Thursday, October 30, 2008
The money raised by Movember is used to raise awareness of men's health issues and donated to the Prostate Cancer Foundation of Australia (PCFA) and beyondblue - the national depression initiative. The PCFA and beyondblue will use the funds to fund research and increase support networks for those men who suffer from prostate cancer and depression.
Did you know:
* Depression affects 1 in 6 men....most don't seek help. Untreated depression is a leading risk factor for suicide.
* Last year in Australia 18,700 men were diagnosed with prostate cancer and more than 2,900 died of prostate cancer - equivalent to the number of women who will die from breast cancer annually.
To support my Movember fundraising experience, please go here and donate using your credit card or PayPal account; or you can write a cheque payable to ‘Movember Foundation', referencing my Registration Number 1529901 and mail it to:
PO Box 292
Prahran VIC 3181
Remember, all donations over $2 are tax deductible.
Thanks - and go the mo!
So, who would you like to see as the next Doctor? Any takers for Russell Tovey...?
Wednesday, October 29, 2008
“It feels like it’s a season that is attempting, in some way, to respond to a very unstable world,” Michael Kantor says of the first of his two Malthouse Theatre seasons for 2009. “There’s a big focus on making sure we’ve found space to wryly sit back and laugh at ourselves.”
Kantor, the Artistic Director of the Malthouse, has programmed nine productions for the first half of 2009, including three world premieres of new Australian works, and three Malthouse Theatre commissions. Central to the season is playwright Tom Wright’s Optimism, a reworking of the classic satire Candide by the French writer Voltaire.
“This great story … was a satire about the nature of optimism, and yet 350 years later we’re sitting thinking ‘How can we continue to feel optimistic?’ It’s still the same question, because there’s a natural desire for optimism,” Kantor says.
“It’s something that’s always intrigued me, because I’m naturally an optimist, and yet every indication around us should be proving to us again and again that there’s no reason to be optimistic, really, and that things end badly.
“It’s a wonderful story to look back on because its last line is the very famous Voltairean line, which is open to a lot of analysis: Candide, after seeing all the worries of the world and thinking about what is the best possible of all worlds, simply says ‘We must cultivate our garden’, which is exactly right in my mind.”
But not every work Kantor has programmed for 2009 is so cheerful.
To be staged in the Malthouse’s Tower Theatre (an intimate space created for more experimental works) Adam J.A. Cass’ I Love You, Bro is a one man play about obsession, desire and the internet. Based on a true story, the play explores the double life of ‘Johnny Boy’, a teenage chatroom junkie who conspires to murder himself.
“It’s a devastating little piece,” Kantor observes. “It’s a really bizarre and macabre story, but it also talks about how we’re increasingly interacting with each other through mediums that allow for huge subterfuge, and which can be very dangerous, with all the pretence that’s possible through electronic relationships.”
Unsurprisingly, the first half of 2009 also continues Kantor’s exploration of non-text based theatre, including a new focus on dance.
“Dance Massive is something that we’re doing with Arts House and Dancehouse; and I think it’s great for us to focus for two weeks on just celebrating that extraordinary thing, which is the absolute vibrancy of
As part of the collaborative Dance Massive programme, which is also supported by Ausdance
“We’re hoping to make this a biennial or even annual focus, and built it into a kind of important festival in the process of how
Recent Malthouse productions, such as last year’s Sleeping Beauty starring Renee Geyer, and more recently, Vamp, have included a strong musical element, and in 2009 this continues with a new production of Georg Büchner’s modernist classic, Woyzeck, starring You Am I’s Tim Rogers, with music composed by
“I think there’s a little
“Well, I’ve heard them,” Kantor adds, laughing, “and they’re great.”
The Malthouse Theatre’s season one, 2009, January 31 – June 27.
This article originally appeared in CANVAS magazine issue #03, published Thursday October 30.
Sunday, October 26, 2008
As you might know, I've moved over from editing the weekly LGBT newspaper MCV to heading up a brand new fortnightly arts and entertainment magazine called CANVAS.
It's both an arts magazine and a gay magazine, but it's not capital G gay. Think of it as an arts magazine with a queer sensibility, if you like, rather than a magazine about gay art. Quite apart from the fact that there's not enough gay art out there to warrant such a narrow focus, my guidelines for the inclusion of anything in CANVAS are about quality, not sexuality. If it's good art, I'm interested.
Two issues of CANVAS have been published to date, and so far the feedback from both the arts sector and the queer community has been extremely positive. The new issue hits the streets this Thursday, so please check it out - especially if you're a fan of contemporary Australian fiction...
And hey, if you run a gallery, or an artist-run initiative, or maybe a theatre company, please please please think about taking out some advertising in CANVAS. I want this new magazine of mine to reflect and support the diversity of Melbourne's creative communities, but to do that I'll need some reciprocal support, you dig?
Creating a brand new publication from the ground up is not exactly a simple task, and certainly I would have liked more time to develop the magazine, to plot and plan its design, its audience and its content; but that said, I have to say I'm pretty bloody happy with the results so far.
You can check out the CANVAS website here; alternatively you can examine each issue page by page, should you prefer, which will not only let you digest the content, but will provide you with a sense of our emerging design template. Things aren't prefect yet - we're still tweaking and exploring and experimenting - but we're getting there.
Issue zero - the teaser issue - can be viewed here; while issue #01 - featuring a special look at the forthcoming Rennie Ellis exhibition at the NGV, as well as an interview with queer American humourist David Sedaris, and a preview of the 2009 MTC season - can be read here. Enjoy!
And of course, feedback about either issue, and expressions of interest from would-be CANVAS freelancers, are always welcome: contact me at firstname.lastname@example.org or via the website.
Thursday, October 23, 2008
Both Jack Kerouac and William S. Burroughs were connected with the murder, indeed Kerouac was jailed as an accessory after the fact; an event which he touches on in both his first novel, The Town and the City, and many years later in The Vanity of Dulouz.
Interestingly, a novel which Burroughs and Kerouac co-wrote about that murder, And the Hippos Were Boiled in Their Tanks is about to be published by Grove Press next month.
Thursday, October 16, 2008
Let's get one thing clear right from the start. My first ever international media junket was paid for by the 2009 World Outgames, with money provided by Wonderful Copenhagen, the city's official tourist body.
In return for flying me over for a crash course in cultural tourism and putting me up in an ideally-located boutique hotel, they want me to place articles about Copenhagen, the Outgames and the games' major cultural event - the OUTcities project - in both the LGBT and mainstream media. So I plan on doing just that. However, that won't stop me being frank and honest about my time there. If I had any negative experiences, trust me, I won't hold back from blogging about them.
But I don't think I really have anything bad to say about Copenhagen. My all-too-brief time there was, in all honesty, fan-fucking-tastic. I so didn't want to leave.
Anyway, that disclaimer aside, here are some impressions - and the occasional photo - of my four all-too-brief nights in the Danish capital.
THURSDAY OCTOBER 9
Flying in to Copenhagen airport from London, the first thing I noticed from above was a fuck-off big bridge stretching out across the ocean which appears to end in the middle of the water (I later found out it was the road link between Copenhagen and Sweden). Then you notice all the modern windmills along the coast generating electricity. Then you land. Bump. In my case at 7pm, but with any tiredness from my loooooong trip allayed by exhilaration at being on the other side of the world.
It cost me 235 kr (Danish krone, plural kroner) to get from the airport to my hotel, Hotel Twentyseven, in the centre of the city. Not somewhere I would have chosen to stay if I was paying my own way to be honest: backpackers are more my style (and price range). It has both a cocktail bar and an ice bar for fucks, and drinks ain't cheap in either, but what the hell; I wasn't paying for the room.
I quickly met up with Jennifer, the Australian freelance producer overseeing Melbourne's element of OUTcities who's here for the conference that my visit coincides with. We share a couple of (expensive) glasses of wine downstairs, and I learn that the city's name is pronounced Copen-HAY-gen; not Copen-HAAG-en, the latter being offensively similar to the German pronunciation; and given that the city was occupied by the Nazis during WWII, that's something to avoid...
After about an hour I decide to go for a short stroll before bed. I don't go far: down the street past a small square, down another, cobbled street between high, narrow buildings that looked distinctly medieval, and which opens out onto another square beside a canal. It all screams age and elegant atmosphere. Okay, I think to myself. I like this city already. Another 10 minutes later I've passed a large statue and found a huge square, and what I thought was the royal palace - I later discover it was, but it was the old palace, now occupied by the Danish parliament. Awe-struck and delighted, I stroll back to my hotel and fall into a deep and dreamless sleep...
FRIDAY OCTOBER 1O
...only to be woken by the sound of tolling bells at 8am. Rise and shine: help self to free organic breakfast buffet downstairs, and out into the city. As I'm not meeting my fellow press junket journalists (thought it turned out to be a journalist, singular) for a couple of hours, I have time to explore.
The first thing I discover is Copenhagen Town Hall, the source of the bells. A stately, authoritarian building overlooking the city square and guarded by stone walruses and god-knows-whats. Then I look for an ATM and try to withdraw cash from my savings account. Can't. Oh fuck. Start to worry about how the hell I'm going to get through the weekend seeing as my credit card is already maxed out. Decide I'll worry about that later.
Stroll around a bit more. return to hotel. Use free internet to discover I can't access internet banking either. Panic a little. Completely fail to realise that all I have to do is get a phone card and call the usual telephone number I use here in Melbourne for telephone banking, transfer cash from savings to credit card, and all will be okay. Eventually think of this solution at Heathrow Airport on Monday, while returning home. Doh!
Shortly afterwards am met in the hotel foyer by the urbane, informed and charming Erik Madsen, a former high-ranking member of the Danish Department of Foreign Affairs, now retired, who is volunteering with the Outgames and is coordinating the press tour. He introduces me to the other journalist on the trip, from Mexico City; gives me my itinerary and a huge dossier of media releases, flyers and other info compiled by Wonderful Copenhagen; and - oh bliss oh joy - gives me a crisp 500 kr note to cover last night's taxi from the airport, and the taxi I'll have to catch back out there on Monday morning.
Finances sorted, it's time to get down to business. First things first: wheels.
Copenhagen is one of the most bicycle-friendly cities in the world: the roads are constructed in such a way that the bike lanes are physically separate from the car lanes; raised up above the level of the road so that even a non-cyclist like me quickly felt at ease. I was constantly struck by the lack of cars on the road and the vast number of bikes parked casually all over town. And where the bike lanes cross over intersections there are clearly designated paths across the tarmac showing you where to go; and even separate traffic lights for bikes, cars and pedestrians respectively. Brilliant. It wasn't long before we were confidently whizzing around the city on the bikes Erik hired for us for 400 kr for three days from Køpenhavns Cykler ApS ( Reventlowsgade 11, 1651 København) located in a street beside the main Copenhagen Railway Station.
Said bicycle hire place is, it must be said, located right at the edge of Copenhagen's red light district, and virtually next door to what I think was a homeless shelter and/or methadone clinic, judging from the number of obviously homeless guys and junkies standing around in the street outside, but it didn't feel at all threatening; though it might be a different story at night.
Then Erik took us into the red light district, which is very small - don't expect a Danish version of Amsterdam's notorious red light district; this is more akin to the sleazy end of Melbourne's Swanston Street!
Next, in quick succession, it was on to the Copenhagen City Museum, the Danish Design Centre (did you know that design and fashion are considered among the most prestigious industries to work in, in Denmark? Me neither, til last week.) and then on into the old city: up narrow streets where cars gave us right of way; stopping off briefly at an amazing cake shop, La Glace, founded in 1870; past the University of Copenhagen, founded in 1479, and on to - and up - Rundetaarn, the Round Tower: the oldest functioning observatory in Europe, from which you get a fantastic view of old Copenhagen.
Here's a photo of the Round Tower: it's not one of mine, though.
Next we had a late lunch with Henrik Thierlein, the international press officer at Wonderful Copenhagen, at Cafe Oscar, a popular gay cafe. Henrik, who's quite a character, shouted us lunch: in my case three traditional Danish open sandwiches topped with roast beef, egg and shrimp, and potato and bacon, respectively. Together with a glass of wine, they went down very easily!
Thereafter it was back to the hotel to change, and onwards to the Town Hall, for a formal reception for all the international OUTcities delegates from cities such as Tel Aviv, Rio de Janeiro, Mexico City and Melbourne - sadly Reykjavik's delegates had to pull out due to their country's financial meltdown - as well as Denmark's second largest city, Aarhus. Not only was Copenhagen's Mayor of Culture, Pia Allerslev (the city has several deputy mayors who are dubbed 'mayors' of their respective departments) in attendance, but so was the Australian Ambassador to Denmark, Ms Sharyn Minahan, as well as the Mexican Ambassador and other dignitaries!
At this stage, things really started feeling surreal.
Formalities were thankfully brief, and after about an hour the reception wound up, and those of us who were present for the OUTcities conference - about 25 of us in total, including the Outgames organisers - trouped off through the city for a relaxed dinner at a very pleasant restaurant, Madklubben (Store Kongensgade 66, 1264 København). While I would have loved to have spent the evening drinking, eating and getting to know the Outgames and OUTcities crew better, I left soon after the main course was served.
I was, after all, working. And given that I plan to write at least a couple of articles about Copenhagen's cultural highlights, I wasn't going to let this night of nights go to waste. You see, Friday October 10 was Kultur Natten (Culture Night)!
Kultur Natten is an annual event that sees Copenhagen's cultural venues - 300 of them - throw open their doors until midnight, simultaneously programming a vast and fascinating array of events and activities. (You can read one tourist's experiences of this year's Culture Night here.) It's been running for about 15 years, and is overwhelmingly popular. It was like being in Melbourne on the night of the Grand Final, but instead of pissed footy yobs staggering through the streets there were throngs of art-lovers, average families, huge groups of friends, excited teenagers, elderly couples and more. Provided you purchase a badge (at a cost of 75 kr - approx €10 or AUS $20) entry is free to everything on offer, as is public transport. It's an amazing night. Just stunning. This is one of the photos I took on the night, which should give you some idea of how the city was transformed on this particular evening:
Leaving the restaurant, I retraced our party's steps to the hotel to change out of my formal attire. On the way, I stopped off at a church that had been been converted into the contemporary art gallery Kunsthallen Nikolaj, as the Outgames' cultural programme manager, the lovely Jane Rowley, had recommended a work of video art that was screening there. I'm so glad I took her advice.
Split across three screens, Romantic Delusions by the Danish artist Jesper Just is an exploration of gender, identity and the fragility of masculinity enacted by Udo Kier. Operatic in its intensity, and coupled with a haunting and evocative score, it's a stunning meditation on impermanence and decay. (Melbourne readers can see some earlier Just works at the current ACCA exhibition, Intimacy, now showing until November 30.)
After changing, I jumped on my bike and happily and slightly tipsily cycled through the busy city centre back to the Copenhagen City Museum. As I'd told Erik that I was keen to see some local bands during my visit, he'd asked around, and discovered that two young indie pop outfits were playing at the Museum for Culture night: Messy Shelter and Jong Pang. While I missed the first band by about 20 minutes, I caught most of Jong Pang's set - which was performed in an 18th century ballroom on the top floor of the museum, and featured a piano, cello, guitars and carefully harmonised vocals.
Afterwards I seriously considered swinging past the Danish Design Centre, where Trentmoller was playing a set, but I was pretty certain it would be a capacity crowd; on top of which I hit a wall, very rapidly deciding that sleep was the most sensible option - especially as I had two more tightly scheduled days to come!
To be continued....
(This was supposed to be a brief post - it's taken me four hours to write so it's probably full of tense changes and spelling/grammatical errors. Stuff it!)
One short phone call later, I learned I'd been nominated by the committee steering Melbourne's participation in the OUTcities project (part of the cultural stream of the 2009 World Outgames) as their journalist of choice to participate in a three-day press tour to Copenhagen, the games' host city. Copenhagen had suggested a journalist from The Australian, but the steering committee had suggested me, given my strong ties to both the queer and the arts communities. To say I was flattered would be a major understatement. But more importantly: would I accept the nomination?
Damn right I would!
There was just one problem: the press tour was scheduled for a date in October to be determined, and I was heading off to Morocco on the annual Triple R/Intrepid Travel tour on October 20. I was told we could work around that, so I said yes.
One day later, the Outgames team emailed me to say they'd accepted my nomination, and that they'd be in touch with the details of the trip in due course. So far, so good.
One week later, my publisher offers me my ideal job: would I like to step away from editing MCV after 18 months at the helm, in order to create a brand new, fortnightly arts magazine for Melbourne's LGBT community? Hell yeah!
This is where things started to go a wee bit pearshaped.
My deadline for the first issue of the new magazine, which I've christened CANVAS, was very tight. Simultaneously, it rapidly became apparent that taking the 17 days leave necessary to visit Morocco would just not be possible; not if I was going to take my new role and my new magazine seriously. The clincher was another email from the Outgames asking me to fly out to Copenhagen in just under two weeks.
Result? I'm not going to Morocco; another Triple R broadcaster, Breakfaster Sam Pang, is going instead of me. Instead, I put the first, teaser issue of CANVAS together in record time; and also the first issue proper less than one week later. It's a fortnightly magazine by the way: check it out, I'm extraordinarily proud of it.
And then, last Wednesday at midnight, I flew out to Copenhagen via Hong Kong and London. It was my first visit to the Danish capital, and god I can't wait to go back. But you can read all about that in the next post...
Tuesday, October 14, 2008
Still, it could be worse. The cute early-20s something guy near me just slumped onto the bar and started sobbing. Either that or snoring. It's hard to tell. Maybe I should buy him a drink and find out?
Hmm. No. Unshaven and sunken-eyed as I am, I probably look more like a serial killer than a prospective shoulder to cry on, let alone a romantic knight in shining, slightly jetlagged armour.
But anyway. Copenhagen was fantastic. A beautiful city, populated by warm and lovely people. I can't wait to go back. That said, given that I expressed similar sentiments and wishes about A) Glasgow, B) Dublin and C) Amsterdam in 2005, and I've yet to find the time and more importantly the finances necessary to allow me to return, we'll just take the above comments with a pinch of sodium chloride, shall we?
A full update (with pictures, dear devoted reader - aren't you just a-thrill with the thought at viewing my holiday snaps?) will be posted upon my return to Melbourne. Not immediately though. I'll be home in about nine to ten hours, but I think a shower and a good night's sleep in my own bed will be my first priority, rather than a long and detailed blog post about my experiences over the last few days of travel, bike-riding and Outgames conferencing.
One last observation about Hong Kong airport though: bloody Facebook is bloody blocked on this computer terminal! How am I supposed to cope with that? Oh the pain, the pain...
Friday, October 10, 2008
So after four and a half hours sleep and a 14 hour day at work, I had an eight hour flight to Hong Kong (for a 45 minute stop-over: so frustratingly close to where Kerryn, an old friend lives, but completely unable to contact her - besides which, it was 6am local time when we landed in Hong Kong and I didn't think she'd appreciate a phone call at that hour!); and then another 12 hours to London for a one hour stop-over (again, so frustratingly close to another friend, Rick) before a quick jaunt across the North Sea to Copenhagen.
We got in at 7pm local time, and within 40 minutes I was checked into my hotel in the centre of the city, just around the corner from the main square and a five minute walk from the royal palace. I went for a short walk last night, and another walk this morning since I woke at 8am feeling remarkably refreshed; so consequently I can say with confidence that this is a beautiful, beautiful city.
There's just one fly in the ointment. I was so focussed on getting the magazine's editorial to bed before I left that I forgot about my finances; specifically that I can't actually access my bank account from here! The last time I was overseas I was casually withdrawing cash from ATMs using my credit card whenever I ran short, then topping up the account from my savings via online banking. Now, I realise that apart from the Danish bank notes I specifically organised for my taxi fare from the airport before I left, I only have about 50 kroner on me, which is not going to last very long at all! Added to that, I can't remember my online banking password. Shit, shit, shit!
Time to make an international call to Westpac, I think, to try and sort something out. Otherwise it's going to be an interesting couple of days with no money whatsoever... Lucky for me, my hotel provides a free breakfast and dinner buffet every day!
Tuesday, October 07, 2008
Enough with the excuses though...
THE LIST OPERATORS
This two-man comedy show, built around a series of lists such as '10 alternate ways to start the show' and 'Members of the audience we'd like to do 'sex' with' was funny, engaging, and only very occasionally strained. Matt Kelly and Rich Higgins are already strong performers, with good rapport and an excellent 'warmly daggy' and 'sardonic straight man' vibe going on: given another year or two honing their writing and performance skills, they'll be amazing.
Three constant chortles out of five.
Oh. My. God. This show was amazing - definitely my pick as the best show I've seen in the Fringe so far. To call it 'just circus' would be like saying J.R.R Tolkien was 'just' a fantasy writer. A complex and intense show that played with ambient sound, lighting, comedy, fragility and one's sense of smell, as well as providing moments of tension, awe and sheer joy, and which I wholeheartedly recommend you see before it closes this Sunday. Promise me you will?
Four and a half gasps of awed delight out of five.
A deliberately low-fi, shlocky horror-comedy about a group of students making a film in a suspiciously abandoned Tasmanian town. Cue secret affairs, Evil Dead-style shennanigans, and attacking zombies. Not a great show - if nothing else it needed more blood - but certainly a fun one - and at only half an hour, what's not to like?
Two and a half hoots of mirth out of five.
I DREAM ANGUS
Though occasionally too self indulgent and self conciously intellectual for my tastes, there was much I enjoyed about this one-woman show at the Croft Institute. Inspired by a Celtic myth about the god who gives us our dreams, this show incorporated dance, performance and video projection to sometimes stunning effect: such as a sequence when a young woman danced (on stage) in awkward sync with her idealised self (projected behind her) at a party. The stories of a series of characters, including the god himself, were never quite as fully realised as they needed to be, which resulted in a lack of clarity and lucidity; but ultimately I Dream Angus conveyed both longing and dream-state confusion, and so in my book at least, was ultimately successful.
Three chin-stroking contemplative moments out of five.
SAMMY J - THE 50 YEAR SHOW
Sadly, because of work commitments, I arrived late at this show in the festival club, and had to leave early to judge So You Drink? You Can Dance! at the Bella Union Bar, but what I saw, including Asher Treleaven's fashion tips, Sammy J's songs, Heath McIvor's puppetry, and Adam Hill's interactive crossword puzzle segment (thanks Adam - now I have be a column every five years until I'm 91) was as hilarious as it was shambolic. I'm so there in 2012 or is that 2013? I so failed maths in Year Nine!
Three and a half gales of laughter out of five.
Then there's also been The League of Shideshow Superstars. the Fringe Festival Trivia Challenge to the rest of Melbourne's arts and cultural organisations (won - again - by the increasingly bloated Comedy Festival team not that I'm jealous or anything), some stunning gigs and films in the festival club, and more more more. My wholehearted and utterly unbiased congratulations to the Fringe team - luv yr work!
Sadly I have to fly out to Copenhagen this Wednesday night (indeed, I should be packing instead of blogging), which means I'll miss the final weekend of Fringe frivolity and madness - but fuck it's been a good festival this year!