An Election

Over the past month or so, I have been training for a marathon, not drinking, and following the election like some obsessed sports fan. I want my life back. Next Sunday I hope to have the marathon behind me, a cold beer in front of me, and the knowledge that we have a new government.

Of only one I am certain but the last means the most. I don’t know if this is the site for converts but I’m writing in the hope that if I change one decision, I’ll have doubled my vote.

I have nothing to comment as a foodie only to offer Peter Ransen’s sharp observation that Howard is a man that chucks a few sausages on the barbie and stands there like a chef. It’s people like him, Chris Sheil, Robert Corr, John Quiggin, Aussie and Big Bob, Tim Dunlop, Sedgwick, Darp, David Tiley, Saint, and many more that have both inspired me and left me scratching my head as to what I could add.

What I can add is this. I lived in Japan for 7 years and moved back here three years ago. I could spend a lifetime trying to work it out but the knowledge I have will have to do. Welcome to our possible future.

Many countries would kill for a recession like Japan’s but really it keeps going because of dedicated individuals like Subaru engineers that will spend 12-14 hours a day at work for years because they take pride in what they do. These people are the real heroes, not the bosses, not the government. What Japan’s malaise is essentially an entrenched one party state that has been dominated by the conservative side that has maintained power with a compliant media, a politicised bureaucracy, and a public that has been dulled by obsession with pop idol trivia and gadgets.

Unemployment has remained hidden from official statistics and the solution to homelessness is to drive them out of the train stations where they would sleep in their hundreds. The homeless are not kids on the lam but older men, unable to find work. They have an antiquated health system where the cure for everything is a packet of white powder and two tablets. Two broken arms would have cost me nearly ten grand were it not for private health cover and I still have a 15cm long scar on my arm. Education features a series of “escalator” private schools where kids start at private primary schools and glide their way up to the same private universities and from there the best jobs. Love rote learning and pointless testing, you’ll love Japan.

Gaijin, in public sphere, still lives up its translation of outside person. Even people who have spent much of their lives there get the “wow you can speak Japanese” like foreigners are Charlton Heston in Planet of the Apes. When they speak of we Japanese you get the feeling that there is a very exclusive monocultural and monoracial idea of that. Foreigner bashing is great sport for demagogues.

Interest rates nearly dipped below zero but housing is only affordable in the boonies and ask people about the great property bubble and negative equity. Such good times, shame it dragged down the real economy. The fraying of the social bonds is everywhere – fucked up kids, anomie, and senseless violent murders.

In fixing things the government has dragged things out ( no sort sharp shock here); made a big deal of promises of reform- only to compromise in the face of entrenched interest groups; continued with useless pork barreling; and the faithful are rallied in pointless jingoistic point scoring designed just to piss off the neighbours. The old men of the LDP have only one goal and that is to keep themselves and their bureaucratic sidekicks in power, I think Japanese people have forgotten how to boot a party out of power and cling to their fears and insecurities.

I don’t want to make this a negative plea and comparing between countries is a difficult thing. I also don’t want to bag Japan, it has many tremendous qualities that I love, but the political culture embodies its worst aspects rather than its best. Latham’s journey is forwards and upwards. Howard’s been a clinger, a liar, a panderer and someone wiht his finger on the ejector button that as soon as the shit hits the fan, he’ll be saying tata. As for the rest: Downer over Rudd, Abbot over Gillard, Costello over a vertebrate, Ruddock over the living – didn’t think so. My wife says worriedly that I’m very involved this time, so I should be, the stakes are high and its time to move.

I’ve been waiting three years to come home. Here’s hoping for a finished marathon, a cold beer, and a new government. Yoroshiku.

18 comments

  1. teddles_russ’s avatar

    Looks like we both doubled our vote. I spent time in PNG in the years before they got independence and the year after, and always thought they were better off as a Territory. Now I’m not so sure…

  2. Anthony’s avatar

    I think we’re bootstrapping but who cares. Thanks.

  3. FXH’s avatar

    on another point. are you still looking for melbourne advice? what dates? what musical tastes? are you on your own or with friends or a rugrat or anklebiter or ‘er indoors?

  4. Anthony’s avatar

    Francis

    Me and my similarly named missus-no kids, staying with a friend. Still happy for advice, leave this Wednesday night until the Wednesday after. A good grungy club/pub tip would be great – musical tastes I guess anything in the Stooges family tree very broadly speaking. Kind of in the guy at the back stage of my life. A bar! My last revelation in Melbourne we a band called the Colonial V Knees who sung “Plastic Jesus on the Dashboard of My Car”. .

    For some reason assumed you were from Adelaide, maybe I’m right. An enigma you are – I’ve got you picked as ex-doctor thrown it in to run record HiFi store writing to fill the time between customers but as we say when we assume…

    Will there be an election soundtrack? I’m a bit low on devlish cleverness. all I’ve got in my head is Liar by the Sex Pistols and Hit The Road Jack by the Tokyo Ska Paradise Orchestra.

  5. AnthonyJ’s avatar

    OK, how’s this for a deal. I promise to vote ALP in my safe ALP seat, if you also vote ALP in your (?) seat.
    Last time I was in the UK for an election they had quite a well organised system of tactical or strategic voting. Have we seen anything similar here?

  6. Anthony’s avatar

    Anthony
    I’m in a Liberal seat so safe it has airbags. I was wondering if anybody any a marginal seat wanted to do a kind of timeshare for the election.

    The voteswap thing is intriguing and I wonder how it could work here. The senate is where the voting counts and it’ll be the usual task of racist nutjobs and family first right at the bottom and then going from there. Labor will be up there of course but I like a strong senate for and the Greens have been looking out with principles in the face of alleged pragmatism. I vote below the line on the senate so it could take a while.

  7. Anthony’s avatar

    Anthony
    I’m in a Liberal seat so safe it has airbags. I was wondering if anybody any a marginal seat wanted to do a kind of timeshare for the election.

    The voteswap thing is intriguing and I wonder how it could work here. The senate is where the voting counts and it’ll be the usual task of racist nutjobs and family first right at the bottom and then going from there. Labor will be up there of course but I like a strong senate for and the Greens have been looking out with principles in the face of alleged pragmatism. I vote below the line on the senate so it could take a while.

  8. AnthonyJ’s avatar

    I realised after I posted that of course preferential voting gets rid of most of the incentive/need for strategic voting. Still, I like it because it’s a nice example of people getting together to stick it to the Tories.

  9. Anthony’s avatar

    yeah I forgot Britain had a first past the post system. Got to love our preferential system and getting the least unpopular person voted. How cool. No vote goes unheard (that’s if you do vote – disillusioned oh they’re all the same people form a queue for a slapping)

  10. s’s avatar

    Great post Anthony.
    Gentlemen like you in the blogosphere inspire *me*.
    And your upcoming endurance feat simply awes me.
    Run far and free in the marathon….

  11. Anthony’s avatar

    saint, you’re kind man, to be be honest I would have rather roasted a whole goat for a post, but in these times we have to do what we have to do.

    I’m no gentleman, the race is done by many, will be no longer than it has to be, and is costing me a bomb. There will be smiles all the way if things go well.

  12. FXH’s avatar

    For some reason assumed you were from Adelaide…Well. I’ve never been soo insulted in my life. As to the rest I’ll take it as a compliment. I think.

    If you were coming over last week I would have recommended The Espy – St Kilda, on Saturday night. The Moonee Valley Drifters (Western Swing) in front bar and The Spazzys (Ramones inspired female trio) in the Gershwin room. Celibate Rifles on next Sat. Its worth a small pilgrimage down to the Espy to pay homage. Best time is at sunset on a weekday afternoon with not too many people around and sit in the window of the front bar as the sun shines in from the west. The kitchen does good rock food well.

    Theres a few good eateries down there but a bit trendy.

    I guess its worth checking out AC/DC Lane in the city, just cos its new and while there you can check out the Cherry Bar – up the lane.

    The Cornish Arms Sydney Road Brunswick sometimes has good music and meals, mixed grill used to include ‘roo and veal. Joe Camilleri is on in the next week or so and also Dave Graney.

    The Corner Hotel is a good music venue and I think Jimmy Little is on there next week.

    Los Lonely Boys are on at the Rob Roy on Tuesday and I might even go there myself. Check out if The Joe Chindamo Trio are playing at Bennetts Lane. World class. Like to dance swing hep cat jitterbug with your arooney flim flam floozie? – try The Bendigo Hotel on Thursdays with the Pearly Shells Swing Orchestra.

    Don’t forget the Melbourne Festival is on and has lots of good stuff but a badly organised website. The details are in a .pdf on site. The Speigeltent is a great venue and will have some good acts. I’ll probably be along to see The Topp Twins.

    Got a spare two or three hours on a sunny day, to relax and be romantic? – take a ferry tour from Southgate down Yarra across docklands and ports over to Williamstown for a meal or coffee. Look over a moored Corvette minesweeper / museum at Willy wharf. Great Melbourne skyline views.

    The lanes and byways are the jewels of melbourne. Basements Discs has good music but not cheapest prices. Its in the heartland of the laneways of the beautiful Block Arcade. Basement is downstairs, has headphones, couches and reading PLUS often on Fridays around 1pm has live performances FREE by visiting artists. I’ve seen Tony Joe White, Michelle Shocked etc etc. great cafes and meals and coffee in the lanes around there. Also so a quirky small record shop upstairs near there to. A must visit. Walk through all the small lanes across town then you will discover melbourne. Saturday morning stroll down Elizabeth St and see all the motor bikes – go to Victoria Market delis.

    The Supper Club upstairs in Spring St opp. Parliament is great for night time good wine by the glass and drinky snacks. Clubbish, friendly, chairs, couches, wood panelling walls, smoking allowed.

    I dunno what else you are after. I know nothing of marathons or sport and hopefully after being civilised by melbourne you wont want to either.

    Depending what suburb you are in there are other recommendations. Best range of Asian food is at Box Hill and it hasn’t been discovered by the inner city wonks yet. Walk around the block around the shopping centre and look into all the shops before choosing. Vietnamese, Chinese, Korean, Pizza, up market /cheap all kinds.

    Use public transport and trams around city. Even very wealthy and /or famous people and public figures in Melbourne get around by tram in the city.

    You’ll stand out by your clothes but dont worry we are tolerant of people who can’t wear black. Don’t try too hard, nothing screams out Perth /Sydney / Queensland as much as shorts, thongs and a t shirt except a wannabe from another state trying to wear black – you either got it or you aint. Melbourne is an attitude arooney. I didnt mention the bookshops.

    Oh and do have a coffee at Pelligrinis or even a pasta meal at the table in the kitchen. Pelligrinis is the home of coffee in Melbourne and it reeks melbourne style. Theres better coffee in town, theres sleeker places, but no one has the gestalt like them as a place to sit at the counter and look at people in the mirror. Heres the drum. Aroudn 9:30 – 10 pm go to Supper Club for a few wines and snack, at 11pm leave and walk around the corner to the tiny tiny cupboard Paperback Bookshop, open till 12. Take books down a few doors to Pelligrinis for coffee. Melbournians will only have a long mach. but visitors can order anything.

    Enjoy it MacVouty!

  13. Anthony’s avatar

    !! FX you are a complete champion. Thank you.

  14. FXH’s avatar

    The pressure was all mine. Don’t forget the bookshops. Too many to begin. Readings, Technical Bookshop (for some immature reason everyone I know automatically refers to it as the Testicle Book Shop), a couple of crime bookshops, I love Borders in Prahran better than the Carlton one, you can grab a bunch of expensive overseas magazines and a few books and take them to the coffee shop and sit and read for hours. I often see students reading and taking notes from text books or hard to get books in there. Second Hand books I like “The Merchant of Fairness” in Whitehorse Road,Balwyn, two stories of smallrooms stacked with everything, knowledgeable staff and famous writers often hanging around. Make sure you stroll through the The Block Arcade and visit the Hopetoun Tea Rooms.

    Tell me what suburb you are staying in and I’ll do some more.Lots of good local stuff in melbourne.

  15. AnthonyJ’s avatar

    What he said. Also Books for Cooks is off Brunswick St in Fitzroy, and while you’re in that area you might want to go round the corner and get some Tunisian cookware and ingredients at Maison de Tunisie (24 Smith Street, Collingwood). There was also a good Breton creperie (Breizoz) further up Smith St, but I have an idea that it has gone to Williamstown. But strolling up Smith St is not a bad way to pass the time. Further up Smith St, paella in the Matador Room at the Robert Burns Hotel (don’t ask) is a must.
    Back to Brunny St there’s Grub St bookshop and Polyester (twice). Round the corner on Johnston St there’s Casa Iberica for all your Spanish and Latin American ingredients and cookware. Also some tapas bars, but that’s so early 90s.
    In Nth Carlton (my neck of the woods), Bistro La Luna and the Kent Hotel have got pretty decent food (the former is particularly good for fancy sausages), and there are good cafes on Rathdowne St with a more relaxed atmosphere than Lygon, Brunswick or Smith Sts. There’s a rambling 2nd hand bookshop, Alice’s Bookshop. Also me taking the kids for a walk several times a day. Give me a call if you’re exploring Carlton Nth/Carlton/Fitzroy, and my son will show you where to find the best sticks which look like guns, and my daughter will demonstrate how several kilos of tan bark can be concealed in a nappy. wOOt.
    If you want to spend serious money on a meal, I recommend Vue de Monde, Ezard at Adelphi, Radii. Tons more of course, but those are ones I can personally vouch for.

  16. AnthonyJ’s avatar

    Can’t believe I talked about Smith St without mentioning the butcher Jonathan’s of Collingwood – 122 Smith Street. And Nth Carlton without mentioning Enoteca Sileno – 21 Amess Street.

  17. Anthony’s avatar

    FX, I’ll be in Clifton Hill. Both of you, thanks greatly. I’ll be having no brook with people here calling Melbournians a bunch of stuck up cappucino (this is long mack -it is a truck no?) drinking skivvy wearers.

    I’ll be having sweet dreams on the plane tonight.

    Ooh yes the Miss Fits party, couple of soft drinks and then an early night wouldn’t kill me (pleeeeas no don’t let me stagger out of a Taxi wearing a Latham poster at Frankston at 8am on Sunday).

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