"Alone, even doing nothing, you do not waste your time. You do, almost always, in company. No encounter with yourself can be altogether sterile: Something necessarily emerges, even if only the hope of some day meeting yourself again." (E.M. Cioran)

Wednesday, December 19, 2007

Crazy recurring dream

I hadn't experienced recurring nightmares since I was a child when, for quite a long period of time, I kept waking in a cold sweat after dreaming that the world outside my family backdoor was basically a spaghetti can of writhing earthworms that I was compelled - through some obscure but powerful sense of duty - to burrow my way through, in order to get to the nextdoor neighbours' house.

And now, it's happening again. I keep having this dream that I am - in fact, rather joyously - picking up one big live white rat after another, putting them into a big kitchen blender and ..... errr.... blending them! And, strangest of all, the resulting product is a combination of bright red blood and scraps of pure white rat fur. The whole time, I am jolly and laughing, despite waking in that familiar cold sweat.

I wonder what Dr Freud would have to say about this one?

Saturday, December 15, 2007

Central Business District

Picture this. When walking the other day in Sydney's CBD, I passed a bar that I'd never noticed before - not that there's any wonder! It's entrance was starkly lit and it's name - emblazoned over the door - 'PRIVILEGE'. In fact, the only reason I noticed was that its two security dudes, unusually dressed-up (for bouncers, anyway) in suits and ties, were standing outside on the street arguing with another suited knob, bemoaning the number of "idiots, with no understanding of interest rates!" They were getting really aggressive about it. Gee, that's right. We're all economists now!

It just looked so funny - these basically dumb-assed bogans arguing about interest rates underneath a sign saying PRIVILEGE.

(Perhaps you had to be there!)

Tuesday, December 11, 2007

Yes, I still go to gigs!

Yes, yes. I've been neglecting my blog, I know. There's just been too much other stuff on. Like a bunch of contemporary electronic music gigs by Euro acts such as M.A.N.D.Y. and Booka Shade from Berlin's 'Get Physical' record label and Trentemoller, from Denmark. Continuing to create within the evolving tradition of house music, the artists from the 'Get Physical' catalogue, along with Trentemoller and many others, represent a new-wave of tech house music that can be intelligent, diverse, danceworthy or shoe-gazey, beautiful, disarming, melancholy and/or playful.
So where are the people over 30? Going to these gigs is like a kind of playground dance party for 'Schoolies Week' or something, with literally hordes of hyped-up kids. At the 'Booka Shade' gig on Wednesday night (at the Gaelic Club, Surry Hills), the majority were no more than 18 or 19.
In a packed house, there certainly didn't seem to be anyone over 25 - all seemingly cashed-up, with the latest flashy mobiles and cameras in the air, expensive clothes and those darned shaggy (emo-style) hairdos, with very expensive, elaborate colouring (males and females). They went absolutely nuts!! Most of the subtlety of those great pieces of music was somewhat lost in a rather muddy mix and in all the yelling by the crowd. It started almost like a kind of Booka Shade 'medley' - with tracks merging as if they'd tailored it to be for a pumping, rave/dance party and these jumped-up kids.

By contrast, Trentemoller retained all that subtlety - as he mixed his music live last Friday night. Some pieces were more upbeat, but overall it was complex and rich - the crowd more shoe-gazey, rather than dance-crazy.

I wasn't disappointed though - neither was my friend. Although perplexed about the fact that we have never (at these last 3 gigs) glimpsed anyone else over 30 (possibly 20!) there, apart from us, it was extremely interesting - almost as if we're on the crest of a new music renaissance, or something - a new movement for the iPod generation. Each track they began was greeted with a deafening roar of approval (and hands in the air) by the crowd - almost drowning the music out. They were so off their faces, the whole venue was a moshpit. We stood above, watching and listening. I kept thinking, why is it that I love this music, when none of my supposed 'peers' (being similarly passionate about great music) are here? Where are they? This is good stuff! Yet the crowd seems to be made up of pretty nice kids really.....no punch-ups, despite the overload of testosterone and 'out-of-it' state of them - friendly. I never felt self-consciously 'older', or anything. One girl, brushing past me excitedly, said "Sorry, I'm just a girl!" When I answered: "What?" (semi-horrified at her self-effacement), she said sweetly: "I'm a girl and you're a girl too" and touched my shoulder, kind of affectionately. They were just totally into the music! And they certainly approved of Booka Shade. These kids at least have good taste - and why wouldn't they? - even if it is doled out to them via 'Ministry of Sound' compilations, or whatever. It was great to feel included (yep! we actually did feel a part of it and welcome there) and it's great (I must say) to be alive and actually living. Hail the new music revolution!

Thursday, October 11, 2007


Since APEC, it's as if I've been asleep. There's still plenty to complain about and there are plenty of good things too, so why do I feel like I've just been unearthed?

Been hearing a lot of criticism by academics about the proliferation of blogging - all these people with nothing much to say apparently shouldn't bother. But I thought that was the point - giving everyone a voice.

It makes me feel like just listing what I eat for meals. Instead, I'll post a photo of my work/office area.....

until I have something more to say......

Monday, September 10, 2007

Thank Goodness It's Over

After a week of dreary rainy weather, the sun is out this morning. George W. Bush and the other 20 'world leaders' have flown home, the constant drone of helicopters overhead has dissipated, the streets are ours again and life is returning to normal after the insanity of APEC. It's over and thank gawd for that!

The main protest march on Saturday resulted in no more than one or two "scuffles" amongst a 5,000-strong crowd that was almost overwhelmed by nearly as many police and the riot squad (and looking at the TV footage, those involved in these scuffles seemed innocuous, as they were overwhelmed by police officers. Perhaps they'd thrown coke cans or something.) The water cannon and other new shiny black riot squad vehicles were not used. All the media hype and politicians' rants about "violent protesters" were unfounded as Sydney residents took to the streets to voice their protest against our involvement in the war in Iraq; the Government's industrial relations policies and their lack of any real commitment to dealing with climate change, beyond the nuclear option of course; and APEC itself and a refusal to be intimidated into 'staying away and doing what we're told' - exercising our democratic right to protest. Instead, the Asia-Pacific Economic Co-operation forum resulted in nothing other than a plan to sell 'yellowcake' to Russia and get better access to military technology from the US, as well as making some sort of nuke deal with them.

The excuse given for the ridiculously intensive security during the event was to keep terrorists and protesters out, but it was pretty clear that it was to keep the protesters out, especially after the prank executed by the 'Chaser' team, where they managed to get through two checkpoints in a limousine bearing Canadian flags and security passes that had "JOKE" printed on them clearly and the word "Insecurity" instead of "Security". As exec producer Julian Morrow said: "It's a good thing we weren't Al Qaeda".

Saturday, September 08, 2007

APEC = A Pointless Expensive Crock

Thanks to 'The Chaser' team (satirical ABC TV show) for staging the fake motorcade on Thursday. And unbelievable too in that although they had been certain they wouldn't even get past one checkpoint before being stopped, they had cleared two of them and were only 10 metres from Bush's hotel before they handed themselves over to police. The police chief is furious at their irresponsibility, since they could easily have been shot by snipers - positioned on rooftops all over the area. As Julian Morrow (executive producer and one of the stars of the show) commented yesterday, it's a good thing they weren't Al Qaeda members (Chas was even dressed as Osama bin Laden!). Their limo was decorated with Canadian flags, even though no one noticed that Canada isn't even being represented at APEC. Hilarious! Also great is that this was the only thing that has ,so far, hit world headlines about the entire forum.
The Australian culture of larrikinism is alive!
And for those who haven't seen it:

Saturday, September 01, 2007

Fuck Off APEC!

There's a nasty virus about to descend upon Sydney. It's called the 'Asia-Pacific Economic Co-operation Forum' (APEC) and is already making us sick. To make it worse, we are all apparently supposed to just lie down, put up and shut up, as our daily lives are inconvenienced to the max - with essential services postponed, 'no go' zones and an inevitable ton of traffic chaos. And all the while, we are paying for it (a cool $300 million!) out of our money - public money.

Worst of all, we're being censored from bitching about it. Well, they're trying to get us off the streets, anyway. It's the old terrorism excuse again, of course. But we should be really pissed off. Entire precincts of city buildings are being caged off. In fact, a tall fence was erected today, at a cost to taxpayers of $1.5 million, extending along 5 kilometres of footpaths in the northern part of the CBD, as a pre-emptive measure to "protect against terrorists and protesters". Main streets must periodically shut down, just so George W. Bush and a selection of other creepy old 'world leaders' can drive in their motorcade to their destinations without interruption. Armed military helicopters will be on 24-hour patrol. Just the other night, a huge helicopter, apparently carrying out a practice operation, hovered pretty much straight above my apartment building in the city - otherwise barely moving - from 1.45am to nearly 3.30am, making sleep impossible. It's all such a big wank!

And, predictably of course, any mention of protests almost always has the word 'violent' attached these days. In a rather interesting linguistic twist, the word 'protester' has been dispensed with, in favour of 'violent protesters' (in the future, they'll probably be simply referred to as 'terrorists') who are, we are told, to blame for all inconveniences to be experienced in our city, despite the fact that there haven't actually been any protests (or terrorist attacks for that matter) as yet. It has actually been decided that the riot squad will be using a water cannon against these supposed 'violent protesters'. You can pretty much guess that such provocative assumptions are already setting emotions aflame, so that either side is likely to lose their cool early on and result in some seriously injured people and needless arrests. Democracy is being squashed and I, for one, am appalled.

Tuesday, August 28, 2007

This dawn could be the world's first

...Never yet has such a time existed, nor this light, nor this being which is me. What will be tomorrow shall be other, and what I shall see will be seen by reconstituted eyes, full of a new vision. (Fernando Pessoa)

'When the Veneer of Democracy Begins to Fade'......

I know it's been a while. Life's kind of taken over of late. And I know that this picture has nothing much to do with what I'm about to write. I just want it there, ok?

Anyway, a few things in 'news' land have got me going lately. First, in the lead-up to the country's federal election, opposition leader Kevin Rudd has had a smear campaign thrown at him over the fact that he'd been to a strip club in London 4 years ago and had allegedly fondled a stripper, to which, in his defence, he said he was too drunk at the time to remember. The Libs were obviously hoping to smash his squeaky clean and nerdy image, but instead it's given him a boost and shown that he 'has blood running through his veins'. Suddenly, Kev's looking a bit sexier. Anyway, it's John Howard we should be worried about. He might not have been to a strip club, but he hangs out with the likes of Dick Cheney and George Bush. Personally, I'd rather he hung out with strippers.

Germaine Greer's been in the news recently too. Around the anniversary of Princess Diana's death, she announces that Diana was "a devious moron" who slept with married men and made nuisance calls when they tried to dump her. Brilliant! Finally, someone cuts past the dreary celebrity mythology that's been built around Diana, so we can be reminded what was really going on. This was reported, along with other snippets of heavily-edited comments she'd made with typical reactionary outrage and ridicule by the media. She is almost always on the money, but her frankness is undermined as obnoxiousness by the media, men and even feminists more and more aggressively and often quite unfairly. I think the world needs Germaine Greers and I find this contemptuous attitude toward her quite strange - like a jealousy of people that tell the truth. Still, at least her boldness gets her in the papers and I guess that's the point. We should surely never underestimate the value of the ratbag.

Last, but not least, was Howard's announcement last week that he thought Australians should embrace a sense of "aspirational nationalism" to guide relations between different levels of government. (I actually thought I heard the newsreader say "national socialism".)

Thursday, July 19, 2007

CSS (Cansei de ser Sexy)

OK, so it's been out for a while, but I think this group (from Brazil) is gorgeous. Almost retro in style, I think their pop songs are pure pop lusciousness. Have a squiz at this video.

And this one too!!!

Wednesday, July 11, 2007

Hello Kitty. Goodbye Kitty

This huge, floating thing set off again from Garden Island naval base today, after parking for 5 days across the road and down a bit from where I live. $10 million was spent in Sydney by its crew during the 5-day stop-off, so local retailers were happy. Motorists around the metro area weren't quite so impressed. With traffic restrictions everywhere - even suburbs miles and miles away - you might start to wonder if the beast actually had legs and could walk at will all over our city.

In town the other day I kept seeing young, black guys spending up big around shops like 'HMV Music', 'General Pants' and 'Hype'. Clean-cut and polite. In hot pursuit of R&R action, they still appeared to be detached from whatever it was that they were doing. Aloof.

'KItty Hawk' is about to be decommissioned and a new carrier (the 'George Washington') will succeed it.

Thursday, July 05, 2007

Please Cancel Big Brother

Please cancel 'Big Brother'.
Aside from its vague appeal as tv junk food, such idle viewing can become unexpectedly and annoyingly compelling, even just to have on in the background. It's too easy to be drawn in (especially on these winter evenings), but I resent it. After watching a few episodes, the housemates, who initially come across as the usual disappointing stereotypes (despite being hyped as reflecting "all walks of life"), start appearing to be more complex - even interesting. And before I know it, it's as if they are characters in the background of my own domestic life. I even hear their voices in my dreams.
But let's face it. The makers of the show are the people having the fun here. They are the ones who have the outrageous privilege of getting to devise a scenario to fit specifically chosen people into and to psychologically profile the entrants in order to then pick the people we can watch and (well, supposedly) be entertained by. They get to create an experimental human zoo of photogenic people with contrasting personalities and devise activities for and play a part in manipulating situations between them that they hope will result in maximum entertainment value.
Another problem is the way the public votes to evict nominated housemates. Now that we are into our seventh season of the show, viewers have become very set in their ways in regard to how they vote. It's almost a guarantee that the more interesting/intense/confrontational/annoying/outrageous (or female, unless they're exceptionally vacuous) characters leave first and the winner is the most low-key, easy-going, innocuous bloke. Yet we keep watching and keep hoping that the one we end up sympathising with the most will triumph.
Frustrating and ultimately pointless.

Tuesday, July 03, 2007

Outfit of the Month

A month and a half has gone by. The 'Pasha Bulker' has finally been successively towed into deep water. I've taken up bowling (joking!).

Tuesday, May 22, 2007

Friday, May 18, 2007

Trentemoller - The Last Resort

Listening to my new cd reminds me of the 1970s and those concept albums that we all thought were 'JUST SO AMAZING'. And of jazz/fusion albums (I could swear he uses actual samples) from the same era - that were, in themselves, sophisticated audio experiences we took the time to sit back and listen to from beginning to end.

Trentemoller's sound - kind of cut-up electro-dub - is chilled and always experimental - even infectiously danceworthy at times. First-listen favourites are 'Evil Dub' and 'Always Something Better' - total killers! There appear to be no duds really, since every track is inventive in some way though, for me, 'Chameleon' dragged on a bit within pretty familiar territory. Overall, there is definitely that minimalist dub vibe and I'm reminded of Pole, Thomas Brinkmann and even a hint of Mouse on Mars and Irresistible Force. But something more is going on here. The music stands out as almost neo-classical - working (for me, anyway) as a kind of referential audio cut-up of contemporary music and bourgeois metroscapes, though it is highly distinctive in its own way as ultra-modern techno. I think it's up there with The Knife's 'Silent Shout' as a modern classic.

Hauntingly beautiful, intelligent, infuriating, cool music.

Wednesday, April 25, 2007

Getting Ready for Winter

Yes, folks, the colder weather's coming, so it's time to start getting snug.

It's a public holiday in Sydney - Anzac Day - where we pay our respects to those Australians who fought and returned and those who died in the insanity of war. However, with all due respects, I hate this day of 'death and glory'. (Isn't 'glorified death' more apt?) I wanted to see a movie this afternoon, but had forgotten that the city would still be clogged with the peanut-crunching crowds. Pubs were overflowing - not just with the war vets (God bless 'em!) but with crowds of raucous yobbos and their hard-faced female partners - the sort of people who wear footie shirts as 'smart/casual' wear. People everywhere waved Aussie flags, wore Aussie flag clothing and clogged fast food outlets. I walked amongst them, feeling like I'd just landed on another planet. Outside my window now, as evening approaches, I can hear the drunks as they hit the streets - getting louder and louder. It's gonna be a long night.

Sunday, April 15, 2007


Out on my walk/run the other evening from Woolloomooloo and around Mrs Maquarie's Chair and Farm Cove, as I ran up the stairs on the west side where the tourists gather to take their snapshots of the Opera House and Harbour Bridge - Sydney's most famous icons - there were a bunch of girls in party frocks, clutching glasses of bubbly as they wandered from the road and across the grass to take in the view. Nothing out of the ordinary here - looked like some sort of hen party. As I ran, my eyes drifted lazily from them up to the road to their transport - a limousine. But I had never seen a limousine like this. It was a hummer!!

This beast of a thing seemed so incongruous with these girlies in their frilly frocks. What could they have been thinking? What is the limmo company thinking? What about the planet? Anyway, I found the pic on the internet.

Thursday, March 15, 2007

'The Slits' in Sydney

Well, here was another gig I couldn't ignore - 'The Slits', reformed, playing in Sydney's Gaelic Club last night. Although the line-up was, apparently, supposed to mirror the one on the newly released 3-song EP ('Revenge of the Killer Slits'), with vocalist, Ari Up and bassist Tessa Pollitt (the only 2 original members), Paul Cook (ex 'Sex Pistols') on drums, Marco Pirroni (ex 'Adam and the Ants') on guitar and back-up vocals courtesy of Cook's daughter, Holly; Pollitt's daughter, Phoebe and Mick Jones' (of 'The Clash') daughter, Lauren, this didn't exactly transpire. Instead, we were given an all-female line-up of Ari Up, Tessa Pollitt, Holly (back-up vocals), drummer Anna (?) and two guitarists (pretty sure they were the aforementioned Lauren and Phoebe).

Nice to see a good mix of age groups in the crowd - from teens to 50-somethings, retro-dressed art school girls, old punks, '70s feminists, lots of women - this was an exuberant, fun gig. Ari Up, resplendent in dreads trailing to her thighs and three colourful costume changes was the perfect front-person - enthusiastically dancing and shaking her barely-covered bum - she was all positivity and 'you go girl!' attitude, whilst constantly chatting to her audience and giving away prizes of Jamaican reggae records (yep! she still lives in Jamaica). Continually pulling enthusiastic audience members up to dance with her onstage (affectionately proclaiming them, for the encore song 'Typical Girls' from their seminal 1979 album 'Cut', as her 'typical girls' and typical boys'), her joyful 'girl-confidence' and pseudo-tribal pop-spirituality was never heavy-handed, just sincere and happy. And how cool was bassist, Tessa Pollitt? Wow.

The music was a great mix of their reggae and punk-influenced songs - the older material featured prominently - even one or two tracks from one of their early punk bootlegs, still in my possession. Other highlights included the great 'Newtown' and 'Shoplifting' from 'Cut' and - best of all - a newie called 'Kill Them With Love'. The crowd was generally friendly too. I had good chats with a couple who've been together and married since the punk era, a bunch of teen girls, a couple of 40-something gay guys - one of whom had seen 'The Slits' in London in the late '70s and a cute boy who helped me deflect a 'situation' that occurred with an aggressive, drunk girl and her friends who kept slamming painfully into me like rabid monkeys as I stood in the crowd.

Praise must also go to the second support act, 'Japanther'. I missed the earlier part of their set, but what I saw/heard was hilarious, funky and enormously entertaining. All in all, a great night out.

Friday, March 02, 2007

Happy Mardi Gras 2007!

Really looking forward to Mardi Gras tomorrow night - especially the big party. I can't wait!

Just thinking about how the official name of the 'community' has changed from 'GLBTQ' (Gay, Lesbian, Bisexual, Transgender, Queer) to 'GLBTI' - ie the word 'Queer' has been replaced by 'Intersex'. I'm not exactly sure of the official take, but it is my understanding that 'intersex' is basically the new word for 'hermaphroditism' - an intersex (or hermaphrodite) person having characteristics or organs of both sexes. I also found myself wondering if this (apparently very rare) genetic condition is becoming more common or if, perhaps, there was any record (official or otherwise) of people being surgically modified to be 'intersex'. Come to think of it, I recall Genesis P-Orridge undergoing breast enhancement surgery along with his wife - as part of an overall plastic surgery project that will make them look progressively similar - which would put him in this category I guess (or would it?), so maybe it is getting more popular.

I remember, as a child, upon discovering that snails were hermaphroditic - and able to actually reproduce alone - thinking how strange this was.

Saturday, February 17, 2007

Religion is Stupid

Enough is enough. I've had it with religion and the concept of a 'man-in-the-sky' God. Up until now, I've swung this way and that, without committing - generally considering myself to be an agnostic. But it isn't enough any more. Whilst I realise I'm opening a huge can of worms, I think it's high time I took a stand and spoke out in support of atheism.

Agnostics sit on the fence, requiring proof of God in order to believe in Him. But here lies the problem. They are actually prepared to believe. To be prepared to believe in God means one is prepared to believe in the concept of an omnipotent, omnipresent being - ie knowing absolutely everything, including everything each one of us is doing, thinking and feeling at every given moment, and being everywhere all at once. There has never been one iota of proof of this! It's obviously ridiculous. Surely, being prepared to believe in life on other planets is a much more reasonable idea?

Yet billions of people everywhere believe in God and, despite the total lack of evidence, religion is becoming more popular. It is the source of much of the escalating conflict in the world and is - quite alarmingly - progressively starting to infiltrate and inform traditionally secular politics in western countries. OK, so human beings naturally turn their minds to the question of the meaning of life and its mysteries at some point in their lives, including what happens when we die. But religious nuts just can't seem to accept that we are part of nature and that all manifestations of life within nature eventually expire and die - finito!. I think this is the root of the problem. People don't want to accept that we all die. So the concept of 'afterlife' is invented as a comfort, where an elite group of 'believers' is allowed entry into a special, perfect world called 'heaven' (or are otherwise reincarnated in another form etc etc). I mean each to his/her own, but this seems seriously deluded to me - and a cop-out to boot. And then there are the Holy Books, of course, including the Bible, the Koran and many more. Yet, surely these books can just as easily be interpreted as a mixture of fact and metaphor - morality fables passed down through generations - relating to our connectedness to each other and to nature as a higher authority? Whichever way you look at it, I don't see why believers in God Almighty assume the higher moral ground when it comes to these questions, because that's what they ultimate are - questions.

I believe that we can own our own morality and be compassionate and responsible human beings, without involving (the idea of) a 'supreme being'. Surely we can continue to question ourselves, our actions and the ways in which we affect others. We can learn to be accountable for these actions and to live with ourselves and what we do - learning from our mistakes as we move through the world - as we can also learn to forgive ourselves and others. And our life on earth is the opportunity we are given to carry out these tasks. To my mind, at least, the concept of God is a distraction that seriously undermines this work. None of us is perfect, but we can evolve. Religious types would say that only God is perfect. But it is nature that is perfect because all of life - and its complexities - is contained within it. But I do not believe in God.

Tuesday, February 13, 2007

'Marie Antoinette' & 'Leonard Cohen: I'm Your Man' movie reviews

Just a couple of recently seen films I wanted to tell you about, so here goes:


This movie is delicious - a visual tour de force through the palace and lifestyle of the court of Versailles in the heyday of Louis XVI and his young Austrian bride. As a visual and musical piece, this is stunning work, with everything reflecting the pastel tones of the ever-present displayed cakes - the colours of marzipan and sugared almonds - but if you're looking for a history lesson, it's rather light on detail - more like candy floss. Powdered faces and lacquered hair piled high, perfectly symmetrical shots of the manicured gardens of the palace and a post-punk soundtrack that seems absolutely perfect. Suzie and the Banshees' 'Hong Kong Garden' has never worked as well as it did in the masked ball scenes. Inspired.


I love Leonard Cohen. I'd even go as far as saying I've always preferred his music/poetry to Bob Dylan's. And he's still producing good work.This film is based around a tribute concert of his music, performed by some of the "world's best singers" (as we are informed) including Nick Cave, Martha and Rufus Wainwright, Antony Hegerty and Jarvis Cocker, amongst others. The performances are cut with bits of interviews with Cohen himself and some impressions of him, given by artists performing the works. Unfortunately though, members of U2 - Bono and The Edge - have too much to say in this department. And to make things worse, U2 are also given the privilege of doing a separate, filmed performance - in a 'retro-cabaret' style stage setting - of one of the songs, with Cohen also singing a song to their backing, though only a part of it, which was most disappointing. U2 have to be one of the most over-rated, over-represented groups ever, so their presence here seems completely superfluous. Also, what I love about Leonard Cohen's songs is that they deal with the emotional realm - uncertainty, longing, self-reflection, sensuality, pain, guilt etc - themes that are explored poetically and usually ambiguously. They are like unsolved fables that contain a genuine air of mystery. Yet, Cohen's search for meaning, as revealed in this film, kind of tainted this mystery, especially since he is now 'at peace' (so to speak) via his relationship with Buddhism, which kind of wrapped the whole movie up a little disappointingly.

Wednesday, January 31, 2007

New Jacket

On his return from a work trip to Malaysia, Stephen gave me a jacket he'd bought there for me, as a gift. After reading the blurb on the jacket's shop tag several times, I am still perplexed:

"Hot Wind signifies the spirit after dark. It is the spirit and soul that provide positive energies and winds by stimulating their nerve to realize their dreams and enjoy every moments of life. It is a street wear brand that explores into their mysterious side and breaks beyond their depth inner feelings that ultimately sparks off the attractive and sexiest chemistry."

Friday, January 26, 2007

Australia (Invasion) Day

Here we go again - another Australia Day - or otherwise known as 'Invasion Day'. And out come the Aussie flags in ever-increasing numbers which, until very recently, used to be rivalled by quite significant numbers of Aboriginal flags also. Lately, the latter are rarely seen, but after all, this is John Howard's Australia and we're almost as jingoistic as the Americans these days. Up at Woolworths supermarket this evening, the entire checkout area was decked out in them - almost as if they were Christmas decorations.

But there's something very creepy going on here. When the organisers of yesterday's 'The Big Day Out' (annual, all-day, multi-band, music festival in Sydney showgrounds) decided to ban the Australian flag from the event, due to increasing incidences of racist outbursts (eg the Cronulla beach riots of just over a year ago), where (generally white) neo-nationalist yobbos would wreak racist havoc under the flag's banner - often draping themselves in it - the media whipped the story up as a big issue, dragging politicians in to comment. Of course, Howard said that any event that asks for the banning of the flag deserves to be banned itself. Results of commercial TV surveys showed that 92% thought it was wrong for the organisers to do this, with only 8% thinking it was the right thing. Therefore, the organisers were forced to offer their apologies and regrets over suggesting such a thing. And at 'The Big Day Out', record numbers of Howard's youth were draped in their beloved flag. No surprise there.

But what is it that this piece of cloth actually represents? What's to love? Seems to me it's more about dividing, rather than uniting - groups of people trying to claim it as theirs and so setting others apart/making them the enemies of it. As I said, this is John Howard's Australia. And in this, an election year with a new Opposition opponent doing well in the polls, Howard seized an opportunity to look 'green' (imitating George Bush yet again!) by appointing the scientist and environmentalist, Tim Flannery, as 'Australian of the Year'.
What a hypocrite!

Tuesday, January 23, 2007

Lou Reed's 'Berlin' at the State Theatre, Sydney

What a treat. The chance to see Lou Reed perform his seminal 1973 concept album - the maligned and often dismissed, ahead-of-its-time 'Berlin' - as a multi-media song cycle - the headlining act of this year's Sydney Festival. Before Sydney, 'Berlin' had been performed over four nights at 'St Ann's Warehouse', a New York artspace, a month earlier. Clearly, this was an opportunity not to be missed.

The show, directed by the artist/film maker Julian Schnabel with Bob Ezrin, the original album producer, and Hal Willner as music producers included strings, horns, choristers (12 singers from the Australian Youth Choir) and touches of cabaret. The band included Lou's long-serving bass player, Fernando Saunders, with Tony Smith on drums, Steve Hunter on guitar (who played on all the original recordings) and Rob Wasserman on upright electric bass. Guest vocalists included Antony Hegerty (of Antony and the Johnsons) and soul diva, Sharon Jones.

The show played out like a sort of Brechtian fable - the melancholy story of a relationship with its blissful beginnings and indulgences and its decline into abuse, burnout, despair and ultimate tragedy. Lou Reed has this amazing ability to bring stories from such melancholic underworlds to life and make them beautiful. He is able to 'report' them without moralising and when performed, they are poetry. Julian Schnabel's set included screens printed with subtle 'Oriental' designs and calligraphy, with filmed scenes illustrating the story - while remaining impressionistic and non-dominant - projected onto them. Highlights for me were 'Men of Good Fortune', which was nicely cynical and could've been, at least in part, about any number of modern-day tyrants, 'Oh Jim' (especially the stripped-down part), 'Caroline Says' (especially II) and 'The Bed'. Sublime.

After the songs were finished (it seemed as if it'd only been a few minutes), I was wondering if the audience's thunderous pounding for an encore would be fruitful. After all, 'Berlin' had been performed. However, back they came - albeit without the strings, horns and choir - just Lou, the band, Antony and Sharon. First up, they launched into 'Sweet Jane'. I started thinking that it was too much of a crowd pleaser and that it might ruin the mood, but when Sharon Jones took over and gave it the soul treatment, I was won back all over again. After this, things quietened down and 'Candy Says' was next - performed as a duet between Lou and Antony. I hadn't seen Antony before and I was gobsmacked - brought to tears in a matter of seconds. He has a voice that I can only describe as something between Nina Simone and an angel, but there is more to it than that. He injects so much feeling and pain that it is almost unbearable. The final song of the night was the strong and grinding rock 'n' roll of 'Rock Minuet' from Lou's 2000 album, 'Ecstasy', which he'd performed during his last visit in 2000.

All in all - totally killer!

Friday, January 12, 2007

Another train trip to the 'burbs

A blazingly hot summer day and I'm off to the hospital dental clinic again in Sydney's far west, by train. So, what did I see along my way? Well, in the city, before I'm even at the train station, it's just endless brand names and designer everything on every single person I come across. Shopping is now the official national pastime and designer labels give us our self-esteem - well, it certainly seems that way.

Then the train. A couple sitting opposite me look like off-duty police constables - exuding an attitude of distrust towards anyone in their vicinity, including me. The woman was heavily pregnant and attentive to anything her man said to her, demonstrating her approval of his comments with affectionate pats on his knee, while he maintained his look of indifference. His nose was snout-like and he wore one of those ubiquitous t-shirts printed with splatters of dye and the words 'CULT' and 'INDUSTRIE' in a sort of stencilled/branding style - as if they were stamped on bales of wool. Sitting next to me was a young woman, her feet squeezed into pointy-toed stillettos. Her toes stopped before the pointy part and were squeezing out the sides. During the entire trip, she was plugged in to her iPod and just stared straight ahead. The music must have been loud because it just went 'CALASH CALASH CALASH' the whole time. She wore those huge square'ish sunglasses - like every other woman on the train - that Paris Hilton was wearing (her 'trademark', so the media informed us) when she was in Sydney a week or so ago.

On the way back, the carriages were packed - a father with three mischievous children climbing all over the seats opposite me and a couple of old-timers next to me. At Strathfield, another old man got on, wheeling a suitcase and decided to squeeze in next to me backside first. I just saw this huge bum coming towards me and he smelt strongly of (a certain) haemorrhoid cream. For the rest of the journey, I could feel his thighs jammed up next to mine and smell the haemorrhoid cream.