A notepad for a mind

Peruse at your own discretion.

Friday, December 11, 2009

Wild Things: I Just Wanted to Say...

Spike Jonze's version of “Where the Wild Things Are” was one of the most adorable, heart-warming movies I’ve seen in a long time. It totally encapsulated the sheer bliss of childhood, while maintaining an underlying air of maturity and insight into more complex, darker aspects of existence. The simplicity of the plot allowed for focus to be drawn to other aspects, and combined with stunning cinematography, rang true to Maurice Sendak's beautifully illustrated original text.

Target audience of the film is unclear; this film is by no means a work created for children, nor is the plot an intricately woven string of stories designed to satisfy an adult mind alone. Rather, it is a unique work of art embodying the little part of everyone that we never truly grow out of.

Wild creatures and unrestrained expression of freedom all through the heart of a little boy (with brilliant casting of boisterous Max Records in this role) create a genuine warm fuzzy feeling. And with an energetic soundtrack by Karen O and Carter Burwell to boot. Truly a fabulous adaptation of a small but significant story deeply embedded within my memory.

Friday, October 9, 2009

Advance Australia Fair?

Apparently, Australia is a racist country. Last time I checked, I had nothing against anyone of any ethnicity different to mine. No - wait, that was a lie; I've never felt the need to check, to pause and think: was that a little bit racist? I'll admit to making stereotype-based comments of all kinds in a vain attempt at humour (if it's funny, it's not offensive. Right?), but I don't believe I've ever genuinely felt negative thoughts stemming from physical or cultural differences between myself and another person.

And then a reunion of an old television show came around, and brought back elements of the past that are not supposed to reoccur in history. The skit I'm referring to (and I use that term loosely) is up on YouTube, God help us, and the offense was taken at the "blacking up" of 5 white Australians with professions in the medical stream in order to convey the members of the Jackson 5. A judge on the red faces panel, Harry Connick Jr was beyond displeased at the airing of this act, and negotiated an apology during the ad break.

What irks me most about this is not that it was aired. Networks screw up, "entertainment" crosses the line, and the public thrive on it. God forbid life should be perfect and boring and the whingers not have anything to whinge about. The thing that perplexes and shocks me is the immense difference in responses between Australian and American audiences. According to the polls floating around everywhere, it seems a whopping three quarters of our population did not find this skit racist.

Once again, I must admit, upon watching this skit when it was aired and seeing the headlines in the paper, I could not figure out what about it was racist. Sure, they painted their faces black, but they're white men trying to fill a role. Surely actors can do that; white men have played characters of African-American decent before. Sadly, like most of the 75% who didn't brand the act racist (I assume), I was ignorant to the history behind such acts. American History was an elective subject all those years ago at school, but not one that I chose; and I've never felt the need to wiki or google "racism" or topics related to it.

Does such ignorance make one racist? I understand that this was a racist act, now that I know the history behind it (for a brief explanation, see Justin Hamilton's blog, 4th paragraph http://justinhamilton.com.au/node/55) but I feel there's a difference between those who have negative attitudes towards people of different ethnicity, and those who simply haven't been properly educated. Is it fair to call us a racist nation? Personally, I'd say Australians are more stupid than racist, blunt though that statement is. For a country that's supposed to be multicultural and okay with it, it seems 75% of the population lack the intelligence to judge such things. The men who took part in the Jackson Jive act claim that their intentions did not lean towards racism, and they are respected men of the community with highly important professions. And yet, these people so pivotal to society manage to unintentionally offend like this. Maybe it's time to make study of such elements of American history a compulsory part of the high school curriculum - at least then the younger generations would have some idea.

I can see how wrong the act was. Having a "bit of fun" is no justification for such things, and I do strongly regret that this was allowed to air on a show broadcast so widely.

However, I do not think we, as a nation, are racist. Generalisation, after all, is a cause and product of the problem. If to be Australian really is to fit that stereotype, then it's not where I want to be. Though, there are worse first world nations in which one could exist. 18 percent of Americans believe the sun revolves around the Earth (http://www.politico.com/blogs/bensmith/0508/Things_Americans_believe.html). Further reading of polls of the American people reveals 10% of Americans think Obama is the Anti-christ (http://www.outsidethebeltway.com/archives/fringe_views_not_so_fringe/), a slim majority believe military action is the way to achieve peace, 28% believe school boards should have the right to fire gay teachers, and 65% of Americans don't think blacks and other minorities should get preferential treatment to improve their position, though 87% believe all Americans should have an equal opportunity to succeed (http://www.realclearpolitics.com/lists/8-american-beliefs). Yet all the people I’ve ever met originating from that land have shown me nothing more than absolute kindness.

No one person I've ever asked can define what it is to be Australian. With current affairs programs stamping "Un-Australian" in big red letters over every incriminating article of media they can find and put on television, it's understandable. I can't speak on behalf of Australia - why other people view things they way they do is beyond me. Blacking up aside, that skit really was less entertaining than the burping act before it. Also, if you were to look at the comments on the video on YouTube, you'd notice there’s even a small percentage of Americans (not necessarily fair-skinned) who found the Jackson Jive act funny.

Go figure.

Thursday, July 30, 2009

Review - "Ready For This?" Album, Tim Minchin, 2009.

(Because I don't want to start uni work yet.)

Whether you're looking for a laugh, ready to rock, or searching for a soulful song to sing along to, this album will not fail to impress.

Minchin has done it again, his new album replete with intricate piano backing, an array of musical styles, and soaring vocals that have only improved since his last album. While maintaining the high standard of his prior works, Minchin has enhanced his recordings here with vocal harmonies, a four-piece band and string quartet to make this album a thoroughly satisfying musical experience. His comedy is top-notch, with elaborate word-play in Confessions, irony in I Love Jesus and The Good Book, climactic rhythm in the beat-poem Storm (whose resolution leaves a listener in momentary awe), and the often socially-aware silliness of Confessions and Youtube Lament; making this the must-have musical comedy album of 2009.