Wednesday, March 18, 2015

Bedtime Story

I have always loved Oz. I remember watching The Wizard of Oz for the first time on a black & white TV (brilliant, huh?) and being entranced. I was only about 5 years old. I read the original book many times in my youth and I delved into a handful of the other Baum books including The Marvellous Land of Oz and Tik Tok of Oz during my early school days. It is only recently that I have finally ploughed through all 14 (well, I am half way through book 13, but I am getting there!).

I have lived in the alternate 'Oz' (Australia) for over fifteen years now and I have made some superb friends. However, in the past few years, I have made three rather special friends. I call them my "straight-dates". Three handsome, smart and talented heterosexual men who are amongst the kindest, sweetest and decent men I have ever met. I have a strange bond with each of them and, oddly, they share similarities with a certain trio from the land of Oz. Weirder still, I met them in the same order as Dorothy met her friends! Let's take a look...

For the sake of decency and privacy, I will refer to these fantastic chaps by their first initial.

A few years ago, I met 'D'. I saw him in a stairwell and I lit up. Gosh, what a handsome devil he is. I pursued him in a friendly manner as I was keen to find out if he swung my way. He did not, but we bonded quite quickly and became firm friends. Now, 'D' is smart. Really smart. He is wise beyond his years, he is a deep thinker and dedicated to truth. The thing is, he tends to doubt himself (as I often doubt myself!) - he really shouldn't, for I know what I am talking about. He is also charming, talented and (did I mention before) ridiculously good looking. He has been there for me through thick and thin. He is my scarecrow and he has more brains than he realises.

A couple of years ago, I met 'C'. I had seen him about the place at work but really got to know him one evening at a nearby watering hole and I learned all about his talents, his life and his charm. Another handsome chap but, this time, ruggedly so. He has a cheekiness that appeals to me greatly too. Now, 'C' is a man with heart. He is so kind and generous. He frequently gives and gives to others. He gives his time, his effort and his money! I am lucky to know a great number of generous people, but his generosity is boundless. 'C' has so much to give, yet he (like 'D' and myself) has self-doubt. The amount of times 'C' has helped me out is astounding. His heart couldn't be any bigger.

Then we come to 'P'. Sweet, strong, beautiful, courageous 'P'. I met 'P' about 15 months ago at a mutual friend's Christmas soiree. He and I hit it off quickly. Initially I was a bit intimidated by him because he appears so confident and I am a paranoid mess. However, he showed strength of character and he impressed me with his prowess, his stories of his life and, again, his stunning looks. (I am not that shallow, it's just a common ingredient!) 'P' is courageous in many ways. He left a career in the film industry and began a new life as a nurse - one of the most courageous jobs in the world - he also does rock-climbing and all kinds of manly activities. He is also lithe, fit and strong. And, sometimes, he has a wonderful mane/beard. He is a protector and a king.

That wonderful trio is my alternate "friends of Dorothy". As I mention, I have a load of amazing friends over here. They know who they are. But this post is dedicated to the three men who make my journey that little bit more magical.

Saturday, March 14, 2015

Paradise (Not For Me)

PHEW!! A long walk, a bit of sunburn and seven soggy, snotty handkerchiefs later...

I just got in from a rather laborious morning of apartment hunting. It's funny when you're focussing on one area and you keep bumping into the same prospective renters. Of course, each gets a death glare from me if I want that apartment specifically.

There were a lot of single people, but there were a few happy, gorgeous, young couples looking for their first home. Bastards.

I find that a lot of the places I am looking at in my price range are really the sort of things only students can cope with. I am finding it difficult to find something to suit my needs.

Today's Viewings

  • 9:55 - Toorak Road:
  • Agent gave wrong address on website, so missed that one!
  • 10:10 - Powell Street:
  • Agent never turned up
  • 10:20 - Fawkner Road:
  • Tiny, horrid hole. But cheap.
  • 10:30 - Punt Road:
  • Massive three-bedroom house. I got very excited and dreamt of a life sharing with friends and it'd be like This Life. But it was $900 a week and no friends would want to live with me. *sigh*
  • 11:10 - Osborne Street:
  • Nice, but no laundry facilities
  • 11:35 - Davis Avenue:
  • Lovely! Just right for me (bathroom needs work, though) - I have applied
  • 12:30 - Margaret Drive:
  • Nice, actually. Small, but has an outdoor area. Bathroom in wardrobe. Fact.
  • 1:10 - Osborne Street again:
  • I have already applied for this one as it is definitely pet friendly - even has a cat flap!

We'll see what happens.

I had lunch at Cafe Republic. I had scrambled eggs and bacon on toast. I was served by a guy who looked like Orlando Bloom... in a good way.

I also broke up the morning by sitting in a little park. That was nice.

This afternoon, I deserve a treat...

Friday, March 13, 2015

Nobody's Perfect

So, when did I become such a miserable old bastard? As I approach 40, it occurs to me (and others) that I have become surly, selfish, self-absorbed and down right miserable. How did this happen? I certainly don't get it from my parents. Both are equally upbeat and positive about the world and its people. Certainly not from my brother who may, indeed, suffer the ignominy of the masses, but he does it with joviality and irony.

As a child, I was bright, spirited, eager-to-please and what one might call 'chipper'. My mother always said that I was "great with people"!

Oh, but times have changed.

Now I find people to be rude, ignorant, inconsiderate and the bane of my existence. I have turned into a grumpy old man 30 years too soon. I am a curmudgeon; a miser; a borderline hermit; a critical, self-righteous arsehole... I'm the depressingly unfunny version of Alan Partridge.

Maybe it's because I have lived alone for too long. Maybe it's because the social injustices of life make me bitter and angry. Maybe it's because I miss the simplicity of the halcyon days pre-iPhone.

A less angry Ben makes a happier Ben. Ah yes, I used to be happy...

I need to change. I need to get a new perspective on life. I need to regain my faith in humanity.

Or maybe I just need to get laid.

Who can say?

Where is Ryan Kwanten when you need him?

Friday, March 6, 2015

Rebel Heart

I came late to the music of Madonna. Obviously, I was well aware of her in the 1980s and I really appreciated Material Girl, Express Yourself and a handful of others, but it wasn't until my friend Rhian introduced me to I'm Breathless that I actually began to admire the performer for her diversity, humour and sensibilities. The 1990s were, for me, Madonna's best decade. I think Erotica is an incredibly brave (and sexy) album, Bedtime Stories is near-perfect but horrendously under-rated, and Ray of Light is a masterpiece.

In the 21st Century, I felt a little let down with Music and American Life but in later years, I have become fonder of them and gained an appreciation of them both. Confessions on a Dance Floor is a terrific concept album and Hard Candy is unfairly criticised but it is a below-par effort on Madonna's part. Only about 50 % of the tracks are actually worthy of her talent.

Then, MDNA came along. I found it hard to listen to. It reeked of desperation in places and the over use of the deeply irritating Nicki Minaj makes me want to pour burning fat into my ears. The album had a handful of terrific tracks (Falling Free and I'm Addicted spring to mind) but as a whole, I found it barely tolerable.

For 2015, we have a superb return-to-form in Rebel Heart. We witness again the maturity we experienced in Ray of Light and a wide range of songs that often (deliberately) hark back to earlier eras of her career. Sure, the grating electric nymph that is Nicki Minaj does make a fleeting appearance, but it's not as nerve-jangling as in Give Me All Your Luvin' *shudder* I can't help thinking that Ms Minaj must have something over Madge, otherwise why would she allow the untalented gaudy imp into her recording studios? Luckily, she doesn't ruin the fun of Bitch I'm Madonna.

Rebel Heart is provocative, eclectic and thoroughly enjoyable album and it shows a very focussed artist behind the scenes. Madonna is also not afraid to bring her religious beliefs into her lyrics, but it never feels heavy-handed, just honest and thoughtfully formulated.

The first official release form the album is Living For Love and it feels like real Madonna. The video, where she plays a bullfighter amongst her (continually impressive) back-up dancers dressed as bulls, is a simplistic yet beautiful piece with stunning choreography and perfect direction and editing.

Other stand-out tracks include Devil Pray, Iconic, Body Shop, Holy Water and Wash All Over Me; but, frankly, there is barely a mis-step throughout. On the "Deluxe Edition" there is another cracker of a song entitled Veni Vidi Vici which details the rise of her career and the obstacles she overcame to become the superstar she is today. Oddly, it's on the deluxe edition that you will also find the album's title track, Rebel Heart, and - once again - it has a very autobiographical feel to it. Admittedly, this is what Madonna is incredibly good at and the result is a touching number with great integrity.

Ghosttown is destined to become an instant classic as it is hauntingly beautiful (pardon the pun!) and, even though Unapologetic Bitch irked me upon first hearing, it has grown on me immensely and I find it great fun

Joan of Arc is also a stunningly beautiful number. It is songs like this that make me want Madonna to release another ballad compilation similar to Something to Remember.

You may be aware of a number of 'demo' tracks that have been leaked and these too are stunningly good. There are over 30 tracks out in the ether associated with these recording sessions and, frankly, Madonna could have released everything as a full-on double album (like Rufus Wainwright did with Want). One of the tracks that sadly missed the final cut of the album is, perhaps, the best of the lot. Beautiful Scars is a raw song of love and acceptance. It speaks so deeply about how we view ourselves in the eyes of others and offers little apology for it. The song reminds me of her brutal honesty she displayed in the classic Human Nature but, this time, in the form of a superb melody with touching lyrics.

I could go on about all the tracks, but I think you get that I am slightly in love with this album. I haven't felt so obsessed with an album since Kirsty MacColl's Tropical Brainstorm or Madge's own Ray of Light - it took 15 years, but I'm back in the groove!

So, in conclusion, I thank Madonna for taking the time to focus. THIS is the sort of music that made us fans in the first place. If she never made another album again, we would be safe in the knowledge that she left the industry on a high note.

Thursday, March 5, 2015


For the past 30 months I have been living within the city limits. I have enjoyed being close to work, minutes away from public transport and literally down the road from one of my best friends in Australia. However, the cost of such a convenient location has slowly been crippling me financially.

Prior to moving into the Docklands apartment, I was briefly living in a rather undesirable area of which the denizens often perturbed me with their cantankerous conduct and nefarious antics. Being a rather sensitive soul, these surroundings were not conducive to a happy lifestyle, so I decided that, no matter what the cost, I would move to somewhere more secure.

When I moved into the Lacrosse building by Etihad Stadium, I was deliriously happy. I even recall dancing around like an uncoordinated bunny with myxomatosis. I was throwing caution to the wind and I deliberately ignored the fact that I am not exactly wise and thrifty, but I was happy.

This year, I decided to make some changes in my life and the move had to be one of them. Admittedly, there are some other reasons other than financial to get away – the building itself suffered a damaging fire four months ago and it still isn’t up to scratch; there is perpetual noise from next door as another tower is being constructed mere feet away from my bedroom wall; the constant noise from the trams and train station has kept me awake most nights… the list goes on.

So, I began the laborious chore of house-hunting…

Firstly, let me say how much harder it is for renters. I came across a number of obstacles during my search. Estate agents only seem to pander to home-buyers. Renters seem to be a nuisance to them. I went to many estate agent offices and I was confronted by a lot of unhelpful receptionists who gave me looks of derision when I asked for help. The most they could achieve was to pass me a print out of places for lease. Yeah, thanks.

I had spent a lot of time on websites but they are quite poor to judge places, especially when they a) don’t provide the information one needs and b) lie through their teeth! I think we should supply every estate agent with a dictionary to replace their optimistic thesaurus which seems to be their holy bible. ‘Spacious’, ‘exciting’, ‘fantastic’ ‘cosy’??? As I have said for a long time now, ‘Sales is about bullshitting; Marketing is about bullshitting and believing it!’ Utterly deluded.

And what is the thrill about “communal Laundry”?? This isn’t 1985!! Unless I get to shag Daniel Day-Lewis in the back room, I certainly am not interested in sharing my de-soiling of garments with an audience.

Please don’t get me started on the ‘no pets’ rule!! It is one of the most infuriating things about renting. She’s a cat for God’s sake, not a Tasmanian Devil! People make more mess then Fizzgig. They let people rent with demon babies, for fuck’s sake! (I said ‘don’t get me started’!)

My baby girl!

A lot of the one-bedroom places available to rent in Melbourne and surrounding suburbs are so incredibly tiny that, unless you’re a foreign student with only a laptop and a mattress in your possession, you are going to find it incredibly difficult to be comfortable. I am 39, for crying out loud! I have a life in tow – furniture, belongings etc. I don’t want to live my life like a battery chicken. I looked at some flats and could see myself attempting to bite my own legs off through the sheer insanity of the cell-like abodes.

There is an inescapable problem in our society and that is, simply, life does not avail itself easily to the single person. Modern life caters toward the couple and, unless Ryan Kwanten wakes up to realise that he really should marry me and live happily ever after, I am going to struggle. I work in publishing and, fair’s fair, it’s not the best paying industry (I confess I am not the brightest or best educated person in the world, so I can’t complain too much about failing to climb the career ladder) but I still want to be able to afford pleasures like buying friends gifts at Christmas, paying for a holiday once a year, the occasional pizza. Sadly, landlords are shockingly greedy and that’s never going to change. (I have a theory that if all landlords across the globe stopped upping their rents for one year, the world could catch up with itself and the economic crisis would smooth over – see? Not that educated, but I have nice and simplistic ideas!)


During my jaunts around the suburbs, I came across some annoyances such as estate agents not turning up for appointments, disgusting lightless hovels, preposterous lies and dismal excuses for dwellings.

The lighter side of it is I have met some rather handsome estate agents and, quite often, wanted to take the property on that notion alone. ”Ooh, hello Hottie McHothot, I’ll take it!”

Anyway, my rant is drawing to a close. I have (hopefully) found and secured a place that is a two-bedroom place, top floor with balcony and in a pleasant area with a decent pizza restaurant down the road (important!)

My new home?

All I hope is that the next time I move, it will be as a home-owner, not a renter… now, what numbers should I choose for the lottery??