Friday, October 21, 2011

A royal dilemma

It’s a big week here in Australia because the Boss is in town. No not Bruce Springsteen, her majesty Queen Elizabeth II.

While many will argue she’s not really the boss, Australia is a constitutional monarchy, so technically she’s still sort of in charge, even if it’s not in a day-to-day government sense.

Her Maj & the Duke arrive in Oz
 As with every royal visit from Her Maj, the monarchists line the streets to see ‘the wave’ and the republicans come out with their protests that ‘it’s about time we stood on our own because what does she really do anyway’. 

The Queen has visited Australia a lot in her 85 years, as have her children and while this is my first as an adult, I know they’ve always been a big deal in Australia. The little town I grew up in actually paved a few rural roads for a royal visit about 40 years ago. Yep, big deal.

Julia Gillard sans curtsy
There’s always a right ‘royal gaffe’ during a visit to keep the media and masses entertained, and the current one is no exception. And the first gaffe didn’t come from the Duke of Edinburgh this time; it was our Prime Minster Julia Gillard straight out of the gates, as soon as Her Maj stepped off her British Airways flight. Yep, Julia didn’t curtsy to the Queen, and shock horror, she chose not to.

I’m not going to pretend I wouldn’t curtsy to the Queen - I think if I ever met her, I would. But it’s the 21st century people; can’t a woman choose to greet the Queen in the either of the accepted protocols? Yes, the curtsy is the way it should traditionally be done but the PM has defended herself. She said she was told by royal minders she could choose if she wanted to follow the curtsy protocol when meeting the Queen. The English media will probably refer to Australia jokingly as ‘the colonies’ at some point during this visit, so I’ve got no problem with our PM acting like a true ‘uncouth’ and not curtsying. You go girl. And it's not like she wasn't behaving in a respectable way. She still bowed and shook the Queen's hand politely.

Having the Queen in town makes a lot of Aussies think about which side of the monarchist fence they stand on. I will admit I’m a fence sitter, but probably lean towards being a monarchist for a few reasons:

      The Royal Wedding

Hello? This goes without saying. Who didn’t love the Windsors during that royal frenzy? I suspect a lot of people who didn’t have an opinion on the royal wedding had an opinion about Pippa Middleton and THAT dress. If you were one of the minority (or men) who didn’t care about the wedding let me remind you even fiercely independent countries (like the US) got sucked into the royal wedding tornado. On a more serious note, the wedding (as I’m sure the royal family was banking on) renewed a lot of faith and interest in the British royal family. And why wouldn’t it? The couple seems lovely and down-to-earth, with their feet planted firmly in a more realistic world than many other high-profile royals.

THE kiss
The Tudors

In case you haven’t seen it, The Tudors is a TV series chronicling the life and times (and wives) of the infamous King Henry VIII. No only was this series a pretty accurate and easily digestible version of the history of England, and one of the most famous royal dynasties, it also had all the drama and sex of a good episode of Melrose Place. Need I Say more? It’s renewed my interest in British history and the royals to say the least.

There’s also been a string of popular royal family-based movies in the past few years: The King’s Speech, The Young Victoria and The Queen.

R for royal, R for R-rated
Family history

This is a bit of a personal (and narcissistic) one, but I’ve been more interested in English history in general since I found out that one side of my family (like lots of Aussies) comes from the motherland. I thought my dad’s side of the family was German up until a few years ago, and I’ve been looking into our English family history ever since. I may or may not still be entertaining some unlikely fantasy that there’s a royal family link somewhere in my lineage.

So what do you think? Are you excited about Her Maj being in town, or could you care less? And what about the curtsy issue?

Monday, September 19, 2011

Movie Scene of the Day: Best in Show

Currently I am in the midst of a battle of wills with my right leg – I would like to remain upright and walk like a normal person, but my right leg seems determined to make me fall on my face at every opportunity.  Only this week, my ankle decided to trip over nothing and I did a spectacular stack in the middle of street.  Thank god no one was around.  Otherwise the world would have seen me walking much like Catherine O’Hara in Best in Show:

Best faceplant in a movie ever!!

Friday, September 16, 2011

Taking classical to the people

I did two things out of the ordinary this week. I attended not one, but two classical music concerts.

This is out of the ordinary because although I have what I would call a healthy appreciation for the arts, I certainly am not a classical music buff. Apart from those failed piano lessons from a Catholic nun when I was a kid, I’m no expert.

Watching both a solo pianist and symphony orchestra, as part of the 2011 Brisbane Festival, left me a little surprised. Not because they weren’t amazing - they were - but because they were so easy to watch. What also surprised me was the wide variety of people in the audience; teenagers, children and young couples, not just your stereotypical middle-aged classical connoisseurs (not that there’s any wrong with them, of course).

If you’ve never visited Brisbane, Australia, you probably best know the city, or state of Queensland, as the place devastated by widespread flooding in January this year.

That tragic event inspired one composer, who was already in the process of composing a symphony about the city of Brisbane, to create a symphony purely based on the flood and its aftermath, which was one of not just devastation, but community spirit and hope.

Thursday, September 15, 2011

The Song; The Memory: "Starlight" by Muse

It's funny how songs can take you on a journey into your past.  One tiny snippet will instantly transport you through time and space until you are 17 years old again trying to tape the song off the radio, madly writing down the lyrics so you will be able to accurately sing them next time you are in your car.  Or was that just me...

Every single time I hear the song Starlight by Muse, I am instantly on the E2 Bus in London on my way to work.  I've always been a bit of a Muse fan, and that summer in London I basically only had one CD to play on my old school walkman.  So Muse (and particularly Starlight) was a bit overplayed.  It's five years later and I recently heard the song in the trailer for the movie Crazy, Stupid, Love - and once again I am on that bus, two seats from the front, dying of heat exhaustion (stupid summer heatwave) and pressing repeat over and over again.

Which songs are particularly effective in inducing a flashback for you guys? 

Thursday, September 1, 2011

Movie scene of the day: Clue

There was honestly a time when I thought my sister and I were the only people in the world who
a) understood the brilliance of the movie "Clue"
b) thought this was the funniest movie clip we'd ever seen:

Google informs me we weren't alone. Madeline Kahn: comic genius. And she improvised this whole scene.

Monday, August 29, 2011

Quote of the day: The greatest of all art forms

"I regard the theatre as the greatest of all art forms, the most immediate way in which a human being can share with another the sense of what it is to be a human being." Oscar Wilde

Saturday, August 20, 2011

All Foo, no poo.

Foo Fighters Back and Forth: the documentary

For every rock tragic the documentary of a band’s history is about as good as it gets. After all, it’s all about the music, man.

To plagiarise directly from the synopsis, Back and Forth chronicles the 16 year history of the Foo Fighters; a group that started literally as a one-man-band and developed into one of the biggest present-day rock acts around. After watching Back and Forth a few times (ok about 10) I’m happy to report this is not one of those bullshit music docos where it’s all about blowing smoke up the band’s collective asses. It’s pretty honest and handles a few touchy subjects including the sacking of several band members and the overdose of drummer Taylor Hawkins in 2001. It’s so honest that Taylor was actually told NME Magazine he’d rather it wasn’t released:

“I wish we wouldn't put the fucking movie out to be honest because I'm not really comfortable with the public sort of openness…

"We almost broke up and I almost died and all those crazy things have happened. And that's what people want. If they're gonna watch a fucking movie about you they don’t just want some guys sitting around and going, 'Ooh, it was really great and then we were all so happy… that would be boring and unrealistic."

Amen brother. That’s exactly why this documentary is worth a look, not just for Foo Fighters fans, but music fans in general.

Back and Forth begins with the man who started it all: Dave Grohl. His brief story about dreaming of being a rock star is relatable and approachable, and this frankness continues throughout.  

I knew, from the countless interviews, music videos and concerts I’ve watched, that Grohl has a wicked sense of humour and no-bullshit approach, but the big surprise from Back and Forth for me was guitarist Pat Smear. He was funny, light and self-deprecating – not at all what I expected from an underground punk-rock legend. Also, most people wouldn’t be aware he was the second guitarist for Nirvana in the last few years of the band’s career. His insights about this time were honest and a little sad.

Back and Forth spends an appropriate amount of time on the Nirvana/Kurt Cobain story, as it laid the foundations for some of what followed with the Foo Fighters. The first album Grohl recorded included songs he’d written during his time with Nirvana. The recording of this first cassette tape (yep – remember those kids?) was his effort to get out of the funk he was in for months after Cobain’s death. 

What kept me glued to Back and Forth was not just the history of a band that’s one of my favourites, but *shock horror* these guys actually talked about how they felt over the years. Not too much about private life stuff either. It’s not like an ENews special, just the music and their lives around it. As curious as I am about Grohl’s life, I don’t care that much. As a fan, I want to hear about the music and that’s what Back and Forth is all about. 

I’m not going to give you a blow-by-blow. If you’re a Foo Fighters fan or just a music fan then watch it. You won’t be disappointed – it’s part history and part behind the scenes of recording their latest album Wasting Light.

Are you a rock tragic? Is there a band you love and want to see ‘immortalised’ by a documentary? Or do you already have a favourite music doco?

Tuesday, August 2, 2011

Gig Guide: Music soothes the savage beast

This past weekend was the very awesome Splendour in the Grass festival in my old stomping grounds of Queensland. Since I no longer live in the Sunshine State and also did not possess eighty five million dollars to afford tickets to go to the festival, I have been partaking in a number of sideshows the bands have been kindly doing throughout the rest of Australia. Last week it was The Kills (Alison Mosshart, my girl crush on you remains strong) and this week I'm off to see my old faves Gomez.

Growing up in a small town in QLD didn't really give me many opportunities to see live music. Or have good taste in music really. In fact until I was 13 and discovered Triple J, my shameful musical jaunts included a John Farnham concert with my Mum (I'm still scarred for life at the ladies throwing underpants at him), and a teeny-boppery outing to see Aussie one hit wonder girl-band Girlfriend.

But in the last 10 years I have managed to see a number of very cool bands, and have used my increasingly useful barge-arse skills to gain prime front-of-stage positions at festivals and gigs alike. My default New Year's resolution is to see as many bands as I possibly can.

These are just a few of my memorable gigs:

Muse - Livid Festival 2000

One of many times I've seen Muse live, cough seven times, this one holds a special place mostly because it was the first time I saw them. At this stage they were a fairly unknown group touring on their first album, playing a side stage at the now defunct Livid Festival, while bigger groups Green Day and No Doubt had the masses gathered around the main stages. And while I've seen them play much bigger and better - even with their rather pretentious last couple of albums - Muse sure have always known how to put on a show.

Edward Sharpe and the Magnetic Zeros - 2011

Yeah, so I'm fairly certain I somehow joined a cult after seeing this gig. Lead vocalist Alex (he of the Charles Manson slash Jesus looks) came down into the crowd during the encore and then got half the audience on the stage and the rest of us sitting on the floor while he led us all in a Kumbaya styled rendition of one of their songs. Afterwards when everyone was going up to give him high-fives and hugs, I found myself going forward as well until I realised that I wasn't actually at a cultist revival meeting.

The Swell Season - 2009

What a voice Glen Hansard has!! A big fan of The Swell Season after watching the movie Once, I was blown away by their live concert. When there is just a man and his guitar (with no amplification) filling a huge cavernous theatre with his big voice on the song Say It to Me Now, it's simply something special to behold.

The Dead Weather - 2010

My one and only chance to see the legend of Jack White in concert (sob, I never got to see The White Stripes). Coupled with the mesmerising Alison Mosshart, these two just oozed charisma and awesomeness.

Reading Festival - 2006

My big festival outing while I lived in the UK, memorable for a number of reasons:  
  • Another Muse show under my belt
  • The beginning of my love affair with The Yeah Yeah Yeahs (Karen O, with her knee high converse sneakers with flames going up the sides, OWNED that stage)
  • Almost dying of claustrophobia in a very enthusiastic Arctic Monkeys crowd (who scarily knew every single word to ALL of their songs)
  • A full can of something indeterminable being thrown at my head (I choose to remember it as being beer).

How about the rest of you? What have been some of your favourite live music experiences?

Wednesday, July 27, 2011

I can't believe you haven't seen... TV edition

Confession time. I’m only now, for the first time, watching Buffy the Vampire Slayer. I’ve borrowed the DVD’s from my friend Kylie, who has been in love with the show for as long as I’ve known her. I’m really enjoying it, but have a feeling I might have appreciated Buffy more when it was first on TV, in its original context, spoiler-free and fresh. As proud as I am that I “liked Arrested Development before Fox canned it”, I’ve also been a johnny-come-lately fan of many classics:


Completely missed it. I blame Australian television programmers. Not my fault.


I’m not too late, Fringe hasn’t been cancelled, but I’m only now getting on board. I love its X-Files-style mythology that is thus far not too confusing. And that last scene of S1? Wow.

Breaking Bad

Watched 3 seasons in 2 weeks. Where do I collect my award? Bring on Season 4! I’m ready. I’ve been waiting for so long… ahem.

The Wire

I don’t feel too bad about this one. Everyone missed it the first time around. Society's fault.

Over to you, readers! What shows are you (maybe shamefully) just discovering for the first time?

Monday, July 25, 2011

Quote of the day: Words a source of magic & a farewell to Harry Potter

"I always surprise myself on my ability to turn a phrase. Words are, in my not so humble opinion, the most inexhaustible source of magic; capable of both inflicting injury and remedying it." Albus Dumbledore

I saw Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows Part 2 on the weekend. It was fantastic, a perfectly dramatic and heart-wrenching end to one of the history's greatest stories, told by one of history's greatest story-tellers: JK Rowling. JK's turn with a phrase is well-known, and the script of The Deathly Hallows Part 2 included many of my favourite lines from the book on which it was based. The above quote felt like a nod to all of the word-nerds out there, a reminder of the power of language and the impact your choice of words has on your own world.

So as we farewell Harry, Ron and Hermione, let us pay tribute to their creator, the marvelous JK Rowling. Here is her Commencement Address, “The Fringe Benefits of Failure, and the Importance of Imagination,” from the Annual Meeting of the Harvard Alumni Association.

J.K. Rowling Speaks at Harvard Commencement from Harvard Magazine on Vimeo.

Tuesday, July 19, 2011

Quote of the day: Here is New York

There are roughly three New Yorks. There is, first, the New York of the man or woman who was born here, who takes the city for granted and accepts its size and its turbulence as natural and inevitable. Second, there is the New York of the commuter — the city that is devoured by locusts each day and spat out each night. Third, there is the New York of the person who was born somewhere else and came to New York in quest of something. Of these three trembling cities the greatest is the last — the city of final destination, the city that is a goal. It is the third city that accounts for New York’s high-strung disposition, its poetical deportment, its dedication to the arts, and its incomparable achievements. Commuters give the city its tidal restlessness; natives give it solidity and continuity; but the settlers give it passion.” - E. B. White

Wednesday, June 1, 2011

Insert celebrity endorsement here...

It’s the most talked about TV ad of the week in Australia, but who would have thought ‘our Cate’ would be the centre of such fuss over what has previously just been a political and environmental debate? Well, maybe Aussie entrepreneur Dick Smith saw this one coming - he declined to feature in the ad.

If you haven’t seen it yet, have a look...

Here’s the story so far: despite being one of two famous actors in this carbon tax ad (Michael Caton is the other), Cate Blanchett has been singled out and criticised by many, including federal opposition politicians, for her involvement. Her money and her ‘part-time’ Aussie status are just two of the things being called into question. Funny, last time she was nominated for an Oscar we had no problem shouting from the hilltops that ‘our Cate’ was flying the flag for Australia in Hollywood. But I digress…

This isn’t the first time Cate Blanchett’s been involved in supporting environmental issues and she’s proved she isn’t afraid to get political. She’s well know as a greenie-slash-political activist, in that Hollywood actress kinda way. So what’s all the fuss about? I’d like to say I think it’s solely the controversial carbon tax issue, but I suspect it’s not that simple.

Carbon tax opinions aside, shouldn’t Cate be applauded for the fact that she’s having a say in her country’s political process and future, and she isn’t getting a big fat paycheck for her appearance? I like that she genuinely cares, while so many Aussies are apathetic. Unlike so many other Hollywood celebrities who do those lucrative ads in Japan or cheesy iced tea endorsements (Hugh Jackman, I’m looking at you), it appears Cate is measured in her decisions to support political issues.

Yes, she’s filthy rich, but she pays Aussie taxes too so she’s got just as much right as the rest of us to have an opinion about the carbon tax. I know the rest of us don’t get our mug on TV to spruik our opinion, but lets be realistic about what that is – good old-fashioned celebrity endorsement. It’s nothing new, certainly not in the political arena, to gain the support of a celebrity to champion your cause.

The Federal Opposition are clearly worried about the influence Cate Blanchett might have on voters and public opinion in general, otherwise they wouldn’t be kicking up such a stink, but as usual, I think our politicians are selling us a bit short. While Cate might be highlighting the issue, I don’t think her 10 seconds or so on screen is going to change the mind of the masses who appear to oppose the carbon tax in the polls for a raft of different reasons.

So really the issue here is celebrity endorsement isn’t it? Are celebrities usually scrutinised so much about whether they fit the cause they are supporting, or if they’re being hypocrital, like Cate has been?

Whether it’s a political cause or simply a commercial product, do you think celebrities are too out of touch to influence our political opinions? Or is celebrity endorsement so common now it doesn't impact public opinion? Let us know what you think…

Wednesday, April 27, 2011

Confessions of a quote whore

The New York Times had a recent article criticizing the context of a quote to be used on the 9/11 memorial site, which will be dedicated on the 10th anniversary of the attacks this September. The author of the opinion piece, Caroline Alexander, argues that the quote from Virgil is being misused. She calls it “out of context”. The words translate to “No day shall erase you from the memory of time”.

I have been thinking about why Ms Alexander’s piece struck a chord with me. At a basic level, and away from their original context, they’re just words. Indeed, as a memorial for the victims of a terrorist attack, they act as a fine tribute, a simple and powerful sentiment that is neither controversial nor too simplistic. The article is not incorrect or contentious, but rather raises a question that I suppose I’ve always wondered about. Do words need to stand in their original context to provide meaning? Or can meaning be derived from the words themselves, much like a painting, for example. Does significance derive from the artist and author’s intention, but also, and perhaps most importantly in artistic endeavors, from our own interpretation? I don’t want to argue the appropriateness or otherwise of this particular quote. Rather, I want to talk about words.

Words, words, words, words. I love them. I remember when words started really meaning something to me, when I devoured quotes and books and committed my favorites to memory. This probably started in high school, this love of words and the poetry of a song lyric or an ancient passage …

“And the poets down here, Don’t write nothing at all, They just stand back and let it all be, And in the quick of the night, They reach for their moment, And try to make an honest stand, But they wind up wounded, Not even dead, Tonight in Jungleland”

“…One equal temper of heroic hearts, Made weak by time and fate, but strong in will, To strive, to seek, to find, and not to yield.”

“Well, the deputy walks on hard nails and the preacher rides a mount, But nothing really matters much, it's doom alone that counts, And the one-eyed undertaker, he blows a futile horn. ‘Come in,’ she said, ‘I'll give you shelter from the storm.’”

“Life's but a walking shadow, a poor player, That struts and frets his hour upon the stage, And then is heard no more. It is a tale Told by an idiot, full of sound and fury, Signifying nothing.”

“As all the Heavens were a Bell, And Being, but an Ear…”

“The only people for me are the mad ones, the ones who are mad to live, mad to talk, mad to be saved, desirous of everything at the same time, the ones who never yawn or say a commonplace thing, but burn, burn, burn, like fabulous yellow roman candles exploding like spiders across the stars…”

I was a teenager, and looking back at many of my favorite quotes is a little embarrassing, especially the obvious writers I chose, as though I was the first girl in the world to adore Dickinson or find a Dylan or Springsteen lyric that really "spoke" to me. But truth is that these writers are admired because their work is inspired. Inspired, and for a teenager falling in love with words, inspiring. Need I read Macbeth in its entirety to appreciate and understand “Tomorrow, and tomorrow, and tomorrow..”? I don’t believe so, although of course I had to, in Grade 11.

What do you think? Do your favorite quotes stand without their original context? Or do you believe they have more power within the limits of the author’s original intention? What are some of your favorite early quotes?