Posts Tagged ‘culture’
When I told several Sydney-based friends I would be living in Newtown when I arrived in the New South Wales capital, they gave verbatim responses about how I would find it.
“Newtown’s pretty out there,” one told me as I packed up my life in south-west Queensland.
“It’s different but I think you’re gonna fit right in.”
I wasn’t sure how to take the comment at the time, but ever since my maiden stroll down King Street almost three weeks ago, it now makes sense: Newtown is a place you really can come as you are.
In 1992, I was an angst-ridden, overachieving 11-year-old. Like thousands of others, I honestly believed a subdued Kurt Cobain was singing about my life when he slurred the lyrics of “Come as You Are”. At the time, I thought it was my personalised theme song. I was wrong. The song is a musical tribute to the inner-west suburb in which I currently reside.
At a cursory glance, Newtown strikes you as a place where downtrodden creative types come to escape the judging stare of the real world. In the past week alone, I’ve spoken to two unemployed journalists, a musician preparing to busk her way to dinner and a dishevelled, 50-something writer who has been working on a manuscript since 2002. Everyone here has a story, from the well-dressed corporate type frantically hailing a bus, to the barefoot bohemian couple who seem to be celebrating a 46-year Summer of Love as they walk their Labrador.
It doesn’t matter what you look like, how you dress or how oddly you behave here – the grand Lady Newtown has seen it all before on her bustling main thoroughfares and narrow, terrace-lined backstreets. She won’t judge you and, because of her unique allure, neither will the people who call her ample, culture-filled bosom home. If you don’t believe me, just ask the bearded, tutu-wearing guy who was sobbing hysterically on King Street last Saturday.
Even the non-human aspect of Newtown is a multifarious mix of calm and chaos. As I write this from the relative silence of my courtyard, it’s hard to believe the lights, sounds and manic pace of Enmore Road are only 200 metres from here. Only the constant, near-deafening whine of descending planes overhead reminds me I’m sharing a city with almost five million people.
To me, it’s Newtown’s ability to offer both solitude and a strange sense of community and belonging that makes it so appealing. You can walk along the street wearing flippers and a tin-foil hat if you want to, safe in the knowledge you’ll retain relative anonymity.
Despite offering an eclectic range of cafes, restaurants and stores, as well as a vibrant lifestyle that is probably unmatched anywhere else in Sydney, the real lure of this historic suburb is that it provides a venue for people from every corner of the globe to listen to Cobain sing their personal theme song.
Within the invisible, council-determined boundaries of Newtown, you can be anyone you want to be, even if you aren’t sure who that is.
Just don’t try to be anyone you know you aren’t. If you do, the eccentric, welcoming old dame will eat you alive.
If the lovely people at Hallmark are to be believed, Christmas is a time for giving, indulging and sending out vibes of goodwill towards all men, women and house-trained animals.
The reality of the festive season could not be further from the clichés, corny poems and pictures of goofy-looking reindeer the marketing gurus expect us to embrace every December.
While the David Jones catalogues and Coles billboards depict well-dressed shoppers with Joker-esque grins peacefully perusing the aisles, apocalyptic scenes are playing out on the ground.
Is there a get-your-fucking-hands-off-that-last-trampoline-before-I-lose-my-cool card?
It’s all well and good to espouse the spirit of season but the fact is all textbook theory about appropriate Christmas behaviour takes a back seat to retail guerrilla warfare in the lead-up to December 25.
Those who doubt me should have been in the Townsville bottle shop I happened to be in at midday.
As I was filling my trolley with enough vodka and cider to anaesthetise a three-year-old gelding, I witnessed two women swap the Christmas spirit for a verbal stoush over spirits.
Basically, the second woman – let’s call her Little Miss Swear Jar – objected to the first woman – who we’ll call Mrs Three Bottles – taking what appeared to be the last three bottles of an unidentified dark rum off the shelf, even though the former obviously wanted to buy one of them.
Unfortunately, it was at this stage Little Miss Swear Jar forgot all about those warm Christmas card messages and launched into a tirade that would have made both elves and seasoned sailors blush.
Bearing in mind that I made a beeline for the opposite side of the store when the argument started, I’m pretty confident it went something like this:
Little Miss Swear Jar: You’ve gotta be fuckin’ kiddin’ me.
Mrs Three Bottles: What?
Little Miss Swear Jar: Why the fuck are you takin’ all of them?
Mrs Three Bottles: We’re having a party and I need three bottles.
Little Miss Swear Jar: Fuck off. Everyone’s having a party tomorrow. Give me one of those fuckin’ bottles.
Mrs Three Bottles: Get fucked.
Little Miss Swear Jar: Fuck you, moll. You’re ruining my Christmas* and you can go and get fucked right up.
* Author’s note: Apparently, spirits really do maketh the occasion.
What were those morons at Hallmark saying about goodwill and compassion towards our fellow man?
After witnessing what should have been a pay-per-view event, I left the bottle shop thinking the advertising boffins should forgo the soft, heartfelt approach to Christmas marketing and focus instead on promoting a range of retail rage cards and light battle armour.
In 2012, it seems the key to Christmas is just surviving the supermarket skirmish.
Whether you celebrate Christmas or not, I hope you have a fantastic festive season and stay safe while enjoying the company of friends and loved ones.
I’ve got a strong feeling my name will turn up in Santa Claus’ naughty book this year but the fact you guys and girls –this blog’s raison d’être – keep coming back day after day negates the lump of coal that will be stuffed into my stocking* hours from now.
* Author’s note: This is not a euphemism.
I’m sorry, but I’m not lolz-ing.
The Oxford University Press announced the latest inclusions to Oxford Dictionaries Online this week, some of which defy logic.
I used to enjoy perusing the quarterly updates of “current English” but now, the three-monthly read leaves me with a numbness in my special place and a strong desire to stick my head into an oven.
How the hell does formally acknowledging nonsensical words – or in the case of “mwahahaha”, a stupidity-inducing sound – as part of our lexicon make us a more evolved society?
If anything, recognising words like “douche” and “photobomb” demonstrates humanity is now officially catering to the lowest common denominator.
It’s almost as if we’ve waved the white flag and submitted to an army of faceless, iPod-toting, monosyllabic overlords who communicate with grunts , fist bumps and group hugs.
In a nutshell, it’s fucking ridic.
If an alien race was to attack the earth tomorrow – which would be a pretty douchey thing to do – the first laser-wielding ET wannabes to hear us communicate could be forgiven for assuming the zombies had already eaten our brains.
When I discussed the list of latest inclusions with a friend, they played the “our language is dynamic and ever-evolving” card.
Until they reached the word on the list that pays homage to genitals that resemble rhinestone-emblazoned disco jackets.
Ladies and gentlemen, could you please stand and put your hands together for “vajazzle”.
Mankind has not only conquered space, it has also made room in Oxford Dictionaries Online for a verb that means to “adorn the pubic area (of a woman) with crystals, glitter, or other decoration”.
I feel like I’ve woken up after sleeping for 20 years to find out Kim Kardashian is the president of the world.
Despite my friend being more than 1000 kilometres away and on the end of a scratchy mobile phone connection, I could pinpoint the exact moment when their eyes locked onto the word that describes genital crystals.
If you ever want to pull out a lay-down misere on somebody’s argument about how the current evolution of our language is a good thing, show them an Oxford University Press reference to pussy glitter.
While the vodka-loving boozehound in me approves of “dirty martini” getting recognition, the inclusion of “vote” – as in a specific reference to reality television – saddens me and reinforces my belief that humanity has pushed boldly past the point of being astronomically fucked.
It can’t be long now until Skynet becomes self-aware and the living dead commence their attack.
The moment you see “ROFLMAO” in a dictionary is the very instant you should descend into your Judgement Day bunker and wait for the language-destroying hoi polloi to succumb to our zombie masters.
For all those Twitter users who have a yearning to become one of my tweeps, clicking the button below will unleash the 140-character lunacy.
It’s funny how the something we take for granted as an everyday part of Australian life is viewed by those unfamiliar with our lifestyle, but a friend’s reaction to the concept of camel racing – and betting on it – drove the reminder home last week.
“You’re going to race what?” she said with stunned confusion via Skype after I’d explained the concept of the Boulia Camel Races.
“So they’re like those feral camels you see in the desert and people actually ride them like horses?”
After I reiterated what the iconic event was all about and that there were also on-track bookmakers, she started laughing, shaking her head at the idea of wagering hard-earned money on the ships of the desert.
“Man, you Aussies will literally bet on anything,” she said with her thick New York accent.
Her comments about Australians having a penchant for betting on anything that moved made me think, and after our conversation ended, I sat back and contemplated the gambling eccentricities of punters in this country.
That’s when it hit me.
We actually will bet on anything we can get odds on, including what are essentially feral pests.
It’s part of what makes Australia the unique country it is but when you consider what else we place wagers on, an annual punt on camel racing doesn’t even make the top three weirdest things to race and bet on.
I don’t know why, but Australians love to bet on pests.
In addition to camels, cane toad and cockroach racing round out the trifecta of animals-we-could-do-without that we’re happy to support with our wallets, as long as they’re racing and not invading our houses.
While the noxious cane toads are raced weekly in pubs from Cairns to Coolangatta, it’s the cockroaches that raise the eyebrows of most tourists when they witness them racing for the first time.
Perhaps the most iconic of all cockroach races in Australia is held every Australia Day in my old stomping ground of Brisbane, at the Story Bridge Hotel in Kangaroo Point.
According to a spokesman for the annual spectacle, the event “has had a long and distinguished history” that set the foundation for cockroach racing in Australia.
No, I’m not kidding.
I couldn’t make this up if I tried but it gets better: organisers fly in cockroaches for racing.
Yes, racing cockroaches apparently travel to compete, just like Black Caviar.
“We actually buy them [the cockroaches] and fly them up from Melbourne,” the spokesman said when I posed the question last week.
“It’s a huge event.”
If insects and feral animals aren’t your style, you can always bet on the lizard races in Eulo.
Feel like a seafood fix?
If so, crayfish racing may be your forte.
The first time I saw a crayfish race was on Magnetic Island in about 2004 and while the crustaceans are hardly the most enthralling
racers, they are certainly supported by spectators like they’re running in the Melbourne Cup.
Worse still, punters who decide to bet as well as splash out the $10 or $20 needed to purchase one of the ‘thoroughbreds’ act like they have just purchased Makybe Diva for $15,000.
The only difference is that, if your crayfish doesn’t perform well during the race, you can always commiserate eating with a little bit of garlic butter and a cold beer.
I spoke to my friend in New York again last night and after I rattled off the list of amphibians, insects and crustaceans Australians regularly bet on, she burst out laughing and said it proved her point.
“Do you guys just look at random animals and decide to catch them, race them and bet on them?” she queried.
Who said horses and greyhounds were the only animals you could bet on?
Australia’s love of a punt is evident in the crazy things we race and wager on but we wouldn’t have it any other way.
So, if you are betting on something ridiculous – including the proverbial flies on the wall – in Australia this weekend, take a moment to reflect on how unique what you are doing is as you put your betting slip into your wallet.
Today’s The Dissemination of Thought piece is the result of an unusual combination of writer’s block, laziness and a simple yet incredibly amusing blog post I read last week. More specifically, it was this piece from Miranda Ryan of The Naked Envelope fame.
The concept is simple. It’s a blow-by-blow account of how she spent a day in her life. Nothing overly exciting happened to her on during the 24-hour period but it was fascinating to see how someone can make the seemingly mundane entertaining by just looking closely and taking notice of what goes on around them.
I’ve decided to follow suit. I want to be able to sit back and reflect on how much time I actually waste in a normal day. Hopefully, you’ll find my minute-by-minute account of June 25, 2012 at least slightly engrossing.
6:21am – Open my eyes and try to figure out what day it is. When I determine it’s Monday, I contemplate staying in bed all day and wonder whether I’ll be missed in the newsroom.
6:22am – Ask myself why it’s so dark. Fumble aimlessly for my BlackBerry, check the time and realise it’s stupidly early. Throw aforementioned device back on the bedside table and curse my stupid body clock.
6:23am to 7:18am – I have no idea. I can only assume I drifted back to sleep or was abducted by aliens.
7:19am – Check BlackBerry again and die a little bit inside when it dawns on me that I’ve got less than 60 seconds before my alarm goes off.
7:34am to 7:45am – Mentally check off possible jobs I’d enjoy in lieu of being a journalist while having a shower. Hot shower tester is high on the list, as are professional bed warmer and drunken, disgruntled novelist. Notice I need to buy more body wash.
7:51am – Realise I had an 11-minute shower and consider the negative impact on the environment.
8:03am – Walk into the newsroom with my first latte of the day and loudly sing the first lines of ‘Peace Train’ after confirming I am alone.
8:06am – Stare at a blank page in my diary. Consider the benefits of being more organised. Reassure myself that organised people aren’t any happier than me and continue to drink my latte.
8:21am – Start writing a story about golf and stop to check Twitter.
8:28am – Close the internet browser and tell myself I have to avoid social media and get my work done. Pat myself on the back for being so assertive.
8:30am – Check Twitter on my BlackBerry. Quietly swear to myself about social networking and its addictive qualities.
8:31am – Notice my latte is gone. Think about writing a piece investigating the electronic heroin that is Twitter as I wait patiently for the espresso machine to provide me with another caffeine hit.
8:32am to 10:02am – This period of time is a little bit hazy because I forgot I was compiling a blow-by-blow account of my day. Judging by the number of empty cups in my bin, I had another latte. Judging by the random doodling in my diary, I wasn’t paying attention in the news meeting. Again.
10:31am to 11:06am – Interview a 12-year-old tennis player who is the number one seed in his club’s A grade competition. Watch him serve and feel ridiculously inadequate about my ability with a racquet.
11:19am to 12:48pm – Do boring journalist stuff. This includes checking emails, adding finishing touches to the doodle from the news meeting and contemplating what to have for lunch.
1:37pm – Send my final story for Tuesday’s paper to the sub-editor. Mentally fist pump the sky and refocus on what’s on the lunch menu.
1:39pm – Decide on something healthy for lunch.
1:44pm – Find myself placing my lunch order at Red Rooster.
2:03pm – Finish off the last of the chips and congratulate myself on a fantastic choice. Almost burst out laughing when reflecting on the fact I was contemplating a healthy option.
2:11pm to 2:28pm – Have a hot chocolate while sending witty text messages and wonder why there are so many boring people on Twitter.
2:31pm – Check my latest mobile phone bill.
2:34pm – Try to figure out how the hell it’s physically possible to send more than 5200 text messages during a one-month billing period. Send a text message to a friend asking them how many they send. Quietly thank the mobile phone gods that my plan includes unlimited SMS.
2:47pm to 5:03pm – Do a few interviews and complete the sports stories for Wednesday’s paper while scoffing Turkish delight and drinking another latte. Wish I bought more than one Turkish delight as I stare sadly at the empty wrapper on my desk.
5:04pm to 6:10pm – Forget once again that I am meant to be documenting every minute of my day.
6:16pm – Excitedly throw my leave application at the editor as I scurry from the building.
6:41pm to 7:03pm – Eat dinner and drink the best part of a bottle of red wine while contemplating the universe.
7:06pm – Decide opening another bottle of wine would be a poor option.
7:07pm – See no issue with having a beer in lieu of wine.
7:49pm – Put the three empty beer bottles on the coffee table beside me into the bin.
8:01pm to 8:39pm – Type up my hastily-scribbled notes and wonder who the hell will make it to 12:00pm without wanting to bang their head against a wall.
8:41pm to 8:43pm – Try to figure out why <i>The Dissemination of Thought</i> hasn’t had a new subscriber in more than a fortnight. Was about to blame WordPress for a technical glitch but then remember what I am actually blogging about.
8:44pm – Feel genuinely sorry for my subscribers.
8:49pm – Realise the intricate filing system on my laptop is nothing of the sort. Contemplate doing something about it but dismiss the notion as requiring too much effort.
9:16pm to 10:34pm – Listen to Blunderbuss for what feels like the sixth thousandth time. Wish I was Jack White.
10.37pm – Check my bank balance and wonder why they don’t advertise for ‘people who like being poor’ when seeking journalists. Make the executive decision not to go near eBay and bid on things I don’t need until I get paid.
10:45pm to 11:03pm – Have a shower while thinking about the awesome left-handed bass I want to buy on eBay.
11:05pm – Realise my excess water usage is probably destroying the planet.
11:09pm to 11:32pm – Bid on stuff I don’t need with money I don’t have on eBay. Judge an original Rubik’s Cube from the 80s – still in the original packaging – to be worth $40.
11:33pm – Decide $40 probably isn’t enough to win me the colourful little piece of nostalgia.
11:35pm – Grab another beer and ask myself why I’m bidding on a Rubik’s Cube. Secretly hope I get outbid in the closing stages of the auction.
11:41pm – Increase my maximum bid to $45.
11:44pm – Go to Google to try and figure out what a mint condition Rubik’s Cube from the 1980s is worth.
11:59pm – Post this piece and realise I’ve wasted a day. Look at the time and realise I’m tired beyond belief. Laugh manically when I remember I have Tuesday off, unlike many of my reader who will waste 10 minutes reading this post in its entirety.
So there you have it. A day – or what I can remember of it – in the life of me. If you haven’t abandoned reading mid-sentence or thrown your iPad against the wall in a fit of enraged boredom, follow me on Twitter or like the Facebook page. Hell, if you really liked the nonsensical gibberish that is The Dissemination of Thought, you can do both. Or send cash.