Thursday, November 06, 2008

Corporate Sydney

Previously on world class I have portrayed Sydney as a truly world-class city, but I did so in ignorance of the incredibly vibrant and creative corporate sector that is even now establishing itself, hive-like, at Macquarie Park. The electorate that so faithlessly rejected John Howard at the last Federal Election would surely have remained blue if only the workers resided near where they labour to improve on civic perfection.

Truly, the lunch breaks at my new daycare for adults provide prismatic insights into Sydney's collective personality, which fragments along the age-old lines of masters and servants. Fortunately for the servants, the recent notion of "contractor" provides good remuneration and little risk to one's creative mojo. Indeed, the workplace is really a place to discuss just how world-class the Australian rugby league team has become and other forms of sublimated masculinity. It is a place of rare beauty, and its efficiency is even rarer. One only hopes it is funded by foreign currency so that the weak dollar does not imperil the opportunity to consume world-class products.

Monday, June 12, 2006

There is a town in South Ontario


Toronto is a world class city. It creditably puts a great deal of effort into world class fare (the World's tallest tower, the Hockey Hall of Fame) while failing dismally at a discipline not worth succeeding in. Its downtown area, coopted for so many Hollywood films, is similarly crap, as is its Greektown, where the restaurants aren't even called Piraeus or Agape, but The Greek Place and Time for Greek. It has no inner suburbs as such, just Downtown and a gridded sprawl. Yet this is great place. People are very friendly. It feels like a considerably smaller place, people are interested in each others and in travellers and everyone seems happy. The University of Toronto is perhaps the World's most impressive truly broad-based metropolitan university, with a beautiful and functional campus.

Simcoe/Port Rowan

Were Simcoe and Port Rowan cities, they would be world class cities. The size of the towns can best be expressed in Tim Horton'ses (a doughnought and dripolator coffee joint founded by a hockey star who died in a car crash... the food is pure Canadiana), Simcoe having three and Port Rowan none. Downtown Simcoe is designated by a sign marking it so. There are large numbers of Caribbean and Mexican fruitpickers around in June. In Port Rowan, Mexican Mennonites can be seen walking home from their fields. These German-speaking people work in Ontario in the summer and Mexico in the winter and the women wear their traditional long-sleeved dresses and scarves. The friendliness of people in these towns puts even Toronto to shame.


London, Ontario, is a world class city in a way its namesake could never be. Its finest feature is the University of Western Ontario, with the most beautiful campus on Earth. Australian universities would die even for the nouveau buildings built in sympathetic hues to the older Oxfordian touches. A true gem.

Sunday, June 04, 2006

The subject of so many dreams

New York City is a world class city.

So elusive is the essence of New York's greatness that it doesn't even engage in many of the fields upon which the world class claims of other cities lie. Coffee, for example. Weather too. The four days I have been here consisted of two sweltering and humid nightmares that went well into the night followed by forty hours of various degrees of deluge.

Tuesday, May 30, 2006

The news has come to Harvard

Cambridge, Massachussetts is a world class place. The trains are cute, that's for sure. They reminded me of the very oldest London Underground lines. The streets look like the newer areas of English university towns and the buildings are straight out of 'The Boy Who Could Fly.' The few graduate students I have met in the Harvard Classic Department (from which I write) have shown the twin problems of being stressed about finishing their work and being stressed about the value of their work. It's rather cute.

My final days in LA were good fun. Walked down Santa Monica Boulevard to the beach (about 15km, through Beverley Hills). No mugging. Went to a non-descript Middle Eastern restaurant; pretty mediocre, and the price adds up. Also saw a Klimt exhibition, consisting of paintings reclaimed from the Austrian government (having been requisitioned by the Nazis) at the County Museum. The American art was good too. Saw Koreatown; it's the rebranding of an area where a lot of damage was done in the Rodney King riots. A lot of Korean tourists hanging out there! There is hope for the Fitzroy Gardens' miniature Tudor village yet.

Saturday, May 27, 2006

The Other Other Side of Summer

Los Angeles is a world class city. I was certain from the moment I saw the US Customs and Border Protection Service (?) describing itself as 'a world class law enforcement service' at immigration.

Everyone thinks I am gay, including gay guys and girls I am hitting on. A number of misconceptions have been quashed. For one, having seen a variety of corn-fed Americans in England, I have realised that Angelenos brown, white and black are largely shorter than me. It is true that LA Asians have achieved or exceeded height parity with their cohabitants, but that's pretty short.

Next, Angelenos are generally not fat. Taking the train (after a shuttle bus) into and out of the city to Hollywood, the relatively poor commuters were almost entirely well fit. The only particular concentration of fat people I have seen was in the Mission de Los Angelos de la Reina so on and so on puebla theme church on the site of the old Chinatown in the city. These presumably middleclass Latino families were pretty tubby, kids especially. I'm pretty sure the parents had me spotted as an overfriendly Irish priest, so I couldn't quiz them on their diet. I saw a freeway mural nearby with aspirational kids playing in a sort of zero sum ascent of man, two Latinos, two whites, two blacks and an Asian, which I would say would be about an accurate spread for LA County. The relocated Chinatown is the biggest and most Westernised Chinatown I have ever seen (I got some pho at a Vietnamese restaurant with some kind of capsicum or unpickled jalepenos on the side! No pizzle in 'the lot'); first I wondered what the point was, then I didn't.

LA is one of the most pedestrian friendly cities I have ever seen. Granted, this is because there's no-one else on the footpaths and I am yet to be mugged, but it's really easy to get around if you're after a scenic stroll.

Boganwear is very big in West Hollywood, LA's marginally gay area. The accountancy bogans of Richmond have plenty to look forward to when they exhaust supplies of Elwood, Lonsdale and Industrie kit. I think I saw a soft toy sewed onto a shirt.

People are strangely upfront about their tastes. I saw a black guy with all his windows open cranking G'n'f'n'R, for example. Jim Steinmann tribute hour is every hour in most restaurants. I read about the 'Soap Locks' of New York circa 1880, whom I think resonate in LA's many examples of the sort of kids you see around Melbourne dressing like people in 1994 dressing like punks in 1985 trying to evoke 1976.

Went for a walk up something steep called Hollywood Drive. Pretty intriguing; nobody else walking up it, but a few dicks on motorbikes.

I think they water down the already weak ales here. Hard to get drunk. LA food seems to have passed through first a process of dumbing down, then of weirding up. Think McDonald's Greek Lamb Souvlaki Wrap and apply it to any food you can think of. But that's fun. Pink's hotdog stand was extraordinary... a fifteen minute wait for a premasticated frankfurt on a sugary bun, but it was so crap it had to be authentic.

Saw a band play in a little bar on Melrose. Was impressed both by the essential crappiness of the music and the professionalism of the vocalists and players. They are certain to make it, they must do. Abominable outfit, the rhythm section with Morrisseyesque bouffants underlaid by bald patches. Met some cool people at another bar and talked Cheap Trick and GBV and Mexicans (two blokes recently and respectively mugged and jumped (a form of mugging with no financial transaction; purely for fun)) by some variant of Wabs that I couldn't understand. Told the qualified electrician to apply for skilled migration to Southeast Queensland ASAP.

Wednesday, May 10, 2006

Right-sized mining tragedy

Validated as world class news by an Oprah cutaway, the two surviving miners have emerged from the Beaconsfield pit. Great news, to be sure, and possibly somewhat nostalgic for Americans whose own miners suffered a similar disaster two broadcasting seasons ago, but spare a thought for the thousands of Chinese, Russian and other NESB miners who die every year. There's a touch of the Late Show deathaliser about this. US broadcasters might be interested to know the first Australian soldier died in Iraq recently, apparently shooting himself while cleaning his pistol; surely the Australian people deserves a pat on the head for that?

If there were ever any doubt of Australian exceptionalism and unreformability, check out Peter Costello's eleventh budget. I particularly like the 'we've pulled through the bad part of the hundred-year climate cycle' part. Does that mean we can afford to shout ourselves a Labor government?

Monday, May 08, 2006

Grant McLennan

Grant McLennan died in Brisbane on the weekend.

You think of 'Cattle and Cane,' the lips of the technically beleaguered Robert Forster counting out its Byzantine rhythm. As Grant had taken to singing as the song's coda in the recent incarnation of the Go-Betweens, 'Further and higher and longer... and older.'

As you would expect, the world class cities to which this blog is devoted were much illuminated by Grant's work. I have often wondered whether, in Palm Sunday (Onboard the SS Within), 'five days from Melbourne, and I didn't feel so good myself' was a translingual pun (mal/bon); in any case it seemed to capture the gentle cynicism of the place nicely. The video of 'Streets of Your Town' consists of beatiful images of late 1980s Sydney, surely its high point for the second half of the twentieth century and probably in its history (the irony being there are so many poor films made in Sydney now that that 16 Lovers Lane halcyon glow no longer obtains). Why did we go to Elvis Costello at the Sydney Festival this year and miss the Go-Betweens?