Friday, January 03, 2020

2019: The year in Five-Minute Photoshop. Ah, how great is freelancing – I worked right up to the afternoon of Christmas Eve and am technically meant to be back at work now. But I am sneaking some time to do one of my favourite New Year rituals: collating all my stupid sweded imagery of 2019.

Here's the original Five-Minute Photoshop post, from March 2012. Then I decided to make it into an annual tradition: here's my round-up of 2013 in Five-Minute Photoshop, 2014 in Five-Minute Photoshop2015 in Five-Minute Photoshop, 2016 in Five-Minute Photoshop2017 in Five-Minute Photoshop and 2018 in Five-Minute Photoshop.

Now that Australia is actually on fire and Prime Minister Scott Morrison actually ignored the issue (he refused to meet with firefighting organisations that tried to warn him months ago that this would happen, and fucked off on holiday to Hawaii as Sydney suffocated in smoke haze, and then just offered unwanted handshakes rather than, you know, the money and resources needed to support firefighting efforts and disaster relief), the "this is fine" meme doesn't seem nearly as hyperbolic.

But anyway, this is a version I made after learning that there'd been an outbreak of bubonic plague in China. God, can you imagine how shithouse Morrison would be if there were a pandemic in Australia?

I don't know why people were talking about author Elizabeth Jolley on Twitter. Maybe they were misspelling her surname, but it inspired me to swede this pic of her in Angelina Jolie's famous 'leg dress' as "Elizabeth Jolie". Can you believe it only got three likes? Well of course you can; this is my unpopular sense of humour we are talking about.

In February, I left the room for five minutes and returned to find that Graham had somehow opened up a new Word doc and typed in it. I was so impressed that I made a jokey tweet that Graham was writing a novel – which got some minor likes. Kudos to the Microsoft Office socials team, they were happy to join in.

Of course, then I had to swede the cover of the novel. It's meant to look like a hipster-lit kind of cover, hence the all-type cover in Futura, and the millennial pink.

This is when I realised that while I feel like I have basically good taste and an okay sense for design, I just don't have that flair that sets apart an actual book cover designer, and if I ever self-publish, I should never design the cover myself as it will never look professional. It just looks like an okay amateur design.

In March I wrote an article for Guardian Australia about why people dislike the Shepard avocado, and it went viral (well, as viral as anything of mine ever goes). I personally like the Shepard; although it takes forever to ripen, it stays ripe and green for ages whereas the Hass avocado turns brown and slimy if you get distracted for five minutes. But this seemed to be an unpopular opinion, so I sweded this for all the Hass lovers out there:

It was really hard to get the colour gradient right – I ended up doing the WordArt in Word and then screencapping it and then cutting out the letters and pasting them in. I can't believe I wasted so much time on this.

After the article went up, I was quite excited to receive an email from Avocados Australia offering me a free tray of Hass avocados when they came back into season. To be honest I would have liked a free tray of Shepard avocados just as well, but as avocados are really expensive for someone on a freelance income, I replied most enthusiastically, but NOTHING! They never sent my avocados!

And then, the ultimate insult: I saw on social media somewhere (I forget if it was Twitter, Instagram or Facebook) another journalist showing off the tray of free avocados she had just received! I got really angry because as far as I know, she and the outlet she works for did not write anything about avocados that went viral, now did they?

Then after seeing this tweet:

I obliged:

I was legitimately so angry about this snub that I did not purchase avocados for a really long time. I've since caved, of course. I've also successfully raised two avocado plants from seeds, although they have been buffeted about by the heat, which has seared their tender leaves, and the fact one of them fell over and smashed its pot, and I found another pot but didn't have enough potting mix so I wonder if the roots are going to be okay.

Game of Thrones had its final season, and I left it too late to pitch a recap column anywhere, I ended up recapping each episode on my own sadly neglected site, The Look. This mashup of The Simpsons and Game of Thrones took me ages to do and I resented it a lot. Very tedious to find so many pics of Arya in the Hound era.

The recapping got to be really onerous labour by the end and I felt very resentful I was doing it for free, but people really seemed to like my recaps, and some of them were picked up by Medium, so I got heaps of readers. Also there were some Thrones Bros who liked to badger me and other non-male Thrones fans and reviewers. The one I made this meme about literally was called Dave.

I suppose it's safe to reveal that when I had to move house in the middle of the year, I turned to Witch Shit. On a logical level I know that witchcraft is nonsense, but if ritual soothes me and makes me feel more in control during a period of my life in which I was grieving the loss of my home of 14 years, then why not?

I really loved living in Carlton, so I cast a spell to help me find another home in the same area. The red dots on this map depict the locations in Carlton where I picked up stones. No logic to which ones; just whichever ones caught my eye as I was there. I called them my Stones of Carlton, and I reasoned to myself that when I charged them all under a full moon with the purpose of finding me a new home, gathered together they would form a grid within which my new home would be located.

Well, I am currently typing this from my new home in Carlton, 350m from my old home and less than a block from where I gathered one of the stones.

This is a subtle one. I was looking at the Twitter trending topics and saw "Pensioner Dental Plan", which of course made me think of The Simpsons. What a tragic Gen-Xer I am that my pop-culture references are basically The Simpsons and The Late Show.

Yes, it's the traditional Secret Film Critics Thread end-of-year drinks swede! I always look forward to these because it involves choosing one of the worst films of the year. This year the obvious frontrunner was Gemini Man.

One thing that irritated me in 2019 was that Pixlr Editor, my traditional sweding app, has binned the version I used in the past, whose interface was a lot like Photoshop, and has created this stupid new version that I find really unintuitive to use. Worst of all you can't use your own fonts; you have to use their deadshit fonts. This was the best option for the Gemini Man poster typeface.

One of my friends thought that Richard Watts (left) looks like a koala (right), so I sweded this as a joke.

Sunday, December 08, 2019

Latest plant developments. I spent this arvo potting up some plants I got at Bunnings yesterday. I got some hanging basket plants to put down the side of the house, some petunias and marigolds for colour, and I rescued two half-dead indoor plants for $2 each (I am 2 for 3 on my previous mostly-dead fern rescues.)

Most excitingly, one of the half-dead plants is a Pilea ‘Silver Sprinkles’, a luxuriant specimen of which I admired in Elanor’s bathroom the other day. My bathroom faces the same way as Elanor’s so I’m hoping to get some similar success with my plant.

And speaking of ‘mostly dead’, I decided to turf the fig cuttings I’d made at Pitt Street and use their pot for the petunia, but when I removed what looked like dead twigs, one of them had a LIVE ROOT!!!! So I replanted it in another pot.

I also dead-headed my lavender and replanted the tomato plants that had self-seeded in the basil that Lucy gave me. (I’d been meaning to do this for weeks and weeks.) There were five seedlings of tubestock size. Hopefully at least a few will survive.

I hope all my plants will be okay in tomorrow’s miserable heat. I’ve watered them well.

No matter how many plants I get, it never feels like enough and they never grow fast and luxuriant enough. It is my ambition to live in one of those stylish, jungly houses you see in magazines or the internet, but my house never looks ‘put together’ and my plants look so small and bitsy. GROW! GROW!!

Monday, December 02, 2019

Shifts in the genre of ASMR videos. The frustrating thing with journalism about ASMR (which, in case you don't know, stands for Autonomous Sensory Meridian Response and is an audiovisual genre intended to provoke 'tingling' or 'floating' sensations in its audience for sleep or relaxation) is that it often assumes the reader has never heard of ASMR and so it's always focused on explaining the sensory phenomenon.

As a result there isn't much discussion of the genre itself, which is dynamic like any other genre, and has evolved over time. Every article seems to repeat the same really basic discussions of the subtypes of videos: soft speaking and personal attention roleplays; smooth gestures and movements (including deft handmaking and machine manufacturing); abstract 'triggers' including mouth sounds and tactile manipulation of objects.

Like any media genre, ASMR has gone through trends and technological experiments that are only really noticeable to longtime ASMRtists or viewers. I'm fascinated to see that binaural recording setups seem less popular now. A few years ago heaps of people were using the 3Dio binaural mic that has the fake ears, or a similar two-mic setup; formally, many of the videos produced with such setups had a lot of emphasis on deliberately brushing, whispering into or otherwise interacting with the mic, which would often appear onscreen in the videos.

But now a lot of ASMRtists seem to work with a single offscreen omnidirectional mic, and rely either on their performative skills or on montage effects. The earliest ASMR videos were single takes, or several takes edited seamlessly together as one shot, intended to read as 'live'. But the more interesting videos now will use intercut shots and layered audio, or try for more abstract visual effects with voiceovers, or field recordings rather than the traditional bedroom studio.

Also, these days I see more of those in-ear binaural mics that look like earbuds. ASMRtists who use models (for example, for massage, facial and hairdressing videos) will get the model to wear them, which provides a very specific surrogate sensory experience for the viewer.

I'm also noticing that while interpersonal, retail, beauty treatment and medical settings remain popular in roleplay videos, esoteric 'magical-thinking' practices such as reiki, tarot, astrology and witchcraft are becoming more mainstream in ASMR.

One of the best ASMR roleplays I’ve seen recently was a dystopian scenario where you have to visit the security department at your corporate workplace to have your face mapped and scanned because you aren’t showing up on the facial recognition cameras in the foyer. The ASMRtist appears as a kind of pragmatic fellow worker who knows this is annoying to you but is gently and professionally assessing you so you can get back to work. I found it so relaxing I was falling asleep in front of my computer and had to stop it halfway.

The creator is called Ancient Whispers ASMR, and she's Canadian. She's a relative newcomer to ASMR, and while her early videos were mystical – focused on guided meditation, esoteric things like crystals and tarot readings, she has since embraced green-screen effects that instantly put her into a much wider range of scenarios, and she's embraced sci-fi and fantasy settings.

I've also just discovered this incredible account 'ATMOSPHERE' that does "cinematic ASMR". I think she might be Russian or Eastern European. It's way more immersive and narrative than most ASMRtists, and has so much attention to effects and background sounds. She's done kind of historical fantasy ones as well as futuristic sci-fi ones.

While I haven't watched all of her videos, they are quite ambitious in that they seem to occupy a shared narrative universe where characters recur. For instance, there's one where a character who was first seen reading Tolstoy to you in a train carriage reappears at the tailor's atelier where you are now being fitted for a ball gown.

What I love about ATMOSPHERE is that it embraces the grey area between ASMR and older audiovisual genres. The production values are still clearly homemade, but they make me wonder: what would a Hollywood ASMR movie be like to watch? Imagine how great the sound could be in Dolby Atmos, and how stunning and immersive the visuals could be.

The trouble is that outside the ASMR subculture, ASMR is a joke and people think it's just about caressing microphones seductively and whispering and tapping things. While some musicians and actors have appeared in novelty ASMR videos, I doubt that any writer or director would actually build a movie around it.

Monday, November 18, 2019

Dad jokes. I'm at dinner at my parents’ place. My mother is telling my dad off for not wearing his hearing aids. Dad is getting annoyed.

“I put them up my bum!” he says.

“What?” says my mother in exasperation.

“Yes,” Dad says slyly, “you see, I thought they said, ‘put it in your REAR’.”

I can’t help myself and start laughing at this.

Then I look at my mother and she has a hand clamped over her mouth and is also laughing, like Marge Simpson at Ned Flanders’ ‘bosom’ letter.

Friday, October 18, 2019

Finally I can Finnish my search. When I was really little, in our first house on Canterbury Road, we had a huge framed canvas print of a primary-school class wearing old-fashioned-looking clothes. It was on the wall in the tiny back room that was used as my brother's bedroom when he was a baby.

I loved the outfits and was super into the pinafores with the puff-sleeve blouses. At the time I didn't think of this as an especially 'European' look but one of my favourite dresses was a Tyrolean-themed ballet costume made by my mother, which had a white mock blouse and black pinafore (but it was all one piece) decorated with coloured rickrack. I think somewhere there is a pic of me in about grade 1 wearing the dress and dancing around a maypole at school. Hmmm, why did I love Midsommar so much?

I have thought about this print so often over the years. I don't know what happened to the actual object but we moved house when I was in maybe grade 2 and I don't remember it being at the new place. Anyway, every so often I'd try to Google it using words like "1970s retro children class picture illustration". Today I struck gold!

It's 'Luokkakuva', a textile designed by Katrina Rissanen Viljamaa in 1978 for the Finnish design firm Finlayson. It came in several colourways – I think we might have had the blue one.

Sunday, September 22, 2019

Fake Graham II: The Refakening. OKAY COP THIS!!!! Just now I went to get a teabag from the pantry and looked out the window. And there, balancing on my back fence, was a fluffy black and white cat that looked a LOT like Graham, who was even then in the lounge room!


Of course I immediately burst into raucous laughter that scared Fake Graham 2 off the fence and into my next-door neighbour Steptoe’s back yard.

“Buddy, I’ve got bad news for you!” I said to my bemused cat.

This is the first cat I have seen in my new neighbourhood and of COURSE it has to be a new enemy doppelgänger. I think it might belong to my next-door neighbour.

Sunday, September 01, 2019

I could teach you, but I'd have to charge. I have a project that I am terming Bring All the Birds to the Yard. Step 1 was: leave some old bread crusts on my outside table. They sat untouched for a while and then yesterday I was excited to see half of one crust was gone.

Then this morning at like 5am Graham was standing on my bedside table staring out the window intently and banging on the glass. And then when I got up I saw ALL THE CRUSTS WERE GONE.

Did I bring all the birds to the yard? Stay tuned for more on this project.

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