Saturday, June 30, 2007
As well as the by-now standard stress of putting out a new issue of MCV - this week with a fabulous cover by Dole Diary - and my weekly radio show on 3RRR, I've also been focussed on the closing night of Q + A (queer + alternative) which took place on Thursday night.
Before that, however, there were a couple of arts events I had to attend first...
On Wednesday I attended both the media launch and the official opening of Pixar: 20 years of animation exhibition at the Australian Centre for the Moving Image. Why both? Well the media launch was a much better time to actually view the work, while the evening's formal affairs was an opportunity for free booze, nibbles and networking (amongst other dignitaries, I had a chat with Richard Moore, the new director of the Melbourne International Film Festival - so hopefully he remembers me come red carpet time when I'm trying to score a quick interview for 3RRR - as well as running into an old acquintance from my role-playing days, Matt, who I haven't seen for ages and who is now the Head of School at the Academy of Interactive Entertainment here in Melbourne).
Like most launches, neither was memorable for its speeches (which included a short speech by Victorian Arts Minister Lynn Kosky, pictured above - and thanks to Simon for attending the launch with me and taking a few shots for MCV) but the exhibition itself more than made up for that.
Before seeing it I confess I'd been a bit suss - it seemed more a money-spinner for ACMI than an exhibition with serious merit, but for serious animation fans and Pixar fans alike, it's definitely going to be a winner. A detailed, behind the scenes look into the production process of making computer animated movies, the Pixar exhibition displays the level of depth and detail that goes into imagining the characters, setting and scenery of their films, such as The Incredibles and Finding Nemo. There's an array of models, production sketches, alternate character designs, films and much more on display, providing real insight into the developmental process at play for a Pixar production.
As my erstwhile housemate and +1 No-Necked Monsters has already observed, there's an amazing zoetrope at the heart of the exhibition that is the perfect encapsulation of the animation process, but there's much more to see and revel in as well. While lacking the depth of the recent Kubrick exhibition, Pixar: 20 years of animation is still bloody good fun. Give yourself about two hours to explore it in detail.
Thursday night was another opening, another 'Melbourne Winter Masterpieces' exhibition, this time at the National Gallery of Victoria in St Kilda Rd, but more of that in my next post...
Tuesday, June 26, 2007
Played three full quarters in the Community Cup on Sunday at Junction Oval, and actually managed to touch the ball a few times, which is certainly better than my performance last year. Hmm, maybe the personal training sessions I've done the last four weeks are actually starting to pay off...
It's even more remarkable given how many intoxicants and other substances I consumed the night before, in a binge that started with 'research' for a feature article on cocktails at Ginger, took in a friend's 50th birthday, the relocated Witness Protection Program Social Club, and ended at Control HQ. Last time I plan an early night before the big game!
While the Megahertz put in a valiant effort, we didn't get across the line, but nonetheless a fun day was had by all, as far as I can tell, with about the only injury I know of on our team being a loose tooth in David Bridie's upper jaw.
Huge crowd, three streakers, much fun. Ms Fits looked fetching as always, although I swear her shorts get shorter every year.
Congratulations to the Rockdogs on another victory. Bastards.
Now if only I didn't wince in pain every time I stand up, sit down or crouch down to pick something up...
Saturday, June 23, 2007
- I was sexually abused by a baby sitter when I was 11 years old. At the time I found it tremendously exciting, as it allowed me to physically express my nascent attraction for the male body, but I no longer view the incident in such a positive light.
- When I was seven years old I became obsessed with Robin Hood, to the point where I wanted to only wear green, and I made a cardboard reproduction of his gravestone, which I stood at the head of my bed and slept under. Morbid, much?
- When suffering from bouts of depression, I lose all appetite, to the point where trying to swallow food makes me physically ill. Thankfully I haven't suffered a major bout of depression for seven years.
- My middle name is Leigh, after Vivian Leigh, who played Scarlet O'Hara in Gone with the Wind.
- My hair started going grey when I was 17; now even my chest hair is going grey, as if I was a silverback gorilla in reverse.
- I high school I was beaten up on at least a weekly basis between Year 7 and Year 10; it only stopped when I scored the lead role in our inaurgural musical production, and the thugs I went to school with grudgingly realised that although I was a freak, I was not, perhaps, completely useless.
- At the very moment my mum received the phone call telling her my uncle, her older brother, had died from pancreatic cancer, I was outside jerking off with my straight best friend.
- The first piece of artwork I ever owned is a pottery owl, purchased for me by my parents when I was about seven or eight. I still own it; its looking down at me from atop my desk as I type this, a Van Gogh self-portrait postcard I purchased in Amsterdam leaning against it.
At Kick, artists had been asked to work on two pre-supplied canvases, each approximately 15cm x 15cm in size, with the resulting pieces forming the entire exhibition. From dreamlike landscapes to vivid photographic portraits, richly textured oils to playful cartoons, each of the 14 artists responded in their own way to the brief, resulting in often striking work.
Inspired work was also on display at Gertrude Contemporary Art Spaces, such as that on display upstairs in Studio 18, exploring the poignancy of death and the commercial aspects of the media culture which exploits it; as well as The Great Alone, Starlie Geikie's vivid exploration of the interface between masculine art and feminine craft, using space and colour to great effect in Studio 12; and in the main gallery downstairs, A Storm Machine, an exhibition by Adelaide artist Matthew Bradley, exploring the beauty of destruction and a visitation by an alien, mechanoid culture (pictured).
I ended my busy Friday night at Dantes, listening to poetry and spoken word, at the launch of the latest edition of Voiceworks magazine (a publication dedicated to supporting the work of artists and writers under 25. If you fit into their demographic, perhaps you'd like to consider submitting to the next issue, Third Party) before drifting home to drink wine and cry while watching Brokeback Mountain for the umpeenth time...
Wednesday, June 20, 2007
I'm a sucker for a good festival, and being a film fan (as opposed to a cineaste, who is the sort of person who takes their movies far more seriously than I) the annual Melbourne International Film Festival marks a happy time of year for me: despite queuing in the cold, and the inevitable festival flu that seems to do the rounds in the second week!
I've just come straight from the launch of MIFF 2007, and am already excited by what the pleasantly scruffy new festival director Richard Moore has in store for us this year. Here are just some of the highlights:
For starters, Moore has abandoned the relatively recent tradition of opening and closing the festival with an Australian film; instead of nationalism, he's gone with quality (we hope!).
This year's opening night movie is cinematic provocateur Michael Moore's latest, an attack on the US health system, or rather the lack thereof, SICKO; while the closing night feature is the hard-hitting, autobiographic drama, THIS IS ENGLAND, about skinhead culture and family ties, directed by Shane Meadows and set in the fascist England of PM Maggie Thatcher.
New elements include:
- a global Indigenous showcase, World Stories, which will feature A SISTER'S LOVE, the latest film by Ivan Sen, director of the sublime BENEATH CLOUDS;
- the Israeli focused package, Stars of David, featuring the latest feature from the director of YOSSI & JAGGER, Eytan Fox - THE BUBBLE;
- a horror package, Full Moon Fever, which includes the Australian premiere of the much-anticipated (at least by me) Kiwi horror-comedy BLACK SHEEP, and the Canadian zombie comedy and Billy Connolly vehicle, FIDO;
- and, Forbidden Pleasures, a provoctive package exploring the pleasures of the flesh and other titillations.
In total, some 387 films at last count; approximately 178 Australian premieres; and nine world premieres.
MIFF 2007 runs from July 25 - August 12. Bring it on!
"THE 95.1 per cent of callers to the Herald Sun Voteline question can't be wrong.
Only 4.9 per cent of callers last Friday said graffiti artists should not go to jail.
The reality is something else. It seems graffiti hit squads can come to Melbourne from interstate, get caught and then get off very lightly indeed."
So says writer and social commentator Christopher Bantick in his opinion piece, 'Melbourne gets the big spray'. Sorry, Christopher, but since when did mass opinion actually have anything to do with being correct or accurate? Once upon a time 95.1% of people probably would have told you that the reason their cows had died that winter was because of a witch's curse, but would they have been right?
Is it wrong of me to find a wanted killer attractive? I glanced at the cover of the Herald Sun on the way to work this morning, and was slightly disturbed to realise that Hell's Angel gunman Christopher Hudson was actually kind of hot, in a rough trade sort of way.
I'm going to hell now, aren't I?
Tuesday, June 19, 2007
So yes, Barcelona, eating squid and drinking red wine in a small bar off a cobbled street in the Bari Gotic; or in Glasgow, getting drunk with Bec and Bob at Sleazy; or in Dublin, drinking in the atmosphere and the energy of the city, aroused by accents and alert to possibilities; or in Prague, where I haven't been yet; or standing weeping with indescribably joy before Stonehenge, or Machu Picchu, where I've also not yet been; or standing on the windswept southernmost tip of Tierra del Fuego, the land of ice and fire...
Or better yet in the arms of a lover, who I haven't met yet, and who I sometimes fear I never will.
In related news, I see from the six-month program sent out in recent days by Gertrude Contemporary Art Spaces that Jonsi from Sigur Ros will also be exhibiting in the gallery there during MIAF.
Woo, I say. And I'll add a Hoo to that statement. Woo-hoo!
While the degree of skill on display at the game is more laughable than laudable, the annual match is a triumph of community spirit and participation, and raises more than $70,000 annually for St Kilda’s Sacred Heart Mission, which provides vital assistance for people who are homeless or living in poverty. In 2005 the 15 000 at the cup raised an astonishing $104 000 - let's see if we can beat that this year, shall we?!
As well as the on-field talent, the off-ground entertainment features live performances by bands including Mach Pelican and The RocKwiz Orchestra, with special guests. Come on down to the Junction Oval, point and laugh at my skinny white legs, hang out with your friends, and do your bit for charity on what has become an amazing event, and an unmissable day on the Melbourne calendar.
Monday, June 18, 2007
Despite the fact that three people were shot only a couple of blocks away from my office, and one of them has died, it still seems distant, somehow removed from the mundane reality of my day to day life. That said, I suddenly decided to put off going downstairs to get myself a smoothie for brunch...
Friday, June 15, 2007
Happily, however, my fuzzy brain was somewhat assuaged when I stepped out the door to see Fitzroy blanketed in a thick fog. The end of the street was invisible; the sharp edges of the world were softened and blurred.
Fog always adds an air of mystery to an otherwise prosaic day, for me; it imbues the world with possibility and strangeness, by virtue of transforming the everyday into something temporarily other and interesting.
The cold morning air pinched my cheeks like an over-friendly aunt. I exhaled, my breath condensing, becoming one with the fog.
I wondered, as I began the 20 minute walk into the city, what strange new joys this day will hold? I promise to blog about it, whatever it may turn out to be...
Wednesday, June 13, 2007
I, apparently, am the Joker:
"The Clown Prince of Crime. You are a brilliant mastermind but are criminally insane. You love to joke around while accomplishing the task at hand."
I can deal with that. Not so sure about my results for the superhero test however, which tells me that I am Hulk - yeah, that's right, the big green guy who smashes things.
"You are a wanderer with amazing strength."
Hmmmmmm. Why couldn't I have been Spiderman instead?
Click here to discover which supervillain you are.
Click here to discover which superhero you are.
Tuesday, June 12, 2007
I Am Legend is based on one of the classic vampire novels of the same name, Richard Matheson's superb apocalyptic thriller from 1954 about the last living man on the Earth, after everyone else on the planet has succumbed to vampirism. Having been badly remade twice before, once as The Last Man on Earth with Vincent Price in the lead; and then as The Omega Man in 1971 with Charlton 'cold dead hands' Heston.
I'm hoping it will be good. Then again, Will Smith has been described as the man who can ruin a good genre picture single-handedly...
Thursday, June 07, 2007
Originally motivated by our need to create a queer space where ourselves and our friends could go to avoid the shitful music and shallow attitudes that - to us at the time - summed up the gay scene, Q + A rapidly proved far more popular than I could ever have imagined. Rather than lasting for a couple of months at best, which was about as much as I dared to hope when we first opened, the club has run for years, proving constantly successful week after week, year after year.
From its earliest incarnation at what was then called Wall Street (now the Hi Fi Bar), came into its own when, a couple of months later, we shifted venues, and nights, to Thursdays at the Builders' Arms in Fitzroy. For the next nine years we packed the crowds in every night, with constant queues testimony to the need for a queer club that played the likes of Nine Inch Nails, Sleater Kinney, Nirvana, Blur, Fatboy Slim, and Belle & Sebastian, instead of Kylie, Madonna, handbag house and hiNRG dance music. When the pub changed hands, and we were kicked out on a Wednesday afternoon with just two hours notice, Q + A opened the very next night at Collingwood's A Bar Called Barry, just down the road.
In a larger space, the club was even more successful, at the same time attracting a newer, younger crowd that saw its idiosyncratic nature gradually shift towards a more homogenous vibe. Simultaneously, though, it remained an alternative to the mainstream gay scene, even if it was no longer, strictly speaking, an 'alternative' club.
So why close down Q + A when it continues to draw a full house and large queues every Thursday night? The main reason is that the three of us who run the night, Helen, Pete and myself, have all moved on with our lives. We have other things to focus on (such as editing a weekly newspaper for example); on top of which, we're all getting just a little too old to be DJing for a club full of young queers whose average age is about 21, when we're all aged in our late thirties. I may not be feeling my age, but I am aware that the musical tastes of our predominant crowd, and my own, no longer run parallel.
It's been a wild ride. I've made some wonderful friends at Q + A, and indeed, met several boyfriends over the years who I still care deeply about . But now the end is near. And so I face the final curtain...
Please join us for the last ever Q + A on Thursday June 28 from 9pm at A Bar Called Barry. If you're coming, please come early. It's going to be a crazy night!
Wednesday, June 06, 2007
Jonathan Reynolds, a 15-year-old in South Wales, UK, was killed by a train after he laid on the tracks to commit suicide in January 2006 because he had been bullied in school over his sexuality, an inquest heard last week. According to the Times Online, Reynolds had confided to a friend he was gay just weeks earlier.
The paper reports:
"Moments before he died, Jonathan Reynolds sent harrowing text messages to his family telling that them they were not to blame for what was about to happen. A passer-by saw him holding the mobile as he lay down on the tracks in front of a train travelling at 85mph (136km/h) through Pencoed railway station near Bridgend, South Wales.
In his last text message sent to his father, Mark, and his 14-year-old sister, Samantha, the teenager wrote: 'Tell everyone that this is for anybody who eva said anything bad about me, see I do have feelings too. Blame the people who were horrible and injust 2 me. This is because of them, I am human just like them. I hope they rot in hell 4 what they made me do. They know who they are.' He added: 'None of you blame urself mum, dad, Sam and the rest of my family. This is not because of you.'
A postmortem examination showed that Jonathan, who achieved a grade A in his GCSE Welsh oral exam on the day he died, had a blood-alcohol level three and a half times the legal limit for driving."
A man walking his dog was witness to Reynolds' final moments: “He had a mobile in his hand. I called out and said, ‘Get off the track’. He looked at me and just put his head back down and I saw him walking across the track. I was walking across the bridge and he was walking across the track and he seemed to lie down and the train came.”I read this last night on Towleroad and started crying straight away. It brought back memories of my own time at school, when I was constantly bashed and bullied to the point where I attempted suicide twice. I'm one of the lucky ones. I survived. I feel like I should end this post on a hopeful note but I honestly can't think of anything to say that won't sound trite or simplistic, except to say that I wish Jonathan Reynolds had survived past high school to discover that things really do start to get better once you've put that particular experience behind you...
Gay and Lesbian Switchboard telephone counselling: 03 9827 8544 (metropolitan area) or 1800 184 527 (Country Victoria).
Lifeline: 13 11 44
Monday, June 04, 2007
Said launch took place tonight, at 45 Downstairs. Last week, over a beer, Terry had told me that he wanted someone who would 'speak to the book' and not just dwell on its gay aspects. I hope I succeeded.
"I'm delighted and honoured to have been asked to launch Terry Jaensch's and Cyril Wong's Excess Baggage & Claim here tonight.
Like many creative projects, the idea for the book has evolved significantly since 2002, when the idea of first writing about castrai opera singers first arose in Terry's mind.
Through a process of artistic alchemy, refinement and collaboration, that idea has given birth to a collection of poetry in which the castrati have metamorphed into a metaphor for the contemporary gay male; while singing, such as at the karaoke bars depicted in this book - 'all those standards that engage', to quote from one of the poems - has become a metaphor for the individual's voice, or lack of a voice.
Today, in John Howard's Australia, far too many of us are denied a voice. Elsewhere, some of us sit passively by, doing nothing as other people's voices are silenced and supressed.
We live in a time where legislation supporting same-sex civil unions has been banned by the Federal Government despite it being a key platform of the mandated ACT Government's sucessful election campaign; where 'Poorly realised gay characters cough themselves to death - still'; where communities are divided into 'Australians' and 'people of Middle Eastern appearance' and other others.
At such a time, the publication of Excess Baggage & Claim is, for me, a momentus occasion.
Momentus because it represents a personal and artistic triumph for Terry and Cyril, who were introduced by a mutual friend; who who corresponded for a year and a half via email as they discussed the project; and who hammered out much of the book's themes, voices and structures in a passionate four months in Singapore, which Terry visited as the result of an Asialink residency.
Momentus because it represents a remarkable cross-cultural fusion - both artistically, and politically. It is an act of creation, and a rejection of the values of Pauline Hanson and others of her ilk - including our own Prime Minister, who in 1988, in opposition, talked openly of too many Asian immigrants spoiling Australia's 'social cohesion'.
Momentous because it explores gay love and desire in a country where, only a decade ago, Cyril's first book was heavily censored by Singapore's National Arts Council because of its prevelence of gay themes.
Just as one of its characters seeks to 'cultivate one authentic self from a series of predictabilities', Cyril and Terry have strived - successfuly, in my eyes - to create a work of art which is larger than both of them.
It is a collection of poems which evokes the human spirit's ability to engage with past betrayals we might once have shied away from, considered unspeakable:
'father upon me, whispering:
Don't worry, don't move, this won't
It is a collection of poems which do more than touch upon our intimate fears as we 'lie in bed waiting for the dark to lift', and which are about far more than just gay men, gay sex, and one man's romantic love for another.
Excess Baggage & Claim is a dialogue; an affair; an engagement with senses and sensation. It is a revelation. It is both painful and beautiful. It is a romance - flawed, like so many romances - and a romance with literature, a love of words, carefully written and placed.
'I love you. There, I have said it
Again. Bravely this time, without
Looking away as if the next moment
After could scorch me, the words
like sparks in cool, flamable air.'
I love this book. I commend it to you without hesitation, and I am delighted to now, offically, declare Terry Jaensch's and Cyril Wong's Excess Baggage & Claim well and truly launched.
Excess Baggage & Claim is published by the independent press, Transit Lounge, and available from their website, and through good independent bookshops.
Oh, and Cyril is also, as well as being a beautiful poet, a beautiful counter-tenor. He sang tonight, acapella, with such beauty that tears rolled down my cheeks as I listened to him.
I should be blogging about the exhibition opening I attended on Friday night (A Constructed World's idiosyncratically wonderful Increase Your Uncertainty at ACCA), or the somewhat subdued opening night of the play I went to thereafter (Hoy Polloy's production of Irish playwright Conor McPherson's Shining City). I could blog about the excellent Is Not magazine's second birthday party, which I attended on Saturday night as Miss Libertine, or the fun I had hanging out at Murmur that same evening, celebrating MsKP's 30th birthday in the company of many excellent bloggers and other peeps.
But no. I'm going to blog about the bloke I went home with on Saturday night, instead.
So there I am, happily tipsy after a cocktail, an absinthe and a couple of champagnes, leaning against a wall at Miss Libertine, happily surveying the crowd in the courtyard and thinking about nothing in particular, when a drunken brogue mutters, "You're that bloke what runs Q + A. I like what you're doing with MCV as well," into my ear.
Somewhat startled, I turn and see a stocky, dark-haired Irishman looking at me very intently, albeit somewhat blurrily. Very handsome in a scruffy sort of way (which is, you might have guessed, exactly my type - I don't go for show ponies). We talk. His mate turns up, who doesn't know that Mr Irish is bisexual, so I obfuscate. I'm not, at this stage, planning anything other than a conversation. But perhaps the half-a-pill I was given earlier has given me confidence, because out of the blue, I ask Irish if he wants to come home with me. To my surprise, he says yes.
We walk, we talk, we fall into bed and immediately both fall asleep. In the morning - and the afternoon - there are cuddles and conversations but, surprisingly, no sex, which suddenly seems unimportant. It's as if we've cut straight to the post-orgasmic afterglow and the 'getting to know you' sharing of intimacies instead of all that sweaty, awkward, first time fumbling. We sleep some more, talk some more, touch some more. Repeat. Rise at 2.20pm.
We walk into town. I decide to skip the debut performance by the Melbourne Complaints Choir. We have lunch instead, in Chinatown, then a drink afterwards. There is a sense of easy rapport with this man. We go back to his place in the city. We open a few beers and he plays me some of his favourite bands. We talk more, about films and relationships and moments of pure joy. He says he's not really looking for anything serious at the moment. I tell him I'm definitely on the market.
It's 7pm by now. Out for another bite to eat, then into the Exford Hotel for Guinness and cider and sitting at the bar listening to a covers band and talking some more, and laughing, and drinking, and then back to his place again.
At 10.30pm he walks me a couple of blocks to Spring Street so I can catch a tram and we kiss goodbye. I press my business card into his hand and ask him to call me. I hope he does. I'd like to see him again.
Saturday, June 02, 2007
Hello Anonymous 2/6/07, and thank you for helping spark not only a response to your comment, but helping me articulate what this blog is about, and why I do what I do. To whit:
Aside from the fact that I saw two-thirds of the production in question, not half, which I feel is more than enough to inform my intellectual and emotional response to the play; why should the issue of whether I paid for a ticket or not influence my detailing of that response?
If anything, I'd suggest (judging from the muted criticisms of works I've often seen in Melbourne's print media in comparison to the far more visceral comments I've overheared from the same critics upon leaving the theatre) that being on the comps list for a production is more likely to adversely influence an honest response than actually paying for a ticket might do. All I can do is be honest and analytical about my responses to whatever work I see.
And, finances aside, why shouldn't I comment on a play that evoked such a strong reaction in me?
Have you, dear Anonymous, never walked out of a film, switched off a TV program or abandoned a book partway through because it failed to engage you (for whatever reason)? Have you never advised friends against seeing/watching/reading the same show/book on the basis of said response?
You have? Then why should I not do the same on my blog, which is a cheerfully self-indulgent, stream-of-consciousness embodiment of my own idiosyncratic life, dislikes and passions; and designed, primarily, as a means for me to communicate with a diverse range of friends and fellow bloggers?
What I do, whether it's on this blog or on 3RRR, I do as a volunteer, without financial recompense, because I believe in the importance and the relevence of art and its ability to touch us, and to reflect our flaws, merits and foibles. For that reason, I think it's important to analyse my reponse to any work of art that I see; partially as a record of my own life and experiences, and partly as a means of letting my friends know what I'd recommend they see and not see; while also recognising that they are free to make up their own minds, and that they can - and frequently do - disagree with me.
I don't make a habit of discussing shows that I haven't seen in full, but on the rare occasion that I am compelled to flee a work, then I shall certainly not shy away from chroniclling it here. I sincerely believe it would be dishonest of me not to present my views, openly and passionately, on The Pillowman or any other production, exhibition, newspaper article or observed incident that I've seen and responded to.
In essence, this blog is a personal diary that just happens to be published in the public domain. For that reason, I believe it is governed by rules outside those that apply to reviews published or broadcast in the media's mainstream. You can, of course, feel free to disagree; and if you do, I look forward to a long, engaging and well articulated response in the comments below.