some may ask, where are tom and joel these days? well here, you can find out.

Tuesday, 29 July 2008

Best of the Fest

Hi everyone. I'm still at the festival in Melbourne, the town that was founded by Batman.
Here are some things I've been seeing:

Ploy - A new Thai film from auteur Pen-Ek Ratanaruang about a couple returning from the US to Bangkok for a funeral. Having been in the states for a decade, they no longer have a home in Thailand and check into a five-star hotel. There, the husband meets Ploy, a 19-year old waiting for her mother to arrive from Stockholm. He invites her to nap in his room, which upsets the wife and exposes a gap in their 7-year marriage. The talky scenes are a bit mundane, with the couple's complaints of married life sounding a bit too familiar from similar films. The quieter moments, though, are remarkable; this is the most jet-lagged film I've ever seen. There's even the occasional suggestion that the characters are dreaming each other along the narrative, and you're never quite sure what's really happening or who's awake.

The Australian Centre for the Moving Image is hosting some of the festival's screenings, and it's the kind of place that I wish was in every city. Among other things, there are a set of individual screens that offer hundreds of short films...for free! So I can watch animated shorts all day long, which is just about my favourite thing to do.

Animation (with dogs) - Of course, this is still a festival and there are still the expensive ways to do things. This was a set of short animated films, all linked by including a dog in there somewhere. Some were European and weird, some were Australian and normal, some were Australian and weird, some were European and normal. My favourite was 'KJFG No.5', which I can't find on the internet but I recommend. It proves that the less dialogue more funny animal noises you have the better the film.

Blip Festival: Reformat the Planet - When Nintendo released its home and hand-held consoles, such as the GameBoy, it was a revolutionary technology that changed video games forever. Now, the kids who played them obsessively have grown up...and they've learned a few things. 'Chiptunes' is the name given to music created using video game consoles, and it's the subject of this excellent concert documentary. The genre is compared to hip-hop for its hacking of corporate technology, and to punk for its attempt to strip an elaborate music form back to its bare bones. However, it belongs entirely to the geeks, and differs to these genres in its complete lack of anger or outward rebellion. These musicians are taking their most beloved childhood memories and pushing them further, using them to create; making them do more than they were meant to do, celebrating but transcending nostalgia. The live performances at New York's 'Blip Festival' are energetic and lively, backed by jaw-dropping live visuals. As someone who has placed so much in technological pop culture, it's inspiring to see a generation use their favourite hobbies to create something wonderful and new. A great film, and a great way to learn about this exciting, generous, global, honest, independent and totally unique scene.

The Night James Brown Saved Boston - Another (very different) concert documentary, looking at James Brown's performance at the Boston Garden on the 5th of April, 1968 - one night after Martin Luther King's assassination. Illuminating interviews are interspersed with remarkable live footage of Brown, which exists because of the controversial last-minute decision to televise the concert, over fears of riots in the city centre. As the night went on, trouble and violence hit the streets of Chicago, New York, Baltimore and Detroit - but Boston remained peaceful. The film then explores (too briefly) how this momentous performance turned Brown into black America's new spokesperson and leader, who as an entertainer rather than a politician or religious figure could reach younger generations with a powerful, immediate effect. Brown took on this role, and helped to stop the riots not because he disagreed with them but because it was detrimental to the memory of what King lived and died for.
Also, there's a great short film with James Brown here. Watch it.


Saturday, 26 July 2008

and what tom's doing...

Sorry i haven't blogged in such a while. I don't really have much of an excuse, except Joel always seems to get there much faster than me.

war memorial in Canberra. light was really nice. we found out after this that the whole hill this memorial is on is a huge museum, full of about every war Aus has been in.

I got into rainy Sydney about 15 minutes ago, although warmer than the south, it's much more wet. Down south we've been doing the nature part of our travels, with lots of bird spotting, wombat cuddling and kanga feeding. I didn't realise how tame some of the animals here are, on a walk with Meredith we saw kangaroos that came right up to you, and multicoloured birds that landed on my shoulder. Which was just lovely.

koala! kawaii!

hmm. i've forgotten what this is called. but the others didn't look like this one...


Because of Joel having to go to his stinking film festival on time, and me having to get back to sydney to find another drinking partner and in a few days depart for fiji, we only got to stay one night at Merediths, which i've been wanting to visit since i was about 10. But it was still a lovely evening, her home is all you could ever want in the middle of the "bush", with lots of wood and comfy chairs around a fire. Its so lovely to stay in a home, instead of sharing a room with some bunks in. So thanks, Meredith!

The "bush" around Merediths house

Merediths house. Very cosy.

Travelling is getting worryingly closer and closer to not being travelling, and being home. With money being how it is i'm starting to dread the idea of a routine, but at least every time i think about it i stop taking this amazing holiday for granted, and enjoy every little thing about it.

Tonight i meet Cat, a Sydneyer I met the first time i was here, who's putting me up for the last few nights in Aus. Pictures should be up, a few days after the blog is published, of course.



Being urban, trying to be urbane.

So here's what's what and who's where: I'm in Melbourne, arrived this morning at 6am (it's now 10.15pm here). Tom's in Bateman's Bay, on the East coast, with Meredith and no internet access. We parted after feeding kangaroos and seeing some stunning Australian countryside (although I get told off unless I call it 'bush').

Soon after arriving in Melbourne I adopted 'festival mode': a map of the city in one pocket, a scribbled schedule of films in the other, and, thanks to the cold weather, I'm wearing 4 layers. Yessss. The Melbourne International Film Festival (yes, that would make MIFF) is one of the biggest and longest-running film festivals in the world, and shows a very wide range of films from all over the world. Unfortunately, it's plagued by bureaucracy based on suspicion and elitism, but we won't go into that. Today I saw my first film, Idiots and Angels, a dark animation about a lonely miser who one day sprouts wings, which try to turn him good. It was pretty good, but bleak.

Right now I'm waiting for a midnight screening of George A Romero's Day of the Dead, one of my favourite zombie films. Romero's actually doing a Q&A, but I think I'll miss it as his last film was really, really, really bad. I wouldn't want to start an argument. I plan to book for 17 more screenings, and then stop myself there, for the sake of my wallet. But there are some very interesting-looking things in the program.

As for Melbourne, I've only been here one sleep-deprived day, but I love it. It's exciting to be part of such an old festival in such a culturally wealthy place, not to mention varied. This place has everything that I love about big cities - activity, life, generosity, diversity, trams. It even has neon lights and rain. Brill. No photos from me, I'm afraid, as I don't have a camera. But hopefully I'll develop into such a master storyteller that you'll feel as if you're here anyway.

On the dessert front, something has happened. Something surprising...embarrassing...even upsetting. I threw away some cake. A fair amount of cake. I'm ashamed. But baklava is deadly stuff and should come with a warning. I couldn't even manage half before I had to get rid of it. Tasty, yes. Easy, no. Anyone wanting to lose weight should just have a piece of that on Monday, and you won't feel like eating for a week.

Maybe it's just the baklava talking, but I'm pretty excited about the next ten days.

Sunday, 20 July 2008

Oh, and the Pope says hi.

We're back in Sydney for one night only, stopping off on our way down to Canberra.
Frankly, it's a little strange. Yesterday was World Youth Day, and the Pope was down under to greet the masses. Today everyone who came to see him is leaving Sydney, but for some reason everybody has matching rucksacks and calls each other 'pilgrim'. It feels like we've come back to some weird future Sydney from a sci-fi novel, but it's still a nice city and friendly.

We spent the last 10 days in Byron Bay doing...well, not doing much at all. If that sounds lazy, then it's because you've never been to Byron; it's a place that's pretty well suited to doing not much at all.

IMG_6865It has sunsets like this every day.

Not only was our hostel rather nice, but they gave us free bike rental, so we spent a large portion of our time pedaling. Also, the beach is very pretty there, perfect for lounging around or going into the sea when you feel like braving the cold, and the waves (I got hit by a very big one). Byron is a lovely, friendly town, so it was always nice to walk around. Not to mention the huge selection of cake shops.

IMG_7039It also has moonrises like this at the same time every day.

Today we arrived in Sydney at 6am after a bus journey for which we packed cheese and avocado sandwiches, chocolate bars, fruit and double chocolate and pecan brownies (a selection representative of our stay in Byron). We tried checking into our suspiciously cheap hostel twice, then went to see a free break dancing performance at the Museum of Contemporary Art. We had a stroll around Sydney, then finally made our way into our room, before having more cake and tea.
You'll notice that that's the third mention of cake in this post, and well...most people know how much cake I eat in England. And I'll tell you what...Australia has done nothing to assuage this obsession. I've had to separate my money into 'accommodation budget', 'travel budget', 'food budget' and then 'cake budget'. Don't worry though guys, I'm on top of it.
Tomorrow we get the bus down to the suspiciously expensive hostel in Canberra, then meet up with Meredith (Tom's aunt) in a couple of days. I'm trying at the moment to change my ticket so that I can stay in Melbourne for the film festival instead of going to Fiji.
More as it comes.

IMG_7023The best part of Byron, though, has to be how whenever Tom went to the beach he turned into a giant, and then danced around like a huge Michael Jackson.

Saturday, 12 July 2008

Byron Update

Hello everyone, I'm okay now.

We've finally made it to Byron Bay, a small beach town at the top of New South Wales that's big on surfers and things like that.
Now, I know what you're thinking: "But wait! Isn't it winter in Australia right now? How could that possibly lead Tom and Joel to the beach AGAIN?" Well, Australian winter isn't actual winter. It's just fake winter, like in England we have fake summer that's actually just a monsoon season. I don't know why these facades are carried up so heartily, but it happens. Anyway, it means that the beach is pretty pleasant. Already we've been to the most Easternly point on mainland Australia, I tried my hand at body boarding, and we're even cooking. That's right. You should all be very proud of us. We cooked a Thai noodle curry, tortilla wraps... well, Tom does most of the cooking. But I make an extremely effective potwash.

Our hostel gives us free pancakes, as well as free body board and bike rental, and free movies and games. So yeah, we have it pretty good right now. We'll probably stay to the end of the week, and then make our way down to Braidwood, while at some point I'm going to Melbourne for the film festival. There's a definite 'last leg' feeling to being in Australia, probably because we're coming home in FOUR WEEKS. Are you excited? You should be.

Update-within-an-update: some lovely photographs.

IMG_6955God gives Tom what for.

IMG_6875 Probably the best sandcastle you'll ever see.

IMG_6767 Me at the most Easterly point in Australia, being all forlorn and romantic.

Tuesday, 1 July 2008

tom and joel Are in australia

and its rather nice.

After approx 15 hours in Singapore Airport, we got our last singapore airlines flight (boohoo) to Sydney. It was one of the brand new double decker airbuses, and all beige and clean. Finally finished watching No Country for Old Men, which, of course, was fantastic.

Took a while to get out of Sydney Airport, partly because of customs (They searched through our entire bags ("What's this wood?" "That's a photo frame from Ikea with a picture of me and my sister" "Yes well it's going to have to be checked over. What's this?" "That's some mud on my sandals" "Yes well if you want to bring soil into the country you should have checked the 'Are you bringing in any soil or plants into the country' box on the arrival card")) and partly because it was 6am in the morning and we probably didn't have a room until 2 that afternoon.



Sydney is beautiful, visually, and nasally. Although Saigon, Phnom Penh, and Bangkok were fascinating places, its nice being in a city that doesn't smell of crap half the time. Sorry south east asia. There's even an Aroma Festival being held here in a week or so. The skyline is beautiful at night, its like the clip they use for the beginging of films made by Miramax.

Today, poor old Joels been ill, so I spent most of the day on my own, and used it browsing lots and lots of clothes shops, as i figured i better use the day doing something Joel wouldnt want to do. In the end, i only bought one top, as i realised i don't actually have any money of my own, just the banks money, and i'm not in S.E.A anymore, so things cost real amounts of money.

No photos up yet, as i left a whole bottle of water open in my waterproof bag. Although a waterproof bag doesn't let water in, it also doesn't let any out, so my cameras helpfully soaked it all up for me. Thankfully the big one is working now, and i'll go recon up some photos tonight.
-obviously, photos are up now.