Tuesday, August 25, 2009

Smells like... hookers.

Consider, if you will, the advert for Yves Saint Laurent’s new men’s fragrance, La Nuit de L'Homme.

As befits a perfume advert, it is filmed in black and white and contains no actual information nor footage of the perfume. A mysterious man, well dressed, descends a staircase in opulent surroundings. Despite having a face that only a mother could love, and even then only if she was drunk and myopic, he turns heads. Young ladies of a groomed but conservative appearance stop dead and paw at him. They are slack-eyed and vacant, like zombies who have forgotten where the brains are. The man looks smug. The end.

There are several obvious interpretations, to whit: this man deals drugs and the vacant-eyed ladies want them; this man has paid these beautiful women large quantities of cash in the past for sex, and they desperately need a new outfit. I’m going with option b – the young women last shopped in the eighties and wear satin polo necks, hair in a bun and pearls. Clearly in need of a rich Sugar Daddy, or at least a few bucks to spend on a new frock. Are they pawing him with lust, or trying to steal his wallet? We just don’t know.

Ugly bloke gets the chicks. Pheromones that’ll make her moan. Where have we seen this before? Oh yes, everywhere. It echoes the so-called Lynx effect from the nineties, where the application of a pungent antiperspirant apparently had the ability to make graceless young men irresistable to the opposite sex. While the premise was a total lie, at least the ads were amusing and meant to be so. A Lynx wearer would not have a scent that drove you wild, but might at least have a sense of humour.

But La Nuit is for those with a bigger disposable income and no sense of irony. For those with more than five bucks to spend on their daily choice of “shower-in-a-can”, we need a more expensive type of marketing bullshit, utterly devoid of any sense of the ridiculousness inherent in its claims. Just look at the advertisement on the AskMen website, where it assures us that this “rich new fragrance… is just what your night out needs: a mysterious nocturnal aura.”

I’ve lived with men who had a mysterious nocturnal aura. In most cases it was BO; in one case alcohol-related bed wetting. More befitting of an urgent visit to the doctor than a desired attribute in a man, when I think of a nocturnal aura I do not think of tuxedos. I think of adult nappies and rubber sheets.

If you have a mysterious nocturnal aura, you can get pills for that. Or at least pay someone to ignore it for the evening.

The actor in the ad is a French actor called Vincent Cassel. Despite his less than comely appearance he is married to the famed Italian sexpot, Monica Belluci. A more convincing, and accurate, advert would have been “La Nuit de L'Homme – look who I pulled, phwoar”.

Or, more realistically, La Nuit - because you’re too wealthy for a sense of humour and with this much money, you can afford escorts.

Wednesday, August 19, 2009

On writing, poultry and stabbing

This writing lark is, quite frankly, not all it is cracked up to be. I am sadly lacking in freezing garret or a beret or any of the various French things ending in “et” I have been told go with the trade.

I have been doing some research on what I can claim on my tax for 2009, being in the rather annoying situation of having outlaid more cash in the last tax year (some) than I earned (none). This means I am unlikely to be able to afford a garret or a beret in the near future, unless I can work out a way to claim deductions for writing that no one is willing to pay for.

The Australian Tax Office is website is not being as helpful as one would expect. For a start, a search for publications on tax for unpaid writers is, ironically, unwritten. The words “freelance”, “writer” or “artiste, dammit” bring up no results. It appears that the Australian tax office only wishes to clarify matters for either that rarest of beasties, the employed writer. That and performance artists, presumably on the grounds that they would prefer performance artists do not come into the tax office to ask questions.

Performance artists do not deal well with the real world. My one and only experience in working with performance artist ended with group electing to fellate invisible people while stabbing raw poultry in a glass shed in the depths of an Irish winter. Our audience looked stunned. Also poultry covered. I assume that the Australian Tax Office does not want this to happen. Perhaps they are vegetarian. Perhaps they are worried all that stabbing would lead to RSI. Perhaps they think Australia is too hot and the chicken will go off. Anyway, I digress.

Well, of course I digress. I am a writer, darling. It’s my job! And not any writer, not one of those tamed by a paycheck, those sell-outs, those hacks, those literature whores, selling their corrupted malformed mercenary words to the highest bidder. No, I am that purest of things – an unpaid writer! I write, darling, for the love of the craft! My stories must be told, my voice will not be silenced. I will not let the petty hatred of the Man and his unwillingness to pay for my prose affect my confidence in anyway. I am a writer, and the total lack of any acclaim, reward, remuneration or even acknowledgement will not stop me, oh no. I will stab my pen into the poultry of society’s disregard for my Art and I will persevere!

However, my art requires supplies. Paper, stamps, absinthe, knives, chicken thighs, the usual. So I have, reluctantly, set aside my muse and looked through tax rulings. I find no guiding light, no poetry to balm my wounded sensibilities, only the cold case studies of the Draft Taxation Ruling TR 2004/D12 (finalised). Searching for clarity, I find only a ruling on a woman called TBRD - a housewife and author. The ruling states:

”For five years the taxpayer had been earning income from writing while being a housewife. Although engaged in the ordinary duties of a housewife, she earned a few pounds from newspaper articles, poetry, an occasional short story, and radio plays ... besides being interested in the creative side of her writing, she was also much interested in the financial returns... the taxpayer has been in the habit of exploiting her literary talent by writing (in various forms) for gain. In other words she has been exercising a 'profession'… a career of earning money by her pen”.

I, too, intend to earn money by my pen, I shall find this TBRD, this housewife, this dabbler, who steals my commissions. This bitch, this copy-girl, whose occasional forays into the field block my own pearls of prose from their rightful place in publication. I will bring my pen, and ready myself to stab.

TBRD, I am coming for you. And when I do, it’s all going to go poultry shaped.

Thursday, August 6, 2009

Redfern - rename or reclaim?

The real estate agent’s property pitch assures me, with the myopically deranged semi-perjurous optimism of someone who only gets paid if they sell this place, that Redfern is the new Surry Hills.

No. No, it’s not.

Redfern is an inner-city suburb of Sydney, just south of the city centre. It’s an inexpensive suburb, with local shops and small family restaurants that sell to people who usually don’t have much money to buy. It’s not full of students on the parents’ payroll. It’s Redfern.

Redfern is also not, as I have seen claimed, the new Newtown or the new Erskineville. It is certainly not Strawberry Hills, despite frequent attempts to shove the boundaries on a map a few small, but extremely profitable, inches over.

It is definitely not East Redfern, which does not have a postcode or appear on ANY maps but frequently does on property ads. Watching someone try to call their home address East Redfern is like watching Keeping Up Appearances’ social snob and secret ex-lowlife Hyacinth Bucket explain that it's pronounced “Bouquet”. No one’s convinced and, frankly, it’s embarrassing to watch.

Known more for the poverty that singles it out in the affluent inner city, or the riots in 2004, Redfern is a primarily a living suburb – no malls or huge offices here - full of diversity from the various waves of migrants that have settled. According to the 2006 census, 35% of the population was born overseas, and only 55.9% speak only English in the home. It’s expensive to buy, but 41.6% of the population live in public housing. It’s not flash. It’s not a good address.

It’s Redfern. And I like it. It has real people, who are not always as quiet and as well washed as you would like, living here. It has local shops, and craftsmen. Bakeries, vegetable shops, pubs and corner stores, real ones run by real people living in the area.

There’s none of the expensive gourmet eateries you find all over the Inner West. You can get real food. Not pan seared patties of organic Herefordshire sung to sleep by angels and served au jus in organic fromage brioche, but a proper cheeseburger - delicious and cheap. Within a minute of my front door there are three cafes, two Thai restaurants, one Vietnamese, one Chinese and a Turkish kebab parlour, all doing dinners for under a tenner that taste great. Redfern does good grub.

And it has that rarest of things in the city – a sense of history and community. Aboriginal inspired murals by the train station ask children not to do drugs. There are recognisable faces, community groups, local churches.

It has been heavily developed, but it still has a lot of older building. It’s not a Macsuburb, full of apartment blocks of identical homes - magnolia walls, cream carpets and a chrome kitchen come living room. It has terraced houses, and odd laneways. Fences and gates in various states of repair, gardens with kids’ toys lost in the long grass. Yes, some of those houses contain the people society try to ignore – alcoholics, druggies, deadbeat dads and the chronically unemployed. Sometimes drunk people ask you for money in the street. Sometimes there’s late night shouting. It’s Redfern. It has real people here, and all the problems that go with that.

You don’t have to live here. But if you do, live in Redfern. Not East, not North, not Strawberry Hills. It’s Redfern. If you are too ashamed to admit that, if you don't want to live in Redfern, then don't.