Self-indulgent café poem

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I thought it would be best to give this post a title which describes the content. But first, a little bit of a run down of my Edinburgh Fringe Festival experience now that I’m more than half way through.

I have written down the name of every show I’ve seen so far along with how much they cost, because my inner accountant likes that sort of thing. I just counted them and, as of last night, I have seen to 43 shows. I sometimes think I haven’t seen that many, or that I should try to see more, but then compare with some random person I get chatting to at a show, or over some food, and I realise, actually, I’ve been jamming them in. The thing is that most of the shows are in the afternoon and evening, so you can spend the morning fucking about and still see six shows in a day. 

As is always the case with festivals some of the stuff I’ve seen has been really bad, and some has been phenomenal. My tolerance for crappy shows has been gradually diminishing but I’m still blown away by things which are beautiful. Or hilarious. 

Being here as a solo traveller is a bit surreal. I’m not staying in as hostel, so I am not making hostel friends, and I’m not doing a show, so I don’t have performer friends. It’s a funny sort of limbo, a bit like working in retail or doing job interviews; you forge superficial connections to people for extremely short periods of time and then you go your separate ways. Well, I wrote this poem about it while feeling emotional after Rob Auton’s “The Water Show”.

Is this real life?

A connection forged over food.
That fleeting chemistry
Of socially acceptable chat
Doesn’t ever really make it past that.
The connection that never makes it through to anything
Other than a single serving friend.
The idea of a relationship
Is always better than the relationship.

I’m tired; it’s tiring to start every day alone
Of having a glimmer of someone else
Flashed in front of me
Only to be snatched away
When you go back to your real life.
What if this is my real life?
And all I ever gave are snippets snatched
From people who are just passing though?
And each one is, in its way, beautiful.

So beautiful I might weep
But I can’t, because that’s weird. Apparently.
Those moments in life when I think it’s all too much
And my emotions are so close to the surface
That I’m sure everyone can see them.
In those moments I want to embrace them
And let everything inside show
To watch as your faces crumble trying to
Comprehend what I’m showing you.
Trying, wordlessly, to get my feelings back inside my shell,
Trying to feel safe again.

Safe. Where nothing unexpected happens.
Where nothing hurts.
Where no one smiles,
Or laughs,
Or cries.
Safe and blank and empty.
I watch you walk away
Back to your friends, and your job, and your flat.
Your real life.
A place I can’t follow
Because this is my real life.

Edinburgh Fringe Brain Puddle

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I’ve spent today so far hanging out at my accommodation because yesterday I slipped on the cobbled streets of Edinburgh and hurt my right foot. This is my fourth day at the Fringe. I’m pretty devastated.

Since arriving I’ve seen so many amazing things. I’ve been filling my brain with all sorts of art and I don’t really how, or if, I’m going to be able to keep it all straight in my memory. I feel like there will be things that be pushed out when I try to fit something new in. That being said the idea of having an immersive experience where everything sort of blurs together into one abstract blob sounds kind of amazing too.

Maybe I’ll start last night and work backwards. I saw Beardyman, who is a sort of musical improviser. I have seen a bit of his stuff on YouTube and he was one of the few people who wa on my list even before I got to Scotland. The show, One Album Per Hour, is made up of song titles suggested by the audience before the show and he sort of makes up a genre and song based on those titles. My suggestions wee “Vampires on Speed” and “Watermelon Floyd”. I was really excited when he read out the first one and proceeded to make up a song which started with organ like massive chords and a dodgey Transylvanian accent through a dancey rave party high section, coming back to the organ chords at the end. It was pretty cheesy but I don’t know what else I was expecting from a suggestion like that.

I wanted to show off a bit about that last one, but I’ve seen too many shows so far to give them all a review. I’m also quite tired as I didn’t sleep very well, my foot kept hurting, so I’ll make a list and of the ones, so far, that are worth seeing:

Unfortunately some of these have already finished. Three plus weeks is a pretty long time to do a show. Apparently this is the point at which people start to go a bit insane which should be interesting. I’m hoping that I’ll be up for a short trip into the centre tonight for a show or two. It seems like a waste not to go out at all with so many things to see and so little time.

I’m feeling a bizarre combination of inspiration and brain fart. I feel like I really want to be able to produce something as great and mind blowing as some of the shows I’ve seen here, but I also feel this crippling sense of intimidation. I guess it’s that thing of comparing oneself to others; sometimes you come out well sometimes not, but usually the comparison is not worth drawing and is completely unhelpful. As much as I know it is unhelpful, I none-the-less am compelled to do it.

Perhaps this experience is a bit like being in India; you realise it’s true scope and effect on your mind only much later when you’re at home and have had time to assimilate the information properly.

I am learning, however, that I really struggle to respect someone if I don’t like their art. Strike that, I don’t have to like it, nor do I have to completely comprehend it, but I must respect the art if I am to respect the artist. Comedians who are dismissive or insulting to groups of people fall into this category. That isn’t art, it’s being a jerk.

So I have more than a week more here to drink in all the things, and hopefully venture to a couple of the other parts of nearby Scotland. I hope my foot will be more up for walking soon too!

Oh look, Amsterdam!

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Hullo dear readers!

I Amsterdam sign outside the Hermitage Portrait Museum

I Amsterdam sign outside the Hermitage Portrait Museum

I have now been in Amsterdam for about 10 days staying with some of my beautiful friends who moved here about two years ago. So far I have touristed thoroughly, in addition to eating all the things, sitting with some neighbours and pretending I understood what they were saying (and mostly getting a vague idea), BBQing in Vondelpark and cycling about the town, Weesp, where my friends now live.

I had hoped that I would be able to do some writing while I was away, but it doesn’t seem to have happened. Travelling is tiring, y’know? I have taken a few pictures around the place, and seen lots of cool museums.

One of them, the Eye Film Museum, had an exhibition by a South African artist/animator William Kentridge. The photo below is of his stencils which were used in the films that they had in the exhibition.

Stencils by William Kentridge

Stencils by William Kentridge at The Eye Film Museum

Watching the film installations in this exhibition, and having read the little blurbs that went with them, it became clear that I didn’t get it. Like, at all. I mean, I can be pretty arty, I can look at abstract paintings or see avant garde theatre and usually have some appreciation for the work but these film were just a bit beyond me.

Perhaps it’s fatigue to do with being away from home, perhaps it’s to do with his commentary on South African culture, which I admit I don’t know much about, or perhaps I just don’t get it.

The experience of being in the Netherlands was pretty surreal to start with, but after a while the architecture and the language and the flat landscape and the cars driving on the other side of the road and all the bicycles all combine and you realise you’re far from home and it’s nice. I leave here on Saturday for Edinburgh to catch the Fringe Festival. I suspect it’s going to be intense. I might have more time for blogging there but then again I might not.

An art group painting the fountain in Vondelpark

An art group painting the fountain in Vondelpark

Shouting into the void

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On Wednesday night, for the first time, I realised that I’m not shouting into a void. I’ve been doing this blog since November 2011. That’s almost four years now, and while I’ve been a bit sporadic at times, I feel like I’ve kept the flow of material coming that whole time.

I’m obsessed with watching my stats, going into the back end and seeing how many visitors and page views I’ve had every day. Days where I’ve had no visitors make me feel a little bit sad inside, and days where I have more than ten page views make me feel important. But the problem with that is even though I know there are people out there reading my work, I have no way to tracking who they are and whether, or how, my work affects them. In that way I’ve felt a little bit like I’ve been shouting into the void; writing my experiences and feelings down and sharing them but getting minimal feedback on it. Until Wednesday night.

On Wednesday night I caught up with a guy I know through Facebook. We met at a party a few years ago, and I hung out with him and his wife a few times. But then we sort of drifted and haven’t seen each other for ages. We move in some of the same circles, there’s some crossover on the social Venn diagram, and we’ve bumped into each other a couple of times, but you know how it is, just sort of floated through time. We caught up this week because he had some vinyl records that he was getting rid of and I said I’d definitely take them off his hands, some Adam and the Ants and Violent Femmes. So we actually arranged to meet, on purpose, in a pub, and had a chat.

This is all a bit of a long preamble to the point I’m trying to make, which is this guy told me that he had read some of my blog posts and that, while not instrumental, the posts about trying to find my happiness were influential in some changes that he made in his life and career. I admit I was a little bit floored by the idea. That someone, somewhere out there, had heard what I was saying and it had resonated with them. I discussed the experience with another creative soul I know recently, and she said that I was never shouting into a void, I was “shouting into the ear of a man who needed to know where the light was to steer himself towards it”. It’s such a beautiful way to phrase it, one I wouldn’t have thought of myself.

Writing is known to be a fairly solitary occupation. We sit alone in our rooms and scribble away hoping against hope that one day someone will read what we’ve said, and feel something. Out here in the blogosphere there are a lot of us clamouring for space, and for validation. I don’t want to discount all of my beautiful friends who have read my blog and written me nice comments. I know that totally counts as validation, and I don’t want to disregard it, but somehow this guy’s experience of taking what I’ve said and using it to make changes in his life towards happiness, struck me profoundly, right in the feels.

Now, when I feel like I’m shouting into the void again, or when I wonder what the point is of all this, I’ll remember this guy’s story. I’ll remember that just because I can’t see the effect I’m having on people, doesn’t mean I’m not having one. I’ll hang on to this moment and just keep writing, because I have to do it for me, because I want to and because I need to write, and hope that it helps someone else out there, whether I hear about it or not.

Poetry Group V2.0

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Recently I started attending a new poetry writers’ workshop type thing. The organiser was looking for new members and she asked the organiser of my other writing group to pass on her details. I was interested to try a new group, and this one was specifically for poetry, to get some different feedback on my work. My beloved writing group, BWI, consists mainly of prose writers and they often protest that they don’t have the expertise to critique the poems I bring along. I was also interest in getting a different perspective on my writing. The people in BWI are very supportive and nurturing, but each of them brings a particular set of skills with them, and their criticisms seem to follow a pattern based on these skills. This isn’t a bad thing, but surely getting a range of feedback is important for my growth as a writer.

So I went along to a meeting of this new group (I’m going to call it GCP even though it doesn’t really have a name). The first meeting was weird, which is to be expected. I took along two poems, one was a free verse, fairly angry sort of poem about love, and the other was an attempt at pentameter that I wrote after having read a lot of Milton’s Paradise Lost for uni. Once we were all settled in, we started work-shopping some of the existing members poems. There were four existing members and four or five new members. When it came to my turn I chose to do the free verse poem. The process was a fairly standard sort of thing: when it gets to your work, you read it out aloud and then the others have a chance to offer you constructive feedback. I was quite anxious as there’s something extremely vulnerable about asking for a critique of a poem from people you don’t know. People can be very cruel, often without really meaning to be.

Most of the group were cautious and constructive in their feedback, they made some insightful comments about my use of particular words, and had only a few suggestions for changes. I was so relieved. But at the same time there was one guy, and there’s always one guy, who insisted on having the last word on every piece. Who insisted on saying his bit about everything, and often disagreeing with the feedback that other members of the group were suggesting. Many of his criticisms were very picky, like concerns about whether a comma or colon was required. He got my hackles up from the very beginning of the meeting and made me feel wary of what he was going to say. I’ve spoken to a few people and they’ve said that there is almost always one person, usually a white man of a certain vintage, who behaves like this in any poetry or writing workshop.

Last Monday I went to my second meeting of GCP. This guy was there again, and again he was nit-picky and spoke significantly more than any other member of the group. I was not impressed. I guess the question I’m facing now is whether I want to keep going to this group or not. On the plus side they’re all poets and are, for the most part, very encouraging, knowledgeable and have some great insights. But this one guy really colours my experience of the group.

I feel like this isn’t a story that’s exclusive to me. I know a lot of people, particularly people who are not white-men-of-a-certain-vintage, have this experience. It makes me both a bit sad and a bit angry that there are still people out there who insist that their voices are the most important voices in the room. It makes me more sad and angry that these voices almost always belong to the same group of people.

I guess I’m just having a bit of a rant, I don’t really know what to do about the whole thing. I’m going to miss the next meeting because I’ll be in Europe gallivanting about for the whole of August (woo, more on that to follow). Maybe I’ll reassess how I feel about this group when I get back. I’ll give them one more try to see if I can separate any value I get from the group’s feedback from the bad feelings I get from this guy, but if I can’t or if the bad feelings outweigh the good ones, then I guess it’s a case of another one bites the dust.

Don’t dream it’s over…

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Sorry, I know that’s not my line, but it seemed appropriate. Just a small update post, I feel like that’s all I’ve been doing lately, but maybe I’ll get inspired to do some more substantive posts soon.

1: Poetry

I recently attended a new poetry workshop/group in Melbourne’s CBD. This group is organised by a woman called Vicki, and I heard about it through my other writing group. I went along, I took two poems, one called “Crush”, which I’ve posted here and one which was an homage to Paradise Lost, which I wrote a couple of weeks ago. It’s always a bit of a risk going to a new group because you’re never sure how strong the criticism is going to be, and whether it will be delivered in a sensitive manner. There were nine people there, five who were new to the group. We went around the table and I was a little bit nervous because there was this one guy, (everyone I’ve spoken to about it seems to feel there’s always this one guy), who was very opinionated, talked over others, and who seemed to insist on getting the last word in. I read out “Crush” and was a bit concerned about his response to my work, but he wasn’t as bad as I thought he would be. I had some interesting feedback from some of the other poets, so that’s good. I haven’t decided whether I’ll keep going to this group but I’ll go once more before making up my mind.

2: Music

The band I was involved with disintegrated recently, I guess I should be sad, but I think it had had its time. I’m looking for other opportunities to play bass, but in the meantime I got a piano keyboard (a present from Mum), and have joined a choir, so that’s keeping me busy till I find another band or regular jamming session to be part of. I may have to re-evaluate my goal of performing before the end of the year, but I’m going to try to do it anyway! If you’re a band looking for a bassist let me know!

Here is a picture of me with the photographer Meiki’s bass and my new haircut.

This is bass face

This is bass face

3: Writing

I’ve finished the initial draft of my third NaNoWriMo manuscript. It’s pretty dark and I really need to start going through it, but I’ve been feeling a bit avoidant. Part of me is worried that when I read it back I’ll hate it, but hopefully I’ll be pleasantly surprised. I’m setting tomorrow morning aside for it.

4: Work

I’ve been offered full time temping work for the next little while, so I’m enjoying the inflow of money, and given that I’ll be travelling in August I’m trying to earn as much as I can. I’ve been applying for ‘real’ jobs, mostly in HR, but I’m not going to take one just because I’m offered one. I think the temping will see me through until I can find a permanent job that really speaks to me. I’m not 100% sure what that means just yet, but I’m sure by being open to opportunities, one will come my way that’s just right.

I promise I will read them all…

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Or at least start them all. Honest!

I’ve just finished a three week seminar series at Kew Library on Romance Writing run by Anne Gracie (see the end), and I may have accidentally bought a book (which she signed, so that’s cool right?). I have so many books in the ‘to read’ pile, added to steadily by the lists of novels set for uni, of which many are now partially read. However, I have exciting news:

I have finished my degree!!

Well, okay, not technically. I have one more essay to do, due on 12 June, and then I still have to pass all my subjects, and then I have to have the graduation ceremony in October, but I still think of this as being the end. I made it through! I’m very pleased with myself for finishing it, for sticking out full-time study again as a grown up, and for pursuing things that make me happy. And soon I’ll have the piece of paper to prove it!

I now promise myself to slowly, but surely, make my way through the ‘to read’ pile. All reading on public transport, waiting for appointments, while on lunch breaks and before falling asleep can now be for fun!

I promise to spend more time writing. It’s true that for the last 12 months while doing full-time uni I’ve been doing quite a lot of uni writing, (for example I have pumped out 5,500 words in the last two days, which I think is pretty impressive), but it isn’t the same as writing for fun. I know that it’s all very well to say I will write more, and when there’s nothing stopping you it’s easier to be disenchanted with it, but I hope to be able to set up a more productive writing routine, and finish that third manuscript! (And write more here).

For those who are interested in hearing a bit about the Romance Writing thing I mentioned at the start, it was very interesting, I got lots of great writing tips, lots of names of writers, mostly romance, for me to follow up on (even more for the ‘to read’ pile!), and a lot of new writing contacts with whom I hope to share my work for to get feedback and have fresh eyes look over it. Anne Gracie is very generous with her time and is super lovely, so if you ever have the opportunity to go to one of her sessions, and you’re a writer of any sort of genre or commercial fiction, she’s a great teacher!

Finally, here’s a gratuitous picture of me from a couple of weeks ago because I’ve been pretty quiet lately and you all deserve a photo.

GPOS - photo by Meiki

GPOS – photo by Meiki

Alright, that’s it, you can all go home

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And so it was that we came to closing night of the MICF for this year. I have some mixed feelings about my festival experience. I saw nine shows, which is more I think than any year previously, but I also wanted to see so many more shows but didn’t/couldn’t for various reasons. I mean they were pretty good reasons, I was sick for a bit, then I spent a whole weekend in Adelaide, and then I had obscene amounts of uni work. But still –

Anyway, let me just give you a quick run down of my last shows:

Ross Noble / Tangentleman 

Ross Noble seems to make most of his material up as he goes along, it’s a sort of surrealist/childish/bollocks-fuelled journey into his brain and I laughed so hard I was sweating (please tell me I’m not the only person who does that). There was one joke that was a bit off in my opinion, but I guess that’s going to happen from time to time when you make it up as you go along.

Backwards Anorak / A Hip Hikers Guide to the Galaxy

I saw Backwards Anorak do a cabaret show last year based heavily on Game of Thrones, and it was pretty funny, except I’m not into GoT so I didn’t get some of the jokes. I’m totally into The Hitchhikers’ Guide to the Galaxy so I thought I’d go better. I guess maybe they’re work is… well, absurd is maybe the word for it. I laughed, I enjoyed myself, I sang along and did the dance moves (apparently no-one else in the audience did them though, I discovered that when I turned around, awkward!) but it was still pretty incomprehensible. Good, incomprehensible, with singing.

Clem Bastow / Escape from L.A. 

I’ve read some of Clem’s work in The Age, and I respect her politics and her puke yellow armpit hair choices, so I thought I should see her. Her show was great, although her sound guy was odd. I suppose that’s a bit what you get for going on the last night. Also it wasn’t stand-up, it was an amusing story. A very good, amusing story.

There were so many other deserving, fabulous artists/comedians at the festival this year, as there are every year, and I wish I had had the opportunity to see more. I have a Facebook friend who was seeing two or three shows per night for the whole festival, I was jealous. One day, I’m going to write a show and maybe I’ll have the guts to put it on at the MICF. Until then I’ll just go to lots of shows, I’ll see weird lucky dip shows, and random what’s-on-in-the-next-half-hour-shows and see people I’ve heard of sometimes too. I’ll continue to sit in the front row, on my own, because no-one wants to play to an empty front row, and also fuck it, when else do you get to get up in a performer’s grill like that?

Anyway, I guess that’s it. I’m at home in bed with a knee blankey because it’s cold, thanks Melbourne weather. I’m looking forward to getting to some more comedy and theatre in the next few months and I might even get to some Fringe Festival show when it comes around later in the year.

Lucky Dip and Luisa

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Yep, it’s another Melbourne International Comedy Festival post. I’ve had a bit of a cold over the Easter Weekend so I didn’t get to as many shows as I would have liked but I’ve got another three to add to my list.

Ali McGregor / Late Nite Variety Nite Night.

It’s lovely and good value. Ali is a singer, so she does some singing, she’s very good. She also gets various other acts from the festival to come do a little snippet during her show. I went last Saturday, so we got DeAnne Smith, Sara Pascoe, The Pajama Men, and Gypsy Wood (who does burlesque). It starts late, but it’s worth staying up for.

Luisa Omielan / What Would Beyonce Do?

Five Stars! Ten out of ten! Holy crap, so many reason everyone who is alive should see this show. It’s sad. It’s hilarious. There’s dancing. There’s singing. Go see it. The end.

Lucky Dip Show

I’m not going to name this last show coz, well, it wasn’t very good. Two guys doing a half hour set each, first guy was really awful, bad mic technique and really odd material which was a bit more like the story of his life and not really jokes. Second guy was much better but still not great, however I see potential.

You can’t win them all, and what’s life without a little bit of awkward lucky dip comedy festival times? More to come! This weekend I’ll be in Adelaide though, going to MoonFaker’s EP launch, also supporting them is Destrends. Woo! If you’re in Adelaide come down.

So the Melbourne International Comedy Festival opened yesterday…

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… and I’ve already seen three shows (one was a preview, technically, so I saw that on Thursday). Here follows super short review of each.

Number 1: Free Wil / Wil Anderson

Most people who live in Australia know Wil Anderson. I hadn’t seen him live before but I thought why not! So I did. It was excellent. Quite thought provoking. Recommended!

Number 2: Square Peg / Josh Earl

Josh Earl does song related comedy. I saw him do Spicks and Specks one time before they cancelled it. As my Facebook friends would know this show involved bubbles and Nick Cave’s ‘Stagger Lee’, what’s not to like? Recommended!

Number 3: An Evening with Sammy J and Randy / Sammy J and Randy

Sammy J and Randy, apparently soon to be on the TV in their own sit com on ABC. They were both much ruder and better in person. Got touched by Randy when he fell into the crowd (I was in the first row), and accosted Sammy J when he was at the restaurant where I ate dinner. Recommended!

Over the next few days/weeks I’m going to see more shows, not sure which ones yet, we’ll see. I’ll try to see some people I haven’t heard of and will definitely see some shows that are not by straight white dudes I promise!

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