Monday, October 31, 2011

Midnight in Paris and the allure of nostalgia

Is nostalgia a dirty word?

Last night I saw Woody Allen's new movie. Apart from the tedious opening pastiche of street scenes in Paris, set to some music, and apart from the distracting Allen mimcry of Owen Wilson's speech patterns, pacing and vocal quality, I enjoyed it. I enjoyed the appearances of Ernest Hemingway when the Owen Wilson character slips back to the 1920s and comes across various famous artists and writers who were hanging out in Gay Paree in the early 20s.

'Have you ever shot a charging lion?' was arguably one of the best lines in the movie, and one of the best scenes was when Wilson and Marion Cotillard (who played lover and muse of Picasso) slipped back to her favourite era which was the belle epoque, and where they stumbled across Toulouse Lautrec, Paul Gauguin and Matisse who were all sitting around moaning that the best time to have lived and been an artist was the renaissance.

Another wonderful scene showed Adrien Brody as Salvador Dali in a cafe talking about rhinoceroses, then joined by surrealists Man Ray and Luis Bunel. Marvellous stuff.

But back to Hemingway.

I'm still reading the Carlos Baker biography of Hem and am up to page 700 or so. It is riveting. A previous biography was by Jeffrey Meyers and it was good but not this good. A lot of people seem to have decided Hemingway really just wasn't a very good writer or person or both. I just can't accept this, it's too black and white and doesn't give credence to the fact that some of his writing was genius and some of his characteristics as a man were admirable. But he was flawed. Fascinating and flawed. And so terribly clumsy and accident-prone, and for such a robust healthy strong men, vulnerable to illness, like chest colds and infections. He also suffered amoebic dysentery once in Africa when three inches of his large intestine dropped out of his body. He had 150 bowel movements a day and had to wash his prolapsed intestine with soap and water and push back into his body. He shot himself by accident while trying to wrestle a shark onto his boat. He was almost shot in the head by a friend who accidentally discharged her gun while he was bending down tying his shoe lace. He had skylights fall onto his head, he had several car accidents, lots of concussions, and I'm not even up to the plane crashes yet (x2) or the suicide. He got skin infections, knee problems, eye infections and ulcers. He managed to keep off the booze at various times, particularly when his last wife Mary had an ectopic pregnancy and he had to look after her and be kind. But when his writing was going badly or not at all he became mean and miserable.

Some of the things he said are funny and sharp, like A man can't really be a good writer unless he's had syphillis.

But saying that 'The best writing is certainly [done] when you are in love...' makes me wonder. Hmmm, and when you are in love you have a long-suffering wife to care for you and the house, yes?

He believed you'd lose it if you talk about it (but then seemed to let all and sundry read his stuff before it was finished. In Paris int he early days he would breakfast at Cafe Dome and read his stories to 'anyone who would listen'. '... he was willing tobe ruthless with himself or with anything or anybody that got in the way of the perfection of his work.')

Zelda Fitzgerald (who Hemingway hated) commented that "I notice in the Hemingway family you do what Ernest wants."

He really only kept a couple of friends to the end including Ezra Pound; he burned people constantly via scathing telegram, letter or by including them in his books either thinly veiled as a fictional character or in non-fiction form under their own names.

But what I admire about his writing is this. '[His] technique was matched by his higly innovative stule - the most influential prose in the 20th century. The short words, limited vocabulary, declarative sentences and direct representation of the visible world appealed to the ordinary as well as the intellectual reader. He prided himself on his purity of expression and suggestive simplicity. [His] style was characterized by clarity and force. He stressed the function of the individual word, wrote five simple sentences for every complex one, used very few similes, repeated words and phrases, emphasised dialogue rather than narration. He expressed his violent themes in limpid, focused, perfectly controlled prose... His style was precise and exact, yet hightly connotative; sparse and bare, yet charged with poetic intensity.'

In Woody's movie, Hemingway's 'typecast' essence was captured with several remarks, especially the ones about writing the 'one true sentence', but the delivery was kind of tongue in cheek, but gentle, not in a 'he was a real dickhead' way. I was surprised by the absence of James Joyce though, he was there hanging out with his family in Paris in 1922 as well but perhaps he wasn't one of the rabble rousers; he and Nora, maybe they ate dinner went home and kept to themselves?

After the movie ended we sat in the cinema talking about it. My mum, my sister, my daughter and me. My mum said that she missed Woody, meaning seeing him acting as male lead. I said I didn't. I've had my fill of him, and I actually prefer it now that he is using 'surrogates' for himself. It was good, though, that the Owen Wilson character didn't have the typical Allen eccentricities and tortured egocentricities and hypocondriac tendencies that were Woody's 'specialty' in the late '70s and through the '80s. Even in Hannah and Her Sisters, where Allen plays a role, the Michael Caine character is Woody'istic in his lust for his wife's sister and his childish inner musings and self doubts. No, I've had enough of all that really, you can always watch the dvds of the old movies.

I wonder now whether he'll do a New York movie that's like a swan song too? I can't imagine how he could come up with an homage that is more poignant and more successful that this Paris one, but I can't wait to see what comes next.

I don't care if nostalgia is suspect. While it may be the opposite of the realism you find in many contemporary movies or novels, I love its softness and blurriness. Its comfort.

Friday, October 28, 2011

lunch today

At lunch today there was a woman sitting at a table inside the cafe when we arrived. During our meal, I noticed she had moved outside.

We were talking loud as usual (we work for a sexual and reproductive health organisation; all our lunches at the food-court near work are like this.) Today, however, we were in situ in Maling Road; a domain where different sensibilities are apparent?

I did wonder whether it was anything we said which made her move. Her face was still red when we passed her table outside. I wonder which of the following it was, that came out of her or my mouth during our meal:

- I do prefer a circumcised penis

- I told her to tell him he's a 'cunt tease'

- if I had [name of Year 9 student we believe is dealing drugs at prestigious school]'s number I'd call and get something, does he sell eccies?

- I've had brazilians, but it's a bit grey down there now. I'm looking for pubic hair dye

- the full '70s bush, alright! Fabulous!

- I told him just to go to a prostitute

- I always had his dick in my mouth

- the sex was amazing

- he's good at going down on me

- maybe I need to try some woman love... I could probably go there, but I really like a dick I think

- she's got kissing ahead of her. I loved kissing. Notice how I use the past-tense. Sad.

- I told him just to have sex with me when I'm asleep even. I don't care. Or just a quickie.

- we didn't have sex the entire time we were away

- a 14-year-old boy going for a massage? Bullshit, handjobs!

- I'm not the affair kind of person. I couldn't do that.

When I wondered to my friend if we'd scared the woman away she said: we weren't that loud.

The problem is, we are. We're desensitised and out there and I apologise to the Balwyn mum who happened upon us two in public.

Wednesday, October 26, 2011

He's right

Jonathan Franzen is right and you don't know how pleased I feel to find that this man and I think alike.

Recently I was thinking about technology, I think about it a lot which is interesting considering I pretty much hate it (and hypocritical too, considering I use it every day.)

But here's the thing. I was wondering whether technology is the [new] opiate of the masses, in light of the reaction to Steve Jobs dying.

And then, in a collection of essays by Mr F, we have:

... the powerful narcotics that technology offers. (p200, How to Be Alone.)

This was written in 1996. So instead of being edgy and innovative I am simply retreading old ground.

And how much do you love the title? How to Be Alone.

I want to marry him.

Wednesday, October 12, 2011

Two posts, one day

I couldn't not post this. Check it.

This top pic was taken by Daniel Boud ( of Marieke Hardy and Anthony Hayes.

It is an homage (I guess) to the other pic of Hinchy and friend, taken in 1979 (I believe) by a photographer other than Boudist. I prefer the cropped version that appears on her blog, not for prudish reasons but just because you can see the expression on his face more clearly and you are less distracted by her breasts (while enjoying the suggested swell.)

I looked at her blog again today (it's fairly quiet over there, nothing like the wild old days of RWYWHM, there's no comments for one) and again, was struck by a familiarity about the dude's face.

Then I realised. I googled Anthony Hayes (also, in the good old days known as Roguemaze; he ran a blog and his avatar was a sensuous pic of Melissa George, I remember him saying he thought she was a sex-bomb, and now he's playing her hubby in The Slap. The other thing I remember about Roguemaze was him telling me he liked complicated women and I told him he didn't, he was just saying that but really, he'd prefer simple and easy.)

Are they in a relationship? Is he the ginger that she refers to at the end of her book? I am all agog and if anyone can spill, I'll be your best friend.

I've been to Bali too

Hasn't Bali featured in the news lately? We got back on Grand Final Day (Go Cats, oh didn't they go?) and settled back into Melbourne pretty quickly albeit reluctantly. I hadn't wanted to leave, Legian Beach, or Double Six Beach rather, was a nice place to be. It was warm, it was cheap, the food was amazing, and my brain had emptied of all the mess and bother that was in it before we left.

Usually when on holiday, about three days before the end my mind turns to home. I begin to detach, to ready myself for the return. And am usually happy to get back home. Not this time. On the last day I was floating in the pool with my favourite orange Pool-Noodle, frangipani blooms dropping into the water from overhead, so relaxed that even the jarring incongruence of an enormous chariot and two white, rearing horses (complete with penises sheathed in veined and wrinkled foreskins) statue next to the pool was a calming and familiar place to rest my eyes. I didn't want to come home.

Not that home has anything bad going down. Quite the opposite. I am in motion towards opening a business with a couple of colleagues. My writing is going well. Everything is fine. But it was just so nice over there.

Not for others, though.

I got back and Bali seems to be dominating the news.

1. Bali Boy.

My questions about this 14-year-old boy who was busted with drugs are to do with things other than drugs and 'what the hell was he thinking?' I would like to know the following: is it true (as reported) that he was visiting a spa in Kuta up to twice a day for full-body massage? If this is true, what the hell? Which 14-year-old boy does this? Was hand relief a part of the service?

I feel for him though. Which parent thinks it necessary to explicitly warn their 14-year-old about the drug laws of another country? I didn't. But a conversation with Princess after our return, about this boy, was enlightening.

'Most kids are experimenting with drugs and alcohol at that age, not later. By the time they get to 16, 17 etc they are settling down. Unless they are the ones who are still doing it.' Can't argue with that logic, but I was a little surprised. 'No, I know heaps of kids who have tried both.' She's just turned 15.

Seems to me that if you go to Bali, don't buy drugs (that's pretty obvious) but also don't hire a motorbike, moped or car. Apparently the police will pull you over for imagined infractions and get money from you.

2. The wedding bar brawl.

Dean Laidley et al. What the hell? Again, suggestions it was a set up. Bouncers arrested, bouncers tell their side of the story. They were trying to stop a brawl between the Laidley crew and another group. I did wonder why Laidley Snr and Jnr had left the country so quickly? Leaving wife and other members of the family behind? More to this story I think.

All I can say is I saw enough ugly Australians to make me think (terribly) that no wonder some people in the world hate us. I was there 25 years ago and that was my thinking. Nothing has changed for the better; in fact we saw in addition to the standard Bintang-singlet-wearing, street-walking, late-morning-beer-drinking bogans: a Vodka Cruiser Granny.

3. Nurse suffers brain damage and kidney failure after drinking cocktail on Lombok. I drank cocktails on an island off Lombok BUT I didn't go near the Arak (this time.) Apparently it was laced with methanol. Poor thing, I feel sorry for her.

All this in eleven days.

Thursday, October 06, 2011

I can't believe it

Nut Man is still in.


In other news, we went to Bali, we came back. It was fucking awesome though my bowels are happier back here in Melbourne-Town.

I also came back with a henna tattoo of a strange-looking cat on my shoulder and with GO CATS written underneath. It's fading now, quite early. Mr Black on Double Six Beach assured me it would last two weeks. But being a non-tattoo person, and a person who poo-poos that tatt on occasion (not for me, declasse, too "common" as well as too common) I'm okay with it fading. It served its purpose which was mainly to annoy Clokes during the lead-up to the game.


Have caught up on X-Factory and roped in Princess (she was away for 8-weeks with school last term. 'How amazing,' I hear you say. 'You didn't whinge much at all.' No, I didn't, did I? My pick for X-Factor winner is Reece or Christina. I would never expect Nut Man to win. I hope NM doesn't win. Sure, he's got a voice but he is not an international superstar in the making. No offence to Nut Man or anyone who knows him.


I'm disappointed with Hug Man. He aint delivering in the old hug department. I think now he is emceeing, that's where all his energy is going. Or else his contract changed.


I told a colleague at work today that I will not be there next year. Stupid? Maybe. Do I care? No. My decision was made before Bali and the "meeting" that we had on Tuesday which went from 11am until 4pm (with a lunch break) was SO FUCKING WASTEFUL OF MY TIME AND EVERYONE ELSE'S THAT I WILL NOT NOT NOT DO ANOTHER MEETING LIKE THAT. I will lie my way out of it, shamelessly. Better things on the old horiz.


The Slap starts tonight. I am expecting to like it better than the book. Is it two-faced of me to say I will probably enjoy the tv show? Do I care? No.


One of my good friends has made it back from living overseas with her kids which I am really happy about. She's got a new blog but I was unable to comment there for some reason. So Jo, don't think I'm ignoring you, will head back there when I get a chance. So happy you're back, will call you soon.


I think that's all for now. Have to go cook. Something with chicken and a wok and some veg and rice. So that'll probably be stir-fry.