Saturday, August 29, 2009

September Is The January In Fashion!

Late yesterday afternoon I saw the documentary "The September Issue". OMG, I loved it. I came out of it absolutely loving Vogue's creative director, stylist and photo guru Grace Coddington, but I also came out of it having a new respect and admiration for Anna Wintour. Yes she is that "The Devil Wears Prada" character to some extent, but she also comes across as whip smart, fearless, somewhat wounded (when she speaks about her family in particular) and a little bit wicked and cheeky at times.

One thing that really stands out is how much work and effort goes into producing the magazine. A fact she speaks about in the Sundance film festival interview below:

Maybe fashion is facile and frivolous much of the time, but you have to admire the work that goes into creating beautiful things; the clothes, the photos (gorgeous!) and the magazine. These are people at the top of their game that are working damn hard to stay there in a constantly shifting landscape. Highly recommended.

Friday, August 28, 2009

Kish Me You Fool!

In the past couple of years soap operas worldwide have discovered The Gays and The Lesbitarians. Out, happy, conflicted, closeted, the whole gamut. Naturally the course of gay and lesbian love stories are convoluted and tortuous. Let's face it, without it there would be no 'opera' in Soap Opera right?

They're all at it! Germany has my faves Christian & Olli, as well as Deniz & Roman. In fact Christian & Olli's "Verbotan Liebe" soap opera is brimming with poofs, dykes and those questioning. You can't move for someone kissing someone else of the same gender. Hurrah! Catalonia, Spain, The Netherlands... even the good ole U S of A, it's an international festival of The Love That Dare Not Speak Its Name! Youtube is brimming with gay men and their followers who post clips of the couples, their names 'Brangelina-ised' to monikers like Chrolli (or Ollian), DeRo or Nuke.

Now on the US soap "One Life To Live" we have "Kish", Oliver Fish and Kyle Lewis. As it turns out closeted policeman Oliver and out bad-boy Kyle were lovers in college. A relationship that Oliver tries to forget and Kyle is still very much living. Conflict! I have to say, despite all the soap opera craziness the relationship aspect has been well written, and the actors are giving their scenes their all.

Kish has rapidly become a love quadrangle. Kyle has been rejected and has taken up with Nick. Oliver is dating a beard his girlfriend Layla, and of course really wants to be with Kyle. Likewise Kyle really wants to be with Oliver. Drama ensues. What is very interesting is the high percentage of out gay actors playing these roles. As the rather lovely slab of beef in a uniform Oliver, Scott Evans is an out gay actor, as is Broadway fave Nick Rodriguez who plays Nick. Brett Claywell is straight, but as evidenced in this interview on After Elton is a very cool guy, and he really brings a believability to Kyle.

Youtubers final81 and bombayhighway have been recapping the love story/dramady in clips if you want to catch up on the story so far. Now, someone call Officer Fish... because I've been a very, very bad boy!

[Updated: Oh, duh. It wasn't until I just read this interview with the boys in Out that I realised cutie pie Scott Evans is mega hottie Chris Evans's real-life gay brother. The family resemblance (ie: hotness) is certainly there. Apparently their mother is even getting in on the act soon and playing Officer Fish's mother on the show!]

Early Summer

I'm getting to play hooky from work today! I'm still working the 2 part-time jobs (yarn pusher and office temp), but the office temp job has dried up this week and will be back on next week. I picked up a bit of extra work in the yarn store earlier in the week, so as a trade off things aren't too bad.

The biggest upside is that today is absolutely gorgeous! God Bless global warming, because we are having a CO2 based early summer at the end of winter that has to be felt to be amazed at. Glorious! So far this morning I've had a sleep in, breakfast and coffee in the sun, and then this afternoon I'm having coffee with a friend and seeing a movie with another, before going to The Flinders Hotel tonight for beers with the bears. Seriously, if it suddenly turns to the depths of winter again there will be misery of epic proportions because I am already in Summer Mode!

All I have to do is shake off the winter fat... and pasty white legs.

Tuesday, August 25, 2009

Guerrillas In The Midst

"Guerrilla knitting" (aka "knit tagging" or "urban knitting") and crochet has been around for a while now, but locally seems to have been back in the public eye again just recently. A guerrilla knitter was 'tagging' the columns in the ABC foyer during the ABC702 Knit-In that I wrote about recently, and on a very local level bits of guerrilla knitting have been cropping up around my 'hood of Newtown.

A new example in Camperdown Rest Park, Newtown.

The other day when I was at work in the yarn store, I sold some Australian made 'self-striping' sock wool to a woman who was heading off to the US to meet some other knitters and get her guerrilla knit on.

Tagging with a spray can or paint marker I can't support, but this kind of non damaging tagging I love. Like many things that spring up in the alt craft community, the origins are shady and various claim have been made about who had the idea first. It seems likely though that the best candidate for inventing the idea is the Knitta crew, who have been knit tagging since 2005.

Whomever it was, the idea certainly took root fast and knitted 'tags' started cropping up all over. Some international examples are the Swedes Masquerade, Knit Sea and Niclas & Jonny of KnittUps, and Chicago's The Micro-fiber Militia. Another website, The Knitted Landscape, has many great examples contributed from all over the world.

My favourites are examples where a specific and unlikely object has been wrapped, transforming it into something different. For style, colour and the sheer joy it gives me, my all time favourite piece of guerilla knitting is this maritime piece from Sweden by Masquerade. So gorgeous and unexpected.

Another tagged tree in Camperdown Rest Park, Newtown.

I find guerrilla knitting as being somewhere between graffiti style tagging, street art, murals and even performance art. The act of wrapping an object in something soft, handmade and colourful makes us look at the object differently. It's part joke, part leaving a mark to say "I was here", part civil disobedience, part advertisement for just how cool craft can be, and partly a gift of fun to the community. It's certainly non harming, and quite charming in my eyes. There is a great post on Deputy Dog which calls it the "world's most inoffensive graffiti".

Similarly, some artists have used ephemeral and community based knitting projects to great effect. Josie Schimke created the beautiful A Tree Undone at Burning Man in 2007. A 9 foot tall artificial tree was clad in hundreds of knitted leaves contributed by individual knitters, with the specific instructions that the knitting not be properly bound off. The wind, and Burning Man attendees, where then invited to unravel the leaves throughout the course of the festival. Josie has posted albums of in progress photos and one of the tree in situ. Fabulous!

If any of my local Sydney peeps see anymore guerrilla knitting about I'd love to know. Just email me the location to andrewmr(at)ihug(dot)com(dot)au!

Thursday, August 20, 2009

Currently Loving

a) Lisa Reagan's track "Al'infini (Project Runway Re-Mix)". So called because her track "Al'infini" was remixed and used as the music for Wendy Pepper's runway show in the finale of the first season of the U.S. "Project Runway" tv show. [You can listen to an mp3 here.]

b) Cowboys!

c) And Indians!

d) Dill pickles. (Unrelated to the above.)

e) Glam rock!

f) Elizabeth Knox's new novel The Angel's Cut, the very enjoyable sequel to The Vintner's Luck. Even though the novel has a cool, sometimes almost detached, emotional tone much of the time I think the format of the novel escapes some of the issues I felt with the first book (the abbreviated chapter format, where each chapter was a one day visit on the same annual anniversary). Plus what's not to love about gay angels, the Roaring 20's, airplane stuntmen and the early golden days of cinema?

Wednesday, August 19, 2009

5 Things About Wednesday, 19th August: Fabric And Other Forms Of Strain Edition

  • Instead of my usual 'walk up to the train station and catch the train into the city' routine, this morning I decided to take a bus instead. Adventure! Oh, and I say A BUS rather than THE BUS because that would imply the bus I wanted actually arrived.
  • During lunch I sat next to a young Chinese couple. They ate McDonalds and I ate Chinese. I guess the grass is always greener?
  • My last customer of the day was a very pretty young woman who could not stop sniffing. I'm not talking the occasional sniff here, I'm talking relentless, I'm-sorry-I'm-trying-to-concentrate-on-selling-you-this-knitting-yarn-and-needles-but-frankly-I'm-imagining-smacking-you-too-much-to-really-pay-attention sniffing. Just as she was leaving, she pulled out a tissue and blew her nose. Gee, thanks.
  • Shortly after arriving home I split the zip on my trousers. a) good timing! and b) seriously, could I be any more hung?
  • Sadly, yes.

Monday, August 17, 2009

Tango: The Dance Of Love (That Dare Not Speak It's Name)

Augusto Balizano y Miguel Moyano from Buenos Aires.

"The Cellblock Tango" (from "Chicago"), The Gay Men's Chorus of Los Angeles

The very sensual Lalo & Luis in Tokyo.

More of the amazing Lalo & Luis.

From the film "Tango". Black Vs white. Good Vs evil. Top Vs bottom, probably.

Singular Proof That I Once Thought A Guy With A Mullet Was Hot

But in my defence a) I was only 22 at the time and b) I never bought it that it was the girls he was interested in, especially when at the end of the clip he like totally podium dances and everything.

Wa Wa Nee "Stimulation", 1986

Thursday, August 13, 2009

Back On The Intertubes

Thanks to the kindness of James O'Brien I have kissed goodbye to the tribulations of internet cafes, with their dirty keyboards, sniffling patrons and interesting browser caches. (Seriously, next time you use an internet cafe check the browser history. Fascinating.) James had an old Linux based pc which was surplus to requirements, so while I'm waiting to get the laptop fixed I'm able to be back on the air.

Now all I have to do is regain the blog readership I had back when I was posting regularly and not whining about a) losing my job or b) having a dead computer...

Multiculturism In Action

At the moment I'm working in a suburb of Sydney called Campsie. (At job #1, that is. The yarn store is still located in the city, where it's always been.) I don't know if my fellow Sydneysiders know Campsie, I certainly didn't until I started working there on a temp assignment this week. A half hour on the train from my 'hood and truly it is like another world. It has an amazing eclectic mix of migrants, the sort of place where you can hear Cantonese, Mandarin, Korean, Vietnamese, Arabic, various African tongues, Tongan... well, almost anything. (And lots of English of course.)

There is a really bustling, vibrant atmosphere about the place that I'm digging. Like all areas that have large migrant populations the shopping is kind of wild, lots of grocers, butchers and fishmongers, the latter two specialising in things with their heads still attached (it would seem). Not catering to the sqeamishness of your average Woolworths customer. More like a "Survivor" food challenge.

So, the one thing I have been unable to find, is a decent coffee place. Zip. Nada. On a shopping street, in Sydney! (For those playing along overseas, Sydney - like all major Australian cities - has a very strong coffee culture. Thanks mostly to a long history of Italian immigration. Any shopping street is likely to have at least a few small coffee shops where really good, thick, rich coffees abound.)

On day one I missed the one caffeination opportunity I've been able to find entirely, a little outlet of the chain DCM (Donuts, Coffee, Muffins) right next to the train station. I walked the entire length of the shopping strip looking for a coffee. I passed beverages of all other kinds (with or without tapioca pearls and grass jelly), bargain shops, kebab places, and a whole dead eyed parade of grinning things with their heads still on, but none of the bean. No Arabica. No macchiato, affogato, or even cappuccino. Where are the Italians when you need them?

Thankfully since then I have discovered my enablers at DCM, otherwise it would not be pretty.

Wednesday, August 12, 2009

Yellow, Red, Black Or White...

...add a little bit of moonlight!

1976. We were 12 and already knew we weren't particularly interested in those pretty girls, girls, girls. Some realisations come early and easily. Probably years earlier when I showed Jamie mine, and he showed me his. (With a bit of coaxing.) What we did have an interest in though was the mid 70s obsession with retro. Biba clothes. Manhattan Transfer. Art Deco. And the oom-pah ragtime sound of Sailor's "Girls, Girls, Girls".

I mentioned this song to a friend over dinner last night. Someone who I have a newfound respect for when it comes to all things obscure and vintage. (Someone who 'gets' Sparks, just for starters.) His response? "I've got their albums. On vinyl, of course."

Le sigh. I love my friends.

Roughing It

Aside from my involvement with the knit in for Wrap With Love, a few other things have collided recently to make me think a lot more about the plight of the homeless.

A month (or so) ago I was watching a kind of naff, but still tearjerky, show called "Random Acts Of Kindness" on our local tv. I hadn't watched the show before, but I knew the way it went down. I've watched Oprah, Backyard Blitz et al. I knew the drill, people who work tirelessly for others/have special needs/have suffered a tragedy are given things/money/a new backyard to thank them/perk them up/put them back on the road to recovery. Yes I sound cynical, but in truth I'm kind of a sucker for these sorts of things and I always end up in floods of tears. Even when it's only a new outdoor entertaining area/bbq/poolside Indonesian style cabana/beds of ubiquitous cordylines.

So I was watching "Random Acts Of Kindness" when they did a segment with a woman called Sarah Garnett. One night, while Sarah was helping out by serving meals to the homeless, she spotted a homeless man reading a paperback novel under a streetlamp. She started to bring him other books to read, and from that was sown the idea of the Bejamin Andrew Footpath Library. By 2003 the library was born, bringing a weekly collection of books to the street for homeless people to read. Hopefully they return them, but they're not under any obligation to.

The show did lots for her and her volunteer organisation, gave them storage space, petrol vouchers, a new minivan, a computer, etc. Obviously lots more than she expected, and frankly all sensible things that would make the organisation thrive and her life easier. But it was the idea that blew me away. Books for the homeless.

What must it be like to spend days and nights on the streets? Largely invisible to everyone, with few people to talk to and little opportunity for social contact and just some escape? Like Sarah I agree that books can be affirming, entertaining, life changing things and why not bring a little of this to someone who is on the streets? Aside from food, shelter and fatigue, boredom and isolation are apparently some of the hardest things for the homeless.

The other thing I saw on tv was a woman called Jean Madden who brought in her Street Swag to compete on the "New Inventors" show. She didn't win, but she did win the people's choice award and according to a radio interview I heard with her today, she's the only Australian who has been invited this year to take her invention to a prestigious international design competition.

In her dealings with the Brisbane homeless she discovered that fatigue was a big issue for those roughing it on the streets. Many of the homeless have managed to suss out obtaining food, but shelter and rest are much harder. She had the idea to take the great Aussie swag (a portable bedroll and shelter in one) and refine the design so that a homeless person could have a portable shelter during the evening, and a discrete bag to carry belongings in during the day. (Including a book, perhaps?)

She designed a few prototypes, designing them to be simple and cost effective to make, and gave them to some homeless folk she knew, using their feedback to improve them. Making them a camouflage colour so they are hard to spot in greenery at night, and reducing the thickness of the mattress to make more room for possessions, for instance. She has now distributed thousands of them to homeless in many parts of Australia, and has them made by prisoners in jail who in turn receive credit towards a textiles manufacturing certificate.

Again, what an amazing idea. Both ideas aimed at improving the wellbeing of people on the streets. Food and shelter are the obvious fundamental things one thinks of, but boredom and fatigue would have enormous impacts on the mental and physical health of the homeless. Simple ideas making big quality of life changes. I take my hat off to these amazing women.

Monday, August 10, 2009

Knitter #328, Media Whore

Early (OMG, early) on Friday morning I headed into the ABC radio and tv headquarters in Ultimo for the ABC702 Knit In. The knit in is an annual event which first began in 2002, and is a focal point for the charity Wrap With Love. 28 25cm x 25cm knitted or crocheted squares are sewn together to form single bed sized blanket 'wraps', which are given to people who would otherwise not have something warm to wrap themselves in. In Wrap With Love's own words "Cold humanity is our concern, humans caring about other humans."

I arrived shortly after 7am, just after the doors opened, and was already the 328th knitter through the doors. I had to leave about 8.20am to head off to work but by then there was something like 600+ people there. Later in the morning they set a world record for the largest number of people knitting simultaneously for 15 minutes at just under 600 people, and estimates of total attendees were at well over 970 (which was the number where the door volunteers stopped counting). In addition to the knitters there was a large group of people sitting sewing or crocheting together completed squares that had been turned in, to make finished wraps.

Some completed wraps on display.

Late yesterday afternoon I went to the monthly underwear party at my local leather bar, and as it turned out one of the guys there was at the Knit In crocheting squares together. Small world, eh?

Highlight of the morning was being asked up on stage and interviewed for the ABC702 morning radio show.

Angela Caterns and myself, grinning like a fool. Photo by James O'Brien.

James has very kindly put up an mp3 of the interview here. Listen for the bits where the male interviewer, Adam Spencer, exhibits a total lack of gaydar by asking me about a) rugby league and b) meeting chicks. Cue nervous laugh from me.

On the ABC website there is a gallery of pics from the event (which curiously I don't appear in) and a video of the news story that appeared on the ABC evening news (likewise, without me, and frankly these oversights needs to be dealt with). Later in the day I even had some knitters come into the yarn store I work in 2 days a week and mention they had heard the interview.

A fun morning, and a lovely way to share the enjoyment of your craft while doing something meaningful for others.

Fashion Photography, Helpfully Explained

Such a total bitch, OMG I HATE her.

Overnight rates negotiable.

My stupid family are making me go to Sizzler, just because it's my dumb sister's birthday. OMG I HATE them.

Former World Youth Day 'Jesus' tries gay for pay at

Monday, August 03, 2009

Little. Yellow. Sticky.

[If the title of this post sounds familiar, it's because it's a shout out to the fabulous (sadly now infrequently updated) blog Little. Yellow. Different. One of the first bloggers, or on-line journallers, I ever read... back in the day. ]

Imitiation, The Sincerest Form Of Flattery Or Not?

I would say, not.

I had my own little experience with plagiarism when a Belgian craft company ripped off one of my knitting photos from Flickr to use in their product catalogue. Something I never would have spotted if an eagle eyed Flickr viewer hadn't spotted the picture, thought it looked familiar, tracked it down to my profile, and even scanned a copy of the brochure and then sent it to me as proof. I've got to tell you, I didn't feel flattered, I felt really pissed off.

When I used to be involved in historical re-enactment I wrote a series of articles for our local group's 'zine about hat making and garment construction, only to find out through a reader that another group was photocopying them right out of the 'zine, cutting and then pasting them into their own 'zine, without ever having had the courtesy to ask. I would have sent them originals to use if they had only asked, instead I got bent out of shape and told them to stop.

There must be many, many instances where creative people have their images and ideas ripped off. However, ripping them off for advertising or products just increases the likelihood that someone, somewhere along the line is going to spot it. So I find the blatant plagiarism documented on this blog post and this website astounding. Thankfully there are plenty of someones out there doing the spotting.

Buns On Parade

There's some junk in those trunks, honey.

[Photo via Shorpy. As always, give it a loving little click to enbiggen.]

Sunday, August 02, 2009


Until I get the home laptop fixed I'll probably only be updating about once a week. Not enough frankly, but I'm also working 2 jobs and 6 days a week at the moment, so time is an issue.

It sucks to start a blog post with an apology for absence, but hopefully the lack of a home computer issue will be fixed shortly and I can go back to having regular nightly internet access.

So, that aside, I've had a pretty cool week. How about you? Last night I had a friend's 40th birthday party, where the biggest gift of all was the news that she and her family are coming back to Sydney to live. Yay! I worked 2 days at the yarn store, which was tiring but enjoyable. I had a lovely dinner with a friend, and am about to go off and have brunch with another. Mid week I got a bit down, but that was just the tiredness of working 6 days a week and a couple of late nights back to back.

All up a week full of win, as the young people would say.

I have a two day weekend of sorts this weekend, which I'm happy about. Monday is a bank holiday and I'm temping in the banking industry 4 days a week at present, so no other option than to take a day off on Monday. Frankly, missing a day's pay is a bit sucky but I'll be glad to have the day off. I might even take myself off to the movies to see the new Harry Potter film, as an empty cinema in the middle of the day is a whole other kind of win. No yucky popcorn smells (see #36), just for starters...