Thursday, February 20, 2014

The Wolf of Lygon Street. Since I am participating in an Oscars roundtable for Junkee, today I figured I had better see The Wolf of Wall Street. I missed the preview screening because in its wisdom, the distributor had scheduled it at the same time as another studio's screening and like Jordan Belfort himself, gave zero fucks. And because it goes for three hours I was really daunted by how I was going to find the time to see it.

But that's not to say I wasn't interested. I've read Jordan Belfort's memoir, on which the film is based, and jeez it's an entertaining read. Here are some bits I highlighted because I couldn't believe I was actually reading them:
"after seeing her on the delivery table with her pussy looking big enough to hide Jimmy Hoffa, I hadn't been too much in the mood." (My note: "You have to wonder what his wife and children make of this book.") 
"I smiled at Wigwam, who had just confirmed what I already knew – that he was not a wartime consigliere and would be of little help to Danny in matters like these." ("I love the way Jordan views his life through the prism of pop culture.") 
"Well, I'm not the judgmental type, Bo. I hate judgmental people. I think they're the worst sort, don't you? ("LOL") 
"The company was bleeding cash like a hemophiliac in a rosebush." (Oh Jesus. Also, LOL)
I also read an interview with Scorsese and DiCaprio about the film, and a fascinating feature about what Jordan Belfort is up to now. (Still giving zero fucks.) And here is an interesting guide to how the film diverges from real life. One thing they don't mention in there is that, in a film containing so much casual misogyny and homophobia and rampant drug-taking and law-breaking, they cared enough to change a character's name from 'Wigwam' to 'Rugrat' – presumably because they didn't want to be racist.

But anyway, tonight I had a Hot Desk Fellows get-together at the Wheeler Centre and then after that I figured I would get some dinner on Lygon Street and then go see the 9:20pm Wolf of Wall Street at Cinema Nova.

So told various people I was going to do this, and then I got my ticket and I showed it to the usher and I helped some other patrons find the cinema and then I sat down in the cinema and watched the movie.

I am telling you this boring procedural story so you understand how ridiculous I felt upon exiting the film about an hour ago and realising that all along I had been wearing this shirt:

I started LOLing to myself as I walked along that purple corridor and down the stairs and out onto Lygon Street. What must those people have thought of me? Maybe they thought I was some crazed Jordan Belfort fan who'd been so excited about finally seeing her hero onscreen that she'd worn her special wolf shirt.

Imagine me once more, saying to the ticket seller, "One ticket for The Wolf of Wall Street" and then her giving me this supercilious up-and-down gaze and me thinking it was just because she was a film hipster who felt herself to be above the schmos who actually pay to see movies, but no, it was because she thought I was so lame to be wearing a costume. Like, would I be wearing blue when I went to see Blue Is the Warmest Colour?

Or, worse, what if they thought I am generally super into wolves? Like, a Crazy Wolf Lady?

Imagine if I were indeed a Crazy Wolf Lady and my house was full of stuffed toy wolves and wolf posters and wolf throw rugs, and when I led you seductively to my bedroom you were confronted with this turgidifying sight:

Or maybe this; I haven't figured out which I prefer.

And because I am so into wolves, I consume any cultural products with vague wolf references. Like, you look at my CD collection and it's all Steppenwolf and Wolfmother and Yelawolf, and my bookshelf has Naomi Wolf and Tom Wolfe and Virginia Woolf, and my DVDs are all like Dances with Wolves and Teen Wolf and Red Riding Hood and that Jack Nicholson film Wolf and White Fang and The Grey which is that one where Liam Neeson punches a wolf.

And I have been absolutely jonesing to see this new wolf film and so I wore my special wolf shirt.

The most ridiculous thing of all is that while I was seeing The Wolf of Wall Street tonight there was a preview screening of Wolf Creek 2, so I would have looked just as ridiculous if I'd gone to that instead.

Monday, February 17, 2014

Moving on. I feel like I'm better at managing my moods and emotions these days, so that rather than a depressive episode that lasts weeks or months, I just have a bad day here and there. I have a Post-It on my pinboard that reminds me to think of "THREE GOOD THINGS THAT HAPPENED TODAY" in order to avoid the catastrophic thinking that can shut me down.

Today I'm trying to struggle out of the mire and make it a Good Day, but it comes off the back of several Bad Days, beginning on Thursday with the announcement of the Stella Prize longlist, which I was not on. Not that I expected to be: I have come to realise that I have not written a prize-winning book. But you know that secret inner part of yourself in which your wildest fantasies never die? Well, that part of me still hoped, and was grievously disappointed.

What I'm really mourning is the sense of excitement and optimism I once felt about my book. I have terrible self-esteem in most ways except regarding my writing. I genuinely think I produce great work, and while I was frustrated with the compromises I had to make in order to satisfy my editor and publisher that Out of Shape was marketable, I think the book is stronger for them.

When I finished the book I couldn't wait to see how it was received. I was so proud of it, sure I'd nailed a certain zeitgeist and as the book's subtitle reveals, debunked various stupid myths about the topic. I fantasised that the book would be taken up as a cult text about clothing size and fit. I felt I'd join and transform a public affairs conversation. I would email my publisher asking them to enter my book in various awards.

This was a time I now look back on as comically innocent. Aw, she thought her first book would be a runaway hit? Bless! 

What I should have anticipated, but didn't, was that I had written a Chick Book. This meant that I was excluded from almost all the conversations I wanted to participate in because clothing is 'fashion' and fashion is 'lifestyle' and 'lifestyle' is for women and is not part of either the literary conversation or the current-affairs conversation. The frustrating thing is that I fought for the inclusion of men's clothes and men's bodies, and actually flagged sexism in the book:
It’s probably because of my sensitivity to being humiliated that I really want to distance this project from the pervasive belief that writing about clothes is vapid and unintelligent. […] Is a book about size and fit only for silly chicks? Of course not. Fashion – as opposed to clothes – is the industrial cycle of design, media and retail, which constantly renews itself to drive demand for new garments. It’s a dynamic, wealthy business sector that engages with politics, ethics and social ideologies. To intelligent, discerning people, fashion offers plenty of food for thought.

However, most fashion writing – from glossy magazines to weekend newspapers and the increasingly crowded blogosphere – is explicitly framed as ‘lifestyle’. That is, it’s all about the role clothing plays in an individual’s consumerist fantasies. The dichotomy between ‘quality journalism’ and ‘lifestyle pap’ is uncomfortably sexist, but the language of much fashion writing is undeniably gormless, burbling nonsense: ‘a pant’, ‘a smoky eye’, ‘statement pieces’, ‘pops of colour’, ‘It bags’ and other ‘directional’, ‘on-trend’ ‘must-haves’ the writer is currently ‘all about’.
There are ways to write a feminised book and still be taken seriously – make it about feminism, or politics, or crime, or health, or family – but what I should have realised is that a book about clothes, no matter how thoughtful it strives to be, will never be thought of as a book of note, a book about ideas.

And I didn't galvanise the women's lifestyle press, either. My book didn't have a bright, breezy message of female self-love and nor did I lobby the garment industries to change their ways to accommodate 'real women'. Despite all the personal anecdotes I grudgingly shoehorned in, it was not a memoir, and I was not an aspirational, relatable narrator. I was mainly interested in history, ideology and culture, and peevishly unwilling to comfort readers with easy conclusions.

Out of Shape fell between categories in almost every sense. Despite its failure to meet my expectations I'm proud of it, and I'm grateful that my publisher saw the value in such a weird book. I have to remind myself that it's still out there waiting to be discovered; books don't drop off the face of the earth after they stop being new. I mean, so many of the books I read myself are up to a few years old because I just can't get to everything when it first comes out.

But I feel sad when I think of the hopes I had for it, and am determined to avoid those bad feelings by never writing anything that diffuse and nerdy again. I want to make money from writing, I want my writing to influence public conversations and I want to win awards, and you just don't get that by applying high concepts to low topics, like I did in Out of Shape.

Saturday, January 25, 2014

Amnesia of the inner north. Today there is a ridiculous trend piece by self-proclaimed 'word curator' (actually gossip and social events writer) Suzanne Carbone in The Age, about how the inner northern suburbs are cool now. I know, right? I did not know that.

What annoys me about this generally bad and incoherent article is that it makes no mention of all the other bazillion Age articles alleging the inner north to have become hip. It is an utterly generic article with no insight in it.

The gentrification of the CBD, Fitzroy, Carlton and other inner-northern suburbs has been taking place for decades. In 2011, I blogged about it because a new lot of bourgie apartments were under construction around the corner from my house. (People are now living in them.) And I've also blogged about the way that new hospitality venues often mine the heritage of pre-existing businesses or local personages.

There's a similar 'trend' narrative regarding 'sea change' and 'tree change' moves. I like to joke, in the manner of Portlandia, that "the dream of the '90s is alive in Castlemaine" – well, the hipsterfication of that country town was being reported on as early as 2002.

But it seems the imperative to 'report on novelty' is more urgent at Fairfax than the imperative to contextualise. (I also wonder if this article faced any editorial gatekeeper – any at all!) So I thought I'd find a few older Age articles on the coolsiness of the inner north to correct this amnesia and form a kind of vague genealogy of the 'Age cool trend piece' over the last 15 or so years.

In March 2002, Matt Preston wrote, "North Fitzroy is cool. Humble grocery stores turned into funky cafes are really cool. And the word 'organic' is so cool it's even started to become a bit daggy, spotted creeping on to the shelves at Coles and Safeway. Imagine, then, how cool an organic greengrocer and cafe in North Fitzroy is going to be."

Pretty cool. By June 2009Stuff White People Like author Christian Lander had visited Melbourne and anointed North Fitzroy as the city's whitest suburb – in the sense of offering cultural-capital-acquisitive, politically piquant yet socially unthreatening consumerism. "When a suburb is hip enough to contain vintage shops, but safe enough for white people to have kids in, then it's truly white," Lander said.

In 2002, Guy Rundle rhapsodised on his experience of what was then quite an unusual idea: living in the CBD. A year later, the CBD's cool factor was at an all-time high, according to an article that, for me, reads like an archaeological excavation of my twenties. The Croft Institute! Cafe Segovia! C&B! And Cookie, when it was still named Koo Koo (or 'Chu Chau', as Penny insisted, trying to make fetch happen.) Here, from around the same era, are more blasts from clubland past, including Bambu and Double O.

By May 2008, "Melbourne's bar binge [was] finally over", The Age speculated. "The city's been like a party where everyone's invited, but as the economy cools and the heat rises over binge-drinking and street violence, Melbourne's bar bubble could be in danger of bursting."

LOL. No. By August 2013, The Age's indefatigably snarky Ben Butler was reporting that "nightclub czar" Jerome Borazio – who'd bragged about his unlicensed venue Shit Town in 2008 – had been engaged to handle the catering for the private Kelvin Club, in addition to running the Laneway Festival and his venues 1000 £ Bend and a Chinese restaurant-themed bar, Happy Palace.

Back in September 2003, Rundle had remarked, amusingly, "nowhere else in the world has a bar culture formed so absolutely around one particular retro style, a style that can be summed up with a single motif: the lampshade. … Just as all living cheetahs are descended from a single female in the relatively recent past, so all retro-chic bars seem to have been inspired by the Black Cat, the Brunswick Street cafe that was the first to deck itself out in Laminex tables and kitsch tiki art in the early 1980s."

Ah, the Black Cat, so often cited as Melbourne's ur-hipster venue. In September 2009, The Age reminisced: "The Black Cat is one of Melbourne's most significant venues. Opened by Henry Maas in 1982, it was one of the first cafes on Brunswick Street and was instrumental in starting the strip's rebirth as a centre of inner-city hipsterdom."

In 2009, Fitzroy was still being thought of as cool. Humourist Danny Katz wrote, "NO, NOOOOO don't make me go, I don't wanna go, I'm scared, I don't wanna enter the Nine Circles of Cool, that terrifyingly hellish place known as Brunswick Street, Fitzroy, or as I call it: Danny's Inferno."

And in November 2011, inner Melbourne was being hailed as a hotspot of vintage culture, with Gertrude Street vintage clothier Circa Vintage and the nearby Everleigh cocktail bar mentioned alongside CBD manliness emporium Captains of Industry and Hidden Secrets, a business built on shepherding neophytes around Melbourne's not-obvious shopping venues.

In a September 2013 opinion piece arguing in favour of the east-west traffic tunnel that the current Napthine state government wants to push through the inner north, Richard Cook wrote, "Back in the '70s, Brunswick Street was dead", describing its industrial occupants and shabby local businesses. It's the urban gentrifiers – the 'white people' skewered so deftly by Christian Lander – who have made the inner north what it is today, Cook opined.

"Now, of course, Brunswick Street is an iconic part of Melbourne. On Saturdays and Sundays it teems with people eager to try eggs, bacon and hollandaise sauce in whatever fashion the cooks at the cafes can invent. Lygon Street, East Brunswick, also teems with people. Even Smith Street is shedding its image of empty facades of old emporiums, and is following Brunswick Street's example. And Gertrude Street boasts some of the best restaurants, bars and clothing shops in Australia."

But this utopian vision of white-person heaven is a contested one. In April 2003, The Age did some hand-wringing over whether Melbourne's al fresco dining culture was threatening the amenity of inner-urban streets. Various old-school government planners commented on how everyone thought they were mad to suggest it but time had proven them right.

Meanwhile, Mario Maccarone of Mario's, and Henry Maas of the Black Cat, argued that outside tables were a welcome shift from antisocial Anglo pub culture to European sociability, thus playing squarely into Melbourne's self-mythologies of being Australia's most cosmopolitan, 'European' city. When we whinge about the aimless crowds outside Gelato Messina, we are participating in this same conversation.

By June 2003, NIMBYism was starting to bite, and the now-familiar battle between live music enthusiasts and noise-complaining residents was ramping up. "A young gun cruising for a big Saturday night stands outside a bar and shouts into his mobile phone: 'What are youse up to, mate? I'm just drinking hard mate, as usual, at the Black Cat, mate. We're on f-----g Brunswick Street. At the Black Cat! Black Cat! Black Cat! Still gonna come down? Black Cat!'"

By January 2010, The Age was reporting: "Drunken louts who damage property or disturb residents after a big night out in Melbourne’s inner-north are being targeted in a police crackdown over the next three weekends." Following an increase in complaints about anti-social behaviour of the sort that moral panics call "alcohol-fuelled", plain-clothed police were set to patrol venues in Brunswick Street Fitzroy, Smith Street Collingwood, and Bridge Road and Swan Street in Richmond.

In hipsterism terms, Brunswick Street is now generally considered to be 'over'. In November 2011, Michelle Griffin reported that the epicentre of cool was shifting westwards: "It may be time we started thinking of this city not as divided north and south by the Yarra, but divided east and west by the winding Maribyrnong."

And in November 2012, Craig Mathieson was advising that the next hotspots of cool were going to be Collingwood, Footscray and Preston. Rather than yet another dumdum trend piece, Mathieson's article is a very shrewd and concise discussion of the history of gentrification in Melbourne suburbia.

Docklands may never manage to be cool, although it's not for want of trying. In April 2013, urban renewal non-profit Renew Australia set up free creative spaces in Docklands, hoping to defibrillate Melbourne's deadest suburb. It didn't work. Not even the Melbourne Star ferris wheel, broken symbol of Docklands' general shitness, could keep going more than a month before breaking down again this week.

Tuesday, January 21, 2014

Welcome to the inside of my head. Wherein I make dumb jokes that only I find funny. Although with the advent of Google Glass, just about any subjective experience can be filmed. The latest stupidity regarding these nerd-goggles is a new app called Sex With Google Glass that enables you to film yourself banging and get "the whole picture" of what both partners see. Basically, this is like Strange Days, which I recently watched in my Bingelow for my appearance on Hell Is For Hyphenates.

In the meantime, here's a dumb joke I came up with as I walked down the street. I saw this broken pallet, and it occurred to me how annoying it is when people use the wrong 'pallet/palette/palate' for the context. So here's my joke. Are you ready?

Hmmm. Looks like whoever packed those cans of food has got…

…quite a delicate pallet.


Saturday, January 18, 2014

This is what I have to deal with. Last night I brought Graham in at dusk and then realised my arm was caked in filth from his dirty paws.

Slumped Cat especially likes slumping in the dirt and rolling about like a chinchilla, seemingly trying to embed as much crap as possible in his fur.

And then I get the Triple-Threat if I try to remove the debris from his fur. I have to wait until he is asleep and then gently pick or comb it out.

Sometimes I worry that anyone seeing him will think he has been abandoned because of the filthy state of his fur. I need a collar tag that says, "I tried to groom him."

Friday, January 17, 2014

The adventures of Slumped Cat. I'm not sure if Graham really grasped the seriousness of this week's heatwave. Even today he did his usual constant miaowing to go outside and was annoyed that I wouldn't let him.

But after a while he got so hot that he just slumped to the ground and lay there. He wouldn't even lie on the couch or the bed. This morning I found myself singing a Stupid Cat Song that just went, "Slumped cat/slumped cat" because that was pretty much all the intellectual output I could manage myself.

This, the eastern wall of the hallway, is one of Graham's usual favourite slumping spots. (He was about one when this 'Grahamouflage' photo was taken in 2009.) When he's just come inside from a vigorous session of embedding leaves and burrs in his fur, he also likes to slump next to the velvet armchair in the lounge.

But this week Graham has chosen his slumping places quite randomly. And he's slumped quietly, too, so you don't even necessarily know he's there. I've almost tripped over him a number of times this week.

Slumped Cat slumps in the doorway out of the living room.

Slumped Cat slumps in the doorway to the living room.

Slumped Cat slumps in my darkened bedroom (hence the flash). Note he is covered in dried leaves, which he has transferred to the carpet.

Poor little fella. I have tried to look after him in the heat. I put ice blocks in his water, although he disregards them until melted, and spritzed him with water from a bottle, which made him flee in terror because usually the spray bottle is used as punishment.

Yesterday I draped him in a wet washcloth. Uneasy, he sat very still. I then dampened his fur with the washcloth and he didn't roll onto his back and bite me savagely as he usually does at any attempt to wash or groom him, so he must have wanted it on some level.

UPDATE, 7:02PM: The cool change has come through, and a rejuvenated Slumped Cat headed outside to hunt a poor, heat-weakened mouse. Now he has slumped back inside again with his prize.

Ugh, I am going to have to dispose of the mouse. Graham is terrible: he sees them as animated toys rather than food, so once they are dead he loses interest in them.

Monday, January 13, 2014

Permit me a vanity post. I am so embarrassed to post photos of myself and talk about my appearance. Yet other people really seem to respond positively to this stuff on social media.

Tonight I was checking my Pinterest and noticed that some stranger had commented on this pin. That made me feel very strange, not just because that picture is about 18 months old now, but also because, as I've said, I don't think of myself and the things I create as legit fodder for Pinterest. I think of it as a strange fantasy realm of beauty that I'm allowed to look at, curate and quote from, but not contribute to. The only reason I posted the pic of those glasses was because I had previously pinned the product shot when I bought them online.

I was thinking recently about lipstick because various feminists were posting on Facebook about buying some lipsticks from Etsy. I own a lot of lipsticks but none of them were as nice as the ones being discussed. But then I thought how foolish and vain it was of me to even fantasise about buying new lipsticks, especially in similar shades to ones I already have, when lipstick only emphasises how far from beautiful I am, just as nail polish only highlights my fat, stumpy fingers. And why do I bother angsting over whether my hair looks better short or long, up or down? When you look like me, nothing looks good. 'Beauty' is about mitigating the ugliness to mere inoffensiveness.

I feel like a complete hypocrite for writing some smarmy book about terrible it is that we judge each other's appearance, when I never fail to feel crushed by photos of me taken by other people in which I look like a bloated corpse (who died of carbon monoxide poisoning, hence the grotesque, ham-like pinkness of my face). As I have previously noted, you can only be 'fat hot' if you have a single pointy chin and a smooth, even distribution of the fat.

Recently a friend of mine posted a photo of me on Facebook in which I am wearing a tight top that accentuates the fat roll above my waist. I remember that day I was feeling quite self-conscious about the top but had reasoned that if I arranged it in a certain scrunchy way it would create a camouflaging ruched effect. Well it hadn't ruched adequately and I look fucking awful. Appalled that this image was associated with my Facebook profile, I immediately untagged myself and hid it from my Facebook stream.

But it is terrible indeed to ponder that this is just how I look in the world. This, and not my carefully posed and curated selfies, is what other people see when they look at me, and the mental image that comes into their heads when they think of me. It's this knowledge that makes me feel foolish caring about how I look. Literally lipstick on a pig.

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