Newcastle

Travel =

– The plane was delayed about an hour because it was late getting to Auckland airport and an alarm went off meaning a delay in airport processing.
– I had to wait around for about an hour at the central train station in Sydney for the hourly Newcastle train.
– About three quarters into the train trip everyone had to get off and continue the journey by bus because of track maintenance.
– I finally arrived in Newcastle at 11.30 pm and the hotel lobby was filled with drunk uni students.
– Newcastle rules.

I was on a panel yesterday about artists and the dole. Centrelink, the Australian dole office, is pretty strict and there are all these work-for-the-dole schemes. There were horror stories of smart, talented people being forced to make dorky comics. There were also funny stories of all the creative things that people come up with to get out of doing stuff. Then I made everyone envious when I described Work and Income’s PACE programme. I’m glad that the New Zealand government takes the arts seriously.

There was an excellent panel yesterday called “Why are writers such bastards?” Everyone drank alcoholic ginger beer and yelled “BASTARD!” a lot. One of the guys on the panel revealed that he literally was a bastard as his mother had never married his father. The question in the topic was never answered, but there were many stories of bastardly writers, getting back at former lovers by writing bitter, award-winning poems about them. And y’know, it’s true: writers just write because they can’t do anything that requires real talent.

Last year the bar across the road from my hotel was a nudie bar. This year it had been transformed into a classy establishment. There was some spoken word stuff being performed there. It was of mixed quality. One chick read out pseudo sexy stuff in a pseudo sexy voice and said fuck and cunt a bit. I discovered that almost anything will sound cool if there’s a double bass being played along with it. Then ESL performed two songs “A Shadow In The City Cast” and “If if if”. I love ESL. I bought their CD in Newcastle last year. Frontman Eytan Messiah does this kind of hip-hop infused performance poetry over cool beats. I’m not sure how else to describe ESL, other than they are great.

Oh, here’s a tangent. My friend was telling me about a conversation he’d had with a New Zealand MC who’d just come back from Melbourne. This guy was saying how he was amazed at how all the hip-hop events he went to in Australia were full of white guys, and where were all the brown faces. Well, it’s because Auckland is the city with the largest Polynesian population in the world, not Melbourne. So while New Zealand has a strong hip-hop scene filled with many people of Polynesian origin, Australia has lots of white guys on the mic. So yeah, imagine a hip-hop scene where everyone looks like P-Money, lots of skinny white guys. And there’s a lot of guys like there here, and they kick arse.

Ok, then finally last night I went to a roundtable discussion called “Word is Nerd” about nerd culture. “I don’t want to be a nerd,” I wailed. “I want to be cool!”. But as nerdy as I can be at times, at least I’m not a Buffy fan.

This mornin’ I did some spoken word at a cafe. I was impressed that people actually dragged their arses out of bed and got along to the cafe for the eleven o’clock performance. I managed to concoct a few amusing pieces of writing that went down well. Good spoken word performance is so much better than stand-up comedy or poetry. No need for any “ladiesandgentlemen” vocal tics (a la Mike King) or angry young wo/man poems about George Bush being the antichrist. All you need to do is get up in front of the mic and share your tales with the audience. Well, I find it easy.

I walked up the Big Donger today. It offers lovely views of the Newcastle city, harbour and coast. And it smells like stale wees.

And that brings me up to date. I’m in a dark (blinds down, lights off) internet cafe, but it’s clean and doesn’t smell, so I’m happy.

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