W+E4DM Web Feature Portfolio Part 3 – The Best Stuff On TV This Week

This is part 3 of my Web Feature Portfolio for Writing and Editing for Digital Media. My articles are for ‘the Australian online magazine of culture and the popular arts’, The Enthusiast. My third article is for one of the regular columns in their ‘TV’ category, The Best Stuff On TV This Week.

Celebrity Masterchef – Wednesday, 7:30pm, Ch10

I know, I know, but my pleasures are simple: celebrities attempting gourmet imitations, the comfortable dinnertime-viewing format and Matt Preston’s facial expressions. But if Peter Rowsthorn doesn’t out-chef Fuzzy and Alex Lloyd, there’s little else to keep me watching a semi-final full of C-grade celebrities next week.

Hungry Beast – Wednesday, 9:00pm, ABC

Kind of like curated channel surfing, or someone browsing the internet at random for you (and their website goes hand-in-hand with the show). Learn how the US military’s grim robot future is already upon us, then watch a funny sketch about vegetarianism, then an assortment of sobering factoids, then another funny sketch, and so on. Not every little segment hits the mark, but the next one probably will.

John Safran’s Race Relations – Wednesday, 9:30pm, ABC

Media outrage over this has been surprisingly subdued so far. Maybe this week’s show will get there. He’s stolen and sniffed Eurasian underpants, donned semi-realistic blackface before going speed-dating and wanked over Obama in the spirit of Jewish/Palestinian (Jelestinian) unification. It’s like a Jewish-Australian (Jewstralian?) version of Jackass, but intelligent.

Beauty and the Geek – Thursday, 8:30pm, Ch7

This week sees the geeks getting a makeover, but won’t this undo the entire premise? No! For this is manufactured and unchallenging, but an overall trashy and fun ‘reality’ TV staple.

Q&A – Thursday, 9:35pm, ABC

Last chance before summer! Watch party politicians trying to dodge meaningful questioning, see bold/awkward audience questions and witness principled rants from the one non-politician guest. You can do it, David Marr!

Can We Help? – Friday, 6:30pm, ABC

Pete Rowsthorn is great, and interesting answers to interesting questions are brilliant. Especially when they involve surprising linguistic origins for various words. Or just an explanation of why men have nipples.

Beached Az – Friday, 10:10pm, ABC

You either love it or you hate it. It’s time to pick a side, if you haven’t already. Or, if you will, “puck a side, eh bro”. Of course, you could just watch what ABC has put up on YouTube, but that would defeat the spirit of this column now, wouldn’t it?

Dexter – Saturday, 11:05pm, Ch10

Season Three of Dexter has been a slow build for me, and it was an unsettlingly welcome relief to find Miguel in the ol’ room walled with plastic wrap, ready to face death by Dexter. This season finale will undoubtably find Dexter dealing deftly with the consequences of murdering his best man. There’s definitely some loose ends to tie up before he ties the knot. You know it’s a special show when you’re morbidly drawn to the exploits of such a monster, especially when he’s David from Six Feet Under. Also: among the best opening credits ever.

Newstopia – Sunday, 12:35am, SBS

Shaun Micallef has hit the mainstream after the success of Talkin ‘bout Your Generation, but even on repeat, Newstopia is an underappreciated earlier gem. The Micallef Programme was possibly better and less reliant on then-current affairs, but when it’s Micallef, it’s all gold. Gems. Golden gems.

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W+E4DM Web Feature Portfolio Part 2 – Review: Rooftops by Mandy Ord

This is part 2 of my Web Feature Portfolio for Writing and Editing for Digital Media. My articles are for ‘the Australian online magazine of culture and the popular arts’ The Enthusiast. My second article is a review for their ‘Books’ category.

7/10 Stars (again, no Enthusiast star images or sweded images)

Rooftops is ostensibly about a day when Mandy Ord watched Ghostbusters at the cinema with some friends, then drove home and had chatted with her housemate. Simple. But it manages to be, in a gently odd way, an absorbing and thoughtful story.

This is Mandy Ord’s first book-length comic, which I suppose you’d call a graphic novel, and it was published by Finlay Lloyd. They have a frustratingly creaky-looking website, but their books are often thoughtful and beautifully made essay collections, like When Books Die and Animals. Ord did feature in the latter though, so clearly she’s part of their efforts in new directions.

Despite being more of a graphic novel, it retains Ord’s preoccupation with the little things that stand out amongst the ordinary and mundane. In this way, the story’s subject matter and conversations cover coincidences, the search for meaning, Bill Murray’s career and the literature of mystics and philosophers. Her overactive imagination regularly merges with the everyday and she further illuminates the narrative with thoughts and visions conjured by a mind that loves scaring itself. A demonic imp-like man climbs over a toilet door at her. Images of Ghostbusters ghouls and the Stay Puft Marshmallow Man fill her head, her life and her panels.

From every black page spread, four equal panels of white and black pop out. The panels are filled with Ord’s wobbily handwritten speech bubbles, realistic cityscapes and urban interiors of Melbourne, and distorted but curiously realistic cartoon figures, most notably the one-eyed protagonist herself. These slightly twisted figures reminded me at times of Albert Tucker’s work. Her drawings from movie scenes are also evocative and spot-on, yet still true to her overall technique.

Despite the twisted style and imaginative divergences, it’s essentially a work of realism, possibly memoir. These are musings, moments and memories from an individual perspective. There’s no clear moral lesson, no ‘heroes journey’. This is real life and there’s rarely a big answer or resolution at the end of each day. Her story goes on, continued in her other comics, in bits and pieces. Rooftops itself is not an amazing work, but still a pleasant, leisurely and enjoyable read.

In any case, I’m still a fan and I’ll be keeping an eye out, watching her progress as an artist and storyteller. In fact, after reading Rooftops I noticed her work popping up all over the place: in recent issues of The Lifted Brow; a serialised historical comic/essay with Kate Fielding in Meanjin; in Sleepers’s wonderful Conceived on a Tram; in the Paper Life Boat exhibition during the Fringe Festival; and in myriad comic anthologies, zines and small press endeavours. Clearly prolific, she also sporadically updates her blog with sketches and character portraits – they’ve taken on rather hirsute qualities lately. Amongst all this, I hope she’s still finding time to put effort into another long-form work. Until then, I’d recommend checking out her stuff. Rooftops serves as a great introduction.

W+E4DM Web Feature Portfolio Part 1 – Review: Attract/Repel

This is part 1 of my Web Feature Portfolio for Writing and Editing for Digital Media. My articles are for ‘the Australian online magazine of culture and the popular arts’ The Enthusiast. My first article is a review for their ‘The Stage’ category.

Starring: Jing-Xuan Chan, Fanny Hanusin, Georgina Naidu, and Terry Yeboah
Directed by:
Ming-Zhu Hii
Venue:
The Storeroom at Parkview Hotel, Fitzroy

9/10 Stars (unfortunately, I don’t have The Enthusiast’s star images, nor their flair for sweding images)

Terry and Jing-Xuan in rehearsal. Image: Buxton-Walker, Fringe Publicity http://www.buxtonwalker.com/fringe/media/

Terry and Jing-Xuan in rehearsal. Image: Buxton-Walker, Fringe Publicity

To quote a song from Avenue Q: everyone’s a little bit racist. But Attract/Repel, which just finished a rather successful run at the Fringe Festival, confronts issues of racism without being flippant, and asks why we’re still being racist, without heavy-handededness. In fact, it stands as an honest, challenging and compelling piece of theatre.

But to call it theatre is almost wrong, at least in the traditional sense of theatre. It was more like we were eavesdropping on the casual conversations of four people getting to know each other. Rather than performing, they seemed to be discussing and we were silent witnesses and participants.

The actors take turns introducing themselves to one another, giving their names and backgrounds. They recount their memories; real stories, both humorous and horrible, surrounding their experiences with racism, how they perceive their racial identity and, all in all, candidly sharing their thoughts.

Accompanying their conversations: blackboards waiting on the walls and fluorescent tube lighting scattered around the stage. Both features play an integral part. The actors pull out chalk and mark their place on the ‘chink scale’ – do they blend into Asian stereotypes, Australian ones, or somewhere else on the spectrum? Georgina and Terry scrawl racist slurs across the walls and throw ironic racist jokes at one another, which soon becomes hurtful. Then the conversations continue, almost as if nothing has happened, but with uneasiness bubbling away underneath.

Soon, all of this gives way to several abstract and surreal interludes. The fluorescent lighting flickers out, and the actors roam the dark stage in anger, bashing against the walls. They hold fluorescent lamps and scrutinise one another’s bodies. Terry dances frantically. Jing-Xuan is excluded, trapped and crying in a prison of light while Fanny cackles at her. Towards the end, perhaps in some parody of ‘integration’ and ‘acting white’, Georgina puts on white gloves, Jing-Xuan squeezes into a white corset and Terry’s face is daubed with white makeup, bringing to mind the infamous Hey Hey blackface sketch.

All in all, Attract/Repel was structurally and stylistically unconventional, but utterly potent, with the perfect mix of hilarity, honesty, confrontation and worthwhile discomfort. The everyday met the abstract, with a lasting final effect of thoughtfulness, humility and appreciation.

In its production, casting and conversations, the play raises issues of diversity in theatre, particularly ethnic diversity. Director Ming-Zhu Hii wrote about this in both the Age, and on RealTime Arts and it’s recommended reading. Beyond that, go to The Melbourne Town Players’ website, check out some great photos from the show and read what other reviewers reckon. Attract/Repel was definitely among the best of this year’s Fringe Festival and it deservedly won the Kultour Tour Development Award at the awards night, so undoubtedly we’ll see more great stuff from this team soon.