Monday, October 25, 2010

Quietness of the mind. You often hear about how struggling first-time authors managed to fit in writing their books around their jobs, or raising kids, or both. They get up super-early to do some writing in the morning, before anyone else is awake. They write late into the night, after everyone is asleep.

You also hear about writers' retreats. Hannah Kent recently wrote a two-part essay for the Killings blog about her experience with these. I've been on two – last year's organised by Leanne, and this year's, which I organised. I enjoyed them very much and found them very productive. They are as close as I've come to a holiday in years.

What these things are really about is finding a time and/or place to cultivate quietness of the mind.

Perhaps some people are brilliant enough to write lucidly and intelligently during their ordinary working days, even as they juggle various other work projects, domestic responsibilities, social interactions and administrative tasks. I am not one of those people. When I feel overwhelmed I yearn for absolute stillness and quietness.

I know that it's unrealistic to stage a retreat from the everyday; I have to find pockets of quietness in ordinary life. But it's just so hard. I feel so incredibly wearied and weighed down by all my day-t0-day work – not to mention all the admin it necessitates – that I never seem to achieve the necessary mental quietness to consider an essay question.

It's so frustrating, because I have all these essay ideas and am always too busy or full of mental cacophony to follow through on them, yet essay-writing is what I really love to do. I feel so annoyed at the terrible, dashed-off crap that's all I'm able to bang out with the mental resources at my disposal. (Apologies to any readers who may have commissioned/enjoyed said crap.) I know I'm capable of so much better. I feel like a high-performance car stuck in traffic.

I feel that it's up to me to find the quiet in my mind, and I feel angry at myself for not being able to do it. I know other people manage far heavier workloads than mine. And it shouldn't be this hard, because I have pretty much pared my life down to work. I don't have any children or love life. I find socialising increasingly exhausting. I do domestic chores such as cleaning, shopping, cooking and bill-paying as infrequently as I can get away with. Work always seems more important.

The only times I feel any real peace are when I take a book (or the A2) to a café. It's just me, some food, some coffee and my reading. I seem to recall that was the fantasy of Julianne Moore's character in The Hours – she who booked a hotel room to sit and read her book. I can see the book from here but it's pretty far down the stack and I can't be bothered trying to get it out, Jenga-style.

Sunday, October 24, 2010

Wholesome, strollsome Sunday. Last weekend, when I probably should have been doing work, I created an iPod playlist of songs at walking pace. Or, more precisely, I enlarged and organised this playlist. Today, I had my first go of using it.

I pretty much always have my iPod on shuffle. Whenever I'm walking somewhere, listening to my iPod, and I notice that the current song suits my walking pace, I'll add it to my 'On-The-Go' playlist, then every time I plug the iPod into my computer I transfer these songs to my 'Walking Pace' playlist.

I downloaded a BPM counter so I could organise the songs into an arc of gradually increasing, then decreasing BPM. The slowest song is my 'cool-down' song, 'The Things We Do For Love', at 106 BPM. My sweet spot is between 110 and 115 BPM, which gets me into a jaunty, Leonardo DiCaprio-esque strut. The fastest song used to be 'How Will I Know' by Whitney Houston, but today when I tried walking to it, at 118 BPM I found it a bit too much like a workout for my liking.

The playlist is a work in progress; at the moment it goes for 1.4 hours and consists of:

Black Sweat – Prince
Life In The Fast Lane – The Eagles
Hungry Eyes – Eric Carmen
Kim & Jessie – M83
Lovefool – The Cardigans
There Must Be An Angel (Playing With My Heart) – Eurythmics
Never Gonna Give You Up – Rick Astley
Say It Isn't So – Hall & Oates
Rock With You – Michael Jackson
Promised You A Miracle – Simple Minds
Hella Good – No Doubt
Black Or White – Michael Jackson
Fences – Phoenix
What Have You Done For Me Lately – Janet Jackson
Caribbean Queen – Billy Ocean
Under Pressure – David Bowie and Queen
House Of Cards – Radiohead
Flashback – Kelis
Who's Johnny – El DeBarge
Damn Girl – Justin Timberlake
The Things We Do For Love – 10CC

Clearly the '80s were a prime decade for my walking pace.

Given it's a lovely day today, and that yesterday I hacked a pair of pancake-soled Rubi Shoes by gluing the soles from a pair of rubber thongs to them, I decided to test out my newly comfortable shoes on an epic walk.

Walking without any particular destination in mind is not a regular habit for me. I was actually quite bewildered about where I would walk to. I had already gone to North yesterday, and thanks to the fug of shame in which I live my life, I try not to frequent the same venue more than once a week in order to mitigate my paranoia that the staff think I'm a loser.

Anyway, I'd heard there were some new cafés up towards the end of the 96 tram line, and even though I am a creature of habit and the prospect of going somewhere new made me deeply uneasy, I decided to walk to one of them.

I started the playlist at 'There Must Be An Angel', and it took me until 'Hella Good' to reach Pope Joan. The food and coffee was quite good – I had "The Cornish", a delicious chicken sandwich, and then I also had a slice of hummingbird cake, which came with an intriguing pink cream that turned out to have strawberries in it. While eating I read my book, The Half-Child, which was my share of our second-prize haul at the Kill Your Darlings literary trivia night.

Then I walked back down Nicholson Street to the (now deleted) strains of 'How Will I Know', and by the time 'Black Or White' was beginning, I'd decided to pop into Second Hand Lane Way, a vintage shop much frequented by Gemma and Renée when they lived in Canning Street. I spent $5 on a pair of pearl and diamante clip-on earrings, to which I plan to attach a chain and turn them into sweater clips, seeing as I own 16 cardigans and like to wear them unbuttoned.

Then I walked home. It took me until 'House Of Cards'. Then I sat in the back yard and finished off my book. It was a pleasant day, and I can virtuously claim to have got some exercise, too.

Wednesday, October 20, 2010

Remembering The Man From Snowy River. When I was a kid we taped this movie off the TV and I would have watched it dozens of times.

It seems like such a freakish production for the Australian film industry because it was so unashamedly epic and mainstream. I can't believe they enticed Kirk Douglas to be in it.

When we watched it as kids, there were certain moments we always loved and anticipated every time:

This never occurred to me at the time, but there is a fairly obvious and obnoxious parallel between Jessica and the colt. Both are 'spirited', and there are men who want to crush the spirit of both, but Jim understands and is attracted to the value of 'spiritedness' in both woman and horse.

At the end of the film, Jim brings the entire mob of brumbies to Harrison (Douglas), telling him he'll be back to claim some brood mares, "and whatever else is mine [meaningful gaze at Jessica]."

How about get fucked? Instead, we got The Man From Snowy River II.

Don't even get me started on The Silver Brumby, another high-country brumby movie that our family loved, and possibly still the crowning glory of Russell Crowe's career. Hilariously, some genius on the internet has made audio grabs of the lines that we used to love quoting to each other, so you can now join in this proud tradition:

"I've got your daughter now, silver devil!"

"Monday is washing day, is every doggie happy"

"She came back to me, silver horse! Hahahahahahaha!"

Sunday, October 17, 2010

One Hundred And One Persians. I read this story in the paper this morning about how the Cat Protection Society of Victoria is trying to oust one of its directors, Jasmine Alexandra, because she had the temerity to think that the fact the society euthanased 90 per cent of the cats left in its care in 2009 was, maybe, an alarming statistic.

Less than 9 per cent of the cats received were adopted; the rest were reclaimed by their owners.

In the same year, the RSPCA adopted out 30 per cent of the cats and kittens it received, and euthanased 56 per cent of them.

The previous year, 2008, the Cat Protection Society's Greensborough shelter also managed to adopt out more than 30 per cent of the cats it received, and had only killed 63 per cent.

So, as a concerned cat lady who is also fond of satire (SATIRE!), I don't think The Age is looking for answers in the right place. Is there, perhaps, a larger-than-life fashion designer whose use of fur is controversial?

You know those Adriatic Furniture ads with Lillian Frank? I am kind of picturing a similar, cartoonish scenario in which our Cruella de Vil picks up handfuls of fluffy kittens… "You'll stay with me… you're the pick of the litter!"

Raisin toast. What, you thought my only stupid songs were directed at my cat? Well check this little rhyme that I like to call 'Raisin Toast', in honour of some toast that I just made.

Raisin toast
It's what I want most
Raisin toast
It's the toast I like most
I've got a cravin'
For plump, juicy raisins

That's pretty much as far as I got. Mainly it was gleefully buttering my toast while muttering to myself, "Raisin toast, it's what I want most…"

Well, I don't call them 'intelligent' songs.

However, while I'm here, I am rather proud of a Stupid Cat Song I came up with a week or so ago. Usually I just sing them a couple of times and then forget all about them, but this one I've even sung in the shower. There are a couple of verses missing – this is all I made up.

Fluffy Fat Cat (in the style of Jimmy Barnes)

Miaowing hard to make his owner
Leave her shelter from the rain
A hungry one left to carry on
Brown Whiskas in his veins
Whoa, he's a fluffy fat cat

Well he loves a little sofa
On which he sheds his fur
And when his owner sits on it
Sometimes he sits on her
Whoa, he's a fluffy fat cat


Sunday, October 10, 2010

Ode to North Melbourne.

North Melbourne!
Worst suburb in Melbourne
Fuck I hate you!
The only good thing you have ever offered me
is Graham
Who, of course, I rescued from you
I used to live in you
and it was inconvenient and awful
It was the unhappiest time of my life
I didn't even live in the bit of you with the supermarket
I had to trudge up and down a fucking hill to get groceries

North Melbourne!
When I wanted to meet my friends
in Brunswick: I had to trudge through Royal Park
in Carlton: I had to trudge through Royal Park and then through Melbourne University
in Fitzroy or Collingwood or Northcote:
Well, I had to get a tram into the city and then another tram
Basically, North Melbourne, you are not on the way to anywhere I want to go
except the city
You are an absolute fag-end of a suburb

Just as I moved out and thought I could pretend you never existed
Seeing as I didn't have to go anywhere near you in my day-to-day life
We got an office in an Arts Precinct and I had to work in you
and it was inconvenient and awful
The quickest way to get to work
was to walk for 35 minutes
and there were no decent lunch venues
within easy walking distance
I had to trudge up a fucking hill to get lunch
which was shit anyway
Seeing as half the food venues are closed at any given time of day or night

North Melbourne!
The tram that runs through you is the second worst tram in Melbourne
The 57
(The worst tram being the 78)
Your 'main street' exists away from through traffic
in a Bermuda Triangle
It is like a main street bizarrely cut-and-pasted in from a country town
The shops don't sell anything I would possibly want to buy

North Melbourne!
It is impossible to find a taxi in you at 1am
At these times I don't have words for how much I fucking loathe you
Taxi drivers are sensible men
who would never voluntarily visit you
although sometimes they drive down Curzon Street
fast enough for me to see their lights but not be able to run and catch them
When I finally manage to find a taxi
And it drives across that blessed Swanston Street frontier
Sheer relief floods me

View I Hate Walking in a larger map

Once I tried to catch a taxi home from your equally awful neighbour
West Melbourne
In broad daylight
There were no taxis, of course
Which is the way in these parts
I decided to start walking until a taxi came past
I walked and walked and there were no taxis
Despite the fact I know the taxi depot is right around the corner
I walked 1.6km before I gave up and caught the tram

North Melbourne!
If you were bombed from the face of this town
It would make no difference
It would possibly even improve the place
I cannot describe how much I despise the fact
that people insist on having gigs and parties and shows in you
which I attend under sufferance
Purely for professional reasons
And if I ever manage to find a taxi home
I will write it off on my tax.

Friday, October 08, 2010

The milkman has delivered again. Hilariously, upon seeing Laura's Melbourne Milk cover mockups, Tim realised that in an idle hour, he'd had a go as well!

The mastheads are all the same (oddly, I had considered Cooper Black at one stage – its rounded serifs are comfortingly milky). I'm not so sure about the milky band behind the mastheads – I'd pictured it as a 'floating' masthead – but the cover images… Oh, the cover images!

Tim says: "I like the woman drinking one the best – could easily pop the mag next to Zoo magazine on the rack."

I'm not so sure… I don't like the uriney way the milk is pooling between her thighs. But then, maybe that would sit nicely next to Zoo.

We are definitely well on the way to a prospectus for Melbourne Milk investors.

Thursday, October 07, 2010

The best thing since sliced milk. So, when I wondered if some procrastinating designers wanted to mock up some covers for Melbourne Milk, I did not realise my clever friend Laura, who works as a publishing designer, would actually follow through! Awesome!

I am kind of embarrassed about these, because they make my own design skillz look so bad. However, if they entice some angel investor to pour ("LOL") money into this absurd magazine, then well, full-cream ahead!

This is bukkake-tastic! I guess Laura has access to a better calibre of absurd images that I do.

I think I like this masthead best, but it will never properly woo the hipster crowd unless there is an attractive person with milk smeared over his/her face in a semeny way.

An edgier design, with more abstract imagery. Although it uses Helvetica, I feel a little uneasy about this one. Maybe I am just not cool enough.

Each of these has its merits. Melbourne Milk. You know you're thirsty for it.

Monday, October 04, 2010

Old songs: generational pedagogy and cultural memory. The other day, a daggy old song that I'd been taught in primary school popped back into my head. It was 'By The Light Of The Silvery Moon'. First published in 1909, it was one of those Tin Pan Alley songs that pandered to the craze for 'moon, spoon, June' type lyrics.

It was always a popular song and has been performed and recorded many times, but it enjoyed a new vogue in 1953 when Doris Day performed it in the movie of the same name.

Doris Day made lots of '50s movies that used these old songs as titles. This continues to be a popular practice in Hollywood. It seems to me it happened a lot in the '80s, because the ones that come to my mind include Dream A Little Dream, Can't Buy Me Love, Peggy Sue Got Married, Blue Velvet, Jumpin' Jack Flash, My Girl, Stand By Me and Sixteen Candles.

Or perhaps the 1980s were just enjoying a total romance with the 1950s and 1960s, as baby boomers got into positions of creative authority and were in a position to impose their childhood nostalgia on Generation X. This would certainly explain why, as a child in the 1980s, I was taught a song from the 1900s that was last popular in the 1950s.

The other day I was walking down the street and a mum was pushing a stroller and humming a song to herself and her kids. I've forgotten what the song is now, but at the time I recognised it and started singing it to myself. It was from the '70s or '80s.

I'd be interested to hear parents and teachers my age explain the songs they play and sing to the kids. Of course, this would largely be dependent on personal taste.

Unlike other people my age who had cool boomer parents who loved Pink Floyd, Led Zeppelin, Fleetwood Mac and Roxy Music, I have really dorky parents whose record collection included Harry Secombe, John Denver, Anne Murray, Joan Armatrading and Cliff Richard singing in Italian. I spent my formative years listening to 1377: Easy Listening 3MP, which is why I still have a fondness for the MOR hits of the '70s and '80s.

But elsewhere, there were three different influences on my primary-school song knowledge:
1. our music teachers' and choir coordinators' favourite songs;
2. the campfire songs I learned at Girl Guides and through Whitehorse Showtime;
3. the songs in the ABC's Sing! series.

The hippest songs were 'Down On The Corner' and 'Space Oddity', which I sang in grade six. I'm pretty sure that was due to having a 'cool' teacher. Other songs I remember singing in primary school include 'Downtown', 'The Rainbow Connection', 'When I'm 64', 'Chattanooga Choo-Choo', 'Edelweiss' and the theme song for the International Year Of The Child, 'Care For Kids'. I'm not even counting all the dinkum folk songs that it's apparently vital for all Australian kids to know: stuff like 'Botany Bay', 'Waltzing Matilda', 'And The Band Played Waltzing Matilda', 'Click Go The Shears' and 'The Road To Gundagai'.

Meanwhile, we had an official Girl Guide camp songbook that was kind of divided between "jolly songs to sing on the bus on the way to camp" and "contemplative songs to sing around the fire". One of these latter songs, 'Land Of The Silver Birch', was my favourite.

Actually, that song makes me think about how cringey it was for white kids to sing this and other 'ethnic' songs, like 'The Banana Boat Song', 'Pick A Bale Of Cotton' and 'Jamaica Farewell', which, by the way, aged eight, I took for definitive documentary reports of the Black Atlantic experience.

But as usual, I'm getting off topic; 'topic' in this case being the way I can still sing some pretty old songs, having been taught them in primary school:

'Daisy Bell' (1892) – "Daisy, Daisy, give me your answer, do…"
'I Do Like To Be Beside The Seaside' (1907) – "I do like to stroll upon the Prom, Prom, Prom!"
'In My Merry Oldsmobile' (1905) – "Come away with me, Lucille, in my merry Oldsmobile…"
'Molly Malone' (1883) – "Alive alive-o, alive alive-0, singing, 'Cockles and mussels alive, alive-o!'"
'Pack Up Your Troubles In Your Old Kit-Bag' (1915) – "And smile, smile smile" (Hilariously, I have only just realised that they bowdlerised the lyrics to teach it to us – the original lyric was "While you've a lucifer to light your fag", but we were taught "to light your way")

Interestingly, I also sang 'Those Magnificent Men In Their Flying Machines', which was written for a 1965 movie that was set in 1910. So it was a pastiche of Edwardian popular song. Likewise, 'My Little Buttercup' sounds like a real Tin Pan Alley song, but Randy Newman wrote it in 1986 for the film Three Amigos, which was set in 1916.

I wonder if I am weird in still remembering these songs. Will future generations of kids ever know 'By The Light Of The Silvery Moon', and thus maintain a gossamer-thin connection to an era when cars and planes were strictly for rakes and daredevils, or will old baby-boomer songs become their barometer of 'impossibly ancient' songs?

This page is powered by Blogger. Isn't yours?

Site Meter