Friday, March 30, 2007



Four jobs I’ve had:
Chocolate sample distributor (best job ever - I spread a lot of happiness)
Library assistant (another fantastic job, where not only did I learn a lot, but I got to help other people to learn as well)
General hand in a fish factory
Barmaid and cocktail waitress (I was d*mn good at this.)

Four movies I can watch over and over:
Shaun of the Dead
Women on the Verge of a Nervous Breakdown
Singin' in the Rain

Four places I have lived:
Brasov, Romania
Columbia, Missouri, USA
Melbourne, Australia
Nelson, New Zealand

Four television shows I love to watch:
Thank God You're Here! - an Australian improv comedy show
Time Team - eccentric, enthusiastic archaeologists excavating ancient sites around Britain, live on camera, over three days
NCIS - of all the procedural investigation shows, this has the best characters
Grand Designs - ardent couples producing incredible dream homes by adapting old castles, digging into hillsides, using rammed earth or reclaimed stone in a cutting edge way that usually goes wildly over budget and takes much longer than planned. It's always rewarding, though, to see visionary people eventually achieve their dreams.

Four places I have been on vacation:
Menorca, Spain
Sao Paulo, Brazil
Rovinj, Croatia
Memphis, Tennessee, USA

Four of my favorite dishes:
A proper Mexican burrito, spicy and satifying
Our famous ancient family recipe chocolate mousse, with single cream
Grandma-at-Deal's coronation chicken and potato salad, followed by Hedgehog Pudding, a huge, coffee-buttercream filled pudding
Casserole with green beans from the garden and the wonderful mashed potatoes made by Grandma-at-Selsdon - what was her secret? More salt? Real butter? Cream? I can still recall the taste, although she passed away many years ago.

Four websites I visit daily:

Four places I would rather be right now:
In a hot bubble bath in a land without water restrictions ... actually, make that a thermal hot pool in Iceland
Back home hugging my family
Dancing at a street party in Mexico
Magically at the top of Mount Taranaki, New Zealand, without the effort of having to, you know, climb the thing.

Four bloggers I am tagging:
No pressure on anyone!

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Tuesday, March 27, 2007


Dancing, reading and meeting a soulmate ... I think ...

Susie and I are aching: last night, reinforced by beer from happy hour at the pub over the road, we did two belly dancing classes in a row. It's interesting to experience how different teachers have different dance styles and teach techniques in slightly different ways. We're learning to perform with gold and silver canes, but not in a Fred Astaire way - no, we go through our usual hip-swivelling routines but with additional points made by swinging the cane. For part of it, we have to carefully balance them horizontally on our heads - it's surprising, you can be stepping and rotating from the shoulders down as long as you hold your head still.

Laptop hassles continue: ex-boyfriend kept the CD burner. Have borrowed Pete's floppy disk drive to enable me to save work, but this is not really the best way of transferring articles. I love sitting with a mug of coffee, looking out at the garden for inspiration and typing away, living out my Carrie Bradshaw fantasy, but it's little things like my lack of technical knowhow that let me down and make me seem unprofessional!

And I found out today that DB's wonderful music editor, Nina Bertok, is leaving the magazine. This is a real shame - not only is she a great writer and interviewer, but right from the first time I walked in to the office, she always made me feel like my opinions were worth hearing. She taught me how to fix a mysteriously paused cassette recorder, the two questions you should NEVER ASK in interviews* and sharpened my writing skills immensely. Sometimes you need a person to come along and say "Hey! You're not bad at this!" to give you the confidence to continue.

A weird sideline - when I knew I'd be going "read dating", I posted a question on the BookCrossing forums asking what book people would bring along, and what they thought I should bring. I've been without internet access for four days and during that time speculation on the thread has reached fever pitch. I'm a little startled at what people assumed must have happened to me:

"We've been speculating as to how it went: I think you took your piratical book, and met up with someone with a"Spanish for Beginners" book, and went off for a game of bowls together. A verrry long game of bowls, with no computers nearby for updating curiousBCers as to your adventures...."

Covert reckons "She encountered a snaggle-toothed gentleman carrying a copy of Memoirs of a Buccaneer, by "Half-Arse" Le Golif (said to have lost a buttock to a cannon ball). The blackguard swept her away to his barque, at anchor in the harbor. They're on their way to the Solomon Islands, winds permitting."

"But in case you took the spy novel instead, "She was cornered by a lantern-jawed gentleman in sun-glasses who was carrying a copy of Point Blank, by an-author-who-shall-remain-unnamed. The blackguard swiftly and unobtrusively clamped an anesthetic-soaked handkerchief over her face and bundled her off to his waiting black sedan, claiming (charmingly) to their hostess that she'd "over-indulged a bit". Their whereabouts are still to be determined."

Incidentally, my article on the WORD writing festival (and read dating) is published here - and I'm amazed that my sympathetic editor let me include the last sentence! I've also written about Ethiopian music in this issue - Dereb Desalegn is a traditional musician and Nicky Bomba is a Melbourne percussionist who works with all kinds of bands.

* "So, how did you guys meet?" and "So, where did you get your band name from?" Nina rightly states that these questions will have been asked of groups hundreds of times before by lazy journalists "which you're not, cos you write for us."

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Thursday, March 08, 2007


New articles

This is depressing - although I love the headline, which I imagine to be spoken in by Kenneth Williams in a voice of weary ennui. Regent's Park is indeed such a beautiful place to be, the Last Year at Marienbad sums it up perfectly. If you ever have to be somewhere though, don't imagine that you can just walk across it. It is much, much huger than you imagine, even if you check a map first. Especially as the sun is setting and the shadows are lengthening - you feel like Alice Through the Looking Glass, walking faster and faster just to stay in the same place.

This, however, fills me with hope for the future. Up the eco-warriors! One of the more memorable books on construction and development that Dad published was entitled "Who Let Twyford Down?" It was all about the battle against the Tories' road-building through a beautiful rural place which I think was also a Site of Special Scientific Interest. Another of his books which I fondly remember was "Getting Rid Of Graffiti". Perhaps it wasn't the most tactful thing to take him and Mum on a tour of Melbourne's back alleys, enthusing about their amazing and vibrant "street art". Some things we'll never see eye to eye on; but I like to think we respect each other's points of view.

I've never felt so madly busy as the last few days, with the Film Festival leading into the Fringe Festival. This morning I did four interviews in a row!

Here are some of the Film Festival reviews: The Chances of the World Changing was really moving, about a lone crusader for turtles. The Socialist, The Architect and the Twisted Tower should be seen by everyone interested in international collaboration, architecture, and over-budget, divisive projects (hello, London Olympics organisers!) I'd love to see the Turning Torso building for real. And it turns out that my always-modest Dad has actually met Santiago Calatrava - a true brush with fame!

In this week's DB, I was happy with my interview with Die Roten Punkte - I've compared my piece with the interviews they gave other publications, and I think it's more interesting than most. Then again, I would say that, wouldn't I? My Fringe mission is to meet them in person and present Otto with an apple juice with gas.

Their punk thrash CD review is here - it felt a little churlish to advise listeners to see them live instead, but it's honestly what I'd recommend if you can only afford one.

By way of contrast, the Nick Murphy album was dreamy gentleness incarnate. If you like that kind of thing.

The Hannah Gadsby interview had to be edited to within an inch of its life. I had a lot of sympathy with her, as we've both done so many completely random jobs. Let me just say that what I ended up describing as her "lewd parody" of a Pam Eyres poem, she actually recited down the phone to me. And I gasped. And laughed. And thought, "Whoa! We've never met! I can't believe she actually said that!" And then spent 15 minutes wondering how I might include it in the magazine, and if perhaps I just used the first line of the rhyme people would gather the particular word it rhymed with, and if that could also be deemed offensive.

Well, you will not hear that kind of language on this blog. If I feel the need, I will use asterisks to avoid giving offence, as in "Get away from me, you d*** dirty ape!"

The Laura Love interview turned out pretty well, I think. She really took time with her answers, and was completely open about things I hadn't expected. My final question to her, which I didn't have space to include in the piece, was whether there was anything she rarely got asked about which she'd like to share, to which she proudly responded, "I hardly ever get asked if I am gay. I get asked more if I am black than if I am gay. Maybe it's because I'm sort of femmie in a way. Well ... I am."

It's a pretty interesting point - I suppose it's easier as an interviewer to ask about race, which is immediately obvious and also informs the way you're brought up, as opposed to sexual orientation, something unique to that person which they may not feel comfortable "revealing" to an interviewer.

And this was probably the most challenging review I've written so far, of Philip Glass's opera Satyagraha. It took a lot of rewriting to try and interpret the ambiguity of what was going on.

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Thursday, March 01, 2007


Thoughts on interviewing

Today I've had my first interview by email. It's a bit different to meeting musicians in person, where you pick up cues from their interactions, body language, clothes, whether they spend ages ripping up sugar packets, all of which can add interest to the final article. Even in phone interviews, where there's still the flow of conversation, you can ask the interviewee to expand on or explain what they're trying to say, pick up humour and what they really feel from the tone of their voices (or whether, naming no names, it's 1pm and they're stoned off their heads), to spell out the names of the obscure bands they cite as their influences - and they can speak to the moment, like Die Roten Punkte yesterday: "We're in a phone box in Keith, Astrid is doing the robot on the pavement ... there's an old couple walking past giving us strange looks, I guess they don't see many international rock'n'roll stars here..."

Writing out questions for Laura Love made me really think hard about what kind of answers I needed, and also about how I should most respectfully phrase my questions - especially when asking about how a particularly difficult upbringing had shaped her today both as a woman and a musician. One particular story mentioned in her biography is just horrific, and I'd feel intrusive about bringing it up and forcing her to recount such a traumatic memory. Her CD, You Ain't Got No Easter Clothes, is really, scarily good. On the one hand, it's great to be able to say to someone that their music, or art, or whatever they've created, has really touched you. On the other hand, they must hear that a lot, and I'm trying to be professional here (she says, three bags of groceries spilling around her feet in an internet cafe, the milk already warmed to room temperature.)

Apropos of nothing, a phrase that you probably never want to hear resounded around the tree-lined calm of Unley this evening. My housemate Pete has his plaster cast off and is getting back into his professional life ... as a lawyer. And he's relishing it. There are moments when he looks truly piratical, with his dark eyes flashing dramatically above a pile of paperwork, especially when uttering with relish a phrase as sinister as:

"I'm gonna charge like a wounded bull."

Pause, gentle reader, to allow a shudder down your spine.

Unley is a strange suburb. The power blackouts that plague Adelaide never affect us. The council offers increasingly unlikely excuses for these, ranging from the wrong kind of trees inconsiderately dropping branches, to, I don't know, drop-bears. Yet somehow our street lights shine on. Pete's conspiracy theory puts it down to the concentration of dignitaries, high earners, and Freemasons in the area - and if you've read Alan Moore's outstanding graphic novel "From Hell" - I'm not talking about that film remake - you may well believe it. I prefer to attribute it to more positive things, such as a number of powerful leylines running through Unley and converging on the nexus of power for all of South Australia. I am, of course, referring to Haigh's Chocolate Factory.

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