Tuesday, December 20, 2011

JESUS™ - Profit, Church, and the amazing union of oil and water.



My first exposure to Hillsong was in the mid 90’s when I was still a teenager and believed that I would see a Christian revival in my lifetime (whatever that actually meant). I was a youngish Christian with a starry eye for the bright lights of Pentecostal Church Ministry that comes with its very own preaching series and books complete with a cover photo of me in a pin striped suit with hair and a fake tan.

Back then Hillsong were on the verge of moving into their newly built facility in Baulkham Hills and were still operating under Hills Christian Life Centre. My memories of this experience were quite fond, spending hours in a Toyota Tarago with friends driving from Sydney to Adelaide singing the latest Hillsong tunes and dreaming of a day when we too, would be up on stage in lights singing glory to our lord. One thing that I can remember quit vividly is the euphoric feeling of being a part of something on the verge of exploding.

And explode it did.

By 2004 Hillsong Church (renamed to capitalize on Hillsong Music’s strong market presence) and no doubt funded partly by its Aria Chart topping record sales, Hillsong Church grossed a staggering $50 Million. Hillsong Church has grown significantly over this period due to their mega church status, slick Sunday church productions, Hillsong Music conference, Hillsong Music and no doubt the income generated by their record company Hillsong Music Australia. Hillsong Churches are now in Kiev, London, South Africa, Paris, Sweden and just recently New York City.

Hillsong is truly a global brand.

Hillsong Music Australia, a department of their church, employs 17 fulltime staff and unlike other recording labels, (like Brisbane based Dew Process which has a diverse range of artists such as Sarah Blasko, Bernard Fanning, The Panics and Mumford and Sons), Hillsong Music Australia only has three artists on its roster – Hillsong Live, United and Hillsong Kids.

Undoubtedly their most successful band is United, which founded in 1998 has now released 13 albums and along with Hillsong Live releases an album each year.

The record label is a significant income source for Hillsong Church. According to its 2010 annual report, Hillsong Church Australia last year earned a staggering $64 million, with total assets of $28.7m and income from conferences at a mere, $6.7m.

Not bad considering the Church operates tax free.

Victoria’s University Graduate School of Business produced a study (back in 2006) that showed that the tax exemption of Churches and other non-profit organizations saved those organizations more than $1 billion a year.

The Melbourne City Council told a Productivity Commission inquiry into charities (again back in 2006) that church exemptions from rates cost it $10 million a year, pushing up charges for other ratepayers by 10 per cent.

These exemptions include GST, income tax, fringe benefits tax at the federal level; land tax, stamp duty, payroll tax and car registration (state); and rates, and some power and water charges (local government and utilities).

I could continue to go on here. There are many lists of facts and figures that I could quote and from various sources. I should also mention that according to their website, Hillsong Church also fund many of their own community orientated programs none more prevalent than Mercy Ministries and Hillsong City Care.

A copy of Hillsong’s most recent annual report was not easy to track down and the figures quoted here are taken from other reports and articles I was able to find. If anyone can provide me with a recent copy of Hillsong’s Annual Report I would be more than happy to post a full summation of their earnings and spendings.

We do however; live in a world that values consumption as a means to success. Below is a photo from underground street Artist, Banksy. Some Christians may find the depiction of Jesus on a cross with shopping bags in his hands as offensive, but I find it a very accurate depiction of modern day Christianity. It seems Christianity has gotten itself a little mixed up with consumerism.

Jesus turned water into wine, and now the Christian church has joined oil and water - a modern day miracle.



From my own simplistic and admittedly uneducated opinion of the Gospel, I was always under the impression that the calling of being a Christian was about the sacrifice of servant hood for those less fortunate than you.

What Hillsong Church (and others that profit from the Gospel, I’m looking at you Paradise Community Church, Edge, and Planet Shakers) do is further propel this consumerist culture (albeit with great intentions) that rewards success in terms of size and prosperity. If you are a Church minister today, the size of your church reflects the ability of your “calling” or validity of your skills as that churches minister. 

Make no doubt about it, in Churches size matters.

Victory Church Senior Minister, Tony Rainbow wasn’t being asked to preach at conferences when he was leading a dozen Christians in a living room back in the mid 90’s.

Whether Christians like it or not, Hillsong Church has become the pre-eminent poster boy for success when it comes to western Church. And if you’re part of a church that signs their songs, and hangs colored lights – I’m sorry but either directly or indirectly, you wanna be like big sister.

There is a lot of money to be made from Jesus and the Gospel, and many churches around the world are making quite a bit. But in light of the Occupy Movement currently growing momentum (ironic considering all they do is just sit around), big corporations are being called to show greater consideration for the poor and those less fortunate in our society and the world – and how much more should churches be leading this charge.

Shouldn’t the Christian Church be the example of giving to the rest of the world? What information I could find was that in 2004 Hillsong Church made $50million in profit and gave $2.4 million to charity and/or community focused programs. Now I don’t know how accurate these figures are, but it was difficult to find information on how much they spent rather than how much they earned. I’m no auditor, but with the size building they operate and the many staff it would take to fund such a complex, this isn’t the least surprising.

Now these figures are probably no different in ratio to many other Christian Churches around the country. Every church has income from various sources and every church has to pay their bills – Hillsong is no different in this regard.

But why does the Western Church need to follow the Hillsong model by providing slick Sunday services, great looking buildings and worship teams that play the latest hits? If the Christian church’s faith is so strong, shouldn’t it still thrive if it was operating in people’s livings rooms, where no buildings were needed and everyone just, well, looked after each other – and there would be no need to buy worship albums.

This makes me think that mega Churches are what people want. Maybe the problem isn’t the Church, maybe the problem is the people who want and need this kind of church - which leads me to this question.

Is the western Christian faith keeping the world poor? Would the horn of Africa exist if Christians around the world were just as happy to share their faith around a coffee table, and give their tithe and CD money, directly to the third world, instead of propping up first world churches so they could pay their power bills?

Suddenly, without any of us realizing is seems that believing in Jesus has become quite expensive.

I don’t know the answer, but while churches like Hillsong continue to make millions of dollars in profits, while paying no tax, and the world continues to struggle to feed itself, Christianity will continue to fight a legitimacy battle when even the churches are struggling to practice what they preach.

Occupy Hillsong…?

Absolutely.

Enjoy.

A.

Friday, November 4, 2011

This is what I believe...



I believe in a god with no capital letter
I believe Love should have a capital letter
I believe that church should cater for poor people
I believe that those who work for churches should have less money and assets than those whom they serve
I believe that Jesus was a revolutionary, feminist and a peace activist
I don’t believe Jesus was a musician or a business man
I don’t believe churches should profit from faith
I believe in criticising a religious system that reflects the disparity of wealth prevalent in the world today.
I believe faith should be debated
I believe that if you have a faith, and want others to believe that faith, then the example of your life should be enough and no microphone should be needed
I believe in a “god” that created this amazing planet
I believe in urban graffiti art
I believe in the pentatonic scale
I believe in being a good person and enjoying every living moment, now, rather than being concerned about some ethereal after life
I believe in Buffy
I believe that a book and a Rock’n’Roll song can change the world
I believe there should be more romance in the world
I believe that Love shouldn’t be clarified by a written document
I believe that homosexuality is NOT a sin
I believe in sentences that sing off the page and into my heart

I believe what I believe so if it’s different to what you believe – stress less, I’m sure we’re both right.

The end

Monday, June 27, 2011

Women shouldn't vote, blacks should go home, and the gays shouldn't marry...


dis·crim·i·na·tion
–noun
1.
an act or instance of discriminating.
2.
treatment or consideration of, or making a distinction in favor of or against, a person or thing based on the group, class, or category to which that person or thing belongs rather than on individual merit: racial and religious intolerance and discrimination.
It's a pretty dirty word, but unfortunately it still, even in 2011 manages to ring strong in many parts of our society. Discrimination is the lowest form of hatred. History is littered with examples of how collectively as a society we have stood against the ridiculousness of bigotry and discrimination.

In a county as wonderful as ours, in 2011, we still don't have equal rights for the Gay community. Interestingly our own Prime Minister who has stated her "traditional" stance against Gay marriage is, herself, living in a defacto relationship and "living in sin."

We have to tolerate so much bull shit with our politicians surely we shouldn't have to put up with hypocrisy. Anyway I am going to continue to stand up for this issue because more heterosexual Aussies need too.

I am proud to say that my brother is Gay, and as a spectator to his "coming out" and the associated turmoil, I have never seen a more truly courageous personal act to stand against society and to be yourself. I'll never understand the inner juxtaposition, but I will let his and I'm sure many other stories, inspire me to do what's right and always stand up against injustice, whatever that injustice is.

I unwillingly posted an innocent facebook status earlier in the week that caused quite a bit of debate around marriage equality in Australia and I would like to share my brothers response - please read.


Well, I think it's about time I weighed in here. For those of you who don't know me, I'm Andrew Natale's brother and I am indeed a full living breathing GAY. Yes that's right - a real one! I'd like to give my perspective on this very fascinating thread which actually, all jokes aside, is indicative of the public debate on this issue within this country.
1. The issue of same sex marriage is about EQUALITY. End of story. I am a human being who has just as much right to enter into the legal institution of marriage than a heterosexual. And to not allow me to do so is discrimination.
2. Gays as Parents - Guess what? There are already gay couples who are parents. They have become parents in a variety of ways and should not be judged based on their sexuality or gender or even that they are of the same gender, but instead based on the quality of them as a parent. Children need a loving upbringing and their parents sexuality is irrelevant for that. I am an uncle who prides myself in the relationships I have with the children in my life. I nurture them. I protect them. And most of all, I love them. And I am gay. I hope I get the opportunity to do that for my own children one day.
3. Legalising same sex marriage will have an enormous impact within our culture. One of the biggest groups of our community with high suicide rates are adolescent boys and there are many studies that indicate that this is due to confusion around sexuality. To legalise same sex marriage says that it's OK to be gay. That you as a beautiful human being are just as valued and accepted as anyone else. And if this gesture in some way manages to save a life - isn't it worth it?
4. I don't accept the religious rhetoric that marriage is exclusively the domain of religion. The reality is it is a legal institution. I don't discriminate against you (and it would be illegal if I did), so don't you do it to me.
5. Same sex marriage is already legalised in many parts of the world. Netherlands, Belgium, Spain, Canada, South Africa, Norway, Sweden, Portugal, Argentina, Iceland... And guess what? The sky has not fallen. It hasn't ripped apart the fabric of their society and it hasn't taken anything away from the institution of marriage. All that it's done is treated all of their citizens as equals.
6. For change to truly happen, we need heterosexual people standing up and saying loudly - No it's not OK to treat people differently just because they're the minority. We need everyone to stand up!

And finally, I have to say that I am proud to have a brother that not only believes that this is an imperative but will also stand up and say so. And not just because he has a gay brother but because it's the right thing to do!

So here I am - the real live gay, brother of the provoker of this conversation, saying enough is enough. The time for equal rights is NOW.


I never intended to emote onto this blog, or use it as an emotional clothes line, but this is issue is worth it.

Enjoy,

A.

Friday, June 17, 2011

Rodge Smith, U2, long drive to Melbourne and Kevin Rudd



Living instead of existing, connecting instead of just being connected is all the more difficult these days when living in a digital world that leaves little room for those of us still living in an analogue one. Late last year I took to the roads of our National Highway with the talented Rodge Smith to see U2.

Not the first time I’ve seen the Irish boys but a road trip with my BFF who's known me since I had hair, and to see a once in a generation band – well who could say no.

We laughed, we drove, we listened to classic albums, podcasts talked all things life, sex, spirituality, boobs and the discourse between church and state and who sells Jesus better.

Once we got to Melbs we were confronted with a long line of U2 fans all devoted to the cold Ethiad Stadium concrete as we lined up next to U2 fans who had seen U2 concerts when Bono still had a pony tail and didn’t wear sunglasses indoors.

Well we sat and ate Subway, and chatted with a crazy U2 devotee (aka Tash) all under a ice cold sky. (That was a play on words to U2’s Red Rock concert ‘Under a Blood Red Sky’ that’s why it reads ‘a’ instead of ‘an’ – notice the rhythm) I was approached by a volunteer who balanced the dichotomy of wearing op shop clothing and nursing an iPad. He asked me to sign some petition to do with world poverty.

It was the ONE (Make Poverty History) campaign and in the interest of wanting fresh clean water and rice for all I signed it. Earlier this week I received an email from ONE telling me of their recent political victory and I couldn't help but feel and little good about the fact that a my name was a part of that victory.

Needless to say KRudd did something worthwhile other than argue with Julia Goolia. And while we’re on that – I don’t mind paying a Carbon Tax but id rather my taxes go to those children in Africa who need vaccines – I’m just saying.

So high five KRudd you did what we voted you in to do – any chance you can do something about increasing funding for Youth homelessness around Australia…oh hand you’re not PM any more – DANG!

Anyway so if you’re not already joined up, engage, and live – don’t just exist.

Join the ONE campaign HERE!.

See the blog post HERE!!!

Squeaker...


Also my mate Rodge is a pretty fucking talented bald dude (bald guys can give shit to each other about being folicaly challenged) and so check out his web design HERE!!! and his band Squeaker HERE!!

Enjoy,

A. 

Thursday, June 16, 2011

Wednesday, April 13, 2011

When it came to Lidia (an excerpt from The Invincible Summer)


 
Well as I type this Darren Reid and the tallented team at Traffic Creative are currenlty putting images and design concepts to my first publication, The Invincible Summer. My first book will be a collection of short stories and over the next month or so I will be publishing exerpts from the various stories as they appear in the book. Keep an eye on my blog for a taste of things to come.

Happy reading and I hope you enjoy.

An excerpt from"When it came to Lidia..." as it appears in The Invincible Summer.


           It was raining when Lidia knocked on my door. In my half slumber it awoke me, the deep thud, thud, thud. As I found a lucid state of mind, my body instinctively knew it was she, the dull round pain in my gut that was now synonymous. Thud…thud….thud. The sound of her flat, fleshy palm with a pause between each thud opposed to the sharp, quick tap of a knuckle.
My stomach told me to stay still in the protection of my bed, but I knew I couldn’t, I lacked logic when it came to Lidia. Thud…...thud..….thud. The hallway seemed chilled this time as I cursed myself for heading towards the door, my skin goosepimpled under my pyjamas. Thud…….thud..… She stood there shivering, dressed in next to nothing, her hair stuck to her face soaked in rain or tears and she took one long drag of her cigarette, using the remainder of her strength to stop her hand from shivering. The yellow butt travelled to her pale blue lips. She looked like a girl who used to be my girlfriend.
            I once had a memory of Lidia, which I used to play repeatedly when she first left, of her pale skin, smooth and slightly aglow as it reflected the late Sunday afternoon sun. In our bed naked, wrapped in our sheets like a child, she slept as I moved her wavy hair that framed her face like colourful flags slightly swaying in a spring breeze. At the time I remember wishing that we would last forever, but I lacked logic when it came to Lidia. She turned to her back and awoke with a yawn and a stretch, her body taking a strange shape. The short film in my mind was a stark contrast to the reality that was on my doorstep. She smelt of whiskey and cigarettes and sick.

Enjoy,

A.

Wednesday, March 16, 2011

Top 5 Albums...

So here we go, my Top 5 Albums. If you don't have any or all of these albums hit up a music store and treat yourself. These won’t disappoint you.

FIVE


I and Love and You - The Avett Brothers

There are just so many beautiful moments on this album, certainly too many to mention. These brothers know how to play music, how to write and how to appropriately be all manly and sensitive. Lyrics from this album will make an appearance in my Top 5 Lyrics. Pour yourself your favourite drink, find a porch at sunset and ill leave the rest up to you.








FOUR



Room for Squares – John Mayer

This is a very good album and captures the beginning of a true musical talent. Say what you like about Mayer as a celebrity, he can write amazing music and play guitar. This is a snapshot of Mayer before he started dating celebrities, saying dumb things in Playboy Magazine, and getting followed by hoards of photographers, when he was a nerd and nerds were cool. Probably the best example of intelligent pop you’ll find in the last 10 years. So hop in your car on one rainy Sunday afternoon and drive up the Adelaide Hills for a coffee and you’ll understand what I mean.



THREE



Recovering the Satellites – Counting Crows

The follow up album to the hugely successful August and Everything After, Recovering the Satellites, is the less appreciated album by this incredible band. By the band’s own admission they went too electric, but considering this album came out during the wave of Seattle grunge this is what some of those early grunge albums should have been. For me this is the album of that era, sorry Pearl Jam 10. Crank this loud, open some beers, fire up the BBQ and invite those you love over – the end.



TWO


Grace – Jeff Buckley

Such a voice, such a songwriter, such a talent. What makes this album so unique is the various tones and passion in Buckley’s voice, it’s like dripping honey. Light some candles, open your favourite bottle of red wine and get your pensive on.
Listening to this album is a meditation.  









ONE



Plans – Death Cab for Cutie (Thankyou Shane Shepherd)

Easily my most favourite album of all time. The song writing of this band, specifically Ben Gibbard is a real pleasure to listen too – an artist at his peak. Listening to this album is like listening to literature infused with melody. The first track “Marching Bands of Manhattan” will draw you in and the rest of the album will keep you while “Follow you into the dark’ will break your heart. Put the headphones in, grab a coffee and wander the streets of your favourite city – see what I mean?





Some unlucky albums:

Joshua Tree - U2
In Rainbows - Radio Head
A rush of blood to the head - Coldplay

Enjoy,

A.

John Cusak, Jack Black, an old record store, love, heartbreak and hating a Laura…


There is no better film to watch on a rainy Friday night than the 2000 classic, High Fidelity staring John Cusack and Jack Black. This film is based on the 1995 book of the same name written by Nick Hornby.

I have just started reading this book and am thoroughly enjoying it. In recounting his top 5 breakups and the ensuing related pop songs, Nick writes…

“What came first the music or the misery?”

Literary and rock ‘n’ roll gold. So in light of this book that I am devouring ( I sat at Cibo last Sunday reading for a few hours, and laughed so loud the guy next to me asked me what was so funny….) I am going to share with the world my own personal “Top 5 of all times.”


Certainly not my Top 5 Breakups of all time, that’s just a little emotional and this blog is cry your eyes out heartbreak free.

No I will share my top 5 of the following:

Music Lyrics
Songs
Albums
Bands
Literature
Films
Quotes on life
Adelaide Coffee locations
First date locations (this is meant to be ironic as I neither date nor even know what one is these days…)

I will add a slight disclaimer – these are my own opinions. Albums, songs, movies all that mean something to me may mean nothing to you. That’s the beauty. So as you read I ask you to post your own top 5 and we can take it from there.

So keep an eye on your Facebook and Twitter feeds, ill be posting my relative tops 5 over the next few weeks.

So stay tuned and come with me as I discover what did come first – the music or the misery.

Enjoy…

A.

Tuesday, February 8, 2011

Beauty in the every day - Joshua Bell.


In Wahsingont, DC, at a Metro Station, on a cold January morning in 2007, this man with a violin played six Bach pieces for about an hour. During that time, approxiamtely 2,000 people went through the station, most of them on their way to work. No one knew this, but the violinist was Joshua Bell, one of the greatest musicians in the world. He played one of the most intricate pieces ever written, with a violin worth $3.5 million dollars.

Two days before, Joshua Bell sold-out a theatre in Boston where the seats averaged $200 each to hear him play the same music. The is a true story. Joshua Bell, playing in the DC Metro Station, was organized by the Washington Post as part of a social experiment about perception, taste and people's priorities.



There is beauty in the every day - it's just a matter of finding it.

Read the full Washington Poast story HERE.

Enjoy,

A.

Wednesday, February 2, 2011

Love, The Wizard of Oz, Bert Newton, Transformers and queen-sized beds for single heads…



I find the world of “singledom” hilarious. The other day I had a life moment that would be unbelievable if it weren’t so true. I am definitely going to put this in my next work of fiction as its serendipitous nature colours it overtly romantic, yet entirely ridiculous.

This scene takes place in a furniture store where I was shopping for a new bed. Now before I tell you this little literary diddy, I will tell you the song I was listening to at the time while I was shopping. I like to put in the headphones and listen to music when I shop as it sends a non-verbal message to all shop assistants “don’t talk to me.”

It’s a great little Death Cab for Cutie tune called “Your new twin sized bed” and these were the lyrics I was listening too. Now I assure you I didn’t plan this, my iPhone was set to ‘shuffle’, and this song just came on as I approached the bed section of the store. I listened with a wry smile. Read the lyrics, it gives killer context.

You look so defeated lying there
In your new twin sized bed
With a single pillow
Underneath your single head
I guess you decided that that old queen
Was more space than you would need
And now it's in the alley behind your apartment
With a sign that says it's free

And I hope you have more luck with this than me

You used to think that someone
Would come along
And lay beside you in the space
That they belong
But the other side of the mattress
And box spring stayed like new
And what's the point of holding onto
What never gets used?

Other than a sick desire for self-abuse

And I try not to worry
But you've got me terrified
It's like you're in some kind of hurry
To say goodbye, to say goodbye
To say goodbye

You look so defeated lying there
In your new twin sized bed
You look so defeated lying there
In your new twin sized bed


So what I would like to do now is right the little conversation I had with the shop assistant below. It’s not word for word but you will get the general gist.

Written in the first person narrative for ease of story telling.

I caught her eye as she approached and took out my ear phones. Despite my body language I actually wanted to engage.

“Hi can I help you at all?” She spoke with a pleasant smile.
“Yeh I’m looking for a new bed. I’m thinking probably a queen?” I squashed my headphones into my pocket.
“Ok well what sort of bed do you have now?”
“Well I’ve got just a double but I think it might be time to upgrade and be a real man that sleeps on a real bed.”
I smiled and she laughed. I can’t help but flirt a little with shop assistants even if this one was old enough to be my mother. She started walking over to a display and I followed.
“So is this for you and your partner?”
“No just me and my single head.” At this point I smile to myself because I think I’m being cleaver at quoting the lyrics that were humming in my head a few minutes ago, but they only existed in my mind and I realise that I’m just a big fat melodic nerd. She paused a moment like she was trying to find appropriate words.
“Well we do have some really good specials on single beds and some doubles.” I pause and remember the manners my mother taught me.
“No that’s ok I’m keen for a queen size bed.”
“To sleep in on your own?” Her face looked perplexed like the information wasn’t making sense, it contorted and I thought she looked a little frightening, kind of like the wicked witch in Wizard of Oz when she first appears to Dorothy.
“What’s wrong with sleeping on my own?”
“But do you really need all that room?” Her voice gave a slight inflection at the end of the sentence. At this point I make the decision that I will put my hard earned cash elsewhere. I also decide to leave my manners at the door.
“Hang on what’s wrong with my being a single dude sleeping in a queen sized bed?” I added ‘dude’ to soften my sharp tone.
“Well nothing I just thought it would make you feel worse.” My face now contorts as my mind can’t compute what she is saying. I then release this is a battle of Gen X v’s a boomer, my superior post modern, pop culture referenced wit will reign supreme. I really should drop in a Joss Whedon word or Buffy quote but that would be lost on her.
“Feel worse about what? Sleeping alone?” We’re not in Kansas anymore.
“I’ll have you know I like sleeping alone and stretching out like a starfish. Maybe I like to sleep in diagonals and be the long side of an obtuse triangle?” I said this all with a smile. She looked at me with that same perplexed face, like when Dorothy discovers that the Wizard is just Bert Newton behind a curtain.
“Ok well then, that’s fine. Ok so this bed comes in a package with a side table and drawers.”
She then rapidly changes the subject and continues on with her sales pitch. I place the headphones back in my ears and walk out the store. The music plays and the below lyrics ring out.

And what’s the point of holding on to what never gets used.

I got in the car and laughed my ass of all the way home. There is nothing like assumptions that you can make in one foul swoop. I love the feeling of surprising people. They look you up and down and say “no it’s ok we got it, we have you sussed.” I seem to get that all the time, people making summations based on limited information. There is a lot of fun of taking a person back to a point of knowing nothing about me, so that I can re-paint their picture. I think that's why I blog and write...a constant need to explain myself.

I think this little conversation taught me that life is life, and each stage has its purpose and beauty. And even if the cover of the book that you’re judging is a fashionably dressed, squishy around the edges bald, four eyed unclean shaven thirty something dude with great taste in music that deep down I’m like a transformer.

There’s more than meets the eye.

So from now on, I ain’t making any judgements on anyone, because you just don’t know what melodies are humming in their heads.

Check out the song “Your new twin sized bed” below.

Enjoy…


A.



Monday, January 24, 2011

Film Review - Black Swan



Black Swan is the difference between a movie and a film.

A movie will entertain you, keep you interested and give you some great discussion points. A film however, will draw you in, entice you, impress you, take you on a journey…

Black Swan will be remembered in the upper echelon of great films. Not just because of Natalie Portman’s engaging and enthralling performance but also for Darren Aronofsky’s direction and his ability to take you on to the stage and make you fall in love with Ballet. As in The Wrestler, Aronofsky manages to squeeze every ounce of substance of his lead actor - Natalie Portman shines.

Portman plays the talented but troubled Nina who wins the lead as the Swan Queen in Swan Lake. The already fragile Nina slowly looses her mind as paranoia, a possessive mother, and the mounting pressure leading to opening night take their toll. Add to this the beautiful Mila Kunis (Lilly) as the threat to her role and Black Swan takes you on a scintillating, mysterious and often terrifying journey and look into the world of professional ballet.

Portman rightly deserves her Golden Globe. Not just for her acting ability but her dancing scenes are incredible. Hollywood is riddled with stories of actors going through painstaking training to learn skills for a certain role, and there is none more impressive than Portman. Actors that immerse themselves in their role – Anthony Hopkins in “Silence of the Lambs”, De Niro in “Raging Bull” and Natalie Portman in “Black Swan.” She is incredibly convincing as a world-class ballet dancer, with seemingly minimal body doubles and direction that contains extended wide angled frames showing the full extend of her dancing ability for this role.

There are a few surprises such as the great performance by Barbara Hershey as the domineering, possessive mother, a brief appearance from Wynona Ryder as the ballet star nearing the end of her career. The uncredited star of this film is Ballet itself as it seamlessly joins with the wonderful direction to make you feel like you on the stage itself.

This film is like watching live Opera but without the Italian singing and with a lot less vibrato - dramatic, ethereal and beautiful.

This is more than a movie – it’s a classic film.

Enjoy…

A.







Saturday, January 22, 2011

Hitting the dance floor - tips for young players...

Let’s Dance.

“Nobody cares if you can't dance well.
Just get up and dance.”
~Dave Barry



Whatever the reason is you’re there. You’ve paid your money, told a few friends and maybe - depending on your initial level of enthusiasm – you’ve watched a few videos online. You have a story, you’re at a particular stage of life, and you’re on the dance floor staring at a room filled with other dubious faces ready to start your first Salsa class. You’re in a room filled with people who have all arrived at the same destination but have come from vastly different origins. Maybe you saw Salsa on TV and thought it was something you had to try; or you stumbled across an online video; you’ve come out of a terrible life experience or relationship and are looking for some confidence; you could be looking for that special someone you feel you’ve never found or simply looking to increase your networks. Or maybe none of this applies to you, you just like dancing.

Whatever the reason you find yourself holding hands with a complete stranger as you both count one, two, three – five, six, seven under your breath in an attempt to get your feet and hands to do what your brain is demanding. Believe me I can relate, learning to dance can be no easy feat. Those of you reading this article that are obsessed with dancing and are out most nights doing your thang may have forgotten how intimidating it can be. My story on how I stumbled across Salsa is really no different to most people. One night a good friend invited me to some Salsa party where I was assured there would be “a lot of honeys and some great music.” Well both were in attendance. As I stood on the side of the dance floor looking at smiling hands and feet flying all over the place I suddenly felt as though I was missing out on some genuine fun. Not to mention the impressive live band that were simply hypnotising. A few months later I was watching YouTube videos and signing up to my first beginner’s class. When I first started taking lessons the thought of trying to take what I was learning in class to the social dance floor was accompanied by my own self confidence pointing its finger and laughing at me as though it was an insurmountable task. It wasn’t just the dance that was intimidating. My headspace was not well, I was not well, my confidence was at an all time low and I was reeling from a significant negative life experience. I was looking for a life raft and I found it in quick, quick slow. Fast forward 18 months, countless classes, the occasional workshop, new friends, various pairs of dance shoes and there is rarely an event I don’t try and get to filled with people I know and ladies who I love to dance with. Not to mention some genuinely good people.

Now let me be clear right from the beginning; I am no expert when it comes to the dance floor - far from it. But in the time that I’ve been learning to shake my thang, I have learned some rather invaluable lessons – all of them the hard way – and being a narcissistic, out of work freelance writer who often feels the need to sit for hours at a keyboard to keep my brain from exploding, I felt the need to share with those of you who are mustering the courage to hit the social floor. So in this brief collection of words take heed that what you are reading is a collection of hints and tips taken directly from a dance nerd who learned the hard way. Oh and all the lads out there, some of the things you will read are taken directly from some of the many conversations I have had with some of Adelaide’s most beautiful dancers (looks to the sky and day dreams a little). Oh and ladies anything directed to you will be an attempt to introduce you to the male psyche when it comes to dancing – hard I know but it does exist. Ok lads lets go, (ladies still read):

Thursday, January 20, 2011

When grammar comes between love...

A friend sent me this article this week, and I am still giggling like a school girl. I'm sure this was a Seinfield spisode.


For all intensive purposes
To what extent does our grasp of grammar affect our chance of romance?
Comedian Mark Butler investigates.

I recently broke up with a girlfriend because she misused an apostrophe. Yes, I know it’s not a capital offence to write “two bottle’s of wine” in an email, but this minor grammatical blunder irked me just enough to pull out of that night’s barbecue. Some relationships break down because one partner is too possessive; ours ended because the two bottles were not.

Obviously this was not the only slip-up this girl (let’s call her Je’s’sica) made during our brief relationship, but the “bottles incident”, as I now call it, was the straw that broke the camel’s back. There was a your/you’re episode in a love letter that left me loveless, there were double negatives crammed into conversations that turned me right off, and there were countless text messages strewn with errors which, in hindsight, were probably written deliberately to wind me up. Basically, the relationship was destined to fail because I care about grammar and she, apparently, CUDNT CARELESS.

I didn’t care so much when I was a teenager. Growing up in a coal-mining community in the north of England, it was difficult enough to find a girl who could speak in full sentences, let alone in grammatically correct ones. I took what I could get, and this often meant me putting up with clauses enclosed by “like” and “intit” in the hope of copping a feel behind the bus shelter. In those days, the most desirable quality in a girl was not her grasp of grammar; it was her willingness to go behind bus shelters.

But then came university in the south of England where I was surrounded by young women who could construct sentences without fillers. They all spoke properly, like BBC newsreaders, and they all mocked my Northern knack of truncating the “to” and omitting the definite article in sentences about me “going t’ pub”. Suddenly it was my grammar that was under the spotlight, and I knew I would have to pick up my game if I hoped to attract such sophisticates.

So I went t’ library and buried myself in a big book of grammar with a penguin on it, studying all the things that my middle school English teacher would probably have taught me had she not always been popping out for fags during lessons. I learnt about subjunctives, superlatives, conditionals and participles. I studied predicates, prepositions, pronouns and proper nouns. I learnt so much about language that I was able to crawl confidently from my study cocoon and proudly unfold my grammatical wings. I even learnt how to create butterfly-related metaphors, albeit clich├ęd ones.

But this newfound knowledge didn’t get me laid. In fact, it probably had the opposite effect. I became convinced everyone could benefit from my wisdom and I thought nothing of pointing out where pretty girls had wrongly used adjectives instead of adverbs. I honestly thought I was helping; they genuinely thought I was a dickhead. We were both right. But my chance of romance was slipping faster than Australian school standards, and I had to learn to keep my mouth more shut, more often. My crusade had come to an end.

It seems it is not possible to point out grammatical gaffes and still expect to sleep with the person who made them. Having good grammar is sexy, but the highlighting of others’ mistakes is a passion-killer, a cold shower on any conversation. People like to be told how smart they are, not that “for all intensive purposes” is a malapropism. No one likes to be told that “fastly” is not a word; if they really cared, they would have figured it out by now.

So what do language pedants like you and me do if we want to be loved? (I am assuming that you are a pedant since you have read this far into the article; everyone else stopped reading after missing the clever word play at the end of the first paragraph.) Do we just let our partners get away with syntactical murder? No, we do not. We explain to them that our grammatical nitpicking is a symptom of an obscure mental illness. We tell them that grammatical mistakes bring on anxiety attacks in us. We tell them that if they truly loved us, they would stop using “could of” in third conditional sentences. We do not drop our standards; we help them to raise theirs.

Je’s’sica, however, had more problems raising her standards than she did the hem of her skirt, and it was with great regret that I had to end it. Yes, she had great legs, an angelic face, and at least two bottles of wine, but these things were only going to take her so far; a grammar geek like me needs all the boxes ticked. She sent me a text message after we broke up, after I told her that it was me and not her, after I lied about me not being ready for another serious relationship. ITS SHAME COZ WE CUD OF BIN GUD 2GTHR. X. We all know that I did the right thing.

Mark Butler will be performing his new comedy show, Grammar Don’t Matter on a First Date, at the Adelaide Fringe Festival.

So good, I might have to check it out.
Enjoy...

A.

Wednesday, January 19, 2011

Ain't love grand...

This was emailed to me by a good mate. Funny and ironical...


Enjoy...

A.

Tuesday, January 18, 2011

Beauty queens, world peace, rising flood waters and the prevailing Aussie spirit...

Watch any beauty queen pageant contest and not only will you see a bevy of beauties with fake tans, and manicured eye brows, but you will hear that every contestant seems to want the same thing.

"World peace."

The vain persuit of victory whilst tacking on somekind of conscientiousness. I find it quite hilarious. I'm sure they all really want to see world peace, but do we even know what world peace looks like? If it sprung up one day would we see it?

Just like all of us I have been incredibly moved by the images and footage coming out of Qld surrounding the floods. It's quite difficult to know how to respond when you see such devestation and there is no-one to blame or no finger to point.

It is refreshing to see however, the post disaster news stories come out as people band together to help each other out. After watching an ACA report on the volunteers (I NEVER watch ACA as it barely passes as journalism) I couldn't help but feel that little bit more Australian seeing thousands of people coming together to clean-up and repair Brisbane.

What also impresses me is how we approach such things with humor as is the larrikin Aussie spirit. I saw this image below and felt that little bit more Australian.


Wally Lewis statue outside the flooded Suncorp stadium.

I also saw this facebook status in the last few weeks as well:

"Come on Australia grab your shamwows...we've got a city to clean."

I don't know if we will ever see peace in the middle east. I don't know if we will ever eradicate racism from our communties. I don't know if the poor in Africa will ever see respite from famine and Aids. I don't know if children will ever be safe from slave labor or sexual exploitation. I don't know if we will ever see the end to human trafficing or the injustice of poverty around the world, and I certainly don't know if we will ever be safe from religious extremsim - but i keep hoping.

But one thing I do know, is that in Brisbane right now we are getting a glimpse of what world peace could be; a community of people coming together, helping each other out with good humor and hard work.







Check it out - there's world peace in Brisbane right now.

A.

Friday, January 14, 2011

Exit Through The Gift Shop - Hybrid Street Art that is amazing...

Wow this is where it's at. This guy manages to fuse political message, art, graffiti, love, romance, humor and everything in between. Check out some of his artwork below and enjoy the 5 minute video that I promise will be the best part of your day.

Check out Banksy HERE.

Trust me and enjoy...


A.




















Thursday, January 13, 2011