That Gum You Like

Media Update

Posted in Melbourne by Dave on September 26, 2009
Sorry about the watermark, I'm too lazy to do this myself.

Sorry about the watermark, I'm too lazy to do this myself. But it's the view from my balcony.

Saint Kilda Saints. They lost.

Saint Kilda Saints. They lost.

Police is Serious Business.

Police is Serious Business.

Rugby Parade. Obnoxious.

Rugby Parade. Obnoxious.

Yellow Building of Something or Other.

Yellow Building of Something or Other.

My Building. I'm on floor 15. If you look real close, ours is the one with the dead plant. (You probably can't actually see this.)

My Building. I'm on floor 15. If you look real close, ours is the one with the dead plant. (You probably can't actually see this.)

Oh I intend to find out. My guess? Brutally Tender.

Oh I intend to find out. My guess? Brutally Tender.

Bizarro Burger King.

Bizarro Burger King.

HA!

HA!

My Room. And/or Closet.

My Room. And/or Closet.

Hot Chip albums are crafted with lazers:

Hot Chip – Over and Over

Lo-fi pop genius smothers accessible, friendly pop tune in layers of off-putting fuzz. Dig through and you’ve got a jam.

Ariel Pink – Loverboy

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In which Dave gets to Melbourne

Posted in Melbourne by Dave on September 26, 2009

Hola Amigos,

I know that it’s been a while, but forgive me, it’s been kinda chaotic. Also I keep screwing myself over with this thing, because if I let it go for a few days, I’m always daunted by the amount of time it’ll take to write and upload an update, so I put it off, which obviously makes it even harder the next time. But whatever. Here we go.

So after my day at the races I spent three more days with the Body’s out in the QLD, where Simon finally really put me to work at Tarrawonga. Sunday was a flashback to my landscaping past, as I spent most of the day destroying a massive hedge that had taken over one of the fences in the Body’s yard. Then, during the week, I helped Simon with “mustering”. Mustering involved me driving an ATV around the ranch, driving about 300 cattle from one fenced off chunk of field (AKA a “paddock”) to another. Apparently the cattle had devoured most of the edible scrub in their existing paddock and we were driving them into one of fresh oats. It was actually a pretty fun job, driving an ATV was pretty sweet, and the cattle were stupid and hilarious. I thought that driving these massive crowds of huge animals would be difficult and perhaps a little intimidating, but cows are real dumb and responded pretty well to me driving the ATV nearly into them over and over and over. So it took two days to finally get all the cows into the new paddock, as many of them were resistant to moving or got separated from their calves, and jumped the fence back into the original field.

On Wednesday we moved another herd of cattle, this time into the cattle yards, as they were being sold that day. This time, instead of the ATV I was driving the Ute, which gave me access to the radio, which in turn gave me access to the jewel of information that it was Bruce Springsteen’s 60th birthday. I know, holy shit. In a fortuitous coincidence, the only tape in the Ute was Born to Run, and even though I’m no fan of the Boss, I couldn’t fight against fate. Besides, my only other option was 106 Hot Country. So, for me, the definitive moment of my visit to the Body ranch was driving cattle while blasting Born to Run with the windows down. Seemed appropriate, somehow. (For the record, Born to Run pretty much sucks, but Thunder Road is impossible not to sing along to with all the heart you got.)

After driving the cattle into the yards, I got to see the beginning of the process of sorting them into varying grades before I had to go. The yards were a complex maze of fences and gates, and sorting them was a nutty process that’s I can’t possibly describe in any sort of convincing detail. Let’s just say it involved hitting the cattle with plastic pipes to keep them from ramming into you. Pretty much all I got. But I had to leave shortly after the process began, to begin what would turn into a hilariously drawn out bummer of a travel experience. Before I get into that though, I feel like I should wrap up the whole cattling experience somehow.

Although I obviously didn’t really get a feel for the ranching life in the five days I was there, the time I spent there left somewhat of a weird taste in my mouth (although that easily could have been the dust storm that came up on the day I left). As far as my feelings about eating steak, they remain essentially unchanged. At this point, I remain unconvinced that raising cattle like this is particularly inhumane. They basically are on vacation from the day they’re born until the day they die, and the people who own them are entirely focused on keeping them fat and happy. And at this point in the evolution of cows, they’re as helpless as zoo animals, and an existence in the wild would be a complete disaster. Is it sad that they’ve been domesticated to that extent? Maybe. But probably not. As far as the life they’re living in this situation, it seems pretty ideal. Okay, sure, they’re not “free” but honestly, I don’t think that distinction really means anything to cows. I’m still gonna eat steak, even having seen the face behind the plate, or whatever the hell those PETA ads were on about. I could easily see myself being a vegetarian someday, but certainly not for moral reasons.

The thing that stuck with me the most, and left me the most confused about my whole experience though, is the life that these ranchers live. It seems like a touch-and-go business, one that is left largely up to unpredictable factors like rainfall and the ever variable grain and steak prices. Many of the people I encountered, though, seemed to fall into the category of “gentleman farmers”, people who farmed because they liked it, and had money to back them up in case everything fell apart. Simon didn’t really fall into this category, I don’t think, but the general cultural feel I got out there was one of land=wealth=entitlement. And everyone out there has buttloads of land. It just seemed that I had dropped into a very weird world of intense isolation from the general populace, where everyone was preoccupied with the things that affected them directly, and not much concerned with society at large. It’s a life that left me confused, with my only certainty that it’s not for me. It’s not even that I have a problem with insulating yourself from the wider world, which is something that I see the romance in quite clearly, but more the combination of that isolation with a community of wealth and entitlement.

Having said all that, everyone I encountered was incredibly nice and gracious, and couldn’t have been more welcoming to this snobby jerk who’s left them to criticize the life they life. I don’t want to give the impression that these people were anything but fantastic in person, but I also can’t deny the culture shock that I experienced.

ANYWAY, I left the Body’s on wednesday and began my travel adventure to Melbourne. I started with a crowded, double-layover Greyhound trip to the Brisbane airport. Greyhounds out here are classier than in the states, but still draw the kind of people who are looking for cheap transportation, i.e. young people and grungy old boozehounds. But the Greyhound was pretty painless, I spent most of the time listening to Dirty Mind on repeat and reading As I Lay Dying.

I arrived at the Brisbane airport around 7pm, and went to check in for my flight that left at 6am the next morning. Of course, as soon I went up to the desk, I was informed that I couldn’t check in overnight and would have to wait until about 430 the next morning. I wasn’t about to take a cab into the city and pay for a hotel, so I cozied up in the ludicrously uncomfortable baggage claim waiting area and watched something like 7 episodes of the X-files. I didn’t particularly trust my neighbors and had too much stuff strewn about me to get some proper sleep, so I relied on the escapades of Mulder and Scully to keep me awake (not a difficult proposition (Question: Is X-files the theme of this blog so far? I seem to find a way to mention my obsession with it in every post. Still, I stand by its greatness.))

So around 430, I went to check my baggage, only to be told I was about 4kg overweight and that it was going to cost me 40 dollars. I suppose that’s what I get for bringing a box of books, but c’mon. My next encounter with the delightful Qantas people was when they confiscated my deodorant, toothpaste, and shaving cream at the security check. I’m still not really sure why, I didn’t have any problem bringing that on the plane on my flight over here, but I guess there was the danger that I was planning on not smelling and looking like a hobo on my flight to Melbourne. Oh well.

But I do have to say that once up in the air, Qantas was a great airline to fly on. They fed me breakfast and lunch, gave me unlimited coffee and free newspapers (which unfortunately follow the general trend over here of having totally bullshit crosswords) and were generally pretty nice. I landed in Melbourne to find it rainy and about 30 degrees colder than it had been in Queensland. After a bus into the city and a cab ride where the cabbie and I had to pore over a map for 10 minutes to find the apartment I’m staying in, only to discover it was a 3 minute walk from the bus station, I arrived at my apartment at about noon on thursday.

After meeting the fiancee and girlfriend of the two dudes who work at the plant where I start on monday I went off into the city. Didn’t do a whole hell of a lot aside from drink coffee and get lost, but already I really like Melbourne. It’s a little bit expensive, but it has everything you could ever want in a city, as well as a seemingly limitless number of weird neighborhoods to explore. At this point I hadn’t slept in about 24 hours, so I went back to the apartment and napped before meeting the two dudes, and had dinner with everyone, including two other Americans employed by the plant. Everybody is really really nice and it’s been great to hear American accents and to live with people who are equally confused by the difference between Rugby League, Rugby Union, and the AFL. Also, my apartment is killer, with an incredible view of the main downtown area. My internet is a little sketchy do properly do photos, but I’ll do a photo post later, where you can see the incredible view from my 15th floor balcony. When I do that I’ll also show you my hilarious closet/room where I’m living, which although small and windowless, it’s perfect for what I need (i.e. it has a bed).

Friday I slept in, had a delicious breakfast at a cafe nearby (hint to future travelers: all bacon is canadian bacon, and these people do not believe in homefries.) and went off to the ACMI (Australian Center for the Moving Image) which kept my record of free museums at 100%. The museum was really really awesome, with two aggressively experimental exhibits, Remixing Hollywood and a survey of the work of Len Lye, a New Zealand filmmaker. Len Lye apparently pioneered the technique of painting directly onto film, and although that work hasn’t aged particularly well in the 80 or so years since it was made, it was still really cool to see. Lye also apparently worked a lot with scratching onto film, and the three I saw in the exhibit were incredible. Particularly “Free Radicals” which I could watch for days. Remixing Hollywood was also fantastic, with films by Martin Arnold, Virgil Widrich, and Peter Tscherkassy, none of whom I’d heard of or seen anything by, but it was all really good. So yeah, the ACMI was definitely my best museum visit since getting to Australia, and if you’re ever in Melbourne, it’s definitely worth a visit. After my stop there, I just went back to the apartment and enjoyed my view and passed out early.

Today all I’ve done is travel over to Richmond, one of the dozens of Melbourne suburbs that are basically in the city and go to the awesome Picture Search Video, where I opened an account and got some flix. It’s currently about 130 here, and the AFL (more rugby) Grand Final starts in a half hour, so I think I’ll join the rest of the Melbourne population in watching that. Seriously, people here are going insane, I had to walk through a parade yesterday to get to the ACMI, and nearly everyone has either a red and white (Saint Kilda Saints) or blue and white (Geelong(I think) Cats) striped scarf. I expect nearly the entire city plans on getting tanked and screaming like idiots, so it should be a great day to get a feel for the place.

Like I said, my internet is too slow to upload photos or tunes, but I’m on the hunt for an internet cafe, so a media post is forthcoming.

kisses.

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In which Dave goes to the QLD

Posted in Queensland by Dave on September 20, 2009

Hey Guys,

I know it’s been a few days, but I’ve been crazy busy since the last time I updated this thing. Took the train from Sydney to Brisbane, a fourteen hour expedition in which I ended up falling asleep in the fetal position on the floor after trying every possible position on the seats themselves. The train was populated mostly by loud, drunk, crazy people, including one woman who kept insisting that “she knew me from somewhere”. Pro-Tip: if you’re going to try and pick up somebody at least thirty years younger than you, on a train at five in the morning, spitting on them as you talk is probably not going to help matters.

I got to Brisbane around 7:00am Thursday, and my Greyhound left at 7:30. So my impressions of the city were limited to the Transit Station, which was basically a dirty, garish mall. The Greyhound from Brisbane to Roma was pretty painless, including a meal stop at a gas station where the food choices were limited to either A.) Fried Chicken B.) Chicken Fingers or C.) Chicken-Flavored Chips (fries). Having had nothing to eat since I left Sydney the previous afternoon, I got a generous helping of all three, topped off with a big ‘ol bottle of Coke.

You guys. Coke in Australia is like Coke from Mexico. Anyone worth their salt when it comes to Cola knows that in Mexico they use Cane Sugar instead of High-Fructose Corn Syrup, and also knows that yes, it makes a difference. In the states the only place you can find this ambrosia is in a select few bodegas scattered around the country. That or Texas. But here in Australia, the nectar is standard issue. Suffice to say I will be imbibing far more frequently than I ever would. Thus far, this is the only culinary item where the Aussie version is significantly superior to it’s US counterpart. Go Coke.

ANYWAY, Simon’s wife Katrina picked me up at the bus station in Roma, and took me out to the ranch, known as Tarrawonga, which is about a thirty minute drive outside town. Tarrawonga is an enormous property, and it’s one of three that Simon owns, along with Tallah and Kynoch, which he’s purchased since I arrived on Thursday. Altogether, I think the properties total at something like 15,000 acres, on which Simon raises his 1500 head of cattle. After an early dinner and sleep on Thursday evening, I woke up at about 630 with the Body family. Simon and Katrina’s two sons, Peter and Ted, ages 7 and 9 respectively, don’t let the family sleep much past 7, and Simon likes to be up early– before the heat kicks in.

We spent the morning checking the cattle in Simon’s “Ute” (AKA pickup truck), and taking a tour of the property. Raising 1500 cattle is an intense business, and I arrived at an interesting time for Simon. Along with buying Kynoch, he’s currently engaged in trying to sell 300 steers (at roughly $1.95/kg) and 300 heifers (at roughly $1.70/kg), which will be his big sale for the year. Usually he waits longer to sell, he says, but the drought that’s running train on the rest of Australia has struck here, and Tarrawonga has gotten about a third of it’s usual rainfall. This lack of rain has stunted the growth of the oats Simon uses to fatten the cattle, and he’s trying to close the sale before he runs out of oats to feed them.

Coming back from our foray into town (where Simon had to sign some papers regarding his property deal, and I took the opportunity to check out greater metropolitan Roma), we ran into one of Simon’s neighbors, Cossi, who pointed out we had a flat tire. After helping us fix it, Cossi shoved off, but not before Simon convinced him to come over for drinks later, or as Cossi put it, “tellin’ lies on the veranda”. As I would shortly learn, in Queensland the weekend is serious business.

Seriously, if there’s anybody out there who thinks they’re skilled in the art of consuming vast quantities of beer, I invite them to come try their hand in the flatlands of Queensland. After Cossi’s arrival that evening Simon got started, and as much as I tried to keep up, I quickly gave up at trying to match and just watched in awe…

Enter the Surat Races, the following day. We left the house Saturday morning at around 10:00 (not before Simon had warned me that shorts were not acceptable race-wear, despite the 80 degree heat) and went over to one of Simon and Katrina’s friends’ house, where they dropped off the kids and met the bus that was going to shuttle a crew from the neighboring area off to the Surat, about 45 minutes away. Before going to the house, I had thought the shuttle idea was simply to cut down on the number of cars going or something, but after Simon’s friend Warrick (probably spelled wrong, sorry) offered me a beer at 10:30 in the morning I figured out it was because the most important part of the Surat Races was most definitely not the horses.

My day at the races was excellent. Within ten minutes I had been nicknamed Clark Kent (I suppose it’s the glasses) and had lost fifty bucks (damn you Craiglea Tambo!), and begun trying valiantly to drown my sorrows in the delicious XXXX Bitter, the most popular option amongst the crew I had arrived with. Any moment where I wasn’t actively drinking a beer I was asked if I needed another one, and the one time I turned down the offer I was asked if I would like to henceforth be referred to as “Clark Cunt the Yank Bitch” and quickly learned my lesson. After a 8 hours of socializing, drinking, gambling, drinking, dancing, and more drinking, we loaded back on the bus and listened to the Rugby League game on the radio on the way back to Roma.

See that one in the back there? Yeah.

See that one in the back there? Yeah.

The debatable greatness of Rugby, AKA “footy” is a subject for another post, after I’ve seen more than one complete game, but I will take this moment to offer a word of warning to any americans planning to come out here. Be prepared to defend American Football (AKA “gridiron”). As soon as the Rugby game came on the radio, everyone in the bus used the opportunity to rag on football, and thus americans, and thus me. Example exchange:

“Oy Clark? why are you americans such pussies when it comes to hitting each other?”
“**Awkward laugh** I dunno”
“You should play Rugby mate, make a man out of you”
“Yeah, I suppose”
“You suppose! You suppose! C’mon, gridiron is a game for kids. You americans are a bunch of cunts”

But seriously, Rugby is kinda stupid. It’s really repetitive and predictable and mostly pretty slow moving and futile. Not that I really like football either, but watching Rugby is kinda like watching somebody trying to knock down a tree with their head.

I got home Saturday night mostly unscathed, and spent most of today helping Simon and Katrina out in their yard. It turns out I’ll only be here for the rest of the week before I head to Melbourne, and hopefully this week will be a good chance to get a better feel for the cattle business, but so far, my visit to rural Queensland has been a blast.

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In Which Dave Goes Explorin’

Posted in Sydney by Dave on September 16, 2009

DAY 3

After a quick breakfast this morning, I headed off into Sydney, to see what kind of wandering I could get done by myself. Without a guide, I expected to get lost, and as soon as I got off the train in Town Hall, this expectation was met handily. As I tried to make my way to Circular Quay, the area Sarah had showed me around the day before, I walked in the exact opposite direction, ending up on a different part of the bay. After futilely trying to figure out the way back to Circular Quay by myself, I buckled down and asked for directions. Now, I’m certainly familiar with how difficult it is to give directions to tourists, but after five sets of conflicting instructions from storeowners, (including one dude who started to list streets and then laughed at my baffled expression and offered to call me a cab), I decided my best bet was to buy one of the incredibly overpriced maps sold at the little news kiosks, which finally got me on the right track back towards Circular Quay.
En route to the Quay I stumbled across the Art Gallery of New South Wales, probably my best find on the trip so far. This museum, like the Museum of Contemporary Art the day before, was completely free. I spent a few hours wandering around it’s three floors, checking out its incredibly varied and satisfying collection. Although I suppose the museum is particularly focused on Australian and Aboriginal art, it had a great collection of 20th and 21st century works.
The highlight of which was Study for a Self-Portrait by Francis Bacon, tucked away in a little corner of the 2nd level. I don’t profess to know a whole lot about art in general, but Francis Bacon is somebody that I’ve been geeking out over this summer, after I read some interview with David Lynch where he said Bacon was his favorite painter. So after spending a few months looking at the google image versions of Bacon’s work, it was a really awesome surprise to walk around the corner and stumble across this:

Forgive the glare

Forgive the glare

Other highlights:

No Joke. Gold.

No Joke. Gold.

Hotties.

Hotties.

Nip Slip.

Nip Slip.

Cool Falcon, Bro.

Cool Falcon, Bro.

Lol.

Lol.

Shapes FTW.

Shapes FTW.

After leaving the museum, I spent the rest of the afternoon walking around the bay, getting a few shots off on my little digital point and shoot and lusting over all the tourists with their fancy SLR’s and 35mm cameras. Anyway, here’s the obligatory Sydney Opera House Pic:

Had to do it.

Had to do it.

The bay is really an incredible spot, edged by the gorgeous botanical garden, and with incredible views of the surrounding city. Spending the afternoon amongst thousands of other tourists was actually surprisingly comfortable, a reminder that as much as I might feel like a weirdo american most of the time, there are plenty of people in my same shoes.

DAY 4

Spent most of today driving around Ku-Ring-Gai national park with Margaret and her daughter Barbara. Unfortunately, I forgot my camera, so I can’t share with you the incredible flowers and aboriginal carvings I saw, or the awesome view from Barrenjoey lighthouse. Suffice to say, they were pretty awesome. No wildlife so far, although I was assured there were Kangaroos and Wallabies (which are apparently basically the same thing…) just around every curve. Still waiting on those. But, despite the foggy weather, had a great day cruising around the wilder side of Sydney.

DAY 5

Today, Margaret’s son Andrew took Margaret, her sister Jean, and myself out on his vintage motor-yacht. It really is a pretty awesome boat. We took the day to motor around the rivers that run through Ku-Ring-Gai, the park I had driven through the day before. Very cool to see it from the water, and what the landscape looked like on a larger scale. Took a few opportunities to row ashore, and saw my first real Australian wildlife (okay, aside from the birds, but really, who cares):

Dragon?

Dragon?

**Shudder**

**Shudder**

Apparently these creepy things are known as Goannas, which if you’ve seen Rescuers Down Under, you should have repressed memories of. I also was told to be careful swimming, as there was a pretty solid chance of Bull sharks in the water. Sharks are definitely my one true phobia, so when I did go swimming, I went from the beach, and was barely in enough to get my head wet. After lunch we motored over to a waterfall, which was a good opportunity to try out my Super 8, which I’ve almost completed one roll of so far. Not going to know what it really looks like for a while, but I bought about 8 rolls of film, so something interesting should come of it, I hope…

DAY 6

Today I went into Gordon and ran some errands, which pretty much brings us up to know, where I’m sitting in a coffee shop and typing this post. No internet though, so I think I’m going to sneak into the McDonalds and upload everything. This afternoon I leave for Roma, Queensland, where I begin the first true leg of my stay here, working on a cattle ranch belonging to a dude named Simon Body. I don’t know a goddamn thing about this place, except that every Aussie I’ve mentioned this to so far has laughed at me and told me I’m a moron. Should be GREAT!!

Hugs, Kisses,

–D

Some tunes for YOU!

Country tinged genius pop from former underground disco phenom:

Arthur Russell – I Couldn’t Say It To Your Face

John Dwyer (Thee Oh Sees, The Hospitals, etc…) runs on premium. Super high-octane head bangin’ :

Coachwhips – Dance Floor Bathroom

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Automobile–>Plane–>Train–>Automobile–>Sydney (Days 1-2)

Posted in Sydney by Dave on September 13, 2009

Well guys, I made it. The journey itself was actually reasonably painless, all things considered. Left my house around 12:30 on Wednesday afternoon, got to JFK at four, flight to LAX left at six. The flight out to L.A. was pretty straightforward, sat in the window seat next to two old ladies, one of whom promptly fell asleep and only woke up once we arrived in L.A., and one who spent her whole time pretending to sleep, but apparently was just watching the X-Files with me the whole time, because I caught her gasping whenever something scary happened… Pretty hilarious actually, every time she did it I would look at her and smile, but she continued to pretend to be asleep. But yeah, I watched the X-files until my computer ran out of battery, then I just read a little bit and stared out the window. It was obviously dark by this point, but I always really like looking out at the lights on the ground. Real pretty. Got into LAX, ate some Mcdonalds, charged my computer enough for two more episodes of the X-Files and got on the plane for Sydney, which left at about 11pm.

Huge, huge plane, even had a second floor! Also generally pretty nice, the first class area looked like a freaking spaceship, and business class was only marginally worse. Gargantuan seats, loads of footroom, etc. But I wasn’t too jealous, as I had an entire row to myself. It actually totally blew my mind, I haven’t been on a plane that wasn’t almost entirely sold out in a really long time. So having the whole row was an incredibly pleasant surprise. I promptly took advantage of it, making a little nest out of the three pillow and blanket sets they gave me, and passed out for the first chunk of the flight. When I woke up, I guess a pretty considerable amount of time had gone by, because the rest of the flight really passed pretty quickly, I watched some of the inflight movies (caught about half of the new Star Trek without sound and checked in for a little bit of Monsters vs. Aliens (which was pretty terrible except for a character voiced by Will Arnett, who was obviously hilarious)), read a little, listened to some music, and yes, watched some more X-Files. You guys, the X-Files is awesome. Very consistently entertaining, and an incredibly satisfying overarching plotline that seriously tickles my inner sci-fi nerd. Also, this:

Gillian Anderson + Hilarious Outfit = Multiple Levels of Win

Gillian Anderson + Hilarious Outfit = Multiple Levels of Win

I landed in Sydney around 6am, had some pretty painless dealings with Customs and Quarantine (which included me awkwardly explaining to the Quarantine officer what a Jolly Rancher was), and hopped on the train out to Gordon, a suburb of Sydney and the home Margaret Tink, my host for my initial stay here. The Sydney public transportation system is dominated by Cityrail, a train system similar to the BART, but obviously, as this isn’t America, it’s infinitely better. It’s a very clean, cheap, quiet, and quick way to cruise around the city and the surrounding area. We suck at getting people around.
Margaret picked me up at the station and took me to her house, where I spent most of the rest of the day sitting on her porch, feeling jet-lagged and confused by the constant chattering of the local birds, a constant reminder that I’m over 11,000 miles away from home. Seriously you guys, these things just spend all day making the noises that Hollywood has taught us are the sounds of the “jungle.” It’s bizarre seeing cockatoos and kookaburras just cruising overhead like they’re seagulls or something. After a run and some dinner I went right to sleep at about 8pm, which felt fantastic.
I woke up this morning, had some breakfast and headed into the city, where Margaret’s granddaughter Sarah, a student at University of Sydney, met me, having agreed to show me around for the day. I had a fantastic day touristing around with Sarah, making the obligatory Opera House visit, checking out the Museum of Contemporary Art and cruising around the area surrounding the University. The Opera House, despite being the world’s most stereotypical tourist destination, really was pretty awesome. I’m not even sure I like the design, but there’s something pretty cool about hanging out under those shells and looking out over the water. The Museum was aggressively contemporary, some of it interesting, some of it not so much. The dominant aesthetic was a bit Oberlin-esque actually, a few of the exhibits reminded me of something I might see at a Senior show. I really like the area around the university, very college-y, we stopped in at a few used bookstores and the like, one of which enormous and unorganized where I could have spent about a year, but today I only came out with Robert Lowell’s Life Studies.
Thus far though, I’m finding Sydney to be pretty incredible. I didn’t get a chance to take any pictures, which is a shame, it’s a very photogenic city, a lot of big, old buildings mixed in with a very tropical landscape. I’m probably going to head back in tomorrow, so I’ll make sure to get some pix of it then for my next update. Until then…

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And I’m Out. (T-minus 9 hours)

Posted in Pre-Departure by Dave on September 9, 2009
Done and Done.

Done and Done. (plz excuse the photobooth)

And that’s it guys. My bags are packed. I’m leaving today. Off to a world of convicts and thieves, where the toilets aren’t the only things that flush backwards and the trees grow gumdrops. See y’all around the billabong.

The Mountain Goats – Leaving Home

And this one is theme song of this trip so far, the song I’ve been screaming along to, tearing down whatever highway at three in the afternoon or four in the morning, the song that plays in the movie I’ve been making in my brain:

Smog – Hit the Ground Running

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T-minus 43 hours.

Posted in Pre-Departure by Dave on September 8, 2009

Oh man you guys. You guys! Oh, man. Man oh man oh man you guys! I am officially tweaking out a little about this. My life as I’ve known it is about to totally change (Hold on, I’m getting bludgeoned by the obvious cliche police). Doing this trip is way scarier than going to college. It’s funny, like, I’ve spent the past week finally nailing everything down, and for the most part, pretty much everything has fallen into place, which has only served to make it scarier, because it’s finally real! All these phone calls to Sydney and Brisbane to my lovely hosts, figuring out international calling and time differences, and public transport from Sydney to Brisbane, from Sydney to Gordon… Now that everything is finally figured out all I have left to do is freak myself out, download as much music I possibly can and pack all my shit into a few bags. And a big ol’ box for the books. Something like this, methinks:

Gonna be a bitch to fit in that overhead compartment.

Gonna be a bitch to fit in that overhead compartment.

But yeah, this is going to be scarily awesome. That’s the other nice thing about constantly freaking out about this. I did it all to myself, so it’s pretty well suited to my specifications. Which is in part, why is seems scarier than college. Starting college was both an obligation (an obligation I was happy to fulfill, but still), and a process of fitting myself into a mold created for me. This time, I made the mold. Which also means, I suppose, that if it sucks, it’s all my fault. Ah well. Way it goes…

And now it’s time for some cool stuff I found on the internet.

This animation is really really beautiful. Initially it reminded me of William Kentridge, at least the animations I saw of his at SFmoma over spring break. After watching it a few times, I guess it’s really not like his stuff at all, but I think they share sort of a fuzzy B&W aesthetic. Pretty pretty stuff.

I’m dumbfounded by this (left it on the site I found it on, because Cakehead loves evil is incredible.) I don’t understand studio lighting at all, and seeing somebody really go ambitious with it and succeed pretty well is really insane. I’m almost doubtful that those are untouched. Any photoshop pros able to tell if s/he cheated at all?

Music!

So Davye Hawk, the mastermind behind Weird Tapes/Memory Cassette/Memory Tapes (Seriously dude, I will pay you to freaking pick one) is one of my favorite discoveries of the year, and his most recent efforts, the Call and Response EP from Memory Cassette (which came out, sold out, and is now only digital) and Seek Magic, the Memory Tapes debut LP (which comes out sometime later this month [Buy It!]) are both super blissy and awesome. The Memory Cassette skews a little closer to the Weird Tapes than does the Memory Tapes–Seek Magic is super patient, frequently understated and cleaner than anything else Hawk has given us so far. It really is a distillation of all his work so far, taking his beautiful sample-based aesthetic into new territory, giving himself room to flex both his production and songcraft muscles. All very much worth a listen if you’re into ‘chillwave’ or ‘glo-fi’ or whatever the hell else people are calling this stuff.

Memory Cassette – Surfin’

Memory Tapes – Pink Stones (I chose this one because Bicycle and now Plain Material are both already all over the webs, and I think this one is sort of the secret jam)

Also, I’m really really obsessed with this song:

Edward Sharpe & the Magnetic Zeros – Home and I’m kinda embarrassed about it, honestly. They’re asking me to swallow a lot of cute and a lot of ripped-off aesthetic. It’s so goddamn hard to be a band that makes happy music (c’mon, look at these assholes) and pull if off without dipping into cheesy, overtrodden, cliche, they’ve already got an uphill battle going with that one, and to have that backed up with the singers apeing the sort of guy girl back and forth used best by artists like Johnny and June Carter Cash is a real tough pill to get down on. But the song is secretly rock solid, if you can get over all the smarm. It’s got an airtight melody that they’re smart enough to lean on for most of the song and the personalities are actually sort of charming. If after the first verse you find yourself wanting to stab them in the face, at least wait out the whole song, they kinda ease off the lyrical grossness as it proceeds. Also, it’s surprisingly well produced, the way the guitar and whistling is treated gives the song a vaguely darker edge, helped out by the enormous, booming chorus. They’re apparently a twelve-piece band, which is ridiculous, but I certainly wouldn’t take anything out of the chorus, and seeing this live would probably break me into little joyous pieces. They’ve got a whole album out too, but I haven’t heard it yet. You can get it on iTunes, but it’s worth going through their website for the ludicrous background it has.

(It bears mentioning that I found the song from the excellent Aquarium Drunkard mix: Weird Summer, very highly recommended)

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T-minus three days. (Ho boy.)

Posted in Pre-Departure by Dave on September 6, 2009

So it’s Sunday the 6th, and I leave for the land down under (no Men at Work (The video is worth it, I promise)) Wednesday and get there on Friday. So as you might imagine, I’m starting consider the reality of having to pack. It’s proving surprisingly difficult. It’s not clothes, electronics or anything else that I’m worried about. I’ll survive on the bare minimum of clothing, and beyond my computer and camera there’s nothing else that I think I would really want. The issue here is the truckload of books that I want to bring. One thing that has really driven this trip is the opportunity to do my own education for a little while, knocking down a few of the classics and required reading that I’ve never gotten around to. Until now, I hadn’t really considered the fact that this means I have to take all these books with me, and that books are going to take more space than anything else I want. A lot more. I made a few stacks today of things I thought I might want…

This is ludicrous.

Oh dear god.

So now I’m at the point where I’m picturing myself showing up in Sydney with my backpack, my super 8 camera (aw yeah), and a shipping container full of books. Anybody know a good sherpa?

D

P.S. Two of the tunes that have been getting me through this packing panic: (Apparently wordpress needs me to pay to upload songs, so I’ll have to figure that one out soon. I’ll just hit you with the linx for now.)

The xx – Basic Space

Trailer Trash Tracys – Candy Girl