Chip off the old block

Before his Christmas holiday, I accidentally told Eden he could start an Instagram account

On his return, he asked if I wanted to see the meme he’d made.

It was a picture of Prime Minister Scott Morrison with the text “How good is climate change?”

Despite the poor contrast of the lettering. pride surged through me.

How good is the chip off the old block?

Film of the decade

Funny thing happened when I was prompted to list my favourite movies of the last decade

My friend Ben is a Movie Nerd and he posted a list of the top ten movies of the last ten years.

I agreed with Inception (2010) and Arrival (2016) and maybe even Fury Road (2015) but, as I looked over lists and considered my own selection, I soon realised my tastes had shifted.

The movies that were most meaningful to me were those I'd watched over and over with my children.

When I saw Scott Pilgrim... (2010), for example, I couldn't wait to share it my son because he would recognise the way it works to include the visual language from videogames and comics.

Even Arrival has recently become elevated because my daughter asks to see it, although I also like the way it incorporates the Sapir-Whorf hypothesis as that influenced me in first-year university.

And Whiplash (2014) has gone from being a film that's inventive in the way it presents music, to being a film I'd admire for the influence it had on my son -- who now plays drums after watching it a dozen times or more.

So I realised that, where I'd once been a film critic and would work to objectively justify the films I liked, I now subjectively like films I've come to appreciate after repeated viewings to meet the demands of my children.

As a result, I think the best movie of the decade is Chef (2014).

I've lost track of how many times I've watched this small film made by an actor, writer and director who has shaped many blockbusters, Jon Favreau.

One of the things I've come to enjoy is the way the titular chef rediscovers the joy in his craft through leaving restaurants to start a food truck.

I can't help but wonder if that's also true of Favreau, who has handled films with intimidatingly large budgets but brings his celebrity friends in to play minor parts in this wholesome family film.

My kids, I think, love how the character of the son helps the chef with social media.

I love that I get to put my arms around them on the couch when we watch it.

Better than Jesus

Mexican lexicon

Can imagine something like this on the border between NSW, SA and Vic, where arguments regularly start about whether they're sharing a potato cake, scallop or fritter while wearing togs, bathers or swimmers

Culture vulture

Oscar has always enjoyed music

Back when he was a baby, I was going through one of my Duke Ellington phases and he'd make those bubbly baby noises while listening to the melodies.

In recent years he's introduced me to music that I had no idea existed. Newer stuff like vaporwave (which I like) and also older artists like Oingo Boingo (which I like seeing the confused looks on the staff at record shops when he asks for it and they invariably don't have it).

Last weekend we walked into JB Hi-fi and I was impressed that Oscar walked out with three albums that demonstrate his broad taste in music.

One was "Holy Diver" by Dio, which was one of the first metal albums I heard after my cousin Chris was attracted by the cover art. (It also tickles my sentimentality that the shop where I heard it was near the one where Oscar shopped.)

Another was "Station to Station" by Bowie, who I only started to appreciate when I was about twice as old as my son is now.

The last was an album of country ballads by someone I can't remember and tell myself I don't care to hear, but I feel I should ask to listen to next time we're driving somewhere.

It's interesting to consider that, given the entire of history of recorded music is now largely available, kids these days have a very different experience of being introduced to culture.

I know Oscar has found some music via JoJo's Bizarre Adventure, yet even that seems a weird leap in another direction.

He's got discerning taste and I appreciate learning from him. Even when it seems rubbish to me, he's able to articulate a context in which to understand his latest enthusiasm.

Fruit Ninja

Pic of my son playing motion sensor-controlled Fruit Ninja, as part of the Game Masters exhibition that's currently at the National Film and Sound Archive

Retail detail

'Tis the season for consumption and I've been thinking about the changing nature of retail after my trip to Canberra

Went to Woden Plaza and noticed it's now run by Westfield. Clearly they're trying to make the place into somewhere people want to spend time. There was an indoor playground in one court and live music on Friday night in the other, where they were selling sparkling wine.

Went to Costco and, using my brother’s membership card, I bought the cheapest fuel and Heinz baked beans I’d seen anywhere in recent weeks (at 138.7c/litre and 0.26/100g respectively). However, the warehouse-style environment on the outskirts of town encouraged the kind of hit-and-run-style shopping one used to do at shopping malls like the Plaza. The Woolworths built next door might advertise them as an alternative but there was nothing to encourage my entry.

Also went to Kambah's suburban shops, where I witnessed Woolies literally having a hit-and-run as I saw two blokes dash from the bottleshop and into a waiting car with their shoplifted alcohol.

Then I went around the corner to a games shop that used both the trends from the mall and the warehouse. Half the shop was a library of games with tables to play them and membership allowed one to borrow games to play at home.

I know I'm probably late with this observation but I found it interesting to see how the internet is forcing shops to find new ways to compete.

Broken tokens

This tweet prompted a lot of thought

I found myself confronted by the sexism and aghast that one might evaluate music on something other than its intrinsic value; then resigned that 'the personal is political' and consumers should vote with their purses.

Still wondering whether my efforts to balance the music I write about for Cyclic Defrost are token.

A kick in the arts

The decision of the Morrison Government to remove the word “art” from a department title has drawn widespread concern from the cultural sector, yet for years artists seem to have been avoiding the term

In 2014 I heard a panel at the Dream Big conference acknowledge that art wasn’t a word they used to describe their activities.
Casey Jenkins opted for the term craft and Katherine McLean said her organisation CuriousWorks makes digtal media. "Males, from our experience, don't see art as something they can engage with," said Narrandera-based artist Vic McEwan. "Sometimes we hide the word" he added, acknowledging that sometimes they felt they had overstated art on their posters.

Earlier this year I found myself relieved to be described as a “culture-maker” as Griffith Regional Art Gallery promoted my exhibition.

Sure it sounded like I made yoghurt, but it still seemed like I had something to offer!

The label art seems past its use-by date and I wonder if it’s the connotation with the artefacts created by people now deceased that often appear in galleries, rather than describing a process of creating.

As a result art has become something kinda out of reach, either because one can’t afford to own it or your own creations aren’t sought by cultural institutions.

Artist and commentator Grayson Perry has observed that art has alienated itself:
"There’s a section [of the art world] that has somehow over the years equated performative seriousness with worth. Gradually they’ve upped the obscurity of the language [used to describe art] and the difficulty of the art."

However, there are a few reasons why I think art should be embraced.

For a start, it’s difficult to think of another term than can encompass a wide variety of activities and products and still function as a superlative.

Then, when you think about it, art promotes nuance, particularly through the use of metaphor.

As former Commonwealth Bank director Harrison Young observed:
…metaphor is where one thing means another, it is saying two things at once. And this to my mind is like reality, there are often two aspects. Or more.

Art audiences also gain skills in developing empathy, as they must learn to see artwork through the eyes of the artist if they hope to understand its meaning.

And, finally, art can be what you want it to be.

The line "I don't know much about art, but I know what I like" captures a sense of the individual relationship an audience creates when they consider an artwork.

That speaks to the stimulation we find in the diverse activities recognised as art.

This goes some way to explain why, as journalist Michaela Boland has reported, 98% of Australians engage with the arts, through ”regularly going to gigs, seeing plays, reading novels, attending festivals and listening to music.”

Or, to quote Andy Warhol, “Art is what you can get away with.”

(Un)Usual activity in Lismore

Recently I had a week in Lismore to collaborate with my friends at RealArtWorks on events that formed their festival

I've been working with the renowned heroes of postdisability arts for around five years and been part of their exhibitions as a result of being invited to join them on excursions in the Northern Rivers and Riverina.

When I arrived we discussed some possibilities, including developing art for their vending machine and recording Spinks Park for the Trail of Light and Sound and curating sandwiches.

There was also an instrument they hoped contact microphones would make possible to play live.

Within a day we'd expanded ideas to collage posters for display in the Lismore CBD, which gave me the opportunity to work with Matthew Daymond.

I've been a fan of Matt's surreal collages and it was awesome to be part of a frenzied process of unrolling advertising and identifying potential material.

It took me a draft to loosen up my designs and embrace the ridiculous.

"Fresh germy fabulousness" was my third attempt.

I recorded Spinks Park twice, then had a few attempts at revealing the music that resides within the play equipment.

Their vending machine gained digest versions of my book Earthwords, complete with covers made from repurposed firehose.

And I was stoked when I friend shared this picture from the networking event that I was unable to attend.

You can see that RealArtWorks identified a variety of ways for me to contribute and it's an interesting process to reflect on, as I feel I've learned something about my own creative practises.

200 Junto videos

Small milestone on the weekend as I uploaded my 200th video for the Disquiet Junto.