I was working. How was your Australia Day mate?

So if you’re not Australian or Australian-adjacent (shout out to my fellow drink-slingers over in Whistler) there a solid chance you’re unaware that yesterday, January 26th, was Australia Day. Pronounced Straya Day. It’s a day of beaches and barbecues and arguing about what song will be No. 1 on the Hottest 100 when it plays on the 27th for some people, and to advocate for changing the date to something a little less insulting towards Indigenous Australians for others (#ChangeTheDate). What day that will be is a bit contentious, considering how many bad days have been inflicted on our Indigenous Peoples over the past 230 fucking years or so, but we really need to put some thought into it.

Me, I was at work in the evening. We were pretty goddamn slow for a saturday night, though that wasn’t all that surprising. I work in an underground speakeasy that specialises in cocktails made with premium spirits, which doesn’t exactly gel with sunburnt bogans draped in Aussie flags drinking shit tinnies, or sunburnt backpackers draped in Aussie flags drinking shit tinnies, or families of any stripe enjoying a barbecue or the beach and a couple of shit tinnies if they’re that-way inclined. Not a bad night, certainly, but slower than we like on a saturday.

Meant we got to close up relatively early, so at about 2:30am I was bringing up the garbage to drop into the on-street bin, and the tattooists next door were outside smoking a durrie or three. Pleasantries were exchanged, as you do when you get on with your neighbours.

“How was your night?” they asked.

“Alright. Slow as hell. Dead. But alright.”

“Same,” said a mustachioed hipster, “So slow I haven’t even done a single racist tattoo.

Brilliant. I was still chuckling as I made my way down the stairs back into our basement bar, and shared that little bit of insight with my black coworker, who also got a laugh out of it. Just goes to show how slow certain parts of Sydney are these days when a tattooist doesn’t get the opportunity to price-gouge a single drunken idiot for an implicitly racist bit of ink on Australia day.

Happy Australia Day folks. Lot’s of love to you and yours, no matter where you’re from.

Now let’s get around to changing the date and getting the refugees off Nauru.

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View from across the ocean: Australia Day 2016 special

Well, it’s that time of year again. Big Day Out, The Hottest 100, beaches, barbecues, cricket when possible and copious amounts of beer and cider. I’ll be up in Whistler with the rest of my kind (it’s not called ‘Whistralia’ for nothing) listening to Triple J count through all the songs I’ve missed after being away from decent radio for soon-to-be-a-year (Christ, that came quickly) with some mates. ‘Cause that’s what being a 20-something Aussie abroad is all about. Meanwhile, the grown-ups are (as always) talking about serious issues, like whether or not the Australia should become a republic or the never-ending argument about whether or not we couldn’t find a more culturally sensitive date than January 26th to celebrate what passport we hand into customs. If it sounds like I’m making light of it, it’s only because Indigenous Australians have every right to feel a quite miffed about it and we should have fixed this years ago. That and, quite frankly, there are people who are far better at communicating exactly what the issues are and how they need to be addressed. I just take pot-shots and write about video games.

Then again, ignorant white racists have had a good year since the last Australia Day. Reclaim Australia is still going surprisingly strong despite the rest of us pointing out to the ignorant pensioners in the group that they’re marching with skinheads. What about that guy that became the face of Reclaim Australia getting all angry about us judging a book by its cover? How fuckin’ funny was that! I was laughing my arse off when he claimed that he wasn’t racist because he had a Bangladeshi mate, whose name he didn’t know so he just called the guy Bangladesh. I mean, mate, referring to a guy by his heritage group because you haven’t actually bothered to learn his name is not the best way to prove you aren’t a bigot. All it does is show how lacking in any sort of self-awareness you are. But, nah man, it’s because of your facial tattoos. Sure. Mind you I think we now understand the demographic that must keep voting for Senator Barnaby ‘is this champagne halal’ Joyce. He wasn’t the only polly to make a bit of an arse of himself bigotry-wise of course (Peter Dutton had a moment or two, for example), and even Pauline Hanson got a moment in the spotlight again with her “all terrorists are muslims” thing, completely ignoring (amongst many others) the Catholic IRA, Hindu Tamil Tigers in Sri Lanka (until quite recently), pre-Israel Jewish hotel bombers and by-this-point-mostly-just-lip-service communist FARC guerrillas only now having peace talks with the Colombian government. I could go on, but at some point it just starts being facetious. And I need time to mention those fuckwits who reckoned the 10th anniversary of the Cronulla Riots was worth celebrating, as if a bunch of drunken idiots wearing the Aussie flag beating up anything darker than Wonder White is something to be proud of.

But things have improved a little. The guy who this time last year was handing out knighthoods to bloody Prince Philip has been replaced by a centre-right republican (not the type any yanks reading this might immediately think of) who had too many centre-left tendencies for his own good last time he was running the Liberal Party. Thankfully a lot of those on the further right who gave Malcolm Turnbull the boot the first time round came to the conclusion that they weren’t going to have a job if Tony Abbott kept eating raw onions (I believe he kept a basket of them under his chair in parliament) and generally doing and saying things that made the population collectively mutter “for fuck’s sake!” under their breaths. So Mr Turnbull’s back in the top job. And there was much rejoicing. Hooray for self interest. Etcetera, etcetera. Except for Labor and Bill Shorten, who’s losing even more ground to Turnbull in the preferred PM polls. Wonder how long past the next election (due this year I believe) before Mr Shorten is replaced by someone who can actually win. Like Tanya Plibersek, Anthony Albanese or (we can dream) Penny Wong, all of whom seem to have been putting up far more of a fight than Mr Shorten has in recent months (at least from my limited perspective across the Pacific). On the bright side for those of us who like taking pot shots, Mr Abbott had announced he’ll contest in the next election. I reckon it’ll be hilarious regardless of the results.

Lot to talk about, politics-wise from the past year. Been far too long since I wrote one of these as well. Even in just the past month or two we saw the Liberal ranks partly gutted after an attempt to jump ship to the Nationals was prevented and another member was removed from Cabinet after inappropriate behaviour towards a DFaT bureaucrat was reported. The Brits got a bit upset when the same-sex marriage of a couple was not recognised, after one of the husbands sadly died on their honeymoon. Even Christopher Pine called it a pretty heartless and unnecessary act (because it is, you heartless bastards), and as I understand it the South Australian government has since (quite rightly) apologised.

Could go on, but we’d be here for a while. Going back to Australia Day, you guys seen this Deadpool thing?

Fuckin’ funny. Nice to see that even the Merc with the Mouth can’t help but like Hugh Jackman (who really is just delightful). Reminded me of Ron Burgundy’s messages before the Melbourne Cup…

… and after our (I think it was) last election…

… joining our tradition of Australia Day messages that are funny despite being thinly veiled advertisements. You know what I’m talking about. And just in case you don’t, here’s Sam Kekovich:

Looking back at that, he says a few things that I can’t help but feel you wouldn’t get away completely with saying these days. Cringed at a few moments. But when I was 15 this was the funniest goddamn thing in the world. Mind you, it’s pretty easy to make a pubescent boy laugh, so yeah. Still not all that hard to make me laugh, if I’m being honest with myself.

Last thing I’ll mention is that the Republican movement does seem to be building up steam. All but one of the state heads have signed onto the call for an Aussie head of state, we have republicans on both sides of the federal leadership and we’re still not all that keen on Charlie taking the throne eventually. More importantly most people are probably pretty indifferent to shifts in a distant monarchy. Can’t get enough of those royal babies though, can we?

Anyway, I’ll be boarding a bus up to Whistler pretty soon. Stupidly excited about it all. Drinking and skiing and listening to the Triple J Hottest 100. That’s probably what I’m most excited about. Most likely be sitting there with the Shazam app running through the whole thing. Who’d you guys vote for?

Knights and flags and anthems and Taylor Swift on the radio. Happy Australia Day!

Australia Day Sketch - Edited

Seriously, Happy fuckin’ Australia Day. That weird holiday when people across the country are able to cover themselves in the Jack and Cross (a slang term for the Australian flag I just invented at this moment) without automatically being judged as racist bogans, parading how fair dinkum Aussie they are in a bizarre parody of national pride ripped heavily from July 4th episodes of American television.  Ozzie! Ozzie! Ozzie! and all that. I’d sooner deck myself in the green and gold, but that’s me.

The lead-up’s been a particularly strange one this year. It’s always a bit of a political wank, as both sides of whatever line you happen to be watching cloak their own ideas of “what it means to be Australian” (or some such crap) within the language of patriotism and nationalism. There were the usual articles about how for the Indigenous community Australia Day, the anniversary of the convicts being disembarked from the First Fleet (and, in the mature-rated history books, the crazy, drunken orgy that followed), is also the anniversary of the beginning of the bloody White European conquest of the continent. Some better (passionate arguments made quite reasonably, by members of the Indigenous community and supporters with proven records fighting for aboriginal rights, for a less culturally insensitive date), some worse (social media hipster liberals ’embarrassed’ by displays of national affection on a culturally insensitive date). But a lot of the air time seems to have been taken up by other controversies (loosely using the word here) this year.

Opposition Leader Bill Shorten raised the old Republican debate in an Australia Day eve speech, reckoning that it’s about time we thought about cutting ties with the English Royal Family and figuring things out for ourselves. This is at odds with Prime Minister Tony Abbott’s reintroduction of rewarding people the government likes with knight and damehoods. One winner was (now) Sir Angus Houston, former Air Chief Marshall of the RAAF and Chief of the ADF, recently in charge of the search for MH370 (by all accounts a top bloke deserving of the right to put ‘Sir’ in front of his name). Another winner? Prince Philip. I shit you not, Prince Philip, the goddamn Duke of Edinburgh is now a Knight of the Order of Australia. ‘Cause he served in the Royal Navy and is the titular Duke of Edinburgh of the Duke of Edinburgh Award. I’m not saying he doesn’t deserve to be a Knight of the Order of Australia, it just seems like pretty small change compared to some of his other titles. Given His Lordship’s (or is it His Majesty’s? Royal Highness’?) sense of humour, I’d like to know what his reaction was when he was informed. Apparently it hasn’t gone down well with Mr Abbott’s own government who, aside from not all sharing his monarchist leanings, are upset that he’s disregarded his own word to use the honour to award prominent Australians (rather than foreign royals).

At the same time, the old argument about the need to change the flag to one that doesn’t give prime position to that of a foreign country did the rounds (as it always does this time of year). While I’m partial to switching to some version of the Eureka Flag, a pattern with some real history and meaning beyond ‘won a magazine competition about a century ago,’ but I don’t expect we’ll see a change any time soon. Unless the Kiwis change there’s first. Fun stuff.

Then of course there was the joy that came from a proposal by the National Australia Day Council encouraging all Aussies to get up at noon (Eastern Daylight Savings Time I’m assuming) and sing the two official verses of the national anthem. Personally, I wanted to kick the shins of whoever came up with that jingoistic tripe. Not only do Australians have a long, storied history of disrespect, flippancy and irreverence for such displays (the ANZACs of the First World War, for example, had a reputation for refusing to salute no matter how hard their British officers tried), but we had to endure the long-winded complaints by pseudo-intellectual lefties like myself telling people exactly why it was such an un-Australian suggestion. We needn’t have bothered worrying. Nobody gave a shit, and nobody sang the anthem.

But the real controversy, the real issue that rocked the nation, was Taylor Swift’s inclusion then exclusion from Triple J’s Hottest 100 list. The Hottest 100 is an annual cultural phenomenon in Australia, receiving millions of votes and listened to at any party, pub or gathering worth a damn. Run by the major public youth broadcaster, it tends to act as a cultural litmus test of what is relevant that extends across genres, leaping from punk and heavy metal to dance and hip hop. Given that the Js are listened to by the kind of folk who eschew commercial radio for being too commercial (and are unable to recognise a tautology when they say one) there was plenty of anguish over a campaign started on Buzzfeed to get Shake it Off by Swift onto the list. Seriously, people were not fuckin’ happy, which only fuelled the anti-hipster fires. Triple J remained relatively mum over the issue, finally announcing before the broadcast that she had been disqualified because of the Buzzfeed campaign (and a social media bandwagon jump by KFC). And again, people were not fuckin’ happy. It was probably the right decision by Triple J, who couldn’t let the lovers and haters get away with “troll[ing] the polls” lest it set a precedent. I don’t imagine Swift is shedding any tears over her disqualification, she certainly doesn’t need the press like so many of the other artists on the Hottest 100 list, and it really was an act of trolling. Still, while I wouldn’t call myself a fan of Tay Tay I don’t hate her, and it would have been a bit of a laugh if she managed to win. It certainly wouldn’t have been as bad as last year when Royals by Lorde was beaten for the top spot by Riptide by Vance Joy. Lorde was bloody robbed.

Christ, are other countries’ national days like this?