March into the archives : DJ Archie



The following profile of Canberra DJ Archie was written for Citysearch


How do you begin to describe the style of this astounding DJ? In a word: versatile.

Anyone who's seen Archie in action knows no two set are alike when he's putting records on the turntables. Depending on the crowd, he could be funking it up with some heavy house or laying down an old school hip hop flavour. This variety was even greater when he was providing percussive scratching for the band Smeg.

"Originally the whole metal thing was like Cookie Monster music to me," says Archie. "But being in a band taught me about chord progressions and opened my ears. It gave me the chance to be creative in a different light. With DJing you keep to a formula of mixing record after record with maybe a little scratching. In the band we were using electronic gear onstage that allowed me to write drumbeats and cool 303 noises."

When Smeg recently disbanded, Archie took the lessons he'd learned and began writing tracks with various DJs, including Nash T whose Burning Hands track (co-written with Chris Fresh) made it into the AMR Dance Charts' top ten. Archie anticipates this new track will be included on a mix CD planned for release later this year. Yet the most exciting development on Archie's horizon is the work he's done with Endorphin. Aside from joining him during the recent support slot for Moby in Sydney, Archie has been recording material to appear on Endorphin's third album.

"I visited his studio for one day and worked on maybe six tracks," says Archie. "It's something that's replaced Smeg really well and in a similar vein. I want to concentrate on heaps of other stuff as well but it's a great opportunity. He's put my name in a number of places, like sampling my scratching for a remix of Sunk Loto's Make You Feel."

Archie's concentration must be superhuman because, between residencies at the monthly Twisted parties and fortnightly gigs at Heaven, he's starting to appear at Plastic, SupaFly and Icebox in Sydney. Even with this hectic schedule he still manages to pop up at ANU Bar gigs and contributes every week to the ARIA Dance Charts, which are compiled from lists provided by DJs across the country. His future plans include spending more time in Sydney, where he's beginning to cement a reputation. But if you ask Archie about the scene in the Olympic metropolis, he'll tell you with his trademark humility "I'm a little fish in a big pond."

Given the right environment he's likely to become a monster.

Goatse seen in Temora



This design feature on the Federation-style Masonic Hall in Temora always reminds me of Goatse.

March into the archives : Betty Boop



A number of Betty Boop cartoons are in the public domain and this is one I screened as part of the 2011 Leeton Art Deco Festival.

My contribution to the above production is the mastering, which involved increasing the perceived volume of the soundtrack.

March into the archives : fashion victims



This 1998 Woroni cover photo I took featured a friend who complained a little about the smell of the tomato sauce we had running out of his nose. Below is a bit of the fashion spread.

March into the archives : BMA's Loud issue



This pic taken at a Silverchair concert became my first cover photograph in 1998.

March into the archives : gay beats



These images of naughty Lego men appeared in Woroni in 1998.

This was one of my greatest moments as the Art Director of a student newspaper. I'd been asked to prepare images for an article on gay beats, the public toilets where men meet to have sexual relations.

It was a challenging assignment as none of my models would agree to pose for photographs. Then I had the realisation that I didn't need actual people to pose for these pictures.

March into the archives : me, myself and i



The following piece on myself was published in BMA Magazine, October 1997.

Thought for today: DON"T DELAY DOING YOUR LAUNDRY!

This morning I opened my underwear drawer to find that the only clean boxershorts left were my unlucky pair. I'm not superstitious but their Union Jack design encourages reflections upon life and cruelties of fate.

Late one morning like today but years ago in another bedroom, I awoke and left my room with a towel for the shower, wearing the boxershorts which I now know are unlucky. My room had a separate entrance to the rest of the house and half-asleep I locked myself out.

Being a versatile and endlessly inventive thrillseeker, the opportunity to break into a house using a towel while disguised as Tim Brooke-Taylor was a welcome challenge. After climbing onto the roof, I loosened the tiles and lifted the ceiling manhole cover with a tent peg.

Since then those boxershorts have been avoided. While slipping them on this morning I had a premonition of being knocked off my bike on the way to university and killed. I imagined that a morgue attendant, preparing my body sometime later, cut off my torn pants to reveal the Union Jack boldly covering my manhood.

And assumed I was a fucking Monarchist.

March into the archives : Senior Lifestyle cover

March into the archives : sperm donation



The article below was first published in Woroni, the ANU student newspaper, and later Hungappa, the student publication of CSU's Wagga Wagga Campus. I also used it for my journalism course, it earned a distinction as well as a warning about the language used.

Sprog, cum, jism, love sauce, custard, spoof but mostly mess. I've possibly wasted more sperm than brain cells. When the fun is over it's been dried to sheets, discarded in condoms, wiped up with boxer shorts and given to unappreciative girlfriends.

It is truly amazing that males manufacture so much sperm, an average of 300 million microscopic tadpoles a day. Furthermore, at any moment there are 2-3 billion sperm being produced in the high-intensity factory and storage facility called gonads.

While seminal fluid is treated with a greater contempt than phlegm the people who appreciate sperm, aside from women in pornography, are doctors working in IVF. They are seriously keen to pay for orgasms. Sperm donation is part-time employment for some students in California who earn US$40 per ejaculate.

Now, aside from the proposition of a paid donation, the ethics of sharing your biological material are contentious. As modern medicine has been answering the prayers of childless couples for decades, the rights of the offspring to know their origins have only recently been recognised. This biological technology has grown thorny with consequences.

To investigate I gathered first hand research at the IVF department of the John James Hospital in Canberra. Upon arrival I was reminded of one of those certainties in modern life, that where there are doctors there are waiting rooms. This one had the usual women's magazines but the pictures on the walls told another story. Instead of watercolours, Anne Geddes' photographs hang throughout. There are babies in pumpkins, pea pods, cabbage patches and a giant photographic display of the department's many successes. My name was called for the interview and it turned out that selling myself wasn't necessary.

Like a blood bank they are always looking for donors and unlike a job interview there seemed no wrong answers. The technician placed a small pile of papers in front of me and soon the first of my preconceptions was discarded because recipients get no choice in the semen they receive. The technician explained they base this decision on the characteristics of the husband or the ethnic background of the single woman. Demand currently exceeds supply and donors from non-Caucasian backgrounds are rare. To help compensate some clinics share their material and it is an advantage that frozen sperm has no use-by date.

The paper work isn't nearly as intensive as you'd expect. There is a Statutory Declaration identical to those given at the Blood Bank which asks whether I've been recently tattooed, ill, operated on, had homosexual sex, injected drugs or otherwise exposed myself to the risk of disease. Then there is a legal document whereby I relinquish control of my semen, though I can choose whether it will inseminate single women. There is a sheet to volunteer information about my interests, education and reason for donating, to which I penned 'good will' knowing that writing 'to further career in journalism' would lead to regret - but if this is the case I can request the clinic destroy any unused sperm.

The technician returned to witness my signature upon the various dotted lines before leading me off for the first of possibly two blood tests that check for Hepatitis and HIV. A second test is required before the sperm can be used after six months of quarantine. After that it will be ready to be withdrawn from the bank but I will not know whether my genetic material has contributed to creating a child until one requests to learn my identity. This was legislated in Victoria and in recent years has begun to enter clinics via the National Health and Medical Research Council's ethical guidelines.

The physical check-up was carried out by Dr Martyn Stafford-Bell, a gynaecologist and obstetrician, who put the day into context by running late on account of delivering a child. Dr Stafford-Bell expressed a grim view of the Victorian legislation as a forecast for donor insemination. "Why on earth would you want to collect that sort of documentation unless some clown was going to make it a legal requirement that all these children are told who their genetic father was?"

Perhaps his opinion shouldn't be surprising. Until recently the medical profession have been running the donor insemination program. Two decades ago doctors would advise parents not to let their children know the details of their conception. Effectively the government has placed itself in the middle of their baby factory.



Three weeks later I am back at the John James to produce my donation. The technician pays $20 and seems to apologise that, while it isn't much, it's what they are able to offer. My deposit is made in a small room with a Staff Only sign and a vacant/occupied lock like a public toilet. Anyone who has donated blood knows that for less than 10 minutes of discomfort you get fruit juice, jelly beans, tea or coffee, biscuits and a current magazine to read. At John James they offered half a dozen old Penthouse and a foot fetish magazine called Leg Scene. In comparison to the wide variety of stimulating material available in a Canberra sex shop, the clinic's selection was limited, tame and entirely heterosexual. I was a tad disappointed there were no XXX videos or at least a radio to drown out the noise of the cafeteria across the hallway. Sex in public is exciting but spanking the monkey in a neon lit hospital room as people finish lunch is perverse.

Leonie Hewitt is spokesperson for the Donor Conception Support Group of Australia. The group caters for offspring, people contemplating using donor gametes and the donors themselves. She has three children conceived through IVF and views changes to legislation as important. "We've come to the realisation, having a 14-year old, a nine- and a seven-year old, that they may want information about themselves. If our children want to find the donors we will help them in any way we can."

Mrs Hewitt also argues it's important for the donors to know how far their genes travel. "At the present time it's 10 families with up to three children to each, which is an awful lot of family. The donors are kept like mushrooms, they should have more control over who they donate to and how many offspring they create."

She reacts strongly to the idea university students might be donors. "They're doing it for monetary reasons and haven't thought of the long-term implications and it's serious stuff. They need men who've finished having a family and know the joy that kids can bring. Young men are a bit too into themselves aren't they? We're talking about a child here, it's not some object that's going to be behind a window. It's a human being. Say you have bowel cancer? What if the offspring has that genetic trait in their biological make up? Why shouldn't they find out about it? I think that sadly the child has been neglected in the debate. We're at the point adopted children were 30 years ago and I hoped there would be a domino effect after the Victorian legislation."

Two weeks later I visit John James Hospital to ask the technician about my sperm count. Apparently my sample was extremely low and not worth freezing. I'd only abstained for a day and a half and they recommend a full three days. If I didn't have a child it might be interesting to wonder about the possibility of being infertile myself. However, I've come to realise that donating my genetic material is a messy matter because the relationship between donor, recipient and offspring needs to be clearly defined. Until then I'll decide where the goo goes.

March into the archives : The Great Condom Controversy



The following piece was written as a satirical article for an English class in 1991. It was published in the Year 12 Lake Tugggeranong College graduating class booklet that year.

Condoms have become an interesting part of teenage life and, from their humble beginnings, they have now taken on a widespread marketing and novelty appeal. However, the accessibility of condoms retains a humorous angle and one wonders if your typical French teenager a couple of centuries ago had the same blushes buying a sheep's intestines as a teenybopper now faces buying a protective prophylactic at the local chemist.

The embarrassment factor would appear to deter many from safe sex practices and who knows how many people avoiding a red face ended up with a case of the fungal jock strap itch or worse. Imagine going to your local mini-mart to buy your condoms with the convenience of local retailer and at a bargain price. You collect the product and bury it in your basket under a pack of crunchy carcinogenic cheese-flavoured crackers and head over to the check-out, hoping to beat the early morning pensioner rush.

The checkout operator brushes the last item across the laser scanner and your red face feels ready to subside when she hits the bell and, with her arm (still holding the prophylactic product) to the air, cries: "PRICE CHECK ON SUPER SLIPPERY STUDDED SENSUAL ENJOYMENT FOR A BUDGET PRICE, FRANK!!!"
She may as well as said "THIS KID HERE THINKS HE IS GOING TO GET LUCKY TONIGHT, FRANK!!!" to the pickled pensioner parade behind you and probably those in the delicatessen next door as well.

Maybe the shame would be eased by a sucessful marketing stategy of these products. We have already seen the introduction of coloured, edible and glow-in-the-dark condoms and are ready for celebrity endorsement advertisements on television where a bronzed he-man could assure the viewer: "When I wear a studded super stud, the studs are on the inside."

I query the one-size-fits-all approach to condoms and so do Americans, who recently released the new MAGNUM size to flatter those men who drive V8 cars. Perhaps sizes could be listed as Big, Huge and Liar with a marketing slogan not unlike Levi's jeans introduced. "Do you fit The Legend?"

Condoms have caused debate recently with the sensible suggestion of introducing a vending machine in our college toilets. The moral minority, who present as a conscience for society with members including Fred Nile and Jiminy Cricket, have argued that giving teenagers such easy access to polychromatic prophylactic protection with encourage sexual activity and a polydipsia for penetrational promiscuity.

The suggestion is that the placement of a dispensing machine would encourage innocent celibate Christian god-fearing children in the same manner as waving a red flag in front of a bull (or maybe placing an Asian boy in front of Jeffery Dahmer).

What moral guardians don't seem to realise is that these raunchy rubber roll-ons protect the user (or receiver) from god's wrath upon sleazy sex screw-arounds and venereal diseases.

I hope to see the day when condomology is an art form similar to balloon-bending or glass-blowing and wish for a time when condoms aren't required to reduce the spread of AIDS. Hopefully they will be accepted and not the brunt of English satirical pieces.

March into the archives : bionic flying man

March into the archives : Swoop



The following interview with Swoop appeared in BMA Magazine ahead of their concert in Canberra of March 1996.

Friday afternoon and Phil Donahue is discussing the benefits of mushroom tea. As the credits roll down the screen too quickly to read, my telephone rings. The voice of Swoop’s kinetic frontman Roland Kapferer explodes out of the earpiece. He talks wildly, leaping between subjects and barely finishing sentences. Life flows out like a list of pop references, Valentine’s Day has left him feeling like Robert Smith from The Cure. His throat sounds husky (“Oh, I just can’t stop shouting” he explains) and perhaps it won’t survive the interview - there is no choice but to take a hold of the conversation and get some answers.



Define the funk for me Roland.
“What is the funk? The funk is like woxo. We called our album The Woxo Principle for exactly the same reason, because it’s a kind of nonsensical word. It means absolutely nothing, and so therefore it can mean just about anything. As a word it’s like the non sense that sits at the birth of meaning, and I ‘spose, for exactly the same reason, funk is a great word for us too. I’ve had arguments with people for saying anything can be funk. That’s one of the greatest things because it creates a sense of freedom. There isn’t an attitude or a physicality involved, it’s more often associated with some kind of rhythm, or dance sort of thing, which is very much what we are interested in. ...The main thing is it can mean anything...It can also be Oasis, y’know ‘What’s the story (morning glory)’, that can be a funk song as well, if you just break down some of those barriers. Prince showed that...a lot of his songs really broke down what is rigidly defined as funk music, and I ‘spose we tried to show that as well. That’s why we called the album The Woxo Principle, it’s a kind of paradoxical, non meaning, zero signifier, sort of thing we try and do”.



So the title is open space for the listener to put their own meaning of woxo?
“Yeah. I guess that’s one way of looking at it. It’s all things to all people. As long as there’s a kind of tension. Josh, the guitar player in Swoop, and I are thinking of writing a PhD on it, working on the notion of tension in music, we’re going to try and write a thesis on it. I don’t know, I’m going on about nothing at great length here”.

Which is exactly what you would have me believe the funk is all about. Do you think Freud would have connected funk with sex?
“Yeah Freud would say it’s about sex but I’m starting to disagree with Freud, even though I used to be a big psycho analysis guy. I was constantly worried that everything I was trying to do was to have sex with my Mother. I still think I’ve got a pretty big Oedipus complex and I’m just going to try and get away from that. I am worried though, has every girlfriend I’ve ever had been a replacement for my Mother? In some ways I suppose they have”.

I’d say most of my girlfriends remind me of my Mum at least a bit. It could be worse though, she’s a great standard to compare them against.
“That’s awful. I’m not putting your Mum down or anything Jason, but that’s awful”.

Speaking of girls, you should see the two beautiful examples walking down my street at the
moment.
“That’s what I hate about not sitting there doing this interview with you, it’s not interactive like that. I’m into this whole multi media thing. I need to have the words but I also need to have the vision. I need to be able to click on two hot babes walking by your window, who look like my Mother”.

So do you miss your Mum on tour?
“Yeah, I’m going to write one of those funk road songs like Bon Jovi. The film clip will have me staring out the window of an aeroplane with the rain pouring down, going on about how hard it is on the road sort of thing. That’s what I want to do next”.



Swoop’s touring schedule makes them sound like a nomadic tribe.
“Yep, we’re nomads. A band of nomads on a winding flight across Australia...”
...No, I like the idea you keep moving with the seasons, on to better harvests, picking up the fruits of your labours...
“This is great talking to you Jason. I’ve found myself”.
Flattery will always get you a good article Roland, but tell me, what is the highlight of your career thus far?
“Gee, I’d say meeting Billy Joel. I just recently did some parascending with Patrick Swayze and Tom Cruise, that was great. I’d say the highlight thus far, other than meeting the big stars you read about, that is before they tire of me and flick me off, Patrick Swayze and Tom Cruise that was a great one but I’d say the real highlight, the ultra highlight, is actually playing to increasing numbers of people. That’s great. We’re getting very big audiences these days and that’s what I’m doing it all for, aside from the huge millions of dollars that don’t seem to be coming my way...We are very much oriented towards playing live, that is our thing. We’ve been doing it for a long time and it’s very difficult for us to get used to studios and recording things, we’re still learning about that. Playing live and getting some sense of performance, that’s the ultimate high I ‘spose, oh other than Ecstasy”.

What a coincidence I remark and my next question starts Roland on a very long winded and tall story about how Michael Gudinski, head of Mushroom records, phoned up the other day and ordered him to develop Peter Andre style abdominals or quit the label. He soon catches up with himself and tries excusing himself to make a dozen more calls this afternoon.
What already? I whinge. You haven’t given me a chance to ask my tough question. You’re wimping out on me Roland.
“All right, give it to me. Give me the big one” he dares.

OK, if I was to be really mean and harsh, I’d argue that Swoop plagiarise chunks of other people’s music. What would you say?
“Of course! The great Boy George from Culture Club said that’s all that pop music is, and we are all Boy Georgians in way or another. No, to be quite serious for a second, I think the notion of originality in pop music is really outmoded, and very 70s. The difference between originality and creation is that originality is to do with god, and Christianity, earth and all those things to do with unique and self foliation and narcissism or something like that. But we are actually very much into creativity, which happens in a group, where different things are combined. Different combinatory forms is what we’re interested in and that’s what we do. There’s a song on The Woxo Principle called ‘Ethemora’, which everyone always says “Oh that sounds like a Jackson Five song”, which it does, there’s no doubt about it. We went out to sound like a Jackson Five song. But it also sounds like other things that other people have put in. All the lyrics are fiendishly ripped off from a poet called W. B. Yeats, and there is actually a poem by him called Ethemora. Which no one else seems to pick up. All these people who accuse us of ripping things off aren’t well read or well listened enough to pick up all the references. We’re quite happy for people to go through and find references to things, just as long as they don’t do it in the kind of negative sense of “These guys are just doing that”, because we’re not just doing that. We’re putting things together in different combinations and that’s the really important thing we do. That’s what creation is”.

Is Swoop a big blender?
“A huge blender in many ways, hey do you want some champagne Jason? We really do need an interactive interiew. It seems you’ve got the girls and I’ve got the drink”.
Bottoms up.

March into the archives : Bo-C-fus

March into the archives : riding to school

March into the archives : Blue Moon



An old notebook reveals the 1994 origins of the lyrics for one of my better tunes, Blue Moon. The chorus was written in 2008 while recording VISCERA for the RPM Challenge, which was a great deadline to ensure I produced a bunch of music.

Blue Moon by ShowcaseJase

Do you remember the blue moon?
it was the night you made me swoon

Old flame never tamed
still alive in my chest
your name sounding plain
still quickens my breath

It aches a whisper quakes
on a soon remembered lip
as the thought is finished quickly
my guard no longer slipped

Why should you even care?
about something that was never there

Do you remember the blue moon?
it was the night you made me swoon
you probably never knew
you were in another room

Ease back from that flash
brought from the depth of my past
to steal back into
a self-conscious laugh

For your memory will still exist
after this moment has passed
It's my lacklustre tale
romantic half-mast

Why should you even care?
about something that was never there

Do you remember the blue moon?
it was the night you made me swoon
you probably never knew
you were in another room
dancing to a different tune
with some other dude

Blue Moon (Jase's single take) by ShowcaseJase

Above is a solo version of the song. My favourite is this instrumental gutar triggered by a drum loop and effected version:
Blue Moon by bassling

March into the archives : sivaD seliM

March into the archives : Human Traffic



The following piece on the film Human Traffic appeared in BMA Magazine.

What three products define the 90s? I’d suggest they’re the ubiquitous mobile phone, the modem for the World Wide Web and the drug ecstasy (or MDMA). Aside from the coincidence that all three products claim to enhance communication between people, depending on who’s talking, they are also portrayed as dangerous as they are beneficial. Mobiles allow you to arrange anything from anywhere but might give you cancer; the WWW lets you interact with people from all over the globe but has bestial porn and bomb recipes; and while ecstasy has influenced music, fashion and youth culture, its long term effects are unknown. And there have been films that promote the same opposing messages: for every You’ve Got Mail there’s the dark side of The Net.

It’s an interesting coincidence that two films which attempt to represent both sides of ecstasy and the rave scene are being released around the same time: Go on video and Human Traffic in cinemas. Both films find humour in the consequences of using popular and illegal drugs like ecstasy but do so from differing cultural viewpoints. Where the American film Go says that using drugs means mixing with dangerous criminals, British Human Traffic focuses on personal effects, to show both the euphoria and the paranoia that can follow. The rave scenes also differ between the two films with Human Traffic portraying the variety of recent fashions and musical subgenres in a detail which makes the rave in Go look like the generic backdrop it was.

Human Traffic also takes steps to show that recreational drug use is often a phase within a life that can lead to a more mature outlook on intoxicants. Yet whatever the film makes up for in authenticity it lacks in overall entertainment. Human Traffic actually resembles a less than average night on ecstasy in that there’s a lot of excitement prior to taking the drug, a blur of activity as characters E their way around the dance floor before an extended and sometimes tedious comedown.

The film also suffers from uncertain direction as it attempts to balance its early surreal humour alongside the serious character development of later stages. These shortcomings stem mostly from the screenplay of first-time director Justin Kerrigan, as does the impression that all of the characters are different voices speaking words from the same mouth. There is no doubt that Kerrigan has potential as a director but his script could have used the constructive criticism of a co-author.

While UK newspaper The Guardian has described Human Traffic as “the last great film of 90s,” my own view is that it is a realistic film in the two-sided approach it takes to ecstasy and its influence upon the 90s, but is ultimately more grating than great.



Human Traffic is the story of five friends who spend a weekend escaping the pressures of daily life by taking drugs, dancing and recovering. One of them is Moff, a small-time dealer who’s described as a “pill monster.” He’s played by 22-year old actor Danny Dyer who called from London recently where it was a weekday morning in late-Winter and he sounded the worst for wear. “Yeah I need a cup of coffee, it’s quarter to nine in the morning and I’m fucked” he explained before answering these questions about the film, drugs and the London club scene.

What do you think are the strengths of the film?
“You can go into the cinema having sunk 6 pints of lager and still understand what the film is all about. There’s no complex plot to get a hold of, it’s just about a group of young people going out and getting fucked over the weekend. Basically that’s it and it’s so honest that people can relate to it. That’s why the film works.”

Is Human Traffic an accurate representation of club life?
“Totally. For the majority of people in Britain that’s what’s going on every weekend, y’know. All the little drug jokes gel the film together and it had to be funny otherwise it would just be too intense. I think the whole thing works very well.”

What did you think of the location in Cardiff?
“It’s not a very nice place, a shit hole to be honest. 6 weeks was long enough to be there for me. The location was chosen because Justin’s from there and the film is about his life, it’s what he’s lived. My character was ‘sposed to Welsh but I couldn’t do the accent. I’m from east London, born and bred so we went with the cockney thing and it worked, y’know.”

What’s been your experience of the club scene?
“The clubs in London y’mean? It’s alright mate, y’know, I’ve lived it. I’ve done it and it gets to a point where you have to calm down, I’ve got a kid now, a 3-year old girl, so I’ve had to focus on my career a bit more.”

How important were drugs to making the film?
“I don’t know whether you’ve taken ecstasy before but it’s a buzz that you’ll never forget. And it’s easy for an actor to just click back in, y’know. [Speaking quietly] I’ve taken it. [Normal volume] So we all did that because we’ve all lived it, obviously none of us would’ve got the part if we hadn’t lived it a bit. It was weird but we all slipped back into it and had our own ways of doing it. I used to down 3 cans of Red Bull before every scene, for the energy and to feel wired. We had a few joints as well but there was no Class A going on.”

Are drugs important to the club scene in general?
“I think they’re very important, it goes hand in hand. From what I’ve experienced growing up, on the way to the club you’ll always stop off and get yourself a couple of E’s. It’s just the way it’s done, for me and for most people I know. I don’t know why but they seem to just go together. A perfect match and millions of people are doing it every weekend. I’ve tried clubbing afterwards without doing any [drugs] and it’s just not the same. Without drugs you stand there like a plum, so you’ve got to dabble a bit. Or you can no longer dance. It’s got to be done.”

Do you know what the title means?
“It’s just something that Justin’s father used to say to him as a kid. He’d come home from work and say ‘Hi Dad, what’s it like outside?’ And he’d say ‘Human traffic son, human traffic’. And it always stuck in his mind and I think it makes a good film title.”

March into the archives : The Internet

The following article on the internet appeared in BMA Magazine sometime around mid-1995 and captures my first experience of going online (aside from using a friend's modem to dial up a very basic bulletin board in 1983).

Timothy Leary called computers the “LSD of the ‘80’s” and from an old fart trying to sound relevant it’s quite catchy. Computers are, in my mind, a language that is becoming increasingly harder to ignore, and the Internet, is the Infobahn where the turn of the century already seems in sight.

It was set up twenty years ago as a US military experiment to design a decentralised computer network capable of withstanding a nuclear attack. Since then, it has been taken over by academics and recently commercial enterprise.

To visit the Internet you will need: a PC, modem, phone line and an account with a server. My tour guide is Rodney Swift, who works with the ‘net most of the day as a public servant and as a consultant. He explains that first you have to dial into a server, and from here you are linked with the rest of the servers in the world.

Different servers offer different information that can be downloaded onto your C drive or saved onto disk. You can also send E-mail which allows you to have conversations with people all over the globe. The trick is, you need to know an address to log on at different servers, otherwise you can “surf” the world wide web. The W.W.W. links servers through hypertext, which appears as highlighted words in text. You may click the mouse pointer on a hypertext reference to “Reservoir Dogs” in a critique of contemporary cinema and file will open that plays a scene from the film. Likewise, if you’re reading a document about music and click on the title Beastie Boys, you might be transported to the Grand Royal site, which is what we did.

The Grand Royal server offers icons to click on for a range of services. There’s: Grand Royal magazines (almost impossible to buy in Australia) that you can save, print and read; samples of eight songs by four artists (including: the Beastie’s, Luscious Jackson, DJ Hurricane & Noise Addict) and then you can down load an order form for merchandise (such as recordings and T-shirts, of which “all sizes in X-Large”). Yes, you still have to order by mail because credit card numbers become public property on the ‘net, though a solution is undoubtedly in the works.

Clicking on B. Boys opens a new directory and shows pictures of the band which load stuff like: thirty animated screen savers; segments of film clips and tour info (the band are currently in Europe). Same with Hurricane and Luscious, who’ve got live performances to down load and clips for “Elbow Room”, “Four Fly Guys” and “City Song”. Rodney demonstrates the morphing segment of Michael Jackson’s “Black and White” video, which runs at about ten frames per second in comparison to the twenty-eight available on television. This drawback will be ironed out as soon as optic fibre cables are laid directly to our homes, as Rod Swift explains: “It’s just going to be bullshit. In six months it’s gone from being crap to wicked. At the moment you can receive 28 800 bits per second through a modem, when optic fibres come you’ll be able to pump television images through and that’s not running at capacity.”

We decided to check out something a little more local and cruised to the Next Online site set up by the publishers of Australian Rolling Stone, Simply Living and Hyper magazines. There they offer: info on the Big Day Out; a Sydney gig guide and a sample of the Severed Heads CD ROM amongst others including “Fish Tank Cam” to replace your Afterdark screen saver.

To prove a point, we exit to the newsgroup Alt. Tasteless, where you can load pictures that would normally carry strict censorship warnings. The list of hypertext headings reads like an ad in a People magazine, “dog licking blonde, nude lady with peacock, Simpson murder photos, man run over by truck, golden showers, Cobain autopsy shots, circumcision pictures...”

“There is the funniest shit” says Rodney, “like a fat woman who’s knees swallow her legs which swallow her ankles, standing there naked with two guys dicks. It became the joke of our work.”

Then there’s not so funny shit like “child pornography and films of decomposing dead people.”

The latter particularly takes my girlfriend’s fancy but instead she asks to check on info about Glenn Danzig, her favourite artist. She’s in luck, there are lyrics from his bands The Misfits, Samhain and Danzig, along with footage from banned film clips, the latest gossip (he was offered the role of Wolverine in the upcoming X-men movie) and art from his publishing company (including Frank Frazetta who kindly illustrated the art we downloaded for this article). She spends the next hour saving onto disk while Rodney tells me about his experiences cruising the “Information Superhighway”.

“When I was interested in skydiving I was on here, until some guy on the other side of the world persuaded me it was a good idea....The Internet offers everything, I haven’t met a person who wouldn’t be interested in something it has.”

He talks about the personals that are like “Make-A-Date” in the Chronicle except “with pictures of fugly people who look like axe murderers”, or travel groups where you can arrange accommodation with ‘net users in other parts of the world. Visit computer art galleries, tour the Whitehouse and send Bill Clinton E-mail, read the London Telegraph or the New York Times, or maybe you’d like to talk on Group Wired, a party line of sorts: “You can say “you’re a dickhead” to someone you’ve never met. They might say “you’re a dickhead” and then another fifty people might as well, which is what has been happening a lot lately.”

The Internet is fast becoming the biggest public library in the world, though your library card adds up to a sizeable bundle of cash. Currently you can request songs for JJJ but it won’t be very long before you can watch movies, attend concerts and learn courses at university. Whatever you want to know, whatever you want to do, the world wide web most likely offers news groups, manuals, pictures or sound on the topic plus a heap of other stuff that you wouldn’t expect. Get connected.

March into the archives : Feeling Sexy



The following interview with Davida Allen appeared in BMA Magazine on 24 December 1999.

Feeling Sexy is the directorial debut of Davida Allen, a painter from Queensland who won the 1986 Archibald Prize for Portraiture. The film follows on from Allen’s two books about Vicki Myers, the semi-fictional/semi-autobiographical character of an artist struggling to transcend the roles of mother and wife. The conflict between these occupations is exasperated by Vicki’s belief that marriage needn’t limit her desire for passion, life and that feeling of butterflies in her stomach. It’s essentially the plight of the modern woman attempting to juggle her career alongside the expectations of motherhood whilst maintaining a satisfying sexual relationship. On the page this reads like chick flick material but Allen proves to be a stylish storyteller who uses humour to connect with her audience.

Critics who emphasise comparisons between Davida Allen and the character of Vicki have often overlooked these skills. Allen acknowledges her experiences contributed to the character of Vicki and has explained in a previous interview that “It’s hard to paint snow if you’ve never seen snow.” When the question was raised recently she answered: “Yes but, interestingly enough, I think the reason it strikes a chord with people is because I am, coincidentally, human and most people who are watching the film are also human. I think the film works because of its humanity. Sure I’m a woman and have had kids and have been there but I wonder if I could make films about stories I haven’t experienced.”

Glenys Rowe, the producer of Feeling Sexy, believes the story is successful because audiences respond “to the warmth in the film and because it is about real people’s lives. It’s interesting to talk about sex and it’s place in the world because we are surrounded by a sea of information about sex and so little of it is helpful. Y’know, I read all that Cosmo stuff and it doesn’t look anything like my life. I feel sorry for kids growing up in an era where - if you’ll pardon the expression - sex is thrust down their throats. Sex is sold as a commodity but that’s not what it’s about.”

One of the most striking features that Davida Allen brings to Feeling Sexy is the perspective of an artist. She describes the film as a fairytale and, like paintings, believes the imagery can be interpreted on a metaphorical level. One example is the dog that becomes a family pet after Vicki tells her husband Greg that she has been unfaithful. Allen describes the dog as “the metaphor of punishment. It represents the notion of an eye for an eye, a tooth for a tooth. In fairytales metaphors mean different things to different people so it is open for interpretation. There’s no one road to go down to get to the end of the story and I’m the last person to want to tell the whole story in the nutshell of a newspaper headline. I want people to discuss, to walk out of the cinema and be talking about the film. There are so few films where people will want to talk about the experience a week later. That’s exciting. I love intellectual debate and there’s not enough of it.”

Allen is certainly a filmmaker with a message about the role of fantasy within everyday life. This had been the original theme in the series of paintings which caught producer Glenys Rowe’s eye more than a decade ago. The process of translating Davida Allen’s material from one medium to another may have taken a long time but it hasn’t lost any of its poignancy. (Allen attributes the delay to the success of the film Babe that was directed by Glenys Rowe’s husband Chris Noonan). Producer Rowe describes that Allen “knew exactly what she wanted to say and it was a complete joy, [I’ve] never had such a fantastic creative experience working with anyone.” This raises the question as to whether Davida Allen will direct another film. Rowe says “She’s got the bug now” and Allen answers “I definitely hope so. It would be a great thing now that I’ve got the hang of it.”

March into the archives : Mighty Few



In the late '90s I penned a number of articles about The Mighty Few and took a heap of pics at their shows. The following piece appeared in The Canberra Times on 2 June 2000.

For a band who describe themselves as new metal and whose live shows revel in guitar feedback and anguished vocals, it’s bizarre to hear the Mightyfew talk about how their new CD is filled with “music from the heart.” Take the title track Cinema for example, ask vocalist Chris what inspired his lyrics and he’ll say that “for something to be cinematic is just so grand and wide and spaced out and gigantic” before explaining that it’s a love song written to express the loneliness he felt while his girlfriend was overseas.

According to bassist Rhys the album is “more about what’s inside us because we have a sense of ourselves.” This ability to share themselves was developed through two years undergoing intensive group therapy. “We sat down and had critical discussions and analysed our music. It sounds strange but when you’re playing live you never really have a good idea what you sound like. When you put out a record you rediscover your own music.” Through this self-probing process they gained a new perspective. One which allowed the band to pose intimate questions and resolve the issues revealed.

“You could put the last album down to teenage angst,” observes Rhys. “A lot of stuff was about playing hard. This album is more emotional. It’s more from where we’re at rather than where we want to be. As a result we’re not in such a hurry for the songs to get where they’re going. The track Cinema goes for five minutes. Previously we’d have needed seven or eight riffs to do that. I think our last album ripped people off by substituting music from the heart with big riffs.”

The band have learned that it was pain which expressed itself in angry songs like Public Service and God Fearing. Is it a cliché to suggest that the Mightyfew have matured? At the launch of the last CD drummer Mudge was only just old enough to play licensed venues. In comparison the launch of Cinema sees most of the band in their 20s. “I think there’s a giant step that’s been taken between the two albums,” agrees Chris. “We used to write music that intended to physically move the crowd. Two years ago I said that we knew when a song worked because we’d all be jumping around at the jam. Now I know it’s working if I feel sad and sick and really want to lie down. That’s the main difference for me.”

So while growing older has allowed them to share their feelings, the music had taken its toll on their bodies. To compensate for their strenuous performances the Mightyfew have needed to adjust their approach. In order to continue playing gigs without intermissions for Chris to lie down backstage the band have had to write more invigorating material. “On the last album we’d be going flat out and then we’d be stopping and starting, stopping and starting. That’s the main thing we tried to fix. There’s one song on this album called Unrest which is very much in the vein of the last album but it’s got a driving rhythm. We can’t wait to see to moshpit explode to that song,” enthuses Rhys.

“For me the title Cinema explains how we want to be seen. It’s like, this is us. This is our performance. We’re visual and our performance is an experience that demands an audience focus on it. You’re left with no choice but to take it in. That’s what Cinema means to me, it’s more than a show, it’s an experience. This is not an album to have in the background,” declares Rhys.

Chris describes how the CD is literally overflowing with music when he reminices about recording the last track in Newcastle during March. “We’d finished our tape and wanted to record this song that we’d written six or seven months ago. Because the secret track at the end of the last CD didn’t really reflect us we wanted to use an instrumental that we’d written about six or seven months ago. Mark (Tinson, sound engineer) pulled out this weird tape that had been left behind and found two and half minutes on the end and said he’d give us a signal when it was about to run out. When we listened to it later we decided the way the track ends with the tape finishing sounded cool, like it had just run off the end. It’s like we’re too big for the CD.”

The album is a luscious production. Bigger than Ben Hur in widescreen and that’s fucking huge. It’s also a beautiful package which displays Chris’ talent as a graphic designer. More recently his work for BMA Magazine has shown a sense of space which borders on minimalism but he’s quick to belittle any comparison between the two. “Lyrically I’ve never fancied myself as a good writer. My minimal approach to graphic design is not the same as my approach to writing lyrics. I often confuse it for laziness because I like to get a feeling across in the bare minimum number of words. I like bands where you can’t totally understand the lyrics but it’s not alienating. A stranger who doesn’t know anything about me will have a sense of what I’m singing about. That leaves space for interpretation because people don’t have to assume that I’m talking about myself.”

You can see the Mightyfew launch Cinema tonight at the Woden Youth Centre or Saturday 10 June at the ANU Bar. Listeners who are interested in what Chris is singing can read his lyrics at the band's website.

Christmas celebrations in Leeton



The phone rang the other day. It was a friend asking whether the floods were a problem for us. We've been in Leeton for a few years but were living outside Wagga Wagga for a while before that, where flooding saw the CBD closed earlier this week.

The flooding hasn't stopped Leeton from celebrating Christmas. Which is fair enough, I guess. If you knew a 100-year old who said they wanted to celebrate Christmas in March then I'm sure you'd let them, right?



The centenary of Leeton presents an interesting perspective on the current flooding. Currently the supermarkets are struggling to supply some food items. I heard many shelves were bare earlier in the week and rising floodwaters will conitnue to close some roads.

More than a century ago the governments of the day considered the potential for food scarcity and developed irrigation farms, such as those in the Murrumbidgee Irrigation Area (MIA). Leeton was the first town built as part of decision, with the city of Griffith following.

The Murray-Darling Basin Authority have revised their Basin Plan but it will still see the MIA lose some of the water allocated for irrigation farming. Food security remains the strongest argument against this proposal.

A century ago the governments saw the benefit is developing irrigation to ensure food would be available to grow Australia. I don't see what's changed, especially after recent bare shelves at the supermarket. If local flooding can threaten the food supply, what could a larger disaster do?

Heart of the Riverina revealed



Another view of the Heart of the Riverina that I blogged about last year.

According to my friend Casey, this heart-shaped dam near Wagga was built by a Mr Shaw in memory of his dead wife.

Because many shires call themselves the heart of the riverina, I was entertained to find a heart symbol near Wagga Wagga on a satellite map since the area probably is around the centre of the region.

Redferno (feat.SloJo)



In 2005 my partner and I recorded this song about the expression 'getting off at Redfern' (slang for coitus interruptus). It was a simple tune and based around a riff I first played in 1992. I thought the lyrics were lousy but I love Jo's singing so I dubbed it up a bit.

A couple of years later I was finalising a bunch of tunes for the YOUR album of 2007 and I remixed the track with some Apple loops. It gets pretty heavy for a dance tune.

Empire writes back


Seen at b3ta.com

Wonderfilled

Segway fun



One week into March 2012 and it's already the wettest on record locally.

Which is why on the weekend we invented a game called Pretend You're Riding a Segway and then watched the following 90 seconds of Segway crashes.

March into the archives : Resin Dogs



The following interview with Jigsaw from The Resin Dogs was published in BMA in August 2000 and a different version appeared in The Canberra Times a month or two later. Pics above from their performance at the 1999 Sydney Big Day Out.

The Resin Dogs are a rare beast, a band who perform live hiphop with all of the textures you’d expect to hear on a recording. It’s a fusion that’s nicely summed up on their new CD single ‘Daily Trouble’ with its photo-collage cover. “In fact,” says sample operator and sometime disc jockey Jeff (AKA Jigsaw), “the ceiling above the crowd is hallway out at the University of Canberra although the crowd is from Adelaide.”

It was a surprise to learn that playing live was something of a new experience for Jeff given the strength of their performances. But he explains that the four core members of the band have different backgrounds with drummer Dave and bassist Chris coming from the live scene whilst Jeff and DJ Katch had been releasing mixtapes and hosting community radio shows in Brisbane.

“It’s good to have a crowd because you get an immediate response and all those other clichés,” says Jeff. “And I do find that I change my songs because of a crowd’s response but when it comes to songwriting I tend to delve away from the band and go straight into my record collection. Even though I’ve got a drum machine and analogue keyboards I’ll stay away from them too. I’d rather to find a drum machine which has already been recorded because someone will have spent four hours getting the kick drum to sound huge. You can just sample it off the record and steal the production. I’ve always been hellbent on keeping everything on the track a sample, so when I write songs I try to keep it that way.”

But this style of musicianship is becoming increasingly difficult.
“Because we’re getting more exposure I’ve got to be selective in what samples we use. Which makes it a bit hard. You can always sample on note of a trumpet and then play that as a riff on a keyboard but it’s like writing a song from scratch. Personally I like writing songs where you can hear half a bar from somewhere else. Where if you listen hard enough you can find where a song has been taken out of context and used in another way. I like that deal but the legalities of it often don’t let it happen.

"There’s been some interesting stuff we’ve used. I’ve sampled a cover of the MASH theme. There’s one track on the new album with a Deborah Harry sample, a George Michael sample, a Pet Shop Boys sample and they’re all used in such a way that it sounds like it was recorded today. It’s just from taking the production on a drum sound.

"There’s a song Dave’s written which uses a Michael Jackson sample but it’s always about contributing to the sound rather than stealing a hook – if you know what I mean. I get into stuff from the late 60s and early 70s, especially parts in a song where there’s a key change. You take the bar from before and the bar or half a bar after and create something that’s not from that record. Just by getting a part that’s not a whole on its own you can get something totally different.

"Similarly a lot of the tracks on the album are stuff we’ve been playing [live] for years but we haven’t attempted to get a live sound. Eventually we’ll put out a live CD with live instruments but it’s a totally different area. It’s a lot like how when people hear our music live they’re having a ripping time because of the alcohol or whatever and if you go and listen to it on CD it’s totally different because they’re in different mindset. There are live tracks floating around but that’s a different side of the band.”

March into the archives : gender essay/fiction



The following short story was written for an anthropology class on gender in 1998. All of the best bits come from the work of Anka Radakovich, shown with Michael Jackson in the photo above. Sex and the City hadn't started screening in Australia yet.

“Sex is to gender as nature is to culture. Discuss”

An essay/mock-article/short fiction by Jason Richardson for ANTH2025

Before civil rights and the second wave of feminism, James Brown told a generation of sisters that “It’s a man’s world”. Well, I’ve always wanted to penetrate it.

You might expect this would require years of hormone treatment and extensive surgery but I’ve found a scoop. By switching gender identities I wanted to see the world through the male gaze. I’d deconstruct our differences. I wanted to test Simone de Beauvoir’s theory that the roles of male and female are shaped by our reproductive organs.

Think about it. Women, with our internal, squishy accommodations tend to be more self-protective and introspective. On the other hand, men, because of their fleshy protuberances are constantly reminded of their biological imperative: a mission discovered during puberty to spread the seed and conquer the planet. Women don’t make a big deal of what’s downstairs. After all, it’s one thing guys aren’t too judgemental about. Men are clearly more vain when it comes to genital appearance. That’s why they’ve built monuments throughout the world to resemble the phallus. It’s a man’s world all right. And for the full manly experience I needed my own Twilight Zone episode. Y’know, the one where Jane Doe turns into Joe Average and no one notices. The next best thing on offer was a reconnaissance mission as a gender spy. An undercover Bond girl. I’d once been told that I had balls. It was time to time to weigh them.

I arranged to collect the evidence and, ultimately, I wanted to rock the world with my counter-cultural excursion by writing the type of thing that makes footnotes for a decade.

An article that reappeared on reading lists throughout my years at university was ‘Throwing like a girl’ by Iris Marion Young. She was a phenomenological existentialist - which sounds like an overstatement for someone who makes sense of a phenomena such as nature. She argued that as a Western woman my understanding of femininity is based on a biological fact. That as a woman, my existence was shaped by my physical abilities and actions. I figured that if there were any truth to this, then by experiencing life as a man I could compare the theories and stereotypes to my gender reality. Furthermore, if I could pass as a man in the world, it would be because my actions didn’t unselfconsciously give me away as a woman.

To guide me out of the Yang - my big, black hole of femininity - I enlisted the skills of Alexis Jones. She runs a performance group - Feminine Disposal Unit - who promise a culture shock without leaving town. Something like an out-of-gender experience.
A passport to the Men’s room.

Alexis explained what was involved and suggested traits to incorporate into my new male character. “The trick to passing as a man is thinking and behaving rather than looking and acting” Jones encouraged. “If you feel confident then nobody will suspect. And rather than being bemused, you’ll be surprised at the man you’ve become”.
To begin we picked out a wardrobe. For it to fit properly I flattened my boobs with bandages. My make-up came off and I unclipped my hair. Finally, I removed my jewellery and put it into the toe of my heels. There was an eerie moment when I felt a sensation like the type of unconfidence that plagued me around puberty. It was gym changeroom all over again. The sentimental shiver passed as Alexis slicked my hair back and rubbed a dark powder onto my face.

Slowly I developed blackheads and pores and even a five-o’clock shadow. With a little more make-up she’d simulated an Adam’s apple and a cleft chin. Then Alexis applied the masculine veil of facial hair. Just an arch or three: a 70s cop show moustache and fattened my eyebrows. I was almost too stunned to stop Jones from applying a hairy mole upon my cheek. Almost.

After completing my disguise with a pair of glasses, I found myself wondering if the mirror never lies.

Surprised at the man I’d become? Horrified more likely.

If you’ve seen Herb Ritts’ photographs of Cindy Crawford in drag you would know why. I’d expected to look like a studly, young guy. Instead I looked like a freak, a short low life, a statistic from the column marked long term undesirable. If clothes make the man then the outfit and glasses made me Mike, an uneducated geek. A walking contradiction and I seriously didn’t want to recognise myself.

Before the shock wore off Alexis handed me a condom and a tube of some blue gel with the instructions to “Fill ’er up!”. The joy at shaping my own manhood did little to discourage Freud’s theories of penis envy but I was determined to have something match my expectations. Alexis was horrified at the thick balloon in my hand: “Don’t make it too big,” she warned. “Just remember you’ve got to wear it”.

After reconsidering how much weight my pants could hold, I began my life as a man. Alexis suggested I practice a masculine strut and with much gusto I gave her a walk-by. I was literally a step ahead on the path to manhood thanks to my research. It was a dramatic paraphrasing of Iris Marion Young’s observations. She noted that even in the most simple bodily movements you can detect a gendered style and extension. Men are typically more open with their bodies and their gait and the masculine stride is proportionally longer. A man will typically swing his arms in a more open and loose fashion and keep a ‘Reggae’ rhythm in his step. Alexis promised to read Young’s article and suggested it helps to visualise each movement as an athletic activity.

“While putting on your glasses you should be flexing your muscles. Because, men are by no means superior athletes,” observed Jones. “More often their sporting efforts are displays of bravado than genuine skill”.

We spent an hour evaluating each other’s deportment, swigging beer and smoking cigarettes, before dialling a pizza. We burped, Alexis farted and I became accustomed to re-adjusting my crotch. She emphasised the use of strong language for emphasis and warned against buying anything labelled ‘diet’ (though Pepsi Max is considered acceptable). A revealing lesson detailed men’s room etiquette. In public toilets Jones recommended avoiding both eye-contact and the trough (unless researching the phenomenon of ‘stage fright’). “Remember the mantra” said Jones in closing, “real men shake dry...”.

To test my disguise Alexis suggested a visit to a local nightclub. After spending the afternoon getting dressed and drinking beer on an empty stomach I was keen. She drove and, though a well-informed local, I was soon lost. Thumping music grew louder as we climbed the stairs and entered through a partition directly onto the dancefloor.

Writhing bodies surrounded us and self-consciously we joined the rhythm. I looked around at the crowd expecting to see strange looks at my awkward dancing. Instead, I saw tall awkward women dancing with a few men. Alexis grabbed my arm, led me over to the bar and ordered drinks. I asked where we were. “Just the place for a drag king” said Jones, “Sydney’s most popular transvestite bar. You’d think that if anyone could see through your disguise it would be a fellow cross-dresser”.

Apparently not. As we watched, topless she-males circled the bar. I saw one guy who had quite obviously applied concealer to the five o’clock shadow on his breast implants. A pretty woman who looked like a bad Joan Collins glided by, tweaked my drawn-in cleft chin and whispered explicit nothings into my ear. My bladder reminded that some beer was demanding an urgent exit, so I mimed to Alexis that I was going to the toilet and became very confused. Both the Men’s and the Ladies’ rooms were filled with men in dresses. The suffocating smell of ammonia in the men’s coupled with the stalls with no doors left me with no choice but to use the Ladies’. But when I tried to enter a bunch of guys dressed as women wouldn’t let me through. They thought I was a guy. I probably represented half of the club’s female patronage! My bladder was getting gender bent out of shape. So I went back to the Mens’ and hoped I wouldn’t drop my phoney baloney.

With a great sense of relief I headed back to the bar and found Alexis absent. She must be having better luck in the ‘Ladies’ I assumed and took a seat. Minutes ticked by and anxiously I began to look around the club for her. In the process I made eye contact with a she-man who started to walk over. “Buy a lady a drink?” she asked with a deep, hoarse moan. Before I could reply she ordered a Rum and Coke and a Clit-Licker.

She introduced herself as Julie and made small talk while I looked around hoping to spy Alexis. The drinks quickly disappeared. Twenty then thirty minutes ticked by and Jones still hadn’t shown up. Julie asked me to dance and before we’d got to dance floor had rubbed my chest and exclaimed “Wow, what pecs!”. Her suggestive dancing was exceptionally good and unnerved me. Flirting is a gendered language like French but at a transvestite disco the roles seemed hilariously wrong. Julie began to rub against me and I twisted out of her arms giggling. If a chick with a dick got it on with a woman crossed-dressed as a man: wouldn’t it be heterosexual sex? It was getting warm and I worried that sweat would wash away my masculine facade. I waved to Julie and headed out the door thinking to catch a cab back to Alexis’ for my car. The cool air hit me as the alcohol did.

Then Julie stepped through the door behind me. “Are you going to ask me back for a coffee?” Julie enquired.
That wouldn’t be such a good idea I said and started down the street. With long strides she walked up next to me. “Fine” she said, “it’ll be the cafe around the corner then”.

We sat at a booth waiting for the waitress. I nervously looked at the young guys across the room and Julie explained that sexuality was like a beverage: “Some people develop a taste for flavours that defy the menu. See, you’ve got coffee or you’ve got hot chocolate. But some people like mocha” she said with a wink.
The waitress arrived and asked our orders.
“Two mocha’s” said Julie.
“No I’ll have a strong flat white” I said as the waitress turned to leave.
“Men” Julie cursed under her breath.
Within hours of becoming a man I was being blamed for the entire sex. It was enough to make me want to confess but I decided to play devil’s advocate. “You say that like you’re not male yourself” I argued. “Are you a Decaf?”
“I’m not” said Julie flatly and annoyed, “I’m a transsexual woman”.
This was like a big, red STOP sign in front of my argument. “You’re gay, right?” Julie asked - now erecting an entire set of traffic lights.

I hesitated before nodding, considering that as a heterosexual woman this would make me a homosexual man. (Which reminded me of Valerie Solanas’ line in her SCUM Manifesto, that: “To be sure he’s a ‘Man’, the male must see to it that the female be clearly a ‘Woman’, the opposite of a ‘Man’, that is, the female must act like a faggot”).

“So remember how you felt coming out” she continued. “All the shit and innuendo, the homophobia - now multiply it. Trannies are ridiculed by society, misunderstood and rejected. My father and brother think I’ve betrayed manhood by transitioning to my true female gender. My self-fulfilment isn’t about sex, it’s about reassigning my anatomy. I’m genitalia-challenged” Julie said with a sad, wry smile.
“It’s the same old ism of fearing what you don’t understand” I offered, trying to sound sympathetic.
“Yes - but that’s not going to solve anything. Transphobia is just another word, a label to counter all the insults. Society has got two sexes and a few labels and it keeps things simple if it stays that way. Hopefully these entrenched views will change. People will realise that transexuality is not a lifestyle decision. It isn’t cosmetic surgery, it’s a medical condition called gender identity disorder”.
“That sounds almost hormonal” I injected. “But isn’t it just another word like transsexual? Another label with another connotation to detail another aspect of gender?”
“Well what is gender but a hormonal process in the foetus?” replied Julie. “Our reproductive organs aren’t who we are. Gender interprets nature with a series of labels, but really it’s a scale, a spectrum, like the DJ’s crossfader switch between two turntables. One record’s playing testosterone and the other oestrogen. They’re extremes of masculinity and femininity” she said, warming to the metaphor. “You can label different spots on the mix and maybe market them as a new song. But really, somebody just put my record in the wrong cover”.
We laughed.

Later, after my coffee and more conversation, Julie invited me back for a hot chocolate.



Bibliography
Novak, Julie. Transphobia in our Community, August 1997. Quirk, Canberra free street press.
Radakovich, Anka. The Wild Girls Club: Tales from Below the Belt, 1995. Random House, Melbourne Australia.
Radakovich, Anka. Sexplorations, 1997. Random House, Melbourne Australia.
Solanas, Valerie. SCUM Manifesto quoted in Greer, Germaine The Female Eunuch, 1970. Granada Publishing Limited, Aylesbury Great Britain.
Young, Iris Marion. Throwing like a girl: a phenomenology of feminine body comportment, mobility and spatiality, 1990 [1980]. Reading Brick.

March into the archives : internet pornography



The following piece on internet pornography was published in Woroni, August 1998. Originally it was written as an essay for a womens studies class.

Variety is the spice of life and the Internet literally has it all. If you’ve ever wondered about female ejaculation, fisting, bondage, anal sex, sado-masochism, golden showers or penile enlargement - the Web can probably satiate your curiosity.

The vast amount of porn is perhaps hardly surprising. As an unregulated sounding-board for the online community, the World Wide Web offers cheap distribution of almost any type of information, and, similarly to photography - unlimited reproduction. The analogy is apt since the origins of modern pornography are closely linked to the unprecedented graphic realism offered by the medium. Over a century later a new technology continues the obsession and illustrates the promise of the Internet to change our lives in the next century. The possibilities for interactive business and entertainment are both staggering and developing quickly to satisfy that most basic of human instincts. Unsurprisingly, recent trends towards amateur pornography and exhibitionism have bloomed on the Web and radically redefined Feminist criticisms of the genre.

Pornography by its nature raises questions about accessibility and later I’ll discuss censorship on the Internet which, though lacking a single governing authority, has developed it’s own forms of regulation.

Pornography on the Internet assumes many forms through literally tens of thousands of sites which detail every possible fetish. From prosthetic limbs to lactation and elderly swingers to photographs of celebrities that may otherwise lead to court cases (including an infamous home video of Tommy and Pamela Lee). As a decentralised network, accurate statistics are impossible to ascertain. An estimate from the webmaster of Teen and Amateur Kingdom (http://www.atkingdom.com) suggested over 20,000 sites. Word searches using Infoseek ranged from 50,117 for porn to 438,842 for sex, however some sites were listed more than once and of course not all relate to pornography (including one humorous example which billed “wet pussy” and offered a drenched feline). Of these the majority are ‘anonymous’ sites because the webmaster is not represented within the images, unlike personal homepages which centre around the author.

To research both these types of porn, roughly two dozen e-mails were sent to webmasters asking questions about themselves, the source of their images and the origins of their site - to which there were five responses. Shedding light on the ‘anonymous’ sites were webmasters from ‘Who’s Your Daddy’, ‘Amateur and Teen Kingdom’ and a Nowegian named Kai Johansen. Exhibitionists Shelley and Risque Renee were both keen to discuss their homepages and the pleasure and profits they provide. It should be noted that whether the information collected from webmasters is true highlights both a fault and freedom of the Internet. Within chat groups gender and identifying information is offered as seen fit and it is easy for users to assume other gender roles. Representation is totally controlled by whomever is at the keyboard. However, the responses gathered offer a variety of reasons for creating and maintaining a pornographic website.

Kai Johansen’s site (http://home.sn.no/~kaijohan) offers nearly 200 ‘softcore’ pictures of naked women. The images are fairly tame in comparison to much of what the internet offers and could be compared to those found in Playboy or Penthouse. He described himself as a married, 26 year old Norwegian who works with the Internet and explained the site’s origin “As a test to see how many hits [or visitors] you can get when you have pornography on your site. I put up about 20-30 pics to start with and had a notice that my site was only a test so it would be down in a couple of weeks. The response was huge, people wrote to me and said that I couldn’t take it down. So just for fun I started to put up more pics and decided to leave my site up and running. I am doing this just for fun and my site is totally free and I don’t make any money on it. My material is sent in by the people who visit my site”.

This approach to material seems common on the Internet, where copyright and even acknowledgment of the photographer is virtually nonexistent. This is again reminiscent of early pornography during the late nineteenth century, when photographic negatives circulated freely without the slightest consideration for artistic copyrights. Legal precedents are still being set and a recent example is the action taken by Sony, as the record company of rock group Oasis, who ordered unofficial websites to remove band photographs, soundbites and lyrics.

Mister Grimm runs the site “Who’s your Daddy?” (http://www.whosyourdaddy.com) which offers explicit pictures of naked women, similar to Hustler or Black Label Penthouse. Grimm is an American college student majoring in computer science, from a “slightly conservative middle class family”. He started the site a year ago “Because there is a vast untapped market out there. I saw all of these porn sites on the web and I was wondering what the attraction was, beside the obvious, that would make webmasters devote this sort of time to a site. So I started mailing webmasters, asking questions and I found out the perk: MONEY”.

Commercial websites will pay two cents for each visit they receive through an advertisement. With this Grimm pays a licensing fee on the images, which can provide proof that the models are over eighteen and have consented to the acts and photos. In comparison, the Webmaster of Teen and Amateur Kingdom outlined his background as “a BA and MBA in Marketing and am an advanced doctoral student in Marketing. I also have 10 years full-time work experience in Marketing Planning and Research”. The site offers images ranging from amateur photographs to professionally photographed, sexually explicit material (or ‘hardcore’). “I started my site to test theories in information processing and the manner in which consumers integrate information over time. It provides an excellent test bed for my theories in the area of the impact or the order of presentation on satisfaction and subsequent choice behaviour. The adult sites represent a real-world field testing of the theories. As an academic, I am interested in developing theories that are initially not obvious and I have tested in other settings. There are a number of academic journal articles which posited theories and suggested a nomological network that was counter to my mode of thinking. So I set out to prove that my approach warranted further consideration”.

The site uses images “from many different sources, including photographers, image houses and CD ROMs. The Galleria represents an investment of over $110,000 in images - more than any other site on the net except Playboy, Penthouse, Barely Legal, etc. The server bills are over $30,000 per month. My site puts out 300 GB of data transfer every 24 hours” which is equal to the information on 450 CDs or over 3 Billion English characters.

The strongest complaint to make against these ‘anonymous’ sites concerns the lack of narrative to link their images. The material appears to be taken out of context to the point of being random except for the sexually explicit nature. Also, the ‘Money Shot’, a staple of contemporary pornography, was rare and limited to specialist sites, such as: “Blonde Cumshots”. Following the feminist interpretation of the absence of a male’s post-coital droop in XXX videos, this could be viewed as maintaining phallic power but it seems more likely to relate to the general lack of narrative within Internet pornography. This stems from the organisation of the material in categories of fetishism. Sites will specialise in particular images, such as “Asian Babes”, “Horny Housewives” or “Knocked Up Black Mamas”, and even larger sites offer a fetish-based search engine to make selection from their databases. The absence of narrative leaves it up to the viewer to use their imagination to create a context, unlike the ‘encounter narrative’ used in magazines and videos. This could be a potential worry in that a viewer may be indulging their selective tastes (eg: her size 8 foot) without any notion of the norm (eg: the female poulation). Personally, these sites make me grateful that I can have sex with a woman and not a characteristic.
Other feminist criticisms can be warranted, such as women presented as ‘decapitated’ through cropping and thus portrayed solely for their genitalia. As an object, they are easily identified in that they often acknowledge the camera and spread their legs for the viewer’s gaze. Interestingly, the same criticisms are true for Gay porn where the men offer their rumps.

For exhibitionists Shelley and Renee their personal homepages came about in a similar manner to that of Linda Lovelace’s debut in Deep Throat. Their boyfriends encouraged and orchestrated their first pornographic appearances but since then they have taken control of their representation and turned it into a business. Shelley’s homepage (http://www2.cy-net.net/~digitrix) centres on nude pictures of herself (or ‘softcore’), while Renee’s (http://www.risquerenee.com) provides sexually explicit material with a variety of partners and ‘marital aids’ (or ‘hardcore’). Unlike the other pornography encountered, the amateur pictures are linked by a narrative in that the same character (the webmaster) is present throughout.

Exhibitionist homepages offer amateur pornography in a way never before available through the potential for a global audience, interaction via e-mail and profit through mail order - exemplifying the Internet’s promise as a twenty-first century capitalist tool. The images, which range from nudity to sexual intercourse, are of the author. Though a boyfriend seems to frequently take the picture, the webmaster chooses to use it, creates the scenario and ultimately, maintains control over the website. It could be debated as to whether exhibitionism can be considered pornography but since these terms relate mostly to quality and motivation rather than content, it seems a matter of personal preference. As Shelley responded: “Porn is defined subjectively in our society”. Contrary to commercial pornography this introduces subjectivity and offers the object control over their image, possibly excluding any argument of exploitation (a point to be returned to later). Renee thinks of her site as offering amateur exhibitionism rather than pornography, a term which: “Should refer to some means of stimulant to produce sexual arousal. Instead it portrays a man locked in the bathroom jerking off to Playboy! I feel that what I am sharing via my site is my sexuality/sensuality and personality. It’s not really about sex!”

Instead she qualifies her site as offering “minor satisfaction” for people’s “yearnings” for “sex, sexual situations, teasings, etc”. Renee further argued her view as follows: “Would I change my definition from ‘exhibitionist’ to ‘pornographer’ if I were having [online] sex with my boyfriend? No, of course not. I think that we are both exhibitionists. Humans are designed to fornicate, it’s just a matter of whether the door is closed or open while you’re doing it”.

This follows an argument that early photographic pornography served to liberate attitudes towards sex by shattering the elitism of its previous formats as fancy, foreign erotic art. In a similar way, the growing movement of amateur pornography, visible not only on the WWW but also in magazines and videos, aims to reaffirm real sexual representations as opposed to the fantastic and stylised portrayals which have been popular for previous decades. Renee maintains that “Amateur porn offers an honest representation of sexuality because we are the girls next door! Commercially produced porn movies are fictitious in nature. Amateur stuff is usually scenarios that have been played out in our own bedrooms with the camera set up on the tripod. It happens everyday. People are sick to death of seeing these silicone-enhanced, pouty lipped blondes getting screwed by a guy with a 10 inch penis for 2 hours. That doesn’t happen in real life!”

Renee explains that the response to her site has been “sincere and encouraging” but dismisses any idea of it being a source of confidence or morale: “The person writing me e-mail or buying something from me could well be the ‘ugliest person on the face of the earth’. What confidence do I gain from knowing or not knowing that?”
In contrast, Shelley describes it as “Wild that so many guys around the world are hot for me, even though I’m nothing special - It makes me feel powerful”.

Renee describes the pleasure in appearing to viewers at her homepage as “like watching a thousand guys walk by and look at you, only you have this invisible wall that lets you be in control”. In essence she is manipulating the ‘male’ gaze, offering herself as she chooses and being photographed in relation to her “comfort level and the law”. A third influence, as previously mentioned, is consumer demand. As a “dream business” her site looks to earn between US$50 000 - $100 000 in the first year alone through mail orders (including videos and used panties) and membership to ‘Club Renee’. Her “club members seem to share the same likes and dislikes regardless of gender” wrote Renee. “The main turn-on for both the men and women is to see me with another girl”.

The poses and content of both sites mirror those of the ‘anonymous’ websites, and, though both Shelley and Renee reject their work as pornographic, there is an interesting parallel to the Greek origins of the word: ‘Pornographos’ meaning writing about prostitutes. A prostitute, as a member of ‘the oldest profession’, is both a commodity and a seller. Similarly exhibitionists are both object and subject in presenting themselves to the viewer through their homepage. This distinction between subject and object is at the core of feminist theory and pornography on the internet is blurring the boundary. Furthermore, exhibitionist homepages show more realistic depictions, not only of human sexuality, but women in general - something that both pornography and women’s magazines tend to lack.

Pornography, by its nature, raises questions of censorship. The censorship that exists on the Internet is held by commercial interests and local law. Internet Service Providers (ISPs) support websites and many have policies against pornographic material. However as Mister Grimm, the webmaster of “Who’s your Daddy?”, explained: “...They won’t do anything about it until enough people complain that there is a PR problem. I had an adult website up on an ISP that officially ‘didn’t allow pornography’ for four months and I never got one e-mail or complaint about it. The bottom line is money. If pornography can exist on their servers without costing them potential business, they will continue to take my money. It is very profitable [for ISPs], seeing as there are millions of porn sites and each of these is paying server fees. Now, when it comes to illegal material, such as bestiality and paedophilia, that’s a different story. In many European countries these things aren’t illegal. There is no ‘age of consent’ for instance in Amsterdam, which is where most of the underage porn comes from, which is very profitable. If I open a teen porn site in the US, I risk arrest but if I open it in Amsterdam I don’t, even though my audience would be the same either way”.

Likewise, any information downloaded into the memory of a computer is subject to the laws that rule its physical location. The difficulty of regulating the Internet is evident in the United States Supreme Court overturning the Computer Decency Act (1997) and US President Clinton’s call for the WWW to remain tax free. The Penthouse homepage (http://www.penthouse.com) praised the Supreme Court after the ruling for their “...Wisdom and their vision in concluding that ‘the content of the Internet is as diverse as human thought’. They have bravely discharged their duty to the people...”.

In her book Release 2.0 - Design for Living in the Digital Age, Esther Dyson argues that the Internet will develop it’s own form of regulation. Dyson also predicts that owners will give away their intellectual property and collect their profits from public appearances or other services, like the software companies who currently charge for upgrades but not the product (Shelley and Renee both use a similar process). Dyson also endorses the role of ‘data intermediaries’ who will vouch for a client’s credit. This practice is used at pornographic sites as a form of censorship to check a viewer’s eligibility - even amongst ‘free’ sites where it operates as an expense to your credit card.

If pornography is determined by censorship then perhaps the true pornography of the Internet is that which is unavailable, such as necrophilia and bestiality. However, such illicit images can be transferred without detection through IRCs (Internet Relay Channels) and chat rooms. Ultimately, there is some filthy stuff out there but the effort required to find is little different to a trek through Fyshwick or Mitchell. Assuming that the participants are consenting adults the other valid argument against Internet pornography regards it being viewed by minors. While it is difficult to accidentally arrive at such images, programs like ‘NetNanny’ can limit their accessibility. This illustrates that Internet censorship lacks a central authority to govern its content - much like the Web itself - because is an inalienable freedom of the medium that a viewer see or be offended by what they choose. You have been warned.

The Internet is redefining pornography. While ‘anonymous’ websites provide images taken out of context and can possibly affirm “abnormal” fetishes, in built mechanisms for censorship are regulating the frontiers of cyberspace. Meanwhile the opportunities for communication and distribution by individuals using the Internet are confirming it’s role as a twenty-first century capitalist tool. These possibilities are allowing more realistic depictions of sexuality and introducing greater subjectivity into pornography. Exhibitionist homepages are empowering webmasters and presenting financially rewarding business opportunities. The Internet represents an entirely new organisation of society, based upon common interest rather than familiarity or location, that may redefine many aspects of humanity outside of cyberspace. If you doubt this, think of the place of photography within Western society and consider the Internet as a similar technology with over one hundred and fifty years of development to cover. Roll out the optic fibre and bring on the millennium!