Monday, November 28, 2005

I've just been assaulted

Tuesday morning

Monday night at about 9pm

About 3/4 of an hour ago I was walking home down Gertrude Street, having just grabbed some fish and chips for dinner, when I saw a guy punching his girlfriend. I tried to intervene. He punched me in the face a couple of times. My dinner went all over the footpath.

I'm sitting here now in something ressembling a state of shock, holding a packet of frozen peas to the right side of my face. I can't see out of my right eye cos the swelling's so bad. I'm gonna have a major black eye tomorrow.

I've already reported the assault to the local cops. Fuck knows if anything is gonna come of it though.

Tomorrow I'll post a pretty picture for you all of how my black eye has developed.

If I had just kept walking I would have hated myself for not getting involved, but now I just feel sore and slightly stupid. Well, maybe sore, slightly stupid, but slightly proud that I tried to intervene as well...
* * *
Tuesday 29th
I've updated the photo so that you now have a 'before and after' shot - well, they're both taken after I was punched in the face, but now you can see how I look after a night's sleep. The swelling's gone down heaps, thanks to the ice my friend Jeff brought over last night which I held against my cheek for several chilly, dripping hours. (He also brought strawberry icecream, which went down a treat!) On the other hand the bruising is starting to colour nicely. Another day or two and I'll have the best black eye you've ever seen.
I'm off to my GP this afternoon to get everything checked out, to make sure that there's no major damage, and also because I need a medical report for the police. I have a vague feeling that I may have a cracked cheekbone or something: I'm certainly not in significant pain, but every now and then this morning I've been coughing up bloodclots, which suggests that I'm bleeding internally via my sinuses or something... Sorry if that's sounds alarming!
The bottom line is, I'm sure I'll be right as rain after a few days rest. Thanks to everyone for their kind words (and ice cream!)

Sunday, November 27, 2005

Slightly shellshocked Sunday

What a week. Ack. I can barely bring myself to think about it, let alone write about it.

Everything built towards Thursday: I watched Kubrick films, read a Kubrick bio, browsed Kubrick-related websites, all in preparation for 3RRR's three-hour outside broadcast live from the Australian Centre for the Moving Image on Thursday morning, where the exhibition Stanley Kubrick: Inside the mind of a visionary filmmaker opened that night.

Got to ACMI early, chatting to various wonderful RRR staffers who were getting the equipment set up, running through the interview schedule with ACMI staff, and generally getting nervous about the show.

To give you an idea of how seriously I was taking the broadcast, I scripted all of my intros and questions, which I usually just make up on the spot from a couple of brief notes. Not today though, I didn't want to leave things to chance (which meant that at least one of my interviews was a bit stiff, but more of that later).

9am rolled around, and we opened with the thunderous chords of Strauss' 'Thus Spake Zarathrustra' from 2001: A Space Odyssey, and we were away.

I interviewed Maja Kepper first, from the Deutsches Filmmuseum in Frankfurt, one of the co-curators of the exhibition. Then came one of the interviews I was most nervous and excited about: with Christiane Kubrick, Stanley's widow. She was utterly charming, warm, open and friendly. Hopefully I'll have a transcript of the interview posted here in a few days time.

Actor Malcolm McDowell was supposed to be next, but the publicist said he was running late after a big night on Wednesday. They also said he was grumpy, and had already cancelled a couple of interviews. We rescheduled quickly.

My next guest was poet and reviewer Alicia Sometimes, from RRR's Aural Text program, who discussed a couple of recent Kubrick biographies; then I spoke with Jan Harlan, Kubrick's brother-in-law and the executive producer of several of his films. This was the interview I was least happy with, as my pre-prepared questions were off the mark. Still, one flat interview out of six isn't too bad.

Paul Harris from RRR's Filmbuffs Forecast was next, and a charming conversation it was. Finally, at 11.40am, Malcolm McDowell came on the show. To say I was nervous and excited was an understatement. After all, this is a man who's appeared in 142 films and television programs, including Lindsey Anderson's fantastic If..., one of my favourite films of all time.

From what his publicist had said earlier I was expecting him to be a bit cranky, but he was delightful: funny, frank and outgoing. There'll be a transcript of the interview available shortly, including the surreal moment when I swallowed a fly on air while thanking him for coming on the show!

After the Kubrickian excesses of the morning, I raced home and then down to A Bar Called Barry in Collingwood, where I met up with fellow DJ's Helen and Peter, so we could get the decorations up for Q + A's 10th birthday: we finished at about 4.30. I went home, showered and changed, and headed back to ACMI for a quick drink at the formal exhibition launch, then headed home to have dinner with Helen before we started work.

The birthday was a huge success: one of the best nights ever at Q + A. We had a full house an hour after we opened, and half an hour after that, a queue of 250 people waiting to get in. There was one point during the night where I felt like I was on E: I had this overwhelming sense of goodwill and pride in what we'd created, a queer club that plays rock music and welcomes all kinds of queers, and which has become a Melbourne institution. I got to bed around 5am, completely knackered.

On Friday afternoon I had to facilitate the innaugural Youth Access Forum at the National Gallery of Victoria, which is a group of about 12 young people who'll help brainstorm ideas and generate discussion about ways the gallery can engage with a youth audience. Despite being braindead I think I did an ok job.

Next it was out to RRR in West Brunswick, where I met with the station manager Kath Letch to discuss my hosting the Breakfasters program over summer, while the regular team take some time off. This will mean getting up at 4am Monday to Friday for about six weeks, which is going to be a challenge, but it will also be a lot of fun. Plus it's a paid gig, which is even better!

Kath also told me that I didn't get the Program Manager's job, although apparently it was right down to the line between myself and the successful applicant, which was very flattering to learn. We also talked about a couple of other projects for next year, more of which later.

As a sign of how exhausted I was by Friday afternoon though, I picked up my tickets for the Meredith Music Festival while I was at the station, only to put them down somewhere and lose them! I was completely braindead. This is a potential disaster, but hopefully the tickets will turn up at the station somewhere, probably right where I left them, on a table or something...


Saturday I caught the train down to Geelong, as I'd been invited to present a 15 talk at the National Ethnic & Multicultural Broadcasters Council annual conference. Frustratingly, I arrived to discover that my 15 minutes had been cut back to 5 as they were running significantly overtime. A two hour round trip to race through some key points about presenting a arts and cultural issues on community radio? What a joke. To say I was frustrated would be an understatement.

I also had to leave as soon as I was done, because I had to get to Steve and Alicia's engagement party: two old friends who've lived together for eight years and who are finally getting married. I also made it to a wild west themed party at another friend's place in Carlton, but the combination of being drunk and exhausted meant I wasnt much of a conversationalist, and I left after about half an hour.

Finally, sleep. Much needed.

Today is Sunday, and I'm still brainfried. There's shitloads of things that I should be doing, but I think I'm just going to vegetate all day. The most strenuous thing I think I'll do, apart from update this blog of course, is write a list of all the things I want to do this week. After that, I think it's time to lounge around on the couch and watch a couple of DVD's with all my critical functions switched firmly off.

Hmm, sounds like a dumb horror movie or similarly brainless Hollywood flick is in order...

Wednesday, November 23, 2005


Ok, the last few days have been more than a little tension-inducing.

On Monday I found out that I had the opportunity of interviewing one of The Strokes, guitarist Nick Valensi, on Tuesday afternoon. Naturally I wasn't going to say no, even though it meant that most of Monday was a right off because I had to get public transport across town to South Melbourne, to the office of Sony BMG, so I could listen to eight of the 14 tracks off the band's forthcoming 3rd album First Impressions of Earth. (It's good, much better than Room On Fire - but more on that in a couple of weeks, once the embargo has been lifted.)

Tuesday I did the interview, although as they were running a couple of hours behind schedule, the whole afternoon was a right off as well. (I'll play the interview on my RRR program Smartarts at the end of the year, or in early January; I'm not quite sure when, yet. I'll also print some of it in my MCV column, despite the fact that the idea of me doing so has got the record company in a tizzy - I can only assume that they think I'm gonna suggest the band are all gay or something!)

I spent all of today, Wednesday, stressing over tomorrow morning's radio show, as I have to host a Stanley Kubrick special live from ACMI for three hours, with guests including Kubrick's widow Christiane, and the star of A Clockwork Orange Malcolm McDowell.

Then tomorrow night is the 10th birthday of Q + A (queer + alternative) the Thursday night club that I co-coordinate and DJ at.

Stressed? Me? Hahahahahahahahahahaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaa!

Tuesday, November 22, 2005

Fakts: A Typical Weekend

On Saturday, I:
  • Woke up after a strange dream involving a talking dog which at one stage I was having a conversation with; later on I was the dog. I don't know what breed I was: probably a mongrel.
  • Showered and dressed.
  • Had a can of coke and a line of speed for breakfast, but not in that order.
  • Ran out the front door.
  • Caught the Brunswick Street tram into the city.
  • Watched Miranda July's sublime debut feature film You and Me and Everyone We Know at the Kino cinema.
  • Walked down Little Collins Street into Moviola, where I purchased Michael Herr's Kubrick, a memoir about writing the screenplay for Full Metal Jacket.
  • Went back to the Kino and watched the Australian film Little Fish (starring Cate Blanchett), which I thought was strong but still under-developed.
  • Walked home through the Fitzroy Gardens wishing it was autumn so there would be piles of leaves to kick through.
  • Dropped in on a print-making exhibition at the Australian Print Workshop in Gertrude Street, Fitzroy.
  • Had a late lunch or an early dinner at Arcadia cafe.
  • Masturbated.
  • Worked on a manuscript, a guidebook to an imaginary city.
  • Went to a fairly dull party (names have been left intentionally blank so as to avoid hurting feelings of certain people and their dull friends).
  • Went to the Empress Hotel in North Fitzroy and hung out with a bunch of Melbourne bloggers instead of actually watching a band: much more fun, and cooler people than the party.
  • Walked home up Brunswick Street, horrified at just how ugly some people are: not physically, but the whole bogan-in-trendy-shirt look that passes for sophisticated in the suburbs, offends my aesthetic well-being. Why can't they stay in the bloody suburbs instead of polluting the inner city with their presence? It's not like I go out to Chadstone or Doncaster and stand around dressed in black and discussing the latest obscure Glaswegian band I've discovered while sipping absinthe and feeling angst-ridden, now is it? Fair's fair!
  • Dropped in at the Rob Roy Hotel but by then it was 2.30am and it was almost closed.
  • Went to Control HQ and sat on a couch smiling at people, talking shit, and drinking until 5am.
  • Went home and crashed out.

On Sunday I:

  • Slept in until midday.
  • Got up and looked sadly at the empty bag of speed.
  • Read The Age - well, not exactly read, but skimmed headlines, paying most attention to the arts section.
  • Rang my mate Mike to see if he wanted to hang out, but he didn't answer: apparently he was on the phone having a trans-continental blue with his boyfriend.
  • Walked down to the Johnston Street Spanish Fiesta: very crowded, very noisy, good fun.
  • Strolled up Elgin Street and went to the Nova Cinema, where I watched the Australian film Look Both Ways, which was fucking great.
  • Walked back via the Fiesta and ate a fairly poor paella, then ducked into the Spanish Club for a piss, and to check out the new band room: there were no bands playing, but they were teaching people dancing instead. Seeing no cute boys to ask for a dance, I left.
  • Dropped into the Brunswick Street Bookstore and found two expensive hardcover collections of photographs I wanted to buy (one of Sydney police crime scene photos from 1920-1950, the other of New York in the 30's and 40's). I didn't buy either, but took notes of their publishers so I could try and scam review copies.
  • Came home, ordered Indian takeaway and grabbed a six-pack of Mercury dry cider, my preferred tipple.
  • Went down to the video library and hired six Stanley Kubrick films.
  • Came home, ate dinner, watched Killer's Kiss (a film noir), drank, and went to bed.

This, ladies and gentlemen, is my exciting life.

Sunday, November 20, 2005

DVD REVIEW: What Happened To Kerouac?

This 1985 documentary, co-directed by Richard Lerner and Lewis MacAdams, is a wide-ranging tribute to the life and literature of Jack Kerouac, the tragic chronicler of the Beat Generation and author of the seminal novel On The Road.
The Beat Generation was a group of writers and artists in post-WWII America who provocatively explored their disaffection with an increasingly homogenous and materialistic culture through often-autobiographical work. Kerouac (who died in 1969, aged 47) was widely perceived as the leader of the Beats, although as this documentary shows, he was ill equipped to handle the fame and infamy that the role demanded of him.

From its opening scenes it is clear that What Happened To Kerouac? seeks to further enshrine Kerouac in the pantheon of literary saints rather than critically examine his reputation or the merits of his work. That in itself is no great sin.

Less forgivable is the film’s inaccessibility: viewers who are not already intimately familiar with Kerouac and his oeuvre may find it dense and confusing. The filmmakers’ desire to avoid a classic, chronological tracing of the trajectory of Kerouac’s life results in an occasionally-confusing parade of talking heads. Too, the directors display a reticence to delve beneath the accepted surface of the Kerouac myth: allusions by Kerouac’s contemporaries about his ambiguous and conflicted sexuality, for example, are left frustratingly unexplored.

These criticisms aside, What Happened To Kerouac? is a richly rewarding documentary for anyone wishing to learn more about the author of such works as The Subterraneans, Desolation Angels and Mexico City Blues. Filmed when many of Kerouac’s contemporaries were still alive, the film features revealing interviews with the likes of poet Allen Ginsberg, transgressive author William S. Burroughs, and many of the women in Kerouac’s life; from Beat author Dianne Di Prima, through to Kerouac’s one-time lover Carolyn Cassady and his daughter Jan. Magnificent archival footage reveals the destruction that fame wrought on a man who was psychologically capable of dealing with the public’s demands, and a sensitive jazz soundtrack adds poignancy to some of the starker footage.

While the documentary’s flaws are compounded by a lack of extras (not even a commentary or a trailer are provided) the DVD transfer is sharp; and the subject matter itself – the complex life of Jack Kerouac – more than makes up for the film’s shortcomings. Without doubt, What Happened To Kerouac? is one DVD that any fan of the Beat Generation simply must have.

(Availaible in Australia through Force Entertainment)

Wednesday, November 16, 2005

Brokeback Mountain

Ang Lee's new film Brokeback Mountain just screened before a very respectful audience of film critics here in Melbourne, of whom I was one. I am delighted to report that the film was magnificent. Understated, subtle, rich in emotion, beautifully shot and superbly acted. It made me cry a couple of times.

All the buzz about Ledger's performance as Ennis Del Mar is spot-on: he really does give a remarkable portrayal of a man who is so emotionally crippled, and frightened of himself and what his feelings mean, that he is unable to express the love he feels for Jack Twist (Jake Gyllenhaal).

The expanded roles for the protagonists' wives (compared to their minor roles in Annie E Proulx's original short story) are well handled, so we feel compassion for them both, and gain a real sense of insight into their family lives.

The sex scene in the tent between Jack and Ennis should satisfy everyone, homophiles and homophobes alike; although to my mind the second tent scene (I'll avoid saying too much to avoid spoilers) is far more emotionally charged and expressive.

Yes, in case you were wondering, there's nudity at various points in the film; none of it blatant and all within context. Yes, Jack and Ennis kiss without the camera cutting away. This is no Philadelphia and does not shy away from the physical reality of a 20 year relationship between two men.

Now I want to see the film again, because I disengaged my critical functions at the start so that I could simply sit back and enjoy it.

It's a masterpiece, but a subtle one: go in with your expectations set too high and you might be disappointed. Now, if I can only get to interview Heath, Jake or Ang, my year will be complete!

This was a quick post I just placed on the IMDB - full review coming soon.

Tuesday, November 15, 2005

Fuck me, I'm broke!

I have a grand total of $19.50 in my bank account, and apart from a little bit of money coming in from DJ'ing and sporadic, underpaid freelancing for the gay press, no income sources to speak off.

Oddly enough, I don't feel at all concerned, perhaps because I know I can always get cash advances off my credit card, and also because the universe usually drops something in my lap at points like these. Then again, trusting in fate is not usually the wisest course to take.

I need a job, and fast!

Saturday, November 12, 2005

My life was saved by rock and roll

Well, not really. It wasn't like I was poised on the brink of suicide when a chance encounter with a Velvet Underground or Sex Pistols song renewed my optimism and sense of wonder about the world and made me coil up the rope or put down the razor blade.

The title of today's post (which hopefully most of you will recognise as a paraphrased line from the Velvet's classic song 'Rock and Roll': if you didn't, you go buy a copy of the band's 1970 album Loaded immediately) seemed like a good intro to a brief discussion of some of the best gigs I've ever been to, which was inspired by my mention of seeing Nirvana live at the Palace in my 20 factoids tag response.

So, in no special order (because how can you determine a scale of bliss?) here are a few of the most mind-blowing-or-expanding, moving, or simply thrilling gigs I've been to over the past 38 years of my colourful life to date.

1. P.J. Harvey live to air on 3RRR at the Rooftop Cafe, Monday 29th January 2001.

Most of my friends are already sick of hearing me wax lyrical about this particular gig. This was an intimate performance by P.J. and her band, live at the sadly-missed Rooftop Cafe in Victoria St, Fitzroy, and broadcast live to air on 3RRR FM. There was an audience of about 150 people squeezed into the Rooftop's outdoor garden, and amazingly, clusters of people on every surrounding warehouse rooftop desperate for a view. Thanks to my position as a volunteer announcer at the station I got in early, and managed to secure a prime vantage point just in front of the middle mic-stand and foldback speaker, beside friends Bec, Mindy and Tom. When PJ and her band came out to play, it turned out that I was sitting literally at Polly Jean's feet.

This was a magnificent, passionate gig that was continued for an extra couple of songs after the broadcast proper had ended. When the band played 'Sheela Na Gig' I almost died from an overdose of sheer joy.

It was also one of the only times in my life that I've had an empathic insight into the attraction of women's breasts for heterosexual men; I was so close to P.J., and looking straight up at her, that every time she took a breath I could see her breasts heave. That makes P.J. one of only two women in the world I've ever had any vague sort of attraction to: the other was the shaven-headed powerhouse Skin, from the band Skunk Anansie.

One of the best things about this gig, by the way, is that you can listen to it by going here, to the archive section of the 3RRR website.

2. Einstürzende Neubauten @ the Old Greek Theatre, Richmond, July 1988

This gig was memorable for a few reasons. I'd bought the ticket as a 21st birthday present for myself, I'd taken a tab of acid, and Neubauten were simply transcendent. Industrial junk, power tools and guitars became resonant instruments that set your internal organs vibrating. An awestruck audience of goths, punks and experimental music fans became a single, seething entity as the band played such songs as 'Der Tod ist ein Dandy' and 'Z.N.S.'

If you're not familiar with the band (which is fronted by the cadaverous Blixa Bargeld, formerly a core member of the Bad Seeds) then I urge you to obtain a copy of the DVD/video 1/2 Mensch, directed by Sogo Ishii, which combines stunning live footage from a Japanese tour, surreal and disturbing filmclips, and menacing, post-apocalytic interludes introducing the various band members. You should also grab the two-disc CD compilation Strategies Against Architecture II, which provides a great synopsis of the band's first decade.

3. Nick Cave and the Bad Seeds @ the Big Day Out, 1993

I'm pretty sure it was the first Melbourne Big Day Out where Nick Cave and the band played at sunset, at the end of a hot and humid day, just as a thunderstorm and cold front rolled in from the west. Thunder, lighting, and Nick's crows-nest hair and voluminous shirt whipping and flapping in the sudden wind. When the gods provide your band's special effects, you know you rock.

Then there's:
  • Luscious Jackson at the Melbourne Big Day Out 1995, because I got to get up on stage and dance with the band.
  • The Disposable Heroes of Hiphoprisy at the 1993 Big Day Out; one of those bands I knew nothing about at the time and wandered along to check them out simply out of curiousity, only to be utterly blown away.
  • The Flaming Lips at the 2003 Big Day Out, whose spectacular live show made me feel like I was tripping even though I was totally straight at the time: lights, giant ballons, trippy visuals, and a stage crowded with dancers in furry animal costumes. Groovy!
  • The Polyphonic Spree at the Palace, St Kilda, January 2004. One of those gigs that you walked out of in love with the world. The encore, when the 20+ members of the band appeared at the back of the venue and walked in a snaking, singing like through the crowd and back to the stage, was one of those rare moments of pure, perfect delight.
  • Michael Franti and Spearhead at The Laundry, Fitzroy, 2001. Another live-to-air gig for 3RRR. I arrived tired and grumpy; I left grinning from ear to ear, utterly transported into a better world.
  • Magic Dirt at Wall Street (now the Hi Fi Bar), Melbourne, date unknown, supporting Fugazi. The first time I'd seen the band live, and one of several times they broke up on stage before our eyes. Two of the band members had just split up (never fuck a band member; like fucking a housemate, it's doomed) and the tension between them resulted in a truly spectacular, abraisive, empassioned gig.
  • Fugazi and Shellac at the Collingwood Town Hall, date unknown. Not the same tour as above, but another spectacular show. Especially memorable because of the fantastically clear live sound, and the way Fugazi's Guy and Ian dealt with a wannabe stage diver: they wrapped themselves around him, literally enveloping him with their limbs so that he was unable to move.
  • Scottish post-rock outfit Mogwai at the Prince of Wales, St Kilda, 2002. One of the loudest gigs I've ever attended, and one of the most sublime.
  • Iceland's Sigur Ros at Hamer Hall, Melbourne, 2005: music of such rich and textured beauty that it made me weep.
  • Blur at Monash Uni Clayton campus in 1998; at the time I was mostly hanging out at punk gigs, so it was great fun experiencing something so perfectly pop. Never have I seen more people excitedly dancing and bouncing around the room as when the band played 'Song No. 2'.
  • Mid Youth Crisis reformation gig at the Arthouse, Carlton, 2002. MYC were legends of Melbourne's punk and hardcore scene in the 1990's. After a smack-induced breakup, the band reformed to play two amazing gigs at the Arthouse. Thanks to my mate Ian Cook, who was mixing for them, I had a perfect vantage point. A fucken awesome show from a legendary band. There's a great live CD of one of these gigs that was released in 2003; well worth picking up if you find a copy.

I'm gonna end the list here, cos otherwise I'll be writing this all day. Suffice to say there are plenty more memories where those came from, many of them suffused with late nights and sticky carpets at the Punters Club (RIP), The Tote, The Empress, The Corner, The Richmond Social Club (RIP) and many other great venues. Long live live music!

Wednesday, November 09, 2005

Tag Dag

Ok, so I've been tagged by Ekstasis, so I guess I better play...

(Did you spot the carefully feigned reticence to hide my puppyish eagerness just then? Puppyish eagerness, you see, is not cool. Like, I'm cool? Yeah, right! See point 4, below.)

Twenty things about me, hey? Hmmmmm. Let's see.

1. The only reason I went back to do Year Twelve in 1984 was cos I wanted to be in the school musical. The teachers had promised me that it would be Jesus Christ Superstar, and I figured I'd end up as either Christ or Judas, seeing as I'd had lead roles the two years previously (Joseph in Joseph and the Amazing Technicolour Dreamcoat with I was 15 and still a boy soprano; and Fagin in Oliver! the following year, by which stage I'd become a baritone). Then the bastard teachers decided to put on Bye Bye Birdie instead. I had to sing 'Put On A Happy Face.' Fuckers.

2. I read The Lord of the Rings 19 times between the ages of 14 and 21. Yes, I was a nerd. I played Dungeons & Dragons a lot too. (These days I play much more mature role-playing games, and no, I don't mean in bed. Get your mind out of the gutter!)

3. When I was about three years old my dad dislocated my right shoulder while trying to save my life. I'd decided to jump into the deep end of a swimming pool, not realising that it was A) really deep, and B) that people in swimming pools generally possess this useful skill called swimming... My older sister Megan re-dislocated it a few months later, which I'm sure must have been a horrible experience for her. Luckily I was young enough that I don't really remember either event.

4. Despite the fact that some people think I'm cool cos I'm a DJ and a 3RRR broadcaster and shit, a lot of the time I still feel totally shy, insecure and inadequate.

5. I spend way too much time downloading porn when I could be doing something creative.

6. At the grand old age of 38 I've only had four serious relationships in my life. Only one of them lasted longer than 2-4 months, and it ended spectacularly about a month before our second anniversary.

7. I've now been single for five years and to be honest, I'm kind of comfortable with that.

8. I get obsessed about things, and totally throw myself into them to the point where I ignore almost everything else in my life. My last major obsession was setting up the Pink Magpies, the Collingwood football club's gay and lesbian supporters' group. That was a few years ago now, so I guess I'm about due for a new one...

9. The only reason I started doing a zine back in the 90's was cos a friend of one of my best friends was talking about doing one, and I wanted to beat him to it. (Yeah I can be a competitive bastard sometimes.) My zine was called The Burning Times, and was focussed on homocore (queer punk rock).

10. I was so drunk when I saw Nirvana play at the Palace in 1992 that I don't really remember much of the night, save for staggering out of the mosh pit during 'Smells Like Teen Spirit' cos I could barely stand, after which I stood on a table so I could see.

11. One of the proudest times in my life was the weekend I got to support Propogandhi at their two Melbourne shows doing my 'in your face queer spoken word thing', plus Bikini Kill the following night, and another Propogandhi show during the following week in Geelong. Me and Jon, the lead singer, had to walked out to the van after the Geelong show surrounded by inpromptu bodyguards cos a bunch of homophobes in the audience (one of whom, I'd discovered, was the local junior heavyweight boxing champion) seriously wanted to bash the shit out of us. Our supporters and theirs were actually brawling in the street when the cops showed up - which is about the only time I've been glad to see the cops in my life! A few months later the boxer showed up to my nightclub Abyss, and I very happily had him thrown out.

12. I used to be a goth, but I got better.

13. As a teenager I studied jazz ballet and failed French and maths. I'm still crap at maths even today, but sadly my dancing isn't what it used to be.

14. A couple of my friends once described my type of man as 'neanderthal'. I protested: I just like 'em blokey and masculine. This might be one of the reasons I've been single for five years...

15. I still get perversely flattered if someone I don't know assumes that I'm straight, which I guess suggests a lingering degree of internalised homophobia. I'm pretty open about my sexuality these days though, so it rarely happens any more.

16. About six hours after having my wisdom teeth out under a local anaesthetic, because I had so little swelling, I gave my then boyfriend a blowjob, and you know what? It didn't hurt a bit!

17. I was incredibly unhappy at high school until I came out. At that point things started to get better because I had nothing to hide.

18. I have four tattoos, and I want more.

19. I like cats, and kicking through autumn leaves.

20. Seeing my young nieces Cate and Sian still brings tears to my eyes because I love them so much, and they love me.

Wow, you know what? That was pretty easy!

Okay, now I tag Sean-baby Whelan, the spunky Gemma, Lady Cracker, Bec and Bob, and Clint Bo Dean. You're it!

Dancer of Darkness

Richard speaks with butoh performer Yumi Umiumare about culture, dance and gender politics.

Tokyo-born butoh artist Yumi Umiumare first visited Australia while performing in the 1991 Melbourne International Arts Festival. Two years later she migrated to Melbourne and now lives here permanently: a decision motivated by personal as well as professional reasons.

"I met a person I can stay with and start a relationship with, but also just the arts scene here for me is very liberating," Umiumare explains. "To see everyone in an audience respond to a performance so individually was quite refreshing for me, because in Japan the feedback you get is quite generic."

Yumi’s dazzling performances, which fuse elements of traditional butoh with cabaret, are equally individual and have gained rave revues at festivals in Melbourne, Adelaide, Edinburgh, Copenhagen and Hong Kong. Her latest production, DasSHOKU Hora!! opens at the Malthouse Theatre next month.

"People who have only seen traditional butoh might think of it as one person walking very slow for 90 minutes from one side to the other of the stage, but some people are very cynical," Umiumare laughs, when asked how she would describe the essence of her artform to an audience who were not familiar with it.

Butoh evolved in post-war Japan in the late 1950’s. "Its name comes from shortening the phrase ‘Ankoku Butoh’. Ankoku means literally ‘dark’ and butoh means ‘dance’, so ‘Dance of Darkness was the beginning of the form," she explains. "Some people think it as a reaction to the Americanisation of Japan, and so we try and get our own identity as a Japanese body, we put the white face on, shave the hair off and run around naked and tried to be radical."

Traditional elements of butoh include slow movement, white-painted bodies, shaved heads and contorted postures, while the dance itself evokes images of decay, fear and desperation, eroticism and ecstasy. It is an introspective artform, deeply connected with internal states of mind.

"We all have internal landscapes and in butoh we try and explain that internal world through very minimal movement," Umiumare says. "But for me the butoh is much more than that."

Uniumara’s work couples butoh’s intense physicality with cabaret, another medium associated with dark emotions, to create performances that are intense, satirical and powerfully entertaining. This fusion of styles has clearly been embraced by local and international audiences, with earlier incarnations of her DasSHOKU productions winning Green Room and Fringe awards and touring internationally.

In DasSHOKU Hora!! Uniumare will draw upon her position as an artist who embraces Western culture while working in an Eastern tradition to provide audiences with a fresh perspective on both Japanese and Australian societies.

"I feel very responsible to show that people can do this, they can live in two cultures," she says. "If I go back to Japan I want to show the influence from my Western culture, and especially because Japan is such a monocultural place; they did not understand what is cross-cultural. Officially it is very diverse, superficially very international but underneath it’s not that strongly international at all, so yeah, I was thinking that this work kind of makes me very motivated to give my desire to express!"

DasSHOKU Hora!! runs from Nov 3 - 13 at the Malthouse Theatre. Bookings on 9685 5111.

Tuesday, November 08, 2005

Way Up High

Actress Caroline O’Connor talks with Richard Watts about evoking the spirit of Judy Garland.

Agreeing to play the late Judy Garland in End of the Rainbow, the new play by English writer Peter Quilter, was not a decision that Caroline O’Connor made easily.

"I didn’t immediately say yes when the role was offered to me," she says. "I did consider it for a little while, going ‘Oh my lord, what am I thinking?’ but the script was wonderful and original, and to have the chance to recreate such a glorious individual, such an amazing woman, I just thought it would be a fascinating project to take on."

O’Connor is a veteran of stage and screen whose career encompasses Baz Luhrmann’s Moulin Rouge and an award-winning role in Joanna Murray-Smith’s one-woman play Bombshells. Despite a successful career spanning two decades and three continents, she admits to being in awe of Garland, the young star of MGM’s 1939 film, The Wizard of Oz.

"I’d never sung anything that she did previously; I wouldn’t have had the audacity. You don’t sing anything by Judy Garland!"

At her peak Garland was Hollywood’s brightest star but her lustre had faded significantly by the time of her death in 1969, less than two weeks after her 47th birthday. A critically lauded television series in the early 60’s (which Garland herself co-produced) never rated well, and after it was axed she spiralled further downwards, addicted to pills and drinking heavily. It is during this later, tragic period of her life that Over the Rainbow takes place.

"It’s set in a very specific time, when Judy went to London to do a series of concerts at the Talk of the Town in 1968," Caroline O’Connor explains. "but it’s not one of these shows that’s a downer all evening. We certainly do, I think, tell the truth about what these drug dependencies did to her, but we don’t take away her spirit as a performer, or any of the wonderful qualities that she had."

Although she was already familiar with Garland’s legend before beginning rehearsals, O’Connor felt obligated to do considerable research for the role. As well as listening to the London concerts around which the play is set, she paid particularly close attention to an intimate series of recordings Garland made for a never-completed biography.

"They’re just fascinating, and also devastating to listen to, because you hear this poor woman pouring her heart out," O’Connor explains. "Some of them are alcohol induced obviously, but you hear this woman, probably one of the greatest performers of all time, sitting there lonely, sad, impoverished, and you just think, somehow she still managed to keep her talent and her wit."

O’Connor says that the research process brought her closer to Garland.

"I’ve just totally and utterly fallen in love with her. She was a giver, and I think she just absolutely drained herself dry, whether she was performing, or if she was in a room with company."

Melbourne audiences will have their own chance to renew their acquaintance with Garland, whose death provided the spark for the Stonewall Riots and the birth of the modern gay movement, when Caroline O’Connor evokes her spirit on stage.

"God forbid that anyone should come along hoping that I’m going to bring her back to life. I don’t think that that’s possible," O’Connor says frankly. "I’m not an impersonator, for one. I do try and get the essence of her, so that you’re getting carried away by the story and the moment, but there will never be another Judy Garland."

End of the Rainbow opens Monday 14 November and runs until 17 December at the Arts Centre Playhouse. Bookings on or Ticketmaster: 1300 136 166.

Some recent music reviews...

The Last Romance – Arab Strap [Stomp]

Glaswegian duo Arab Strap are an acquired taste. Their alcohol-sodden love songs are delivered in Aidan Moffat’s thick brogue, accompanied by Malcolm Middleton’s tense, minimal guitar hooks. While The Last Romance doesn’t quite lay the pair’s gloomy reputation to rest, a few rays of sunshine have been allowed to creep into the smoke-wreathed bar that Arab Strap call home. Overall The Last Romance is more compact and more energetic than its predecessors, and increased attention to the collaborative process has resulted in a new complexity. Despite these progressions, the sense of late night, last beer dramas still remains. "Sometimes there’s nothing sexier than knowing you’re doomed," groans Moffat on ‘Don’t Ask Me To Dance,’ one of the many Arab Strap songs proving that misery makes good company.

'Teardrops' – The Winter Ship [She Puts Out Records]

Septet The Winter Ship, originally from country Victoria, are now firmly based in inner city Melbourne. They craft rich, warm, sad songs; part Dirty Three, part Silver Ray, part Not Drowning Waving; which taken in their entirety are heart-rendingly beautiful. ‘Teardrops’ is their new single, and displays a vocal dexterity that was underplayed on the band’s two preceding EP releases. The cinematic fragility of bonus track ‘Mirrors Reprise’, with its quavering strings weaving around a hesitant piano, is the clear stand-out.

Une Saison Volée – Françoiz Breut [Remote Control]

A Stolen Season (to translate its title) is the third album from Gallic chanteuse Françoiz Breut, who with her sultry yet vulnerable persona, her velvet-smooth voice, and an exotic presence thanks to her predominantly French delivery, is the Edith Piaf of her generation. Like its predecessors, Une Saison Volée sees Breut interpreting the works of other artists in classic style, combining smoky warmth and icy beauty with aching torch songs and moody rock. Despite its nods to the likes of Serge Gainsbourg, this is a timeless and exquisite CD.

Fractions – Decoder Ring [No Records/Inertia]

Properly speaking this is only the second studio album from Sydney sextet Decoder Ring, given that their breakthrough CD of last year was a soundtrack; albeit the soundtrack to Summersault, one of the most successful Australian films so far this century. On Fractions the band display their genre-blurring virtuosity by deftly mixing power chords, sweet vocals, evocative soundscapes and electro-pop melodies. Guest vocals by Art of Fighting’s Ollie Brown on the restrained ‘Traffic’ suggest Decoder Ring have developed a newfound awareness for the possibilities of collaboration, while overall the album possesses a new confidence, typified by a sense of spaciousness, an opening up of their previously sometimes introspective song structures. From the dark and driving beats of ‘451’ to the cinematic synth-pop of the title track, Fractions is an exquisite triumph.

Road to Rouen – Supergrass [Parlaphone/EMI]

Road to Rouen is the sound of a band in decline. The playfulness of earlier Supergrass albums has been replaced by a sombre solemnity, and while I can’t fault the band for embracing a more mature sound, this new direction appears to have cost the English quartet their originality. Forced attempts at quirkiness (typified by the jarring ‘Coffee in the Pot’) sit uneasily with the likes of the slow, Beatles-esque ‘Sad Girl’ or the middle-of-the-road opener ‘Tales of Endurance’. If Supergrass do manage to survive the crises of creativity that Road to Rouen represents, I can’t see the album holding a prominent place in their back catalogue in years to come.

Cinder – Dirty Three [Hope & Anchor/Remote Control]

The seventh studio album in 14 years from instrumental trio Dirty Three features, for the first time in the band’s career, vocals, as well as a broad swathe of instruments: violin, bass, bouzouki, even bagpipes. Chan Marshall, aka Cat Power, sings on ‘Great Waves’, while Sally Timms (of band The Mekons) provides subdued vocals buried deep within the mix of ‘Feral’. Despite this progression, and the fact that the songs on Cinder are considerably shorter and tighter than Dirty Three are want to present, the band’s sound remains distinctly identifiable. The focal point is still the mournful and cinematic interaction between violin, drums and guitar. The band’s fondness for improvisation still occasionally results in self-indulgence, but for the most part Cinder is a rich and rewarding aural experience.

Tales From Turnpike House – Saint Etienne [Sony BMG]

A concept album about a day in the life of residents in an outer London housing estate, Tales From Turnpike House is the seventh album from British trio Saint Etienne, and is rumoured to be their last. Should that be the case, it’s a final album to be proud of; a near-perfect encapsulation of the band’s sophisticated yet twee electro-pop aesthetic. Tales From Turnpike House is slickly produced yet warmly accessible, deftly balancing the trio’s devotion to 1960’s pop music with a cooler, minimalist approach to contemporary electronica. The inclusion of guest vocals from David Essex on ‘Relocate’ may cross the line from ironic to excruciating, but this stumble aside, the album doesn’t miss a step.

Takk… - Sigur Rós [EMI]

The fourth album from post-rock quartet Sigur Rós is simultaneously more vigorous and less bleak than its predecessor, 2002’s ( ), adopting a range of moods and speeds in comparison to ( )’s sustained, glacial pace. Takk… (‘Thanks’ in Icelandic) recalls the best moments of their 2000 breakthrough album Agaetis Byrjun, although this new album witnesses the angelic falsetto of vocalist Jon Thor Birgisson emoting in English instead of his invented language of Hopelandish. Highlights include the crashing grandeur of ‘Glossoli’, the yearning ‘Andvari’ (featuring Icelandic string quartet Amina) and the vibrant, breathtaking ‘Soeglópur’. There’s also an almost-comic brass section on offer, not to mention numerous moments of transcendent, tear-inducing beauty.

Plans – Death Cab For Cutie [Warner]

Just because a band’s music appears on the soundtrack of teen drama The OC is no reason to dismiss them as trite or disposable, as this fifth album from US quartet Death Cab For Cutie so aptly demonstrates. It displays a mastery of mood and tone, although the band’s wistful and winsome indie-meets-emo style will not be to everyone’s taste, and Plans does sometimes veer too close to predictable to be entirely satisfying. Warm acoustic hooks and sunny production counterbalance vocalist Ben Gibbard’s penchant for angst, although the second half of the album sees a reliance on keyboards in an unsuccessful attempt to camouflage some weaker arrangements. Although not as strong as their previous album Transatlanticism, Plans is still endearing, engaging, and only sometimes too earnest.

All these reviews have appeared in my weekly column in MCV over the last month or so.

Thursday, November 03, 2005

This week on SmartArts...

Ring Them Bells (Freedom has come & gone) - Thee Silver Mount Zion Memorial Orchestra & Tra La La Band
Escape Pod - Decoder Ring
Empty Beats for Lonely Hippo - Pasobionic
National Holiday - The Herd
Tomorrow Never Knows - The Beatles
Get Off Of My Cloud - The Rolling Stones
Sun in my Morning - St Etienne
Come in out of the rain - Engineers
Who Named the Days? - Arab Strap (live)
There's Something at the Bottom of the Black Pool - Augie March
War - Celebration
Footy - Spiderbait
Cody - Mogwai
De Profundis - Dead Can Dance
The Evening Gathering - Le Mystere des Voix Bulgares
In the Dying Moments - SPK
Come on Feel the Illinois - Sufjan Stevens
Dayvan Cowboy - Boards of Canada
God Bless Our Dead Marines - Thee Silver Mount Zion Memorial Orchestra & Tra La la Band
The Final Arrears - Mull Historical Society
Scientists - The Guild League

Wednesday, November 02, 2005

Strike A Pose Part Two

As promised, another photograph of me in a kilt, taken outside Bec & Bob's flat in Glasgow.

The photographer was fellow Australian party animal and music fan, the lovely Ms. Nat Clark. We were supposed to be striking a 1970's male fashion catalogue pose which Henry (the best man, the dapper chap on the right) and Bob (the groom, centre) have pulled off with aplomb. Me, I went 'huh?', and hastily copied what Bob was doing, having just stepped out the front door and not quite knowing what was going on, which explains why I'm aping Bob's pose and don't have a suitably serious, impassive-male-model-type-expression on my face.

A minute or two after this picture was taken Bob and Harry got into their chauffer-driven mini to head off to the church and Nat and I headed back into the flat. A minute after that there was a knock at the door. The mini wouldn't start, and I was needed to help push-start it. Weddings are mad! Happily though, everyone got to the church on time. Except the bride, who was stuck in traffic for 25 minutes. Talk about making the groom sweat!

So, there you have it folks: Richard resplendent in a kilt. Hot, or not? Answers on a postcard of a giant merino/crayfish/banana/ludicrous object of your choice. Alternatively, I will grudgingly accept answers using the comments button below...