Day 3 2023 American Tour

April 12, 2023
    The balance of work and pleasure continued to pan out on this third day. After a Benny’s breakfast at Denny’s, I took the morning for work on the laptop. Then I headed out to the nearby Hammer Museum. Currently there is an exhibition on American writer Joan Didion, her work, and her connections […]



The balance of work and pleasure continued to pan out on this third day. After a Benny’s breakfast at Denny’s, I took the morning for work on the laptop. Then I headed out to the nearby Hammer Museum. Currently there is an exhibition on American writer Joan Didion, her work, and her connections with the late 20th century American pop culture. I never heard of her before, but she is considered something of a cultural icon in the United States, with several well-known novels as well as several important cultural commentaries (“non-fiction”).



Image 1: 2023-02-01 Map of North American, Hammer Museum, Los Angles, California (USA)



The exhibition was very enjoyable but only half inspiring. Gallery One had artworks associated with Didion or her cultural commentary on American history or her position in the new literary movement, known as “New Journalism”:


“It is characterized by a subjective perspective, a literary style reminiscent of long-form non-fiction. Using extensive imagery, reporters interpolate subjective language within facts whilst immersing themselves in the stories as they reported and wrote them. In traditional journalism, however, the journalist is “invisible”; facts are reported objectively. (Wikipedia entry)”



Not knowing much, apart from what I saw in the exhibit, I bought two of Didion’s significant paperbacks from the Hammer Museum store. The great delight in my tour is the personal conversations I am having with Americans. I talked to the two sales assistants at the store, and it will shock my Australian friends that these museum staff member still thought of Australia as a place in the British empire, and yet they were familiar with contemporary Australian cultural icons, like Nick Cave, who they were say were shaping the United States! The knowledge of the 1942 Curtin “Turning to America” and the Hollywood satiation of Australia cultural thinking was in the words of one of the sales assistants, a learning experience. So, there was mutual intercultural learning experience at the Hammer Museum. Another experience was that one of the desk assistants suggested a place for good coffee. Most American connoisseurs themselves do not like Americano coffee, although some do like the Brazil bean.



Image 2: 2023-02-01 Coffee at Espresso Profeta, Westwood, California (USA)



The place was Espresso Profeta, and finally I enjoyed an “italiano”, what we enjoy in Australia as a slightly smaller long black or a slightly larger espresso. I sat in the courtyard pondering the landscape and the culture.



Image 3: 2023-02-01 7-Eleven Building, Westwood Village



Shortly thereafter I found myself walking into a Christian Science reading room a few doors up Glendon Avenue, in search of a church history booklet. There I chatted with Julia the librarian and Joselyn the sales assistant. Apparently, there are no church history booklets they knew of, but Julia would pass on the message to the Press that there was a need for one. There were plenty of biographies, even large tomes, and Joselyn argued that they contain the histories I was looking for. I had to explain that history is much more than biography and included sociology and political science. And my tedious explanation was odd, as the sales assistant was telling me her connection as a former teacher of political science, moments before. This is common experience for me: the sociologists and political scientists often do not understand the histories.


Map: 2023-02-01 Westwood, LA, California (USA)



The remainder of my walk took me through the rest of Westwood village, up to the border with UCLA. You have to imagine West End, Brisbane, as a ritz suburb setting rather than intercity suburb. Hip, Man! I finished the walk at Target to purchases a few shirts which I need. It is not a good purchase. I note that all my clothing purchases are from third world countries, such as Bangladesh. What poor person am exploiting in the long chain of American capital?


Image 4: 2023-02-01 Taix French Restaurant, Echo Park, LA (USA).



In contrast, in the late afternoon, I took another uber tour, this time through the wealth of Beverley Hills and West Hollywood; heading to my dinner date at the Taix French Restaurant, 1911 Sunset Blvd, Los Angeles, CA 90026, USA. The time was of meaningful intellectual discourse, starting with my uber driver, Steven, a South Korean American.



Image 5: Puzzle with the national flag of United States of America and Australia on a world map background concept. Photo 100604166 / Australia United States © Ruletkka |



My dinner companion was Miguel A. Híjar-Chiapa from the Department of Political Science and International Relations at the University of Southern California and incumbent President of the Australian and New Zealand Studies Association of North America. Before coming to USC, he was Assistant Professor of International Relations at the Center for North American Studies of the Pacific Studies Department at the University of Guadalajara in Mexico. He has been visiting scholar at the Edward A. Clark Center for Australian and New Zealand Studies at the University of Texas at Austin, and the Centre for Defence and Security Studies at Massey University in New Zealand. His main interests are International Relations Theory (especially the English School and Constructivism), Security in the Indo-Pacific, and the Foreign and Defense Policies of Australia, New Zealand, the United States, the United Kingdom, Canada, Japan, and India.



We discuss how a deep, research-intensive education in both philosophy and history has made a significant difference to our intellectual career/life journey, and very meaningful for the public square dialogue(s).



My professor friend was rightly complaining about how his American academic colleagues are so lost in their research, insular American bubble and unaware of the international studies schools outside of the United States. I added that that the bubble thinking was not only the cultural focus, but also the way the disciplines do not relate, and in this, the battle we have had in multidisciplinary learning since Griffith University was founded (1975).



My friend agreed. Early in my career I was frustrated by the paradigms of engineers, as I am sure engineers are of the scholarly humanists. This often has to do with the way the humanists read the technological agenda. I now work successfully with an engineer in the Southern Brisbane Suburban Forum. In later decades I have had a healthier respect for engineers and the urban environmentalists on questions of infrastructure. However, the thing is that on questions of education, language, philosophy, history, theology, religion, spirituality, and so forth, the humanists have precedent.



The question on “philosophy” arose this morning (following Day 3) on an email discussion ‘board’ (yes, the old technology continues). As I explained, the thing to understand is that “anti-philosophy” paradigms of thought have actually come out of the philosophy discipline, and to modify the process philosophers are engaged in critical philosophies which critique form and positioning of philosophy, including questions of the public square.



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Neville Buch (Pronounced Book) Ph.D. is a certified member of the Professional Historians Association (Queensland). Since 2010 he has operated a sole trade business in history consultancy. He was a Q ANZAC 100 Fellow 2014-2015 at the State Library of Queensland. Dr Buch was the PHA (Qld) e-Bulletin, the monthly state association’s electronic publication, and was a member of its Management Committee. He is the Managing Director of the Brisbane Southside History Network.
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