Sunday, June 29, 2008

Album Review: Coldplay Viva la Vida or Death and All His Friends

He is a secret Facebook fan of Ringo Starr and washes his hair in Fanta. His pet is the oldest living canary in history and he's too young to remember happy pants. Even so, Marky Mark, Esq., will give any album a fair go...until it gets too mainstream.....

The utterance of the word ‘Coldplay’, inevitably, initiates an unsettling polite and apologetic feeling. The singles we all know – ‘Yellow’, ‘Shiver’, ‘Clocks’, ‘The Scientist’ – almost, without exception, feature an uncertain Chris Martin wailing about how darned sorry he is; making for a smashing MSN name at least. And if they’re not your cup of tea (and let’s face it, tea is the only drink they could ever be), then your mum unquestionably owns something by them, and thinks Gwyneth to be a ‘lovely lass’. Anyway, with their latest release – Viva la Vida or Death and All His Friends­ – Chris has washed his hands (ha!) of the soft, alternative, falsetto-dominated niceness that has characterized the band since, well, forever, and embarked on a low-register, rockier, French, even experimental (gasp!) journey, with a most peculiar title. And if you thought Ziggy Stardust or The Fly were embodiments of over-famed rock stars stepping out of their stressful, miserable, overpaid lives and into the persona of something ridiculous, just wait until you hear Martin thinking he’s a deposed French king…

So, to the songs. The two singles (which, no doubt you’ve heard if you’ve ever stepped foot near any store or radio) ‘Violet Hill’ and ‘Viva la Vida’ remain the album standouts: the former unlike anything else in the Coldplay repertoire – a thumping monolith of a tune with a not-quite-Jonny Greenwood descending guitar riff; the latter featuring a string breakdown to make you weep like a polite Englishman and think the unthinkable: have the polite boys of rock experimented with anything mind altering?

An ambient-turned rocky instrumental titled ‘Life in Technicolour’ opens the album up. It’s bold for an album with a certain multi-million sale to uphold, however, (though it seems unnecessary), it works. ‘Cemeteries of London’, no doubt a contender for third single, is a return to the medieval war-thumps of Parachutes, while ‘Lost!’ is dreary to the extent that the title’s exclamation mark becomes questionable. ‘42’, complete with an alien-inspired breakdown, is also a return to the old Coldplay we knew and liked a bit, with Martin questioning whether the dead are just ‘living in his head?’. Not exactly Nietzsche, but nice nevertheless.

‘X and Y’ may have been somewhere between average and fecal, but ‘Viva la Vida etc.’ is oddly intriguing and, to be honest, brilliant. Unsurprisingly, the Coldplay nay-saying (of which I’ve been guilty) has slowly disintegrated since its release, and, somehow, the soft, polite and apologetic style we all grew sick off has become cool again. So get yourself a copy of ‘Viva la blah blah blah’, turn to your beautiful Academy Award winning wife and say ‘sorry’.

Saturday, June 28, 2008

Back in Blog

Maybe, with a title like that, I'm not ready to come back to blogging after my stocktake-week hiatus. Sorry. Anyway, this week we've got album reviews (the brilliant new Coldplay record actually gets the thumbs up from the usually cynical Mr M. And I just used the words "brilliant" and "Coldplay" in very close proximity. Something is afoot.....); mag reviews (I couldn't resist the apricot header of Russh, and my favourite alternative printed friend Frankie is sitting on the bookshelf waiting to be devoured on a rainy Sunday afternoon. Best get out my fav retro tee and slip on some fake geek-chic glasses, find a vintage teacup and put something nonchalantly indie on the stereo to get in the mood); inspiring travelogues; sale alerts; celeb watching (this week: I feel sorry for K-Ho); fashion updates (such as, waist belts are not cryptic clues and are in fact meant for the waist and not to hold your boobs up); and if you're lucky, everyone's favourite Things That Piss Me Off. Stay tuned!

Wednesday, June 25, 2008

Um, yeah...

I know you might be getting the shakes becuase there hasn't been a proper post up all week, but I am claiming some time away from blogging because of the mega stocktake sale. I'm sick of looking at the computer screen, peoples! Will be back in a few the meantime if you want to come over and help us count stock in return for some free drinks, please, let me know.....

Monday, June 23, 2008

35% off Stocktake Sale!

Yes, it's shameless self-promotion time: use the code STOCKTAKE at checkout to get 35% off everything at the best online store in the world, ever, FrockYou !

Needless to say it's been a loooong day and I'm tired, cranky and have a cuppa brewing. Also Boston Legal is on, so tomorrow stay tuned for my picks of the bargain racks (yes I am having little other inspiration or correct grammar because I am existing beneath a massive pile of orders, between racks and racks of clothing and on top of an office chair that is extremely uncomfortable because I have been welded to it all day).

Shop, Shop, Shop, don't stop, stop stop (sounds like it's from the new Coldplay album).....

The Moment I became a Grown-Up

I turned 24 the other day. Closer to 20 then 30, not yet wrinkly or particularly saggy, young enough to experiment with trend-based fashion and old enough to not be harrassed for ID at bars. But until last night I have never really felt like an adult. Graduating from uni, living on the other side of the globe and giving birth still hadn't made that "grown-up" section of my self-awareness kick into action. Frankie magazine ran a story a couple of issues ago where various writers revealed the moment they became a "grown-up". There was the first sexual experience, realising your parent's taste in music isn't as daggy as you once thought &co. &co., but it made me think. I just re-read those first few sentences and realised it sounds like I'm about to launch into some erotic fantasy about "being treated like a woman"; apologies for that. What I meant is, after years of fairly hard partying, tempered by having a baby of course but the urge is still there when I'm not too tired/cranky/wanting to wear pjs, last night I honestly and truly wanted to stand around in a fairly quiet bar with my friends, have a few drinks and a good old gossip...and not get completely maggoted and dance the night away. Those who know me personally have just keeled over in shock, but it's true. The thought of being stamped from a nightclub full off too-young, too-orange people in clingy polyester is about as attractive to me now as being tickled with a red-hot cattle prod. This never used to be the case. I'd happily get tipsy enough to not care where we were drinking and dancing or what sort of rhytmic rot we were dancing to. Last night I took great pleasure in getting tipsy enough to talk louder then usual and cackle at everyone's (yes, mine too) bad jokes and generally just enjoy everyone's company, but by midnight was seriosuly contemplating my ugg boots, a cup of tea and leftover birthday cake. I realised just how much more attractive this is then stumbling barefoot to Merv's Pizzeria for chicken wingdings under flourescent lights.

A few of my more settled friends had already trotted off, and when I mentioned to another that I didn't really feel like partying all night, gawd I must be truly old, she replied "You're not old, you're just grown-up". She was right, I think. She's a psychologist and been at uni for three thousand years so she knows what she's talking about. She also warned me that the majority of people we were dinner-ing/partying with would be gone by midnight, because we just don't have the interest in partying til dawn anymore. Apparently, that's what grown-ups do: drink enough to be happy, enjoy everyone's conversation and company, head home for a good night's rest and not feel like hell, cursing the sunshine and craving Burger Rings all Sunday. Whereas once I would've poo-poohed the idea, it now makes perfect sense. Not to say that people who do party all night are delusional or irresponsible or indeed wrap themselves in cheap fabrics, I hope they party hearty while they still have the drive, and when that lightbulb goes off signalling the beginning of sensible socialising, they can sit back, smile, and appreciate what they've had.

Of course, wise psychologist friend is getting hitched in December, so we're all going to make the most of the free champers, kick off our stylish but uncomfortable heels, try to remember not to tuck our frocks into our knickers after struggling to the toilets in large groups getting disoriented on the way back, all while struggling to remember the steps to Nutbush. Hell yeah.

Friday, June 20, 2008

The Coolest Kids Books Ever: Never Shooped Out new blog section!

The bestest and most comprehensive online shopping directory EVER is NeverShoppedOut - and they've just added a new Kids Corner, written by yours truly.....

Style-conscious Mums the world over both rejoice and despair at the thought of shopping for their precious little tots. Imagine my shock when I discovered that the “Kids Licenced” section of Target was not actually a play-area that served the odd martini, but instead a congested nightmare of Disney branding. On the other hand, labels as we previously knew them have become impractical: Mummy can justify a Burberry trench on a cost-per-wear basis, but a little one would outgrow it in a matter of months (at $325 a pop, Daddy might not quite understand…). How then, do we spoil Bub with a bit of good old-fashioned glamour? In the most educational and beautiful way there is: with books!

The crème de la crème of fashionable books is This Little Piggy Went to Prada, by Amy Allen ($29.95). This hot pink collection of nursery rhymes “for the Blahnik Brigade” contains such gems as “I had a little shoe tree”; “There was a young woman who lived in her Choos”; “Pussycat Pussycat, where have you been?/I’ve been to London to visit McQueen”; and my personal favourite, “Twinkle Twinkle, Diamond Ring/In a blue box tied with string”…..the illustrations are beautiful watercolours by Eun-Kyung Kan and for every copy sold a donation is made to the Save The Children Fund. It’s fashion with a conscience, dahling!

If your tot knows that C is for Chanel (and not for such pedestrian things as Cat) then Different Like Coco, by Elizabeth Matthews ($27.95), is a sure-fire hit. The basic message of the book is a positive message about being yourself, with underlying themes of feminism and self-respect, as it outlines the life of one of the most iconic women of the 20th century. Little girls will love the simple and appealing illustrations, also by the author, and be inspired by the classic rags-to-riches Cinderella-story. Except with better tailoring than the original.

That’s all well and good, I hear you shout, but what if we have a cool little dude who thinks the Blahnik Brigade is a group of outer-space superheroes? How about THE most rockin’ A B C book in existence, M is for Metal, by Paul McNeil and Barry Divola ($27.95)? In the School of Rock, this is what they teach. Learn all about the long-haired guitar geniuses that influenced, shaped and inspired your mum and dad (and possibly grandma and grandpa too). The illustrations are hilarious (and a bit rude, so don’t show it to your Idol-loving sister), and the verses are simple and catchy: “S is for Stones, that just keep on rolling/Most of their fans have now switched to lawn bowling”. Parents might want to wait until the kids are experimental teens before trying to explain Q: “Q is for Queen, who were fruity as mangoes/Scaramouche, Scaramouche, can you do the fandango?”

Little hipsters and their ultra-cool parental units will also love the simple and highly amusing board book, Urban Babies Wear Black by Michelle Sinclair Colman (from $6.95).
Infantus urbanus (defn.): Young mammal raised in city environment. Infantus urbanus love nights at the opera, modern architecture, and fine cuisine. Difficult to spot at night due to their penchant for black clothing. See also URBAN BABIES.
Tots will love the bright illustrations and easy-to-handle size, and city dwelling parents will appreciate the tongue-in-cheek tone. It also comes in Country Babies Wear Plaid, Eco Babies Wear Green and Beach Babies Wear Shades. A great book to have on hand while sipping babycinos at the local coffee haunt.

Cultured babes should also take a peek at M. Sasek’s classic This Is… series (about $35 each), which captures the essence of enchanting cities around the globe. If you have ever had the travel bug and want a way to pass it on to your tot without enduring a 20-hour flight, these books are a great place to start. Whimsical illustrations and simple, informative text make reading a joy for both parents and kids. I found out about them through my daughter’s Travelling Uncle Scott, who sent back This is San Fransisco for her first Christmas (from Canada. In April. He’s pretty casual). I also know of New York, Paris and Rome, but a quick Google reveals everywhere from Edinburgh to Israel. In today’s global village, an appreciation of other places is so important. You’ll have a heart attack in 18 years time when they slug a backpack over their shoulder, pierce their nose and trot off OS, but at least you can send them prepared.

Arty folk will love the retro-styled (naturally) Petit Connoisseur: Art board books by Karen Salmansohn (from $6.95). Aimed to foster an appreciation of colour, shape, and eventually, art (ah! The title wasn’t a cryptic clue, after all), this book provides your prodigy with “the basics they need—MOMA, Dada, Dali—that will help them leap successfully from play date to gallery gala.” Top quality printing and the bold colour of illustrator Brian Stauffer work perfectly to distract hungry little artisans from gnawing at the corners. Fashionistas will also be delighted with the second book in the series, Petit Connoisseur: Fashion . Promoting “first fashion words” such as catwalk and choo-shoe train, this adorable board book should be bundled together with This Little Piggy to make sure your little princess never wants to see the inside of Kmart.

Touchy-feely books are fantastic learning devices for little ones. I stumbled upon this brilliant version that has not a fluffy duck, soft cat, or woolly lamb in sight – Pop Warhol’s Top by Julie Appel and Amy Guglielmo (from $9.95). Educate them about art and the principles of colour as they touch and feel their way through modern masterpieces: (from the publisher) “What could be better than pulling on the lettuce in Claes Oldenburg's "Two Burgers with Everything"? Or stroking the fluffy eyelashes on Warhol's pink-toned Marilyn? It's an experience kids will never forget.”

Bananas in Pyjamas Do Some Washing, Dora Patronises the Spanish, and Bob the Builder’s Compensation Claim can all be pushed to the bargain bin. There are so many truly wonderful stories and learning devices out there that parents can enjoy with their children – seek (or Google) and thou shalt find…..

International (ship to Aus): Amazon, BookDepository, BetterWorld Books

Wednesday, June 18, 2008

Paparrazi: the best show on Earth

Wouldn't it suck driving (or being driven) along, stopping at traffic lights (cos even celebs obey the red and green lights, particularly German ones) only to have someone slam their camera lens into your windscreen and snap away, then turn and jump into the car behind that is going to follow you wherever it is you are going? Or to have people sitting in the supermarket carpark all day waiting for you, making huge bucks out of the fact you bought groceries and then loaded them into your car? Yes, but it's also awesome that Angelina shops at Sainsbury's (like me!) and Robbie spends ages in Cardiff at night looking for something to do (like me! Obviously he never found the Walkabout pub next to Travelodge). That's why Paparazzi is such awesome viewing. Following the team of "paps" behind Aussie entrepreneur Darryn Lyon's Big Pictures photo agency, it shows how boring, futile, interesting and oddly obsessive the world of celebs is. Especially in Britain ("who's that? I don't know. Surely she's on a soap? Dunno. Take her pic anyway"). For those of you with cable you've probably flicked past it a thousand times or the current episodes are more current than 2005, but for those of you with only 5 channels to choose from it's on abc2 every wednesday at 9:30.

Huge money is spent and paid in getting these pics. The first Brangelina pics apparently netted them nearly $1 million. It sounds like an exciting job, but I'm not so sure...I wouldn't spend a week following Charlotte Church around Cardiff and then driving behind her all the way to London, just to get a few snaps of her in baggy pants and thongs. I'd be pissed off if I spent a week in pink-Pommy infested tourist spots like the Algarves trying to get pics of footballers wives such as Colleen (Wayne Rooney, looks like Shrek) "whose only talent is shopping". I would, however, gleefully stomp around in the mud at Glastonbury, swilling pints of watery crap beer and take pics of the massive crowd, enjoy the show and run into Kate Moss. Unfortunately it takes alot of sitting in vans outside Selfridges waiting for Pammy Anderson before you get to do that.

It's oddly compulsive and completely awesome viewing. Aside from the fact that Darryn's wardrobe match is Edi from Ab Fab, and his 'current' project involves turning a talentless bunch of pouty boobs into "the next big girl band" (which obviously never happened, though Westlife did miraculously reform), you too will sit on the edge of the couch waiting for that moment when the celeb finally appears. It's all over in about 3 seconds, and he/she generally looks dishevelled, pissy, and oddly like a suburban chav for someone who's rolling in dosh. LIKE THE ONES WHO WEAR PINK TERRY TOWELLING JUICY COUTURE TRACKSUITS FFS. It's like some odd sense of relief to see that they don't walk around in real life airbrushed with appropriate theme music traling behind them. I don't even care that these screenings are 3 years old now and Brangelina have adopted a mini United Nations, Sienna has gone from boho to badho and Charlotte Church is....umm.....possibly in Cardiff somewhere. I could go on about our celeb obsession for days (think about it, something isn't cool or sellable or worth having unless a celeb has it/wears it/dates it); but instead I'll leave you with this, from celeb blog JustJared:

"Reese Witherspoon puffs up her cheeks as she drinks a gulp of water outside her friend’s house in Brentwood, Calif. on Monday."


Monday, June 16, 2008

Modern Manners: A Rant

Cat W is best like butter, on a roll.....

I have, fairly recently, been spending some time lamenting the general lack of manners and courtesy that people appear to be exhibiting these days. I don’t know what it is, but I know that its not just kids – older people are just as guilty. I work in customer service, and one of the biggest things I have noticed about this industry is that people can be big old bastards. I’m not old, I’m 25 in fact, and I consider that I was brought up well enough by my parents to know what constitutes good manners. Subsequently I shall have a mini rant so bear with me, you may even sympathise!

I try to treat people the way I like to be treated. No matter if I don’t really like them, or care what they think about me, but I know how good I feel when people use their pleases, thank you’s and don’t treat me like general shite. I have this thing going on whereby if I don’t get a please, thank you, some kind of eye contact or even a smile, then I will often give back what I get and be quite cool towards my subject. Polite, but cool. I don’t know what impression this gives, but when you work with people everyday, it makes you very aware of what makes good service. Manners and a friendly demeanor are paramount.

I don’t think I’m asking for the world. For me, as a paying customer, you don’t need to engage me in conversation (in fact, please don’t) unless, for example, you’re a travel agent or someone I’m buying a book off (in which case I like to have a good old convo, preferably about the book). If I’m polite and friendly towards you, I simply expect the same in return.

One thing that quite annoys me is parents who don’t teach their kids to say please or thank you, or if they do, often it’s not enforced. Subsequently, we have a lot of spoilt little shits running around, who think it’s above them to show courtesy to others. Not all parents are like this, and not all kids obviously, but it’s too common a thing not to warrant comment! Young people, those in their teens and mid twenties often show a similar discourtesy. And old people. My god. They can push and shove with the best of them, and it ain’t pretty. You are not better than me because you’ve lived through 10 world wars and deserve to be treated like a legend, if you show some courtesy and don’t forget to say please or thank you, then maybe you’ll get said treatment. And for god’s sake don’t use your deafness as an excuse. Now I know people get old and grumpy and sick, and I respect that, but it’s an entirely different subject and not one I shall indulge in right now. Or maybe ever…

I don’t dislike the industry I work in, just in case you may have been getting that impression, but I do get a little irritated when people think it’s above them to use manners and/or show discourtesy. Whatever industry or life situation you find yourself in, just remember that rudeness, stuck up-ness and ill-manners are not at all becoming or endearing. So next time your out and dealing with the public, put away that dough face and remember your manners – it may make a difference, even just a slight one.

Sunday, June 15, 2008

Things that Piss Me Off: Volume 2

You know how the teeny things in life can grate your nerves until you have no choice but to let it out by furiously typing away your anger (because violence is for bogans and if you try to tell one of your intelligent friends about it they'll be annoyingly logical)? Well these have been shitting me for a week (pics from JustJared):

Exhibit 1: Mischa Barton's fugly beyond belief and probably hideously expensive fringed/tassled boot-things (other boots or footwear in general may be offended at being associated as being in the same family group with these monstrosities). Oh, where to begin? They sort of remind me of a wooly mammoth. Out West. Who's just been to a craft fair and stitched a design Aunt Ethel created onto it's skirt, and couldn't find a pair of matching tights so just threw on the closest pair it could find. And then was chased out of town by pitchfork-bearing folk who couldn't stand that crime and turned it into a pair of shoes so hideous it must live out the rest of eternity being worn by a former a-list celeb who should never had fired her stylist, and being mocked by bloggers throughout the universe for the rest of eternity. Oh, Mischa. When you were Marisa you were bearable, as long as you didn't open your mouth. BUT YOU HAVE WORN THESE AGAIN and I'm sorry but it's the last straw:

See how the mammoth-spirit is trying to escape onto the streets of New York? Trying desperately to wrench itself free of your legs and go live peacefully in the Swiss Alps? LET IT GO. I'm glad you're "getting your money's worth" by wearing these 'boots' a number of times instead of wasting your $$ on an eco-unfriendly one-wear-only pair, but sheesh. SET IT FREE.

2). Yes, it's been a quiet week if Mischa's boots are the main thing getting my goat. The other biggie this week has been Manners. The amount of people these days (and I'm not just targeting youth Today Tonight-style) who find it difficult to utter a please or thankyou, or to stand patiently in line and wait their turn, or to park their vehicles respectfully, or to punctuate their friggin emails and not type in CAPS LOCK ('COS LOOK HOW RUDE THIS SEEMS AM I YELLING AT YOU YES I AM), or to treat their paying customers with a touch of courtesy, is astounding. Do you know how stupid it is when you take up two parking spots in the carpark with your gas-guzzling 4WD that has ben as far into the wilderness as the suburbs, when you have your company name and phone number splashed across the side? Yes I will remember your business name, and no I will not use your services. Instead, whenever anybody asks me for a recc in your line of trade, I will quickly tell them about your lack of parking ability, and warn them to consider carefully the wisdom of handing you money or giving you authority to build/repair/create something when the simple task of manoeuvering your vehicle between two straight, bold white lines appears too cumbersome. And don't tell me you didn't notice, when you clambered down from your lofty Jeep heights did you not wonder why the cars either side of you are so far away? IT'S NOT BECAUSE YOU PICKED A BIG PARKING SPOT, TWATTYBOLLOCKS.

I will name and shame becuase some people deserve it. The puckered old bags who work in the local Sussan have as much personality as a hairbrush and as many customer service skills as a kiwi fruit. It does not look good on your store or business when a customer leaves the store, and you all bitch loudly to each otehr about her, in full view and hearing capacity of all the other customers STILL waiting in line. It doesn't matter if she was a cow, or annoying or difficult, basic common sense would tell you to save it for the lunchroom. At least by lowering your standards, we've come to not expect much when shopping in your store. Except for being stared at becuase I look like a well-dressed shoplifter. Or perhaps my toddler is going to stuff some trousers in her nappy and wander out. Or perhaps it is truly annoying when I or anyone I am shopping with decide to try things on, and dare to ask for a different size. Yes we can hear you huff and puff, and I do apologise for putting you out, but I believe your job is "sales assistant" which means in order to get sales, you need to assist your customers. Not stand behind the counter and gossip, not badmouth other customers or staff, not pretend like your stock or that clipboard is more important than a customer, and not take your sweet time serving people. We have places to be, you work here and therefore, you don't. I do a spot of mystery shopping occassionally for a bit of fun and petrol money, and Sussan be warned: I gleefully took an assignment to do your store very, very soon, and it won't be pretty. Ha!

There'll be more on the please and thankyou aspect tomorrow, from someone who works in a bank and therefore bears the brunt of the stupidest, craziest and downright rudest members of society. Stay tuned.

3). I must revert back to fashion for an instant; it has become apparent that the leggings-craze is wearing off, but instead is, dare I say it, being replaced with something much, much worse: Stockings-as-leggings-as-pants. Leggings show all your bumps and lumps and are flattering only when worn as they are meant to be - layered. But stockings are a form of underwear - yes, when you wear them as pants and prance about in an "oversize" shirt from Supre which barely covers your bum crack, the general public can see everything. And we don't wish to. Please wear pants. I feel like I should be on tv: "For just one dollar a day, you too can sponsor a tarty suburban teen to receive the education and funding neccessary to help her realise that common decency requires the covering of private parts. In cities around the country, more and more young girls are unneccessarily revealing more crotch and crack then the public needs to see. Please, give generously and help this worthy cause".

4). We live in a fairly new suburb, the type where everybody has matching Hotondo Homes, a boat, 4wd, and landscaped garden. Many of our neighbours regularly spend their Sundays washing their cars, watering the lawn and mowing the grass. Pardon me, but I thought there was a water shortage? Or does it not apply in every suburb? Your car was claen last week when you washed it, turn your freakin hose off and STOP. Go out and do something else. Take up crocheting or take the kids to a shopping centre to play hide and seek. You'll be amused for hours. The grass looks nice already, how come no-one else's is that green? Is it on some sort of Incredible Hulk steroids? You do not need to religiously mow it in one direction one week, and the other the next so those perfect diagonal lines are always on show. It's a LAWN, you only need to keep it neat, not give it manicures. Are you using recycled water from your shower? No, you like to show off the expensive watering system that's just one bit better than next door's. It pisses me off, becuase a) why haven't people got something better to do, b) it's arrogant to assume that becuase water still comes out of the tap you can use it excessively and c) get a gardener. We have*.

5). Stocktake sales suck when you can't find anything decent, and that pair of jeans you bought last week are now $40 off. 'Nuff said.

*Disclaimer: this is a very nice suburb and aside form the cranky people across the road and the ones who park their van across from our driveway becuase their 10-car garage apparently isn't big enough, our neighbours on the whole are very nice people who don't burn their bathroom doors for firewood or breed with the entire street. I appreciate that.

Friday, June 13, 2008

Book Review: Trainspotting

He keeps a goth in his basement and collects Darren Lyons figurines. His favourite colour is Rachel Zoe's patented new "gilver" and if he was on the Amazing Race, he'd probably be eliminated. Marky C (and his indie bunch) muses on one of the greatest literary works of the 90's:

Irvine Welsh’s 1993 novel Trainspotting has recently been re-released by Vintage in a double pack with Oliver Twist, compounded under the loose banner of ‘youth novels’. Certainly, both novels detail the exploits of various groups of young people and their correspondence to, and victimization by, society’s ills. However, Welsh’s seminal debut and Dickens’ Bildungsroman classic share little more common ground than the fact that they’re both works of genius (though the thought of Oliver Twist shagging his dead brother’s pregnant wife during a somber wake must have passed Dickens’ mind at some point).

The initial thing to be noticed whilst reading Trainspotting is that it’s not in any particularly familiar form of English, but rather native Scottish dialect: a combination of words that must be either spoken aloud or pondered for some time. Daunting at first, it soon becomes second nature and serves as a highly effective literary technique in which to develop some memorable characters.

Primarily, the novel is narrated by Renton (portrayed by a young Ewan McGregor in the 1996 film adaptation). A former literature student of Aberdeen University, Renton’s drug habits see him cop the title ‘junkie’ both from the myriad of aggressive people encountered throughout the book and from his own acquaintances; one of whom, Begbie, is an alcoholic psychopath secretly disliked by his group. The casualty list of hurricane Begbie is high; ranging from his pregnant girlfriend, an assortment of bar attendees and staff, and anybody with the indecency to look him in the eye. However, the HIV casualty rate is similarly high, with the demise of the formerly athletic Tommy one of the book’s saddest developments. Naturally, any novel exploring explicit heroin use bound to be targeted by do-gooders intent on censoring anything that resembles unchristian immorality, and Trainspotting certainly has, but Welsh is objective in his depiction of smack use. Sure, the high is ‘a thousand times better than any orgasm you’ve ever had’, but the criminality, depression, bleakness, anger, relapses, illnesses and death outweigh any glorification.

Characters come and go (as do references to Bowie, the Smiths, Iggy Pop and the Velvet Underground), but, oddly for a book so enthralling, no primary plot underpins the story. Written from chapters that oscillate between first and third person narrative; between male and female narrators; between stream of consciousness and story retell; Trainspotting bridges the near-impossible divide between effective literary experimentation and quality content. And it might just even be better than Oliver Twist.

Thursday, June 12, 2008

Jump for Joy: London Market Shopping is online!

I am terribly homesick for London. Everyone who knows me knows this because I crap on about it all the time. I am not Pommy or anything, just have an affinity for that great big vibrant city. It's been 2 and a bit years since I've been! (as in, please dontate a plane ticket) BUT I have just discovered that one of the best bits of London shopping, the Portobello Markets, is now online. No, it doesn't compare to actually being there but it's a start. Two bright young things have started , bringing the best up and coming clothing, shoes and jewellery designers, and vintage finds. You can even haggle in the Let's Trade section. The only shite thing is a) the Aussie dollar/UK pound and b) shipping is 20pounds (about $50). Well, ok that's two things but like any market trip, the hard work of sifting through the racks week after week can reveal hidden gems.....Camden and Spitalfields coming soon (rude tshirts, hooray!).

Wednesday, June 11, 2008

Following People through the Streets of Paris

On the way home this afternoon I heard on JJJ an interview with a guy called Phillip (apologies of that's not how you spell it, he seems like the sort of guy who might get antsy about spelling), who lives in Paris teaching English to businessmen. Every day, he follows someone, somewhere, to see if he ends up anywhere interesting. He blogs about it here:
. On 9th June he followed a girl wearing socks over her leggings (fyi i love this) through the Metro to a "Poney Club". On 7 June a stylish woman in a trench coat led him to a hip cafe, Chez Prune, where he got asked directions by a cute guy. Apparently the other day he followed Sarah Jessica Parker into Sephora. It's an interesting idea, provided you don't get arrested. Like a chic, artier version of Hamish & Andy's Ghosting (they do it on Rove and it's funny, as much as I dont want it to be). Just imagine where you could end up. Personally I'd favour following people onto trains through Europe, airports etc and just winging it all over the globe, assuming money is no object. I guess I could follow people here, but it'd be something like "middle-aged woman in ill-fitting jeans visits Chickenfeed, returns to her car in the multi-storey behind Target expertly dodging groups of emo teens wallowing in the shadows, drives home to suburbia stopping briefly at Woolies." Or, "overly faux-tanned young lady stomps through the mall in uncomfortable looking heels, reaches her hatchback with frangipani stickers on the rear window and sits in the front seat texting for awhile." Or, "tracksuited bogans sitting in the mall. Have been since this morning when Centrelink opened. Walk in a large gang around the corner to the bustop. Sit there for the rest of the afternoon."

Anyhow, it's quite addictive reading. He admitted to having a type of OCD where he can't sleep at night if he hasn't followed somebody that day. If you can look past the creepiness of that comment, it's a really interesting project, and quite a nifty way to have a guided cyber-tour through Paris!

Tuesday, June 10, 2008

Book Review: Don’t Tell Mum I Work on the Rigs: She Thinks I’m a Piano Player in a Whorehouse, by Paul Carter

She spends alot of time on long-haul flights and thus devours books the same way she devours Sour Cream and Chive Pringles. Cat W shares her thoughts on what sounds like a rollickingly good read:

Following on from the lovely Renee’s fillum review of a few weeks back, the one with Brad Pitt and a 47 word title, comes a book with a similarly long title but belonging to a completely different genre – Don’t Tell Mum I Work on the Rigs: She Thinks I’m a Piano Player in a Whorehouse, by Paul Carter. Although it was released something like a couple of years ago, I consider it the height of rudeness that this riotous work was not bought to my attention earlier. I love a book that makes me laugh out loud and for me, this one manages that and then some.

Don’t tell Mum I Work on the Rigs has the potential hallmarks of a travelogue, you know the ones where I spent a year on the Mediterranean and here are all the wonderful things I learnt whilst I frolicked through olive groves and entertained dashing Italian guys, or I hiked through Alaska now read about how macho I am for fighting a polar bear. Don’t get me wrong, I don’t mind reading the odd travelogue myself and have read quite a few in the past, but the more I read the less I give a shit about said adventures (unless they’re my own or my friends,’ lets get this straight). Carter offers his readers a little more substance in this book; it details his travels throughout some of the world’s most remote locations whilst following a career working on oil rigs, a tough, gritty bitch of a job that does not suffer pillocks. Carter makes no bones about how difficult this work is, but his ensuing adventures manage to leave nothing to the imagination. One gets the impression that he is in fact a bit of a wild man, and maybe just a few of his life tales may have been missed out here due to the fact that they’re simply unprintable.

Don’t Tell Mum I Work on the Rigs tells of Carter’s career travels to numerous far-flung and diverse locales - the Russian tundra, Borneo, jungles of Asia, Sumatra, the Middle East, Tunisia, Nigeria and the North Sea, among others. The stories he tells of the people he meets along the way, as well as the animals (!) and situations he gets himself into are recounted with a kind of chilled out alacrity, and one of the reasons this book is so easy to read is because Carter is just a bloody funny guy. Peppered with hilarious anecdotes about a pubescent monkey called Joe, Stetson-wearing know it all Texans, almost dying of dysentery and being served cocktails by an orang-utan on a ocean freighter, Don’t Tell Mum I Work on the Rigs is 200 pages of obsessively readable exhilaration that anyone with an open mind, an appreciation for the left of field and an immunity to a little swearing will enjoy.

Monday, June 9, 2008

Feminism: No Time for Babies

The other day I came across this article from The Australian, courtesy of MamaMia. I have to say I agree with it - in today's society, having babies "young" (like, in your 20's when your fertility is ripest) is generally frowned upon - you need to establish a career, finances, travel, education etc etc before you think about reproduction. Feminism has given women the chance to empower themselves and achieve all these things, but at what cost?

THE strategic silences of feminism are having profound effects on society. For all the brilliant choices ushered in for women - the freedom to forge ahead with careers, to stay single, if that was their wish, not to be tied down by family and babies, if that was their choice - feminism failed women by refusing to inform them that their new-found choices came at a price.
By failing to remind women about their biology and their declining fertility, feminism deliberately ignored the innate desire of most women to have a child. The silence continues. It is there in the classroom where, like previous generations of young girls, the present generation is still not taught that fertility cannot be taken for granted.

Fortunately, there are moves to fill in the silence about infertility. If it happens, it may allow young women to make more fully informed choices about work and babies, avoiding the sorrow that afflicted many of their childless forerunners.

Unlike women in the 1950s and ‘60s, the liberated generation of women that followed in the ‘70s and ‘80s had the world at their feet. Yet feminism’s mantra of choice made little room for women who chose to eschew careers for babies.

Indeed, if we are honest, feminism never had much time for babies. Having babies meant leaving the workplace, opting out of the career track, at least for a time. With its unwavering focus on encouraging women to make great strides in the professions, making their presence felt in the boardroom, the courtroom and parliament, the feminist movement deliberately ignored motherhood as a legitimate choice for women.

The cost of feminism’s silence about fertility is etched in the faces of those women who pursued dazzling careers and carefree singledom but ended up childless. Women such as ABC presenter Virginia Haussegger, who a few years ago openly wrote about the price she paid for listening to the feminist mothers, who encouraged us to reach for the sky but failed to tell us the truth about our biological clock. Said Haussegger: “Here we are, supposedly ‘having it all’ as we edge 40; excellent education; good qualifications, great jobs. It’s a nice caffe-latte kind of life, really.” But something was missing. “I am childless and I am angry. Angry that I was so foolish to take the word of my feminist mothers as gospel. Angry that I was daft enough to believe female fulfilment came with a leather briefcase.”
(Click the above link to read the full article).

I was 21 when my daughter was born. Thankfully, I'd completed my university degree and spent a couple of years travelling, so I don't feel I've "missed out" on anything. Quite the opposite. I have this new sense of fulfilment that can only come with motherhood. Arguably, our fundamental point of existence is to procreate, so what happens when you've spent your 20's and 30's ticking all the other boxes? Do you then panic and think "shit! I'm going to be old and alone if I don't pop one out soon!" You can have all the money in the world but you can't really buy your own child. As fertility decreases, the need for expensive treatments and the emotional insecurity increases. Women in this situation are a product of their generation: they did what they were "supposed" to do and now one of the most innate desires of the majority of females has been left by the wayside. I am not in anyway trying to gloat, or to assume that women who are close to or in their 40's are selfish and money-obsessed. It's a catch-22 that we've created for ourselves. Instead of thinking/being taught, "I can, I must have it all", isn't it time girls and women were conditioned to think in a far more healthy way: "What do I want?"

Feminism is about choice. Women in the boardroom, strutting down the street in suits, company CEO's, those with large bank accounts all of their own doing, are but one aspect of feminism. What about the intelligent, university-trained woman who forsakes a career to spend her years raising her children? In today's world, that's almost as tough of a decision (and equally frowned upon) as women of generations past entering the workforce instead of staying in the kitchen. We've gone full circle.

I have got blisters in my arse from sitting on the fence so often, but as far as I can tell we should be looking at women's place in society in light of both ends of the spectrum: feminism has given women the choice and the power to enter the workforce on arguably as equal footing as men. By the same token, this has overtaken one of her most important roles, that of motherhood. If we've reached this point, surely the next is to take a teeny step back and admit that maybe we can't have it all. Men don't. And I've gone off track a bit. But the point is, what's the point of the feminist movement if it has begun to deny women of one of their primary tools of happiness? Any movement needs to develop and change over time. I think the time has come to adjust feminism to recognise, and to help girls and women recognise and appreciate, and choose to be a part of or not, that miraculous role they play within society, the role of life-givers.

Friday, June 6, 2008

Sex and the Shoes. And the City.

Wel, for the first time in a long time I forked over my $14.50 to see this much-hyped film, admittedly with a few hesitations, 'cos, y'know, the book is always better than the film, the tv show is always better than the film...but Sex and the City: The Movie is pleasantly enjoyable! I can't give away too much of the plot, but I reccomend it. The clothes? Fun and totally OTT, which is what I wanted to see. The shoes? Tick. Have just started a shoe savings account. And am also Googling how to get that walk-in wardrobe (see it, you'll know what I mean). The guys in our group only came along for a perve, but when they realised that the chicks are actually in their 40's, indeed the awesomeness that is Samantha turns 50, they tuned out. And they didn't get the shoes at all. The movie touches on a lot of issues about life, love (the biggie, so to speak), choices, feminism, fashion, sex, family and will make you want to move to New York. It is cleverly written and the characters generally translate well to the big screen. Jennifer Hudson is adorable as 'Saint' Louise, even though I'm never actually sure why Carrie needs a personal assistant, considering she doesn't really do much except go to Starbucks and designer stores alot. The blatant product placement is a bit cringeworthy at times, but it is unfortuantely neccessary. It gets 9 out of 10.

Who wants blue Manolos? I want blue Manolos.....

Wednesday, June 4, 2008

Sex and the City: Sydney Premiere

I'm starting a new section called Kerri-Anne Watch. She is fabulous. The Aussie premiere of "the hottest movie of the year yada yada" was attended by the typical round of Aussie "celebs" most of whom couldn't be bothered to even frock up, but check out K-Ken, she's pretty hot considering she's 150:

Ok, not the most flattering pose but it's another smashing frock and no sign of tinfoil a la Logie. Plus you gotta hand it to a woman willing to stand next to a supermodel. I stood next to Elle McPherson once at Madame Tussaud's and came away with an eating disorder. By the way, all these pics are from and thankfully come with captions, otherwise I wouldn't know who this vision in leather was:

Charlotte Dawson, a judge on Australia's Next Top Model (fyi even Tyra is sick of this show). Love this frock, but didn't Jessica Rowe have a baby about 2 minutes ago or something? She's so thin:

And I hope that coat isn't real. As in, real fur, not that she's carrying an illusion of a coat or anything. Anyway, then there was this:

"HELP ME, I've escaped from the Diner but my arms are held captive by this deranged animal which is rearing up behind me to attack that scared looking lady over my shoulder...don't just stand there and click, DO SOMETHING GODDAM IT".

At least Larry Emdur admitted he was only there to make up the numbers. He couldn't name a single character off the show but wanted/was being forced to to make his wife happy. Aw.

Incidentally, the cover of the latest issue of Cosmopolitan makes me want to buy it, because it's bright and we all have a secret love of swishing our skirts around to show a dangerous amount of airbrushed leg:

Even though we are all suffering SJP-overload, the brainless content Cosmo generally gives me the shits* and I'd rather spend $7 on a coffee and that really yummy banana bread at Gloria Jeans in Borders and just read it for free, I'm tempted by this issue. Maybe I'll be pleasantly suprised. We should all try new things right? Yes. Except boots like these:

*I hasten to add that FrockYou has some invaluable editorial coming up in the next smashing issue of Cosmo, so far be it for me to suggest it is a pointless publication. It's not usually my personal cup of tea, but if the next cover is as catching as this one, well, I may just happily convert...content pending. Oh hell, I'm gonna buy this issue tomorrow anyway, the cover has got "sex" and "money" in bold letters and who can resist that? Thumbs up Cosmo...if there is a feature on Kerri-Anne, I'll be writing you a fan letter.

Tuesday, June 3, 2008

Film Review: Driving Lessons

She collects Steelo and has a pet rock called Dean. She dislikes pink and makes dresses out of curtains. Here's another smashing fillum review from our resident movie buff and all round nice girl, Renee A:

It’s nice to see that some members of the Harry Potter coterie are getting work outside of the series. And no, I’m not referring to Daniel “I’ll star in edgy plays where I strip off to show I’m a serious actor” Radcliffe, but rather Rupert Grint (Ron Weasley) and Julie Walters (Mrs Weasley). Grint plays Ben, the emotionally repressed son of a pastor and an uptight, self-righteous, overbearing mother (Laura Linney). Ben gets a summer job as an assistant to eccentric, occasionally alcoholic actress Evie, a character that Walters inhabits with evident enthusiasm.

I read somewhere that this movie is just a starring vehicle for Walters, and that everyone else pales in comparison beside her*. I disagree. Walters is fabulously over the top and revels in spouting Shakespeare and poetry every spare moment with passion and gusto, and she does raise a chuckle or four with her performance. But Grint does a bloody good job of playing the straight man and he shows that he’s learnt a thing or two on the Harry Potter set. Sure, he overdoes it here and there, but mostly, through Grint’s performance, it’s with Ben that I connected. And Linney is fantastic as, essentially, the villain of the piece.

Driving Lessons is a tale of discovery, friendship and growing up. A “coming of age story” as the Hollywood suits might say. Apart from an unsettling sub-plot concerning a crazy old man who ran over his wife and an ambiguous commentary on Christianity, I found this film to be a solid, enjoyable watch. It didn’t blow me away, but it does get bonus points for being set in London and Edinburgh (those places just rock my socks). I shall give it two and a half out of five Ron Weasley indie haircuts (this was a difficult decision; I almost gave it three, but not quite).

*No, I haven’t the details of where this comment is from. I don’t remember. Or possibly I’m making it up.

Monday, June 2, 2008

Funny Shite: Flight of the Conchords

If you've been living under a rock or simply don't tune into Channel Ten at 10pm on Sundays, you might not have seen the hilarious cult US tv show starring "formerly New Zealand's fourth most popular guitar-based digi-bongo acapella-rap-funk-comedy folk duo". The Extras-like series, which also aired as a 6-part radio series on BBC 2, follows Jermaine and Brett and their manager, New Zealand senior deputy cultural attache to the US, Murray. They are two talented little Kiwis - the show is witty, dry and the songs are so very, very funny but horribly catchy - they could easily be released by an Idol winner or something and land in the Top Ten. Which says alot about the music industry, but we won't go there. Here's some stuff I copied and pasted from their website:
"A catch 22 type dilemna has struck kiwi band Flight of The Conchords in relation to updating the band news on their website. Members of the band (Jemaine and Bret) have noticed that whenever there are doing things that could be reported on the website, they are too busy to update the website. In addition, whenever the band members have some spare time in which they could update the website, there is usually, as one member put it "nothing going on". As a direct result of this problem The Conchords may resort to manufacturing news stories about themselves to bolster news items in less busy times."
Oh. Anyway here's a clip (below) of the smoothly groovin love song, Business Time. Suddenly, business socks make sense.

Flight of the Conchords- Business Time