The Sydney Writers' Festival is now ON with a vengeance. It all started out very civilized for me this afternoon with a lovely author talk on characterization, then gradually deteriorated to utter nonsense and bee thievery.
After the first session I attended, I met up with a few friends and ate the raisin bread and cherries I'd lugged along to avoid the inflated festival pricing scheme. (Yes, scheme. In the American sense.) As a side note, there do actually seem to be lots more options for dining this year than in the past ... and to be entirely honest, I didn't actually scout any of the prices. But they were inflated. I'm sure.
Anyway, after our snack we didn't quite make it into the recording of Thank God It's Friday, but we did get to watch the live broadcast from the room next door, which was almost as good and still very funny.
After that, my friends headed out and I headed to the secret, nice, clean, year-round restrooms where all was going well until a man just walked in to clean them. He didn't seem bothered that I was there, but I got a bit bothered that he was there, so left pre-mascara-ed. It's really a bit awkward being alone in a restroom with a man who you assume must be cleaning ... right? I didn't wait around to confirm.
Having gotten locked out of the TGIF recording, I wanted to be sure to get into the next session, so joined the line ... which was outside, in the rain. Thankfully I did have an umbrella in my magic bag (As well, as you may recall, as a loaf of raisin bread. Which was all well and good until the first presenter kept going on about characters needing motivations to do things -- like buying loaves of bread. I suddenly felt a bit ... characterized?), which I proceeded to juggle with the bag and the phone and try to close and walk with all simultaneously, which, ultimately, resulted in no fatalities. This time.
The session I thought I was going to was Erotic Fan Fiction, that I assumed had been freshly billed this year as Spoken Four. It was as I was reading the program that I spotted Erotic Fan Fiction -- on Thursday night. Spoken Four, though, ended up being really good, and, coupled with the next two events I saw, worth the $10 I spent to get in ... and even, I shall later argue, that added to the $30 cab fare home.
Spoken Four was a series of poetry slammers, all of whom were excellent. The second act in particular was a girl from England who pretty much spoke at break-neck speed for 17 minutes straight. And before anyone makes amusing quips about how very much like me that sounds, I might add that she did it all in verse and completely memorized (well, all of them did, but hers was the most intense in terms of vocal performance). I was also amazed by how much an English girl could sound like Martin Luther King, Jr. -- not excessively, just in certain intonations. It was actually pretty spectacular.
The host also gave a quick poem which was very clever -- it was about a city where people always said "So?" so it was called So. And then they started sighing, so it was called So-Sigh ... and then they were lazy, so instead of calling it So-Sigh City, they called it So-Sigh Ity (which if you didn't just read that properly in your head, I'll point it out: Socie, ahem, ty). And in Society, a boy was born at 10 months because he wanted to be in, not out, so he was called In. But he didn't speak. And he was called Insane, and then he moved to the other side of the world, where he was called a Wise Dumb, and so, eventually, Insanity became Wisdom. Clever, huh? Wish I'd come up with it, but I didn't. It was a guy named Miles, who I now realize I only remember the name of because he made a joke about being better than kilometers. It was pretty funny, but maybe you had to be there.
While I'm ripping off other people's jokes, I don't know who said this originally, but I found it hysterical: "In his later years, Neil Armstrong would often make unfunny jokes about the moon. He'd then follow them up with, 'guess you had to be there.'"
I'm not entirely sure where this note fits in, but as much as I love the festival and feel all inspired to write and educated and cultured and entertained and all for going, the one thing I dislike is how a subtle anti-Christian sentiment seems to run through many of the sessions. It's the odd joke here, the reference there, the blatant slam on Catholicism here, there and here -- but it makes me sad. And reminds me again how very un-PC it is to make fun of other religions (not remotely saying that anyone should be doing this!), but how glib and chic and cosmopolitan it's supposed to be to make fun of not even just of Christians, which would be one (often quite justified) thing, but sacraments like communion and Jesus Himself.
After the poetry came the Chaser's empty vessel, which was hysterical in what I'm not entirely sure was an entirely compassionate way. The first guest was an American publishing guy who talked about the new e-experience books, which sound really intriguing. I'm not great at describing them (I just tried and would have failed miserably had Garry not already known what I was talking about), but it's kind of like the reader gets to write the books and they're set in various locations that are actually real locations, so readers can go to them and incorporate, say, a broken window into the plot (or everyone's favorite ESL lesson on the passive ... which reminds me of everyone's favorite ESL on the past continuous and a workshop or book or something I once heard of entitled "Were you really in the bath when the telephone rang?" Moving on ...) and then it's a truly authentic story that, like all good stories, is full of creativity and fun and such.
Then another man talked about music and music education (and was asked what I thought was quite a good question -- and not in the 100 most common icebreaker question sets, and yes, I would know what actually is -- which was what his earliest musical memory was). The truly hysterical part ensued, though, when an older Irishman came on the stage and really, I'm not sure he could see or hear or understand anything that was happening around him. He evidently just took 12 years to write a book, and by the end of the session, despite his lack of answer for that particular (or any given) question, we all had a fairly clear idea as to why. The poor presenter was struggling ... my favorite bit was when he followed up one of his many (completely obscurely, if at all, answered questions) with "he asks, optimistically."
It sounded like a joke -- an American, a Australian and an Irishman walk into a festival -- and, man, if you were there, it totally was.
The last part of the evening was a series of comedians spoofing Ted Talks, which I've never seen, but evidently is supposed to be inspirational. The first speaker gave a mock generic motivational speech (complete with the dramatic drinking of "water" (nope, not alcohol: air)). The second gave a very funny rundown on why Bones are Bad and Killing Us All! The third I think must have been using particularly Australian humor. I'm getting better at getting it (well, okay, not getting it per se, but knowing that it is something that Australians get. generally because they're all laughing and I'm not ...), but hers alluded me. Ah well. The last was a man who started by giving a spoof scientific rundown on the terrible world-wide problem of bee disappearance -- predicted, obviously, by Einstein -- and then segued into a hysterical confession of how he'd stolen 40% of the world's bees.
By the time my night of hilarity drew to a close, it was absolutely pouring and I was a good fifteen minutes from my bus stop (plus some more minutes even post-ride), so I rather uncharacteristically (but characteristically, now that you understand my motivations, as the first speaker of the day would have pointed out. I make a good character, it seems. I carry loaves of bread. But with Purpose! They facilitate (I haven't the foggiest idea how) my Super-Objective!) caught a cab and arrived home more or less dry, but still cold.
So, that was my festival-filled day. It's on tomorrow and Sunday, too -- and, when it's not raining, the scenery is beautiful (see below) -- go if you have the chance, it's fantastic!!