Galactica, etc. Other people had conversations about Lady GaGa. I don't take part in these discussions yet, as I still haven't listened to any of her music. There are some foolish quotes out there, though. So I haven't yet moved beyond Guy's assessment that "she doesn't quite understand the concepts she's playing with", but it appears he may have. Anyway, at around 1am, the dancefloor kicked off, which was my cue to flee, as all my non-dancing, always-find-me-in-the-kitchen-at-parties type friends are currently overseas. COME BACK.

Sunday 21 June
We all went with my sister to Mordialloc to visit our grandma. On the way home, my brother and I got ourselves dropped off in the city to go see a film. We saw I Love You, Man. It was as you'd expect, as in, quite okay, as in, hey, I like to run with that post-Freaks and Geeks set and so does Terry Gross from NPR's Fresh Air and that relaxes me about enjoying it. When it was over, we decided to see Star Trek. Which was AWESOME. Well, it was.

Monday 22 June
Day 1 of delivering radio training to Collingwood College middle school students. I know they thought I was lame. They were astute in that way. Went home to watch more of Damages Season 2.

Tuesday 23 June
3CR Tuesday Breakfast Show
  • Rachel's interview with Azadeh, an Iranian theatre studies graduate and law reform campaigner in Tehran with the One Million Signatures campaign, about how the group is using street theatre as a way of highlighting injustices in Iranian law.
  • I spoke to Lyn Morgain from the ALSO Foundation about the Rural Forum on issues for GLBTIQ people in rural settings.
  • Steph spoke to Dr Shiv Chopra, a Health Canada whistleblower, about the food saftey issues raised in his book Corrupt to the Core. He would speak that night at the Green Building, 60 Leicester Street, Carlton.
  • Steph spoke to Rachel from The Share Hood, a neighbourhood resource sharing initiative and workshop.
Bachelorette - The National Grid - My Electric Family
Grizzly Bear - Two Weeks - Veckatimest
Aleks and the Ramps - Destroy The Universe With Jazz Hands - Midnight Believer

LISTENING Tuesday June 16-Tuesday June 23. says this week was spent in the company of:
Aleks and the Ramps, Midnight Believer
CocoRosie, Coconuts, Plenty of Junk Food
Bachelorette, My Electric Family
Matteah Baim, The Laughing Boy
and some The Mayfair Set and Get Back Guinozzi !

The rest of Tuesday was spent training kids in radio. Then burritos with Guy? I think so.

Wednesday 24 June
Final day of training Collingwood College kids in radio. We had them out on Smith Street interviewing John Clarke and other local folk. And they got their podcasts edited and finished in time, which had been a worry. Farewell, young people.

Thursday 25 June
Worked at CASA, then met with Guy and Lauren for long enough to witness the handover of Lauren's birthday present to Guy... A SLANKET. I only learned of the existence of these/the excitement they cause, when I got back to Melbourne and saw the late-night TV ad. In response to which I thought, "Hmm, my uppers arms DO get cold when I'm attempting to read under the doona... but perhaps this points to me being more of a Doona Suit than a Slanket kind of girl?" I've since looked at the Doona Suit, though, and it is NOT what I thought it would be. It's not even all-in-one! FAIL. Anyway, at the time I still didn't fully appreciate the Slanket's cultural significance, and so was not perhaps enthusiastic enough with my 'ooooh, beige' as Lauren presented it to Guy:
But then I caught up with 30 Rock. In which a Slanket features in a joke that made me laugh so much, I threw up. (This outcome was doubly pleasing to me as, in a previous 30 Rock episode, retaining the capacity to laugh so hard you throw up had been underlined as desirable.) Anyway, it took me fully twenty minutes to regain composure from the laughing fit, and twenty further minutes to recover from my spluttering, out-of-control attempts to repeat the line in question out loud to my brother. Impossible, it turns out.

Now, I don't want to ruin the immense joy of this one sentence for anyone. But I'm going to type it anyway. Because, COME ON. It made me throw up:
"Lemon, isn't there a Slanket somewhere you should be filling with your farts?"
Aaah, I like it when people understand couch.

Anyway, it's still Thursday, so after I left Lauren and Guy, I made my way to Carlton to meet Nicole and Bree for the preview screening of Balibo. Director Robert Connolly introduced the film, and talked about having just returned from Dili where it was screened for the cast and crew there. He said it had been strange to screen a film in which the current President of East Timor is depicted as a charismatic 25-year-old rebel leader, especially when José Ramos-Horta was also in the audience for the Dili screening. Connolly related how people cheered at some of Ramos-Horta's scenes, including Ramos-Horta. Now, I had no idea of Ramos-Horta's part in the Balibo story. Perhaps it is something I should have known. The film is based on Jill Jolliffe's book, and as the film's opening credits notified me of this, I felt bad that I hadn't read it. We've had her on the Breakfast Show a few times to talk about modern East Timor (the assassination attempt on Ramos-Horta for example) and I always feel guilty when I don't pay enough attention to the work guests have done. Actually, I think we had her on for the Balibo inquest and the Living Memory Project too. Damn! Anyway, it looks like a revised edition of the book is coming out, with a launch at Readings on August 13.

Getting back to the film itself, it begins with an East-Timorese woman, Juliana, travelling to Dili to give evidence at the Commission For Reception, Truth and Reconciliation in East Timor. Just FYI, this commission's findings and its cases for prosecution were massively undermined by the subsequent setting up of the Indonesia-Timor Leste Commission of Truth and Friendship. The latter's galling shortcomings are outlined in an open letter here, and in this report, Too Much Friendship, Too Little Truth. But anyway, I was watching a film. And I was hoping the commission being depicted in these early scenes was the first one (it was, according to the Balibo press kit). Anyway, Juliana speaks to the investigator about the massacre she witnessed as a child on the Dili Wharf on the day in 1975 when the Indonesian army invaded the city. She recalls seeing a man on the wharf, Roger East, who had been staying at her father's hotel. So the film takes us to Darwin earlier in 1975, where we meet Anthony LaPaglia's Roger East. He goes fishing, drinks beer, and goes to work where he's told that a young man in green fatigues has been waiting to see him since before the office opened.
Roger East: "Who is he?"
Co-worker: "He says his name is José Ramos-Horta."
Roger East: "Who?"
As you can guess, this lack of recognition gets a rather shocked laugh from the audience, and neatly communicates that we will be journeying through substantially different times.

As Ramos-Horta, Oscar Isaac is, as aforementioned, disarmingly charismatic. He's turned away at the office but finds East later on the pier eating fish and chips. You are won over by Ramos-Horta pretty easily in this fish and chip scene, and maybe I won't detail it because, you know, it's pleasurable. You might want to see it. Basically, he wants Roger East - a former foreign correspondent - to come to Dili to run the East Timor News Agency, and he needs a quick decision as flights out of Darwin to Dili are likely to be stopped in the next few days, what with the Indonesians advancing and all. Anyway, they talk, disagree and so forth. East thinks Ramos-Horta should be looking for a younger journalist, not someone who is 'past it' like him. Ramos-Horta says they've had younger journalists from Australia in East Timor already. Five in particular. They'd disappeared four weeks earlier and the Australian Government didn't seem to care much, etc. East does some digging, his interest piqued, and agrees to go to Dili if Ramos-Horta will get him full access to investigate the fate of the Balibo Five. The film flashes between East's journey to East Timor and that of the Balibo Five, and we're off. There is annoying stuff at the Dili hotel run by Juliana's father, bonding between the Australians and the child Juliana, pfft, but the film does well in mapping the various motivations the journalists had for being there - with Channel 7's team (Greg Shackleton, Gary Cunningham, Tony Stewart) arriving first, pursued by Channel 9's Malcolm Rennie and Brian Peters who are playing catch-up after an incensed Kerry Packer sends them in to prevent a Channel 7 exclusive on the invasion. They are confoundingly oblivious and self-involved to begin with - seeming not to register that what's happening might matter a fair bit to the people it's happening to - but eventually pay enough attention to the seriousness of what is going on. An example of this 'growth' comes when Shackleton's team reaches a Falintil garrison near the Indonesian front line. The garrison leader suggests that maybe they shouldn't dally as things there are tense. To which the Shackleton character replies, "Great. That's what we're after." I was like, DUDE, things being 'tense' means people could die. You're intruding into a precarious situation and taking up the time of the small number of guys who are all that stand beween a fledgling nation and the Indonesian Army, and they need to be ready to fight if things kick off. Check yourself... MATE. However, bombs raining down on them and a night spent sheltering with East Timorese villagers seems to open their eyes to the bleeding obvious, ie. the Indonesians are invading, people will be killed, all hopes of an independent East Timor dashed, and the international community is doing nothing about it. They are moved. It is so white. I mean, it's fine that they are moved, it's to be expected. It just made me squirm a bit - like, oh right, so now that they've discovered they have feelings about injustice, their feelings matter and should go on record in a piece to camera. I mean, I suppose that was good, really. And on the whole I think the film does well with such discomfiting aspects - yes, they behave very whitely and it took them a while to get it, and while we see that there are better informed and directly affected people who should be the voices we listen to on this story, the privileged weight that Australian reporting would carry is what we're stuck with. The film smoothes our hackles on this point. And eventually both news teams work together towards the aim of documenting the invasion itself as "proof of a violation".

Similar discomfiting moments arise in the parallel story of Roger East's pursuit of the truth about the Balibo Five. He, accompanied by Ramos-Horta, is pursuing a story about the fate of five white guys while the Indonesian army advances towards Dili. Sidenote: it's kind of amazing to see that it took actual walking through rural wilderness behind enemy lines for 14 hours to get to the site of the story. The thing is, at one point they literally walk through a landscape scattered with East Timorese corpses. So, why are they not the story? How is the Balibo Five's story more important than theirs? It's a constant question. And one that leads to a breaking point between Roger East and José Ramos-Horta. They brawl in the swimming pool of an abandoned church mission school, with East nearly drowning Ramos-Horta and memorably calling him a little shit. He calls José Ramos-Horta a little shit! Again, different times. Roger East's position is that getting to the bottom of the Balibo Five story is the only way what's happening to East Timor is going to matter internationally. As an answer to the film's constant question, it's maybe not enough. I don't think we as viewers should be satisfied with it, even if the film doesn't really move beyond it. But more on that later. So Roger East continues his trek and reaches Balibo, and we flash between what he finds, and what happened on the day the Balibo Five were killed. These scenes are dealt with excellently, and we watched them with horror. The principle point is that the Balibo Five were not collateral damage in the confusion of battle. They were trapped. They identified themselves as journalists from Australia, and were then murdered. And what they daringly filmed - which I have decided to hope was really what they managed to capture on film - was burnt with their bodies.

Returning to Dili - after a classic crappy bit where the local brown person draws fire away from the white person so that he can escape - Roger East sets about staring into his fish dinner and being sad. Until José Ramos-Horta comes by with witnesses to the Balibo killings who've come forward after hearing of East's quest. Not to deliver everything your news story needs on a platter or anything, Roger, but maybe you could take a break from your feelings and interview the witnesses (sorry about the snarking - it's just weird how frequently the film makes its central heroic Australian characters so very very annoying. Get a grip! You are not dealing with nearly as much stuff!). The interviews are done, and it's critically important that they happened at all - and that East filed the story - because the invasion of Dili is upon them, so we get to the scenes on Dili Wharf that Juliana was recounting to the Truth and Reconciliation Commission at the beginning of the film. We see the Dili Wharf massacre, and what happens to Roger East, and I have to say, the way it's done is LAME. Awkward visual metaphors involving fish and his repeated declarations that "I'm Australian". But why does that matter? Look around. What about everybody else? The final scene has Juliana in tears after recounting the horrors she saw, and the investigator saying a line that clanged for me as pretty insensitive scripting. He said, "Roger East was a very generous man, wasn't he?" And I was like, well, yeah. Credit him, of course. He did well. But she's talking about a day on which her dad died, a lot of people died, and to make a point that Roger East generously gave of himself... it felt odd. And then the investigator asks if Juliana can come back tomorrow to give more testimony, and she says she has decades worth of stories to tell, this was just one. But, you know, we won't be in the cinema to hear about any of the others.

So, the film ended on a note that made me bristle a bit, but I think it was mostly good. Before the end credits, we get an overview of José Ramos-Horta's time in exile as an advocate for East Timor, and the cheering crowds when he returned. And it's best to end there, I suppose, before we get to uncomfortable compromises post-independence, and so forth. A few names jumped out at me as the credits rolled. One was Alex Tilman, an East Timorese activist and actor who was in the ABC series, Answered By Fire. I saw him speak in 2006 at a forum with Vannessa Hearman, when he was a representative for Fretilin in Australia. In Balibo, he's listed as playing a Falintil driver or something, and I admit I didn't notice him when I watched the film. Another name was Jose Belo, who is listed as having played the camera operator recording Juliana's commission testimony. If it's the Jose Belo I'm thinking of, he's the editor of Tempo Semanal, an independent newspaper in East Timor. I thought it good that such an important figure in East Timorese journalism should be part of a film about Australian journalism and East Timor. And then I thought, hold on, how important do you have to be - and how much time do you have to spend as the man who gets Australian journalists up to speed on East Timor - for there to be more than a tiny part in a film about your country? And then I thought, hold on, isn't Jose Belo facing jail for criminal defamation as alleged by East Timor's Justice Minister? Where is President Ramos-Horta on that, I wondered. Thankfully, Ramos-Horta has made public statements against the defamation charges. So, phew. Not awkward for running into each other at film premieres and such.

That's pretty much all the thoughts I had about Balibo. Bree thought its style was 'too Hollywood'. I didn't really get to pursue with her what she meant by that, but I think it had something to do with the film's weakest moments, which were: 1) the kneeling over a dead body and screaming "NOOOOOOO", 2) the aforementioned problems with the Roger "I'm Australian" East wharf scene, with that whole mess about fish swimming upstream and a stretch for poetic meaning. But disregarding those, it's pretty good. Anyway, it's the opening night film at MIFF this year.

Friday 26 June
Worked at CASA. Didn't go to Mum Smokes as I'd intended. Just stayed home and watched Silent Witness (the one where they went to Zambia. Which was very shit. Silent Witness shouldn't be shit.)

Saturday 27 June
Didn't go to CastleTones as I'd intended. Watched Willow. It wasn't as good as I remembered. In fact, it wasn't good at all. I thought all the heroic red-head casting by Ron Howard was a nice touch, though. Then watched The Bad News Bears (the original). I had fond memories of this film, with kids smoking and cussing and whatnot. But there wasn't as much of that as I thought. Finally, watched Synecdoche, New York. Aaah, good. What a relief, I liked it very much. Charlie Kaufman makes good thingy.

Sunday 28 June
We decided to begin a dangerous course of action today. The Wire.

Monday 29 June
Felt sick, so didn't go into work. Ethernet cable broke, so didn't organise guests for the next morning's Breakfast Show. Just stayed in bed watching The Forsyte Saga (2002 version). Then it was time for more of The Wire. Just as I feared, it turns out I love The Wire too unhealthily. So I didn't get a lot of sleep before I went in to 3CR on Tuesday morning. Everybody, SHUT UP ABOUT IT. DO NOT TELL ME ANYTHING.

Tuesday 30 June
3CR Tuesday Breakfast Show
All my fellow co-hosts were away, so I did the show by myself. Lack of internet on Monday meant I didn't get interviews, so rebroadcast old recordings.
  • heard again the speech by Rachel Johnson from the International Solidarity Movement about what she saw in Gaza after Operation Cast Lead. Replayed in light of the Red Cross report into the humanitarian situation in Gaza 6 months on.
  • heard again the speech by Jeff Halper, coordinator of the Israeli Committee Against House Demolitions - an organisation that works to stop the destruction of Palestinian homes in the occupied West Bank. Replayed in light of Israeli Defence Minister Ehud Barak's visit to the US to present his 'settlement freeze' plan.
  • heard again from Antony Loewenstein, author of Blogging Revolution, speaking about what he found when researching his book about the power and limitations of web-based dissent. Replayed because he talked about Iran/web stuff.
  • played Rachel's interview about sea piracy in Somalia, with Dr Carolin Liss, a researcher at the Asia Research Centre at Murdoch University in Perth, who completed a PhD on piracy.
Grand Salvo - Needles - Soil Creatures
Dirty Projectors - Cannibal Resources - Bitte Orca
Miike Snow - Animal - Miike Snow

LISTENING Tuesday June 23-Tuesday June 30. says this week was spent in the company of:
Dirty Projectors, Bitte Orca
Deerhunter, Microcastle
Grand Salvo, Soil Creatures
Miike Snow, Miike Snow
and some The Bats and Tahiti Boy & The Palmtree Family

The rest of the week is mostly The Wire, a few meetings at 3CR, and more of The Wire. Yep, unhealthy.


Guy said...

Can I just say that the 'Slanket' *does nothing*. You're still cold when you wear it, and when you reach for the remote control (its primary selling point), it falls off your chest. It also seems HIGHLY flammable.

Elanor said...

Maybe you're cold because you're not using it properly. You should be filling it with your farts!