The new world of fan fiction Reply

by Maribel Martin

Writer Elmo Keep presents a short story about a girl on the hunt for a date when she starts getting chatted up by Google in human form.

Writer Elmo Keep presents a short story about a girl on the hunt for a date when she starts getting chatted up by Google in human form.

A staple of Sydney’s independent arts community and the Fringe Festival for more than five years, erotic fan fiction embodies all that the Festival is about.  Behind The Music, held at a small theatre in Redfern, saw writers and musicians take the stage to perform a series of stories about the sexier side of the music industry.

While the thought of erotic fan fiction may normally conjure up ideas of fan- written blog posts, Behind The Music, demonstrated that the genre has evolved and isn’t just for the die hard fans anymore.

The performances were a mixture of multimedia presentations, live singing and even a bit of improvised impersonation with some of the biggest names in music such as Justin Timberlake, Lady Gaga, Beyoncé, Daft Punk and even Louie Armstrong as the topic of bedroom banter and wild fantasies.

Brainchild of Fran Middleton and Virginia Gay, the erotic fan fiction nights started eight years ago when the two girls got talking in Melbourne and thought it would be a laugh. The event is a relaxed and a low-key affair that is held regularly in both cities. The theme of the night and who performs changes every time the event is run, giving lots of different artists an opportunity to get involved.

Liam Bray, sound engineer for Lady Sings it Better, an all-girl vocal trio who performed a piece on the night, said he got involved because it was funny and different. “It’s a lot of fun to work with the girls. We have a laugh about our own fantasies and what we would find funny and then go from there when writing the fan fiction.”

The content of the night can be full on – penis metaphors, the mechanisms of robot sex and even the awkward wet dream story. No taboos are left out and no fantasy unexplored. But the environment is relaxed and all the performers sincere in their intention to just have a good laugh. More…

Bunkered: art that responds to environmental issues Reply

by Philippa Martens


Bunkered, a special event at the Sydney Fringe Festival located in a residential house in Forest Lodge, brought together 14 artists and architects in a domestic environment to tackle the issue of climate change. The objective for each was to create art that responds to environmental issues.

Artist Sarah Nolan, who curated the event, lives in the Forest Lodge house. She got the idea for the event after she created Branch3D two years ago when she opened her front window to artists as an installation space. After receiving an overwhelmingly positive response from local passers-by to that concept, she decided to extend it and create a show in her entire house around the theme of climate change.

Ms Nolan describes the event as “an imagined future scenario of what it might be like to live in a house, ‘bunkering down’ in a space where you are not expelling much energy as it’s in short supply and you never know when you might need it due to the effects of a changing climate”.

She created her artwork ‘Grotty’ to resemble a cave-like grotto of consumer waste. It is installed in the back door of the house and makes use of old tetra packs and recycled plastics of her own as well as those she found in the street.

Lisa Andrew’s ‘Droom’ is a room within a room, taking the concept of being ‘bunkered’ down by using recycled fabrics painted like a brick wall around the bed. Interested in the use of recycled waste, she just got back from the Philippines where she said a lot of the temporary homes were built out of discarded waste. Ms Andrew uses a lot of synthetic textiles, but said in the Philippines artists are using their natural resources, such as banana peel fibre and pineapples to make leather, instead of cow hide.

Lotte Schwerdtfeger‘s artwork ‘Water Closet/Wilderness Cabinet/Wellness Centre’, fills the bathroom with real and fake plants that give off a smell of moist compost and weeds. It’s meant to represent a substitute outdoor space, although the garden is unable to sustain itself as it would in nature.

Marlene Sarroff’s ‘Temperature Rising’ uses painted stairs are a metaphor for the earth’s warming. It highlights the heat rising as one ascends the stairs through brighter and richer hues of red on the way up and denser shades of green as one descends, signifying the earth’s temperature is once again stable.

The global art movement of ecological art, or eco art, specifically addresses environmental issues. Its history goes back to the late 1960s with the emergence of ‘land art’ or ‘earthworks’ – the name Earthworks was coined by artist Robert Smithson, as the title of his gallery show in New York in 1968. This form emerged as an artistic protest against the perceived artificiality and commercialisation of art in America.

In Australia, the popularity of eco art is growing, with companies such as ECO|LOGICAL|ART being commissioned by local government, companies and public instrumentalities to create environmentally friendly art. Its aim is to ‘create spaces that are self-sustaining: economically, socially, environmentally and culturally’. For example, it was commissioned by the City of Melbourne to design a sculpture for Federation Square using only recycled materials.

Sarah Nolan says artists are often interested in climate change issues in their general life. Artist Helen Earl, who attended the event, said she is interested in the effect climate change will have on the environment. She is environmentally aware and has just planted around 1,000 new trees on her country property.

Art is often used as a way to talk about important societal issues. “I know a lot of artists who are making community gardens into artwork as an example,” Lisa Andrew said. Either way, eco art or ‘art that responds to environmental issues’, is a relatively new frontier creating a lot of buzz around the world and it’s a positive reflection on the importance of the issue.

Interclub ski race continues tradition Reply

by Krista Sturday

Brian Donegan Memorial Interclub ski race: it’s serious fun for competitors. Photograph by Geoff Sturday.

Brian Donegan Memorial Interclub ski race: it’s serious fun for competitors. Photograph by Geoff Sturday.

In 1976, Wollongong skier Brian Donegan talked about his plan for a special race and party among the Illawarra ski clubs.  But it wasn’t until 1989, following Brian’s untimely death from leukaemia, that the event became a reality. On August 16, the 25th Brian Donegan Memorial Interclub ski race took place at Perisher ski resort, followed by a schnapps-fuelled party.

Ninety three competitors took part in the event held on Mother-in-Law race course at Blue Cow Mountain. For the four participating clubs – Illabunda, Maranatha, IMBAC (Illawarra Master Builders Alpine Club) and Illawarra Alpine Club – this event is not so much about competition as an excuse to build camaraderie and tradition. “It’s all about sportsmanship and friendship and everyone getting together like this,” says Terry Dryburgh, captain of the Illabunda club.

Firm and fast snow conditions combined with a piercing blue sky provided an ideal setting for the annual race. Brian’s brother, Kevin Donegan, of host club Maranatha, thanked his brother for the great conditions. “Brian always turns on the good snow, and the good weather for us.”

There are three disciplines involved in the day’s event: giant slalom alpine, giant slalom snowboard, and cross country skiing. The competitors are amateurs, but the event is run professionally by the Blue Cow Race Department.

Marty Firle, Blue Cow Race Department Supervisor, has been involved in Perisher races for 20 years and says that club events like this are different to professional ski races. “We set them with more turns, especially here on Mother-in-Law, so it’s a bit safer for everyone to get down.” Mr Firle sees about 20 club races per season and says the Illawarra clubs have a strong feel of camaraderie. “They’re all pretty good, these Illawarra guys; they’re encouraging of each other and a lot more relaxed.”

While the rivalry is friendly between the clubs, the individual competitiveness is audible from participants who grunted and yelled at themselves as they passed gates in an effort to crank themselves up. Racers turned to view the time board as they crossed the finish line, calculating the hundredths-of-a-second difference that could mean glory or defeat.

The evening presentation and party provided an official ending to the day’s competition, with Illabunda taking home the overall winner’s trophy for the sixth year in a row. Mr Dryburgh accepted the award to friendly cheers and heckling from other clubs. He thanked the host club and congratulated “all the winners, seconds and thirds – and all the losers,” which was met by the friendly laughs and cheers that bring the club members back year after year.

Goodbye cubicles, hello hubs Reply

by Devayani Bodas

The co-working space: a shared working environment. Photograph by Impact Hub used here under Creative Commons licence.

The co-working space: a shared working environment. Photograph by Impact Hub used here under Creative Commons licence.

If you have ever worked for a corporation, you will be familiar with the small, tight and often uncomfortable space that is the office cubicle. However, in recent years this scene is changing, with more and more businesses opting to work from co-working spaces like The Hub Sydney.

A co-working space is essentially a shared working environment where people from different disciplines work from the same place.

The Hub Sydney, which attracts different business disciplines, first opened its doors last May and is part of a larger global franchise. For the cost of a membership fee of a minimum $220, Hub members have access to desk spaces, meeting rooms, fast wi-fi and discounted learning workshops. Members mostly consist of freelancers and small business teams.

The Hub is not the first of its kind; other companies such as Vibewire, Fishburners and Secret Space also offer co-working spaces. There are many reasons why the popularity of co-working has dramatically risen.

“It makes it more professional to meet with clients in a corporate environment rather than having meetings in cafès,” says Natasha Akib, a member of the Vibewire Board.

For others such as Max Chalmers, who has worked from The Hub in the past, says, “It’s a useful place to work because of its proximity to the city and because it is affordable.”

The Hub is now one of the largest co-working franchises in Australia. Having reached a milestone of 1000 members, it is looking to expand even further, according to Andrew Duong, of The Hub Sydney.

“We are already at the stage of adding another level to our building, which means The Hub will occupy both levels one and two of 101 William Street. It is growing physically as well, with a Hub recently opening in Adelaide, ” he says.

Each Hub has a ‘space host’, such as Andrew, who looks after the needs of Hub members and manages the Hub’s internal events.

Andrew says that creating a sense of community is really important for a successful co-working space. One way to encourage this community building is with mixed bag lunches. Every Thursday, Hub members are encouraged to make a contribution to a communal lunch. The purpose is to encourage networking so that members get to know what projects other Hub members are currently involved in.

Furniture such as desks without barricades, chalkboards, table tennis tables, and comfortable couches designed by Hassell Studios to complement creative thinking, is also significant to the Hub. Hub members also have access to interesting workshops and activities throughout the week such as yoga classes on Wednesdays.

Motorists versus cyclists: conflict on city streets Reply

by Elliot Constable

No more old-fashioned ideas: entitlements for cyclists on the city roads have to move with the times. Image supplied by Paul Townsend under Creative Commons licence

No more old-fashioned ideas: entitlements for cyclists on the city roads have to move with the times.
Image supplied by Paul Townsend under Creative Commons licence

Flashbacks of being hurled from his bicycle in peak hour traffic race through cyclist Mitchell Cope’s mind as he prepares himself for the high-intensity section of his morning commute. His left arm twitches, a subconscious reminder of an aggressive sideswipe from a motorist that left him with a shattered arm.

“The driver didn’t stop. In fact, hardly anybody even noticed,” Mitchell says.

According to a 2013 report by the Australian Bicycle Council, the number of cyclists has doubled in the last three years alone with, not surprisingly, a surge in the number of deaths, 14 of those occurring in NSW, the highest toll since 2007.

Following a fatal collision between a bus and a male cyclist in Neutral Bay earlier this year, Duncan Gay, the NSW Minister for Roads and Freight, told 2UE that he was “increasingly persuaded” towards the introduction of a licensing system for cyclists to ensure riders’ safety.

However, Phil Latz, Director of Bicycling Australia, strongly opposes the idea. “The licensing of cyclists is a red herring for the issue of safety. It would be impossible to regulate and would be sending the public all the wrong messages,” he says.

Constable Sam Thompson, from the NSW Police, believes the licensing of cyclists is “an impractical means of regulation” and that “cyclists have as much right to be on the roads as cars do as long as they follow the same rules”.

Many motorists don’t understand the road rules when it comes to cyclists and their ignorance can cause them to drive recklessly, according to Phil Latz.

Mr Latz, who has been an active cyclist for over 40 years, says aggression and intolerance directed towards cyclists is common and the worst offenders are more often than not “tradies in utes, young male P platers or executives in Mercs”.

Mayuri Patel, a manager in customer services at the NRMA, respects the fact that people are using bikes as opposed to cars but says “they should have their own lane as opposed to sharing ours as it makes me uncomfortable having to overtake them”. She says she was not aware that a cyclist was entitled to one car space on the road. “I just assumed that we couldn’t get too close to them.”

According to Mr Latz, the conflict between cyclists and motorists seems to be fuelled by a level of ignorance and frustration. But while the reckless driving continues, Mitchell Cope refuses to be bullied off the roads and continues to demand respect for cyclists.

Crime pays for Australian writers Reply

by Maria Nguyen-Emmett

Michael Robotham and Peter Corris

Michael Robotham and Peter Corris

Listening to two gun-toting grandmothers debating the merits of automatic handguns in a small country town in Arkansas – where even the waitress in the town’s only café packs a pistol – is a world away from greeting fans at a book reading on Sydney’s leafy and genteel lower north shore.

Michael Robotham, best-selling Australian crime writer, is at Mosman Library talking about his latest novel, Life or Death, and recounting tales from his time living in America’s south where the book is set.

A former journalist and ghost writer, Mr Robotham is one of the country’s leading literary exports: his psychological thrillers have been translated into 23 languages and sold more than six million copies worldwide.

He may soon become even bigger, following a US production deal to turn his crime novels into a television series in the vein of acclaimed shows, ‘True Detective’ and ‘Breaking Bad’.

Life or Death, recently released in Australia, is Mr Robotham’s tenth novel in as many years.

It tells the story of a convicted bank robber who, after a decade in prison, escapes the day before he is due for release.

According to publisher Hachette Australia, LA-based studios are currently negotiating film rights for the novel.

Sue Turnbull, crime fiction reviewer for The Sydney Morning Herald and The Age, describes Life or Death as “outstanding” and praises Mr Robotham’s ability to write convincingly about America’s south.

“Part of his skill as a writer, and background as a ghost writer, is that he is very, very clever at getting inside the skin of a person or place in order to make it seem completely authentic,” says Ms Turnbull, a professor pf social sciences, media and communication at the University of Wollongong.

Stephen King, the master of horror, is another fan.

He labelled Mr Robotham’s award-winning fourth novel, Shatter, “the most suspenseful book” he had read that year. More…

International Beer Day highlights craft beer boom Reply

by Samuel Jones

Craft beer in demand: the Australian Bureau of Statistics reports a 13 per cent annual growth for craft beer in 2013, while the beer market as a whole shrunk two per cent. Photograph by Quinn Dombrowski used under Creative Commons licence.

Craft beer in demand: the Australian Bureau of Statistics reports a 13 per cent annual growth for craft beer in 2013, while the beer market as a whole shrunk two per cent. Photograph by Quinn Dombrowski used under Creative Commons licence.

It’s late afternoon on a brisk Sydney winter’s day and the rooftop bar of The Local Taphouse in Darlinghurst is buzzing with people. It’s 1 August, International Beer Day.

Founded by a group of friends in the United States in 2007, International Beer Day is “a celebration of beer and the people who provide it”. Since its inception, it has spread around the world and is now held in 350 locations.

To mark the occasion, The Local Taphouse bought a hard-to-get range of craft beers from the UK, USA, Italy, Belgium, New Zealand and Australia, including an American Brown Ale and a Black India Pale Ale.

Clive Morley, the Venue Manager who has watched the craft beer scene grow expected more than 1000 people to pass through the doors to sample the diverse range on offer.

Australia has seen an explosion of interest in the craft beer scene in recent years. Figures released by Roy Morgan Research indicate the number of Australians drinking a ‘craft beer’ in any given month rose from 3.5 per cent in 2010 to 5.7 per cent in 2014. This means the number of Australians trying craft beer has crept past the one million mark for the first time.

Research by the Brewers Association of Australia and New Zealand shows that the amount of craft beer produced in Australia is increasing by six per cent annually, while mainstream beer sales are declining. The Australian Bureau of Statistics puts it even higher, listing 13 per cent annual growth for craft beer in 2013, while the beer market as a whole shrunk two per cent.

Jordan McDonald, Beer Sommelier at the craft beer venue, Frankie’s Pizza attributes the growth to a younger demographic, with a high level of disposable income. “They just don’t like the bland old beers that their fathers drank,” he says.

A newcomer to the craft beer scene may baulk at shelling out $16 for a beer. However Mr Morley says that while “traditionally beer has been seen as a cheap drink” people are willing to pay more for a great flavour experience, as they increasingly “appreciate the work that goes into producing a quality brew.” Most people accept that you pay more for quality – especially when it comes from the other side of the world.

Many drinkers are now seeing the same value in beer that they previously saw in fine wine or champagne. As Local Taphouse patron Julian Frood explains, the champagne equivalent of a craft beer costs approximately $250, which equates to around $25 a glass. By comparison, he says, “today the Taphouse is offering some of the best beers in the world, for $16 a glass.”

As Jordan McDonald says, “the game has changed to the point that the average punter is disillusioned, as I once was, if denied the craft beer option.”

Piecemeal approach to allergy ‘epidemic’ putting lives at risk Reply

by Maria Nguyen-Emmett

It’s that time of year again: it’s allergy season. Photograph by See-ming Lee used under Creative Commons Licence.

It’s that time of year again: it’s allergy season. Photograph by See-ming Lee used under Creative Commons Licence.

Allergies are costing the Australian economy $30bn a year and the lack of a national management plan is putting lives at risk, the world’s first Allergy Summit heard in Sydney on August 11.

The summit was organised by the Australasian Society of Clinical Immunology and Allergy (ASCIA) and Allergy and Anaphylaxis Australia.

One in five Australians suffers an allergic disease – such as hay fever, asthma, eczema and food allergies – most of which cannot be cured.

Now, a national allergy strategy is being proposed by medical experts, patients and support groups to tackle a disease that is often misunderstood but can be fatal.

An estimated 10 deaths occur each year from anaphylaxis (severe allergic reaction), according to Maria Said, president of Allergy and Anaphylaxis Australia.

Ms Said described the summit as the first step in developing a consistent, national strategy for educating, diagnosing and treating allergy sufferers who are currently given different messages and treatments depending on where they live.

“Different regions have different policies and procedures, and training is not uniform or at a level we would hope that it is,” Ms Said said. “I’ve been involved in six coronial inquests where people have died from food allergic disease and each of those cases could have been prevented with education and treatment.”

Wendy Norton, a GP and mother of three, two of whom have multiple, life-threatening allergies, also stressed the need for a national approach to treating allergies.

“I’ve been to various hospitals and they don’t manage anaphylaxis the same way; even the ambulance paramedics treat it differently,” Dr Norton said.

The lack of a national strategy and standard of patient care is compounded by the shortage of medical allergy specialists, resulting in patients waiting up to two years for an appointment.

Dr Norton described the long wait lists as “dangerous”.

“You’re not given any support while you’re waiting; you’re floundering around for information so it’s scary and frustrating,” she said.

Dr Richard Loh, allergy and immunology specialist, and the president of ASCIA, said the shortage of specialists reflected the “unexpected rise in this epidemic of allergic disease during the past 20 years”.

It is an epidemic that will continue to rise with one in four Australians expected to have one or more allergies in the next 30 years.

“Training a doctor to become an allergist takes a minimum of three years and there is a lack of funding for training positions,” Dr Loh said.

This shortage will also be addressed in the national allergy strategy, to be finalised by ASCIA and Allergy and Anaphylaxis Australia in March 2015.

Apps replace TXTBus system Reply

by Sylvana El-Khazen

Arrivo, Triptastic and Tripview are three of the new telephone apps that are helping Sydney commuters with transport information.

Arrivo, Triptastic and Tripview are three of the new telephone apps that are helping Sydney commuters with transport information.

A record number of commuters across NSW are opting to use transport apps to access real-time information. In July, there were more than 120,000 new downloads of the apps, and there are 40 million requests per month for real-time information from them, according to data gathered by Transport for NSW.

As a result, Transport for NSW’s TXTBus SMS system used to access real-time information for buses will cease from the September 17.

A spokesperson from Transport for NSW says, “The number of people accessing information from this service has dropped in recent months and the NSW Government is moving to newer and more reliable technology, like our smart phone apps which are proving to be more popular with the majority of our customers.”

Six transport apps are accessible on smart phones: Arrivo Sydney, NextThere, TransitTimes+, TripGo, Triptastic and Tripview.

For those who do not have smart phones to access these apps, Transport for NSW has maintained the 131500 customer service line.

TXTBus was introduced under former Minister for Transport John Robertson in November 2010, part of the Public Transport Information and Priority System (PTIPS), which tracked buses by satellite. It was initially offered on a six-month trial basis for Metrobuses, however extended to all Sydney buses in March 2011.

One of the most popular and free apps, NextThere, has had more than 30,000 downloads since its introduction in July. This app provides commuters with a list of buses and their expected arrival time, as well as information on bus delays. It also allows commuters to search the bus timetables of up to three bus stops across NSW. Another app, Arrivo Sydney, allows commuters to see the bus traveling on a map to see its progress on the route.

Isabel Georgeton, 67, a frequent commuter from Paddington, welcomes the use of the transport apps instead of the TXTBus SMS system. She finds it more convenient having access to the timetables online, rather than constantly checking for text messages from TXTBus.

Thea Bolt, 23, from Kingsford, also prefers the transport apps. A frequent user of real-time app Tripview, she says that such apps offer more comprehensive information to commuters then TXTBus and also finds they are more cost-effective. There is a one-off fee for a subscription to the transport apps, rather than sending numerous texts to TXTBus.

However, these commuters all commented that even though the apps are more efficient than TXTBus, there still remains a mismatch in the arrival times given on any real-time information service against the actual arrival times of buses.

Public art gaining attention in Sydney Reply

by Sally Mannering

Sculptor Peter Lewis won this year’s Transfield Award for his polished stainless steel work, Graffiti Moonstrike.

Sculptor Peter Lewis won this year’s Transfield Award for his polished stainless steel work, Graffiti Moonstrike.

The Sydney Sculptors’ Society is enjoying an increased interest in public art with attendance at its annual exhibition and awards up by 20 per cent from last year.

Sydneysiders are certainly talking about sculpture. There has been much controversy surrounding the City of Sydney’s commissioning of  $9 million dollars worth of art, including the much talked about 13.7 metre milk crate to be installed in Belmore Park.

The Lord Mayor, Clover Moore, says initiatives like this will “cement Sydney’s reputation as a capital of culture and creativity”.

Feyona Van Stom, president of the Sydney Sculptors’ Society, says having accessible public art is very important because  “it makes people talk and consider the ideas and beliefs of others”. Ms Van Stom says that while public art needs to be of a very high technical and aesthetic standard, controversy around art is not necessarily a bad thing.

“It does not matter in the least if I like a particular work and you don’t; what is important is the conversation that follows,” she says.

Visitors at the current Sculptors Society exhibition at Darling Park agree with the need for more public art. Kate Kilby, a sales manager from Corrimal, says, “I come to this particular exhibition every year. I’m certainly a fan of more public art in Sydney. We have a rich culture and breathtaking backdrop that would really allow us to make a name for ourselves in this space.”

Ingrid Maack, of Girrawee, used the Sculptors Society exhibition to introduce her sons to sculpture. “We are really very lucky in Sydney to have access to some great public art, both permanent pieces and access to exhibitions like this,” she says.

The Sculptors Society exhibition offers several prizes each year, including the prestigious Franco Belgiono-Nettis Transfield Award. This year’s winner was Peter Lewis whose polished stainless steel work,  ‘Graffiti Moonstrike’, depicts three small dancers. He says he was “surprised but elated” to take out this year’s top prize. Mr Lewis was recently been commissioned by City of Sydney to create a 3.5 metre high bronze sculpture representing the changing face of the inner-city suburb of Green Square.

He says Sydney is catching up with Melbourne. “Sydney is recognising the value of public art and placing more importance on enriching the city through art.”

This year’s exhibition was launched and judged by Elsa Atkin, AM. Ms Atkin organises one of Sydney’s other premiere sculpture events, the annual Sculpture at Sawmillers exhibition at McMahons Point. She is also the former CEO of the National Trust. “This particular exhibition is a collection of works of a fantastic standard,” she says.

Ms Aken is a keen advocate of public art and, in particular, sculpture which she believes is an overlooked and underutilised art from.

“Art can inspire and liberate, it feeds our spirits,” she says.   “We need to buy it, place it where people can easily access it and bring art to the people – that’s the right thing to do.”