Spenlow proud to be part of a new age-defying generation

March 7, 2010

We know this post is a departure from our usual topic of the Emerald City, but Spenlow is V excited. Finally, we can be included in a group that transcends age based generational classification by hungry marketers. Yes, we are pleased to announce that we are not baby boomers, gen xers or gen yers, but part of Generation V!


Pansexual spectacle needs a new name

March 2, 2010

As the Sydney Gay and Lesbian Mardi Gras becomes truly more diverse, is it time to drop the gay and lesbian tag line? Words by Spenlow with photographs by Nat Cagilaba.

Mardi Gras went totally ‘trans’ this year with head of parade Amanda Lepore waving her way down Oxford Street in a convertible Mercedes wearing a rhinestone g-string and leaving much to the imagination.

And while previous parades have been more ethnically, religiously and globally diverse, the feeling on the street this year was that the parade has now more than ever become an extravaganza for the every man and woman, regardless of sexual orientation.

This transition perhaps completes the life cycle of what started as a revolution and is now a non-confrontational pageant peppered with current political messages that has become a barometer of mainstream, and gay and lesbian issues.

But having Amanda Lepore as head of parade is more than just a token gesture to the transsexuals that participate in Mardi Gras. It underscores the evolution of the parade and how it has brought diverse genders and sexual orientations to the fore, helping to destigmatise them in the process.

Marching with the Transsexual Empire Strikes Back float was Cara Wilson, who says having a transsexual as head of parade is in line with the changes in perception of transsexuals throughout society. “The depiction of transsexuals as psychopaths and deviants has changed and destigmatisation of the community is definitely in progress. I think we really are seeing a greater diversity in the parade than ever before.”

And while this very public celebration of diversity makes its way down Oxford Street each year, squabbles continue behind the scenes and occasionally spill over into the international media. The animal rights proponents denied a float at this year’s parade, actors allegedly paid to be on the Ikea float in 2008, and corporate sponsors ANZ Bank blasted for their human rights record. On top of this, sponsorship by the New South Wales government purportedly further diminishes the parade’s community focus and grass roots history.

But this is 2010 and priorities have shifted. The squabbles will undoubtedly change from year to year but the elation on the faces of the 9,000 paraders on the 130 floats this year, and the excitement in the crowd indicates that the parade will definitely go on.

But for who and under what banner?

The political relevance of the parade fluctuates depending on the agendas of the day, but isn’t it time to consider a more inclusive catch cry that encompasses the breadth of people who participate in this annual spectacle?

And with other events such as Chinese New Year beginning to jostle for pride of place on the Sydney events calendar, has Mardi Gras become another event, just the one with the most sequins? It felt like it this year, but that perception didn’t diminish the messages of inclusion, tolerance and acceptance that are still at the heart of what the parade is all about.

Sydney and Australia spend this one special time of the year celebrating diversity in all its shades – gay, lesbian, transgender, transsexual, bisexual, queer, intersex, and straight, but what we continue to share in common with minority communities the world over on a daily basis is the hypocrisy of politicians. For while they clamour to be in the limelight of the parade, they sent a very clear message of non-support to the gay and lesbian community last week when the senate rejected same-sex marriage.

This year’s parade was titled History of the World and there was much excitement about the firsts that the parade achieved this year. A rainbow flag was raised over Sydney Town Hall, the parade marshalling area was moved away from Hyde Park behind 6-foot high fences to shield paraders from the drunken crowd that amassed in the park last year, and the party and the parade were split. It’s just another year in the life of the Sydney Mardi Gras. First published on Fridae.com.

Trouble in paradise

March 2, 2010

They say it’s the best pool in Sydney and Spenlow agrees – most of the time. But when one is paying $556 for a season pass to the Andrew Boy Charlton pool and then has to pay $3 more per visit to secure belongings in a locker, one would hope that the locker would work. But no! The lockers do not work. And the kind staff at the pool take it upon themselves to guard swimmer belongings while they do their lengths. Hardly ideal for anyone involved. We’re waiting for Ben to get back to us. Still. You’ll hear from us soon if he doesn’t.

Tatzu Nishi – context metaphorian

November 4, 2009

Spenlow’s been walking past the Art Gallery of NSW for decades. And every time he does, he’s disturbed by the sadness of the statues that flank its porch. But not anymore! The latest Tatzu Nishi experience has surrounded these 20th century relics with pre-fab living rooms that transform them into showponies of our time. For those who believe that humour doesn’t sell, or that irreverence won’t buy you loyalty, take a look at what Nishi has on display. It’s food for thought.

GLAAD to be gay?

July 18, 2009

Brüno is so very very funny and that’s why it saddens Spenlow that organizations like GLAAD (Gay and Lesbian Alliance Against Defamation) have got it so very very wrong.

GLAAD president Jarrett Barrios’ protestation

Bruno Poster

Bruno Poster

that the film reinforces damaging and hurtful stereotypes is trite at best. Just because there are a few references to leathermen, camp fashionistas and celebrity whores does not mean that ridicule of these stereotypes is hurtful or damaging. It is patently hilarious.

The pot shots at straight homophobic stereotypes are equally as funny, if grave at times. Barrios sounds like a gay apologist when he says the film “decreases the public’s comfort with gay people.” We’re not sure we should be too worried about decreasing the public’s comfort with gay people. Isn’t the argument that we’re all the same but that we just don’t have the same rights yet? His comments smack of the wowserism usually attributed to the religious right.

If these comments are made as part of an effort to bring about equality, then Spenlow argues that with Brüno, which is after all a comedy, surely being able to laugh at oneself would further the cause that much more quickly rather than trotting out hackneyed responses to depictions of gay people that in some instances, and this is one of them, don’t really warrant a response.

GLAAD to be gay? Sometimes we’re not so sure.

P.S. We think Brüno should acknowledge Gary Numan somewhere.

Wake up call for white dreams in black Australia

July 7, 2009

Samson and DelilahThe release of Samson and Delilah has put an end to the notion of a romantic outback for remote Indigenous communities.

But has this romantic notion ever existed for the majority of living Aboriginal people anyway?

The idea of a past that was perceived to be simple, pure and honest, but maybe only in contrast to the supposed rapacity of the 21st century digital age. This perception says more about our desires for, rather than the truths of our age, but it is certain that nostalgia for a time when Aboriginal men hunted naked with spears has for many years been dangerous thinking.

Not only is this way of life irrelevant to most black and white Australians today, it diminishes the modern traditions that define contemporary Aboriginal Australia. These modern traditions are integral to the characters in Samson and Delilah.

We see that Delilah’s elderly grandmother creates her masterworks with mass produced acrylic paints, not bark and ochre. Dinner for the couple is typically tuna from a can, not wild berries and nuts. The band Samson’s brother plays in uses electric guitars and drums, not the didgeridoo. The grandmother is a Christian and worships frequently at the local corrugated iron church. And as tragic as it is, Samson’s addiction to petrol sniffing is another modern tradition.mitjili-th

But when we speak of Aboriginal tradition, ‘real tradition’ in Australia, rock carvings, Uluru and bark paintings come more readily to the screen than modern Aboriginal painting or music.

But the reality is that these modern traditions are a continuation of 40,000 years of black history synthesised with just over 200 years of white invasion or settlement. Call it what you will, but what we see here is a 40,000 year-old culture evolving with, and not mutually exclusive from, modern traditions. Black and white. These traditions offer no nostalgic sanctuary through which to dream away present day abominations or past conceits, but they are real.

So while the idea of a return to Aboriginal people living as noble savages in outback idylls still resonates with people who fantasise about living this lifestyle themselves, the idea is as patronising today as it was in the 18th century. All cultures adapt and evolve so why should Aboriginal culture be any different? Yes, there needs to be an acknowledgement of the atrocities of the past, but we live in the present. If we long for a past that most Aboriginals have never known it will only make the present seem so much less worth celebrating. And it is definitely worth celebrating. s4d-th

In a bold stroke of cinematic realism director Warwick Thornton has created a compelling, if at times gruelling portrait of contemporary Aboriginal life. He has contextualised Aboriginal lives without sentiment and has taken pity off the black history agenda in Australia. This is a fundamental step in ending the Aboriginal as victim mantra from both extremes of the colour spectrum. And as the federal government’s ‘closing the gap’ rhetoric wears thin, Samson and Delilah provides a catalyst through which to talk about Aboriginal issues in real terms, not platitudes.

Related –

A review of The Politics of Suffering: Indigenous Australia and the End of the Liberal Consensus by Peter Sutton in The Australian newspaper

A review of The Lamb Enters the Dreaming by Robert Kenny in The Age newspaper

A local in every way but one

June 16, 2009
A tasting paddle at The Local Taphouse

A tasting paddle at The Local Taphouse

It’s perverse of a non-beer drinker to go to a pub called The Local Taphouse but a birthday is a birthday. And even though most of our party is drinking champagne, there are plenty of other punters sporting beer-tasting paddles.

Yes, The Local Taphouse is all about beer and you can buy 90ml serves of ales, lagers and stouts that come slotted into said paddles. At the end of the row is a bowl of crackers which lends an air of sophistication to the joint. For example we didn’t see anybody lining up pints, having sculling competitions or shouting obscenities. Among the book-lined walls however, is a title that elaborates on the anxiety inducing aspects of masturbation.

The beer drinkers of the pack say there is nothing wanky about The Local Taphouse and that it does indeed, serve good beer. But we have to report that although the beer is good, the pop music is good, (will Don’t Stop Til You Get Enough ever be out of fashion?), the cabernet sauvignon is good, and the moules mariniere is more than good, the doorman is well below par.

Upon arrival at 8:30 on the Sunday night of the June long weekend the doorman suggests we are drunk when there isn’t a slur or a sway in sight. He then implies that my companion is a liar because when asked how many drinks he has had he replies ‘none.’ Is this badgering really necessary?

The Local Taphouse fills the space in the Sydney bar scene left by the closure of the Palace Hotel, but the doorman should either lose his attitude or be lost by the management. Spenlow recommends the latter.

Avatar plunges Spenlow into identity crisis

May 31, 2009

Good blogging involves transparency and engagement. So it has been on Spenlow’s mind that maybe an avatar isn’t the best way to endear him to his audience. For this reason, Spenlow Research is conducting a poll to see what you, Spenlow readers, think about writing in the third person. Should Spenlow come out from behind the pink shorts? Can he make it in the blogosphere naked? What do you think Spenlovers? Spenlow Research encourages respondents to consider their answers carefully, as to some,  Spenlow in the first person may be confronting.

When less IDAHO is more

May 25, 2009
Presumed heterosexual, a poster from the 2005 IDAHO campaign

Presumed heterosexual, a poster from the 2005 IDAHO campaign

Spenlow is all for a good cause, and what better cause to support for equal rights around the globe than IDAHO – International Day Against Homophobia? With support in mind, Spenlow travelled to Newtown in Sydney to attend the recent IDAHO rally there. It was a sunny, Sunday morning on King Street with punks loitering on corners and punters browsing the shops. At the rally there was a band, a politician, some placards, and many speeches made. Some of the speeches were inspiring, some were good, and some, although the intention was pure, unfortunately diluted the message. While the fine line between spin and spontaneity is a hard one to walk with integrity, the universal truth prevails: less is more.

Pedrage grips Sydney

March 6, 2009

Sydney rivals New York for rude pedestrians according to a new report by Spenlow. The report says the latest pedrage incident occurred on the corner of Bridge and George Streets in the city today at 4pm. A caucasian male, 6ft, with a grey mustache was seen waving down a Silver Service cab as it turned into Bridge Street. As the man’s hand went aloft to request the service, the cab raced by with the driver throwing his hands in the air.

Once the cab had passed, a man standing on the footpath at the intersection said, “you’ll never get a cab here you dickhead,” after which the man next to him added, “do you think a cab is going to stop for you here when its got a bus up its arse?” The men’s adherence to road rules revealed a conformity that was deemed un-Australian by the victim, but he said that their Aussie vernacular was ‘spot on.’

The case notes went on to say that the victim did indeed get a cab home, after walking for a short time toward Circular Quay. The said cab driver advised that the man should have retorted, ‘pussyhead.’

According to Spenlow Research, Sydney now rivals Manhattan for pedrage as Sydney densifies and its urban fabric begins to tear.