Sunday, December 4, 2016

Lisztomania (Take 6)

Some of you still haven't received the 2015 mix CD but I wanted to post the track listing regardless as it's nearly Christmas 2016 (duh). International friends will get a double dose this year!

I give you: 

Swallow It Whole
Hunters & Collectors - Holy Grail
Santigold - The Keepers
Gang of Youths - Radioface
Courtney Barnett - Pedestrian At Best
Jarryd James - Give Me Something
George Maple - Talk Talk
Sleater-Kinney - No Cities To Love
CHVRCHES - Make Them Gold
The Weeknd - Losers
Jamie xx - I Know There's Gonna Be (Good Times)
Meg Mac - Never Be
Daft Punk - Lose Yourself To Dance
Eurythmics - When Tomorrow Comes
Ella Fitzgerald - When I Get Low I Get High
Tuesday, August 2, 2016

Underground

Last week I finally caved and bought my first day planner since my last school diary 15 years ago. There were a combination of factors involved, ranging from wanting to have a calendar with wedding dates and times to carry around with me rather than being on my wall (novel? I KNOW, RIGHT?) to just how darn pretty the planner in question was, but mostly it boiled down to a feeling of necessity. Put another way: everyone else has one, so why don't I? Plus rather than shopping lists and library book lists on little bits of paper, this way I can keep track of them all in one place and log what I do and don't have. 

I don't know why I'm espousing the virtues of a day planner to you guys, I'm sure you all have one and have had one since time immemorial. 

It's a 17 month planner, which I really like, as it carries me through from this week until December next year and removes some of the panic involved in a new planner to go with a new year. There's something about a virgin planner in the new year that scares the crap outta me, but this seems less frightening. It also allows me to put in all the details for my trip to New Zealand, and that feels really good, really positive. I can do with a bit of that. 

To get to my point, though, at the back of the planner lie six pages for 'contacts'. And it got me reflecting on something that arrests me from time to time, which is that I don't really have many friends. I'm not being self pitying when I say that, it doesn't bother me. The friends I have are amazing and I can count on each and every one of them solidly and dependably, as I hope they can on me. 

But it was a very simple matter to distill my proper address book into a much smaller list of people who would need to be contacted should anything happen to me. Which is how I treated the small contacts section, as an emergency contacts list. So my contacts section is my boss, my mentor and ten other listings, some of which are couples, some singles. I told my sister, my first emergency contact person, that all the numbers she would need could be found at the back of my planner. (I haven't given her my password to my phone and I don't intend to; the same goes for my facebook account.) 

So there they are, in black felt tip pen, the most important people in my life. It's strange how something so important boils down to something so neat and simple. Many things in this category of tasks often do, these end of life decisions. They're complex to decide, oftentimes, but usually the writing out and storage of information becomes quite simple. I recently set about writing a will, not that I have much other than a fairly impressive book and DVD collection and some superannuation that's finally banked in one place, but it's done and stored somewhere safe that, again, my sister knows about. These little things, all done with the knowledge that one day I will cease to breathe and my heart will cease to beat and that there will be people left behind.

You can't have the illness I do and not dwell on death too much. Knowing I've taken steps to have my wishes carried out if and when I do die gives me a sense of security that's not quite like anything else. Young people don't write wills, but I think we should - it gives us some ownership over an event that, with few exceptions, is completely out of our control. It makes us reflect on something that visits us all, eventually. And it forces us to confront our fears and beliefs about what comes next, or what doesn't. 

Death matters because it makes life important. All we have are our memories and relationships to rely on when it comes a knocking, and I know I am nothing without those names in the back of my planner. 

Speaking of my planner again, look how pretty it is!!





Sunday, June 26, 2016

Everything In Its Right Place

'Yesterday I woke up sucking a lemon,
Yesterday I woke up sucking a lemon,
Yesterday I woke up sucking a lemon,
Yesterday I woke up sucking a lemon....

Everything in its right place.'

Radiohead, 'Everything In Its Right Place'. 

Ever since I started my Masters two and a half years ago I have felt like I am alternately banging my head against a brick wall and curled up in a feotus like position, desperately trying to make sense of things. The song I just quoted was written by Thom Yorke while he toured the world on the OK Computer record, and in interviews years later he recalled that every morning he would feel like he was going through the motions in the worst possible way.

One of the reasons I have been having trouble blogging is that I haven't been able to write anything for two and a half years. I'm not kidding. With the exception of 4500 words of exploratory writing done last November, a few proposals and the presentation I gave at a conference last July I have nothing to show for the last two and a half years. 

So I've called it. The project is no longer viable and I need to move onto other research. I need a new project, fast, and I need to find new sources to write about.

One of the problems with my Honours work was that I picked too MUCH material to write about. I have had the opposite problem with my M.Phil, in that finding translated sources to write about have been few and far between. I was fucking around with medieval texts even though I am a Renaissance girl and trying to crap out diamonds when I wasn't eating the right food. 

The good news is that what sparked the shutdown and eventual realisation that I wasn't getting anywhere was that I stumbled upon a newly published collection of Renaissance letters. You guys! This was exactly the book I was looking for two and a half years when I wanted to write a completely different project but couldn't find the right sources! Paired with one or two other texts I now have a really good foundation to write the thesis I wanted to in the early autumn of 2014. So apart from the massive frustration that comes from two and a half years of wasted time, I really feel excited and ready to work for the first time in ages. My university approved a six month suspension of my studies, so I've bought myself some time, although I am now watching the clock closely.

The other thing that has me excited is that I am planning a trip to New Zealand next February for another conference. It seems the only way I can justify travel in my mind is with conferences and research. I have never been overseas so I am in the process of applying for my first passport and making plans and packing lists to keep me focused and excited. I've picked up election work for the two elections being held in NSW in the next three months (one federal, one council) and that money should be enough to get me to Kiwi land. 

I'm bashing out this post at 3am on a Sunday morning because I inconveniently woke up in the middle of the night, but felt compelled and come and update you all (all 7 of you). I'm sorry for the absence, but given that I spent most of the last 4 months too frightened to leave the house and curled up in a ball, I don't know how else to explain away the time. I haven't even seen the mentor since before Easter. Yes, it's really been that bad. 

But I'm coming into the light now. I wish for you all the same. 



Tuesday, May 3, 2016

Second Best

So you all know I love television. And there's plenty of lists floating around with the best episodes of the best shows. But I thought it might be nice to spend some time talking about the runner up episodes of my favourite shows...that are finished. I don't think you can adequately answer the best episode question until a show is wrapped and done, one of the reasons I have a problem with this list by The Hollywood Reporter. If I was counting shows that are still running then Doctor Who, Grey's Anatomy and The Americans would most certainly feature, but for now I'm going with the following seven iconic series. 

PLEASE NOTE: this post contains MAJOR spoilers for all the series discussed. 

SPOOKS

Best episode: 4.10 - 'Diana'

Second best: 7.8

Written by Neil Cross, directed by Sam Miller

Lucas and Ros escort Connie on a mission underground, while Harry offers himself to the FSB in an attempt to help stop a nuclear attack. The frantic pace of this episode ratchets up the suspense to a breaking point, and the claustrophobic scenes underground make for compelling viewing. What really makes this episode is that everyone is heroic in their own way: Malcolm and Jo stoically helming the Grid, Lucas and Ros holding off the Russian gun squad and Harry braving the lion's den and offering himself up to save London. Does Connie gain a measure of redemption? I think so, and her sacrifice has the ring of truth to it. 


FRIENDS

Best episode: The One With the Embryos (Season 4, Episode 12)

Second best: The One Where Everybody Finds Out (Season 5, Episode 14)

Written by Alexa Junge, directed by Michael Lembeck

I had to have at least one comedy on the list! This fantastic episode pits Chandler and Phoebe against each other in a game of sexy chicken as Phoebe and Rachel attempt to make Monica and Chandler come clean about their relationship. As with just about every episode on this list everyone gets a few good moments, with laughs a plenty before Chandler finally admits that he loves Monica, and she says she loves him too. (There's also an excellent moment with David Schwimmer jumping up and down.)


FRIDAY NIGHT LIGHTS

Best episode: Always (Season 5, Episode 13)

Second Best: The Son (Season 4, Episode 5)

Written by Rolin Jones, directed by Allison Liddi-Brown

This episode belongs to the superb Zach Gilford, who plays the mixed emotions of Matt Saracen upon hearing of his father's death in Iraq with such dignity and empathy that one can only marvel at his technique. There are light hearted moments: Matt's friends take him to drink beer on their old playing field, and Tim gets an amusing phone call from Becky at the wake, but nothing prepares you for the moment when Matt demands of the undertaker that he see his father in his casket, all blown to pieces from an IED. The episode closes with Matt shovelling soil onto his father's coffin, his hands bloodied as Julie watches him fall apart. One of the very best episodes of a solid show that really only had one major misstep in its five years on the air. 


THE WEST WING

Best episode: Two Cathedrals (Season 2, Episode 22)

Second best: Institutional Memory (Season 7, Episode 21)

Written by Debora Cahn, directed by Lesli Linka Glatter

This is a fairly unorthodox choice, I suspect most people would have gone for another Sorkin-penned episode. But this fabulous, penultimate episode of the entire series (written by Debora Cahn) gave closure to the character of C.J. Cregg. Arguably the heartbeat of the show from the very beginning, C.J. ultimately decided against staying in Washington to work for President Santos and instead chose to start a new life with Danny in Santa Monica and run a multi-million dollar not for profit. What I love about this episode is how beautifully the dilemma of the working woman is summarised, but also how perfect the solution for this particular character is portrayed. Lots of touching, beautiful character moments across the board make this a pleasure to watch, even for the umpteenth time. 


THE SOPRANOS

Best episode: Whitecaps (Season 4, Episode 13)

Second best: Employee of the Month (Season 3, Episode 4)

Written by Robin Green & Mitchell Burgess, directed by John Patterson

Lorraine Bracco does the heavy lifting in this one, her portrayal of a woman brutally raped is harrowing. Melfi is no longer the decisive, intelligent doctor, but a woman stripped bare as her attacker goes free. And so she is faced with a choice: does she stay silent or does she tell Tony? In the end her silence is heroic, one of the few morally sound decisions on a show of bad choices. It's a messy hour of television, but ultimately one of the most satisfying in a show full of amazing episodes. 


BREAKING BAD

Best episode: Ozymandias (Season 5, Part 2, episode 6)

Second best: Gliding Over All (Season 5, Part 1, episode 8)

Written by Moira Walley-Beckett, directed by Michelle MacLaren

This was a really hard one, picking the second best from such a solid show. I could have run with Four Days Out (when Jesse and Walt are stranded in the desert), or One Minute (which ends in the shoot out that almost kills Hank), but ultimately I went with the supremely elegant Gliding Over All, which is the mid season finale of the show's final season. This episode is famous for two of the finest montages in a show that used them very effectively, one culminating in the deaths of Gus' remaining men on the inside, and the other condensing three months of meth lab work and money laundering into a few minutes of very fine TV. The whole episode ends with Hank finally putting the pieces together and fingering Walt as his Heisenberg, with Walt Whitman being his downfall. Beautiful, albeit very violent, stuff. 


MAD MEN

Best episode: The Suitcase (Season 4, episode 7)

Second best: Shut The Door, Have A Seat (season 3, episode 13)

Written by Matthew Weiner and Erin Levy, directed by Matthew Weiner

Who doesn't love a caper? In my favourite show of all time, it had to be this hilarious but still very touching episode. The best scene has to be Don's eating crow at Peggy's place, when he tells her they are more alike than she knows. If I don't do what you say, she replies, you'll never speak to me again. Don rejoins with the heartbreaking 'I will spend the rest of my life trying to hire you.' In other news Roger and Don make up, Betty and Don split up for real,  and Joan makes a highly anticipated and welcome return to the team. Roy Orbison sings the season out as Don braves the world outside his marriage and starts the new firm of SCDP. 

So what do you all think? Did I pick well or have I blatantly left out a show or episode you love? Let me know. 
Sunday, January 10, 2016

My Favourite Things

Hey! Long time, no blog. 

I thought I'd ease back into things by talking about some of my favourite things from 2015. Some of these I'm going to talk about in more detail in other posts, but I wanted to write a little about the things that kept me going this last year. 

Favourite TV show

You all know my favourite show is Mad Men, probably my favourite show ever (which is really saying something). The back end of season 7 was wonderful and made me feel really good about saying goodbye to a show that has been a great comfort to me since I first starting watching it in 2008. 



But as great as it was, Mad Men was not the best television I watched this year. That honour has to go to the criminally underrated The Americans and its third season.  


For those who don't know the premise, The Americans is the story of Philip and Elizabeth Jennings, Russian spies working deep undercover in the States in the early 80s. Running complex missions while pretending to be travel agents and actually being parents to two children is nothing less than complicated, made trickier by their living across the street from an FBI agent who works in counter intelligence. 

The writing on this show is deft and subtle, the acting some of the best on display right now, and the production slick and clean. I highly recommend getting your hands on season 1, if you're like me, you won't be able to stop watching. My only real regret with this show is that I kind of wish the 80s clothes were more flashy and fun, but then I like it kitschy.


Favourite experience

A few years ago I wrote to the Sydney Writers' Festival and begged them to get Michael Chabon and Ayelet Waldman out to Australia. In 2015, the powerhouse couple of publishing made it out to Sydney and Melbourne to give joint presentations (read: chats in front of an audience and then answer questions) as part of each city's respective writing festival. 



Did someone read my letter and think maybe it was a good idea? I don't know, but I do know that the evening was marvellous and I want to write more about it in a separate post. 

Favourite purchase



This beautiful print by Angela Stasio at The Paper Apartment on etsy. I'd link to her shop but she seems to have closed down,  at least for now. Meanwhile this gorgeous picture has pride of place on my wall. 

Favourite beauty product

I bought some seriously good makeup this year, most of it from Too Faced. But my fave beauty purchase was the Nars Audacious lipstick in Natalie, a truly unusual but very flattering shade of pink.



I've bought this product in other shades and it's a fantastic formula, I will continue to re-purchase.


Favourite meal

The morning after spending all night on a train to Melbourne I visited Fandango in North Melbourne for the fourth time and it was even better than I remembered. Here's what I had:


Pesto scrambled eggs with bacon, and yes, it was every bit as good as it sounds. This cafe is one of the best places to eat I have ever found, love it to bits. 

Favourite record

I couldn't decide between two records for this, so you get them both.

In May 2013 I went to a Something for Kate concert in Canberra with my favourite gig buddies. The support act was an unknown quantity, a very young looking girl with a guitar that dwarfed her and an attitude that rolled off the stage into the eager crowd. My friend, being the music aficionado that he is, immediately purchased the young singer's EP. As we went home that night we excitedly discussed the support act who had blown everyone away. 

Two years later and everyone knows who Barnett is now. For my money she is a storyteller in the same vein as Paul Kelly or Paul Dempsey (the singer of the band she supported on that tour). She's not to everyone's taste, but she doesn't need to be. The fans she has are plenty.


The last few years have seen some seriously great R & B artists hit the charts, the latest of which is this twenty something from Canada. The Weeknd, or Abel Makkonen Tesfaye, released his sophomore record, Beauty Behind The Madness, in 2015 and immediately I latched onto it. It's his voice, it's his forlorn, pleading falsetto, that draws you in. It's the type of record you need to spin a few times to really get into, but boy, does it pay off. He has the magic, that's all I can say.

So there you go, these are the things that helped me along the way last year. What were your favourite things of 2015?
Tuesday, March 24, 2015

Bad Religion

I'm pretty sure that most of you know by now that I sing at weddings (I mean, it's in my bio for crying out loud). What I talk about less is that I make my living singing at Catholic weddings. About half of them are nuptial blessings, which means they don't have a full Mass with Communion. But the other half are full blown, bells and smells, gold hat and Easter candle, kneel till it hurts, weddings. And this isn't a problem at all, except that I feel like a hypocrite for earning my living in churches where I don't belong, because the truth is I don't believe in God anymore. I don't think I have in a long time.

This wouldn't be a problem except that my family is deeply religious. I've alluded to this in this space before, but I come from the product of two very Catholic parents who take this stuff super seriously, and confirmation that I've left my faith and THE CHURCH (I have to write that in caps lock) behind me would break them. I live under their roof, they know I don't go to Mass weekly (which they pretend not to notice) but if they knew I didn't believe in God at all, they would simultaneously shun me and pray harder than they've ever prayed for anything. 

I don't know how to have a conversation with them about this one. Ironically enough the conversation probably won't happen unless and until I get married myself and have to explain why I'm only having a civil ceremony. My mother chastises me for blaspheming every now and again, and I don't know how to tell her that you can't have a concept of blasphemy when you don't have a concept of God. She talks about priests throwing their weight around and I can't tell her that in my experience that's the rule, not the exception. She yells at the news when stories of sexual abuse hit the fan as often as they do, and I can't tell her that it's not just bad guys doing it, it's the systemic cover ups the world over that tell me that the people at the top just don't care and looked the other way while it was happening. But I don't say anything, because I don't want to shove it in their faces.

I don't know when I stopped believing in God. I tried for many years to find a form of Catholicism that worked for me. But I do know the moment I walked away from THE CHURCH. It was the day when two news stories were side by side in the newspapers. One story detailed a sexual abuse cover up at the highest levels in Sydney, Australia. The other was about a 12 year old girl in Venezuela who was excommunicated after having a abortion for a conception that only occurred due to a rape. The rapist got off scot-free. 

There are always going to be things I love about the religion in which I was raised. I believe that you should perform good works, and that you can't be saved by faith alone. I believe in service and in charity that you don't shout from the rooftops. I love the music and the outlook on life that comes from living humbly and modestly. 

But it's not for me. I just wish I could be honest with my parents about that. 

Thursday, January 22, 2015

Lisztomania (Take 5)

Now that the 2014 mix CDs have arrived safely (both locally and internationally), I can share the track listing with the rest of you!

For those new readers: every Christmas I make a mix CD that is usually a mix of new releases and old favourites. There are a few rules: I can't use anyone/any band I have used before, but side and solo projects are OK (for example: Glen Hansard has featured on the mix CD before but this year he appeared as part of The Frames). I usually try and include at least four or five Australian acts, although this year I failed woefully. And I try and avoid music that EVERYONE knows (let's say The Beatles or The Stones), and if I do include better known artists I try and avoid the big singles. But that's about it. 

Here is the 2014 mix CD, in all its glory:

REBELLION

St Vincent - Rattlesnake
Cold War Kids - Miracle Mile
New Order - Ceremony
Chrissie Hynde - Dark Sunglasses
Sky Ferreira - Nobody Asked Me (If I Was Okay)
Jungle - Time
The Frames - When Your Mind's Made Up
Total Control - Flesh War
Banks - Beggin For Thread
Ásgeir - Torrent
The Jezabels - Look of Love
Chlöe Howl - Paper Heart
Yazoo - Only You

Mix CDs from previous years can be found hereherehere and here.