Saturday, January 25, 2014

Amnesia of the inner north. Today there is a ridiculous trend piece by self-proclaimed 'word curator' (actually gossip and social events writer) Suzanne Carbone in The Age, about how the inner northern suburbs are cool now. I know, right? I did not know that.

What annoys me about this generally bad and incoherent article is that it makes no mention of all the other bazillion Age articles alleging the inner north to have become hip. It is an utterly generic article with no insight in it.

The gentrification of the CBD, Fitzroy, Carlton and other inner-northern suburbs has been taking place for decades. In 2011, I blogged about it because a new lot of bourgie apartments were under construction around the corner from my house. (People are now living in them.) And I've also blogged about the way that new hospitality venues often mine the heritage of pre-existing businesses or local personages.

There's a similar 'trend' narrative regarding 'sea change' and 'tree change' moves. I like to joke, in the manner of Portlandia, that "the dream of the '90s is alive in Castlemaine" – well, the hipsterfication of that country town was being reported on as early as 2002.

But it seems the imperative to 'report on novelty' is more urgent at Fairfax than the imperative to contextualise. (I also wonder if this article faced any editorial gatekeeper – any at all!) So I thought I'd find a few older Age articles on the coolsiness of the inner north to correct this amnesia and form a kind of vague genealogy of the 'Age cool trend piece' over the last 15 or so years.

In March 2002, Matt Preston wrote, "North Fitzroy is cool. Humble grocery stores turned into funky cafes are really cool. And the word 'organic' is so cool it's even started to become a bit daggy, spotted creeping on to the shelves at Coles and Safeway. Imagine, then, how cool an organic greengrocer and cafe in North Fitzroy is going to be."

Pretty cool. By June 2009Stuff White People Like author Christian Lander had visited Melbourne and anointed North Fitzroy as the city's whitest suburb – in the sense of offering cultural-capital-acquisitive, politically piquant yet socially unthreatening consumerism. "When a suburb is hip enough to contain vintage shops, but safe enough for white people to have kids in, then it's truly white," Lander said.

In 2002, Guy Rundle rhapsodised on his experience of what was then quite an unusual idea: living in the CBD. A year later, the CBD's cool factor was at an all-time high, according to an article that, for me, reads like an archaeological excavation of my twenties. The Croft Institute! Cafe Segovia! C&B! And Cookie, when it was still named Koo Koo (or 'Chu Chau', as Penny insisted, trying to make fetch happen.) Here, from around the same era, are more blasts from clubland past, including Bambu and Double O.

By May 2008, "Melbourne's bar binge [was] finally over", The Age speculated. "The city's been like a party where everyone's invited, but as the economy cools and the heat rises over binge-drinking and street violence, Melbourne's bar bubble could be in danger of bursting."

LOL. No. By August 2013, The Age's indefatigably snarky Ben Butler was reporting that "nightclub czar" Jerome Borazio – who'd bragged about his unlicensed venue Shit Town in 2008 – had been engaged to handle the catering for the private Kelvin Club, in addition to running the Laneway Festival and his venues 1000 £ Bend and a Chinese restaurant-themed bar, Happy Palace.

Back in September 2003, Rundle had remarked, amusingly, "nowhere else in the world has a bar culture formed so absolutely around one particular retro style, a style that can be summed up with a single motif: the lampshade. … Just as all living cheetahs are descended from a single female in the relatively recent past, so all retro-chic bars seem to have been inspired by the Black Cat, the Brunswick Street cafe that was the first to deck itself out in Laminex tables and kitsch tiki art in the early 1980s."

Ah, the Black Cat, so often cited as Melbourne's ur-hipster venue. In September 2009, The Age reminisced: "The Black Cat is one of Melbourne's most significant venues. Opened by Henry Maas in 1982, it was one of the first cafes on Brunswick Street and was instrumental in starting the strip's rebirth as a centre of inner-city hipsterdom."

In 2009, Fitzroy was still being thought of as cool. Humourist Danny Katz wrote, "NO, NOOOOO don't make me go, I don't wanna go, I'm scared, I don't wanna enter the Nine Circles of Cool, that terrifyingly hellish place known as Brunswick Street, Fitzroy, or as I call it: Danny's Inferno."

And in November 2011, inner Melbourne was being hailed as a hotspot of vintage culture, with Gertrude Street vintage clothier Circa Vintage and the nearby Everleigh cocktail bar mentioned alongside CBD manliness emporium Captains of Industry and Hidden Secrets, a business built on shepherding neophytes around Melbourne's not-obvious shopping venues.

In a September 2013 opinion piece arguing in favour of the east-west traffic tunnel that the current Napthine state government wants to push through the inner north, Richard Cook wrote, "Back in the '70s, Brunswick Street was dead", describing its industrial occupants and shabby local businesses. It's the urban gentrifiers – the 'white people' skewered so deftly by Christian Lander – who have made the inner north what it is today, Cook opined.

"Now, of course, Brunswick Street is an iconic part of Melbourne. On Saturdays and Sundays it teems with people eager to try eggs, bacon and hollandaise sauce in whatever fashion the cooks at the cafes can invent. Lygon Street, East Brunswick, also teems with people. Even Smith Street is shedding its image of empty facades of old emporiums, and is following Brunswick Street's example. And Gertrude Street boasts some of the best restaurants, bars and clothing shops in Australia."

But this utopian vision of white-person heaven is a contested one. In April 2003, The Age did some hand-wringing over whether Melbourne's al fresco dining culture was threatening the amenity of inner-urban streets. Various old-school government planners commented on how everyone thought they were mad to suggest it but time had proven them right.

Meanwhile, Mario Maccarone of Mario's, and Henry Maas of the Black Cat, argued that outside tables were a welcome shift from antisocial Anglo pub culture to European sociability, thus playing squarely into Melbourne's self-mythologies of being Australia's most cosmopolitan, 'European' city. When we whinge about the aimless crowds outside Gelato Messina, we are participating in this same conversation.

By June 2003, NIMBYism was starting to bite, and the now-familiar battle between live music enthusiasts and noise-complaining residents was ramping up. "A young gun cruising for a big Saturday night stands outside a bar and shouts into his mobile phone: 'What are youse up to, mate? I'm just drinking hard mate, as usual, at the Black Cat, mate. We're on f-----g Brunswick Street. At the Black Cat! Black Cat! Black Cat! Still gonna come down? Black Cat!'"

By January 2010, The Age was reporting: "Drunken louts who damage property or disturb residents after a big night out in Melbourne’s inner-north are being targeted in a police crackdown over the next three weekends." Following an increase in complaints about anti-social behaviour of the sort that moral panics call "alcohol-fuelled", plain-clothed police were set to patrol venues in Brunswick Street Fitzroy, Smith Street Collingwood, and Bridge Road and Swan Street in Richmond.

In hipsterism terms, Brunswick Street is now generally considered to be 'over'. In November 2011, Michelle Griffin reported that the epicentre of cool was shifting westwards: "It may be time we started thinking of this city not as divided north and south by the Yarra, but divided east and west by the winding Maribyrnong."

And in November 2012, Craig Mathieson was advising that the next hotspots of cool were going to be Collingwood, Footscray and Preston. Rather than yet another dumdum trend piece, Mathieson's article is a very shrewd and concise discussion of the history of gentrification in Melbourne suburbia.

Docklands may never manage to be cool, although it's not for want of trying. In April 2013, urban renewal non-profit Renew Australia set up free creative spaces in Docklands, hoping to defibrillate Melbourne's deadest suburb. It didn't work. Not even the Melbourne Star ferris wheel, broken symbol of Docklands' general shitness, could keep going more than a month before breaking down again this week.

Tuesday, January 21, 2014

Welcome to the inside of my head. Wherein I make dumb jokes that only I find funny. Although with the advent of Google Glass, just about any subjective experience can be filmed. The latest stupidity regarding these nerd-goggles is a new app called Sex With Google Glass that enables you to film yourself banging and get "the whole picture" of what both partners see. Basically, this is like Strange Days, which I recently watched in my Bingelow for my appearance on Hell Is For Hyphenates.

In the meantime, here's a dumb joke I came up with as I walked down the street. I saw this broken pallet, and it occurred to me how annoying it is when people use the wrong 'pallet/palette/palate' for the context. So here's my joke. Are you ready?

Hmmm. Looks like whoever packed those cans of food has got…

…quite a delicate pallet.


Saturday, January 18, 2014

This is what I have to deal with. Last night I brought Graham in at dusk and then realised my arm was caked in filth from his dirty paws.

Slumped Cat especially likes slumping in the dirt and rolling about like a chinchilla, seemingly trying to embed as much crap as possible in his fur.

And then I get the Triple-Threat if I try to remove the debris from his fur. I have to wait until he is asleep and then gently pick or comb it out.

Sometimes I worry that anyone seeing him will think he has been abandoned because of the filthy state of his fur. I need a collar tag that says, "I tried to groom him."

Friday, January 17, 2014

The adventures of Slumped Cat. I'm not sure if Graham really grasped the seriousness of this week's heatwave. Even today he did his usual constant miaowing to go outside and was annoyed that I wouldn't let him.

But after a while he got so hot that he just slumped to the ground and lay there. He wouldn't even lie on the couch or the bed. This morning I found myself singing a Stupid Cat Song that just went, "Slumped cat/slumped cat" because that was pretty much all the intellectual output I could manage myself.

This, the eastern wall of the hallway, is one of Graham's usual favourite slumping spots. (He was about one when this 'Grahamouflage' photo was taken in 2009.) When he's just come inside from a vigorous session of embedding leaves and burrs in his fur, he also likes to slump next to the velvet armchair in the lounge.

But this week Graham has chosen his slumping places quite randomly. And he's slumped quietly, too, so you don't even necessarily know he's there. I've almost tripped over him a number of times this week.

Slumped Cat slumps in the doorway out of the living room.

Slumped Cat slumps in the doorway to the living room.

Slumped Cat slumps in my darkened bedroom (hence the flash). Note he is covered in dried leaves, which he has transferred to the carpet.

Poor little fella. I have tried to look after him in the heat. I put ice blocks in his water, although he disregards them until melted, and spritzed him with water from a bottle, which made him flee in terror because usually the spray bottle is used as punishment.

Yesterday I draped him in a wet washcloth. Uneasy, he sat very still. I then dampened his fur with the washcloth and he didn't roll onto his back and bite me savagely as he usually does at any attempt to wash or groom him, so he must have wanted it on some level.

UPDATE, 7:02PM: The cool change has come through, and a rejuvenated Slumped Cat headed outside to hunt a poor, heat-weakened mouse. Now he has slumped back inside again with his prize.

Ugh, I am going to have to dispose of the mouse. Graham is terrible: he sees them as animated toys rather than food, so once they are dead he loses interest in them.

Monday, January 13, 2014

Permit me a vanity post. I am so embarrassed to post photos of myself and talk about my appearance. Yet other people really seem to respond positively to this stuff on social media.

Tonight I was checking my Pinterest and noticed that some stranger had commented on this pin. That made me feel very strange, not just because that picture is about 18 months old now, but also because, as I've said, I don't think of myself and the things I create as legit fodder for Pinterest. I think of it as a strange fantasy realm of beauty that I'm allowed to look at, curate and quote from, but not contribute to. The only reason I posted the pic of those glasses was because I had previously pinned the product shot when I bought them online.

I was thinking recently about lipstick because various feminists were posting on Facebook about buying some lipsticks from Etsy. I own a lot of lipsticks but none of them were as nice as the ones being discussed. But then I thought how foolish and vain it was of me to even fantasise about buying new lipsticks, especially in similar shades to ones I already have, when lipstick only emphasises how far from beautiful I am, just as nail polish only highlights my fat, stumpy fingers. And why do I bother angsting over whether my hair looks better short or long, up or down? When you look like me, nothing looks good. 'Beauty' is about mitigating the ugliness to mere inoffensiveness.

I feel like a complete hypocrite for writing some smarmy book about terrible it is that we judge each other's appearance, when I never fail to feel crushed by photos of me taken by other people in which I look like a bloated corpse (who died of carbon monoxide poisoning, hence the grotesque, ham-like pinkness of my face). As I have previously noted, you can only be 'fat hot' if you have a single pointy chin and a smooth, even distribution of the fat.

Recently a friend of mine posted a photo of me on Facebook in which I am wearing a tight top that accentuates the fat roll above my waist. I remember that day I was feeling quite self-conscious about the top but had reasoned that if I arranged it in a certain scrunchy way it would create a camouflaging ruched effect. Well it hadn't ruched adequately and I look fucking awful. Appalled that this image was associated with my Facebook profile, I immediately untagged myself and hid it from my Facebook stream.

But it is terrible indeed to ponder that this is just how I look in the world. This, and not my carefully posed and curated selfies, is what other people see when they look at me, and the mental image that comes into their heads when they think of me. It's this knowledge that makes me feel foolish caring about how I look. Literally lipstick on a pig.

Friday, January 10, 2014

Books I read in 2013. Early in the year I figured I should join Goodreads to promote my book, but I quickly became obsessed with it as a way to keep track of my reading. It's also a great way to remember what books you want to read when you are in a bookshop or when people ask you what you want for birthdays or Christmas.

I also found myself writing more and more detailed reviews (which you can click through to read), which annoys me now because I can't seem to stop. I've got a backlog of reviews still to write of books I read.

Honestly, sometimes I wonder why I am putting this pressure on myself because god knows nobody cares and I am not being remunerated or rewarded in any way for all this work. But it is useful for me to look back and see my thoughts on each book articulated to myself. I've actually ended up using some of the material from my Goodreads reviews in paid work I've done. So I guess it's worth it?

I read 40 books in 2013, which is not even a book a week. In 2012 I read 43 books and in 2011 I read 46, so it was a pretty shit year. Let me guide you through my reading habits.

To be honest, in 2013 I favoured reading pleasure over literary quality or edifying non-fiction. I read lots of genre fiction, including the playful Shambling Guide to New York CityBut I found myself being surprised by some books, including Jonathan Strange and Mr Norrell, which had sat on my shelf for literally years because I was too daunted by how thick it was. It turned out to be one of my favourite reads of the year.

I went on a young adult fiction and film adaptation jag (in some cases these overlapped). Sometimes I saw the film first, then read the book; others I wanted to get in ahead of seeing the film. It is embarrassing when you look at my bookshelves and realise how many of the books I read have been adapted to the screen.

I read The Silver Linings Playbook, World War Z (which was heaps better than the film), Austenland (which is much worse than the surprisingly charming film), The Hunter and How I Live Now. I slogged my way to the bitter end of the Sookie Stackhouse series with Dead Ever After (the most recent season of True Blood was so much better).

Probably my defining reading experience this year was the truly mediocre Mortal Instruments series by Cassandra Clare, which was made into a risible film that I enjoyed greatly. I read all five novels: City of Bones, City of Ashes, City of Glass, City of Falling Angels and City of Lost Souls. They are very badly written but I found myself beguiled by Clare's peculiar preoccupations and following her characters as if watching a trashy TV series.

But I redeemed myself with the Emily of New Moon series, a childhood favourite of mine. For the first time, I read all three books in sequence: Emily of New Moon, Emily Climbs and my favourite then and now, Emily's Quest. 2013 was a year of revisiting my childhood; I also re-read The Changeover, another book I loved as a kid.

I read War Horse even though I haven't even seen the film; I just watched a doco on TV about the making of the stage version. I missed Warm Bodies at the cinema, too, but I read the book anyway. And I haven't seen The Ghost Writer (even though I'd like to) because I've boycotted every Roman Polanski film since The Ninth Gate.

My fascination with stories about intellectual cults and coteries continued with The Bellwether Revivals, and my weird Stockholm Syndrome interest in class privilege continued with the intriguing non-fiction pigeon pair Gentry and Servants.

I wanted to read books I'd heard a lot of buzz about. So I read Australia's 'big two', Burial Rites and The Rosie Project. Also in this category were Mr Penumbra's 24-Hour Bookstore, The Shining Girls, Cat & Fiddle and Boomer and Me. But I also wanted to go back and read some books that had previously been blockbusters to get a sense for a past zeitgeist. In that context I read The Clan of the Cave Bear, The Eight and The Happy Hooker.

Then there were the book club reads. I was pretty frustrated that our book club only got through five books last year (continuing the downward trend; we managed six in 2012), and am considering starting up a separate book club so I can discuss more books throughout the year. I only managed to finish our final book of 2012, Telegraph Avenue, in January 2013; it was the first book I read in the year and was Tash's pick. I then read My Brilliant Career (Lucy's pick), We Have Always Lived in the Castle (Camille's pick) and Questions of Travel (Kentia's pick).

Helen's pick was Thinking, Fast and Slow, which coincided with the final edits of my book. I was just too braindead to read a complex book on psychology; I dubbed it Reading, Hard and Slow and ultimately gave up. Felicity's pick was The Diary of a Teenage Girl and I didn't read that either. But I still went to the book club meetings and participated in the discussion!

Finally there were the random reads I discovered serendipitously. I found It on a bookshelf in a holiday house (one of my favourite ways to discover new books), Into the Wild in a country op-shop, and Bellman and Black was sent to me unsolicited by the publisher.

I'd never heard of the Falco novels, but thanks to my love of ancient Roman crime procedurals I thought I'd enjoy The Silver Pigs. Now I have seven more Falco novels waiting to be read, and I actually got stuck on one and couldn't get into it.

Okay, now it's stats time!

Hard copy: 25
Ebooks: 15

Fiction: 35
Non-fiction: 5

Literary fiction: 10
Popular fiction: 15
Classics: 2
Young adult: 8

Vampires: 7
Angels/Fairies: 5
Zombies/Pandemics: 3
Ghosts/Gothic: 3
Romance/Erotica: 9
Crime/Mystery/Procedural: 4
Historical Fiction: 2

History: 2
Memoir/Biography: 3

Australian authors: 7
International authors: 33

Male authors: 12
Female authors: 28
Australian female authors: 6

Thursday, January 09, 2014

The Cat Who Miaowed All The Time. I just found this children's picture story book in my drafts. I wrote it in 2010 but never published it because drawing all the pictures was too time-consuming. I actually did more pictures than are uploaded here, but the computer I stored them on got stolen, so you will never know the true extent of my genius.

Today I was thinking about it again because on Facebook I saw someone had a painting of their cat and I wished I had a framed painting of Graham, even though that is the most insane cat-lady desire. A friend of Natalya's painted a portrait of Meep once; she showed me a photo. (Her ex had the actual painting.) It was quite a good likeness.

I had an insane thought of painting a Graham portrait myself. The aim would be something tasteful and classical such as this:

But it would probably come out looking like this.

Anyway this made me remember this stupid cat story. I realise there should probably be a 'story arc' in which the cat's miaowing gets him into trouble and so he learns not to miaow so much, but REALISM.

Hello publishers? May I please have a book deal? Thank you kindly. And please note – don't get some rubbish professional illustrator to illustrate it. You have to use my MS Paint Classics (well, actually Photoshop, but done only using the paintbrush tool). Okay, let's begin the story. Each sentence would represent a page.

Once there was a cat who miaowed all the time.

He miaowed first thing in the morning when his owner was trying to have a sleep-in.

Sometimes she would let him into the back yard and get back into bed, but he would run around the front of the house, where he knew his owner could hear him. Clever cat!

Even when she locked him in the living room so she couldn't hear his miaowing, he just miaowed louder so she could still hear him.

If he was in his owner's room, he would miaow as if he wanted to go out.

But when he was outside her room, he would miaow as if he wanted to come in. He would also thump loudly on her door with his paws.

When she was trying to work at her computer, he would sit at her feet and miaow passionately, as if he were trying to tell her a small child was stuck down a well.

But there was no child in the well.

Sometimes he would jump into her arms. He would purr loudly…

…until she put him down. Then he would miaow angrily at being rejected.

Even though he was perfectly capable of eating his food by himself, he would miaow until his owner dropped what she was doing to stand next to his food bowl and watch him eat.

When his owner was trying to prepare food for herself, he would get underfoot and miaow loudly at the opening of each packet. He even miaowed at things that did not look at all like cat food.

No. Spaghetti is not for cats!

Well, perhaps just one.

© Mel Campbell 2014. All rights reserved.

Wednesday, January 08, 2014

Some things that are mystifyingly popular on Pinterest. I like seeing which of the images I pin on Pinterest get liked and repinned by others, although it annoys me so much that the site negates my efforts to critique stuff.

I pin images I dislike to boards entitled "Misogynist Bullshit" (self-explanatory), "Fucked-Up Shit" (racist, morally objectionable, psychologically damaging, general fails) and "Whimsy Overdose" (obnoxiously cutesy stuff done in pursuit of an infantile aesthetic. Yes, I realise this blog also has 'whimsy' in the title). But it then annoys me considerably to see other people pinning the same images to boards entitled "Pretty", "Want", "Fabulous", etc.

Caption: "A nice summary of Amélie's key costumes."
Board: Screen Costume
224 repins; 67 likes.

This is the most popular thing I've ever pinned, and I think I just repinned it from somewhere else with a new caption. (It is quite important to me to use the caption field to add my own original comments on what I like about an image and why I'm pinning it.) Its popularity mystifies me – is it because Amélie is a retro '90s film, or a film with a whimsical aesthetic and storyline? Is it the illustrations?

Caption: "A couple of years ago I wrote this lil guide on how to do your hair in victory rolls."
Board: The Hipster Tipster
71 repins; 21 likes.

I think people are just pinning this because they like Golden Age Hollywood imagery, whereas I was pinning it as an illustration of victory rolls, the 1940s hairstyle. Moreover, I was pinning it because it links to a blog post I wrote on how to do your hair in victory rolls. So maybe people are pinning it for the tutorial.

Caption: "Michelberger Hotel. I like the cheerful yellow curtain. Yellow and grey is always a good colour combo."
Board: Domestic Ideas
41 repins; 5 likes.

My eye is often caught by bright colours, but honestly other than the curtain this is a pretty boring image. People tend to pin it alongside other images of "pops of colour" (honestly, I hate that expression and wish to give whoever thought of it a 'pop of colour' in the eye, if you know what I am saying).

Caption: "This is embarrassing to admit, but I collect black and white kitsch animal figurines. (Artwork by Stuart Haygarth)"
Board: Domestic Ideas
24 repins; 3 likes.

Guess it's not as embarrassing as I thought. Also, please note that I like to credit original sources, artists and photographers where possible, rather than just letting images circulate freely online without context.

Caption: ""I say, Alvanley, who's your fat friend?" Beau Brummell's glib remark about George IV instantly lost him the social position he'd won with his impeccable dress and caustic wit; he fled England to escape his creditors and died in poverty in France in 1840. This figurine of Brummell is based on historical research."
Board: Out of Shape
12 repins; 5 likes

This is just a dumb figurine of Beau Brummell made recently. I don't even think it's very well done honestly (his pants should have a horizontal fly rather than a vertical one), but I wanted to pin something to do with this quintessential English Regency dandy to my Out of Shape board. Other people have repinned it to boards about the historical period or Regency fashion. Honestly I feel quite indignant at the historical inaccuracy that tends to reign on Tumblr and Pinterest regarding costume history, and am annoyed at having contributed to it.

Caption: "I made this by using rubber bands (my glue gun was out of glue) to attach old Christmas baubles to a wicker wreath I found at my parents' house. Doesn't look as glam as the glue-gun version I pinned a little while back, but it's fancy enough for me!"
Board: The Hipster Tipster
10 repins

I add this only out of a sense of wonder that this is a photo I took myself of something I made myself, based on another wreath I saw on Pinterest, and other people liked it enough to repin it along with all the profesh-looking DIY projects. I tend to think of Pinterest as a fantasy space where I can gaze over images other people have created, and it's crazy to think I have created one of those images myself.

Tuesday, January 07, 2014

Joseph Gordon-Levitt as Orson Welles. I saw a little thumbnail of actor Joseph Gordon-Levitt in which he totally reminded me of the young Orson Welles.

It's not his physical resemblance as much as something exuberant about his facial expression that reminded me of the energy and playfulness that young Welles had:

The thumbnail is a screencap from an article about Gordon-Levitt's new and very zeitgeisty variety TV show, HitRECord, which falls squarely into that genre of work made collaboratively using YouTube and other online platforms.

But something about the exuberance with which he introduces the show makes the whole thing parodic and faintly vain and self-deluded, like the 'Charlie Kane' song from Citizen Kane:

It's as if HitRECord is a parody of our contemporary obsession with digital creative production, and the emcee role Gordon-Levitt takes on is kind of obscene, basking in the glow of a thousand phones and cameras wielded by people who aspire to his level of fame but are doomed never to achieve it.

The scene feels decadent and dystopian, like something from RoboCop or The Running Man. Or, I don't know, Cabaret.

Monday, January 06, 2014

Last night's anxiety dream. I was a grifter with my dad and younger brother. We had a scam we called the 'road sting' where we'd set up a broken-looking car in the countryside by the side of the road just before a bend. One of us would wait with the car and then the others would wait around the bend. Then we'd fleece any kind-hearted people who stopped to help.

We had set up our 'road sting' and were waiting for victims when suddenly a plane crashed onto the road up ahead. It flew low over our heads and then ploughed into the road with debris strewn everywhere. Then as we were staring, another plane came flying overhead, really low and tilted alarmingly to one side.

"I've never seen a plane fly sideways!" I said to my grifter-dad (who was a character, not my actual dad), and then the plane unceremoniously crash-landed on its roof some distance from us, up on the hill that flanked the road. It landed quite softly and quietly, looking totally intact except for being upside-down, but then an explosion came from within and it listed to one side.

Ambulances and police flooded the scene. Blood was draining down the hill from the upside-down plane towards us. My grifter-brother became upset and I tried to console him. I was mainly shocked that we'd been so close to two plane crashes without being injured ourselves. We realised our 'road sting' was over and retreated to the local sad guesthouse where we'd been staying.

At this point the dream underwent a kind of metamorphosis so I was still staying in the country, but was no longer a grifter and my companions were my real-life friends. I was in a country tearoom with my friends and a Jersey cow wandered in. It was extremely tame and behaved like a large dog, nuzzling people and pressing into their sides. The cow was locally famous for being very friendly and docile and the tearoom owners let it roam about.

It sat at my male friend's feet (at this point in the dream, I think the friend coalesced into Stuart) and I tried to take a photo, but my stupid phone wouldn't go wide enough to take in the whole scene, only either Stuart or the cow. He sat there posing with an increasingly fixed photo smile on his face, waiting for me to take the damn photo while I prodded at my phone in a flustered way.

Finally we were heading home from our country trip. I think we had been to a wedding in the country or something. I remember everyone setting off from a country estate in a convoy of cars. It was my turn to drive. Our car was the Modras' old red Commodore (fondly named 'The Shitmobile'). Despite the name, I always picture that car in my memory (and hence in the dream) as it was when it was new(ish) and gleaming like a boiled lolly, rather than in its sad final days when Lucy drove it.

I got lost in some rural city centre (Bendigo? Ballarat?) because some workmen had just finished painting new road markings that indicated we had to drive into a building and get a ticket. I drove in, got out to get the ticket, then thought I should confer with my friends, who were standing outside the building. Then I panicked and said to Stuart, "I've left the car running with the key in the ignition!"

He laughed good-naturedly and I rushed back to where I'd left the car BUT IT WAS GONE with all our stuff in it! Have you ever had that terrible lurch when you've realised something of yours has been stolen? The rest of the dream was me running wildly and fruitlessly through the various levels of this building (which seemed to be a university campus building; there were lots of posters and brightly painted walls, and it reminded me of the endless lifts and escalators at Monash Caulfield) trying to see the car and catch the bandit without having to tell Penny and Stuart I'd let it get stolen.

Now I think about it, what a strange dream that begins with me as a road criminal stealing stuff from motorists and ends with me as the motorist being stolen from. I wonder what the crashing planes mean. Last Friday I was at Brad's birthday party and in his bathroom is a poster with various dream interpretations.

According to this site, "To dream that a plane crashes signifies that you have set overly high and unrealistic goals for yourself. You are in danger of having those goals come crashing down. Alternatively, the crashing airplane represents your lack of confidence, self-defeating attitude and self-doubt. You do not believe in your own ability to achieve those goals. Loss of power and uncertainty in achieving your goals are also signified."

Further, "To dream that you are stealing suggests that you are feeling deprived. The locale (at home, the office, at school, etc) of where the stealing takes place is indicative of your neediness. Alternatively, stealing signifies unrealized and unfulfilled goals. You may have set your goals too high.

"To dream that someone is stealing something from you indicates that you are experiencing an identity crisis or are suffering from some sort of loss in your life. Alternatively, the dream means that someone has stolen your success or has taken credit for something you did. Perhaps you feel that you have been treated unfairly."

And according to this site, "The visual aspects of a plane crash may symbolize the fact that you cannot achieve goals as you have them arranged, while the crash itself may represent your feelings. If you feel helpless while you watch the plane crash, it can indicate that you are setting yourself up for failure because of your beliefs about any challenging goal or situation in your life. Oddly enough, if you are aware of the sound of a plane crashing, it may mean that you will succeed in achieving your goals."

But the idea of simply paging through a 'dream dictionary' kind of falls over when various motifs are combined into a narrative – for instance, how to interpret 'a cow that behaves like a dog that sits with your friend and that you couldn't photograph'? This site says: "If you were the one taking photos in your dream, this symbolizes your need to hold on to a feeling, or an image of yourself, from a point in your life that's now in the past." It also says, "Dog dreams that are positive mean that the dreamer is lucky in friendship." and "Cows in dreams represent wealth, happiness and femininity."

Melly. I can never recall telling anyone they could call me Melly, but some people have taken it upon themselves and I am almost always okay with it. This surprises me as on principle I don't really like it, but whenever anyone actually does it I find myself liking it.

Natalya used to call me Melly and I liked it. Tash calls me Melly, but Pinky calls me Brain. Here's a random thing: back in the early '00s I used to hang out in this cafe called Piccolo run by a German guy named Linus who would sometimes call me Caramello, and I was okay with that too.

Tonight I was at Steve's for one of his legendary dinner parties (which included STEVE'S BAKED HAM as ham was a post-Christmas special) and his friend Louis called me Melly.

I felt rather weird about this as I don't even know him very well, and also I am so much older than Steve's infant friends. (One of them objected to the 'old music' that was playing; we are talking about '90s music here. When I did a search through Steve's iTunes for recent songs it turns out he has a lot of '80s compilations published c2012.)

But when Louis called me Melly it instantly made me think well of him. Not that I want everyone to call me Melly, but it is rare enough for me to like. 

Hey, I just met you
And this is crazy
But my name's Mel
So call me Melly 

Friday, January 03, 2014

Double Dick Dude: A Novel. You may have come across the Reddit AMA thread in which a man with two fully functioning penises answers prurient questions about his anatomy. I spent several hours yesterday reading the thread; today it's so popular it's crashed, so here's a summary of some of the questions.

My favourite part of the Q&A is when some Redditor sighs, "OMG you're so attractive!" and he replies, "LOL, I could look like Gollum from LOTR for all you know!"

There has already been some speculation that this is fake. But even if it is, so what? I'd be impressed by the detail the hoaxer has put into thinking through what life would be like – physically, sexually, socially – for someone with two dicks. The thread is full of information about DDD's family and childhood, his teenage years and sexual history. When people 'make stuff up' in books they are called 'novelists' and are praised for their imaginations.

Now I've become obsessed with the idea of which novelist would write Double Dick Dude: A Novel. It would have to be some American novelist who fancies himself to be the definitive chronicler of the human condition but is basically just a chronicler of the American, white, middle-class, intellectual, male condition.

Phillip Roth would infuse the story with Freudian neurosis. Jeffrey Eugenides has empathy and also form (having written Middlesex), but Chuck Palahniuk has the weirdo cynicism and taste for the abject. Bret Easton Ellis would turn DDD into a degenerate superhero. Jonathan Franzen would emasculate him, making DDD fret that his girlfriend would leave him for a 'normal' man… but what is normal, anyway? Aren't we all freaks of nature in our own way?

Can you imagine if Christos Tsiolkas wrote it? Basically there would just be lots of drug-taking and endless uses of the dicks to pound various innocent schoolboys or old Greek men. Perhaps both at once. Let's not dwell on the horrors that would ensue if Martin Amis wrote it.

I sort of am tempted to write it myself as a critique of the dick-swinging culture of contemporary literature. How wonderful if the Double Dick Dude did turn out to be a hoax and the perpetrator turned out to be a woman.

Wednesday, January 01, 2014

The year in five-minute Photoshop. So, as I've noted, I want to post less in Facebook and Twitter. It's a walled garden and because it's a continuous stream of content, searching the archive is really difficult.

You may know that I like five-minute Photoshop. I like having silly ideas for joke pics and working through how I'll make them happen. I do these pics for my own amusement and am perennially disappointed that they fail to get much traction in the 'like' and 'comment'-based social media economy.

Here is an abortive joke I did the other day based on the fact that every character in the film American Hustle pays so much attention to his or her hair. I couldn't find a similar-looking font so I had to cut and paste bits from the existing letters. I spent much more than five minutes on it and it still looked so shit that in the end I didn't even post it online. (Until now.)

For some reason I was joking on Twitter about the Romans having invented denim. I think this might have been based on something that one of my lecturer friends' students wrote in an essay?

In June I got into an argument with my former jmag editor Jenny and coworker Bridie about actor Eddie Redmayne's lips. I think they are too pale. So I 'shopped up this Eddie Redlips colour chart.

His actual lips are on the left; I quite like the third from left and the far right is intended to be absurd, but that was actually the one that Jenny and Bridie liked best.

I am so sick of hearing about the 'Chaser boys'. ARE THEY NOT MEN?

I think this was a joke about how King George V had a hipster beard. It was very difficult to get a pic of a trilby hat on the right angle and make it look okay. It still looks too small but it looked worse when I made it bigger.

HAHAHAHA, I don't like Tim Winton very much. My friend Anthony had me in hysterics on the tram when he said, "More like Tim LOSEton!" and I went straight home and sweded this up.

I saw a picture of the disembodied face of the Statue of Liberty during its construction and couldn't help thinking it looked like actor Jeremy Renner, so I 'shopped up a pic of the statue with Renner's face.

I think I was making some kind of NeverEnding Story reference on Twitter. As if anyone could forget Artax ;'-(

HAHAHAHA I 'shopped this for Rose, who had a Comedy Festival show and tweeted a pic of herself looking super unimpressed about flyering outside the Town Hall, which is almost certainly the worst aspect of having a festival show. So I made it into this Titanic image, which actually went 'viral' in that Rose loved it and used it to illustrate an article she wrote about the festival. I insisted on a pic credit!

Toby posted this pic of a co-worker's dog sitting on his desk. (The co-worker took the dog to work every day.) I thought it looked a bit doge-like, so I made Toby a doge. It was my first doge and I'm not sure I really nailed the meme (needed some more misspelling) but I was happy with it and so was Toby.

The sad thing is that the very next day, someone left the front door of Toby's work open and the dog in the photo escaped and ran onto Johnston Street where he was hit by a car and killed. RIP DOGE.

When Lynda moved to Canberra for uni in 1996, we used to correspond frequently. Writing on paper, through the post! She had an inexplicable crush on tennis player Pete Sampras so I made a postcard by gluing onto card a picture cut from the newspaper of Sampras doing his signature tongue-protrusion, with the caption in whiteout. She liked it so much she put it on her college room door.

Recently I was wondering whatever happened to Sampras (answer: not much; playing on the retired-player circuit), which inspired me to do up a digital version for Lynda's Facebook wall.

I also like to do side-by-side pop-culture pic comparisons. Here, I note that Jessica Chastain in Kathryn Bigelow's film Zero Dark Thirty has the same kind of sunglassed badass look, bathed in golden afternoon light, that Linda Hamilton does in Bigelow's ex-husband James Cameron's film Terminator 2: Judgment Day.

In Zero Dark Thirty, Chastain's character Maya is both a heroine and a Terminator: she absolutely will not stop, ever, until Osama bin Laden is dead.

Here is Leonardo DiCaprio's evening dress in three of his period-set films.

Kim Kardashian and Kanye West at the Met Costume Institute Gala are the new American Gothic! It was Kanye's buttoned-up shirt and expressionless face that did it.

Here is another one I did comparing dickhead romance author Nicholas Sparks to Kenneth the Page from 30 Rock.

And here's one where I compared the new mayor of Geelong, Darryn Lyons, to that Fred Willard character from A Mighty Wind.

HAHAHA, Goth Thomas! My film-critic friend Thomas posted an old headshot from his 20s, when he was an actor, and there was some commentary that he looked a bit goth, so I took the pic and Robert Smithed it. It was actually really hard to get enough detail for the eyeliner because the resolution was so low. (Note: I did nothing to the hair; that magnificent coif is Thomas's own.)

Poor Thomas – I used his pic again when making fun of the gothy 'rune' neck tattoos sported by demon-hunting characters in the film The Mortal Instruments: City of Bones.

My friend Zoe was trying to make a mashup pic of Jonathan Franzen and Grumpy Cat, because Franzen is so grumpy. I saw this as a challenge, but it was actually incredibly hard to get the hair and glasses (Franzen's signature features) right while still getting the features of Grumpy Cat.

I think I did okay with the glasses especially, but If I did it again I think I'd try it the other way around: cut out Grumpy Cat's ears, eyes, nose and mouth and paste them onto a pic of Franzen. Fuck it, I'm actually gonna do that right now!

HAHAHA that looks terrible!

I was inspired to mash up White House Down with Step Up when I realised they both star Channing Tatum in a white singlet. Also, I liked the up/down reference. (Note I painstakingly changed the tagline too.) Then I sweded some stills from White House Down with lines from my fantasy mashup movie.

I also got into the habit of making my friends (especially my film critic buddies) personalised birthday cards. I think it began with Lee's birthday in May, because I saw people 'shopping him pics on his wall. This was the best I could do at the time:

The birthday cake theme continued for Gavin, who is Irish. I did a Google Image search for "Irish birthday cake".

Guy got a Jackie Chan birthday card with his head pasted on Jackie's. I was trying to make 'Happy Bday' work with the original 'Jackie Chan' up the top but I don't think that really came across.

HAHAHA a simple but good one!

Poor Thomas – when it was his turn for a birthday card I wheeled out the goth headshot again.

This was Angela's. She really likes scotch and had recently been travelling in Scotland, so I got a pic of her from Facebook and put her head on all the characters from the Ken Loach whisky-heist dramedy The Angels' Share.

Hahaha, Anthony's still makes me laugh! He really likes the comic book character the Punisher, who is an ex-military guy named Frank Castle who goes vigilante with 'extreme prejudice' after the mob kills his wife and kids. He is a brutal antihero who basically murders, kidnaps, tortures and terrorises criminals using military weaponry. So this was the card I did for Anthony:

Proving that I like a celebratory swede, here's the pic I did for the Facebook event in which film critics were meeting up for drinks on the final night of MIFF. The closing night film was All Is Lost, starring Robert Redford as a solo sailor who runs into trouble in the open sea.

I even sweded him a new hand holding a beer. I am LOLing now as I realise it is clearly a right hand and I have made it his left. It looks like some unseen person below deck is bottle-suckling Redford.

Then when the festive season came around, I did the now-traditional film-related swede for my film buddies, where I got the schlockiest movie of the year and gave its protagonists Santa hats. For context, here are ones I did in previous years:

This was the first one, from 2011, featuring Taylor Lautner from Abduction.

In 2012 it was the shark from the absurd Australian sharks-in-a-supermarket horror film, Bait. (Or, as we called it, Clean Up On Aisle Death.) I especially like this because of the absurdity of the shark not really having a proper head to rest the hat on, and the hat looking exactly the same underwater.

But in 2013 I couldn't decide which film to choose. We did a lot of ridiculing of the Danny Boyle film Trance, in which (mild spoiler alert) Rosario Dawson says to James MacAvoy in the throes of passion, "I know what you want," and then departs for the bathroom, leaving him in the bedroom, from where he hears this buzzing sound. Then she returns, naked and with no pubes.

But ultimately I chose Fast & Furious 6, which I enjoyed a lot.

I spent a lot of effort on the title. Then when Paul Walker was killed in a car crash a few weeks after I 'shopped this, I felt I had to commemorate him in a tasteful manner, so I altered the image to create Festive & Furious: Ghostyo Drift.

Someone on Twitter spelled it 'Xmis' rather than 'Xmas' so out came Five-Minute Photoshop again:

As far as a regular Christmas card went, I decided to make a Stephen King's IT-themed card, as I read the book when I was away at Mallacoota and I felt I was ready to attempt a re-watching of the TV miniseries, which was so scary I couldn't get past the first ten minutes when I was a kid.

I have bought the DVD for myself as a Christmas present but I haven't watched it yet.

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