Friday, March 31, 2006

Ideas for "wild" conversations with boys. This was officially the most awesome search term I had today. Although some of the others were pretty awesome too. They included "kidnapped basement gimps", "leonardo da vinci inventions spanner" and "how do bears look after its young". I wonder if Leonardo really did invent the spanner.

But it was the 'wild' conversations with boys that intrigued me. I really hope this person is not looking for ways to titillate strangers on MSN with tales of their sexual antics. (If you want some tips for how to go about that - or rather, how not to go about it, go here and read the comments.)

So, perhaps there is some other kind of 'wildness' to be had in conversations with boys. I would like to workshop what that might be, because people often find my conversational gambits confronting when I am not even trying to be wild. Please leave your suggestions for 'wild' conversations in the comments, where I will rate them out of 10 on the patented* Wild Young Under-Whimsy Wild-O-Meter.

I really do like talking to boys about boobies, because everyone loves 'em, and I could discuss them for hours. Last year I talked to lots of people about how they would feel up a woman, which is a very important social science research project I think you'll agree. Maybe that's wild.

Or perhaps you could discuss with boys what might happen in an apocalyptic situation in which everyone ran wild. Or who would win out of a shark and a crocodile.

Or perhaps you could tell boys that you were totally Beyonce for them. I made up this expression in an email I just sent to Chris. Obviously it refers to "Crazy in Love". I hope it will be the next sweeping trend in vernacular discourse and I expect to hear you all using it from now on. I know I will. But anyway, I am not a big believer in confessing crushes to the object of the crush. It's not cathartic. It just brings on the inevitable "I really like and respect you ... as a friend". This is a really lame and embarrassing thing to have to say, too, because everyone knows it's all bullshit. So I'm all for not having to run through the routine at all.

Natalya is an advocate of the Ron Burgundy? school of thought. She thinks it's hilarious to add unexpected upward inflections at the ends of your sentences? I am not sure where I was going with this so I will just go and have a beer now?

* Patent pending.

Thursday, March 30, 2006

This will be a rather delightful party. Because I will be there, of course. Also because there will be some music. And free Krispy Kreme doughnuts. Click the flyer to enlarge. Click some more to party!

Monday, March 27, 2006

My imposs-sable dream. (I'm sorry. I can't resist a pun.) I know this means I am a Bad Person, akin to Cruella de Vil and Montgomery "I Really Like the Vest" Burns, but I have always found it a little odd to think of sables, minks, chinchillas and ermines as animals. Did you know that an ermine is just a stoat in its white winter coat? And did you know that chinchillas are possibly the cutest pet since the mogwai? Oh I want one hella bad. They are like an extremely fluffy mouse, only the size of a guinea pig.

Then there are sables.

The sable is a small, dark-coloured European quadruped of the same family as the weasel and the mink. Its soft, dark fur is pointy on the ends and wide at the base, which makes it ideal for making paintbrushes for watercolours and detailed work with liquid paint. The tail fur of the male Kolinsky sable makes the best brushes, because they are wild sables, and their fur is stiffer and stronger than that of farmed sables.

So today Natalya was complaining about how expensive these brushes are, and we were joking about how we could save some money by raising sables especially for the local art market. We'd only need a few. Winter in Melbourne isn't as cold as Russia, I know, but we could toughen 'em up by keeping them in the backyard, in a special sable run with chicken wire over the top to stop Meep from attacking them. I don't know how we would come by chipmunks and squirrels with which to feed them, but they also eat fish, mice, berries and pine nuts. I am sure we would track down some sort of pet food they'd eat.

The main issue for us was, does the sable have to die to donate its tail fur? Is that what makes the brushes so expensive - because you can only make one brush from each sable? Can you imagine me, who gets squeamish about injured mice, having to slaughter and skin sables?

Being the person that I am, I decided I would look into this. And it seems that the sables are killed. But it totally doesn't have to be this way.

Seems to me that they only kill Kolinsky sables because they're wild animals and that's the most efficient way. And the skin isn't used for the brush - they snip off the fur close to the skin. So if we were raising just a few, especially for paintbrushes, couldn't we just snip bits off - give the sable a bit of a haircut, as it were - and then the one sable can keep on growing fur and we can keep snipping it off? We could even make little tail-socks for the sables to wear in cold weather while their tail fur grew back. And we could market the brushes as special "Friendly Sable" brushes to appeal to the animal-loving crowd. Our logo could look like this.

It is a pity that this is a total pipe dream.

Thursday, March 23, 2006

SAAS Bulletin #2. You may recall that a while ago, I established the Subeditorial Antics Appreciation Society. Well, I have what I describe on job application letters as "an eye for detail", which is why I noticed last night that something was up with the TV guide in the Melbourne Weekly. I don't get this real estate catalogue, as it only goes to swish south-eastern suburbs, but I was over at my parents' house. Anyway. For example, if you want to watch Channel 9 today, you can catch:

Other Commonwealth Games events listed in this TV guide are:

Dungeons and Dragons
Women's hop scotch
Men's Kerplunk final
Open kiss chasey
Red Rover

On Sunday there is a program on at 6:30 called "United By the Moment", which the TV guide describes as: "Highlights from the 2006 Commonwealth Games, which, in case you didn't know, were in Melbourne." And the closing ceremony later that night is described as: "Patronisingly hosted by Ray Martin, from the MCG. An exhibition of pride, unity, goodwill and extreme government spending to bring the 2006 Commonwealth Games to a close."

But it's not just the Commonwealth Games - the anonymous TV guide sub likes to comment on other programs, too!

The Biggest Loser: (Wed) "C'mon, Fiona isn't fat!" (Thurs) "No, really, Fiona is quite cute." (Fri) "Fiona's actually thinner than most Australian Idol contestants."

Medium: (Thurs) "Allison finds out a prisoner is not guilty of the crime for which he was punished. Meanwhile, her husband asks her to dream up next week's Tattslotto numbers?"

Home And Away (Fri): "Amanda and Josh face off in a violent showdown. Summer Bay unites in a final desperate bid to prevent Project 56 - bloody NIMBYs." (Tues): "In a desperate bid to escape arrest, Amanda tries to flee Summer Bay - as you would if you're trying to escape arrest in Summer Bay."

Movie: 2 Fast 2 Furious: (Fri) "A disgraced cop singlehandedly tries to bring down an illegal drag-racing ring operated in Miami by a totally anonymous cast."

Movie: Pocahontas (Sat): "The daughter of an Indian chief falls in love with an English soldier. Voices of Irene Bedard, Judy Kuhn, Mel Gibson, and the bloke who played Charles Emerson-Winchester III in M*A*S*H."

Movie: True Lies: (Sat) "Someone at Blockbuster needs to tell 10 they have already borrowed this flick 58 times!"

Parkinson (Sat): "Dawn French chats about her new film role and reveals her unorthodox method of scaring boys away from her teenage daughter. Hopefully, it doesn't involve nudity!"

Dancing With The Stars (Tues): "Seven finds another excuse to let Jennifer Hawkins strut about wearing next to nothing - Hmm, must set the video."

So today I called up Fairfax Community Network (formerly Text Media), with the aim of discovering the identity of the TV guide sub. When I asked to be put through to Melbourne Weekly's editorial department, preferably to production editor Tom Museth ("I have a quick question about the TV guide"), I was put on hold for ages only to be told that "everyone in Editorial is unavailable". Oh, how convenient. When I asked the receptionist for more information, she said the comedy sub-editing "has been going on for about a month". When I asked who was responsible for it, she said she'd "find out", and took down my number, which presumably she has filed in the large open-mouthed filing cabinet.

Monday, March 20, 2006

Fun office games that are far less saucy than they sound #1: Teabagging. This is a fun variation on the timeless child's "ball and cup" game that you can play while waiting for the kettle to boil in your cheerless office kitchen. Simply secure your teabag to the mug handle, then jiggle it in the air and see if you can catch it in the mug. Lacking a scanner, I have created a diagram using the wonders of Photoshop.

Oh I wish I did own a Supre mug. Unfortunately, my tea is in a naff mug featuring a monstrous Santa Claus of King Kong proportions towering over a tiny helpless Christmas tree.

Sunday, March 19, 2006

I wish I had a camera phone. Because then I could capture the incidents that thrill and amuse me, so you would know what it is like living in my world. Perhaps I could also make money from these incidents, too, so that I wouldn't need to decide whether to use the $431 I have until March 29 to pay the insurance company ($200), Tash's mum ($100), my rent ($430), or my mobile bill ($50) and other household bills. Oh yeah, then there's eating and drinking. Buying tram tickets and going to academic conferences in Sydney, obviously, is out of the question. So forget all that crap I wrote about Max Martin.

But anyway. Things always look better after a cup of tea, right? So I went upstairs just now to make one, and right in the centre of the top step, contrasting beautifully with the red carpet, sat a little grey mouse.

Of course I uttered a very feminine squeak when I saw the mouse. Regular readers of this blog may recall the Mouse Incidents of 2005. But unlike the athletic mouse of April 2005, this mouse was lethargic. I checked, and it was breathing, but its eyes were half-closed and its body looked weird and lumpy instead of smooth and fluffy. It also had a hole in one of its ears. I wish I had a camera phone so I could photograph it.

I wonder if it's still there. (After checking) Yes. It is. Its breathing is quite shallow and laboured. It is obviously not in a good way. I am not sure what to do.

I wonder what the others will do when they see it. I predict that Tash will squeal, Nicole will raise her eyebrows, Penny will say repeatedly, "Oh my god, oh my god," and Jeremy will say, "Jesus!" I predict that Stuart will be unperturbed, and will probably be the one to do something about the mouse, with the gentle precision he brings to everything he does.


Lucy uttered a gratifying shuddery gasp, but told me that it was only because she had mistaken the mouse for a spider. Tash came in the other entrance so she did not see the mouse. Nicole was absent. Penny had eaten a bad sausage at lunchtime and was not in the mood to care about mice. Jeremy said, "Oh my god!" with a mouthful of Simpsons hot-dog-shaped Twisties. He also suggested we put the mouse "somewhere cool", which led to amusing retorts about taking it to Shake Some Action. Stuart looked at the mouse for a long time at close range, and said things like, "Poor little thing. He doesn't look very well." But it was Sam who acted, making a kind of mouse scoop out of paper and then taking the mouse outside, where, presumably, it died in a grassy environment. Or was eaten by birds or cats.

Friday, March 17, 2006

The nature of protest. I'm finding the best thing about that stupid athletic meet disrupting our city at the moment is the protests and ill will surrounding it. I thought about asking people around to watch the opening ceremony on television, but: a) that would imply that I thought it was worth watching. You can't hide behind irony on this one - it was simply a lame thing to be watching on TV; b) I thought my head would explode from embarrassment. People who know me know how easily I am embarrassed, and merely watching the clips from the opening ceremony on the late news was enough to instil Rain Man-esque wailing and smacking of forehead. Definitelydefinitely didn't want to watch the opening ceremony.

Here I must state that I believe a lot of protesting isn't offensive as much as embarrassing. Effigy-burning, street mime and chants beginning in "Hey hey, ho ho" are particularly embarrassing to me. Dressing up as Batman and scaling Buckingham Palace has a sort of cool to it, but fittingly, that protest was the ultimate Embarrassing Dad Joke.

But I think the protests planned during the Commonwealth Games have been different. I like them because they contradict the weird sanitised version of Melbourne that is making everyday life very annoying and inconvenient for residents, and robbing visitors of the opportunity to experience the best of what this city has to offer. I like them because they hijacked the super-embarrassing baton relay and because they inconvenienced the Queen's ill-advisedly-named "walkabout" in the Carlton Gardens.

So I've been kind of irritated by the official attitude to protest and political comment surrounding this event. Their stance appears to be: Sure, we'll piggyback off your vibrant creative culture, as long as you don't do any of the things that make it vibrant and creative. I've heard of artists having to sign contracts to say they won't contradict "the spirit of the Games". I've heard of legislation being drafted to prevent protests of any kind - especially releasing animals into an official body of water. God help us if that were to happen.

Here's Councillor David Wilson from the City of Melbourne on a roving graffiti art exhibition that attempts to highlight and counteract the council's censorship of street art: "Everybody has the right to protest as long as they do it in a way that's not offensive."

This gave me the shits. Protest is meant to be offensive! It's only by being offensive that it calls attention to the arbitrary standards of propriety devised by the state!

Monday, March 13, 2006

Baby, A Hit One More Time: Max Martin's pop-rock resurgence. Do you think that's a good title for the upcoming IASPM conference? They already think I'm some sort of clown - my previous papers there have included "Saying the Unsayable: The Non-Verbal Vocalisations of Michael Jackson" and "Acting Like Rock Stars: The Hollywood Hobby Band".

But please indulge me as I sketch a brief account of the recent works of writer/producer Max Martin. Despite the industry's mythologies of authenticity, producers have always been the true kings of pop, from Phil Spector to Timbaland. These days producers tend to be celebrities in their own right. Last night I read an interview with Stuart "Jacques Lu Cont" Price in the Herald Sun, for godsakes! (As an aside, I do enjoy the minor stamp I have left on Crikey in the form of my nickname for that paper, "The Hez".) They can't help performing on the tracks they produce (hello Pharrell!) and I would really be interested to know who inaugurated that (mostly hip-hop) practice of 'branding' the tracks through an obvious shout-out to the producer (eg "Just Blaze!" "Darkchild").

But back to Max. You may remember the Swede (born Martin Sandberg in 1971) as the writer of arguably the greatest pop song ever (and I am prepared to argue it), "...Baby One More Time" (1999). He was part of the Backstreet Boys production team - he worked on "Quit Playing Games With My Heart" (aka "Quit Shoving Things Up My Arse"), "As Long As You Love Me", "I Want It That Way" and "Everybody (Backstreet's Back)".

So he came to epitomise the "Swedish sound" of the boy-band explosion in the late 1990s and turn of the, ahem, Millennium. (As an aside, I would love to compare the "Swedish sound" with the contemporaneous "Norwegian sound" (Stargate Music) and "British sound" - think Pete Waterman (Steps) and Steve Mac, who wrote Human Nature's most awesome song, "He Don't Love You".) Martin's other co-written and co-produced songs speak for themselves. Just a few examples: "Show Me Love" for Robyn, "It's Gonna Be Me" for N'Sync, "Slam Dunk Da Funk" for 5ive, and of course, "I'm Not A Girl (Not Yet a Woman)".

But musical vogues change. I wrote an article in March 2003 about the rise of Avril Lavigne and other 'anti-Britney' pop stars who consciously perform 'authenticity'. Here, 'authenticity' mainly involves using more acoustic production sounds, giving artists 'co-writing' credits and styling them to look grungy and insouciant. Perhaps unfairly, Martin soon found himself pigeonholed as a producer of saccharine pop. But over the last year or so, he's had an interesting renaissance as a pop-rock producer; albeit one who favours SMS-influenced song titles. He wrote Kelly Clarkson's hit "Since U Been Gone" and the two Veronicas singles, "4Ever" and "Everything I'm Not". I have become obsessed with the latter song and play it a lot when there's nobody else in the office. In fact, this entire post has been inspired by the fact that I love that song and I don't even like the Veronicas.

Here we face a number of analytic possibilities. There's "producer as marketer", in which we see songs as products targeted to market segments. There's "producer as auteur", in which we see songs as texts revealing personal sentiments and tastes in musical style. There's "producer as affective engine", in which we can assess producers by their ability to generate or influence affects in listeners. These are all relevant to a discussion of pop music.

It is quite common to perform a close textual analysis on a song or music video and read social or political meanings in it. But that makes me uncomfortable because of the problem I've always had with semiosis: everyone reads texts differently and any one reading is only a possible meaning, which makes me think semiosis is more a parlour game than a means of making sense of culture. So, while you could make a case for the auteur approach when you're dealing with, say, the Neptunes, whose output is technically and stylistically consistent, it still doesn't explain why the formula is commercially successful and so compelling and enjoyable for the listener. Also, I think it's kinda silly to ascribe any deep significance to songs with titles like "4Ever", which are clearly ephemeral texts driven by the marketing requirements of the record industry.

So I guess that any extended analysis of Max Martin would consider his proven mastery of the pop song's formal requirements as a function of his success as a marketer. But I would be most interested in the affective state that this marketing is intending to instil in audiences. There I run into a different problem - how to consider affect without considering audience reception. This has been my conceptual stumbling block for some time, because I dislike audience research in the same instinctive way I dislike close semiotic analysis. I see them as ends on a continuum. Audience research relies on the assumption that people report what they really think and feel, and the epistemological problem of the researcher analysing a secondhand account of affect. However, to base an analysis on one's own affective response to the music has the same shortcomings as a semiotic analysis.

Anyone who has witnessed my struggle with the phenomenon of hipsterism would know that I have invented a neologistic conceptual framework called "corporealinguistics" to try to thrash these problems out. Corporealinguistics considers interactions in physical space as texts in the same way that linguistics considers conversations. But it can only account for actual 'songs-as-texts' if the song is 'read' in a physical context - in one's bedroom or car, or in a club or concert environment. So I am not sure how I would proceed. Any ideas?

Wednesday, March 08, 2006

Whatever happened to Staminade? I used to love this evil energy drink (sort of like a green version of Tang) when I was a kid. It came in a jar and you mixed the powder with water. When it was dry it was like Wizz Fizz and I used to eat it with a spoon sometimes.

Then I read Nick Earls's novel World of Chickens, which is set in 1980s Brisbane. One of the characters is obsessed with Staminade, fills his pockets with the powder, and uses it (to disastrous effect) in a cocktail he dubs the Brizgarita. On Nick Earls's shonky-looking yet apparently official website (I would really do something about the design if I were him), you can get the recipe for this drink.

So I was on the tram today thinking, "Riddle me this: where can I buy some Staminade?" Because I've looked for it in the supermarket powdered drinks aisle and I can't seem to find it. Don't tell me it's now some freakish athletic supplement and I'll have to go into one of those scary and euphemistic 'vitamin' stores to buy it. And don't recommend the pre-mixed Gatorade-style version - I am a Staminade purist and it is the powder or nothing.

Tuesday, March 07, 2006

Terror stalks the Oscars stage. You know, it really sucks coming up with impromptu drinking games, because you can never remember half the rules for drinking and the designated moments never seem to come quickly enough to satisfy your alcoholic cravings. So we tried to come up with an Oscars drinking game. We were supposed to drink when:

- A winner said they were honoured just to be nominated/be in the company of such talented people
- Someone thanked God
- Someone's speech got cut off by the music
- Camera cut to the butt of a lame joke and they looked uncomfortable
- A presenter made a hash of their autocued speech
- Jake Gyllenhaal was on camera

But really, the only rule we stuck to was drinking when Mel said "Yowza!" And I said "Yowza!" a lot.

Yowza! I found Dolly Parton deeply disturbing!!! She looked like a fucking stick! This picture spares you the worst of it because you can't see her little stick legs and her hollowed-out-looking pelvis! Why didn't she just wear a frickin dress? She looked like an anorexic! This searing image troubled me throughout the awards and I wouldn't stop mentioning it in the commercial breaks. Dolly, wha' happened?

Yowza! Tom Hanks's hair! I first noticed this disturbing look when he was inexplicably involved in the Grammy Awards. He looked so greasy and weird, and for a while I couldn't work out what was wrong, until I realised that Hanksy actually has curly hair. I've since heard that this abomination has to do with the equally abominable Da Vinci Code movie. Tom, Tom, I had a crush on you during the Big era - you could have had my top bunk any time! Wha' happened?

And speaking of bad man-hair, Yowza! Is this a Scientology thing? Why does he have that fuzzy-felt hair that you get on Ken dolls and Sylvanian Families woodland creatures?

Yowza! This is Colleen Atwood winning for her costume designs for Memoirs of a Geisha. Never was such a lame Orientalist movie so showered with little golden men. As I remarked to the others while watching, she looked like she was inspired by that five seconds during which Madonna decided to dress like a geisha. Plus she looked like a man, man! What was with all the women who looked like men? Was it the Transamerica thing?

Also, I'm really annoyed that I can't find an image depicting the most insane thing about the show: the weird slo-mo street fighting taking place during the performance of some shithouse song from Traffic. It was the most retarded performance since last year's train wreck featuring Antonio Banderas and some hay bales. I was hoping Cintra Wilson would deliver some well-placed snark about it, but all she could do was plead for the mental health of Jon Stewart after his material bombed so spectacularly. Maybe the snark is in the podcast. But anyway, that musical routine got a big fat Yowza! from me.

Monday, March 06, 2006

Helmets for Hipsters: a valuable community service project. Yeah, so things have been a little quiet here lately. Sadly, this does not signify that I have got me a life. No, no. (Sardonic laugh.) It's rather the opposite: I have recently experienced an explosion in blogging at various other locations. In particular, I am now ready to unveil a deliriously grand scheme that will make you all glad that finally I am using my powers for good.

You see, the best cycling years of my life were marred by the onset of compulsory helmet laws, and as a result I am pretty damn sick of seeing hip young cyclists rolling helmetlessly through the hood without a care in the world. I want to shout, “Forgotten something? Something compulsory? Huh? Huh?” The only reason I don't is that I am afraid they'll crash into something. The last thing I need is another hipster slaying on my conscience; not after that time in the alley behind Ding Dong...

Being a proactive person, particularly one given to following through on throwaway lines, I realised that I could not stand idly by and watch the inevitable collision between cold, hard concrete and the carefree irony of the next creative generation. Hipsters provide me with many hours of cathartic rage and academic curiosity. Much as it would make their eyeballs roll about like be-kohled marbles to acknowledge it, I am their guardian angel. And it is my mission to keep them safe to pout another day, if only to stabilise rents in the inner suburbs.

Thus, I have started yet another blog in the name of community service. It's called Helmets for Hipsters. Please check it out now. Tell your friends. And god help me, I have even got myself a MySpace. Do you know what that cost me? I am deeply suspicious of that site, and now I am on there as Nerdy No-Friends for all the world to mock (admittedly, with a picture taken while I was very drunk). So if you have a MySpace please befriend me. Do it for the kids with no helmets. Cos when your head goes smack, it's wiggity-wiggity-wack.

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