Sunday, December 25, 2011

A simple Christmas

My Christmas Day began with feet.... my feet. I decided to dance my way to merry-ness in my apartment.

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My heels and toes then carried me to the beach ... where it soon became clear that Mother Nature had been dipping her brush into the Christmas palette.

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In the cool sand, as the storm clouds parted for the sun, I welcomed the 25th of December 2011... not a soul in sight.

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My hands reached down toward the sand, plucking plump, succulent plums from their salty stems.

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With hands and feet, I drove my car to Sunshine Beach, where I lay a loaf of Sourdough down, to celebrate the day with a dear friend.

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A feast for two orphans on Christmas Day... a star-shaped platter... a mouthful of blueberries... a handful of beach plums... a heart full of contentment.

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Two sets of hands, twisting and folding and sticky-taping together a paper star....

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The sweet and spicy smell of ginger cake wafting through the house...

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My Christmas Day ended with feet... my friend's feet.... her red painted toes next to blue, green and yellow granny squares. Between the fruit platters and paper stars, we crocheted together as we watched an old Santa movie...we chuckled at Dudley Moore, dressed as an elf.

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And so this evening I give thanks for the simple pleasures in life, which are as sweet as a warm ginger cake, cooked with four loving hands, on Christmas Day.

Friday, December 23, 2011

A Christmas gift for you(tube)

I first heard this song in Singapore. A Thai musician had told me to buy myself a Bonnie Raitt CD after he heard me sing in a Bangkok bar.

"You need to get her early stuff - from the 70's. She's the only woman I know who can balance strength with sweetness. You could learn a lot from her," he'd said.

On a lonely afternoon in Singapore, where I'd been sent to work for a month, I decided to take his advice and walked into a music store - purchasing two Bonnie albums from the 70s.


I popped the first into my CD Walkman (those were the days) and pressed play ... and fell in love with Bonnie ... and this song (which was written by John Prine).


It's the closest I'll ever get to singing a Christmas Carol (it qualifies due to the word 'angel' being used throughout) ... and so it's my Christmas gift to you.

x Ange

Tuesday, November 29, 2011

Ode to Matthew McConaughey

I blame 'chick flicks' for this next song. Have you noticed how easily 'love' happens in a Hollywood romance movie? Like, there's a girl who gets on a plane and happens to sit next to some hunk who happens to, over the course of the 10 hour flight, fall madly in love with her. Easy, right?

This song is about wanting random men to fall in love with me. Well, not only random men, but also a particular movie star called Matthew McConaughey - who I had the privilege or meeting (/stalking) a few years ago when he was in Australia filming a chick flick.

So here it is... my ode to Matty



Thursday, November 24, 2011

'Life can be suck'

Okay, so I’m usually the first person to pull out the whole “Everything happens for a reason” thing when a friend is going through a shitty time. I’m the girl who tries to make them feel better by bringing up examples of when I lost my job/ boyfriend/ passport/ way, and cursed the gods for my predicament before realising that what I’d perceived as a ‘loss’ was actually a ‘gain’, of sorts.

I’m the girl who has affirmations written on scraps of paper - stuck above my bed, on my bathroom mirror and on the back of the toilet door – that read: ‘All of life comes to me with ease, joy and grace’ and ‘What else is possible!?’ and ‘What magic and miracle can I be and receive today?!’ (God only knows what Amy from LJ Hooker thinks of me when she does her regular inspections of my rental unit).

But as 2011 draws to a close, I’m contemplating the notion that everything, apparently, happens for a reason and part of me is screaming (on the inside, not on the outside, because I’m not a crazy person, yet) ‘SO WHAT’S THE GOD DAMN REASON?!’

A few months ago I attended the Byron Bay Writers’ Festival. To get accepted, as an independent author, was quite an achievement and involved a fair few emails to the festival director, gently encouraging her to pick up my book and listen to my CD…which she did. Thankfully she liked both and invited me to participate.

During the festival I was like the Energizer Bunny. I didn’t want to miss a single opportunity to network. I took part in discussion panels and workshops. I presented my book at official festival sessions. I put my hand up for media interviews. I gave out bookmarks to promote my memoir and put up posters around the festival site to plug my gigs (with the help of my most lovely lad and his super duper duct tape).

On the final day of the festival I was given the rare opportunity to pitch my book to three of Australia’s top publishers. I had five minutes to convince them of my memoir’s worth. As I stood before the reps from Penguin, Harper Collins and Murdoch Books and launched into my spiel (which I’d spent the weekend rehearsing) I got a huge rush. I knew that I had nailed it.

“I loved your book,” the first publisher said.

“I’d heard about your book even before I came to the festival,” the second one said.

“Not only is this a great read, it has also been published in a very professional manner. Have you thought about a career in publishing?” the third publisher said.

I couldn’t believe what I was hearing. This was my moment. This was when I signed my super-fab book deal. This was why I’d been working so hard. This was the reward for ‘taking a risk’ and self-publishing…for diving in the creative deep end. And then the woman from Murdoch said:

“But I wouldn’t be interested in signing a deal for this book. It’s already ‘out there’. You’ve done an amazing job with your branding and publicity so there’s not much more we could do. We don’t really take on books that have already been released but be sure to touch base when you’ve got an idea for your next book.”

The other two panelists chimed in with similar words but I didn’t really hear them as I was too distracted by the feeling of my heart sinking. I left the festival feeling weary.


A few weeks later I found out about an arts funding program that offered travel grants to writers, enabling them to spend several months overseas – working on their creative pursuits.

‘Screw the Australian publishing industry,’ I thought, ‘I’m gonna get a grant and go overseas! This is what I’ve been waiting for! This is why I didn’t get an Australian book deal. There are bigger and better things waiting for me. I’ll do an overseas tour and an awesome international publishing house will snap me up. It all makes sense now!’

And so I spent the best part of the next month researching and writing my funding application...forgetting all about my Bryon rejection.

I sent the draft to my friends who work in various fields – from university professors, to ex-arts festival directors – and took on their constructive criticism. I re-wrote it and then re-wrote it again until I had myself completely convinced. There was no way I could NOT get this grant. And besides, I am a powerful person. I can MANIFEST success. The funding is MINE. I even popped up a new affirmation on my wall ‘I am grateful for securing arts funding for an overseas creative adventure in 2012’. It was a done deal.

Last week I got the email. I didn’t bother reading past the first line: “It is with regret that we inform you…”

I emailed the funding coordinator to ask if she had some constructive feedback about my application. After all, I’d put a month of my life into the document so I figured, as difficult as the response might be, it was important to learn from the experience.

Her reply came almost instantly: “Unfortunately, we do not have the resources to provide detailed feedback on your application…”

And so I sat staring out the window as the following thoughts ran down my cheeks.

“No. No. No. This is not how it’s meant to play out. This isn’t what happens when I put my heart and soul into something. This is the part where the Universe rewards me. This is the bit where I get to post the blog about how ‘dreams come true when you follow your creative passions’. Frig YOU Universe! You SUCK!”


My friend Natalija says I was obviously too ‘attached’ to the grant and – as all good Buddhists know - attachment causes suffering. My friend Peung sent me a g-chat message that said ‘Khun Ange, life can be suck’. I told my friend Kaz that I felt like a loser, a complete failure. She said she thinks I need to reconsider my definition of ‘failure’. She also recommended I take the rest of the day off and indulge in a few DVDs. My partner Leroy said “I love you. I’m proud of you. Everything is going to be okay” but he actually says that on a regular basis, no matter what issue I throw at him, because I’ve explained to him that he must never try to solve my problems – but instead, offer up three simple phrases of support.

When I told him I didn’t get the arts grant – he fired off all three. In fact, sensing we were dealing with a situation that was bigger than the usual ‘Ange dilemmas’, he repeated each line a few times. He’s a good boy.

* * *

I’ve been thinking about careers in creativity…how artists like myself can get caught up in a pipedream that one day we’ll be ‘discovered’. One day we’ll be offered that big fat record deal or publishing contract, or invited onboard the arts funding gravy train. And when it happens – all those hours of self promotion, self publishing, self motivation, touring, booking gigs, playing gigs – will have been worth it because we’ll have hit the ‘big time’.

It seems that the artistic pipedream is similar to the romantic Hollywood-fueled idea that once you find ‘Mr Right’ then you’ll basically live happily ever after. And all the assholes you dated would have been worth it because – finally – the Universe will have rewarded you with the man of your dreams.

As an artist – the man of my dreams is the ‘big deal’ and this dream is egged-on by stories of ‘some chick’ who posted some clip on youtube and became an overnight success. Or ‘some dude’ who paid some newsagent to put his book in the shop window and got signed by a publisher a few months later and is now, like, Australia’s most successful author.

And those stories lead to a belief that if one works hard enough, and puts enough passion into one’s life’s purpose - that one day it will all pay off. The pain is found in the fact that my concept of the term ‘pay off’ is clearly different to that of the Universe’s.

As an optimist, I have to believe that ‘everything happens for a reason’ but wouldn’t it be nice if the explanation came to us in a little envelope, along with the rejection letter from the arts funding body.

Surely, after we try so hard to achieve something and then have those efforts ignored by the ‘powers that be’, the Universe could, at the very least, post us a note on Twitter – a few words – just 140 characters of encouragement. Something like “The reason you didn’t get X is because there’s an ├╝ber-special plan B heading your way!

Maybe the reason there’s no Tweet from the Universe is because sometimes there’s just no explanation. Sometimes you can work your butt off and fail and maybe the failure wouldn’t be as painful if people like me didn’t waste endless hours looking for the reason, but rather – just accepted that ‘life can be suck’.

Tuesday, November 1, 2011

Under the Covers...


A few weeks ago I saw a friend of a friend post a video on their Facebook page. It was of a young American lad called Taylor Goldsmith, singing a song he wrote called 'A little bit of everything'. I'd never heard of him, or his band 'Dawes' but decided to press play. By the fourth line of the song, with his lyrics circling and swirling over my skin, my body was covered in goosebumps. It's rare that a song can move me so forcefully - at first listen - particularly one that has been written in modern times but this song is something else. I spent the next few weeks learning the lyrics (of which there are many!) and chords and thought I'd share my version of this truly beautiful song with you:
Another songwriter who always blows me away, no matter how many times I listen to her albums, is the one and only Joni Mitchell. I've just uploaded a new youtube clip of my version of 'Carey' which you can view here:
As you can see... I've been having much fun with my new Zoom Q3 video recorder and have decided that I'd like to share regular cover songs with you. If you've got a request or suggestion - please send it my way and I will see whether I'm capable!

Saturday, August 13, 2011

The Buffalo Experiment (#B1B2B3)


I’m about to embark on a journey back to my second home – Thailand. To say that I’m excited about returning to the Land of Smiles is an understatement. Finishing my travel memoir made me realise how much I miss the place … the colour and noise of the streets … the people … the ‘sabaii sabaii’ Thai way. And so I’m heading back to Bangkok to get my fill of Som Tum Salad and mango sticky rice :-)

During my trip I will be launching a little project that I’m calling ‘The Buffalo Experiment’. It will involve leaving three copies of my book (B1, B2 & B3) in three different tourist locations in Thailand in the hope that backpackers will be drawn to pick up the book and take it with them.


Inside each cover is a note that links to my Facebook page and website – asking the traveller to go online and leave a message, photo or even video blog that tells the story of how they came across the book, where they took the book and where they decided to leave it once they’d finished reading.

Where will the three books end up? Chiang Mai? Berlin? Toronto? Or maybe the buffalo will find his way home to me on the Sunshine Coast :-)

If you want to share ‘The Buffalo Experiment’ with your friends on Twitter, be sure to use #B1B2B3 in your tweet!

Tuesday, August 2, 2011

My new music video and the Ragdoll rash

Dear Friends,
I wouldn't usually support the spread of viruses (given my tendency towards germophobia) but I'm hoping you might be able to help me 'go viral'... I promise that it will not cause ill-effects to your health.

You see, I've just released a music video for my new song 'The Girl & the Glass' and I'm hoping that if you like the clip, you will share it with your friends and family... and Facebook it... and Tweet it and do all those other 'virally' things that allow a little backyard movie to become an online phenomenon (a girl may as well aim high, right?)

The video was born out of a creative collaboration with myself and multi-media guru Natalija Brunovs (www.natalija.com.au). She happens to be exceptionally good at craft and art and photography and animation... and I happen to be ridiculously good at playing the part of a ragdoll. Are you intrigued yet? Here are the links:

'The Girl & the Glass' Music Video:

The Making of... The Girl & the Glass: (with behind the scenes footage and interviews - Hollywood style - ha!)

This acoustic version of the song was recorded at Bloodwood Studios in Doonan by Alan Kelly. The 'real' version will hopefully be recorded sometime in the near future - to feature on my next album.

Holistic Bliss Magazine
The lovely team at Holistic Bliss magazine (which is a publication that features alternative lifestyle and medicine stories) have put me on the cover of their mag this month. You can read the mag online here - http://www.holisticblissmagazine.com/


Byron Writers' Festival
For all my session times at the Byron Bay Writers' Festival, head to my Facebook page (the Paul Kelly gig has now sold out!)

OK... may the online ragdoll-rash spread far and wide and lead to some form of splendid world domination... failing that, I hope these videos make you smile.

With gratitude,
Ange

Tuesday, March 8, 2011

Caves and trust


I've been wondering what life would be like if I lived in a cave, far from traffic lights and deadlines. What would happen if I let go of any aspirations I had for myself and just lived a simple life (in a cave) ... my only chores – to collect water, make fire, eat berries and sew together animal skins, or something.
You see, it seems that each time I set myself a new major goal in life, I find myself in hospital. It all started with my very first overseas adventure at the age of 21. I’d decided to take Mark Twain’s advice and ‘sail away from the safe harbour’, to explore the unknown, which led me to signing up for a trek in Northern Thailand.
There were 12 of us in the back of the ute, bumping through a remote corner of Asia, bound for our jungle adventure when the massive black furry creature flew in and bit me on the leg. The sting left a drop of blood on my skin and caused a red rash that gradually crawled up my leg.
My Thai tour guide took one look at the bite and said “this wasp never hurt people … usually this animal live near water buffalo” and with that the ute changed direction, bound for a one-room rural hospital where I was attended to by a nurse who wore a white triangle hat that made her look like the flying nun.
Then there was my grand goal to become a foreign correspondent – sent to cover breaking news stories around the globe. As many of you know, I secured myself a journo job in Bangkok but what you might not know is the job led me to my second hospital stay – one which I dedicated a chapter to in my book ‘The Buffalo Funeral’. The chapter is titled “Hanoi Hell” and involves poo-ing blood, losing ten kilos and spending a week in a Vietnamese hospital bed.
A year or so after that, I set myself yet another ‘life challenge’ – to secure the man of my dreams by chasing him to Canada and convincing him to live with me, happily ever after. Yep, as you can imagine, didn’t go exactly as planned. That splendid goal resulted in a fairly costly trip to the Emergency Room of a Toronto hospital plus a week in a Bangkok hospital … the gory details revealed in the final chapters of my book.
Which brings me to a goal I set myself about ten years ago – to write a memoir about the two life-changing years I spent in Thailand.
Have you ever dreamt of writing a book? I remember when I mentioned this particular fantasy of mine to a friend back in 2002, they said ‘Good luck with that. Everyone wants to write a book but not many people actually get to see their words in print’. But I held onto that goal and wrote down all my Bangkok memories in the hope that one day I’d be motivated enough to shape the stories into a book.
A few weeks ago I received a special delivery. A large red truck pulled up. A guy in a bright yellow vest hopped out. He opened the back of the vehicle and lowered a palate, which contained 50 boxes of books. Not just any books … they were my books.
I was expecting to feel elated … relieved … happy … but I felt completely numb. In fact, I felt ill.
This was it. This was me. This was the story I’d be wanting to tell for so long. What if my book was shit? What if people didn’t like it? What if nobody bought it? What if ten years of hoping and dreaming amounted to complete failure? What if? What if? What if?
It just so happened that during the ‘book delivery’ week, I also had a truckload of writing work on my plate. There was an endless stream of emails from clients, with a whole bunch of demanding deadlines, deadlines, deadlines, deadlines….
Question: If you are Ange Takats and you take a whole bunch of evil ‘what if’ thoughts and mix then with a whole bunch of work deadlines – what do you get? Yep, you guessed it.
The plan had been to fly to Sydney and celebrate my grandfather’s 94th birthday but instead I landed myself in the Emergency Room of Manly Hospital. While my relatives ate steak and chips, I was being told that I would need to have surgery – that day.
There I was, hooked up to an IV drip in hospital – again. It’s enough to make a girl start questioning her life choices. Maybe all this goal setting was a bad idea? I’ve read the Buddhist books about the crippling nature of desire. Was this latest hospital trip my body’s way of begging me to find a cave and set up shop … to drop out of society and become a Buddhist nun, perhaps? I’m sure they don’t have to interrupt their meditation sessions for trips to the ER.
All this was buzzing around my brain as the nurse pushed my bed towards the operating room. I began trembling. I was about to be knocked-out and have total strangers cutting and stitching my flesh.
The theatre nurse approached my bed and saw how my legs were shaking.
“I think we need to get you a warm blanket to stop those teeth of yours from chattering,” she smiled. She walked away and, as I lay alone, the word “trust” came out of my mouth.
“I trust. I trust. I trust. I … TRUST”
“I trust this nurse to take care of me”
“I trust this surgeon to do a good job”
“I trust that I am exactly where I am meant to be”
“I trust that everything is going to be okay”
“I trust. I trust. I TRUST”
I suddenly felt this amazing warmth wash over me. I opened my eyes to find the nurse covering my body with a fresh blanket.
“When I said I’d get you a warm blanket, I meant it. We heat these up for patients before they go into surgery,” she said.
There was something so overwhelmingly reassuring and comforting about the unexpected warmth of that blanket. I felt completely calm … completely safe. I shut my eyes and went to sleep.

* * *
I’ve decided that I don’t really want to live in a cave. I’ve also decided that this hospital business has got to stop. And so, I’ve set myself a new goal … to trust.
To trust myself.
To trust my intuition.
To trust my body.
To trust in my life’s purpose.
To trust in the Universe.
To trust the author of the Alchemist when he writes:
“There is one great truth on this planet: whoever you are, or whatever it is that you do, when you really want something, it's because that desire originated in the soul of the universe … when you want something, all the universe conspires in helping you to achieve it”
I trust.