Dudes on whom I have a major brain-crush

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A lot of my posts lately have been kinda heavy, so I thought I’d lighten it up a little and tell you about some of the positive things on my mind. Like sunshine, and puppies, and organic peaches … But mostly dudes! Lots and lots of dudes!

Not just any dudes. Dudes with sexy brains. I have made a list of dudes on whom I have major brain-crushes. Now, before you read it, know that a brain-crush is not remotely sexual. So knock it off right now. It’s not that I have the hots for any of these guys (necessarily … Todd Sampson). It’s just that their brains are so interesting. I would like to take their brains out to dinner and ask them about their childhoods. I would walk their brains home and call them the next day.

You may notice that Margaret Atwood has made my dude list. “But she be not a man!” you may cry. Forsooth, it be my list and my rules. “Dude” is a pretty all-inclusive term in my books.

1. Sir Ken Robinson

Ah, Sir Ken. The wise-cracking, education-reforming, deadpan actual-knight of my dreams. I discovered his work properly last year and went on a Sir Ken binge, reading his books and watching his TED and RSA talks practically in one go.

 

2. Kevin McCloud

Another grouchy old Englishman, yes. But another one bouncing around with passion for his work. Irresistible! Grand Designs always delighted me, but his sustainable housing project catapulted him into brain-crush territory. Basically, he wants to make houses that make people happy. What’s not to love?

 

3. Todd Sampson

CEO of Leo Burnett, climber of Mount Everest, wearer of very tight T-shirts. My favourite co-founder of Earth Hour, and salt-and-peppered panellist on The Gruen Transfer. I had the pleasure of interviewing Mr Sampson a couple of years ago for a student magazine, and I somehow got through the whole thing without swooning. Evidently I’m not the only one he affects this way, as a play is showing in Sydney next month simply entitled I Love Todd Sampson. I love whoever created that show.

 

4. Margaret Atwood

Acclaimed author, literary heavyweight, and one-time retweeter of one of my tweets. (Greatest. Moment. Of my life.) My friend Carina Tan-Van Baren has written a gorgeous account of Margaret’s recent appearance at the Perth Writers Festival. Other than that, all I can say is this: if you like speculative fiction, read Oryx and Crake. Go. Read it now.

 

5. Ben Hammersley

I discovered this gentleman’s work recently when I was listening to his keynote on the RSA Events podcast: ‘Tomorrow’s Work: Why Yesterday’s Expectations Are Ruining Today’s Future’. He raised some very interesting points about technology and how we use it at work. Since corresponding with him about his ideas, I’ve changed some of my email habits and become a much happier worker! I look forward to reading more of his stuff.

Women. Am I right?

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“This is a real phenomenon: When women feel like outsiders, they lose interest.”

I read the above quote in an article today, and it struck me dead. In the article, a science student writes about gender bias in the scientific professions, and even though I don’t know my boron from my bunsen burner, I found myself strongly relating to it.

See, the thing is, on Wednesday night I had my first go at stand-up comedy. I entered myself in RAW Comedy, where beginner comedians can compete for a spot in the Melbourne International Comedy Festival. I had never set foot onstage at a stand-up gig before, and I don’t mind telling you I was petrified. I had a lively group of friends around me, chattering and laughing and telling me I was going to be fabulous, but every now and then I would just go blank with hot white terror.

Part of my terror came, I think, from the fact that I was one of only four women competing on the night. The other 11 were, as you might imagine, men. That in itself wouldn’t have been that intimidating. After all, I’ve been performing at poetry slams and readings for years now, which are still heavily male-dominated. That wasn’t the issue. It was what the men were saying. Joke after joke about violence against women. Seriously. One guy’s punch line was actually – and I quote – “Wouldn’t it be great to know you fucked a woman to death?” Then he talked about going to her funeral and gloating, saying, “Let that be a lesson to all you other ladies”.

Yes. Let that be a lesson to us. In case we ever forget, we aren’t safe here. Comedy is not a safe space – for anyone, I suppose, but especially for women. One male comedian spent his five minutes extolling his disgust at Julia Gillard, saying she had a penis and she couldn’t arouse the most desperate of men and so on and so on. Textbook misogyny: “a-woman-can’t-be-in-power-without-losing-her-femaleness” with a dash of “if-she-can’t-get-me-off-what’s-the-point-of-her”. Not a word, of course, about her actions as Prime Minister. Another man raged against his ex-wife, calling her a “crazy bitch” at least six times before I tuned out. One young, harmless looking guy, who looked like someone your brother might play Call of Duty with, thanked all the women in the audience for setting their Facebook profiles to ‘public’ so that he could masturbate to them.

I am truly baffled when I see male comedians make demeaning jokes about women, and then chuckle: “Ha ha, all the women in the room hate me right now”. All the women in the room – that’s fifty per cent of your audience, buddy! Too many amateur comedians seem to forget that alienating women means alienating half your potential ticket-paying customers. That comedy isn’t just for the benefit of other men.

By the time it was my turn to perform next, I was feeling sick to the stomach. I waited by the sinks in the ladies’ room, staring up at the posters of upcoming comedy tours. Rows and rows of male faces grinned down at me. I smoothed down my hair, eyeing my outfit. Before I left the house that night, I had pulled a ribbon out of my hair, not wanting the audience to be distracted by my gender. Already, I was “gender priming”, having been told for years that female comedians “just aren’t as funny”.

“Even in areas where actual performance is equal, when a certain group is reminded that they are supposed to be bad at something, their performance weakens.” (S. Wofford, Feminspire)

But I did it. I told some jokes. At the end of my set, I sat down with my friends, shaking like a flippin’ leaf. I had survived. I had even gotten some laughs. I put my head down on the sticky table and tried not to gasp for air. I know public speaking is meant to be scary, but it had never really scared me up until this point. Comedy is such a different beast. You can lose the crowd so quickly. And then you’re dead.

Later that night, after seeing off my friends and dragging myself home, I felt empty. Like all the humour had been sucked out of me. My five minutes up there hadn’t been too bad, I thought, but the other comedians’ various attacks on women had shaken me. I comforted myself that the crowd had liked those jokes as little as I did, with most people shifting uncomfortably in their seats or sitting in stony silence. At least the misogyny wasn’t being openly encouraged. But I wondered. After years of going to comedy nights, I can say that jokes at the expense of women are incredibly common. They’re often aggressive and sometimes violent. Why do these comedians still think these jokes would be an awesome idea?

I found myself thinking, are these the people I want to work alongside? Is this an industry I want to join? If I’m going to have to spend years feeling like a second-class citizen, why would I bother? And then today, I found clarity, staring at me out of that science student’s article. I felt like an outsider, therefore I was losing interest. I was already thinking of opting out of my lifelong dream (my mother says that as an eight-year-old I solemnly informed her, “I want to be a stand-up comedian”) because of some dickheads with microphones. Seems to me that comedy is so male-dominated not because women aren’t as interested in comedy. Rather, I think a lot of women listen to the sexist jokes and see the other female comedians putting themselves down to get laughs, and think, “Fuck this noise”.

Well, I won’t be so easily discouraged. If I cancelled my dreams every time some idiot made me feel inferior for being a girl, I’d never have gone anywhere or done anything. I’m gonna have crack at this comedy thing. And whether I keep working at it or decide it’s not for me, I hope my decision will be based on factors other than my gender.

ToD gets a Versatile Blogger Award

Transports of Delight

Nicole over at NMNPHX has kindly nominated Transports of Delight for a Versatile Blogger Award! That is this humble transport blog’s first award, huzzah!VBA image, courtesy of NMNPHX.wordpress.com

I would like to say a huge thank you to Nicole for this unexpected compliment. I’ve been following her blog for a while and it’s well worth a read. She’s written a very handy post on the Versatile Blogger Award, if you would like to find out more about it. Here’s the link: http://wp.me/p1B9zn-8C

One of the rules of the VBA, I have been told, is that the nominee must share seven personal facts. So, here are seven facts about myself:

  1. My last car was named Jeff, and I loved him like a brother.
  2. I like to anthropomorphise things.
  3. I have a degree in English and Communication Studies.
  4. Sometimes, while on the bus, I hum to myself. Usually the Bed Intruder song.
  5. I once stood inside a rainbow.
  6. I have a human brother, and he deeply resented my last car.
  7. Transports of Delight was conceived after I performed one of my transport tales in Barefaced Stories, at Perth’s 2012 Fringe World festival. (My performance was featured on ABC’s 7:30 Report for precisely two seconds, in the background, with the sound turned down low. I am immensely proud of this.)

Inua Ellams: ‘Musical and delicious to the ear’, March 2012

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As part of Waxings blog’s coverage of the Perth Writers’ Festival, I had the opportunity to interview poet Inua Ellams. Here is the feature, as published on Waxings.org, March 2012.

Performance poetry is gradually finding its way out of the grunge-covered back rooms of dark pubs and catching the attention of wider audiences. One of the poets carrying this contemporary artform into the mainstream is Inua Ellams, a Nigerian-born Londoner who recently travelled to Australia to feature at the Perth Writers Festival.

Ellams was invited to the PWF to perform his play The 14th Tale, a one-man show combining poetry, performance, and personal narrative.

I ask Ellams if he had done any theatre before The 14th Tale. “The 14th Tale was my first theatric outing. My first collection of poems was published in about 2009 and I tried to stage the poems with a little bit of banter in between, but it didn’t quite work. There wasn’t a strong narrative, so I scrapped that and wrote The 14th Tale.”

Ellams’ poem-play is autobiographical, following the foibles of his mischievious childhood in Africa, weaving in tales of the men in his family. Ellams describes himself as a born trouble-maker, although he tells me over the phone (and you can actually hear the twinkle in his eye) that now he is making a different kind of trouble.

“Poetry for me walks the line between lyrics and finely, tightly written prose. I think that’s how I try to cause trouble – well, regarding work specifically, that’s how I try to cause trouble. By being aware of the line and walking it and constantly trying to redefine it. That’s one of the ways I cause trouble.”

Walking that line often means not fitting neatly into any one genre. Ellams is an accomplished poet of both the page and the stage but he still feels that he is not quite accepted by either.

“In London, I am often described as a performance poet, sometimes as a spoken word poet, sometimes as a page poet …” Ellams muses. “And sometimes I find that I am marginalised by both groups. There is this line that I seem to walk. And I continually try to further blur the lines, and even at performance poetry sets I just read my page poems. And when I write page poems, I just make them sound as musical and delicious to the ear as songs do.”

Speaking of delicious to the ear – Ellams’s voice is like a song itself. Soft and lyrical. Even when he talks casually, he sounds as if he is riffing on ideas for a new poem. And I think that is exactly the effect this poet is going for. Ellams speaks about poetry with a self-conscious pride, confident in his abilities as a wordsmith. He lacks the self-deprecatory humour that I personally can’t seem to shake off whenever I tell people I write poetry. For Ellams, poetry is not an indulgent activity. It is his craft. And it has held his life together.

Ellams tells me about a close friend of his from Dublin, Stephen Devine. They went to school together as teenagers, and the two boys had a friendship built on a love of language. “He and I would sit down and argue about the colour of the sky. We would just sit there for hours.” Then one summer, Ellams received a phone call telling him that Devine had been found dead, hanging from a beam in his garage. “I guess my world became very destabilised and the part of me that excelled with language, with Stephen, was no longer there. And I started writing to keep that part of myself alive, really.”

Since Ellams often performs his poetry, I enquire as to whether he takes the audience into consideration when writing. A debate that keeps coming up within the performance poetry community is whether a poet compromises their artistic integrity by writing to entertain the audience. Purists say one should perform for their own pleasure only; at the other extreme, entertainers seek only to win over the crowd. Ellams’s philosophy is an elegant compromise. “I always write for myself, of things that complicate me on a personal level. And then I edit it knowing that other people will have to come to this.”

So what does Ellams think of slam poetry, where poets are pitted against each other with only two minutes to please the judges? He hesitates. “I like it and dislike it in an equal sense.”

Ellams illustrates his opinion of slam poetry by telling me the story of a slam where he performed a poem that scored high – “it was the best poem of the night” – but ultimately did not win. “This guy, this huge guy stood up and read this poem about accidentally drinking urine which he found in a bottle of gin. And he got a full 30 points for that.” Ellams laughs incredulously. “I thought, this is never happening to me again.” He hasn’t slammed again since.

Whatever his personal feelings, Ellams is charitable as to the role of slam poetry in our culture. “I do think [slam poetry] has done a lot for the appreciation of poetry. Especially in the West, where we do have this competitive environment which champions oneupmanship and the idea of the individual. So, bringing poetry – which is old and classic and sometimes viewed as a dead past-time – bringing that into the twenty-first century I think has been really afforded and helped greatly by slams.”

Since first performing The 14th Tale in 2009, this already-established poet has written two successive solo shows, the most recent of which is currently touring Britain. Inua Ellams is a rising star of the spoken word scene. There is something about the frankness with which he describes himself and his work that borders on arrogance; there’s a lack of humility. But, as I talk to this charismatic young man, I can’t think of him as arrogant. He is simply focused. Poetry is a very serious craft in which he works hard to achieve a high standard. The Romantics would be nodding in approval. And the fact that Ellams is also crossing mediums to bring poetry to more people – that is just gravy.

The winner of Bogan Bingo and his be-mulleted mates

Perth Now entertainment review: “Flannel fun at Bogan Bingo”, Feb 2012

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A review I wrote for Buzzcuts and Perth Now, of the Fringe World show Bogan Bingo.

Bogan Bingo is, quite simply, a bingo night run by bogans.

The winner of Bogan Bingo and his be-mulleted mates

If you’ve ever thought that bingo nights don’t include enough AC/DC and swearing, then you might want to get down to Rosie O’Grady’s during Fringe. Just make sure to check your political correctness at the door, because these bogans aim to offend.

The flannel-clad comedians running this night had the audience cringing at off-colour jokes about pedophilia, bestiality, and Steve Irwin’s death. (‘That’s low,’ groaned one audience member.) However, Bogan Bingo’s humour is so self-conscious that they just get away with it. Just.

The drawing of each bingo number is punctuated by a rock ‘n’ roll hit from the ’80s. There’s sing-alongs, mullet wigs, and an Air Guitar Championship. The crowd can get a bit lively – this reviewer was nearly knocked over by a woman charging at the stage to win an inflatable guitar.

The night only runs for one round of bingo, which can be a relief for the audience, as the host’s ball-related innuendos get old fast. The show’s energy levels stay up during their short running time, except for an awkward three minutes where they try to make everyone stand up and sing Khe Sanh. The whole song. All of it.

Still, this is a fun night out. If you’ve got a bunch of friends who aren’t easily offended, then this might be the bingo night for you.