Wednesday, October 26, 2011

Grumpy With Plans

One of my latest Grumpy columns. Something has gone wrong with Blogger and it appears you can't magnify scanned versions to read them, which is very handy indeed. Especially as I've sent links to a magazine editor recently.

Anyway, here's this. Hope you enjoy.


Grumpy is freelance writer Lee Bemrose ( He enjoys sangria and Mr Tiddles as much as he despises phone companies and their arrogant plans.

Lets imagine that you are on a first date and... actually it doesn't have to be a first date. By setting this on a first date I risk alienating people who are way beyond the first date scenario and they might not bother reading on, and that would be a shame because I am about to make a good point here relevant to far more people than singles on a first date.

So. Lets just say it's no special occasion (though it could well be if you're the kind of reader with a soft spot for special occasions). It's just, you know, you hanging out at a restaurant (not necessarily al la carte but it can be if you want it to be) with a couple of friends... I know – it's a beer garden at a local casually elegant pub... on a sunny Sunday afternoon. There's a DJ playing chilled tunes, couples on first dates as well as long-term relationship couples, groups of friends, a lonely guy in the corner happily reading his book, there are gays and straights and there is even wheelchair access so that this anecdote welcomes everyone.

On the table is a particularly delicious carafe of sangria. This place really knows how to make a good sangria. Good quality wine base (red or white depending on your preference), loads of tropical fruit chunks, spritz of ginger beer, subtle undertones of vanilla and cinnamon with a nice sharp cut of, oh I don't know, Cointreau? Maybe a dash of gin. It's just about the most perfect sangria there ever was.

But as lovely as the sangria is, everyone's happy just kicking back enjoying each others company, shooting the shit, laughing and thinking in the back of their minds, gee this is perfect. The DJ even drops Mr Tiddles from Sasha's Airdrawndagger which no one has heard in years but everyone agrees is exactly the right tune for this perfect afternoon.

Then the waitress comes over and starts to take the half-full carafe of delicious sangria away.

Excuse me – we haven't finished that yet,” one of the group says. “There's still half the carafe left.”

The waitress cocks her head to the side like yes she understands and she's very sorry. “Yes, I understand and I'm very sorry, but it's time. Did you want to order another carafe?”

It's time? What is that supposed to mean? We still have half a carafe of delicious sangria left.”

The smile of understanding has not left the waitresses face. “But we don't sell our carafes of sangria by the carafe, as such.”

You don't sell your carafes by the carafe as such? WTF?”

We serve our drinks by the hour. Each hour, if you haven't finished your drinks but wish to stay, you are obliged to purchase another carafe or bottle of wine or whatever. It's just policy – I wouldn't worry too much about it. Now I take it by your tone you would like to order another carafe?”

But we'd like to finish what's left in that one first.”

As I explained, that's just not possible. Our policy is structured on the size of the beverage. 15 minutes for glasses of wine, beer and spirits, one hour for bottles and carafes. So another carafe?”

[Close anecdote]

How intolerably unacceptable would such a policy be? You wouldn't stand for it, would you. It would make you quite bloody angry, wouldn't it? And rightfully so because it would be bloody bloody bloody ridiculous.

So why are telephone companies allowed to do this? Every month we pre-purchase so many calls, texts and so much data, then when the end of the month rolls around it doesn't matter how much has not been used, we have to buy a whole month's worth again. Why does this this blatant rort exist?

Petrol companies must be shaking their fists in lament... “Why oh why didn't we think of selling petrol in weekly plans? We could force our customers to pay for a full tank each week instead of waiting for them to use up what they've already paid for... oh what fools we are.”

If someone knows of a company offering an open ended pre-paid system, please let me know, because I really hate bending over at the end of each month and letting my current company have their way with my bottom.

Tuesday, October 18, 2011

Whiteley's Incredible Blue, A Not-Review.

Whiteley's Incredible Blue; An Hallucination.

Well I've just done something I don't normally do, and that is read other reviews before I've written my own. Not sure why I did this. Perhaps because I wasn't sure I was going to write a review at all. And I'm still not sure. I think what I'm about to do is add my two cents worth to a discussion that hasn't really taken place.

First up, scroll down past the recent Grumpy posts (do take the time to read them - they are sometimes a bit funny) to a Q & A I did with Barry Dickins leading up to the opening of Whiteley's Incredible Blue. That will give you an idea of what to expect from the play. I think if I had been a punter reading it (which I guess I am), I'm sufficiently interested in the life of Brett Whiteley and aware enough of Barry Dickins' talent for it to have persuaded me to check the play out.

Then check out Alison Crogan's positive review of the play here.

And finally check out Cameron Woodhead's negative review here.

There's also a bit of discussion in the comments section following Alison's review at Theatre Notes.

So what did I think of Whiteley's Incredible Blue? I've been telling friends that I enjoyed it and that yes, it is worth checking out.

Whiteley was, of course, a fascinating character. When younger I had probably always been aware of him even without being familiar with his art, being the boy from the burbs that I was. He was exotic, famous, creating weirdly beautiful paintings while living like a rockstar. For a while I lived around the Lower North Shore and it was as much a thrill for me then to glimpse the Whitely house at Lavender Bay as it would later be for me to walk past Patrick and Manoly's place at Centennial Park.

I also have a fascination for addiction and chemical experimentation, and Brett with his 30 years or so love affair with heroin... well what's not to be fascinated by?

Also, I laughed when he said something like, "I'd rather methadone than Ken Done."

So what intrigued me most about this play was that it came from a fever induced hallucination; was it going to capture the feeling of delirium, and would it be able to capture the kind of stuff that goes on in a head swirling in colourful storms of narcotic hallucination?

For me, the writing was spot on. This monologue of an overdosed artist in purgatory more-or-less looking back at his life was surreal, disjointed, occasionally garbled, poetic, sympathetic while exploring what Whiteley's ego must have been like. It's all speculation; it is indeed an hallucination.

Neil Pigot did a terrific job of becoming Brett Whiteley. Certainly he looked like him and appeared to move and talk like him. Was he accurately portraying what went on in Whiteley's head? Who really knows? But it felt authentic to me.

And yeah, it was moving, never more so that when the artist looked back at how he had played the role of father to the beautiful and tragic Arkie. Moving. Not sentimental. It would have been easy to milk the Arkie angle but I think Mr Dickins knew where the mark was and made sure he didn't overstep it.

Negatives? At first the voice-overs and the music were a bit jarring, but I think you either let yourself dwell on these or you kind of embrace them as part of the fabric of the thing. Jazz is not my favourite style of music but it fitted in with the somewhat helter skelter story we were being told. And like the story itself, amongst the jangling noise there were elegant sweeps of beauty.

I didn't read the "self-indulgent" biography written by Barry Dickins that Cameron Woodhead refers to, and I'd guess as a result I'd say this has not sent me in with any preconceptions. I like Whiteley's art. I am intrigued by how such artists think. When I heard of the artists death by overdose, I was saddened and wasn't one of the bitter humans Dickins talks about in my Q & A.

Consequently, I enjoyed this performance on its many levels and and do recommend it.

And that's my not-review. My contribution to this un-had discussion.

Until October 23 at fortyfivedownstairs, 45 Flinders Lane, Best City In Australia.

Saturday, October 08, 2011

The Doughnut Of Love & AC/DC Wine Grumpies, Print Versions

A couple of hard copy scans of recent Grumpy columns (click on image to enlarge, then click again to make it readable), now that the mag has started sending them through again. If you've already read them, apologies for the repitition. It's just kinda nice for me seeing them in print.

Was noodling with a Grumpy plan today. 365 Grumpy columns together in one book, The Book Of Grumpy or The World According To Grumpy. Or maybe The Year Of Grumpy. It's an idea I've been toying with for ages but a while ago I sent the idea to an online lit agent modelled on New York's Miss Snark. Big mistake because this person shot the whole thing down. Really crapped all over my confidence about it.

But to hell with it - the column has been going for years now and why not put a whole bunch together in book form? Mainly, it would be fun. And who knows, maybe it could be the best seller I need to not have to work at crappy jobs anymore. Maybe my new vocation could be sitting on stage in an armchair, sipping wine and reading from The Book Of Grumpy to Leegions of adoring fans. Maybe this time next year I'll be appearing at the Melbourne Fringe instead of reviewing Fringe shows. Perhaps I will be reviewing my own show...

Also, and I hope this works, here is a link to some recent photos taken at a party called Dragon Dreaming.

Friday, October 07, 2011

Whiteley's Incredible Blue; An Interview With Barry Dickins

Whiteley's Incredible Blue

Barry Dickins Interview

By Lee Bemrose

During his lifetime, Brett Whiteley's flamboyant lifestyle more-or-less overshadowed the very art that made him famous. During the 60s, 70s and 80s even those uninterested in the art world knew about Brett Whiteley; internationally famous at the age of 22 and living a life of sex, drugs and art ever since. He mingled with the likes of Bob Dylan and polarised the populace with an exotic nature that often didn't sit right with average Australians and the Australian art elite alike, many of whom viewed him as a reckless upstart undeserving of his preternatural talent.

When Whiteley died of a drug overdose in 1992, the crescendo of gossip and superiority peaked as the biographies hit the bookshops. In his death, Whiteley had probably never polarised us more.

Amongst the many biographies was Black And Whiteley: In Search Of Brett by artist and writer Barry Dickins. As the title would suggest, this is a compassionate, non-judgemental biography, and indeed his new play, Whiteley's Incredible Blue, is also an intimate look at the mind of one our greatest artists and most colourful characters. In talking about this one-man performance featuring actor Neil Pigot, Dickins talks of poetry and dance, music and mystical manners, and drug-dealing Pink Flamingoes. All so very pure Whiteley.

For the full interview go to Australian Stage.

I saw the play last night and will write my thoughts on it shortly (short review: lived up to expectations and is well worth seeing; the 10pm show was pretty full, which is a good sign), but for now, read someone else's review at Australian Stage.