Weekends With a Sociologist

The Canberra Times Fountain by Bob Woodward. Public art in Canberra City

Canberra is Australia’s capital city, but you may not necessarily know this if you were parachuted in blindfolded, out of the blue. While Sydney is bustling with tourists and attractions, and Melbourne is brimming with multicultural events, Canberra is seemingly pedestrian. On a Sunday, the majority of the shops close at 4 PM, even in the city’s central business district, and on holidays, there are few people in the centre of the city. That’s because Canberra is, in many ways, a satellite city: our politicians fly in on weeks when Parliament sits, which ramps up the pulse of taxi drivers and plumps up some of our cafes and bars at peak times, every other week. Many people who live here are not locals. Young people tend to move away, while public servants and academics move their families here for their careers.

I had previously lived in Canberra for six months as part of a secondment for another job, many years ago. I was much younger then and, looking back, I did not really enjoy the city. I mostly spent my free time with groups who knew each other from graduate placements and often talked about work, even at 1 AM outside clubs – which is, by the way, the time that most clubs clubs closed back then (and likely do still). “Did you know he’s still an APS5?” (Australian Public Service Level 5) “He’s never going to be promoted!” I was surrounded by Anglo-Australian people who had little interest in multicultural experiences – having come from a highly multicultural part of Melbourne, this was a big change.

Back then I worked very long hours (and do still but not quite so intense) and, to be honest, I was often tired and I own the fact that I did not make a big effort to get to know the city. This time around, knowing that I’d be here a bit longer, I have gotten to know different types of people and have gone out of my way to get the most out of Canberra, by exploring more of its heart and culture. I aim to bring you a few visual stories of how I reacquainted myself with this city, with a visual sociology series I’m calling, Weekends With a Sociologist.
Weekends with a sociologist

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Sidetracked: Film Review

At the Spanish Film Festival 2016, I saw many good films; one of which was Las Ovejas No Pierden El Tren (translated to “Sidetracked” but that’s not quite right – direct translation is the sheep don’t miss the train).

The film was a very sweet comedy about the relationship between adult siblings and their parents, and about coming to terms with the disappointment that life does not turn out how you hope. The film had a lovely recurring theme about how people trick themselves into thinking they’re happy, and wasting time pretending to be happy, or angry and disappointed that they don’t get what they want how they want it.

Image: Bar lounge at the Electric Palace Cinema,Canberra, host of the Spanish Film Festival.

National Zoo and Aquarium

I visited the zoo!

The last White Lion seen in the wild was in 1994, in the only place where they are naturally found, the Greater Timbavati region in South Africa, where there are many white sandy riverbeds and scorched pale grass areas where they blend in well. They were reintroduced in the wild in 2001. What are their threats? “Man, man and man” says the zoo sign. They are hunted as trophies or killed when they are forced to attack livestock due to habitat loss. This is Jake. He is bored in the hot Aussie sun. Continue reading National Zoo and Aquarium

Representing Science at the Dinosaur Museum

According to one of the educators at Australia’s Dinosaur Museum in Canbera, Deinonychus is “the raptor that should have starred in Jurrasic Park.” It is bigger than the Velociraptor (which was misrepresented in the famous film) and it is now believed to be warm blooded, fast and smart.

I met this champion of science outreach as part of my visual sociology series exploring how “science” is represented in museums, galleries and public displays. In this case, the tour, which was very good, included a lot of dispelling of Jurassic Park myths and amusing editorial by the presenter.

The presenter noted that many of the dinosaurs on show likely would not look the way they’ve been represented, with many dinosaurs long-believed to have feathers. No one asked why the dinosaurs are being displayed incorrectly, but this is likely because of Hollywood (and perhaps the cost of updating the figures) Continue reading Representing Science at the Dinosaur Museum

National Multicultural Festival

Inka Marka playing at the The National Multicultural Festival in Canberra.

One of the most beautiful and famous Peruvian songs, El Condor Pasa. Played here by Inka Marka.

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Sinking Into

Now that I’m back in Canberra from my overseas secondment, here’s our visual sociology for August 2015. There’s contemplative art that speaks to the sociology of identity and otherness, there’s commemorations of political violence, Indigenous drums from Vanuatu, protest art and markets galore.

Draw in

Draw In at the National Portrait Gallery with Carlos Perez playing classical guitar. The public is invited to sit and draw; all materials are provided. It’s child friendly too. 9 August

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Same Sex Marriages in the Australian Capital Territory

Same sex marriages have been talking place in the Australian Capital Territory,  the first Australian state or territory to legalise non-heterosexual marriage. This new law had been contentious and it is being challenged by the federal Government led by the ultra  conservative Liberal Party. This coming Thursday The High Court of Australia will decide whether this new state law is constitutional so the law is currently precarious.