Sunday, September 26, 2010

Got dream? Last night I dreamed I worked at a magazine called Melbourne Milk. In my dream it was a local franchise of an edgy, London-based dairy lifestyle magazine called Milk (pronounced "Miwk").

It had all sorts of stories relating to milks of all kinds – not just animal milk but vegan and lactose-free milks. I can't remember much else about the dream, but I thought maybe there is a gap in the magazine market for this publication.

I am annoyed that the cover doesn't look as cool as I dreamed it. I'm sure a real designer could have done a better job than I have here. (If any real designers are reading this and would like to take some time out of their designerly day to mock up and send me their own Melbourne Milk cover designs, please do.)

That is not me or anyone I know on the cover, by the way. I got the pic from Flickr user christy jean via a Google Image search for "sexy milk bottle".

There are actually several different magazines called Milk. One is a poetry magazine. One is an upmarket French baby magazine. One is a Hong Kong lifestyle and trends magazine. One looks like a defunct art and literature magazine. One is published by a London-based trend forecasting and branding agency.

I kind of like the idea of publishing this ridiculous magazine, and imagining the content I would put in it. I picture its original London iteration as a cross between Dazed and Confused, Apartamento and Wallpaper*, but the local version would be more like a cross between Frankie, Dumbo Feather and theage(melbourne)magazine.

Melbourne Milk would see milk as an emblem of wholesomeness, authenticity and nostalgia as well as an actual foodstuff. There would be lots of profiles of 'creative people' talking about how they relate to milk. There would be gonzo dairy-themed odysseys, stories on milk bars, cafes and milk-related small businesses, milky recipes and milk-related interiors, fashion and crafts.

The magazine's audience would be the milk consumer who is interested in style, design and 'simple', 'authentic' living. A large chunk of the audience would be locavore foodies who want to feel bucolic and connected to the land even though they live technologically enabled, industrial lives.

The Melbourne Milk reader would be the sort to imagine that his/her milk comes from the kinds of cows whose udders are massaged daily with organic L'Occitane udder cream… or at least that his/her milk is sold at local farmers' markets rather than in cartons at supermarkets. Actually, there would probably be a calendar in the front with local farmers' market dates marked on it.

Oh, I can't keep a straight face any more. A magazine about milk. It is totally stupid.

Update: 8 October! More cover mockups from Laura and Tim!

Sunday, September 19, 2010

Post-conference letdown. Today I participated in an Unconference about online criticism at the Wheeler Centre. It was the culmination of the Critical Failure program about arts criticism, which has raised some intriguing issues. The unstructured day of discussion and debate was an invitation-only event – I was invited because I'd spoken at the panel on film criticism. (I am still too embarrassed to watch that video – I feel I have a face and body for radio – but you can if you want.)

The setup – an informal ring of chairs – reminded several participants of an Alcoholics Anonymous meeting, and there were indeed certain similarities. The feeling of seeking temporary refuge from a demanding, stressful world with like-minded individuals who understand your problems. The anecdotal atmosphere, in which people felt free to share war stories.

There was also the same feeling I've got from conferences in the past – a feeling of collegiality, that I was among other professionals in my field whose intellectual projects were similar to my own. And now it's over I feel the same letdown as I have done from returning from a conference.

Much as it used to be terrible to return to my hostile, stressful university department after several days out of my ordinary routine, enjoying the company of my intellectual peers, I feel terribly flat now that I am at home again, in front of my computer, with two different jobs to get through tonight in order to be ahead for this week.

Sunday, September 12, 2010

Too many books! My house is full of books – more books than I have shelf space for – and yet I keep on buying and requesting more, none of which is my current book club book, Portnoy's Complaint by Philip Roth, which I have been completely unable to find in all the bookshops I've tried so far.

I realise I'm going to sound like a bit of a dick here to those without access to free review materials, but when a large part of your work revolves around the consumption of books, movies and music, it tends to convert them from culture to be enjoyed to work to be done, or felt guilty about not doing.

I feel an intense pressure to review all the books I've requested, otherwise the publishers will think I'm a tyre-kicker. And I have heaps of story ideas that revolve around books, but frustratingly I just can't write all of them in the time I have. I'm trying to get Enthusiast contributors to review some of the books we get sent, but I'm sad to say that there are certain books I'm just too excited about to give to other people.

Also, if it's a friend or acquaintance's book, I feel even more pressure to review it so they can get publicity. I feel deeply guilty that I never got around to writing my review of Mic Looby's Paradise Updated – I read the book, of course, and I had heaps of stuff to say about it, but it just got lost in the ocean of other stuff I have to do.

I realised the insanity of my life this afternoon after I got home with two new books to add to the stacks teetering around my house. So I decided to present an annotated guide to the current stacks.

This is the oldest stack, beside my bed. Item 1 is The Dead-Tossed Waves by Carrie Ryan, which I'm planning to review for The Enthusiast in a follow-up to this review. Item 2 is a few of my Charlaine Harris Southern Vampire Mysteries books. So far, I've only managed to parlay these into this essay for Kill Your Darlings. And Item 3 is the inaugural cassette-tape magazine from Team Evil.

This is the original Desk Stack, and it mainly consists of books I've already reviewed – the reason they made it to this stack is because it's right next to my computer, ready for reference while I'm writing the reviews. However, you will notice that I have begun a second stack on an open desk drawer. This is bad news.

Item 1 is Clif Evers' Notes For A Young Surfer, which came out in July and I meant to review for The Enthusiast around that time. Still haven't got to it. However I did manage to review Item 2, The Family Law, Item 4, The Hidden Brain, and Item 5, Simon's Cat. Item 3, Wuthering Heights, is my 'default book' to which I return when I have nothing else to read. It's one of my Teh Asenshul Reedz books. Item 6 is a Twilight-ish school story called By Midnight, set at an exclusive boarding school near Highgate Cemetery. And Item 7 is The Way Of Kings by Brandon Sanderson, the first brick in a new SF series "The Stormlight Archive".

I have read all these books. Item 1 and Item 2 are the books on which two films I recently reviewed were based. Item 9, The Hours, is another sad relic of my obsession with books that have been adapted to film. Can I just say that I found Jim Thompson's novel far less disturbing than Michael Winterbottom's film, and also far less disturbing than Mike Hammer in Mickey Spillane's I, The Jury. I am still quite shocked by the insouciant way Hammer guns down a chick whose dying words, "How could you?" he answers with, "It was easy."

Item 3 is Oslo Davis's charming Overheard, Item 4 is my most recent book club book, Valley Of The Dolls, and Item 5 is Dog Blood, which is the other half of my planned Dead-Tossed Waves review. (Item 8 is a second copy of The Dead-Tossed Waves.) Item 6 is the fascinating Necropolis, a history of the way London has handled its dead. Item 7, Vlad: The Last Confession, was sent to me unsolicited, but it was actually pretty great – it's a historical novel about the real Dracula, Vlad Tepes. After I read it, I researched Vlad's life and the novel is quite faithful to the historical details.

Gah! here is where the rot sets in because these books are just sitting on the corner of my bed and I sleep around them. They are the newest books. Item 1 is The Harbour by John Ajvide Lindqvist, a new edition of which is just out. Item 2, peeping out, is Into The Woods by Anna Krien. Item 3 is the much-yearned-for but ultimately disappointing Mad Men Unbuttoned by Natasha Vargas-Cooper, which is going to be half of a Mad Men-themed review special (the other half being From Those Wonderful Folks Who Gave You Pearl Harbor).

Item 4 is the first book in the Guardians of Ga'Hoole YA series. I missed this series, which ran between 2002 and 2008, and when I got the presser about the forthcoming film, I laughed out loud because "Ga'Hoole" is such an absurd name. But when I saw it for $5 in a second-hand shop I couldn't resist, because of my tragic fixation on book/film adaptations.

Item 5 is A Pure Clear Light by Madeleine St John. Text is republishing her works. I enjoyed The Women In Black, partly for its social comedy and partly, I'm ashamed to admit, because it's set in The Mad Men Time. Not sure what I'll think of this.

Item 6 is one of the Dan Brown clones that I made fun of in this Enthusiast story, which can I just say I think is some of my finest work and I was disappointed that more people didn't seem to like it. Item 7 is Vince Neil's autobiography, Item 8 is Jonathan Franzen's much-hyped Freedom, and Item 9 is William Gibson's latest. It's a sequel to Spook Country, which I read months ago. I'd complained to my housemate Paul that I didn't have anything to read, and he lent me his copy. I ended up really liking it, despite not really being a cyberpunk fan.

This is the stack in my living room. Item 1 is the new Dexter novel. Last year I interviewed Jeff Lindsay but I have some odd mental block whereby I am afraid to transcribe and write up the interview. I kind of have to now because Dexter Is Delicious releases at the end of September.

Item 2 is a job lot of three books I won in bingo at the Kill Your Darlings launch. When I won I shouted, "That's a bingo!" but nobody seemed to find this as funny as me. Item 3, The Road, I bought in an op-shop and owned for ages before I dared to read it. I was afraid it would be too existentially confronting, but I actually found it quite tender and optimistic.

Item 4 is Wolfsangel, a werewolf story, which I requested because I'm curious about the next supernatural being to get the genre-fiction treatment besides zombies and vampires. Still haven't got round to reading it yet. Item 5 was my book-club book a few months ago – actually, it was my pick. And Ancestor is a Michael Crichton-style genetic manipulation horror novel. Haven't read that one, either.

Thursday, September 09, 2010

The accused. So I bought this couch off eBay a while ago. I drove all the way to Tecoma to get this couch, and it was a hellish endeavour trying to fit it in my house and in the end we had to go through the French window because it wouldn't go through the front door, and even then only two-thirds of the damned thing would fit in my stupid-shaped living room.

And I begged my dad, who helped me with all this, to nail some chicken wire or something on the underside of the couch, because Graham had got into the habit of lying on his back like a mechanic under the old couch and scratching the shit out of it. I did not want this to happen to my new couch.

Of course it was one of those, "Oh, we can always do that later" jobbies. So imagine my rage when I discovered this:

He had ripped a hole in the underside of the couch and was lying in it, as if it were a hammock. He managed this even though I regularly clip his claws short. Since then he has pretty much ripped the entire length of the underside of the couch so that brown stuff hangs down to the floor. And – worse – whenever I am mad with him he goes and hides in there, blissfully unaware of this ironic move.

Tonight I could hear him scritching away in there and it made me incredibly angry. Poking at the couch with a broom handle while emitting Nutri-Grain screams failed to dislodge him, so I used his favourite bait: my hand. Then I dragged him out from under the couch and put. him. under. arrest.

Here are his mug shots:

The accused is currently incarcerated in The Cooler, aka the vestibule between the living room, bathroom and back door where his litter tray lives. I can hear him making hopeful chirruping sounds, which makes me realise I forgot to tell him he has the right to remain silent.

Dad is going to come around and staple a sheet of MDF to the bottom of the couch.

Friday, September 03, 2010

Mel-showers and Mel-sleep-ins. At the start of this year, my resolution was to have shorter showers. I have not succeeded very well. I try to just jump in the shower, perform my toilette tasks, then jump out again, but pretty much every day I will find myself just standing under the water, my thoughts drifting.

This is what I call a "Mel-shower" and when I catch myself having one (a key sign is my fingertips starting to shrivel and 'prune'), I sternly say, "No, don't have a Mel-shower, Mel!" or similar.

I have a similar bad habit with sleeping in. Since I work from home I can get away with rolling straight out of bed to my desk, and working in my pyjamas. Once upon a time I hated lazing about in my PJs and would make having a shower and getting dressed the very first thing I did every day. But now I can be found in my PJs at 2pm.

For years I've had three alarms on my phone: 7am, 8am and 8:55am. Once upon a time they signified: 1) Get out of bed; 2) Leave the house; 3) You have five minutes to get to work. Now they signify: 1) You should maybe get up now; 2) You should maybe get up now; 3) You should maybe get up now.

I am always hitting snooze again and again, and finally dragging myself out of bed at the absolute last minute. If I know I have a film screening at the Nova, those are the worst Mel-sleep-ins because I tell myself that I am allowed to stay in bed until 9:30am. Then I panic and leap out of bed at 9:50am. Luckily, it takes seven minutes to get to the Nova from my house.

The Mel-showers and the Mel-sleep-ins come from the same impulse, I think: to luxuriate in a warm, languorous state of suspension from the everyday. I shouldn't feel so guilty about this stuff, considering that I work day and night, including on weekends. Also, I have some pretty great dreams in the snoozy intervals between my alarms.

Today I had two. First I dreamed that I was nominated in the inaugural Mad Men Awards. Details are sketchy, but this was some kind of ceremony where they gave out awards for people who were really big Mad Men fans. It was hosted by Jon Hamm.

Everyone in the audience and all the nominees were all dressed in high Mad Men Style. My dream basically concerned the action backstage, where wardrobe, hair and makeup artists fussed over us, converting us into Mad Men Awards Nominees. I remember how chuffed I was to be on the inside of the show's world.

I feel kind of embarrassed relating this now. This dream says a lot about how much I love Mad Men, although I'm also relieved to have a second pop-cultural obsession to take the pressure off Terminator.

Meanwhile, my second dream says a lot about how much of a subconscious impact Inception has had on me, which is odd because consciously I can recognise that it's not as brilliant a film as it thinks it is. Anyway. In my dream, Julian Assange was locked in a high-security prison but he managed to bust out of the jail in a very exciting, action-packed and violent sequence.

He made his way to Melbourne Central, where on one of the upper levels he approached someone in a suit who seemed to be waiting for him. Gazing over the Shot Tower concourse far below, the stranger had his back to Assange. Hearing his approach, the stranger turned.

It was Leonardo DiCaprio. "Glad you could make it," he said to Assange. "I take it the escape went well."
"As well as could be expected," replied Assange.

At this point I woke up, but I had the feeling in the dream that this wasn't the first time the pair had met. Leonardo had made a similar escape from a similar prison to Assange. They were comrades in some intrigue-filled WikiLeaks plan that was only now reaching its second stage.

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