Friday, June 30, 2006

Word to your mother. Here's my abstract for this year's CSAA conference. Those who read last year's abstract may notice a little strategic recycling, but fuck it; I didn't get to go to that conference so people can be wowed by my noodlings on hipsters this year instead, providing the paper gets accepted. Plus, there is a fashion workshop organised by Jennifer Craik, which I am pretty excited about because the last time I got to discuss fashion in an academic context was the Making an Appearance conference at UQ in 2003.
Street: Style, Irony and Affect in Hipster Culture

In cultural studies, 'street' is a weird touchstone of authenticity: an imagined site of stylistic innovation and political subversion. This paper describes an alternative use of 'street': that of the hipster. In contemporary Western culture, 'hipster' denotes a category of young, inner-urban, hedonistic consumers who ostentatiously (and sometimes professionally) perform cultural capital.

Subcultural theory is ill equipped to describe hipsters because they do not use 'street' as a badge of authenticity and alterity. Rather, they are voracious cultural receptors who shift between mainstream and subcultural fields of production, deploying the rhetoric and aesthetics of 'the street' ironically as pastiche, with little interest in making political statements.

For hipsters, 'street' is an affect; and this paper disrupts Fredric Jameson's apparently commonsensical equation: "irony = lack of affect". Rather, the hipster's ironic deployment of 'street' in dress, social networking and club culture generates a variety of affective registers including the pleasure of feeling 'cool', the humiliation of exclusion and the outrage of moral violation.
What do you think? I am kind of pleased with my two hours' work.

Thursday, June 29, 2006

Best delivery of crappy TV dialogue in ages.

Here's the dialogue in question. I can't even believe someone bothered to type this and put it on the internet.

Chase: We should start him on cyclophosphamide, see if it makes a difference.

House: Yeah, and interferon.

Foreman: Interferon isn’t an approved treatment for lupus.

Cameron: You’re not still thinking –

Chase: Interferon isn’t an approved treatment for heavy metal toxicity, either.

House: True. But it’s pretty much the only thing we can do for a viral infection. We didn’t consider it because it doesn’t –

Foreman: Because it doesn’t make sense! There’s no fever!

House: Because he’s got no immune system, thanks to the immunosuppressant you prescribed him for lupus treatment.

Cameron: He didn’t present with a fever, either.

House: Because at that point he was a post-viral autoimmune reaction, which again, thanks to the immunosuppressant you prescribed for lupus treatment, his immune system basically rolled out the red carpet for the dormant virus, waking it up, turning it into a present viral infection. Give him interferon.

Foreman: But if it is lupus, interferon could make it worse. Suppress his bone marrow even further.

House: Which is more likely, a rapidly progressing, acute onset lupus in a patient who’s already on steroids or a team of doctors missing a post-viral reaction?

Foreman: We didn’t miss anything.

House: Well, then, I’m wrong, and she shouldn’t. Give him interferon!

Today I went through a bunch of old floppy disks, hoping to discover the screenplay for my beloved action movie, The Delta Function. I was gutted when most of them wouldn't work on this computer. The Delta Function was full of awesomely crap dialogue, most of which I can't even remember properly. It was my aim to get it off the ground: an entirely Australian-produced movie, acted in dreadful American accents, that was so ludicrous yet so believable that it would go on to top the US box office and make instant stars of all its cast and crew.

Monday, June 26, 2006

Undies on tha Head. Yes, I promised to dig up a photo of this, and here it is. From circa 2002. I remember I also had a jaunty pair of red, black and white striped ones.

Wednesday, June 21, 2006

Lift my skirt and take a look at my charms. Yesterday I was wearing the undies that come with the stupid Hook-Ons that I was suckered into buying (and which I chronicled here). The stockings might be immensely irritating but the undies themselves are cute and very comfortable. Plus they have useful little loops on them where the stockings are supposed to 'hook on'.

I discussed this with Natalya and we came up with the genius idea that you could attach little charms of the sort designed for mobile phones. For example, these could be diamante initials (which I happen to know are widely available at a cost of $3.50 apiece). How fricking awesome would it be to be walking around all day with blinged-out stuff hanging off your underwear? Awesome, let me clarify, in a sort of ludicrous (Ludacris?), excessive way that characterises the best of bling ("Feels like a midget is hanging from my undies"?)

Or how about bells? You would be like a cat! People would hear you coming without knowing where the noise was coming from, and when you danced it would be like Christmas! Ho! Ho! Ho!

But as anyone who knows me will realise by now, this entire idea is really an excuse to set up a puntastic scenario in which I am able to say in a thick and implausible Irish brogue, "Who's trying to get at my lucky charms?"

Sadly, nobody tends to appreciate my charms these days (or indeed, any days). There is nothing more tragic in my book than being a present that nobody wants to unwrap.

Still, I think I might actually do this. I am, after all, the sort of person who takes stupid ideas and runs with them. Cases in point: Babel Fish Karaoke, the Disco Cape, The Incredible Melk, Friends of Anton Enus, Undies on tha Head, Helmets for Hipsters, Piss, Shit and Vomit, and other ideas that are so awesome and top-secret that I can't tell you about them yet, even though I really really want to. Let's just say a certain Google search features in this.

Monday, June 19, 2006

Thoughts on keeping the wolves from the door. Every now and then I feel angry and helpless about professional exploitation. Good people really are wasted in today's job market, where the plum jobs go to unpleasantly aggressive networkers or plodders blindly following well-worn career paths. My sneering, materialistic philistine of a younger brother loves to gloat that all my education and my enthusiasm for independent creative projects have merely won me a poverty-line existence in which my continued solvency depends on the whims of idiots like him. Of course, he wouldn't have put it quite like that. Still, it depresses me to think he is right and this is the way things are.

They are especially so in journalism, an industry that ties abstract ideas of writing and editing 'quality' to particular mastheads or brands. (I have written before about this.) Journalists, in turn, draw authority and professional leverage from their employers, regardless of how good at their jobs they are. Whenever I am at a social function and am asked what I do, the follow-up question is always, "Oh, who do you write for?" People wanting to "get into the media industry" therefore want to work for media 'brands' that reflect well on them: either large, well-known newspapers and magazines whose authority and venerability will rub off on them; or smaller, edgier cult publications whose street cred will rub off on them.

These ideologies of 'quality' work against the idea that more talented staff can demand higher wages. Rather, if you have a reputation for 'quality', you can pay as little as you like. Even at places like The Monthly, which famously pays a princely dollar per word, you won't get published unless you have a pre-existing professional reputation garnered from having worked at the 'quality' media outlets. This annoys me, because I know I am a very good writer and editor, and I see how much bad writing and incompetent editing gets published in these supposedly 'quality' outlets.

Ideologies of 'quality' work in blogging as well. Except where 'quality' in traditional media is dependent on the reputation of a brand, 'quality' in blogging is dependent on readership. Political blogs, or niche topic blogs, are the ones which garner respect and authority, and they are the most professionalised. And in the blogosphere, it's seen as a mark of hubris, something to mock mercilessly, if any smaller-scale blogger believes themselves to be any good at it, or has any ambitions to get paid to blog.

In this light, I recently read about ScooptWords, a syndication agency for blog content. Its sister agency, Scoopt, was established to capitalise on the trend towards "citizen paparazzi"; ScooptWords aims to bring blogging content to a wider audience. Members place a "buy this content" button on their blogs, and when editors come a-trawling for stuff to fill their pages, they can click on the button, taking them to a Scoopt interface which handles payment and licensing. One-time-only syndication, in a single publication in a single territory, is only a copy and paste away.

I find this trend both outrageously exploitative and strangely exciting. It's exploitative in the sense that it sees the blogosphere as a greenfield to be shamelessly plundered. In exchange for delegating to Scoopt the headache of negotiating rights, bloggers allow the agency to take a staggering 50% cut for the first sale and 25% for subsequent sales. Publications also don't have to credit the blogger, and are free to edit their articles without the blogger's explicit permission.

Now, I've worked in media long enough not to believe that pure gold drips from my keyboard and that it's a crime against literature to tamper with my posts of genius. As a professional writer, I write for the money. And as an editor, I do what I'm told. But I do have a problem with the idea that because I blog for free and on my own time, I ought to be grateful to let a third-party agency join in the orgy of exploitation.

So I've done up a little button of my own. In order to doff my hat to the whorishness of it all, the peer-policed shame of wanting to earn money in an industry that expects something for nothing, it's a tasteful little pinup.

It's more of a rhetorical statement than a serious attempt to make money from blogging - a reminder that portfolio workers in the culture industries deserve to get paid for the contributions they make. But if any editor should actually want to republish anything I write, they can click on that sucka and deal directly with me rather than with another agency. I wouldn't anticipate much of a need for such a button on this blog, but I'm seriously thinking about doing something like this for Footpath Zeitgeist, because that's probably my most 'professional' blog.

Thursday, June 15, 2006

Do you ever click on a news story purely because of the headline? Well then I think you will appreciate this gem from the Subeditorial Antics Appreciation Society.

See, when you're scrolling through the front page of a news site, a headline like this just jumps out at you. Who knows what went down at that circus. Was it an especially terrifying clown like the pointy-toothed one out of Stephen King's It? Was there a Siegfried and Roy-esque mishap involving a tiger?

As it turned out the seating just collapsed. And let me gently suggest to his litigious parents that perhaps the now seven-year-old is actually suffering from persistent nightmares and headaches due to the birth defect of having been named Siar Tauri. Poor little chap sounds like a character from Stargate SG-1.

Monday, June 12, 2006

I am now certain that Danielle from Big Brother works at Supre. I had believed this from the moment she was introduced as working in "fashion retail" and then entered the house wearing one of those very trendy gold pleather 'waist belts' that are everywhere right now.

And then during the show I was all, "I recognise that garment! And that! And I think I own that top... except in a different print."

But the clincher was that when Danielle was evicted last night, she was wearing the same belt like this:

Nothing says "I work at Supre" like strange and innovative ways of styling garments. As Natalya said, they probably hold staff workshops on this. Personally I think it would look better over a looser top and on someone with larger boobs, as the belt would sort of nestle in the cleavage rather than sit awkwardly over the loaf-like bosom created by that too-small boob tube.

Sunday, June 11, 2006

Fly, my pretties! Fly, avenging army of the night! So this afternoon I was flicking through one of the two entertaining local newspapers, the Melbourne Leader, and I happened to spot the following classified ad.

And I couldn't help but imagine that when you get this guy over to your house to get rid of possums, you answer the door with a cup of tea still in one hand, and there's nobody there and you go, "Hello? Hello?" for a while, and then poooffft! he appears, wearing a cloak that is flapping majestically even though there is no breeze.

And you go, "Are you the possum guy?"
He looks disdainfully at you and says, "I am the Possum Master."

There is a little pause. And then you kind of suck your breath in through your teeth and go, "Okaaaay, well I have some possums screeching and fucking in my roof. And one of them gnawed a hole in the wall and I thought there was a big furry spider on the wall until I realised it was the possum's fur sticking through my wall. So what are you gonna do about that? Huh?"

He stares at you for a while, blinking occasionally. You start to think perhaps he is retarded and you ought to have gone with Joe's Pest Removal, but just when you're about to repeat yourself he rouses from his stupor and walks into the middle of your front yard, where he stretches out his arms and says,

"Come to me, my pretties! Your Master commands you!"

And as you stand there, still holding your cup of tea, possums begin to emerge from your roof and cluster around the Possum Master. He arches his neck and emits a loud and dreadful possum hiss as his brushtailed minions coil around his ankles and shin up his legs to cling to his belt and perch on his shoulders. He cradles one in the crook of his arm, stroking it with tender malevolence in the manner of a Bond villain stroking a cat. The possum stares right at you.

"Now fly, my pretties!" bellows the Possum Master. "Fly, avenging army of the night!"

You see a shadow in your neighbour's front window and feel a little embarrassed to be the host of this spectacle. But the possums heed their Master and scamper obligingly down the street. Who knows where they go. At least it's not your house. The Possum Master strides off down your driveway.

"But how do I pay?" you call after him.
"I shall invoice you," he flings back over his shoulder.

You get the invoice and the bastard has charged you $560 plus GST. But you pay up. Oh yes you pay up. You heard what happened to this one guy who didn't.

Thursday, June 08, 2006

I am really looking forward to watching The Society Murders. Sometimes I am full of self-loathing thinking about my hipsterish ways. I fret that I go to too many parties and launches and see the same people there all the time, and then befriend them on MySpace, and that perhaps my tastes are shaped by postmodern irony and that my self-esteem depends on others recognising my skilful bricolage. (I was pretty crushed that nobody found this as funny as I did.)

And then I catch myself musing that I am looking forward to watching a true-crime telemovie starring Georgie Parker and Alex Dimitriades.

Recently I was having a hugely enjoyable session of pub theorising (the best kind! Hey, who wants to start a collaborative blog called Pub Theory?) with Joshwah, who ventured the notion that we are living in 'post-ironic' times in which irony has become the default state of play and has lost its ironic effect/affect. The waning of irony? Oh how sagely we nodded before obtaining further beers. I remember that someone on this blog last year said that irony and sincerity are not opposite ends of a continuum. Perhaps sincerity has itself become a mode of irony.

But I've been thinking about how things I like inspire a genuine emotional response in me, and how I find it alienating to engage with people whose interactions are playful, rhetorical, sarcastic. It's not that I collapse in front of the TV cutting out endless paper snowflakes and watching whatever's on. I look forward to specific programs. And I engage with them: Natalya finds it puzzling that I am quite physically frightened by scary moments in Supernatural.

This makes me wonder about the nature of 'looking forward', about the pleasure of anticipation. Can't say I have anything substantive to say about it right now, but perhaps you fine people do.

Wednesday, June 07, 2006

Heritage and hospitality. For a long time I have been fascinated by the architectural, industrial and demographic changes of my home town. I think it's important to know your city, to explore a little deeper rather than skate across its surface. There is a great website called Walking Melbourne that lists iconic surviving and vanished buildings of Melbourne, and there is also a wonderful site about the excavation of notorious Little Lonsdale Street.

One of my favourite Melbourne historical tidbits is that Sir Redmond Barry, the famous judge and Melbourne cultural benefactor on whose bronze pronged head seagulls currently shit, had a mistress and children who lived in Brunswick Street, Fitzroy, in a house he built for them. He lived across the Carlton Gardens on Rathdowne Street (you can still see his mansion) and once toyed with the idea of bulldozing a road through the gardens. Every time I have to drive around the gardens to get from Carlton to Fitzroy, I think about how annoyed Red must have been.

And just today I discovered that in my street there used to be a synagogue, which was built between the world wars when Carlton became somewhat of a Jewish precinct. I have always looked at that building, slightly too grand and exotic to fit in with the surrounding terraces, and wondered about its history.

My favourite thing about Melbourne lately is that history is being reclaimed and remade by the same commercial processes that shaped it. The cafe at the revamped GPO was known to me for some time only as "GPO". But I was delighted to discover that it's called the Federal Coffee Palace. Admittedly, the new version at GPO isn't a patch on the original Federal Coffee Palace, a grand building on Collins Street designed by William Pitt, who was also responsible for the Princess Theatre, the Victoria Brewery, the old Rialto Building and the Hotham Hotel (which is now the scummy All Nations backpacker hostel).

It opened just in time for the 1880 World Expo at the purpose-built Exhibition Building. (Stephen Street was also renamed Exhibition Street for the purpose - a road makeover that puts those pissy blue "Games lanes" to shame.) Its seven floors incorporated a bar, billiards room, smoking, sitting and writing rooms. It was demolished in 1973.

Then there's relatively new and sprauncey bar, Madam Brussels, named after Melbourne's most notorious madam. She was unusually rich and powerful for a 19th-century woman. At one stage she was listed as a brothel owner in the Melbourne phone book. She married a younger man, and owned most of the top of Lonsdale Street. (She did not, however, harbour the lost Victorian parliamentary mace; that was rumoured to have been her rival Annie Wilson. We had a story about this in Is Not Magazine Issue One.)

Then there's the Recorded Music Salon.

This place was iconic. In the late 1950s, a Polish guy set up a stereo equipment business at 11 Collins Street, Melbourne (I know this because the establishment date and owner used to be printed on the front window), and until its closure a little while ago, it remained in a sort of time warp of 60s hi-fidelity, all wood-grain cabinets and faded posters advertising obsolete component systems. For a while I was seeing this guy who was fascinated by the place, analogue music nerd that he was. It even gave its name to an album by indie band The Steinbecks.

It seems so crass that such a thoughtful, rarefied place has become another fucking 7-11. But I noticed the other day that the upstairs level is "under offer" to be leased. I fantasised that perhaps it would be transformed into a groovy bar with 60s or 70s decor, where people would gather to listen to fine records. I mean, the sign is still there. Who knows. I really hope so.

Tuesday, June 06, 2006

This Friday night, everybody cut footloose ... with the yeti. (Jeremy in a yeti suit.)

(Click to enlarge)

The Public Office has recently opened a new bar in the space previously occupied by Six Degrees Architects, which is definitely worth checking out. We will be transforming the venue into a winter wonderland, which means that I will be spending hours making dodgy papier-mache stalactites and cutting snowflakes out of bits of paper. There will be projections of famous dance movies, so Jellyfish can do her pas de deux with Kevin Bacon. We are also working on obtaining fires in 40 gallon drums, hobo style, on the roof, so you can toast marshmallows.

And there will be dancing in all its many guises, naff and otherwise. There are some amazing swing dancers coming to do their thing with the Pearly Shells, some disco dancers shaking their groove thing on podiums, and two all-girl breakdancing crews facing off in an epic battle. And did I mention Jeremy in a yeti suit?

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