Wednesday, June 30, 2010
This time last week we had a rather debauched night out in Kings Cross to celebrate this year's Young Australian Journalist of the Year winners. It's such a fabled part of Sydney and yet one I've never really got to know too well. It's a place where even a weeknight feels sleazy, not dangerous so much as grotty. But all the lights and characters make for great pictures... except perhaps for the paparazzi shots I ended up with of a homeless dude. He just wanted to pose...
One week on, and what a contrast. Three consecutive nights of yoga take their toll on the unflexible body, so my yoga buddy and I restored our equilibrium with a late Mexican dinner and a few beers.
Since my days in Sydney are now numbered, there are suddenly all these things I want, nay, need to do one last time in case I don't come back. My housemate and I are formulating a list of last hurrahs to have - meat tray raffles, bowls clubs, greyhound racing, etc - let's face it, the places on it almost all serve beer. So it's good to tick the Cross off that list...
Tuesday, June 29, 2010
Love the wooden interiors and the light and reflections in this shot of a vintage car I spotted near the Randwick bowlo on Saturday. It was a beautiful crisp winter afternoon. This is her from the front:
And the back:
This poor little guy was left to fend for himself at a bus stop, but I'm sure someone took him home eventually.
But the two best things I saw on the weekend, I was too slow to capture on camera. The first was on Glebe Point Road on Friday night, taking the aforementioned tulips home to bed. A guy was crossing the road on a scooter in what I first assumed was an amazing bright blue suit. Closer inspection, however, revealed he was actually in flannelette pajamas. It was an audacious and enviable fashion choice.
Even better was on Sunday, when my eye was caught by a BMX. The rider was a Chinese man who was 80 if he was a day, with shopping bags dangling from his handlebars and one of those great communist fur hats. What a champ.
Monday, June 28, 2010
Oh Papillionaire. You're breaking my heart with your hott, hott bikes. At least on your website I can spend endless procrastinatory minutes of my workday fantasising about the different paint jobs and leather trimmings and wicker baskets I would customise you with. Oh, your swoopy step-through frame, your chain-guards and handlebars like a delicate hipster's moustache...
And speaking of hipster facial hair... How utterly fabulous is this? Are you sitting down? OK.
"Dandies and Qaintrelles", and while you may have heard of tweed rides (where bike geeks get gussied up in their best houndstooth and hunting caps), this weekend just passed they organised a "seersucker social". Think straw boaters, suspenders, floaty floral dresses, pearls, and loads of seersucker. Add bikes, a lack of laws requiring the wearing of helmets, and many good-looking young hipsters; serve over endless emerald lawns on a sultry afternoon, and garnish with mint like a classic southern cocktail. Delicious. We need to organise one here for spring!
PS: Quaintrelle may be my new favourite word.
"A quaintrelle is a woman who emphasizes a life of passion expressed through personal style, leisurely pastimes, charm, and cultivation of life’s pleasures..."
I had all but forgotten signing up to be part of the promotion for 75 new Popular Penguins. You know the ones - they're only $10, they're classic titles and they have those fabulous orange covers that are at once timeless and totally retro. The good folks at Penguin had the fun idea of getting 75 people in each state to pose with the books. Ultimately 75 would have the new titles photoshopped in and become part of a video.
I didn't make the cut. Just when I thought maybe I hadn't missed the boat on being discovered as a super (book) model... nope, that ship had sailed and I remained flustered and unphotogenic in its wake. But I still got to choose two books and a cute little Penguin bag! So my next reads are The Adventures of Tom Sawyer and Northanger Abbey. It's the only Jane Austen I've not yet read, so really looking forward to it.
Like so many girls, bookish and otherwise, Austen has been a huge part of my life. I still remember vividly when the BBC adaptation of Pride & Prejudice first screened on TV. It was the bonnet drama that stopped a nation. At that point in the mid 1990s I was still a rangy barefoot tomboy, mortified to the point of having to cover my eyes and blush profusely if a kissing scene came on TV. But while it was some years before I truly appreciated Colin Firth in a wet shirt, I loved every second of P&P.
Later mum bought all six glorious hours on VHS, and my sister and I learned every word (suprisingly the ability to quote Lady Catherine de Burgh at will has actually made me new friends, though I must say this doesn't work at every party). Our Barbie dolls didn't swan around Malibu or Surfers Paradise; they sported incongruous tans for Regency England and squabbled over bonnets. We did take some poetic licence in our dollhouse re-enactments; we thought Mary Bennet should marry the odious Mr Collins, though when we grew sick of him he became the victim of an unfortunate pianoforte-falling-out-a-second-storey-window accident.
When we studied the text in high school english, I was shocked that there were girls who'd never seen the series, let alone sung along with the jaunty opening titles in feverish anticipation at what was to come. I found myself feeling desperately protective of the adaptation, particularly when my schoolgirl compatriots thought the actress playing Jane wasn't hot enough to be the beauty of the family. Lizzie Bennet is surely the most irresistible literary heroine of all time, however, and when my classmates fell for her in their turn I looked on knowingly, with a sense of smug pride I've since come to associate with introducing friends to a charming suitor you still can't quite believe is yours.
Sure, we all like to think of ourselves as Lizzie but few of us can really come close. Personally I think I'm more like docile Jane, if she were uglier; or slutty, inappropriate Lydia if she had more of a misanthropic streak. At any rate, I will oblige my mother with many years yet of fretting about having to support me as an old maid...
Sunday, June 27, 2010
Monday, June 21, 2010
Oh, Tobias. Nobody, but nobody, will ever be as inappropriate as you.
Tobias Fünke: Okay, Lindsay, are you forgetting that I was a professional twice over - an analyst and a therapist. The world's first analrapist.
Tobias Fünke: No, no, it's pronounced a-nal-ra-pist.
Buster: It wasn't really the pronunciation that bothered me.
Michael Bluth: You know what you do? You go buy yourself a tape recorder and record yourself for a whole day. You might be surprised at some of your phrasing.
Tobias Fünke: Butterscotch. Wanna lick?
Narrator: Tobias listens to a day's worth of his own words, to see what Michael was referring to...
Tobias Fünke: [on tape] ... even if it means me taking a chubby, I will suck it up.
Tobias Fünke: Nothing wrong with that.
Tobias Fünke: [on tape] Oh, I've been in the film business for a while, but I just can't seem to get one in the can.
Tobias Fünke: It's out of context.
Tobias Fünke: [on tape] I wouldn't mind kissing that man between the cheeks.
Narrator: ...and he realized there is something distinct about the way he speaks.
Tobias Fünke: Tobias, you blowhard. [chuckles]
Sunday, June 20, 2010
Usually Jose serenades all guests with his guitar, but last night he insisted he was too unwell. He did offer to strip instead but we politely declined. Pity none of us thought of faking a birthday, though we did play the "these girls have come all the way from Queensland to hear you sing" card.
Later we accidentally crashed a private function, but when the free drinks kept coming we made the best of it. Reboot played party detective, deftly determining the cause for celebration (engagement), the identity of the happy couple (Ali and Ryan) and even brazenly smalltalking with Ali's mum. Here's cheers to many happy years for Ali and Ryan, it was a great night.
Monday, June 14, 2010
In true 50s style the bridesmaids all had monster beehives worthy of characters from The Far Side. And their dresses were amazing - colourful and deliciously feminine, each was unique and shaped by a hand-made corset and oodles of tulle petticoats. The bride's sister who made them all, and was sewing them into their dresses until they flounced down the aisle, had even sourced matching vintage fur coats to ward off the chill.
Apparently in the 50s it was unheard of to have a single wedding cake; there would always be a spread of different cakes for every possible taste. I imagine that would partly be to placate the various bakers in each family! So at this wedding there was a tower of cupcakes, a very traditional fruit cake, and a delicious double-decker mud cake....
Here's the after shot of the cakes table!
It was the most emotional wedding I've ever been to; there were happy tears all over the place. What was lovely about the ceremony was the quirky readings they used... The groom's sister read from the children's book The Veleveteen Rabbit, about how being loved makes you real, and made everyone cry. And then the bride's mum read from the Doctor Seuss book Oh! The Places You'll Go with a smile in her voice and a twinkle in her eye.
And will you succeed?
Yes! You will, indeed!
(98 and ¾ percent guaranteed.)
Kid, you’ll move mountains!
So…be your name Buxbaum or Bixby or Bray or Mordecai Ale Van Allen O’Shea,
You’re off to Great Places!
Today is your day!
Your mountain is waiting.
So…get on your way!
Friday, June 11, 2010
Time for sleep. Setting sail at an ungodly hour in the morning, for Brisbane, Byron, a wedding, girly catch-ups and hopefully some warmer climes!
It's like the stars aligning. Missing passport? Found. Flights almost ready to book? Check. Favourite band in the world playing all five of their albums in full over five October nights in New York City? Don't mind if I do.
"New York City’s Terminal 5 will be presenting a historic five night run of shows in which My Morning Jacket will perform one of their full-length albums in its entirety each night, along with additional songs and covers from each album’s time period. The stint will kick off on Monday, October 18th, with a performance of the 1999 debut The Tennessee Fire, and will be followed chronologically by their next four full length albums, ending with 2008’s Evil Urges on Saturday, October 23rd."
10/18 – Terminal 5 – New York City, NY – The Tennessee Fire
10/19 – Terminal 5 – New York City, NY – At Dawn
10/21 – Terminal 5 – New York City, NY – It Still Moves
10/22 – Terminal 5 – New York City, NY – Z
10/23 – Terminal 5 – New York City, NY – Evil Urges and beyond!
HELL YES. Pi, wanna come with? And I wonder if I can track down those bogans from Boston...
*image from mymorningjacket.com
Wednesday, June 9, 2010
Together is one of those albums you might end up listening to for eternity if you put it on repeat: it's quick, beautifully paced and sequenced, and not a single track merits skipping. AC Newman's Canadian supergroup is in fine form on this their fifth release, and with eight members there's plenty of variety desite the album's cohesiveness. Newman, Dan Bejar and the inimitable Neko Case take turns on lead vocals, and there's never any shortage of multi-part harmonies in the very best dum-dum, doo-wup, whoah-oh tradition. It's clever pop both lyrically - the word "byzantine" is central to "Sweet Talk, Sweet Talk" - and instrumentally, with cellos here, mariachi horns there. I can't get "Valkyrie In The Roller Disco" out of my head, and "If You Can't See My Mirrors" is crying out to be included on a road-trip mixtape.
Less immediately adorable, but nonetheless hitting the pleasure centres, is the new Gorillaz album Plastic Beach. As with past outings, Damon Albarn's outfit offers up an eclectic mix of rap, samples and alterna-pop... There are star-studded collabs with Lou Reed, Mark E Smith and Snoop Dogg; and the De La Soul enhanced faux-jingle of "Superfast Jellyfish" is delicious instant gratification. When you do hear an Albarn vocal, particularly on "Empire Ants", it's a stark reminder of his vastly different work back with Blur on albums like 13. For all his mastery of pop Albarn really does have one of the most world-weary, melancholy voices I can think of.
But of course, if you want to get into a conversation about melancholy voices, it's hard to go past The National's Matt Berninger. Their newly released album High Violet is just magnificent, even by the band's high standards, but uplifting dancefloor filler it ain't. The beauty and desperation of these songs is that they do what few rock bands can (or even try to): they explore the the anxieties and struggles of just living day to day. Worrying about being a bad parent, about debt and the daily grind and whether your life in progress will ever really mean anything. Pitchfork kinda nailed it in their review: "Six drinks in, tired of your coworkers, wishing you could just go home and laugh at sitcoms with someone? Maybe get laid? The National's got your back." All of which sounds terribly negative but really, it's one of my favourite records of the year. Check it out. Check them all out.
Tuesday, June 8, 2010
Around Daz there revolves a vague galaxy of devoted fans, most of whom have had a memorable encounter with him at a show. The cool thing about him is that when someone goes up to him after a gig and says they met him in Wollongong in 1998, he will legitimately remember them and the conversations they had. His memory is amazing.
My sister and I met Darren on new year's eve in 2005, when we were pulling beers in a bogan pub in the George. She'd just finished school, I was on holidays from uni, and the pub in question was generally half-full of "characters" with hearts of gold and questionable dental work. There was an old jukebox that seemed to play only country classics - I think I still know all the words to "Seven Spanish Angels" - so our curiosity was piqued when three out-of-towners entered the bar and managed to ply the jukebox with dollar coins to play songs we actually wanted to hear.
We all got talking and it turned out Daz, Cheersy and Poogs had driven down from Gympie to see the New Year's fireworks at nearby Nindigully. The Gully is ostensibly a town but really just a pub in the middle of nowhere, that comes alive a couple of times a year for B&S balls and motorcross racing. Anyway, we arranged to meet these exotic strangers that night at the Gully, where Poogs ended up kissing a bearded truckdriver who fell in love with her, and at 12.50pm I told Daz to wait with my Mum while I tried to find a new years pash. That mission was unsuccessful, but later as we talked about music and Daz talked about touring overseas I finally thought to ask his surname. When I realised I had one of his albums (Little Chills, still my favourite) in my car I felt rather bad for the whole leaving-him-with-my-mum thing, but he was pretty cool about it, and besides Mum was rather taken with Cheersy anyway.
Anyway, that would have been that if I wasn't such an opportunist and accosted Daz at a gig in Sydney, when I was interning at the office where I now work. Hospitable chap that he is, he let me stay at his place for a couple of weeks while he was away on tour; I woke up each day marvelling at his collection of records and instruments and op-shop fashions. But that's the kind of guy he is - he's so often lived by the kindness of strangers that he in turn is very kind to strangers. Part of it I think is his curiosity about the world, this lovely belief he has that every person and every place has a story. And as is so often the case, when you believe in something you make it true. Daz has written dozens of songs and they're all packed with stories - songs about squash and service station epiphanies and share houses and public transport and the guy who invented the kickstand...
It's the wit of his observations and his nimble turn of phrase that really make his songs. That's not to say the instrumentation isn't great - he can do a ukelele solo like nobody's business - but he just has a way with words. I have too many favourite lines to recount here in what's already a sprawling post, but one gem is from his last album Fingertips & Mountaintops, nestled within the RSL-lounge-singer ballad "Manila NSW". Describing the timelessness of the town he paints a picture of the main street:
Where old men sit
And lick tobacco papers
They look like a harmonica band
Maybe one of the best Daz stories was recently made into a little documentary. Years ago he wrote a song about Eli Wallach, an actor now in his mid-90s ("I've only known you for 10 minutes / but I'd prefer you didn't die just yet ... One of them's good / The other one's bad / And you're no oil painting..."). Anyway, Daz eventually got in touch with Wallach and together they ended up filming a new clip for one of Darren's classic songs, "I Wish That I Was Beautiful For You":
Something you may not know about Daz, even he seems a little suprised about it, is that he is recognised internationally as Australia's number one pinball player. The pinball obsession is pretty much textbook Daz - fetishising the anachronistic leisure activities of a bygone era, collecting a mental marauder's map of machines hidden away in milkbars and pubs around the world. Anyway, the quality's not amazing but this interview is really fun:
Catch Daz on tour in August (tickets etc here):
6th Pomona - Majestic Theatre
7th Brisbane - Globe Theatre
8th Bangalow - A and I Hall
11th Armidale - The Armidale Club
12th Newcastle - Galipoli Legions Club
13th Sydney - Factory Theatre
14th Canberra - Tilley's Divine Cafe
15th Katoomba - Clarendon Guest House
18th Bulli - The Heritage Hotel
19th - Hobart - Republic
20th - Melbourne - Thornbury Theatre
21st - Fremantle - Fly By Night
22nd - Adelaide - Jive
And here's looking forward to I Will Love You At All, which in Daz's own words is 'a bit of a nostalgic timepiece of the last few years of my ramblings here and there. It feels like a brick from a house where your Grandfather once lived. It feels like a cup of tea. One where your friend asks, "So what have you been up to these last two years? And what have you been thinking about?" and then I open my mouth and my new album comes out for the next 40 minutes.'
*PS Shout-out to my fabulous friend Pip who took the photo of Daz atop this post, on a sweltering night in Lismore in January...
Monday, June 7, 2010
Afterward I felt stretched and warm and all my muscles were humming. Now they're mumbling quietly, a hint of the groaning I expect they'll do tomorrow. But for now I have the new New Pornographers album and I know heavy sleep isn't far away...
And, can I just say, when this rain clears as it's supposed to on Wednesday, I am damn well going to salute the sun. Probably not using yoga though.
Sunday, June 6, 2010
Ben is probably best known and loved for his work as a senior writer for Frankie Magazine, and he's also had a lot of work published in The Monthly. There are dozens of amazing writers of the same generation around Australia, but I think Ben is unique (and uniquely adored) because he's a virtuoso at balancing humour with authenticity. Ben has an eye for a winning anecdote, and a love of words that lights up the page. The book opens with Ben describing the family dictionary, a homemade reference book compiled each year from family slang and jargon.
"Some entries are universally suggestive and you wouldn't need to be a family member to understand them. No one needs to stretch their imagination to figure out what a slitoris might be. Heurgh - uttered as if you're dry-retching - denotes disgust and horror at something. Flahs is a bouquet of fancy flowers, and scrongtrum still sounds funny, even if you haven't seen the difficulty my mother has in pronouncing 'scrotum'."
The obvious reference point for this book is the work of David Sedaris. If you're not familiar with Sedaris, for god's sake get reading or listen to his readings/talks on NPR. Both Sedaris and Ben are sharply witty, self-conscious and self-deprecating, openly gay and blessed with colourful family stories they pillage with joy. The differences are all in context - Sedaris' mid-western boy living in Paris might have an edge of sophistication, but Ben's world is all suburban shopping malls, weekends spent touring the Sunny Coast's low-rent amusement parks (Superbee, Forest Glen Deer Sanctuary, "the Big Bottle" constructed from countless stinking beer empties), and the vague sense of lawlessness of schools perched on the edge of wild tropical vegetation.
Like any childhood worth its salt, Ben's memoir is bristling with cringe-worthy moments of embarrassment. In other writers it might feel deplorable to serve up one's most humiliating moments in the name of self-deprecating egotism, but Ben's so forthright about loving the spotlight at whatever cost it's kinda charming. There's an entire chapter on his dealings with a talent school in a bid to land his dream role on Home & Away. When he finally gets an audition for a speaking role in a film, he only realises he's being typecast when he's asked if he can tone down his Australian accent and talk more Asian.
Ben's mum Jenny emerges as the undisputed star of the book - expect a Facebook fan page for her any day now. One of my favourite vignettes from the book plays with the recurring motif of Jenny's love of learning new english words, and it also gives you an indication of the unapologetic toilet humour the book sometimes employs.
Controversially, Mum insists she first learned the word cunt from me. I don't remember the exact circumstances clearly enough to verify the claim, but I wouldn't be surprised if it were true. Mum says that afterwards, as often seems to happen when you've learned a new word or concept, she inexplicably started seeing and hearing it everywhere. 'The next on on SBS,' she told me, 'there was this European movie with a woman screaming at her husband because she found out he was having an affair. She yelled to him: "You only like her because her cunt smells like eggplant!" That's what it said in the subtitles. And suddenly I realised that I knew what this word was. Cunt. It ws that same word you told me not to use at parent-teacher meetings.'
The Family Law is a real memoir for my generation. It's a bit like the 80s exhibition at the Powerhouse in the sense that it's so exciting to see all these hallmarks of your childhood curated together, but it feels a bit weird because you don't feel old enough for your childhood to be the stuff of museums and memoir!
Ben's on the press trail at the moment - his hometown appearances at Avid Reader this Thursday and Friday sold out weeks ago. If you manage to get in I'd love to hear about it - on one of the evenings he'll appear in conversation with his mum! He's also going to be at Readings in Melbourne on June 17. There doesn't seem to be a Sydney event booked in yet but I'm hoping to help organise something through work this week. Will keep you posted!
The Family Law is a finished-in-a-day, laugh-out-loud-on-the-bus, dog-ear-every-second-page read. It's the kind of book that regularly throws up the conundrum of whether to call your mum/sister/mate immediately to share a new gem, or whether to keep reading. It's the kind of book you want to buy for everyone you love. It's hilarious and moving to get such a generously intimate peek into the eccentricities of another family. For a sneak peek try this piece of Ben's from The Lifted Brow.
Just get the book. You won't regret it.
I have approximately one thousand photos and I love every one of them. There were LASERS, people.
It was so bananas that we went to their second gig at the Vanguard, at around 1am, and listened to a bunch of new Dappled Cities songs and ate chips because it was all the food we could find, our paws permanently dipped in fresh foil pouches like mutant salt-and-vinegar munching marsupials. Later, waiting for cabs, we half-heartedly chatted up random members of the John Steel Singers. And haven't they come on in leaps and bounds!
Now my wrists are stamped all over like primary school library books... and it's that hour of the morning when you know it's going to be light all too soon... and your head is pounding with cigarettes and it's like a race to fall asleep before the sun comes up and it's all wrong but it's all right...
Saturday, June 5, 2010
Been meaning to take some photos in Hyde Park for a while, so I got off the bus a few stops early and meandered through the city and the Domain on my way to the Rocks. True to form I stuffed up the times and missed the Technology & Behaviour session at Creative Sydney. But ended up catching a really good talk instead on Crowdsourcing and Collaboration. Heard from a couple of very cool kids who created The Loop, a great online portfolio site that you can spend hours on trawling through people's creative work in illustration, photography, film, fashion and everything else you can imagine.
Ross Dawson gave a broader overview of creative crowdsourcing which was really interesting and perfectly timed for the program we're planning for our big national conference in August. It's really exciting to see some of the opportunities out there for finding amazing people to collaborate with, and with the power of technology and these tools there's almost no limit to what you can achieve if you have a great idea.
The habits of three years working for a union are hard to break though, and so even while I'm pumped about the possibilities of these applications as I aim to move further into the creative industries, I can't help but wonder what it means for the way people work, their intellectual property rights and fair reward for their effort. But trying to stem the tide of crowdsourcing and collective intelligence is futile; the next challenge is working out the sustainable economics of it. And that's what will be fascinating to explore at the conference, particularly in terms of how some of these new models for work can apply to journalism.
Anyway, it ended up a terribly soggy, grey afternoon. On the bus home, the only people visible were those huddled on their balconies, slouching and pacing aimlessly in the universal posture of bored smokers in bad weather. But just now it's cleared into a stunning soft-focus, rose gold sunset.
Found some affordable flights, so once I find my passport (!) New York and Europe here I come! And more immediately, some live music and a few rowdy beers beckon. Hope you're having a great weekend!
That said, multiple hours just disappeared while I christened a new visual diary... I drew a fish, some bicycles, what was supposed to be an umbrella, and played around with designs from a very sexy Taschen book of typography. It's time to get back into the drawing habit, and hopefully some semblance of skill will return.
Could definitely handle more nights like this - snuggled under the covers scribbling with a mug of sweet hot tea while the rain lashes outside. And it may have taken a week, but my enormous bundle of lilies is finally opening and they smell exquisite...
Sorry I've been neglecting you blog. I missed you, I really did. I'll make it up to you. Tomorrow brings Creative Sydney (just when I thought I couldn't crush on Jess Scully any harder, her program this year includes Chris Ying from McSweeneys), a trip to the travel agent and Dappled Cities. And probably more rain...
Tuesday, June 1, 2010
Just bananas. Rich is considered possibly the best drummer of all time. You could blame his parents - apparently he started drumming in vaudeville as "Taps the Drum Wonder" at just 18 months old... But in my opinion, which to be fair is gleaned from approximately four minutes of research on Wikipedia and YouTube, his entire career led up to a single, ecstatic performance: in 1980, on The Muppet Show.
"When I play a theatre, I PLAY the theatre!"