Sunday, September 20, 2015

today was a write off

When you live 18, 415 days as I presently have (since birth), I guess you have to have days that are write-offs and you have to be philofreakin'sophical about them. This morning I set off to take Barry and Ferdie to the Beagle Club of Victoria walk at Gardiner's Creek. We went on Citylink - so, through the tunnel under the Yarra, etc - three mins after getting off the freeway at Warrigal Road, and five minutes before getting to our destination (we were making excellent time, we had twenty minutes to spare) the gauge on the radiator went literally through the roof. I pulled over and waited, then started driving and bingo a minute later it happened again. I pulled into a side street and called RACV. The guy came quite quickly (about 20 mins, after a warning that he might take up to 90). He was great! He quickly deduced it was the water pump, which had packed it in.
Look I am a glass half full person everyone knows it and it accounts for my cheery disposition. I have to be glad (1) the pump didn't pack it in in the tunnel, for instance, or on any part of the freeway. I also have to be glad that (2) when it did pack it in, the head gasket, whatever that is, didn't explode or whatever they do. Etc. 
Anyway basically we had to get the car towed and the picture above is Barry being alpha dog and Ferdie just giving up on ever having fun again, but at least lying down in the shade. Having these two was another issue, because without a car I'd have to get them back to Broady somehow. It was 20 mins walk to Homesglen Station which I was actually willing to do but the RACV man said that I was entitled to a pet taxi (did you know there was such a thing?) and so I said OK, because I like being entitled, and now I suppose that Tony Abbott and Joe Hockey are no longer in power, the age of entitlement is back back back. However, I didn't want to get the pet taxi until the tow truck came, and when the tow truck came (took an hour) that guy said he didn't mind the dogs travelling in the tow truck, so...

that is what happened. They were not exactly thrilled about being in another vehicle, but they managed, except Barry drooled a lot. I didn't want to get drool on the tow truck driver's seats so, me and Barry being pretty close, I took the responsibility to capture his drool in my hand and rub it on his head.
I did that.
I'm going to cut a long story short because that wasn't really even half of what happened. But it's all I have pictures of. And I'm not avoiding telling you anything interesting, it was just a really drawn out process. I did enjoy spending time with Ferdie and Barry though and they were, all things considered, pretty well behaved. It's such a shame we missed the BCOV walk though. I had grand plans to video it etc. But in truth, getting out my half-full glass again, if the water pump was going to pack it in, I'm glad it did it before we got to the walk, rather than after, I'd probably still be waiting there now (at 9:20). Phew.

Thursday, September 17, 2015

lost gem

It’s getting a little warmer in the day-to-day but after a rather spruce weekend it’s grey and rainy again. I have a very ambivalent attitude to warm/hot weather not unlike my attitude to drinking and drunks, bands playing music, and awards ceremonies: a little bit is OK but it’s when it becomes relentless that I can’t take it anymore. So, the beginning of spring is fine by me, even though I know there’s going to be something to endure. But I was pretty sick for quite a long time in those very cold winter days, and at that time I did really wish for a break from the frigidity, so I suppose I should try to be philosophical for once.

I have just been eating bagels all day. At work there is a farmers market on Wednesdays and I bought bagels, some freshly picked lettuce and some goats cheese not unlike brie, and that’s all I’ve eaten. I don’t know if that was a good idea or not or even if it was an idea but just something that happened – but I think there are worse things to experience. I have two bagels left: one rye, one everything. I like both types equally but everything seems very decadent.

This morning, I strung together five chords to make another song, so I am actually literally writing songs. It is so weird after fifty years of not doing this, to be doing it, and I’d recommend it to everyone except that I want to hear your friggin’ amateurish stupid songs about as much as you want to hear mine. When I say songs anyway I just mean tunes. And when I say tunes, I suspect they’re tunes in my head but they may not be in yours. So this morning I strung five chords together, but I could not get the change to the B7 right, which meant every time I went into the chorus I messed up and had to start again, and that affected my confidence, and ultimately I abandoned the attempt. Irritatingly after that I had the tune in my head for ages, but it’s gone now. I think it probably wasn’t good, like I had earlier decided, but that it was just the repetition of trying to play it over and over for an hour or so that got it stuck in my head. I have the chords written down but I won’t be able to remember the structure – probably for the best.

However, playing guitar is really fun and I am not going to stop now. You have been warned.

Monday, September 14, 2015

abandoned opener to book chapter on Neighbours...

...all refs to Mad Men now removed...

During a midyear bout of flu I rediscovered a lapsed subscription to Netflix and the opportunity – so rare in the fractured daily life of an academic – to binge-watch Mad Men’s season 6. I consumed it avidly: it’s a great show, with some spectacular twists and super dialogue.

Yet, I have to say that this program, in which I have invested around 60 hours of passive viewing time since 2007 is, at its core, a soap. Yes, it’s a commentary on past and present, gender roles and media, and its ambience is alluring. But however fine Bob Benson looks in his very impressive suits, or however cunningly aligned this penultimate season is with the shootings of Bobby Kennedy and MLK (as all seasons are mapped across significant events in US history) we are still at least as engaged with Don Draper’s sneaking into his downstairs neighbour’s bed, or for that matter into his former wife Betty’s at a summer camp. The sets look great however much they change – and the Mad Men cast members are rarely seen outdoors – but over prolonged viewing, the show becomes a cavalcade of sexual advances rebuffed or welcomed, of subterfuge and intrigue, and hedging and elision. Mad Men is a ‘quality soap’, but it’s still a soap.

What, then, sets it apart from a more run-of-the-mill, far more workaday series like Neighbours, now in its thirtieth year? No doubt, it is the putative realism of Mad Men, the abovementioned historical accuracy and the social commentary through which the program shows us (or at least, Americans) where they are now, by revealing where they have come from. Neighbours is not historical drama, except in the sense that it has mapped, year after year, changing mores – and then ‘mapped’ in the most lagging, conservative sense, waiting until all other chips have fallen before it dares make an innovative move.

To compare Neighbours and Mad Men (or other longform episodic series, traditionally produced to fill hour-long slots in batches of 12 to 13 a year) is of course to compare forms only superficially similar. Neighbours has no overall arc as Mad Men was always assumed to; there is no end in sight for Neighbours, and for that matter no central character to have endured the program. Stefan Dennis’ Paul Robinson appeared in the first show – in a nappy, no less – but Dennis, and Paul, were absent from the series from 1992 to 2004; Ian Smith’s Harold Bishop and Tom Oliver’s Lou Carpenter both began in the show a few years after its debut – in 1987 and 1988 respectively - but are now only infrequently seen, if at all.  Karl and Susan Kennedy, played by Alan Fletcher and Jackie Woodburne, are ostensibly the long-running ‘parents’ of the show (since 199*), a role consolidated by the 2015 opening credits which see the two standing, arm in arm, in the sac of Ramsay Street before the viewer’s eye is hoist into the sky for a view of the street layout, its radiant houses assembled around the central asphalt. 

...Have to get this finished in a few weeks but Mad Men just got in the way. 

Sunday, September 13, 2015


I can't remember if I mentioned this but I have been taking guitar lessons for the last year or so. I am learning on an electric guitar, an Epiphone, and what can I say, like a number of new skills I have developed over the last few decades I find it has a very agreeable effect on me, when I hit the 'sweet spot'. 
My guitar teacher, Neil, is patient and good-humoured most of the time - a lot more than I would be in his place, I'm sure, although I imagine more likely in this kind of game, where the only real danger is that the student will just quit, it's the first couple of weeks or months when people walk away, but once you've got them for perhaps six or 12 months, they're committed. Which is probably a good thing because then the only way for them to go is forward, although really I have absolutely no idea whether I am capable, only that I am better than I was. Also, that (performance anxiety?) I am far less able to do things under his gaze than I am on my own. But I guess there are a few reasons for that - one is that when I'm alone I can convince myself I'm doing the right things, also that I only really do what interests me when I'm practicing, and also that yes, I find it unnerving to be scrutinised particularly in matters of hand-eye-mind co-ordination. It's amazing when you do things like type all day, and can for instance pick up an apple or pat a dog, that your fingers are actually much less able to place themselves in the right places than you thought they would be. Last Friday I was trying to get my little finger to obey me on the 5th string, and wow, it really wasn't going there. As I said to Neil, perhaps insensitively considering I don't know what his experience is of stroke victims and it was a bit offhanded, I felt like a stroke victim i.e. I was concentrating on simply getting a few random little muscles to do something that it never would have occurred to me would be problematic. 
But, then you get better at these things (never as good as you want to be, but better than you were a few months ago) and you feel great about it. 
I recall how I felt about learning to drive. Before I could drive, I assumed you just turned the car on, made it go and steered. I now appreciate that that is just one thing that's happening while you do all the other things. Well, playing the guitar I suppose apart from anything else makes me appreciate the great skill and ability of all the people around me who I intellectually knew had to have skill to play the guitar and not just play it but get good things out of playing it. I intellectually knew it. But I couldn't really see how it could be so hard and why it wasn't that easy. Now I do. I also know how little I know. 

Wednesday, September 09, 2015

'grabs dick'

So about 25 years ago, when I was about 25, I played drums with Crabstick, which was genuinely an amazingly great band, with more ideas a minute than almost any group you've heard of. i had one or two of the ideas but not many of them. Mainly it was James, Danny and Michael (yes, it was a boy band). Anyway there was a four-song tribute compilation done recently and I was asked to contribute the cover art (and also to give permission for the originals of the songs to be included on the tribute, which it was not within my capacity to do) and I painted this picture and suggested the title 'grabs dick'. IDK.

I have a few copies if you want one.

Monday, September 07, 2015

facebook killed the blogger er... star

It's not like I'm not here for the long haul it's just that fb answers a lot of more immediate needs. I just went down the 'networking' links to the right and saw quite a few had died or disappeared over time. There were some that were still evident but obviously not being used anymore (inc. farewell notices) so I disappeared them all except the ones for which I had special fondness. So weird the indonesian wi fi ads that spring up in their place.
I suppose everything ends. Just noticed.
I do, surprisingly, get a massive amount of traffic on this blog every day, I guess just because in the scheme of things a big heap of writing is going to get caught up in search engines etc, right? I can't imagine any other reason, unless there is a drinking game associated with this magnum opus.
If there is, please have one for me. It's half past two in the morning and I woke up with a start having heard a whole manufactured ZZ Top song in my dream. The song was a lot like Dire Straits' 'Money for Nothing' but it was about a guitar playin' man who was happy living in a beachhouse and eating crabs he caught and he was the best guitar player you ever did hear. It was an awful, awful song.