Wednesday, August 31, 2005

Law & Order: ECU. In the higher education system, original ideas are considered especially heinous. The researchers who investigate these ideas are part of an elite squad known as the Early Career Unit. These are their stories.

You know when you write something and even as you write it, you know it's absolute fucking gold. You know that righteousness seeps from the very letters you type. You re-read it and you go, "Yeah! Goddamn-yeah! Put that in your pipe and smoke it!" Anyway, here is my email:
My esteemed ladeez and gentz,

As someone practising cultural studies from outside the academy, I am used to being considered irrelevant, so please take the controversial suggestion I'm about to make with a sack of salt.

What I propose is nothing less than the abolition of the email sign-off 'Best' from all academic correspondence.

What does 'Best' mean, exactly? A shortened version of 'Best wishes'? (Why not type the additional seven keystrokes?) A challenge? ("Sir, I venture that in the field of poststructuralist hermeneutics you shall not best me!") Or, an indication that you are simply into Tina Turner? ("...Better than all the rest")

Early career academics: it's your duty to think and speak radically and ridiculously! Under the burden of nostalgic nationalism you are expected to squeak like mice - it's time to roar like horses! Finding the right tangents is its own Creative Industry!

Remember, the future of an entire discipline may rest on a single sign-off,


This was in response to a discussion Mel Gregg initiated on the CSAA email list (which, as you may recall, I have had difficulties with in the past). I loved Mel's phrase that emerging cultural studies researchers are constantly forced to "mime in the shadows" of their influential elders; and her polemical post got exactly the expected kind of nostalgic, self-justifying response from said established academics. Completely obscuring the question, and glossing over Mel's specific example of the Creative Industries brand from QUT. (Sweet Jesus: there is a news item on the website: "Creative writing students urged to be 'original'".) Then there were people criticising the obsessive nationalism of "Australian Cultural Studies".

And then there were early-career people writing in and going, "This is my story", which is where I got the idea for the Law & Order thing. As Glen perceptively noted, early career researchers were hardly going to rise to Mel's challenge, because their economic and institutional position is the most precarious: "Rock the boat? Not in the seductive mist of the performance-based, outcomes-funded, technical school of immaterial trades."

I think language is one of the key ways in which people learn to think what is expected rather than what is original and insightful. And it really struck me that a good place for early-career researchers to start rocking the boat is in their use of language. I mean, signing your emails with 'Best' is, in a small way, signing your capitulation to the rhetoric of institutions. Maybe I am being cavalier in a way others can't afford to be - but surely the very marginality of the (particularly young) early career researcher is also a freedom to be playful and poetic and expressive? We must embrace the language of the inappropriate and the impertinent.

In a far more serious context, Guy writes that racism is enabled by the category of "inappropriateness" - there is an implicit suggestion that racism is legitimate; it simply requires an ever-deferred "appropriate" context. But to modify this idea: appropriateness and pertinence are discourses used within the cultural studies establishment to limit people's thinking. Early career researchers often marginalise themselves in their eagerness to align their research to existing epistemologies. And potentially productive tangents on email lists like this are often slapped down with cries of "irrelevance". Relevance to what?

Tuesday, August 30, 2005

A few of my favourite underthings. You know the way of a personal myth. There's an incident involving you, and it becomes blown out of all proportion among your family or your friends until it becomes immutably true and they refuse to believe it isn't. And it gets added to your personal mythology: "Did you hear that Anthony once pissed off a balcony onto his mother-in-law's head!" So Anthony will always be known as a Balcony-Pisser.

Apart from the myth that I threw up on the principal's shoes at the Year 10 semi-formal, the most enduring myth about me is that Mel owns one hundred pairs of underpants. I can't even remember the exact origin of this myth. Either I was moving house, or about to go to a conference - some occasion that called for the use of a suitcase - and I had no access to a washing machine, so I took this suitcase, filled with dirty laundry, to my parents' house. I was going to wash the clothes myself but my dad offered to.

And then he famously proclaimed, "I've just washed 72 pairs of your underpants!" (This figure is not precise; but I remember it was somewhere in the seventies.) To which I off-handedly said: "Oh, well that's not even all of them. I've got at least ten other pairs; maybe more." Thus the myth was born. Every time I tell my mother that I bought underpants, she gets this edge in her voice and goes, "Oh Melissa, do you really need any more?" And my friends just laugh at me.

I decided a while ago that in my knicker drawer there were never again going to be 'nice' undies for special occasions and dowdy 'everyday' undies - they were all going to be nice enough not to have to worry about being run over by the proverbial bus. Having many pairs of underpants also enables me to go for a very long time without doing any laundry. For example, a couple of days ago I did some laundry and pegged 32 pairs of underpants on the clothesline. (I also have a vast wardrobe of other clothes - it is not as though I wear clean underpants and otherwise dirty clothes.)

But this is not why I have so many. Underpants have specific aesthetic purposes: to wear with clothing of various tightnesses, fabrics, opacities and waist heights. Being the sort of person who obsesses over ill-chosen clothing, I am particularly mindful of this. And I have phases. I have a lot of colourful Bonds g-strings, and boy-leg shorts that claim to offer "full seat coverage" but obviously struggle with this task when filled with my arse, because they look more like "skimpy-cut" on me. I have always liked striped and spotted underpants. I think they're very jaunty. And there is a real preponderance of red and pink.

But of course you can have an underwear wardrobe that satisfies a variety of aesthetic criteria without owning as many pairs of underpants as me. No - yesterday I came to realise that underwear shopping is, for me, a purely affective process. For me, underpants are devices of feeling, and each one has its own specific and complex feeling. When I roam the racks, I will buy the underpants if this feeling, or an anticipation of this feeling, seizes me when I look at them.

It seems a perfect fit (pun unintentional for once) that nobody need see me wearing the underpants. Indeed, nobody does and probably ever will. Because feelings are also invisible until you decide to reveal them to someone else. Anyway, I have decided to share the affective histories of a few of my favourite underpants.

I own a pair of pink see-through underpants that I bought purely because they were "very Scarlett Johansson". I have never worn them, although I have tried them on many times. For me these underpants are about boredom: an overwhelming oversupply of time and undersupply of motivation. They're about lying in a rumpled bed on a rainy day, feeling dissatisfied with your life. I can't decide whether the fact I can't even manage to wear them is ironic or just appropriate. Or maybe they're just wishful thinking: that someone would look at me as lingeringly as the camera looks at Scarlett's "fuckable ... peachy plump flesh" (Marek Polgar, "Drunk Lust in Lost in Translation", Is Not Magazine 1, S5).

I own a red cotton g-string embroidered with "Foxy" in black cursive on the front. I bought it because it was so redundant (I mean, anyone reading the g-string will hardly need convincing of your foxiness). Here, 'foxy' is a kind of affirmation; a pep talk in your pants. Go out and get 'em, girlfriend! But these underpants are also comfortingly daggy: 'foxy' is the language of Kath and Kel Knight, of Wayne making fox-ear-fingers at Cassandra.

I own a pair of pink satin boy-leg shorts with black lace trim, which I bought specifically to wear to the Ghetto Fabulous 1920s-themed party. For me, these underpants are about 'luxury', which is an affect that interests me profoundly, especially relating to bling. I think last year's 1920s/hip-hop nexus was an interesting opportunity to examine 'luxury'. I've tried to tease out this issue on Footpath Zeitgeist. Following my argument there, these underpants are luxurious because of the way they feel against the skin (or the hand).

Yesterday I bought a pair of Love Kylie underpants that are made from semi-transparent black and white-spotted mesh. I am wearing them now. They are quite generous and old-fashioned in their cut, except there is a keyhole cutout high on the back that has a little gold heart dangling in it on a black ribbon. It is visible when my jeans ride down. I like these underpants because of this keyhole motif. It seems quite 'naughty' in the cheeky, wholesome pin-up way that Kylie embodies so well.

Also, I like the keyhole as a metaphor for the tension between knowledge and the gaze. The keyhole supposedly provides a kind of voyeuristic pleasure in observing while being unobserved, but this pleasure is predicated on disavowing the possibility that the object of spectatorship is aware of your gaze. You are both meant and not-meant to see the gold heart charm. It is both accidental and intentional, and the pleasure comes from this tension.

Sunday, August 28, 2005

Mel's cookery corner. You must understand that I have a terrible diet. If left at home to my own devices, I live on ham and cheese toasties, tinned spaghetti, cereal with tinned fruit and yoghurt, pasta with pesto and canned tuna stirred in, and peanut butter or vegemite on toast. Oh, and cups of tea. Many, many cups of tea. That's when I have food in the house - otherwise I have been known to resort to cuisine de sept-onze. I could go into more detail, but you would respect me even less. At least I no longer eat Mi Goreng noodles after having a revelation that they were not "gore-mett" - they actually tasted kinda disgusting.

So I was exceedingly proud of my rustique chic lunch today - so proud that I will give you the recipe!
Delicious Glamour Salad Prepared from Incidental Ingredients

From Your Own Food Supplies
1 red capsicum
1/2 onion
1 celery stalk and some young celery leaves
crumbly vintage cheddar cheese
marinated artichoke hearts

Steal From Housemates
1 frozen white bread crust
minced garlic
minced ginger
olive oil

Cut the bread crust into four soldiers and then cut each soldier into four bite-sized croutons. Chop the onion into small pieces. Put the onion, oil, garlic and ginger in a frypan and saute until onions are soft, then turn down the heat and add croutons, stirring so they're well coated with onion mixture. Add a little more oil if pan sticks.

Leave this for a bit and cut the capsicum and celery into bite-sized pieces, placing them in a lovely simple white bowl. Cut a few thickish slices of cheese from the block - they'll probably crumble like a Flake bar but chop them roughly into squares. Add these to the bowl. Fish out some artichoke hearts from the jar and cut them in half if they look a bit big. Add these to the bowl. By now the croutons should be nicely browned - add them and the onions to the bowl, too.

Find a small jar with a lid and concoct a salad dressing to taste from whatever condiments are to hand. I used the oil from the marinaded artichokes, balsamic vinegar, whole egg mayonnaise, American mustard and salt and pepper. Shake it together in a jar. Dress and toss the salad. Photograph it for Marie Claire Sharehouse cookbook before eating.

Friday, August 26, 2005


Thursday, August 25, 2005

Draft CSAA abstract: what do you think? Personally, I wish I hadn't said 'cultural capital' quite so many times. I feel kind of uncomfortable that there's a Bourdieu/Thornton mode of thinking underlying the abstract which is never made explicit. Also, I feel it kind of stops abruptly. Also, can you tell that I still haven't really theorised affect at all? Also, the headline is incredibly spastic, but I felt it was a necessary rhetorical move to tie the paper into the conference theme of "culture fix".

Addicted to Cool: Affect and Irony in Hipster Club Culture

In his landmark study Hustlers, Beats, and Others, sociologist Ned Polsky observed how Greenwich Village bohemians policed their subculture using the terms ‘hip’, ‘square’, or a third category: the ‘hipster’, who was a “mannered ‘show-off’ in his hipness”.

In contemporary Western culture, ‘hipster’ has come to denote a category of young, inner-urban, hedonistic consumers who ostentatiously (and sometimes professionally) perform ‘cool’. Hipsters are not a subculture; rather, their constantly shifting cultural location is what Lawrence Grossberg has called the “hip mainstream”. They engage in exhaustive and intertextual consumption across both mainstream and subcultural fields of production; and the resulting cultural capital is performed ironically as pastiche.

It is easy to dismiss hipsterism as an amoral, depoliticised obsession with cool from which its adherents obtain little genuine pleasure. Fredric Jameson famously wrote that a waning of affect accompanies postmodern irony and pastiche. But this paper argues that hipsterism fuses cultural capital and affect, and that the pleasure of feeling ‘cool’ is predicated on an ironic mode of consumption and self-presentation.

The nightclub or party is the key expressive space for hipster irony, because it puts the ironic-affective hipster body on display, in close contact with other bodies. This paper combines perspectives from sociolinguistics, musicology, fashion and dance theory to propose a new analytical model that I call ‘corporealinguistics’. Hipsterism is a kind of embodied conversation through the interdependent acts of moving, touching and watching. Hipster bodies call and respond; they feel; they converse.

The aesthetics of men's jeans. (For Glen) You may remember that a while back, I waxed lyrical on men's t-shirts. Now the time has come for the obvious companion post: How I Like Men in Pants. Valiantly, I will resist the urge to riff on that.

1. Toe much information.

Not even Bon Scott can make cameltoe work. It really embarrasses me to be able to tell how someone is hanging. We do not live in codpiece times where you must literalise your masculinity. Also, there's a nasty rumour that it gives you cancer of the poy-nis. Although once I was at work idly Google Image searching and I found this website, whose owner believes very, very differently. And now for the main cause of cameltoe: the waist.

2. Afraid of heights.

That's right: high pants. Yikes! It looks very bad to wear high pants. It looked bad in the 80s and it looks bad now. And then there is the opposite:

Dolce & Gabbana, Fall 2005/06, presented at Milan Fashion Week in January.

Very few women can get away with super-low-waisted jeans, and end up with muffin-tops or visible g-strings. Well, they look good on very few men, too. You need to have a flat stomach and lean hips. But the thing that fascinates me is that so many women wear low-waisted pants even though they look terrible. It's not about fashion - designers have been trying to bring back high pants for years, but women won't 'ave it. And they're willing to try new styles, regardless of whether they'll look good.

By contrast, (heterosexual?) men appear to use the complete opposite strategy. If they are even the slightest bit uncertain about the style, they won't wear it. And they're more prone to buying the same style again and again, because they know it suits them. So their fashion cycle is much slower and subtler than women's. To cut a long fly short, only a minority of men can and do wear those really low-waisted jeans. Some guys who like this style wear women's pants instead.

For my money, the best place for the waist of men's jeans to sit is right on the hips. It's most flattering for everyone from super-buff to pudgy. Because you can also take the waist issue waaaay too far...

3. My niggas don't dance, they just pull up their pants. Oh Marky Mark, you are to blame for introducing whitey to that 'urban' phenomenon of underpant display.

Check out the guy on the left. He is suffering from an unfortunate sickness that I like to call "Hipster's Trouser". It is what happens when subcultures collide. He is not wearing ultra-baggy homie jeans, yet he thinks it is cool to reveal two inches of underpant. I've remarked many a time on the black-stovepipe-denim-wearers at St Jerome's whose belts are mysteriously no help at all. Sometimes their waistbands even slip below the arse and sit underneath it. And from the back, it looks as though they've had an arse amputation.

It says a lot about the ambiguous semiotics of this look that some people on the Dr Jay's street style forum were saying "Your pants are too tight", "ya clothes is too small son" and "could be looser", while others said "You got that Kanye goin' on". (Kanye West is among the "post-bling" wave of rap stars.) Anyway, it makes the body look very strange and its proportions all wrong. Just buy jeans that fit you in the waist, and use a belt as a practical device.

4. Gotta keep my body... tight. So, should you go baggy or tight? Here you are kind of at the mercy of what sort of legs you have. My personal view is that you should wear the most fitted jeans you can get away with. By 'fitted' I don't mean 'tight'. The jeans should look slouchy and comfortable, as if they permit movement. Athletes have to wear baggy jeans because they just can't get their heaving comic-book thighs over tight ones. But just because you have really skinny legs doesn't mean you should wear:

I dunno. David Bowie and Iggy Pop can wear 'em, I suppose. But really tight jeans remind me of those tight Regency-era trousers that earned the Prince Albert piercing its name. (Albert didn't particularly want to do a Bon Scott.)

5. Long way to the top. (Sorry, Bon Scott reminded me!) The jeans cannot be too short. It looks cool on Elvis and Michael Jackson, but most guys just look like dufuses if their pants are too short. Now I do realise that tall men have difficulty in this department. I thought about this for a while, and the only alternative I could see was Solway: the Big and Tall Man's Store. This is no alternative at all for the fashionable yet tall man about town. I can only suggest a relaxation of my previous waist height recommendation so that the pants will sit lower but end up being long enough.

As for pants that are too long, it looks really crap when they drag along the ground and eventually wear a hole in the back that your heel sticks through. It depends how 'directional' you want to look - some streetwear looks call for the jeans to be quite tight at the knee but then baggy and 'crunchy' at the ankle. Personally I think a happy medium is to have one 'crunch', then sit lightly over your shoe (but not touching the ground at the back. That way, when you sit down your ankle will still be covered.

6. Distress signals.

Obviously you must steer away from the worst excesses of dufuswear: all that ridiculous embroidery and weird bleach effects and fake holes and bad screen-printed motifs. It makes the jeans look cheap.

7. The colour of your money. Any colour is fine, but again, few people can get away with the really pale blue jeans. When I think of those, I think of suburban accountants who are in the Army Reserve and who wear them with a chambray shirt with a white t-shirt underneath and boat shoes. Also steer away from white jeans. Also, I think I am getting drunk on the power of Google Image Search. Everyone knows you don't iron your jeans, but here is a cautionary photo anyway:

Also, just check this guy. Can I also just say that I love his look? Even though he's wearing double denim and has his polo collar up. (Will, where are you???) I used to 'rock' an alarmingly similar colour combination in 1989, only I did it by wearing an orange t-shirt underneath an aqua t-shirt with buttons down the front, then I rolled up the sleeves to reveal the contrasting orange. I also really like his matching pocket square. So street, yet so dapper! It kinda freaked out the peeps at Dr Jay's, though!

Monday, August 22, 2005

You can't script it! Yesterday I was in a crap mood. But one thing lifted my spirits because it was such a perfect 'moment'. We were at a magazine meeting at Rue Bebelons discussing the content for the next issue. (If you want to contribute to this issue, pitches are due by this Friday. Go to the Is Not Magazine website for more information.)

Anyway, we had this idea of making nostalgic lists of the cultural products of childhood: tie-dye; pet rocks; Degrassi Junior High; Hypercolour t-shirts. Someone said, "Whatever happened to fluorescent ankle socks?" And I had a stab of sheer jouissance because I knew what I was about to do. I swung my leg balletically up over the edge of the table to reveal that I was wearing orange fluorescent ankle socks. Everyone lurched back and clapped in delight and Stuart laughed his filthy laugh. It was such a perfect moment.

In my life I search for such moments: images or events that are so perfectly exhilarating or disgusting or beautiful. I even dream about them. Last night I had a crazy dream in which I was some kind of spy and was boarding a plane to Hong Kong at a futuristic Siberian airport that looked designed by Frank Gehry. I was shocked when the cabin crew showed me to an onboard first-class suite with a bed and a bathroom. In the next suite was a man, a woman and a dark grey tabby cat. The man was played by Christian Bale with sleek, slicked-back hair, and in the dream I knew he was a hotshot pilot and my nemesis. (I now realise that this dream must be at least partially inspired by From Russia With Love.) I was embarrassed about using the bathroom in my suite so I went to shower at the communal showers, which were like any public swimming pool showers you've ever been in, except they were immaculately white.

There is always a point to my stories, and the point of this one is that there was a moment in this dream when I was in the perfect white shower cubicle. I was looking at other passengers' heads and arms over the cubicle walls, and at their feet under the walls. The aircraft was pitching with turbulence and I was lurching about, bracing myself against the walls. Suddenly I saw a brown turd slide along the floor and nestle against the perfect white hem of someone's gown. I remember so clearly the way it left a wet beige stain on the fabric. Anyway, my point is that even in dreams, I find 'moments'.

Sunday, August 21, 2005

Feeling unaccountably angry. The last time I felt this way, I walked past a woman having coffee with a friend and she laughed this horrible braying laugh, and I wanted to stop and yell at her, "That is the worst laugh I've ever heard! Shut up! Shut up!" But it turned out I was premenstrual that time. I am not now.

I want to be comforted and I want to be challenged. I want to provoke and I want to inspire. I want to be fucked and I want to be adored. I want to pack ideas and achievements into my day, and I want to waste it all reading and idling in cafes. This all seems impossible to combine. It disillusions me.

Saturday, August 20, 2005

The affect of Vice. Now, everyone knows I'm obsessed with hipsterism. My relationship to the phenomenon is complicated. On the one hand, I despise it. But I love hipsters' relationship to pop culture, which to some extent I share. And I have realised lately that hipsterism is a key topic within my research projects on 'urban' club culture and street style. It might even be the link. Saige was telling me this week that she has just had one of those epiphanies that ties everything together. And Mehmet was saying to her, "I hate you! I hate you! You've had a breakthrough and I haven't!"

Last week I decided to write my CSAA paper about how hipster club culture balances irony and affect. I have always used the term 'affect' in the same general way I use other academic terminology like 'discourse' and 'interpellation', but I realised that I needed to come to an actual theoretical understanding of affect so I can work out how to incorporate it into my Frankenstein of a methodology, which I have just now decided to call 'corporealinguistics' because I likes me a neologism.

I also want to develop a more theorised understanding of phenomenology, which, again, is something I've been gesturing towards. I have had conversations with Saige and McCrea about this (the latter, which I can't recall at all because I was so very drunk, led to me bounding onto the karaoke stage and saying into the mic, "Sorry, sorry... I was talking about phenomenology!")

So I realised I had to go back. Way back. On campus. It was quite hard to get back into a once familiar groove of academic research, because now I have no library borrowing privileges and am out of practice with the convoluted argot in which the material is written. I was not sure where to start, but decided to begin with Lawrence Grossberg's "Postmodernity and Affect: All Dressed Up With Nowhere to Go". I can draw you a little map of the ideas I'm trying to corral, if you like.

I have realised that despite many earnest conversations with Gemma and Vin Rouge, I really had never conceptualised the role blogging would play in my more 'academic' thinking and research. I had never really even thought through how I was going to use my rudimentary theorising abilities outside an academic context. This isn't a research blog, where fragmentary thoughts are posted for feedback. And my blogging practice is completely counter-intuitive to the essay-drafting process. I just sit here and type it all straight in. This means that everything posted here is only ever my first thought, and the connections I make in these posts are only ever the ones that occur to me during the first act of writing.

God, I feel like Homer Simpson referring to a spoon as a "tool used to dig food". Despite these shortcomings, I think it's important to use this space to work through my ideas, even if I can only do that in the spastic, intuitive, groping way that has marked my entire academic career. So I have a few posts up my sleeve about various topics that I've been thinking about lately. The best place to start might be Vice.

I want to explore the complex affective responses that Vice magazine itself inspires. I despise the magazine's politics, its deliberately shocking writing style and aesthetic. Now you might recall that a while back, the Ban Bali website was hacked into and redirected to a well-known site called, which is a picture of a girl lying in a bathtub spurting diarrhoea into her own mouth. I assume Tubgirl is akin to Goatse Man in internet notoriety terms. When we looked at it from work, Misha described it as "the worst thing I have ever seen." And it's a pretty disgusting image. But the thing that struck me was that it was a very Vice image. There was something really over-determined in its abjection.

Then I saw this image in the Dos and Don'ts:

Am I the only one getting hard thinking about this hairy little bitch? Look at those shoes! Can you imagine those next to your ears as you just plowed into her tiny little cat vagina? You could be grabbing her perfectly round pink tits (they protrude out of the fur kind of like a gorilla chest) and she’d be batting her eyelashes and puckering her lips like the dirty little slut that she is. What a tease!
Vintage Vice. I was actually talking about this image last night at the Rabelais launch, but I can't remember exactly what was said. But I remember saying something about abjection. Think about all the pictures you've ever seen of people spewing on themselves and others, passed out in compromising positions, stretching the limitations of their bodies in various 'gross' ways. The Vice trademark is a sense of 'wrongness' that is so outrageous that your defence mechanism is to assume it's ironic.

But it's played so straight that you can't take refuge in irony.

So can you see where I'm going here? For Jameson, irony is characterised by the waning of affect - a proliferation of meanings that ultimately results in meaninglessness. But affect is key to the Vice effect. The magazine aims to provoke, and furthermore this provocation is a tool of distinction. If you aren't troubled by Vice's abject discursive mode and find it funny instead, you are cool. If you are troubled by it, you are obviously a humourless dick.

This is why the line between the Dos and Don'ts is so thin. It's a permanent deferral of distinction. The only way of knowing you're cool is to continue to allow the magazine to provoke these uneasy feelings of wrongness. But those feelings are never affirmed or vindicated. I mean, Vice may joke about cat-fucking. But just look at the Tamarama bunny-fucker - couldn't he just be a hipster who just took it a little too far?

Friday, August 19, 2005

Mashffect. I am home from karaoke, and playing the Carpenters. I am still drunk. We had Charlton's to ourselves tonight. It was kind of crazy - I could indulge all my craziest karaoke requests. Here are some of the songs I can remember doing (there may have been more):

"Electric Blue" by Icehouse (my favourite song of 1987)
"Heartbreaker" by Dionne Warwick (lots of personal relevance - "when I was being what you want me to be")
"Jessie's Girl" by Rick Springfield (from having seen Suddenly 30 on Monday - not nearly as satisfying as I thought it would be)
"Baby Baby" by Amy Grant (I shouted, "I'm not a Christian!" before I did this one)
"Hollaback Girl" by Gwen Stefani (a curiously unsatisfying song - so fucking repetitive)
"I'm With You" by Avril Lavigne (rock chick sublime)
"Pony" by Ginuwine ("Someone who knows how to ride, without even falling off!")
"Don't Let the Sun Go Down on Me" (a duet with Tash, in which I shouted "Ladies and gentlemen, Mr Elton John!")

But the one that stuck in my head was "Rainy Days and Mondays". God I love the Carpenters. There is something magical about Karen's voice. During the 1980s I learned that it was very daggy to like the Carpenters, as it was to like anything from the 70s, like Abba.

The Carpenters song I always identified most with was "Goodbye to Love":
I’ll say goodbye to love
No one ever cared if I should live or die
Time and time again the chance for love has passed me by
And all I know of love is how to live without it
I just can’t seem to find it
So I’ve made my mind up
I must live my life alone
And though it’s not the easy way
I guess I’ve always known
I’d say goodbye to love
There are no tomorrows for this heart of mine
Surely time will lose these bitter memories
And I’ll find that there is someone to believe in
And to live for something I could live for
All the years of useless search
Have finally reached an end
Loneliness and empty days will be my only friend
From this day love is forgotten
I’ll go on as best I can
What lies in the future is a mystery to us all
No one can predict the wheel of fortune as it falls
There may come a time when I will see that I’ve been wrong
But for now this is my song
And it’s goodbye to love
I’ll say goodbye to love
Right now, my feelings are all mashed together. I don't quite know how to describe them. I call this "mashffect". To paraphrase Madonna: "Gilles Deleuze: analyse this... Analyse this." As I just said to the manslave via nerdy MSN:
Mel says:
little manslave, I hardly know how to write down the feelings I have now
Adam 2.0 says:
Adam 2.0 says:
please tell me what they are
Mel says:
Mel says:
Mel says:
Adam 2.0 says:
Adam 2.0 says:
but all at once, no doubt
Mel says:

Wednesday, August 17, 2005

Guess it was a knife in his pocket...

Monday, August 15, 2005

My birthday - Fuck yeah!

Today is my birthday! Miaow!

As a joke yesterday, someone asked if there was an official application form for organising Epic Birthday Week affiliated events, and so I did one up. I can send it to anyone who wishes to stage an affiliated event. I am actually serious about people organising things for my birthday. I am free during the day tomorrow (Tuesday) before 7pm and in the evening from about 9:30pm, and all day and night on Wednesday. Here are the affiliated events so far:

1. Karaoke at Sen Bar (1am Sunday)

I would never have chosen to go to Sen Bar, and I won't be going there again. But it was fun. Jason Evans nearly got us kicked out for telling the DJ not to sing along when he did "Hey Jude". There were bargain basement versions of Bobo from Fat Pizza and Belvedere from Bert.

At one point, I said to Tash, "Hey look - there are some hipsters!"
Tash looked pityingly at me and said, "Mel, in here we're the hipsters."

2. KFC Swanston Street (5am Sunday)

In the queue, an Irish guy asked us for the location of the nearest off-licence. We asked if he worked for An Post.
"No," he said. "Why?"
Drunkenly, we slipped into shonky Irish accents. "Oh, ye look like an Irish Postie," said Tash.
"A fearsome band are the Irish posties," I added.
"No they're not," he said.

3. Coffee, Lunch and DVDs with Tash and Emah (today, 11:30am - 6:30pm)

We watched Team America: World Police because Tash and Emah were so astounded that I had not seen it. I found it very amusing. I liked the panther scene very much. Then Tash made us a green curry. Then we ate chocolate and watched Suddenly Thirty, which Tash and Emah had not seen. We liked it very much, especially the "Thriller" dance scene which we vowed to recreate. We fought over who was going to New York to marry Mark Ruffalo, but Tash said she had first dibs. Emah said she would marry Clive Owen instead, which left me the slops of marrying Owen Wilson. (In a marital aside, I can't decide if it would be good or bad to marry someone whose surname is Slutskin.)

Saturday, August 13, 2005

How to be a sexual retard. I have just read The Ice Storm by Rick Moody, which as you may know, was turned into a 1997 film with a hobbit in. My obsession with books that have been turned into films is notorious, and shamefully apparent when you look at my bookshelf, so I won't get into the film, which I haven't seen. But I was thinking about this yesterday - we can divide hip-mainstream films into BG and AG (Before and After Gyllenhaal). In BG films, wide-eyed, fucked-up yoofs were played by the likes of Winona Ryder, Christian Slater, Ethan Hawke, Christina Ricci, Leonardo DiCaprio, Tobey Maguire and Elijah Wood.

Donnie Darko
(2001) is the definitive AG film, and since then a new generation of indie malcontents has emerged, led by the siblings Gyllenhaal, Natalie Portman, Peter Sarsgaard, Kirsten Dunst, etc. Many of them were child actors who appeared in BG films, and many BG actors now co-star with AG actors, so this theory is nowhere near watertight. But it seemed that way yesterday when I was waiting for the tram.

Anyway. The Ice Storm would be a great book club book, because it's so textually and thematically rich, and the characters are wonderfully ambivalent. And the writing is so pithy, so good at capturing the absurdly poignant with linguistic economy. But what struck me, most of all, was that it's a book about sexual humiliation. It disrupts the 'rite-of-passage' mythology that people must endure periods of adolescent sexual ignorance, embarrassment and inadequacy before they become adults who are 'good in bed'. Or as good as they're going to be, anyway. By the time you're my age (this said desperately, birthday two days away).

It struck me that there were so many scenes of male masturbation in all its chaotic, compulsive stickiness. Despite the supposed sexual liberation of the 1970s, it's furtive and ashamed. Ben Hood, the father, uses his mistress's garter belt "as a dressing gown for his hard-on - in flagrant violation of the precepts of autoerotics as he had explained them to his son".
He had tried to explain self-abuse to his son once, and this was one of the conversations that did not go well. He sat the boy down in the bedroom one day and asked him not to do it in the shower, because it wasted water and electricity and because everyone would expect it of him anyway, and not to do it onto the linen, and not to do it with his sister's undergarments or any clothes belonging to his mother, and not to do it with the dog. The best time was when he was certain no one else was in the house. The best place was in the john, where it would cause no trouble and mix with the other sad waste products of America. If he became concerned about any sign of perversion in his habits, he should feel free to come forward and discuss it. Together they could consult a medical textbook.

At the close of this monologue, Paul looked as though he had just learned of his family's financial ruin.
One of the book's themes is the parental hypocrisy that fucks up the kids. Later in the book, Paul rubs himself against the sleeping ass of his friend Libbets, who had earlier rejected his advances: "His dick was making its own decisions, ones that involved chiefly sorrow and shame." It's a comic moment as Paul frantically scrubs at the evidence with a towel, trying not to wake Libbets as she rolls sleepily closer and closer to the wet spot.

Once I was in the Baillieu looking for some cultural studies book in the 306s. Do you ever have these moments? Crouching down, the title of this book jumped out at me and I had to pull it off the shelf. I sat on one of those strangely bouncy steps they have to help you reach high shelves, and flicked through the book. It was a sociological study, analysing interviews with adults about their recollections of childhood sexual behaviour. In a culture paranoid about pedophilia, the study of childhood sexuality is unpopular both inside and outside the academy, and there aren't many books like this one, wrote the author in the introduction.

I didn't read very much of the book and hastily put it back on the shelf when someone else came down the aisle, but it seems to me as though there are methodological problems with its approach. In the light of their later sexual experience, people would inevitably describe their experiences as 'formative'. Phrases like, "Of course I didn't know it then, but I now recognise it was..." But getting responses of the same candour from children and adolescents would be even more problematic. Imagine getting that one past the ethics board!

Reading The Ice Storm reminded me of the arbitrariness of this normative sexual teleology. It was a strangely reassuring book, because the adult sexual couplings were just as humiliating and unsatisfactory as the teenage ones. It's not a coincidence that the Hood parents' adulterous encounters both take place in cars, the traditional space of teenage sexual experimentation. (I am just waiting for Glen to jump in here and talk about panel vans!) The novel makes this explicit:
Elena had never made love in a car before. It was one of those rites of passage that she had read about in books. She hadn't known about rock and roll, she hadn't known about racial strife, and she hadn't known about heavy petting in cars. The logistics of it were demanding, she was finding out.
Both encounters are bad. One sentence stands out from Ben's: "She sat on his impoverished penis." And from Elena's: "It was urgent and painless and soon it was over. [...] In less time than it takes to defrost a windshield."

D'you know, a week or so ago one of my friends was telling me about a sexual encounter she really regretted. "Did you enjoy yourself?" I asked. As though that would somehow have made it less regrettable. Afterwards, I wondered why we have come to value the technical enjoyment of sex so much. Is it the Cosmo mentality: the need to be 'good' at it? Is it the pizza mentality: the 'right' to orgasm?

A few weeks back at work I was editing Caz's PR column and decided to take the Sunsilk Hair Survey that she criticises so well. This ridiculous survey does not exist in the world of qualitative research, but rather in the Cosmo Quiz World of options A through D that never quite fit anyone. One of the questions was: "When was the last time you had great sex?" And one of the answers was: "I've never had great sex." Doesn't it feel like a personal failing to tick that box? What? No great sex? What's wrong with you?

Now it's time to put on some toenail polish, go out, and get pissed. Mel's Epic Birthday Week has begun!

Friday, August 12, 2005

A nervous feeling. I am currently listening to Mariah Carey's The Emancipation of Mimi. I had to overcome the considerable shame of owning a Mariah Carey album, but it is actually an orright album, or "disc" as Anthony Carew would write. Anyway, I am listening to "Say Somethin'" which is a Neptunes production featuring Snoop Dogg. And it is a pretty shit song. And I couldn't help thinking, "Man, the Neptunes just aren't trying anymore." It has a terrible drum line that sounds like the demo on your Casio keyboard, and an uncredited Pharrell can't keep his poorly tuned moaning off the track. I could just picture Mariah listening to the track for the first time, stamping her little diva foot and going, "What the fuck? Where's Mariah's Milkshake, biatches?"

About the time of the last Kelis album, I started thinking the Neptunes had jumped the shark. I shuffled them down my imaginary Hot Urban Producers list, after Lil Jon and Kanye West. But then they made a bit of a comeback with "Drop It Like It's Hot" and "Signs". But now I am feeling like this was just a small echo of their former glory.

At the moment, my Hot Producers List reads:

1. Jermaine Dupri (So So Def)
2. Rich Harrison (Richcraft)
3. Rodney Jerkins (Darkchild)
4. Lil Jon
5. The Neptunes
6. Timbaland
7. Kanye West

Compared to people like Tim and Shane, my knowledge of these things is primitive and partial. I just think to myself, "I notice this producer is making songs I consistently like at the moment."

If the Bible has taught us nothing else (and it hasn't). Well, I did get my tits out last night. I would also like to say that I don't think it was real absinthe, because I had four shots and should have been on the floor, but was merely meeeeedium drunk. Either that or I am a complete alcoholic. Penny and Tash also had their tits out so it was sort of a theme. I remember at one stage we were discussing this, and Ben Carbonaro wanted in on the mammary action, so he asked if I wanted to see his nipples. Of course I said yes.

But anyway. Yesterday I bought a great brooch. It says "Jesus" in gold cursive lettering studded with rhinestones. I wore it on my black dress, and Tash made a wonderful remark about my potential for some hot Christian loving that night. Disappointingly, there were no Christians at the launch. Perhaps they thought an opium den party was the devil's work. But anyway. I can't tell you how much I love my religious bling.

I was worried that I could be accused of empty hipster irony, but then I thought two things. First, Christians have always made analogies between the riches of the material world and their love of God. Indulgences. Jewelled chalices. Bishops' regalia. The gold leaf on Orthodox icons. Those glitzy illuminated Sacred Heart decorations you can buy from Catholic shops. Second, the delight I feel in this brooch is not ironic. It is well documented that I love bling. And given that I don't believe in God, you could call that devotion a quasi-religion.

I was so angry when I left the party that I marched straight to Double Happiness to see what the fuss was all about. Given that it was about 2am, there wasn't much fuss to be had. I sat by myself thinking alternately angry and depressive thoughts and sucking on a Tsingtao, until a French chick with purple dreadlocks tried to involve me in conversation. I thought it would be impolite to say, "Wow, you look like Jabba the Hutt's dancing girl who refused to put out ("Na, natoota!") and was fed to the Rancor."

In other news, my hand cream smells like Jeremy's perfume. I know men don't like their perfume to be called perfume, like it's emasculating or something, but that's what it is, so let's not pull punches. Anyway, it is freaking me out that my hands smell like Jeremy.

Wednesday, August 10, 2005

Bwah-ha-ha-ha! Now it has long been my theory that Sienna Miller is a charisma-free zone. She is so bland and unremarkable that nobody actually knows what she looks like, and she owes her existence to her ridiculous 'boho chic' and the fact she is/was hanging off Jude Law's arm. So you can imagine the hearty "bwah-ha-ha-ha" that erupted from my bitter soul when I was reading Page Six and came across the following:

(Click to enlarge) It's not Sienna Miller at all, foo'! It's Keira Knightley, an equally irritating British actress! Oh, the fun times we had at the Crider bitching about how she always holds her mouth in this annoying little pout! And she is wearing some seriously ghostly foundation.

It's times like this that I think Bret Easton Ellis was onto something.

Tuesday, August 09, 2005


Den of iniquity. Is Not Magazine is having another launch. It's on a Thursday. This Thursday! Yay! It is an opium den theme. There will be free absinthe for earlycomers, bellydancing, hookah pipes, Bollywood film projections, and DJs pumping out hardcore psychedelic funk.

I am still debating whether or not to wear a low-cut dress. I said to Tash, "But it's not particularly professional."
Tash just went, "Pffft. Since when have we ever been professional?"
She had me there.

But I can't help thinking that the sight of me in a low-cut dress would repulse onlookers. What a cruel paradox that fat chicks have much nicer tits than thin chicks, but nobody ever looks at a fat chick and says "Nice tits" - they look at a fat chick and go, "Thar she blows, cap'n!" Only thin chicks may show their tits.

I just went on a disturbing, disturbing quest for a picture that would demonstrate this theorem. I won't share the details, but look into my eyes and you will see a world of pain.

Anyway, come to the Is Not launch on Thursday.

Sunday, August 07, 2005

Urban myths update: It's a g-g-g-ghost! Last night at dinner I was asking people if they had any more Melbourne urban myths, because I was quite disappointed with the response to my last post. People mentioned a couple of spooooooky ghost stories! Wooooooo! (That last was supposed to be a spooky ghost noise, but it loses something in transcription, I think you'll agree.)

The Ghost in the Rivoli: According to Audrey, there is a ghost in the toilets at the Rivoli cinema in Camberwell. The Rivoli is an Art Deco-style cinema that was first opened in 1940, although another cinema also called the Rivoli had operated on nearby Burke Rd since the 1920s. When I was a kid, the Rivoli was a shabby, old-fashioned cinema with only two screens. It was refurbished in 2000 and is now very schmick and has eight screens. Anyway, Audrey claims that years ago, someone died in the toilets at the Rivoli, and the ghost can now be heard laughing or crying (she wasn't sure which). Audrey claims her mother-in-law heard the ghost once.

Then someone else said, "So are the toilets still in the same place since the renovations?" I would have thought they would be - what a pain to have to relocate all the plumbing. But I can personally verify something very spooky about the Rivoli toilets. When we went there a few years back to see one of the Lord of the Rings movies (The Two Towers, perhaps), I sat on the toilet seat and it was spongy! It felt so wrong! It looked like an ordinary toilet seat but it was some kind of vinyl-covered foam rubber. What the fuck is with that?

The Rob Roy Ghost: Then Charmaine mentioned that she'd heard there is a ghost at the Rob Roy Hotel in Fitzroy. Before it was a pub, it was apparently a rooming house, and an artist using an upstairs room as a studio felt the presense of a ghost. That was the end of Charmaine's story, so I was very disappointed. I have not been able to corroborate this story using Google, which doubled my disappointment.

Friday, August 05, 2005

Urban myths of Melbourne. The other day at work, we were talking about a new Brisbane street press called Vulture. Apparently there's a great article in there about Brisbane-specific urban myths. One myth was that there is a hill in a Brisbane cemetery that actually allows cars to roll up. But my favourite one is about the Sky Needle from World Expo 88, which was purchased by local society hairdresser Stefan and installed at his headquarters. The legend went that when the beacon on top of the tower flashed in a certain way, you knew you could come and buy drugs off Stefan.

When I went googling for this book, I found this interesting messageboard of local myths. (Many of them are just claims that well-known myths happened in their local area.)

Anyway, we had a think in the office but were stumped for specific local Melbourne myths. Here are the only two I can think of.

The Market Mafiosi: The word was at my primary school that Box Hill fresh food market was just a front for the mafia. We used to shop there every week, and I used to imagine the coded messages the mafiosi would send to each other. Woe betide them when they found a fish wrapped in newspaper in their stall.

As an adult, this sounds quite likely to me, despite a slight racist tinge. ("Only wogs have market stalls, and the Mafia is a wog thing.") I mean, those Mafia cliches about restaurants being mob hangouts have got to be cliches because mobsters really do hang out there.

Find 100, Get $10: I was on the tram a couple of months ago, and I overheard a boy aged about ten talking to his dad. According to this kid, if you collect 100 Metcards and hand them in at your local train station, they'll give you $10. The dad was sceptical, but the kid said that they do it to discourage littering, but they don't publicise it because people would take advantage of it. "I've seen these old guys going around picking up Metcards off the ground!" alleged the boy. "They do it for money."

For about one second I was really excited and believed this to be true (I was this close to calling the manslave to check with him!), but then I realised that Metlink are such cunts that there is no way they would ever institute such a program, even if it were for 1000 tickets. What would the station staff do with the tickets anyway? Chuck 'em out! And doesn't it sound counter-intuitive to have an anti-littering campaign that you don't tell anyone about? I think this myth resonates because its philosophy is similar to Cash-a-Can: shitloads of hard work for very little financial reward, and only kids and old people do it. It's like something Pugwall would do.

Oh, this reminds me of another urban myth:

South Australian Bottle Rebates: Hasn't everyone looked on their bottle (Mel surreptitiously consults empty bottle of Vodka Cruiser sitting next to computer - the manslave gave it to me, I swear!), found that it attracts a 5c rebate in South Australia, and toyed with the idea of transporting a shitload of bottles over the border and cashing in? Has anyone ever actually attempted this? Surely the cost of the petrol would outweigh the pitiful profits of such an enterprise?

I would love to hear of other people's local Melbourne urban myths. And no, I don't want to hear localised versions of existing overseas myths, like the story about the staring Goth girl on the Frankston line train.

Tuesday, August 02, 2005

The legend of the Irish Posties. Tash was telling me how she sent Gavin a package in Ireland. It was addressed to his parents' house, so Tash was graffiti-ing all over it in order to cause Gavin the maximum embarrassment. She had wanted to address it to Ireland, "the land of rain", but hesitated. She did not want to rouse the ire of ... The Irish Posties!

Now, you may know that Tash and I are fond of culturally insensitive jokes about the Irish. So we had a bit of a laugh about militant Irish postal workers wielding spud guns. But the Irish Posties had really caught my imagination, and I went on an extended flight of fancy...

The Irish posties' confederation is known as An Post. Don't be deceived by their innocuous website - the Irish Posties are a fierce, proud and secretive band with headquarters in every county of Ireland, to be sure.

Nobody knows how their fearsome ranks are swelled. Some say the Posties select their brides and spirit them away via Swiftpost National. Others say they snatch up a copper-haired youngest daughter's first-born son to be raised in their tricksy ways, leaving a changeling in his place. 'Twas also believed they had a graduate programme, but they claim 'tis postponed until further notice.

Now the Irish Postie himself is a terrifying creature. Seven feet tall he is, with eyes like flaming 1970s London pubs. You will know when he is near, for dogs will quake in fear, making pitiful whimperings. There's nary a hound will dare bite the leg of an Irish Postie; and any that tries will discover that the Postie bites back. With my own eyes I've seen one dog that made the gory error. It had only two legs, and got around on a wee skateboard. A terrible business it was, and no mistake. The local paper said 'twas a car accident, but everyone knew that the wee dog served as a warning. A warning not to quibble with the Irish Posties.

The good folk of Ireland quail in their beds when they hear the banshee wail of the Irish Postie. (My impression of banshees has been shaped definitively by the terrifying banshee scene in the 1959 movie Darby O'Gill & the Little People, featuring singing Celt Sean Connery.) "Maiiiiiiiil!", he'll shriek. "Maiiiiiiiiil!" The Irish know their time is nigh .... to go to the letterbox. But go there they dare not until the Postie's wails have receded.

But the Posties' power respects no threshold. Strapping young lads have been transformed overnight into gibbering white-haired fools after finding an envelope on their pillow containing a single potato: a sign that they have offended a Postie. Many's the maiden who's sobbed herself raw and wasted away to nothing after waking to find a postage stamp affixed to her bosom. For the Posties have deemed her a Tidy Package, and a Bride of the Posties she's doomed to become.

Much of the world is in the Posties' merciless emerald grip. They have infiltrated most countries through a network of shonky theme bars - something to bear in mind the next time you order a pint of Guinness at Blarney O'Shamrock's.

No, there'll be no libelling their stronghold as the "land of rain", true as it may be. For the Irish Posties have no compunction in restoring their honour by the most brutal and pitiless of means. Had Tash foolishly defaced the package, awake she'd surely have lain, night after night, listening for that dread shriek: "Maiiiiiiiiil!"

Monday, August 01, 2005

No anchovies or olives, thanks. At my parents' leafy abode recently, I was flicking through a copy of the Melbourne Weekly, and couldn't help reading an article about this neo-natal psychiatrist who has written a book on sex after childbirth. I was particularly taken by one thing he said:
"In Sex and Intimacy After Childbirth, Snellen takes a swipe at those who view sex as a "need" like food, water and sleep. "If you consider sex to be a privilege and you put in the effort to deserve it, it's much more likely it will come your way. If you lie on the couch waiting for it to be delivered like a take-away dinner, you won't always get the pizza you ordered. And if you do, it may be thin on anchovies and olives."
Perhaps this just appealed to me because I ate pizza for both Saturday and Sunday dinner. Also, in an aside that completely muddies these analogical waters, anchovies and olives are the two things I hate most on pizza. But I am just glad to hear someone else voice my opinion that sex is a privilege.

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