Beyond Nausea

After 100 posts and around 50000 words, the Nausea team regret to announce that the Nausea weblog will cease operations. Unfortunately, due to time constraints and other commitments, it is simply no longer possible to continue the blog into 2007.

While the Nausea address will continue to feature special articles from time to time, regular posts, including music and film reviews, will be discontinued.

The Nausea team would like to thank all readers – especially those that took the time to provide feedback – as well as contributors, friends and supporters.


Marie Antoinette – a Review

‘Marie Antoinette’ is Sofia Coppola’s third movie about lonely young women trying to find their way in a difficult world. It is, perhaps, the least successful of the three, however, still manages to entertain and interest with its originality and luscious visuals.

At age 14, Marie Antoinette is sent from her home in Austria to marry Louis XVI (Jason Schwartzman) of France, primarily to cement an alliance between the two countries. Antoinette’s early days in Versailles are difficult, as she struggles to conform to rigid traditions and protocols, and (at first) unsuccessfully tries to consummate the marriage to her disinterested husband.

Eventually, Antoinette adapts to life in France. She acquires an entourage of close friends, attends operas and balls, bears two children, establishes a country house, takes a lover, and becomes Queen.

Beyond this, there is little plot to ‘Marie Antoinette’. There is no scandal or political intrigue, and few references to life beyond the walls of Versailles. We view the world as Marie Antoinette might have seen it, protected (or suffocated) by her life of privilege. This approach is a good from a psychological viewpoint, as it helps us understand how Marie’s character might have evolved, but it makes for slow cinema.

In her previous movies, Coppola has successfully employed subtleties (minimal dialogue, environment, long moments of silence) to develop character and plot, and heighten sexual tension. But without a relationship like Bob and Charlotte’s in ‘Lost In Translation’ these subtleties only serve to highlight the current film’s ponderous pace.

Coppola’s other signature device – her use of popular music – is another that does not work so well in ‘Marie Antoinette’. While the likes of Air, My Bloody Valentine, Jesus And Mary Chain and Phoenix might have fit in perfectly with 70s America or 00s Tokyo, the use of post-punk and punk music in ‘Marie Antoinette’ is a little puzzling. I’m quite happy to spend all day listening to Gang of Four, The Cure, Bow Wow Wow and Siouxsie and the Banshees, but I’m not sure what it’s doing in a film about an 18th Century monarch. Other reviewers have suggested that the music reflects the hedonism of the time, but that doesn’t ring true for me. Punk music was born out a reaction against hedonism and excess, and contained a greater social and political awareness than previous pop music forms. A more appropriate music might have been 70s disco?

The cast is uniformly good. In the central role, Kirsten Dunst is radiant as Marie Antoinette. Strong support comes from Jason Schwartzman as her clueless husband, Rip Torn as the randy Louis XV, and Judy Davis as the Contesse de Noailles, while Steve Coogan, Rose Byrne, Asia Argento, Marianne Faithfull and Shirley Henderson have smaller roles.

As previously suggested, ‘Marie Antoinette’ is not an overwhelming success. It is beautiful to look at, amusing and moving at times, but not entirely satisfying. However, it does paint an empathetic, and ultimately poignant portrait of a young woman taken from her home and transplanted into a world where her every word and action is examined and criticised.

The Music of 2006

With 2006 all but over, it’s time to reassess the year’s music. It was not a year of upheaval or radical change; yet saw the release of two key albums (TV on the Radio’s ‘Return to Cookie Mountain’ and Joanna Newsom’s ‘Ys’) whose influence may be felt for some time to come. Both albums found new and interesting ways of saying things in an increasingly sterile and generic pop music landscape.

Elsewhere, it was a year of singer-songwriters, whether of the alternative (Amy Millan, Neko Case, Beth Orton, Cat Power) or evergreen variety (Bob Dylan, Neil Young, Bruce Springsteen). The neo-psychedelic folk movement continued to gather force and fans, while the puff finally ran out of the post-punk revival. This was not before we were provided with perhaps two of its finest exponents – UK’s Arctic Monkeys and Young Knives.

2006 also saw the return of three British pop icons – Morrissey, Green Gartside (aka Scritti Politti) and Jarvis Cocker. All three released albums that proved they still have much to offer the pop world. identified four key albums for the year – Dylan’s ‘Modern Times’, Arctic Monkey’s ‘Whatever You Say I Am…’ and the aforementioned releases by Joanna Newsom and TV On The Radio. Other strong performers were albums by Gnarls Barkley, Clipse and Ghostface Killah.

The major magazines offered few surprises in their end of year lists. Bob Dylan topped both the Uncut and Rolling Stone lists, while the Arctic Monkeys album was number one for both NME and Q Magazine. Mojo placed the Raconteurs’ lp ahead of both Dylan and the Monkeys, while Pitchfork chose the otherwise ignored ‘Silent Shout’ by The Knife as its top album.

The Nausea team has listened to about 150 new albums in 2006 – only a fraction of the total number released. The Nausea Top 25 (see below) cannot, therefore, hope to be a comprehensive record of the year. Perhaps, instead, it can be seen as an overview, bringing to your attention something that you may have missed during the year.

Meanwhile, 2007 looms, with key releases from Bloc Party, Air, Field Music, Apples In Stereo, The Earlies, Clap Your Hands Say Yeah, The Shins and !!! all due out early in the New Year.

Here’s to another good year in music!

The Nausea Top 25 Albums for 2006

1. TV On The Radio – Return To Cookie Mountain
2. Bonnie ‘Prince’ Billy – The Letting Go
3. Hot Chip – The Warning
4. Neko Case – Fox Confessor Brings The Flood
5. The Rapture – Pieces Of The People We Love
6. Belle And Sebastian – The Life Pursuit
7. Cat Power – The Greatest
8. The Flaming Lips – At War With The Mystics
9. Guillemots – Through The Window Pane
10. Isobel Campbell & Mark Lanegan – Ballad Of The Broken Seas
11. Howe Gelb – Sno Angel Like You
12. Joanna Newsom – Ys
13. The Raconteurs – Broken Boy Soldiers
14. Morrissey – Ringleader Of The Tormentors
15. Sufjan Stevens – The Avalanche
16. Herbert – Scale
17. Jarvis Cocker – Jarvis
18. The Dears – Gang Of Losers
19. Arctic Monkeys – Whatever You Say I Am, That’s What I’m Not
20. The Young Knives – Voices Of Animals And Men
21. Sparklehorse – Dreamt For Light Years In The Belly Of A Mountain
22. The Sleepy Jackson – Personality
23. Charlotte Gainsbourg – 5.55
24. Scritti Politti – White Bread, Black Beer
25. Camera Obscura – Let’s Get Out Of This Country

bubbling under – The Pipettes, The Knife, Howling Bells, Yeah Yeah Yeahs, Scissor Sisters, Mates Of State, Beirut, Beck, Thom Yorke and Tapes ‘n’ Tapes.

Corduroy & Cabbage 12 – A Crappy Christmas

Like many immigrant families, mine continued to observe traditional customs, even when it seemed obvious that such customs might be unsuitable for the Australian experience. For as long as I could remember, Christmas Day revolved around the traditional roast turkey dinner. This was served in the middle of the day, regardless of the temperature outside – 25” or 40”. Most years, as we feasted on roast turkey and roast potatoes, our Christmas party hats would be wilting in the heat as sweat dripped from our foreheads.

My mum had been preparing the meal since breakfast. After the flurry and excitement of present giving, she would disappear into the kitchen, only reappearing to organise or instruct my three sisters and I. We would spend the morning exploring our new gifts – roller skates, bicycles, model planes, animal books, Barbie accessories etc. Soon, it would be time to put these aside and get ready for the day. This would involve donning our predetermined Christmas outfits – frilly dresses and frilly socks for my sisters; shorts, walk socks and sandals for me (very sexy).

Christmas dinner itself was usually uneventful. We observed the same rituals as any normal Catt family dinner. (My sister, Deborah, ate everything and wanted more. My youngest sister, Joanne, ate nothing. I tried to avoid brussell sprouts.) It was one of the few times of the year that my parents drank any alcohol, although they usually indulged in little more than a glass or two. If we were lucky, the kids also got a taste of the Summer Wine or Cold Duck (yuk).

After lunch, we gathered a few of our Christmas toys and our swimming gear, and headed off to our grandmother’s house. She’d followed us to Australia after divorcing my grandfather some years earlier, and eventually married a large, taciturn man we knew as Bill. They shared a house in nearby Pooraka, which included a large in-ground swimming pool.

Midway through the afternoon, the rowdy Catt clan arrived to ruin their Christmas solitude. But if it was hot the kids spent the rest of the day splashing around in the pool, playing nonsense games about sharks or crocodiles, hidden underwater caves or superheroes, leaving the adults to chat or drink quietly.

My grandmother, or Nanny, as she was known to us, prepared Christmas tea for us all – cold meat, salads, turkey leftovers, chips, nuts, cakes etc. We were usually so full after tea that we were forbidden from re-entering the pool until our meal was properly digested. (My sister, Deborah, always ignored this command, and I waited in horror for her to sink or explode. She did neither.)

As evening loomed, and everyone began feeling a little tired, we came inside, changed out of our swimming costumes, and played board games or cards. The adults usually played their own card games (bridge, canasta), leaving us to look on or pester them with demands for drink and food. By about 10.00pm we all climbed sleepily into our car for the short drive home to bed.

Year after year, our Christmases followed this basic format. There was rarely any drama or variation to the formula. That is, there wasn’t until my nan fell ill. One Christmas, we arrived to find her looking pale and complaining of an awful headache. When her situation worsened, and an ambulance was called, we were asked to visit her one by one as she lay on her bed. It was obvious that something awful was happening.

Our grandmother had had a brain aneurysm, and while she did not die that day (it would be almost a year before she finally passed away) she was never the same again.

Our Christmases were also never the same after Nanny died – no more afternoons in the pool, late night card games etc. We didn’t want to burden Bill with our noisy presence on Christmas Day, but invited him to spend it with us instead. And, most years, he did join us for dinner, sitting down in our tiny dining room to eat roast turkey in the sweltering heat, beads of sweat on his forehead dampening his party hat.

Songs for Christmas – a Review

Sufjan Stevens has never been one to shy away from the big projects. His earliest musical endeavours included concept ‘albums’ about The Nine Planets and The 12 Apostles, while his second album, ‘Enjoy Your Rabbit’, was a suite of symphonic songs about the Chinese Zodiac. And, of course, there is the 50 states project, an epic undertaking, which should keep him busy well into the second half of the century.

It seems only natural, therefore, that he should collect a series of Christmas songs, produced for family and friends over a period of six years, and issue them in a five disc box set, together with songbook, comic, essays, stickers and other goodies. In one of the accompanying essays, Stevens hilariously describes the dysfunctional family Christmases of his childhood, and confesses that this project has been a way of rediscovering both the good and the bad about the holiday season.

For us, it serves another purpose, as the five discs, originally conceived as individual EPs, were recorded (apart from 2004) on an annual basis, and allow us to chart the artist’s progression from folksy guitarist to chamber-pop genius.

There are 42 songs here, from traditional Christmas carols and instrumental favourites to quirky pop tunes and silly seasonal sing-a-longs. Those familiar with Stevens’ treatment of tribute album contributions and cover-tunes will know he is likely to bring freshness to whatever he touches, and that is certainly the case here. One such highlight of the earlier discs is ‘What Child Is This Anyway?’ while the usually cringe worthy ‘Little Drummer Boy’ is substantially transformed.

It’s an eclectic bunch of songs, with highlights dotted across all five discs, but it is probably the most recent two that feature the real treasures. ‘It’s Christmas Time’, with its layers of fuzzed-up guitars, is the least Christmas-sounding song on the set, but among the best. Later on the same disc, Stevens asks ‘Did I Make You Cry On Christmas? (Well, You Deserved It!) – a deliciously comic (and quite moving) take on the awful holidays of his youth.

Disc five, recorded just this year, contains six Stevens originals, the best of which would not be out of place on ‘Illinois’ or ‘The Avalanche’. The organ-filled ‘Get Behind Me, Santa!’ gets the nod for the silliest song on the set, with some hilariously irreverent Christmas lyrics, but both ‘Jupiter Winter’ and ‘Sister Winter’ are gorgeously melancholic. ‘Star Of Wonder’ is similarly beautiful, a swirling rush of organ and woodwinds. That Stevens is able to bring so much to what could be considered a somewhat slight project is a testament to his talent as a songwriter and arranger/producer.

It could be argued that one could distill the best of this collection into one particularly fine album, but I think that would be missing the point. ‘Songs for Christmas’ is about the whole lousy, wonderful, stupid, heartwarming, saddening experience we know as Christmas, with its excesses, tackiness and (yes) its beautiful moments.

So, as Santa Sufjan suggests, ‘It’s Christmas, Let’s Be Glad!’

Going Underground, Poetry On The Fringe

Over the past 30 years, Adelaide has established itself as a fertile breeding ground for quality poets and poetry. South Australian poets regularly appear in national ‘best of’ anthologies, while the city is home to numerous live poetry venues and at least one quality literary journal.

But Adelaide is also the home of a healthy network of poets who consider themselves at work outside the established poetry scene. One of the principals behind this so-called ‘underground’ poetry movement is Keith Salmon.

‘When most people think of poetry, they think of words, they think of paper, they think of language. What we are trying to do is quite different. When we think of poetry, we think of meat. We think of sausages, steak and pork chops,’ says Salmon passionately.

The Meat Poets have been meeting at a disused sausage factory in the western suburbs for the last three years. Their first anthology, ‘Let’s Talk Pork’, is due for release in the New Year, although it has been ready for some 18 months. Keith identifies the lack of support from local booksellers as the main reason behind the delay.

‘Your average bookseller knows little about poetry. They look at a plate of beef mince and think ‘dinner’. Unfortunately, they’ve refused to stock our anthology until we provide the necessary refrigeration. They don’t want smelly product. Some philistines have even suggested we approach butchers rather than bookshops!’

Dianne Melon, of Poets Without Words, bemoans a similar lack of support for her ‘silent’ poetry. Her first collection, ‘Invisible Verse’, sold out at a prominent Adelaide bookshop within a couple of weeks. At first she was elated, but then discovered that they were selling the collection as a notebook or diary, not a poetry collection. Dianne admits that the lack of words in her collection could be confusing.

‘There’s a tendency in our culture to expect poetry to contain words. Why is this so? I aim to change this expectation.’

Not all underground poetry is as challenging as the Meat Poets or Poets Without Words. The Word Maggots have been writing as a group for six years. They meet underneath a railway bridge in the Adelaide foothills. Unlike the other groups, and as their name suggests, they do work with words. But unlike traditional poets, the Word Maggots do not write with paper and pen, they write with paint, chalk and other substances on a variety of surfaces. Their most infamous work is an epic entitled ‘How Now’ which was written on a herd of cows. Each cow featured only one or two words of the poem. With the animals in constant motion, the poem never read the same way twice.

‘’How Now’ was our masterpiece,’ says Maggot leader, Leon O. ‘Until then, we’d only worked with much smaller creatures – dogs, cats, mice. The sheer size of a cow allowed us to say so much more.’

The owner of the herd was less impressed, and attempted to press charges against the group. It’s this confrontational aspect of the Word Maggots that has seen them labelled as ‘guerrilla’ or ‘terrorist’ poets.

Also based in the Adelaide Hills are the Gumleaf Poets, who perform their work while dressed as marsupials. Until earlier this year their monthly meeting was held in a eucalyptus tree overlooking the South Eastern Freeway. Unfortunately, one of the group fell mid-poem, and was crushed by a semi-trailer. The tragedy was compounded when other drivers, thinking the poet was a native animal, drove over him repeatedly.

The group write traditional rhyming bush verse, and regularly publish in magazines and newspapers, but find they are not taken seriously by the rest of the literary community.

‘They seem to object to the costumes,’ says Gumleaf founder, Norma Devlin. ‘But I think the costumes lend authenticity to the poetry. After all, who better to read a poem about gum trees than a koala!’

One of the most vocal supporters of the poetic fringe is public radio host, Pam Lamb. She regularly features underground poets on her radio show ‘Poetry Tomorrow’ and is trying to organise a festival of such poets to coincide with the next Adelaide Festival of Arts in 2008.

‘There’s such a wealth of poetic talent in this city that is simply not getting the exposure it deserves,’ says Pam. ‘You’ve got the Word Maggots in the Hills, the Meat Poets, the Yo-Yo Collective. People like Colin Crisp, Dorothy Clunder, Ricky Fiddle. And, of course, Poets On A String.’

Apart from her work with ‘Poetry Tomorrow’ Pam Lamb has been heavily involved with fringe group Poets On A String for eight years.

‘At first, there was a reluctance to accept that poetry could be performed by puppets,’ explains Pam.

When Pam first started the group in the late 90s, she only managed to interest two other people, one of which was her aunt, Patsy. But now, as the group enters its ninth year, membership has skyrocketed to seven, while their debut anthology, ‘Sawdust Memories’, released last year by Medium Press, has sold over thirteen copies.

‘I don’t know why we’ve suddenly become so successful,’ admits Pam. ‘I think people are just ready to hear puppets read poetry.’

Underground poetry icon, Ricky Fiddle, agrees that the local literary community has opened up slightly to the idea of alternative poetry in recent years, but doesn’t believe that it’s necessarily linked to an interest in puppetry.

‘I think the public are just getting sick of the same old thing. They’re sick of Shakespeare and Banjo Paterson. They’re sick of reading poetry in books. They want to see poems written on helicopters or watermelons. They want poetry you can eat. Poetry you can throw at a bus.’

Fiddle’s most recent collection ‘Word Wind’ was, in fact, the result of ingesting words written on plastic film, and vomiting them back up. He’s also thrown his poetry from seaside cliffs, set fire to it, and fed it to goats.

‘Poetry is everywhere,’ marvels Fiddle. ‘Next time you go to the toilet, don’t just wipe your arse and leave. Have a look at what you’ve created – that’s poetry!’