Thursday, November 1, 2012

Hating on Brunswick Street while hanging out on Brunswick Street

White Melburnians scathingly refer to Brunswick Street as 'the Chapel Street of the north' (which is the worst form of insult they can come up with) but what they really mean is that Brunswick Street is a lot like Chapel Street on weekend nights. Any other time of day Brunswick Street is just Brunswick Street. What people should be saying instead is that Brunswick Street is just like Chapel Street - only better! The vomit is ankle-deep rather than knee-deep and drivers prefer to brake rather than accelerate when they run you over. But the best part is punching-on because you can be assured that your friendly Brunswick Street brawlers won't keep stomping your head after you lose consciousness (because they're nice guys once you get to know them).

Chapel Street can be quite dull sometimes. But this is only because of the high number of clothing stores relative to the high number of clothing stores. Brunswick Street's more diverse array of shops means that even the most caffeine and YouTube stunted attention spans can survive a little longer. White Melburnians don't really hate Brunswick Street. Actually, they love it! They just want to experience it on their own terms. Pretending to hate it is their way of saying they saw it first. So if you are new to Melbourne you are better off ignoring whatever you hear about Brunswick Street and just go there yourself. You might actually enjoy it.

Monday, September 3, 2012

Green bling

Bling are the status enhancing jewelry displayed by rappers, sports stars and other entertainers to demonstrate their wealth and prestige. Green bling are the solar panels, rainwater tanks and other sustainable technologies displayed by white Melburnians to demonstrate their wealth and prestige. White Melburnians have even established a quasi-ruling kingdom known as the Bling Dynasty which encompasses the fiefdoms of East Brunswick and North Fitzroy.

Flaunting green bling goes like this: you park the hybrid in the driveway, slap the solar panels on the front of the house (to catch both the afternoon sun and the neighbour's attention) and have the rainwater tanks along the side to make it look like you're trying to hide them. Then you fly to New York and correct all of your American friends who think the USA has the highest carbon emissions per capita. Yes!

Green bling is useful for combating the rising prices of electricity and water, mitigating the effects of climate change and enhancing your resilience to droughts, floods, bushfires and other disasters, such as being caught eating fast food, driving a four wheel drive or holidaying on the Gold Coast. It's also a great way to make it appear your carbon footprint is lower than everyone else. White Melburnians find green bling so attractive because its helps them to psychologically offset their high rates of consumption and gives them a new way to differentiate themselves now that everyone owns Apple products. The best part is that green technologies are becoming more efficient and have their own rates of in built obsolescence. You get to buy new ones on a regular basis!  

But the best way to lower your carbon footprint and all around environmental impact is to consume less - in general. However, acknowledging this means you have to question your own consumption and cope with hostility from your conservative uncle. This could mean listening to rants about The Greens. When he claims the Left want everyone to live in caves just tell him you bought green bling because you can't trust the government to keep water and electricity prices down. Or point out that you now have the anti-venom to the carbon tax python that's strangling the economy. This is simply an evocative metaphor and has nothing to do with pythons in real life. Conservatives can be skeptical of people who aren't always acting out of direct self-interest, so build his trust by telling him it's about being self-sufficient.

But there is also another reason why consumption is a tricky subject. If you want to win that argument with your uncle you have to draw attention to the un-sustainability of your own lifestyle. Then you have to point out how environmentally friendly his lifestyle is. You have to admit that all of your international travel, clothes shopping, exotic food consumption and regular replacement of electronic devices has a large environmental impact, which is humiliating enough. But then you have to embarrass him by pointing out that by using the same phone for five years, rarely going overseas and entertaining himself via local camping trips while drinking beer brewed in Abbotsford he's actually kind of a greenie. Especially if that chaff bag of his is used to carry groceries instead of Julia Gillard.

Tuesday, July 31, 2012

Barista crushes

In the early days of consumerism, products sold were mostly physical objects like fridges, washing machines, cars, etc. As more and more people acquired these objects and as more competitors began offering them, there had to be a way for producers to differentiate themselves from the competition and also to encourage people to keep consuming. Hence the experience economy was born in which products purchased were not only physical objects but also intangibles or experiences. These types of products could be consumed over and over again, enabling constant market expansion. Movies, music, fashion and tourism are obvious examples of experience economy products, but they still don't provide consumers with an experience to consume every single day of their lives. So what's the market to do?

The libidinal caffeine economy fills this void. But it didn't emerge fully fledged until the 21st century. In the nineties, even waiters at Pizza Hut received sexual attention but I'm afraid those lusty early days are now over. Consumers are demanding quality, and a large Hawaiian with extra pineapple (hold the ham) won't cut it anymore! But the libidinal caffeine economy is not only consumer-driven, it is also producer-driven. Since dressing fashionably will only get you an extra point on the Hotness Scale, people of average looks who want to punch above their weight need only to get a job as a barista in Melbourne and can expect to go up 3-4 points with ease. For example, if you're a 6 out of 10, expect to be treated like at least a 9 while making coffee. This is critical because unlike the Richter Scale, the Hotness Scale is not logarithmic, so you really need to go up at least 3 points for it to make a noticeable difference.

The barista crush is now a central aspect of everyday life in Melbourne. It is the great equaliser - spanning genders, sexualities, ages and incomes. Barista crushes form at an early age. High school white kids (Trainee White Melburnians) are currently shifting nervously and giggling their way around Coffee Clubs and Gloria Jean'ses all over Chadstone, Southland and Knox, while the Trainees lucky enough to be living near Northland(s) are simply waiting for White Melbourne to come to them.

If you're gay, you get to debate with your friends if your barista is also gay, assessing all the arguments for and against. If you're straight, you get to debate with your friends if your barista is also straight (assessing all the arguments for and against). Then the debate can move on to 'is he/she single' or if you see your barista outside of work - what to do? Assess. Did you say hi? Did you ask him/her out for a drink? Why not? White Melburnians get to tell themselves they didn't chicken out. They'll say they didn't want to make it awkward the next time they get coffee. That way, white Melburnians get to sustain their crushes throughout their careers. The trick is to remember that any detail, no matter how minor or insignificant, is a valuable piece of evidence and worthy of lengthy discussion. This is a way to prolong the crush way after its normal expiry date. A hint: if your barista comes around the counter to greet you, you're in. If he comes on the counter he's a creep and you should go elsewhere for your coffee.

The barista crush even crosses over into broader Melbourne culture so it cannot be said to exist solely within White Melbourne. But White Melburnians take the barista crush to another level. Rather than being a moment of difference in their average day, white Melburnians base their entire 9 to 5 career around their ten minute coffee break in which they get to ogle and/or make small talk with their barista. We have to thank Starbucks for making the word 'barista' mainstream because lusting after a 'kitchenhand' or 'coffee maker' sounds a little pathetic. And that whole joke about your new born baby being 'the postman's' is pathetically out of date! What you really should be asking yourself is if the baby resembles your wife's barista.

Monday, July 2, 2012


Do you have a spare bedroom, a garage, a walk-in robe or cupboard? Do you have a rumpus room, den, attic, basement or a room where you store all your junk? Do you have an office or an extra large lounge-room or a section of your house separated by a door? If you answer yes to any of these questions - congratulations! You have a studio. The reality is the rents are so high in inner Melbourne that white Melburnians actually don't have the time to be creative. They have to go to work! It's so much easier, efficient and affordable to create the impression of creativity rather than being creative, with white Melburnians creating the illusion of creativity in a number of creative ways in which they convince everyone they are creative without creating creative works. It works like this:

Step 1 - Put a call out on Facebook saying you are looking for a studio.
Step 2 - Tell people you are converting a space (see above) into a studio.
Step 3 - Update your Facebook status to something about your studio.

Notice how you can do all of this at work? You don't even need to change your behaviour! You'll be so exhausted from work you can still spend all your free time like the rest of us - chasing links on the internet or watching TV. This enables white Melburnians to appear creative while still being able to afford rent. Studios are now the only way white Melburnians can imply they are creative. But the flipside is also true - white Melburnians are convincing themselves they can become creative simply by pretending to have a studio. Yet outside the fake studio they never use exists a world to inspire creativity.

If you have just moved to Melbourne, be aware that the creative talents you possess might be overlooked by white Melburnians because of their surprisingly uncreative understanding of how creativity can be expressed. To them, creativity is something only artists and musicians do. If you're doing medical, biotech or engineering research, manipulating particles at the atomic level or designing ways to prolong human life, you may as well tell Melbourne white people you dropped out of high school. Even if you're a novelist, a poet, an architect, a chef or a computer programmer it won't count because you can get by without a studio. So where can you get one? Fortunately, since you don't need a real studio, this is easy:

You know that musty room beneath your apartment that's locked with a rusted padlock? Studio!

The basements where pubs store all their kegs? Studio!

The shopping cart from Safeway someone left outside your house? Studio!

That drawer where you store all your reusable shopping bags? Studio!

The wheelie bin you stole from your neighbours when the council took too long to deliver yours? Studio!

The Ethiopian Consulate-General on Johnston street? Studio!

An abandoned grain silo covered in graffiti? Man, the government should totally do it up and build studios.

Sunday, June 3, 2012

Working class jobs

The market economy normally works by making us feel inferior so we buy things we don't want. But sometimes it works in the opposite way by making people feel special when they really should be feeling inferior. It does this so it can maintain a ready supply of cheap labour from a highly educated pool of workers. This helps explain why white Melburnians, who usually spend years pursuing tertiary education, are willing to take low paying jobs at cinemas, cafes, bookshops and record stores. Sometimes these forms of employment are given exotic-sounding names, like barista, for what are in reality just basic entry level jobs. It's sort of like in high school when the kids who worked at McDonalds would wear their work belts everywhere with that golden belt buckle across a striped band the payoff for getting paid about 7 bucks an hour.

Normally when a group of people in a society do not have the earning potential to compete with the higher classes, there are three things they can do: (1) band together and overthrow the higher classes; (2) educate themselves so they are able to join the higher classes, or (3) carve out a niche of superiority via sophisticated consumer choices. But instead of using all of the advantages middle class upbringings confer and doing any of the above, white Melburnians choose to drop down into the working classes and then proceed to act as if they are better than everyone. In Australia nobody finds this strange because we like to pretend class doesn't exist. In this way, white Melburnians convince themselves they are undermining the entire system while the system maintains itself on a steady supply of highly educated labour willing to work for peanuts. Melbourne white people are now so poor they can't even afford gears on their bikes! Meanwhile, many of their wrong type counterparts take highly paid and/or heavily unionised jobs in construction, mining and labouring but white Melburnians will tell you that exchanging real capital for cultural capital is worth it.

Tuesday, May 8, 2012

Everything you know about hospitality is wrong

Forget that 'customer is always right' bullshit. In Melbourne, the customer is always wrong! White Melburnians love nothing more than that feeling of inferiority they get when entering coffee shops staffed by people more fashionable than them. They want to see that air of disdain from the barista when approaching the counter and they crave those feelings of inadequacy that come from being silently eyeballed by patrons with trendier haircuts as they do a masochistic walk of shame through the cafe while grovelling in front of the register, ingratiatingly ordering a coffee 'if it's not too much trouble'. The payoff is; (1) getting to whinge about it later and, (2) being seen drinking coffee out of a white paper cup stamped with the logo of a culturally sanctioned cafe. The stamp is their visa for entry into White Melbourne but be careful - this visa expires as soon as the cup is empty. Yet these cups are considered so aesthetically pleasing they are then reused to decorate the footpaths and gutters of White Melbourne. Now others can enjoy them too!

Sunday, March 18, 2012

Portugese tarts

Forget about Brunetti's pastry that desperately wants you to think it's gourmet, if you want the approval of white Melburnians then it's best to be heard talking about Portugese tarts. They are slightly smaller, have slightly more flavour and are slightly more expensive than conventional custard tarts yet are considered immensely superior. But don't worry if you can't find them in Portugal, they're hard enough to find outside the inner north of Melbourne.

Since white Melburnians have similar political and cultural beliefs, and also prefer not to disagree with one another on issues that actually matter, the Portugese tarts versus conventional custard tarts becomes the frontline of debate. While the rest of Australia is debating Murdoch versus Fairfax or Labor versus Liberal or Big Australia versus Fortress Australia or the mining industry versus everyone else, white Melburnians are desperately trying to convince you that Portugese tarts are so much better (OMG!) than conventional custard tarts.

But when did this begin? When did white Melburnians begin to care so much about pastry? Some might say it started with celebrity chefs and reality TV, while others will tell you it all goes back to Melbourne's cafe boom in the nineties. Who knows? Maybe it all began right after the post-war Southern European migrants arrived?

But I think we have to go back much earlier when the first British settlers found the land around Port Phillip Bay a little too swampy and sought out drier pastures further up the Yarra. You can picture them wrinkling their sunburnt noses up at the local bush tucker and clinging to their wheat flour and eggs and other staples of Mesopotamian agriculture.

But maybe just maybe it goes back even further to the 1600s when the Portugese drifted off course and saw Western Australia but decided not to stay. Maybe they saw all that smoke from campsites and from firestick farming and thought, "Nah, let's fuck off, it's full." We are still living with that decision today.

Tuesday, January 31, 2012

Edinburgh Gardens

Forget about dating sites and dating apps, forget pubs and clubs and swimming upriver to mate. Just be like normal white Melburnians and have a picnic at Edinburgh gardens on a sunny Sunday afternoon. White Melburnians love Edinburgh Gardens because there's rarely a wrong type in sight. The last time a wrong type of white Melburnian was spotted in Edinburgh Gardens was in 1996, walking around on his hind legs as he farewelled his beloved Fitzroy Lions before they were subsumed by the Brisbane Bears.

Edinburgh Gardens isn't your average Melbourne park. Footy and cricket are just as common as hula hooping, bat tennis and even slacklining. Anyone new to Edinburgh Gardens will be struck by the variety of sports being played - each one more frivolous and mildly entertaining than the last. The worst part is having to take your rubbish with you because all the bins are overloaded with discarded bottles of Coopers Pale. There are also people strumming guitars and old timers breathing subtle sighs of relief when there are no renditions of Mr Jones.

Meanwhile, your average white Melburnian man at Edinburgh gardens will be quietly cursing himself for not chatting up that hot girl in the rainbow leggings or the tartan miniskirt or the loose white tshirt knotted at the waist while he was checking her out in the checkout at Piedimonte's because he told himself he'd do it when he saw her across the road at Edinburgh gardens. And that whole thing where he'll deliberately misjudge his catch attempt so the frisbee or some other projectile not readily associated with any well known ball sport lands just a little too close to a picnicking group with more females than males (which is pretty much every group in Edinburgh Gardens) because that's when he can make that all-important eye contact and mention how unfit he is:

I haven't thrown one of these
Since high school

Are they Portuguese tarts
I wish I could bake

Do you
Come here often

Raising an eyebrow, trying to act casual, maintaining eye contact longer than normal, worrying about the garlic content in the homus, saying 'let's just go to Moroccan soup bar and eat it in the park', forgetting to bring take away containers, not being able to find a pole to lock your bike too, noticing new apartments half finished, worrying about sweating, knowing the meanings of words you can't pronounce, making jokes about recently obsolete technology or how you never go out late anymore . . .

I like Edinburgh Gardens for the way it prevents Northcote from spreading into surrounding suburbs. It provides a buttress in the way the Great Dividing Range did against those early European explorers with fantasies of inland seas and Terra nullius. Just make sure to touch the grass before sitting down - sometimes it's wet.