Big Day Gone

 

Parkway Drive- Palace Theatre, Melbourne

Parkway Drive- Palace Theatre, Melbourne

 

It is January 2007.

I was surrounded by this carnival of noise and euphoria. A mixed cacophony of several different musical styles is pounding in the distance but I don’t care, I am too busy drinking in the spectacle of a giant mechanical hand that is spewing fire. A massive moat of people are swarming around one of the two main stages watching Muse do their space-pop thing while the Melbourne sun sets. I am haggard, more than a little bit pink from the summer sun, and loving every minute of it. Tool were due to begin in less than half an hour and I was high on anticipation. Taking time to absorb the crowd I felt like I was part of a bigger movement, like I was united in sound with my fellow countrymen.

 

This was my first experience with the Big Day Out music festival.

 

Having had a little taste of live music I went to over fifteen individual shows and concerts over the next year. The rationale was: if it was a band I liked and I had the money I had no excuse. I was addicted to the sounds of loud guitars, thundering drums, and soaring or guttural vocals, my ears quickly adjusted to the sound and those tones that were too intense for my young ears were soon lost in a shrill screech. I didn’t care. Being a part of something larger than myself, united in sound with tens of thousands of others, was worth the discomfort.

The next year’s Big Day Out was even more epic. I was more prepared for the sheer spectacle of the thing and could focus on the bands. Rage Against the Machine had reformed for a scant few months and provided me with an experience that has never been topped. I remember being on the outer edge of a vast mosh pit. Every so often someone would rush the security barriers into the inner “D” ring (not a penis reference) and be tackled hard. As soon as security was distracted about seven or eight others would run through the barrier.

I looked around at my fellow concertgoers: some were in trees, some were on the scaffolds surrounding the stage, and some were even on the roofs of the marquees creating their own mosh pits. Above it all Zach de la Rocha was screaming “Fuck You I Won’t Do What Ya Tell Me”. The combined moshing of thousands of people made the ground pulse like an earthquake. Dust clouds obscured the stage and after the song finished the band quickly retreated off-stage. One of the concert organisers then came on stage and told the crowd to chill out, get out of the trees, get off the scaffolds and marquees, or the band wouldn’t finish their set. The crowd turned swiftly against them jeering and booing the radical elements. From somewhere a vivid orange flare strafed into the crowd eliciting gasps from the attendees. The band continued to play and blew all 50-odd-thousand of us away. I remember the ground where the mosh had been being soft and dusty. A moat of discarded and ruined shoes ringed the stage and for the entire train trip home I was checking the feet of everyone, trying to see who was walking home barefoot.

The last Big Day Out I attended was in 2009 after that I just didn’t care who was performing. The talent organised for the subsequent years just wasn’t interesting or exciting. Sure they were great bands but I wasn’t prepared to fork out the money they were asking for. If I wanted to see those bands I payed less and saw the inevitable sideshows. At the same time the Soundwave Festival, who’s bill of alternative, punk, and metal was far more exciting, drew my attention. It also helped that the first Soundwave I went to in 2009 had two of my favourite bands: Nine Inch Nails and Lamb of God.

Even when I didn’t attend Big Day Out was always THE summer music festival. It was an institution and it represented the strength of the Australian music scene by highlighting our best and brightest, as well as being a much-needed touring platform for international acts that otherwise would avoid the country for years due to distance and cost.

It makes me sad to see the festival in the dire straits it’s in now. Rumours of rising costs and superstar bands making diva-like requests have haunted the festival for years, and now the entire venture is foreign-owned. This is unacceptable and while it may still keep the festival alive it takes away the authenticity. How can the Big Day Out continue to promote and represent Australian artists if it is owned by Americans? It is a sad state of affairs regardless of the owner’s intentions. Fortunately we still have Soundwave going from strength-to-strength, but the seemingly inevitable death of the BDO will be mourned by me and thousands of others.

We are all responsible though. We should have paid it more interest and been more vocal with the fading pulling power of the line-ups. If the Big Day Out does return after it’s 2015 absence then we need to give it the respect it deserves and show it’s owners it is a viable and profitable concern, but if they have created a shell for the purpose of fleecing punters out of their hard-earned money then we should kill the thing and replace it with something better.

Whatever that might be.

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No more ‘Plus Size’

A thoughtful and well-written piece

Confessions of a White Girl

The following pictures have been doing the rounds over the last 24 hours or so. I have read the comment feeds on a few of these that have been posted to Facebook, and I am appalled and shocked at how ignorant people can be. 

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The ‘plus size’ models are being compared to the skinny Sports Illustrated models who graced the cover of their magazine recently. Most comments are positive towards these women, who are considered ‘Plus Size’ models (in fact they are curvy, average, healthy women!)

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However there was those negative comments saying these women are ‘fat, ugly, obese and un-healthy’. These are the comments I am appalled and sick of reading or hearing in regards to ‘plus size’ women.

These models are healthy, curvy, average size, who are promoting a swimwear line for ALL size women. They are promoting that women of all sizes (not just 6-12) can…

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The Horseshoe Phase

When I was much younger than I am now my dad showed me a picture of his father. Taken in the man’s later years his hair was thick around the the sides of his head and thin on the top. I don’t know why he thought it was a good idea but the telltale lines of a comb-over were evident even in the faded photo. Between chuckles dad told me that baldness skips a generation, pointing to his own thinning, but still very much there, hair. With foreboding he pointed a finger at me and declared “it will happen to you”. I scoffed at his warnings and dismissed it as the ramblings of someone who had drunk a few too many Victoria Bitters, but his dire prediction for my future never left my head.

Fast-forward five years.

I have just come back from Big W after purchasing a pair of Phillips hair clippers. I am standing in front of the mirror looking at my hair. I was 23 and my hair was still a rich brown colour thick and vibrant…on the sides and back. Ladies and gentlemen: I was entering the Horseshoe Phase. After much heavy breathing and fear I turned on the clippers and began what would soon become a weekly ritual. 20 long minutes later the bathroom sink had a coat of my recently shaved hair.I remember being struck by not only how much of it there actually was, but by how shiny it looked. As I was looking in the mirror admiring my new look I realised I had put too much emotion into the moment. Perhaps it was because I was literally taking my hair into my own hands but instead of feeling impotent I felt energised, like I was taking my life into my own hands. When I showed my dad my new (and continued) hairstyle he was horrified, saying that he was only joking about his past comments. I’m guessing he felt like he had cursed me.

A lot of stock is put into men and their hair. Society views bald men as lacking in virility and being impotent in more than one way. Before I started shaving I was concerned about how I would look without my hair. Alec Baldwin famously said in 30 Rock “your hair is your headsuit”, after a few months of shaving I looked at past photos of myself differently. Since shaving my hair I always look at my hair in the pictures and hated what I saw. I didn’t know what I wanted to do with it. It was an annoyance that didn’t do me any favours. Nowadays people actually compliment me on the shape of my head, saying that it is a good shape. It seems I was destined to go bald and look good while doing so. Worse accidents have happened.

As good as the unintended side-effects are the rate at which I am losing my hair is depressing, It is a sick joke that the baldness starts in the most noticeable place and then doesn’t seem to spread. I have seen desperate individuals attempt the comb over or have done nothing with it. I can safely say in both instances it is better to shave. Besides the emotional boost you get from self-maintenance and independence you look cleaner and more streamlined as well as the financial gains; never again will I be burdened by overpriced haircuts to cover my scraps or be forced into making a choice in which shampoo to buy. Having lost something I have gained freedom.

Going bald is not the worst thing to have happened. The way I see it it is a transition into the next stage of my life. In video game terms I am leveling up. Do not fear going bald embrace it. When you do you will gain more confidence and be happier than you were before. People will see this confidence and be inspired by it. What do you have to lose?

 

Til next time.

 

Sputnick

 

May the 4th

**This post originally appeared on my other blog Irrelevant Ramblings. I retain all copyright over the articles.**

Welcome to my blog, take from it what you will and discard the rest: just like all other advice on the planet.

Last Sunday was May the 4th. Up until a couple of years ago it was just another blip on the radar, another random day filled with the ups and downs of regular life until some genius (the internet) christened the day “Star Wars Day” due to how similar it was to the phrase more kids (and adults) know better than the second verse of the Australian National Anthem (side note: guess which country I’m from). From this small and delightful play-on-words May the 4th continued to grow to the rate that a national cinema chain screened all six Star Wars films over the weekend. The reach and popularity of the galaxy far, far, away knows few bounds.

I am a self-confessed Star Wars fan. I am an original (1977-1983) trilogy purist and I continue to have unresolved issues with Hayden Christensen. This does not differentiate me from the angry and vocal throng of the internet folk but my experience with the trilogy does. (Upcoming nostalgia warning- you have been warned).

In my earliest years I did not give one single shit about Star Wars. For the better part of my single-digit existence I did not care about it and had no interest in it. I had seen snippets of it on TV or at my friend’s houses with their vast toy collections (bring back Micro Machines!) but I was more into Power Rangers or playing on the ancient video consoles of the early-to-mid 1990s.

All that changed in 1997.

A friend at the time used to go to the movies every Friday with his family. Being that he lived just across the road I was pretty much family so I would go with them whenever I was free or could be bothered. I skipped one night but went the next week. I didn’t know what we were seeing but everyone was excited. When we arrived at the cinemas my friend pointed at a movie poster and told me we were seeing that movie. Being nine I could read fairly well:

Star Wars Episode V: The Empire Strikes Back.

Unknowingly I had stumbled into one the 20th anniversary re-releases of the Star Wars Trilogy. Only being vaguely aware of what Star Wars was I went in a blank slate, indifferent to either the Rebel Alliance or the Galactic Empire.

Oh how that changed.

Two-or-so hours later I had the requisite crush on Princess Leia, got freaked out by the cave on Dagobah, was in awe of the might of the Empire, terrified of Darth Vader, and shocked by what happened to Luke. Thank god the internet wasn’t around like it is today back then or I wouldn’t have liked it half as much. I didn’t know the ending, that ending was uncharted territory to me. The thrill of the adventure and the characters all wrapped up in a special effects blanket transformed me from a slightly awkward quiet child into a full-blown sci-fi nerd (which the school bullies would also be aware of as well). I didn’t care much; I had found my niche.

Fast forward to today: just under 20 years later and I am stunned at how fast Star Wars has gobbled up everything in its path and set the standard for every other budding film student and any kid who has ever picked up a pencil to draw anything. I challenge you to try drawing something that doesn’t vaguely resemble something from the saga.

On May the 4th we should recognise the effect, for better or for worse, that Star Wars has had on our lives. It’s hold and influence on pop culture makes itself known to even those unlucky few who have not seen the films. I’m of the age now where I will be having children within the decade and one of the key questions that rattles around in my mind is: how will I introduce Star Wars to my children? Chronologically? Original then Prequel? Machete? This has been made more complicated by J.J. Abrams’ upcoming additions to the canon. Dammit he’d better not screw it up!

Now I will ask the readers of this blog a few questions: Who here observes May the 4th? Who thinks that the Star Wars saga gets too much exposure? Which film is your favourite?

‘Til next time.

Sputnick 

Immigrant Song 2013

The Horror. The Horror.

Before I begin I just want to clarify: yes I am one of those bleeding-heart-do-gooder-book-reader types that your parents warned you about. I am for same-sex marriage, gender equality, and many other controversial topics that, by 2013, should not be controversial. As I write this I am wearing my Sea Shepherd hoodie representing people who are prepared to draw a line in the sand (or sea in this case) and make a choice in clearly deciding where they stand.

I am also for the rights of Asylum Seekers and the apparent invasion force of “Boat People”.

Our glorious and noble Prime Minister announced on Friday that he was swapping brains with the Coalition…err…I mean that he was instituting a new program of border protection that would turn away those in need and send them to a country already populated by those in need: Papua New Guinea. Our neighbours to the North.

This is a terrible idea.

I mean no offense to the people of PNG when I say this but the last thing PNG needs is more people. On the Australian government’s own travel advisory website PNG is listed as being a place where you need to “exercise extreme caution”. It is listed as a place with poverty, disease, violence (irrational and against foreigners), and also with sub-standard medical facilities. PNG is also fairly small (in contrast to Australia’s girth) in size and population (7 million) with approximately 800 different tribes making a living mainly through subsistance farming.

Yet in his infinite wisdom as our beloved Prime Minister Kev decided this would be the place to send the Asylum Seekers currently flooding our country. Oh Hell we are being inundated! We live in a country the size of the continental United States, while they have 300 million citizens we have 22 million. Lots of empty space. The fact that there is now a definition between what class of refugee (either genuine or economic) is disgusting.

The general consensus (at least in Canberra) is to blame the Asylum Seekers for risking everything for the chance of a better life. A lot of these people travel from as far away as Afghanistan across hostile countriesand with only the clothes on their backs and facing exploitation from the very people transporting them. They are then corralled onto what they know is an unseaworthy vessel to travel even further to a land they have only dreamed of. Where they see military ships intercept and then inform them they aren’t going to Australia and treated with hostility and suspicion. Sounds ethical.

Why the hate? We are an Immigration Nation. My forebears came from the British Isles in the mid 19th century like a lot of others did. Then there were the mass immigrations post-World War 2, and let us not forget the original “Boat People”: the Vietnamese who fled following the Vietnam War.

Australia has always opened up its doors to those who are in need. Yes they are illegal but if you were fleeing from an oppressive and dangerous country with a government that may or may not be trying to destroy your ethnic group then would you want to announce your departure from said country? It is only common sense that you would go to ground and get out of dodge.

With the global instability due to economy, conflict, and resources scarcity Australia’s stability will only continue to project us as the Lifeboat of the World. A shining beacon of a better life. More Asylum Seekers will come. They will find other ways to get here. They may be intercepted and sent to PNG or they may sink and join the 1,000 or so who have already drowned. If sent to PNG they face comparable hardships and put a strain on an economy that has no viable way of supporting them. What happens when PNG can’t support any more refugees? Will we send them to Indonesia? New Zealand? What happens then?

Hastily-made decisions help no one. With his years of experience in foreign relations and knowledge of the region Mr. Rudd should have made a better decision. He gets no sympathy from me and he sure as Hell won’t be getting my vote. If there are others who think like me (and opinion polls are showing there might be) it looks like we will have to get used to the incompetent mess of a nightmare that is an Abbott-led Coalition government.

The Horror. The Horror.

Domo Arigato Fisto Roboto or: My Pacific Rim Review

Title: Pacific Rim

Director: Guillermo Del Toro

Starring: Charlie Hunnam, Idris Elba, Rinko Kikuchi, Ron Perlman, Charlie Day

In Cinemas Now

In all my cinema-going experience I have never experienced a film so gleefully bombastic. This is not a film you see if you want to experience high culture, this film is what you can easily take every member of the family to and they will enjoy it, so long as they switch off their brain and just go with the premise.

Set in the not-too-distant-future (so that everything can look similar for budgetary concerns) Pacific Rim tells a very straight-forward story: an interdimensional portal (stay with me here) has opened up on the floor of the Pacific Ocean unleashing skyscraper-tall monstrosities named Kaiju (Japanese for Great Beast) that proceed to lay waste to cities on the rim of the Pacific Ocean with mankind struggling to stem the tide. The governments of the world then pool together resources and build the Jaegers (German for Hunter), 25-story tall Mechs to literally beat the invading Kaiju into submission.

After an awe-inspiring opening that demonstrates the capabilities of both the Jaegers and the Kaiju the story jumps five years into the future where an increasing number of Kaiju have slowly whittled the world’s Jaeger fleet down to about five and the remaining cities of the world are fortifying themselves behind massive coastal walls that evoke The Wall from Game of Thrones and left me asking: where the Hell did they get the resources to build it?

In a world constantly under attack from monsters that look like the toys I used to play with writ large where did they gather all that steel, cement, and miscellaneous material to create dozens of these things? On top of the Jaegers themselves (which run on massive nuclear reactors- always a good thing near major population centres and giant beasts that easily can rupture the core) the infrastructure to house and operate the Mechs would require some form of extra-planetary mining operation!

Perhaps the single most glaring issue with the film for me was the utilisation of Australia. Australia’s Jaeger, Striker Eureka (love the national overtones of the name!), plays a critical and integral role in the defence of the pan-Asian area, even defeating a Kaiju in the streets of Sydney (even though I’m from Melbourne I still felt a strong upsurge of national pride on seeing the Opera House). This warm fuzzy feeling lasted until the ‘Australians’ opened their mouths…when they sounded as convincing as someone imitating Paul Hogan from that damned “Shrimp on the Barbie” ad (note: they are called Prawns here!) Would it have killed Del Toro to get actual Australian actors? At least I can take solace in the fact that they said arse correctly.

Additionally at several points throughout the film I thought I had actually forgotten what the Aussie accent sounded like or that I was experiencing an extreme case of Cultural Cringe. I felt vindicated when checking the actors out on wikipedia and discovering the actor who played the son is British and the father is a New Yorker.

Nitpicks such as these are rendered null and void by just how much fun the movie is. While it would be easy to dismiss Pacific Rim and place it in the same bargain bin Hell occupied by the Transformers movies but that would be lazy. Unlike Transformers Pacific Rim is meant to be loud and dumb. Its also hilarious with the lion’s share of the humour coming from the constantly-bickering Kaiju ‘expert’ scientists (one played to great effect by Charlie Day, seriously guys watch this space).

The dialogue does feel clunky and overtly sappy but strong performances from Rinko Kikuchi and especially Idris Elba make it palatable. Charlie Hunnam does his best with the script but his portrayal of an emotionally-damaged pilot comes too close to his role as an emotionally-damaged bikie in Sons of Anarchy. It’s not annoying but it’s not a standout performance either, it’s filler. Speaking of Sons Ron Perlman shows up as the impossibly-named impeccably-dressed Hannibal Chow, a black-market Kaiju organs dealer who eats as much of the scenery as the monsters do.

The Third Act smackdown is what you expect as the remaining Jaegers charge towards the portal in a all-in mission to end the threat once and for all and it does not disappoint. The fight scenes throughout the film are long but never boring. You will see ships and shipping containers used as melee weapons by both the monsters and the Mechs and the bright neon-lit city makes it feel like it is occurring during some kind of techno acid trip. The CGI is close to flawless and you will find yourself getting lost in it. Both the monsters and the Mechs have a real weight to them. You will believe a 75 metre tall beast can move that fast and fluidly. I was reminded a couple of times of Cloverfield but this is far from a bad thing.

Ultimately though Pacific Rim, much like the Jaegers, is a sum of its parts. The average to solid acting, brilliantly realised world at war scenario, the impossible technology of the Jaegers, and the tremendous fun of watching massive entities beat the life out of each other. Easily the most enjoyable moments of the movie come from the throw-away details. Characters have tattoos of the Kaiju, religions have been formed around the Kaiju, a city is built in and around the bones of a Kaiju. Elements such as these help ground the movie and give us, the viewers, a point of reference and contrast against our own world.

See this movie on the Big Screen. It is the only way to truly experience the scale of the film.

Pacific Rim gets 3.5 out of 5 Kaiju tattoos

Politics…such a nasty business

The recent leadership shift in the Federal Labor Party elicited several contrasting reactions from the voting public. From those dissatisfied with Ms Gillard’s tenure in the top job Kevin07 with greeted with much jubilation. In their eyes the original and the best person for the job was back in his rightful position, after being ousted unceremoniously all those years ago.

For those in Opposition it was with quiet observance that they viewed this contender who had a shot of knocking them down in the opinion polls. when the time came to comment on the shift those in the Coalition were quick to point out that this again was further proof of the Labor Party’s desatibilisation and the mess that the other side was in, compared to their own party’s staunch stability.

The only view that was glossed over or not widely reported on was that of those who actually supported the outgoing Prime Minister. Where was their voice? All media analysis was squarely on the impending Rudd v Abbott bloodbath that’s likely to occur in September…or August…to be determined?

In her final speech as Prime Minister Ms Gillard presented a clear and concise summation of events as well as background on her achievements while in office, of which there are a few. Speaking in front of journalists who had been attacking her policies and blatantly calling her out on her gender Ms Gillard remained strong and resolute in her darkest hour, never faltering, and always holding her own.

And then she was gone. Back to her small brick house opposite the high school I formerly attended. Back to the life of the average Australian citizen, albeit with a government pension, Australian Federal Police escort, the honour of having held the highest office in the land, and being the number 1 ticket holder for the Western Bulldogs (Go Doggies!!).

Following her speech Rudd rolled back into office and it was business as usual. Opinion polls have since jumped steadily in Kev’s favour and Opposition leader Tony Abbott’s smug appraisals of the Prime Minister have…continued to be smug. However he is tripping on his words a lot more.

While Australia adjusts to this return to normality there is a glaring difference in the coverage of Ms Gillard and Mr Rudd. Mr Rudd’s gender has not yet been attacked. I know that is a strong accusation to make but ever since she took office in 2010 Gillard has worn the mantle of being Australia’s first female Prime Minister, leading a male-dominated parliament. Over the years Gillard has been subjected to horrendous displays of sexism, misogyny and vile behaviour from elements within the public, the media and the politicians in Canberra and abroad.

Such unprecedented and unwarranted vitriol was horrific. Obviously a Prime Minister is not going to be loved by all, unless they are a dictator and everyone is forced to love them, but the anger should be towards disagreement with their policies and choices they have made not whether they are a woman or not.

In several conversations I have heard whenever Gillard was brought up the word “bitch” or “cow” often followed. Why the targeted hate? Was the fact that she was a ‘she’ the problem? I personally had a major issue with her decision to sell uranium to India, as well as her stance against legalising gay marriage, but I never attacked her personally.

In one of her closing lines in that final speech Julia spoke about how hopefully things will be easier for the next female Prime Minister, and the one after her, and her, and so on. I really hope your right. In the meantime enjoy your retirement, I may see you around Altona.