Category Archives: Travel

Sydney Airport: Please Tell Your Robots To Stop Sexually Harassing Me In The Bathroom

Dearest Sydney Airport,

I like to think we know each other pretty well. You’ve made me remove various items of clothing and screened me for explosives many times. I’ve slept in your chairs, consumed your Krispy Kreme products with jet-lagged jaws and recently you’ve even been kind enough to stock my latest novel in your bookshops. Now, I’ll grant that over a breadth of time and experience a certain intimacy develops, but there are boundaries to such a relationship and one of those boundaries should very clearly be the bathroom. The shitter, the lavatory, the outhouse, the thunderbox, the bog, the porcelain wonderland. Whatever euphemism/dysphemism you want to employ for that tiled little collection of cubicles and piping where humans go to accomplish the natural – and completely disgusting – process of expunging waste. Our relationship is important to me, Sydney Airport, so let me state this clearly: When I am in the bathroom, LEAVE ME THE FUCK ALONE.

vivid

Recently I visited your fair city in order to attend the Sydney Writers’ Festival. How was it you say? Why, it was wonderful, thank you for asking! I spoke on some panels, signed some books, performed some poetry and got to meet many of my favourite writers. I did accidentally smack someone’s microphone out of their hand as I exited one performance but I’m going to pretend that the audience thought it was just a sort of hip-hop ‘dis’ move rather than the clumsy flailing of a terminally uncoordinated man. Plus, I got to see the Vivid festival and the luminary Sufjan Stevens. What a magical couple of days, what a grand, kaleidoscopic adventure, what a shame it had to end with a robot asking me “Wanna get naked?” in the airport bathroom.

I applied Occam’s razor to the situation and logically concluded that someone had slipped me a drug from a Phillip K. Dick novel. It turns out, however, that a video vending machine was attempting to sell me Four Seasons Naked condoms. You’ve crossed a line Sydney Airport, the bathroom line. You see, the problem is, I’m unable to boycott the use of these repugnantly invasive machines. Sometimes, I have to use airports, and during my time in said airports I have to use the bathroom. There’s no ‘ad-free’ option. There is no opt out.

Also, Four Seasons, what the hell is wrong you with you? You have a product that prevents diseases AND is directly related to sex, surely that’s got to be a marketing agency’s wet dream? Whatever agency landed your account must have wept into their champagne and sacrificed a few goats in celebration when that deal got inked. How hard can it be to write some ads that move product without invading bathroom privacy? Look, I’ll write some ad copy for you right now:

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“The cost of raising a child in Australia is $300 000+. This costs $2. Enjoy your flight.”

“Hi. Buy one of these for $2 and it could stop you from dying of AIDS. I like your outfit, have a nice day.”

“If you don’t have one of these s/he won’t have sex with you. Thank you.”

Seriously Four Seasons, most ad agencies fall over themselves trying to tenuously connect sex to their products. Just look at this:

hearing aids

You can just imagine the conversation that preceded it can’t you?

“Morning Terry, what’s the new account?”

“Hearing aids! Dumb, stupid, bloody useless hearing aids! I mean, how are you supposed to sell a technological marvel that does nothing but restore one of your vital senses?”

“Sex?”

“Yeah, I reckon I’ll go with sex.”

It’s worth noting that condoms can also be purchased from pharmacies, at a better rate and with a superior selection. I wouldn’t dream of discouraging anyone from using such a vital and important product, so I’ll just politely remind people that you’d have to be a complete moron to buy a single condom for $2 from a robot with no sense of bathroom decorum when you can buy a whole pack for just a couple of dollars more from an actual person.

Whilst shopping for reasonably priced prophylactics sold by humans who haven’t harassed you in the bathroom, you might also want to pick up some chewing gum. It’s an inexpensive and delicious treat that if chewed during takeoff helps reduce that irritating popping in one’s ears. Also, I’m not sure if you’ve noticed, but once chewing gum is jammed into a small space – the coin slot of an outrageously invasive video vending machine for example – it serves as a surprisingly effective adhesive that would likely be very difficult and expensive to remove.

fake-chewed-gum-1

Now, I know what you might be thinking, if it was so bloody awful and invasive why didn’t I just take a video of the damned thing to prove it? And the answer is BECAUSE RECORDING ANYTHING IN BATHROOMS IS A DISGUSTING THING TO DO (much like using sexualised robots to solicit you to buy products.)

We’ve had a long history together Sydney Airport, so I have every confidence that you’ll rectify this error soon. I look forward to shitting in peace next time I visit your otherwise fine facility.

Kind regards,

J. M. Donellan

______________________________________________________

PS I’m very curious to know if the vending machines in the female toilets have been displaying equally aggressive behaviours. Visitors to Sydney Airport drop me a line if you have a similar story to tell. 

Microplanes and magic: Poetry is Dead remix

I’m very excited to announce that the wonderful Microplane has remixed one of the songs from last year’s Poetry is Dead EP. I had the pleasure of meeting Fancisco aka Microplane in Porto a couple of years ago. I was already hopelessly in love with Portugal and visiting this city, home of one of the world’s most beautiful bookstores and the birthplace of port wine, only deepened my adoration.

Microplane’s new EP is based on the idea that ‘planet Earth is becoming a huge “waiting room”. We are spending more and more time seated on chairs, downloading stuff in our mobile devices to help spend time and smiling to touch screens…’ which fit perfectly with the track Mike and I put together for our Cycle One EP. We’re very excited to have it reincarnated here. Plus having my voice transformed so I sound like a philosophical supervillain is pretty great. Also, having one of our songs released on an Italian label by a Portuguese musician makes me feel muito exotico. 

microplane

If you want to check out the original recording you can get it from Poetry is Dead’s bandcamp page.

PS Microplane’s FB page

PPS Poetry is Dead’s FB page

PPPS Black flamingo. 

 

 

 

 

The Stench of Adventure

 

untitled06

I’m awfully fond of days when I get to hold a new book in my hands. I’m even more fond of the days when the book in question has my name on the cover. [untitled] #6 is one such book, and also features a bunch of other fantastic writers from around the country. I got a free copy in the mail, but that’s only because there’s one of my stories in it. But don’t worry! You can get a copy in the mail too, you just have to pay some ca$h money and it will appear in a manner similar to magic in your letterboxholeslot.

This issue features my story The Stench of Adventure, which is about a strange little incident that happened when I was travelling in Cambodia a few years back. Also features a bunch of other great writers from around the country. Clickety click here to obtain with your dollarbucks.

Love Letter to Lisbon (OR Art in the Time of Recession).

 

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Recently I was travelling with an economist, an artist and a doctor. I know that sounds like the set up for a joke, but it’s actually just the first sentence of a love letter. (Or possibly essay. Or a tweet in need of serious editing, I don’t know you, read it and let me know). One morning over breakfast in our temporary Lisbon apartment in the heart of the thriving night life district Bairro Alto, Gretchen (the economist) turned to me and said “I don’t get it. This country is in recession. But there’s art everywhere. There’s all these concerts and festivals. How can they afford to pay artists? Why are artists still working?”

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I told her that artists are, in a sense, recession proof. But only in the sense that for most of us what we earn from our art in our best years is what many people in professional jobs would earn in a couple of weeks. Also no benefits. Or rehearsal time. Or sick pay. Or company car. (All this and people STILL want you to work for free all the time.) In the same way that once you’ve jumped in a pool, a little rain isn’t going to bother you, if you’re used to being poor, then (on the individual level) a recession is basically just maintaining the status quo.

 

Secondly, artists love what they do and will always find creative ways to make their projects happen with limited resources. I know plenty of doctors and lawyers and teachers and chefs who love their jobs too, but most artists have the added benefit of being able to do things on their own terms. I was reading an article recently that advocated the arts in education and one of the key points it made was that artists are resourceful and innovative. They are used to doing things on limited budgets. Sometimes when I work as a creative advisor for commercial companies I have to keep myself from laughing because it takes them twenty times the cost and a hundred times as much paperwork to achieve what I’ve seen friends do on a shoestring budget in their spare time.

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Here in Lisbon, I’ve seen abandoned buildings (and there are a lot of them) turned into things of beauty. Three storey murals, prisons turned into art galleries, rubbish bins used as canvases, markets turned into concert venues and a bank turned into a design museum. This last one was my favourite, walking through a two foot thick steel vault door to be surrounded by thousands of tiny boxes that once held immeasurable wealth but now served as a backdrop for art and design felt like stepping inside of some kind of post-capitalist art utopia. Entry was free, by the way.

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There are statues of poets all over the place, people shove tiny boats on top of light poles for no apparent reason and music fills the air (Lisbon has a distinct style of music called Fado which is recognised by UNESCO as an intangible cultural heritage of humanity). But more than any of these logical, rational arguments, the real answer is that in times of crisis, people need hope, they need comfort, and they need escape. Art can give you all of this and more, sometimes all in one serve. We shouldn’t be asking ‘why are people still making art in a recession?’ we should be asking ‘why does it take a recession to make us realise the value of art?’

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My Dearest Target

My Dearest Target,

How are you? I trust you are enjoying the start of the Christmas period, which I imagine major retailers look forward to with all the anticipation of a sex addict awaiting a holiday in Ibiza.

Newyork

Yesterday I was perusing your shelves in search of a toiletries bag that I had believed I would require for my planned trip to New York. As it turns out neither the toiletries bag nor the trip to New York will now be necessary as my girlfriend decided to break up with me a few days before our one year anniversary and thus reduce me to an irrational, quivering wreck engaged in peculiar behavior such as writing elaborate complaint letters to department stores, but that’s neither here nor the other place.

Whilst waiting in line to make my purchase I was subjected to your holiday promo clip. Now, aside from the fact that this insufferably saccharine commercial featured lots of sickeningly elated blonde white people and storks carrying babies (when was this thing written, the 1950s?) the ad and its ridiculously loud music were repeated and repeated over and over again and again and again. It was interrupted by only the intermittent PROCEED TO CHECKOUT FIVE announcements, making me feel as though I was alternating my time between some Kafkaesque consumer hell and some Kafkaesque bureaucratic nightmare (Kafka really was the king of literary misery wasn’t he?)

Kafka-drawing
If I had to listen to a Target ad on infinite loop my writing would have been even MORE despressing!

I’m not sure if you are aware of this, but incessantly repeated music is actually one of the most popular modern forms of psychological torture. During the Bush era two of the favourite bands used at Guantanamo bay were Nine Inch Nails and Massive Attack. Quite ironic given the fact that both of those bands despised the Bush administration. Do you think they got paid royalties for public broadcast each time their song got repeated? 

Once in India I took a 20 hour jeep ride from Srinagar to Leh, and the MP3 player kept skipping back to the start of whatever song it was playing. We asked the driver to just turn it off but he told us that without music he would fall asleep and at this point we were on a tiny Himalayan mountain road with a steep ravine right reaching ominously out beneath us so we let him have his way. Just before we finally reached Leh, we heard the first ten seconds of the song Gimmie More featuring the delightful opening line “It’s Britney bitch!” over and over and over (and over). By the time we reached Leh we had been reduced to giggling, hysterical lunatics.

 

Try listening to THIS 500 times in a row…

So as I’m listening to this syrupy commercial on infinite repeatrepeatrepeat, I’m thinking, what effect is this having on the staff here? Surely this can’t be psychologically healthy? Finally the all-commanding screen interrupts the commercial and instructs me to move to the checkout. I always do what television tells me, so I dutifully obeyed and handed my soon to be redundant travel toiletries bag to the young man behind the counter.

“That’s a total of five cents.” Says he. I looked at price tag, which quite definitely stated $9.05, and I thought to myself, surely I must have misheard him? It can’t possibly be some sort of 99.45% Christmas discount? I passed him $20, and he handed me back $19.95. I took the money in my hand and was open to say something along the lines of “Whaaaaaaaaat?” when the all-seeing monitor demanded that I vacate the checkout so that it might be utilised by another obedient consumer.

In conclusion: perhaps you should reconsider the all-seeing monitor playing your advertisements on infinite loop, not only for the effect it has on your staff, but the effect it has on your profit margin.

Drunk_santa_train-550x379

AND A MERRY CHRISTMAS OR WHATEVER THE HELL ELSE YOU BELIEVE IN TO ALL!

Swarm regards

J.M. Donellan

 

Zeb and the Great Ruckus: coming at you like a rampaging bewilderbeast in 2012

You might recall a little over a year ago I posted that I had finished my children’s fantasy novel Zeb and the Great Ruckus, and went on to describe how it would transform your child into a ninja-scientist-guitar-soloing human rights champion. Well, it’s taken a while, but I have finally inked a publishing deal in order to bring this little beast out into the light. When I returned from an eight day trek across the Ladakhi range of the Himalayas a few months ago I found an email in my inbox informing me that I had been offered a deal with Odyssey Books (who also published Foley Russel and That Poor Girl by my friend Rebecca Bloomer).  

 

 Leh

The email that informed me of the offer was sent via satellite to Leh, the prayer flag drenched capital of Ladakh, India, located 3500m above sea level. I received it whilst typing away drowned in the delightfully rousing aroma of yak-scented mountain gear. It was five years ago in that  same city, whilst sitting on the rooftop of a ramshackle hotel  and staring out at the Himalayas, that I began writing my first novel A Beginner’s Guide to Dying in India. Receiving this offer for my new book in that same city was a beautifully cyclical moment.

Here’s a brief synopsis: 

Zeb lives in the land of Bravura , where the oppressive Czar and his legion of Admonishers have outlawed art and music. The mystical Alephs, magical mouthless creatures that eat music with their ears, have long since disappeared into hiding.  When a letter from Zeb’s departed father urges him to seek out a legendary musician rumoured to be living somewhere deep in the forest, Zeb must set out with his best friend Flip to seek him out. Armed only with a ball of magic clay and a harmonica, Zeb and Flip face wolves, clockwork birds, an army of Admonishers and the bewilderbeast in their quest to find the lost musician and the Alephs and bring music back to Bravura.

As a teacher I got sick of reading stories to my students that were populated with saccharine characters, cheap wish fulfilment and 1950s values. 

I wanted to write the kind of book that makes kids shake their heads and articulately explain why they disagree instead of just nodding their heads when told to do so. 

I wanted to write a book that makes children appreciate the fact that art is not just a sprawling mass of pretty pictures and three-minute pop songs, but the most powerful communication tool in existence. 

I wanted to write a book that kids would read in their youth and return to in adulthood.

I wanted to write a book filled with explosions, clockwork birds, steel guitars and vats of weaponised toffee.

 

  Fireworks      +      Steel-guitar-up-angle-barnwell     +     Toffee  =  ZEB

 

Zeb and the Great Ruckus is that book. It’ll be in stores sometime in 2012, which, according to various sources, may well be the end of the world. So at least you’ll have something fun to read during the Apocalypse.

 

Explosions in the sky

My Dearest Qantas,

My name is Josh Donellan and I am a person and, far more importantly, a Qantas frequent flyer. Recently, upon returning from India via Singapore I flew on flight QF52 which was supposed to take me to Brisbane. (Note the use of the word ‘supposed.’) I rate the customer service 4/5, the entertainment selection 5/5, the food 4/5 and the plane’s ability to take off without any part of it exploding DEAR GOD ARE YOU FRIGGING KIDDING ME I THOUGHT I WAS GOING TO DIE!

Here is a list of times when I enjoy hearing explosions:

1)   Whilst playing xbox

2)   Whilst watching fireworks

3)   On Guy Fawkes day

4)   Whilst listening to experimental electronic albums

 

You will note that, ‘when travelling on an aeroplane’ does not appear on this list. Shortly after the explosion the captain assured us that it was simply a burst tyre and that there was nothing to worry about, but that we would need to make a forced landing.

John-travolta-qantas

“Hi, I’m John Travolta. My face is one of the last

things you’ll see before you die a fiery death.

I of course translated this as “you have between 5-10 minutes to live before perishing in a fiery blaze.” Naturally I am grateful to John Travolta for appearing to me in the safety video and telling me that everything would be fine, but my mother wisely taught me to never trust a scientologist appearing in paid product endorsements. Luckily, we landed relatively safely, although the vast fleet of police and fire engines that greeted us on the landing strip was less than reassuring.

Although I was dismayed at the substantial delay to my return home, I must confess that the provided accommodations at the Carlton Singapore were superb. On my salary I estimate I would have to work for eight million years in order to just afford being able to spend 5 mins in the lobby of that opulent hotel. I was somewhat perturbed at having to wait nearly twelve hours for any word from the airline at all, but when I was eventually told by the very helpful hotel staff to ‘just go to the airport and it should be alright,’ I was of course relieved.

However, when I arrived at the check-in desk I was politely informed that provisions had been made for most of the several hundred other passengers, but that the dozen or so of us who had come from Mumbai had not been booked on anything and I would have to be placed on standby, or perhaps wait until tomorrow for a flight. If I had to describe my emotions at that particular juncture using pop culture references, I would say I felt part ‘that bit in the LION KING where Mufasa dies’ a smidgen ‘that bit in AKIRA when Kenada screams TETSUOOOOOOOOO! mixed with just a hint of ‘that part in DRUNKEN MASTER where Jackie Chan breaks all the things.’

MufasaDies “Did you just say…’STAND BY???????'”

After becoming visibly upset the check in clerk was so moved and/or disgusted by my pathetic emotional outburst that she had the courtesy to book me a flight to Brisbane via Melbourne. Granted, this took around 40 minutes to accomplish and seemed to require not only the use of the computer directly in front of her, but also 4 separate visits to the terminal at the customer help desk. Either the other computers had some kind of higher authorization or her avatar was just having a pretty hectic day in ‘Second Life’, I’m not sure.

Himalayan-marmotHimalayan Marmot don’t like

waitin’.

Due to the delay I missed a day’s work at the kindergarten where I teach. This means that in addition to forfeiting a day’s pay, because of the public holiday the children will now have to wait an extra TWO days to see my pictures of Himalayan yaks and marmots that they have been so eager to see. Dearest Sir/Madam/Automated response bot, I sincerely hope with all of my heart and most of my appendix that you never in all your days have to bear witness to the sight of two dozen potently adorable 4 year old children staring at you with sad, disappointed eyes. It is a tragic tableau that will wither your soul and cause sadness to rise within you like a corpulent and melancholy whale.

Sad kid
Multiply this image by 24. If you aren’t crying or

at least saying ‘awwwwwww’ sympathetically

you are most likely a violent sociopath.

In response to this emotional trauma and loss of both time and pay I feel it only reasonable to request some form of compensation. I am a reasonable man, and will therefore present you with a choice of four options:

A)   1.3 billion frequent flyer miles

B)   $2000 dollars in unmarked bills (delivered by Scarlett Johansson)

C)   a robot elephant that shoots fireworks from its trunk and deep fried ice cream from its eyeballs

D)   a condoling hug from every single Qantas staff member (except John Travolta)

I eagerly await your reply.

Swarm Regards,

Josh Donellan

For sale: Midi keyboard formerly owned by Ludwig Van Beethoven

(Link to the full ebay ad is here.)

I'm about to head to New York and then Colombia to do some "research" for my next book, Adonis Comma Coma. I need to raise some funds to assure that I can afford to drink Manhattans in Manhattan and to that end I'm selling off a few things. Please bid with all your dollars:

  M-AUDIO RADIUM 49

What you are looking at is a 100% authentic, definitely NOT fake ad for a radium 49 m-audio midi keyboard formerly owned by Ludwig Van Beethoven. (Note: Ludwig Van Beethoven is not to be confused with the titular character of the heart-warmingly mediocre family films of the early to late nineties.)

 
499px-Beethoven
               Beethoven

This one.                 Not this one.

Beethoven is best known for his classical symphonies composed primarily on a traditional grand piano, but in his spare time he also liked to dabble in trance and acid house music composed on this midi keyboard.

It is a well known fact that Beethoven's hearing began to fade later in his career as a result of staying out at too many raves. At this time he stopped going out to doofs and mostly preferred composing hundreds of hours of psytrance and produced the seminal album Beethoven's xtreme haus anthemz feat. Tha D-stroyer which yielded hits such as Girl is on my mind, Pizza is on my couch and Raise the roof (throw yo hands up!) He also released a plethora of seminal dubstep and ambient releases under monikers such as 'BFX', 'B-town Posse' and 'BTHVN sound sistem.'

This item comes complete with an official certificate of authenticity signed by Ludwig himself:

 

  Authenticity

Considering the substantial historical value of this instrument, it's an absolute steal at $0.99. If you can find another midi keyboard formerly owned by Beethoven at a cheaper price, I'll not only refund your money in full, I'll also give you a Yamaha WR250F dirtbike formerly owned by Ella Fitzgerald. 

 

Ella fitzgerald  

Ella Fitzgerald

Jazz singer, composer and Dirtbike enthusiast.

 

 

10 of the Best Books Set in India (with its Multitudinous Mysteries)

Here's a list of books about/set in India I did for Flashlight Worthy books. I hope you enjoy it, but no so much that it inspires you to write your own novel because lord only knows I don't need the competition:

http://www.flashlightworthybooks.com/Best-Books-About-India/583

TOUR DIARY: KING OF THE PENGUINS & HANGING OUT AT THE ASYLUM

Well well well, who knew a promo tour could be so much fun huh? I wasn't exactly sure what a writers promo tour would entail, I mean, I assumed that there would be vast quantities of A-grade cocaine, plasma screen TVs thrown out of 5 star hotel windows and fistfights with police, but other than that the details were blurry.

Melbourne, just so you know, I have a big crush on you. I mean, I'm in a committed relationship with Brisbane, but I do like sneaking down and visiting you on a no strings basis. Thanks for providing a capacity crowd for the launch event too. Oh and that cougar hitting on me was a nice bonus too. If I had been single, a few years older, and not  rendered almost unconscious by the potency of her discount perfume I may have taken the bait. 

I also got to make with the tourist styles and visit the penguins on Phillip Island, they ban the use of cameras, but here is a dramatised re-enactment:

We also met the King of the Penguins (aka head of the board of trustees for the penguin protection society) who regaled us with delightful tales of the various gruesome murders that have occurred in the small community of Phillip island. Apparently a man he used to have dinner with carved an 'A' in the chest of his adulterous wife and dumped her in the ocean. What a heart-warming story, I'm surprised they haven't made a telemovie about it.

I also saw Red Symons in a couple of bookstores. Unfortunately he wasn't dressed like this:

On the plane from Melbourne to Sydney I had the distinct pleasure of sitting next to a female body building champ from New York. She had arms the size of telegraph poles, and would not shut up about her newly acquired puppy. I wasn't about to tell her to pipe down so I could grab some shut eye though, she would have crushed me more easily than bad reviews crush my fragile eggshell ego.

I'm also very fond of Sydney, but there's a lot of bad memories for me here too. I lived in Sydney for a couple of months in 2003 and I was hanging out with a bad crowd. By which I mean actors. Seriously people, if you can at all avoid it, never date a TV actor. (Seriously Jovita Lee Shaw, I don't care if you did have a recurring role on Mcleod's daughters, if you spent all your money on champagne and fancy lingerie don't come crying to me about being broke when rent day comes round.)

I dropped into the Dymocks on George st and was proud to see my book located so close on the shelves to Nick Cave's new novel. However, I decided it looked a lot better in front of some other book that had been shortlisted for a major literary award. I think the staff moved it back though, the bastards.

Bookshelf2
 

By strange coincidence, internationally best selling author Matthew Reilly was there signing copies of his new book, THE FIVE GREATEST WARRIORS. This is the sequel to THE SEVEN ANCIENT WONDERS and THE SIX SACRED STONES. No doubt it will be followed by THE FOUR IMPERTINENT HOOLIGANS or something similar. I got him to sign MY novel instead of his. He proudly proclaimed it "the greatest book I've never read." 

Matthewreillysignsmybook 

Of course, I did have to buy one of his books in order to get his attention. I got that signed too. It's listed on ebay here.

The launch event at Sydney was another capacity crowd, this time held at the NSW writers centre, which is ironically located on the grounds of an abandoned lunatic asylum. It's quite pretty though, I could certainly think of worse places to suffer from severe delusional paranoia. 

NSW_Writers__Centre_low_res

 THE END.

PS a big thankyou to all the authors I toured with. You can check out their brilliant and original work at the Interactive Publications website.