Thursday, November 29, 2012


I am genuinely fascinated by the need for affilliation. So genuine, I probably shouldn't write about it, because I simply don't understand it.

I understand it in the universal sense, the Maslow-heirarchical(?) sense, that we all crave a sense of belonging, friends, family and partners. Although obviously there's a spectrum of desire even in the universal sense. But even the anti-social people that occupy our prison systems are punished with solitary confinement, everybody fears isolation.

But like, I went to a thing last night as I often do, and I knew people there but I turned up by myself. The plain fact of the matter is that if I only went to stuff if I could arrange a friend to do it with me, I would not go to anywhere near as much stuff or I would wind up doing the same stuff over and over.

But yes, if I see a facebook event that says 'you and 7 of your friends are going' it is a safe bet that me and two of my friends will be there. And this is because for the average gig, I am generally facebook friends with at least two band members. Why don't other people turn up? Is it because they need their hand held? Is it because they have better shit to do?

Then on the weekend I was introduced to the concept of 'FOMO' or 'Fear of Missing Out' the absence of which is apparantly an advantage of using twitter. Facebook apparantly comes with much anxiety built into it, and one of these is apparantly FOMO. Firstly fear is bad only if it is irrational, otherwise it can be quite useful. And FOMO sounds like a highly rational fear. I would count it to facebook's credit that it actually lets you know the social cost of spending a saturday evening in and online. But I think FOMO's roots are in that human need for affiliation, you see all your friends RSVP to some event, then worry that you are being excluded from the good times and more concerningly may be ostracised from the group.

But if you ever attended an event you were invited to on facebook you hopefully know facebook RSVPs are worth dick, or roughly 30% of the reported turnout. So while you certainly are missing out on good times, you probably aren't being ostracised from the group as most of the group won't show.

Then like fashion, the need for affiliation is expressed most obviously in fashion. We are a long way from Louise the Sun Kings court of Versaille, but the fear of being ostracized on account of our wardrobes still seems to hold sway. Just walking around the street yesterday I walked past a bunch of stores selling all-over-print garbs the most popular of which seems to be aztec, this is this seasons 'out of uniform, uniform'

Since I was a teenager I was always perplexed as to why the youth the moment they are offered the opportunity to not wear a school uniform all dressed alike in surf clothes (this dominated rural youth fashion in the 90's, I suspect increased internet access means the kids all dress like city kids nowadays). Being free of the constraints of a uniform is supposed to be our opportunity to express ourselves through the communication medium of clothing, and yet generally what is expressed is a desire to fit in, tow-the-line etc.

The question isn't answered but is asked more compellingly by exactitudes it goes further, why do people who expressedly set out to express themselves wind up dressing identically as if following a set of rules?

I don't even understand how the process works.

I suspect my attire reflects the rules adopted by African American youth in New Orleans whom have recently returned from a holiday in Taiwan, I am probably no exception to the rule except that I don't look like the other people in town who dress like me, being the Asian international students that play on the basketball courts on weekends. But even while a bunch of sub-tribes go about signalling their membership through attire, the vast majority of people adopt what approaches a monoculture of fashion.

My friends former housemate was a writer for Frankie magazine and thus a self-proclaimed expert on 'Hipsters' and described their defining trait as 'creativity'. And yet, I was at a party months ago and a particularly unpleasant to talk to girl asked the same friend and I to define a hipster and he immediately started describing the hipster uniform - brogues, brill-cream, glasses, ironic facial hair...

She objected to defining people simply by the way they dress and had some emotional investment in their being more to hipsters, but the rules work, Hipsters are after all a group, a tribe, hence we have a name for them and membership is denoted by wearing the uniform. But clearly this is not 'creative' in either the sense that such uniform attire is created by the people who wear them, nor is it an expression of individuality or original thought. To say hipsters are defined by their creativity is as valid a claim as Emo's were defined by their exceptional emotions, or grunge kids were defined by their apathy.

These movements are defined by their consolidation, their predictability, the more creative, the harder to label.

In marketing the mystery of the need for affiliation was in part answered for me. What perplexed me is 'why I don't feel it.' I never have, I doubt I ever will. I still can feel awkward not being dressed like everyone else in certain contexts, but for me this is a very overcomeable level of discomfort, self-consciousness is easy to repress and the rewards of doing so reinforce the practice of doing so.

But basically marketing said 'you have two kinds of people in this world...' and those two kinds of people are 'opinion leaders' and 'opinion seekers' or something. I only really remember the opinion leaders for sure. Now not to make a joke of a soft science, but two guys walk into a store to buy themselves some jeans, the assistant tells each upon handing them a pair of jeggings 'that's how they're wearing them these days.' the opinion seeker says 'oh cool!' the opinion leader says 'I don't care, I like my jeans loose and flaired at the bottom.'

Which isn't to say opinion leader is 70's Eric Clapton, but to say they are defined by their need or lack there-of to fit in with the group. This isn't an introvert/extrovert divide. It's like a group-esteem vs self-esteem thing. But the discussion was not comprehensive, we simply know these two types of people exist, or as my beloved ex-brother in law loved to say sardonically 'I'm a rebel, I don't care what society thinks.'

Anyway I don't know, I honestly don't know if it's a nature vs nurture thing, which is it? I don't know, was a born with a low need for affiliation compared to the norm, or is it the biproduct of being left handed and never being able to be the norm, or is it simply the result of my parents parenting raising me to big-note myself and look down upon others?

Then there's evolution, we are a society that is predisposed to follow leaders, put a group of people in a room they never emerge as a committee, I'm sure Dawkins or somebody could explain this phenomena in terms of some Evolutionary Stable Strategy about what proportion of people posess 'leader' genes and what possess 'follower' genes and this gene may or may not functionally impare or allow the chemical feedback mechanisms that drive our relative desire to fit in with a group.

I honestly, don't know. Isn't it fascinating?

Court of the Owls

So anticipating the long entertainmentless domestic flight from NY to LA, or the long entertainmentless stopover in LAX, I bought 'Nite of the Owls' my first collected comic book purchase for what must be like 5-6 years. It's Scott Snyder on writing duty for DC's main 'Batman' title and Greg Capullo on pencils (which in western comics is THE artist on a title).

For me, Capullo is the reason to get excited about Batman again after what I would describe as 'Grant Morrison's reign of terror' on the title. Grant Morrisson certainly shook things up with his signature chaotic style, but for me it produced 5-6 years of pure shite. I can imagine, because I am one, waaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaayyyyyyyyyyyyyyyyyy back at the end of the line the number of artists and writers that have been waiting their whole careers to get a shot at working on DC's flagship title, one of the only two icons of the entire comic book industry, and inherited 'Batman Incorporated' and the years of Dick Grayson wearing the mantle of the Bat and fucking Damian Wayne as Robin. I imagine it's like buying tickets to a broadway show in advance and turning up and getting the understudies. I would have been fucked off.

Anyway, Bruce is back in the cape and cowl, and the DC universe got reset, clumsy yes, messy, yes but probably necessary. And DC have hired Scott Snyder to write and Greg Capullo to pencil.

Greg was the main penciller for 'Spawn' Image comics flagship title taking over from Todd MacFarlane himself who took up inking duties, and did pretty much every title until the conclusion of the original series. The man was prolific and while Spawn rode high at number 1 practically defined the overdrawing style that defined the 90's. I love Greg's style, he was one of the people that got me and so many kids fucking excited about comics.

And he's back (he has been back for a while, working on MacFarlanes haunt and the second iteration of the Spawn title) but he is doing Batman.

Now the last time Batman was really riding high was on the smoothly executed Loeb/Lee run. Jeph Loeb who wrote 'The Long Halloween' with artist Tim Sale and thus cemented his place in Batman history alongside (but in the shadows of) Frank Miller, and Jim Lee one of the founders of Image Comics and considered by many the best artist in comics (but not I).

And that's the first thing about Nite of the Owls. It feels very much like a board meeting was held where Snyder got called in and told 'we're giving you Capullo, we want "Hush 2.0"' the volume has no blurb like Loeb writes in his collections explaining how the projects came about. But I just would be surprised if that wasn't how it panned out. Because really that would explain all the weaknesses of the run, the restraints of working for the DC board.

I don't give a shit about spoilers, if you really cared you would have had ample opportunity to read 'Hush' and Court of the Owls before I did, but certain plot lines are straight out of Loeb's playbook, in chapter one you meet 'Lincoln Marsh' the superfluous character, the Chekov's gun, the mute brother from Mystic River, the character introduced as early as possible so he can be revealed as the culprit later on after you have forgotten he existed. Loeb though was better with Thomas Elliott/Hush because he served a purpose in the backstory, had the good sense to remove him as a suspect by killing him in the second chapter (faking his death) and then in the tenth/eleventh chapter revealing Jason Todd as Hush as a diversion being a suitable but dissappointing climax, then having Batman figure out the ruse based on this reveal.

Hush was also a 'romp' Loeb introduced a compelling new villain, but in a way that allowed Jim Lee to showcase his drawing on the entire rogues gallary.

What I liked about Snyder's writing was, he sidelined the rogues gallary. They feature, Capullo got to do his take on Penguin, Scarecrow, Two-Face and Joker, but this was part of the 'cold opening' of the run, from thence virtually every character is new provided they aren't on team-batman.

And just as I was glad Loeb had read the introduction to the collected volume 'a death in the family' where the guy responsible for making the call on killing Jason Todd as Robin stated that 'reviving him would be a betrayel' and thus didn't actually revive Jason Todd but used the deception as the centerpiece of the entire Hush run, I am glad Snyder shied away from having Lincoln Marsh actually be Bruce Wayne's brother. Though in much the same way that DC revived Jason Todd after hush as 'the red hood' in a move I shall condemn forever, I have a feeling it is not beyond DC to decide that Lincoln Marsh is Bruce Wayne's long lost brother creating a shitty fucking character out of what once was a compellingly tragic one.

I think the limitation of introducing a conspiracy as grand as the court of the owls, is you have to use what I imagine would be labelled as 'informed familiarity' if it was a trope. That's where Snyder's retconning necessary for his plotwork was glaringly inferior to Loeb's on Hush. Having a bunch of characters constantly reciting the rhyme about the mythical 'court of owls' that has never heretoforepreviouslyever been recited in the entire history of batman you can accept, and even being informed via flashback that Bruce investigated their existence when he was a child is okay, but it then becomes implausible that Bruce would have totally forgotten about his mothers pregnancy with his YOUNGER brother, nor never in all his great detective work and intervening years have gone through photo albums to see his mother pregnant, nor see any of the many paper records indicating she was pregnant nor have Alfred ever mention the fact to him.

So while the story indicates that Lincoln Marsh was infact the victim of a grand conspiracy that convinced him he was Bruce Wayne's brother, and thus is quite a tragic and disturbed individual to rival Batman's excellent stable of rogues, it was left ambiguous enough that he could be the resurrected infant brother of Bruce Wayne, which would make him shitty and boring, and completely implausible. Shitty boring characters like that are best grafted onto comics like Batman using crossover events where the reason is always a combination of parallal universes and magic. (like the eventual resurrection of Jason Todd) and I say that is the best way to do it, because that is the best way to do what I feel is a borderline reprehensible action in any comic let alone one as iconic as Batman.

I need more positives though, as I said earlier, I think much of the plot-flaws where probably the result of demands for 'Hush 2.0' and thus I think Snyder did really fucking great writing in those handcuffs, I'd also point out that DC should be commended for at the very least saying 'we want to relive something good' instead of the standard fair which is to create some crossover event, or try to recreate something good like Hush but not pay any money to do so, like the return of two-face and having it all masterminded by 'The Great White Shark'.

The 'Talons' that are the most prominent adversaries are the best fucking bad guys to go up against my least favorite incarnation of batman - gadget batman or 'bond' batman. And Capullo is the right man to draw gadget batman, he looked so good I enjoyed high tech batman cutting loose.

The labrynth torture sequence arrived so suddenly but was truly excellent. Mayhaps one of the best sequences in the last ten-twenty years of batman writing, also the selection of a predator of bats 'The Owls' as the metaphoric adversaries challenging batman for control of Gotham was excellent and provided for excellent imagary again by Capullo. All the stuff harking back to Alan Wayne and his mysterious dissappearance, I kind of just wish that Snyder had restrained the court of owls not to a persistent myth/fairytale that nobody had bother to mention at all until now, but as a long lost secret society that had been truly dormant and truly forgotten for a hundred years.

It's a tough call though because when Batman finds all their secret bases of operations, that is a really good bit.

Look it's a tough gig, you work on something as iconic and longstanding as Batman where there are so many obvious 'you can't do this' unspoken rules or at the least - issues where you have to go beg the editorial team for permission (Alan Moore called up DC to ask if they would mind him crippling Barbara Gordon in 'The Killing Joke' I suspect they let him because he is Alan Moore, anybody other than Grant Morrisson probably could never get away with that shit), but if you fix two-face's face they have to disfigure him again, if you kill any of the Joker, Penguin, Scarecrown, Ventiloquist, Two-Face, Catwoman, Killer Croc, Mr Freeze, Harlequin, Poison Ivy or Ra's Al Ghul they are going to have to resurrect them at some point in the future. And generally speaking they won't let you make these bold moves, with two robins dead and one resurrected, with two former robins now roaming the streets as Nightwing and Red Robin, they aren't going to let you kill off another Robin.

And compounding it all, the main rogues gallary's stories have now been told hundreds of times... each.

Given all these factors, even though the top talent in the world would leap at the opportunity to work on Batman, it's hard to do something good, let alone new & good. and most people do something bad, and you get stuck with the hangover of that badness.

What I wouldn't give to be in the meeting where they decide the movements of Gotham for the next year, 5 years, decade as they must. I'm sure it gets constantly reviewed, and also gets effected by the need to leverage other DC titles off of Batman's sales success and tie the comics in with the movie promotions so that you run Batman vs. Joker stories in the lead up to the Dark Knight, and Batman vs. Scarecrow stories in the leadup to Batman Begins etc.

Anyway, while Snyder and Capullo are the creative team, I'll keep reading Batman and just hope Morrisson doesn't get the reigns again.

Wednesday, November 28, 2012


You see there's the dumb kind of smart, and the smart kind of dumb. The dumb-kind-of-smart follows the old milatary addage 'if it's stupid and it works, it's not stupid' of which I am particularly fond. The dumb-kind-of-smart is your 'Forrest Gump' effect, somebody who you wouldn't bet on, but seems to negotiate their way through life successfully, because they possess uncanny common-sense and good judgement despite a lack of knowledge/education/opportunity.

The smart-kind-of-dumb though, they are your psuedo-intellectuals. Characterised by large vocabularies, name dropping, overkill studying and the general superficial trappings of intellectuals. They are nevertheless defined by the low quality of their opinions, a compulsion to express them and frustration that the world doesn't conform to oversimplified views of how it should work.

Have you ever met somebody who was well-read, well educated, quite knowledgeable and thought 'this guy's an idiot, if he was in charge it would be a disaster'? (I find this to be characteristic of 'conservatives' which interestingly published a story on a study linking low-IQs with tendency to vote conservative).

That is what I am talking about when I say 'psuedo-intellectualism', I had a friend in high-school, very early high-school whom for various reasons, highly valued intelligence as the most prized human quality. As a result he listened to jazz, and Phillip Adams show on the radio religiously, in fact he idolised Phillip Adams and sought to imitate his dress and what not. He thought I was intelligent, he was a good guy. But he wasn't 'intelligent' at least not as intelligent as he desired to be. In fact I don't think he knew what intelligence is.
The jury is in - intelligence is hard to define. But I feel if you follow the link and read through, intelligence is generally oriented on 'thought processes' that is that intelligence is a measure, hazy as it may be, of how efficiently, effectively - in other words - the quality, of an individuals thinking. Intelligence is an evaluation of our thinking, and thus there is an important distinction between 'intelligence' and 'knowledge' even though the two correlate.

And what happens when intelligence comes into vogue? becomes chic? When the general population wants to be percieved as intelligent, profound, creative, genius...?

I think this is the age we live in. There are probably a bunch of marketing and social anthropology PhD thesisi being written to explain the environmental factors that have driven us from a decade-and-a-half of people pursuing the trappings of affluence ineffectually (cosmetic surgery, luxury brands, ostentatious jewellery, german automobiles, bigger houses) to the current pursuit of the trappings of intellect ineffectually (reading Camus and Kierkegaard, Vegan Yoga, wearing glasses, occupying wall street).

What I see and what fascinates me about psuedo-intellectualism is that it produces the same results as the pursuit of the cosmetic.

Just as people who undergo expensive cosmetic surgery are frustrated that they still don't feel beautiful nor look convincingly like the youthful beauty celebrated and overrepresented on the newstands, people who have done the philosophy subjects and read the great russian novelists feel frustrated that they don't feel as intelligent, nor command the kind of influence and respect as the intellectuals they idolise.

What harm? Why complain about psuedo-intellectualism? Well because it is just another way for people to feel inadequate. Perhaps this is the human condition, it certainly is exploited as readily by marketers as any other desired state. Just at the top end of town the winners this decade won't be big business like Dolce & Gabbana, Coco Chanel etc. but the arts department of Melbourne University, RMIT, Monash and whatever your local tertiary equivalents are. At the bottom end those making knit-wear and horn-rimmed glasses are the new winners as compared to the oakleys and levi's of decades ago.

Will humanity ever wrench itself free of the marketers vice-like grip? If it can't do it while the nerd, the geek, the academic is held up as the ideal, when will it? If people can't empirically distinguish between knowledge and intelligence, while desiring the latter by pursuing the former, I feel it unlikely that in any great numbers people will realise that it is wrong to assume that products and services can bridge the gap between our actual and ideal.

Another reason to bemoan the trend of psuedo-intellectualism is that it results in frustrating and annoying oversubscription. Not just to philosophy majors but to all manner of niche interests that are of no general relevance to most people or the human condition.

Installation art for example has its place and like everything else, the good is good but rare the shit is really shit and abundant. The same is true walking through the Louvre's 'marble gardens' of mostly unrecognisable and non-descript marble sculptures of nudes. The Venus De Milo (or Di, or whatever) stands out as exceptional, the rest fades into white noise. Andy Warhol pieces are eye-catching, the rest of pop-art is often quite dull. That is not the point of oversubscription, the point is that for most people, having their concept of space and how they interact with it challenged is not the best use of their time nor likely to lead to the most growth and personal development compared to the other activities they could choose to do.

How for example would an intelligent person answer the question: would you benefit more from flying to Berlin to visit its galleries of contempary art or flying to New Zealand and experiencing a bungee jump?

I contend (but can't prove) that a psuedo-intellectual would pick the trip to Berlin everytime, but intellectuals wouldn't like the question because it is subjective and thus you couldn't know what an intelligent person would benefit most from. To avoid being evasive on my part, my educated guess would be more often than not the honest answer would be bungee jumping. The experience of art is more easily simulated via the internet than something that is pure experience (vertigo, adrenalin, accelleration, decellaration etc.) like bungee jumping. But you could 'cheat' the spirit of the question and choose Berlin just on the mathematical certainty that a big-city will have more shit to do than the relatively remote areas of New Zealand required for bungee jumping.

Laslty, I think a little intelligence is a dangerous thing. There's an episode of Qi that poses the question 'how do you know if you are incompetent?' to which the answer insofar as it can be called an answer is 'you can't' the example being a doctor who fails to diagnose a condition in a patient (incompetent) does so precisely because they can't detect their error. Another competent doctor can tell they are incompetent but that doctor can only do so based on the competence she possesses.

I again contend, but can't (and won't) prove that there is a threshold of intelligence or perhaps band between 'above average' but below 'highly intelligent' where life will reinforce to somebody the notion or impression they are intelligent, but they are not intelligent enough to determine how intelligent they aren't.

Say arbitrarily that they occupy the section between 110-120 on the bell-curve of IQ scores amongst the general population. They are capable of recognising that they are above average, but not capable of appreciating that their are still a large number of people much smarter than them, nor that life tends to cluster like amongst like, and that if you have an 'above average' IQ amongst the general population (so over 107 if you are Australian) you are unlikely to have an above average IQ amongst the people you wind up associating with.

With something as objective and easily defined as sprinting, it is relatively easy for the inter-house high school sprint champion to draw the humbling conclusion that good as they are compared to the average high school student, they can't even compete when it comes to inter-school, inter-state or international competitions. It is easy for me at 13 seconds for the 100m to realize without racing that I have no chance against Usain Bolt, or even my high school friend Nicholas who ran it in just under 11 seconds. When it comes to who should run the 100m for our school, it was easy to conclude Nick should.

Less so with intelligence, while it is easy to conclude that you are no Albert Einstein, we don't go around discussing our IQs or even ENTER scores (which don't measure intelligence anyway) but to rely on vague impressions, which brings us back to the question of trying to determine our own level of incompetence, and we can't. We may find an argument frustrates us, but attribute it to our sparring partners obstinance, rather than their superior reasoning. Or blame an inability to articulate what we really meant, rather than admit it became apparant we hadn't really thought through our own position.

For years recruiters have constantly been fucking up recruiting decisions, contracting decisions and even key-note speaker decisions because of their own incompetence to distinguish between polish and professionalisms. Recruiters whom are only human being just as confused in mistaking the trappings of success like fancy watches, nice silk ties and well cut suits, with the qualities that make one successful - conviction, risk taking, interpersonal skills, intelligence.

Now all the above gripes mean recruiters and scholarship panels and grant application reviewers have the opportunity to screw up decisions by confusing the psuedo-intellectual for the actual intellectual. If the decision maker is incompetent, they are as likely to be more impressed by the name-dropping of french philosophers and redundantly big words ("excuse me while I pandiculate.") and fail to notice a complete absence of clear thinking or good judgement. While somebody with an incisive mind, good judgement and the vocabulary of George Orwell may come across as too plain to be intelligent.

Just as a beach can become unpleasant if crowded, so can galleries, libraries and internet chat forums. It's not that reading shit is bad, but read shit that you enjoy. If reading Kant makes you feel stupid in the same way reading Cosmo makes you feel ugly, don't read it, read Harry Potter. They are good books. Don't stop going to gallaries and checking out art, but if you have to stand around a pile of nails for any stretch of time before you can supply a rationale as to what the artist is trying to say or watch a video of a guy eating a hard boiled egg in an open field three times before you 'get it' try buying a train ticket and admiring the graffiti that often makes no pretense of being meaningful beyond the aesthetic.

I am not a big subscriber to 'genetic destiny' and I honestly don't know if our IQs or any other measure of our intelligence, and our intelligence itself is fixed beyond the damage we can do to our brains, I just don't know. I generally have not seen great transformations happen. People mature yes, and adopt improved philosophies of life, I don't know and haven't seen anybody become more intelligent though.

A book says 'Since foolishness depends on context and represents deviance from the social norm, it is not necessarily a permanent affliction. We are all familiar with the person who is an outcast in highschool but a major success in later life. The deficits that define a fool - a lack of understanding, judgement or common sense - are also remediable by experience and learning. Nevertheless, an established inability, even as a teenager, to think clearly makes one a poor candidate for lasting relationships. People with unconventional beliefs, for example, UFO spotters or conspiracy theorists, tend to cluster together for mutual support. Membership to such groups is often a signal that one is in the presence of someone given to alternative and marginal views of how the world works.'

So simultaneously a message of hope and a warning from Doctor Gordon Livingston, M.D. context may change, experience and learning may help, but you also may be a member of a group that has clustered together for mutual support and have no idea how alternative and marginal your views are.

I don't think schools teach the distinction between intelligence and knowledge well enough, so maybe just knowing and appreciating the difference is the first step towards becoming more intelligent.

I don't know, it might be worth a try though.

Thursday, November 22, 2012

NYC live

By far and away the best thing in NYC is my sister. Following her is the shit to do at night.

First though the bad news. For the foreigner unused to prices displayed not reflecting how much you will actually be required to pay, New York can be annoying. So you buy a ticket to see an internationally acclaimed artist at BB King's Steakhouse on 42nd street and think it a bargain at $28 where in Australia you would pay something like $80. You take a seat in the seated section (closest to the stage) and the table informs you the club policy is a minimum spend of $10 per set, plus you have tip 20% and your credit card charges you $3 for the transaction, so your bargain kiind of diminishes.  And even for smaller live venues, it's pretty common to have cover charge - per set eg. you don't just pay to enter the band room, but they kick you out between the support act and the headline and you have to pay to reenter, then have waiters that seek you out and inform you of $10 minimum spend rules again.

I mean if you aren't used to it, it just feels like the old scammola or false advertising. But it applies to any meal where you sit down and have a waiter, in the US's convoluted low minimum wage - social obligation to tip system. So that when you see a $16 meal on a menu, American's I'm sure read it as a $20 meal because that is what you end up paying. I find the American level of service annoying, but I have to admit, it is almost universally better than the fucking disgruntled people you are forced to deal with in Australia, it's just overbearing.

So! The NBA is just... it's just fucking incredible, and yes I may have a different impression if I had just returned from 3 weeks in Minnesotta or Cleveland or one of the small market teams, but I went to see the Nets host Celtics in Brooklyn, at a brand new stadium and it was fucking incredible, even though the Celtics lost, Rajon Rondo was out and Kevin Garnett played hardly any minutes. It is incredible. Just fucking amazing. This was 50,000 people packing out a stadium on a thursday night one month into the season. The flags were marched out, the American Idol runner up did the anthem, fireworks flew up towards the ceiling and then it was game on.

My sister and I were second row from the back, up in the nosebleeds and the only thing ubstructing our view were the tall guys incessently standing up in front of us. Which the tallest actually apologised for. Here is another downside to US live events - Americans are fucking annoying audiance members. An inability to stay in one spot, my sister and I paid $55 for our seats, which given dollar parity and wage rates in our respective countries, if I find it expensive Americans should too. But that didn't stop heaps of people from missing 3 quarters of the game and turning up after half time and often in the 4th quarter having watched the game from the refreshment stands elsewhere in the stadium. And it's always the people with seat in the fucking middle of a row that do this, so you are constantly standing up to let them pass.

But seriously, I know Melbourne hosts some 8 AFL teams, but they only play on weekends, and it's actually rare for the MCG to sell all 60,000 seats. The NBA has 30 or so teams, sells out stadiums (at 30,000 or so capacity) on the norm and plays an 80 game regular season, with best-of-seven 4 round finals series. The money, the attendees and the sheer availability of world class sport is mind blowing. And sport is fucking great, as improvisational as jazz, as emotional as a drama and community based, sport is fucking great and not the enemy of live music that say - facebook or itunes or youtube is. I would just about kill to have season tickets to an NBA team. I fucking love that game.

NOW! it was also NYC's equivalent of the comedy festival, and nobody gave a shit and you couldn't really tell it was on. Melbourne's comedy festival takes over this town when it is here, it is great, a great, great cultural event. But here's the thing. NYC doesn't need a comedy festival, unless it was a 'british comedy festival' because apart from Ricky Gervais, there's no brit-comedians really in New York. But yeah, as I just wrote, NYC doesn't need a comedy festival.

When the north-easterly hit, my sister and I braved the snow and went to the Comedy Cellar (as seen in Louise) on a wednesday night, we saw mostly Letterman-appearance comedians, but there were hosts of TV shows, SNL writers the works in the one and a bit sets we stayed for. I would compare it favorably to the comedy gala, instead of having 30 comedians though do 2-3 minutes of their safest material in what is really a promotion for their festival shows though, 8 comics did between 10 and 15 minute of material. And they were generally the Melbourne Comedy Gala standard or better, albeit all American. But it needs to be said, this was available to us during a snow storm, on a wednesday night, with no booking and a $14 cover charge plus two-item per head minimum order quanitity (plus tip for the waitress). So it's like a $25 per head night out. For a better night of comedy than the Melbourne International Comedy Festival Gala. The Comedy Cellar I presume is probably the best comedy club in NYC because Louise CK features it all the time in his HBO show, and Louise CK is the reigning best stand up comic in the world. The tables are all dotted with signs pointing out the two-item minimum purchase requirement, but also signs indicating that you do not fucking heckle the comedians. That is great, because hecklers are shit.

When my sister and I walked in, the host asked us if we wanted to sit up the front, to which I instantly replied 'I'd prefer not to' and it was a wise move, the only thing to be wary of, is that the MC that hosted between each comedian did the picking on the audience thing. And he was funny, but it would be embarassing. Still he pointed out much of what exactitudes studies - how remarkably good people are at putting on uniforms, the MC managed to pick 'Pat' who recieved most of the ridicule all night long from the MC and the comedians as a Romney voter, and my favorite was when he asked this guy 'did you enjoy vegan yoga in the village today?' and he got all pissed off and the MC said 'what you dressed that way.'

If I lived in NYC I would hit the comedy cellar like at least once a fortnight. It was fucking great, extrapolating on the quality of comedians would be approaching plaguarism, so just trust me, it is definitely one of the highlights of NYC.

As for live music, that's the tricky one, I went to jazz clubs, an 'after broadway' gay bar where the broadway actors come and sing showtunes and I guess Indie-clubs. I also went to see internationally acclaimed artists, though many of the big acts managed to time their performances around my visit, I saw Gran Wizard Theodore along with Black Sheep and ATCQ spin-off 'Evitan' at the Zulu Nation 39th anniversary concert, and that was a combo of local hip-hop show and international standard, but overwhelmingly depressing and dissappointing too. I saw Victor Wooten, who is a virtuoso Bass Player, and Ani Di Franco.

I only really have two things to say about NYC's access to big international acts. 1. It isn't much different to seeing the act in Melbourne, there is simply just far more opportunity to see said acts, in a 2 year period of living in NYC you could probably cross every 'to see before I die' performer off your list. 2. There's a 'localising effect' that is hard to describe, but the thing is that Dres is a hip-hop icon in Melbourne, but just another fucking MC in NY. Just as Q-tip suddenly has all the lustre of say Powderfinger when you are in Brooklyn, because he grew up here. Your gods become mere mortals in NYC, and I don't really know the truth of it, but the other thing is that you never quite know with an artist like Q-tip whether you are paying to see him do an actual solo performance or whether it will just be his dj-set.

Jazz though was fucking great, and it's so quintessential to the look and feel of New York, yet I suspect a fuckload of tourists (and residents) can go to NY and never here any other jazz than what a cafe plays for them. But there is certainly a lot more Jazz to be had than I suspect is in Melbourne. And here is the thing, just like I almost never go to the NGV yet will go to 2-3 museums and galleries a day in NYC, I have only been to Bennetts lane once. I have a bunch of friends who play jazz to varying degrees of avante-guardness, but I can only speculate that the $20 monday night lineup at smalls jazz club in the West Village is of a higher standard than the $30 Bennetts lane friday/saturday night line ups. But I don't know for sure because I never go to Bennetts lane or check out jazz really in my hometown.

The Stone, does avante garde jazz, and it is my kind of venue. Pitch black, $10 a set, it serves no drinks and you can just take a seat quietly in a row of fold up chairs. It would definitely be my 'go to' place for any weeknight where I faced the prospect of checking facebook at home or going out and doing something. As it turned out, I did so much this trip, I never needed to fall back on the stone. The East Village, I suspect if I had more time, would be where I spent most of my time in NY if I lived there. It has all the indie venues. And the stone, and it is dark and seedy still.

But the stone is avante garde jazz venue that has 2-sets a night every night of the year just about. And it's affordable, and has incredible musicians. I don't know what Melbourne's closest equivalent would be, but I suspect it is just something that genuinely doesn't exist, the closest perhaps is Bar-Open's Make It Up Club on tuesdays every week. But Make It Up Club stands a better than 0.5 chance that you will just see god awful noise generating crap.

The only Indie venue I got to was Arlene's Grocery, which is a very cool retrofitted Grocery store. The indie scene is the most similar to Melbourne's live music scene, the producer of the band who's album launch I stumbled into was in fact an Australian, but from the one set I saw, I really couldn't comment on NYC's indie scene, except that I don't think Indie, Alt-rock and Pop is NYC's strong point, I think the West Coast kind of owns white people music in America, with notable exceptions like the Ramones, the Drop Kick Murphy's and of course, country music, the California Bay Area up to Seattle was where America's kingdom of white rock stars where born and bread for their heyday in the 90's.

The only thing was that the band I saw played a 2 hour set. When I got to the place, there was a sign saying 'Men and Whales 9pm' and then the next act were on at 11 or something, and I thought 'well at least they are honest about their soundchecks' but the band got started at ten past 9 and played right up to 11pm. For a $10 gig in Melbourne that is unheard of, and I didn't really have the stamina to cope with it. But 'Men and Whales' I doubt will be setting the world on fire, though it was nice to fucking hear regular guitar solo's this decade and can only hope this is the next big thing to come out of the NY music scene - music where the skill is in composing and playing, rather than producing and mixing. The crowd too was annoying here.

But my rational deconstruction has to come in at some point. A couple of months ago I was walking with my friend Sarah along Smith st and she commented that 'in what other city in the world can you walk down a street and see bands playing in the window' I don't know, but Melbourne is one of the best gigging cities in the world, and for the amount of times I heard Gotye on the radio and stores and speaker systems, I suspect he is more popular there now than here, but here is the thing.

The basic human stock is the same where ever you are. I believe this. A person born in Shepparton is just as capable of being a shit hot world class jazz saxophinist, pianist, drummer etc. as one born in Buffalo New York. Greatness can come from anywhere, this too I believe. It is hard for me to knw though whether for a genre like Jazz that I don't really understand, you need a population hub as large as New York to actually support it. My same friend Sarah yesterday told me Texas has one of the world's leading Jazz schools though, so I suspect that it is also true that if you support something (as a community) it can succeed anywhere.

NY doesn't need to bread a lot of home grown talent, it's contentious yes, but not by much as to say that New York is where Hip-Hop began, I don't know where Jazz began, whether it was New Orleans, Chicago or New York, I don't know. But the vast majority of New York's great talent migrates there or is called there. There is nothing special in the water, there is simply a market.

The comedy scene is clearly robust and strong, numerous and popular enough that New York can produce world class comedians in sets of 8 three times a night in at least one club, every fucking night of the year.

But I hold that Melbourne is still an amazing city, and I resent people who claim to be bored in it. I suspect but only have the Lonely planet as my guide - that when it comes to Indie/Folk etc all the music that is similarly popular here, New York with it's population of 8 million plus has about the same number of music venues for this genre as Melbourne does with 4 million less. And the thing is, that every night in Melbourne some thousands of performers are performing, and they may not pack houses, but tens of thousands of people are out supporting them. That is fucking amazing.

Melbourne's two real drawbacks are this - most of our talent wants to be somewhere else, they aspire to hit the hubs of New York, London, Berlin etc. they want to be in the center of the action, feel unloved at home or more likely simply fetishise the offshore market, that sucks that we cant keep them here greedily and selfishly. The second being that Melbourne artists, if they don't want to move overseas, look to New York, London, Berlin etc for inspiration and to imitate, there is an inferiority complex, even though nobody is putting anything in the water that makes Grand Wizard Theodore develop scratiching techniques on the turntable, or African Americans to reinvent the way we approach english, they are simply doing it because they ARE creating rather than watching what New Yorkers will do and imitating them.

That's it. My father came out at some point with the mathematical truth that 'Success = Failure - A Good Excuse' and I think too many Melbourne artists don't appreciate this equation, the real advantage New Yorkers and Londeners have over Melbournians isn't a better scene, but the fact that they don't blame the fact that they don't live in a 'World City' for their lack of success/creativity/community support. They don't know they have an excuse to be anything less than world class (and probably a more realistic appraisal of how obtainable 'world class' is) and so they get on with the business of being world class.

The day I arrived back in Melbourne, I went to the VCA graduate show which was not up to the standard of previous years and previous exhibits I have seen there, but still any of those artists could have work purchased by the Guggenheim based on what I saw in NYC, and then that same night went to see the debut of Margeret Fulton: Queen of the Dessert, a new and frankly Broadway standard (but not broadway budget) musical developed here in Melbourne by people by and large under the age of 30.

NYC is an amazing fucking city, but so too is Melbourne, for different and perhaps less glamorous reasons, still you have no excuse to be bored, and no excuse not to succeed in this town. Could I live and work in New York?

For sure, but I think I am going to wait till New York calls me. That's what makes sense for me. It may be different for your chosen medium of creativity.


I am so over it. I am so tired of hearing about, and yet it never fails to make me angry.

Our nation, Australia is still talking about boat people. An issue, that is barely worthy of anybodies attention, let alone the nation. The average Australian should be outraged that our political leadership are devoting time to the issue. The issue is there, but in scope and impact it borders on a complete non-issue.

Unless of course, you are arriving in Australia as a refugee on a boat. Then it is an issue.

But otherwise in proportion to problems boat people cause for the average Australian, boat people is not worthy of our time and attention. Certainly not the time and attention it recieves. And the costs of paying it so much attention are far more consequential than addressing the problem at hand.

Firstly, the time spent debating boat people is time not spent debating far more pressing and important issues - like the economy, environment, civil rights ... the ordinary shit that has the most impact on peoples' quality of life.

Secondly, the solutions proposed such as offshore processing - simply increase the economic costs of the problem.

Also, since we are defiance of UN conventions that we are signatory too on the rights of asylum seekers, we lower our standing and diplomatic 'soft power' in the eyes of the world.

Furthermore, these people are refugees, they are fleeing HORRIBLE FUCKED UP SHIT, the capacity of a nation like Australia to create sufficient disincentive to travel here in the face of the HORRIBLE FUCKED UP SHIT is laughable. The best (and by that I mean worst) we can do is create the horrible psychological reality of isolating refugees from their families and leaving them in limbo. I find this unnacceptable action to take on the most vulnerable people on earth, but nevertheless most refugees will suffer through such psychological torture on the sniff of a hope that they will secure a better future for their children and grand children.

So why then, is such disastrous policy so popular, why do people who will for the most part never meet or even be effected by the intake of refugees, and particularly those that arrive by boat so passionate about stopping it?

Racism. Xenophobia.

Nothing more, it will never be anything more, because the facts or reality support no other excuses to care about the prevention of boat arrivals.

It is not illegal to seek assylum, the vast majority of assylum seekers arrive by plane, and hold visas that they simply overstay, of those that arrive by boat some 98% or something are found to be legitimate refugees (which shouldn't be surprising, because it costs some $15,000 ~ $30,000 to take the boat, the boats are overcrowded and dangerous, it would take probably a decade or more for an employable refugee with Australia's living expenses to replenish those savings, repay those loans.) Australia takes in proportionately far less refugees than most other contries, there is no real or effective queue in place that boat people can be said to be 'jumping', we are signatories to the UN convention on the rights of refugees.

We as a nation, a predominately white nation, with predominantly United Kingdom based ethnic roots and highest levels of migration coming from the UK, simply unwilling to share the great unearned bounties of Australia most of which we are simply born into. Furthermore we fear some decay in moral standards, or that people fleeing war, torture and rape will bring war torture and rape with them.

War is up to the discretion of our very white leadership, as for torture and rape, well my beloved melbourne has over the past few months become somewhat famous for abducting, raping and murdering women. I say that referring to two cases, with two victims in a city with a population greater than 3 million. In both cases there was evidently little our society could do to prevent the perps from committing their heinous crimes. But our law enforcement was effecient at identifying and capturing both perpetrators (although the guilt of both is as yet to be determined by the courts).

But in both cases the accussed, the accused both look like me. Young white males. They look like me because they look like most of the community of Australia. Their physical appearance and backgrounds are far more similar to the average australian's than they are to those seeking asylum who were born on foreign shores.

And yet, while there were calls for more security cameras in public places, there were far more calls for women not to go out at night or walk themselves home along busy public streets. But nobody suggested that ASIO start monitoring the facebook activities of caucasian men between 15-50. Nobody was suggesting that officers show up at my door (or any other caucasian male) whenever their Facebook relationship status changes from 'Married' or 'In a relationship' to 'single'.

Because the Australian community knows that most dissaffected young men don't cope with their troubles by abducting and murdering women, but instead by getting drunk with their mates, looking at porno on the internet, going to the races, hooking up with other women in bars, going to stripclubs and masturbating. Those are generally the worst things most men do. And many of them seek councilling, join a gym, join a club, go travelling and other quite positive responses to their problems.

And yet we fear somebody with brown skin, bad teeth (which is entirely due to a lack of access to healthcare), beards, whom have young children of their own and who wear trousers all the time and regularly attend religious services and other community based activities of somehow harming our way of life. And we treat them like enemies as if eager that they should become them.

Yet, the person who is most likely to kill you and/or your children actually is the person you agreed to marry in a ceromony that you both these days outlayed large wads of cash to undertake. Followed by them is your father or another close relative, or relative of your spouses. And even though we know most women killed by the actions of another human being are killed by their partners, most abductors of children are known to the family, and that swimming pools kill more children than guns, and if a child is killed by a gun or other weapon the most likely weilder of that weapon will again be their parent... the thought of somebody who looks different is what causes us outrage.

The same, by the way works in reverse, the most likely person to be the victim of a crime by a refugee is a member of the refugee's immediate family, followed by members of the refugee community. In fact, the track record of mandatory detention in Australia, shows the most likely person to be harmed by a refugee is himself, protesting the inhumane treatment of Australia's detention centers.

But even when refugees come from communities where practices like forced marriage, honour killings, domestic violence, marital rape are socially accepted and perhaps even legal, and as reprehensible as we should find these practices the least likely way to discontinue them is to encourage perpatrators to return to places where the practices are legal and advised by the community.

It is far more likely that the intake of refugees into Australian society would see them adopt our societal standards and norms than the reverse.

So I'm over it, I'm fucking sick of it. We worry about the wrong things, we shouldn't be divesting any of our mental energy worrying about the impacts of boat people upon our lifestyle. It costs you more economically to buy a wedding present for your friends that will divorce within a year of the ceremony than it costs you in tax to process and resettle a refugee family.

Friday, November 16, 2012

NYC: Art Galleries

As of today I have now seen all the galleries I intend to see in New York and it's surrounds. And I have to admit, I don't go to galleries in Melbourne, just exhibition openings of local artists, I've checked out a few free exhibitions at ACMI I think, and seen about two NGV shows (Dali and Tezuka)...

I don't know, I should say upfront I kind of hate galleries > not the art on display in them, but how they are displayed and the crowds they attract > and haven't figured out how to interact with them yet. For example, I personally find information plates and other devices that offer 'intended interpretations' an usurpation of the observers role/a confession of failure by the artist. Although obviously art is necessarily undefinable as it is, art need not always communicate or engage the observers in any other way to be called art. A concept that isn't even worth struggling with, but the thing is that most artists create art with the intention of communicating or otherwise engaging an observer, they make their art to be seen/heard/interacted with. It is rare for me to come across a piece where I would say 'fair enough' on the divide between what message is apparant from the piece and what the information card/tour guide/audio guide says they are about.

BUT sometimes those cards just carry information about the place/times/history etc of the piece that put it into context and further your appreciation of the piece, or enable me to appreciate a piece that on first impression didn't.

Anyway, I elaborated on all that because the world is for all types and you can obviously discount my views on the basis of how I approach art. New York city plays host to heaps of 'Modern Art'.

There are some amazing gallaries, go find them. Or if you really intend to check them out and think my opinion valuable just ask me before you go. But you know... they are there, and New York has plenty of gallary space dedicated to modern art.

1. You don't see people sketching at galleries here like you do in Europe. This is because Modern Art is iconoclastic, not focused on the technical abilities of creating the works themselves, they are largely conceptual. Perhaps the most common reaction to modern art is 'I could do that' and that is because on a technical level - many people could, they simply don't. It's not an ignorant critique, it is intuitive.
2. Art is hard to write about, but a large part of modern art and a recurring them is that it challenges the preconceptions of what art is. Much was apparently shocking at some point. Van Gough's Starry Night may now be one of our most entrenched concepts of what art is, but when it was painted it was highly challenging because it didn't look like a classical landscape. But walking around galleries that play host to Modern Art, you never encounter 'shock' or even any bodylanguage that suggests a person is being challenged. I read far more 'good job me. I'm so progressive' body language. The art appreciation equivalent of 'oh you're gay, that's cool my uncle is gay.'
3. Another facial expression I see a lot of here is - 'is this what inspiration feels like?' that I feel is a response to overvaluing obfuscation and 'challenging' ways of representation that has progressed to the point of art being produced that's intrinsic meaning or objective has been obscured away beyond retrieval. The art is meaningless, a shape, that creates no impression and yet I pick up an 'emperors new clothes' vibe of people wishing to contemplate up meaning that simply isn't there.

Anyway, it has all been very inspiring, particularly many of the gallaries 'recent acquisitions' sections, and I am motivated to return to melbourne and produce art, perhaps even a modern-art inspired piece.

I have also seen here one of the best gallaries that I have seen anywhere in the world. Come check out NYC's galleries some time. Just take it easy when you do. It is not a test.

Saturday, November 10, 2012

NYC Eating

So, I have been eating three meals a day (a novelty for me) for the past week, well pretty much as soon as I discovered the NYC marathon was cancelled, what can I say of New Yorks Food?

Well, what I can't comment on is the fine dining, I can't afford it, I can't imagine being into fine dining, I don't do fine dining back home, and frankly I don't care about fine dining here there or anywhere.

I am a man of the people.

Another limitation of gastronomical experience is coming from cuisineless Australia, thus the novelty of having Chinese, Italian, Japanese eateries at my disposal is kind of lost on me, my strongest impressions of course of course, come from the NYC specialities...

Pizza by the slice, there is nowhere I have been that does it better. It's the greatest, the fucking best thing, Manhatten is the only place, other than Japan where I am able to adopt a 'walk-and-eat' lifestyle, walk by a sandwich from the deli, walk some more buy a slice for a dollar, walk some more buy a snickers ice cream. I love this lifestyle though ultimately know it to be unsustainable.

And the deli's, NYC has a love of the preserved vegetables and the savory meats that is probably not found except in small regions of Europe and the UK, but with none of the convenience, home cooked I presume. I don't know. But that's the big thing, the pickle, mustards, the use of vinegar, the pallet is vinegar heavy here. I like it, I fucken like it. You can't really get that in Melbourne.

Here too since I don't have much time to do shit like blog, is the kicker, I know Australia hosts the least affordable land, or real estate in the world now, but I'm pretty sure Manhatten costs like $53 per square foot - rent is high. yet food, food is cheap. Pie Face is next to CBS now, I don't have high hopes for the meat pie kicking off in NYC, nor a business as shitty as pie-face, the two eating dicks said it so it must be true. But while I can't be bothered ducking in to see if pie face has preserved Melbourne's unreasonable pricing model, that shit just wouldn't fly here.

Food is cheap, I walked past Jamba Juice, which is what an Australian brought back to Australia as Boost Juice, and I bought waffles last night from a food van in the west village, I understand Melbourne has a 'Gumbo Van' or some shit, here is what I sense the all too familiar pattern is.

Australian entre-preneurs go to NY, Los Angeles, Tokyo etc to see what is on trend because ironically they are risk averse, then they bring it back to Australia and release it as sterile tasting, polished decor overpriced novelty and we lap it up.

But NYC doesn't have to compare to any Melbourne food as far as the pallet is concerned. It isn't sterile and it is cheap. Today my sister took me to the Williamsburgh food market, and while Williamsburgh is dissappointing even to me whom was expecting something bad, it is probably one of the best food markets in the world, if not ever. I had a Brisket Roll, a Vanilla Bean Shake and fucking ace doughnuts for under $15, it was all sickeningly good, and as I commented to my sister, in America expensive or cheap there is one thing you never fear here: stinginess. You will always get a decent serving. I never realised it but this is my most common fear eating in Australia, the defining criteria for a place I like or dislike.

I never fear stinginess here, I hand over my money I know I am going to get as much food as I can handle for my dollar, from the pizza slice to the 'Medium' soda at the movie, it is going to be, perhaps unreasonably large.

But food, food in our cultural heritage must above all else be generous. Maybe this generosity is only possible thanks to the economic strangulation of South America or Unsustainable Borrowing from China, but whatever the reason - that ability to be generous with a plate is what they mean when they say you can taste the freedom.

Saturday, November 03, 2012

NYC streets

When I meet a woman, beyond some superficial evaluation of their physical attractiveness, I generally form my opinions as to their appeal based on the activity one would engage in most with any partner over time: conversation. I think I need less than a minute of conversation to tell whether somebody is my type or not. 

For cities it takes longer, but similarly the most important impression is made by that which I imagine will always be the activity one engages in most in any city - walking its streets.

So after a day in NYC, I haven't taken in any of the nightlife, the museums, the broadway shows, the live music, but some of the food, I have walked a lot of streets.

Could I live in New York? Yes. Do I love New York? Yes. But not as I love Melbourne, the city love of my life, in fact one of the things that impresses me most about New York, and let me be honest - Manhatten the only borrough I have spent time in (and thanks to Hurricane Sandy, the only part I am likely to), is how similar it is to Melbourne.

Firstly New York passes my two-fold test for liveability. 1 - people Jaywalk, New York may well be the birthplace of jaywalking I dunno. 2 - there is rule of law, but not zero tolerence.

In short, if you can jaywalk in front of a cop safely, then I can live there.

Now, walking the streets of NYC is pretty nice, for one thing, people talk like they are on a tv-show, or as John and Damian called it 'TV land' because we are so used to hearing people talk like this on our TVs and not in our lives. But there is another kind of musicality to New York streets again, in three city blocks today I overheard conversations in Italian and then Russian, the equivalent could happen in Melbourne by overhearing greek conversations on Lonsdale and then cutting through tattersal lane and overhearing Cantonese conversations in China town. But I get the feeling that in NYC the odds of it occuring anywhere on manhatten are much higher.

The mix is same but different, I think my friends have pointed out that where you have Asian people mixing it up in Melbourne you have African Americans breaking the white wall in NYC.

NYC is a great place to feel the downside of globalisation as well, because on the whole people in NYC dress pretty much like Melburnians, it is certainly less exciting for fashion than Japan (anywhere) and of course, people in NY aren't dressing like Melburnians, Melburnians are dressing like people in NY. Can NYC pretty much ever be different? Probably not, thought I today. Because if they adopted some new 'national dress of New York' something wild and exotic and totally different, it is just an shipping date away from being what people wear everywhere.

More exciting than being a tourist in New York, must be the experience of being a New York tourist, going to see the comical and strange ways people are attempting to emulate you all over the world. 

But what makes a great city great? It is almost certainly not the tourists. And what makes the locals so great? hard to say, hard to say... immigration for sure, but that can't be all there is to it. Did you know that England has no official language? It was on Qi so it must be true. And I totally understand, France needs an official language of French because French is under threat from English, but English is under threat from nothing, and so the English feel secure that no policy is needed to preserve their language for future generations.

In the same way, I feel New Yorkers must be relieved from the excuse that they don't live in New York, and thus it is easy for them to conclude that they are responsible for having a great time in their own city. But New York is also kind of just a big city, thus everything I love and hate about Melbourne is ampliphied as well. While obviously many people achieve much and create much great shit walking these streets and riding these subways and retiring to their private corners to create, there are many more that only achieve greater mediocrity in a greater city. 

I would have to have a compelling reason to come live here I think, more than my sister had. NYC is just not different enough, I mean it is totally different and yet, what is your complaint about Melbourne? Are there not enough people using laptops in starbucks? Does Swanston St simply not take long enough for you to walk down? Is the live music you don't go out to see in Melbourne too inferior to the live music you wouldn't go to see in New York? Does Federation square lack the touristy cheese that Times Square delivers?

For me, just based on walking the streets, the cuisine is for the grab and go variety of food superior to Melbourne's, but not so to Japan. Dollars go further which is great, and New York is populated by remarkably kind and considerate people, the goodwill is evident in a lot of places, the cops far more approachable than those of my city, I dunno.

Melbourne is special to me because it is mine, but the shit that annoys me about Melbourne - it's hard to understand until you are in New York. Do New Yorkers line up in self-demeaning displays when a Zara store opens? I assume they don't, because New Yorkers don't want to be New Yorkers, they are New Yorkers. The assholes of course are bigger here than they are in Melbourne, which doesn't really have them that much, but there's a slice of 'whinging New Yorker' I have picked up remarkably quickly that is more frequently portrayed as a trait of the british. There are also a lot of phenomenally uncool people the Sartorialist isn't taking pictures of on the streets of this city. 

Just as New York produces more great art, music, athletes etc than Melbourne does, so too does it produce far more mediocrity. I think when you are outside New York looking in, you are exposed to a selection bias of only seeing the best, just as job interviews paint a rosey picture of your future employer that never matches the reality of working for them. Movies and TV do not capture for obvious reasons the many lives of New Yorkers that are just not worth writing home about. Probably the closest is Seinfeld at capturing some aspect of the every day.

Cities are great, they are loaded up with opportunities, but I think we all have fantasies of waltzing into a foreign city, sitting down in some bar or restaurant to fatefully strike up conversation with our 'discoverer' somebody who finds our mundaness fascinating and opens up doors that remained closed to us at home. In the end though, this is just a rescue fantasy like meeting your soulmate, or curing yourself by taking a pill.

For me the unlimited potential of NYC has little appeal, partly because my chosen medium is a solitary one, I work from a studio and publish via the internet, it matters not where I do this. And also because I barely use 3% of Melbourne's potential. I have friends that have more thoroughly exhausted the scenes Melbourne possesses to support them, but I can't justify moving to a city with 100 times the opportunities than the 97 opportunities I haven't even utilised back home.

Or rather I can, firstly one of those opportunities could call me here, like getting offered an editing job at DC or Marvel comics, but that would no doubt be the product of using more of the opportunities of Melbourne. Secondly, I could follow somebody here, I could live in NYC for the right girl easily, I would chase her here, not let her go. It is similar enough to Melbourne to make that decision easy.

You know it's so hard to do anywhere justice when travelling, unfairly we are burdened with a bogus dilemma that we must love and hate a place, when most often, it is true that we do both. Japan is most annoying because you are labelled a 'Japan basher' or a 'Japan lover' and nothing in between is tolerated. My Japanese friends don't understand my ability to criticise so much about Japan and still claim to love that beloved country. But what I truly would bash is fetishising, which is to gloss over the fact that life is hard no matter where you live it.

The fact is that I could probably live anywhere, because I could live with myself. But NYC would be one of the easier cities to do so.