Diaspora Perthus

I recently heard a podcast about the Pittsburgh diaspora, and I realised that I was part of the Perth diaspora. According to TheFreeDictionary, a diaspora is “a dispersion of a people from their original homeland, or the community formed by such a people”. I know a fair number of people who hale from Perth, in Western Australia, and while they have lived away from there for many years, still retain a fondness, and a connection. Even while there doesn’t seem to be a conscious effort to construct an expatriate Perth community, they seem to form anyway.

I wonder if there are some distinct cultural traits that mark out people from Perth, such that we spot each other. There is a slight shift in accent across Australia, with people from W.A. having a more Pommie accent, and people from the eastern states having a more Kiwi accent. I’m not sure many Australians would recognise it though – certainly I don’t. Also, there’s a little local slang, such as “Freo” for “Fremantle” and “Rotto” for “Rottnest”, and the fact that we refer to bathing trunks as “bathers” (that one’s shared with a couple of other states, I believe). There’s a distinct driving behaviour on the road that is territorial and dismissive of pedestrians. Most people would lose that after driving elsewhere – or their insurance premiums would skyrocket.

The types of people I know that have left Perth have all had careers in fields like IT/Telecomms, Music, Academia, Finance or Law. All occupations that benefit from being close to a larger population centre. Maybe we find each other because we bump into each other at work?

So, if you catch your colleague moaning about the poor choice of beaches, spreading rumours about the dangers of quokkas, or complaining about the time they dated someone that turned out to be the sibling of a friend, then perhaps they’re part of the Perth diaspora.

Gentle comedies

The last couple of films I’ve seen happen to have been both good-natured, gentle, character-driven comedies. They’re a nice change from the recent trend towards unsubtle humour, of which recent examples are Borat or Nacho Libre.

Little Miss Sunshine

A quirky road-movie

Although this film is fundamentally a road movie, with a journey that is more important than the destination, and characters who make self-discoveries through overcoming adversities, the plot is not what this film is about. It’s really about the characters.

The family that jumps in a car together is not defined by their disfunction (a la the Griswolds in National Lampoon’s Vacation) but by their individuality. They are an improbably diverse set of characters.

There’s the average-looking girl that dreams of winning a beauty pageant (the Little Miss Sunshine of the title), the boy that doesn’t talk, the father who’s a motivational speaker, the practical housewife, the suicidal uncle, and the drug-addicted grandfather. It’s a totally delightful mix, and each is pretty well rounded.

Don’t expect deep insight, but the bizarre characters reflect back to us the bizarre nature of parts of modern American society. I enjoyed it.

My rating: 3.5 stars


A mockumentary full of toilet-humour

The central character of this documentary-style movie is Kenny, brought to us through the skills of actor Shane Jacobson, who also edits the film and is one of the writers. The other writer, Clayton Jacobson, is also the director, and also makes an acting appearance. So does Ronald Jacobson and at least one other Jacobson. It’s very much a family show.

The show is something like a week-in-the-life of a port-a-loo plumber. We get to experience his honest perspective on the everyday activity of using the toilet, while meeting his family and colleagues. Kenny feels fully rounded and believable. I wouldn’t be surprised if this is the creation of a new Australian comic personality.

There are some fantastic lines, and many laugh-out-loud moments. It’s also a tale of family and acceptance. I hope we see Kenny again.

My rating: 3.5 stars

The “Book-Club Book” as a genre

I’m a member of a book-club, and it’s quite fun. The peer-pressure that forces you to read something interesting but “not what I would have chosen” is a force for good. Apparently book-clubs are relatively common, and their popularity is growing. Perhaps this is my cynicism, but I suspect some authors are now targeting the book-club as the audience for their books. And I suspect this is the case with last month’s book …

The Shadow of the Wind

A mystery story that’s a little too wordy.

What alerts the reader that this book is targeted to book-group discussion is that it has a discussion guide at the back. I’ve seen this on a few books now, and I’m not sure it’s a good thing. If a book needs help to discuss it, then it’s probably not a good book-club book.

It is an interesting story, though. This novel tells the tale of Daniel, who is the son of a book store owner. He gets caught up in a mystery that has several bizarre characters and plenty of twists. Will books be his life? Will a book take over his life? Will a book take his life?

Set in Barcelona in the 1950s, the atmosphere of post Civil War recovery provides a rich stage for the characters to develop on. The book is originally Spanish, and the English language version is a translation.

I doubt it’s the translator’s fault, but the writing seems obsessed with its own cleverness and wordplay. It does seem to go on a bit. At over 500 pages, this book is probably also slightly long for the average meet-once-a-month book-club.

In the end, it was a pretty light read. There wasn’t much meat in the story to really discuss and argue about. I find the best book-club books are ones that people are prepared to get heated up over. This wasn’t one of those.

My rating: 3.0 stars

Next month we’ll be discussing Simon Wiesenthal’s The Sunflower. It’s not light, but I think it will be an excellent book-club book.