Friday, 11 July 2008

Island hopping

As the wind blows so I go. And the wind has blown me East onto yet another island in the Pacific Ocean. After five short months as a Sydneysider, I now find myself living in Queenstown, ‘the adrenaline capital of the world’. Having lived in the ‘music capital of the world’ I’m used to such hyperbole, and like Austin, Queenstown certainly lives up to its billing. But first a few more words about my time in Sydney.

I haven’t really blogged much since I moved to the Southern Hemisphere, for a long time I thought not much was happening, but in retrospect I guess a lot of things did. Tristan and I finally combined to form AMO and DJ’d to living breathing people for the first time. It was awesome. For a while I was working for this action sports magazine called Neutraliser, but that was just a weird situation all-round as it was based in this guys house and he was, eccentric to say the least. I got to know Sydney vaguely well, made some amazing friends, and then got a job with the Sydney Film Festival – and that at the very least deserves its own paragraph.

The Sydney Film Festival was one of the hardest, and most rewarding, projects I’ve ever been involved with. At the eleventh hour my old school friend Carmel rang me and asked if I would be willing to step into the Website Coordinator role. It was three weeks from the festival’s start and there was a lot of stuff that needed to be done with the site. Add to this that in my two weeks the website was the victim of two or three malicious hacks. It was a frantic time and the hours I worked were pretty crazy. My housemates Tristan and Amanda must have thought they were living with a ghost I was home so little. Of course once the festival started things got even crazier. Hosting 13 red carpets in 12 days is no mean feat and I am totally in awe of all the people who were working around me; incredible, talented and dedicated individuals, without whom this 19 day cinematic event simply would not be possible.

Supporting me through this whole period was my little partner-in-crime, Alex. A week or so before Carmel called me up, Alex had already asked me if I would be interested in hosting the official SFF podcasts with her. The Web Coordinator job made this a little trickier, but I so wanted that fresh experience. Alex was the Moving Image Coordinator for the festival as well as podcast producer/director/camerawoman/editor – or Podcast Queen as she is affectionately known in some circles. We worked together and supported each other pretty much day and night for the entire duration of the festival and were rarely apart, so much so it was kinda weird for me not being around her once it was all over. Between up we made 9 podcasts in 19 days – no small feat. Every time I felt down and like I wasn’t doing very well, Alex picked me up off the ground and reassured me I was. I still think she was lying a little bit (I know I can do better!), but her mastery in the editing suite always made me look loads better.

I didn’t get to see many films, but I guess my experience of the festival was different and special in other ways. The people I worked with, the random running in-jokes, the voice, the drama, the meetings (on and off-line), the subscribers and the parties – which there were frankly not enough of. Then again, there’s always next year.

And that was Sydney for me, outside of the festival I became a regular at Kino and became friends with The Festivalists and their possie. I was cared for and looked after by two of my closest friends in Tristan and Amanda whom I’m deeply indebted to. And I’ll miss Stanmore, my home for five too-short months. There will be a comeback in October, but in the meantime…

I find myself in on the South Island of New Zealand, living in Queenstown with my old friend Sam (Lake Tahoe blogs) and working as a lifty on The Remarkable Mountains. How the heck did that happen who may well ask?

So before the Sydney Film Festival Sam gave me a shout and asked if I would be interested in moving out to NZ for a season to get good at snowboarding, work as a lifty, and fill the spare room he had (“we’ve got a spare room and I reckon you’re just the man to fill it”). I wasn’t sure at first, I was just starting to settle into Sydney life, was making friends and all that good stuff, but when all was said and done I was going to get to the end of my SFF contract and be unemployed again and looking for somewhere to live. Not a good combination. So timing-wise it was just right I guess. It also meant that if I got back to Australia in October I could go do my three months agricultural work to extend my Working Holiday VISA in time to still cycle around Tasmania in January (more on that at a much later date). So plane ticket was booked, NZ VISA applied for – all I needed was for Sam to hook me up with a job.

Goodbyes were said at a carnage-fuelled ‘see you later’ party (how many of these will I have in my life – they seem more regular than birthdays) in which Joel came down from Newcastle to see me off, got me hideously pissed on way to meet Tristan, Amanda, Phil and Mark. The next day I flew to Christchurch where I promptly realised I didn’t have nearly enough clothes for the NZ winter, c’est la vie. At Christchurch airport I hung out from 11.30pm thought to 7.30am waiting for the bus to Queenstown, when it finally came I realised I was back on the backpacker circuit for the eight hour ride south through some of the most spectacular countryside you could hope for, before finally transplanting me in my new abode.

Now there’s not much in Queenstown town, it’s pretty much entirely populated by bars, youth hostels, sports shops and Internet cafes – oh and the obligatory Mcdonald’s (and now a McCafe). But it sits right on top of the beautiful Lake Wakatipu and is surrounded by mountains, which are currently all covered in snow. Since being here I have met up with my old friend from DVD Review days James Beech who asked me to join him for a boat ride aboard the Earnslaw – an old steamboat that have been sailing on Wakatipu for 92 years. It was great to see Beechy so randomly a few thousand miles from home.

Obviously the highlight was getting up The Remarkables for my first day snowboarding since South Lake Tahoe back in April of 2007. It really didn’t take me long to pick it up again, although my switch riding ability is now practically non-existent. Before the end of the day I was riding through the park more confidently than ever before (not having a cracked rib might help I suspect). Not that I was hitting anything other than the butterbox, but to be honest I’m so much more comfortable with the speed and the jumps now that the rails will follow soon.

During that first day riding (the day after a huge dump in Queenstown) Sam told me that his boss Rutters wanted me to meet him at his office at 3pm for an interview. The interview pretty much consisted of “you come highly recommended and that pretty much counts for everything here. So do you mind shovelling snow and can you start tomorrow.” Giving both my answers in the positive that was that. So now I shovel snow, direct traffic and pick people up off the floor for a living. Occasionally I get to ride during the day, which is nice, but as I have pretty much the best office view imaginable I’m a happy camper.

I’ll post more about the day-to-day goings on at work as I get more into it. I think this post is easily long enough for now. I'll upload some pictures tomorrow night...

Monday, 12 May 2008

Out of the electro closet

Tristan and myself have formed a DJ unit under the name of AMO. On Saturday night along with Joel (SSDH) we are playing a party in Newcastle, NSW. Hopefully we won't suck...

Sunday, 11 May 2008

Exciting news

I've posted this over at Dark Habits, but I'm taking over as the website coordinator for the Sydney Film Festival until the end of the festival. Keep an eye out for goings on, I'm going to be hosting a podcast too, it's all very exciting!

Monday, 3 March 2008

Cadbury's Creme Eggs return

You may or may not remember some time ago I posted a video of BJ Novak on Conan O'Brien expose of the shrinking size of Cadbury's Creme Eggs (sadly it's no longer available on Youtube). Well, Emily at 'now, tastes more like real life', just posted this video of the new Creme Eggs' advertising campaign in the states. I'm not sure if it's the same as in the UK, but you have to laugh at these clips.

If you wanna read more, click here.

But if you'd rather watch more Cadbury's Creme Egg commercials, click .

Sunday, 2 March 2008

Window poetry

Wandering aimlessly today I saw this in the window of an abandoned shop on Parramatta Road and thought I'd share.

I've been taking lots of pictures since I got here but I can't transfer images from my camera to my computer at the moment. The picture above I took with my phone.

Not too much news this end, still job hunting for something full time, though i have found a couple of days a week work with a alternative sports magazine called Neutraliser. Oh, and anyone reading this, I also have a new blog. It's film centric and can be found here DARK HABITS.

The magazine industry here in Australia is strange. The shelves are filled with imported magazines, and some of the bigger mags published here reproduce material from their American and British sister mags. That said, many of the jobs that are coming up are online positions, hence why I've started building my web presence with the new blog, which contains a portfolio of much of my past work. Course all that said, I just did a little UK job search and there's nothing going there at all.

I'm a little sad that I'm not in the states at this interesting time in the country's history, but I urge everyone to follow closely the not only what the candidates have to say, but the way in which the choice is dividing the country and the general publics' response to the candidates. Barack Obama is obviously of particular interest, not because of what he represents in his rhetoric, or the extent to which he is creating such mixed reactions, but also because of how much he reminds me of a certain left of centre, populist British politician who inspired Kennedy-esque comparisons and promised new beginnings.

Hope everyone is well, send news...

Wednesday, 20 February 2008

What do you want?

And inspired remix found on youtube:

Thursday, 7 February 2008

New beginnings, old stories

'Life isn't easy', I was reminded by someone close to me this week. True, not something I wasn't aware of, but thanks all the same. In the same breath though, I reminded myself that while it may not be easy, it sure is a lot of fun.

And so here I find myself, half way around the world in yet another country – still drinking in Irish pubs. Some things don't change wherever you find yourself. Today is the start of my third week as a resident of Sydney, Australia. Life is back in the starting blocks, top priority? Find a job (yesterday wouldn't be soon enough right now). There are others matters of pressing urgency but I won't bore you on the details.

I've moved in with my best friend Tristan and his wonderful girlfriend Amanda. Indeed, 'moved in' might be a kind way of describing the fact that these two great friends have practically adopted me and saved me from the streets. I'm down to emergency funds. Sadly however, I spent these emergency funds in a moment of madness and confusion at Heathrow 16 days ago. Two-hundred and fifty pounds excess baggage on my credit card which was nothing sort of a catastrophe. At least things can only get better from there...

My plans to surprise Marilyn and Joel worked a treat. It was nearly a year to the day that I said goodbye to Maz as she returned to Oz in 2007 and Joel I hadn't seen since his hurricane visitation to Austin. Marilyn screamed, threw her phone, then cried. We hugged and it felt great. Joel on the other hand asked: "What are you doing here?" In true Team Unity-style we partied almost immediately while I fought the jetlag as we journeyed through the music and mayhem of Big Day Out Sydney. LCD Soundsystem, Arcade Fire, Battles and Spoon provided the soundtrack to my arrival in Australia. Phil and Mark became my newest Aussies friends. Good times were had.

[for everyone who's worried about how pale I am in the next picture, my face is covered in faded white zinc. I'm Scottish and I gotta protect that fair skin of mine. I'm not ill.]

I survived to the next day to enjoy the sunshine and celebrate my second Australia Day with the gang. We spent the day at The Domain park at the Triple J Hottest 100, a countdown of, yes, the top 100 tracks of the passed year. The top tune was so forgettable I couldn't tell you what it was. But it was good to see the Kaiser Chiefs make the 13th spot. A quick wiki search tells me Muse were number one. Dull.

It was great fun nonetheless and the sun beat good vibrations all day long. Sadly the same can't be said since then as we've endured storm after storm here on the coast of New South Wales. The circumstance that hasn't helped the fact Tristan and I have been walking over a mile to get to Kelly's pub to use its free wifi. I am something of a regular now and the bar lady who I met on my first day here in Sydney is always really sweet to me.

The Superbowl happened and the New York Giants surprised everyone, except a seemingly deluded Chris Shea. What an amazing game it was. I can't say which I wanted more though, for the Patriots perfect season to be wrecked or for Brady to destroy Manning and co. What can you say? The Giants were amazing and deserved to win. The biggest sadness of the day was that I didn't get to share it with my American fans back in Austin. I have certainly been missing that Texan oddity and all my friends who reside there. I'm trying not to be that guy who moves to a new town and bangs on constantly about how great the other place he lived is. I'm trying hard, but I miss Austin so much, it feels like a part of me is absent. It is an absence I have been dealing with by perfecting my own pica de gallo to accompany the many tacos I've been making recently. Oh Rafa, where are you when I need my $1.50 barbacoa on flour?

You will have noticed that the blog has undergone some changes. I'm not sure I'm happy with the colours yet, so they may yet change again, but my eyes were starting to bleed from staring at them. Oh, and I decided it was time to put the Chautuaqua to bed and adopt my moniker as the blog's name. Anyone who is linking, could you change it on your page? thanks guys. Anyone who I haven't linked to could you let me know your address please? As soon as I figure out a title, I will be launching my film blog too, so keep an eye out for it.

Promise to post again soon. And ps. don't ever let anyone discourage you by telling you that life isn't easy. Stay strong and true to yourself. Good things will come with faith in your capabilities and confidence in the future.

Tuesday, 22 January 2008

Coming soon: or how I learned to stop worrying and say goodbye to Austin

New blog. Keep your eyes peeled. I doubt anyone will see this just now, but new year, new name, new adventure...

Seen as how I couldn't say before I was moving to Australia, I'm now posting the short goodbye draft I wrote to Austin.

To say that my emotions right now are mixed wouldn’t come close to doing justice to where I find myself. Life is as tough as it has ever been, yet in equal measure as exciting. Where am I going? What is this dream I am chasing? It remains a mystery to me. But the fact that I’m pursuing it is the most important thing. Life is only tough because along this journey I’ve been blessed with many people who I would call soul mates. Each of whom have enriched me in different ways and beyond measure, yet each individual has also stolen a piece of my heart as the time comes to say goodbye.

I will miss second Sunday's at the Sock Hop and after parties in swimming pools and garages. I will miss breakfast tacos and free refills. Hook em Horns and Austin at night from Congress bridge; blue lasers illuminating the skyline. Ladybirds and Lone Stars. Hippy golf, tree love, one for the road and howdy strangers. Ace in the hole? Not this year; but sunset on 15 every time. Margaritas taste great any time of the day, but especially with friends. Idiots all around; creativity burning. Romosexuals and keeping Austin beard. Love, always much love. And the Alamo. Remember the Alamo.

Monday, 19 November 2007

Passive aggressive racism

Fantastically written piece in the Guardian today by Ronan Bennet about Islamaphobia, the author Martin Amis and our own responsibility for turning a blind eye to the kind of racism that would be considered unacceptable and abhorrent in any other context. Please do read.

"What do you make of the following statement: "Asians are gaining on us demographically at a huge rate. A quarter of humanity now and by 2025 they'll be a third. Italy's down to 1.1 child per woman. We're just going to be outnumbered." While we're at it, what do you think of this, incidentally from the same speaker: "The Black community will have to suffer until it gets its house in order." Or this, the same speaker again: "I just don't hear from moderate Judaism, do you?" And (yes, same speaker): "Strip-searching Irish people. Discriminatory stuff, until it hurts the whole Irish community and they start getting tough with their children."

Read the rest HERE

Thursday, 15 November 2007

For my American friends...

Sorry, but I had to post this one:

Something tells me it probably has something to do with guys like this: