I would make a Lookbook account, but I’m not a vain stick insect with a personal photographer.
I would make a Lookbook account, but I’m not a vain stick insect with a personal photographer.
Which side of the Yarra you live on speaks volumes - or does it? Natalie Craig finds out.
Friends Tommy Little and Em Rusciano live on opposite sides of the Yarra. They try not to let it come between them.
”Everyone’s equal,” Rusciano says to Little in a pacifying tone. ”But it’s just better to be on the north side of the river and you’ll be a better person if you live here.”
Little laughs. ”What? Just ‘cause I’m not wearing a hat I found on the street as a bracelet, I’m not a good person? You northsiders are reverse snobs!”
For those new to town, this bickering makes no sense. But where you reside, relative to ”the river”, can make a big difference in the inner suburbs.
To clarify: the ”southside” is not just any old place south of the Yarra. It includes suburbs between the city and the bay, such as South Melbourne, Prahran, Windsor, South Yarra, Toorak, St Kilda and Port Melbourne. It stands for bay breezes, beautiful blondes, fitness, beer gardens, footballers, four-wheel-drives, hyphenated surnames, optimism and the free market.
The ”northside” comprises North Melbourne, Carlton, Fitzroy, Collingwood, Abbotsford, Thornbury, Brunswick and Coburg. Bell Street is the boundary for northsiders. It stands for artists, warehouse parties, bicycles, underground music, lightless terrace houses, postmodernity and ”awareness”. It likes to think of itself as Berlin.
Whether any of this is true matters little to warring friends, who use the stereotypes as ammunition when they meet on neutral turf - such as Richmond, which is Switzerland (while technically north of the river, Richmond’s proximity to the MCG makes it a mecca for sports fans, tanned people and the like, giving it an even ratio of bohos and boofheads, hippies and hunks).
”We’ve got the hippies, we’ve got the artists, we’ve got the sexual healers,” boasts Rusciano, a Northcote dweller and a reporter for Channel Ten’s The Project. ”There’s a lot of community gardens, there’s a lot of Montessori-streamed schools and, you know, circus classes. We talk about our feelings and we have group learning. There’s yoga for dogs. There’s yoga for everyone on the northside; there’s no discriminating on the yoga.”
Self-deprecating irony: one thing northerners are really good at. To which southsiders respond with an exasperated sigh. ”People over this side don’t care,” says Little, a Port Melbourne comedian, appearing in this year’s comedy festival. ”We just are what we are. We’ve got the bay, we’ve got great cafes and bars but we get a bad rap - northsiders think we’re snobby. But they’re the snobs. Southsiders will visit the north, whereas northsiders are like, ‘Nah, I’m not going southside’. I don’t know if it’s [because] they’re scared, or their bikes don’t get that far.”
Score one, Little. Bikes, particularly vintage models, are the transport of choice for tree-hugging northsiders. But he is forced to concede that while the northside offers such hipster activities as ”bike polo championships”, the southside has more ”MAMILs” - ”middle-aged men in Lycra”.
Rusciano, an Italian-Australian, insists the coffee is better northside. ”Obviously, all the wogs settled here; I can say that because I am one,” she says. ”The coffee this side, it can’t be beaten because of its origins.”
Yet she and Little often meet for a coffee at St Ali cafe in South Melbourne. ”Which is also your favourite cafe,” Little says. ”See, you might as well just admit it. We’re better!”
Central to the long-running dispute is class. For decades, the inner north has been a cheaper place to live, more working-class, more multicultural, more ”of the people”.
The south, being more expensive, is considered more affluent, better developed and more homogeneous.
But it wasn’t always the case. Robyn Annear, in her biography of early Melbourne, Bearbrass, describes how some of the first ”southsiders” were brick-makers, labourers and other hangers-on who settled on the land between present-day South Melbourne and the banks of the Yarra.
”The huts and tents were makeshift and life at the south bank was, from all accounts, pretty squalid,” Annear writes. Contemporary writers called the camp ”a nest of drunkenness and debauchery” (which, in truth, is not unlike the witching hour in Southbank these days).
Other histories of Melbourne describe how, as the city grew and bridges were built, it became more appealing to the wealthy to live on the south side, especially on large plots in areas such as Toorak.
Working classes still settled on either side of the river but most of the residential development was to the east and south of the city and land in these districts, traditionally, has been more expensive. But the price difference is shrinking. Monique Wakelin, head of Wakelin Property Advisory, says parts of the north are now more gentrified than the south and the ”affordability gap” is almost negligible.
Indeed, it seems the north could be on its way to becoming, in real estate terms, ”the new south”. (Leaving the still-cheap west to take the mantle of ”the new north”.)
Wakelin says that five years ago the same house, on the same-sized plot of land, would have sold for $300,000 more if it were on the southside. Now, the gap is about $100,000 - and less for apartments. The difference in rent is also small, with inner-south tenants paying about 10 per cent more, on average. (A recent record sale in Scotchmer Street, Fitzroy North, illustrates how times have changed. Once rented for a pittance in the mid-’70s by writer Helen Garner, when the suburb was a true haven for struggling artists, the property recently sold at auction for $3.2 million.)
Of course, parts of the north remain affordable, with their original charm intact. Rusciano loves, in particular, the ”little clubs with Italian men in Northcote and Thornbury who sit around with their short blacks watching the world go by”. But she worries the gentrification of the northside is getting out of hand. ”I’m afraid we are becoming the new southside,” she says. ”I don’t know how we can save ourselves from ourselves. I’m looking at my neighbours: they have a Mercedes 4WD.”
So if the north is becoming as fancy as the south, is there any point in fighting? Comedian Justin Heazlewood, of Thornbury, remains a staunch northside rebel and insists the differences run deeper than property prices. ”Southside is shiny, northside is scuzzy. Southside is spiky, northside is side-swept. It’s really like the Yarra is the Gaza Strip. Most of the fighting is over coffee, though, so it’s more like the Lavazza Strip.”
Heazlewood, who will host a ”High School Assembly” at the Forum as part of the comedy festival, is adept at northern irony. ”Buskers on the southside are all former VCA students. They can’t even do mental illness properly!”
Which is kind of why it’s nicer on the south, says publicist Anthony McCarthy, of Elsternwick. ”It’s a bit cleaner and greener - and what’s wrong with that?” he says.
3RRR radio presenter Jess McGuire strikes a more conciliatory tone. ”Look, I think, deep down, we all love the north-south divide,” she says.
”Melburnians love any kind of sport and they’ll compete with you on any grounds, whether it’s north versus south or Brunswick versus Fitzroy.”
Originally from Sydney, her allegiance was decided for her when she moved here six years ago. ”A friend said, ‘You have to decide: are you going to live north or south? This is a big decision. Make it right.’ Then he paused and said, ‘By the way, you’re north.”’
She now lives in the ”People’s Democratic Republic of Brunswick” and tries hard not to be south-phobic. ”Some of my best friends are southsiders. I don’t mind what they do in their own homes, just as long as they don’t flaunt their southside lifestyle around me.”
Socialite Lillian Frank, a long-time Toorak resident, was once loath to cross the river. ”There is a reason why I seldom stray north of the Yarra,” she wrote in a newspaper in 2006. ”So I was not at all taken aback when, parked outside a supermarket in St Georges Road, North Fitzroy, I watched a gent in interesting attire stroll by pushing a baby in a pram with a live parrot on his shoulder.”
Quelle horreur! Today, Frank disowns those sentiments. ”That was when I was young and stupid, darling,” she says. ”I go everywhere. What do you call north? South Yarra? Fitzroy? I go there, too. I go to restaurants and I’ve got friends living there. Look, I tell you, people are the same. Some have more, some have less. Some are nice, some are not as nice. They’re all individual in their own right.”
As Frank and other southsiders also point out, the south isn’t all foie gras and facelifts. Little contends that Port Melbourne is ”equal parts footballer and community housing”. ”It’s money and then no money,” he says. ”Which is healthy.”
St Kilda is another anomaly. Johnny Iodice is an Italian-Australian who has migrated south from Carlton. He is co-owner of the Vineyard, at the start of Acland Street - a dark, moody place outfitted like a share house that attracts grungy musicians, artists and other folk you might usually diagnose as ”northern”.
The bar opened in 1999 but Iodice remembers an earlier era when St Kilda was edgy - to say the least. ”St Kilda was the wrong side of town for a long time,” he says. ”But it was sort of isolated in affluence, with Brighton on the one side and Prahran on the other.”
In the early ’80s, he lived and worked as a waiter on Lygon Street, where the night was always young at 24-hour hangouts such as Ebony Quills and L’Alba. St Kilda, however, was something else entirely. ”We used to come down to check out the punk scene. But walking down the street was a matter of life and death. It was hard to be an Italian. You’d have to park as near as possible to Seaview and then just dart in. Because all the derros would kill ya.”
Nowadays, places such as the Vineyard and the Esplanade Hotel are islands in a sea of apartment developments, cafes and shops. But they are also, perhaps, testament to the harmony that can be struck.
Graeme Lewsey, head of the Melbourne Fashion Festival, says the main reason he lives in Windsor is because it ”has an air of the north about it”. ”The fashion, the cafes and the culture down this end of Chapel Street - it’s like a little Smith Street [in Collingwood].”
Whether a Smith Street bohemian would agree to venture to any part of Chapel Street, known for both its ritzy shops and its ”chap laps” in hotted-up cars, is another matter.
But as Rusciano and Little demonstrate, differences can be unifying. ”Tommy’s adorable; he’s great. He just lives in a really bad place. We deal with it and we have fun,” Rusciano says. And if all else fails?
Jess McGuire says: ”At least we can be safe in the knowledge that, regardless of whether we live north or south, have blonde hair or disgusting dreadlocks, we’re not Sydney. And we can hold on to that with two hands and never, ever let go.”
But I’m still hungry
For something to fill me
Ah, make me whole again
So I won’t be hungry anymore
You will never be happy if you continue to search for what happiness consists of. You will never live if you are looking for the meaning of life.
Pitchfork Gives Music 6.8
by The Onion
CHICAGO—Music, a mode of creative expression consisting of sound and silence expressed through time, was given a 6.8 out of 10 rating in an review published Monday on Pitchfork Media, a well-known music-criticism website.
According to the review, authored by Pitchfork editor in chief Ryan Schreiber, the popular medium that predates the written word shows promise but nonetheless “leaves the listener wanting more.”
“Music’s first offering, an eclectic, disparate, but mostly functional compendium of influences from 5000 B.C. to present day, hints that this trend’s time may not only have fully arrived, but is already on the wane,” Schreiber wrote. “If music has any chance of keeping our interest, it’s going to have to move beyond the same palatable but predictable notes, meters, melodies, tonalities, atonalities, timbres, and harmonies.”
Schreiber’s semi-favorable review, which begins in earnest after a six-paragraph preamble comprising a long list of baroquely rendered, seemingly unrelated anecdotes peppered with obscure references, summarizes music as a “solid but uninspired effort.”
“Coming in at an exhausting 7,000 years long, music is weighed down by a few too many mid- tempo tunes, most notably ‘Liebesträume No. 3 in A flat’ by Franz Liszt and ‘Closing Time’ by ’90s alt-rock group Semisonic,” Schreiber wrote. “In the end, though music can be brilliant at times, the whole medium comes off as derivative of Pavement.”
While Schreiber concedes that music is still “trying to find its aesthetic,” he also claims the form has not yet lived up to the lavish praise heaped on it by pop culture journalist Chuck Klosterman and 19th-century French romantic composer and critic Hector Berlioz, among others.
Schreiber concludes his critique by calling on music to develop a more cohesive sound in its future releases.
“We can only hope that [music] will begin to grow with its fans over the next few millennia,” Schreiber said. “If it can stick to what it does well, namely the song ‘Peg’ by Steely Dan, and Tuvan throat singing, then a sophomore effort will indeed be something to get excited about.”
The review has split the music community, with many decrying Pitchfork’s lukewarm reception of music as a contrarian move designed to propel the publication’s tastemaker status.
“It’s elitism for the sake of elitism,” said Rolling Stone senior editor David Fricke, who refuted Pitchfork’s middling rating, describing the entire art form as “transcendent.” “I’ve been listening to music for over 30 years, and it’s consistently some of the best stuff out there.”
Despite music’s defenders, the Pitchfork review has made a deep impression on the thousands of music fans who slavishly follow the website’s advice when it comes to enjoying things.
“Music used to be great, but let’s be honest, it’s a 6.8 now at best,” said Los Angeles resident Lowell Radler, 23, who admitted that he just looked at the rating rather than reading the whole review. “I seriously might never listen to music again.”
Still, most analysts agreed that the impact of Pitchfork’s scathing review of music will be dampened by the 2.4 rating it received from Pitchfork staff writer Dave Maher just moments after the initial critique was published online. Maher termed Schreiber’s assessment of music “overwrought, masturbatory posturing intended to make insecure hipsters feel as if they’re part of some imagined elite beau monde.”
(Source: The Onion)