Dog’s Tales @ The Toff

Lucky me has been sick lately, so I haven’t been able to partake in the writerly festivities.

Ohmidog, I just wrote ‘sicked lately’. Speaking of Dog, last Sunday’s Dog’s Tales was a superstar version of the weekly event with international writers like Elif Batuman, Tiffany Murray, and DBC Pierre spinning yarns for us for the MWF version of the night.

Dog’s Tales co-host Josephine Rowe opened with an off-the-cuff about father and daughter miscommunications, whilst Kalinda Ashton thought she’d forego the leather armchair for her performance. Elif Batuman cracked up at her own jokes, Dog’s Tales patron David Carruthers told a more formalised version of his bikie gang story, and DBC Pierre drawled about tequila and skin. I got to listen to Tiffany Murray a second time (I had seen her earlier at The Lifted Brow event) and was treated to Carmel Bird’s snack-sized piece about fun buns. FUN.

I’ve made some bootlegs of Dog’s Tales. (What kind of unofficial MWF blogger would I be without unofficial tubes/photoblogs?) Elif Batuman’s performance  seems to be the least shaky so far:

For those who enjoyed the night, Dog’s Tales happens at the Dog’s Bar every Thursday night. There’s talk about changing the event to Tuesday night, so check with the venue before you start your journey southside.

The First Fifteen Minutes

Does anyone recall last year’s 15 Minutes of Fame? Angela Meyer perched on a stool, interviewing timid-looking writers also perched on stools. Free wine tastings. Small room. Guy slumped in the pod on the other side of the glass wall, oblivious to the EWF happenings.

Well, this year’s first 15 Minutes is like last year’s 15 Minutes on steroids. Think imposing  Wheeler Centre stage, bright lights, square armchairs. Think Estelle Tang with seductively husky radio voice, telling post-Catholic neurotic, Joel Magarey, to ‘suck it up’ on stage*.  Think Meyer and Tang having a face-off, with Meyer later admiting that Tang’s 15 Minutes was funnier than hers. You missed out. Yeah, you did.

Tonight’s line up included Miscellaneous Voices, Andee Jones, Lucienne Noontil, as well as Joel Magarey.

Miscellaneous Voices, an anthology of Australian blog writing, is Miscellaneous Press’ first title. Editor Karen Andrews and contributor Carla Del Vecchio represented the anthology; both discussed their blogs and why they loved blogging. In spite of the imperfections, blog posts are often written in the heat of the moment and thus have a ‘raw power or beauty about them’. Andrews tried to distill this in the anthology, choosing pieces that resonated with a coincidentally personal bent.

Reviews for Miscellaneous Voices were mostly positive. There was one reviewer who didn’t see the point of such a book, since they had already read five of their favourite pieces previously online, but Tang was quick to note that Voices would have been a great introduction to twenty-six other bloggers. Geordie Williamson’s review also came up. In response to  ‘some pieces show signs of having been gussied up at the last moment for publication’, Andrews declared that the edits were similar to that of any other book.

Andee Jones, writer of the memoir Kissing Frogs, started her fifteen minutes with a tongue-in-cheek performance, establishing the tone for the rest of the evening. Her memoir details a mature woman’s experience with internet dating. A child of the sixties, she had never been on a date before, believed it to only happen on sitcoms. But she had hoped that one got braver as one got older, so she gave it a try. Jones comes across as sassy and self-reliant and her book seems less cynical than Michaela McGuire or Clementine Ford’s thoughts on internet dating.

Next up was Lucienne Noontil who wrote and illustrated Possum Tales. Storytelling for adults is not quite the same as it is for kids. Noontil deliberately adopted a patronising tone in her reading and was rewarded by silly interjections from Tang. Afterwards, the two spoke about the editing process, how every word has to count in a children’s book and how one has to avoid offending readers. For instance, Rusty the possum leaves home, but Noontil had to word it in such a way so that it didn’t sound like he was getting kicked out of home.

In the last quarter, Joel Magarey spoke about his book Exposure, which details his global odyssey. He had hoped to replicate a state of being he had experienced while living with a tribe in Papua New Guinea; he believed that his Western existence had a surplus of choice, leading to bewilderment and anxiety.

Magarey described the process of writing Exposure as psychotherapy: he had been through the pain during his travels but learning to understand it was like light. What he noted was that comedy equals tragedy plus time and was darkness transposed, something he would talk about further in his other EWF gig, Going to a Dark Place. Yes, 15 minutes is all about the spruiking, people**. Get over it.

15 Minutes of Fame happens around seven at The Wheeler Centre each night until Thursday. That means you’ve only got three more 4 15 Minutes. Tick, tock, tick, tock. Now who’s up for some Madonna?

*She did apologise profusely afterwards.

**More spruiking: Literary Minded’s review of Exposure here, and Killings podcast on Joel here. It’s a spruik-fest.

Update: Damnit, Jodie Kinnersley beat me to it. She’s already posted on 15 Minutes. THIS IS NOT A COMPETITION.

Willylitfest *giggle*

Blue skies and a ‘Let’s Be frankie‘ panel lured me and my bike out to Williamstown on Saturday. I didn’t think I’d make it back home before sunset, so I picked up these cute bike lights along the way:

Skully front light

Skully back light

On my ride, I caught the Westgate Punt, a scenic shortcut across the water. It was temporarily commandeered by someone’s youngster, but I arrived safely at the Scienceworks Museum and continued along the coastal trail.

At the ‘Let’s Be frankie‘ session, frankie senior contributors Marieke Hardy and Benjamin Law described the magazine as frank articles plus cupcakes, craft, and rock & roll. Having never read or seen frankie, I started picturing shots of pink teacups, jauntily arranged on astroturf, juxtaposed next to awkward descriptions of bodily functions. Having written about personal experiences such as losing one’s virginity, Benjamin and Marieke discussed the ‘illusion of intimacy’* that they had manufactured. Marieke also used to blog; only 20% of her personal life became blog fodder, though her parents did develop a catchphrase rather like ‘and that’s not going in the blog’.

Right to left: Susan Bird (chair), Benjamin Law, and Marieke Hardy @ 'Let's Be frankie' (1/5/10)

I returned the next day for ‘From the Quill to the Kindle‘, a much more formal discussion between Sophie Cunningham, Chris Flynn, and Dmetri Kakmi about the so-called death of the book and eBook revolution.

left to right: Sophie Cunningham, Chris Flynn, and Dmetri Kakmi @ 'From the Quill to the Kindle' (2/5/10)

Working from a prepared speech, Dmetri described eBook trends that defied initial suppositions. Prime eBook consumers were not sci-fi/fantasy-reading, tech-savy geeks but tended to be thirty-five-to-forty-year-old females with tastes that reflected their hardcopy-buying counterparts.

Chris Flynn brought up environmental concerns. In a 2006 report, it was revealed that recycled paper makes up only 5-10% of books published in the US**. Publishers are aiming to improve this figure, but this means that thirty million trees are cut down each year for US books alone**. Our habit of collecting our favourite books is a selfish one.

Technology, however, is dictating the terms of the alternative. While you may own a physical book, you can never own an eBook, only the right to keeping a copy of it. If you breach your contract with Amazon, the copies get wiped. In other words, you can lend your Kindle to a friend, but you can’t let them borrow a copy of your favourite book. Libraries are screwed in this electronic universe, and writers/publishers can do little to help them, unless they release an open source version of their book.

Meanwhile, Sophie Cunningham examined how eBooks and eReaders may change reading/writing habits. Podcasts have already revived the audio book. Will access to social media on devices such as the iPad affect the way we read? Will collaborative processes, such as commenting/feedback on uploaded drafts, change the writing process? Computers certainly have. In the past, typewriting forced people to recreate drafts from scratch, whilst computers allowed for more sloppier writing via ‘cut and paste’ methods. Sophie hoped that the novel will survive this eReader revolution as a rarified form.

From the Quill to the Kindle‘ managed to outline what seems to be a mammoth topic. There’s a plethora of articles on eBooks available on the interwebs. Try ‘Publish or Perish: Can the iPad topple the Kindle, and save the book business?‘ (via theliftedbrow), and ‘Amazon Erases Orwell Books from Kindles‘ for starters.

After Willylitfest *giggle*, I went down to Gem Pier with my fellow literary punters  who nearly incited a seagull riot with their chips. I have not seen The Birds, but seagulls are scary in numbers.

*Benjamin and Marieke also mentioned ‘frankie girls’ but never satisfactorarily explained the term. I did a Google search and found this.

**Figures confirmed via ecolibris.net.

Sick as a dog

After Bike Fail, I’ve managed to contract a summer cold, so I’ve been keeping a low profile, which is a shame as there’s an advanced screening of Fantastic Mr Fox at Moonlight Cinemas tonight.

There’s also a Voiceworks launch at the new Wheeler Centre for Books, Writing, and Ideas with an appearance from Nam Le that I might drag myself out of bed for. Nam Le’s this super articulate lawyer-turned-writer who I have an aspirational crush on. If you haven’t read his book The Boat yet, you should.

Okay, now back to bed.

Faking ‘Fresh off the boat’

FOB. Fresh off the boat. The worst kind of insult you can give an ABC (Australian Born Chinese) or any other ethnic minority equivalent. For Caffe Sospeso’s Racism poetry readings, I tried on a fobby Vietnamese accent, hoping to parody my own ethnicity; nobody laughed: they were either too polite or my attempts were really bad.

Tom Cho (via), on the other hand, does an awesome Singlish/Chinese Malaysian accent for ‘Aiyo!!! An Evil Group of Ninjas is Enterting and Destroying a Call Centre!!!’

The story itself is a colourful read with its ‘lah’ and ‘alamak’  and extra exclamation marks, and I’ve always wanted to do a Vietnamese equivalent, so I’ve been reading over essays written by Vietnamese Deakin students, trying to get a feel on how Vinglish works. One kid has this penchant for leaving out ‘the’ in some sentences, overcompensating in others. He also avoids using apostrophes or turning nouns into adjectives, preferring to use ‘of’ instead. I don’t blame him, apostrophes are more often abused than used correctly. (DVD’s from JB-HiFi, anyone?) My favourite sentence of his illustrates both of these quirks as well as the incorrect use of tenses: ‘The problem of corruption cannot solve in the short time, but the solution can affect in long time.’

Here’s a more substantial chunk of Vinglish from binhthuan.gov.vn:

A clod morning, from the Nguyen Tat Thanh avenue taking a look on the city center’s direction, one has the impression that huge changes have taken in a short time. To the people who live every day with and for Phan Thiet it is a surprise. The changes of their beloved homeland, to me, a native coming from far it is much more. Chatting with me, most people confirmed that the city had made achievements that were expected to be done in 5, 10 or more years. I remember when the city decided to carry out the Phan Thiet socio-economic development plan for the 1996 – 2010 period, a lot of people were worried and doubtful. Now what seemingly impossible became possible just in the first 6 months of 2002: the liberation of land for the Phan Thiet industrial zone has been successfully done. It was just one among thousand jobs the city finished. It was a proof of the determination and unanimity of the leaders and people of Phan Thiet, more vivid than whatever figures and nice words.

There’s some wonderful phrases here: ‘the liberation of the land’, ‘more vivid than whatever figures and nice words’, and ‘native’. It makes me realise how expressions often fail to translate from one language to another, and how difficult it is to actually create Vinglish. Not only does one have to mimic the grammatical idiosyncrasies, but one also has to think in Vietnamese, using a dictionary to churn out the supposed English equivalent. (Or chuck a whole heap of text into Babel Fish and see what one ends up with.)

Nevertheless, it seems like a fun exercise. I’m going to collect a couple more examples of Vinglish over the next couple of months, and get back to you on that story idea. Meanwhile, you can be a fob too*. Try saying, ‘Hai, mai name y <insert name here>. Sauree, I am unavailable. Plee lea a message after the tone…’ It’s fun.

*This only works if you’re Viet. Otherwise, you’re just being plain racist.

Read You Bastards 3

On Thursday, I finished my random pharmacy shift and headed down to The Empress for some Bastards action of the non-Tarantino kind.  I was bummed for missing out on the first set, which included a reading from Lisa Dempster, but I did get to see (and record) Allison Browning’s performance of an untitled piece. 

The sound quality isn’t great, so you might want to read the written version here

Spoken word nights are a bit hit and miss. Read You Bastards 3 isn’t an exception to the rule, though I do enjoy the mash of curated/non-curated prose/poetry and the ambience of The Empress, but Ozlem Baro’s ‘Hotel’ was the highlight of the second set, its vulnerability silencing the crowded room.

I also performed my piece, ‘Patrick Bateman’, a homage to American Psycho. I had consumed American Psycho during my Deakin years; the novel is a fascinating study technique-wise and I had wanted to reconstruct its style and write about the act of. Anyway, I performed the first half of ‘Patrick Bateman’, got feedback from Lisa (yay!) and ate some of her vegan birthday cake before trundling home. Lisa, I owe you a birthday drink…possibly two.

Reading 'Patrick Bateman' @ Read You Bastards 3 (photo courtesy of Read You Bastards peeps)

Reading 'Patrick Bateman' @ Read You Bastards 3 (photo courtesy of Read You Bastards peeps)

No. 3 was the last Read You Bastards for Visible Ink, but the 2009 editorial team may continue the Bastards tradition in 2010. Meanwhile, Lost and Found: Visible Ink 21 is launching on Monday, 9 November 2009. The cover’s beautiful; lets hope that the words are equally gorgeous.

Lost and Found: Visible Ink 21 (image courtesy of www.visibleinkmag.wordpress.com)

Lost and Found: Visible Ink 21 (image courtesy of http://www.visibleinkmag.wordpress.com)

Because I failed to bring home the Deakin bacon

I lied. Things don’t happen in Burwood (except for op shops—the Burwood East RSPCA op shop is the best). 

Since I am unable to report back on Words@Deakin, I thought I’d link to Stop Drop and Roll’s article on royal-family inbreeding, ‘Hapsburg Cubed: How to get a severe disfigurement named after your family’.

I’ve also finally uploaded Josephine Rowe’s performance of ‘Fast’ from The Lifted Brow Issue Five launch for your viewing pleasure. Enjoy.

Denim Owl @ The Lifted Brow

Okay, I am going to attempt the slow and arduous process of uploading TLB5 launch videos using my shitty internet. 

Today’s sampling is Denim Owl. Since I’m not so crash hot with the music, I put Denim Owl on in the car, and my more music-savvy friend, Sarah, had a listen. She decided that they were a more acoustic version of Architecture in Helsinki, and cute in the way that made her think of Skipping Girl Vinegar. Hmmm. See what you think:

How a Moth Became a Boat and other things

I bought Josephine Rowe’s How a Moth Became a Boat at its Melbourne launch and managed to finish reading it in the semi-darkness of the Willow Bar. Some of Josephine’s delicate phrases have already nested in my mind: ‘Belarus a bruise above her knee’ (‘Maps’); ‘When I hand him his ticket and his change I am always conscious of my wrists’ (‘Work’).

However, it is ‘Love’ that I like the most. In ‘Love’, Josephine doesn’t try to cover up a difficult father-daughter relationship with beautiful imagery but carefully measures out each word, and the few hard details she offers are weighted with meaning:

He is teaching her how to break bottles against the side of the house. A whisky bottle works best, he tells her. She thinks this is very lucky, because that is what they have the most of—he has spent the last few weeks emptying them. 

I hope I’ll get to see her perform ‘Love’ one day. Until then, I’ll have to settle for ‘Maps’, which currently seems to be Josephine’s favourite performance piece: