Sunday, August 27, 2006

I Got (Guten) Tagged

It's been a while, dear friends, but rest assured that I've been writing. Just not on a computer, since I haven't been near one in some time, at least not for more than a few minutes at a time. Moreover, I wasn't going to post anything until I found a PC that I could upload pictures onto, because I have many and they are good and sometimes funny and sometimes not. But I got tagged, and have settled into Berlin for a week or so, and feel I may as well take the chance to unwind from a torturous few days riding a rusty bike halfway across Denmark until the thing nearly fell apart and then walking another 30kms to get to the coast and blagging a free ride on a ferry and turning up in Berlin at midnight with nowhere to stay and then remembering why I love this place so much. So here goes.

1. Three things that scare me:
Being laughed at.
Getting mugged by people who don't speak English, possibly carrying knives.
Maury Povich with a plate of pickles
2. Three people that make me laugh:
The person who writes Monkeysforhelping
The person who writes Monsterhunter
The Americans sitting at the next computer having an argument about their friend - grown people saying in all seriousness things like 'I don't think we can be friends with Hayley any more. I'm sorry but it's true'.
3. Three things I hate the most:
4. Three things I don't understand:
People who speak Danish, and why I can't understand them but feel as if I should.
The difference or connection between pickles (noun) and pickling (verb) and how cucumbers relate to this.
5. Three things I'm doing right now:
Waiting for laundry to finish.
Listening to jaunty Belle & Sebastian number piped over foyer speakers.
Struggling with unusual keyboard layout but appreciating the ability it affords me to pepper sentences with cüte äccents änd §ymßöl§
6. Three things I want to do before I die:
Scream 'don't touch that button - you'll kill us all!!!'
Speak another language really, really well
Work things out
7. Three things I can do:
Pretend to speak German enough to fool waiters and bartenders, while actually having no idea what they're saying
Run into interesting people while travelling
Ride a bike
8. Three ways to describe my personality
In a dry, ironic monotone
While eating a slice of cheese leftover from a party, and wondering if it tastes a bit funny or is it just me? Here, try some, no just try a bit.
Easily confused
9. Three things I can't do
Find what I'm looking for
Think of answers to these things easily
10. Three things I think you should listen to:
What people aren't saying
Old drunks in the street
I'd Rather Jack
11. Three things you should never listen to:
Your prejudices
Your anger
Freeform jazz
12. Three things I'd like to learn:
Bicycle maintenance
13. Three favourite foods:
Really awesome Berlin felafels
Blue cheese, pickles and pepper on crackers
Tofutti-based creamy pastas
14. Three beverages I drink regularly:
Black coffee, and lots of it
White wine
The sweet elixir of regret
15. Three shows I watched as a kid
Mysterious Cities of Gold
In Search Of...
16. Three people I'm tagging (to do this)
Manolo Blah Blah
Our Man in Tokyo

Wednesday, August 09, 2006

The Boy From Melb

In case it's not obvious, I'm really rather heavily excited about my upcoming trip to Europe (and must keep a paper bag upon my person at all times in case of hyperventilation). I had a taste-test last Thursday when I flew up to Sydney for the opening of The Boy From Oz with the lovely Hugh Jackson (ETA: Duuuuh...Jackman. What was I thinking?). He wears the above expression for pretty much the entire show.

Now, first up, I don't recommend doing a Melb-Syd-Melb turnaround in under 20 hours. It's just not right, as thrilling as it may be to find yourself sprinting through Sydney airport at 8am while you're being called over the PA.

Still, the show was hugely enjoyable. As theatre (or even musical theatre) it's absolutely crap, with very few redeeming points. But as a big fat fun ridiculously camp concert, it's terrific. It's huge. Hugh prances and poses and preens with wild abandon, and doesn't just channel Peter Allen but evokes all of the many Australian entertainers who've presented a decidedly queer pose to mainstream Australia and been loved for it. Allen really was our Liberace, our Elton John, and like those entertainers was massively successful despite their sexuality. I guess the key is that they were never allowed to come out and openly admit that they were gay; there always had to be the opportunity for audiences to disavow what now seems blindingly obvious. Which is pretty sad, of course.

The first half of The Boy From Oz doesn't even tackle Allen's love life with any great detail; it almost feels like it's being deliberately covered up. The second half, however, is a different matter, with much of it spent covering one relationship of Allen's, with a New York bartender named Greg who passes away of an unspecified illness. When he comes back all in white, and he and Allen sing Olivia Newton John's "I Love You (I Honestly...Love Youuuuu)" (which Allen wrote), well, despite the incredibly tacky setup, it really works. And the many thousands at the opening night at the Sydney Entertainment Centre were audibly appreciative. Couple that with the many tears that rolled over Big Brother's reunion of David and his great love Sherif, and I couldn't help wondering at how far the depiction of gay love in mainstream Australian culture has come in the past decade. I was quite impressed, though I haven't really looked into the issue in much depth, and it doesn't need to be pointed out that we're hardly in a land of happy acceptance, or even tolerance, not by a long shot.

I mean, Allen and Greg couldn't have gotten married, here, for one thing.

Wednesday, August 02, 2006

Riding Wrongs

Some of you may know I'm jetting off to Europe in a couple of weeks, but I'm still not entirely sure where the trip will take me. I'm going for a friend's wedding in the UK, but will be heading over to Europe shortly thereafter. I've already organised Berlin and Prague, but am torn about the rest of the trip. From Prague, I have the option of heading north through Poland to Lithuania, Latvia and Estonia. OR I can go South, through Austria or Hungary to Croatia and perhaps Serbia. I desperately want to avoid the drunk-Boston-frat-boys-crowded places. Any tips?

One place I was thinking of visiting between London and Berlin (I have a week) is Copenhagen. I was reading about Denmark somewhere online and was informed that it's quite possible to buy a cheap bike and just pedal your way across the country. Is it strange that I found that incredibly appealing? Has anyone been to Denmark and confirm that it's small enough to just, you know, ride across? Somehow it seems a bit ambitious.

Bikes have been on my mind lately, having just gotten back on mine after an extended period of absence due to a lethal combination of flat tyre + general laziness (though I blamed the cold, too). I'd like to get a dented used bike in each city I arrive in, just so I can get around on the cheap.

Last week I was at the opening of Arena Theatre's Skid 180, a show based on bmx riders. Yep, it has real bmx riders doing real bmx tricks on a real bmx half-pipe. The tricks are great. The show was reaaaaaally mediocre. Now, as far as design, sound, even acting goes, there was nothing much wrong. The cast (from Manchester-based theatre company Contact) are sometimes a little amateur, sometimes a bit hard to understand, but they're young and some aren't actors by trade, so it's entirely forgivable.

I have to say, though, that the script was really disappointing. A show on bmx culture could well be a great one, especially if it managed to integrate the stunts into the show rather than just halting the story to throw a few action sequences in there. Skid 180, though, decides to offer us bmx riders as post-apocalyptic outlaws, bmx bandits playing at Mad Max. They rant and rave against The System as they cycle around the industrial wasteland of sewers and abandoned streets that make up the landscape.

Now, I like my post-apocalyptic scenarios, sure. But this kind of stuff was cutting edge about twenty years ago. It's now as dated as imagining the future as one defined by flying jet cars and everyone in identical silver jumpsuits. If you're going to give us a post-apocalyptic scenario, it really has to be kind of camped up these days, since this style has already hit it's use by date and is starting to whiff. I want to see jacked up dune buggies driven by mohawked mutants screeching through deserted shopping malls; I want an evil mullet-sporting overlord dressed in tight black leather chaps and a dog collar telling his henchmen to kill the hero but bring back the girl alive; I want people with names like Yor and Zontar and Damnius. I don't want to be expected to take the situation seriously.

(Is it wrong that I've seen this movie? Is it wrong that I own this movie?)

But Skid 180 really is too serious, and I might be going too far by thinking that this could be the result of the play being written by a poet. There are long slabs of lyrical, fragmented dialogue (or speechifying) that just don't work alongside real bmx stunts, and certainly don't have much place in a science-fiction genre setting. Not that poetry can't have a sense of humour but, well, we all know that too often it doesn't.

Neat stunts, though.