Saturday, February 26, 2005


Here's the official poster for my upcoming Spanking Fashion Parade (click to enlarge). Sorry if this takes ages to load - the smaller version wouldn't work for some reason. These babies will soon be on a bollard near you. Now repeat after me: "I'm a ho, you're a ho, she's a ho, he's a ho, do you want to be a ho too?"

Oh, it makes me proud to be a journalist! This morning I was on the phone when the manslave came bounding down the stairs in his underpants, shouting, "I've been ripped off!"

My first thought was that perhaps someone had stolen his clothes; but it turns out that he was outraged about this article that appeared in The Age and the Sydney Morning Herald. Basically, it suggests that the owner of the manslave's blog is not the manslave himself, but Hugh Waters, the dude who organises the iPod DJ night at Bourgie. (Hugh is a veteran scenester - he also organises Shake Some Action.)

I read the article and my first thought was that the writer is from Sydney, but Fairfax has forced her to give the story Melbourne Appeal by mentioning stuff that goes on down here. I am well acquainted with this dilemma, having been told my gay footballers story was "too Melbourne-centric" and that I needed to "league it up" (my phrase, not the editor's!). And so she hops on Google and tries to find evidence of iPod parties here, but the best she can find is the manslave's post about Nerdy Blog Night.

Fittingly for someone writing about deejaying, she creates an interesting mashup of Waters having this club night, and a bunch of bloggers coming along to said club night, and presents it as if, curiously, Waters invited the bloggers through his blog, yet was suprised when they showed up.

But this obvious factual error, which I am sure the manslave will discuss far more comprehensively than me, was only a symptom of this article's Sunday Lifeness. That is, it makes outrageous assertions about what the 'kids of today' are doing and feeling, without in any way qualifying them. I've blogged about this several times before, and if someone can tell me how the fuck to link back to my previous posts (seeing as one post never appears on one page), that would make my life much easier. Thankyou.

But anyway. I am irritated by this article from the very first paragraph. To wit:
To the readers of Hecho en Mexico it seemed a perfect venue to display their usually reticent real-life personas.
Cos, you know, bloggers have no life and save all their personality for hunching over their computers in the dark. But I'll let this one slide, because there is more in store:
There is no scratching. No hands-in-the-air/make-some-noise hoo-hah. For a Friday night the air is chilled and down to earth and that's exactly how the creators of this night, the MiTunes team, want it.
"Hoo-hah?" That's like something my mother would say, right after calling my outfit a "get-up" and me "a little madam". (I am still recovering from the time she asked why I wasted my time on that "hip hop bebop".) I guess it irritates me that the writer won't concede that dance music culture has any subtleties, including that people might program something on the iPod that provokes "hoo-hah". But of course, there is still more:
The iParty originated at the trendy Club Apt in New York, 2002. Every Tuesday night the DJ duo Andrew Andrew took out their iPods with matching mixer and cranked up the music. Dressed in white lab coats, white high-top hats and black-rimmed reading glasses, the Andrews appeared as angels of tech-cool, appealing to the crowd of would-be Harajiku-styled New York girls and Snoopy-wearing alternative bad-boys.
Maybe I'm daggier than I thought, but what is a Snoopy? UrbanDictionary, my recourse in such matters, says that Snoopy variously means "Cutesy slang term for the vagina" and "An adjective to describe extreme 'whiteness'"; but neither of these are wearable items, and anyway, the site's readers don't seem to back either of them. And bad boys who wear Snoopies are alternative, but to what? As for those "would-be Harajiku-styled New York girls" - does she mean "Harajuku"? Or did she just think, "what's that thing Gwen Stefani's always banging on about?"

I am kind of worried that I spend too much mental energy getting mad about stuff. About two years ago I stupidly wrote a number of affirmations on bits of paper and stuck them around my room. One was "Rage Demeans and Weakens Me." I found this quite helpful whenever I got mad at something. Except when my brother was helping me move (translation: bitching and moaning about how much stuff I had) I snapped and yelled "Fuck you!" and he laughed and said "Rage demeans and weakens you, remember?"

But I really feel angry when I read things that aren't critically or intelligently written. Rather than furiously condemning the value of a particular mode of feature writing (the 'zeitgeist exposition'), I'm aiming to champion it - I'm criticising what I see as a prevailing attitude that you can get away with sloppy research and grotesque generalisations in this style of writing when you might not be able to in, say, a political analysis or a science report. And now I have the chance to practice what I preach by writing something self-reflexive and relatively well-researched for the Sunday Life myself.


Everything's coming up roses... We had to sing that song as part of a Judy Garland medley in year 8. (Are you reading this, Jellyfish?) Although I hate the way I look, I can't be arsed Photoshopping this picture because I have been photoshopping stuff all day. It takes me that long because I'm not particularly good at it.

Elaine has written about being terrified of your photographed image. I would like to write a little essay about Photoshopping oneself: how you must first submit to the vanity of wanting to be Photoshopped. Then you must detach from your loathing of your ugly face and body and see them purely as design opportunities - as shapes to be cut and pasted and carved into with the clone stamp tool - as colours to be replaced - as objects to be renovated. And when you're finished electronically mutilating yourself, you sit back and are pleased with the new improved you - but you know it's only a simulacrum, and you feel crushed at not being able to live up to your Photoshopped promise. Still, the computer provides an enticing possibility - what you could perhaps look like.

Of course, let's not forget the humiliation of being caught in your vanity by people who see you on the computer Photoshopping yourself. And let's not forget the disappointment of people unfavourably comparing the various versions of you. Some bloggers, who are hot, put pictures of themselves all over their blogs. Some have only words, and leave that to the imagination. I'll never forget how one blogger sent another blogger a photo of a third blogger, who never posts photos of themselves, and how the recipient of this photo was crushed at how much less attractive the blogger was in the photo than on the blog.

I'm still quite troubled about having posted that unPhotoshopped picture of myself. I mentioned to my mother that I was thinking of doing it, and she got alarmed and suggested I would end up locked in a car boot somewhere. "Because that woman put herself on the internet!" Never mind that it was the husband, who knew her in real life, wot done it.

But my concerns are different to my mother's. I feel naked without my Photoshopping - open to mockery about my appearance from which I can't defend myself. Because we all know that the camera doesn't lie.

But anyway. Here's how the photo came about. Last Sunday, I was having brunch with this young lady. We were sitting at an outdoor table, and inexplicably, a guy came past and presented us with a long-stemmed red rose each. We were embarrassed and pleased and surprised and suspicious all at once. It was a rupture of the everyday. As we walked through the city afterwards, sniffing our roses every so often, we remarked on how such random things heighten your awareness of your surroundings - the way you move through space; the looks you attract. Kate said it would be an interesting experiment to walk through the city carrying a random object and observing people's reactions. My first thought, unoriginally enough, was a fish. But that would be unpleasant as well as random.

And there's something about a woman walking through the city carrying a single red rose. It's presumed she has a narrative. A lover must have given it to her - is it an apology? - Valentine's Day was last Monday - is that why she's smiling? One thing I did notice was that everyone felt they needed to joke about it - from the construction worker ("Awww, you shouldn't've!") to little Emma ("For me?"). Could it be because a red rose is such a cliche that they have to deflate the unoriginality of it with an equally unoriginal mock-rebuff?

Right now I am too sad and tired to consider these questions with any incisiveness, if ever I do. But you know what - this week some things did come up roses, in a 'sold your soul to the devil' kind of way. First, I got a credit card. Now I can pay for my show. And pay, and pay, and keep on paying. Second, I sold an article about mannequins to Sunday Life, my favourite intellectual journal.

Monday, February 21, 2005

Small sonic greatnesses. In 2003 I was really into the genealogy of the pirate aesthetic through history, literature, film and fashion, and I proposed a book chapter on the topic for an edited collection on 19th-century pirates, tweaking it so it was mainly talking about Treasure Island. The editor wrote back and said they already had a chapter about Treasure Island, so could I perhaps concentrate on The Corsair (Byron, 1814) and The Pirate (Scott, 1822), two texts I'd mentioned in my abstract?

Any academic can tell you about the black art of abstract-bluffing - giving the impression in the abstract that the paper is completely conceived and written when you thought of the idea at the pub after a few drinks, or in a throwaway line over lunch one time, and don't actually intend to start writing it until the deadline is at least two days away. Well, having been caught out in the 'pretending I know shit about British Romantic literature' crime, I was forced to do the time - going to the library and getting out a lot of books on Romanticism, which I had never, ever studied before. In fact, I had not done any literary criticism since high school. But I reasoned desperately that I would bring a kind of cross-disciplinary 'hybrid vigour' to the project. To use a vulgar Romanticist metaphor, I was a noble savage, shameless in my daggy lack of engagement with critical theory.

In my previous impostures in the English department, I had picked up some of the rudiments of Romanticism, but one idea that intrigued me was Edmund Burke's theory of the sublime. I had always thought of the sublime as something blissful and transcendent, but apparently it refers to aesthetic pursuits aiming to stimulate a kind of existential terror in their audiences. Appropriately, I found this revelation sublime in itself.

I came to understand Romantic aesthetics on a kind of continuum: from the sublime, which was coded as masculine, to the beautiful, characterised by stillness and composure, which was coded as feminine. In the middle was the picturesque, which encapsulated a tension between opposites that was intriguing and dynamic rather than terrifying or soothing.

Anyway, lately I've been thinking about those little moments in pop songs where a burst of excitement temporarily intrudes through the song structure before sliding away again. It's only for a moment, but that moment makes the song great in a small way. I was thinking that perhaps this might be a picturesque quality: a rupture of the composure (and composition!) of the song that enriches and invigorates the pop formula used to create it. For example, Shane loves the opening of "Flipside" by Freeway, in which Freeway goes "Oooooooooohh!", although my own favourite part is the line that follows: "Just cut for me mami!"

I'm particularly interested in the way the breakdown section functions in this way: as a foil to the rest of the song. Like in "Funky Cold Medina", it just falls away to a sinuous cabasa sound, then kicks back in with some spasmodic drums, and Tone Loc just underlines the song's rejuvenation with his punchy opening, "Back! in the saddle, lookin' for a little affection"... And who could forget one of the greatest pop songs of the last few years, Justin Timberlake's "Like I Love You"? That song not only has Justin's falsetto squeal of "I just wanna love you baby, yeah yeah yeah!", which he injects with cheesy longing, but an unspeakably wonderful breakdown:
You know, I used to dream about this when I was a little boy
I never thought it'd end up this way
Maybe it's the call-and-response tradition, but I also love a moment in "Boy Meets Girl" by Junior Senior:
But just for one night
And that was all right
(background) Yeah baby!
(chick screams) Yeah babyyy!

It's the kind of screaming I used to really like from the Young Professionals. I ran into Gill the other day sticking up posters. They are really getting a name for themselves, despite a few lineup changes since they lived with me. But anyway, another song that intrigues me is Evermore's "It's Too Late", which irritates me but I don't change the station right away when it comes on because I'm listening out for my favourite moment:
Running from the city lights
Running from this empty life
I'm running out of time tonight
I'm screaming out for help!

Thursday, February 17, 2005


The Incredible Melk's Spanking Fashion Parade! A mink-blowing cavalcade of Supre fashions like you've never seen them worn before! The Incredible Melk and her posse of foxy models will show how Melbourne's premiere youth fashion brand styles up for the runway. The Melk will perform the smutty gyno-rap you know and love, plus some outrageous freestyle mic action! There'll also be cocktail specials, and merchandise from the Melk's exclusive Melkwear range available to purchase.

The Incredible Melk's Spanking Fashion Parade is a fundraising event for the Melk's upcoming season at the Melbourne International Comedy Festival. A revamped version of her Fringe Festival hit, The Incredible Melk's Booty Pageant, is playing the Kitten Club from March 23 - April 17.

Everything You Need to Know:

Saturday 5 March
The Galaxy Space at Tony Starr's Kitten Club (297 Little Collins Street, Melbourne)
Doors open 7pm; show starts 7:30pm
Entry $5
Yes, it will be almost unbearably sexy
Okay, maybe afterwards.

Wednesday, February 16, 2005

Old Sincerity vs New Sincerity. Thanks to Lucy, I was reading a most wonderful article about those tricksy po-faced McSweeney's types. I've never read a more brilliant summary of my own shapeless, lurking dislike of McSweeney's and its followers. I have had some abortive fights with Jeremy over his McSweeney's adulation (Jeremy also loves The Believer and various other hip publications). These fights are invariably aborted by me because recently I've realised that fighting over certain topics with certain people makes me feel so sick and angry inside for such sustained periods after the actual argument that it's really not worth it.

For me, the most interesting part of the article was the distinction between Old Sincerity and New Sincerity, which is related to the hipster postmodernism I've railed about here in the past.
Unfortunately, in the nineties I was about as Old Sincere a girl as you could find. I could not lie, and I could not make it through a Hal Hartley film without weeping at its human truth, although I hated that about myself. McSweeney's writers hated their own feelings too, I was sure, but I couldn't do anything to hide mine, whereas they somehow were able to transmute theirs into jaunty little titter-worthy pieces with titles like "An Open Letter to Little Children Who Play in the Alley and Like to Throw Stuff At My Car."

My friend describes their style as "Inside-jokey, Ivy-Leaguey, casually bantery, but referencing every writer of the past three hundred years." In order to participate, you have to have your eyebrow cocked twenty-four hours a day. Or, as another friend says, "It's like they built a cool treehouse in the backyard but required everyone to invent their own cutesy conceit before they'd allow them up the ladder."
McSweeneys people are a particular sort of hipster. The low-culture hipsters (who you might call Vice people) fetishise the detritus of the last 30 years of popular media, yet disavow the pleasure this gives them by claiming only to like it 'ironically'. The New Sincerity hipsters combine a fetish for unfashionable publishing modes, literature and archaic language with a tendency to convey affect in a completely affected, deadpan way.

But I think Calhoun's article is particularly excellent at conveying an all-consuming, devastating, crush-like desire to be hip - a desire that I often feel myself. It begins with excitement - that is so cool! - and quickly overwhelms me - I could get it by doing this and that and going here and knowing them - and finally fills me with despair - oh, but I'm not cool enough! - and loathing - fucking hipsters think they're so cool - and self-loathing - if I was cool I wouldn't get worked up like this!

I am determined that Is Not Magazine will not be anything like McSweeney's or its ilk.

On the topic of hipsterism, what a salve to my fury it is to read that someone is satirising hipster dufuses. (Thanks Glen!) The hipster-hating writer for achingly trendy magazine Sugar Ape is apparently played by one of the guys from the Mighty Boosh. You should also go to the website, ("Dot-cock, right? Registered in the Cook Islands?") which is just too perfect for words ("Hoot your trap off!"). The hipster's hilariously horrifying, amoral approach to pop culture is perfectly illustrated by an animated gif based on that famous photo of a pistol-wielding Vietnamese soldier blowing the guy's brains out. Except here, two soldiers are playing brain ping-pong. You have to see it.

Tuesday, February 15, 2005

As it is now past midnight, I feel able to comment on Corporate Love Day. Of course, this is not the right blog to be posting my desperate thoughts, but I would just like to note how sad and alone I feel right now. Even though Corporate Love Day is a complete crock, the part of me that suspends disbelief and reads horoscopes with blind faith was hoping that something exciting and romantic would occur. But I should have known better. The only time anything exciting happened to me on Corporate Love Day, it was Penny pranking me. (She still won't admit it to this day.)

The manslave came downstairs in a state of semi-nudity and was alternately moping and bragging about his upcoming opportunities for sex. I was too glum to pay him the attention he was craving. Talking seemed completely pointless and I felt that we should both put this nasty day to death by sleeping.

On another note, I have really been trying to master technology in the last couple of weeks, but I am so frustrated because I can't get it to work, and then I have to labour under the image of being a dumb girl who can't do anything herself and needs to ask smart boys for help. I have started another blog covering my overlapping research interests in fashion and music, and I have really been struggling with how to include pictures. I had a mini-breakdown on Saturday afternoon trying to work it out. Then on Sunday afternoon I had another mini-breakdown while trying to operate some DJ emulator software I downloaded, which the manslave informed me was a rubbish idea anyway.

People (mainly Penny) are always saying to me, "Why aren't you a DJ?" Here's why. Because I can't fucking beat-match. Also, I don't pretend to know everything about music - indeed, I know fuck-all. But I feel like a total failure because, as we all know from that Basement Jaxx video which is true and everything, even monkeys can DJ. Oh man, I would love to be able to DJ so much. But I can't.

Anyway, as I advised myself a little earlier, I would now like to put this day to death by going to bed.

Sunday, February 13, 2005

Let's try to enunciate. The other day I was at work thinking that I don't know how much more I can stand of Delta Goodrem's retarded singing. I have been trying to work out why I hate the sound of her voice so much. Initially I thought it was because of her hooty, Celine Dion-style intonation (best demonstrated in that song of Celine's where she goes "This is seeeeeeeerious!" but it comes out "sooeeooeeooeeorious!") but now I think Delta's actually begun to mangle her enunciation more in her vain attempt to channel Tori Amos. I remember reading a Clem Bastow review of the "Mistaken Identity" single in Inpress and really laughing when Clem said Delta sounded like she had marbles in her mouth. God, I hate Delta so much.

Of course, what I call 'hootiness' is quite a hallowed vocal technique, especially among female singers trying for a 'diva' effect. Anastacia is a hooter, as is Taylor Dayne, and famously, Toni Childs. As an aside, while listening to Inaya Day's cover of the Vanity 6 song "Nasty Girl" I have been thinking about what vocal qualities make for a 'diva' voice. I have the impression that some of the original disco divas had quite soft, seductive voices rather than big gospel voices, although Donna Summer is an obvious exception. (I'm thinking about Diana Ross' "Upside Down" and "More More More" by Andrea True Connection.)

But then house divas seem to privilege the harsh, angry quality of the disco diva voice, leaving behind the seductive diva voice. Classic example is Martha Walsh, ex-Weather Girls, who provided the "Everybody dance now!" hook on C&C Music Factory's "Sweat". Walsh also provided vocals for Black Box, but because she was fat and unphotogenic, she was replaced by models (Velma Davis and Katrin Quniol, respectively) lip-synching her words. However, Black Box's biggest hit, "Ride on Time", used an uncredited sample of Loleatta Holloway's 1980 song "Love Sensation". Holloway successfully sued Black Box. (The same song, credited this time, provided the sample for Marky Mark's "Good Vibrations".)

But anyway. This got me thinking about how some mangled enunciation has become par for the course in pop music, and we don't really think it's weird anymore. I think Eddie Vedder has a lot to answer for. The other day Jason Mulgrew was attempting to work out the lyrics to "State of Love and Trust" - it had me in stitches. My favourite bit was "Sherpa lord the accountant" or perhaps "Take a shit - England in my head". Then there's Anthony Kiedis, who has to insert an L in front of I, as though his instinct is to say "Well I" but over time has got it down to "Lie don't ever wanna feel like I did that day..."

There's also the "sh" phenomenon, best shown off in Michael Jackson's "Bad". He famously says something like "Sham on, sham on, lay it on me, all right". I only write it like this because of the Weird Al parody, "Fat" - "Ham on, ham on, ham on whole wheat, or rye". According to various lyrics databases:

Sing365: "Come on, come on, lay it on me, all right"
Lyrics Find: "Come on, come on, lay it on me, all right"
Lyriczzz: "Cause I run UPT." (The fuck?)

So my conclusion is that as a vocal affectation, Jackson pronounces it with a soft C. I can accept this from someone as adventurous with the possibilities of the human voice as Jackson. But it seems just as arbitrary and puzzling as another very strange variation on the "sh" phenomenon, which I noticed in "From The Sea" by Eskimo Joe. The singer means to say "Hello, hello, oh hello" but sings "Shallo shallo, oh shallo".

Can someone tell me if this is some music industry chestnut, a meme that gets cited by musicians and passed down like some kind of vocal sample?

Thursday, February 10, 2005

Sometimes I feel sorry for people with perfect vision. Ever wished your eyes were a camera that could capture what you saw, just the way you saw it, at that very moment? (To some extent, the mobile phone-cam has made my childhood fantasy come true, but rarely with the light, detail and colour saturation that I imagined.) But deliciously, there are so many beautiful things I can see every day that twenny-twennies can only see through photos.

Tonight while driving down Sydney Rd, I took off my glasses at a red light to polish them, and the world suddenly sprang into a vivid kaleidoscope of coloured spangles. With all the detail blurred out, the reds seemed redder, the whites fiercer, the yellows warmer, the blues crisper... It reminded me of being a child driven home from ballet class at twilight on a rainy day, with the tail-lights of cars leaving shiny red smears on tarmac that sparkled as if diamond-coated.

It made a mundane streetscape look magical and full of possibility; and I had a brief but delicious sense of being special. Of course, in this day and age, coded language is a way to play down people's shortcomings but ironically it highlights them. Everyone knows that 'special' really means 'retarded'. (Except if you're Bruce McAvaney.) But when I saw those magical twinkling lights, I really did feel privileged - like I'd witnessed something special because of my special vision.

Another thing that I really cherish about my vision is how meditative it can be. When I'm stressed, I'll sit down somewhere and just take my glasses off, and it's like I'm taking my stress off as well. It's like floating in a fuzzy cocoon. I can stare into space without caring whether people are staring back at me. The pressures of the world subside into unthreatening blobs. And taking off my glasses or contact lenses at the end of the day is a lovely prelude to sleep - like I've relaxed a little already.

Sometimes I'm glad I have this ability to vary my vision. I kind of feel sorry for twenny-twennies, trapped in their harsh world, forced to look at every detail whether they like it or not. Of course they can always deliberately unfocus their eyes, but that's something they have to work at. I can do it just by taking off my glasses.

Tuesday, February 08, 2005

Literary homage or blatant plagiarism? Astrologer and chick-lit author Jessica Adams has been accused of plagiarising an Agatha Christie short story in her story, The Circle, which she contributed to the summer edition of The Big Issue. That link has PDFs of both stories, so you can decide for yourself. I also really like the way that the Murdoch press continually refers to Adams as "best-selling Australian author and Fairfax newspapers astrologer".

My opinion is that Adams has perpetrated a particularly shameless theft, not only of Christie's entire plot down to the smallest detail, but also of the characters and their relationships. The only differences are that Adams has changed the setting from rural England to rural Tasmania, the Stonehenge-like circle from a shrine to the goddess Astarte to some Aboriginal relic, and the murder weapon from a bronze dagger to a stone shard.

I would call it undergraduate, except that some undergrad plagiarists my friends and I have encountered are even more retarded: eg, the plagiarised bits of their essays are in a different font, or they cite the source of their plagiarism in the bibliography. For me, Adams' story is more like when my brother Lina was in year nine and plagiarised a short story that I'd written when I was in year nine, but in order to make it look more plausible, actually un-corrected my writing with misspellings and grammatical errors.

This has got me thinking about the nature of originality. In a well-considered response, Malcolm Knox writes: "Being nationally 'exposed' as a formula writer cribbing from another formula writer, for no money and a tiny audience, shows how virulently the stain of plagiarism can spread." And last year Malcolm Gladwell wrote about how a profile he'd penned for the New Yorker became the basis of the hit play Frozen. But galling as it is to hear theatre critics sagely quote dialogue that he'd written, Gladwell realises the limitations of the common idea that literary plagiarism is always 'wrong' and plagiarists should always go down for it:
Old words in the service of a new idea aren’t the problem. What inhibits creativity is new words in the service of an old idea. And this is the second problem with plagiarism. It is not merely extremist. It has also become disconnected from the broader question of what does and does not inhibit creativity. We accept the right of one writer to engage in a full-scale knockoff of another—think how many serial-killer novels have been cloned from The Silence of the Lambs. Yet, when Kathy Acker incorporated parts of a Harold Robbins sex scene verbatim in a satiric novel, she was denounced as a plagiarist (and threatened with a lawsuit).
Leaving aside the problematic distinction between plagiarism as legal problem (attribution of royalties) and moral problem (theft of intellectual property), I want to think about the Jessica Adams case in terms of whether originality and genre writing are incompatible ideas. Here is my confession. I have long held Adams up as an example of everything that's wrong with the Australian publishing industry. I also see Adams as an encouraging sign that minor things like an ability to string a sentence together need not hamper one's career as a writer.

A few years ago, I was reading my favourite cutting-edge journal, Sunday Life, which had a puff piece about Adams which, although not explaining the alarming difference in colour between her face and decolletage, did explain how she became the astrological chick-lit behemoth we behold today. You see, apparently Adams had been working for a women's magazine, and had so annoyed her co-workers with her superstitions that she ended up writing the horoscopes. From there she compiled a book of horoscopes for women, and it was only a hop, skip and jump to convince her publishers to let her write nincompoopish novels aimed at women.

Here is a passage from Adams' first novel, Single White E-Mail. She went on to write others with names like Tom, Dick and Debbie Harry.
The act of taking my clothes off has done something to me on the inside as well, and the more I try not to cry, the more I do cry. It feels all wrong, I suppose. Not just because he's different, and we're stuck in this plastic beige hotel room in the middle of the Blue Mountains. It's more to do with me. I'm conning myself and I've only just realised it. I'm not sure who I thought I was being this weekend. Tattoo Lawyer? Whoever it was, the only person I've actually managed to pack is me. And I'm useless. I might have woken up feeling numb about Dan a few days ago, but he's the only person I want holding me at the moment. (Single White E-Mail pp129-130)
I got this novel as a present years ago and was outraged about the plainly ill-informed way it depicted the workings of an ad agency (this was back when I was interested in being a copywriter). I had a whole paragraph outlining the reason for this outrage, but it would only bore you. Basically, I think Jessica Adams is a poor writer because her awkward, over-explicated dialogue and semi-coherent prose are self-indulgent without being self-aware, let alone aware of how her writing sits in relation to other people's.

On one hand, it feels quite petty to expect this kind of intertextuality from genre writing, when as Knox points out, it is by definition unoriginal. And part of the pleasure of genre writing is anticipating and recognising its conventions. But on the other hand, shouldn't good genre writing rework and challenge its conventions rather than just repeat them? Isn't that where the originality lies? I am quite astonished that Adams sees her propensity to strew her writing with astrological jargon (rather than riff on Jane Austen novels, for example) as proof of her originality:
"People who are fans of mine and also astrology fans have instantly picked up on that and seen that the basis of the story is, I guess, one of my trademarks," Ms Adams said.

"I always leave a little astrological clue in what I'm doing, have done in all my novels.

"Honestly, I don't ever think Agatha Christie used astrology in any of her short stories."

Indeed. I think Adams shouldn't be allowed to get away with ripping off Agatha Christie simply because they are both genre writers. I think she should be shown up as the thoughtless hack that I have always suspected her to be. In conclusion, here is the horoscope that Adams, a Leo, had penned in the Sunday Life the previous week:

If you face opposition or challenging people this week, you're likely to come up with your most cunning plan yet. You'll get away with it, too, if you're clever, but don't get carried away with your success.

Sunday, February 06, 2005

And they called it chubby love. Last night I was catching up on the first episodes of Lost and Desperate Housewives. I was particularly excited about Lost because finally someone has made a TV show about my public transport game, Armageddon Tram. But anyway, it's another creation of J J Abrams, who also dreamed up Felicity and Alias. As a longtime fan of the former in its late-night study-procrastination incarnation, I was very excited to see that in a cameo role as the ill-fated pilot was Greg Grunberg, who played Sean and is also in Alias, that other shithouse show that I file next to Buffy and Angel as "Shithouse Shows I Loathe with a Passion and Wish Were Never Made and it Really Pains Me When Cool People Like Them."

See, I always had a soft spot for Sean in Felicity (although not as much as Noel). He had the Mark Ruffalo Effect - the guy who has a good heart but never really succeeds and is always the second fiddle to his hero buddy. I would class Grunberg as similar to Jon Favreau. Then I started thinking to myself, "Both of these guys are a bit chubby. I wonder if that is a coincidence." Then I thought back to a few weeks ago when I was hanging out at Tash's work as a Myer commercial was filmed outside in Little Collins St, and I took a fancy to one of the crew who was kind of plump and friendly-looking, and I was telling Tash and her workmates that he reminded me of Sean Astin in Lord of the Rings. Then I realised that of the Fab Five from the crappy Australian version of Queer Eye, my instinctive favourite was the fat one with the glasses.

And then I started to become numb with horror as it dawned on me. "Oh my god! I am a chubby chaser!"

Cue The Crying Game theme and me sobbing under the shower, moaning "And he said: 'anyone want this last donut?' And 'oh my god this lasagne is to die for!'"

I mean, I'm totally not into guys who are morbidly obese (although I'll make an exception for Jason Mulgrew. Jason, you know I heart you 4 eva.). But for some reason, there is something cute about a guy who's carrying a bit of extra weight. Still, I wonder what this strange attraction says about me. Is it like that offensive cliche about fat chicks, that they 'try harder' (or as they say in Sideways, are "the grateful type")? Are chubby men more approachable? Or are they 'adorable' and teddybear-like?

In conclusion: to my skinny boyz: You don't have to stack it on - I'll still love youse. And to my chubby male friends: Please don't freak. I'm not secretly checking you out. OR AM I???? Bwah-ha-ha-ha!

Just a hypothetical. Just say someone was up quite early watching Video Hits and having a cup of tea and some vegemite and peanut butter toast while their party animal housemates slept in. And as they took a bite out of their toast some movement caught their eye and they noticed a small mouse creeping across the carpet behind the television. And then when they went to get a mousecatching apparatus (just for the sake of argument, let's say it was a plastic champagne flute that this person found on the mantelpiece), the mouse had vanished somewhere, even though this person had closed the living room doors to trap it in there.

My hypothetical question is: Should this person tell their housemates about this incident?

Saturday, February 05, 2005

Ethics and voyeurism. Today I am supposed to be doing up some moychandise for my show, but I have been procrastinating, and I came across this website. (Courtesy of The Great Shark Hunt.) What a fascinating resource this would be for anyone interested in ethics. Some of the confessions are people really sweating what I would call small stuff, like one girl worrying about liking anal sex or another afraid that her mum will find her vibrator, or a Mormon confessing to "I stroke my penis every night". Others narrate crimes, usually shoplifting, or socially taboo behaviour that would be difficult to admit to, like cheating or lying. But others really challenge my own (relatively loose) moral code:

i kinda seduced my stepdad. well, i definitely seduced my stepdad. he's pretty much been the only father i've ever known since my mom married him when i was just a baby. he had a car accident about two years ago and his short term memory is gone. so one night when my mom was working and he was sitting in his chair watching tv i went up to him and starting giving him a lap dance. i also kissed him and rubbed his crotch with my hand. from the look on his face and the hard on his pants, i know he liked it. the funny thing is, by the end of the night he didn't even remember it happened. it's so bad but i think i will do it again and maybe even take it further...

Others are interesting because they admit to the kind of deep-seated irrational hatred that our society really isn't equipped to counteract or dilute. Some of the writers are worried about their hatred being wrong; but others feel quite justified. I am no philosopher but I think we can't afford to limit our anti-racism efforts to mockery or platitudes like "racism stems from ignorance or stupidity". Instead maybe one way to examine it would be to think about certain thoughts that we might call 'sub-ethical', in that they exist almost independently of socially inculcated ethics. Here are two examples:
My confession is that I find it unbeleivably irritating when ASIANS chew GUM! They always have to sit at the back or in the corner of the train/tram/bus and CHEW away! WITH THEIR MOUTH OPEN! Lips smacking, chatting to friends, or on their fancy phones. If you are you realise how rude and obnoxious it is to chew gum with your mouth open? If you move to a Western country, please, conform to Western manners like, NOT EATING GUM WITH YOUR MOUTH OPEN! I really dont want to hear the sound of your saliva moving around your mouth. What's worse is when they're in a GROUP and they are ALL chewing gum, yes, with their mouth open. Its like a "saliva-noise-fest"

Though I know it is wrong and all, I can be a very racist person. "Certain races" really annoy me and I just get enraged looking at them and I hate the way they say "axed" instead of asked. I really don't like that I feel this way and would never admit it publically, but it's something I can't help. And no, I'm not ignorant as many would be quick to say. Since this is far from politically correct, I don't expect it to be posted.
But this is my favourite confession so far. I wonder if s/he works in reality TV now.
When I was in high school I used to have an elaborate fantasy in which I would kidnap fat people off the street and take them to a secret rural campground where they would be forced to exercise and eat well and maybe get plastic surgery to take care of any extra flesh. They would abhor the process but end up loving themselves and me at the end of it. In another fantasy I kidnapped and drugged men with ponytails and gave them short stylish cuts.

Friday, February 04, 2005

I wanna sax you up. Yesterday as I was listening to the Honey Roll Megamix, I was thinking about the saxophone solo, which was so popular in the 80s. "Electric Blue" has a wonderful sax solo, as does "It's Still Rock'n'Roll to Me", although the latter is more 60s R&B-influenced. What was it about the saxophone that so strongly resonated with 80s sensibilities? I remember Rob Lowe's terrifying yet unconvincing rock-sax performance in St Elmo's Fire, where he had a sweat-soaked bandanna and a muscle singlet and was leaning backwards and pointing the sax in the air before leaning forwards and pointing it at the ground.

And let's not get into how Kenny G almost singlehandedly destroyed the saxophone's reputation. One of the first CDs I ever owned, thankfully stolen in the Great Burglary of '98, was Truth by Warren Hill, a guy who sounded like Kenny G and looked like a brunette Fabio with a saxophone. God, it was just so bad. My aunt and uncle gave it to me for Christmas one year saying "We heard you like jazz."

A while ago, I was reading how the readers of some overseas music magazine had voted "Sweet Child O' Mine" the best ever guitar riff, and I was asking my workmates what they thought was the best ever saxophone riff in a pop song. Here are some we thought of:

Infinity - Guru Josh
Never Tear Us Apart - INXS
Careless Whisper - George Michael
I Don't Wanna Be With Nobody But You - Absent Friends
Baker Street - Gerry Rafferty
Lily Was Here - Dave Stewart and Candy Dulfer

I am not including songs which sample saxophones, like "How Gee" by Black Machine, which samples Maceo Parker.

These songs demonstrate the fine line the saxophone walks from raw emotion to abominable cheesiness. I think that Kirk Pengilly's "Never Tear Us Apart" solo is probably the best one, because it's structured so well for the tonal qualities of the instrument and the place of the solo in the song. The way it punches in with a growl and then bends up to the next semi-tone, and the melody swings and syncopates until the last four ascending notes, whose straightness seems to lead inexorably into the sublime high note that underlines the return of the vocals.

But in "Infinity", the saxophone doesn't build emotion; it maintains a constant state of euphoria through the circular nature of the phrase, and the way it's repeated over and over in the song. Here, the saxophone evokes the essential transcendent quality of rave music.

Interestingly, I can't think immediately of any recent 'urban' songs that use the saxophone. The black tradition is there: people like Charlie Parker, John Coltrane and Lester Young made it synonymous with jazz, and then it was one of the mainstays of soul and R&B. I'm thinking not just of the JBs but songs like "Shotgun" by Junior Walker, and "Memphis Soul Stew" by King Curtis ("give me half a pint of horn").

Thursday, February 03, 2005

Vintage mixtape action #3. Now to continue what looks like this blog's theme of 2005 - rifling through my old cassette tapes. By 1987, I had already experimented with multi-tracking by using my parents' stereo to play a backing track while I recorded a second track using the built-in mic on my ghetto blaster. I was also quite good at manipulating the record and pause buttons so I could record very precisely with no obvious clicking sounds coming out on the tape. But appropriately for one so egocentric, I didn't get into other people's songs for quite some time. Instead I recorded my own songs and bizarre radio plays. One was called "The First World War: The Sound of Its Music" and consisted of me banging on saucepans and making bomb noises that don't transcribe very well. My mother can be heard in the background pleading: "Melissa! Stop that!"

I started to make my first mixtape by randomly flicking through radio stations and recording random bits of any songs I liked. Later on side 1 and side 2, I used the Australian top 40 countdown on 3KZ as my main resource. It has really got me thinking about the excitement of saxophone solos, but that's a matter for another post.

1987 - The Honey Roll Megamix (my first ever compilation)

Begins with the chorus from "Honey Roll" by Elton John: "I saida honey (ahh), I saida honey (ahh), I saida honey (ahh), I saida honnnnn-air-hey, come awwwn do the honey roll with meeee...."

Fades with a harp effect, as if to signal a flashback... (I'm not quite sure what fluke created this effect, but it's quite striking!)

Same song plays in background.
Mel's brother miT, aged 5 (belligerent): "Well I'm coming too - if you don't mind."
Mel, aged 10 (disgusted): "ohhh no..."
Song suddenly cuts off as Elton warbles "honnnnney roll".
Mel's mother: "Well put some shoes and socks on, and a proper top."

Cut to classical music, possibly something from Tchaikovsky's Nutcracker Suite. Mel's younger brothers can be heard brawling in the background.
Mel, aged 10 (fake English accent): "Hello, I am Anastasia Tassiopolis, and I am hosting this program, A Medley of Hits with AT. As you know, a medley is a lot of different things put together. In this case it is songs, all jammed together into one huge song!
Accent slips to American for some reason. Pauses to recover previous fake accent.
Which our recorders have been very lucky to be able to do. I hope you have a good evening listen... listening to this wonderful (pauses, because she was ad-libbing this entire speech) creation that we have made. Goodnight.

Some song that I still don't know to this day, and I never worked out the lyrics. It goes "something blah, julie girl, something my mind at ease / do we go on as two / or do we all have a blah blah blah". Try looking that up on Google. I did.
Say Say Say - Michael Jackson/Paul McCartney
Reasons - John Farnham (this was during his Whispering Jack renaissance)
Some song that sounds like it's by a 60s girl group and goes "Only one / You're the only one like you / This crazy heart is aching for ya / Only one / Now there's just one thing to do / I will follow you if you something something..."
Electric Blue - Icehouse (my favourite song at the time)
I Hope I Never - Split Enz
Little Lies - Fleetwood Mac
Lady in Red - Chris de Burgh
It's Still Rock'n'Roll to Me - Billy Joel
Some song that goes "Don't tell me now, it's too late, late, too late"
I Only Wanna Be With You - Dusty Springfield
Bridge to Your Heart - Wax
The Power of Love - Huey Lewis and the News
Little Lies - Fleetwood Mac (two choruses edited together)
Your Wildest Dreams - Moody Blues
Never Gonna Give You Up - Rick Astley
Electric Blue - Icehouse (I told you it was my favourite song!)
Bright Eyes - Art Garfunkel
Lady in Red - Chris de Burgh (God help me.)
She's Like the Wind - Patrick Swayze
I Think We're Alone Now - Tiffany
Love in the First Degree - Bananarama
Man of Colours - Icehouse
Walk the Dinosaur - Was (Not Was)
Never Gonna Give You Up - Rick Astley

I Should Be So Lucky - Kylie Minogue
Heaven Is a Place on Earth - Belinda Carlisle
(I've Had) The Time of My Life - Bill Medley and Jennifer Warnes (when I recorded it, this song had been number one for ten weeks running. Nobody was gonna put this baby in a corner.)
Faith - George Michael
Pump Up the Volume - M.A.R.R.S.
Love in the First Degree - Bananarama
Whenever You Need Somebody - Rick Astley
Some People - Cliff Richard
Anything Goes - Geraldine Turner (this was the title track of the Australian cast recording, recorded later from our LP)

Wednesday, February 02, 2005

Movement at the station. Hot on the heels of the Canberra Times' "Babies of 2004" liftout comes The Land's guide to rural Australia's most attractive bachelors and spinsters, or as they like to call them, "Hunks and Spunks". So of course my workmates and I now all have a mascot honey.

I am probably going to have to have a scrag fight with Sophie V because she has taken my own favourite, Chad Pink, 21, of Narromine, a harvesting contractor. Chad's favourite food and drink are McDonalds and Bundy. He likes country rock, and the best pick-up line he's ever heard is: "Can I take your photo to give to Santa Claus so he knows what I want for Christmas?" If he won $1 million, he would buy a couple of pubs.

My hunk is Russell Flanagan, 19, of Gulgong, an apprentice farrier. His favourite food and drink are steak and Tooheys New (oh, the brewing-related arguments we would have!). His biggest turn-on is a girl in a bikini, so I had better get to the gym post-haste. But his biggest turn-off is a girl being sick in the gutter. Doh! I think my relationship with Russell is doomed before it even begins.

But maybe I could two-time Russ with James Griffiths, 20, of Dubbo, a farmer. This is solely because the best pick-up line he's heard is: "How you doin'?" I assume he pronounces it the Matt LeBlanc way, but that pop-culture reference was obviously lost on The Land, which makes it sound as though all James has to do to pull the ladies is enquire how they are.

There is another kind of movement at the station at my work. Yesterday the worst-kept office secret ever was unveiled - the fact that my boss is buying Crikey. We all knew about this since last year (as did The Age), and we were practising our 'surprised' faces all afternoon, especially since we noticed Di had put several bottles of champagne to chill in the fridge. But Eric is such a master of deadpan that I couldn't work out if he was serious when he began his speech with: "I'm sure this will come as a bit of a surprise to you..."

At these celebratory drinks, I also discovered that you should never attempt to make a champagne shandy by adding lemonade - it tastes like Strongbow. I have been very enthusiastic about shandies lately - they are a great solution for when you want to drink beer but have to drive. And they taste really nice too. I am trying singlehandedly to repopularise the shandy as a sophisticated and hip drink, and I thought I could also camouflage the inevitably terrible champagne provided at work by diluting it with lemonade. But let me reiterate that you should never try this at home.

But I'm quite worried about what this new acquisition will mean for us. I don't usually like to blog about it, but for quite a few months I have been wondering whether this job of mine is actually heading anywhere. I certainly look forward to going to work, and I enjoy the company of my workmates and the interesting things we get to discover in the course of sifting through so many topics and media sources. And even after almost two years of doing it, I still find the nature of the job sufficiently stimulating.

But I am getting too old to be living off the kind of pocket money I make. And I have come to feel really dispensable, as though my initiative and judgment - the things that I personally can bring to the job - are not only unnecessary but unwelcome. If I left I really wouldn't be missed, and I'm worried that under the new workplace structure, I would only have to do more work for less appreciation and the same money.

Of course, there are much worse kinds of white-collar gimps to be: any job that calls for a headset, for one. Then there's the kind of corporate gimpdom that my school tried to box us all into and that I satirise in my show - you know, jobs with "relations" and "consultant" and "executive" and "associate" in the title, that involve meetings and memos and emails and intrays. The sort of jobs on the business cards that Little Collins Street booty hos stuff into the jar at Caffe e Torta.

Gotta go - I have an art review to write now, and a story about how Robert de Niro has jumped the shark.

Tuesday, February 01, 2005

Mistress of the Universe! Yesterday I made a belated New Year's resolution. I believe I'm entitled to this. My resolution was: I will try not to be a complete techtard. More importantly, I would like to defy sexist stereotypes that chicks are techtards. Here I would like to point out that He-Man: Masters of the Universe is a masculinist allegory of technological mastery. Please consider:

Adam (literally: "man") is prince of Eternia and keeper of Castle Greyskull. His technological prowess (referred to in the series as "power") was revealed to him (i.e. it was always lying dormant within and merely required unleashing) the day he held aloft his magic sword and said: By the power of Greyskull! The sword erupts with electricity - i.e. the power source of electronic devices - and Adam becomes appropriately more tanned and buff to signify that technological mastery makes him more of a man. He dons a garb of iron breastplate, furry undies and boots made of pelts lashed to his legs with leather thongs to represent the apex of mankind's mastery of his environment (the universe).

Then Adam points the sword at his terrified pet cat, Cringer, and says in a voice of thunder, I have the powerrrrr! and Cringer is enveloped by electrical energy too, and becomes the fearless Battlecat, also with a hi-tech saddle for Adam, ahem, He-Man, to ride upon. Hello: the man rides pussy! (This incisive close reading is getting Tarantinoesque in its ridiculousness!) But Adam must save his technological mastery for use in emergencies. He must especially conceal it from Teela, who lusts after He-Man but sees the techtard Adam as a mere friend.

Like Lois Lane, she also has a habit of never realising that Adam and He-Man are never in the same place at the same time, and accepting whatever lame explanation Adam offers. It was like this Mills & Boon I read yesterday at the jumble sale, in which two people fuck at a masked ball without realising they'd actually had sex with each other before. The best they could do was muse upon how they reminded each other of... each other. But I'm too tired to analyse what this selective amnesia might signify here.

Only three people know Adam's secret. They are the Sorceress, a spiritual guide who inhabits Castle Greyskull, i.e. Adam's brain. Skull; grey matter; it's obvious. So, the Sorceress is an avatar of the part of Adam that wants to use technology responsibly, and when he talks about the "power of Greyskull", he means the knowledge that enables him to harness technology. As for the "magic sword", well I'm sure you all know about Freud.

The other two are Man-at-Arms (Teela's dad) and Orko. Man-at-Arms I read as a kind of pragmatic user of technology: someone whose knowledge is limited and specific but definitely useful in a tight spot. Orko is some weird little ghost - I never understood what the fuck he was as a child and I definitely don't right now. He can be the ghost in the machine.

Okay, this analogy went on a little longer than I intended. But basically, my resolution is to be able to understand more of how technology works and interact with it. I plan to make these my main areas of study:

1. Audiovisual technology (esp analog)
2. Nerdy internet technology

I began my study of internet technology tonight when the manslave introduced me to MSN Messenger. I began my study of AV technology yesterday by discovering that a stereo requires three main components: a sound playing device, an amplifier and a speaker. I purchased a record player and got two free speakers at the jumble sale. Now all I need is an amp, some records, and the knowledge to put them together, because for fuck's sake, the speaker cords end in ragged little wires! How am I meant to stick that in anything????

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