Thursday, March 18, 2010

American Classic Cars

Okay, we’ve heard of ‘vintage cars' but have you heard about the 'classic cars'? Well last weekend, as I was coming back from Perth city, I saw a lot of people gathering at the Victoria Park’s Burswood Park. I got of the bus at Victoria Park Bus Transfer station and made my way over to Burswood park. I discovered a lot of people and a lot of cars...cars that were from another era before my time. I later learned that it was the ‘American Auto Classics’ show.

Now, a 'vintage car' is a car that is often known as a car made between 1919 and 1930 but the 'classics car' , although there is debate about its definition, it is known by the American Classic Car Club, as a car made between 1946 and 1985. Just like the vintage cars, they were high priced when first made and were made in limited quantities.

I was also amazed at the number of people who had classic cars here in Perth, althoug I didnt know the exact number of classic cars here. Today was special for many of these owners as they got to showcase their love of the car and tell stories of how it came to be in their possession. There were also people sharing ideas, inspecting models and lots of children too marvelling at bright cars. There were also cars that had their engines remodified and I tell you, they had some mean growls when they were revved up!

Knowing next to nothing about the classics, this was an opportunity not to be missed. There were Cadillac’s, Chevrolets, Chryslers, Fords, Trucks, Lincoln-Mercury and Pontiacs al together. Some of these cars made in the 1960s had features we take for granted today like power steering, power brakes and auto transmission than cars made in earlier eras. However, these cars also lacked other essential features like seat belts which today are considered priority. New owners now tend to fit seatbelts into the cars but many owners dislike this as it ‘removes originality’ of the vehicle.

The car that really caught my liking was the 1953 Desoto Firedome, a sleek, polished and neat car. The DeSoto Firedome was a full-size automobile produced by the Chrysler Corporation for its DeSoto brand vehicles from 1952 to 1959. The 1953 Firedome was introduced just prior to DeSoto's 25th Anniversary in 1953. The entire De Soto model lineup was restyled and Firedome prices started at US$2,740. During the 1953 model year, approximately 64,211 examples were produced. This one pictured is a 1953 Desoto Firedome, a four door sedan which could seat six passengers was now selling for AUD$24,000. The Firedome was powered by a Hemi V8 engine producing 160 hp (120 kW) and had a top speed of 160 km/h. The car weighed 1,700 kg and had a 0-100 km/h time of 15.5 seconds. What a car!


Another car that always appealed to the young and savy were the Pontiac Firebirds. The Pontiacs were a 'smooth' car manufactured by General Motors. This one at this show was a 1978 Pontiac Firebird which meant that it was a second generation Pontiac Firebird. Even the owner said it was ‘one of the sexiest cars ever made’. In 1978, the same year the island of Tuvalu became independent and Argentina won the soccer world cup, approximately 187,285 units of the Pontiac Firebird were made and sold only in that year. This car had a 350 Chevrolet engine - 295 horsepower, weighed about 1,653kg, has a length of 5 meters with a fuel capacity of 76 liters and top it off...is left hand drive. It was now selling for AUD$16,000!



There were many other cars to look at and each car had its’ own story to tell. From being first made, passing though its owners and finally appearing in all its glory at the Victoria Park Show.
But we could go on and on about these cars but I’ll let you have a look at the photos to see yourself.


Monday, March 15, 2010

Buailess in Perth



Many Papua New Guineans just love chewing betelnut. It has become part and parcel of PNG life and is often celebrated in art, storytelling, celebrations, 'custom wok' and many other events. I, for one, love chewing betelnut for its mild naracotic effect. It has a similar effect to caffeine but doesnt cost that much as compared to a cup of coffee or a can of coke. For the uninitiated, betelnut chewing refers to the chewing of three ingredients - the nut of the Betel Palm, a fruit of the Piper betel vine known to many Papua New Guineans as 'daka' and also lime powder made from coral. Betel nut, known scietifically as Areca Catechu is chewed among people who live in he Pacific, Aisia and even to the coastline of East Africa. In the late 1980s, It was commonly known as the fourth mostly widely used drug worldwide after caffeine, nicotine and alcohol (Marshall 1987)*


Knowing Australia and its strict quarantine laws, I knew I wouldnt be able to get some betelnut over to Perth so I sort of made up mind and resigned myself to a 'betelnutless' life for the next few months. However, my fears were laid to rest on the first night i arrived in Perth from Brisbane:The first time I landed at Perth domestic airport, a Papua New Guinean gave me a betelnut to chew! The betelnut was soft and squishy but chewable (if there is such a word), the lime was a white paste and very strong. I had to chew this with a dry 'daka' leaf, it was so dry that it was brittle. But hey this was Australia so i had to make do with what i had. They told me that there were a couple of Chinese shops around the city that were selling betelnuts, with lime and 'daka' but ran out quickly.


Well last month (February), after numerous phone calls and searches on the internet, i was able to locate a Chinese Store in Leederville, just a few minutes of Perth City. The Chinese store was located right a the corner of Tennyson street and Oxford Road, Leaderville. The asian lady just saw the bilum I was carrying and already knew what I had come for. I just had to ask if there was betelnut in the shop and she was away, leading me down the aisle and headed for the frezzer. Out came the betelnut and daka which i bought for AUD$35.50 (around K80) for 12 large betelnuts and 5 packets of 'daka'. Man, they were just so expensive!


So, for all those Papua New Guineans living in Perth or those intending to come here as students or to work here, dont be 'buailess' when you are here.
* Marshall, M: Anoverview of drugs in Oceania, in Drugs in Western Pacific Societies: Relations of substance: ASAO monograph Number 11, Association for Social Anthropology in Oceania Monograph Series, Edited by Lindstrom L Lanham, md, University Press of America, 1987, pg 13-49

Thursday, March 4, 2010

Film Making in PNG

This is a story I wrote way back in 2003 when i was still a student at D.W.U. in Madang, PNG. Even though this story in now 7 years old, the issues highlighted in the article still ring true today concerning our film industry.

From Demolition Man to Spiderman to Star Wars, Papua New Guineans have watched these Western films so many times that they have become household names.
Whether they be on DVD, video cassettes or on HBO, we have become so accustomed to American movies that we never give a second thought to the possibility that we could make our own.
Papua New Guinea is a land where films have been made even before we saw the white man on the big screen.
The first film made in Papua New Guinea was called Pearls and Savages in 1926 by an Australian, Frank Hurley, about life along the Papuan Coast.
Most films after that were ethnographic documentaries about the way of life in the country.
Then we saw the emergence of some short films such as Urban Drift, Fourth Child, Warriors in Transit, Marabe and Stap Isi, all about life in developing Papua New Guinea. Nationals like Albert Toro, Kumain Kolain, Martin Maden, Maggie Wilson, Pengau Nengo and expatriates like Dennis O’Rouke, Chris Owens, Bob Connelly and Robin Anderson were at the forefront of Papua New Guinea films in the last three decades.
The first fully Papua New Guinean 16mm drama film, Tukana-husat I Asua? was made in 1982, by the Institute of PNG Studies and the North Solomons Provincial Government.
Then in 1990, the second Papua New Guinean entertainment film, Tinpis Run, was made. This half a million US dollar co-production between a local company and a French company was shot in Tok Pepsin with English or French subtitles.
Films like Tinpis Run, Tukana, Marabe, Stap Isi, Stolen Moments, are locally made, yet over the years the film industry in the country has been fighting a desperate battle just to survive.
Why?
Because making films in Papua New Guinea today can be a very expensive exercise considering the country’s bleak economic situation.
Tukana cost about US$30,000 to $40,000; Stolen Moments was made for less than $10,000 with money raised from local businesses and the unpaid services of many.
That was some 10 years ago.
It is a different story today.
Ruth Ketau, film editor at the National Film Institute in Goroka, says the biggest problem is lack of funding from the government.
“Since PNG is a developing nation with many mouths to feed and is facing an economic downturn, the government can’t afford to put money into film making because it doesn’t see it as a priority.”
Yet the national information and communications policy (revised edition 1993), says: “It shall be the policy of the government to encourage and support the production of short educational films by both the private and public agencies.”
But can all the blame be put on the national government for Papua New Guinea’s deteriorating film industry?
One major hurdle the film industry is facing is that Papua New Guinea doesn’t have copyright laws.
Dr Nancy Sullivan, an American who was producer and co-director of Stolen Moments, says a big problem is video piracy.
“Whatever gets produced doesn’t get any revenue because it’s just copied and shown without being sold.
“Certainly the first step to an indigenous film industry would be the institution of copyright laws.”
Thirty-seven-year-old Oscar Sam Wanu, who played the lead role in Tinpis Run, says the film was professionally made.
Even though it won the ‘Best Acting Movie’ in Noumea and Paris, it didn’t get the proper screenings it deserved in Papua New Guinea.
“PNG has no copyright law and the moment one film is shown, it’s copied. To tell you the truth, even before I received a copy of the finished product of Tinpis Run, one of my wantoks had already shown it to his neighbours.”
Wanu also says that Papua New Guineans have been producing educational and documentary films but are less strong on entertainment films.
He said “If we are to break into the international film market we must be competitive because that is where we can make the big bucks.
“Tinpis Run has stunts, special effects, lighting and sound effects which are ingredients of a successful entertainment film.
“Most PNG films need these to even start attracting international audiences.”
But Sullivan points out that Papua New Guinea films are very different to Western ones, and should make the most of those differences.
In PNG, there is a blur between real entertainment films and documentary.
“Unlike Western films, we produce ones which have fiction yet with facts to say something about the PNG way of life.
“There are not so much ‘aliens coming to earth’ or fantasy-type films but ones that have some truth about PNG culture.
“Because of that uniqueness, we can gain international audiences who are already tired of these crazy American films.”
The PNG National Film Institute (NFI) in Goroka is the only place in Papua New Guinea that makes films and also trains people to make them.
The institute comes under the National Cultural Commission, along with bodies like the National Museum, the National Performing Arts Troupe and the Institute of PNG Studies, which are all allocated funding under the commission’s annual budget.
The National Cultural Commission gave K368, 500 to the NFI, out of the total K2.1 million allocated to it by the national government last year (2002).
“It’s just not enough,” says Ketau.
“We were not able to make any major films in the last three years because of the cost associated with filmmaking in the country.”
Rodney Sinaune, who owns and operates Niugini Piksa Productions in Goroka, knows exactly why independent filmmakers like himself are also struggling.
“There was a National Film Symposium held in Goroka in 1987 where filmmakers, producers and editors formulated policies to help the industry, but since then, the policy has been shelved.
“There is talent out there but people don’t see the significance of an industry that can’t even make its own money and support itself.”
With the film industry ailing, another opportunity that has arisen is short television productions. The national television station, EMTV, has contributed by airing locally made programmes such as CHM Super Sounds, South Pacific Music, Insait, NCDC News and My People My Country.
But TV shows cannot really be a substitute for the missed chance of making indigenous Papua New Guinea films.
And while the film industry is busy fighting its battles, the country’s audience will continue watching foreign films to fill the entertainment void.

Writing???

Well, today, this 4th day of March 2010, I woke up in the morning and wondered if i should have a blog page. I wanted to try out blogging some time ago but couldnt even think of what to write on it. Obviously writing hasnt been one of my strong points in expressing my ideas and thoughts and even if i did, there didnt seem to be any continuity in my stories to make it interesting. I've written some things but mostly borrowed styles from other people or tried to write a piece that was, many times, too complicated. But you know what? I believe great writing is a reflection of a persons ability to put 'things' that float around in his or her head, with no form whatsover and bring them into words. I mean how can one just pluck something out of thin air and make it into reality.Imagine people who make movies like Steven Speilberg, James Cameron, Clint Eastwood, to name a few are so good at what they do that we sometimes forget that they are masters of the art of story telling...making ideas and thoughts and pictures in their head into a script
For some of us, sometimes the english language or your mother tongue cannot express your thoughts or ideas eloquently as possible. I mean, we are limited by our current language that often cannot describe something. For example: In Death, how do you describe 'sadness', 'loss' or 'grief' when someone you know has died. These words are only a description of what you feel. You can only try to express this feelings in the vocabulary that you have. Some people cannot express 'loss' with words so they paint pictures using words, maybe in the forms of poetry, art or music but i wont go on any further. We'll leave it at that.

But what the hell, Im just going to write anything and everything on this blog concerning me and my pitiful life. . So here goes nothing!