G'Day from LALA


As every being on the planet knows, the Australians have already taken over Hollywood. And as if to prove the point, last week (January 14-22) was Australia Week in Los Angeles. According to the website (link: www.australia-week.com):

Australia Week, known as G’Day LA is a 7 day celebration of art, commerce, culture and history [not necessarily in that order – more like ‘commerce, art, commerce, culture, commerce, history, and did I mention commerce?’] highlighting Australia’s vitality as both a place to visit and a place to do business in the 21st Century.

Basically, for a week, the Australians who put this shindig together did just about everything in their power to attract LA to Oz – everything except promise to make Scientology the new State religion Down Under.

A truly impressive array of events – ranging from a serious policy forum on Energy Security in the Asia Pacific, to a ‘Food and Beverage’ trade day, displays of Australian fashion, art exhibitions, trade shows, film screenings, and a series of dinners – were deployed as the combined forces of various State tourism boards, the feds, Qantas and other ‘stakeholders’ did all they could to convince us that, were it not for the flies, Australia would actually be a First World country.

But the highlight of the week had to be the ‘Wolf Blass Australian Rules Football’ game at UCLA between the Kangaroos (the old North Melbourne) and reigning champs the Sydney Swans, which (naturally!) followed a presentation by crocodile-hunter Steve Irwin. The Kangaroos 13.8 (86) beat the Swans 6.2 (38), and being a Saints man myself (someone told me they were the Aussie Rules equivalent of my beloved Chicago White Sox), I could only applaud the defeat of the premiers.

Even more, I applaud the presence of the Aussie Rules on my native soil, and can only hope that someday we might actually get decent TV coverage here. Unfortunately, I hear that, inspired by the way Disney bought and hid the works of Japanese anime genius Hayao Miyazaki from Americans for years – for fear that once they saw his films, they would lose their taste for the slick pap the Mouse was feeding them – our National Football League has bought the TV rights to your AFL in order to keep Americans from seeing what sport actually looks like when players don’t wear Panzer tanks, or they don’t stop play every 15 seconds.

My only real complaint during the week of G’Day LA was that it featured the first ‘Sommers Commonwealth Cricket Cup.’ Don’t get me wrong, I am firmly in favor of anything that brings cricket, and cricket coverage to my poor benighted country – but not, please, in the grotesque form of Twenty20. The baseball-isation of cricket is nearly complete! Soon, steroid-pumped monsters can destroy the statistical history of cricket as they have baseball.

Then there was the ‘Rosemount Estate Film Premiere’ on 17 January at Paramount Studios, which featured the US premiere of Look Both Ways the multi-award-winning Australian film. I found it odd to be surrounded by Australians in LA. In fact, the only way to know for sure that we were in LA and not Sydney or Melbourne was that all they were serving was Rosemount wines and Foster’s beer – which I can’t recall anybody actually drinking in Oz.

I suspect the waiters weren’t all Australian – some were most probably American actors pretending to be Australian, in the hope of being discovered and cast as Americans due to their remarkably good impression of an American accent. You could tell the ‘real’ Australian waiters, though – they were the ones who felt free to insult the food, strike up conversations with the guests, and remind the grandees where they had met before.

After several short films, speeches, and a bizarre advert for filming in Oz, which simply featured every special effects shot of the last decade, Look Both Ways was screened. It was excellent and surprisingly moving, if hardly the advertisement for life in South Australia that the State tourism board might have imagined when they funded it – though perhaps a tad more inviting than Wolf Creek … (‘Come to Australia, get a tan, then be skinned alive,’ should really pack the trans-Pacific jumbos).

The Australia Week events were a fair representation of the range, depth and disarming modesty of Australians, and owed a lot to the work of the Consul-General, John Olsen, who will be missed when he shifts to New York.

If I could suggest anything different (other than a proper cricket match) it would be a political forum with which to familiarise my fellow Americans with the ways in which Australia (perhaps to its own surprise) continues to be the best model in the world of a true Third Way. For instance, you could clue us in to the shocking truth that universal health care is not necessarily the first step down the slippery slope to communism.

That, and a couple of slabs of proper Australian beer. That’d be a good day LA indeed.

Launched in 2004, New Matilda is one of Australia's oldest online independent publications. It's focus is on investigative journalism and analysis, with occasional smart arsery thrown in for reasons of sanity. New Matilda is owned and edited by Walkley Award and Human Rights Award winning journalist Chris Graham.