Sunday, May 29, 2011

The Pyamid Of Northcote

Heading out to dinner last night, we walked to Northcote train station. We dutifully tried to 'touch on' with our Myki cards but neither of the sensors were working. It's a good system, when it works. In a bit of role reversal, The Dreaded One gave up after a couple of attempts while I got all terrier on its arse. I was convinced I could get it to work by trying again and again, swearing at it and biting the end of my tongue. Finally it did indeed work, the little blinky light came on and the screen told me that $3 had been deducted from my account. Punch the air! High five! Yesss!

Then one of the two only other people on the station pushed the button that dials into the timetable place and the recorded message came over the loudspeakers to tell us that there were no trains running, that busses had replaced the trains. Awesome. This has happened before. What I don't get is why the hell someone doesn't put a sign up telling us that this is the case. There is absolutely no indication anywhere that there are no trains running. Just pin a hand-written note to the wall. Hell - they make automated announcements at other times telling us about delays - surely... oh never mind. Lesson learned after this happening for the second time - assume the trains are not running and confirm this before paying for your ticket.

The other couple left at the same time as us and asked if we were going into the city. We were going to Richmond, on the way to the city. The guy suggested we share a cab. They seemed like nice people. They had been laughing, they were well dressed, well spoken, young and good looking so we thought why not? This kind of thing always seems to be happening in Melbourne. Strangers strike up conversation at tram stops and railways stations. I don't recall this being quite so common in Sydney.

Anyway, we started walking back up to the main road. The Dreaded One and the guy walked ahead chatting about general stuff and I started talking to the girl. She was amazingly pretty and had a strange accent that I eventually had to ask her about. She said she was Persian. Conversation was easy. We flagged a cab and the conversation kept flowing. They seemed genuinely interested in our story of selling our home, traveling the world and settling in a new city. They lived nearby and I could sense this being the beginning of a new friendship. His name was Aria. Hers was Paria.

As promising as the vibe was I was content to leave things up to fate. If we bump into them again in the hood, cool, we'll say hello and see what happens.

But as we drew close to our drop off point, with Aria and Paria continuing into the city, the conversation changed colour.

"So," Aria said to The Dreaded One from the front seat, "if you're working corporate hours, I guess you have a bit of free time on your hands."

Everything about him changed in that one question. A dull bell chimed. My radar came on. Time to hit the conversational eject button.

We talked a bit about how we fill in our spare time. We have lots of interests, loads of things we enjoy doing with our spare time. Aria was deaf to this. He knew he only had a couple of minutes before we got out of the cab.

"So you have free time then... I just mention this because Aria and I are involved in a plan that help people and lets you make a bit of money at the same time. That's why we do it - because we like to help people. Maybe you're not interested in helping people though... "

It was time to get the hell out. The cab pulled over and we worked out how much we owed. Aria pushed on with his spiel. I felt compelled to be polite but was not interested, and in fact was pretty pissed that he had ruined the vibe like this. I asked upfront what the name of the scheme was.

"Oh I don't want to tell you the name of it without explaining it properly... I mean I could tell you the name but... maybe I can take your number and talk to you about it over coffee sometime..."

I asked if he had a card as I slid across the seat to the open door, Paria standing outside to let us out. He didn't have a card, but he could take our number and call us sometime.

Jesus. He hadn't been genuinely interested in us at all, at least not on a decent, personal level. He had just been profiling us to see if we might want to sit below him on whatever pyramid scheme he was involved in. I had gone from thinking this is one of those random meetings that could lead to new friendship to feeling like an idiot. Everything had gone from shiny to grubby in the name of peddling some sham scheme.

I got out of the cab and chatted to Paria about the weather while The Dreaded One politely gave Aria her number. This is fine because we can just tell him we're not interested. I kind of hope that they are decent people (I think they are) who will accept no for an answer then either stay in touch without bringing it up again, or they will accept no and disappear. I don't care either way.

I just find it a bit sad that someone can pretend to be interested in you, to appear genuinely interested in you as a person while all the time waiting for an opportunity to sting you. A family member did this once. Managed to get me to invite her over for dinner only to say something about something she could show The Dreaded One and I at the same time, because we might be interested in making some money out of this thing. I asked what the thing was. She wouldn't tell me because it really needed to be explained in detail and she could do that after the dinner we were going to cook for her. I called it off and didn't hear from her again.

I know Aria knew our walls were up. I know he knows we'll be a hard sell. Thing is, it won't work. When it comes to this kind of thing I like to get to the point, and the point is he's on some level of a dodgy money-making scheme and we don't want anything to do with it. Those things are for suckers. There will be no meeting to discuss things if it's not something he can't quickly and easily describe over the phone. We won't be dropping by their place if there happens to be a casual party at their place one afternoon. Thinking about it, his call will probably be screened and we'll probably not call back. We might bump into them on the street one day. We'll be polite but now better prepared, as soon as he gets his pyramid on I'll cut him off and explain that if they want to be friends, fine, but we are not his next targets and if that's all he sees us as, hasta la vista.

Also, Persian? Isn't that Iranian? I guess it does sound better these days.

Tuesday, May 17, 2011

Old Skool Grumpy

I know you've probably read these before, but look at the adorably Grumpy avatar they've given me. And the header font is so old skool compared to the rest of the mag. I really like it.

If all goes according to plan, click on the image to enlarge.

For now, I'm going to bed in prep for the rest of my first full week at work in about 10 months... and even then I'm only doing 30 hours. Still, it's good to be back on the treadmill... Hmm.

Okay, you have to click on the pic twice... and some of it is blurry... am rusty. Gimme a Goddamn break.

Thursday, May 12, 2011

Bad Music Writing

I just read another interview with Deya Dova (scroll down for my effort) and I have to say I'm pretty appalled.

The writer spends the opening four or five lines talking about the fact that he has a British accent. When you only have what appears to be 500 words, you have to make ém count and I'm terribly sorry but as a reader I don't really give a shit what your accent is like or what effect it had on the person you are interviewing.

The article is supposed to be about Deya's new album, but the writer goes on to talk at great length about where the artist grew up and what effect that had on her earlier music, and where she lives now and what effect that has on her music. He (could be a she as they only give the first initial of their first name) does cover how nerve-wracking it was for Deya to give creative control of her creations to the other producers to remix the tracks before coming to a pretty garbled conclusion about how the artist found it all an interesting process.

There is not one mention of the list of fascinating producers involved. Not one mention of any of the tracks that have been remixed and how they differ from the originals. There is not one mention of the wide variety of genres covered. There is a tag line telling us where we can buy the album from, but what is the point in that if the reader has no idea of what the album actually is? There is simply no indication of what kind of music we are talking about. It's half a page of completely missed opportunity.

I've not heard of this writer before (I've since read an article they did with Deadmau5 and although better written they still made a couple of basic mistakes) but I suspect that they might be a rookie. I suspect they know nothing of Deya's earlier music. These things could both be overcome by some relevant questions though. The article is about the album - talk about the album, or at least ask questions about it. There is simply no relevant information in the article. And don't even get me started on the poor use of quotes and sentence structure.

But at least we do know the writer has a British accent.

My big problem is that I can't really complain to the magazine because I don't want to appear to be promoting the album (I have already written my own piece for another mag as well as an album review), and I am about to start writing for this very magazine so I don't want to risk pissing anyone off. The writing was bad enough but the editor, really, should have done something about it. They should have binned it and asked for a re-write with actual information in it. They should have pointed out that at no point does the reader get any idea of what the music is, other than electronica. Deya herself mentions the words trance and progressive house but no cue is taken to find out what other sounds are in the mix.

I don't know what they thought they were writing or why the editor let it go through, but I do know that it made me Grumpy... maybe I should rant about it in a Grumpy column. Although it's a bit dodgy slagging off other writers, innit.

Tuesday, May 10, 2011

Grumpy On The Job


When we got back from our World Trip Of Friends and moved to another city, the plan was for me to not go back into the same line of work but to get something different. Quite simply I had had too much fun travelling and being idle to want to work as a chef ever again. Cheffing is bloody hard work. I've been a stonemason and a bricklayer before and being a chef is harder work than both, and to be perfectly honest, six months of partying, looking at great art and funny shaped buildings, eating boozey lunches and snoozing on Mediterranean had taken its toll. I think I had deluded myself into thinking that I really could... nay – was entitled to keep living like aristocracy.

“So what are you going to do?” The Dreaded One enquired.

“Dunno,” I replied distractedly, smirking at the talking dog Youtube clip someone had posted on Facebook before hastily re-opening the employment page of Gumtree again and pretending to read it.

She kept up this brutal line of interrogation every day for months after we set up our new home. She, naturally, scored the first job she applied for and has been enjoying her working week more than at any time in her life. I felt as happy for her as I felt sorry for myself. Why could I not find that Idle Aristocrat Wanted ad? It was so unfair.

As the cash buffer ran low I did indeed realise something was going to have to be done. Ideally, realistically, I wanted something that involved writing. I wanted to trade in my chopping board for my keyboard. The perfect job would be to write this column, say, for a living. To just get up each day, thrown on some baggy clothes, crack open a beer (it's okay – my dream job would have me staying up nights because I am a night owl, and sleeping in to around midday) and simply regale readers with my daily adventures.

If I was going to go back into the kitchen, I didn't want the pressure cooker environment of a high- end restaurant, I wanted a daytime job in a nice little cafe, with nice, laidback co-workers.

Recently, I found such a job. Cafe kitchen in a very cool theatre. They gave me a trial day and offered me the job. I like it there. They are lovely people and the customers are all cool theatre types. Really nice vibe.

As timing would have it, I had also applied for an unusual-sounding writing job. This sounded as close to a dream job as you could get (Idle Aristocrat aside). I said in my job application that I don't have any writing qualifications but I have done a lot of writing. I have even won a national short story award and have been published in literary journals, but no formal qualifications. Also, I added, I don't have much of a clue of what this job actually is but it sounds weird enough for me to enjoy and I'd like to apply please.

The guy was amused and apparently impressed with my samples because he called to say I was on the shortlist. Five of us out of hundreds of applicants. We did a role playing interview and I wrote my piece up. The shortlist is now down to me and one other. Face-to-face interview happens tomorrow.

So now I've put myself in this quite horrible position of turning up at the cafe really hoping that my first week there is going to be my last, but really really also not wanting to let these good people down. I've effectively put myself in a position that I don't want to be in. But do. But don't. I hate letting people down but what else can I do? I'm basically putting a dagger through the heart of the trust of my nice new employers (if I get the job... which I will... won't... might... might not), and I don't want to be a murderer. Why did both jobs appear at the same time? What are you such a funny bastard, Universe?

I'll let you know how it pans out in the next column. For now I'm sweating out in a moody cocktail of angst and excitement, hope and sadness. Grumpy? Hell yeah. But happy too. I'm so fucking Yin Yang right now.

Grumpy is freelance Idle Aristocrat Lee Bemrose. If you have any freelance writing or Idle Aristocrat tasks, contact him at