Tuesday, December 30, 2008

Drawing to an end...

It's the second-last day of the year; another of these pleasantly cool so-called summer days Melbourne has been having lately. In fact it's been the coldest December on record for years, which no doubt annoys the sun-lovers and beach-goers (not to mention gives weight to the 'there's no such thing as climate change' wingnuts), but which this particular heat-hating homo is rather enjoying - especially since I'm off work until January 5 and lack air-conditioning in my inner-city domicile.

Speaking of work.... Sigh. A couple of weeks ago, my boss announced that he was going to axe my brand new baby - the arts magazine Canvas - after only five issues, because the economic downturn meant that it wasn't attracting enough ads and so publishing it was no longer financially viable. Instead of being a stand alone magazine, it's now a two-page 'supplement' in MCV, the LGBT newspaper I was editor of until three months ago; a depressing situation to say the least.

At least I still have a job: as of January I take over as the online editor for Evolution Publishing's centralised website, which hosts the various titles the company publishes around the country. The only problem is, I'm not really sure I want to be the online editor - partially because I lack the necessary skills, and would need some major re-training; but also because I'm a bit disheartened by the way Canvas was dropped so quickly. Basically, I'm questioning my future at the company, I guess. Probably not a sentiment I should be writing about online, as I never know who's reading this blog, but what the hell. I self-censor myself enough on here as it is.

That said, I've also had a couple of friends suggest that retraining is a good thing - a new skill set always looks good on a resume - and besides which, becoming the online editor could lead in all sorts of interesting and creative directions in the future. We'll see. Certainly I'm not going to quit overnight. I just need to keep my options open, I guess.

So, since I have the week off, I should be making the most of the opportunity to bring my CV up to date and starting to consider said options. Do I want to keep working in publishing? Should I go back to arts administration? Maybe it's time to step across into the corporate world? I dunno...

I should also be writing - either working on a screenplay I've been contemplating, or re-drafting my novel; doing something creative at any rate. Instead I spent most of yesterday recovering from a karaoke-induced hangover (Sunday night was well worth Monday's pain however - a few good mates in a private booth and a lot of booze makes for a most entertaining evening) and watching some brainless DVDs: namely, the mildly amusing Hollywood satire Tropic Thunder, and Neil (Dog Soldiers, The Descent) Marshall's exceptionally silly post-apocalypse movie Doomsday, featuring: A killer virus! Scotland sealed off from the outside world! Punk survivors on the rampage in Glasgow! A rival community led by Malcolm McDowell as a mad doctor who are re-creating the Middle Ages ! A leather-clad heroine with a remote-control artificial eye! Explosions! Adam and the Ants and Siouxsie and the Banshees on the sountrack! Severed heads aplenty!

Daft as it sounds, and as mad as much of the plot is, Doomsday looks good and has an appropriately kinetic, retro feel that's part Mad Max II, part Escape from New York, with a hefty dash of 28 Days Later; so even while I was laughing at the often ludicrous set-up of the story, I still enjoyed it - sort of. Certainly the stunts, set-pieces and gore quotiant are high, if you like that sort of thing - which I definitely do. Just don't expect any originality, intelligence, well-developed characters or a coherent plot from Doomsday and you'll be fine.

This morning I've just been procrastinating - and trying to get Outlook to work properly, since it's suddenly decided to stop sending and receiving email. Stupid fucking computer programs.

Hmm. That's odd. I was going to make this entry a look back at the year and a wrap up of some of the cultural highlights and lowlights I've experienced in the last 12 months. It was also going to be a recap of what I've been up to lately - watching The Day The Earth Stood Still at IMAX (The Day The Earth Fell Flat more like it), DJing at The Laird, surviving another family Christmas in Canberra with my religious relatives, reading the latest Torchwood novels (and at this point I'll give a quick shout-out to James Goss, whose novel Almost Perfect is something that every Torchwood fan should read) - but it seems to have got away from me.

Oh well. Maybe later.

Happy new year, everybody. I hope it's a good one for you. For me, I'm hoping for change...

Wednesday, December 24, 2008

Normal service will resume as soon as possible

I'm in Canberra, at my mum's place, for Christmas. Back in Melbourne late Boxing Day, at which time I shall recommence blogging - no doubt with some head-slapping 'huh?' annecdotes about family life at this particularly deranged time of year...

Tuesday, December 16, 2008

Thursday, December 11, 2008

In memoriam: Dorothy Porter

Dorothy Porter, one of Australia's greatest ever poets, died on Wednesday from complications arising from breast cancer, aged 54. She is survived by her partner of many years, Andrea Goldsmith.

I was privileged enough, over the years, to have performed alongside Dot at poetry readings at Melbourne Uni, the Builders Arms and elsewhere. During my time as the Artistic Director of Express Media, supervising our mentorship programs, I witnessed Dot's laser-precise intelligence, compassion and passion for the poetic form hone in those young writers in whom she saw creative potential above the ordinary as well as the drive and comprehension necessary to match her own boundless enthusiasm; and I saw how she encouraged them, nurtured them, transfigured them. And I witnessed firsthand the alchemy by which she transmuted ordinary words into gold.

Dorothy Porter will be sorely missed by all of Australia's arts community. My most sincere and heartfelt condolences to Andy for this most grievous of losses.


Every night
shines through my hospital

big blue neoned letters
aimed vertically
at the thick dark sky
like a rocket
steadying its nerve
on a launching pad.

Whoever you are
you look like
you're going places.

Take me with you.

(c) Dorothy Porter, 2005

Saturday, December 06, 2008

Thursday, December 04, 2008

Culture corner

It's been a busy week, with a few memorable events in the social diary. To whit:

The opening of the MTC Theatre

The Melbourne Theatre Company has long been without a home of its own. Now, after many years, they've officially opened a new home on Southbank, beside the new Recital Centre. So, last Saturday night I trooped along (albeit glowing with sunburn after an afternoon playing in a charity soccer tournament - and oh, my aching thighs and calves the nest day!) to check out their new digs.

The venue itself is very impressive, and an excellent match to the new recital centre next door; I'm particularly impressed by the lack of a balcony in the theatre proper, as I find being seated in the balcony has a distancing effect that removes me physically and emotionally from the performance. The aesthetic of the theatre, with its walls illuminated by lines of text from Australian classics, is also impressive. I also appreciated the nod to the MTC's former home in Russell Street, it's size and tattered state recreated on stage at the start of the show.

That said, the performances proper at this opening night were a bit naff - I mean, Rhonda Burchmore? Twice? Puh-leaze. It struck me as a wasted opportunity to look to the future and celebrate what is to come in the years ahead; instead we got a performance that wallowed in the past. Still, kudos to Geoffrey Rush for programming the revue-style opening night show in six weeks flat (and for playing an excellent Lady Bracknell - could we please have him starring in a revival of Earnest in 2010 please, Simon?), and congratulations to the MTC Chairman, Ian Renard, for allowing himself to be so completely the butt of the joke on stage after his speech.

New MIAF AD comes out

Brett Sheehy, the new Artistic Director of the Melbourne International Arts Festival (MIAF), had his public 'coming out' in the old-fashioned sense of the word at Comme (formerly Miettas) on Tuesday night; one of several corporate schmooze-fests happening simultaneously that evening. (I attended another, thrown by the City of Melbourne, earlier that same evening at Transit, overlooking the temporary Homeless World Cup stadium that's been erected at Federation Square.)

Full points to Sheehy for being so forthright about his desire to make MIAF Australia's pre-emminent arts festival, and for the audacity to speak so bluntly of money in front of a corporate and political crowd - I had a direct sightline of the Arts Minister's face and her smile faded rapidly at that point, I can tell you!

Unfortanately, too much of Sheehy's speech seemed to consist of arts buzzwords, with too few real details of his 'artistic vision for Melbourne and the festival' (as promised by the invitation) actually revealed on the night. He also lost me by waxing lyrical about opening his festival with opera and the Melbourne Symphony Orchestra: it was as if his speech was contrived to please The Age's conservative chief arts scribe Robin Usher (whose antipathy for the programming of former festival AD Kristy Edmunds is well documented).

Still, until specific details of Sheehy's program are announced, I'll try not to form an opinion of the man and his programming either way. One things for certain, he's a great public speaker, and has energy to burn.

J.J. Abrams' Star Trek preview

I was never a huge fan of Star Trek, although I do remember watching episodes of the original series on Saturday afternoons back in the late 70s and early 80s; and I have seen at least a couple of the big screen adaptations actually at the cinema, such was my interest in the franchise. But I long lost any real interest in Star Trek, which meant that Next Generation and all its subsequent sequels and prequels failed to kindle my imagination. But having read enough interwebs geek-goss on Ain't It Cool and related sites about the rebooting of the franchise by Lost wunderkind J.J. Abrams, I have to admit to being intrigued by his forthcoming Star Trek. Which is why I jumped at the chance to see a few sneak preview snippets of the movie on Tuesday morning.

And - wow. OMG, like WOW! The four seperate scenes that we watched at the Crown Village cinemas were startling and exciting; both a homage to Gene Rodberry's original Star Trek stories and an entirely new story. We meet James Tiberius Kirk (Chris Pine) for the first time; an angry young man who tries to pick up an equally young Uhura (Zoe Saldana) in a bar before getting involved in a brawl. We see him smuggled onto the Enterprise by Bones McCoy (perfectly played by Kiwi actor Karl Urban: no only does he gets the character's voice right, but even the body language, noted fellow RRR broadcaster Rob Jan, who was seated next to me at the screening) where he has a run-in with the Vulcan, Spock (Zachary Quinto from Heroes). In the third scene, Kirk meets up with an elderly Spock from the future (Leonard Nimoy) and has his first encounter with engineer Scotty (Simon Pegg). The fourth and final scene was a big action set piece featuring Kirk, Sulu (John Cho) and a hapless red-shirt.

Like I said, I was never a big Star Trek fan; but there's an energy, a vigour about the four scenes we were shown on Tuesday, that got me really excited to see more. Bring on May 7, 2009!

Monday, December 01, 2008

When celebrities get old

For your Monday amusement: photoshopped potential portraits of what Tom Cruise, Gwen Stephanie and Tobey Maguire may look like in years to come, courtesy of UK newspaper The Telegraph ...