Saturday, February 21, 2015

A letter from the park. On Saturday afternoons I sometimes like to sit in the park. Here is the view I'm looking at right now.

It's not hot; it's not sunny; but the humidity is oppressive. A foetid smell – some kind of excrement; an unpicked-up dog turd, or possum shit, perhaps – wafts occasionally past me, and every time it does I think, "I should leave. I should leave."

But I don't leave. I feel heavy, listless, unable to make decisions. A small child is squatting on the path behind me, wailing. I can't stand the sound of children crying. But I'm still worried about this child. Where are his parents? Is he lost?

I tell myself that when I come to the park, I'm going to do some writing. I've brought my notebook, it's resting on my knee, but I can't seem to figure out what to write in it. Somehow I thought that getting away from my desk, with all its distractions, would make it easier to write. It would make my head clearer. But I'm feeling more listless here than I would at home sitting in front of my computer. At least there it feels like I'm doing work.

I have so many different projects I want to write. Should I write my romcom novel,  or my historical paranormal romance novel, on my Australian rural horror novel, or something else altogether? Shamefully, what I want to write most at the moment is the terrible cat-themed pr0n ebook that I made up as a joke with Anthony on Wednesday.

Speaking of cats, it's almost 7 o'clock and I should probably go home and feed poor old Graham; he has been sitting inside my house all day. I can't help thinking I've wasted this afternoon doing nothing. My entire life seems to be made up of wasted time spent doing nothing.

Sunday, January 25, 2015

Australia Day is a good time to think about Indigenous Australians. Not just in the abstract, as victims of dispossession, massacres and other barely recognised atrocities, nor as Magical Negroes with cool mythologies and ceremonies and traditions and 'affinity with the land', and not even just the survivors of today.

I try to learn specific things. I want to think of my familiar places as having been someone else's familiar places long before, and of the words and names I know as having ambivalent historical meanings.

For instance, did you know that Wurundjeri, the name for the traditional custodians of the land including Melbourne, comes from the manna gum ('wurun') and a grub that lives in it ('djeri')? When an elder does a "welcome to country" ceremony and waves around a spray of leaves, they are from that tree.

And next time you're drinking your Yering Station wine, perhaps consider the events of the Battle of Yering in January 1840, in which white settler Major Charles Newman brutally forced the Wurundjeri off their land at what's now Warrandyte over a dispute surrounding the cultivation of potatoes. When 50 clan members protested, their leader Jaga-Jaga (also spelled Jakka-Jakka or Jika-Jika) was captured, but his fellow warriors created a counter-attack as a diversion to lure the whitefellas away so Jaga-Jaga could be freed. The rescue mission was successful! No whitefellas were killed or injured; it's uncertain whether any Wurundjeri were.

Jaga-Jaga sounds badass! Someone should make a movie about this guy!

There were three brothers who were known by this name. At least one Jaga-Jaga was one of the signatories to John Batman's 1835 treaty, which historians suggest was signed at a bend of the Merri Creek near the present Rushall station. Today, the brothers are namesakes of the Federal electoral division Jagajaga that spans their traditional land in the north-eastern suburbs.

The Jaga-Jaga of Yering was the nephew of Billibellary, the brilliant politician and ngurugaeta (leader) of the Wurundjeri-willam, whose subtle negotiations with white settlers helped ensure his people endured far less violence at settler hands than did other clans.

Assistant Protector of Aborigines, William Thomas, had a close friendship with Billibellary. After the latter's death, Thomas wrote: "It may be said of this Chief and his tribe what can scarce be said of any tribe of located parts of the colony that they never shed white man's blood nor have white men shed their blood. I have lost in this man a valuable councillor in Aboriginal affairs."

His son Simon Wonga succeeded him as ngurugaeta, followed by Beruk 'William' Barak, son of Billibellary's brother Bebejan. In a photo taken in his mid-thirties, Barak looks strikingly like Ned Kelly, and is certainly as handsome. He was a master diplomat, forging many cross-cultural friendships and promoting his culture to whitefellas. He's also known for his artworks, which are very collectable. He died, aged 80, in 1903, having witnessed the signing of the treaty at age 12 and lived long enough to see a whitefella nation founded on his people's land.

Barak was the last traditional ngurugaeta. His three children didn't survive into adulthood; but the leadership role does. Barak's sister's son Robert Wandoon had a son, Jarlo Wandoon, who enlisted in WWI under his whitefella name, James Wandin. Jarlo's son Juby succeeded Robert as ngurugaeta; Juby's sister Joy Murphy Wandin has also played an important role as ambassador for her people and culture. Since 2006 the ngurugaeta has been Barak's descendant Murrundindi (Gary Hunter).

The tragedy of the Wurundjeri is that their friendliness and goodwill were never repaid in kind by the whitefellas. They welcomed John Batman to their country under the understanding that the 'treaty' constituted a kind of temporary visa. Batman, however, saw it as a land purchase contract.

Batman was a horrible person. After I read Rohan Wilson's excellent novel The Roving Party I did some research on Batman, and he was every bit as cruel as Wilson depicts him. The artist John Glover, his neighbour in Tasmania, called him: "a rogue, thief, cheat and liar, a murderer of blacks and the vilest man I have ever known." When he first landed in Victoria, he heard a local dog howling and got his dogs to find and play with it. Then he drove the native dog into the water and shot it.

The Wurundjeri must also have heard terrible tales of whitefellas from neighbouring clans. Escaped convict William Buckley had lived with the neighbouring Wathaurong, whose lands are near Geelong, and told them much about England. And the coastal Bunurong people, who lived along Port Phillip and Western Port, had been killed, and their women abducted and enslaved, by white sealers and settlers.

Nonetheless, the Wurundjeri had a good working relationship with the Protectorate of Aborigines, and hospitably warned white settlers about attacks from hostile neighbouring clans. Surely it was pretty reasonable for them to be granted land to live on?

In 1863 they were granted a reserve, Coranderrk, at Healesville, years after first asking for a place to live, and being moved on from their first choice at Bulleen because it was 'too close' to white settlement. They basically squatted at Coranderrk until the government gave it to them. Still, it was a traditional camping ground; and despite not being granted the freehold on the land, and being squeezed from an initially proposed 4850 acres (1962 hectares) to 0.2 of a hectare, Coranderrk became a beacon for members of the Kulin Nation. They were happily self-sufficient and won agricultural prizes for the wheat and hops they produced there.

Of course, they farmed the land so well that their neighbours complained that clearly it must be the best land ever and hence too valuable for mere Aborigines. All sorts of indignities followed, including 'half-castes' aged under 35 being forcibly kicked off the reserve, which decreased the labour force to the point where they could barely tend their crops any more. At one point William Barak led a protest march to Melbourne, as Simon Wonga had done before him. Finally the government just decided to close Coranderrk down in 1924 and shift everyone to Lake Tyers in Gippsland near Lakes Entrance.

This was a super remote holding place for displaced Indigenous people from all over Victoria, where they were basically cut off from the rest of the state. Some older people refused to move there, and stayed at Coranderrk until they died. Eventually, around 1950, Coranderrk was carved up and used for the Soldier Settlement Scheme, although of course not for Indigenous soldiers whose requests were turned down. A tiny parcel of the land was returned to the Wurundjeri in March 1998.

Anyway, I am never sure of the etiquette of telling these stories – they're not mine, just as the places I live are not truly 'mine'. But I've always preferred a view of history that folds together the places and people of the past and present: one that helps us empathise with these long-dead Australians, to see them as individuals who were like me in wanting to be heard and recognised, and to be free to live the lives they wanted.

We should all know the histories of the geographical terrain we move across. We should know these people's names and biographies as one of those taken-for-granted parts of culture. We might have no direct stake in the names and biographies of American presidents or kings of England, but we know them anyway because we live with their cultures. Well, I am no more Indigenous than I am American or English, but Indigenous cultures have helped create my culture, and have left their traces on it.

Sunday, December 21, 2014

2014: the year in Five-Minute Photoshop. I am feeling sad and despondent right now because my annual Christmas carols singalong had to be cancelled this year because the Victoria Hotel, where it was always hosted, has renovated its lounge and got rid of the piano. Somehow it seems emblematic of how little I have achieved in 2014. I feel like I've basically been treading water this year, not actually moving ahead or kicking any real goals.

So anyway, I thought I would cheer myself up by reliving the stupid sweded pics I made this year. I did a similar post a year ago; maybe this can be another tradition.

Early this year Schapelle Corby was released from jail in Bali, and people couldn't stop talking about this stupid hat she was wearing. So this is my surrealist art homage.

Lefa is a massive Midsomer Murders fan, so I sweded this up for her birthday. It's a joke because Detective Inspector Barnaby is never happy. He is serious because he is always investigating so many murders. The text is my attempt to replicate the spoOooOOOky Midsomer Murders title card.

This birthday card for Ben started with the phrase 'it's all about the Benjamins' but then I got sidetracked by Swingers quotes.

Haha, once you have noticed that Queensland premier Campbell Newman looks like a reptilian, you cannot unsee it! This is perhaps my finest piece of sweding all year.

In case you cannot read my subtle labelling (I'm actually quite pleased with how I warped the text to appear as if written on the box) this was a birthday card for Chad, whose surname is Parkhill so I gave him the means of performing a 'hill park'.

This was a birthday card for Zoe, whose surname is Sanders. Another top-shelf bit of 3D sweding if I do say so myself, in order to make her picture appear printed on the tub.

I made this image to celebrate Dracula Untold, aka a film that basically nobody liked as much as me.

I think there was some stupid joke on Twitter re: 'a fascinator for cats' so I sweded this pic of Graham in his best racewear. What a cool and fancy cat he is.

Just the other day I saw Unbroken, which stars Jack O'Connell (right) as Louie Zamperini. When I looked up his IMDb profile I was struck by how much he resembles a younger Michael Fassbender (left). They both have a certain kind of Emo Ginger thing going. They should totally do some Plausible Family Casting.

I always get James Spader and Kevin Rahm confused. I went and saw Nightcrawler and was convinced that James Spader was in it until one of my fellow film critics kindly corrected me in the foyer outside. Of course, now Spader has gone bald it's easier to tell them apart.

A valuable infographic correcting all the errors made in a stupid Facebook ad that came up in my feed.

A while ago I was reading about feral cats, and I became fascinated by the question of how large they get after generations of breeding in the wild. So I was looking up Google Image Search and I found this pic of a really munted-looking feral cat who reminded me of what Graham might become if he were ever to go feral. It also looks like those munted cat decorations made in China from real rabbit fur, which you can get at terrible $2 shops.

This is a pic I made to accompany perhaps the least-viewed article I've ever written for Junkee: my Terminator 2-themed Game of Thrones recap. (Every other recapper made Law & Order jokes for that episode; I was trying to be different! But of course I forgot that pretty much nobody is as massive a Terminator fan as me.) I also did a terrible mashup of the two theme songs, which you can torment your ears with here.

I don't know why I decided to make this joke for Saige's birthday. FYI – that is the typeface used in the Law & Order title card. It is called Friz Quadrata.

I knew I wanted to turn Guy into 'Guy Incognito' from The Simpsons so I was going back through his Facebook pics and found this one of him sitting on the Iron Throne of Westeros at a promotional event.

This is Paul's birthday card. His surname is Nelson. The most period-appropriate font I had was Zapfino.

The reason Lucy looks so weird in her birthday card is that I was inspired by the airbrushed, colourised look of this pic of Lucille Ball.

It is kind of hard to get that look from a recent colour photo so I used a lot of blurring and colour-balancing.

Becky's surname is Harkins-Cross, so she gets a Harkins-Cross bun as a birthday cake.

Hahaha, another masterful swede for Simon's birthday.

This car belongs to a film critic who is notorious for his inability to park accurately. I've taken several shots of it transgressing several different sets of white lines, but this is the stupidest.

This is a piss-take of that genre of 'inspirational quote' where you paste the quote over a picture of the person being quoted. I've always found this pic of Jeff faintly hilarious, although I have tremendous respect for him as a writer and thinker.

The year's finest film poster, which I sweded after Kate raved about how much she was looking forward to this film. Kate was right though – Mr. Turner is a really excellent film and I recommend it to all.

After the triumph of Mr. Turner, people on Facebook asked if I could swede up a poster for Turner & Hooch. Note the paintbrush in Hooch's mouth.

Myke's expression in this photo reminded me of the Shepard Fairey Obama poster, so I posterised it. There are websites where you can automatically Obama your own pictures, but they didn't look any good when I tried, so I did it manually.

This one has previously appeared on the blog.

Around Easter this stupid and inaccurate meme was widely shared on Facebook:

But basically I just wanted to make a stupid Sean Connery joke!

I'm not even sure if Shannon is a Michael Jackson fan, but I just like making "Shamon!" jokes… Note my use of the novelty brush shapes.

Yep, there's that "Shamon!" joke again. This time it is because Steph's surname is Harmon. For some reason I always use Brush Script for my Michael Jackson swedes.

The Harold Holt pool party was an under-18 poolside disco held at the most ironically named swimming pool in Melbourne during the 1990s. This is a diagram of the time in year 9 when a chick from my year level at school spewed Scotch on me from the pool's entry bridge. Luckily I could just go to the showers and wash it off.

During the recent Sydney Siege, the conservative Australian commentator wrote an awkward colour piece ruminating on the fact he'd been just outside the cafe as the siege kicked off. He made a ridiculous reference to "the sliding doors of the cafe playing a brutal game of chance and fate". I'm not even going to get into the way that chance and fate are basically diametrically opposed principles.

This was a Political Parody of the Sydney Biennale poster – the biennale was sponsored by a company involved with incarcerating innocent asylum seekers in offshore death camps. Here, for reference, is the original poster.

Getting the gradient right on the text was the hardest bit of this swede.

So, Chad wrote something for the Wheeler Centre, which uses markdown as formatting, and the house style is to bold the author name. So I would be **Mel Campbell**. Anyway, you can see this formatting when Wheeler Centre articles are shared on Facebook. Clem referred to the asterisks as 'rad sparkles', and I quipped that we should refer to Chad from now on as 'Rad Sparkles'. And I made this GIF from Chad's headshot but was foiled in my stupid joke because Facebook doesn't support GIFs. WELL BLOGGER DOES, SO ENJOY!

This was just a pun on Dylan's surname, so I was looking for pics of rain and then I remembered that Shawshank Redemption pic.

This pic is inspired by the line in the song: "Heaven help my heart, cos it's a lot like me". Derbrain, your heart is you. Anyway, in order to get the anatomical heart the same sepia colour scheme as the original single cover I had to tweak the colours and now it looks like a turkey on Tina's head.

(Who wore it better: Mr Bean or Joey Tribbiani?)

Andrew moved to Woop Woop this year. I don't ever expect to see him again. But luckily for him, he really likes beer, so he will fit in just fine in rural Australia.

I'm also very proud of this pic I did for Max's birthday. Max likes to refer to beers as 'cold ones'.

Every year for my film buddies I swede up a stupid Christmas picture based on one of the worst films of the year. This year it was Winter's Tale.

Monday, November 17, 2014

Why pat the cat? Graham is currently sitting on my lap and I am stroking his fur, mumbling the usual stupid comments regarding how soft and pretty he is. It occurred to me how much I enjoy patting him – but why?

Obviously there is the sensory pleasure: the feel of his fur on my fingertips. I like stroking the velvety short fur on his face and on his paws. I like how warm his ears feel because of how close to the surface the blood vessels run. The fur on his back is relatively coarse, but on his neck, shoulders, chest and belly it is luxuriously long and soft. 

And on his back legs the fur is thick and dense – I have thought of it as 'rabbit-like fur' ever since reading that description on the Wikipedia page for Ragamuffin cats, which is illustrated with a photo of a cat that I fancy looks quite like Graham. 

And I sometimes like to fantasise that Graham is a pedigree Ragamuffin who was somehow misidentified as 'domestic medium hair' at the pound. It is my sad version of a Cinderella fantasy – the idea that Graham is special and only I, his fairy godmother, can recognise it.

I also like the comforting warmth and weight of Graham lying on me, and the soothing feeling of stroking Graham when I feel distraught or stressed, even though he seems to recognise when I most need to pat him and deliberately refuses to let me. There are few rejections as devastating as when you go to pat a cat and the cat slinks really low to the ground to avoid your touch.

But what struck me as particularly perverse and anthropomorphic is that I get pleasure from the idea that Graham enjoys my patting. I like it when I stroke under his chin and he lifts it up. I like the way he closes his eyes when I stroke his head and ears. I like it when he purrs, or when he snuggles against me.

But ultimately the patting is for me and not for Graham. I like running his puffy tail through my hand, which I can tell Graham doesn't like because the tail starts lashing and he sometimes tucks it away. But I still like patting his tail.

Who knows what Graham thinks? Who knows if he is happy with his life in my house, and with me as his owner? I mean, he miaows at and hangs around me in a way he doesn't with my housemate, and he will leap onto my lap, but who knows if that is only because he's identified me as the main food source, the one to ingratiate himself to?

Sometimes I look at him, hoping for some sign of intelligence or daemon-like connection, and he just stares dully and vaguely belligerently back.

He is just an animal. But what an animal! What a puff! 

Sunday, October 26, 2014

Stephen King's The Sit. So last night and this morning I watched the 1994 miniseries of Stephen King's The Stand, all six hours of it. (It's available in full on YouTube.) It's pretty clunky stuff. I frequently got impatient at how drawn-out some of the scenes felt, and there was lots of didactic soundtrack music (twangy sinister country guitar; syrupy strings over 'emotional' scenes; most risibly, Fran Goldsmith (Molly Ringwald) somehow has an old 7-inch of Crowded House's 'Don't Dream It's Over' in her garage).

Also, I found the post 'poc scenes with gross dead bodies everywhere and mayhem in the streets to be my favourite, possibly from this year's intense binge of The Walking Dead. The scene in which Stu escapes from the medical facility struck me as so similar to the scene from The Walking Dead in which Rick escapes from the hospital – even down to the stairwell. (I can't remember Danny Boyle lingering over the scene in which Cillian Murphy's Jim escapes from the hospital in 28 Days Later. – for me that film is much more about Jim wandering around an eerily deserted London.)

Most of the acting was pretty broad and wooden, although Gary Sinise was pretty natural as Stuart Redman. Still, there was a certain Forrest Gumpness about the bit where quote-unquote "retarded" Tom Cullen (Bill Fagerbakke) helps Stu when his leg is broken. I also liked Miguel Ferrer as Lloyd Henreid, who is probably the most decent of Randall Flagg's henchmen, but ironically only discovers his best self after agreeing to serve evil. Ferrer brings a great intertextual henchmanly sliminess from having played Bob Morton in RoboCop.

Hey, have Ed Harris and Matt Frewer ever been cast as brothers? I think they should be.

I also quite liked Adam Storke who plays Larry Underwood, who reminded me uncannily of a cross between Andrew McCarthy and Jimmy Fallon.

Ruby Dee, who just died earlier this year (and whose longtime husband Ossie Davis is also in The Stand as the Judge), was 72 when she played the 106-year-old Mother Abagail, and her ageing makeup is pretty shonky. (Even in 2010, at 88, she looked younger!)

Oh, also, Laura San Giacomo as the traumatised 'just fucked Satan' Nadine Cross reminded me of another woman raped in an arranged marriage…

Bless executive producer Stephen King himself, who insisted on copious screen time as Captain Obvious – some random who was seemingly only there to comment ingenuously at various key moments. And at the end we get a hero reel of all the good guys who died along the way.

But having read the book earlier this year (here's my review on Goodreads), I can also appreciate King's choices in cutting the fat from the book and trimming characters and plotlines. I think it works pretty well, although of course some questions about why the characters act the way they do could have been raised by the lack of backstory here. One of the things I've always liked in King's novels is that people are never 'just' good or bad, but are moulded by their backgrounds, and he has sympathy for the psyches of even the meanest villains.

That said, I thought Randall Flagg could totally have been more evil. I think after Matthew McConaughey's turn in 'Killer Joe' a lot of people have wanted to see him as Flagg, although the creepiness that the Devil was a countercultural hippie is sort of lost here, as is the atmosphere of coldness and dread that he creates (which is really only evoked in dream sequences).

At this point, the remake has secured The Fault in Our Stars director Josh Boone, plus Nat Wolff, who played the blind destructive hipster in that movie. To me he seems the obvious choice to play Nick Andros and quite possibly he could not do worse than Rob Lowe.

The new iteration will benefit from two recent cinema trends – massive 3-hour mainstream epics and splitting one story over two films. King recently said it could go either way. Another thing the new iteration will probably include is much more of the book's sex and violence. I found the miniseries oddly prim in cutting away from those things, especially the gore that we're now so used to in mainstream cinema. I mean, I recently saw Fury, which shows Brad Pitt stabbing a Nazi through the eye in the opening minutes.

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