Smith Westerns

It’s a strange experience being twenty. You figure out where to put your arms when you walk. You start to grow even more hair in places where there wasn’t any before (here we come, five o clock shadow). You become more confident in yourself, a couple of years removed from the fishbowl entrapment that is high school.

On the downside, you can’t rely on the stereotypes of teenagers for excuses anymore; people start to expect things of you. You get asked all the big questions:

-          What are you going to do with your life?

-          Are you going to move out?

-          Are you going to eat the rest of that donut?

One other thing that also happens, but isn’t really talked about all that much, is that your peers start to achieve. Friends start releasing albums of original music. University colleagues convert scholarships into lucrative career opportunities.  Former classmates pop up on “The Morning Show” on Channel 7 (yes, this happened to me last year). The point is, ambitions and dreams start to be realised- those delusions of grandeur teens hold, the ones you and your friends have cynically (and hypocritically) derided for what seems like an aeon, may turn out to be not all that delusional.

The so-called “big picture” starts to paint itself. Those to which this does not happen suffer from a quarter-life crisis as they struggle to reconcile their lack of a defined path with the looming need to gain some sense of responsibility. Those to which this does happen unfortunately also suffer from a crisis stemming from the uncertainty they feel in making these key decisions only two years after they were legally allowed to sip a glass of red and contemplate them. Envy for the other holds domain in each collective, and it bears repeating that being twenty is indeed a strange experience.

Of course, there are exceptions to every rule, and with my flimsy premise obviously constituting a rule, it is reasonable to assume some people do not have to suffer through this draining rite of passage. One of these people would be Cullen Omori. Since it is relatively unlikely that you know who Omori is, I’ll quickly bring you up to speed. He is the lead singer and frontman of the pop/synth/glam/rock band Smith Westerns. The Smith Westerns released their sophomore record “Dye It Blonde” earlier this year, an album that revolves around the themes of youth, love and partying. These are hardly groundbreaking areas for modern music to access but they are unquestionably fertile, and the Smith Westerns’ surprisingly mature and complex songwriting creates, in my humble opinion, the best album of 2011 so far.

The most instantaneously notable thing about the Smith Westerns is how young they are. Omori is 21, I think; the rest of the band is only either 19 or 20 years of age, despite them having been together for a few years now. These guys are making music presumably that they and hopefully other people their age will enjoy and relate to the most (which is probably why I’m biased towards them). Smartly, it focuses on the exuberant lifestyle being a twenty year old can present, rather than the impending choices we all have to make about such lifestyles. And this is because they can afford to; they’re just a few dudes living out their dream, playing music for a job and travelling the world. Though admittedly Omori does seem to realise that by doing so, they are tempting fate and possibly just pushing back the inevitable; in one interview, he tells the reporter of how he wants so badly for the Smith Westerns to succeed, for his greatest fear is to have to go back to school and join the rat race.

Of course, this all comes back to me. The way that I see it, I have two choices when it comes to the Smith Westerns’ music: either reject it as youthful positivity emblematic of the Facebook generation’s penchant for whitewashing life, or embrace it.

I think I’ll go with the latter. They seem like guys my band could get along with on a tour.

Top Five One-off Seinfeld Characters

Note: These new entries can be impersonal and stiffly written. I apologise for this.

5: Marlene (Episode: “The Ex-Girlfriend”): Marlene is a Southern beauty who, after George breaks up with her, uses her powers of persuasion to seduce Jerry. He plans to break up with her but is bested when she dumps him after seeing him perform comedy. “I can’t be with someone if I don’t respect what they do,” she tells him, to which Jerry indignantly replies, “You’re a cashier!”

4: Jimmy (Episode: The Jimmy): A character who only refers to himself in the third person, Jimmy’s offensive trait rubs off on George before slipping on some water and severely injuring his leg (“Jimmy’s got a compound fracture!”). This episode is also notable for finally crossing the line of having a character believe that Kramer is mentally handicapped.

3: Alton Benes (Episode: The Jacket): Elaine’s intimidating novelist father steals the show in an episode where the focus is firmly on Jerry’s candy-striped jacket. Lawrence Tierney, who played Alton Benes, was reportedly a terrifying man off-screen as well, at one point mimicking the famous Psycho shower scene with Seinfeld as his victim. Needless to say, he was never asked back.

2: Sharon the NYU reporter (Episode: The Outing): A female reporter who interviews Jerry and mistakes his symbiotic relationship with George for a sexual one. It’s not so much that she is a memorable character herself; it’s that her actions prompted one of Seinfeld’s most memorable quotes: “Not that there’s anything wrong with that.”

1: Frank Costanza’s Lawyer (Episode: The Chinese Woman): Co-creator and comedic genius Larry David didn’t often appear on camera in Seinfeld, but his most memorable role was as George’s dad’s cape-wearing lawyer. The power of the cape is such that he manages to talk a woman down from jumping off a bridge.

Beef

I’ve got a beef with beef. It is a lame but true conceit, a premise that is focused in particular on the indeterminate portions cooked up by fast food joints. As the price of most meats continually rises, evil empires such as McDonald’s and Hungry Jack’s taunt and tempt us by providing subpar products at subpar prices. In a display of radicalism, these corporations have fought against the prevailing inflationary behaviour of meat prices and now offer burgers for less than a gold coin each. (Of course, they can afford to do this after they increased the price of their cookies from 30 cents to a criminally high $1, a price determined after a Google search which also yielded a page claiming, “McDonald’s cookies with mustard: it’s almost double the price, but totally worthwhile”.)

The typical student’s diet is roughly established based on three key aspects: value for money (which accounts for 50% of the decision’s weighting), trendiness (30%), and taste (20%). Less than three years ago, McDonald’s presented Australia with a burger that contained two beef patties and one slice of plastic cheese. Inexplicably, this so-called “McDouble” is 15 cents cheaper than a regular cheeseburger, providing this consumer with such great value that it overwhelms any moral qualms I hold after reading “Fast Food Nation”. Had I lived in close proximity to a McDonald’s restaurant, I would most likely be morbidly obese by now given my habitual, wanton devouring of mountains of foodstuffs after a night out. Luckily the nearest Mickey D’s is not in my suburb, and a lifetime of heart issues was avoided.

That is, until Hungry Jack’s introduced a 95 cent cheeseburger.

95 cents is, simply put, an outrageous price for a burger. Never mind how it probably only costs them a fifth of this to make the damn thing; just consider how a single bottle of water can set you back $2.85, a price that is coincidentally the cost of three cheeseburgers. I found this out the hard way when I ordered four of them one time, only to be told by the girl serving me that three was the maximum amount one customer could order.

So thanks, McDonald’s and Hungry Jack’s, for not only making my future self terribly gluttonous and unhealthy, but for also embarrassing me in front of your other patrons. Thanks for making me feel like I was Homer Simpson, and you were the All You Can Eat seafood restaurant.

Some stuff I’ve been working on

These are a couple of the things I’ve written lately for the university newspaper. My editor told me the second one was “really good, just about 1000 words too long”. The first one he has not commented on yet, but if he possesses any semblance of sanity he will put it in his rubbish bin.

I think I might update this blog more regularly since I now plan on writing things that I don’t care if people view or not. If you enjoy them, then you are welcome to compliment me whenever we run into each other. If you detest them, then I challenge you to a duel.

First one’s about Woody Allen’s Narcissus complex (sort of), second one’s about the Big Day Out.

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From writing jokes for a living ever since he could fix his own glasses to making films celebrating, and celebrated by, incredible cities such as New York, Woody Allen has remained one of society’s most influential comedians and filmmakers. His neurotic, self-analytical persona has been appropriated by and influenced multitudes of people including Larry David, Jerry Seinfeld and, more recently, Michael Cera. Woody Allen has lived a pretty wonderful life.

It’s a pity he’s been too self-absorbed to appreciate it.

Allen’s first real job was as a script writer. At the age of 19, his precocious talents were on display in The Ed Sullivan Show and The Tonight Show, amongst other things. Over the next twenty years he tried his hand (and succeeded) at a variety of roles including stand-up comedian, playwright and maker of Marx Brothers-inspired comedies. It wasn’t until he was 42 that his magnum opus Annie Hall was released, its inventive structure incorporating dream sequences, fourth wall breaking, and of course his intellectual, nervy side. Annie Hall purported to be fiction, though parallels between the main character and the real Woody Allen are clear and distinct. The movie highlighted Allen’s agoraphobic nature, his paradoxical feelings towards fame, and concerns regarding his being Jewish. Annie Hall, not surprisingly, was originally titled Anhedonia, a Greek word signifying the inability to experience pleasure.

Woody Allen has since made countless movies; some were good, some were not so good, and some were incredibly good. His standing as one of the premier creative minds in cinema is somewhat blunted, though, by his reluctance to really even admit this. In an NYC Round Table interview, Allen claims “I feel like I’ve influenced nobody. I would be very surprised if my picture was up on someone’s wall.” For a man of his stature to make this assertion is patently ridiculous; it is a statement that goes far and beyond humility, and demonstrates the lack of import he places on his own work. Woody Allen, through an estimated thirty years of psychoanalysis, has convinced himself that his impact on culture is negligible and no more than that of any ordinary man. And that is just about the most self-absorbed thing anyone could do.

Also, he had an affair with and married his wife’s daughter. That’s fucked up.

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Last year, the Economist Intelligence Unit declared Melbourne to be the best city in the world to live in. Obviously this study does not take into account things such as beaches, sunlight, and nonchalance towards AFL, and can be safely discarded as bullshit. However, Melbourne does have a reputation for being an arts hotbed that provides excellent live music. With this in mind, I made my maiden voyage to the city for the Big Day Out and kept a running diary of the day for your (or more likely my) personal enjoyment.

11:55- I arrive via train at Flemington Racecourse, the venue for BDO 2011. Rumours circulate that temperatures will top 40 degrees, a prediction that will prove true mid-afternoon. I am here with four friends, two male and two female. The girls split from us due to irreconcilable music taste; when we meet up again afterwards, they decree Airbourne to be “actually pretty good”, immediately validating this decision.

12:30- Having lathered ourselves in sunscreen, we venture over to the main stage where Little Red plays their bogan-pleasing anthem “Rock It”. Admittedly I do like this song as well, but I’m from Gosford, so draw your own conclusions.

1:00- Now this is just awkward. There are no acts I particularly want to watch until 2:10 (Lupe Fiasco), so I have well over an hour to basically kill. I catch a song or two of this band and that, grab an overpriced, overcooked burger, and generally do nothing of importance or worthy of column space. Let’s fast forward a bit.

3:10- Despite performing in clear view of an obdurately intense sun and probably picking up some melanoma points for doing so, Lupe Fiasco delivers one of the more energetic shows I can remember. His impressive vertical leap is out for display when he almost kicks a guitarist in the head, causing me to ponder if he could be the first great rapper to attain their version of nirvana and become a professional basketball player. Incidentally, the reverse is true for already professional basketball players; in my worship of this sport, I have noticed an incredible level of respect existing between the two fraternities.

4:00- Are Die Antwoord an actual band, or are they full of shit? Are they a Kaufmanesque extended joke who, much like Spinal Tap, have fucked up everything ironic about enjoying them by being real? The answers to these questions elude me even after having seen them perform. At one point, MC Ninja goes into concurrent self-congratulatory mode, rapping “This is like the coolest song I ever heard in my whole life”, causing a good number of (awkward geek nickname alert) meta-heads to spontaneously combust.

In a show that including much crotch thrusting and ass-slapping, easily the most misguided attempt at confirming one’s sexuality came when Ninja disrobed of his white jumpsuit to reveal a pair of Spongebob Squarepants underwear, from the front of which protruded a giant phallic-shaped microphone, allowing him to autofellate literally (in addition to the metaphorical nature their music provided).

5:15- Sometimes great things happen when you least expect them. With that banal cliché out of the way, I can explain how the most transcendent moment of my Melbourne Big Day Out experience happened. Suffering from a centralized form of wanderlust, I chanced upon a small but psychedelically beautiful place titled Lilyworld, where the stage designers had evidently been under the influence of ‘shrooms and more while working. On stage was an unassuming American called Andrew W.K., a guy I’d never even heard of before, let alone any of his music. This proved no impediment for, armed with only a keyboard, he implored the audience to make requests for songs, any songs, for him to play. After a couple of well-received and hastily constructed covers, someone asked for the drunken karaoke classic that is Billy Joel’s “Piano Man”. Mr. W.K. claims he has never played this song live before, an assertion I am strongly pessimistic about but whatever. An audience member at the front asks if he can accompany Mr. W.K. on the drums. Unbelievably, he is accepted, and the two of them launch into a stirring, lyrically-misremembered version of the tune. As the first chorus comes to a raucous end, another audience member jumps up onto stage and, I kid you not, perfectly replicates the famous harmonica riff. The audience of two hundred made the noise of a thousand, and an unforgettable moment was had.

Oh, and I saw Crystal Castles. CRAZY!!!!!!

7:00- For roughly the next two hours I stayed in Lilyworld, entranced by the intimate setting and wishing I had gone and checked out Melbourne’s famous music scene instead of frequenting the Crown Casino three times in three days. Mum and Dad, I don’t have a problem; I just like to win money.

First up were Matt and Kim, Brooklyn natives and two of the nicest, happiest musicians I have ever seen. Kim’s ever present smile was juxtaposed nicely against Matt’s unfailing positivity… well not really, but it was kinda refreshing to see them enjoying themselves as much as we did. The highlight of their set proved not to be the insanely infectious, Mars advertising jingle “Daylight”, but rather Kim’s attempt to booty dance whilst standing on the open palms of the crowd.

After a horribly awkward interlude featuring a group of Black Swan-inspired dancers (and one dude wearing dickies), Reggie Watts appeared. Such was the laid-back, accessible nature of Lilyworld that right before he started, myself and a friend were able to get a photograph with the man himself. Watts’ show was a mix of a cappella music, where he generated all the necessary sounds and looped them using some magic musical box, improvised stand-up, and sounds effects worthy of a Foley artist- his impression of a pterodactyl was perfect, despite no one having a clue what a pterodactyl would really sound like.

9:00- We stopped by the main stage for the second half of Iggy Pop’s performance, which to an impartial bystander like myself seemed a bit of a debacle. A couple of minutes into each and every song he would go down off the stage to be glorified by the front row of the crowd, only the camera would constantly lose track of him and have to frantically zoom back and forth in search of him. And did I mention how old he was? He’s one of those guys who seems like they’re in good shape from afar, but close up are a bit of a mess. His skin was akin to that of a formerly fat person, where it is a size too large, only Iggy Pop was never fat- just old.

I also stayed to watch the first half of Rammstein’s show, though purely for its theatre. They were a group of pyromaniacs if I ever saw one, with fire shooting out through a grill at the stage front, flame throwers attached to their mouths so they could breathe fire and play guitar simultaneously- hell, they even got an audience member (presumably a plant) and lit him on fire!

Then it was off to see LCD Soundsystem on their farewell tour of Australia. A strangely small crowd was present but it did not deter frontman James Murphy and his fantastic voice. The highlight of the set was undoubtedly the anthemic “All My Friends”, a song so great even Pitchfork loves it.

11:00- Nick Cave is one of those legendary Australian musicians who you just have to see live, if only to say that you have seen him. Now I can saw I’ve seen him.

An excellent day of music ended lamely with M.I.A., the only performer scheduled for the 10:00 p.m. timeslot, dressing up like Kermit the Frog and generally underwhelming an audience waiting for her signature song, “Paper Planes”. This moment took about 45 minutes to come about, before which we were assaulted by a mixture of drums, bass, and no discernible melodies. Thankfully I had expected no less from her- does she rap or sing? I can’t work it out- and my sojourn to Melbourne proved to be a damn good decision.

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And with a cameo from Adrian Grenier…

I haven’t updated this blog in quite a while, primarily because of my willingness to disassociate myself from some of the ideas presented in earlier entries and submarily (that’s definitely not a word) because of my laziness. This is the trend of the last year or so- I write some pithy comment on a sociocultural evolution which may or may not be horribly misinformed, and forget this thing even exists until, apropos nada, I realise I have a website to maintain and a legion of hungry fans to satisfy by filling their minds with my words (and their stomachs with delicious sangers). And so it has come to that time of the month, so to speak, at which I choose a random subject to vent or perhaps understand a bit better.

The randomly generated (but strangely relevant) topic for this entry is…TUMBLR.

Tumblr, a blog/photolog (phlog?) network, came into prominence this year when it filled a gap in the blogging marketplace: the picture blog. Obviously, it is not at all difficult to put a picture into a blog entry on a website such as WordPress (though this particular one you are reading does have a delightful slogan in regards to its lack of literal imagery), but there has not really been a blogging platform that takes the whole “A picture says a thousand words” adage so seriously. As far as I can discern, the Tumblr community believes the average length of a blog entry is 1,010 words, and so writes a 10-word piece acompanying the giant visage of their choice. This is kind of perfect for our culture for two main reasons:

1. The length of an average Tumblr entry is similar to a status update. The picture provides author with a manifestation of said entry’s subject, saving us from having to either research or imagine what it possibly could be talking about; and

2. The added text, coincidentally (and maybe ironically) actually takes away from the subtext of the picture itself.

I’m not sure how much sense these reasons make, and I don’t feel like elaborating on them because I can’t concentrate as there is a television on in the background playing that god damn stupid “The Block”, a show that was cancelled years ago and brought back for absolutely no reason other than to provide another opportunity for Scott Cam to press his claim for the title of Australia’s biggest poser. I believe the guy, once upon a time, worked in construction et al., but to have him presenting television programmes in his King Gees and steel-capped boots is just insane.

The inception of hyperbole

If you enjoy writing, then creating a blog is an extremely fun option. I had forgotten this piece of knowledge up until today, as the last six weeks or so I have been trying to write other stuff (which I’m not going to delve into). This other stuff is kind of taxing on my brain, so to write a blog entry is akin to taking a hot shower after a hard day down in the mines. Actually, it’s not just akin; it’s exactly identical to this. Try it out for yourself and see!

Anyway, I would like to take this opportunity to admonish those of you who are attending Splendour in the Grass. I understand why you are excited about this festival, it being the greatest gathering of musical talent ever aseembled in Australia. But what I don’t understand is the constant social media updates regarding it. (By the way, can we drop the “social media” terminology? Communicating with people through blank text makes me feel more antisocial than ever before.) “Going to need gumboots for Splendour in the Mud!” is a general refrain I’ve seen on Facebook and such. For the life of me, I cannot comprehend why someone would want everyone to know this. If I were going, I don’t see why I would broadcast this thought to a whole network of people. Instead, I would ring/text the people I was going with, let them know all about it, suggest they do the same etc etc. It seems  there is a group of Splendour-going people whose sole aim is to piss off as many of the rest of us about our decision, whether through choice or necessity, to not go to such a festival. For a thing with such an array of indie musicians, it will be watched by a surprisingly high amount of populists.

I suppose I’m being too hard on the Splendour ticket holders, and just making an example of them for what I feel is a major problem with Gen Y. I’m also being anticipatory in my spite, for I know that when they return home, their statuses will be full of things like “THE STROKES ROCKED MY WORLD!!!!” regardless of whether the Strokes did indeed rock their world or not. This is another issue that I take umbrage (umbridege?) with: the hyperbolic nature of social media. No longer do people simply enjoy, dislike, or feel negligible emotion towards things they’ve experienced or seen. Instead, these things are crowned “The greatest ________ ever!” or disparaged unrelentingly. I saw Inception this past week, and half expected it to be the greatest movie ever made. for it appears a lot of Facebook friends feel this way. I found it to be an above average movie, one with flaws and draining expository aspects, but an interesting and thought-provoking film nonetheless. Of course, in this day, that kind of statement would be summarily dismissed, for people want the extremes. It seems that society wants to experience the peaks and troughs of culture, yet doesn’t care for the middling ground inbetween.

And another disjointed session of rambling comes to an abrupt close.

Rules of Attraction

You know, I’ve been reading a lot of Bret Easton Ellis lately because I’m going to see him talk and whatnot in August, and I have to say that he’s really, really good. I am quite impressed that he somehow wrote a book and got it published by the age of 21, and it wasn’t even crap. The thing I admire most about him, though, is his writing’s accesibility. Especially in ‘Less than Zero’, he doesn’t really use a lot of large, hard to understand words placed in there to show off the extent of the writer’s vocabulary; instead, it’s generally just written in a speaking style, as if an average person were retelling the story, which is integral as often it is an ordinary person, and not a writer.