"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)

Monday, December 27, 2010

2010 In Review

I'll try to be as brief as I can here - reflecting on the events of 2010 that have stood out in my world. Besides the health challenges, job loss and tragedies, musically-speaking it has been a year of refining the processes of my own music-making, in terms of learning valuable new techniques and of gleaning inspiration from others working in similar fields. I'll start by discussing some of the international acts I have had the good fortune to see/hear in Sydney and my favourite releases.

Shackleton LIVE @ The Civic Underground March 13 To appreciate Shackleton's music, it is useful to leave any idea of genre behind. With clearly established links to what is now called 'dubstep', his sound is so much broader and experimental than this. Landscapes that seem to be built up out of disassociated motifs of global cultures, pushing out of between-station radio static, weaving around lush and complex percussion and bass in a deep and satisfyingly rich sound sculpture. You can forget yourself while dancing to Shackleton's wonderful and unique music.

Derrick May @ 202 Broadway April 18 The only time I've been to this venue, an ex-Bank, upstairs was airy - with comfortable seating and air con, a big, round bar and local DJs (who were all very good, though I'm afraid I don't recall their names). However, downstairs in the old bank vault may have seemed like a cute idea for main acts, but it was stifling and uncomfortable - a typical problem in Sydney venues. I had to keep reminding myself of May's 'legendary' status, because the music he played was very 'party oriented' and funky - well, for my taste anyway. Watching him work the turntables was interesting though, because it seemed so effortless - his movements were almost like natural extensions of his arms! However, as an end-of-summer party, the crowd seemed very happy with the night's offerings.

Scuba @ The Civic Underground July 23 Scuba's set was not Live and, after turning up and realising he was DJ'ing, I rather wished I'd opted for Deadbeat up at Phoenix Bar instead. I felt this was a fairly lacklustre gig and, apart from a few highlights early on - for example, the crowd reacted very positively when he played Mt Kimbie's 'Maybes' remix, a fairly by-the-book affair.

Surgeon @ The Forum October 23 Had been really looking forward to this one, but it turned out to be rather so-so. Surgeon's DJ set was 3 hours long (with only one toilet break!) and reflected his Fabric #53 release. In fact, he has made the set available for download on his own blog
Underneath the tracklist, there is a link to the music.
This was a powerful set - if somewhat relentless - but The Forum is not a favoured venue. Having nowhere to sit comfortably is just annoying - as was the use of strobe lights facing the audience and continuing for much of the performance. Kind of tacky.

Pantha Du Prince LIVE @ The Civic Underground December 18 Although I love PDP's 2010 release, 'Black Noise', I hadn't held it in particularly high regard due to the fact that, after blowing me away in 2007 with his idiosyncratic and hauntingly beautiful 'This Bliss', it seemed like he was still working over familiar ground. However, he really did deliver with this performance. It was perfectly balanced and beautiful from beginning to end and I loved the effect it had on the audience. Rather than the usual yells of approval when the comfort of the kick drum comes back in, Pantha Du Prince, with his wonderfully nuanced, emotionally-charged music, educated as he went and the effect was harmonious. Lovely crowd, beautiful music. What more can you ask for?

There were a few other things, but ....
As far as music purchases this year, it has been a year of buying more vinyl than cds. Wonderful releases from labels Sandwell District, Semantica Records and Blackest Ever Black; Donato Dozzy's 'K' on Further Records; O/V/R, Regis, Dasha Rush's 'Unspoken', RSB's 'Reality Or Nothing' (CH Signal/Function/Silent Servant remixes) and much more. There were some digital downloads - most particularly the Monad series from Stroboscopic Artefacts. Yes, cds were definitely focused on less this year, however some standouts - again, my taste only - are Shed's 'The Traveller', 'Dettmann' (under-acknowledged by critics, I think), Peter van Hoesen's 'Entropic City', Shackleton's Fabric #55 mix and Senking's 'Pong' on Raster-Noton - again, amongst much more. 'Pong' is an especially treasured release this year. The guys at mnml ssgs posted a mix on December 9 by Senking that is based around the album and it's still there to download! And here's a clip of their (totally killer!) track 'V8' from that very album (as also shown on the ssgs site).

Wednesday, December 22, 2010

RIP Ziggy (1996 to 2010)

Today is a very sad day. Ziggy, my partner's beloved cat, was put to sleep. After 'the injection', we both had to try to calm ourselves, so sat in the park across the road and just wept. In a mere five weeks, she had transformed from beautiful, healthy, happy and playful to a shadow of herself - almost bald and unable to walk without difficulty - suffering something mysterious (and progressively painful) that we had tried to get to the bottom of as soon as we noticed a few patches of fur missing. Three vets were not able to diagnose anything - instead assuming an allergy or infection due to fleas, which they treated her for, despite the fact that she is routinely treated for fleas. Yesterday, we left her with the vet so that an apparently "more senior and experienced" vet could look at her later on in the day. After his examination, he phoned in the news - an aggressive cancer in her pancreas and liver. So we prepared ourselves last night and made the gloomy trip back to the vet today. She screamed so bad when they were lifting her and giving her a sedative, but she purred gently as we stroked her head carefully and spoke our 'kitty-speak' goodbyes to her.
This photo was taken a couple of weeks ago when she was still able to enjoy my partner's backyard. She appeared to enjoy sitting under my sun umbrella.

Thursday, December 09, 2010

Reflections on 2010

The end of another year and - in my world, at least - a crazy one. Let's see. Strange illnesses for both myself and my partner that, over the course of the year and with numerous visits to various doctors and specialists, still only received partial diagnoses. A mysterious one for the cat now too. She has been losing her fur rapidly over the last five weeks and, so far, three vets and (several hundred dollars) have failed to give any satisfactory diagnosis, other than guesswork. We're waiting to see if antibiotics help but, in the meantime, she's looking like the zombie cat from hell and is acting fairly dejected, despite having a normal appetite. Oh, and yes. My job (of 10 years and 2 months) was "migrated" to Malaysia. 2 months of unemployment so far and, with savings already being dipped into, it's looking as if Xmas will be a relatively lean affair. Such is life, I guess.

And with the world? Australia went to the polls in August and we received a hung federal parliament, with the incumbent Labour party returning by a mere nudge - through the backing of key independents. Voters no longer seem to understand the differences between parties and what they stand for. People protest vote. They vote against parties and not for anyone. A general indifference pervades, as well as an alarming adherence to the sound bite-style opinions espoused by the tabloid media. Does anyone actually read any more? Somehow, I'm feeling vulnerable and more than a little unnerved about what might prevail in the future. A new totalitarianism? Shudder....
While I have never believed that the internet would necessarily make us all dumber, the way we receive information these days is very fragmented and it's more of a challenge to get to the truth. The question worth asking here is: Are we bothering?

Tuesday, November 23, 2010

Wednesday, October 06, 2010

Sunday, September 19, 2010

Today In The Gardens

--There were quite a few people standing around this tree - all taking photos of the big white Cockatoos that were all over its upper branches but not many flowers left --

Wednesday, September 08, 2010

The Daily-Bread Days

"Ennui is the echo in us of time tearing itself apart"

(E.M. Cioran)
I can't do anything much lately. There's the cold that won't completely go away, accompanied by the headache that won't quit either. Not sleeping, but dozing on and off all night and into the next day. Trying to get some music pieces finished and I still haven't been 'given the broom' in relation to my paid job. Any day now...... In the meantime, I'm just moving through the days....

Sunday, August 29, 2010


Looking at the city from my cube of a backyard. It's so open and exposed to the elements there - the view of the city constantly changing in accordance with the varying light and weather - often reflecting my states of mind. At times, the buildings are obscured in haze or fog. In the evenings, I like to make the lights dance a bit, by moving my camera very slightly, like in this photo from the other night (though it should really be shown much larger than I can do here).

Friday, August 20, 2010

Some Food For Thought On The Eve of a Federal Election (yes, it does matter where your vote goes!)


- Felix Guattari (excerpt from Capitalism: A Very Special Delirium, 'Hatred of Capitalism/A Semiotext(e) Reader' 2001) -

Friday, August 13, 2010

Roll On Springtime

Not much else to say right now - just looking forward to things being a bit warmer. Sick of being cold. Sick of having a cold - 3 weeks so far and I still haven't shaken it. People are whingeing all over the net about this particular lurgy and many ask: "Is this some new type of super-virus?" Others say they'd prefer the flu. Anyway, the jasmine will be out in a couple of weeks and the buds will follow. Just hanging in for now. Will post more shortly.

Saturday, August 07, 2010

Spare Change

It's become increasingly common to see people begging on Sydney's streets - often accompanied by pets and partners. Somehow, I feel a bit awkward bringing this issue up here - even a bit guilty - as if I'm somehow exploiting the fact. But then again, it's just something I've noticed for quite a while now and it brings up mixed reactions in me.
The first time I noticed someone sitting on the street, holding up - as they usually do - a cardboard sign with details of their plight, was around 1995. He was a fairly young guy - kind of bedraggled - and his sign said that he had been offered a job in Melbourne and was trying to raise the fare to travel there and take it up as soon as possible. A couple of months later, I saw him again - with exactly the same sign. Huh? I was out and about with a DAT recorder at the time, recording 'vox pops' for a university radio project I was undertaking. Without really thinking beyond my mission to record people's opinions and thoughts on the street, I fronted up to him with my microphone and asked him what had happened with the job he'd been offered, saying that I'd noticed him those months earlier. He was furious with me and basically told me to get lost. Instantly, I realised that his sign was merely a front for a new type of scam and I felt foolish. I also felt like a bitch.
When I see people begging, I have to admit that I somehow feel resentful of them. But why? While I try to be a compassionate, non-judgmental person, clearly I am judging these people and I am forced to question myself. I guess it's partly because it seems undignified, when we have a social security system that provides modest living expenses for those who, for whatever reason, can't provide for themselves. It's also irritating because I can see that, for most of them, they are clearly just supporting drug habits and their signs belie this truth. Also, I recently saw an article on TV about one such beggar - who, rather than holding up a sign, crouches on his splayed knees outside the main entrance to the Myer department store with his head down and arms outstretched, holding a cap - in which it was revealed he makes $50,000 per annum. WTF! I guess it also bugs me to see people fall for it - helping it to rapidly become such a lucrative option - appealing to people's sense of pity and guilt in relation to their own comfortable lifestyles, whilst giving them a sense of gratification that they're 'giving something back' - in turn feeling better about themselves when they toss a coin down.
What is most disturbing about all this really is my bourgeois reaction - in that it bothers me at all and that I'm even writing about it here. However, to be fair, much of my reaction is due to the fact that this begging doesn't actually change anything. It doesn't change the fact that the rich keep getting richer and the poor keep getting poorer. It doesn't change society or the system and its inequalities and injustices. It doesn't make taxpayers feel less resentful about their money being used to support those who can't (or won't) find work. It's more just a part of (indeed a result of) the system itself.
From now on, I'm shifting my thinking. If someone wants to beg all day and makes good money, all power to them!

Sunday, July 25, 2010


I pinched this picture from what seemed a curiously unlikely blog source.

Wednesday, July 21, 2010

Another Thought From 'The Streets'

... quite artistic really, don't ya think?

Thursday, July 15, 2010

Wednesday, July 14, 2010

And Now ... pt 3 and ......

OK, so I've been time-poor lately. There's been a lot to grapple with. My partner's been really sick with a bizarre and horrendously discomforting rare disease and my editing job of the past 10 years is being "migrated" to Malaysia sometime in the next couple of weeks. It's impossible to find anything else suitable to apply for.
Of course, I don't have any substantial 'connections' either and that's what it appears to be about these days. The cliche idea that hard work will be rewarded remains a myth to all but a few. It was certainly a cruel irony to be told they would've made their move earlier, if not for the "exceptional quality" of my work. There's no redundancy payment in my case either - the 'casual' status of my position has seen to that.
Considering it all, unemployment seems like a nice idea - for a while, at least - but it's going to be strange also. For the past 10 years, I've done my work - the work I do best - at least 15 hours a week for 52 weeks of each year. It's worked in to the structure of my life.

Despite the fact that the film festival is kind of dissolving in my memory, I thought I'd just give an abbreviated overview of the remaining films.
A Somewhat Gentle Man was really quite wonderful. Norwegian cinema has been producing some nice work recently (2008's 'Let The Right One In' immediately springs to mind!) and this film was no exception. Ulrik, just released from jail after doing time for murder, is back in town and his old gangster boss immediately closes in around him, encouraging him to take revenge. His son is about to become a father, he continually has to dodge his landlady's sexual advances and the girl he fancies at work has a violent boyfriend he must eventually contend with. Ulrik is a great character - and this film was an excellent study in characters generally - a most satisfying movie.
The Killer Inside Me was a film I was really looking forward to. An adaptation of Jim Thompson's pulp novel by Michael Winterbottom, it's about a cop with a bent on killing. Unfortunately, this film was a let-down. I found Casey Affleck irritating in the title role - not just his sociopath character, but his voice-over. The whole thing made me seriously wonder whether Micheal Winterbottom could possibly be a misogynist (especially when considered in light of his other films). There were a few bright moments, but ultimately - and most disappointingly - this film was forgettable and had a jaded feel to it. There were no characters to feel sympathetic towards and be interested in, because none were developed.
The Ghost Writer was next and strongly anticipated in its premiere showing. Despite my being a big Roman Polanski fan and although this film - about a ghost writer (Ewan McGregor) assigned to an ex-British Prime Minister (Pierce Brosnan) after the death of his previous ghost writer - was perfectly-directed, sleek and classy - even witty at times, it came across as a fairly stock-standard political thriller. That said however, the wit was interesting in its extra-textual references to the Blairs and even Polanski himself. Interesting to see Kim Cattrall (of 'Sex and the City' fame) in a decent role for a change and also to see Olivia Williams again (after her role as Ian Dury's wife in 'Sex and Drugs and Rock 'n Roll' - reviewed earlier) cast as the ex-PM's wife.
Hesher was the final film for me this year. This was a US production directed by Sydneysider, Spencer Susser and was basically a film about grief. After the tragic death of his mother, TJ - along with his dad and grandmother - are stagnating in this grief, until a heavy-metal stanger/loner (Hesher) gatecrashes his way into their home and lives. This film is spruiked as "Flipping its middle finger firmly at post-trauma family drama ... (and avoiding) sentimentality in favour of anarchic transformation." OK, but the guy was just an obnoxious slob who pushed his way into a family's home and lobbed there, taking advantage of the fact that they are all in shell-schocked individual states. And we're supposed to laugh at - and therefore condone - his peurile indulgences and destructive outbursts, simply because he irritates to the point of knocking the family out of their fog. WTF? Is the guy Jesus? The audience certainly seemed to take to him. I don't know. Somehow, I found the whole thing a bit creepy.

Wednesday, June 30, 2010

Film Festival Round-up (pt 2)

Life During Wartime was the next movie on the calendar. This was - hands-down - the best film I saw in this year's festival. Todd Solondz's sequel/variation of his 1998 jaw-dropping classic, Happiness, reintroduced us to the three sisters central to the original story - in a post-September 11, suburban United States. I don't know how Solondz manages to venture into such dark territories while still managing to provoke laughter from audiences. There are many cringeworthy moments, such as the 'have-it-all' mother (who, in Happiness, had her world turned upside down after discovering her psychiatrist husband was a paedophile) arriving home from a first date, filled with excitement and hope for a future with her new beau, discussing how it went with her own young son, telling him - with barely-contained enthusiasm - that he had made her "wet". Thankfully, the boy didn't yet realise what this meant and, upon finishing her rapturous spiel about the date, he asked "Are you still wet, Mom?" And there was also the discussion with the same son after he asks "Mom, what is a paedophile?" Priceless. But don't let what I've given away put you off. This film maker is hardly condoning such perversions. Alternatively, he has somehow carved a path through all the hysteria, and found an avenue for comedy there. Solondz displays an amazing understanding of dysfunction - in all its flavours - and the lives of the lonely and misunderstood (or just plain sociopathic) deftly - with humour, empathy and maturity - without making value judgments. Isn't this the role of storytellers anyway? He is known as a controversial film maker - no doubt because of elements of his subject matter - but one who should be taken much more seriously, in my opinion.

Lemmy was next - a documentary about (and starring) Lemmy, the enigmatic lead singer/bass guitarist of legendary punk/metal band Motorhead. He is a fascinating subject and character and seemingly all-round nice guy. There were good interviewees reflecting on their experiences with him (thankfully Bono wasn't in attendance this time!). The music was also great and I was riveted throughout. However, there was a 'cobbled-together' feel to this film and it was a bit long. About 25 minutes before the end, it seemed to be winding down to a conclusion, but instead jolted us right back in again.

The Runaways was one of the most disappointing films this year - and probably the worst I saw. I had been pumped to see this docu-drama about Joan Jett's '70s glam/punk rock girl band, but for all the attitude the music had, the film focused almost entirely on the exploitation of the girls by manager, Kim Fowley. Admittedly, I hadn't initially realised that the film was based on singer, Cherie Currie's autobiography, which I haven't read. Also, the music - as I remembered it - was much crappier than this sounded and that was a big part of its charm. Basically, the film seemed to be going more for the glamour and melodrama than anything else and was quite carelessly gratuitous in places. I got the feeling that the huge, enraptured audience were more interested in the fact that Kirsten Stewart (as Jett) and Dakota Fanning (as Currie) were the stars - and particularly the scene or two where they kissed and fondled one another.
Four more films left - for pt 3...... coming soon.

Sunday, June 27, 2010

In the meantime......

.....browsing the net for old music that I still respect and love very much, try these gems from the late '70s:

Saturday, June 26, 2010

Film Festival Round-up (pt 1)

10 films in a couple of weeks at the Sydney Film Festival. There were some surprises and disappointments. For some reason, I feel compelled to write a bit about this year's lot so, as promised, here's a bit of a round-up of how they came across to me.
First up was Beautiful Darling - a documentary about Candy Darling - glittering figure in New York's '60s bohemia and inspiration to Lou Reed ("Candy came from out of the Island..."), Andy Warhol, Tennessee Williams and Robert Mappelthorpe. Born James Slattery in Long Island, Candy created a star persona that belied an impoverished and often lonely existence. She found fame in Warhol's Flesh (1968) and Women in Revolt (1971), but yearned for the glamour of a Hollywood career. Fellow 'Factory' actors Holly Woodlawn, Jackie Curtis and Penny Arcade are interviewed, as are 'Factory' affiliates Paul Morrissey and Fran Leibowitz. Leibowitz gives the best insights here, but unfortunately Candy was a fairly facile subject for a film and I left the movie with a sense that it hadn't been much more than another exercise in raking over the corpse of the Warhol empire which, despite its significance at the time, just seems more and more vampiric as time moves on. There was too much of this. The film did get me thinking about transexuality and the whole realm of gender identity (and displacement) again though. Also, I suppose Candy (who ended up dying of lymphoma at a young age) would be wrapped to know a film had been made about her. All up, a fairly standard doco, but I wanted more about Candy herself and her struggles with her identity and the recognition of her sexuality. Nice diary excerpts read by Chloe Sevigny and reflections from her devoted and longstanding friend, Jeremiah Newton. This film screened after a great short, Last Address, which simply showed the exteriors of New York apartments of recently-departed NY artists and cultural luminaries, who had succumbed to AIDS. This was simple and powerful in its effect.
Next, was Howl - a docu-drama about Allen Ginsberg, around the time of the publication of his poem of the same name and the subsequent indecency trial it stirred. This was well-handled, with wonderful animation sequences that served to make the words of the poem come alive. Personally, I'd found the poem inpenetrable when I read it. Here, they were reinvigorated and beautiful.
Big surprise was Sex & Drugs & Rock & Roll, a docu-drama about the life story of Ian Dury, the foul-mouthed 70s rocker, who had been infected with polio as a child. I thought this would be so-so, but was most pleasantly surprised. Andy Serkis, in the title role, was completely believable as Dury. On the whole, the film was loud and profane, but nicely put together and it didn't lack complexity and heart. As a subject, Dury proved to be complex, smart and interesting. Very entertaining.
That's it for today. I'll post pt 2 sometime in the next couple of days.

Saturday, June 12, 2010

Film Season

Yes, I've been distracted again - busy with my annual indulgence, the Sydney Film Festival. So many films in such a short period of time, they can tend to blur into one another at times. But it's fun. So far this year, I've seen a bunch of docu-dramas and straight documentaries about music, literary and otherwise fabulous types and some dramas.
I'm thinking that I'll post some reviews this time around, but will do them next week when the festival winds up.
Until then......

Thursday, May 13, 2010

The Animal Inside

I've been reading some fascinating stuff about love in the animal world and how linked it is to madness.
Michel Foucault says it's really the feeling of animality within ourselves which drives us crazy, makes us happy and makes us sad and that this spirit of celebration is so complete in itself.
Also, I read about the relationship that exists between a certain orchid and a bee - the huge wasp of New Guinea. Apparently, the orchid smells like female genitalia (of the wasp), so the bee goes straight at it and makes love to the plant. He rubs his stinger against it. Then the female bee smells his odour and comes and rubs herself in it, in her turn. This is how she is impregnated - through the plant. So strange in that the couple themselves only meet through the plant. How's that for a love story?

For some reason(??), this all reminded me of an old SPK (definitive band from the so-called 'industrial' era) album - 'Zamia Lehmanni - Songs of Byzantine Flowers' - from around 1986 and quite different from some of their more confronting earlier noise music. So to follow up on my last post, here's another 'YouTuber' - In Flagrante Delico from that album.

While thinking about SPK, I found a pretty good spiel describing their work in 'Discogs'. For your information, here it is:
Review by Crijevo Oct 12, 2003
Of most true industrial groups to emerge in the late seventies, SPK (the name abbreviated for various formations), alongside Throbbing Gristle, caused fair share of headaches to standard musical establishment, irrationally attacking those areas where their psycho-medical audio-visual research hurt the most. By exposing all sorts of socio-political deviances, SPK created a wall of noise that despite such disturbing imagery creates an environment where music by all means is stripped down to potential energy, a hybrid, the chaos. From science to ritual, from noise to sophistication, SPK created an impressive body of work, ranging from military/noise merchants to the finest ambiental music collection. Their early catalogue is highly recommended although there should be a warning regarding the listener's hearing range because some sounds are produced at such extreme level which are not that easily absorbed. But these sounds are way ahead of their time and for that we hail to SPK. The Sick, the Sinister, the Socialist, the Sexual, the Splintered, the Situationist, the Sad, the Serial, the Smart.

Friday, May 07, 2010

Words Of Advice

There's nothing like an insightful excerpt from William Burroughs to warm the cockles and help kick-start your day - especially when he's using his own idiosyncratic voice. Here's some very sagely advice that's always worth keeping in the back of one's mind. Btw, the music is by Material, but as to the poster of this 'YouTube' (a 'BaronSCameron') - I have no idea. Enjoy!

Wednesday, April 14, 2010

Your Little Golden Books Never Looked Like This

This painting is by Mark Ryden and is a fairly typical example of his art. I love the way he takes traditional images of innocence from a bygone era - such as sweet little girls in their old-fashioned party dresses, with cute, cuddly toy companions - and turns them into something disturbingly lascivious and kind of nightmarish - sexualising them, albeit in a ridiculous way.
I remember having toys like this. Little fluffy things with rubber faces and big blue eyes. Check out the little elephant.

Thursday, April 08, 2010

Alien World

Should I be afraid to step outside my backdoor?

Wednesday, March 03, 2010

Blog World

Yes, I'm fully aware of it - the months have rolled by and I've posted nothing. Of course, I have a thousand excuses, such as time constraints and distractions, but I have to admit that I basically haven't had anything to say (which might seem a stretch, considering the amount of ranting I do here).
Most other blogs I read are about something - ie they have a theme of some sort. In turn, they appear to be the most popular. In contrast, this blog is about nothing in particular. It's basically a diary - a place where I can note things that spring to mind, post photos or images (my own or otherwise) that convey a theme or my mood and just generally use as an online space for reflection. Wasn't that the idea of 'blogging' in its original form anyway?
I have considered focusing on one of my main interests - electronic music - here, but others - notably, for example, mnml ssgs - do it so much better than I could and focus on the styles and artists that appeal to me the most these days.
In the meantime, I will continue the "when the mood strikes" approach, but will try to be more frequent and spontaneous.