Sunday, January 31, 2010

This is a gift

I must be undermining my own credibility as a balanced person by continually referring to everything as "the best (insert food/event/concept here) ever" so I will instead say that Laneway was among the more spectacular events of my festival-going career. Things got off to a highly inauspicious start when I was refused entry with my camera. Yeah, cos a sloppy sunburned girl toting an entry-level SLR is so clearly going to commercially undercut a sold-out music festival. Finding somewhere to stash said camera delayed my start to the day but I will now guide you through my Laneway experience via YouTube, as there will be no photos :(

Hockey set the tone for the day well, pigeons flying overhead as the band played beneath a clock tower and a palm tree. "Too Fake" is their cracking big song, with a little electro riff that seems stolen from Flight of the Conchords, and that strutting young-Rod-Stewart chorus:

Philadelphia Grand Jury did their usual crazy-snake-oil-preacherman-led dirty swaggering rock, with their usual aplomb. The set was blisteringly short and they didn't play this fantastic cover but it's a treat in itself:

The XX were the first real WOW moment of the day, their ethereal icy electro rock (a kind of boy/girl vocalled love child of Interpol and the Metric) apparently designed to induce festival chills:

From there it was all win. Radioclit were just supposed to be a stop on the way to Echo and the Bunnymen, but pulled out a set you just couldn't walk away from. When they remixed The XX's remix of Florence & The Machine's "You've Got The Love", pop ate itself eating itself. No idea how to describe the abandoned tropical mash-up of house, hip hop and pop - it veered from salsa to Carribbean via the Lion King soundtrack and, ummm.... Vengaboys. Like blink-and-you'll-miss-it reality TV contestants before me, I danced my arse off.

The headline slot presented a difficult choice. The gorgeous Florence & The Machine, who we knew from previously in the week would be incredible. The latino-meets-white-boy dance funk of NASA. And the reputably phenomenal Eddy Current Suppression Ring. We decided to start with NASA but their soundcheck was taking forever so we headed back to Eddy. Wise move. These guys are electric live, their Iggy-stomping-on-the-blues rawk led by a possibly insane frontman. He climbed the speaker stack, jumped onto the nearby roof of the art college and continued singing while racing up and down the awning. He leaped from the top of the speaker stack, dived into the crowd, still singing while held aloft by a munted, adoring mosh pit. Loose and harsh and unignorably brilliant.

Revved up by that set, we weren't quite ready for home-time and stopped by to see if Florence was still going. She was. Right in the middle of "Dog Days are Over". In floaty blue silk she was a shiny bloodnut butterfly, wooing the crowd. The song of the day, "You've Got the Love", followed by "Rabbit Heart" closed a classic headline set. And her last words rang out into the satisfied night, this is a gift.

I'm off...

... for some of this action. Will report back tomorrow!

Saturday, January 30, 2010

G'day dahl

Pretty much the best moment of my working week (cos let's face it, even I don't get to visit the museum for work every week) is around 11am on a Friday when Russell the flower man comes in.

He has a van full of cheapass blooms and an ever-so-slightly sleazy demeanour. But I still get excited when he strolls into the office bellowing "this is a flower alert". I don't get quite as excited about the muzak song he sometimes plays on repeat, synthetic horns heralding "the Flower King".

Lately my floral obsession is dahlias. Been rocking white ones for the last couple weeks but this week I splashed out and got a mixed colour bunch, and some tuber roses. Truly, there are two awesome names for plants right there. One sounds like a malignant growth that somehow smells lovely, and the other seems coined by some bingo-winged tuckshop lady. "Aw, what flowers yer got there luv? Daaaaaaahlias daaaahl!"

Anyway, the one downside of buying flowers on a Friday is that often there will be a few detours before they get delivered home. This dahlia mission was not without casualties. The bunches sustained a general thrashing on my bike rack as I headed in to the city to meet some old friends. Heads rolled while we massacred some all-you-can-meat churrasco. And my tuber roses disappeared completely when Sylv thoughtfully donated them to a waitress.
Speaking of casualties. Like so many men on bucks' nights, Big Red spent last night chained to a pole in Kings Cross. I hope she made it through the night unmolested.

Friday, January 29, 2010

For JD, with love and squalor

One of my all-time favourite writers, JD Salinger, died today. He had a good innings age-wise, but spent most of his life hiding out as a recluse. I always had dreams of being the one he'd let in for an interview. I did read once the only letters he ever answered were from nubile young ladies! There's that whole thinly-veiled portrait of him, as a neurotic ladies man pre-hermitude, in Truman Capote's Answered Prayers though....

Less than a week ago I was foisting Franny & Zooey onto a friend like the Salinger evangelist that I am. He's tied up in so much of today's hipster culture (from pop music to the entire Wes Anderson ouevre, and indeed the very concept of teenage angst) and yet people never seem to read beyond Catcher In The Rye. He's intriguing as a writer because he became so obsessed with the fictional family of New York child geniuses he created, the Glass family, that I sometimes think he stopped publishing to give them privacy. When I finally found myself in New York, wandering the Natural History Museum, snow on my eye-lashes in Central Park, imagining the lives going on inside those gorgeous old brownstones - I thought often of Salinger and his literary children, debating eastern philosophy, scrawling haiku on their wallpaper, chainsmoking in the bath and talking talking talking endlessly in that quaint hip way they had....

Well, wherever you are JD - I hope it's a perfect day for bananafish.

Illustration by Mike Allred via Hey Oscar Wilde!

Thursday, January 28, 2010

The best thing about riding a bike...

... is the times when you pass someone else on their bike, who is obviously as loved-up about the whole process as you are. There's this look of total mutual understanding, respect, and "how cool are we?!" exchanged in a flash of eye contact and a big cheesy smile. The likelihood that someone will give you the look (we need a name for it. "Bike Like"? "Cycle psychosis"?) decreases as the amount of lycra on show increases. But, you can radically increase your chances of copping some shared bike love by just grinning constantly as you pedal. Which, let's face it, if you're feeling the wind in your hair and a great song in your ears and dogs are running around in the grass nearby and you aren't grinning like an idiot? Ur doin it rong.

Delicious pasta sauce and a hot pink sunset out the window as last lingering raindrops leak from the trees. Graham Greene and a hot bath beckon. My work day tomorrow starts with a visit to a museum to look at photos. Life's good.

Wednesday, January 27, 2010

Happiness hit her like a bullet in the back

What a fantastic couple of days! Getting into the Florence & The Machine secret show was such an unexpected joy - posing as media from Nova no less - and the company was stellar. Always amuses me how much more fraught the process of making new friends is than flirting with potential dates. You meet a cool girl (or two), you feel like the conversation is good but where do you go from there?! Do you add them on facebook or play coy and wait for them to make the first move? Should you be aggressive or just leave it to chance that you'll run into them again and let the friendship develop organically? So tricky! But, like the blushing flush of a new love, exciting too.

So after an incredible gig in an old Uniting Church, coveting Florence's ruby red hair and marvelling at her vocal strength - I mean, "The Drumming Song" with acoustic guitar and harp, no drums, and it was banging - we had numerous bottles of bubbles expensed to Myspace. There was that crazy kinetic energy peculiar to groups of girls all around the same point in the break-up time-space continuum. The bike ride home from Paddington, Florence on the ipod, felt like flying.

Australia Day dawned a little cloudy but ended up being perfect. With my housemate's two younger sisters visiting it was quite the Gossage-fest... three almost identical giggles errupting near constantly, the mood was pretty infectious. Walking from Coogee to Clovelly in the midday sun wasn't the coolest move, but it was a day of many dips in the beach, sand between our toes and saltwater in various states of dampness in our hair. Met some lovely randoms (say what you will about smoking, asking for a light remains the classic ice-breaker), counted down the hottest 100 (or hottest 99 might be more accurate), took literally hundreds of photos and even started composing lyrics to a future-number-one song about my bike. Sample lyric: Big Red / you rode into a fat guy now he's dead.
Crashed a party on the Clo cliffs, swam some more after the sun went down and rounded things out with a hilarious session at the Clovelly hotel. My housemate was in fine form, making a beeline on my behalf for the seven-foot-tall guy on the dancefloor. His fiance, clearly familiar with the catch-as-catch-can occasional desperation of very tall girls, was quick to introduce herself to me and ended up being fabulous fun. Meanwhile Bryce held an impromptu photo shoot commando-style in the garden bed, and a Swedish lad tried to convince me they teach sword-fighting in primary school over there. A balmy night, beers and new friends - win, win, win.
Best Australia Day ever - as I go through the reams of photos this evening, I'm not quite ready to let it go! I hope yours was just as fun and reminded you of all the things you love about our fine, sunburned country.

Monday, January 25, 2010

Just... wow.

Fingers crossed...

... this will be tonight's entertainment. It all hinges on timing, queuing, and hoping against hope that somehow less than 80 other people know about the Florence & the Machine secret show tonight. Apparently the venue (a uniting church?!) is crazy tiny. 6.30pm when doors open will bring either rapture or crushing disappointment. Fingers and toes are all crossed... and if all else fails we can get Hurricane Drunk!

Loving how camp all Florence's videos are... This one seems made for Mardi Gras. The Rabbit Heart vid is like the Great Gatsby and Brideshead Revisited having sex in a Roman orgy as visualised by a twee 19-year-old girl. Taking solace in an afternoon of youtubing as it has emerged that 3000 people have registered for the show and the venue will fit 100. People have been camped out in queue since this morning. Charm is going to be needed...

First name Handsome. Last name Darling.

No, he's not the rugged-yet-deeply-sensitive hero of a Mills & Boon romance novel circa 1966. Although I have it on good authority he's the best spooning companion a girl could ask for. My friend Reboot has decided to take on a career as a mini-sausage-dog breeder and Handsome will be the patriarch of many litters of little sausagey critters. Just as soon as he hits sausage-dog-puberty.

Is there anything better in the whole world than a puppy?

Sunday, January 24, 2010

Spot the difference

Meet Ruby Red... we had a little road trip yesterday to pick up a bike for Aimee and the twins seem to be getting along well! For the uninitiated, that's my Malvern Star on the right, and the new cutesy Speedwell on the left is Ruby. Yeah, they're bike-spooning.

Ruby and Big Red took us exploring this morning... a misty lap of centennial park and some zig-zagging through Redfern... We stopped to look for goodies at Fratelli Fresh in Dank Street. An impossibly cute boy working there stopped us from taking photos but we went home with some beautiful bread and chutney. Best. Sandwich. Ever. Even cooler were the cookie cutters at the shop next door - a set of numbers and an alphabet set. I love the idea of leaving Aimee messages in cookies. "Need to buy milk"... "I'm hungry - O wait, I already baked"... etc. Or imagine giving someone your number in cookies! There's so much potential confusion (and eating of evidence) it's like a short story waiting to happen.

Saturday, January 23, 2010

Guess who's coming for dinner?

What better excuse to play grown-ups than a little dinner party? Caught up with my lovely friend Mel who's just back from Perth, and it was a good opportunity to practice cooking vego style. Decided to try out this goats cheese and tomato tart. It's a bit different because you mash up potato into the tart dough, and the thyme makes it really tasty. Next time I'll try baking the base by itself before adding the tomatoes and cheese, to try to crisp it up some more. Here's the recipe Mel!

Preheat oven to 200 degrees. Chop a peeled, medium sized potato, boil it in salted water, then drain and mash it. Melt about 25g of butter in a small pan and brown a finely chopped onion... throw in the leaves stripped from about 3 sprigs of thyme. In a bowl rub about 60g of butter through 140g of plain flour. Add the onion, pan juices and mashed potato; season. Mix it to a soft dough and press it out on a greased baking sheet. Arrange 450g of thickly sliced ripe tomatoes over the base, drizzle with some red wine vinegar. Sprinkle over some more thyme leaves and 100g of goats cheese crumbled. Drizzle with olive oil. Bake for 40 minutes or so, then serve with green salad and lots of wine!

Friday, January 22, 2010

The Heart of the Matter

I've had this ill-gotten Graham Greene nestled among my books for what must be years now (sorry Pi!) but only just started reading it. It proved an excellent companion to this morning's $5 haircut, and has been haunting me since. It's one of those days when you read certain passages and feel certain they were written for you.

Just up to the part where protagonist Henry Scobie is packing off his wife Louise to South Africa. She's restless and friendless in the steamy West African colony where he's stationed with the police; he longs for the peace he knows will come with her absence.

"It seemed horrible to both of them that now they would be glad when the separation was complete: they could settle down when once this ragged leave-taking was over to a different life which again would exclude change...

They could say nothing now which wasn't formal; unreality cloaked their movements. Although they could touch each other it was as if the whole coastline of a continent was already between them: their words were like the stilted sentences of a bad letter-writer."

According to foreshadowing and the back of the book jacket he's going to "methodically consign himself to an eternity in hell" which I'd say means suicide, getting friendly with a lot of the local ladies, or both.

Happy Friday!

Thursday, January 21, 2010


Fighting this weird insomnia I seem to have lately, I've been reading a new release I picked up at work. We don't get a lot of fiction in (our focus for the magazine is journalism so all the titles we review are pretty much non-fic) so it was a bit of a score to find a book that doubles as a novel and a collection of short stories. All that AND it's a fun read!

So I'd been planning to try to write a review of it, and then my impetus arrived in the form of a call for (paid!) book bloggers. So here goes nothing.

The Imperfectionists - By Tom Rachman
Working in the media, there's a curious dichotomy between the generations. You see a lot of aging journalists you've always put on a pedestal suddenly getting down and dirty alongside you to Twitter, for example, as established journalists seek to keep up with a rapidly changing media landscape. But then you also see year after year of disenfranchised media graduates who are less interested in seizing opportunities to self-publish on the internet than they are in smelling newsprint with their byline and joining hacks' happy hour at the pub. I can't lie - I too fantasised about newsrooms clouded with cigarette smoke, typewriters thrown out of windows in protest and scoops started on the backs of beer coasters.

Tom Rachman's The Imperfectionists plays into a lot of charming stereotypes of print journalism, but it's not all over-romanticised. It's a novel divided into chapters that stand alone as short stories, each following an employee at a Rome-based international daily. A cuckolded Paris correspondent faces down old age, while the power bitch managing editor juggles a burgeoning affair and constant calls to cut staff; an unlucky-in-love business reporter turns a blind eye to her backpacker boyfriend's dodginess, while an alienated obituary writer orchestrates a career coup after the death of his child.

These well-drawn characters' personal lives are totally intertwined with their work, which anyone who's ever tried maintaing a relationship with a journo will attest to. Prodding along the narrative are little vignettes from the paper's conception, providing scenes of vibrant, profitable, booze-sozzled journalism that are like porn for today's reporters.

So if you're looking for an insight into the newsrooms of the present and the past, The Imperfectionists could be a great start. Pretty soon newspapers could be a thing of the past altogether. And perhaps most delicious of all will be watching to see whether any of ex-journo Rachman's former friends and colleagues recognise themselves... (see also thinly veiled media memoirs like The Devil Wears Prada).

Knit Picking

Oops - seems guerilla knitting is a thing, and the rack cosies are just the tip of the iceberg! Thanks, Darlinghurst Nights.

What a purler!

Wednesday, January 20, 2010

Guerillas in our midst

Either something cool happened to Sydney while I was away - or I need to spend more time with my friend Anna. She seems to be a magnet for strange, serendipitous, silly random things.

Case 1: The Lego files

Anna lives in this crazy sharehouse in Darlinghurst. One morning she and her housemates awoke to find the entire front yard full of lego figurines. Little lego dudes battling each other, climbing on plants in the garden, even transformers were hidden to drop from the ceiling when the garage door was opened. Hours later, silently as they arrived, the toys disappeared. The next day there was a procession of lego men coming up the path. Anna and her housemates took one as ransom and left a note. A kind of toy cold war has ensued as they attempt to ascertain the identity of the lego guerilla. The offender works fast and stealthily, planning attacks to coincide with times when no one is home. This suggests inside knowledge.... I will report back as more clues emerge.

Case 2: The guerilla knitters

There are bike racks outside Redfern Park, near my work, and Anna pointed out to me that overnight some of them started sporting knitted covers. Rack cosies? At any rate, these ground-breaking accessories are almost perfectly fitted. Some are stripey, some are chunky knits full of dropped stitches, and others are more fastidious. What kills me is that someone has had to sit there and handsew the seam to keep them on the racks. Who does this? What inspired them to warm the racks bike-lovers hold so dear?

In the spirit of random acts of randomness, here's another. The Matchbox Project.

Waiting for the weekend

Is it too soon to start planning the weekend? I think this says a lot about my current work ethic! But already the mind wanders toward the cuddlier end of the week.

Thinkin Friday beers at Cricketers with all those dirty cute hipster kids… Saturday morning snorkels with my high energy housemate, followed by a mini road trip to pick up the bike I just won her on ebay. Determined to get a bike gang going - to borrow a phrase from a more inspired friend of a friend, a chain gang!

Sunday morning I’m looking forward to getting out and about with Big Red and my camera, testing out what I hope will become my pool once it’s too cold for ocean baths and then circling back to Redfern for breakfast at one of the cafes everyone keeps raving about. After some loitering through the leafy streets of Surry I reckon I’ll head home and knock up a roast to get the new week started right.

Tuesday, January 19, 2010


We’re now far enough into January to have got over the "pretending I’ll be so responsible and clean-living Gwyneth Paltrow would shamefacedly turn over of the editorship of GOOP to me" bit. Let’s face it, booze and fags are here to stay... and, frankly, they make life more interesting. Particularly when combined with a pub dancefloor, the early hours of a Saturday and hits of the early 90s.

So what to aim for as a new decade kicks off? Just being back in Sydney these last few days, after spending the first weeks of the new year in sunny Brisbane, it’s been delicious to have the time to notice random loveliness everywhere. Maybe it’s having a hott new camera that makes me look at everything a little harder, searching out special light and shadows and vibrant colours.

Anyway. I’m hoping this will be a year of taking time to appreciate gorgeous things, however fleeting – great songs, sunshiney bike rides, time at the beach, yummy food, good books, art and being out and about with fabulous people – and to do better at recording that beauty through words, photography and anything else that works.

Sure I'd also love to attain skinny arms like my modelesque sister, and the super shiny hair of the girls in the Saturday social pages of the paper, but less superficially 2010 will be the year of:
  • More time with old friends
  • Less flaking
  • More bike riding
  • Less days lost to the hangover void
  • More photography
  • Less TV
  • More road trips
  • Less unfinished books
  • More music
  • Less unfinished sudoku
  • More writing
  • More new recipes
  • More random kissing
  • More learning
That nice symmetrical more/less thing petered out a little at the end, but a year where excess outweighs limitation is surely preferable to the reverse…!

What are you hoping for in 2010? And has anyone come up with a better moniker for this year? I think the best I’ve seen is “twenty-dime”, but it would be a bit naff to throw that around in Australia!