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Great songs. An incredible voice. And So. Much. Hair.

Lorde was amazing. That was the first concert I've been to where a sea of mobile phone held aloft felt not annoying but celebratory.

On stage, Ella Marija Lani Yelich-O'Connor is calm, confident, and charismatic. And contradictory: she sings about coming from a torn-up town, but she has a MAC lipstick named after her. She comes on stage in couture, but she dances like a teenage goth, all flailing hair and twitching limbs. Her singing voice is smoky and deep, but when she talks between songs, she chirps.

No. Contradictory is the wrong word. Lorde is complex. She's complicated, like every other teen. And what's so inspiring about her is that she doesn't try to hide it. She doesn't smooth away her edges to make an easily digestible pop package. Her music is her.

That's why her fans respond with such passion, such joy. That's why every pause was filled with cheers. In Lorde's lyrics, being on the cusp of adulthood and being on the cusp of commercial success are metaphors for each other.

"I'm little but I'm coming for the crown," she sang.

We are all little. We're all coming for the crown. The crown is the rest of our lives.

Pub Lunch

Jun. 18th, 2014 07:56 pm
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It's lunch. At the pub. Come if you can make it, no worries if you can't.

Where: The Northcote Social Club
When: Sunday 29th June, from 1:00pm
Why: Because we like you.

MOFO 2014

Jan. 24th, 2014 11:07 am
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The image that stays with me:

An industrial welding robot, retro-fitted with a 1,000 watt lamp, traces splines of light inside a darkened tent, while a singer raises her arms and sings to it about Ada Lovelace.
~

We've just spent a week down in Hobart for the MONA FOMA music festival. Seven days of bands, art, another visit to MONA, and then some touristy daytrips to finish up.

Music, robots, touristy things... )







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A mixed year for me.


It started off well - We went to MONA FOMA, I finished writing my novel, Continuum was a blast. But around the mid-year everything seemed to get bogged down. I had problems sleeping. Projects stalled at work. And I stopped writing. The second half of the year felt like wading against mud.

By the time the Christmas break rolled around, I was exhausted.
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I don't usually post fanfic.

But I spent yesterday home sick with a head cold, thinking about The Day of the Doctor.

You can't sleep properly with a head cold. The snot keeps you awake. And, if you're me, you distract yourself thinking about what you wanted to see with John Hurt's War Doctor.

Arcadia Falls )
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(I meant to blog my thoughts about this episode. Then I wrote all this as a comment in a friend's journal, so I might as well post this.)

I enjoyed it, but I had very mixed feelings.

Spoilers... )

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Finished reading Iain Banks's final novel The Quarry today.

18 year old Kit lives with his father Guy in a crumbling old country house. Kit is on the autism spectrum. Guy is dying of cancer. Guy invites his old university friends to stay for a weekend. In between drinking and taking drugs, the friends search the old house for an embarrassing video tape they made in their youth.

It's a disappointing book.

Banks was writing it when he was diagnosed with cancer, and there was a race to publish it before he passed away. Sadly, it shows. Characters are underdeveloped. Plots wander listlessly, then are dropped. Dialogue is repetitive, or overindulgent. Guy rages against the dying of the light at length and with plenty of swearing, but his speeches are much less affecting than his moments of weakness.

There's potential in there. If Banks had more time, if he wrote another draft, it might have been a fitting final novel.

But he didn't. He died at age 59, less than three months after announcing he had cancer.

He wrote some great books in his time. The Quarry is not one of them, but I'm grateful for the ones we do have.


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Release the Bats was All Tomorrow's Parties Halloween special, a follow-up to their successful festival in February this year.

We bought our tickets the day before they announced they were changing venues because ticket sales were too low. So instead of the bizarre Westgate Entertainment Complex, it would be held at the Palais in St Kilda, with the second stage at the Prince Bandroom, ten minutes walk away.

We weren't very happy about that.

It meant you couldn't just poke your head in to watch a band for a few songs. Either you trekked over to watch the whole set, or you missed. And since the Palais is seated, you were allocated seating zones based on when you bought your ticket, which meant we were way up the back.

There were no food trucks on site, either. If you wanted to eat food other than chips or Maltezers, you had to head out into St Kilda.

I understand the promoters had to do something to deal with low ticket sales, and that festivals in generally are struggling at the moment. But it created a very negative first impression.

These are the bands we saw:

The UV Race
I don't know. A pop-punk band who made dumb jokes between songs. We were too busy being annoyed at the disorganisation to pay them much attention. We left after three songs.

We skipped the Twerps to get coffee and eat some Mexican for a late lunch. Then we got back early for...

Pop Crimes: the songs of Rowland S. Howard
Lovely. Just lovely.

Television performing 'Marquee Moon'
A band I know of rather than know. Tom Verlaine's voice is less squawky with age, but the guitar-work is still the highlight. I spent most of their set with my eyes closed, letting the music wash over me, and possibly having short naps.

The Scientists
I spent the 80s listening to Pink Floyd and U2, so I missed the Scientists. I get Kim Salmon is an important figure in Australian underground music. But I've seen him play a few times and his music has never grabbed me.

Fuck Buttons
So loud and psychedelic I think my teeth saw God

The Breeders performing 'The Last Splash'
Lots of fun. Everyone stood up to dance to 'Cannonball', then swayed sheepishly through the less known and less danceable album tracks. They played a really heavy version of 'Safari' at the end as a bonus. A lovely upbeat way to end the day.


Overall: some great bands, but it felt like a really long gig rather than a festival.

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Reading back over this journal, I realsied that I have almost no functioning memory of the past. If I don't write it down, I forget it ever happened.

So: a quick wrap up of last week.


TUESDAY: Art Spiegelman
Art Spiegleman gavea talk at the Melbourne Town Hall about the history of comics, and his involvement with them. It was a fantastic talk, illustrated with a huge variety of slides. Hard to sum up, though - the brilliance lay in the details.

WEDNESDAY: Françoise Mouly
Art editor for The New Yorker, and Spiegelman's wife, Mouly talked about how she met Spiegelman, buying her first printing press in the 70s, starting Raw Comics, her work at The New Yorker, and her new line of comics for younger readers. Particularly interesting was the section on New Yorker covers that she rejected, including one from Robert Crumb about gay marriage.

THURSDAY: Pussy Riot: A Punk Prayer
This documentary is now screening at Cinema Nova. To celebrate, they had a discussion panel afterwards that included Karen Pickering from Chrechez La Femme..

SATURDAY: The Handsome Family
Weird Southern Gothic folk-band. Lots of fun. Had a running joke about koalas, hence A.'s drawing.

SUNDAY: Splendid Chaps
I don't listen to podcasts, but I very much enjoy going to the live recordings of this Doctor Who one. This episoe was about David Tennant, and the theme of sex.

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Walked home from work.

Up through the Fitzroy Gardens, past skeletal trees in the dark. Then across the road to East Melbourne. Bats flew silent overhead. Victorian townhouses and Art-Deco apartments loomed like ghosts.

And then down Bridge Road. Furniture shops after dark are sinister. All those antique door knobs and designer couches huddled together. They're up to something.

~

My sleep has been terrible lately. My dreams are frenetic. I wake up exhausted. A. says I'm snoring again, despite the nasal surgery I had last year.

It's affecting my work. It's affecting my mood. So yesterday I saw my GP. He's referred me for a sleep study.

He also suggested I try a sleeping tablet. I took one last night. This morning I woke exhausted and drugged.

I won't be doing that again.
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Last Friday, we saw Amanda Palmer and the Grand Theft Orchestra play at the Forum.

This was her rescheduled tour: she was originally going to come out in February, but rescheduled those shows so she could stay and support a friend through chemo.

This caused a mild panic attack on Wednesday night when I couldn't find the tickets in the drawer where we normally keep concert tickets. After searching through every drawer and filing cabinet in our flat, I eventually remembered that the tickets had been emailed to us, and I could just print them out.

By coincidence, the rescheduled date was the day before A.'s birthday, so we made a date night of it, with dinner at Bangkok Rain in Rathdowne Street, a tram into town, a breif stop at the City Square to look at the Melbourne Fringe Digital Gardens display, where people were testing the Occulus Rift. Then we joined the queue that ran up Hosier Lane.

Die Roten Punkte were the main support act, followed by Jherek Bischoff, physical comedian Sabrina D'Angelo, and Brendan McClean.

And then: Amanda Palmer.

They started with a voice-over introduction from local cabaret artist Meow Meow, and the instrumental Grand Theft Intermission. Then Palmer hit the stage for 'Do It With a Rock Star', and things got loud. Her second song was a cover of Nirvana's 'Smells Like Teen Spirit', sung while surfing the moshpit.

It was that sort of concert.

I've seen Amanda Palmer play about ten times now. Each show has it's own mood. This one felt more like a rock concert party.The band played loud and had a blast. The big rock sound was helped by their booming new drummer, Thor Harris, who looked like a caveman in nothing but tiger-striped shorts and his trademark mullet.

Of course, it wouldn't be an Amanda Palmer show without the quieter piano or ukulele songs. And it wouldn't be an Amanda Palmer show without some weird audience interaction, in this case one girl saying she'd lost her bag in the mosh pit, and another saying she'd lost her mum. Both were reunited.

And it's definitely not an Amanda Palmer show without guests.

Meow Meow duetted with Palmer on a screeching, jagged version of 'Missed Me'. Kate Miller-Heidke and Missy Higgins sang originals. And Brendan McClean duetted on a raw and passionate cover of Bat for Lashes' 'Laura'. That song has been haunting me ever since.

There were lots of covers: Nirvana, Bat for Lashes, Pulp's 'Common People'. I suppose that goes with the giant party vibe.

They ended with everyone on stage for a cover of 'Sweet Dreams', before finishing with 'Leeds United'.

Afterwards, A. asked me what my favourite song was, and I mumbled and digressed. I'm not good at ranking my pleasures. The whole concert was great. But standouts for me would have to be 'Missed Me' with Meow Meow, 'From St Kilda to Fitzroy', and that Bat for Lashes cover, because I just can't get that song out of my head now.

I don't think this was the best Amanda Palmer concert I've been to. It lacked the visceral ferocity of her Dresden Dolls concerts, and it didn't make me cry the way her version of 'Have to Drive' did back in 2010.

But it was great show.

Oh, and during the set she made an announcement. She'll be staying in Melbourne early next year to write a book. Her husband Neil Gaiman will apparently by joining her too.


SETLIST )



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Just finished watching the Cassie episodes of the Skins season 7.

She was always my favourite Skins character, Cassie. Her kookiness hid some deep emotional problems, but underneath that she had an intelligence and a brightness that suggested that one day she'd overcome her issues and build a life both wonderful and unique for herself.

Pure is the story of Cassie at age 22, and I have a very mixed feelings about it.

(spoilers follow)

It was lovely to spend more time with this character, and her actress Hannah Murray is a delight to watch on screen. But damn this story broke my heart.

Because 22-year-old Cassie is sad and unsure of herself, friendless, living alone in London and working in a café while she waits for her life to begin.

The beginning comes in the form of a love-lorn photographer who posts pictures of her to the internet: beautiful pictures, but ones taken without her knowledge or consent.

Cassie is horrified when she finds out. She confronts her stalker, steals his camera, and is about to throw it in a lake when she stops.

And in that moment, I wanted Cassie to keep the camera, to teach herself how to use it, and to become a photographer. I wanted the anorexic girl who was defined by how she looked to become the looker, the muse to become the maker. I wanted her heart to burst open, and her to fill the world with her creativity and light.

Instead, she gives the camera back to the photographer, and asks him to keep taking pictures.

I get it. The world is complex. And deep-seated issues are not resolved in moments of symbolic epiphany.

But my heart broke for her.

The internet pictures are a hit. Cassie is approached to do modelling work. And the story ends with her life beginning again.

Which is where I have the mixed feelings.

I'm glad Cassie is happy. I'm glad she's moving on with her life. But modelling doesn't seem the healthiest profession for someone who has had anorexia and self-esteem issues.

And also: models are kind of boring.

Cassie has so much potential. I wanted to see her become a photographer or a painter or a zoologist or counsellor. Anything which draws on all that inner potential, all that intelligence and brightness, rather than her rather superficial talent to stand around looking sad and pretty.

Or perhaps my knee-jerk bias against the fashion industry is showing.

Skins: Pure. Wonderful to spend some more time with a character I love. Sad that she wasn't happier and making more of her life.
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From the shore, they look like rubber, like shiny black bicycle tires bobbing in the waves. But then they spout, or roll a square-edged fin into the air. And you realise no, those are whales.

The size of them is joyous.


We spent three nights last week in Warrnambool for my birthday. Work has been grinding me down lately, so it was good to get away. We walked along the beach. We visited the historical maritime village. And we saw the whales. Even with binoculars they were mostly just rubbery black streaks in the waves. But they were still magnificent.

On the train down, I finished Keith Gray's The Fearful, and started reading Shirley Jackson's The Haunting of Hill House.

We stayed at the Lighthouse Lodge. At night, the house creaked and moaned in the wind, and I would wake up in the dark, unsure if someone was walking down the corridor outside our room.

I spent a lot of time thinking about ghost stories.

At the Melbourne Writer's Festival, American author Junot Díaz talked about writing short stories. If you don't know how to end your short story, he said, you need to read a thousand stories, and then you'll grow the heart for short stories, and you'll know how to end it.

There was a lot to love at the Writer's Festival: teen blogger Tavi Gevinson's keynote on the importance of being a fan, Magda Szubanski's story about her father, who at age 16 was an assassin for the Polish Resistance, a masterclass with Scott Westerfeld. And I felt proud for Lisa Dempster, the Festival's new director, whom I met through the Emerging Writer's Festival.

But afterwards I felt hollow and pointless. Because I'm not writing, and haven't written anything for months.

Writer's block is not the absence of ideas. Writer's block is the feeling that all your ideas are shit.

I'm trying to write a ghost story. It's not working. It floats dark and shapeless inside me.

I can't pull it to the surface yet. My heart is not yet grown.

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 A reminder that we're Pub Lunching this Sunday for A. and my birthdays.

We're going somewhere different this time: The Fox Hotel in Collingwood. 
 
This is so we can wander down to the Gasometer at 5:00 to catch the recording of the Splendid Chaps: A Year Of Doctor Who podcast. Because yes, we're nerds. (We'd hold it at the Gasometer, but the Fox has better food.)
 
When: Sunday 15 September, 1:00pm to 4:00pm
Where: The Fox Hotel, 351 Wellington St, Collingwood.
Website: http://thefoxhotel.com.au/
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Lunch! At a pub! For our birthdays, no less!

We're going somewhere different this time: The Fox Hotel in Collingwood.

This is so we can wander down to the Gasometer at 5:00 to catch the recording of the Splendid Chaps: A Year Of Doctor Who podcast. Because yes, we're nerds. (We'd hold it at the Gasometer, but the Fox has better food.)

When: Sunday 15 September, 1:00pm to 4:00pm
Where: The Fox Hotel, 351 Wellington St, Collingwood.
Website: http://thefoxhotel.com.au/

 

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It's been a busy month or so. In lieu of a proper blog post, you're getting subheadings.

CONTINUUM
I was on four panels at Continuum 9. They all went really well, I think, including the one on cultural appropriation that I was most nervous about. I don't really remember much about what was said in my panels. The Plot 101 panel  started in one room, but it was too small, so we moved to a bigger room, then got kicked out of that one when the organisers needed it to set up for a speech, so we moved out and finished in the foyer. "It's a character journey," I quipped. "Beginning, middle and end."

I also won a free ticket to next year's Continuum, and am plotting panels.


THEATRE: BY THEIR OWN HANDS
Another production as part of MTC's Neon festival. 'By Their Own Hands' was a retelling of the Oedipus myth. Or more accurately: three retellings. Act one, the two actors invited the audience on to the stage, and told the myth as straight story-telling. Act two was a silent, visual retelling. Act three was just dialogue, the two actors standing at microphones and talking. It was fascinating to see the same story stripped down and retold different ways. But after embracing the audience in the first act, it felt distancing to be told to go sit back down in our seats.


SPLENDID CHAPS
Splendid Chaps is a podcast about Doctor Who by Ben McKenzie and John Richards. There were meant to be eleven episodes, one for each Doctor. But then they did all these side episodes, and then John Hurt happened, and now that plan has been abandoned. What's lovely about this podcast is that they record them in front of a live studio audience. I've been to several of them now, and hearing them talk so passionately about classic Who has finally inspired me to go back and watch some old episodes.

Some of the old episode are great. Some of them remind me why I decided not to rewatch them.


MUCH ADO ABOUT NOTHING
Joss Whedon's low budget indie version of the Shakespeare play. He shot it in two weeks while on a break from directing The Avengers, which has led to some peculiar cross-marketing: "Like superheroes and explosions! You've love a five hundred year old romantic comedy!"

It's fun, but slight. Oddly for Whedon, he never quite nails the emotional swerves. And the modern-dress, Californian bungalow setting is at odds with the play's obsession with maidenly virtue. Amy Acker is great, though.


BOOK LAUNCH: BLOOD WITNESS
My friend Alex Hammond has had his debut novel published by Penguin. It's called Blood Witness, and it's a crime/legal thriller set in Melbourne. There was a book launch last Tuesday at Readings, with Alan Brough interviewing Alex. I'm really excited for Alex: he's the hardest working writer I know, and it's fantastic to see his dedication pay off.


We've also been to Women of Letters, Melbourne Literary Salon, and I saw the Afghanistan: Hidden Treasures exhibition with my sister. I'm also way behind on blogging about my Project Read All the YA.

Right. Update over. Back to work, you lot.

Pub Lunch

Jun. 12th, 2013 08:45 pm
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 You all know the deal: Lunch. Pub. Come if you can make it, no big deal if you can't. 

WHERE:
The Wesley Anne
250 High St Northcote

WHEN:
Saturday 22nd June
1:00pm-4:00pm

WHY:
Because foooooooooooooddddddd. 
And we like you.
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We knew it was coming, but it still hit hard: Iain Banks has passed away. According to his wife, he died calmly and without pain.

I said everything I have to say about how important he was to me here, when he first announced he had cancer. But I'll reiterate: he wasn't just influential to me, he was definitional.

My condolences to his family and friends.

Meanwhile, in Australia, another refugee boat has sunk off Christmas Island, and Australian Customs and Border Protection have decided not to retrieve the bodies of up to 60 drowned refugees.

It is distressing, that the bodies have been left to float.

But what makes me angry is that that unseaworthy boat was the best option those refugees had. What makes me angry is that our government's policy that is supposedly meant to stop the boats is actually putting people on them. And what makes me furious is that the refugee policy for both major parties in the upcoming election is effectively "fuck off, we're full."

To quote the late Mr. Banks: "Fuck every cause that ends in murder and children crying."

The Culture is a utopia, of course; an unreachable ideal. But there is work we can do and wrongs we can fight, and I can think of no finer tribute to Banks and his work than to fight them.

Refuge Action Collective - Victoria
The Greens



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Neck-deep in Continuum. Going well so far. You should all go read N. K. Jemisin's inspiring Guest of Honour speech, calling for a Reconciliation in SFF. It gave me goosebumps.

Last night, A. and I went to the theatre.

The play was On the Bodily Education of Young Girls, part of Melbourne Theatre Company's NEON programme of independent theatre.

It opens with a young ballerina entering a darkened stage, stretching, then playing a sad melody on a piano. The lights come up. Other young ballet students enter, dressed in white, going through their exercises. A new pupil arrives. The other girls surround her, comb her hair, dress her. She starts to copy their exercises. Two teachers watch them, but remain aloof. After a game of tag, the young girls dress up in historical costumes and act out bloody pantomimes of execution, amputation, and mass murder. The pantomimes are packed away. The girls retreat. An old woman who has been watching from the sidelines steps forward and performs a fluid dance as the lights fade away.

All of this performed without dialogue.

The play was dreamlike, cryptic. Stripped of dialogue and plot, the play leaves a vast space for the audience to create their own interpretations.

It was based on the 1908 novella Mine-Haha or On The Bodily Education of Young Girls, by the German playwright Frank Wedekind. The novella is a parable about a hermetic school where the girls study ballet and biology during the day, and at night perform in gory pantomimes for paying audiences.

It's tempting, therefore, to think this play is about looking at young women: about the way they are viewed, and the contortions and roles they are forced to perform to make themselves pleasing to look at.

But there's more to it than that. The silence of the actors and their minimal facial expressions pose the question: who are these young women? What are their thoughts and feelings?

Director Adena Jacobs said in an interview: "I think there is an erotic undercurrent, but it's not one that I'm personally interested in [...] I think the erotic is something we assume about young girls, and it's sort of unfair and deprives them of the depth that they have."

On Twitter, I commented that this play starts out David Hamilton and ends up Marat/Sade.

It was a fairly flippant comment: true, perhaps, but only on the surface level. It's taken some more reading and some thinking overnight for me to appreciate the depths underneath.

(I also commented on Twitter that I really enjoyed the play, but teenaged me would have been obsessed with it: Surrealism. Death. Sad girls in white. And one of the actresses looks like Nastassja Kinski.

I was far too shy and awkward to talk to actual girls at that age, and so my fantasises ended up not unlike my surface reading of this play, where overly pretentious romanticisation substituted for lack of understanding.)


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Continuum 9 starts tonight, Melbourne's speculative fiction and pop-culture convention.

I'm on four panels:
  • Reinventing the Fairytale - Friday 10 pm
  • Heroines of YA - Saturday 2 pm
  • Plot 101 - Sunday 11 am
  • Misappropriation - Monday 12 noon
Plus I'll be doing a reading on Saturday at 3:20 pm.

The full program is up here.

I was going to be so good for this convention. I was going to do all the research, and write it up as pithy yet informative blog posts. I was going to practice my reading and print out notes and just be awesomely prepared.

And it's not that that hasn't happened. It's just half-happened. I have a bunch of scattered notes, and a vague idea of what I'll read. But between work and EWF and life, nothing is quite as organised as it should be.

Oh well. Too late to do much about that now.

*breaks pencil*


(Yes. That's a BSG reference.)

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