Words: Annie Davis / Images: Fiona Chapman
 
 

Rites of Passage may sound more like a religious experience than a tattoo convention but after seeing what it was all about at Melbourne’s Royal Exhibition Building last month, the name started to make a lot more sense. A hive of partitioned booths filled the cathedral-like space and all you could hear was a buzzing chorus of tattoo needles, working away on scores of festival-goers lining up to get inked by some of the best tattoo artists from around the world. At the centre of it all was the main stage with an MC periodically getting on the mike to round up those recently inked in front of a panel of judges and be awarded for ‘best tribal’, ‘best old school’ or ‘best in show’.

Calling itself a Tattoo Convention and Arts Festival, Rites of Passage was about much more than getting a killer tatt. Besides Lucky Diamond Rich, the most tattooed man alive, making an appearance, the main stage featured an eclectic array of performance artists, ranging from Australia’s sexiest eccentric, Madame Lash, Japanese butoh dancer, Sanaxxx and bevvy of well selected bands.

 
 

So for cleanskins, there was much to keep you entertained besides watching people get tatts. There was a pop-up art gallery, a stall selling pimped out bikes and Metallica baby playsuits (nice) and a booth where you could dress up, get your make-up done and have your photo taken as a 1950s pin-up. From dead sexy to just plain dead were nearby photographic studio stalls, displaying portraits of ‘gore-lesque’ girls smeared in blood or suggestively holding dismembered body parts.

If you’re not one to see the artistry in tattoo art, Rites of Passage was still well worth a visit to see if you might change your mind. As a cleanskin myself, I felt like a blank piece of paper fluttering amongst a walking, talking, breathing art gallery of human canvasses. Flicking through display books at some of the booths, I was stunned by the range of designs, from sewing machines on a seamstress’s back to commissioned self-portraits. Seeing such vibrant shades of pink, turquoise and yellow on some of the more feminine designs was something I never thought possible from tattoo ink.

 
 

It wasn’t just the artistry but the spiritual aspect of tattooing that the Rites of Passage Festival brought to light. A tattooist from Yokohama pointed out that in Japan, each tattoo must have a deep spiritual symbolism for the person, explaining why they most often work with characters from Japanese folklore to represent a life’s journey, desired or actual. Another tattooist I came across, Will Morton, took a more modern spiritual bent, applying the same philosophy as the protagonist of the novel, The Dice Man – a bored psychiatrist who decides to settle all life decisions with the throwing of a dice. Using dice, cards, coins and wheels to decide form and colour, the tatt becomes a visual representation of a person’s fate. So rather than have a tatt you might grow out of and get lasered off, you grow into it, so to speak.

 
 

Despite the oppressively hot weather, a small but feisty crowd braved the mugginess right up to the very end of the weekend, dancing and swaying around as Tijuana Cartel played the last set for the night on the main stage. A hearty send off and much deserved for an event well worth checking out, for tatt fiends and cleanskins alike.

For more about the event see www.ritesofpassagefestival.com

 
 
 
 
 
Lisa Dib gives T-Squat a roundup of webcomics floating her boat and then some.
 
 
XKCD
 
 
 
The cult favourite and Internet nerd Mecca xkcd.com describes itself as a “stick-figure strip featuring humour about technology, science, mathematics and relationships, by Randall Munroe”; and that it is, but hilariously so. The strip deals with all manner of nerdery: physics, math, the Internet, space. Although the strips are dry, witty and often laugh-out-funny, they often have real heart and tender emotiveness to them. The odd comic of heartbreak, rejection, lost love or disappointment will hit you where you live, for real.
 
http://xkcd.com
 
 
 
RENA vs WORLD
 
 
Melbourne’s own (via Greece, Bendigo and Portland) Rena Littleson tackles the weird and wonderful of life in her Rena vs World comic – from her origins in Greece and then to regional Australia, eventually making her way to Melbourne. Rena, in her simple yet well-drawn comic art, tells of real life adventures chucked her way, all in her own jocular, home-grown manner. For Melbourne readers, head down to Polyester Books on Brunswick Street in Fitzroy to pick up a physical copy of the Rena Versus World comic for yourself.

www.renaversusworld.blogspot.com
 
 
 
CYANIDE AND HAPPINESS
 
 
Not for the easily offended, C&H is an absurdist comic in the vein of…well, I can’t think of much else to compare it to. A comic version of South Park? C&H is made by proficiently aware internet nerds who know the difference between basement cat and ceiling cat. The Cyanide writers go where others fear to tread – often making you laugh that “oh, I shouldn’t laugh at that” chortle with their bobble-headed figures with crazy faces. I laughed really loud and snorted in the internet cafe where I am writing this just now, browsing for a few minutes. Genius.
 
www.explosm.net/comics/2300
 
 
 

NATALIE DEE

 
 
Natalie Dee is what I would call an adorable absurdist. Her penchant for talking animals and inanimate objects; her obsession with Diet Coke and junk food; her biting social commentary and a dash misanthropic humour all make me just wanna be mates with the lady. Natalie Dee has been turning minutiae into madness since 2004 and her daily strip has seen her through ridiculous fashion trends (“Joveralls”), pug ownership ("PUGS: MAINTENENCE FREE...unless you count the ear infections and daily face washing and the surgery to open up their noise so they can breathe), childbirth and rearing, creature love and war. 
 
www.nataliedee.com
 
 
 
TOOTHPASTE FOR DINNER
 
 
Drew, Natalie Dee's husband (comic love!) and author of Toothpaste for Dinner, takes a different approach to webcomic-ing than his ladyfriend. His now utterly TFD-esque blob-headed characters who love puns, wordplay (one of the famous TFD tees has one of said characters yelling, "Bad Poetry? Oh Noetry!"), politics, pugs and a TFD favourite, the rise and rise of the hipster. Oh, and the odd jaunt into rap. Seen to be believed.
 
www.toothpastefordinner.com
 
 
 
HYPERBOLE AND A HALF
 
 
Allie Brosh's diary-style webcomic consists of her illustrative and written stories and confessions; from getting things done ("This Is Why I'll Never Be An Adult") to arachnophobia ("Spiders: They Are Scary"). Her stick figures are vividly animated with insane faces and actions to match Brosh's hilarious words. I see much of my own neuroses in Brosh's escapades - namely her inability to dance, titanic fear of spiders and ability to procrastinate for huge blocks of time.
 
www.hyperboleandahalf.blogspot.com
 
 
 
 
 
 
Words: Matt Cohen
 
 

The world’s largest short film festival is about to throw its hefty weight around with finalist films screening from 7:30pm on Sunday 20th of February at venues across Australia.  T-Squat caught up with last year’s winner – Abe Forsythe – best known as an actor from Australian TV shows Tripping Over and Always Greener or from the most underrated Australian comedy out there, NED. Abe fills us in on the shitty jobs and shaky deals paving his road to directorial success.

T-Squat: So what are you currently up to?

Abe: I’m currently directing commercials and developing a new film project and raising money…in Australia that could take years and years, if at all. But we’re aiming for this year. There are a lot of things that need to fall into place to get something moving… which is one of the hardest things to do in this country compared to others.

T-Squat: What has Tropfest done for you?

Abe: Tropfest kick-started that directing career for me. Although I’ve been working on it for a couple of years, it really opened doors for me. There are a lot of shit jobs around if you’re an actor… you tend to get tarnished with a brush if you do something bad as an actor, something you have very little control over.

T-Squat: Are you referring to anything in particular? Maybe NED?

Abe: NED was hard – well, in post-production terms. Since I’d done Computer Boy (a Matrix Parody made in 2000, it was one of the first internet films to hit 500,000 views), it was relatively easy to raise the money. I wanted to make something I would enjoy, filming went great, until postproduction when we had a contract to release the movie in 50 cinemas and someone stepped in and took it down to 7. It was such at terrible experience for a young filmmaker. Looking back at it now, and seeing footage, I’m still very proud of it.

T-Squat: What is it about Tropfest you love?

Abe: The great thing about Tropfest is that it’s screened in front of a massive audience, as well as TV, Youtube and on DVD and you kind of start to have a relationship with an audience and that’s really hard thing to do in Australia. Until you’ve reached an audience you really don’t know if your stuff works, and that’s the best thing about being in the final.

Visit the Tropfest website www.tropfest.com.au for more info.

 
 
 

 

 
 
'twas anarchy at the squat this month when we sorted our mail (Bills? Compost!) to discover a little parcel in the mail box. An all-in bitch-slap-off settled the question of who got to rip it open (to Annie, the spoils. Have you seen this woman with a pair of BBQ tongs?) Inside were two copies of the very first publication from Horror Sleaze Trash, Double Penetration. Value-added was a scrunched up ticket to the Melbourne Cup, empty packets of valium, an Ironlak sticker, a torn shred off the box of a blow up sex doll, two ripped and informative pages out of a relgious magazine amongst other assorted miscellanea.

Bless Horror Sleaze Trash and their filthy cotton socks! Featuring poetry by the HST man himself, Ben Smith, and Ryan Quinn Flanagan, a tenner will get you a copy from www.horrorsleazetrash.com.

Here’s a selection that especially tickled the T-Squat taco.
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 

 

 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
Baying for literary blood, T-Squat got in touch with indie horror publishers Legume Man Press for a sample and the Brothers Gunther kindly sated our thirst with The Beautiful Place, the first of twenty one Tales of Sin and Madness by Brett McBean. The story was written at the request of Brian Keene, the Gored-Father of modern zombie fiction, for a chap book of short stories set in Keene’s imagined world of The Rising – one of the most popular and influential horror novels of the past decade. “I immediately said yes,” says McBean. “My first decision was to base the story in Australia – not only did it make sense, since I do live in Australia, but I thought it’d be interesting to set an hitherto American-set story in another country; to see how my country would be coping with zombie outbreak and the wrath of Ob and his minions.”

For more literary nourishment of the macabre variety, head to www.legumeman.com or for more about Brett McBean, head to www.brettmcbean.com

 

 
 
 
 
 
 
 

Two thousand, three thousand, four thousand, five thousand, six thousand... T-Squat would like to give our first word up to the thousands for being there every morning on our RSS feed – chipper, fresh and frying up endless plate-loads of little pikelets on the latest music, fashion, film, literature and art to gently ease us out of many a hangover. While they’re out there with their fingers on every registrable cultural pulse, we’re flopped in some dive-bar or shuffling about in our shabby abode with a White Russian in hand, writing bad poetry, piecing together a giant collage of cocks and balls or trying to convince chicks that living like a hobo is hot and they should seriously consider having sex with us. Much like a stoner cousin, really – similar genetic make-up but a little scruffier and possibly a little smellier. We may need a bath but we give props where props is due – check out their 2011 summer reading guide, if you haven’t already, for a bang-on selection of reads.

www.threethousand.com.au/read/books-books-books

 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
Words: Laura van den Berg
 
 
Teeming with mythical creatures and pregnant possibilities, What the World Will Look Like When All the Water Leaves Us is Florida-born Laura van den Berg’s first collection of short stories. Each story is told from the perspective of a woman on the brink of transcendence from their routine existences. A missionary arrives in a Congolese village plagued by a mythical forest creature. A university professor has an affair with a student while her husband is away searching for a mythical water snake in Lake Michigan. A bookstore shop assistant takes her teenage brother in after their parents die in the Amazon, searching for a jungle sasquatch. To read the first of Laura’s short stories 'Where We Must Be', about a failed actress stuck in the boondocks playing Big Foot in a theme park, head to http://ebooks.readings.com.au/product/305 

For more about Laura van den Berg, go to www.lauravandenberg.com
 

 

 
 
 
Words: Sheridan Wright
 
 

My introduction was as simple as a ‘check this out, I think you’d be into it‘ and bam, I was hooked. A simple courtship, a ridiculous crush … on words. Politics without being dry, Culture without pretension, arts without the exclusivity that made you feel like you should have listened in that Arts History lecture in 2002. Covering everything from a review on girls on skates beating the crap out of each other in a roller-derby, a breakdown of the politics surrounding the UK’s government decision to clamp down on the over-sexualisation of children and a review of artists like Mono/poly, whose sexual funk fusion is so fresh you can’t yet buy it on I-tunes.

Take a look. www.trebuchet-magazine.com

 
 
 
 
 
Words: Max Barry / Image: Jak Rapmund
 
 

Author of Jennifer Government and Company, Max Barry wrote his first novel on the sly while working as a computer salesman for Hewlett-Packard but he will soon find it much harder to escape the world’s attention. With his fourth novel, Machine Man, still months away from its release through Vintage Press, Mandalay Pictures have already secured the film rights, enlisting no less than Black Swan scriptwriter Mark Heyman and directorial virtuoso Darren Aronofsky for the job. First written in 2009 as an online serial, Machine Man tells the story of a man who loses his leg in an industrial accident and then engineers himself a prosthetic replacement of sci-fantastical proportions. Posting a page of text on his website each weekday, Max invited readers to post comments and help shape the ‘real-time’ serial’s plot. You can still sign up for the serial at www.maxbarry.com and receive a page in your inbox or feed reader every day. Or you can gorge yourself on the generous excerpt Scribe Publishing and Vintage Press have released from Max’s unedited manuscript for T-Squat, right here, before it hits bookshelves and cinematic screens the world over.