bliumchik: THIS IS NOT SPARTA. I AM LOST. (splode?)
[personal profile] bliumchik
I am half-convinced, by now, that tales of sunny long weekends in Newcastle are but a cosy myth perpetuated by the organisers of This Is Not Art in order to attract people to their festival. Oh, sure, Hannah claims to have spent nearly a decade attending it with reasonable success in the weather. Faced with two consecutive years of rain, rain, rain I feel a tad skeptical. But hey, at least this time we weren't camping!

We met in the city at the unspeakably early hour of nine in the goddamn morning1 and divvied up car seats. Bonnie and I had a pleasant chatty ride in Hannah's car, interrupted only by an emergency bacon stop and a brief moment of confusion as Mat waved at us from the window of his car - in order, it turned out, to tell us to stop hogging the middle lane. We arrived at the Beachside Backpackers in a more-or-less coordinated fashion and set off to have lunch at a cafe which turned out to be twenty minutes walk away. (Luckily I had filled my thermos with tea at the hostel.) Only when we got there did I realise that I wasn't actually hungry, so wandered off to Staple Manor to check out some panels and things. I arrived just in time for the vaguely named "hosted by Vanessa Berry" which sounded exciting as she is a well-known Zine Personage. She was indeed very nice but what she was hosting turned out to be a bit of a sit down on some cushions to chat about her op-shop zines and upcoming festival events and such, so after a bit I left that to check out a Comic Book Launch on the other side of the same room. This turned out to be a Comic Book Not-Launch on the basis of the copies of said comic book having failed entirely to actually be printed in time for its own launch. However there were free samples, champagne, and David Blumenstein's industry stories, all of which I partook of before wandering off yet again2. Having been inspired by Vanessa Berry and the realisation that everyone else in my group was planning to go to the parties I had avoided last year, was not anticipating this year and had failed to pack for, I checked out some vintage and second-hand stores for improved attire.

I hit the jackpot in a little shop with a large collection of hats and bowties. Saturday Night's party was themed American Gothic. Nobody had managed to explain to my satisfaction what exactly this entailed, but I had gathered that pinstriped pants and suspenders with a circus-y touch would be at least vaguely appropriate, so I bought some pinstriped pants and suspenders3 and a totally irrelevant grey power-girl-boob-window dress that just happened to be awesome and fifteen dollars. I then returned to Staple Manor to catch the second half of How To Write A Craicin' Limerick. I had missed Thomas Guerney's opening spiel about the history of the form, and the definition of the word craicin' was not illuminated, but the workshop itself was a lot of fun and I felt that I made myself useful during the crowd-sourced limerick-improvement portion by pointing out that "fuckton" was a much better fit than "whole lot" (as well as just being a hilarious word in general). Here is one of the limericks I wrote:

There once was a man from Jakarta
Who wanted to meet John Paul Sartre
He travelled to France
And threw up on John's pants
Like a true Existentialist martyr.

Thanks very much to the Irish bloke whose name I didn't catch4 for fixing the meter in the final line :)


By this point I had entirely lost track of everybody else's location, and most of them weren't answering their phones (they later turned out to be at a performance event), so I spent some time hanging out next door at the Watt Space Gallery with some very friendly Artists In Residence. They gave me candy and showed me their half-finished oil-paintings, intricate ink-drawings of trains, butterfly mobiles cut out of old books and walls covered in typewritten fragments, which Pat photographed when he showed up (being the only member of the Writer's Society whose phone was on). Said fragments, the artist responsible for them explained, were drafts for a body-art/photography project she was planning, and some of them would end up written on the ribcages of nude models.

"I like the 'I am' theme," I said. "Oh, except this one, but this one's funny because it says THIS PAGE INTENTIONALLY LEFT BLANK."

The artist frowned. "I didn't put that there," she said.

I raised an eyebrow.

The artist pouted. "Twice today," she said, "People have come up to the typewriter and written things. I think they think it's a participatory artwork! It's not! I'm worried somebody will break my typewriter."

Then I bought a cupcake from her train-drawing colleague, who significantly resembled the character Ian from the excellent TV show Huge, and Pat and I headed off to find the rest of our group, who turned out to be at a show-debate called Performance vs Poetry. The debate, which was up to the final speakers by the time we got there, appeared to be about whether performance poetry was real poetry, or something. I showed up just in time for the hilarious final speaker in the negative, Hadley, and his insane and scatological Transmetropolitan-like rantings, followed by a rebuttal from Candy Royalle. Then we headed off to the Poetics of Intoxiaction, which was indeed intoxicating (if sadly lacking in non-fizzy mixers) but not super-poetic – the bit we stayed long enough to hear was something to do with muses and broad generalisations about the history of women poets, with able assistance from one dude in the crowd who may have been trolling. We decided to leave, although I had not finished my vodka and lemonade, so I poured it into my now-empty thermos and hoped for the best.

Then it was time for the American Gothic Ball! Unfortunately by the time Branko, Bonnie, Sarah, Justine and I got there it was packed enough that we had to wait in line for some time... and when we got to the front I realised I'd left my ID in the hostel.

We briefly considered trying to double-dip Bonnie's license, claiming the reason I looked different was because I'd dyed my hair. But then we discovered that the rest of our party was not even inside the bar, having fucked off to a park with some grog from a nearby bottle-o. We therefore sighed and got back into Branko's rattler to join them - but not before getting pulled over for noise pollution.

"You might be able to drive like that in Parramatta," said the fatherly policeman, frowning at us, "But not round here, all right?"

Then he let us off with a warning (according to Branko this can be put down entirely to the presence of ladies in the vehicle, which is a quaint rule of the road I had not previously encountered) and we proceeded to join the others in the park opposite our hostel.


Sunday dawned bright and early with the Zine Fair. This was once again set in an indoor parking lot, although this time it was reasonably dry for most of the duration. I split my time between sitting behind our stall staring hopefully at passersby who might buy our zines, wandering around buying zines with a stack of my little perzine in tow for swaps, and hanging out with [livejournal.com profile] artsnobsolution, [personal profile] jkrockin, [livejournal.com profile] mishka_jayne and [personal profile] snape at their stall, which had tasty biscuits!5

I obtained many excellent zines and artworks, including a short story in a box (IN A BOX), a woogly stuffed squid thing for Stan’s birthday, some excellent badges and several iterations on [personal profile] jkrockin’s feelings. Also I swapped my zine for a decorated spoon!

I had intended to leave midway to attend a thing entitled In Focus: The Internet Is Punk. Unfortunately I approached its stated location to find it empty, locked up and somewhat derelict looking, and so was forced to return sheepishly to the stall. At the end of the day, we counted up our several dollars profit and went back to the hostel, whence Sarah and I headed off to the Spelling Bee. In anticipation of that night’s Year Twelve Formal (an endeavour I was skeptical of at best, feeling a little worn out and over-human-contact-ified) I wore my new pinstripes and lent Sarah the Power Girl dress.

The Bee organisers got onstage and announced that participation was to take the form of names drawn from a large jar, and that the finalists would face off against Jeff or possible Greg Lemon, last year’s Reigning Champion. Sarah and I placed our names in the jar and pulled up some floorspace (having arrived too late for the lofty heights of chairhood). Lo and behold, my name was pulled out of the jar in the first round!

I got up onstage certain I was going to reign supreme. After all, who is a bigger grammar nazi than I? Who notices every instance of someone using “bare” instead of “bear” and every missed apostrophe? Who goes into flailing fits of exasperation when her boyfriend writes “whould of” in a history essay? ME, THAT IS WHO.

Alas, I had failed to take into account the fact that I was so tired I had been mainlining tea from my thermos all day6.

“Accessible,” I said, “Aye, see, ee, ess, ess-“

“Ohhhhh,” groaned the audience.

“Um,” I said. “That had another C in it, didn’t it?”

“Yup!” said the cheerful Bee host.

“Fuck,” I said. The audience tittered.

“Um, eff, you, see, kay, fuck,” I added. Then I got offstage and finished my tea.

Then I decided I was way too tired for the Year Twelve so-called Formal and went back to the hostel to have a nap and read Mogworld. Shortly after midnight Branko and Patrick returned to the room, buzzing so much I assumed that drugs were involved7, but this turned out to be a product of the contrast between their Party Mode and my Curl Up Under Things mode. Then Branko decided to go back to some variety of park-based afterparty, and I finally fell asleep.

On Monday morning I had planned to attend a pitching workshop, but by the time we finished with breakfast we were going to be late. Pat decided to attend regardless, while the rest of us had a scenic and chilly informal Newcastle Obelisk Tour, and Branko photographed some Daisy Crop Circles. We then piled back into the cars, in slightly different configurations – this time I was in Matt’s with Randall and Steve, two spoken word artists we were giving lifts back to Sydney. One of them promised vaguely to paint my nails and the other told the story of his Explorer Hat, which he claimed to have stolen from some posh British Elephant Polo-playing douche in Nepal (I paraphrase slightly).

Then I went home and collapsed for some time.




1 for those who do not know me, be not alarmed! every hour before noon counts as the goddamn morning in my books.
2 I was having a bit of a fidgety day and had circled entirely too many concurrent events on the program.
3 The store also had shirts and excellent aladdiny vests, but all of them were, alas, the wrong size. Woe.
4 The program said "featuring Simon McInnerny" and he was sitting right at the front, so that might have been him? IDK
5 It was also easy to locate by zeroing in on the nanna-noises xD
6 The first batch was vodka-lemonade flavoured, mmm-mmm!
7 Well, I don’t know what YOUR year twelve formal was like…
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Captain Oblivious

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