Moving Pictures

March 10, 2011

I helped dismantle Channel 9 today. Not in a “death to the capitalist media overlords” way – sadly – but with a screwdriver.

Yes, the Bendigo Street studios of GTV9 are closing and everything must go! The building was originally a piano factory, then a cannery, but from 1957 it’s been Television City. The glamour of Graham Kennedy, Don Lane and Sale Of The Century clings to the walls like a poorly-cleaned toilet. Some say Bert Newton haunts these corridors and he’s not even dead.

But Channel 9 is moving to Docklands, so they’re having the world’s biggest car boot sale. They’ve auctioned their equipment online and when a friend went to pick up a Umatic tape machine I said I’d go along. In my head this would involve visiting Richmond, selecting a carefully-marked box, and going home for biscuits.  How wrong I was.

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Accept No Irritation

May 2, 2009
(Bitter, lesbiany T-shirts available at

Last week we talked about Henrie Stride and – let’s be honest – I wasn’t very complimentary. In fact, I was downright irksome.

You may remember that Ms Stride is convinced that people are only interested in “pretty” and “upbeat”, so how did my low-level sniping affect the popularity of The Outland Institute? We had a massive spike of readers and Wednesday the 29th had the most visitors the Institute has ever seen. Why? Because misery loves company. Everytime I write something that drips of bile – like this review of BBC’s Survivors – the numbers shoot right up.

I think the truth is that “contented” is not the same as “interesting”. As our old friend Leo Tolstoy once said, “Happy families are all alike; every unhappy family is unhappy in its own way”. He’s a laugh-riot, isn’t he? You should see the thing he wrote for Adam Sandler.

I had been pondering on what this all meant when I found myself at a party, trying to talk to someone I hadn’t met before. The conversation was stilted, so in desperation I said, “Tell me five petty things that annoy you“. And let me tell you – it’s an ice-breaker. Soon we were all getting along like a house on fire. A funhouse on fire. Full of clowns. A funhouse full of burning clowns.

When it comes to misanthropy, of course, no-one beats the British. The BBC have an excellent television show called Room 101, which is like Enough Rope for the terminally depressed. A celebrity guest comes on to discuss the things they hate, hoping the host will remove them from existence (which is to send them to Room 101, in a strange conceptual mangling of George Orwell’s 1984). Starting life as a radio show in 1992, it moved to TV in 1994 and has even seen a Dutch spin-off (presumably as a form of revenge for Big Brother). And that’s without mentioning the “Grumpy” franchise, which started with Grumpy Old Men (2003), then led to Grumpy Old Women (2004), Grumpy Old Holidays (2006) and will presumably soon include Celebrity So You Think I Love The Make Me A Grumpy Old Supermodel, Get Me Out Of Here House (2010).


And I find I like Will Self more knowing that he hates airport architecture. Knowing Meera Syal dislikes Austria is strangely comforting. And seeing that Michael Grade still feels the need to openly despise Doctor Who – nearly 20 years after he cancelled it – says more about him than the program in question. I find these petty dislikes give me a much better view of the person – they feel more intimate, somehow, and less filtered than hearing them talk about their love of fine wines, or charity work. (Remember how on Perfect Match everyone used to like “travelling, raging and meeting people”?).

So do the things we hate define us better than the things we like? I sent an email out to a number of the Institute’s Friends and Leavers Of Comment, to gauge their opinion, and to ask them to list five minor things that annoy them. I swear I have NEVER seen emails come back so fast. It would seem people love to talk about things that irritate – but does it give you an insight into their character?

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Where The Streets Have No Shame: ACDC Lane

September 2, 2008

In 2004 a mighty battle raged at the Melbourne City Council. For months, behind closed doors, alliances were forged and broken, skirmishes fought and lost, decisions made and unmade. Even a Queensland church demanded its say.

What issue was so contentious even a House Of God had to be involved?

The suggestion that a small laneway be named after a thirty-year-old band.

After months of discussion, hints, confirmations and denials, the Council finally agreed to rename Corporation Lane… AC/DC LANE!

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Warm Nights On A Slow-Moving Tram

August 21, 2008

For 25 years, the Restaurant Tram has been shuttling tourists to St Kilda and back, yet the closest most Melbournians have been is seeing it on Kath & Kim. Janet Greason takes a trip down memory lane for The Outland Institute.

1983, the year I moved to St Kilda, was also the year the Colonial Tramcar Restaurant began. To the denizens of St Kilda then, the tramcar was seen as tacky and middle class – the same as the tourists. To have three dozen people stuffing their faces as they trundled through a suburb that was surviving mainly on the dole seemed a bit rude. Another crappy function centre that just happened to be on wheels. The only positive thing was that it kept them corralled and off the streets – had they allowed the poor locals to sell their artwork and crafts each time it stopped (like they do in other third world countries) things might have been different…

By the end of the eighties I had moved to Elwood, and my snarling Pavlovian response to its bells became as infrequent as its sightings.

It was still with some trepidation, however, that my partner and I recently turned up at the Tramcar shelter opposite the casino – friends had bought us dinner on the tram as a birthday present. Like the popstars and actors that mean so much to us at a certain time in our lives but eventually vanish into thin air, I had assumed the tramcar restaurant had married a rich bloke and gone off to have his kids. I was curious to see who else would be joining us. What kind of people would want to do this?

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Where The Streets Have No Shame: Dame Edna Place

August 20, 2008

Melbourne loves a laneway. And Melbourne loves Dame Edna Everage. So it was only fitting that on March 7th, 2007, Lord Mayor John So renamed Brown Alley after the superstar housewife.

Dame Edna didn’t attend the ceremony at this dead-end off Little Collins Street, but was represented by ten lookalikes.

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Next Stop Hollywood: Five Melbourne Train Stations That Appear In Films

August 8, 2008

I was at Sunshine Train Station today.

If you haven’t been to Sunshine… well, good for you. It’s the most ironically named suburb in Melbourne. Actually, Sunshine’s not even named after that stuff from the sky, but for a company that made combine harvesters. It just gets better, doesn’t it? You may have seen the station in the film Noise. A train pulls into Sunshine, it’s passengers brutally murdered by a lunatic – if you’ve been there, you’ve probably had the urge to do that yourself.

My train to the city arrives, but the recorded woman isn’t well. Something strange has happened to her speaker, she now sounds surprisingly like the Borg. “You will be assimilated. Next stop, Footscray”. A young man in a hoodie across from me is doing something distracting with his hands. Is he shooting up? No, he’s juggling a glass sphere, just like David Bowie in Labyrinth. He’s actually pretty good. If there was a David-Bowie-In-Labyrinth lookalike contest, he could definitely make the top three.

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The Victorian Transport Minister and the Goblet Of Fire

August 5, 2008

It was just another day.

The neighbourhood had gathered to burn an effigy of Lynne Kosky, the transport minister. There’s nothing like Lynne to bring out an angry mob round our way. We find our seething hatred of her incompetence has somehow brought us closer together.

It had been a very successful burning, one of our most popular yet. It was almost as packed as an 86 tram! we joked amongst ourselves (although obviously it wasn’t as uncomfortable as that). As the smaller children ran giggling from the embers, Edith brought out a flask and some paper cups. We sipped our tea, feeling the heat warm our bones, while Abdikaram flipped through the program for the Melbourne International Arts Festival.

“Strike me pink”, he said. “Did you know that Lynne Kosky is also the Victorian Arts Minister?”

Well, it was news to us. Could this perhaps explain everything? Was her lacklustre performance as Transport Minister caused by the distraction of her other portfolio – after all, it would be hard to get any work done with Phillip Glass and Patti Smith banging on about Ginsberg all day long.

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Light Industrial

August 1, 2008

Look, it’s art!

Alexander Knox has been commissioned by the City of Melbourne to turn the “I’m-sure-it’s-got-a-lovely-personality” Royal Mail House into something more striking. This 1967 structure is rapidly becoming one of Melbourne’s Ugliest Buildings since we’ve been tearing down everything else that displeases us, so it’s probably feeling in need of a bit of love. Knox‘s work uses lightboxes to produce moving colours across the face of the building.

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Better Latte Than Never

July 30, 2008

As you may know, The Outland Institute is a celebration of culture in all its forms. And that includes… coffee shops… oh look, I don’t have to justify myself.

Picking up The Age this morning, I was annoyed to see a giant Starbucks cup emblazoned on the top right-hand corner of the front page. “Oh great,” I thought – somewhat sarcastically – “Now The Age is doing Starbucks promotions, no better than the Herald Sun, young people today, benches in the city, it’s not real music and so on”. A closer look, however, revealed the logo was there for a far more exciting reason – Starbucks is closing two thirds of its stores in Australia, reducing its presence to a mere 23 locations.

Obviously I feel sorry for the staff, who will undoubtedly be frakked over in the proud tradition of Australian industry. But the steady demise of Starbucks can only be a good sign in the ever-vigilant battle against the forces of cultural hegemony. (You got that memo, yeah?)

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