Category: Strine

The First Class First Nations Film Festival

For a measly 1,000 yen I got to get a totally unexpected and delightfully amazing full day’s entertainment, a couple of souvenirs and an all-round wonderful time at the 2024 First Nations Film Festival held by the Australian Embassy in Tokyo at EUROSPACE.

I’ve always been sympathetic to the cause of Indigenous Australians as I’ve understood it, but in recent years I’ve developed a bit of empathy fatigue, or even borderline antipathy, as the blame for society’s shortcomings are increasingly laid at the feet of all white men.

So when Mrs. Kangaeroo expressed an interest in going to the festival after seeing an ad on Facebook, I wasn’t overly keen, expecting to cop a few hours of being lectured at for being a misogynistic racist, neither of which I believe I am (my track record perhaps suggests it’s a fair label).

But, we rarely get to spend time together, so I was up for a date with a gorgeous woman and decided to go along. Well, wasn’t I lucky?

We were presented with gifts of a koala and a teabag and settled in to hear a lecture from Waseda University Prof. Kenji Sawada on The Magic of Australian First Nation Films. I hadn’t looked at the program before entering and cringed when I heard a university professor would give a talk. My experience with Japanese academics has largely been that they are bland and boring. But then came the first surprise of the day as Sawada gave a wonderful talk (an exquisitely concise and animated) that truly described the magical side of Indigenous Australian filmmaking. Sawada clearly has a love for his topic and imparted that in the 30 minutes he spoke, going through a history of First Nations Aussies’ involvement in films, from Jedda through to today, and outlining the program.

The day was divided into two sessions: Program A, which featured the documentary Finke: There and Back, followed by the short films, Green Bush, My Bed Your Bed and Nulla Nulla (the final flick being the best of a day filled with highlights for me). Program B was the acclaimed feature, The Drover’s Wife The Legend of Molly Johnson, which was followed by a panel discussion featuring the film’s writer and lead actor, Leah Purcell, and producer, Bain Stewart.

Well, the films ran the whole gamut of emotions, making me laugh, cry, cheer, anger, frustrate, spite, love, hate, but most of all yearn to know more about a sadly neglected part of my native country. The selection of films was magnificent, particularly in Program A.

There’s no doubt The Drover’s Wife The Legend of Molly Johnson is a wonderful film with a powerful performance by Purcell, on and off the screen, but I found myself getting a little repulsed by preachiness as the movie inspired by Henry Lawson‘s much-loved short story, The Drover’s Wife moved more toward pushing a modern-day message.

But that mild sense of discomfort was completely dispelled in the final panel discussion with Purcell and Stewart as they unrolled the story behind the film and gave some insight into their lives and the indigenous film community in Australia. They completely won me over by the time they had finished and I was filled with admiration at their achievement. I hadn’t known Purcell before the day and read about her on the train ride home that night, learning what an incredible person she is and how she has dragged herself up through life. Her tale is certainly an inspirational one, and the titular character of her movie shows almost superhuman grit and determination that I got the impression derived from her creator.

All in all, the day was unimaginably superb! I was left with a lingering desire to learn more about indigenous Australia, a deep respect for the cultures of our First Nations peoples and admiration for the deep love that some Japanese people have for Australia. And I got a hot date to go with that, too!

https://filmcrib.io/v/7oLJbb

Goodbye Possums…

Dame Edna in kimono

Barry Humphries, the creator of characters such as Dame Edna Everage – the Moonee Ponds housewife famous for her flamboyance and shouted greeting of “Hello Possums” – Sir Les Patterson and Sandy Stone, and himself an entertainer and icon of Straya in many parts of the world, has passed away.

Humphries died aged 89 on Saturday following complications from a recent hip surgery.

Personally, I wasn’t a great fan of the Moonee Ponds housewife — Dame Edna Average is my name for her — but she had her moments and was a wonderful example of Humphries’ acerbic, anti-Establishment wit that Australian author Kathy Lette described this morning as his brilliance at “pricking pomposity.”

For me, Humphries’ Sir Les Patterson was a much funnier figure than Dame Edna with his vulgar Ockerism, food-stained unfashionable suits, dalliances with lovely young secretaries and crude, booze-swilling antics a much more biting depiction of life Down Under than the gladiola-waving housewife. At least that was how I saw it, and my judgements of the characters as I knew them until I left Australia in the late ’80s.

Humphries was born into a wealthy family and had a privileged upbringing, but spent his career making a mockery of the Establishment. I shared his progressive political views and he, like me, was a recovering alcoholic, which helped me identify with him. I guess we didn’t see much of his alcoholic nature, but his four marriages and complicated family relations seem to attest to the typical struggles addicts have in getting along with others.

Dame Edna in kimono

Poor Humphries was vilified by gender fanatics in his later years, who campaigned to have the Melbourne Comedy Festival’s Barry Awards renamed because of Humphries’ dismissal and smeared his name. He did not deserve that and I hope his legacy will be view fondly rather than being put in a falsely negative light.

Humphries and his characters didn’t really have much to do with Japan, with much of his humor tough to translate. He is possibly best known here for his stint playing Dame Edna in the dying days of the hit ’90s TV show, Ally McBeal.

I was surprised to see his fame was good enough to get him a Japanese language obituary on Yahoo News Japan this morning, Japan’s most-widely read mainstream news source.

Humphries gave an account of his mother’s love for Japan in the poignant essay, Mummy, I Hardly Knew You. Here is what he had to say:

In the winter of 1958, my parents and my Auntie Elsie embarked on a world cruise. The highlight of this for my mother was Japan, the last place I expected her to enjoy. Its standards of cleanliness must have met with her approbation. They went only to grand hotels and my mother must have enjoyed the women’s exotic attire.

Yahoo Japan news reports on Humphries’ death (via Jiji.com), April 23, 2023

Dame Edna certainly made a trait of exotic attire. I’m not sure of contemporary Oz, but for the Australia that I knew, Humphries, or at least his characters, were an iconic part of the country and even if feelings about him were not particularly strong, they invariably existed for everyone, much in the same way that Jesus has an ubiquitous place in the thoughts of Americans.

I will miss Humphries’ in-your-face humor, and his subtle wit even more. And I will lament even further the demise of the era in which he thrived. But I thank him for what he gave. And for what he didn’t.

Wistful Wisteria

There’ve been better times than the past week, and hopefully the climbing hardenbergia comptoniana planted today augurs a rise out of the doldrums.

I couldn’t sleep, so as soon as it was light, I got out into the garden, moving the lawn, weeding and my efforts culminating in re-potting the hardenbergia comptoniana, better known as the Australian native wisteria, which had grown too much for the humidity pods.

Most of the seedlings have failed, so hopefully the wisteria will be a shining light.

There’s still the promise of kangaroo paw and dwarf wattle.

Not much else promising going on. Work absolutely slaughtered me this week, imposing another huge wage cut that I have decided to contest.

And that has shattered my well-being, though the gorgeous Mrs. Kangaeroo, thriving garden (for the most part), cycling and the bloody TerrorDactyl are among the drivers to keep on going. My neighbor also brought me great delight, presenting Mrs. Kanageroo with some delightfully pretty roses from his always beautiful garden. There’s lots of little bits of happiness wherever I look. I just need to focus on finding them.

Biking Beauty

I’ve been alternating between busy and broken over the past few days, resulting in fewer posts and less cycling, but still lucky enough to catch some tremendous snapshots of the bike like the ones here.

Work has been proceeding at a furious pace as we have not replaced people who have left and remain terribly understaffed.

It’s hard to get motivated, too, as my employer tried to cut my wage just days after inking my current contract and doing nothing to reassure me that they will not try the same thing again this year: if, in fact, they even offer me a contract at all.

A quick update. Friday night I went to a presentation given by a mate’s cycling tour business in Italy. DORY BIKE. It looked like an absolutely fantastic operation and the guy who sat next to me on the night won a tour. The operators did an outstanding job of presenting their business and I found it inspiring.

Saturday was basically a write-off. I woke and it was raining, turned on the telly and hit bum out mode. Halfway through the day, I remembered that I had a job due and got stuck into it.

Mrs. Kangaeroo had a night shift. Normally, I would ride the death machine into town and take my time coming home, but the weather was miserable and none of my mates would be around, so I stayed glued to my seat and watched YouTube, falling asleep on the couch.

Sunday promised a lot more, and delivered enormously in the end, but in no way as I had expected.

Although the forecast was for sunny weather, I woke to gloom and drizzle, which was a perfect match for my mood.

A renovated apartment on the top floor of our building was having an open house viewing today, so Mrs. Kangaeroo and I planned to use this as an opportunity to have a gander and take some photos of Kangaeroo Corner from above. But the apartment never opened.

A planned visit to Tama Hills at the end of the month got thrown into disarray through an organizational misunderstanding, continuing my somber mood as I had invited my daughters to attend and now had to tell them that they couldn’t. The elder of the girls told me that she wanted to meet anyway as she had something to report to me. Repeated requests did not result in the divulging of information that I sought, but I have my guesses, prime of which has to do with her having married in recent months.

Then, a great mate and employer from Japan Biking called me and we had our first long chat in a few years. He has gone through some tough times thanks to covid, but his kindness and warmth remained unabated. Hearing from him lifted my spirts enormously.

The weekend ended with a short shopping trip that constituted my only ride for the entire weekend and I got to stock up on a huge amount of German chocolate.

Sunday night was another rough night and Monday morning didn’t start well, being chilly and with gloomy skies.

But as the morning ride neared it’s end, the sun broke through the clouds and looked absolutely magnificent, giving me some glorious shots.

As had been the case the previous day, less than pleasant starts morphed into outcomes leaving me contented.

Golden Girl

La Cangura is the name of my bike, a beautiful gunmetal and gold-trimmed machine from Orbea, a manufacturer from Spain, hence the name (which means The Kangaroo in English).

She looks delightful in among the canola, the yellow hues of the bike and the flowers a wonderful match.

Just wish I was having as much luck with my flowers and other plants in the Kangaeroo Corner garden.

I’m relatively new to the gardening caper, only having really taken a great interest in it since Amazing Alex made the Aussie garden for us in March 2022.

While the garden is, for the most part, thriving, as I noted a while back, the plants I really wanted to flourish–kangaroo paw, tree fern and jacaranda– all died.

A grevillea we picked up from a local supermarket was our first-year miracle, blooming six times and looking absolutely wonderful before suddenly taking a turn for the worst about a month ago.

With the onset of spring, I expected the existing plants in the garden and the new seedlings I have been growing since around Christmas last year to all thrive and create a lusciously colorful slice of paradise.

Yeah, good luck with that one.

Anyway, we got back in touch with Alex and received some advice on fertilizer that we hope will give the trees a bit of a lift.

Fertilizers designed for Australian native plants are also on the way and should arrive today.

My seedlings are looking sickly, so I took the feeblest of the lot back inside and reinstalled them in the humidity pods under the growth lights.

The great seed experiment has not really paid off well at all, but it is still far from over.

Patience, never something I have been overly endowed with, is now being required.

The weather is not being a great friend, either. This week has been alarmingly windy and I am sure it is not making things easy for the plants, either.

A few delightful success stories from the spring so far have been the blossoming wattle, the cherry blossom plant and the wisteria, which is now verging on full bloom if the wind doesn’t blow away all her petals.

None of these plants bloomed last year, so they are clearly enjoying the conditions at Kangaeroo Corner.

Let’s hope other plants will end up doing the same.

Crikey! What’s Going On Here?

Crikey, Kangaeroo.com is colder than ever before and I’ve got no explanation for what is happening.

Let’s get one thing straight, first: Kangaeroo.com has never been hot!

This website started in March 2010 together with a sister site (now defunct) called Yutairui.com, which had a record of attracting more than 35,000 visits in a single day not long after it opened, but was shut down by a DDoS later that same year.

Kangaeroo.com, to the best of my knowledge, has never had more than five visitors in a single day!

This site, centered on the Strine Dictionary, was supposed to help people get their heads around Australian English, which when the site opened had only been on the TOEFL test for a couple of years.

Nobody showed any interest!

Then, there was a few years of showing a quirky side of both countries, as well as interesting stories about them if I could find them.

Then a few years of complete inactivity, so something close to that.

But in recent months, I have tried to revive the site as something like a journal.

Biggest problem with that is that I lead a fairly quiet life.

And the site reflects that…..I got a message this morning to say that last month I had a record low 29 visits. For the entire month!!!! Nothing like a smidgen of humility to keep ya grounded.

Fatal Attraction

Death Machine

Following slovenly Saturday where I did basically nothing for the whole day, today has become a bit of sprightly Sunday, being busy from the get-go, with the Death Machine taking a prime position.

The Death Machine is, of course, the nickname I give to my Performer recumbent bicyle.

It gets that name because the bike feels so unsafe, the feeling while riding it is that death is imminet.

It’s no exaggeration.

Riding the bike is a frightful experience.

And I crashed the Death Machine badly around this time last year, fracturing my leg and causing permanent damage to my knee.

Getting the Death Machine was a stroke of luck.

I’d always fancied a recumbent bike since I saw one flying along the roads when I used to walk from Fujisawa Station to work at Keio University Shonan Fujisawa Campus a decade ago now.

I was already getting into cycling and when I moved to a job downtown the following year, was greatly encouraged by Kiwi John.

I was riding a Dahon Route folding bike at the time, but Kiwi John had a bad back and rode a recumbent.

He was super cool and his bike was even more impressive, giving me even greater cravings to get a lie-down bike.

Upon checking out catalogs and prices, though, the recumbent dream pretty much vanished.

Sports bikes aren’t cheap, and recumbents are at the pricier end of the sports bike range. Most were close to 300,000 yen at the entry level and well past 500,000 yen when considering a carbon frame. Even secondhand, a recumbent generally commanded a price over 200,000 yen.

And so the years passed.

Then, a couple of years ago, I saw a bike posted on Facebook for 50,000 yen. It was in Nagoya. Didn’t matter, I promised to pay immediately, booked a bus for that night (a Friday) and planned to ride it home to Tokyo when I picked it up the following morning.

I got less than 50 meters. I would topple over and fall with every few strokes. It was clear that I wouldn’t be riding back home. I wouldn’t even make it to the nearest station a few hundred meters away.

I eventually got the bike home (wrapped in garbage bags because I didn’t have a rinko bag needed to carry it on the train). And I destroyed the bloody chain in the process of carrying the bike back to Tokyo.

Almost destroyed my marriage when I eventually did get home.

Even the endlessly patient Mrs. Kangaeroo was peeved at my latest waste of money. And doubly so when I immediately needed to put it in for repairs and upgrading of parts that cost as much as the bike had.

It took a while to track down the maker, which used to have a branch office in Yamanashi Prefecture, but now how only its home base in Taiwan. George from Performer was fantastic, providing advice on the bike, the necessary new derailleur and videos on how to ride it.

Still, all the advice in the world and watching videos was not really a great help in learning to ride the bike. I repeatedly crashed and struggled to get a feel for riding it….hence the Death Machine moniker.

It took literally months to learn how to ride. I didn’t help myself by riding narrow tracks with climbs and turns, all of which are not friends of the recumbent bicycle in general.

Eventually, though, I got to feel at ease….well, maybe not that far. I felt that I could get around on the bike.

A much-needed good luck charm for cycling safety from Aso shrine in Hamura.

Rumor has it that recumbents ride faster on flats than road bikes. That hasn’t been my experience. I can get a decent speed out of the Death Machine, but well short of what I can get on La Cangura, my road bike.

I guess the recumbent is a little more comfortable than a road bike on long, straight roads. But only in the sense of being less strenuous while being in a lying position.

What’s more, recumbents seem to annoy drivers even more than a regular bicycle, if that’s possible, and also seem to bring out the most competitive side of every other cyclist, who wants to outpace the weird contraption that may have overtaken them.

So, they can’t turn, can’t climb, aren’t fast, inspire nearly everybody to want to throttle you and are truly dangerous. Why the fuck do I ride it? I guess it’s some fatal attraction. The recumbent attracts attention, and doubly so because I have decked it out in tiger stripes and ride with tiger-themed attire, so I am feeding my constantly craving ego. And the thrill of truly feeling at death’s door. It’s an deniable feeling. I wonder whether it stems from addiction issues?

Lots of addicts I know have an affinity for cycling. I guess it’s the repetitive nature of the rotating pedals and quick fix of endorphins from the exercise? I’m sure there are definitive studies somewhere, but my own hearsay affirms this. The late Robin Williams, a famous addict was also an avid cyclist.

Who knows? One thing for sure is that I enjoy riding the Death Machine, especially if I can overtake a roadie, which I can sometimes do with the aid of gravity. And I even bear riding with a knee brace to placate Mrs. Kangaeroo and the doctor.

So, when I die on the Death Machine, bring up this blog post and know that there were some fond memories.