Finger Food

January 25, 2013

Is it 2013 already? Well, another year, another blog post… On January 24th I spoke at a Midsumma spoken word event called Art, Sex & Snacks, organised by the gorgeous and funny Lisa Skye. Here is an edited version of what I said.

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One of my favourite phrases in the English language is “finger food”.

Partly because it sounds tasty, but mostly because it sounds dirty. There’s something about the word “finger” that just makes everything near it go a little bit Benny Hill. I have the same reaction to the phrase “Pacific Rim”, especially when it relates to cooking.

I have never held a sex party, because I’m the sort of person who gets hung up on the wrong things, like the music, or the décor, but mostly I’d be worried about the finger food. Do you provide snacks at a sex party? People will probably get hungry – or will they have eaten before? If they get too hungry they might leave, but then again, do you want people to linger at a sex party? And what do you provide? Do you go retro and cheeky – devils on horseback, perhaps? Or do you go simple and easy – maybe something from Nigella? Or is that too obvious?

Basically I would ruin a sex party by worrying about the canapes.

And the lack of sex parties in my life has started to worry me. Not that I necessarily want to be going to them now, but I want to have gone to them then, in the past. I’m reaching an age where I’ve started to worry about the roads not taken. I’ve never been to a sex party, I’ve never been arrested, I’ve never been on a hovercraft. I could try to kill three birds by being arrested at a sex party on a hovercraft, but somehow that just seems desperate.

Partly it’s the internet to blame. Through the magic of facebook we can now see all the social events we weren’t invited to. All the parties we didn’t attend, the food we haven’t eaten, the men we never had sex with.

It’s all highly edited, of course. No-one’s going to update their status to say “I’m sitting in a filthy dressing gown while watching repeats of Miss Marple and idly masturbating”. And it’s clearly a First World Problem – no-one in India is tweeting “Granny died from diphtheria today. Lolz!”.

But it still makes me feel like life is a game of musical chairs and the music has stopped and not only do I not have a chair, I’m not even in the same room. And I’m naked and… on fire.. or something.

A friend and I used to play a game called “What’s Madonna Doing Right Now?”. You always think of Madonna as recording a new single, or having a tantrum in a dressing room, or having sex with the linebackers of the San Diego Chargers on a winged chariot made of diamonds while being pulled along by a team of wild swans. But the truth is – at any given moment – Madonna is more likely to be brushing her teeth, or meeting an accountant, or watching a DVD of Swept Away and wondering how it all went so terribly wrong.

For the younger members of the audience, Madonna was a singer, a bit like Kylie Minogue with much scarier arms. She famously recorded a cover version of Lady Gaga’s Born This Way 20 years before Lady Gaga did it. It was called Express Yourself, and was featured on Madonna’s CD “Like A Prayer”.

For the younger members of the audience, a CD was a collection of music you would purchase from a shop in physical form, and insert into your parlour’s stereogram when your pianola had run out of paper rolls and you wanted to do the lindy hop.

For the younger members of the audience, “purchasing music” was something we used to do before the internet came along, making everything free and revealing all the parties we hadn’t been invited to, yadda yadda yadda, thus bringing us full circle.

We can’t see ourselves the way others see us. At the very least, it would hurt your neck, or you’d need to carry a big mirror around at all times, and that would be tiring. but it means we’re all a bit clueless of how we’re come across. Jodie Foster, for example, somehow misses the irony of asking an audience of 250 million people to give her some privacy in the middle of a speech about she’s proudly not coming out. There’s an old story that Neil Armstrong, the first man to walk on the moon, was at a party where a woman was telling him about her travels through Africa and Madagascar. Armstrong listened intently, then sighed and said “That sounds amazing – I’ve never been anywhere”.

That story isn’t actually true, of course, but that doesn’t stop it from making my point.

Everyone thinks they’re average. Everyone thinks their experience is normal. Serial killer Ed Gein probably thought that everyone else was making lampshades out of human skin, and mining magnate Gina Reinhart probably thinks that everyone else… is making lampshades out of human skin. Oh, sure that may be unfair, but you can picture it, can’t you? If you found out tomorrow that Gina Reinhard had been making a body suit out of the skins of her victims to wear around the house you wouldn’t be THAT surprised.

But we want to be exceptional. We want to be special. We want to be adored. We want life to be a smorgasbord, not half a box of Jatz crackers and some old hummus you found at the back of the fridge, as it sometimes seems.

But while we’re alive, there’s hope. And if you’re not alive, I think you have bigger issues to concern yourself with. Actually if you’re not alive and you’re here in the audience then either there’s some wacky Weekend At Bernie’s hijinks going on or you’re a zombie, and either way you’re ruining the poignant conclusion of my talk.

Because there is still time. There’s time to make ourselves the people we want to be. Break out the good china. Take down that cocktail shaker. Organise that illegal hovercraft sex party. You can take that last one as a metaphor, if you like.

Become the person who leaves pictures on facebook that makes other people feel bad.

Enjoy what you have, enjoy who you are. It’s an obvious thing to say and yet I feel the need to remind myself all the time.

I was supposed to talk about art, sex and snacks tonight and somehow I ended up talking about self-esteem and identity. But in a way, we’re all made up of our desires, we’re defined by what we want as much as what we are.

Epicurus was a Greek philosopher around 300BC who believed the goal in life was to achieve tranquillity through freedom from fear, the absence of pain and by living a self-sufficient life surrounded by friends.

He taught that pleasure and pain are the measures of what is good and evil; death is the end of both body and soul and should therefore not be feared; the gods do not reward or punish humans; the universe is infinite and eternal; and events in the world are ultimately based on the motions and interactions of atoms moving in empty space.

And that, by the way, is the most poetic passage of wikipedia you could ever hope to find.

His name lead to the word epicurean, defined as one who pursues pleasures, especially those of food, drink, and the body.

Epicurus once said “Do not spoil what you have by desiring what you have not – remember that what you now have… was once amongst the things you only hoped for.”

John Richards is a writer and broadcaster. He wrote quite a bit of Outland, the best ABC1 gay-and-lesbian-science-fiction-fan-club-comedy you will EVER see! Why not buy it on DVD? He is also a presenter on the Boxcutters podcast and (with Ben McKenzie) is part of the Splendid Chaps: A Year Of Doctor Who podcast/performance extravaganza.

Outland: An Easy Stalking Guide

January 25, 2012

The earth cooled, we wrote the sitcom Outland, the dinosaurs died, we made Outland, Melissa Tkautz had a hit with “Read My Lips” and finally Outland is ready to premiere! It starts on Wednesday 8th of February at 9.30pm on ABC1 (you’ll come for the gay science fiction fans, you’ll stay for David and Margaret).

You may have seen there’s a lovely promo going around – it looks like this:

In preparation and promotion I’ve been shouting at anyone who’ll listen – here’s a list of places you can find me in the next few weeks:

LIVE!

Melbourne Science Fiction Club
Friday January 27th
St. David‘s Uniting Church Hall
74 Melville Road, West Brunswick
Hall opens at 8pm

I’ll be talking Outland, its development and probably showing a clip or two.

Queer Nerd
Thursday February 2nd
Bar Nancy
61 High St, Northcote
7.30pm

This is a spoken word event for the Midsumma Festival and I’ll be one of several people doing some speaking – sort of like stand-up comedy but not necessarily funny. But maybe it will! Find out!

NOT LIVE!

I talk forever on the Shooting The Poo podcast (terrible name, good podcast);

I’m a guest on TV Revolution;

I’m interviewed for Crikey by Matt Smith (no, not that one);

Back on Boxcutters – the tippest toppest Australian TV podcast – we talk to Toby Truslove about acting, Outland and AACTA Awards.

And I’ll be coming up on Guy-Fi, Sci-Fi & Squeam, Diffrent Strokes, The Age Green Guide, I’ll probably be going door-to-door at some point (“Hello. Have you considered letting a gay-and-lesbian-science-fiction-fan-club-comedy into your lives?”).

You can keep up with Outland news and events at the official facebook page, and check out the brilliant insanity of the Where’s Outland? tumblr (and why not join in? I know I have. But I’m not saying which one is mine).

And watch Outland on February 8th on ABC1, or else on iView. Or both. Whatever. I’m not your mother.


Poetry and Pop

May 12, 2011

A couple of quick plugs for the weekend ahead for all you Melbourne-based arty-types – I’ll be hosting an event for Australian Poetry at The Wheeler Centre on Saturday the 14th May. It’s called one.seven.six and will feature readings from Terry Jaensch as well as Susan Hawthorne, Elizabeth Beaton, Trevor Ball and m d west. You can find out more by going clickety-click right here.

Then on Sunday night it’s the official Boxcutters Eurovision Party at Seraphim (formerly Vibe on Smith), 123 Smith Street, Fitzroy. Look at the classy poster!

So if you want to stalk me, you know where I’ll be…


Podcast Crazy!!!

October 25, 2009

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As you probably know, The Outland Institute is not my only podcast. Oh no. I pod around. And this week the Boxcutters podcast celebrated it’s 200th show – to put that in perspective, in dog years we’d be dead by now. Our guest was Myf Warhurst, meaning I’ve now interviewed two-thirds of the Spicks & Specks team (and Adam Hills did once hold a door open for me, which is much the same thing). You can hear Boxcutters by going here, and remember you can download The Outland Institute podcasts here. Curiously, the TV Tonight website ran an article about Boxcutters‘ achievement calling us “a guilty pleasure”, which surprised me. I think of guilty pleasures as “eating a whole packet of Deb instant potato” or “jerking off in a supermarket carpark“. I would have considered Boxcutters to be simply “a pleasure“. Or even “a delight“.

Anyway, reaching this milestone made me think – what are these podcast things, anyway? So I decided to find out what the crazy kids were doing by actually listening to some of them. They’re surprisingly good – I had no idea. Here are some I’ve been enjoying lately (click on the titles to go to their websites)…

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Radio Show #2

July 16, 2009

On Friday’s show:

Acclaimed author Doug MacLeod talks about writing for Young People, Steve from Glitter & Tonic visits the Forever Barbie Exhibition (so you don’t have have to), Narrelle M Harris discusses the CSI Effect, Glenn Dunks looks at what happens when stage musicals go to the cinema, Josh Kinal goes rant-tastic over Masterchef, Almost Fabulous visits the 19th Century, and Adam C’s Crime Against Pop was Filter Section’s singular cover of Smells Like Teen Spirit.

Please do not reveal the secret ending to your friends. All this and our musical challenge too!

And podcasting is now go! You can find the podcast in the usual places or download it directly from here!

The Outland Institute – you know you want it. Every Friday from midday to two on Joy 94.9.

Show notes after the jump…

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Radio Show #1

July 10, 2009

The inaugural voyage of the Outland Institute radio show set sail today – Josh Kinal assures me that the “one show anniversary” is traditionally lined notepad paper, freshly torn. And who am I to say he’s wrong?

On today’s show:

Josh Kinal talks about All Saints and televised eating contests, Narrelle Harris and Mary Borsellino discuss Robin The Boy Wonder‘s place in culture, Our Almost Fabulous feature looks at Neighbours’ Andrew “Macca” Mackenzie, Glenn Dunks picks some hits from this year’s Melbourne International Film Festival, Toby Sullivan tells us the right way to approach football, and our Crime Against Pop is Buckner & Garcia’s Pac-Man Fever:

You can find the podcast in the usual places or download it directly from here!

Show notes after the jump:

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Radio Active

June 30, 2009

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Hello, dear reader.

I know it might seem lately that I’ve neglected you. I don’t write as often as I once did, and perhaps you think my love for you has waned.

Nothing could be further from the truth. Actually, that may not true – there’s probably some things that are further from the truth, like “space octopi open convenience store in Geelong”, but you get the drift of my gist. While updates to this site have been – let’s say “sluggish”, shall we? – behind the scenes it’s been all systems go. Or go-ish.

On Friday July the 10th the exciting new radio version of The Outland Institute will be unleashed, and your ears will never be the same. Every Friday from midday to 2pm (Melbourne time) we’ll be exploring pop-culture in audio form on Joy 94.9. There’ll be plenty of exciting guests, plus some boring ones to make up the numbers. And we have a glamorous selection of resident experts, including Josh Kinal from Boxcutters, Glenn Dunks from Stale Popcorn and Anne-Marie Peard from Aussie Theatre. There’s even a theme tune by David Ashton from Destination Moon – take that, ABC 2′s News Breakfast! Not so big now!

So please join us on the 10th of July – you can listen on the wireless at 94.9FM in the Melbourne metro area, or hear it streamed wherever you are through http://www.joy.org.au/listenlive, or download the podcast version from the Joy website (I’ll provide more podcast details in due course). And keep listening after the show for Flip The Tape, Joy’s fantastic indie/eclectic music show hosted by Adam C. It’s grouse.

The website will also continue to function, with both complimentary and new material, plus you’ll be able to comment on the radio show and basically make life just that bit more bearable.

To finish with, let’s look at some Canadian bilingual kite-flying, set to The Free Design‘s 1967 classic Kites Are Fun.

Au revoir!


How To Write Music For The News

December 17, 2008

Ever wondered who writes the theme tunes for the news? No? Oh… Anyway, this week on top TV podcast Boxcutters we talked to David Ashton and Damaris Baker about writing the music for ABC2′s News Breakfast. You can hear the whole interview by going here (and why not consider subscribing to the show through iTunes? Perhaps on multiple computers?).

You can hear the News Breakfast theme at whatsonthetube (scroll down for the second video clip), and here are some highlights from the interview:

Note that for the sake of simplicity I have combined all hosts into one question-asking entity I call “Boxutron“.

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Boxutron: How do you approach writing a theme tune for the news?

David: The thing about writing music for TV is that you’re told what to do, basically. It’s not like writing your own song where you just sit down with a blank page and think “what do I want to write a song about?”. They say “we want something like this” and that’s what you try to do.

When they say “something like this” do they mean “dark and moody” or “like the thing NBC is using but change enough notes so we don’t get sued for it”.

David: (pause) Somewhere in between… (laughter)

In the case of Breakfast News they had a piece of music they’d been using when they were throwing ideas around. They checked out how much it would cost to get that cleared and it turned out it would be cheaper to buy us. They didn’t tell us to copy it, they said “this is what we like about it”.

It came down to ominous, serious strings with a little bit or percussion under them – and that would be what they’d read the headlines over - then it burst into these big dancey drums and a bit more melody in the strings and that would be where the opening titles with the spinning graphics would go.

The theme is surprisingly funky…

Damaris: There was a bit of an issue as to whether it should have a tune or whether it was something that was meant to be dancey and funky but definitely not sing-able, whether it should just be hummable, or…

David: There was a phrase, you had to be able to “nod to it, but not hum it”, or something…

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Jane Badler Speaks Near The Outland Institute

December 9, 2008

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This week on Boxcutters our special guest was Jane Badler, who is probably best remembered as Diana in the 1980s science-fiction franchise V. Actors in science-fiction often complain they get typecast and find it hard to work – I wondered if Jane ever worried she’d be stuck with hamster-eating roles for the rest of her career.

There’s a temptation to turn an actor like Jane Badler into a pop-culture punchline – look, it’s the evil lizard-lady from V! But that would not just be insulting, but also unfair – Jane Badler is no Limahl. She has an extensive body of work, ranging from guest appearances on Fantasy Island and Murder She Wrote to regular roles on Falcon Crest and the second Mission: Impossible series. Sure, it’s not Ibsen –  but who is?

So while I was looking forward to having Jane on the show, I wasn’t a crazy fan-boy – I mean, it’s not like it was Louise Jameson! (Louise, why don’t you answer my letters?) I had enjoyed the original mini-series of V, but I thought the ongoing series was pretty dire and I hadn’t watched any of it since it first aired. So I was surprised that an odd thing happened when she arrived – Josh and I were both a little star-struck by her (I can’t speak for Brett, as he is inscrutable).

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Review: Survivors (episode 1)

December 3, 2008

Generally we try to avoid reviewing new material at The Outland Institute. We feel there are plenty of places to read about new films and books, and our efforts are best directed toward looking at 20 year-old annuals and exploring the importance of the moustache in 1970s television. After all, who else is going to review vampire-themed Sweet Valley High Books or take a new look at Storm Boy? This stuff doesn’t happen by itself, people.

But the new version of Survivors covers so many of the Institute’s obsessions – illnesses on screen, retro television, great theme tunescheap science fiction, Paterson Joseph – that it would be churlish not to talk about it. Beware, minor spoilers lie in wait.

For those who came in late, Survivors was a British television series that ran for three seasons from 1975. It’s premise? A man-made virus wipes out the majority of the world’s population, the few left behind trying to start anew in an unfamiliar world (so it’s a bit like Ugly Betty). It was created by Terry Nation, who also created the Daleks and Blake’s 7. Not a bad resume. Certainly better than working at Lidl.

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