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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