All posts tagged sounds

  • The Walkley Magazine story: ‘Weekly Email Dispatches From A Freelancer’s Lonely Desk’, April 2017

    A story for issue 88 of The Walkley Magazine, the quarterly publication for Australian media professionals. Excerpt below.

    Weekly Email Dispatches From A Freelancer’s Lonely Desk

    Newsletter as lifeline.

    The Walkley Magazine story by Andrew McMillen: 'Weekly Email Dispatches From A Freelancer’s Lonely Desk', April 2017. Illustration by Tom Jellett

    The email subject line in edition #139 was “Clown doctors, giant pigs and public shaming”, while #99 was titled “Gay twins, shot elephants and friendly magpies”. The intention is always to pique the reader’s interest, so that if they see Dispatches among a few dozen emails in their inbox, mine is the one they’ll want to open first, because they are curious about these three unique phrases—taken from the recommendations contained within—and want to know more.

    Every week, you see, I spend an hour or two compiling an email newsletter that is sent to people around the world. Some of them are my friends and family; others I have never met before, and have no idea how they came across my work. Since starting with zero subscribers in March 2014, I have now delivered more than 140 editions. The newsletter is called Dispatches, after the Michael Herr book of the same name. It is a space where I recommend excellent feature articles and books I have read and enjoyed, as well as podcasts, music, and my own recently published writing.

    Its format has remained unchanged in the three years since I started. There are three sections: Words, Sounds and Reads. I choose a relevant image to announce each section, because I know that an email newsletter consisting only of text can be a little overwhelming.

    Since the beginning, I have sent the newsletter on Thursday mornings. This was a deliberate choice: as Friday tends to be the busiest day for office workers scrambling to meet deadlines before clocking off for the weekend, I figured that seeing a long, considered email from me a couple of mornings before the workweek ends might offer a welcome reprieve. Setting an expectation around a weekly publication schedule might help to give others some structure in their work lives, too. (Perhaps I am projecting.)

    For the first couple of years, I would compile the recommendations on Wednesday, and then wait until waking the following morning to manually press “send” using a free online service called TinyLetter. Now, I publish it just after midnight, in the wee hours of Thursday morning—which suits me better as a night owl, anyway. It’s the last thing I do before going to bed, and it pleases me to know that, by the time I’m back at the desk the following morning, more than a hundred people will have already opened the latest edition.

    To read the full story, visit The Walkley Magazine on Medium. Above illustration credit: Tom Jellett.

  • Introducing ‘Dispatches’: a weekly email newsletter, March 2014

    In March 2014 I started Dispatches, a weekly newsletter about my three passions: writing, music and reading. A screenshot of the first dispatch, Bikies, suicide contagion and drug wars, is included below.

    'Dispatches #1: Bikies, suicide contagion and drug wars', a weekly email newsletter by Australian freelance journalist Andrew McMillen

    I named it Dispatches after one of my favourite books: Michael Herr’s classic ‘new journalism’ narrative, first published in 1977, which placed the author near the centre of the Vietnam War while reporting for Esquire. I first read it in March 2012 and even writing about it here is almost enough to send me running to my bookshelf to tear through it again. Herr has a remarkable command of language. Clearly, the book comes highly recommended.

    The format will no doubt change over time, but for now I’ve split it into thirds:

    Words – highlighting my newly published writing, when applicable
    Sounds – music and podcast recommendations
    Reads – a selection of the best longform journalism and books I read in the past week

    If you like any of those three things, you might consider subscribing via TinyLetter here. If, like me, you spend too many hours each week immersed in your inbox, you can ‘try before you buy’ by viewing an archive of past mailouts here and deciding whether it’s worth your time. I hope it is.

    Besides offering a more regular way of keeping in touch with my readers than through this rather static blog or my cautious public engagement on social media, Dispatches is intended to be an interactive experiment-in-progress. At 26, I’ve done a reasonable amount of work of developing my own tastes, but I’m certainly open to your suggestions when it comes to reading and music.

    Finally: I’d like to note that Dispatches is inspired by Ryan Holiday’s fantastic monthly reading recommendation newsletter, and by the weekly emails sent by journalism hubs Longform and Longreads. I’m not aiming to compete with any of those mailouts – in part, because all three are so fucking good that I’d be setting myself up to fail. Instead, I’m offering a personalised take on the words and sounds that enter my skull each week and influence the way I interpret the world and write about it.

    Welcome to Dispatches.

  • The Vine festival review: ‘Sunset Sounds’, January 2011

    The two-day festival Sunset Sounds 2011, reviewed for The Vine. Excerpt from day 1 below.

    Sunset Sounds – Day 1
    Botanical Gardens, Brisbane
    Wednesday January 5 2011

    Queensland’s version of The Falls Festival, Sunset Sounds, runs for two days. Both events share similar line-ups, but here, the curfew is 10pm and there’s no camping. Held at Brisbane’s Botanical Gardens, three stages run concurrently in a space roughly half the size of the Parklife Festival held in September.

    I arrive as gates open at 3pm, and there’s a few hundred metres-long queue snaking toward the main entrance. I’m about to detour to the second entrance when, amid dozens of people streaming through the gardens’ gates, I’m stopped by a man in his mid-20s, wearing board shorts and looking not too unlike the typical festivalgoer. I immediately expect him to either sell me drugs, or ask me if I’m selling any. Turns out he’s an undercover cop; the same one who stopped me outside Parklife last year, I think. He asks if I’m carrying any drugs. At this particular moment, I’m carrying a couple of sushi rolls, so it’s a bit awkward when they ask me to empty my pockets. “Is that sushi legal?”, his colleague jokes. I tell them I’m a journalist and we bullshit about live music for about ten seconds before they let me go. I sit nearby, finish my sushi, and wonder how successful this anti-drugs tactic is, before picking up my wristband and entering through the much shorter VIP line.

    Clouds loom overhead. Walking up toward the top of the venue, I note the six portaloos located between the main stage (Riverstage) and the other two (Gardens and Hibiscus). Six shitters sure ain’t enough for tens of thousands of people; there are more located on the far side of the Riverstage, but it’s a bit of a dead end, with far less traffic. I get the feeling that this situation will be a problem for many people later on. But for now, I watch local act Ball Park Music for about thirty seconds as they attempt to win over the small early crowd. It doesn’t seem to be going well for them. Good band, with strong songs, but only a couple dozen are feeling it. I head toward the Gardens Stage, where Cloud Control are the day’s first drawcard. I’ve seen them play a similar set of songs at venues around the country over the last year-plus, but they still make me smile. I’m standing under a tree some fifty metres away, paying equal attention to the band and crowd surrounding me, yet when they hit particular melodies in their singles, chills run down my spine. I’m a sucker for their mash-up of ‘Gold Canary’ and the Butthole Surfers track ‘Pepper’, too. Though it feels like singer/guitarist Al Wright is cheating a little by soliciting Hottest 100 votes from the thousands-strong crowd.

    For the full review of day 1, visit The Vine. Excerpt from day 2 below.

    Sunset Sounds – Day 2
    Botanical Gardens, Brisbane
    Thursday January 6 2011

    We left the first day of this two-day festival wondering how they were going to remedy the state of the grounds. The answer, it appears, is sand. Within 15 minutes of the gates opening, a fine layer of topsoil is already being ground into mush by the hordes venturing up and down the hill, thereby rendering the groundskeepers’ hasty decisions fairly moot. By the time gates shut tonight, pretty much every square inch of grass within the venue is gone. Woodchips were in short supply? Beforehand, we’d checked BOM’s weather radar online; when your city is surrounded by a violent swirl of greens, blues and yellows, it’s generally not a good sign. Even worse if you’re going to be spending all day outside. At least today, we know what to expect. Yesterday’s prolonged downpour caught most people off guard. Poncho sales rose 5000%. As soon as I’m on site, taking in the sand-into-mud routine, I’m kicking myself for choosing shitty old joggers over gumboots. I’m not sure what was going through the minds of the thousands who still opted for thongs, though.

    A cursory glance across the enlarged timetables posted across the venue – yesterday’s rain soaked my own through my pockets – reveals that Wednesday’s line-up looks superior in pretty much every aspect. Could be a long day of so-so music. This fear is made all the more real as we stop by Laneous and the Family Yah for the day’s first performance at the Hibiscus Stage. The mood is sombre. They play an extremely eclectic mix of hip-hop, roots, soul, rock and pop. It’s too much – too confronting – for right now. When I last saw them, they were great, but that was inside a dry auditorium. Today, none of them look thrilled to be here. Their upbeat numbers maintain interest, but when they detour into ballad territory, it’s time to move on. Ash Grunwald and his three-piece band are playing at the Gardens Stage. I’ve read his name and I’ve seen his dreadlocked press photos over the years, but I think this is the first time I’ve actually heard his music. It’s pretty cool. It’s certainly inducing a greater response than Laneous were. Grunwald plays chunky, bluesy riffs through his electric guitar, while two percussionists lay down rhythms. The phrase ‘bush doof’ comes to mind during some of the more obvious breakdowns. Dude has the most Australian accent I’ve heard in a long time. I like the cut of his jib. One of the drummers has something resembling a steel bin lid attached to his kit. It hurts my brain when he connects with it.

    I’m a bit nervous to see The Middle East. It’s been over a year since I last saw them, and they’ve been touring the States and Europe for most of that time. For a band who broke up after releasing their first album in 2008, they’ve sure changed their tune when it comes to the concept of music as a career. I’m glad they have. Their Riverstage performance is captivating. They seem to have latched onto this touring-band-of-ragged-musicians mentality. It reminds me of The Band, and of Neil Young and Crazy Horse. It’s a good look, because no-one else in Australia is doing that at the moment.

    For the full review of day 2, visit The Vine, where you can also view photo galleries from both days. Above photos taken by Elleni Toumpas for The Vine.