Saturday, 27 February 2010

Battlefield

It feels absurdly stupid to pick fights you can’t win. You fight and you’re in the right, but nothing is going to change. Even if you’ve got the high moral ground sometimes bringing things to a head can be both good and bad. Is that what most people think? Because I don’t believe it.

I wouldn’t say I thrive on conflict, rather I see it as necessary. One of the greatest personality traits I admire in myself is that I never let things fester, never put my head in the sand, and pretend things will go away. I don’t believe in denial, never have never will. Denial is for the weak and the powerless. Denial is for cowards.

Yet every single day I am forced to pick my battles: physical, psychological, emotional and political. It’s easy to look at my life through the prism of conflict. Even more so when at times I begin to feel like society’s punching bag: analysed by people who unknowingly view me as the antithesis of my personality: docile, dumb and weak.

Maybe this is why generating conflict gets me into trouble. I always feel like I have to prove that I am worthy, never to myself, but to other people. It’s not enough just to merely fight back I have to rip their heads off, particularly if the people concerned messes with those close to me. Some people say that hate is a very strong word and that you shouldn’t hate people. I disagree. Hate when harnessed in the right fashion can be a very powerful tool. I can confidently say that I hate many more people than I love. Some say hate is poisonous. Those who say this hate for the wrong reasons.

It is also not a stretch to say that two words have defined my attitude to life. Those two words can be put in a harsh context, so lets just use the PG related example: Bugger You. ‘Bugger you for telling me I won’t walk, talk, thrive and survive’ ‘Bugger you for telling me I won’t achieve my dreams and goals’ Bugger you for telling me that I will never have any friends’ ‘Bugger you for telling me I won’t go to university’. Bugger you for telling me I can’t do ANYTHING I set my mind to’. This is what drives me every single day: to get out of bed, to study, to work, to keep going when all hope is lost. I’ve been proving people wrong every single day of my life and I will continue to do so for the rest of my existence.

Yet this attitude is not all about spite. It means I never, ever give up. I may never walk and I may be confined to a wheelchair but I will never walk away, and people who underestimate that do so at their own peril. It means that I am fiercely loyal. Once you’re in with me, I will fight to the death to protect you. If I love you, I will love you for as long as I am able, despite the circumstances, and if you hurt the people I love, you will become my enemy. This is my code. Become my enemy at your peril.

Perhaps this why I love politics. It requires things that I admire: passion, intelligence and commitment. Injustice is not just a word that Batman uses, it’s a concept that I fight against every day, and politics is the tool that eradicates it. I believe in justice for society, my friends and my family. Those who threaten these causes threaten me, and I will fight against them. I pick my battles and I will win every single time.

Wednesday, 24 February 2010

Mean Girls: The Squabbles of Former Liberal Party Prime Ministers

Regina George: She's so pathetic. Let me tell you something about Janis Ian. We were best friends in middle school. I know, right? It's so embarrassing. I don't even... Whatever. So then in eighth grade, I started going out with my first boyfriend Kyle who was totally gorgeous but then he moved to Indiana, and Janis was like, weirdly jealous of him. Like, if I would blow her off to hang out with Kyle, she'd be like, "Why didn't you call me back?" And I'd be like, "Why are you so obsessed with me?" So then, for my birthday party, which was an all-girls pool party, I was like, "Janis, I can't invite you, because I think you're lesbian." I mean I couldn't have a lesbian at my party. There were gonna be girls there in their *bathing suits*. I mean, right? She was a LESBIAN. So then her mom called my mom and started yelling at her, it was so retarded. And then she dropped out of school because no one would talk to her, and she came back in the fall for high school, all of her hair was cut off and she was totally weird, and now I guess she's on crack.
(Mean Girls, 2004)


Watching Former Prime Minister Malcolm Fraser rip apart the modern Liberal Party on The 7:30 Report over the past two nights sure was an eerie experience. Let’s be clear here: I hate the man, despite his apparent ideological devotion of to the Left in his retirement. Why? It’s nothing to do with his policies, but rather I regard him as possibly the most treacherous politician in Australian history.

Forget about the Whitlam dismissal of 1975, because you could argue the merits of that particular act depending on your partisan point of view. However, what Fraser did to John Gorton four years earlier was far worse. Fraser resigned from the post of Defense Minister after assuring Gorton he would not do such a thing the day before, and then reneged in the most public of ways, by attacking Gorton on the floor on Parliament with the political kiss of death ‘He is not fit to hold the great office of Prime Minister’. Could you imagine Robert Hill, John Moore, Peter Reith or Brendan Nelson attacking John Howard like that? Neither can I. This assault on Gorton led to the famous Liberal Party leadership ballot where Gorton used his casting vote against himself to install William McMahan as Prime Minister, universally regarded as the worst Prime Minister this country has ever had.

Yet here was Fraser using the opportunity on The 7:30 Report to plug his political memoirs (On sale this Thursday!) attempting to cast himself as the martyr. Fraser wanted deregulation of the economy, but his evil young Treasurer John Howard wouldn’t let him. If it weren’t for Howard Fraser suggests that he would have been able to claim much of the credit for what the Hawke Government did in their first term, I struggle to believe this. For someone as domineering as Fraser was in Cabinet it is hard to fathom that he wouldn’t have been able to push these reforms through if he wanted to, even if Treasury strongly opposed them. Fraser is not the victim here, rather the worst kind of politician. He is the Regina George of Australian politics: Very ruthless in order to get to the top job, not ruthless enough once he got there. For all of Howard’s policy and ideological failings at least he has a clear set of values. Fraser likes to pretend he has values, but it is his attitude that is toxic.

All this goes to a larger question. Why do former Liberal Party Prime Ministers act like a bunch of Mean Girls. In the ALP, we revere our Prime Ministers, sometimes too much, but at least we respect them and recognise their contributions. The Liberal Party however spend their time looking back at internal wars and holding grudges. Fraser hates Howard, Howard hates Fraser, and Gorton hated Fraser. To be sure Hawke hated Keating for stabbing him in the back, but they have both acknowledged publicly a mutual admiration and respect for one another. Contrast this with Gorton and Fraser. When Fraser was defeated by Hawke in 1983, Gorton called Hawke and thanked him for ‘…rolling that bastard Fraser.’ A year before his death in 2002, at the ripe at old age of 90, Gorton told his biographer Ian Hancock that he could never tolerate being in the same room as Fraser.

I have two theories to explain this. Liberal Party leaders have more power organisationally than their Labor Party counterparts. Theoretically they have the final say on Cabinet appointments, policy issues and internal tactics. Although the culture is changing within the ALP to favour a similar structure, power is still distributed more evenly. ALP leaders have to consult with Caucus and other powerbrokers when making the above decisions. Therefore, Liberal leaders have far more to lose when being deposed. Enemies of Liberal Party leaders have been known to chant ‘Ding dong, the witch is dead’ and enemies of Labor leaders generally chant ‘The King is Dead, long live the King’. This leads to a second theory. The Labor Party is the party of the collective, while the Liberal Party is the party of the individual: there is inherent solidarity for people in leadership positions within the Labor Party whereas, the Liberal Party tend to think in Darwinian terms: survival of the fittest, and former leaders are amongst the most injured.

Perhaps god forbid Fraser can take a leaf out of Keating’s book. For years the ALP abandoned his economic legacy in a display of myopic vote winning. But he has now forgiven the Party, which gave him a life in politics and is instead doing what every Former Prime Minister should do: contributing to the policy debate whilst destroying the other side instead of his own. I know the Liberals are loathed to learn anything from Keating, but their history depends on it.

Saturday, 20 February 2010

'It’s Not A Dream Anymore': Paramore At The Tivoli 2010: Gig Review

Almost three years ago my best friend and I were thinking about seeing Paramore at the Arena in Brisbane. We passed it up and regretted it immediately. What fools we were. And now that we both saw them last night at The Tivoli, that mistake seems even more foolish, because by god was the gig spectacular, thrilling and thunderous, just like we hoped it would be.

Sometimes the mere fact that I can get to these gigs is a triumph. Getting a view at a sold out gig at The Tivoli though is a luxury that a sit down cripple such as myself does not get. No matter, because last night, more than ever, visuals was not required to appreciate what for all intents and purposes was a 'Pure Rock Concert', complete with ear piercing screams, accompanying bass vibrations which you could feel tingle down your legs, and guitar lines that were immediately connected via drip feed into your soul.

However it was not all like this. Unfortunately, the gig was an all ages affair, so pre-pubescent girls resplendent with glitter, and bright orange streaks in their hair populated the venue in an attempt to mimic Paramore’s charismatic front woman, Hayley Williams. However that was not the worst crime against humanity: that honour was left to the support band, British 'emo' act You Me At Six.

There’s an inherent checklist that these type of bands live up to, and unfortunately You Me At Six checked all the boxes to indicate a new level of pathetic live performance:

1. A lead singer with an incessant whine, who thinks he’s good with the ladies and tries to have eye sex with them, but really sounds like he’s been castrated, rendering all the above techniques useless
2. Matching hair cuts to resemble the male cast of Skins. How many Tony Stonem lookalikes can one band have?
3. Overwrought lyrics of the highest order
4. Over the top references to ‘sucking cock’ just to sound like total douchebags
5. An attempt at an ironic cover, which fails miserably (in this case of course it had to be Lady Gaga’s Poker Face, the most unoriginal idea ever in the history of 2010 live performance).

Thankfully, the quality considerably lifted once Paramore entered the stage, their only failing it seemed was choosing the quality of their opening act. Starting emphatically with the first single Ignorance off their latest record Brand New Eyes, flame haired Hayley was sprinting around the stage, (my only view being the top of her diminutive five foot stature) whilst belting out the lyrics with her customary fervour, and not a single note out of tune. Quickly transitioning to Looking Up this provided the moment of the night. At the song's standard pause two thirds of the way through, Hayley screams ‘WE ARE PARAMORE!!!!’ eliciting a reaction that I have never ever heard before, and which will probably require me to get my hearing checked soon. The song then continued without a moment of hesitation, the band acting as if that transformative period had never even occurred.

Other highlights included Let This Go, That’s What You Get and of course crowd favourite and Twilight inspired Decode. This prompted my friend (who is notorious for showing no reaction at shows regardless of quality) to smirk obviously as the 12 year old girls screamed frantically, acting as if Edward himself had walked into the venue. However my favourite song of the night was the one that made me fall in love with Paramore in the first place, Riot! opener: For A Pessimist, I'm Pretty Optimistic, which along with being the best song title in the history of popular music, is also the song which typifies Paramore the most: The almost obnoxious attitude, the driving guitars, the pounding drum beats, and of course Hayley, oh Hayley.

Rest assured we won’t be missing Paramore the next time they come around. In fact, next time they might even warrant a tour of Tegan and Sara type proportions. Except they can leave You Me At Six Behind. How about getting the Quin Twins instead?

Thursday, 18 February 2010

Chuck Klosterman: Flawed Genius


There may be a day in the near future when you find yourself in a conversation about this book, and someone will ask you what the story is really about, beyond the rudimentary narrative of a cross-country death trip based on a magazine article. And it's very likely you will say, "well, the larger thesis is somewhat underdeveloped, but there is this point early in the story where he takes a woman to Ithaca for no real reason, and it initially seems innocuous, but - as you keep reading - you sort of see how this behaviour is a self-perpetuating problem that keeps reappearing over and over again." In all probability, you will also complain about the author's reliance on self-indulgent, postmodern self-awareness, which will prompt the person you're conversing with to criticize the influence of Dave Eggers on the memoir-writing genre. Then your cell phone will ring, and you will agree to meet someone for brunch. -Chuck Klosterman

I generally hate reading books. This may come as a surprise to some, especially considering that more than three quarters of a PhD basically consists of reading books in order to ascertain where your argument fits into the grand scheme of academia. I rarely, if ever, read for pleasure. Reading books to me is a fact finding mission to satisfy my insatiable quest for knowledge. That’s why I almost exclusively read non fiction. If I want to be captured in another world, I’ll turn to my ever growing lists of television series. TV acts as my escape pod, much like books do for most of my contemporaries. I never understand why people think books are an escape. Reading seems like work to me, which is incredibly tiresome.

I highlight this point to illustrate the fact that what I’m about to do is so rare. Last night I was reading a book, which I am currently less than halfway through and I thought: ‘this is the best book I have ever read. I have to write a blog about this to tell everybody how extraordinary this is.' High praise indeed from a guy who hates reading books. A guy who was made to read every morning before school by his parents (both teachers) and would actually spend half the time looking at the clock praying for it all to end.

This very special book is called Killing Yourself to Live: 85% of a True Story, and it is a kind of a strange memoir. Written by magazine feature writer and pop culture critic Chuck Klosterman, the plot is summarised below by someone who is better at summarizing these things than I am.

For 6,557 miles, Chuck Klosterman thought about dying. He drove a rental car from New York to Rhode Island to Georgia to Mississippi to Iowa to Minneapolis to Fargo to Seattle, and he chased death and rock 'n' roll all the way. Within the span of twenty-one days, Chuck had three relationships end -- one by choice, one by chance, and one by exhaustion. He snorted cocaine in a graveyard. He walked a half-mile through a bean field. A man in Dickinson, North Dakota, explained to him why we have fewer windmills than we used to. He listened to the KISS solo albums and the Rod Stewart box set. At one point, poisonous snakes became involved. The road is hard. From the Chelsea Hotel to the swampland where Lynyrd Skynyrd's plane went down to the site where Kurt Cobain blew his head off, Chuck explored every brand of rock star demise. He wanted to know why the greatest career move any musician can make is to stop breathing...and what this means for the rest of us.


chuckklostermankillinghilsef

The outline above would have you believe that this is a strange study about why some rock stars meet their maker early and their lives are cut short. This is certainly what I was expecting. Except it isn’t about that at all. Sure Klosterman visits these places, but the book is about Chuck, not the journey and certainly not the destinations.

This is the kind of narcissistic writing that I love and everybody else hates. The journey to these macabre places really just forms the basis of an excuse for Klosterman to wax lyrical about his thoughts on the world and his place within it, with plenty of pop culture references along the way. You see, Chuck is in love with not one, but three women all for different reasons. Why is he in love with three different women? I think at this point, that he is the kind of guy who confuses love for lust or companionship. Although he has different answers. I am not sure I entirely agree with him.

We all have the potential to fall in love a thousand times in our lifetime. It's easy. The first girl I ever loved was someone I knew in sixth grade. Her name was Missy; we talked about horses. The last girl I love will be someone I haven't even met yet, probably. They all count. But there are certain people you love who do something else; they define how you classify what love is supposed to feel like. These are the most important people in your life, and you'll meet maybe four or five of these people over the span of 80 years. But there's still one more tier to all this; there is always one person who you love who becomes that definition. It usually happens retrospectively, but it always happens eventually. This is the person who unknowingly sets the template for what you will always love about other people, even if some of those lovable qualities are self-destructive and unreasonable. You will remember having conversations with this person that never actually happened. You will recall sexual trysts with this person that never technically occurred. This is because the individual who embodies your personal definition of love does not really exist. The person is real, and the feelings are real--but you create the context. And context is everything. The person who defines your understanding of love is not inherently different than anyone else, and they're often just the person you happen to meet the first time you really, really want to love someone. But that person still wins. They win, and you lose. Because for the rest of your life, they will control how you feel about everyone else.

I may not agree, but damn look at how that passage is written. It is evocative, yet simple and entirely relatable. Part of the genius of this book is how Klosterman is completely inept with these women, unable to convey his own feelings to them in his life, but if they ever read the book which was published several months after these events transpired I would think they would be able to understand him almost immediately. I love this contradiction.

I first heard of Klosterman a few months back. He’s a favourite writer of my favourite pop culture contributors at The AV Club website. It is easy to see why: they all have uncanny levels of intelligence, a witty pop culture vernacular, but are all uncompromisingly human in the way they write. Their writing is what this blog aspires to be.

I was on a Billy Joel kick about six weeks ago (the guy is an underrated genius) and I dug through The AV Club archives to find a feature article on the 30th anniversary of Joel’s seminal album The Stranger in July 2008. The article was typically spot on in its analysis, particularly when talking about Klosterman’s description of Billy Joel’s career in his essay "Every Dog Must Have His Day, Every Drunk Must Have His Drink" published in the book Sex, Drugs, And Cocoa Puffs:

The "thing you think sucks is actually great" essay is a popular among pop culture writers. (I've written one or two few myself.) But Klosterman's pro-Joel screed is probably the best one I've ever read. In typical Klosterman fashion, he likes Joel for the precise reason a lot of people hate him: he's not cool. "If cool was a color, it would be black–and Billy Joel would be sort of burnt orange," he writes. Klosterman goes on to argue that "every one of Joel's important songs–even the happy ones–are about loneliness," and that his best material sounds like suicide notes. "It's almost as if Joel's role in the musical experience is just to create a framework that I can place myself into; some of Raymond Carver's best stories do the same thing." Citing Raymond Carver is an interesting defense for a guy who once allowed one of his songs to be used as the theme for Bosom Buddies, but Klosterman is pretty damn convincing.

And that’s pretty much the reason I love Billy Joel. I have re-read that quoted section about 5 or 6 times, and each time I have feeling: 'This guy is actually speaking my thoughts, but in a more articulate and thought provoking fashion'. Needless to say I put Sex, Drugs, And Cocoa Puffs on order but Killing Yourself to Live arrived, while Puffs hasn’t. I can’t wait to read that either.

Personal writing is a genre I love. It is why I adore the blogs I highlight on my page. It allows me as the reader to empathise with the writer, to get under their skin, and hopefully learn something along the way in my neverending quest for knowledge. Klosterman is a master of all these. He states in Killing Yourself to Live that: ‘I honestly believe that people of my generation despise authenticity, mostly because they're all so envious of it." This is very true, but if you want to find genuine authenticity you must read Killing Yourself To Live.

Sunday, 14 February 2010

Beyond Classification: Critical Thoughts on Chart Pop

As strange as it sounds, chart pop seems to be the most maligned genre of music. This in itself seems contradictory. In purely numerical terms songs and albums that reach the top of the charts are by definition the most popular. Consequently there seems to be a push/pull relationship between the genre and audiences. You can be popular, but not too popular. It is almost a disaster of critical proportions if an artist actually appeals to a twelve year old and their forty year old mum at the same time.

That seems to be the problem with Taylor Swift at the moment. Particularly the way people perceive her ever since Kayne West interrupted her at the MTV Video Music Awards last year. Part of the conflict is that commentators endeavored to make the incident needlessly political: it was not a signifier of racial stereotypes, just a display of extreme douchbaggery from Kanye. Yet since the incident the public persona of Taylor as described by outsiders has turned from her being a suitable role model, to media over exposure, to ‘Dear god, her live performances blow chunks'. This is yet another example of the way successful pop acts are unfairly treated by the critical media, particularly in the last decade.

I can’t put my finger on exactly why this is. Perhaps it is a musical extension of the famously Australian ‘Tall Poppy Syndrome’ that suggests that the population love to cut celebrities down to size once they reach the point of ubiquitous fame. This poses a problem for artists and record companies alike. Once an artist reaches the point of 'Sold Out Wembley Stadium' notoriety how do they continue, or even build upon that success without reaching the inevitable sales slump? This is even more of a problem when a pop starlet reaches the point where her maturity surpasses the emotional context of her back catalogue. One of my favourite pop critics David Moore encapsulates this dilemma nicely:

Record labels and general expectations tend to make most teen and young-adult evolution as problematic externally as they probably are internally to the performer herself… Mandy Moore, Marit Larsen, Marion Raven (both from M2M), and Hilary Duff all offer some object lessons in "growing up" and how this translates to your music. The most successful of these (arguably) is Marit Larsen, who found an excellent way to translate writing well about teenage angst into writing well about twentysomething angst -- and that twentysomething angst actually transitions naturally into thirtysomething angst.

Mandy Moore and Hilary Duff have both chased elusive maturity -- Mandy super-consciously, (she's been actively marginalizing herself), and Hilary with the added detriment of being stuck on a Disney record label (Hollywood Records) that doesn't seem to want much to do with her anymore. But her album with (Songwriter and now American Idol judge) Kara DioGuardi is still probably her strongest overall.

I hate Avril more, the more I give her a fair listen within the context of her peers -- compared to the next wave of teen confessional (Ashlee Simpson, Lindsay Lohan, Kelly Clarkson) and the stuff before her (M2M, Michelle Branch and Vanessa Carlton, Pink's album with Linda Perry) she really does stand out like a sore thumb in terms of what she has to say (not that Michelle Branch or Vanessa Carlton were that deep, but they also weren't glaringly dumb).

By far my favourite of those artists mentioned above is Marit Larsen. Marit who you may ask? Norway, her native land is certainly a long way from Australia, which is certainly part of the problem, but she is unquestionably my favourite solo artist, having only released two albums. Australian and US audiences may remember her from this:



By all means it is a terrific little pop song, but certainly not indicative of her later work. There are a few problems with it. Firstly, it was the lead single on the Pokemon movie soundtrack, a showcase designed for the 10-12 aged population circa 2000, and that doesn’t really do the song justice because the song's emotional context is stunted. Then there is the chipmunk style production, which also does not do the terrifically catchy songwriting any favours. Unfortunately, Don’t Say You Love Me was M2M’s (her band) only hit in Australia and that’s kind of like defining Third Eye Blind’s catalogue by their sub standard hit Semi Charmed Life, a song that did really well in the mainstream, but is by far their weakest song ever put to tape.

After putting out two albums that didn’t sell at all well M2M parted ways. Marion (the dark haired one) went the trashy, skanky route, and hired the lead singer of Motley Crue to be her lead producer, Marit, on the hand, chose sensibly to go the opposite path and craft arguably the finest chart pop of the decade.

Marit+Larsen+Marit

Her first album Under the Surface released in 2006 is unquestionably my favourite debut album. This record is Marit doing Taylor Swift, when Taylor was still in her bedroom dreaming of White Horses and developing high school crushes in the bleachers. Not to say that Taylor isn’t good, because she’s very good, but Marit pioneered Taylor’s pop/faux country sound only with an unrivialed maturity. This is evidenced by the album’s third single, Only A Fool:



Of course Under the Surface did not sell well outside Scandinavia, which is one of the greatest musical travesties of the 00s. If Marit had come from Nevada instead of Norway, Under the Surface would have sold more copies than Fearless. Don’t believe me? Well her second album is even better and would have sold even more copies again.

The Chase released in 2008, is my favourite non Tegan and Sara album of the decade. As Moore correctly points out, this is where Marit successfully negotiated the difficulties of transitioning between a teen pop starlet to a burgeoning twentysomething singer/songwriter. The arrangements are more complex as well as defined, and the lyrics demonstrate exponential growth beyond the already stellar heights of Under the Surface. In particular two tracks, the titular album opener and the gorgeous Ten Steps:





In some ways Taylor and Marit act as equally compelling opposites: the former a seemingly unrivalled mega star, and the latter as pop’s criminally underrecognised genius. They both demonstrate the problem with taking pop music as inherently superficial. Pop music is actually the most difficult genre to master. Writing a three and half minute song that is accessible, catchy and original is certainly no easy task. Yet these two fantastic songwriters don’t get the praise they deserve. Why is this so? Is it the height of hipster snobbery? I certainly think so. Yet for all its preconceptions, the joy that chart pop music provides is actually one of the greatest treasures the world possesses.

Friday, 12 February 2010

The Mighty Magical Magpies

Warning: Below is a post talking about sport.


Port_logo

One of the most fantastic things about being born and growing up in Adelaide is developing a passion for Aussie Rules Football. In South Australia like Victoria, AFL is life, we live and breathe it, and it is as tribal as you can get. Generations of families follow the same clubs.The South Australian National Football League (SANFL) was my favourite sporting league growing up because of these things.

My Dad’s family followed Sturt, the double blues, based in the middle class suburb of Unley. My Dad’s great grandfather was President of the club, and thus the rest of his family followed suit and were Sturt through and through. Dad’s mum (Nanna) would make cupcakes with blue icing and call them ‘double blues cakes’, this was her trademark as my brother and I grew up. My mother’s family meanwhile followed Port Adelaide, her mum (Grandma) having grown up in this working class area of Adelaide. In Port Adelaide you breed them tough as nails. Outsiders to Port Adelaide use the term ‘Port Adelaide wharfies’ with scorn fearing that they would rip your head off literally if you didn’t follow the Magpies. This stereotype was not without some foundation.

In one of the greatest ironies of their relationship, my mother and father chose to get married on a day that Port played Sturt. As I try to picture the service in my mind I imagine the attendant asking not ‘Bride or Groom?’ but rather ‘Port or Sturt?’ Family legend has it that as soon as the service was over, the celebrant went out the back to check the halftime score. In a move that may have been intentional, Dad chose to wear a blue tux at the wedding, perhaps in a show of support (but hey it was 1978 after all so who knows?).

For me, the choice was easy. Even though for the majority of my childhood we lived in the heart of Sturt territory, my heart was always with Port Adelaide. The bus driver who used to take me on the hour long trip to special school was a Port Adelaide man. Just as I was learning to talk, he taught me how to say ‘Scotty Hodges’, Port’s champion player of the 80s and 90s. In last days of amateur footy, some of the champion players used to work as maintenance guys at the school. For the first time heroes were actually real.




To understand its impact, you have to appreciate the era of football in South Australia. In this period (1988-1998) Port won seven premierships. This was a time where despite their dominance Port always took on the role of the underdog. Their players weren’t always the most talented or skillful, but they were hard and tough, and would always fight to death to win a game of footy. 1990 was the year my interest in footy really took off. The aforementioned Scott Hodges kicked a league record 150 goals that year on the way to the Magpies winning the flag. The afternoon before the count of the Magarey Medal (awarded for the league's best player) I, at age 6 confidently predicted ‘that my mate Scotty will win the Magarey’ I bet the bus driver $1 because he thought this was highly unlikely. That night Scotty won the medal, and I squeeled with delight as the bus driver was forced to pay up.

However my favourite Magpie Memory was the 1996 Preliminary Final, which I attended at Football Park, sitting in the outer with a family I stayed with for respite, and they all HATED the Magpies. Port were trailing all day, and at the start of the last quarter were coming back. Then this happened:



Scotty Hodges does it again and kicks the winning goal to put Port Adelaide in the grand final, and we won the title that year.

Why is this so important you may ask? Well the 2010 Magpies are broke and its looking likely that the Magpies as I know them will fold. South Australia will lose a sacred piece of its history, because the bigger Australian Football League (AFL) has swallowed up the Magpies particularly since its younger sibling Port Power, (a team I also love) joined that league in 1997. If the Maggies do go, it will be a sad day. Not only will I lose one of the most enjoyable things from my childhood, but my grandmother who has been following the Magpies for over 70 years will lose her team. So will thousands of other fans. And I bet the Sturt supporters will be sad too.

Saturday, 6 February 2010

(127) Days of Summer

Everyone’s favourite movie of recent times seems to be (500) Days of Summer. It pretends to be this movie that appeals to the nerdy romantic, the type of guy who normally wouldn’t see a movie that for all intents and purposes is a chic flick. After all, it stars the supposed sex symbol for geeks Zooey Deschenel, whose casting seems designed to draw in the indie music festival crowd. It is meant to chronicle the type of relationships that guys like me are meant to have. Is this why this particular movie was so painful for me to watch?

Ben Gibbard can have Zooey. Sure she has her charms, but me I’m not so keen. It’s more a case of what the movie represents that troubles me. It lost me at the MGM type musical number. Everything is so bright and wonderful that the dude is literally dancing down the street. She’s the girl of his dreams because she can quote There’s A Light That Never Goes Out back at him, she kisses him impulsively in the copy room because she feels like it. He falls in love with her. Then they agree to fuck, friends with benefits style, because she wants to keep things 'casual' and he doesn’t. Yet he does it anyway because he knows that’s the best he’s ever going to get with her. What kind of shit is this? She’s a bitch.

A supposed love story for our generation. It is a propaganda piece. Even more so because of the film’s too cute, scream at the screen in frustration ending. I saw this movie about three or four weeks ago and it still riles me up with uncontrollable anger just thinking about it now. You all know why don’t you? It should be obvious.

This could actually be my life. (Except for the sex naturally)

I’ve done the crippled version of that MGM number (‘Hot Wheel Shuffle’?) I have even said that There’s A Light That Never Goes Out is possibly my ideal of what a love song should represent, the part that gets quoted by Summer in particular. I go to work with my IPOD attached as my life support system just like the protagonist douchebag. I may as well go work for a greeting card company now.

I had a Summer. Far from the ideal of romantic virtue they are in reality blood sucking ruthless creatures that eats guys like me for breakfast. It takes more than a dialogue free trip to IKEA to damage you. You certainly don’t meet up with them on a train, and rekindle those feelings at a wedding and maintain an amicable friendship. Instead you cry in front of your computer while composing a too literate by half email listening to an ITunes playlist of songs that remind you of her. You sit at your desk constantly looking at your Google Notifer, until the reply comes that says ‘lets be friends’ but really means ‘time to go stalk someone else you fucking idiot’.

The movie suggests that the viewer should look upon the whole experience with a degree of fondness, a stepping stone on the path to meet your ‘Autumn’ (yes really). My Summer I now look upon as a necessary evil, a timely reminder never to wonder down that path again. You can be rest assured she won’t be married. Summer will always be Summer to everyone and everybody, because she is the worst type of love interest. I hope she gets genital warts.

I deserve better. And so do you.

Update 22/06/13 Someone I trust urged me to take a second look at this movie. Almost 3.5 years (and one more Summer) later I lasted 31 minutes before I wanted to kick the living shit out of the computer. I'm never ever taking film recommendations from this person again.

Wednesday, 3 February 2010

Going Back to the Church of Tegan and Sara

As I’ve mentioned on my blog before, I went on a road trip with my best friend designed to witness as many shows of the wonderful Tegan and Sara as possible. We managed three, one each in Melbourne, Sydney and Brisbane. At the beginning of last year I saw them twice again: once at the Sunset Sounds Festival and the other time in my hometown of Adelaide. Today, Tegan and Sara announced their next Australian tour, this time in support of Sainthood, including a stop over in Brisbane on May 4th, 2010 where I will see them play for the sixth time in just under two and half years.

Previous posts on this blog have discussed the band’s stellar recording output over the past decade, but have failed to capture the experience of seeing the Quin Twins live. Without a word of hyperbole I can safely say that seeing them live borders on having a religious experience. There are tears, screaming, shouting, laughing and heart palpations. As you read this you’ll probably feel bad for those people who choose to accompany me to these events, and if I were you I would too. But the truth is by the time Tegan and Sara hit the stage we are all quoting the lyrics like Bible verses.

Why bother getting so excited for an event that is currently 89 days away (yes, I am counting already) you may ask? Well, in case you haven’t noticed dear reader, I don’t get out much. Most use those last few words in a self aware, almost mocking tone. For me though, ‘I don’t get out much’ says a lot about my reality. It is not something to be sad about, or to be proud of (both of which I have been at various points of my life). It is more about my life reading like a giant game of ‘what if?’ If I wasn’t in a chair I may well have had more exhilarating experiences. If I wasn’t in a chair I wouldn’t be living on the Sunshine Coast, thus depriving me of so many cultural experiences, decent music or otherwise. If I wasn’t in a chair perhaps seeing two sexy, funny, intelligent, creative, diminutive Canadians between the armpits of several audience members wouldn’t be the highlight of my existence. Or perhaps not.

More than that though, there is a reason I’ve put ‘Quinist’ as my religious beliefs on Facebook. Don’t assume that it is a joke, for it is very real. In a climate where my focus is utterly consumed by becoming a future Karl Bitar or Tim Gartrell, that is highly scheduled and ordered, that is often beyond my control and comprehenion, and that constantly underestimates my capabilities based on superficial appearances, Tegan and Sara make me forget all those things. Particularly in a live setting, there is nothing that quite matches the bridge of Dark Come Soon or the harmonies on Where Does the Good Go. It is all truly heavenly. Come to the alter with me and you will be converted.

Tuesday, 2 February 2010

'And The Pile of Crap Goes To...'

Let’s talk about awards shows shall we?

For a six week period between the Golden Globes and the Oscars the United States is infested with them. The Globes, The Screen Actors’ Guild Awards, The Grammys, and the Oscars are all one after the other in a parade of utter pomposity. Beginning with an excuse for C grade television reporters to analyse so called red carpet ‘fashion’ in a cavalcade of cross promotion. A typical conversation by viewers watching yesterday’s Grammy Red Carpet arrivals may have followed this pattern:

‘Oh look there’s Chris O’Donnell!’

‘Who?’

‘Remember the guy who played Robin to George Clooney’s Batman, and was Al Pacino’s whipping boy in Scent of A Woman’ (Whoo-HA!)

‘What’s he doing here at the Grammys? He’s not singing a duet with John Mayer is he?’

‘No, the same network that are televising the Grammys is also home to the bastion of TV Dramas known as NCIS LA of which he is the star.’

Once the viewer is taken inside the actual awards ceremony it doesn’t get much better. Two scenarios play out when it comes to hosting. First, they take the most middlebrow 'comedian' who is unfunny to begin with (such as Whoopi Goldberg, Billy Crystal or if you are unfortunate enough to have heard of him, Rove McManus in Australia). They are then saddled with material that befits their status complete with jokes about celebrity culture and/or the awards themselves. Oh, and the less said about Hugh Jackman the better. Alternatively, the award shows take funny people like Steve Martin, Jon Stewart or Steven Colbert and neuter the writing beyond belief so they actually become unfunny and revert to the jokes mentioned above.

Then there are the speeches. If you’re at the Grammys you automatically thank god. The Oscars, you have to thank the Weinsteins, If you’re at Australia’s Logies (our Emmys) you’re already drunk by the time you hit the stage and the viewing public is running a Melbourne Cup style sweep as to which teen starlet will be the first to have vomit on her cocktail dress. The Emmys don’t count because they give Charlie Sheen awards for ‘acting’.

These awards show can be saved by three things.

1. Tina Fey.

2. A Beyonce musical performance of highly dramatic proportions.

3. Buffoonery.

It is this last part I want to focus on in particular. Throughout the past decade an awards show isn’t an awards show without controversy. Starting with Britney Spears giving teenage boys erections by kissing the world's most unattractive clown (otherwise known as Madonna), successive award shows have endeavored to capture a ‘moment’ (scripted or otherwise) for people to talk about the next day. Because there’s only so many times you can see Stevie Wonder perform without it seeming redundant.

The pinnacle of these moments came last year when rapper Kanye West stormed the stage of the MTV Video Music Awards while Taylor Swift was accepting an award, claiming it should have gone to Beyonce instead. (Do we really need awards for music videos these days anyway, or is it just another excuse to plug the latest Twilight/Harry Potter movie?)

My favourite cultural blog Intensities in Ten Suburbs describes the utter hilarity of Kanye’s ambush.

Just want to point out a couple of things about (the situation) that I feel are still a little underrated.

1. Kanye appearing out of nowhere. That was the thing that really made this so crazy–it wasn’t like we saw him brewing in the audience, or climbing on the stage, or even stealing the microphone from Swift–one second he wasn’t there, and the next second, he was. It was so sudden that at first it seemed like maybe he had been there all along and you just hadn’t realized, and that this all was some joke that you just didn’t get yet. Not until the boos started raining down did the gravity of the situation become clear.

2. Beyonce in the audience, mouthing “Oh My God!” in response –horrified, no doubt, but also a little bit flattered and a good deal amused.

3. Kanye’s sudden shift in tone and volume before the “But Beyonce had one of the BEST MUSIC VIDEOS OF ALL TIME!!” line. He announces with all the drama as if he just revealed some gigantic plot twist. Maybe he thought he had.
The little “shrug” motion that Kanye does after his diatribe is over. Look, I said what I said. It was true, and you know it’s true. What do you want from me?

The question that all this poses is that why am I drawn to these most pathetic excuses for entertainment? Nobody I like ever wins. Those who do are boring and predictable. In the unlikely event that somebody I care about actually does win nine times out ten their shtick is tired. Taylor Swift’s win for Record of Year at yesterday’s Grammys was well deserved, even eliciting a fist pump from yours truly, but by the time Taylor won a fourth award one would think the element of surprise would have worn off.

I don’t understand why I bother with watching these awards shows. It got to the point with last year’s ARIAS (Australia’s Grammys) that I condensed a two and a half hour show into just four and half minutes only to see performances from Lisa Mitchell and Sarah Blasko. I will never be one to check out awards shows in my mid fifties to see ‘what the kids are into these days’ because my tastes will always be superior. Will I still watch them though? Probably. If only so we can get an updated version of this cringe worthy clip from the 1987 Logies.