Archive for the Uncategorized Category

For Wilson

Posted in Uncategorized with tags , on April 10, 2013 by jason nahrung

sun through tree, not wilson's treeWe were sat at his wife’s parents’ place, in the front lounge. I was a lot younger then, and there were more of us, so many more of us. I imagine it was hot, because it usually was, there behind the louvres, looking out at the paddocks and the tree line. It was probably summer, because I always think of that house in the summer, creaking in the heat amid that quiet stillness.

One of those family gatherings. There would’ve been tea, and biscuits, or cake. There was always tea and something to nibble.

And he got up and grabbed his camera, a black bulk of SLR I should think, because that was his job, taking photos; he and his wife were very good at it, she doing the arranging of the subjects and he doing the technical stuff behind the lens. She was the organiser, and he the quiet one. I think of him and I think of quiet, of reserve, of calmness. I’m sure it wasn’t always the way but that was how I knew him and that is how, in this imperfect snapshot, I remember him; I knew him no other way.

So he and his camera went out to take a picture of a tree. The singular gum, tall, straight, that regal bearing, standing alone in the brown grass of the front paddock. I have a vague memory of him saying, and here I could be mistaken, but I think he said how he had always wanted to get the perfect picture of that tree. Perhaps his wife told us this as we watched him leave.

And now he is gone, and I think of him, walking out, camera in hand, in pursuit of the perfect shot. I have no doubt that, if not before, he will find it now, out there.

Vale, Wilson Thomsen (1937-2013)

Emilie Autumn in Melbourne: time to leave the asylum

Posted in Uncategorized with tags , , , , on March 30, 2013 by jason nahrung

ImageEmilie Autumn is an amazing singer-songwriter who has turned dark times into performance; who has in fact built a fantastical persona and entertaining stage act under the asylum for wayward Victorian girls motif.

Her most recent album, Fight Like A Girl, took the bold step of turning institutionalisation into a musical where independence — girl power — wins out over patriarchal straight jackets. And more power to her. Such a themed, narrative album was to be applauded.

But it hasn’t translated to her latest Flag stage show, which doesn’t quite know what it wants to be. With a surprisingly unadorned stage compared to her previous — and sensational — visit to St KIlda’s Espy, with songs interrupted by burlesque, a quaint fan fic skit and the once amusing, now, quite frankly, past its time, rat game, in which offside Veronica pashes an audience member to give the crowd a lesbo thrill, the show lacked cohesion.

The sound wasn’t great, either, the whole gig set to a backing track that often overwhelmed the at-times patchy vocals.

There were highlights as songs such as ‘Fight Like a Girl’ blasted out, and signs of what the show could’ve been when the always entertaining Captain Maggot, under-used, stalked Emilie in demonic garb on stilts.

Emilie is perhaps trapped at the moment, between wanting to break out her artistic vision but feeling compelled to play to her fan base — there’s a great deal of audience support for the rat game, for instance. Will her fans go with her if she leaves the asylum? Will they accompany her on a journey past the dalliance with madness and teasing sexuality?

It will be interesting to see what direction Emilie takes next, but I hope the next stage show flies a different flag.

Writerly round-up: D Publishing still doesn’t quite get it, and the quest for quality and equality

Posted in news regurgitation, Uncategorized, writing with tags , , , , , , , , , , on December 16, 2011 by jason nahrung

[Update, 18 December: Steve Rossiter reports (in the comments section here) a third version of the D Pub contract is promised [Dec 24: Rossiter still finds holes in the new Dymocks' contract, calling it a wasted opportunity]. Meanwhile, Writers Beware has posted this succinct summary of some of the concerns sparked by the original contract, which presumably will be addressed in the amended agreement for those wanting to use Dymocks’ distribution.]

[Dec 24: Crikey has interviewed Rossiter, and also provided a handy synopsis of the D Pub issue including links to the various criticisms levelled at the original contract.]

Dymocks’ D Publishing has been doing the PR rounds trying to hose down the criticism of their contracts — the ones you have to dig through their help menu to find — for those who want to use the service to not only print their work, but have it distributed. Those two arms of service do seem to have blurred in commentary, perhaps because D Publishing isn’t staking out that division strongly enough. It’s something they’re trying to address with PR, rather than website design or clarity. Still, early days…

Steve Rossiter, who issued a warning about the terms and conditions when first announced, and wasn’t wholly convinced by the second pass, has since had a chat with D Pub and seems somewhat mollified.

And over at Bookseller + Publisher, Dymocks has played serve and volley with contracts expert Alex Adsett, and has done a fairly good job of avoiding the actual issues she raises about Dymocks’ rights policy while playing the line that Dymocks is there to serve the author. In which case, they’d put their terms and conditions up front and centre for those considering publishing with them (as opposed to merely printing), and remove the ambiguity that Adsett has identified. But, you know, as I said, early days…

As always, it’s a case of ‘let the buyer beware’: shop around for the service that offers the quality, product and cost-effectiveness that best suits your needs, and mind the small print. One thing you can’t argue about: being publisher, distributor and sales outlet is a great example of vertical integration.

  • Meanwhile, Zena Shapter has been searching for what makes a good anthology or collection. I’m judging the Aurealis Awards in that very category this year, my second year in a row (which means I really should be doing some reading right now!), so I was included in her survey of editors and judges to see what they looked for from within three criteria — quality writing was pretty much the unanimous pic. The message here: love that talented editor and don’t let them go!
  • Kevin Powe — I’m catching up a bit here — recently blogged about sexism in the tech industry (he was also catching up, on Ada Lovelace Day) and, in the wake of the announcement of the Australian Women Writers 2012 Challenge, it’s worth a read. Also, neat to see him namecheck one of the editors who’s published my non-newspaper work.
  • Taking time

    Posted in Uncategorized, writing with tags , , , , , , , on April 24, 2010 by jason nahrung

    The RSS feed has delivered two interesting, and timely, posts from fellow scribes. The first, from Kim Wilkins, talks about the negative effect on productivity of the marvellous interwebs — the distraction of being too busy being a writer to actually write; while the second, from Margo Lanagan guesting at Justine Larbalestier’s web home, concerns the necessity of being fallow for a bit, of stepping back, of letting the mind get over itself. And she asks an interesting question: if you weren’t a writer, what would you be?

    Think of all the time you spend writing — not just at the keyboard, but in headspace plotting and dreaming, in reading and watching stuff you think will help, in the PR and communication Kim talks about. Wow. Now, what would you do with that time that would give you the same reward? Another artistic endeavour? Sport? Charity work?

    A writer probably can’t not write, but I guess the crux is, what they want to do with that writing. And can those expectations realistically be met.

    ctrl/alt/delete: restart

    Posted in books, travel, Uncategorized, writing on September 21, 2009 by jason nahrung

    During the week I left Brisbane, I took some snaps on my mobile phone to mark the moments. Not all of them, not even the most important ones: just incidental ones as the to-do list ticked down. It went something like this:

    empty winerack

    empty winerack

    After the giveaways and sell-offs, the eBaying and the Freecycling and the dump run, came the packing. The house emptied out as the boxes filled. The wine rack gave some cause for concern, but I figured, we could rebuild it. And in fact, we have. An empty wine rack is of no use to anyone. Ditto the bookshelves.


    cafe urbano in stafford heights

    cafe urbano in stafford heights

    I was extremely grateful that a cafe had opened at the end of my street. And a great cafe at that. One with takeaway coffee and a late breakfast and a BLT to die for. It became something of a hub for last-minute catch-ups, thanks in part to the recent addition of a dinner menu (love the lamb).

    shoes off, after the packing

    shoes off, after the packing

    Men came. They chuckled at the sight of the coffin-table, all bound up, mummy-like, in its blanket and tape. They didn’t seem to blanche too much at the third room, lined with boxes filled with books. Three hours and a cuppa later, they left in a big truck with a promise we’d meet again, and I sat on the stairs, shoes off, contemplating how much an empty house can echo, and how sore I’d be the next day.

    spaceman on the ceiling

    spaceman on the ceiling

    In the absence of, well, anything but a backpack of clothing, it was good to have friends to crash with. They had wine, and coffee, a spare bed and a shower and a loo, and a cute little spaceman stuck to their ceiling. You need friends like these.


    Dad's garden

    Dad's garden

    Family is also good. They’re like friends with a sense of ingrained commitment. My Dad has an awesome view from his house and an even more awesome viewpoint, and his partner has done a grand job setting up the house and the garden. It’s good to know that, no matter where you are, you know damn well where they will be: watching your back.

    sunset at Shorncliffe

    sunset at Shorncliffe

    After the truck had gone, I had coffee — an iced one, the day was hot — with a mate at Shorncliffe, one of my favourite places in Brisbane. And after that I went for a meditative trundle on the pier, and watched my last Shorncliffe sunset as a ‘local’. No dawn without a sunset.

    Kaliber in Fortitude Valley

    Kaliber in Fortitude Valley

    Another favourite place in Brissie was Kaliber, a funky, narrow club in the Valley with an amazing range of vodka, cool staff, mean pizzas and a fine line in absinthe. They were playing Concrete Blonde’s Joey when I got there. We had a good night, three of us who have all been through this all before each in our own way, and backed up the next week — the last week — with Mexican and burlesque (not at the same time). One thing I like about cities is that you can have tortillas and tassles in the one night.

    angela slatter and me at dinner

    angela slatter and me at dinner

    On the last night, after the final inspection of the house and the last cuppa at Urbano and the return of the keys and afternoon tea with a pal and the stumbling across of a friend’s Buffy book (Night Terrors) in a newsagent, it was time for a drink. First at the Queensland Writers Centre cocktail party, coinciding with the Brisbane Writers Festival and launching their groovy Industry IQ program which I’m frustrated to be missing — and what a splendid view of the CBD from across the river — and then at dinner, with some old friends and the cool Dexter dude Jeff Lindsay and some other folks beside. I relented and took a people shot on the phone, because how could you not with the likes of the inimitable (and fellow It Crowd fan) Angela Slatter?

    Sydney from the Swissotel

    Sydney from the Swissotel

    My agent has an annual gettogether for her writers in Sydney. This year, because the usual venue stuffed up the booking, it was at the Swissotel in the CBD. Two thumbs up for the Swissotel and their well-appointed rooms — this was the view from the 19th floor — and their fab staff and tasty bar menu. The banquet was amazing — I went back for seconds of prawns and oysters — and scored a wee pavlova. The event was my springboard out of Brissie, but there were a couple of fellow Brissie scribes there — Kate Morton and Stephen M Irwin with entertaining speeches, Grace Dugan, Louise Cusack and Kim Wilkins — and other reliables from around the country who made the bar a friendly place to be (Graeme Hague, Ian Irvine, Richard Harland and Katherine Howell, to name a few, and all kicking mighty goals that make a young wannabe such as myself mighty keen to get fingers on keyboard again).
    And then there was the Melbourne writer Kirstyn McDermott, reason enough to empty your house and say goodbye to your cafe and your sunset, and promise to write to the good souls holding the fort.

    gargoyle in melbourne
    gargoyle in melbourne

    Now the gargoyles are ensconced, the boxes packed away (mostly), the computer set up and the kettle plugged in. Better get started, then.

    Vale Kris Hembury

    Posted in Uncategorized on July 23, 2009 by jason nahrung
    Kris Hembury and his mate Gary at our pirate party, 2005

    Kris Hembury, left, and his mate Gary at our pirate party, 2005

    I met Kris Hembury, as with many of my Brisbane friends, through the Vision writers group. He had a wicked sense of humour, a love of puns, and a fierce imagination. I still remember a space story of his, about a guy trapped in what amounted to a box. A beautiful piece of writing, affecting and sincere. Poignant even if you didn’t know the author was in a wheelchair with limited mobility, who relied on voice recognition software to handle his prose. Who could play a mean thief in Dungeons & Dragons, too, the one time I had the privilege. Thing was, this guy with the heavy, battery-powered wheelchair would be at everything – signings, workshops, the monthly meetings, with enthusiasm and interest and a damn fine eye for a critique. He put me to shame in terms of getting up and getting out there. I didn’t know him well enough to give you a proper obituary; he was 29, and too damn young with too much damn promise and way too much potential. So news of his death has sent a wave of regret through this community who knew him. The emails came plentifully today as the news spread, with words of praise and sadness, and sympathy for his family.

    Life is short, maybe even shorter than we know. Live without regret, value your friendships, and try to leave something beautiful behind. I like to think Kris has done all three. Vale, friend.

    adam hills at brisbane comedy festival

    Posted in Uncategorized with tags , , , , , , , , , on March 18, 2009 by jason nahrung

    Comedian Adam Hills brought his Inflatable act to the Brisbane Powerhouse at the weekend. And it was good.

    Hills is a thorughly likeable chap and has a big following thanks to his hosting duties on ABC’s Spicks & Specks music quiz. Plus, no doubt, the fact he’s one of the country’s most accomplished comedians.

    Hills came out firing on Sunday night, his sixth session in three days as part of the Brisbane Comedy Festival.

    The hour-plus long show was anchored around the loss of two friends last year, both of whom he described as ‘inflaters’ – people who have the knack of making others feel good through a positive outlook.

    It sounds like dark material, but not in Hills’ hands. He himself is an inflater, even when tackling issues such as religion and disability.

    His act was a fine remedy for a week of gloomy news: economics, oil spills, school massacres, electioneering.

    Hills is taking his Inflatable routine on tour. Catch him if you’re feeling down. Or even if you’re not.

    Here’s a taste of part of his routine, from a few years ago.

    Gary Numan blasts Brisbane

    Posted in music, Uncategorized with tags , , , , , , , , , , , , on March 5, 2009 by jason nahrung

    Unfortunately, Gary Numan’s triumphant return to Australia, playing Brisbane’s Tivoli on March 2, coincided with my losing net access, hence the late post.

    Suffice to say, Numan was superb. Brilliant light show; deep, timber-rattling bass that didn’t make the ears ring; hot young dudes on guitar, bass, keys and synths; and Gary, ah Gary, turning 51 next week, so clearly enjoying his renaissance since making such a profound impact with his Tubeway Army back in the late 70s (when he last toured Oz).

    The two-hour gig concentrated on his most recent album, Jagged, recently released as a two-CD remix called Jagged Edge. But the crowd — and it was a pleasingly but not uncomfortably large crowd — also thrilled to the early hits including Cars and Are Friends Electric?. A blue-washed rendition of Down in the Park went over a treat.

    The gig really did showcase how far electronic music has come, and Numan’s role in it.

    The set unfolded almost continuously, and there wasn’t much chitchat from the man. Which was a pity. But Numan was a charismatic presence, stalking, sometimes a little meandering, and flashing a grin during those older tracks as the crowd responded.

    It was a sign of a great gig that I had his Haunted running through my head the next day.

    Flashback: my interview with Numan is here.

    memento mori

    Posted in Uncategorized with tags , , , , , , on February 9, 2009 by jason nahrung

    My weekend was a no-news weekend. My head and my heart were elsewhere. So here’s the thing. I get to work this morning, pick up the paper. The cover is black. A real rip snorter of a Big News Day. The newsroom is in a lather. The TVs are turned up. Never a good sign. The paper was hours old, of course. The net gave me the figure. 120 dead, and climbing. It hit 131 before I logged off. It’ll go higher, they say. Possibly much higher.

    I’ve been in shock most of the day. Maybe we all have. Even the politicians were lost for words. How the fuck do 131 people die from a bushfire in 2009?

    It makes you want to check the calendar. Stick your head out the window and look for smoke.

    This was, we’re told, the motherfucker of all bushfires, in all its fractured number. One quote that struck me, paraphrased: they had a 30m dead zone, gutters full of water and a wet roof, and he told me the kitchen just exploded.

    The kitchen just exploded.

    How do you deal with that? How much of a firebreak should you need to stop your kitchen from exploding?

    My country is burning and we’re reeling because the damage is staggering. All we can do is count heads and hug each other, donate to those who survived with nothing and mourn those who lost it all.

    Now, add in the floods that are devastating my home state. Nowhere near the loss of life, but the property damage is massive.

    Floods in the north, fires in the south. And there’s more.

    Five dead in a head-on, both cars aflame. Miraculously, one woman survived.

    And a five-year-old gets taken by a crocodile. It’s almost surreal, isn’t it? Five, a crocodile, amid all this other horror and misery.

    The country feels like one massive wound tonight, shell-shocked from its Big News Day.

    Ready for the kicker? You won’t read about this in the paper. There won’t be a headline, an interview, not that I’m aware of. It wouldn’t rate on a Big News Day.

    I’m looking at a MySpace page because I got sent a message. One of my MySpace Friends has died, peacefully, of a brain tumour. She was 26. Her page is bright, vibrant, filled with attitude and pictures of smiling young people and what I would count as an admirable taste in pop culture. I reckon I would’ve liked her, if we’d met, her and her friends swapping messages about gigs and other ordinary stuff we use to fill her lives. Twenty-six.

    And it’s not over yet. Rain’s still falling up north, fires are still burning down south, the funerals haven’t started yet.

    Front page, back page, MySpace page: doesn’t matter which, it’s a Big News Day. Every day is a Big News Day for someone, and maybe that’s the point I’m looking for here as I try to make sense of today.

    Not what’s worth dying for but what’s worth living for. And making the most of it while we can. Because we just don’t know, do we?

    Go safely, friends. There’s been more than enough news today.

    so bloody Awstraylian, maate

    Posted in Uncategorized with tags , , , , , , , , on January 26, 2009 by jason nahrung

    It’s Australia Day here in the land of Oz, and, like any true patriot, I skived the day off. (tis a public holiday, but nobody told the mass media masters that. bugger that.)

    To celebrate the auspicious landing of white fellahs Down Under — ones who weren’t intending to leave, at least — I ate a sausage roll for breakfast and a meat pie for lunch (with tomato sauce, true blue!) with Anzac bikkies in between. In keeping with the spirit of the occasion, someone kindly brought Arnotts bikkies to our little gathering but I didn’t have the heart to tell them Arnotts isn’t Aussie any more. It’s American-owned. Fortunately, our bikkies haven’t been rebranded cookies, just yet.

    Now, a couple of hundred years ago, there was another takeover in Australia, and it’s one that’s causing a bit of dissension among the ranks. Well, some of the ranks. Those ones at the back, actually, largely outside the hall, standing on the steps, shouting to be let in. I’m referring to our indigenous people, the noisiest of whom brand Australian Day ‘invasion day’.

    I wonder if we shouldn’t consider, between the beach cricket, the park barbecue and the social piss-up (or in our case, a photography outing to Brisbane State Forest), that maybe those invasion day claims have a bit of currency. Our PM took a big step forward with his apology to indigenous Australians for their mistreatment since white colonisation. Maybe a shift of our national day to something a little brighter and inclusive might also be in order.

    The debate brings to mind a great cartoon I saw years ago, in which two Native Americans are watching a sailing ship arriving at a big rock, and one is saying to his mate, “I think it might have been better if Plymouth Rock had landed on the Pilgrims.”


    ADDENDUM: I just caught the news, and PM Kevin Rudd has quashed the idea of changing Australia Day’s date. Let’s hope we can find a space outside the jingoism for making sure we don’t repeat the mistakes of yore, and make the national celebration something we can all share in.


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