What Was You Are Here 2013?

It was a festival that happened in Canberra, and a bit on the internet, and a bit in people’s heads, and a bit elsewhere maybe, but mostly in Canberra from the 10th to the 24th of March, 2013. It was so much and so many things. It was several of these things for me and maybe for you too. It was planning and preparation and going over the neon program. It was something you had to experience. It was heading on in to Smiths Alternative Bookshop bursting with so many lovely people that it seemed I couldn’t talk with even one, but I ate a lot of party food, bought a copy of Burley, heard wonderful words and hugged some of those people. It was gRage that night and every weeknight with the ‘in-compere-able’ James Fahy and projections from laptop to screen: Marilyn Manson, Nina Simone, the White Stripes, tUnE-yArDs, Xiu Xiu and more and readings, and popping in late one night to be blown away by Adam Cooke’s band. It was movies like Conan the Barbarian with both director and live commentary. It was one stage, many bands, one song each, a mixtape love letter to and from Canberra. It was when the baby tottered up to the stage in the MC gaps in the middle of all that and “uh, awkward, we left you in the KFC carpark, son” and then it was everyone crowding in close to dance hard to Fun Machine and don’t trust their naked bodies. It was Art, Not Apart full of crepes, performance, music, sun, people, art. It was WORDLAB and a to-do-list love letter limerick, a calming mantra, haikus aplenty, missives mostly written  and oceanic, collaborative, dinosaur, punderful, political cake design. It was wonderful volunteers. It was wandering buzzing distracted. It was Mall Stories, uploaded to my mp3 player, waiting for a post-March empty weekend. It was how I chaired a small panel and it ran smooth, free and well across a multitude of topics, detouring into a plague pit perhaps, but towards a quiet confidence in Canberra, among many other things. It was Hadley making me laugh nervously just by his uttering of ‘Christmas’ and the popcorn bags, beep test, music and more. It was Monique seamlessly crashing the performance at the lovely The Near and How, even though she didn’t have a giant head, and also Monique being poisoned by the honey of a dead beauty queen and also Monique and Josh on a couch and also lovely people like Monique and Josh on a couch sending a message for me because I forgot my phone and my jacket. It was Joe Woodward in Trinculo’s Bathtub and Emma Gibson and The Cell and THE ICE AGE. It was meeting old friends, some from interstate, some from across town, some from down the road who I hadn’t seen in a while. It was saying hello. It was conversations striking up. It was new faces and faces I’d only known from the internet and how they inhabit new dimensions now. It was meeting new friends. It was Prayers in the Streetlight and Der Wolf and how, despite everything, even a whole new second backup space, I hid and flicked on headlights and it went wonderfully several times over and the cleaners came by amidst all the cars and it was an extra audience member standing there. It was watching the responses to the balletic, clownish, confrontational, wonderful work she’d made. It was panic and success, both shivering. It was Hashemoto crammed into a van, Poncho juggling, automobile gallery, mannequin accident, full-spectrum carpark wonderment. It was Yvonne, Gemma and Pete making rad music together and they didn’t even have a name yet but I would buy their CD yesterday. It was Walter Burley Griffin having a lot to answer for and I want to know more. It was DEBATE. It was real. It was good. It was staying for a bit more. It was gliding across quiet Tuesday night streets to the beautiful off-centre centrality of the National Film and Sound Archives, with Pablo on a cherry picker, performance magic, heckling sailors, black and white mashup, Shine Tarts, double saxophone and overall radness. It was [_____________{insert yr experiences here}_______________]. It was a Eulogy for a City, and so many hidden and personal histories and new ways to notice. It was a highlight. It was all the highlights. It was calling from a dirty payphone about aforementioned because I couldn’t leave, not yet. It was dashing back for a second run in the original space and flicking on and off again and maybe the backup to the backup plan was actually the best? It was walking past BAD!SLAM!NO!BISCUIT! and hearing the yawps from within, but opting instead for a celebratory dinner of  burger and waffle with Yee, with Fun. vs Fallout Boy on the TV, as the festival continued around us. It was compulsively re-checking Facebook, Twitter, photos, #hashtags, Vimeo, YouTube and email, from work, home and elsewhere. It was Heartbroken Assassin. It was wishing I got my nails done. It was wishing I made it to that other one. It was mistakes made and lessons learned and the things forgotten and the failures and all else imperfect. It was more dining out and takeaway than has ever been usual and the Moon Girl and the waving puppets in the forest and then iPho and then a dance piece I didn’t understand but I found impressive skill and beauty in it by the end. It was being a Literally Too Many DJs passerby. It was Pearl’s Ode and We Are Perpendicular and running out of superlatives and adjectives for my enthusiasm. It was finally seeing Rosie play the cello. It was walking into a darkened old menswear store to join in on a listening party and sinking right into the couch, closing your eyes and disappearing into the music and stories. It was Scissors Paper Pen and editing Papercuts reviews at work and at home and being impressed at how little I had to do — a comma here, a hyphen there mostly — to buff up an already brilliant review or seven and then they filled the front page. It was not wanting to be at work, and my work reflecting that for a fortnight. It was Something Else and that was, as always, something else and so very much more than exhausted puns. It was my last event before Smiths Alternative dropped the Bookshop. It was “Are you there God? ARE YOU THERE ARE YOU THERE ARE YOU THERE ARE YOU” and a Ramones cover and so so good. It was dancing perhaps more than I’ve ever danced before and a kind of perfect circular symmetry with the last time I danced to ‘Hey Ya!’, and an understanding of why Lady Gaga et al are so popular because when the right song plays loud in a dark room with all the bodies and minds unique and unified and even amidst unheard conversations and even with the cops outside you just wanna DANCE. It was only a glimpse of a wonderful zine fair and the ZINES and many more to come? It was Paul Magee vs. Tim Kent vs. Andrew Galan vs. Barcham the ‘Sound’ Guy and what a wonderful celebration of the possibilities of poetry in multiple people’s minds and mouths and bodies it was. It was laying the festival to rest with dedicated remnants and styrofoam cup candles and me dubbed an inflatable-liferaft-fulla-leftovers pallbearer, a processional down the streets, through the bus interchange and through Garema Place ‘as I went down to the river to pray’ and into the old Watch House that I didn’t even really realise was there before this festival and we laid the raft and the bits and the pieces and the memories and the festival down and with the guitar smashed the festival felt over, but we stayed a while longer for a Landlords hip-hop tribute to what was and to Canberra and then the guy in the bunny suit came on and people didn’t know what to do and people began to leave so eventually I did too and I walked home and it was needing a good lie down and a bit of telly maybe, then talking as we go to sleep.  It was true festival hangover, a sugar-rush art-high come-down. It was something you want to keep hold of, think of, write of, talk of, and about, for weeks and months and probably years later. It was the end of many things and the seed of many others. It was all of these things, and more, and moreso for so many others. It was You Are Here 2013. It was awesome. It was.

Advertisements

Bringing disparate bits together (or: Return of the Blog)

“I think I’ll go and write a novella. brb.”

That’s how I signed off my previous post here, 9-odd months ago. As far as last lines go, I think it has a certain charm. If I had to end my blog there, I guess I’d be okay with it. Although, I wonder if a blog ever truly ends, or just sits there waiting, not like the finality of a novel’s last lines, but with its own literary quality, a kind of time-stamped acronym-tinged wit, update pending…

But I’m not talking about novels or blogs as such (and although I am fond of that last post, I’m quite eager to actually be back updating and continuing this thing) — no,  I’m talking about that novella, or an equivalent body of works, wordcount-wise. Yeah? How did I go? Did a novella-length work (or works) gestate and emerge, gloriously imperfect but formed and real and true?

Well, no. I got to about 10,000 words that weekend, which is still a pretty jolly good effort if you ask me. Other co-participants did better, some did worse, we all received a few nice little prizes, we interconnected with one another, and some participants had their words published. All in all, not bad at all! For my part, beyond that original blog post, a few good (if unfinished and unevenly formed) pieces emerged from the process, so I think I’ll get more out of it eventually, maybe even a novella! But not yet. Still, I had a good enough time, and in other gains, I think I re-learned some old lessons: sectioning off time for writing and nothing else, even for a 25-minute Pomodoro at a time, is a good way to go; I still don’t write very well to music except for light background noise, although there are some lyric-free, droney, repetitive, unintrusive and/or otherwise special exceptions; and I don’t think I really want to do any more of those frantic wordvomit sessions like Rabbit Hole or NaNoWriMo — I’m more interested in working at my own pace, with my own lone effort of writing and editing (and publishing!), without really focussing on wordcount. Having said that, maybe it could be otherwise.

I remember now (as I look back over old notes, trying to recall and tie so many disparate bits together) how Rjurik Davidson discussed his experiences (post-24-Hour Book Project, orchestrated by the increasingly interesting if:book) of writing as part of a group and bashing out thousands of words in a short time-period. Maybe it’s true, as he suggests, that all these habits and ideas we have about ourselves as writers are a lot more malleable than we realise. Context, digital media, collaborations, (self-)editing, time-constraints — maybe they all can help to bust up myths we tell ourselves about our preferred writing habits, practices, identities even? Sure, sometimes these are matters of necessity, sanity and circumstances. But that’s not always the case. I guess it’s good to be flexible and adaptable, experiment, keep moving and trying new things. Go with what works, but don’t rely on one way of working. Changing ways can be hard, but maybe that’s just the exercise of mental muscles, all that ol’ brain elasticity. It’s also a question of whether you fit writing into your life, or plan your life around your writing. Priorities. And other recurring word and themes. I’m babbling. Basically, it was interesting and worthwhile and it allllll gets me thinkin’.

But that was that, so enough of that.

Still, it has been 9 months. 2013 has begun in earnest. April arrives again, and with it, thoughts of impending winter, hibernation and hunkering down like a hermit to write, despite frozen fingers, with renewed hopes of wriggling out of those old habits, routines, boundaries and categories. It has been a while between posts. There has been a veritable mass-spawning of other happenings in this 9 months, as you’d expect. Life tends to be fecund with happenings. Life is also, for me (lately? or always), fecund with lists, so here’s a pair:

A List of 10 Things, or Groups of Things, That Have Been Some of the Good Things of  the Past 9 Months or So

  1. Incheon, London, Halesworth, Okehampton, Paris, Karlsruhe, Frankfurt, Perth, Sydney, Wagga Wagga, Narranderra and Canberra again: we travelled a lot and it was up and down, this way and that and wonderful.
  2. Being part of Scissors Paper Pen as we continue to make lit happen with stellar people: At Arms Length, WORDLABs, Something Elses, Papercuts and more and more to come. Rad.
  3. YOU ARE HERE 2013 WAS EXCELLENT AND I WANT TO GUSH ABOUT IT.
  4. A good friend’s bucks weekend! Weddings, engagements, births, couplings, friends, family. People at their best. People.
  5. Won the first poetry slam I entered. Had things published. Enrolled in a short story course. Wrote.
  6. Went to TiNA and it was pretty darn good.
  7. The King is Dead, Jens Lekman live, Berbarian Sound Studio, Looper, Ngapartji Ngapartji, Corinbank, Darren Hanlon live, The Secret River, Cloud Atlas, Breaking Bad, Life of Pi, board games and poetry and stories and morrrre. So many good things.
  8. Still employed. Still going well.
  9. Started planning a wedding with the woman I love.
  10. Christmas. New Year. Birthdays. Lunar New Year. Small gatherings. Kitchen wins and tasty meals. Plans. I saw Prime Possum in person in the library. I’m healthy and well. I’m ridiculously fortunate, really.

A List of 10 Things, of Groups of Things, that have Been Some of the Bad Things of  the Past 9 Months or So

  1. Speeding tickets, parking tickets. 
  2. Arguments and discomfort.
  3. Getting sick. People I know being sick. (Distant) people dying.
  4. People at, or near, their worst.
  5. Not enough. Rejection. Failure. Loss. Distance.
  6. Kitchen disasters, clumsiness, carelessness.
  7. Leaks from upstairs.
  8. Busyness/privileged whining.
  9. [Insert all the fucked up shit happening in the world here]
  10. And what’s up with my nose? I sneeze too much.

More lists? More lists.

The prodigal blogger returns

Good gravy, what say we surpass this stagnant state of non-blogging, eh? A new year, a good quarter done, much to catch up on, much to do. So: let’s.

Digits? Commence list exposition!

  • I’m still enjoying work at the NLA, a good six months in. It seems I’m finally getting the hang of the whole work/life-outside-work balancing act, with the inevitable occasional wobbles and hiccups.
  • I am against the word that is spelled ‘hiccough’.
  • When something is too spicy for me, I get hiccups.
  • I like to insert irrelevant items into lists.
  • I can’t decide whether lists are inane or wonderful. Or maybe both.
  • Scissors Paper Pen continues apace — onward and upward, even! We’ve put on events all around central Canberra: at the Phoenix Pub, Lonsdale Street Roasters, the National Library, and, during the You Are Here Festival, several other places (and all this YAH business will be expanded upon at a latter dot, but for now I sing praises to Rosie Stevens for ably organising so much SPP/YAH-related stuff while I was off gallivanting in places like NYC [again, latter dot] and she did and does a whole stack of good stuff so go read her blog already).  O, and SPP won an Express Media award! As for the future, we at SPP have further plans of great excitement, online and off. Rest yourselves assuredly. For now, we do hope for your involvement in future SPP happenings, dear blog reader, and offer you some of the podcasts we’ve got so far, with a promise of much more SPP goodness a-comin’.
  • Did somebody say podcasts? I have been going certifiably insane for the things in the past few months. JoMad: I Heard You Like Books?Radiolab, The Rereaders, This American Life, Paper Radio and all sorts from the ABC. You have suggestions for more? Fire away!
  • Speaking of electronic wonderment, I got me a Kobo Touch for Christmas! It’s pretty great. Once I got past the novelty factor, the accidental dropping of my keys on the screen (tiny spiderweb crack attack!) and other miscellaneous gadget glitches that keep such devices devoid of some elusive holistic rightness and romantic charm, I have found it most excellent for a variety of reading materials! In fact, it’s really good for travelling, which is handy because…
  • In February/March, my first ladyfriend and I did travel overseas for a fortnight! For me, it was my first time stepping outside the bits on the map marked ‘Australia’, so it was definitely a Big Thing. We went to New York, we went to Montreal, we passed through Schenectady on an Amtrak train, we sat on planes for days, the whole bit. I may just dedicate a future post solely to such travel stories. Oddly enough, I haven’t written anything substantial about it since I returned ashore. However, we did keep a daily travel diary and I did send a dozen postcards while international. But in summary:

It was excellent. USA! NUMBER ONE! YEAHHHHH.

  • And then we returned to the calm clamour of Canberra, amidst the second annual You Are Here Festival. It’d been going for a few days when I arrived, but my festival began when I, mildly jetlagged, popped into that long-abandoned newsagency, redubbed The Newsroom. I saw The Cashews playing to a room full of all sorts and it was golden gorgeous and I was Home. Over the next few days, I witnessed multitudes of poetry, the best debate ever, a wondrous harp + laptop duo, got pub quizzed at, experienced comedy as religious-educational experience and hunted for miniscule artworks around the CBD. Even in my, still limited, experience, it was awesome and I can’t wait for next year. In the meantime, I’ll be extracting some of the goodness from the YAH blog and its associated multimedia webtunnels.
  • Speaking of what has been but remains rad: making and sharing mix CDs and sending postcards, letters and other postal delights! Been doing it since Christmastime and it’s a weirdly great thing and if you are still reading this I will send you a postcard or a letter or something if you give me yr address or hey also look at this PO Box 251 Campbell LPO 2612 get on that like a total hipster before it’s too cool.
  • But seriously what even is a hipster? I think it is an excuse to just dismiss something and it’s a lazy term mostly.
  • Lazy? I rode a friggin’ segway on the shores of Lake Burley Griffin.
  • And I kinda finally learned how to iron. It took 25 years. No segue.
  • Even though I’d not been blogging for months ’til this outburst, I have been writing. I have words forthcoming in Burley. And you remember that You Are Here thing I mentioned? Well one Julian Fleetwood launched another thing during it called Mall Stories and I have a story in it about this one time I worked at a bookshop, and a voice actor reads it out to you during a self-guided walking tour and everything. I’m planning to actually finally do the tour this coming weekend! You can too! Preferably in the Canberra Centre, but in any case you should download it and go walking around a mall, or anywhere. Just listen. I know it’ll be good. But anyway, beyond those writings, I’ve had a few rejections which are always good for both reflection and a short-back-‘n’-sides on the ol’ ego, plus I have a number of writings pending and hey, I wrote this blog post list and it has like a dozen dot points already, what else do you want from me?
  • Huh?
  • Geez.
  • You’ll see!
  • Okay, I’ll stop the dots.

And there you have it: blog post! I hear there’s more where it came from, just quietly. So commence overlapping of your digits in anticipation and I’ll dedicate mine to punching more characters.

(postscript/edit: it was only after posting this that I thought to check the definition of ‘prodigal’. Apparently it actually means ‘wastefully extravagent’. Did everybody else know this? I clearly did not pay enough attention during Sunday school, but hey, now I know and I guess I am rather prodigal with my words/dots?)