Thursday, June 28, 2012

a year ago today: publicity for the bogan delusion

I am writing on an aeroplane and watching Limitless at the same time, for my sins and guess what, I paid for it. Today I was in Brisbane to do a half-hour interview with Richard Fidler for his Conversation. I am pretty impressed with how I managed to find the ABC studios in Toowong, in a hire car, using nothing more than the gps in my phone and a very rough idea of directions in Brisbane which of the state capitals is probably the one I know least well. I got there with ten minutes to spare and then waited around for ¾ of an hour. But that was ok. I felt a bit frazzled anyway as I hadn’t slept well and the 2 hour flight + the rather fraught drive had made me more messy. Then we went and did the interview – it was originally slated to be live, but then for some reason it was recorded instead (while an interview RF had previously done was put to air) and will be played tomorrow.

I was pretty happy. I think I have the schtick down. Previously I’d done interviews so rarely, I felt I always wanted to be agreeable with things people said even if I didn’t technically believe them – or rather I would try and find common ground. Now, for whatever reason I am happy to contradict interviewers. I imagine once I go back to never being interviewed (which, honestly, is fine) I will return to my former state.

After the interview I had a few hours to fill so I went to Springfield, ostensibly a new town between Brisbane and Ipswich. I was just feeling my way around. I went to Springfield Central, which was just a shopping centre with a wavey street through the middle with cars parked either side of the main street, and I had some crappy coffee and arancini balls at a cafĂ© there, and then I bought another coffee at a book shop there, and then I was really annoyed by both those coffees, so I went to Springfield Lakes which seems to be the most developed part of the area, very new nonetheless, and drove around a bit, and took some pictures and went to some display homes where a guy was very suspicious particularly after I stepped out and took two pictures from the verandah – he said, ‘You’ve been taking a lot of photographs’, which was a gross exaggeration. Then I started to worry that being so tired I was getting a bit reckless with getting my flight back, considering I had no idea how to get to the airport, so I started driving, and eschewed – foolishly, I now realise – the freeway to the airport because it was a toll road. Then I noticed there was a transponder in the car so that was cool.

So I got to the airport really too early and of course the plane was late to leave but at least I was on it and now I’m watching Limitless.*

I have a couple more radio interviews to do now, but nothing too special (sorry 6RTR and 3CR; I’m sure you’re very special; but you don’t reach millions like the Fidler interview; yes, this is what I’ve become).

* It still arrived ten minutes early, or so the pilot said.

Sunday, June 24, 2012

four days ago - publicity for the bogan delusion

How weird that exactly a year following the initial kerfuffle here I am again, revisiting quite a few of the same shows & people and giving my 2c worth on this bogan thing all over. The reason being that the Oxford English Dictionary has decided to include the word 'bogan' in its pages. I cannot believe this is a news story, but Affirm got onto me and people wanted to speak to me, so...
As it transpired, circumstances got a little in the way, because the day this was announced (someone really announced it?!) I was due to go to Canberra, but I was tying up stuff to make my departure in the early evening, so I was able when asked to drop into the ABC at Southbank yet again and have a little chat with Rafael Epstein. I then raced home to get a call from ABC South Australia, which meant me listening for a long time to their other guest - from the Macquarie - talk about bogan moths (pur-lease!) and then when I got on they said the phone line was so bad they had to dump me. This happened again an hour later when I was actually at the airport - this time on my mobile - and I was on the phone to Louise Maher on ABC Canberra; I barely got a sentence out and the phone cut out, which (I know that iPhones have a reputation) never normally happens. It was infuriating.
However, since I was going to Canberra anyway, they teed me up to come into their studio the next day. And I did, and met Louise Maher who was very nice, and we had a quick chat. During this discussion I stepped outside myself and came to fully appreciate that I really needed to get a new schtick, as I was getting a bit uncontained in my commentary (for instance a la Kath Day Knight I got in a simultaneous swipe and kudos to the Australian for a recent editorial on the failings of Fairfax and even though I tied it up with 'and the bogan is a tool in all that...' or words to that effect, let's face it I have said everything there is to say on this subject. Ditto an interview I'd done earlier in the morning with RTR in Perth where the interviewer was very cognisant of everything I'd said in my RTR interview last year... have I moved on? I sort of feel I have, but no-one else has, in this regard. That is an unfair thing for me to think, as the media simply reflects (I hope) society, and it was my job and no-one else's to get the world to move on, and I failed. But still...

Saturday, June 23, 2012

a year ago today: publicity for the bogan delusion

Last night (22 July 11) was the launch for the book, and it was really exciting. We had it at Handsome Steve's in Abbotsford Convent (one of my colleagues made the very sensible comment that this was an inappropriately inner-city space, but the interior is very anti-elite, retro and full of fun memorabilia inc a lot of footy stuff). The Suburban and Cokes played, basically New Estate with James Dutton as an extra, doing five songs. 'Flash' by the Coloured Balls, 'No Secrets' by The Angels, 'Cheap Wine' by Cold Chisel, 'Suburban Boy' by Dave Warner's From the Suburbs and 'We Can't Be Beaten' by Rose Tattoo. All went really well, though I am very ambivalent about 'We Can't Be Beaten' because it seems so much to be the inarticulately expressed sadness of an abused child channelling his rage into racist violence.

There were lots of people there and Handsome Steve's being so small made it seem like there were even more than there were, I suppose. We sold a lot of books and I had trouble coming up with valid things to write in them when people asked me to sign them. It was wild overall though and I was really happy with the way it went. I had assumed I would be largely patronised in a jovial sense by many but I wasn't, on the whole. I see a measure (only a measure, I'm not up myself) of success is enough to get people off your back in that sense, or perhaps it wouldn't have happened anyway, don't know.

I still have a few more bits and pieces to do before it's all over - notably, Brisbane next week and another interview (with RTR in Perth of all things) has been booked in as of today for two weeks away. More thrillingly, the ALR has asked me to write something about suburban creativity and that's grouse. I continue to be chuffed. It will be interesting when this all gets 'published' a year from now (in case it's not apparent, I've simply been writing this stuff up as it happens and using the post options function in blogger to publish a year in advance; who knows what mid-2012 will be like, maybe I'll be dead) to see if there were any long-term ramifications. I am keen to do a revised version of the book in the future, and this stuff will be handy for me to look back on then, too.

Just to keep things in perspective, it's not the greatest thing in the world, it's just been really interesting and worthwhile, and I've really enjoyed the experience. That's it.

Tuesday, June 19, 2012

a year ago today: publicity for the bogan delusion

Got what was I think my first review yesterday from a Saturday Age journalist called Dianne Dempsey. I didn't see it till Saturday evening, and no-one had told me about it in the time leading up till then and no-one has spoken to me about it since. It was not a particularly favourable review, although Dempsey did put forward some positive qualities she found in the work.*
I have probably written about it here previously but I do lead my professional life via the guidance of Paul Fussell and his remarkable essay 'Being Reviewed', one part of which in sum states that if you can't stand being reviewed negatively, don't write books and publish them. I actually feel this is more or less fair enough and I try to abide by its implications, one of which is, oversensitivity to reviews is pathetic. But it was interesting being in a few minds at once - I felt a bit savaged, and also a bit patronised, and also wishing I had a right of reply. But also I could assume the smart reader could see right through this review, which like so much of the guff I have received from the media kind of proves one of my points as outlined in the book (it's a light-hearted bit of fluff from a very middle-class, 'latte coiffing' point of view, which impugns my motives) and so I wondered whether it was ultimately a good or a bad thing. Fussell says, and my limited experience seems to prove, that if you're (or in this case, your product is) important enough to be talked about that's all that really matters.
Still it got up my nose particularly in tandem with the Safran thing which I have been playing over and over in my head since.

I shouldn't be so sensitive, as the book has gone into a 2nd printing, which means I have now to make some corrections. That's a good thing.

* Martin the publisher called me later in the day to commiserate on the review and suggest he was sufficiently irritated by it to 'arc up' with Dempsey/The Age on this but I said I didn't think this was a good idea. I felt a bit like I was being managed, but I am still not sure if my response is a little too emotional.

Saturday, June 16, 2012

a year ago today: publicity for the bogan delusion

There is probably a peak then a trough. I certainly started in a trough with my publicity tour and may have peaked earlier this week when I did a very confident, forthright interview with ABC Adelaide drivetime presenter Carole Whitelock. Tonight when I go on John Saffran's show, well who knows, that might be the start of the trough. I felt comfortable with Carole who was a smart, well-spoken intelligent woman who I think was slightly excitedly indignant when I used the word 'dickhead' ('will the South Australian listenership tolerate this???' she may have been wondering.) Saffran is really smart and abrasive, and I have been so lucky up till now with the media someone surely is going to thump me sometime soon. OK well we'll see.

Last night I was at the Trades Hall giving a talk, which I wrote specially and read, all 16 pages of it, to a capacity crowd... whatever I was going to say there I have forgotten I just got a phone call from my publisher Martin to say that they had nearly run out of the first run in the warehouse and they may be going for a reprint. I love being reprinted. I also love being translated into Italian, I suppose that'll only ever happen once.

My future goals for this book are (1) to use it as a springboard to write another, on a related urban theme but from a different direction (2) to do an updated version of the same, perhaps in a year or so incorporating all the hostile and not necessarily all that hostile responses from the gen pub (3) to go on BBC Radio 4's Thinking Allowed and be interviewed by the delightful Laurie Taylor. I have sent him a book and a nice letter and I really hope that last bit happens.

Monday, June 11, 2012

a year ago today: publicity for the bogan delusion

Went up to Cafe Dolce to be interviewed by the editor of Frankie. She got lost on the Tulla and didn't make it. Try again tomorrow.

Sunday, June 10, 2012

a year ago today: publicity for the bogan delusion

Publicity proceeds apace, I suppose. I am down to about one interview a day now. Most of them are still for various state capital ABCs but I am looking forward to the Frankie interview tomorrow and the JJJ one next week. I have talked to friends/colleagues who have been in similar situations (as authors, mainly) and our notes do not reveal major discrepancies. For the first time, I started to think this morning about whether there was a serious possibility of following this book up with something else - on a different topic (it would be death to keep ploughing this furrow, it was so of the moment). That said, it won't do to start thinking too much off-topic in the next few weeks. With that in mind I am about to head off and buy Lindsay Tanner's recent book to add to Judith Brett's Quarterly Essay which I purchased last night to try and cobble together something new and interesting to say for Tuesday night's New Internationalist Bookshop talk which reiterates the basic themes of the book but ties in with other work. This is as good for my mind as it is for the life of the 'project'.

When I passed through the atrium of the ABC Southbank for the fourth time on Wednesday I remembered finally that (I am pretty sure that) the first time I saw the frieze panels that now adorn the walls there it was when they were in the 3AR building in, I think, Lonsdale Street Melbourne: I probably visited there, though I cannot for the life of me remember why, in the late 1970s. Maybe a school trip or something? Anyway, they are pretty fine. I find them most intriguing; they represent pre-radio attempts to communicate to, well, the masses I suppose.

Thursday, June 07, 2012

a year ago today: publicity for the bogan delusion

The weekend was fairly gratifying with Chris Johnston's article getting a lot of interest. I was contacted by the Sydney Morning Herald on Sunday afternoon to see whether I couldn't sum up the thrust of the book in 800 words. I was trying to take a short break to be fresh on Monday for another radio interview so I didn't do anything until Monday morning, when I rattled off a piece for the web magazine The Conversation and the SMH piece in one hit. I am surprised how positive everyone has been who's contacted me personally. Some seem to feel the thing is clarifying or condoning an opinion they'd already arrived at. Of course, I shouldn't let my guard down because there will be some hostility and I don't want to look flustered by that.

The SMH piece came out this morning - less than 24 hours after I started writing it and I guess less than 12 hours from the final edit - why is that surprising to me, it happens all the time. I wish I could say 'money in the bank too' but they gently informed me that they don't pay people who are promoting a product, which in one sense doesn't surprise me. It's funny to see this in contrast with an email received this morning from one of the authors to all others on this Canberra book 'assuming' we would all be paid for our contributions. I had straight-out assumed there would be no money at all on that front.

The SMH piece is, to my surprise, called 'Bogans, reindeers, they're the same to me' but isn't the plural of reindeer, reindeer? It reads:

I had 13 years as a Sydneysider. I can count on the fingers of one hand the number of times I went west of Auburn. In those days, I probably would have looked a little askance at Summer Hill. In the early nineties, returning from work in Darlinghurst or after classes at the University of Sydney, I might very occasionally stay on the train and go to Rockdale or perhaps even some distant berg like Blacktown, just to see what was there.
I was at the very beginning of escape from my middle-class illusions about the superiority of life at the centre. There was, and still is, a subconscious idea that, if you aren't living in a street with a view of Centrepoint, you are somehow disconnected from the radiant beacon of city culture - the only culture worthy of the name in Australia. I did not hate ''westies'', as they might have been known, but I certainly feared and shunned them in any interaction where they did not recognize (for instance) Newtown as the Sun to their Pluto.
I was a snob, and my only defence is that the snobbery was, and I have to say largely remains, pervasive. I'll always be middle-class, but I am no longer inner-city, having relocated to a suburb 20km from central Melbourne. Now I see it from the other side, and it is not pretty. Inner-city elitists in Australia continue to project views about large groups of otherwise diverse people simply on the basis of their geographic location.
Today it's not the westies but the bogans. The word has murky origins, possibly related to the region and the river in central NSW, then popularized by Kylie Mole and the Comedy Company to become a nationally understood synonym for what were known in Brisbane as bevens, Hobart as chiggers, and Perth as bogs. Whatever: to my mind, it's code for ''working class''. I am reminded of the Kurt Vonnegut novel Breakfast of Champions in which a well-to-do couple have a secret code which allowed them to discuss African-Americans in front of their ''coloured'' maid: they discussed the ''reindeer problem''.
The word is ''just a joke'', some will say defensively, pointing to TV comedies such as Rebel Wilson's Bogan Pride - in which, incidentally, many of the funniest characters weren't bogans but ''nerds''. Some argue bogans are a ''culture'' not a ''class''. But ask them ''what's the difference?'' and the derisive term is laid bare: it's a new way to sustain class resentment, to pigeonhole people and places. They've created this creature that is a lesser human being to express unmentionable interclass hatred.
So poorly defined is the term, it's difficult to criticize its use in everyday life: it's applied to Julian Assange and Julia Gillard, and then to violent criminals. Publicising my book on talkback radio last week, many callers were adamant that bogans existed because they'd seen them: even listening to the multitude of definitions did not seem to deter audiences from the firm belief that their prejudices affirmed their experience.
I'm just happy to see the conversation take place. I want to see Australians stop demonising ''bogans'' who dwell ''out there'' on the suburban fringe, so commonly described in anthropological terms as though there was some kind of sub-species prone to anti-social behaviour and hitherto undiscovered. I would also be quite happy if those who describe themselves as ''bogan'' recognized that to self-identify as such is to demonstrate too much awareness to be truly a ''bogan'' in most people's minds. I would also be very happy to see an end to the assumptions that comedy and film - for instance, Angry Boys and Snowtown - are truthful representations, rather than extreme amplifications of the suburbs.
Is all of this ranting against the word ''bogan'' a plea for political correctness? Possibly, but not the way 'PC' language is usually discussed. It's a plea for precision: it's about calling the disenfranchised, or marginalized, what they are - rather than a reindeer. Besides, if Assange, Gillard, Shane Warne and Eric Bana (yes, the charges have been laid, not just because he once played one on TV) are all bogans, who isn't a bogan? Is it praise, blame or demonization? Some clarity in the argument might grease the wheels of the discussion, and who knows, we might just get somewhere.

Later: This was apparently on all fairfax sites so it has been receiving a big bunch of comments from irritated people. Martin Hughes called me to urge me not to read them and I won't. As I said to him, I don't care greatly one way or the other. I have noticed on facebook that there are a lot of people - people I know, and academics no less - who feel happy to comment blithely on things missing from the article (i.e. discussion of 'bevens' and something along the lines of 'apparently Tasmania has a word for them too') which are not actually missing from the article. That is just weird. I couldn't help but post a comment saying that I certainly did not expect people to be au fait with the book, but to then post on facebook about what's missing from a short article, which actually isn't missing from the same short article, seems to me pretty preposterous. I didn't use the word 'preposterous'. It is easy to get shitty with people but I suppose you also have to be happy they're motivated to get involved in the general mix.

Monday, June 04, 2012

a year ago today: publicity for the bogan delusion

This morning Chris Johnston's piece in The Age came out. I haven't read it yet, can't face it. I did get two emails expressing very diverse opinions on the story, the first of which made assumptions about the book and the second of which was just overwhelmingly positive and though neither sender had read the thing, I did feel the second one 'got it', maybe just because it was positive. I had to write and rewrite my response to the first to get over my general irritation at its tone.

Sunday, June 03, 2012

a year ago today: publicity for the bogan delusion

Hot on the publicity trail for my book. This is actually the second book with my name on it in the last six months, but it is so much of a different ball game it might as well not be a book but a… saucepan. The previous book Community which I co-edited and co-wrote much of, is a broad and deep account of the establishment, creation, form, style and fate of community buildings in Australia since the beginning of the last century. It is huge and I am very proud of it. The current one, The Bogan Delusion is a ‘ranty tract’ (I described it as such in most drafts of the book itself, and perhaps that description has sustained, I don’t remember).

Yesterday morning I had 15 mins on RRR and it was really fun, I felt very comfortable. Last night in a related (but unacknowledged – I don’t think the book came up at all) event I was on a panel talking about music journalism, at the Tote as part of the Emerging Writers Festival. This morning I was on Life Matters with Richard Adey.

This radio coverage is all still a bit novel to me so I don’t quite know how well I do. Like a dufus this morning I had to ring first my wife then my mother immediately after the show to make sure I hadn’t fucked it up! They were very nice about it (but maybe they have to be?) I think they would have told me in nice ways if I screwed something up.

It didn’t help that left to my own devices for the first 10 minutes of the hour I was flipping through the book and found that I had made a huge error about the location of one of the estates planned by the Griffins in early 20th century Melbourne. This would have been annoying enough, except that I am the author of a journal article about huge errors made about the location of estates planned by the Griffins! (I got the names ‘Avondale Heights’ and ‘Ascot Vale’ mixed up, as I continually do in real life). Oh well, I covered myself in that article by saying everyone makes mistakes… so it’s just sort of proving my own point isn’t it. Maybe I could even pass it off as an ironic reference (get real).

Anyway, Adey was interesting. I had been prepped in a minor way about where the i/v might go, in a discussion with his producer who is very nice and very engaged (so was Richard Adey). So there was nothing out of the blue, though the producer had not pumped me for what my answers might be. The set up at the beginning was that my premise was that the bogan ‘didn’t exist’, which is a good hook (indeed, the whole ‘bogan delusion’ idea is a hook really – if the book was called Society Should Be Inclusive it might not be so hot this June) and that there were so many definitions of the bogan that it rendered the notion unusable. Then there were about 8 or 9 callers who proceeded to explain why the bogan did exist and give it various different definitions, many of which contradicted each other. I then was able to conclude by saying all this diversity of opinion really proved my point, and I felt good about that. I did notice about myself (and I will have to keep this in check from now on) that my voice went up in pitch as I became more exasperated about putting this conclusion across, and there was a bit of triumphalism about that, in a manner of speaking, which possibly didn’t do the showbiz aspect to Life Matters any favours. I also feel that, in a way, there is a danger that this is the diametric opposite of preaching to the converted, with a negative effect i.e RN listeners are exactly the sort of people who don’t want to hear what I have to say, and may not buy a book about it. On the other hand the only reason I care about whether they buy a book about it is that I don’t want the publisher to lose money, because I certainly don’t stand to gain from it, and wouldn’t really get much from it even if I hadn’t agreed to take a royalty of nothing so as to keep the price down.

As I was doing Life Matters I kept notes in case anything came up that I needed to refer to, though in fact ultimately I think I did only refer specifically back to one caller, because I was interested in his comment ‘I’m not racist’ and his discussion of ‘trailer trash’. Another caller who I really wanted to discuss, but didn’t get a chance, was the one who spoke about identifying bogans by their ‘sudden body movements’, which I think is one of the strangest things anyone could say about anyone. But I had to let it go as I was being guided by RA.

All in all, I feel fairly positive about the whole thing, and I reckon I can handle this media train. The downside will be in a couple of weeks when I’m going to be fatigued and lacking in interest about the whole schtick (there are already, it has to be said, signs of that happening and it’s hard to be new, over and over again, about something I am already very well acquainted with).

Saturday, June 02, 2012

new projects abound

I can't remember if I mentioned this one to you but Emu Parade was launched yesterday - details here.