Sunday, April 23, 2006

Some new and newish music reviews

Mr Beast – Mogwai [Spunk!]
Beginning with a faint piano that is slowly submerged beneath moody chords and slow, thunderous drums, this new album from Scottish post-rock outfit Mogwai continues the band’s journey away from sprawling epics towards tighter, moodier and more restrained tracks. Mr Beast tempers the band’s occasionally indulgent habits by constraining their songs in a more accessible form, without sacrificing the 'Sturm und Drang' that has long been their trademark. It’s Mogwai’s fifth studio album proper, and while it may not match the inspired sonic assault of their debut release 10 years ago, it’s still a remarkable and consistent monster.

Dry Land – The Dumb Earth [uxb Recordings]
Focussed around singer-songwriter and drummer David Creese, Melbourne sextet The Dumb Earth play mournfully beautiful songs populated by a spectacular range of misanthropes and murderers. Dry Land is the band’s fourth studio album. Its eleven songs coolly stroll through a landscape of blues-tinged jazz, enriched by the subtle orchestration of a string section. Highlights include ‘Nothing Grows’, about a childhood mystery and a missing child; and ‘Catherine and the Witness’, a sadly tender song about infanticide. This is a rich album about our darkest places.

News EP – Julez [Independent]
Formerly based in Brisbane, hip-hop MC Julez relocated to Melbourne late last year, and has now released this independent EP to showcase his intelligent lyrical style and ominous beats. Opening with ‘Head Nod’, a caustic criticism of the passive nature of many hip-hop listeners, the album’s diversity is highlighted in the skittering beats of ‘Signals’ and the tinkling piano of ‘News’. Even on the crowd-pleasing ‘Roadkill’ there’s an encouragement to consider hip-hop’s pitfalls and how to advance the form. An excellent EP that showcases the strengths of Australian MC culture.

Meds – Placebo [EMI] Placebo’s fifth studio album sees the British trio desperately clinging to their demi-goth decadence, albeit with greater conviction than on their unsatisfactory 2004 album Sleeping With Ghosts. While predictably riddled with drug references from the opening track (which features guest vocals by Alison Mosshart from The Kills) to the last song, the album also displays some progression, beneath vocalist Brian Molko’s apparent obsession with maintaining a veneer of subcultural cool. Instead of the cold array of electronics and synths that dominated Sleeping With Ghosts, here the band experiment with strings: violin, viola and cello, resulting in a warmer as well as a fresher sound. The addition of guest vocals by Michael Stipe on ‘Broken Promise’ further ensures the album’s accessibility, although for some, Molko’s nasal and self-indulgent lyrics will never be entertaining.

Hamper – Various Artists [Candle Records]
Melbourne’s independent label Candle has released several compilations over the years. Hamper is the latest in a series that has included Feast and Banter. It’s also the 100th release from the label, and features 20 songs from 10 Candle bands, all of which bar one are exclusive to the CD. It opens with The Guild League’s ‘Good Times’ (marking the first time the band have appeared on a Candle compilation) a deft, faintly wistful evocation of holiday memories. Rob Clarkson (in another Candle compilation debut) contributes the robust ‘Twenty-Five Songs You’ve Heard Before’, while Tim Oxley’s ‘In The Country’ combines quirk and simplicity in equal measure. This is one Hamper that fans of intelligent song writing will definitely want to dip into.

Melbourne Water 2 – Various Artists [Shock]
A fantastic showcase of Melbourne’s diverse independent music scene, this compilation gathers everything from the ambient electronica of David Chesworth’s band Essendon Airport, to the deranged jazz-punk of Bucketrider. The perfect gift for a friend from interstate.

‘Sisters’ – Giants of Science [Plus One Records/Reverberation]
Brisbane quartet Giants of Science released their second album last year to popular acclaim and generally positive critical reviews. ‘Sisters’ is the second single to be lifted from Here is the Punishment, and comes complete with a swag of covers by the likes of Split Enz, Superchunk and Sparklehorse. The single itself is an assertive chunk of rock that avoids the worst cliches of the new-rock revival, and instead concentrates on intelligent riffs and melody. It's a homage to Aretha Franklin’s ‘Sisters Are Doing It For Themselves’ and is sure to be a live standout for the band.

Sympathique – Pink Martini [Inertia]
Sensual, sophisticated and cinematic, this collection of jazzy, lounge-infused grooves from 12-piece band Pink Martini is both fascinating and delightful. Originally released in 1997, Sympathique has only just gained local release due to the successful sales of their 2004 album Hang On Little Tomato. Vocalist China Forbes twines herself around your shoulders and purrs in your ears, sounding more like a Parisian seductress than the native of Portland, Oregon she actually is. Her band swing and samba effortlessly, evoking sun-drenched Caribbean beaches one moment, and smoky late night clubs the next. Without doubt, the perfect album for dinner parties, late nights, and early mornings.

Saturday, April 22, 2006

This week on SMARTARTS I spoke with...

Julia Holt – director of the 6th annual Adelaide Cabaret Festival, which is dedicated to cabaret and is the largest festival of its kind in the world; features 200 performances over 16 nights; showcases 10 world premieres; and features the likes of Mandy Patinkin (US), Christopher Green (UK), Karen Kohler (GER), Christine Andreas (US), and Barb Jungr (UK), Paul Kelly, Paul Grabowsky (AUS), to name just a few.
The Adelaide Cabaret Festival runs from 9 to 24 June, 2006.


Kath Pappas
from AusDance (VIC) about the Australian Youth Dance Festival 2006, being held in conjunction with Horsham’s Art Is… Festival (in the Wimmera district). Groups attending included STEPS, Restless, Fresh Bred, Extensions, Nubrico (from Wales in the UK - they have been holding dance-athons to raise the money!), Girawheen SHS (WA), Tracks young dancers (NT), Cowra Ballet School (NSW), Shopfront Youth Theatre (NSW), Melbourne Dance Theatre, and 15 local Horsham dancers on scholarships, and up to 10 young people or artists who have secured travel funds via Regional Arts Victoria. Additional artists are: Nikki Ashby (Vic) – hip hop; Lamine Sonko (Vic) – Senegalese; and Claudio Climaco (Qld) – Capoeira.

The festival website is at, then follow the link to AYDF 2006 on the front page.


Linda Catalano
- the Artist and Program Manager for Comedy @ Trades joined us for her weekly update about what's on and what's hot at Trades Hall during the Comedy Festival.


Peter Krauz – one of the programmers for the 5th Festival of German Films told us about some of the titles screening at the festival this year, which features an eclectic and versatile mix of comedies, biographies, documentaries - many of which were featured at this year's Berlin Film Festival. Highlights include a variation of the Brothers Grimm fairytale The Fisherman and his Wife, the Oscar nominated Sophie Scholl: The Final Days, and love story The White Masai.

Full program details available at
Bookings or phone (03) 8663 2583

SPECIAL FESTIVAL EVENT: Female Vision Strong Women
The 2006 Festival of German Films has already been dubbed 'LADIES YEAR’ as it highlights a never before seen selection of women directors and women's stories. Is this a coincidence or is filmmaking about to be free itself from male dominated topics and views? Is it just a German or European trend or does this phenomenon have an equivalent in Australia?
Do women in front or behind the camera have different views and visions than their male counterparts? Film experts, directors and actors look into the subject of female roles, both in front of the camera and behind the scene.
When: Monday, 24.04.2006 – 8.30pm
Where: ACMI, Cinema 2, Federation Square, following the screening of Against All Odds, with attendance of Heike Makatsch (among others)


Next up we caught up with a trio of folks - an architect, a curator and the artist Robbie Rowlands - about the opening of a new artist-run-space: DireTribe Gallery (1/81 Bouverie Street Carlton, phone 9349 1885; website and its innaugural exhibition.

DireTribe is an association of young designers and cultural practitioners with a strong connection to their cultural environment and its art forms. This new gallery has been established by DireTribe to support and promote emerging artists exploring urban experiences.

The first show is entitled “Capsize” and is to be opened tomorrow night at 6pm. Robbie Rowlands’ sculptures explore time and the inescapable change that it brings upon the objects that we take for granted in our everyday lives.

Dire Tribe was founded in 2000 as an association of designers and cultural practitioners. DireTribe is a design consultancy with a reputation for critical practice within the disciplines of architecture, graphics, philosophy and film.


Thereafter I was joined by Donna Jackson (writer/director) and Mark Seymour (band leader and composer) to talk about the latest production by Melbourne Workers Theatre: WE BUILT THIS CITY - Stories from the ground up

The show features a roving rock performance with Mark Seymour (ex-Hunters & Collectors), industrial percussion, a 40 strong workers choir and some very heavy machinery.

As 44-gallon drums beat out an urban jungle rhythm against a skyline of headbanging heavy machinery, the audience is invited to enter a strange and exotic world of concrete, steel and scaffolding. In this place, no one is called by their real name, hand signals are never rude and real men always wear hats.

Through storytelling, theatre and live music, We Built this City offers a rare insight into the life and times of those who laid not only the physical foundations of Melbourne, but also the seeds of its cultural, sporting and political life. On the 21st April 1856, Melbourne stonemasons downed tools, marched to parliament house to demand an eight hour day and walked straight into history.

We Built this City is a major highlight of 888 Eight Hour Day: Celebrate 150 years of work, rest and play, a program of events being presented in partnership with other major arts and cultural institutions.

Preview: April 25 @8pm
When: April 26 – 29 & May 3 – 6 @8pm
Where: Scienceworks, 2 Booker Street, Spotswood (Melway Map 56 B1)
Tickets: $22 Full/$17 Concession/$12 Previews & Groups 10 +
Bookings: 03 9639 0096 or


Next up was comedian Kieran Butler whose Comedy Festival show is called Kieran Butler Claims Collingwood Ruined My Life!

As Kieran tells it, "A young migrant to Australia, I met Collingwood through a Catholic nun at my new school… After three Grand Final losses in a row I learnt a horrible truth about life: dreams don't come true, nothing good ever really happens and life is essentially one episode after another of pain and misery until you end up in a nursing home, daring your family to snuff you out with a pillow.

In 1990 the drought broke. Collingwood won the flag. There is Channel 7 footage of me that day at the MCG. I was deliriously happy. I also thought my fortunes were inextricably tied to those of The Club. The ‘experts’ were saying the new Collingwood brand of football could go on to dominate the ‘90’s: I was convinced that things were finally going to get better… The ‘experts’ were wrong”

After three straight years at the Edinburgh Fringe, long term Woodsman, Kieran Butler (BBC Scotland), returns from the UK with a new comedy and music show concerning the comedy and tragedy of life as a Magpie fan this past 30 years. The show will be performed a stones throw from Victoria Park, at the historic Carringbush Hotel."

"Madcap… impeccable… damn good fun… an armful of great jokes and stories. Four stars."
Edinburgh Evening News

"Brilliant." Natalie Imbruglia

"Too much finessing." Tom Hafey

Venue: Carringbush Hotel, 228 Langridge St, Abbotsford
Prices: Full $15.00 Conc $12.00 Group (10 or more) $120.00 Tightarse Tuesday $10.00
Dinner & Show (with glass of wine) $40.00
Bookings: The venue on 9428 4492 / 0410 495 230
Website: & at the door
When: 12th Apr - 7th May
Duration: 60 minutes


My penultimate guest was Cerise Howard, with her fortnightly screen culture segment, in which we discussed the new Australian film KOKODA, the debut feature by director Alister Grierson, which opens on ANZAC Day. The Internet Movie Database page for the film is here, while the official website is over there.

SYNOPSIS: A platoon of Australian soldiers from the 39th Battalion is sent as forward patrol outside the village of Isurava on the Kokoda track in New Guinea, during World War II, but sustained Japanese bombardment and initial attacks cut them off from their supply lines and communication. Isolated, they endure without food for three days, carrying their wounded. As they emerge exhausted from the jungle, Isurava is about to fall to the Japanese, and they must gather their last ounce of strength and courage to rejoin the battle.

CAST: Jack Finsterer, Travis McMahon, Simon Stone, Luke Ford, Steve Le Marquand, Angus Sampson, Christopher Baker, Ewen Leslie, Ben Barrack, Shane Bourne, William McInnes, Tom Budge


And my final guest in another action-packed episode of Smartarts was Lucinda Straughn with the arts news and gossip segment SHOOT THE MESSENGER, and to learn what we talked about, you can check out her blog!

Wednesday, April 19, 2006

Dammit, I've been tagged!

Damn you, Gempires! Damn you to hell! ;-)

So, I've been tagged, which means I A) Have to tell you six things I hate about myself, B) Have to tag six other people via their blogs' comment functions, and, C) Let the tagger know that I, the tagee, have completed the meme and so that if the blogsphere does explode, it 's clearly not my fault.

Okay, this should be easy, seeing as I have a deeply-ingrained sense of insecurity.

Ahem. Six things I hate about me.

1) My insecurity (duh!). I get pissed off with myself every time I seek validation from someone in an attempt to bolster my sense of self-worth.

2) The gap between my front teeth.

3) The fact that I keep being attracted to straight men, despite the fact that I think I exorcised my own internalised homophobia years ago (although in my favour, I haven't actually fallen in love with any straight boys for years).

4) My utter inability to save money, even for important things like rent, bills, and groceries...

5) The flipside of which is my annoying fondness for self-indulgence: buying a book or a cd or half a gram of speed or a bottle of good red or whatever, even when I know that I really shouldn't...

6.) My highly developed ability to waste hours surfing the net, downloading porn, reading blogs, commenting on message bands for obscure bands etc instead of actually doing anything creative, such as writing a new short story or a spoken word piece...or WORKING ON MY GODDAMN NOVEL!

That was easy! I laugh at memes! Ha ha!

And now I tag:

Hah-hah, you're it!

Funny Business

Richard discovers that staging the Melbourne International Comedy Festival is no laughing matter.

THIS YEAR THE Melbourne International Comedy Festival celebrates its 20th anniversary, with 233 individual events included in its broad program. For four weeks, international and local comedy superstars will rub shoulders with unheard-of hopefuls in a range of venues across the inner city, from Footscray Community Arts Centre to Federation Square.

Organising an event of this magnitude is no easy task, explains Susan Provan, the festival director, and there’s certainly no time to relax once things are actually under-way.

“The festival is absolute bedlam,” she says. “Meetings and administrative stuff all day every day, and then shows every evening. It feels incredibly daunting. I wake up at five o’clock each morning and think ‘Oh my god, I can’t do it all.’”

Provan looks forward to the festival each year despite the stress, and believes that now more than ever it is an important cultural event, and one that provides a much-needed antidote to the tense global times in which we presently live.

“Most stand-up comedians talk about what’s going on in their social and political environments and they do it in an amusing and often challenging fashion. I think this festival will contribute to that tradition. We’ve had some tricky festivals, like the one where we opened the same day as the Americans invaded Iraq; that was big,” she laughs, “but clearly the more interesting times we live in, the more grist for the mill.”

While the festival hub is firmly focussed around Melbourne Town Hall and nearby venues, this year sees Carlton’s Trades Hall playing a major new role. Comedy @ Trades brings together a range of local talents, from cabaret and vaudeville to cult cinema, and even a women’s response to Puppetry of the Penis, B-Cuppery, under the one roof.

“The Town Hall precinct is focussed on international and high-profile stand-up, so what we’re doing is quite different,” explains Linda Catalano, the Artist and Program Manager for Comedy @ Trades. “We’re creating a much more independent vibe that’s focussed on things like music and circus. It’s an alternative program. We want people who aren’t so interested in stand-up to come and see something else that’s funny, because humour is so much broader than that traditional comedy style.”

Tamlyn Henderson, who makes his Comedy Festival debut this year in the absurdist post-modern play A Porthole into the Minds of the Vanquished at the Town Hall, says that mounting a festival show involves enormous risks.

“We’ve done the rounds at the Adelaide Fringe and then a season in Sydney, and now the Comedy Festival, and we’ve spent about $20,000 staging the show all up,” he says. “When you’re really not sure if you’re going to get any returns, that’s really risky, but if you know it’s what you want to do, you just hope that you can redeem some of that money somewhere.”

While the finances involved are daunting, Henderson says that their audience’s responses make it all worthwhile.

“It’s been really amazing, especially the season we just finished in Sydney, which has put us in a great headspace for Melbourne. People have said that there’s nothing like our show out there, which is really amazing to hear. One bloke told us afterwards that he’d developed a six-pack from laughing so hard. People have been pissing themselves basically.”

20th Melbourne International Comedy Festival, April 12 – May 7.
Bookings through or Ticketmaster: 1300 66 00 13.
Comedy @ Trades details and ticketing:
A Porthole into the Minds of the Vanquished: The Regent Room, Melbourne Town Hall, April 13 – May 7.

This article originally apeared in MCV #275 on Friday 14 April

Tuesday, April 18, 2006

What I did over Easter by Richard Watts (aged 38)

It occured to me as I was about to start this post, that writing about my Easter holiday activities is akin to writing an essay when you're in Grade Two or thereabouts. I could, of course, try and channel my eight-year old self to write this blog entry for me, but somehow I don't think that's either necessary or appropriate (after all, eight-year old me would probably drone on about his burning desire to be a zoolologist, and would also probably manifest fears about nuclear war instead of recounting the highlights of the weekend as he was told). You'll just have to put up with modern-me instead...

Thursday night's Q + A got the weekend off to a flying start - almost literally, as I felt rushed off my feet all night. It was an insanely busy night at A Bar Called Barry thanks to the public holiday the following day - we hit capacity only 45 minutes after opening, and had a queue of up to 400 people waiting to get in for much of the night. The last of the queue trailed off at about 2am. So yes, it was a mad night, complicated by an angry transvestite who likes high-kicking and pirouetting complaining to me that the place was too crowded to dance in properly; and a small army of straight boys turning up at the door and thinking that it was a regular Friday or Saturday night, only to freak out when they realised that they were trying to get into a gay club...

Fun times were had by all, and I ended up not getting to bed at all before I was due out in Northcote at 10am on Friday.

My friends Bec and Bob, whose wedding I went to in Glasgow last year, had the Australian leg of their wedding on the weekend, so myself and four friends - Ms Sam (from the excellent band The Mime Set); Craig (a former colleague and editor of Voiceworks); Adam and Anna (whose wedding I'm attending in Castlemaine in two weeks time) jumped in a car together and drove down to Venus Bay, on the South Gippsland coast, about two and a half hours out of Melbourne. We'd hired a holiday house for three nights, and spent much of the time simply lolling about and relaxing - although we also managed to squeeze in a DVD or two, including the truly terrible, utterly unredeemable Catwoman (and yes folks, it really is as bad as you've heard: everything in it stinks, from Halle Berry's acting, to the costuming, and even the special effects).

I'd taken work down with me which I ended up not even touching (funding applications for the consideration of Arts Victoria's Presentation panel, which I sit on) and consequently, by the time we got home yesterday, I felt utterly refreshed.

The wedding (held at Bec's parents' place, a rural hideaway next door to a national park) was wonderful, as was the reception, at the Tarwin Lower community hall, at which I MC'd and attempted to DJ on a stackable CD player with no headphones. Basically I just whacked on a few compilation CD's and walked away, after a frustrating halfhour or so trying to skip from track to track and CD to CD...

I also managed to catch a touring Melbourne band called Nervous Wreck at the Tarwin Lower pub, who I quite enjoyed (certainly I liked them more than the locals, who were calling out for them to play covers for half their set - 'Loveshack' for example... the horror, the horror...) and I also managed to get drunk and maudlin late on Saturday night; ie I got the red wine weepies and blubbered myself to sleep over the fact that I haven't had a boyfriend for six years. Apart from that, it was a great weekend!

To top it all off, I got home late yesterday afternoon in time to watch some of the footy, and saw the Pies absolutely thrash the Roos at Telstra Dome. Here's a photo of Bucks in action to celebrate...

Monday, April 17, 2006

Sigur Ros

Here's the setlist for the band's Melbourne show last Tuesday night, which I went to with Darren, Andrew and others, although due to the arrival of free tickets courtesy of Glenn from EMI, I ended up sitting 10 rows from the stage, with a perfect view, and with the lovely Simon Cox from Perth (a Voiuceworks contributor and editorial committee member who I first met at the National Young Writers' Festival in Newcastle in 2004):

01. Takk
02. Glósóli
03. Ný Batterí
04. Sæglópur
05. E-bow
06. Svo hjótt
07. Heysátan
08. Olsen Olsen
09. Hoppípolla
10. Með Blóðnasir
11. Njósnavélin
12. Viðrar Vel Til Loftárása
13. Hafsól
14. Smáskífa
15. Popplagið

It was a great gig, and like last year's show, reduced me to tears at one stage, while I simultaneously had a huge grin plastered across my face.

To make things even cooler, I got this e-mail a couple on Friday:

Hi Richard
Just wanted to thank you for giving 3RRR subscribers a heads up as to when the tickets were going on sale for last Tuesday's Sigur Ros concert. I had missed out on their last concert and had been devastated. Because you mentioned it on your summer breakfast show I was able to ring at 9am and got myself some excellent tickets. I have been a fan of the band since my friend who lives in Iceland gave me a copy of Agaetis Byrjun (think that's the spelling) four or five years ago and have enjoyed seeing their fame increase. I also wanted to thank you for playing them on Thursday morning- I knew you would mention the concert. I can safely say it is the best concert I have ever been to- I actually wept and laughed at the same time!

Anyway, just wanted to let you know the part you played in making one girl's dream come true...thanks Richard, thanks 3RRR.


Yay for community radio!!!!!!

Thursday, April 13, 2006

Today on Smartarts

My guests today were:

1. Lisa Pieronithe curator of AMCI’s focus on director David Cronenberg (running from Thursday 13 April - Sunday 23 April at ACMI, Federation Square).
Tickets: Full $13 Concession $10; Six Session Pass (any 6 sessions) Full $60 Concession $48
Bookings / Further information: or (03) 8663 2583

If you didn't grow up in the 80's watching splatter and horror films, you might need to be reminded as to who David Cronenberg is (you barbarian!). He's the auteur beind the likes of:

2. RODNEY JAMES - Curator of the exhibition WARNING SMOKING @ Mornington Peninsula Regional Gallery, Civic Reserve, Dunns Road, Mornington.
Telephone: 03 5975 4395

Smoking today is a global obsession. Transformed since the Europeans first imported tobacco from the New World more than 500 years ago, smoking has become one of the world’s most dominant, widely practised and complex of our cultural trappings and visual icons. Representing a vast array of states, personalities, moods and statements; artists, writers and filmmakers alike have considered smoking as a major source of investigation and inspiration. Drawing on major public and private collections throughout Australia, this exhibition is the first to examine the relationship of artists to smoking and modern life. This relationship has taken many forms.

Smoking is often cited as a source of creativity and a panacea to ‘writer’s block’: for many artists it has played a major role in their perception of self and their identity as artists. Smoking has formed an integral part of the formalist investigation of line, colour and shape and been an important element in modernist collage and photomontage; it has been represented as an entrée into a world of sophistication and glamour, as a comfort during times of hardship and war, as part of class consciousness or a wider critique of capitalism and consumer excess. Most recently, smoking has been portrayed as a form of disease and social taboo.

The exhibition WARNING SMOKING includes close to 70 paintings, prints, drawings, photographs, installations and sculptures, and video by Australian and international artists from throughout the past 100 years.

3. Linda Catalano, the Artist and Program Manager for Comedy @ Trades

60 artists, 25 shows, 6 theatres, 2 late-night bars, and 6 nights of FREE entertainment all in one historic venue! Comedy @ Trades is an independently produced and programmed venue, playing host to an exciting range of talent as part of the 2006 Melbourne International Comedy Festival. We have filled the vast corridors and rooms of the majestic columned landmark of Trades Hall with clever cabaret, marvellous music, stand-out stand-up, virtuoso vaudeville, saucy sword-swallowers, creative clowning, naughty nudity and a cavalcade of classic cult cinema and bold new theatrical works.

Playwright/performer Angus Cerini - Saving Henry (Version 5)
Playwright/performer Moira Finucane - Gotharama
Artistic Director Vanessa Pigrum

TILT is a new project that aims to bring the best of Melbourne's independent theatre into the conservative surrounds of the Arts Centre. See this post for more details.

The Arts Centre presents
GOTHARAMA: 19, 20, 29 April & 6, 9, 10, 11, 12 May
SAVING HENRY (VERSION 5): Preview 21 April, season 22, 23, 30 April & 7, 8, 13, 14 May
the Arts Centre, Fairfax Studio | Tickets $23 -$28,
TILT two show package $40-$50, Saving Henry (version 5) preview $18-$20
Bookings: Ticketmaster 1300 136 166 or

5. Aloma Treister – whose exhibition The Art of Memory is now showing at Span Galleries, 45 Flinders Lane, Melbourne, April 3 – 22, 2006

Melbourne based artist Aloma Treister uses art to re-establish her Jewish relationship to the Islamic culture into which she was born. Aloma has had several solo shows. Her unique art is highly sought after in the USA and Australia and her latest exhibition is set to be her most captivating to date.

Aloma Treister was born in Baghdad, Iraq. Her family lived in a tight-knit Jewish community under Islamic rule. After constant persecution, Aloma’s family migrated to Teheran, Iran, which, at the time, provided safe haven for the Jews. Islamic culture influenced the lives and the art of Jewish people living in a Muslim world and it was here that Aloma developed a passion for the elaborate art surrounding her. The intricate patterns of mosaic tiles, carpets and engravings left their mark on Aloma and form a vital foundation to her work today.

Aloma married and moved to Australia in 1973. In relocating Aloma re-establishes her connection to her roots. She is conscious that the world she belonged to has now disappeared. This beautiful, vivid past is now located in her memory and imagination. The Art of Memory offers deeply personal images of her background, reorganized and re-presented by means of paint, collage and digital prints. .

Aloma’s work is a realisation of the multicultural society in which we live. “My being Jewish and my art being influenced by Muslim culture, I can’t help but wish that all of this culture and love would flow.” She said. “Each culture has so much to offer the other.”

6. Helen Thorn is Arty Farty - Melbourne International Comedy Festival

Laugh, clap and nod like you understand, as ABC TV Vulture panellist Helen Thorn goes Arty Farty! From jazz ballet to scary spoken word; from performance art to those crappy school concerts we all went to, Arty Farty exposes the arts – the good, the bad and downright daggy! Don't miss Melbourne's sassiest new female comedian, joined by some of her arty friends, in her hilarious new solo show.

Venue: Melbourne Town Hall, Cnr Swanston & Collins Sts, Melbourne
Prices: Full $19.50, Conc $15.00, Group (8 or more) $15.00, Preview $15.00, Laugh Pack $17.00, Tightarse Tuesday $15.00, Arts Workers at Concession $15.00
Bookings: Ticketmaster 1300 660 013 & at the door
When: 13th Apr - 7th May
Duration: 50 minutes
Times: Tue-Sat 7.15pm, Sun 6.15pm, Easter Previews 13-16 April

7. The fortnightly fine arts review segment ART ATTACK with Jeff Khan and (filling in for Tai Snaith) artist Alex Martinas Rowe.

This week they reviewed IN COLD LIGHT, curated by Melissa Keys, at the Centre for Contemporary Photography, and gave it the thumbs up.

Wednesday, April 12, 2006

This is a joke!

No really, it is:

Q: How many straight edge kids does it take to drink a slab of beer?

Just one, but only if his mates aren't around.

Fnar fnar.

Sunday, April 09, 2006

3rd annual amerging writers festival

I've had an excellent weekend, dominated by the 3rd annual Emerging Writers Festival, which came to a close tonight.

I founded the event back when I was working as the Artistic Director of Express Media, and it's been fantastic seeing the event flourish. This year it really seemed to come into its own. Huge rounds of rapturous applause to Steve Grimwade (of Going Down Swinging and 3RRR's Aural Text fame) for devising a broad, inclusive and thought-provoking program that drew in writers from around the country, and which ensured indigenous representation at almost every session; and to the Express Media team, especially Esther and Rohini, for and all the volunteers, for an amazing job.

I let my hair down at Friday's opening night party at Trades Hall (which featured a stirring speech by keynote speaker Christos Tsiolkas, as well as speeches by the Deputy Lord Mayor of Melbourne, and a bigwig from Arts Victoria; and also the fun of literary speed dating, which paired up eight emerging writers with eight publishers and literary types); so much so that I was among the very last to leave...

Saturday I facilitated a panel called IDENTITY: GET OVER IT! which featured a range of writers discussing the construction, representation and diversity of identities in contemporary writing (no bloggers, alas, which now I think about it, is a major way of presenting an identity - certainly I'm sure that those of you who are regular readers of my blog would have constructed a view of my personal identity that is perhaps quite different to that held by some of my colleagues, and even that held by some of my old friends).

Saturday night was the festival party, SCRABBLE, which featured a fantastic array of live music and spoken word, including MC Lioness and Joelistics from TZU; Citizen (aka Tom Keily from Sydney, a superb spoken word performer); reading by contributors to the latest issue of Voiceworks magazine; a so-wrong-its-right dance performance by the Voiceworks crew set to cheesy 70's music, and which commented on Ocker male stereotypes and homophobia; and lastly, the most perfect merging of spoken word and rock music I've ever seen: the pairing of poet and writer Sean Whelan with The Mime Set. Imagine a musical cross between Mogwai and The Dirty Three, with the addition of a female vocalist, and Sean's whimsical, sorrowful, heartfelt and inspired spoken word, and you'll have some idea of just how much I was enthralled....

Today I facilitated a round table about WRITING SUCCESS STORIES before coming home and having a nap, then went back into closing drinks at Young and Jacksons - not a recommended venue, to be honest; it's a bit too upmarket these days...

So, a great weekend.

Added bonuses:
  • Collingwood flogged the Hawks in round two of the AFL - hopefully I'll even get to a game soon!
  • I just watched the film Love and Other Catastrophes and found it just as engaging, sweet and moving as I did when it was first released at the cinema (when we went to a preview screening of it back in 1996 I laughed to loudly my then boyfriend was embarassed!)
  • My friend and ex-colleague Bec, whose wedding I went to in Glasgow last year, is back in town with her husband Bob for the Australian leg of their wedding, which is taking place in Venus Bay over Easter, so I got to catch up with them both on Friday arvo. While Bec was at the hairdressers I took Bob on a mini-gallery crawl. It was so cool to see them again, and I can't wait til Easter, when I head down to Venus Bay for the wedding! A bunch of us - including the lovely Adam Ford, instigator of the house-fun, have hired a holiday house for the long weekend. I'm soooooo looking forward to getting out of Melbourne for a couple of days!
Right now though, I'm going to bed. Feel free to add comments. I'd so love to hear from some of the regular blog lurkers - if you don't say something, I may be forced to add a stats counter just so I know how many of you are actually taking the time to read my meanderings!

PS - after such an inspired weekend, I hereby vow to start writing and performing spoken word again soon. Hell, I might even pick up my novel again!

Here 2DAY Gone Tomorrow

In 2004 comedian Judith Lucy started work in the high profile Breakfast shift on Sydney radio station 2DAY-FM. By the year’s end she’d been demoted to drive time and sent back to Melbourne. Six months later, she was sacked. Most people would probably try and put such a painful experience behind them, but not Judith. She’s turned the whole affair into a comedy show, which suggests that she’s either extremely resilient, or one hell of a tough cookie.

“Either that or I’m an idiot with no imagination,” she opines drolly, “who always has to talk about the things that have happened to her, and you know; considering my personal life has actually been going quite well for a change it’s just as well the career has fucked up.”

Even when she was in the thick of things in Sydney, Lucy says that she was already joking on-air about doing a show called ‘I Failed!’ once she wrapped up her radio career.
“I’d already come up with that title before they’d even sacked me! Maybe I’m a little more psychic than I actually realised.”

The Melbourne-based comedian has been performing solidly since 1989, when she started her stand-up career at Le Joke. The following years saw her appearing in the cult ABC television series The Late Show, while more recently she graced cinema screens in the films Crackerjack and Bad Eggs.

‘I Failed’ is her first show at the Melbourne Comedy Festival since 2002. It had its world premiere (a concept which Lucy finds quite hilarious: “It’s not like I’m taking it to Egypt,” she laughs) at the Adelaide Fringe Festival earlier this year, and opens in Melbourne next week.

“Basically the show is me talking about my eighteen months on commercial radio; but it would also be fair to say I don’t just talk about radio, because if the show was just a whinge-fest for over an hour I don’t think that would be incredibly entertaining for anyone,” she says wryly.
Lucy is forthright in admitting that she may not have been the best person to do breakfast radio.

“By calling the show ‘I Failed!” I guess I’m taking a fair amount of responsibility for that,” she says, “but what made me angry was when they moved us from Sydney Breakfast to National Drive, which was certainly rating a whole lot better, and then they sacked us. If they’d sacked us while we were doing Breakfast I actually would have understood.”

Overall, Judith Lucy seems far from upset about the direction that her life has taken despite her very public sacking.

“People kept telling me it was the jewel in the crown,” she quips about losing the high profile position as a Sydney Breakfast host. “Not by the time I was finished with it; it was a fake old diamante in a party hat.”

Judith Lucy’s ‘I Failed!’: Thursday 13 April – Sunday 7 May, The Supper Room at Melbourne Town Hall
Bookings: Ticketmaster or

Friday, April 07, 2006

Yesterday on SMARTARTS...

Here's the run-down on yesterday's show, if you didn't catch it, or if you didn't catch all the necessary details about a particular guest or guests:

The Lucksmiths chatted about the band's longevity, international couch-surfing, their slow drift away from quick and easy pop songs towards more thoughtful song structures, and the launch their new EP A Hiccup In Your Happiness at the Northcote Social Club this Saturday 8th and Sunday 9th of April.

Sculptor Peter Schipperheyn joined us to talk about his latest work, and Australia's largest male nude, the four metre high bronze figure, Thus Spake... at McClelland Gallery and Sculpture Park in Langwarrin, which has caused significant controversy in the Zoroastrian community.

Next up I played the interview I recorded a few weeks ago with Georg Holm, bassist with Icelandic quartet Sigur Ros, who play The Palais in St Kilda next Tuesday.

Author James Bradley joined me in the stduio to talk about his latest novel The Resurrectionist (partially inspired by true-life murderers Burke and Hare) but by the end of the interview, he was surprised to find himself talking about how he hopes to avoid dark and gloomy themes in his next novel.

An exhibition called The Industry of Working is currently showing at the Centre for Contemporary Photography in George Street, Fitzroy - I spoke with the artist behind it, Grant Hobson.

Next I was joined by playwright Hannie Rayson (the writer of Hotel Sorrento and Life After George) who, together with Hillary McPhee, has adapted a series of monographs from the book LOST: Illegal Abortion Stories, edited by Jo Wainer. Performed by actresses including Sigrid Thornton and Margaret Harvey, and directed by Kate Cherry (who also joined me in the studio), A Series of monographs from LOST is being performed this Sunday 9th April in the Merlyn Theatre at the CUB Malthouse, 113 Sturt Street, Southbank at 2.30pm. Bookings on 9685 5111.

Getting into the home stretch, I played a pre-recorded interview with Tamlyn Henderson and Warwick Allsop, whose absurdist theatrical production A Porthole into the Minds of the Vanquished opens next week as part of the Melbourne International Comedy Festival. Performing in The Regent Room, Melbourne Town Hall, April 13 - May 7. Bookings thru Ticketmaster: 1300 66 00 13 or

Finally, two regular segments: Cerise Howard joined me to talk Screen Culture, and Lucinda Straughn with our arts news and gossip segment Shoot the Messenger.

After so busy a show, no wonder I went home for a nap afterwards! (I also was struggling to get over a nasty stomach bug that had me up puking for most of the night before. Ewwww.)

Wednesday, April 05, 2006

Beware of the cat!

Thanks for forwarding this one, Grebo!

Gay weddings blessed by the Catholic Church

(The Irish Times, Tuesday, August 11, 1998)
By Jim Duffy

7th century icon of St Serge & St Bacchus, originally from
the Monastery of St. Catherine on Mt. Sinai, now in the
Kiev Museum of Eastern and Western Art

A Kiev art museum contains a curious icon from St Catherine's monastery on Mount Sinai. It shows two robed Christian saints. Between them is a traditional Roman pronubus (best man) overseeing what in a standard Roman icon would be the wedding of a husband and wife. In the icon, Christ is the pronubus. Only one thing is unusual. The "husband and wife" are in fact two men.

Is the icon suggesting that a homosexual "marriage" is one sanctified by Christ? The full answer comes from other sources about the two men featured, St Serge and St Bacchus, two Roman soldiers who became Christian martyrs.

While the pairing of saints, particularly in the early Church, was not unusual, the association of these two men was regarded as particularly close. Severus of Antioch in the sixth century explained that "we should not separate in speech [Serge and Bacchus] who were joined in life". More bluntly, in the definitive 10th century Greek account of their lives, St Serge is openly described as the "sweet companion and lover" of St Bacchus.

In other words, it confirms what the earlier icon implies, that they were a homosexual couple. Unusually their orientation and relationship was openly accepted by early Christian writers. Furthermore, in an image that to some modern Christian eyes might border on blasphemy, the icon has Christ himself as their pronubus, their best man overseeing their "marriage".

The very idea of a church-blessed gay marriage seems incredible to many. Yet after a 12-year search of Catholic and Orthodox church archives Yale history professor John Boswell has discovered that a type of Christian homosexual "marriage" did exist as late as the 18th century.

Contrary to myth, Christianity's concept of marriage has not been set in stone since the days of Christ, but has evolved both as a concept and as a ritual. Prof Boswell discovered that in addition to heterosexual marriage ceremonies in ancient church liturgical documents (and clearly separate from other types of non-marital blessings such as blessings of adopted children or land) were ceremonies called, among other titles, the "Office of Same Sex Union" (10th and 11th century Greek) or the "Order for Uniting Two Men" (11th and 12th century).

These ceremonies had all the contemporary symbols of a marriage: a community gathered in church, a blessing of the couple before the altar, their right hands joined as at heterosexual marriages, the participation of a priest, the taking of the Eucharist, a wedding banquet aftet afterwards. All of which are shown in contemporary drawings of the same sex union of Byzantine Emperor Basil I (867-886) and his companion John. Such homosexual unions also took place in Ireland in the late 12th/early 13th century, as the chronicler Gerald of Wales (Geraldus Cambrensis) has recorded.

Boswell's book, The Marriage of Likeness: Same Sex Unions in Pre- Modern Europe, lists in detail some same sex union ceremonies found in ancient church liturgical documents. One Greek 13th century "Order for Solemnisation of Same Sex Union" having invoked St Serge and St Bacchus, called on God to "vouchsafe unto these thy servants [N and N] grace to love one another and to abide unhated and not a cause of scandal all the days of their lives, with the help of the Holy Mother of God and all thy saints." The ceremony concludes: "And they shall kiss the Holy Gospel and each other, and it shall be concluded."

Another 14th century Serbian Slavonic "Office of Same Sex Union", uniting two men or two women, had the couple having their right hands laid on the Gospel while having a cross placed in their left hands. Having kissed the Gospel, the couple were then required to kiss each other, after which the priest, having raised up the Eucharist, would give them both communion.

Boswell found records of same-sex unions in such diverse archives as those in the Vatican, in St Petersburg, in Paris, Istanbul, and in Sinai, covering ering a period from the 8th to the 18th centuries. Nor is he the first to make such a discovery. The Dominican Jacques Goar (1601-1653) includes such ceremonies in a printed collection of Greek prayer books.

While homosexuality was technically illegal from late Roman times, it was only from about the 14th century that anti-homosexual feelings swept western Europe. Yet same sex union ceremonies continued to take place.

At St John Lateran in Rome (traditionally the Pope's parish Church) in 1578 as many as 13 couples were "married" at Mass with the apparent co-operation of the local clergy, "taking Communion together, using the same nuptial Scripture, after which they slept and ate together", according to a contemporary report.

Another woman-to-woman union is recorded in Dalmatia in the 18th century.

Boswell's academic study however is well researched and sourced as to pose fundamental questions for both modern church leaders and heterosexual Christians about their attitude towards homosexuality.

For the Church to ignore the evidence in its own archives would be a cowardly cop-out. That evidence shows convincingly that what the modern church claims has been its constant unchanging attitude towards homosexuality is in fact nothing of the sort.

It proves that for much of the last two millennia, illennia, in parish churches and cathedrals throughout Christendom from Ireland to Istanbul and in the heart of Rome itself, homosexual relationships were accepted as valid expressions of a God-given ability to love and commit to another person, a love that could be celebrated, honoured and blessed both in the name of, and through the Eucharist in the presence of Jesus Christ.

Jim Duffy is a writer and historian.
The Marriage of Likeness: Same Sex Unions in Pre-Modern Europe by John Boswell is published by Harper Collins.

Tuesday, April 04, 2006

Ben Lee hit by bottle at WA gig

A photo of Ben Lee somehow managing to look even more irritating than he usually does.

Tuesday Apr 4 12:20 AEST

Singer Ben Lee was forced to cut short a performance in Western Australia after being hit on the head by a glass bottle thrown from the crowd.

About time the annoying little prick was glassed.

The ARIA Award winner suffered minor concussion when a bottle was thrown from the audience at the Main Break concert, held as part of the Margaret River Pro surfing event at the weekend.

Oooooh, so he has an ARIA. Who the fuck cares? His music's bland and boring as shit.

"I was in a whole bunch of shock and made a quick decision that I wasn't going to subject myself to any more physical danger, and ended the set prematurely," wrote Lee on his official website.

A whole bunch of shock? What the fuck does that mean? Probably that he shat his pants.

"But I'm OK."

More's the fucking pity.

Margaret River police Sergeant Scott Etherton said the unruly behaviour was fuelled by drug and alcohol abuse.

"They just seemed agitated and very aggressive and we put that down to the excessive consumption of alcohol prior to the event and the illicit drug use," he told ABC Radio.

Really? People affected by alcohol and drugs at a gig? Oh for fucks! (To quote Ms Fits) I'd say it was more likely that they had a sudden moment of zen-like clarity thanks to all those illicit drugs kicking in, at which point some bright spark thought 'Why are the hell are we listening to this guy's bland, middle-of-the-road shite?

"It's disgraceful and it's just marred an event which is an international event."

Oh no, the rest of the world was watching as we glassed poor Ben! Shame they weren't watching when we practised genocide on several generations of indigenous Australians. Oh, that's right, they don't have ARIA awards, so who gives a fuck about them?

There was a "no glass" policy at the event, with more than 100 staff working on the day and a further 60 crowd controllers.

Event organisers, Heat Seeker, are offering a reward for anyone who can help identify the person who threw the bottle.

"I threw the bottle!"

"No, I threw the bottle."

"No, it was me who threw the bottle!"

"I'm Spartacus!"

Lee said the incident had taught him some serious lessons.

Such as hopefully to stop inflicting his third-rate musical talent upon the rest of the fucking world.

"I did not like seeing people being crushed and kicked in the head down the front of the crowd," he said.

"I want to play music for the whole world, cutting across age, cultural and class barriers, and I want Ben Lee shows to be a place where people can feel confident that they won't be victims of random violence."

Somebody pass me a bucket.

Lee is now in South Africa to play a series of dates, starting in Johannesburg.

He will then travel to the United States to perform a number of concerts and is due to return to Western Australia in July, as part of his upcoming national tour.

"I've got no sour grapes against Western Australia, or Margaret River, or even the person who threw the bottle," he said.

"I look forward to getting back there soon and hopefully doing a show that brings people of all types together in harmony.

"Life's too short for anything less."

Sanctimonious WANKER!

Benefit gig for West Papuan Refugees



THE BLACK BROTHERS stringband style (West Papua)



West Papua has been in the news a lot lately. The arrival of 43 West Papuan asylum seekers on Australian shores and the discovery of a veritable Garden of Eden in the forest-shrouded Foja Mountains has catapaulted the story of West Papua into mainstream public attention. The drive that compels 43 West Papuans to make a perilous ocean crossing in a traditional canoe to seek freedom is something that we Australians as their closest neighbours should support. They have arrived on our shores speaking of political persecution, state terrorism and genocide in West Papua. This is no conspiracy: there are mountains of evidence to support their claims, from the UN to Yale University to Amnesty International.

This will be a top night of music, dance and film.

Come and play your part, have an enjoyable evening, and help support the campaign
to give these brave people safe refuge inside our desert island.

Easter Thursday April 13th Grand Central Central Club Hotel 293 Swan Street Richmond Venue: 9248 1480 Bookings: 9017 1125 or

Monday, April 03, 2006


Richard talks with Vanessa Pigrum about an edgy new season of work being launched at the Arts Centre.

As anyone with an interest in the arts has known for several years, the most exciting new theatre in Melbourne today is being made by small independent companies such as Stuck Pigs Squealing and Theatre In Decay; and is being staged in the most unlikely venues, from dark cellars to parked cars. The big companies such as the MTC, and the established venues, have been left behind.

Now the Arts Centre, long considered the home of the safe and the comfortable, is gambling that its traditional audience might also want a taste of such edgy new fair. Following the success of a short experimental season as part of last year’s Melbourne International Arts Festival, the Arts Centre recently launched TILT, a new program curated by Artistic Director Vanessa Pigrum.

“We’re setting up a welcoming and safe environment in which to see edgy work,” Pigrum says of the project, which will allow artists the luxury of re-staging existing work with access to the kind of resources that fringe theatre can usually only dream of.

TILT will also present entirely new work never before seen by Melbourne audiences, following a call for expressions of interest in a creative development program that resulted in over 100 applications.

Given that Arts Centre audiences have previously lived off a diet of Shakespeare and David Williamson, Pigrum (a former Artistic Director of the Melbourne Fringe Festival) seems remarkably confident that its patrons are ready for a program of this nature.

“I’ve got great faith that a large proportion of the existing Arts Centre audience do have a sense of adventure, and will come along and check TILT out,” she laughs. “At this moment admittedly I understand independent artists more. The Arts Centre has many and varied audience groupings, and it will take a little while for me to get to know which of those existing audiences are going to come across to TILT. I’ll really only know that after the first season has finished.”

That season, which opens at the Arts Centre’s Fairfax Studio on April 19, features two works: Moira Finucane’s Gotharama, and Angus Cerini’s Saving Henry (version 5). Neither production is exactly comfortable theatre, with Gotharama a macabre cabaret, and Saving Henry an exploration of the impact of abuse on a young boy.

Gotharama is kind of about the monstrous feminine, and Saving Henry is more about the vulnerable male,’ Pigrum explains.

Both productions are written and staged by their performers, and are, in essence, solo shows, a deliberate programming choice on Pigrum’s behalf.

“This first TILT season is very much about the creator-performer, celebrating the performer who writes their own work rather than the focus being on performing known texts, or on larger ensembles. Luckily both Moira and Angus were available and could do it, as they’re absolutely my ideal combination.”

Gotharama: 19 April - 12 May.
Saving Henry (version 5): 21 April - 14 May.
Both at the Arts Centre, Fairfax Studio. Bookings through Ticketmaster on 1300 136 166.

This article originally appeared in MCV #273.

Quick Update

Fuck me dead where has March gone? In fact, where have the last two weeks gone? Too many festivals, too much to do...

I've been helping an e-friend, Charles Green, by reading his manuscript for a fantasy role-playing game supplement and providing detailed feedback and criticism.

I've been to several more events at the Next Wave Festival, including:
  • Blood Policy's superb puppetry-meets-new media hybrid Operation;
  • The provocative and stimulating visual art exhibition The Anti-Mascot Project;
  • The imaginative but clearly in need of script editing and/or more demanding dramaturgy/direction performance, Chronicles of a Sleepless Moon, presented by the wildly inventive The Suitcase Royale;
  • And the frankly disappointing Pink Denim in Manhatten, whose staging, sound production and lighting were bloody good, but whose script was banal and simplistic, and whose performer seemed to have no range except 'turned up to 11';
  • And tonight's closing night party, which was the closest Next Wave had to having a real festival club and festival vibe where you can discuss the work you've seen with total strangers who are also festival punters (although that said, the artistic content of the festival this year was damn strong - congratulations to Marcus, Fiona and their team!).
What else has been happening?

Well, the French Film Festival has started - I've seen a few films, but nothing outstanding yet.

My old friends Mark and Penny, who I've known since 1985, threw a housewarming party last night to celebrate the end of their renovations - and my god, what a transformation! It's the same house, but totally and utterly different... Pretty trippy, really!

I've been working two days a week at RRR - currently editing a broadcaster's policy manual.

There's been some fun and some drama on the Board of Melbourne Fringe, including a day-trip up to Bendigo to see the second stage of Human Momentum.

Oh yeah, and there was that minor league international sporting carnival which I completely avoided, although I did check out its free cultural program, including a highly enjoyable evening spent in the Alexandra Gardens to the sounds of True Live and Not Drowning, Waving, followed by a hypnotic night-time performance by Strange Fruit.

Right now though, I'm going to bed, as I'm acting News Editor at the gay and lesbian newspaper MCV for two days this week, starting tomorrow...

Saturday, April 01, 2006

Star Wars Fans Rejoice!

Cue the fanfare!

Scroll the titles slowly up the screen!

Yes ladies and gentlemen and non-gender-specific lifeforms, everybody's favourite Wookie has a blog* at last! Go here for gutteral fun.

* Proof that some people really do have too much time on their hands...