Monday, December 19, 2011

Being mistaken for a local in New York City

Despite the existence of a New York State being the source of constant confusion for white Melburnians, their love for New York City continues unabated. However, the non-New York City parts of America hold little interest to Melbourne white people, with back-to-back Bush presidencies appearing to have neutralised the broad popularity of Kerouac's On the Road. In fact, the longest a white Melburnian has been known to tolerate a non-New York City part of the USA was a four hour layover at LAX in 2009. Even though the Aussie dollar is making a parody of parity by hitting $1.10 against the Greenback earlier this year, white Melburnians will only visit American places that are just like Fitzroy, only cooler. If North America was Chapel street, New York City would be the Windsor end.

In order to exchange your travel stories for cultural capital back home, you need to visit places that have the right balance between notoriety and obscurity. Telling people you went to Swaziland will mean nothing to most white Melburnians. On the other hand, saying you went to the Netherlands will only mean you get to listen to stories from people who were there five years before you. This is why being mistaken for a local in New York City is so important to Melbourne white people! This will be the one story they always tell. Long after they realise how naive it sounds to say 'New Yorkers talk just like they do in the movies'(!), the time they were mistaken for a local in New York City will be rehashed again and again.

But the problem of loving New York is that every other tourist also loves New York, sometimes just as much as you do! Right now your Mum is remembering her New York shopping trips to Macy's and Bloomingdale's - she even thinks these shops can't be found anywhere else. Meanwhile, your brother is in the midst of a Jay Z phase and is planning a trip to Times Square. Walking past RMIT at lunch, you just heard some First Years discussing their experiences in a Manhattan bagel shop and how the guy behind the counter was full looking at them. So how do you position your experience in New York as superior? Just follow the subtle tricks used by White Melburnians.

The first trick is to never mention how you thought New Yorkers would comment on your Australian accent. The streets of New York are awash with foreign accents, just like Melbourne. Aside from being mistaken for South African or British, there really isn't any difference having an Australian accent in New York as there is in Melbourne. Secondly, you should rave about the burritos and other Mexican food, but be careful to only frame the price as exotic. Thirdly, spend most of your time in Brooklyn.

The trip to Brooklyn is like a pilgrimage, but instead of paying respects to a God, white Melburnians go to worship trendier versions of themselves. Hedge your trip to Brooklyn against all of the fashion mistakes you have ever made and are yet to make. Think of the trip as a form of insurance, collateral or credentialing. Maybe you used to go to raves or have a Chinese character tattoo. Maybe you're worried that your current look will soon be out of date. The shame of these mistakes will be lessened if you have been to New York because New York never goes out of style. For example, the long beards that make white Melburnian men look like they're impersonating the Federal member for Leichhardt at the turn of the century and the short hair on white Melburnian women that is reminiscent of the 1993 year 12 class at De La Salle will eventually be subjected to devastating critique. Thus those soon-to-be embarrassing Facebook photos must be scattered amongst pics of house parties in Brooklyn. It used to be okay to make fun of out-of-date fashion even when you used to sport it yourself, but now online photo albums preserve your mistakes for eternity. Remember: cultural memory amongst white Melburnians goes back about five minutes, but Facebook is forever.

Monday, November 21, 2011

Smith street

White Melburnians don't like Smith street the way it is today but the past they long for never quite existed. For some reason though it's preferable to yearn for an imagined past than to enjoy the way things are right now. White Melburnians actually prefer some degree of gentrification than none at all. They would never admit this though as many of them lament the processes of gentrification even when they are the gentry. But would you prefer Smith street to return to its smack dealing heyday circa 1999 and get hassled by junkies every time you went there? No? Then you like gentrification!

But Smith street isn't completely gentrified yet because it still has plenty of boarded up shops, amateur graffiti and dive bars. It even has an empty lot overgrown with weeds! Yet this is balanced with an overabundance of salons, Japanese restaurants and Cavallero. Seriously, if you want to get your hair done and eat some udon there's no better place than Smith street. But it's a delicate balance so appreciate it now. One more salon or Japanese restaurant and it'll be a gentrified, sanitised, yuppie suburb with *gasp* late-thirties-women-in-expensive-jeans-pushing-strollers! They might even put-their-keys-and-smartphones-on-the-table-while-meeting-for-coffee! This is the white Melburnian version of hell. So enjoy Smith street today. You'll miss it when it's gone.

I reckon Smith street is at the perfect level of gentrification right now so we have to appreciate it otherwise we will never progress as a culture. A culture can still thrive even when the stories it tells itself are retold over and over as long as these stories are adapted to the times in which they are told. So to avoid entering a Dark Age I suggest we recognise the cyclical processes of gentrification - neighbourhoods boom and bust over decades. There will always be a street like Smith street in Melbourne. It won't be exactly the same but this is okay because healthy cultures naturally change and evolve. While Smith street might end up like Acland street it won't matter because another street will rise to take its place. Even though Acland street still retains some gems and Carlisle street now has an appeal that wasn't around back in Acland's Golden Age. But white Melburnians usually do not lament the lack of affordable housing for the poor or the closure of local businesses that are typical consequences of gentrification - they're just pissed off their streets now lack the gritty charm they believe only the poor can provide. So we need a more inclusive way of talking about gentrification.

Tuesday, November 1, 2011

Complaining about the coffee in remote destinations

Whether you're in Coober Pedy, Tibet, Broken Hill or Bolivia, you will likely encounter a white Melburnian complaining about the coffee at a local cafe. Many claim to travel to experience foreign cultures but when the culture in question does not include expertise in espresso coffee (with Bonsoy) there will be outrage and contempt. Unwilling to accept cultural diversity when it comes to coffee, Melbourne white people want everywhere to be just like De Clieu. They refuse to imagine an alternative to drinking tiny portions of espresso coffee overwhelmed by warm milk and sugar out of disposable paper cups.

To white Melburnians, a lack of espresso coffee (with Bonsoy) remains the preferred indicator of a nation's poverty. Anything else, such as no clean water, high infant mortality rates, minimal public infrastructure spending, mass unemployment and political oppression will be accepted as givens (even exotic) and consumed as part of a search for difference. Melbourne white people will even expect coffee growing nations - some of the poorest countries on Earth, to have excellent (Italian) espresso coffee. It's sort of like expecting the nation of Ghana to be the world's main consumer of gourmet chocolate, when many Ghanians don't even get a full meal a day. But white Melburnians aren't the only ones who confuse the geographies of production with those of consumption, so why single them out? Because white Melburnians see coffee as necessary for life when in fact it's a luxury item. And because many of them are studying international development degrees.

Saturday, October 8, 2011

Innovative fast food chains

Considering the fried onion only became a staple at Australian barbecues in the 21st century, you can understand the long and successful history fast food chains have enjoyed in this country. They were able to stand apart from the rest of the market by not carbonising the meat and serving condiments other than tomato sauce and tomato sauce. So ever since their takeover of airport lounges, highway off ramps, petrol stations, shopping centres, suburban thoroughfares, freeways, stadiums, schools and universities, it would be safe to assume the spread of fast food chains in our society has reached critical mass. But there is one place left for them to colonise: the graffitied laneways and cycle-friendly streets of white Melbourne.

A clustering of fast food chains can be observed at the borders of white Melbourne, like insurgents clamoring at the gates of the Green Zone. Bell Street Maccas, Pizza Hut and PizzaMaster on the corner of Smith and Victoria, the KFC on Chapel Street, Prahran. To move beyond their natural habitat (which is overrun by competing species) they've had to evolve. Innovative fast food chains are the most adaptive of their kind, characterised by a lack of drive-through, the addition of drinks and even alcohol served in very adult-like glass bottles, and semi-exotic condiments like aioli and guacamole. Their staff are allowed some flexibility in the choice of head wear instead of the standard issue cap, and they usually address all their male customers with the informal 'man' or 'dude'. Some of the stores come with literary references and apostrophes where none should exist, but their most appealing feature is a refreshing self-awareness that they're just fast food chains. Thanks to such innovations, Melbourne white people can now eat fast food without shame and in daylight hours.

Tuesday, September 20, 2011

Toto's Africa

Originally I was going to write about how white Melburnians have an ironic appreciation of this song. I was then going to mention how the absurdity of the line about 'blessing the rains down in Africa' somehow makes the ironic sing-a-longs more enjoyable, because surely Melbourne white people would never sing a song just for the fun of it. But have you noticed how the loud cheering it receives at house parties is kind of real? And have you ever noticed how good it feels to sing the chorus out loud? It's the white Melburnian equivalent of Livin' on a Prayer! So the truth is white Melburnians love Toto's Africa because it's an awesome song.

Wednesday, August 24, 2011

Meeting at Melbourne Central instead of Flinders Street

Melbourne white people gave up on Flinders Street Station in 2004 when Transport opened at Federation Square. They will never go back. The goths and punks, the evangelical Christians (every Friday night), the overwhelming police presence, the short skirts and muscle tops, the lack of bike parking areas, the "Metro Safety Announcements", the cold, the alienating architectural form and the proximity to Crown Casino, make Flinders Street the station for the wrong types of white Melburnians.

Melbourne Central Station (hereafter MCS) is a lot better. It's inside so you don't have to worry about the cold, and it's close to the state library so you can update your status about how you're studying at the library. There's even a giant clock so white Melburnians can still meet under one and not feel like they are betraying the spirit of their city.

But what the preference of MCS over Flinders Street demonstrates is the alternative geographies white Melburnians use when navigating their city. In the white Melburnian mind, the southern border of the city is Bourke Street, its western perimeter is Elizabeth Street\Royal Parade, its eastern side ends at Punt Road, and it's bounded by Alexandra Parade in the north. Imagining the city of Melbourne in this way incorporates Fitzroy and Carlton into the CBD, relegating Flinders Street to the status of a suburban train station and eliminating King Street from the discussion. White Melburnians are trying to recreate Melbourne in their own image.

Sunday, August 7, 2011

Quirky lists

One of the best ways to judge a person's character in the internet age is by reading the lists they write in online profiles. For those of you who are new to the international network ('internet', for short), this was not always so. In the nineties, getting-to-know-you question-and-answer lists circulating via electronic mail ('e-mail') on the intra-planetary lattice, or 'worldwide web', were mostly concerned with whether or not you ate the stems of broccoli. Hence their ability to convey to the reader the character of the person responding to the questions was quite limited. Because of social networking sites and web logs ('blogs'), more accurate assessments of character, such as delineating between wrong and right types of white Melburnians, are now possible. The wrong type of white Melburnian takes the act of list writing literally. To them it is just a list, not a work of art. Lists of interests displayed on the web profiles of the wrong types normally look something like this:

Hot showers
Watching movies
Going fishing with my Dad
Sleeping in
Catching up with friends

There's nothing wrong with this list of interests except that it's just a list of interests. Therefore it could not have been written by the right type of Melbourne white person, whose list of interests look more like this:

The donuts at Footscray station
Making lists
Frankston savers
Breakfast burritos
Marieke Hardy
World's End Press
Going off on tangents
Bad puns

White Melburnians believe a list of interests should be used to reflect intellect, cleverness, self-deprecation, humour, worldliness and competence. If you are about to write your own list of interests, remember that one of the most important features to convey is cleverness, but done in a cautious way so as not to totally overwhelm the reader with how clever you are. This is best accomplished by inserting into the list something self-referential like 'awesome alliterations'. The trick of list writing is to make the whole construction of the list appear effortless but expend a great deal of effort to accomplish this - which is a central feature of white Melburnian culture.

Tuesday, July 19, 2011

Seven Seeds

The practice of mounting heads of large animals to the walls of drinking barns has been done in both the American West and southern Africa to convey the wildness of the environment and the mastery of humans over nature. White Melburnians have conquered nature with the fixie, which is why several of them are mounted to the walls of Seven Seeds. You can even park your bike inside. Seven Seeds could not be more Melbourne if you built the entire cafe out of sections of the MCG's Southern Stand. Inside there are communal tables allowing strangers to sit together that would enable lively group discussions in other countries. But at Seven Seeds they are used so white Melburnians can indulge in one of their favourite activities - observing one another in silence.

In Melbourne, cafe owners go to great lengths to make it appear as if their cafes were outfitted by the Salvation Army. Empty metal bookcases with visible signs of rust are highly prized, while menus built into the unsold books from garage sales are considered very sophisticated. At Seven Seeds the lack of a proper ceiling and the use of exposed brick gives the impression the building was constructed out of scrap materials. Thus cafes in Melbourne favour a design style that has historically been used by societies in decline.

Such aesthetics might explain why the coffee at Seven Seeds only comes in one size - small. This would not be out of place in a state-controlled economy like communist Russia where the government considers a large cappuccino to be either a bourgeoisie extravagance or grossly inefficient. But in a flourishing market economy like Australia, where it is believed consumer choice creates competition and thus prosperity, it might seem a little odd. Yet it totally adheres to the theme of imminent societal collapse.

Thursday, June 30, 2011

The Greens

White people have a proud history of exaggerating their influence upon society. For instance, it is widely believed that during the 1960s, groups of white people from Europe and North America invented casual sex and music. So it remains to be seen whether or not the rise of the Greens signals the coming of a new age in Australian politics or a Family First-style anomaly. While Bandt's election victory was widely interpreted as either a failure of the two major parties or the result of a growing environmental awareness amongst the electorate, it was more significant for incorporating white Melburnian values into mainstream Australian society. That's right - white Melburnians even have their own political party!

Most people think the Greens are a one issue party, but they're more like a one seat party. Adam Bandt probably has more support in Williamsburg than Williamstown. To take this idea further, you could imagine a white Melburnian microstate with Fitzroy as the capital and their president famous for being the only world leader who cycles to Parliament. But most of the leafy neighbourhoods and beachside electorates in Melbourne vote conservative. It is ironic that the suburbs with the least amount of environmental amenity attract the most support for the Greens.

Sunday, June 19, 2011

The Community Cup

On the train ride to Elsternwick en route to the Community Cup, white Melburnians will try to remember the last time they were south of the river; which was this time last year during the Community Cup. While laughing at Fred Negro's dick jokes retains a certain appeal, the best part about the Community Cup is getting to watch a football game but convincing yourself it's just for community radio and raising money for charity.

At some point during the day, white Melburnians will discuss how different it feels south of the river, and it's best to agree with them if you want to fit in. They might even go so far as to describe it as a 'different world', and in a way it is. Southside is closer to the coast, so the air pressure is different. It's further from Tullamarine so there are less planes in the sky. It has been a wealthy area for longer than Northside, and this is reflected in the architecture and landscaping.

But these features are of minimal concern for most white Melburnians, who only created the distinction between North and South to augment their own feelings of superiority. White Melburnian identity is largely based on geography, so they have expended a great deal of energy constructing artificial spatial boundaries in exchange for cultural capital. This is why they refuse to believe you when you point out that cycling from Fitzroy to South Yarra is way quicker than from Fitzroy to Coburg. They want to be reassured they have made the culturally superior consumer choices. Even though feeling superior about where you rent is kind of oxymoronic, especially if your parents are paying.

Wednesday, May 25, 2011

Astor posters

The idea of the Astor is so much better than the reality. Rare films from around the world, hidden gems by well known directors, alternative classics instead of Citizen Kane and Gone With The Wind. A year-round film festival with an affectionate cat! But the reality - movies as predictable as the Vegie Bar menu (how many times do we need to see Baraka, Scarface, Apocalypse Now, Grindhouse, Princess Monoke and Pulp Fiction?). Then there's the uncomfortable seats, the choc tops with their safe flavours, and an indifferent cat. But their posters are an easy way to liven up a bathroom or toilet. Nothing says Melbourne more than an Astor poster. You'd have to stick up Melway pages to get more Melbourne. This is why Astor posters are the white Melburnian equivalent of Australian flags. When a white Melburnian moves away, they bring an Astor poster with them to decorate their new place in Brooklyn or Berlin. It helps break the ice with their new housemate from New Jersey or Romania, while reminding them of home and all of the movies they could have seen, but didn't. Thus for white Melburnians, the Astor becomes a lot like Antarctica. They'll never go, they're just happy knowing it exists.


The IGA business model is so adaptable. An IGA can be a 24 hour convenience store at a BP service station (Caulfield South), a 24 hour bottle shop (Windsor), and the only supermarket in the Daintree rainforest (Far North Queensland). But what makes the one on Best street, North Fitzroy so special? It has an Italian name! But white Melburnians are not obsessed with IGAs, they're just obsessed with Piedimonte's. White Melburnians need to shop there because it makes them feel less guilty for indulging in the cheap milk at Safeway. In the nineties, proto-white Melburnians would cite whatever remnants of ethnic heritage they had as a way to justify their presence at Piedimonte's. But people soon tired of hearing about great grandmothers who were one-eighth Italian so this gave way to tales of adventuring around eastern Europe (which were actually just day trips from Berlin). Because of Piedimonte's, white Melburnians have an excuse to tell you about the time they ate a spinach and fetta borek at an open air market in Sofia. This is a big deal for Melbourne white people as they are used to eating Bulgarian fetta from Safeway.

So if you're new to Melbourne, do not describe the location of your place in terms of its proximity to Zagames. Use Piedimonte's. It's a culturally appropriate spatial reference point. It doesn't matter that Zagames is very prominent or the fact everybody knows where it is. It doesn't even matter that Piedimonte's is fast becoming redundant as a spatial reference point because everybody claims to live nearby. Use it anyway! You might get lost, but you'll still have friends.

Saturday, February 26, 2011


With a name like pho, you’d expect something a little more exotic than noodle soup. But that is the point of pho. As a general rule, white Melburnians don’t like anything that’s self-explanatory. Pho can be eaten without straining the sensitive Anglo palate but sounds exotic enough to convince work colleagues you're adventurous. Most White Melburnians believe Vietnamese food cannot be found outside the inner city. This is because they’ve never heard of Springvale.

What I like about pho is the word itself. The way it typically ends with a mispronounced open-ended vowel makes it seem like the word keeps going after you’ve said it, the sound waves from the ‘o’ rippling through space-time and resonating into infinity like the vestiges of the Big Bang on your TV screen or the light that shines from stars that no longer exist.

But it’s just noodle soup.

Saturday, February 19, 2011

Aussie Hip Hop

White Melburnians will tell you they don’t listen to American hip hop because it ‘oppresses women’. You see, the white males who make most of the music they listen to would never do that. While their North American and European counterparts openly love American hip hop, it's sort of like ethnic music to Melbourne white people and they aren’t sure how to listen to it. I blame Triple J for this.

Melbourne white people are new to hip hop. In 1997, most white Melburnians were too busy mourning the death of Princess Diana to notice Biggie getting shot in a Los Angeles drive-by. Whenever a white Melburnian hears American rap music they’ll cock their wrist in the air, convulse rhythmically, and say “Yo! Yo! Yo! Yo!” But they are not having a seizure. They are just condemning this music in the most powerful way they know how – through ironic mimicry. Any rap fans witnessing such a defiant display will cower in fear and change the music to something more socially acceptable – Aussie hip hop. White Melburnians will never admit it, but the sound of a man rapping in an Australian accent secretly makes them cringe.

Tuesday, February 1, 2011

Mexican food

Sick of listening to your Mum’s friends talking about how great Paris is? Tired of hearing your old high school friends rave about Asia? Shit-scared of going to Africa but too ashamed to admit it? Luckily for you there is a region of the Earth specifically designed for white Melburnians that nobody else has ever heard of. It is called Latin America. This is the region of the Earth starting at Mexico and going all the way down to Cape Horn, Chile, in the southern cone of South America. In order to avoid confusion, it is important to note that in white Melburnian culture, Latin America is also referred to as South America, even though Mexico is part of North America. This is clearly done for the sake of convenience.

Since Thai, Indian, Turkish, Chinese, Italian, Malaysian, Vietnamese and Greek cuisines now have mass appeal, white Melburnians have begun dining on Mexican food because it enables them to maintain their feelings of cultural superiority during meal times. WARNING! When eating Mexican food in Melbourne you may experience a sinking feeling in your stomach! But this is not from the food. It’s caused by white Melburnians competing for Alpha status.

Melbourne white people don’t go to Mexican restaurants just to eat, they go to showcase their formidable Latin American skill set. Over a meal of Mexican food, a white Melburnian can tell stories about drinking Mexican beers that aren’t Corona, flaunt their awareness of a variety of corn that’s blue (they can even do it at Blue Corn), instruct lower ranking white Melburnians in the pronunciation of ‘quesadilla’ and demonstrate their grasp of Spanish, which is based around telling people that Pajero means wanker in Latin America. But in order to put their Alpha status beyond doubt, the highest ranking white Melburnians will discuss the highs and lows of the time they backpacked/volunteered/studied in Mexico/Guatemala/Chile and express the desire to go to Haiti if only it wasn’t a post-apocalyptic hellscape.

Thursday, January 13, 2011


You’ll hear many white Melburnians express dismay at gentrification, and you are advised to go along with it if you want their friendship, but know this – white Melburnians secretly love gentrification. Why? Because they are nostalgic and love to yearn for the way things used to be! Just like your Dad yearns for a time when there were no Muslims in Australia, white Melburnians long for the days when they could stroll down Brunswick street in their pyjamas, catch Something for Kate at the Punters Club, and talk about how great the Vegie Bar is without sarcasm.

Thursday, January 6, 2011

Expanding the Frontiers of Whiteness

Melbourne white people love trying to predict which suburb they are going to want to live in next. Ever since houses in Fitzroy and Northcote started selling for millions, white Melburnians have been talking about Coburg, Preston and Thornbury with the kind of zeal more readily associated with the Soviet plot to invade Czechoslovakia. But instead of using military force like the Soviets, white Melburnians expand their territory through economic means in a process called gentrification. But it is only expert-level white Melburnians who can sense when the time is right to expand the territory. This is due to a quirk in white Melburnian culture that sees international travel as desirable yet perpetuates insularity when it comes to exploring Melbourne itself.

Below is a list of potential new suburbs to colonise. Their Whiteness Factor indicates their suitability for white Melburnians. It turns out White Melbourne is expanding so fast you might want to consider the possibility of Greater North Epping becoming a white Melburnian suburb around 2030. But please note - it is a guide only. You must wait for the approval from an expert-level white Melburnian before making the move. The key is to find suburbs on the cusp of complete gentrification. That way they still retain the essence of their original state, but have a high enough profile to garner wide respect amongst the white Melbournian community. So it’s still a bit early to tell people you live in Fairfield.


Pros: Close to Northcote.
Cons: Relatively expensive.

Its proximity to Northcote is worth 3 points alone but there is a risk hyper-gentrification will turn Thornbury into the Brighton of the north. Whiteness Factor: 3/5.


Pros: Has Preston Market.
Cons: Has Northland Shopping Centre.

The market means Preston will always rank highly amongst Melbourne white people but Northland(s) brings too many of the wrong type of white Melburnians to Preston. Whiteness Factor: 3/5.


Pros: Has one nice café.
Cons: That one nice cafe is in Spotswood.

Spotswood still feels like a country town, which would be a great if it really was a country town, but for a suburb that is literally in the shadow of the West Gate Bridge it is unacceptable. Whiteness Factor: 2/5.


Pros: Lots of black people.
Cons: Lots of black people.

White Melburnians make a lot of noises about Footscray, particularly the Ethiopian restaurants, but they are still too scared of black Melburnians to seriously consider moving here. Whiteness Factor: 2/5.


Pros: Inner city location.
Cons: A sterile facsimile of a real suburb.

Docklands could have ranked highly but too bad the corporations got here first. Instead of quirky cafes and recycled clothing shops, there's The Coffee Club and Cotton On. It’s basically Chadstone by the Sea. Whiteness Factor: 1/5.


Pros: Day trips to Uluru?
Cons: No train station.

I can see Indonesia from my house. Whiteness Factor: 0/5.


Pros: Feels a lot like Brunswick.
Cons: ?

Since Brunswick is the current capital of White Melbourne and Coburg kind of feels like Brunswick if you don’t think about it too much, I think Coburg is the winner. Whiteness Factor: 5/5.

Any others?