Republic of Moreland

September 11, 2008

Letter from an Australian Idle

Filed under: mischief,music — Kath @ 3:33 pm

Dear Sophie Paterson,

There’s no getting around it. I confess to watching you on Australian Idol.

Oh, the shame: someone else’s child turned on Channel 10 (as other people’s offspring will). I promise I’d never seen Idol before. But that wouldn’t explain, I suppose, why I then switched on the telly, night after night, in the hope that you’d appear.

Look, when I saw that early episode, featuring expat wannabees auditioning in London, I was sucked in. As soon as you opened up  your achingly soulful, indy, folksy, jazzy, bluegrassy voice (with your own composition!) I forgave your bogan-bleached hair and recognised that Channel 10 had, despite itself, stumbled upon something interesting. You’re only twenty-two, for chrissakes. My mind trawled for comparisons —Laura Marling, perhaps, or Gillian Welch, Jolie Holland, Sheryl Crow, Fiona Apple… but you’re none of these.

As the judges scraped their jaws off the floor, they, too, knew you had more originality in your twenty-two-year-old larynx than the three of their careers put together. “Wow, wow, yay yay yay… astounding,” was about all the eloquence Darren Hayes and Tina Arena could muster.

I missed the next few Idol episodes, thinking it best that I stop defrauding the government and instead work on my thesis. But I switched on the telly last Wednesday to behold your sultry, edgy, witty, bluesy interpretation of the Rolling Stones’ Satisfaction. Never much liked that song, but your version floored me.

To be sure, you peed all over the other contestants. Lovely voices, all of them: but while they belted out songs, you interpreted. More, your delivery came from the gut and the heart and the groin, and the judges — even that Neanderthal windbag Kyle Sandilands  — thought they were backing a winner when they gushed, “That was the standout performance of the whole series.”

But then the vote was turned over to the audience, and the audience — at least those with mobile phones and agile fingers — voted for mediocrity. Instead of you, they voted for two cute contestants with pretty voices and competent, predictable performances. That’s always been the trouble with democracy: even plonkers get to vote.

But of course Idol is no more about democracy (or quality) than Coles supermarket is: it’s a marketplace, with all those free-market structural biases and injustices. You have to remember, Sophie, that even the ‘democratic’ Wikipedia gives more space to folk like Brittney Spears than to any of the music greats who don’t enjoy the same populist scaffolding.

Maybe I’m mounting an elitist argument here, but as Nikki Tranter wrote on PopMatters: “Idol doesn’t claim to discover ‘real’ musicians. It doesn’t hide the fact that contestants are singers competing for a record deal for the sole purpose of making money for BMG.”

So, Sophie, I’m not sure what Ian ‘Dicko’ Dickson was supposing when he told you: “What we hoped this year was that we’d get real individuals: people who’d stand out and take risks, and you did… you stood out.” That might be what Dicko wants, but a standout risk-taker is not what the Idol market wants, Sophie.

And when Kyle Sandilands assured you that what you are doing “is really hot at the moment”, he was speaking out of his nether regions. He reminds me of that wonderful quote often directed toward me by Bloke on The Avenue (but attributed to Mark Twain): “Better to remain silent and be thought a fool than to open your mouth and remove all doubt.”

That fool the market has spoken, and it has rejected you. But for goodness sakes, don’t let this be a measure of your worth. You’re only twenty-two. Your talent alone will most certainly see you with a recording deal before long, because you’ll be snapped up by that oxymoronic sector, the ‘alternative market’ (much the same as that other misnomer, the ‘indy genre’), which has its way of worming into the mainstream. (Or rather, the mainstream has its way of gobbling up any resistance.) Mark my words, Sophie. You read it here first. And I’ll be first in the queue for your debut CD, and one day I’ll be telling my kids: “Yeah, me too, but I prefer her early work.”

Your fan,

Girl on The Avenue


POSTSCRIPT: I snuck a glance at Idol on Monday. In a masterstroke of market intervention, Idol has this thing called ‘wildcard’ where rejected singers somehow get back into the game. Sophie’s apparently back in, but I can’t stand to watch again because the shame, oh the shame. So if anyone else has watched and is willing to admit it, please let me know what’s going on with Sophie.

June 20, 2007

The perils of multiculturalism 2

Filed under: Brunswick,food,Lygon Street,mischief,nonsense — Faithh @ 10:16 am

A while ago I walked into the little Italian pasta shop on Lygon St, the one where you can buy fresh pastas and sauces they’ve made themselves. While not exactly regulars (we are capable of whipping it up ourselves), we have shopped here before on several ocassions without mishap. The old guy shuffled out into the store and I asked him for some bolognese sauce. He looked slightly bewildered but shuffled out back where he vanished for a very long time. Far longer than usual. When he came back he was holding a dozen eggs! Which he had apparently taken some trouble to put together. They don’t even sell eggs!


He had been gone so long and I was so flabbergasted and intrigued by this complete miscommunication that I didn’t correct him. I then picked out some cheese and spinach ravioli from the freezer and asked again for bolognese sauce. He shuffled out back and quickly re-appeared with bolognese sauce. I went home with ravioli, bolognese sauce and a dozen eggs.

Something similar happenned to me once before living in an area very similar in many ways to Brunswick, just one of the quirkier joys of multiculturalism. Has any one else had similar experiences? Would you have tried to explain you didn’t want the eggs? And if so how? Strange theatresport moments as you try to act out ‘egg’ in the negative? My gut instinct has generally been if I stuffed up such a simple message then maybe it’s best to leave it.

June 5, 2007

The grass is always greener

Filed under: Brunswick,Coburg,environment,food,gardening,gardens,mischief,neighbours — Faithh @ 11:11 am

As promised, oh so long ago, I took some photos of revegetated nature strips I’ve stumbled across (sometimes literally). There are actually a lot more than I was expecting, once I started looking for them, so I’ve created a spot for them on flickr. This also means others will also be able to upload any photos they have that they think are worth sharing. If you go to you can see the ones I’ve uploaded, upload your own, and also start other topics relevant to the greater Republic of Moreland. Of course what we really need is some photos of guerilla planting in action!

What I can show you right now is my own first tentative steps in nature strip revegetation. Our street doesn’t actually have nature strips, just some holes in the asphalt where the council planted trees several years ago. Discussions with the neighbours reveal that almost every tree without exception was trashed by, well, they got a bit vague at this point, but it finally came out that it would have been by their sons and friends. The sons are now older and I think even they would look down their noses at tree trashing these days. One neighbour has planted an olive and donated one to me so I have supplemented it with some grasses from my front garden. I plan to imperceptibly extend the boundaries of my ‘nature strip’ until the breadth of our house has been ‘greened’ without anyone having really noticed it. I’ve also promised another neighbour that if she provides a tree I will plant it and then provide all the grasses she needs from my garden. If you are interested in Moreland’s Naturestrip Beautification Guidelines (!) you can download them from here.
its a beginning

May 13, 2007

Revegetating our nature strips


  • Revegetated nature strip in Rennie Street, Coburg.

Fanged if I can figure why urban councils don’t encourage nature-strip vegetation (other than lawn and maybe a single tree). After all, it’s in their best interests.

The Age reports that “big leafy trees can often add more value to a house than an expensive renovation”, and that “Real estate agents agree that a good streetscape can add 30 per cent to the price of a property.”

There’s nothing to suggest this isn’t true of understory vegetation too. The Age also reports that

Houses in and around Separation Street, Northcote, used to overlook a municipal tip until the council transformed the site into All Nations Park, he says. Not surprisingly, values soared.

“Property values went up overnight by 20 to 30 per cent,” Mr Valentic says.

The reason is obvious. As Michael Pollan has written, it seems we’re hard-wired to enjoy a pastoral sensibility that lies in that comfort zone between nature and culture. (Where in that zone your comfort range falls is probably cultural and generational: my elderly Italian neighbours on one side and my middle-age Lebanese neighbours on the other prioritise pavers, stones and cement over living landscape.)

In light of current urban planning values, lawns are as outmoded as the Cyprus hedge.

  • most residents use fossil fuel to mow lawns
  • lawns are high-maintenance
  • exotic lawn grasses seed competitive weeds on our creek banks
  • you get better stormwater and weed management from a bush garden than a strip of lawn

There are some very inspirational native nature-strips around Westgarth, and some orchard strips as well. I was intrigued by a link provided by Marty in his comment about an earlier post on urban farming. He linked to a site discussing the philosophy and practice of guerrilla gardening (or ‘green graffiti’). I’m scheming a bit of guerrilla gardening myself. My Loquat tree spawned hundreds of baby trees this summer, and I’m nursing them to replanting stage. I’m going to target specific bare nature-strip sites around Coburg and plant them at the end of winter. Hopefully people will leave them to grow and fruit, so Coburg can enjoy the Victory garden philosophy. I shall document my endeavours: watch this space.

February 4, 2007

Protected: Why I lie to market researchers (and how you, too, can earn money messing with their heads)

Filed under: mischief,nonsense,politics — Kath @ 12:10 pm

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