May 2006

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HOMECOMING - my novel

Hi again everyone.

So, I went to the Sydney Writers' Festival this weekend thanks to the ridiculous generosity of my friend and Standing There Captain of Industry Melanie Howlett (about whom I have been spreading rumours relating to cake consumption that I would like to unreservedly retract here in order to reverse any slanderous effect these words may have had, particularly given that Mel ran in a half marathon the weekend before last and "cake addiction" may have been a little harsh, although hopefully she is not being shunned by the uber-fit brethren of which she has become a part).

Erhem. Anyway. So I'm unsure where to start. Maybe I'll do a Rita and go with the dot point option:

1. Want to check out the festival? Go here to see a whole lot of the sessions as filmed on the day, including...

2. My favourite speaker, although needless to say I haven't read her work, was definitely Dr Maya Angelou, whose interview via satellite is able to be watched here and which was an enormously powerful thing to see live. If you look at anything, look at this. She's also a great advertisement for something I got out of this weekend: have a sense of humour and you can get away with a lot more than you can if you take yourself too seriously.

3. I also saw the following: Edmund White in conversation with David Marr (Australian writer best known for enormous biography of enormous writer Patrick White). Discussion with White of gay writing, honest writing, name-dropping, and the most interesting point I thought was a discussion about writing about your friends (White agrees it's a breach of the contract between friends to suddenly get all forensic and unforgiving and judgemental and objective when writing about friends, because that's the opposite of what you have to do in a relationship with another person, which is kind of be forgiving and take them on their own terms, subjectively).

4. Went to a thing called "The Big Reading" where Lynn Freed read two stories about a woman and her parents (can't remember if it was autobiographical or not). One was about the woman's father dying and her mother, suffering from dementia, not really understanding that her husband is not her father. It was beautifully written and beautifully read. We heard her speak later in the festival and I kind of wished we hadn't. I've given her book to my Dad because it reminds me of the writers he enjoys, but I'm going to bully him into reading it quickly so that I can read it myself. Check out her website here.

Also at The Big Reading was Hari Kunzru, who read gorgeously and I really liked what he wrote actually, but because Mel bought his book, I didn't. Given we live in different States, that seems an odd decision in retrospect. He was a deadset spunk, too, which did not go unnoticed among the very literary conversations we all had afterwards. His website is here.

Nirpal Singh Dhaliwal, who would probably have to be described as the "bad boy" of the Festival, then read a sex scene of considerable intensity to a pretty full house of (mostly grey) heads, nodded calmly and left the stage. He was a very good reader, although kind of hard to tell what his writing was like because it was pretty much erotica. He's written an article here that gives a bit of an indication of one or two little opinions he might have. And here is an article that explains why Hari Kunzru and Nirpal Singh Dhaliwal aren't exactly sharing a panel on mixed race writing.

John Banville, with that beautiful voice, read a gorgeous segment from his book The Beach, which I foolishly didn't buy.

Arnon Grunberg, who I have left until last, read some of his apparently brilliant book and he read it very well and I thought it was great, but found his accent hard to decipher, not because of how he spoke English, but because of how he intonated. This is another one I should have bought but didn't. He's great, according to all the cool kids.

5. Went to a session called Pack Your Bags, which Hari Kunzru spoke at with Susan Orlean (of Orchid Thief and Adaptation fame) and Victoria Finlay. Kunzru and Finlay were funny and interesting and Susan Orlean was definitely the travelling princess of the three of them. Demanding first class flights and five star hotels almost everywhere she travelled, made me wonder why she's a travel writer in the first place! Victoria Finlay told a great story about being bashed up by a prostitute and saved by two mormons. Definitely worth it just for that.

6. Did I mention you have to watch Dr Maya Angelou? Seriously. How someone who was raped at five, went mute for years and now recites Shakespeare and does impressions of her Grandma in church can manage to be quite so hilarious is beyond me.

7. Nirpal Singh Dhaliwal was being interviewed by a sincere twelve-year-old in a suit and it was standing room only. Dhaliwal was so completely outrageous (about women, war, other writers) that I went out and bought his book because I want to be able to have an opinion about the book as opposed to the guy.

8. Saw David Malouf. He was interesting, actually. I like thinking about writers. That was one of the good things for me actually, that it wasn't just a book festival, it was about writers too, and what makes a good writer.

9. We saw Naomi Wolf talking about the Clinton campaign she worked on, the Gore campaign she worked on, the Dove soap commercials she worked on, the issue of sexual harrassment in universities, and of course about her book. Mel bought her book, The Treehouse, which is about her father among other things.

10. Went to a session on satire, which I found less convincing than the rest of the audience seemed to, mostly because "satire" tended to be interpreted as "funny jokes that mention politics", which always annoys me a bit. Andy Borowitz from the New Yorker did essentially an hour of stand-up with Karen Finlay and Paul Krassner piping in every now and then. Mel and I asked Karen a question and she ran away from us, which was somewhat of a turn-off so we didn't buy her book (buyer's revenge). Noticed in this session that, at each festival event there are questions, and at most festival events ALL the questions are asked by women. In this one, almost all of them were asked by men. Satire and humour and so on being the comfortable domain of the bloke. Which is why we thought we'd talk to the runaway writer, Karen Finlay. See, Karen? You let down the sisterhood, not just two girls from Melbourne.

11. Good Lord, we did see a lot of stuff! (Click on writers' names below for links). The last event was an afternoon tea (with cake, see, but I'll steer clear of that topic) and Elizabeth Kostova read from her kind of mystical-sounding novel, Tegan Bennett-Daylight read a birth scene and a bullfighting scene from her book, Salley Vickers read from a book about psychiatry, Alex Miller read a really lovely little thing about a man reading a story to his little girl and making the choice about whether work comes first or family, and Aleksander Hemon read (very amusingly) from his book, Nowhere Man, which I have been reading ever since and I've nearly finished and it's great. He can also be seen on the first site I mentioned, talking about The New Yorker.

So, pretty big week, really. Add to that a house party, a bunch of Mel's truly excellent friends, an educational evening learning about Australian Wheat, vegetarianism and the economy (thanks Ingrid and Matt), a new CD by Iron and Wine thanks to Mel's friend Sean, a beef pizza, a couple of trips to some galleries (including Sam Taylor Wood's exhibition of famous men crying and David Beckham sleeping), a drink with my friend Chris, a yoga class, several hours worth of book shopping, a small fire in the middle of the table at the afternoon tea, a woman shouting "SLUTS!" and sticking her finger up at us outside the very posh hotel we were going to an event at, having coffee in the sun with our friend Michael who makes us giggle, and countless other adventures.

Plus last night I went to the opening of the St Kilda Film Festival.

I hate to be reductive, but to use a literary analogy of enormous significance: like sand through the hour glass, these were the days of our lives.

By the way, I was having a conversation about news with Mel's mates on Sunday night, and I completely forgot the urls to the sites I was mentioning. So, check these out:

The newsmap site, that graphs the way Google reports news, is here.

The other site, the one that shows the sources of news, rather than the way it's reported, is here.

And I know I've mentioned this one before, but for interesting news and great articles, go here.

THE CARNIVAL IS OVER

The Sydney Writers' Festival is over. I am trying in my own way to cope, but I won't pretend it's easy.

I've been walking around all day in my new shoes, blistering up for the plane ride home. Art galleries are interesting, but paintings don't have question and answer sessions, and they aren't cantankerous and opinionated and hilarious and they don't sign themselves for you in the foyer afterwards.

Coming home tomorrow with a whole lot of scribbled notes on the backs of envelopes. Hopefully I'll have something sensible to say by then.

OMIGOD

Sydney Writers' Festival has changed my life!

Melanie Howlett is some kind of modern day saint with a little teensy cake addiction, and I am as happy as Larry, whoever he might be. I have purchased an unnecessary number of books and I plan to begin the first chapter of at least two of them.

SYDNEY TODAY

So I'm feeling a lot better, flu wise, and guess what?

Still haven't packed.

Sometimes there's something comforting about being reliably hopeless.

I'll be back in Melbourne on Tuesday, so talk amongst yourselves while I'm gone - feel free to go and check out the Sydney Writers' Festival website so you can imagine me swanning about being well-informed and three degrees warmer than I would be in Melbourne.

Or not. Depends on how incredibly out of my depth I really am. Tune in for updates.

SICK IN SYDNEY

Why is that your body always knows what your plans are?

Yesterday, during a Law Week event in which two people dressed as chefs attended a mediation meeting referreed by a woman dressed in a full boxing uniform with gloves, I suddenly started feeling off colour. By the time I got to the Law Week Oration by Lex Lasry QC about defending unpopular causes in a climate of fear, I was positively struggling.

So, my body has held out through the comedy festival, the film screening, and even most of Law Week. But now, the day before I board a plane to HOLIDAY CITY CENTRAL, my body decides to pack the flu alongside my toothrush and my new shoes.

The worst part is, Rita and I are both in this together. I swear, if either of us ever got pregnant, the other one would suddenly shack up with someone just so that we could schedule in a convenient double-birth (preferably in the same hospital so that we could still have production meetings).

So, I missed my first diary entry in a while yesterday, and I might miss a few more if the illness and the literary glory of the Writers' Festival all gets too much. Hopefully I'll be able to report back, like the Official Media Representative from the Standing There Productions Fact Finding Team, with many cutting edge and salient points from the front.

Even if I do mostly just end up complaining about the flu.

SYDNEY

Three more sleeps until the Sydney Writers' Festival!

I haven't read nearly enough. That is to say, I've read stuff that has nothing whatsoever to do with the writers who are speaking at the Festival, which means that I'll be completely lost at question time unless someone discusses Richard Feynman, Alan Bennett, Tom Stoppard or either of the Bridget Jones Diaries (and if anyone is losing respect for me right now, I have a pre-prepared and mutlilayered thesis on this topic which I DEFY anyone to contradict with authority).

So yeah, all I have to do is pack, which, given I cleaned my bedroom in the same way geologists meticulously carbondate layers of rock on the weekend, is hopefully going to be easier than it would have been.

Before then, I'm going to a whole lot of cool Law Week stuff, getting a haircut, getting my pants taken up, doing my dry cleaning, finishing some Standing There Productions stuff, reading up on the Writers' Festival, getting a flu injection, claiming back my eye doctor money on medicare, getting health insurance, taking up yoga, and starting my own charity.

Either that or I'll do nothing and then pack on Friday morning.

JUST AN OBSERVATION

Since we shot our film late last year, two of the people involved have become married and are now pregnant (details sketchy as to whether this happened on set), three people have left or are leaving to go overseas, almost everyone has changed jobs, and one of the crew members has been recruited into the German army.

Just thought we should have a bit of a look at ourselves.

Theatre

I saw two shows this weekend.

The first was at Melbourne University, and it was a musical about working, called Working. I know! How clever!

Seriously though, it was really fun and there were some beautiful voices on stage (embodied by people, you understand) so I enjoyed it, which, given I was completely starving and totally knackered on account of my having dressed up as a judge at seven thirty that morning, was somewhat of a surprise. It starred Reuben and Margaret, who had also dressed as judges that morning, who were (and you'll have to see a couple of posts below for this reference) really quite lawsome.

Then, last night, after the day from hell and with half a mind to stay home and watch crap on TV, I dragged myself to the theatre again. Not only did I drag myself to the theatre. I dragged myself to a show I had heard described as "experimental" and "absurdist" and which had written on the door of the theatre, "WARNING: SHOW CONTAINS SMOKING, FIREARMS, AND ADULT THEMES". Wicked, I thought to myself. The trifecta.

And not only that. I went by myself.

The reason I made myself go to this show even though I felt like a clump of oatmeal, is that it's on at a brand new theatre called The Black Lung, which is in Smith Street, Fitzroy (see here) and which is run by a bunch of people I know who are all very clever and very interesting and who also make me laugh. Anyone who decides to start their own theatre deserves at least the price of my ticket (which was ten dollars by the way - which should be the price of ALL theatre in Melbourne and which is why I find it endlessly amusing that the MTC runs all these "investigative sessions" where they ask random selections of "young people" why none of them go to the theatre. But I digress). So I knew that these people were smart and interested in making different stuff, and so I made myself go even though it was experimental and absurd and I felt like the most experimental and absurd thing I felt like doing was going to bed without brushing my teeth.

Anyway. It was called Avast, and somehow they managed to have it make sense but contain no cohesive narrative whatsoever. In that sense, it was genuinely insane. I was sitting on the edge of the room where I could see the audience reaction, which at times was half the point. The woman next to me was a pysch nurse who expressed her genuine concern for one or two of the performers' mental health. The guy on the other side of me was prone to a donkey-like laugh that would set off whole sections of the audience, and one or two members of the cast.

Okay, so here's what happened: There was a guy in a washing machine with Ochre in his pants (of course) who told this other guy he was adopted and so the other guy pretended he was blind and then slipped during the fight scene and appeared to break his nose (brilliantly done). There was a guy who played a tin whistle and ran full-pelt into a closed door. There was a bloke in a mask who recited a speech until he was shouted down by the other actors. There was this couple in the audience who tried to leave because the woman was feeling sick and things were a little politically incorrect and quite crazy and claustrophobic and she was sobbing, sobbing, and her boyfriend was trying to leave but they were shouted at by one of the actors, who then apologised and called off the show and offered everyone their money back and then after people started leaving the theatre this woman in a full opera costume got up from behind a chair and sang an aria while simulating sex with the tin whistle guy.

And then everyone went for beers.

You've just got to love the theatre sometimes.

GRRR

Usually, and I think this is maybe part of why I like to write, I really love people. Or, I love listening to them and watching them and working out what makes them like they are. Sometimes, if someone is being a jerk on the train or acting like a princess in a cafe, I'm quite interested in watching everything play itself out. Even if they're being rude to me. It often doesn't annoy me, or whatever. It kind of fascinates me and I stop whatever I'm doing (including having a conversation) and instantly cling like a sea creature to the little personality performance that's going on within ear shot.

But then, sometimes, people just thoroughly, comprehensively, overwhelmingly bother me. And what bothers me most about people who bother me is that they're bothering me at all, because I know (from my eavesdropping work) that people are just a complex mix of ego and emotion and doubt and self-conscious, conflicted, angry confusion about the rest of the world.

As a writer, I know this, and I also know that any biases, weaknesses or peculiarities in my own character are exactly the elements that lead me to respond to people the way I do, and so my own anger or annoyance at other people is actually more to do with me than to do with them.

But MAN some people shit me. Usually it's people like the guy who was at my gym today, who was a bully. Usually it's bullies. Bullies or people who are unfair or people who are idiots pretending they're better than you, or they know more than you. Pulling rank, essentially. I don't think I could have been in the army.

Anyway. Guy at gym today, size of a house, enormous and sweaty and lifting heavy weights with a theatrical gusto not entirely necessary in the Council-run gym full of grey-haired people with "FIT FOR LIFE" t-shirts, and people like me wearing baggie trackies and runners they've had since year eleven. Anyway, so I'm doing this weight machine thing, and I slowly rest the weight to readjust my grip, and suddenly there's a huge sweaty fist on the machine in front of me, and I can hear someone speaking to me. I take my earphones off and look up this enormous body at this huge purple head saying, "I'll just push in here between sets".

He wanted to get on the machine. The machine I was on! I was so astonished that I said okay, and I got up. I thought maybe there was a rule. Then I thought about how maybe there were also rules that bullies with purple heads are not allowed to leave their weights lying around on the ground (as per the sign on the wall that says DO NOT EVER LEAVE WEIGHTS ON GROUND) and other rules that the purple-headed are not allowed to leave their lurid green and yellow sweaty beach towels all over the equipment while they steal other people's machines from under them. I thought about how maybe there was some kind of sub-rule about physical intimidation and general pig-headed arrogance. Then, just like that, I was furious.

So I got more furious. A woman pulled out in front of me in a red sports car because she knew I would slow down because I was in a Ford Laser. I looked horrified and she did a schoolyard what-are-you-going-to-do-about-it face, and I shouted into the hot Ford Laser for the next couple of hundred metres, eventually muttering myself into a silence as I parked my car.

I parked my car out the front of my house, which at the moment has a sign on it that says it's for sale. It's not for sale, the house out the back is for sale, but people are confused, and other people are wandering down the side of our house checking it out. The house out the back is built right behind our house and has a clear view of our living room and our backyard. I mentioned this to "James" - the real estate agent - who told me that it wasn't true and that in fact you couldn't see my house. I told him you could see my house from the living room. He said, "Oh yes, but not the bedroom".

I said, yes you can. If you open the window in the bedroom upstairs you can see right into my house.

He said you can't open the window.

I said you can.

He said you can't.

I said I just did.

He said I think you might be mistaken.

I said, what, about whether or not I opened a window?

He said, excuse me. He spoke to someone else. It was a woman with an American accent. She wondered if they'd had many people through the house today. James said not many. She said that's interesting. That might be because the open for inspection time listed in the newspaper is half an hour early.

He said, no it isn't.

She said, yes it is.

He said no it isn't.

She showed him the newspaper.

He cleared his throat.

She described the crowd that gathered at the advertised time. She used the words "angry mob".

I liked her.

I'm thinking maybe I stay inside this evening. A wanker ratio of 3:1 never bodes terribly well.

JUDGE THIS

This has been my timetable this week:

Monday: work at Victoria Law Foundation, go out in evening to Arts Law Week event entitled "You Be The Judge," which is all about sentencing laws and which is attended by members of the public with various agendas and which makes me think it should be compulsory for people in law schools to sit through such discussions (ie discussions about what happens to the offenders the lawyers help convict, and what the public thinks of the legal system). Also very interesting to see the people who run the legal system defend it (very impressively in this case).

Tuesday: boring.

Wednesday: Victoria Law Foundation in the afternoon (after a most unproductive morning in which it was proposed by me that I get up early, go to gym and get lots of work done, but which was overruled by me so that I did virtually nothing, got cross with myself and went to work). After work, went to a play reading for Arts Law Week, which happened to star everyone's TV favourite Bud Tingwell, and... my sister. Bud was good I guess, but he was clearly threatened by the stage-stealing performance of my sister, who had only two lines (both of them in the first half) and who was as excited as I was by the fact that the catering at interval was provided by the CWA.

Thursday: Unproductive morning followed by self-induced fury (see Wednesday). Afternoon: go to Victoria Law Foundation, get wig and gown in order to dress as judge and stand in street at seven thirty Friday morning advertising law week because haven't found anyone else to do it, make phone calls, rush out. Go to eye doctor, who renders me temporarily visually impaired so that cannot read either of the two books I am reading (breaching the one book rule), and cannot even guess at the sudoko, which Stewart smugly completes while I sit by and tell him my pupils are being diluted. ("With what?" he asks). Specialist tells me he's never seen healthier eyes in his life, sees me for five minutes, charges me nearly two hundred dollars and tells me to wear sunglasses for six hours. After blindly stumbling home to parents' house to return and borrow things, I go to a Centre of Contemporary Photography exhibition, get in the car, go home. Pass out.

Today: Wake up at OBSCENE O'CLOCK (possibly a quarter to). Get ready to spend morning dressed up like judge in front of streams of people getting off train at Flagstaff Station, most of whom I went to Law School with and are in some cases only a decade or so away from being dressed as judges themselves, step outside to find it is DARK and there is a fog so thick you can barely see you sister who you are going to work with because she often gets up this early and thinks nothing of it and in fact is going to gym before work and pilates in her lunch break. Go and stand outside Flagstaff Station. Call out things about law week, not thinking to be quite as hilarious as the other two people working on Parliament Station, who later reveal that their spruiking campaign is based on the phrase: "Law Week - It's Lawsome!" After spruiking, spend rest of day at Law Foundation, drive stuff around Melbourne returning it, get home, go with Rita to musical at Melbourne University (it's called "Working" - should be interesting) then go to drinks, other drinks, other drinks, possible other drinks, and then home. Collapse, pass out etc.

Tomorrow? Production meeting at 9.30am. Possibility of Rita being late and Lorin being later: somewhere in the high 90% range.

SEEING

Today I had my eyes tested. I was seeing a fuzzy shape in my left eye.

I was trying to organise a bunch of people to dress up as judges and promote law week in the street at seven thirty tomorrow morning, and I had to rush in to get my eyes tested and then keep trying to work out who was coming when.

Problem is, when you get your eyes tested for blobby shapes, the people in white suits make your eyes numb. They put this anesthetic eye drop thing in your eye and you have to wear dark glasses and you can't drive a car (so just like a rock star - but imagine a Ford Laser instead of a stretched limo). So anyway, I had to get people to read my text messages, write my emails, and pretty much do everything for the next hour or so. It was nice really.

Except the end result is this: I'm going to dress up like a judge and go and stand out in the middle of King Street in Melbourne tomorrow morning at seven thirty.

Hopefully by then I'll be able to see.

Google Earth

In Penny's show, Kathy Smith Goes to Maths Camp, Kathy Smith talks about finding Horsham on Google Earth (she's a teensy bit of a nerd).

Anyway, so now everyone in my house is sitting around looking up stuff on Google Earth. We've found my old house in Boston, and the place down the road from there where I used to get cheesecake icecream (seriously), and the place where I used to chuck a frisbee with a guy called Jim who I once told a joke to about a war veteran and then turned out his dad was a war veteran and the joke wasn't very funny and that was a bummer because it's the only joke I've ever remembered. We've found Boston College (and the Boston College football field which is the size of some island nations in the Pacific) and the resevoir I used to walk around to get to college every morning. We've found my house in Melbourne. We've found the university and I remembered how I used to play hockey and wondered what's happened to that part of my brain (what does it do now?).

Anyway, now it's getting silly. We tried to Google Earth Paris Hilton's house.

So I've decided I'm going to read some more of my book, Surely You're Joking Mr Feynman, because in his spare time while he was studying at college, he worked out that if a trail of ants came into the cupboard of his room while he was studying, he could circumvent their trail to the cupboard and redirect it back outside, via a pile of sugar, merely by making individual chair lift things for each ant and redirecting them all for an hour, until all the other ants followed. It's got to do with the little trails of acid they leave around the place.

That is what he did in his spare time.

Actually, now that I think about it, he's exactly the kind of person who would spend hours on Google Earth. Possibly not looking up Paris Hilton's house.

In our defence, we were only looking it up because we thought she probably had a pool we could see from the air.

Because that's a good excuse.

people

On the weekend, I was an extra in Robin's film, which was filming at Bar Open in Fitzroy. It was a lovely set, and making stuff is so much fun - all these people doing all these little things which end up making a movie. Pretty cool. On the way there, I was walking down Brunswick Street when I saw someone ahead of me, walking along, bent over a walking frame on wheels.

I thought, wow, he's kind of young to be on a walking frame.

Then I realised he was carrying beers. Down Brunswick Street. Carefully. On a Saturday. Lots of beers.

I told my grandma, who has a fame of her own, and she smiled. "Good on him", she said, "they're very handy, these things".

Now I wonder what my grandma gets up to when I'm not visiting her on the weekends.

In other news, I looked through the photos from the screening the other night, and they certainly are interesting. Lots of empty wine glasses, and a rather interesting shot of me and Rita which, given it happened on tour, shall stay on tour forever more.

They'll be up soon. We're getting there.

Reading, watching, snorty laughing

I'm frankly still coming down from the screening of the film the other night, which was right up there with the most exciting moments Standing There Productions has had this year (squeezing in just above the time I cleaned my room so comprehensively that I could see my desk for a whole day and a half). But in other news:

Nearly finished Surely You're Joking Mr Feynman, which is getting really juicy now that his love of science has driven him to work on a little old thing called the nuclear bomb. But I must confess that I broke the rule of never dallying from one book, and I read two articles about Alan Bennett (in The New Yorker and the New York Review of Books) which means that I now feel more or less entitled to discuss him as if we've been acquaintances for years. When David Lodge, in the NYRB article, started criticising Bennett's diary entry of September 11, I found myself thinking, "Oh dear, David, your problem is, you just don't understand Alan". It's just like when I was watching the winter Olympics and I actually called out furiously in my own loungeroom, "Oh I can't believe she thought she could do that during a 360 turn". Massive expert, me.

Today I've been working in the Victoria Law Foundation, trying to help organise Law Week. I was trying to find some funny quotes or jokes about law. Problem was, they had to NOT be offensive to lawyers, which of course left me with things that sound like bumper stickers. "Old lawyers never die, they just lose their appeal" etc.

So anyway, thankfully along the way I found the following statements from the snorty-laugh-inducing Dave Barry (go here) who is also the man who established the rule that you should never comment on a woman's pregnancy until you actually see a baby coming out of her (in case she has put on weight, rather than become pregnant). Anyway, here's Dave:

"Karate is a form of martial arts in which people who have had years and years of training can, using only their hands and feet, make some of the worst movies in the history of the world".

Also:

"Dogs feel very strongly that they should always go with you in the car, in case the need should arise for them to bark violently at nothing right in your ear"

Finally, I greatly enjoy the following as a sage commentary on American party politics:

"The Democrats seem to be basically nicer people, but they have demonstrated time and again that they have the management skills of celery. They're the kind of people who'd stop to help you change a flat, but would somehow manage to set your car on fire. I would be reluctant to entrust them with a Cuisinart, let alone the economy. The Republicans, on the other hand, would know how to fix your tire, but they wouldn't bother to stop because they'd want to be on time for Ugly Pants Night at the country club".

... If you want to genuinely laugh as well as quite inexplicably wanting all of a sudden to watch the entire of series one of 24, go to his blog entries on TV. Most amusing.

Did I mention we had fun at the screening? Pictures up soon.

Thanks

Dear the tallest guy in the world,

Congratulations on getting into the Guiness Book of World Records and everything. I guess that must be pretty exciting in terms of things to tell people at dinner parties.

Does it necessarily mean, however, that when you go to a Whitlams gig you absolutely have to stand directly in front of me?

When you push past everyone, just as the gig is really warming up, and tread on their feet so you can see Tim Friedman better, must you do it while wearing a hat?

Do you have to jerk your head unpredictably and drink your huge large-man-beer right in front of me, deliberately blocking my way when I try to get past - back to the place I was in before - so that I start to hate everything about you, including the jumper you are wearing, which in happier circumstances I may have found comforting, but which now I am convinced was purchased in a boutique shop down a back lane for more than the cost of the wool, the sheep that made the wool, and the farm that reared the sheep that made the wool?

What I resent the most about you is the back of your head. It betrays your arrogance and your insensitivity: it's not looking - it's not seeing - it's not even listening to the music. It's just holding your head together like a bulldog clip.

The couple next to me suggest that I should take your hat off and hurl it backwards to the bar so you would have to trawl through the crowd (excuse me, excuse me, sorry, excuse me) and fetch it back to cover your pin head. But you're a big bloke and I'm a small woman and you realise that just as much as I do, which is why I drop my chewing gum on your vintage converse shoes and do a little twisty thing with my foot when I pretend to accidentally stumble onto you on my way out.

You'll also find that you have a new entry in the Guiness Book of World Records, too. Same category, though. "World's Largest..."

So, congratulations. I guess I'll see you at the next gig I go to. Before then, I'm going to befriend your colleague, the World's Strongest Man, who (I predict) will not enjoy prats in expensive jumpers and will take whatever action he deems fit in the circumstances to remove the back of your head to some other place, where I am not.

(And yes, everyone, I am getting older. And yes I did notice that The Corner won't allow smoking in the venue anymore. I obviously whole-heartedly approve of that decision, and did briefly consider writing a letter to add to what I hoped was a groundswell of public support. I also wondered why they don't serve cups of tea at the venue, whether they were mandated under health and safety regulations to sell earplugs, and why on earth they have to start gigs so late when clearly we all need to be in bed soon because the morning is the best part of the day).

Our screening

Last night was the cast and crew screening of our film, I Could Be Anybody. We cheated and invited a rowdy bunch of friends and supporters as well. It was a brilliant night, with lots of drinkies and (it gets a bit gourmet here) iced vo vos. Seriously. Are we not the PEAK of cuisine?

There were three screenings of the film, due to the fact that there were too many bums and not enough seats, so we got to witness various different audience reactions to a film previously only ever watched by two people at a time (usually the same two people). Until yesterday, I Could Be Anybody had only been watched in its finished form by Rita, me, Stew, the DVD angels at Eskimo Productions, targeted family members, and my housemates. Prior to that, in its more raw form, it had been watched by half a dozen other people, from Fez the sound magician to Marcus the colour-fiddling guy. So in a sense, this was the "outing" of our short film.

The screening was at a gorgeous little theatrette called the Erwin Rado cinema (see here) and thanks to everyone who turned up, helped out, and assisted in eradicating our surplus of tick tock biscuits, iced vo vos, and snake lollies.

Photos will be up on our site just as soon as we've broken into the producer's car (where her keys are currently secured), located the camera, re-acquired basic motor skills, and managed to get home without hurting ourselves.

Cast and crew screening

Our cast and crew screening is tonight.

Lots of people are coming. Lots. Many. More than two.

Hold me.

Size

So tomorrow night is our cast and crew screening in Fitzroy. I'm reminded again of how bizarre my life is when I find myself asking questions using words I don't understand to people I barely know, the answers to which could well determine what it is people actually see when they come to see our film.

Did you know, for instance, that there are heaps of different ways to watch a film on a TV? There are heaps of different DVD players and heaps of different sorts of TVs and projectors and there are things called "modes" and "formats" and WHY WASN'T ALL THIS SORTED OUT IN A MEETING SOMETIME IN THE LATE EIGHTIES?

I was watching our film today in my loungeroom when it ocurred to me that I must have lost quite a lot of weight since I was in that film. I was thinking, "Hang on, is this a movie about a fat girl? Is this a comment on the representation of women in the media?" I mean, I was reeeeally wide. Then (with considerable relief) I realised I was in "wide" mode.

Mental note: remember not to put film in wide mode tomorrow night. Actors may take offence.

Reading update: Sydney Writers' Festival fast approaching and I'm a fraction (geddit?) of the way through Surely You're Joking Mr. Feynman, which is a book full of deliciously outdated expressions and vast overuse of the exclamation mark. It's also fascinating because it's about a guy who treats every moment in life as an opportunity for an experiment (social or scientific). Including dreams. He decides he wants to work out what dreams are like, so in his own dreams he sits there going, "ah, this bit of my dream is clever. See what my subconscious is doing there? That's most intriguing".

This is my favourite bit so far, which is an aside during a description of the kinds of things he would argue with fellow students about at university:

"I often had this problem of demonstrating to these fellas something that they didn't believe - like the time we got into an argument as to whether urine just ran out of you by gravity, and I had to demonstrate that that wasn't the case by showing them that you can pee standing on your head".

Of course you did. You had to.

Here's to nerds.

Where would we be without them?

Us. Where would you be without us?

Movies

Last night I saw Inside Man, the Spike Lee film. For an Anthony Lane review, see here. It's the first non-live entertainment I've seen since Kokoda, which felt live because Simon was in it. So it was good to just sit there and imbibe. Never thought I'd be grateful to be sitting in front of an American movie that I don't have to think too hard about, but I was definitely grateful that the people in the film didn't know they were playing to an audience of two.

Anyway, I have to get on with it. I've had all day to get further through my list of "things that need to be done by Thursday night's film screening". So far, I've emailed a lot of people with various different problems, I've panicked about how we're going to seat ninety-five RSVPd guests into a sixty seat theatre, and I've remained fairly consistently informed on the situation of the miners in Tasmania who have managed to get out of a small cage under ground after two weeks and are now going to a friend's funeral. Just in case I thought any of the above was of any import whatsoever.

Small section of someone else's life

So today I was getting things ready for the cast and crew screening we're having on Thursday night, for our film, I Could Be Anybody. I'm halfway through my list of things that need to be done by then, so the glass is half empty, or full, or something.

Anyway, I decided that I needed to go to gym, even just for half an hour, even just because if I don't it will become a metaphor for life merging into work. So I did. And there were these two teenage girls doing weights together. One of them said to the other, "Did you see that guy upstairs in the cardio room?"

The other one said, "No. Why? Was he cute?"

"Yes"

"Would I think he was cute?"

"No"

"Nya. Then who cares?"

That reminded me of these drama games we used to play. You had to establish your status somehow. One day we worked out that in Australia, laid-back can be the most powerful position you can take.

Just prior to that, I'd been parking my car in Collingwood (dropping something off at the awesome DVD place, Eskimo Productions) and there was this guy taking the front off his terrace house. He was sweating and covered in plaster and paint. He heard me pulling into the car park out the front of his place and he turned around. His T-shirt said, "information is power". The car in his driveway was an old green ford with a bumper sticker on it that said, "my other car is the met".

For those of you not living in Melbourne, that means "my other car is the state-owned public transport system before it was privitised".

So anyway I got out of the car and there was a cat hanging around the back wheel. I said hello to the cat who then did what all cats like to do when you say hello to them, which is get under your feet.

"Come on Nietzsche", said the information is power guy, "leave people alone".

... sometimes it just writes itself doesn't it?

The Comedown

Today is the first Sunday for four weeks that I haven't had to cram everything in before a seven thirty show. It's the first day of no comedy festival shows whatsoever.

So I got up at two this afternoon, after a rather colourful night at the festival club, and I thought very seriously about getting some of the work done that Rita and I had scheduled in for Sunday. Then I got dressed in what clothes I could find that weren't held together by cigarette smoke and rain (it's been a very healthy couple of weeks) and I went for a walk. Which was quite adventurous, considering the other option was staying in bed.

In other news, Sammy J, the guy who plays the Young Liberal in I Could Be Anybody, was awarded Best Newcomer last night at the comedy festival, which is enormously exciting and he should be sent to the congratulatorium (along with Tim Stitz, who is already there. They can have cups of tea together by the fire and talk about what to do next).

Also, I went to the Victorian College of the Arts graduation ceremony the other night. I was outraged that I had to pay thirty dollars to go and watch someone walk up on stage and collect a piece of paper. I would now like to retract that outrage. It was quite brilliant, with bits of film, music, dance, and performing that really made me wonder (once again) what life would have been like for me if I'd gone to art school.

Ben Hjorth, who played Oliver in our play, People Watching, led the most astonishing chant from the back of Hamer Hall in Melbourne. The people who did Men of Steel at the comedy festival performed some of their hilarious food-fight puppet comedy (a genre consisting, I should think, only of them) and the kids from the school of dance made me wonder what the hell I'm doing with my body (walking? sitting around? Pathetic!). Then, hours into the ceremony, a shambles of musicians appeared onto the stage and played some awe-inspiring stuff (and I'm leaving out the actors and the film makers because I'm far more interested in watching things I don't know anything about). So there. Pretty excellent stuff. Stew graduated (and surprised everyone a little when he took a polariod of the actual moment he shook hands with the Vice Chancellor) and then my friend Simon graduated, as did our 1st AD from I Could Be Anybody, Eva Tandy (who was whooped with considerable gusto by the rather reserved audience). I'm very lucky to know these people.

Anyway, I have to go and fall asleep over my new book, Surely You're Joking Mr Feynman. Yay for learning things from other people.

Stupid

There are some Ani Difranco lyrics that go like this:

They say goldfish
Have no memory
I guess their lives are much like mine
And the little plastic castle
Is a surprise every time

... which is not necessarily a song about how bad my memory is, but it is yet to be conclusively determined that it isn't a song about how bad my memory is.

Why do I forget things? Why have I carried a letter, hand-written, addressed and with a stamp on the envelope, everywhere I've been since February? Why haven't I posted it? It's a nice letter, it talks about my plans for the year, about the weather being too hot and about the Christmas dinner starting to wear off.

Why did I carefully fill out the Women's Health Survey I get sent every couple of years, and then leave it on my desk for four months? Why go to the trouble of filling in all the little boxes (DEFINITELY, LESS DEFINITE, NOT SURE, PROBABLY NOT, NEVER) and then leave those medically significant answers lying face down against an old program for the Astor Theatre and a postcard from someone in Noosa?

I don't know why I do these things. Sometimes I think I should do yoga and sudokus and cryptic crosswords and low impact weight training so my mind becomes a steel trap for facts and bits of information like where I'm actually going and what I'm doing on the 96 tram when in fact the plan was for me to get on the 86 tram and pick up my car and drive it home.

Which is of course why I find myself asking all these questions. I find it deeply depressing that I can't even remember the correct procedure for getting myself home of an evening. Tonight, I was supposed to go to the car. I forgot about the car and went home. The reason for this? Well, because I was distracted, of course. Why? Because I was doing a sudoku so my mind would be sharper and I wouldn't forget things.

Don't you think that's cruel?

Comedy and War Films

Off to the comedy festival again tonight and it does rather make me wonder what the hell I'm going to do when this thing finishes. For those of you not from Melbourne, there is a month long festival called the Melbourne International Comedy Festival, which is cruelly robbing me of any sleep and which is responsible for a higher than usual incidence of the flu for this time of year.

Kathy Smith Goes To Maths Camp
was reviewed yesterday in the online UK Chortle, here.

See also here, which as you know is my favourite newspaper.

Also, I received an Alan Bennett DVD in the mail today, which was a present from myself. God I'm ace.

Also saw Kokoda on the weekend, a film starring our friend Simon Stone who was pretty much unrecognisable (ie he was wearing shorts) and who I really did not want to see dying in a tent. I then met up with him about ten minutes later at the comedy festival and was most relieved to see he wasn't wearing army issue shorts, he wasn't covered in mud, and he appeared not be bleeding to death.

The movie is definitely worth seeing. Although I missed a lot of it due to the fact that my hands were covering my face and I was muttering "Simon's going to die".

Thankfully, I can at least give away the real life ending: Simon doesn't die. He comes to the comedy festival with me and Stewart and Katie-Jean and we go to dinner in the city and the meal takes an hour and ten minutes to arrive so I complain to the staff and we get the entire meal plus drinks for free.

Yay for me being the hero of the story. Who knew Kokoda had such a modern twist at the end?

On being well read

So my book reading project is going well.

Last night I finished the enormous tome that is Alan Bennett's Untold Stories, which (nerdishly) I read from cover to cover as though I was reading a novel. It's really fragments from his diary and stories about his life, cobbled together when he thought (and his doctors thought) he was probably dying.

One of the best things I discovered about him was the stance he took in relation to Oxford University, the university he attended and apparently loved. He was, however, horrified when they set up "The Rupert Murdoch Chair in Communications". When asked to attend a charity event, and later to accept an honorary degree at the university, Bennett wrote back to them and suggested "that if the university thinks it's appropriate to take Rupert Murdoch's money, perhaps they ought to approach Sadam Hussein to found a chair in peace studies".

I wish I could be offered lots of important-sounding honours so that I could wittily and pointedly turn them down.

So that's two books (one play and one autobiography) as well as two essays by Cooke and now almost half of an extract from a James Kelman book (yes I know, extracts shouldn't count, but this is the information age so I'm doing well to even maintained my concentration throughout this paragraph. I bet you skimmed).

You did so.

This is My Review

I'm grouchy today.

Check out this review by Helen Razer in the online version of The Age, or as we here have come to call it, The Dead Horse.

The show she reviews is called I Know What You Did Last Monday. I haven't seen the show and I don't know any of the people in it, but what Helen Razer hysterically raves about here is that these are first time performers who have misjudged what comedy is and who look nervous and unsure of themselves.

So the only newspaper allowed to report on the comedy festival has kicked the teeth out of some twelve year olds in the playground. Meanwhile, if you'd like to read eight hundred boring quotes about the nature of comedy, go your hardest. Also, lots of four star reviews of a bunch of comedians from America and Australians with their own TV shows.

Where is the analysis of the pumped up misogynists I've seen at this festival doing rape jokes and poof jokes and being laughed at because they're confident and they got four stars in The Dead Horse and the audience doesn't want to feel uncool...?

At the comedy festival, they announced the nominations for a couple of awards the other night.

The two awards they announced were The Barry Award and The Golden Gibbo. The Barry is the official comedy festival award for best show.

This is the funniest thing in the festival. It's positively Kafkaesque. Check it out: the award for best show in the comedy festival is judged by a group of people who do not go to all the shows in the comedy festival.

That's how it works. Say you're doing a show in the festival, and all you want is a positive review. If you get a positive review, you get what's called "a vibe". If you've got "a vibe", then the judges for the Barry Award get along to your show and decide whether or not to nominate you for an award.

Isn't that hilarious? Imagine pretending that's a merit-based decision. "I'm the teacher who will be teaching this class, but only the popular kids will actually be graded".

So anyway, you ready for a shock? Not one woman nominated for The Barry Award. Huge surprise - you could have knocked me over with a cock joke.

The Golden Gibbo is great, recognises really different stuff.

It would be nice, though, if the mainstream award, The Barry, recognised (say) Judith Lucy, whose apparently brilliant and brave show about working in commercial radio, I Failed, is selling out every night. Popular, mainstream, funny... but not shortlisted.

If all this was a play, it would appear dreadfully over-written, really repetitive, and not very funny at all. What a shame.