Confessions of a Twitter addict


Addicted a bit? Illustration by epicupcake /CC/Deviant Art

BY ANDREW GARLAND

Hi, my name’s @AndriouxGarland and I’m a twitter addict.

I’m fairly new to Twitter.  In fact, it was forced upon me as part of my journalism and communications course at TAFE.  With Twitter, it wasn’t that I didn’t fully understand the concept. I just didn’t really care.  So when @babelfishes insisted we start an account as part of our course you’d be quite right to assume I wasn’t very enthusiastic.

The spirit of Marrickville: Johnny Lewis

Marrickville legend, trainer Johnny Lewis. Photo: Nick Cubbin/blackboxphotos (used with permission)

 

BY DANIEL CLYDE-SMITH

For generations, Marrickville locals have proven they know how to fight. Boxing has been one of the most popular sports in the area since the 1930s and has produced some of the sports best fighters and trainers. And a man who needs no introduction in the boxing world is training legend Johnny Lewis. Having trained six world champions, including three time world champion “Marrickville Mauler” Jeff Fenech, world champion Kostya Tszyu and Jeff Harding, Lewis is regarded as one of Australia’s and the sport’s greatest ever trainers.

But does Marrickville still deserve this title? Is the sport that gave so much identity to a close community still as prevalent?

Lewis’s house overlooks Victoria Park in Marrickville’s east. Nothing about it speaks of the home of a world renowned legend of boxing. The humble three bedroom home, with Lewis’ wife contently watching soap operas in the early afternoon, says much about his character and the working class roots of boxing in Marrickville.

 Marrickville has been known for its hard way of life. From the 1880s to the 1920s migration to Marrickville flourished and the suburb grew from a sparsely settled area to a densely populated industrial region. Migration peaked in the 1950s to the late 1970s, when very large numbers of migrants arrived from Southern Europe, the Middle East and Asia. It now has one of the highest percentages of overseas-born residents of any local government area in New South Wales. Industry attracted migration and gave Marrickville the status of the working class suburb – and alongside, the increasing popularity of boxing.  Factory workers were looking for extra money and quickly Marrickville was known for its gyms and fighters.

Lewis fondly reminisces about celebrating Australia day as a boy among crowds of `new’ Australians within the Marrickville community.

“It was such an important day for the community…everyone would get together and celebrate this great day,” he says.

Times were tough, and the Aussie fighting spirit within Marrickville embraced boxing, both as a way of putting food on the table, but also for the glory of being the toughest fighter in the inner west – the toughest fighter in Australia.

“The hunger back in my day was unrivalled,” Lewis reflects. “Gymnasiums were everywhere and most of the kids would head down just to watch the sparring matches after school.”

Fights were always organised locally, with some of the best promoters and venues Sydney offered. Lewis talks about the old fights “when the stadiums ran the fight”. Places like the Marrickville RSL club run by Roy Carrol, who Lewis rates as one of the best promoters of his time.

“He just knew the fight game.”

Lewis says Carrol’s fights, along with those organised by Barry Raff, who ran what was known as Addison Square Garden on Addison Road, were the best fights he has ever seen.

But the times are changing. Boxing globally and locally within the Marrickville community is declining, and with it, the social landscape and identity of the Marrickville community is changing. 

Like much of the inner west, Marrickville has become a desirable market for young professionals and white collar families.  Gymnasiums, previously geared towards boxing are now focused on the new variety of body-builders and fitness enthusiasts. Having lived in the inner west his whole life, Lewis has witnessed first-hand the development of Newtown, Erskineville, and now Marrickville. Boxing is now a “cross- training” technique, Lewis admits, with most people using the sport’s harsh training for fitness, not boxing as a sport.

Along with the change of culture and increase in the cost of living in Marrickville, more and more young fighters now leave to try their hand abroad. Lewis admits that once you get to a certain level you have to go and test the waters and admits “if had a good young bloke today with the potential to be something great” he would be considering overseas options.

This in itself reflects the changing social structure within Marrickville.  It no longer means much to be the toughest in Marrickville. The prestige in being dubbed “Marrickville’s best” is now glory that can only be achieved overseas.  The tight-knit immigrant community in which local boxing was spawned has evolved as Marrickville’s community has merged with the larger Sydney community and the values of the community have changed.

Lewis puts it bluntly: “The hunger’s gone.” The hunger to prove yourself, the desire to make a new life work, and the desire to put food on the table, all of which contributed to the foundations of inner west boxing, are no longer relevant.  The working class title the suburb once held has been replaced, with some referring to it as “the new Newtown”.

On a global scale, Lewis admits sadly that the sport of boxing is on the ropes as the Ultimate Fighting Championship ( UFC ) continues to grow and grow. The UFC is a relatively new sport, a version of mixed martial arts ( MMA ), and is one of the fastest growing sports in the world.

But as Lewis talks of the recent rise of Australian boxer Garth Wood, it’s obvious that some out there still recognise the magic that boxing can provide. The fairy tale of Garth Wood is the stuff of boxing legend.  A father who played for Newtown, a brother who played for the Roosters and Garth who played for South’s, made his way up through the boxing ranks in the TV show The Contender; a reality TV show where 15 fighters do battle for a professional boxing contract. Woods won the show and set up a mouthwatering showdown with big-talking former rugby league legend and inner west local, Anthony Mundine. Woods won the fight in a KO decision. Lewis can’t remember when boxing was such a hot topic. “You have to go back a long way to find people talking about boxing like that,” he says.

With such a rich and proud history of inner west boxing, it’s with a sad tone that Lewis admits there is no stopping change. Marrickville is now a target for hungry property developers rather than talent scouts. While boxing globally is in decline through the rise of other popular sports, Marrickville’s decline can be attributed to the changing socio-economic structure of the suburb. With the fading “working class” name in the inner west, boxing talent and gyms are heading further west, where training is affordable. In Marrickville, gyms which featured only a single ring surrounded by speedballs are now fitted with the latest bodybuilding machines.

Lewis typifies what it meant to be part of the boxing culture in Marrickville. And while fighters are rarer, you can’t but believe that Lewis’s eye for talent will guarantee that at least some of Marrickville’s former fighting reputation will be preserved. 

“There’ll always be one (up-and-coming inner west boxer),” he says.

Don’t hate on me! I heart Justin Bieber

Reaching through the screen to steal our hearts: Justin Bieber in Paramount Pictures’ Justin Bieber: Never Say Never. Photo credit: Courtesy of Paramount Pictures

BY KATE DAWSON

When it was announced last August that Paramount Pictures was prepping a motion picture about Justin Bieber’s life, the general reaction was, shall we say, a scoff. The guy was only 16 years old at the time, had only produced two studio albums, and had really only been on people’s radar for a couple of years. Considering other musical biopics that have come out in recent times (Joan Jett’s The Runaways, John Lennon’s Nowhere Boy, Michael Jackson’s This Is It, Bob Dylan’s I’m Not There, The Beatles’ Across The Universe and so on), it seemed ludicrous that someone so young could have a “life story” so early in his career. Of course, the typical backlash associated with the teen sensation was to be expected; Bieber faces just as much criticism (mostly male) as he does admiration from his adoring (mostly female) fans. Details of the film’s release were leaked over the course of the next few months: it was to be directed by the man responsible for both the Step Up sequels; it would use the latest 3D technology; the promotional 3D glasses were bright purple; and finally the movie would be named after Bieber’s hit song used in The Karate Kid remake, Never Say Never (featuring Will Smith’s wannabe-rapper son Jaden). All of these things evoked positive reactions from Bieber’s horde of screaming tween fans, and more moaning and groaning from his “haters”.

Personally, I’ve never had anything against the kid. Being female, I suppose I have less of a tendency to find him annoying, but I do honestly enjoy his music and appreciate his talent. My knowledge of Bieber before seeing this movie was that he was discovered on YouTube, fought over by Usher and Justin Timberlake, knows how to play a couple of instruments, can dance really well and has quite a girlish voice. Other than that, I would hear his songs or see his videos on occasion and think “Yeah, the kid’s not bad.” Seeing all the fuss young girls make over him didn’t particularly irk me, in fact I found it pretty amusing. I’ve always thought he was cute, but mostly in a wait-five-years-then-we’ll-talk kind of way. Apart from that, I had no feelings towards him, good or bad. When I heard about this movie, I was among those thinking it was a horrible idea. I mean, what on earth would they show for 110 minutes about a 16 year old? Sure, he’s got that whole Beatlemania thing going on but really, the only people who are going to want to see that on the big screen already love him enough! I just couldn’t see how this movie would convince a non-Bieber fan that he is the real deal. Boy, was I wrong.

Within the first five minutes of this movie I was grinning from ear to ear. I’ve heard people say there must be subliminal messages in there, because people seemed to be coming out of the theatres with a full-on case of Bieber Fever. I’m not sure about Chu’s brainwashing techniques, but I wouldn’t be surprised if it were true. The opening to the movie is unreal, it pulls you into the mad world of Justin Bieber instantly, and it’s quite a fun place to be. There’s catchy music pumping, bright colours, a great light show, and some truly awesome use of 3D filming. From start to finish, people were bopping along in their seats, smiling, laughing and going “Awwwww!” I’m not ashamed to be included in that group. Walking out of that cinema, I had a mixture of feelings. I was elated by the content, but mostly in shock and thoroughly impressed with just how good it was.

So what made it so unexpectedly good? First thing, Chu chose to include a lot of home videos of Bieber from his childhood growing up in a small town in Canada, where his single mum raised him with the help of her parents. This gave the movie heart. Interviews with both his mother and grandparents were moving, and immediately you stop thinking of Bieber simply as a money-making machine built by Usher and Island Def Jam. Secondly, thank God for all those YouTube videos, because they sure came in handy for this film. Audiences who hadn’t seen a very young Bieber performing in singing competitions in Canada, playing his guitar on the street for dozens of onlookers, practicing the piano and the drums, will be pleasantly surprised by the inclusion of what is essentially proof that Bieber is genuinely talented. Say what you will about the guy, but you cannot deny his musical ability after watching this movie. Thirdly, the documentation of the 10 days leading up to his all-important performance at the prestigious Madison Square Garden venue in New York was very well done, showing the ups and downs of rehearsals and preparation with some great cameos. Finally, the 3D was splendid, far beyond anything I’d have thought possible for a musical documentary. Wonderful use of this technology went a long way to making the concert sequences really pop – it’s almost as if Bieber’s outstretched hand is going to grab yours and pull you through the screen. Also, all of the music was phenomenal. All in all, Never Say Never was top notch entertainment for the entire duration.

Highly recommended for the non-Bieber fan, especially adults who doubt his capabilities at making a lasting impression on the industry. Obviously young female fans will love this one, but it’s the skeptics who will be bowled over by this unanticipated eye opener.

Director: Jon Chu (Step Up 3D, Step Up 2: The Streets)
Starring: Justin Bieber, Usher, Ludacris, Snoop Dogg, Sean Kingston, Miley Cyrus, Jaden Smith, Boyz II Men
Theatre Release: April 2011
Studio: MTV Films/Paramount Pictures
Rating: G

In the dark of night, fearing death

Artist Michael Zavros with his daughter Phoebe. Photo: Edwina Pickles/SMH, used with permission from the photographer

 

BY KATHRYN LEWIS

 

Michael Zavros is a Brisbane-based artist. In a short Q&A he speaks with The West Street Journal about his 2010 Doug Moran Portrait Prize winning painting. “Until I became a parent I didn’t fear death. Now as I wait for sleep in the dark of night I am visited by visions of my children befalling some tragedy and being taken from me. And so now I fear death. This painting confronts the unthinkable.”

 

 WSJ: What made you want to be an artist?
MZ: To me it was never something I ever really made a quest to do. I always just made art, I always just went to draw for hours in my room. And that question, “what do you want to be when you grow up?” was never asked of me. It was just one of those things, you know, that I expected and that my family expected that I would always do.

WSJ: What was the concept behind your artwork “Phoebe is dead/McQueen”?
MZ: Well, I mean, obviously it’s a portrait. But I think it’s much less a portrait of Phoebe, my daughter. It doesn’t tell you a lot about her. It doesn’t tell you a lot about me as an artist either. It instead describes the relationship between us. I think that it’s a portrait of our relationship. It’s a painting of what I fear the most as a parent and what, I suppose, is the vision that comes to me in the dark of night. That some tragedy might happen to my children. It’s almost like painting it can prevent it, which of course it can’t.

WSJ: What sort of criticism have you received of the art work?
MZ: Um, it’s pretty scarce that I’ve received criticism that is constructive criticism of the work itself. So there’s been nothing in the way that the painting has been carried out. But any criticisms of the work, or any sort of negative comments are kind of what I expect and what I was trying to deliver. It’s a difficult work.  It is cold, it’s very disturbing. That’s what I was trying to portray in the work. It was difficult for me to paint. It was difficult to look at. So that to me, the comments that are to be a criticism, were actually my intentions.

WSJ: Did you expect the audience to react the way that did to the work?
MZ: Um, yes. I mean it wasn’t too bad. There is a lengthy artist statement that goes with the work, which has been in a lot of the media coverage, over the process. And I think that has stopped most of the criticism that may have come with the work.  But I was given the opportunity to explain the work when I won and always when I was describing the work I’d mention, which is something I forgot to mention before, is that she plays dead all the time. Like most kids her age, they have this naive fascination with death, in almost a fairytale kind of way. So she plays dead constantly and that was important to me as well. It looks like the figure is still alive. It doesn’t look dead. She has this sort of flush of life in the face and you can tell the figure is alive.

WSJ: Do you think art should be controversial?
MZ: Art should just be, I think. If it’s political art or controversial art. I think that’s just something that you do. I mean, it’s not for everyone. I think that art should attempt to be something more than just be beautiful. It should have a bigger purpose. I think a lot of contemporary artists that seek to shock, don’t manage to do so. And it’s interesting when you look at what actually does have an impact, in my opinion. You don’t need to have all your hard core, or hard edge contemporary arts to pack a punch. It can be something incredibly traditional and very beautiful, like a painting. And I think that in the case of my work, it was confronting because it was beautiful to look at. I was a very beautiful work that portrayed something difficult to look at. Aesthetically, it was a pleasing painting to look at and I think that’s what was hard about it. It’s not sort or trying to fight anyone.