Katie’s Favourite (Melbourne) Things 2017 – Part 1

I’m sure my mother would refer to this as ‘A Guide To Gently Stalking Katie’. To which I would say ‘Mum, my entire life is online, they can just DM me if they want to know what movie I’m seeing when’.

I’ve just ticked over my first full year of living in Melbourne. I’m not going to claim I know it like an old-timer, and I will honestly admit there are swathes of the city and surrounds that I’ve only looked at with mild curiosity on the public transport map. I also live in the northern suburbs, so this will be somewhat north-focused, but you should probably also know that I fully subscribe to the northside/southside war and think of the entire south-east as Rich People Trashville with the occasional nice historical home (hello Como House, you have a very nice garden). Toorak makes me feel poor and St Kilda makes me uncomfortable with its fake ocean.

This is a bit city guide, a bit Year That Was, and hopefully interesting to someone. It’s time for….Katie’s Favourite Things (Part One).
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Cultural Things

The Wheeler Centre
A friend put me on to this one, and let’s be real, I am entirely trying to be your friend who puts you on to things with this post.
For a decent chunk of this year I was job-searching, and therefore incredibly keen to find free things to do that got me out of the house. Going for walks is fun and all, but it doesn’t particularly engage the brain. That’s where The Wheeler Centre, located in a wing of the beautiful State Library, comes in. They do some paid events, but the majority of their talks are free. For at least two ‘seasons’, I hopped on the site when the calendar was launched and booked a whole bunch of sessions, giving me regular things to look forward to. These included talks about women on social media, the changing nature of family, the real lives of Arab women, talks on podcasts, criticism, and the wellness industry. The Wheeler Centre is a forum to talk about ideas, with every session tending to have a carefully-chosen panel and opportunities for audience Q&A.
I know why I find the events so appealing. A former Arts student, I still enjoy the feeling of being engaged with the world of ideas and debate. I’ve also found a healthy selection of talks with a feminist slant, particularly Jane Gilmore’s round up of 2017’s representation of women in media. But you’ll find a pretty mixed crowd at the events. I’ve found that there’s a lot of people of retirement age who will come along not knowing much about the subject, I suspect because it comes with the best price tag of all for an interesting night out.
One of my favourite series at The Wheeler Centre this year was The Longform Society, a sort of book club for longreads. I was absolutely fascinated by our readings on robots, with a particular focus on ethics, and could have discussed them all night. Humanities nerds are for life, y’all.
If this all sounds pretty appealing to you but you’re not from Melbourne, they do quite a bit of live-streaming, as well as uploading audio and visual recording afterwards.

Honourable mention: The University of Melbourne hosts a huge amount of free public lectures on a dizzying amount of topics. I joined their mailing list after attending a Melbourne Knowledge Week event with Katherine Maher from Wikipedia, however I’ve found that the majority of evening talks start at 6pm, which is when I finish work.

Bump and Grindercise
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This is the only fitness class or endeavour I have ever been able to stick to. I did terribly at Zumba. I was okay at home workouts, but as soon as I took a break I struggled to get back in to it. But for Bump and Grindercise, I will drag myself out of bed every Sunday, because it’s fun. I will even go when I’m sick, mostly because there’s no-one at home to tell me I shouldn’t (note to self, extremely bad for recovery).
One of the greatest challenges is describing what Bump and Grindercise actually is. L’amour, the genius behind Bump, posted this clip from one of the routines, which probably helps a bit. Meg Crawford wrote about the classes for Time Out. But it mostly comes down to wiggling, jiggling, and giggling. While also getting the cardio workout from hell, and thighs so sore you can barely sit for days. L’amour calls it a dance exercise class, which pretty much sums up the vintage-inspired burlesque moves you’ll be doing between the twerking, squats and lunges. There’s a hefty bit of 90s to the soundtrack (think Spice Girls, Shaggy and Ginuwine) as well as tunes from the 50s and 60s. It’s a serious workout in a warm and silly environment. If you can’t make fun of yourself, you’re gonna have a seriously weird time grinding in a circle like in the clip I linked to. But everyone brings their best self to class, and everyone feels like their best self in class too. It’s a body-positive environment, something L’Amour embodies, and that’s what makes girls feel comfortable to dance around in lingerie. We don’t all know each other, there’s drop-ins every week, but it is an established safe space, where bullshittery will not be tolerated and everyone tries to uplift each other. Also celebrations are had with titty cupcakes.
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I’d long followed Bump and Grindercise through social media, and was so excited to start these classes when I moved down. I’m happy to say they completely surpassed my expectations.
Bonus fact: In addition to Bump and Grindercise, L’amour will be launching barre classes called Bump and Barrecise next year. If that’s more your style, I cannot give high enough marks for L’amour as a kind, patient, and supportive teacher, even if she is way bendy-er than any of us will ever be.

Palace Cinemas
This chain is not Melbourne-only, but every venue is unique. My local is Palace Westgarth, which is housed in a historical building and has five cinemas, as well as an outdoor screen in the courtyard, a new addition I haven’t had an opportunity to enjoy yet. I love when I go to see blockbuster films and wind up in the largest auditorium, the beautiful art deco style Cinema One.
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Palace plays the latest releases and indies, and their distribution arm allows them to hold numerous international film festivals during the year. It tends to make for an interesting lineup.
Whilst I’m incredibly fortunate to receive discount Palace tickets through my workplace’s employee rewards program, I’d also made the decision to join the Palace Movie Club long before I started there. Club membership is $19.50 a year here in Melbourne, and given members save over $5 on standard ticket prices, you only need to go to the movies 4 times in a year to make back your membership costs (I don’t know about you, but I go to the movies a lot more than that). Plus you get discounts here and there, access to advance screenings and some deals as part of the festivals. Even though I get cheaper-than-membership tickets now, I have maintained my membership for the perks. Also, I can’t pre-book my cheap tickets, so the membership comes in handy if you want to say, buy tickets with the best seats for opening day of The Last Jedi.
They turned out to be not so great tickets when the man and his son next to me talked the whole way through the movie, but that’s not Palace’s fault. In general, I find that there’s less teenagers than at a cinema in a shopping centre e.g the homeland of the Hoyts and Greater Union, which means I don’t feel like such a sore thumb when I indulge my number one love of going to the movies on my own.
Their snacks are also delicious, although I don’t believe that olive oil popcorn is that much better for you, and they will do a ‘feature-length’ pour of wine without the Gold Class prices. Bonus fact: The Palace Kino, which is in the CBD, has an amazing Tightarse Monday deal of $8.50 tickets.

Honourable mention: The Lido in Hawthorn. Similar variety of  blockbusters, indies and art-house. A modern venue, with a rooftop screen and no oddly-shaped cinemas, and as a bonus it isn’t part of a chain. They also do jazz and comedy nights. Delicious, substantial snacks and really decent variety of boozy drinks. I had a membership this year and at a members’ preview screening for Battle of the Sexes they were handing out Pimms Cup cocktails. However, I generally had a hard time booking member tickets on the site (usually resorting to the phone – eww, people) and it’s just a bit far from my house when there’s a great cinema down High St.  But overall a fantastic option for any Easterly types.

Event Things

Girls on Film Festival
Just a really chill celebration of all things lady in cinema, held at Brunswick Town Hall. This year was their third year, and I made it to a couple of events – a Spice World screening, and Girl Germs, an event with bands, video games, nail painting and collage making. The whole event has a welcoming vibe and a DIY spirit, and the movie lineup was absolutely killer, including Persepolis, The Sapphires, and The Craft as well as local and international indies. I had plenty of regrets about not being able to make it to more movies, and I think next year I need to get in earlier and support their crowdfunding efforts!
Also: Spice World does not currently have the camp classic status it deserves. If you haven’t revisited it, can I highly recommend it? You may not be able to recreate the experience of a room full of women who were probably Spice Girls ride-or-dies first time around, but I’m fairly certain it’ll still be magical.
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Series Mania at ACMI
I tend to wonder if people think of ACMI as somewhere to actually go and watch features, rather than just poking their nose in the exhibitions downstairs (although that’s a perfectly worthy journey, particularly when they had CodeBreakers: Women in Games on this year). ACMI actually plays hosts to a lot of interesting events – including the rather epic journey I went on this year watching all eight hours of ESPN’s amazing OJ: Made in America documentary in the big cinema there as part of the Australian International Documentary Conference.
Like the OJ event, Series Mania was free, and in this case was a four-day extravaganza of all things telly. This is an international concept that was started in Paris, so it was awesome to see a varied program brought Melbourne, with hefty local flavour. Although I didn’t attend, understandably the event in conversation with Vince Gilligan, creator of Breaking Bad, was incredibly popular. I followed my interests and attended two events. The first was a screening of the first episode of The White Princess, which from memory was premiering on Stan the following weekend, followed by a Q&A with the divine Essie Davis, who also stars in one of my favourite Australian series, Miss Fisher’s Murder Mysteries. In addition, several weeks before the premiere on ABC, I attended a screening of the first two episodes of Get Krackin’, the new comedy show from the Kates of The Katering Show. It’s unusual to get to watch comedy television in a large audience unless you’re at a recording, so it was fun to have that experience. If you want to recreate the experience at home, invite a bunch of mates over and fire up Get Krackin’ on iView. Kate McCartney and Kate McLennan were there for a Q&A afterwards, and proved just as relatable af as I always imagined them. Be my friend, Kates.
I’m really pleased to read that Series Mania will be back next year, and I can’t wait to see what’s on the program!
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PAXAus/Melbourne International Games Week
Yeah, yeah. Stay in your lane, Katie. You don’t know shit about MIGW. You only went to PAXAus. But golly, do I follow a lot of attendees on Twitter. I see the tweets from GCAP panels, people celebrating and receiving recognition at the Australian Game Development Awards, and the same troopers immediately following it up with that hustle life exhibiting at PAX Australia. It’s not the only event focused on games and tech in Melbourne during the year, but it brings together a bunch of local, national and international talent to straight up fuck themselves up on loving games. We’re incredibly lucky that the Victorian Government, through Creative Victoria, supports the industry and enables games to be a key part of the amazing cultural scene in Melbourne that we love to boast about.

And we do love boasting about it. I’ve just written a 2,000 word post just about culture and events. Which means the very best part of living in Melbourne – the food, duh – will have to wait til part 2.

Victorian Values went to PAX Aus

Here from the depths of my PAX pox, I wanted to write a little about my second-ever PAX.  It’s a companion piece of sorts to Fake Gamer Girl, because once again I felt overwhelmingly welcomed in a community where I should feel like a complete intruder.

I didn’t push myself too hard this year, given that the con was wedged between two major deadlines at work, but I am proud of myself for actually making it inside the expo hall this year. Although not til Sunday, which meant I missed the gorgeous Nimble (who I met at the Dog Lover’s Show earlier this year) and Scarlett from Australian Working Dog Rescue, who were brought to PAX by the people behind Destiny. I was jealous of many selfies with the pups over the course of the weekend, not that I’m bitter or anything.

For me PAX kicked off for the second-year running with co-op drinks, organised by Jason Imms, which has both been a great social kick-off and vague ruiner of weekend, as neither time have we managed to leave before the bar closes. Co-op drinks for me could be renamed to Do I Recognise That Person Off Twitter? Uhhhhhh I Don’t Know What To Do I’m Horrifically Socially Awkward Drinks. But nonetheless it is an opportunity to meet and catch up with a bunch of Sydney people from my wider social circle and I would probably continue to sneak along to co-op drinks even if I wasn’t attending PAX. Good god, am I gamer yet?

First thing I did with my vaguely-hungover arse on Saturday was plonk it down at a panel. This year The Great Debate was on Watching People Play Games Is More Fun Than Playing Them, with Ally McLean, Burnie Burns and Jesse Cox playing ‘for’ and Rae Johnston, Lawrence Leung and Jordan Raskopolous playing ‘against’. And Liam Esler attempting to act as general chaos manager. As neither a gamer nor an enthusiastic watcher I wasn’t sure what side I’d come down on, but Rae really convinced me of the legal pitfalls of staring through someone’s window.

One game I found insanely fun to watch at the AGPN Presents: Partymode panel was Nidhogg II (I think, please don’t hurt me anyone. How many games can there be about being eaten by a giant worm???). It had the crowd roaring and possibly rooting for the giant chopping machine to chew up to contestants.

I spent most of the next two hours after this event just shitting bricks about our own Let’s Play Some Bad Dating Sims panel. I was so lucky to be on the panel with a bunch of lovely ladies who did not seem to be worried at all – Tegan, her co-workers from Allure Media, Hayley and Amanda, and the wonderful other Katie Steggy, who when she ordered a burger to be delivered to the stage made me feel sure that everything was going to be a-ok. Being an anxious weirdo I’d turned up at the panel room early, and got to see the line growing and growing until about ten minutes before we were due to start, we were told the queue for our panel had been capped. So I guess we worked out where all the people who weren’t out drinking or at the Saturday night concerts were. We had a lovely, enthusiastic crowd who made me feel incredibly welcome despite admitting to being the token non-gamer, and who really got in to audience participation, which was delightful. And the panel was such fun for me. Tegan had asked us to research and pitch a dating sim to play, and mine was Panzermadels. I don’t want to spoil it too much except to say that the concept is a boy who thinks he’s going to learn about military warfare ends up at a school filled with WWII tanks that look like Japanese schoolgirls. We ended up playing the sim for the entire panel and spoiler alert, I did not spend money on this game, so our run-though was my first experience of it (a few audience members were happy to admit they’d played it!) and it was just…a real eye-opener. Shout-out to Hayley for her voice acting as our main character Erwin Lemmor (yep….that’s Rommel spelled backwards).

Here’s a photo stolen from Tegan’s Twitter, I suspect taken by Rae!

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Because when you think ‘bad’ you think Comic Sans – nice one Tegan.
(additional shoutout to Alex for clicking buttons for us so we could just mock the game)

And from the other side, terror looks a bit like this:
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Because I skipped the insane idea of more drinking on Saturday I was able to haul in to the convention centre at a reasonable hour on Sunday – note, yes, it’s nice when cons are on in your city, but trying to motivate yourself to commute in to the CBD from where you can actually afford to live for the seventh day in a row is not the easiest thing in the world. First I decided to learn about Making Names In Games from Seamus Byrne, Rae Johnston, Jesse Cox, Holly Conrad and Ashley Jenkins. Partly because my friends were still getting breakfast, partly because this is obviously important stuff for me to learn because I am clearly going to be a big Name In Games.
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Also, I actually played a game! I entered the expo hall with some trepidation – holy mother of god, that front area is noisy – and poked my way back to PAX Rising where the indie games live. Partly to visit my pals at Inflatality, who had just released their game on Steam and had an enthusiastic crowd wanting to play, and partly because I really like seeing the creativity and visual aspects of these games. I may not be a gamer, but I’m still a huge effin’ huge nerd with a communications degree. I can appreciate. Once I met up with Alex and Tegan she managed to tell multiple people that I’d really enjoy the new Orwell game because I’m great at internet stalking. While this is absolutely true, I played the game and I sucked pretty bad, needing the developer to stand behind me and offer hints (and straight up cribbing off Tegan). Very interesting reflection on the current political environment, that one! Anyway, it was really nice to meet lots of friendly faces and exhausted devs at PAX Rising. I hope you’ve all got cracking on sleeping for a week, because you’re the real MVPs.

As expected, there were heaps of panels I would have liked to have seen, and people I would have liked to have caught up with, but I hope PAX is never extended beyond three days. Because I am 31 years old, and I will die. Stay tuned for my ‘Tinder is totally a mobile game’ thesis, and see you next year.

Victorian Values at PAXAus!

Hello! As mentioned in my last post, I’m going to be appearing on a panel at PAX Australia!

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Here’s the pitch:

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I thought I was just going to go to PAX and catch up with my friends but apparently I now have ~responsibilities~. As I’ve mentioned before, I’m not a gamer, but I’ve been doing some research for this panel and I have found some seriously weird stuff. Bless you, people who want to date swords (????).

So if you’re around on PAX Saturday and don’t mind delaying your boozing for an extra hour, come check us out and we’ll have some freaky shit for you.