S&B Wedding – Part 2, the Hens Night

25 08 2013

yes, yes… a long time between posts, I know….!

The nice thing about my blogging slackness is that this whole wedding series might be wrapped up just in time for the 1st wedding anniversary at the end of November – I’ll get a guest submission from the happy couple to see what married life has been like.

…but for now, be satisfied with Part 2, The Hens.

Being Maid of Honor meant that myself and my fellow bridesmaids, Schmoorsy and Emma Z, had to keep the bride sane, provide support, help with the preparations, but most importantly of all – organise a killer hens night.

Despite having many friends who have gotten married I’d only been to one hen’s night prior to this. (I like to think that that is due to me being in the wrong country every time one happens, but perhaps there is something more to it now I reflect on it?! oh dear…). But I generally know what is expected of a hens night – drunken frivolity, penis shaped paraphernalia and a selection of saucy activity – be it pole dancing classes, going to see the male strippers, etc. So we started the planning down that route and realised pretty quickly that it didn’t really fit with the Shan we all know and love, so pole dancing/strippers got scrapped and we restarted by figuring out what Shannon loves most of all and what she’d do on a dream day out. We concluded that Shannon’s top 3 favorite things were:

1. Drinking

2. Op-Shopping

3. Cheesy Glamour photography such as…

(in theory if you click the image it will take you to the original gallery I nicked this pic from in case you’re after a little extra entertainment)

So with all our ideas compiled we decided on a day-plan of pre-drinks, an op-shop mission to find fabulous outfits to be photographed in on bearskin rugs with vaseline smeared lenses then on to dinner.

Schmoorsy took the planning of the Hen’s and ran with it, being our girl on the ground. She opened up her home to a mix of friends and strangers, booked buses, found op-shops, organised a glamour photography studio and made reservations at a nearby Mexican restaurant with a convenient 2 for 1 Margarita happy hour.  That woman has a promising career in Events should she ever choose to change jobs. Also, what a great opportunity for further embarrassment to the bride to be by using the fabulous glamour photos Shan had taken when she was 18 as the invite!

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Shannon’s day started with a champagne and a hairdressers appointment, attempting to detract attention from her recently broken wrist

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Now appropriately styled Shannon and the other Hen’s descended on Schmoorsy’s beautifully decorated house covered with photos of Shannon and Brendan at their best

the gallery

After a quick champagne toast the hen’s all shared the story of how they met shan – the tales bringing tears, screams, mimed reenactments and many, many laughs.

champagne toast

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Deeper friendship bonds were forged during the banana game. Pairs of hens raced to see how fast bananas could be consumed when fed to each other.

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a winning pair was crowned

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and Shannon learned some important lessons from her grandmother

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Schmoorsy directed the Hen’s onto the bus where Shannon was met by her cardboard substitute for the absent Kyoung and off to the Op Shop we went…

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To keep things extra glamorous every Hen was paired up so that they would have a personal fashion advisor to help them choose their glamour outfit. The Hen’s descended on Good Sammy’s in Perth and began the frantic rummage for a winning outfit.

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With outfits selected and donned it was on to the glamour photography studio – but not without strutting the hot new looks through the city streets and jelly shots on the bus

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The glamour photos involved bear skin rugs, red velvet, thrones and calls of “you’re a tiger! you’re a tiger!”. Solo, group and even boudoir sessions were completed under Shannon’s demure supervision

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All too soon, the night ended at the local mexican restaurant where we finally got to the obligatory penis paraphernalia which included penis straws

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…and Shannon and Colleen’s favorite – the 6 foot inflatable penis. A great way to end a fun and unique Hen’s night and a great way to start of the wedding party calendar

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A romantic interlude

1 02 2013

I’ve not prepared the next Shan and Brendan wedding update yet, but here’s a little distraction which sticks to the love theme.

This is Disney’s Oscar nominated short ‘paperman’. It’s very sweet and was shown before the Pixar film ‘Wreck-it Ralph’

Aw!! I’m keeping an eye out for lanky boys and paper aeroplanes!





S&B Wedding – Part 1, The Bucks Party

29 01 2013

And so begins a short series on my sister Shannon and her wedding to my new brother-in-law Brendan in November last year.  

Too much happens around a wedding to condense it into one single post, particularly a ‘destination wedding’ like this where people flew in from all corners of the world to attend. 

To kick things off in real style I’m starting off with the coverage of the bucks night with the help of a very special guest author – my dear old Dad, Durham!

Here we go…:

I was quite chuffed when Brendan invited me to his bucks party. As well as being an ideal opportunity to meet my future son-in-law’s friends and family in a friendly and relaxed atmosphere, it was also a great way to study first-hand how the buck’s party has evolved over the last 35 years … (I felt like David Attenborough about to observe lowland gorillas in their natural habitat, forgetting that I might actually be perceived by them as an old silverback trying to protect his family from a raiding party of rogue males)

The last buck’s party that I can recall attending was my own back in 1978. Buck’s nights in the 70’s were a very basic affair – 20 blokes would turn up with huge quantities of long necks and cans … (back when VB tinnies were actually made of steel and could be consumed in under 2 seconds by ripping the ring pull from the can, inverting it and quickly piercing the base with a can opener) … and everyone would just drink themselves blind. To lighten up the night, someone would do party tricks like removing the tops off beer bottles with their eye socket, and then when things got boring the groom-to-be would get his balls covered in toothpaste – (an old boy scout trick). In the morning (and with scrote still burning), you fought the urge to either barf or squid yourself as you cleaned up the flat which was almost as trashed as you were. All quite simple really …

The modern buck’s party has become a major logistical (not to mention expensive) exercise involving multiple sessions of organised fun and acts of blokey bonding … (but still observing the time-honoured tradition of consuming excessive amounts of alcohol). The plan for the day involved a 7:30am start (in reality it was closer to 8:30am!) for a bus-ride beyond the burbs to play paint ball, back on the bus to go to a nearby pub for lunch and a couple of beers, followed by another bus ride to play nine holes of Supergolf and visit a micro-brewery, then back on the bus to Brendan and Shannon’s place for more beers served by novelty beer-maids, before moving on to the “Paddo” for dinner and more beers … and did I mention that we had a couple of eskies filled with beers for all the bus legs?

For anyone who has contemplated playing paintball but not got around to it yet – it REALLY hurts! The rules are simple, if you get shot anywhere on the body (except in the head) you are officially out of the game and are supposed to put your hand up and leave the field of combat until the next game. Unlike real warfare, head shots don’t count! You can get hit in the head as many times as you can stay un-concussed and keep on firing at the other team (or occasionally “killing” your own team members with some poorly-aimed friendly fire!) Before even one shot had been fired, I was betrayed by Brendan and Michael (my son) who both waited for me to pick a side so they could join the opposing team and shoot me wherever and whenever possible. They didn’t necessarily want me out of the game, so took great delight in shooting me in the head as often as possible – a cowardly act, as I have an undeniably large head and make an extremely easy target.

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My only chance at revenge against my future son-in-law was the “buck’s run” – where the groom, best man and groomsmen are forced to run without cover in front of a firing squad. Tempted though I was to obliterate Brendan’s wedding tackle with rapid-fire paint balls, I had to be satisfied with shooting him in the lower back in order to maximise pain without reducing my chances of having a grandchild one day.

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Supergolf is an interesting game – but unlike paintball, it is relatively pain free. As someone who sucks at normal golf, I enjoyed playing a game that is such an equaliser. Brendan and Michael may have managed to beat me on almost every hole, but I was seldom more than 2 shots behind them. When teeing off, it was tempting to take a long run-up (Happy Gilmore style) when belting the crap out of the large plastic balls with a colour-coded set of Mickey Mouse’s golf clubs.

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At the end of a hard day of physical activities and sitting on the bus, it was clearly time for another beer. So the buck’s party relocated back to Brendan and Shannon’s place to finish off the afternoon. In order to make the experience more enjoyable, Glen (Brendan’s best man) had booked a couple of girls to fetch us beers for the afternoon. There is something about scantily clad girls handing you a beer that forces you to make strong eye contact and pretend to engage in intellectual conversation … all the while wondering whether we had really evolved very far from our primitive gorilla relations? (Eat your heart out David Attenborough!)





Watch this space…

28 01 2013

some big posts on the way – celebrating and commemorating the huge events of 2012.

…even a surprise guest blogger to help me out with one of the posts!

bate your breath people and keep it that way for a short while.





Welcome to 2013 and 10 new year resolutions

21 01 2013

Happy 2013 everyone!

As is traditional, this is the time of year to make promises to yourself about life improvements to be made. While we all know that they tend fall by the way-side pretty soon after an enthusiastic few weeks in January, lets not focus on that right now!!!

I’ve come up with 10 resolutions for 2013.  I’m hoping that by sharing the resolutions:

  • I will feel a little more committed to them than if they were private resolutions;
  • that there will be offers of support and suggestions to help me succeed from anyone who reads this; and
  • that anyone who might share a resolution listed here tells me and joins me – more chance of success in numbers!

So, with that – here are my 10 resolutions for 2013.

1. More Blogging

I received an email titled “Your 2012 year in blogging” from WordPress on the 31st December.  This was an annual report of blog activity for this site which gave posting stats, visitor stats, comment stats – all that jazz.

My results were pathetic to say the least!! If you’re interested in the report it should be accessible here – you can see if you are one of my two commenters for the year (spoiler alert: if you aren’t one of my parents, you’re not.)

I posted 3 times last year! 3 times?! terrible.  One of the posts was my Singapore 30th Party and two were about Crowd Funded art. Not to say they weren’t good – but in such a big year with so much happening it’s a pretty pathetic attempt at documenting what I’m up to – this blog is supposed to be part-journal, part lazy-way of staying in touch with international friends and family without resorting to cluttering people’s facebook feeds.  Having said that, there has been travel, babies, marriage, music, death and work, work, work in the year and none of it has been reported. I’m sorry!

There are a couple of excuses I use for not blogging.  The first is that I’m busy, really busy! The second is that I typically spend at least 8 hours in front of a computer a day for work and therefore very rarely do I turn on a computer at home, even if it is for leisure reasons. The last excuse is that I like my posts to be well written, well laid out and thoughtful – even if the topic or content is trivial – so writing in a hurry or when tired or distracted doesn’t work so well for me.

But this year I commit to writing more often, blogging as things happen and even trying to write up some of the stuff that happened in 2012 as a sort of penance for my slackness and to get me back into the habit of writing. I really do enjoy the writing process and the writing I do at work is so dry and technical (as is necessary of engineering reports) that it’s nice to have this creative outlet – plus, I LOVE reading other people’s blogs so its nice to be part of that community. In the meantime I’ve added a blogroll of my favorite reads on the right hand side of this blog, so if want to read blogs by my friends or just random ones that I enjoy reading its worth a click through…

2. No More Floordrobe.

hoarder bedroom

This isn’t actually my room – I took this photo from a site discussing upcoming episodes of a TV show on the topic of hoarders – but it might as well be my room.

You wouldn’t know it from my reliably poor fashion choices, but I’m definitely a try something on/critique and assess/discard/try something else before going out kind of girl.  In these manic clothes-trying sessions the discarded clothes land on my bed  and eventually transfer to a nearby available horizontal space, be it a desk, chair or nearby patch of floor. And the cycle repeats until my wardrobe is empty and I can’t navigate through my room between the door and the bed – then a big clean up, dust hayfever for days, mass laundry session and we start all over again.

I recognise the pattern! I know it happens, I don’t like it happening and yet off it goes again…!

This year I’m going to make a conscious effort to avoid this – there are a few techniques I plan to employ – the first and key technique is a MAHOOSIVE culling of clothes, if it doesn’t fit, if its stained, torn or tired looking, if it doesn’t sit right, look right, feel right its out. I have far too many clothes, many with their slight imperfections (which are usually the reason I need to go through the clothes-trying session rather than purely in the name of fashion), and it gets easy to get too messy.  There’s lots of reasons for the number of clothes. A lot of it was accumulated when I did well with weight loss over the past couple of years – there were brands and shops that I had never been able to buy at that all of a sudden I could wear, no longer trapped in an endless cycle of mumus and kaftans – so I went shopping crazy, Forever 21, H&M, Dorothy Perkins, Cotton On, all fashionable but cheap stuff that would already look a little tired after a wash or two – it was Primark all over again! This all feeds into the next resolution…

Aside from disposal of a good chunk of my wardrobe I guess it’s just down to getting it clean and then keeping it that way as I go – no more transferring from bed to other surface, it goes back in the wardrobe or in the wash – time to take a harder line!

Any other tips for a naturally messy person???

3. Quality, not Quantity

This sort of leads on from the previous point as far as material possessions go – but relates to other aspects also I suppose, food, alcohol. Anything really!

I commit to choose quality and not quantity.

Less STUFF, and good stuff. No more false economy of cheap and disposable. Well tailored designer shirt instead of 15 multi-buy tops from H&M. Do you know how many pairs of $10 Rubi ballet flats I have bought this year? It must easily be 10-15 pairs. They break down so quickly. Why didn’t I just buy a proper pair of leather, crafted shoes for that money? so my wardrobe shall consist of only high quality clothes that fit well and will last forever. (Although if I’m thinking designers then resolution #9 becomes even more important – you ever seen a Size 18 Alexander McQueen dress?? didn’t think so)

A really nice bottle of wine or glass or two of scotch instead of like 6 bottles of beer from Aunty Tiger at the VIP tent and a THUMPING headache the next day.

One really nice dinner out vs a whole lot of crappy take-away meals.

That sort of thing.

How to stop the impulse buys? How to focus on this??

4. Embracing the Crafterlife

In 2012 I took up a couple of hobbies as I felt like my life consisted of nothing but work and sleep.  I started attending a dressmaking class at Spotlight with Vivien and LOVED making my own dresses – this was my first dress, Vivien is the timid little lady next to me:

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From there I went on to tackle a jacket, more dresses and an unsuccessful attempt at a pair of trousers.

The lessons gave me such an appreciation for fabric and cut and tailoring of clothing. I spent weeks labouring over my jacket and I can step into H&M and pick one up for like $39. How depressing. I loved the freedom of being able to choose my own shapes and prints too (the 50’s style robot print dress is a real crowd-pleaser). Its something I’d really like to keep going with and learn a bit more on the pattern creating and technique side – for something which is seen as flippant as fashion there is such engineering behind it – like a big flexible puzzle that will move one way or another depending on what material you use and which way you cut across it.

The other craft I was introduced to was knitting. My friend Hannah was working on a knitted gift for a friends baby and invited me over one afternoon to hang out. I didn’t want to feel left out of the whole knitting thing so I bought a ball of wool and some needles and Hannah started me off with a relatively simple but interesting looking cable-knit scarf. While a woollen scarf is not particularly useful in tropical Singapore, another friend was about to set off on an Antarctic adventure – supporting a group who were recreating Shackleton’s last voyage, so it became a gift. (you can track the progress here)

Here’s the scarf:

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I loved creating these things and gaining such appreciation for commercially available products. I’m already started on my next ambitious project – which I keep messing up, much to Hannah’s frustration because she is my troubleshooter. I’ve loved learning these skills from people too. Having dress-making and knitting taught to me by skilled women I admire, it’s a wonderful thing. I hope to be good enough some day to pass the knowledge along to someone new.

This year I want to make sure I put time aside to work on crafting things I love with my hands. Bringing something unique into the world and bonding with others while I do it. So bring on the Crafternoons, bring on the Sitch’n’Bitch. Bring on both Etsy and Regretsy.  To have things that someone has really toiled over, whether the end result is good, bad or mediocre, is a special thing.

5. Work hard, Play hard

This one is short and sweet. It’s essentially work/life balance.

I’m aware that being single and without children I am pretty much committment free. I don’t need to rush out the door at 5.30pm to tend to anyone else’s need, I don’t have homework to help with, meals to prepare or other such demands on my time and attention.  While this freedom is definitely a good thing I find myself slipping into the idea of ‘well, I don’t have to leave early’ and I’ll take a more relaxed, less urgent approach to things at work – knowing full well that I can stay til whatever time I need to to get something done.

All this really means is that a report which could be done in a very focussed manner between lunchtime and rushing out the door at 6 still gets done, but I’m slower about it and wander out the door at 9 or 10pm.  I get home, go straight to bed, get up, go to work – feel tired and not particularly rested, so take my time in the afternoon knowing that I can stay late to finish off – and the whole thing turns again.

This year I’m trying to make myself leave at a reasonable hour – before 7 if possible.  Giving myself this arbitrary deadline is ideally focussing my efforts so I get the same result but have a few hours after work to myself (for crafting, being a more attentive friend and blogging if these resolutions stick!). Me going home on time should mean I feel more relaxed and ready for work the next day and therefore its easier to be focussed and efficient. I need to adjust the cycle so it works for me.

One of the things that might make it difficult is the tendency for people to be at work for long hours – I know when I do leave at any point before 7pm I feel like I’m skiving off work, being lazy, etc. because everyone else is still at their desks. I know that if I’ve got all I needed to done for the day and have put in good work then I shouldnt feel like this – but I guess its human nature. I don’t want to look like I’m not pulling my share of the load.

So two things – how do you ensure you get the right work/life balance in your life and not give in to that social pressure to stay later? And what are the best ways to really focus at work and avoid distractions. I’ve found writing out my to-do lists has really helped me target what I need to do, but are there any other tips/techniques that work for you?

6. No more Evil thoughts

I’m a cynical jerk.

I actually think this is one of my more interesting personality traits – and to be honest, I find the company of other cynical jerks quite enjoyable. Especially when they get just the right amount of humour/tongue in cheek unnecessary anger in the mix.

But I can be too cynical, too harsh to judge – writing off people if they irritate me slightly, behave like a dick or just generally rub me the wrong way. I can really carry anger at people, or on behalf of friends who may have been slighted. I can carry such levels of dislike. I typically deal with dislike by just avoiding these people and am rarely openly mean to people.  But I know, in this world you have to put up with jerks for the sake of other people who don’t necessarily think they are jerks.

Also – I guess that thinking people are jerks is a waste of energy and emotion, so the resolution is no more energy spent that way. Time to focus on finding the good in people or at least not carrying anger with me for no good reason! Indifference is the new dislike!

But dear friends that I actually really like, stick with me! I’m gonna need your help with this one! Overcoming my natural tendencies to judge and be annoyed at people for no real good reason is gonna be a toughie…

7. Repairing the Communication Breakdown

I’m a crap friend as far as staying in touch. I realised how crappy I am when my Facebook on my phone stopped working at the end of last year.  Without access to the lazy person’s solution to staying in touch I missed all sorts of important stuff in friends lives. Pathetic really. I learned that if facebook packs it in, I wont know whats going on with people who are important to me – and I’m talking good friends here! I shouldnt be completely reliant on facebook – what happened to phonecalls? Skype? Email? Letters…?

This isn’t new, but just cos it’s not new doesn’t mean I shouldnt try to improve so its my resolution to try to keep in touch via mediums outside of facebook – send emails to people, drop a text or a call and call me old-fashioned but I might even attempt to catch up in person!!! Actually  organise to meet for a coffee or a wine.

It’s crazy, but it just might work.

So if I’m being a crappy friend, if I’ve fallen out of touch for too long, feel free to call me out on it so I can rectify the situation. Drop me an email or give me a call so that I pull my finger out. But for the love of God, please don’t ‘poke’ me on facebook!

8. Save, Save, Save!!!

Ever since I bought my flat in Melbourne I’ve had no savings strategy at all. Partly because there was this feeling that owning property was doing the hard work for me and partly because I’ve been on a succession of short term contracts overseas – anywhere between 3 months to a year at a time. These short contracts leave me with the feeling of being in a temporary place, a sort of ongoing ‘holiday mode’ when it comes to money. This idea that ‘I may not be here for long so I need to make the most of it’.

I’ve had that holiday mode attitude for 5 years  now though and having been in full time employment the whole time I have nothing but holiday snaps and probably some liver damage to show for it.

This year I want to try to save some money – live a little more frugally and get a bit together saved in my account.  Whether this money goes onto my mortgage or towards a deposit for a new place or a car or, heaven forbid, just stays there in the bank – I want to try to have a little more discipline

I realise that this may seem to directly contradict some of the above items (i.e. quality, not quantity) but if you think about it, in the long term perhaps I’m better off. I’m sure one of the big wastes of money is the cheap/disposable lifestyle I’m used to. Cheap disposable shoes, clothes, etc. Had I just invested in something well made in the first place perhaps I would have been better off? Also, while I plan to buy better, I plan to buy less – so that should also limit the potential financial damage!

So what is a good savings strategy? What works? do you hide money in another account from yourself? Got a trust fund? A share portfolio? A financial panther? Give me your tips!

9. Bodyshop

Ok, so EVERYONE resolves to lose weight at New Years. But this is more than that – this is full body overhaul

No gyms though – treadmills are dangerous:

Weight loss is a big part of it of course. 12kg have crept back on since my lowest point in April – how pathetic! I’m still 13kg down since the start point, but still – how frustrating to have to back over that same ground again.  I’m doing this by being back at bootcamp 3 times a week. I do my boot camp with Rebel Bootcamp who are fantastic. The instructors are knowledgeable and inspiring – they know when to kick your ass and when to go easier and just gently encourage. They mix up programmes so it’s not like a stale gym routine. The camaraderie of the group is a big thing too – everyone is so encouraging of one another – there is competition and support all at once. I was really blown away by it all, especially being so out of shape and overweight at my first session – I was sure I’d be mocked and run off the field. Its hard work, but it gets easier.  The 6.30am start time is a killer (especially when you are NOT a morning person at the best of times) but once you’re up and out its ok – it also has the benefit of me not really being fully awake until about 7am, at which point I’m already halfway done! Plus its done for the day – my attempts at after work activities are so often thwarted by work and/or social commitments and there is such guilt when I flake out of them.  Finally, having done a session in the morning tends to make me eat a bit better through the day cos I don’t want to blow the hard work. Which brings me to diet…

I’m back on the calorie counting. Damn. Its hard and sometimes depressing – but I found it the best way to control diet and best way to drop weight. I use My Fitness Pal which has a website and phone app. The library is huge so it’s really easy to find the calories to add to your diary to calculate them all. It’s a challenge at first, but doesn’t take long til you know roughly what something will ‘cost’ you in terms of energy and you can make more informed decisions.  Theres a social aspect to My Fitness Pal too where you can connect with friends or random strangers who are on the same journey – if its something you want to try add me as a friend. The support really does help.

So that’s sort of the body aspect – the other bits that need attention are my hair and my skin. So, on with the night/day moisturisers by Shiseido again, and back to the hairdresser – lets cut it all off and start again!! hurray for no hair!

10. Somebody to Love

Ah Queen. I swear there’s a song of theirs for every mood and occasion.  But this one is a doozy – it resonates completely with this humble acoustician’s natural frequency – BONNNNGGGGG!! Particularly this bit:

I work hard every day of my life
I work till I ache my bones
At the end I take home my hard earned pay all on my own -
I get down on my knees
And I start to pray
Till the tears run down from my eyes
Lord – somebody – somebody
Can anybody find me – somebody to love?

Also the bit about having no rhythm in the next verse is kinda true…

Actually, it’s not strictly what I want. I don’t just want somebody to love – I’ve had that, so so many times – I’ve loved and loved and loved.  I am the QUEEN of loving, unfortunately its yet to be reciprocated – no one does unrequited relationships quite as well as I do.

But no more! This year I have a good feeling about life, the universe and everything. Come Dec 31 2013 and I will be ringing in the new year with someone special – it has to happen sometime, right???

So bring on the internet dating, speed dating, blind dating, whatever it takes.  So rack your brains people!





So, was it all worth it…?

13 09 2012

The last time I posted on here it was to question people’s thoughts on crowdfunding artistic projects. Here

This question was prompted by two of my favorite artists who were simultaneously crowdfunding their new albums, Amanda Palmer and Ben Folds Five.  Amanda used Kickstarter, Ben Folds Five used Pledge Music.

One of the points I made in my previous post was that you are essentially buying a product sight unseen (and actually at the funding stage, product non-existant…) – so its a gamble, but possibly not too much of a gamble when you consider the strong back catalog that both Amanda Palmer and Ben Folds Five have.

Well, this week both the albums dropped, so I thought I’d do a review of them to answer the question as to whether it was worth it – do I feel I got my money’s worth in the end?

Amanda Palmer and the Grand Theft Orchestra – Theatre is Evil

Amanda hasn’t released a polished, new material album since 2008’s “Who Killed Amanda Palmer” – her first solo album away from the Dresden Dolls. The main difference between WKAP and Theatre is Evil is the musical direction that Amanda is taking.  While WKAP still had quite a Dresden Dolls sound, Theatre Is Evil is much more of a departure from this.  I think the main reason for this step change is that this time Amanda has recorded with a band rather than session musicians – clearly the bouncing of ideas and contributions from the other members of the Grand Theft Orchestra has helped yield wildly different and exciting ideas in the studio.  The 80’s New Wave influences are strong with lots of Depeche Mode, Cars and The Cure sounds in the musical stylings – especially in the upbeat numbers like ‘Do It With a Rockstar‘ , ‘The Killing Type‘ and ‘Want It Back‘ – its instant 80’s dance hits! As always Amanda’s strongest skill for me is her uncanny ability to capture imagery and imagination with her beautifully crafted lyrics – ‘The Bed Song’ is a sweet, sad tear-jerker as is ‘Trout Heart Replica’ . As with every one of my favourite albums there are songs that I’m not crazy about just yet – but based on my previous experiences these albums I know that usually such songs tend to unravel in front of me and take a hold before becoming songs I love, so a few more listens and I know I’ll be completely won over.

If you are interested in getting the album click the linked album name above, Amanda has released this on a ‘pay what you feel’ basis, so if you want your music free you can do that (but really, don’t be an asshole –  throw a busker a few dollars to say thanks for the art!).

Also, keep an eye out for tour dates – Amanda on recording is good, but when she’s live she’s in a whole other stratosphere – one of the best nights out you can have.

Ben Folds Five – The Sound Of The Life Of The Mind

Ben Folds Five haven’t had a new album in 13 years. It’s been a LONG wait. Ben Folds did a lot of solo recording in between (including the University A Cappella! which was great), and producing albums for other artists including ‘Who Killed Amanda Palmer’. The other guys presumably did things too – I didn’t keep up with their activities so much…!

So, that being said – its exciting to hold a new Ben Folds Five album in my hands (metaphorically speaking of course – everything bits and bytes these days). And its good. Like finding an old loved comfy jumper in the back of your wardrobe – you put it on and its that same old familiar fit and feeling. The album is not so different to the albums from the late 90s/early 2000’s.  The production is slicker, there are more lush strings than previous offerings, but fundamentally it’s all about Ben’s sweet vocals, impressive piano skills, some heavily distorted bass-lines and nice harmonies.  I’m not sure there is anything on there that hits the highs of ‘Army’ or ‘Underground’ or “One Angry Dwarf…’ for me, although the Pledge Music teaser track from the album ‘Do It Anyway‘ is pretty good with its faux-western feel. I like the 10CC sound of ‘Sky High’ and I’m still not convinced that ‘On Being Frank’ is not a cover of another song – its so familiar sounding. I guess that’s the mark of a well written song huh?

Overall its a good album – this and reading in a sunny spot with a coffee in hand would make for a pretty spectacular Sunday afternoon. Its not ground-breaking, its not huge musical evolutions, but its familiar, well made and sweet – and sometimes that’s all you want.

 

So was it all worth it? Sending chunks of money off to random artists in the faith of new good material to come?

Yes. Absolutely. These artists have given me two new albums worth of high-quality work. Better still, they didn’t have to jump through record company hoops, they didn’t lose a chunk of money to some dude who just makes life hard for them. They were able to do what they do best and still make a living. This is exactly the desired outcome and yes, it was all worth it.

Plus, in addition to these new digital albums, I get to look forward to 2 CD’s, a t-shirt and an art book arriving in the post over the next couple of weeks. Which is also pretty sweet. Getting parcels in the post is awesome.

 

 





Questions for the artists out there…

13 05 2012

I love Amanda Palmer.

I have made no secret of this over the years. She is one of my favorite lyricists, a ‘music is for everyone’ approach performer and I have to admit – a pretty foxy liberated lady (I have a mega-girl crush on her!)

See what a cute couple we’d make??

From Bordeaux, January 2010

Ok – maybe not.

But discussing celebrity girl crushes is not what this post is about.

Amanda left her record label a few years back and now operates her business as a professional musican and performer through crowd-sourced funds, mainly using a website which deals purely in crowd-funding Kickstarter. She reaches out to the consumers who want her product (her fans) and asks them to pay in advance for the goods.

Her current ‘pitch’ is seen here in a Bob Dylan inspired video:

If you haven’t got time/patience for the video the summary is that  by pledging here you commit to pay money towards funding the recording, manufacture and distribution of Amanda Palmer’s new record. If you are a fan who just wants the new music as a digital download you can do it with as little as a$1 pledge. Although, if you think the artists’ work is worth more you can contribute more. In order to incentivise ( <– is that a real word? Sounds like management wank-speak) larger pledges, Amanda offers special bonuses depending on the amount commited.

Of course for the fans there is a risk associated with buying something sight unseen (or in this case, unheard) but she has a good back-catalogue, a proven history so therefore I suppose the potential risk for the backers is minimal. After all, people will line up for days to buy the latest Apple product without waiting to see what the reviews are as they have faith that the product will be good based on previous experience and general one-eyed fandom.

Amanda’s current campaign has garnered much internet attention and discussion. So far  it has passed her original campaign target of $100,000 six times over, with another two weeks still remaining in the funding period. It has broken all previous Kickstarter records.  For the most part, the online discussion is positive and even at times slightly awed. Some discussions are even already on the “she did it, and you can too…” wagon (including Forbes telling big businesses what they can learn from Amanda Palmer ). But interestingly, there has been quite a bit of pushback from some commentators, etc.  Such as this:

“the Internet has allowed artists and fans to have a more direct relationship, but it has also given artists a more direct way to shake their fans upside down for pocket change.”

Is that what is going on?

As a fan, and one who has contributed to this and previous kickstarter campaigns, I dont think I’m being “shaken upside down for pocket change” – becuase really it means I can give whatever I can afford to support an artist I admire and want to see more work from. In general, I try to send my dollar to the location where the creator will benefit most wherever possible (i.e purchase from gigs or bands own websites rather than the big machines like Amazon and the rest) – this seems a natural progression from that philosophy.

But I guess, in some way the answer to the quote above is “yes”. The internet has allowed better connection with fans and artists, and yes, it has also allowed a way for the artists to ask their fans for money (“shake them upside down for pocket change” is maybe a little strong).  But I suppose the question is – is that a bad thing? Is it even unusual? Is it all that different to buying a theatre package subscription with a theatre company at the start of a season – pre-paying future productions in good faith based on previous seasons? Or even different to buying sports season tickets – prepaying for attendance at all matches because you support that team based on history, even if you dont know how many of the games to come will be won. Is the offence caused by Amanda asking for money caused because she is a one-person operation or is it because the request is so blunt and blatant and not hidden behind more tasteful terms such as selling a ‘season pass’ or the like? (if anything, doesn’t the fact that an individual artist has no government funding or corporate sponsorship make it MORE ok for her to go out asking for financial support?)

The next question is – can this work for all people in creative industries? Is this, as Amanda promises, ‘The Future of Music’?

Before I go on, I should note that there are some marked differences in the way Amanda operates as an artist.  First off, she comes from a background of street performing where holding out your hat to the punters to unashamedly ask for them to pay for what they have just experienced is par for the course. Her description of this is discussed much more eloquently than my description in Amanda’s presentation to a Harvard crowd here:

However this asking the punters directly for money may not come as easy or as comfortably for some artists.

Secondly, Amanda is a tireless social networker – she blogs, she tweets, she facebooks – she stages ‘ninja gigs’, she hangs out after shows to mingle with the crowd. She has developed a legion of fans who feel they know her warts-and-all and have around the clock access to her. She has come to be viewed as a virtual friend to many and this I think is one of the keys to the bottomless support (financial and otherwise) of her fans – she has become everyone’s slightly kooky, but very talented, mate that you want to see really make it. This works for her, but obviously not for a more reserved, less-outspoken private artist who isn’t interested in being ‘All Access’ . Without that existing fan devotion, the model could potentially start to fall apart.

Finally, while Amanda started independently funding the first ‘Dresden Dolls’ album before getting signed, and while she works independently now – there was still a period of record company funded recording, touring, PR with Roadrunner records. While Amanda has certainly done the majority of the ground work building her brand through tireless interaction with fans and her strong artistic ethos, would she still be in the same position without having had that period of a corporate boost (even if it they did a pretty pathetic job of representing her as Amanda describes it)? I don’t know. But it does make me wonder if you can achieve the same heights from scratch with no industry backing at all. In this age of facebook, twitter and youtube and with break-out programs such as JJJ’s unearthed and places to showcase music such as SoundCloud, I like to think so.

I guess what  I wanted to ask my friends in creative industries; be it music, theatre, film-making, writing, etc. your thoughts on funding your work in this fashion. So, some questions to prompt you:

  • Is this ‘patronage’ model the future of the creative industry?
  • Do you think the consumers are ready for this ‘pay before we create’ model?
  • Can this crowd-sourced approach work from ‘nothing’ or do you always need a machine behind to get you started?
  • Have you or your fellow artists tried to use crowdsourced funding before? What was the experience?
  • Do you feel this method of fundraising a positive step for artists or is it a step in the wrong direction?

And to everyone -

  • Would you be willing to financially contribute to an artists future work sight unseen, based on the strength of their previous offerings, or do you prefer to wait until the new work is complete and make a call as to whether or buy or not then?
  • Have you ever contributed to a kickstarter, or similar, campaign before? Can you imagine yourself doing so in the future? What would be need to be on offer to make you spend your money in this way?







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