Sunday, July 30, 2006

Greetings from Manuka

If you don’t know Canberra (I can’t say I really KNOW Canberra but I am acquainted) you will know Manuka is kind of the Toorak Road Toorak or at a pinch the Oxford St Paddington – or perhaps more the Edgecliff? of Canberra, and today – the 28th July 2006 – it just looks groovy, like a seventies’ architect’s drawing, with a few little ironies thrown in the way architects did in those days. I don’t know if I’ve seen too many Marion Mahony Griffin tree drawings/Canberra drawings/ Canberra tree drawings (could that be possible) or if it’s real but so often in Canberra your whole landscape seems to be bisected by trees that leap out of the picture.

I am not sure but I believe Manuka is some kind of New Zealand plant and its usage as a place name here connects to the assumption of those who named Canberra that New Zealand would eventually get it together and become a state/states of Australia. That said I remember reading a federation parliamentarian’s musings from early in the C20 that he’d just heard New Guinea was going to become a state; what happened to that idea? And why isn’t nothing named after PNG around here? Maybe it is and I don’t know. I don’t know nothing about PNG. Imagine how my world as an Australian urban historian would be upset if Australia ever did expand its borders. I would have to gorge myself on more useless facts on the new territory. Life would become unbearable.

I shifted hotels today. The old hotel was a crock, it was something I booked at the last minute and it stunk, I won’t mention its name but it was just foul, in the middle of – not nowhere but certainly a backstreet and it just had nothing going for it, man. It was built the previous week to a plan based on the palace of Versailles but you will be pleased to hear the bed still had one of those upholstered bedheads glued – alright, it might have been screwed – to the wall. Ridiculous!!! I didn’t use ANYTHING from the minibar, I didn’t even use the phone because I didn’t want to have to sign some stupid credit card receipt for 70c worth of phone calls and bugger them all. I have high hopes for the new hotel – the Brassey – it looks fabulous and it’s very close to Manuka.

My plan today (it’s 11:06 at this juncture) is to spend the afternoon at the Australian National Library, which is so fucking fantastic I am love of it, and do some photocopying and stuff and just basically follow my dreams, and then in the evening maybe do some shopping like buying Kathryn Clarke a 41st birthday present, something tres Canberran, and a Fred Perry tracksuit top for my partner, if I can find one, and of course I will drop in to Fletcher Jones and just say hi, I can’t imagine anything more wonderful than a Fletcher Jones store in Canberra, I would write a poem about it if John Tranter hadn’t already come up with that great line about frosty hockey sticks.


Saturday – I had an interesting chat with Saul a few days ago about how when I come to Canberra I always think ‘oh, that could only happen in Canberra’ (thinking particularly of being asked by someone in an office if I knew where the little boy’s room was) but as he said, and I agreed, it’s probably more about being outside your usual social situation anyway.

So, that said, I don’t want to dis Canberrans per se, or praise them even, for rare events that probably aren’t typical. But it was hilarious to me to have the following demonstrations of egalitarianism in the service industry in Canberra:

1. I was in a café this afternoon looking at a menu and was asked if I wanted anything to drink. As I was turning to the drinks page of the menu the woman serving me said ‘we only have apple juice, orange juice and coffees’. I said ‘Do you have any…’ and she said ‘NO!!! WE ONLY HAVE APPLE JUICE, ORANGE JUICE AND COFFEES’. That was funny enough. But then (2.) at the airport when I asked for some tea without milk and was given it with milk, I said ‘I asked for this without milk’ and the girl (as she was) said ‘That’s OK’. Like, bonus I wasn’t being charged for it! Man I love Canberra for this and many other reasons.

Ainslie was a suburb I have never really seen before and it looks simply superb; I imagine (too lazy to check – sorry) that it is part of the Griffin plan – oh, it must be, because all the houses look late 20s and they’re pretty sumptuous. I mean, the more new monster houses are built, the more you appreciate small houses, and these ones are pretty beautiful, I wish I had some pictures but I ran out of film and was too mean to buy more, though come to think of it I did have my mobile which let’s face it is where all but about two of the images on this blog have come from, so what was I, or wasn’t I, thinkin’? I was dazzled by Ainslie. Ah yes, they say, Ainslie does that to you. It makes you forget your cares, obligations, responsibilities…

I am glad to be back in Mel, but I have such a soft spot for Can, I am very uncertain why but one thing I do know is that anyone who has lived there for any period of time will tell me for free that you can’t feel that friendly towards it if you’ve actually lived there.

Tuesday, July 25, 2006

100 things you probably already deduced about me

1. The first novel I ever read was George by Agnes Sligh Turnbull. I was 6 or 7
2. I didn’t learn to drive till I was 35
3. I was a gonzo journalist at 16 when I took up a career graffitiing trains late at night so I could write an essay about it for English.
4. I have toured the US four times with three different bands
5. I was once the features editor for Smash Hits
6. The first time I saw colour television (in 1974) I told my dad I could watch anything at all on television as long as it was in colour
7. I am married to an artist
8. Our house is filled with beagle paraphernalia – none of which we purchased ourselves, except the beagle-shaped handbag I bought Mia at the Royal Melbourne Show
9. I was playing drums for ten years before I learnt to do a kick drum beat other than just bang-bang-bang-bang (sorry for the jargon).
10. I really love going to the Royal Melbourne Show
11. I believe everything Fran Gibson tells me.
12. The writer who has most influenced my own approach to writing is George Orwell.
13. My favourite ever film is Make Mine Mink. It was made in 1960 and stars Terry-Thomas, Hattie Jacques, Athene Seyler, Elspeth Duxbury and Kenneth Williams has a one-scene cameo (probably not really a cameo as he wasn’t a star then). It is about a group of cohabiting middle-aged-to-elderly upper middle class people who start stealing mink coats (hence the title) for the thrill of it, donating the proceeds to charity. You will be surprised to hear that some of the humour is a little outdated. I read somewhere that there was an American remake where they all die at the end and go to heaven. I hope never to see that.
14. My favourite record of all time is Soldier Talk by the Red Crayola. I can’t see that will ever change, it’s been that way since 1982. Runners up include Mayo Thompson’s Corky’s Debt to His Father, The Laughing Clowns’ Mr Uddich Smuddich, Myrth’s Myrth, Troyka’s Troyka, The Human League’s Travelogue, We Ragazzi’s Wolves with Pretty Lips and New Estate’s Is it Real.
15. The only time I haven’t voted Labor since I was old enough to vote was a time when I voted for someone who appeared more left wing. I now regret it, because I was so uninformed.
16. My favourite TV show is It’s Garry Shandling’s Show. I still laugh remembering bits of that program.
17. I can’t do crosswords or sudoku but frankly I consider them a waste of time
18. I forget appropriate words under stress. This makes my public speaking a little odd and of course more stressful.
19. I have lived in Melbourne a total of 28 years out of 41. The other time was spent in Sydney, and a total of 1½ years in Britain for some reason.
20. I had a ticket to see the last show the Birthday Party played but left before they came on because the scene was shit.
21. My PhD thesis was about the promotion of town planning, plans and planners in interwar Australia. I have recently been urged to make it into a book and may try, yet again, to do so.
22. As a child I was way into early 20th century comic strips like Krazy Kat, the Katzenjammer Kids, The Yellow Kid, And Her Name was Maud! and so on.
23. I really need to have good socks on to have a good day.
24. I much, much prefer Mighty Mite to Vegemite. In fact Vegemite is my least favourite mite.
25. I was raised an atheist
26. I’m usually pretty impressed by celebrity if it’s someone I’ve actually heard of.
27. Many people believe me to be rude when they first meet me. Who knows why. I’m just trés cool I suppose.
28. Like my paternal grandfather, now deceased, I am a hoarder and I am impractical around the house. We also both served in World War 2.
29. I have been a vegetarian since about a week after I turned 18 thanks largely to a girl called Oonagh who talked me into it and who I never saw again.
30. I lost my first wedding ring in the Indian Ocean a few months after getting married.
31. I am partial to felafel
32. I like hot foods.
33. I would not want to live in any other country aside from Australia though New Zealand and perhaps some eastern European countries hold some attractions (but I’ve never been to eastern Europe)
34. I like to draw
35. I have been a participant in the recording of 22 albums, two of which have not been released. Sales of all have been meagre.
36. My only published book to date has been revised once and printed five times, including an Italian translation, and even that wasn't really a success.
37. My next book will be issued later in the year, hopefully. I fully expect it to have no common readership with the first and to sell about twenty copies. I make no royalties so whatever.
38. I am a keen viewer of Neighbours.
39. As a boy I enjoyed the novels of Kurt Vonnegut Jr.
40. I once got in an argument with Wendy James about whether Transvision Vamp’s record company would let them release an album of Gregorian chants or not. She said they would, by the 8th album (they only released three, two if you don't count the one that wasn't released).
41. I have been known to annoy the hell out of my spouse but that’s marriage (unto me) I suppose
42. I ran out of things I wanted to say about myself about 20 things back.
43. I am pretty squeamish
44. I went to Monash University for six months in 1983 and dropped out because I didn’t think it was relevant. Ha! Ha!
45. I am a good hater, and hate about four people. One of these people I have hated for 31 years and still hate him very strongly. My hate did not abate when I heard he had lost an arm, and nor did I grow reflective about it when I discovered this rumour was not true. I feel I have every right to hate this person (and the others) and will continue to do so. I do not become consumed.
46. I am a light sleeper, in that I will wake up at the slightest sound, but I will also go back to sleep if another sound does not soon follow. Like a dog.
47. My parents separated when I was 14 or so and divorced about five years later probably
48 I have five brothers and sisters: a brother, a sister, two half-sisters, and my half-sisters’ half-sister.
49. There is an absurd symmetry to my parents and their siblings, however. My father has one older brother, my mother has one younger sister. My father’s brother has two daughters, my mother’s sister has two sons. I think there is more to it but I can’t remember right now. Maybe that’s good enough.
50. I never liked U2…
51. Meatloaf…
52. Or Elvis Presley.
53. I think the Bee Gees were wonderful, especially in the late 1960s-early 1970s.
54. I love Canberra.
55. I think Throbbing Gristle’s ‘Something Came Over Me’ is incredibly clever.
56. As a child I did not want to eat.
57. I seriously suggested painting our floorboards black.
58. I have seen every Woody Allen film except the most recent one – and that has always been the case since Interiors.
59. I don’t much like staying up late and as I age I find it harder to stay awake. I do like getting up early.
60. I really can’t stand 4WDs, smoking and right-wingers, probably in that order.
61. My parents argued for a long time about what to call me and so I had no name in April 1965. The name they finally opted for was the most popular one for boys in Australia in almost every year of the 1960s.
62. I can’t drink alcoholic lemonade – it pains me. Fortunately they probably don’t make it any more.
63. I don’t suffer fools gladly, but it’s alright because I do suffer them.
64. I have three nieces and two nephews, and I don’t see enough of any of them for my liking.
65. The three greatest pop songs ever, in my opinion, are ‘All You Want to do is Dance’, ’18 with a Bullet’ and ‘Hey St Peter’.
66. If I could learn another language, I would choose Korean.
67. If I could learn two languages, the second would be German which I studied a little in the late 70s.
68. I think Robert Crumb is a total genius. Though he probably corrupted my world view in some respects. And enlightened me in others.
69. I think all recreational drugs should be legalised, but (and because?) their legality or otherwise has no impact on my interest in taking them.
70. I think myself very lucky to have many – though not too many – good friends.
71. My favourite punk groups are either the Saints or Subway Sect
72. An adage I adhere to often is ‘near enough is good enough’. I genuinely believe this to be true, in answer to your question, Kathryn Clarke.
73. I am very slightly partly Jewish, and very slightly partly Norwegian (there are Knorpps in there).
74. I am right into railways
75. I love a bit of coconut
76. Todd Rundgren is very important to me
77. I have a lot of old videos
78. I believe in a good spice collection
79. I have been told I can write quite funny
80. I think space travel is completely overrated
81. I have not had a full-time job since 1992, except for a disastrous couple of months at a share registry software firm in 1996.
82. I don’t have much time for mysticism
83. I have seen every episode of Buffy except the third last one
84. I see few flaws in the oeuvre of Dave Graney and Clare Moore
85. I hope never to sail anywhere for a long period of time in a boat, or to climb a sodding mountain.
86. Pornography holds about as much interest for me as sport. i.e. I can force a bit of interest in something most people seem to regard as on par with oxygen because it’s a phenomenon. But I don’t care to indulge.
87. I have some really good shirts, I particularly like the Fletcher Jones ones.
88. For a while there I would get pretty emotional about Elegant Rabbit, but I think I’m in control now.
89. Andy Warhol – don’t care much. Except as a phenomenon.
90. The earliest dream I can remember is when dinosaurs attacked Kew and an old lady wouldn't let me hide in her shop. Probably a dream about being born?
91. Don’t mind rain, don’t like hot weather
92. Polish folk (music)
93. Hate the light fitting in our sitting room.
94. Bad with money, but luckily, could be worse.
95. Poor memory, or did I mention that.
96. Favourite bands of the last, say, ten years (you know – NOW) include New Estate, The Yips, We Ragazzi, Panel of Judges, royalchord, Flywheel etc
97. Mia introduced me to singlets and now I feel naked without
98. When I am trying to think of things, names of silly cartoon characters I have invented come into my head: ‘Cranston Appleby’, ‘Glowus and Buggy’, ‘Bob Cat and Tipper’
99. Re: (86) I am OK with Aussie rules for some reason. Must be something in the water.
100. Never had my wisdom teeth out. Neither did either of my parents (yet).

and here's something I finished earlier...

This is the post I wrote a week ago...

I was drugged: that’s my excuse, however unconvincing. The alternative explanation is ‘I’m incompetent and ridiculous’, and who wants to say that about themselves? I won’t say where I got it but the coffee I had last night just before I did the 3CR fill in made things very strange. It would appear that the show was filled with long empty dead air spaces and me talking 19 to the dozen about everything and even repeating myself. As I drove home I could hear people cheering (not cheering me, I just thought ‘soccer hooligans’) and the lights seemed to go on every time I passed, and I got a bit fixated on things that happened around me – it was mildly trippy, I’m serious. I am not sure that that excuses anything, in fact, I don’t even have an excuse for why I didn’t stop the car and get a taxi home. But the radio show was pretty nuts. The theme was bingles (yet it was filled with bungles – crazy) and the songs played included:

B-52s – ‘Dirty Back Road’
Buzzcocks – ‘Fast Cars’ (it’s the thought that counts)
Adam and the Ants – ‘Cartrouble’ (yep, parts 1 AND 2)
John Foxx – ‘No-one Driving’ AND ‘Burning Car’
Red Crayola – ‘An Opposition Spokesman’
The Necessaries – ‘Driving and Talking at the Same Time’
Don Walker – ‘No Reason’
Paul Evans – ‘Hello this is Joannie’
Little Feat – ‘Truck Stop Gal’
James Reyne – ‘Motor’s Too Fast’ (apostrophe inserted by me)
Alice Cooper – ‘Under My Wheels’
The Specials – ‘Stereotypes’ (yep yep, parts 1 AND 2)

When I got home and Mia told me I had talked constantly I was surprised, though I admit the fact that I had only played 13 songs in an hour and a half should have indicated something (although I suppose Cartrouble and Stereotypes were and are really two songs, also I always start with a palate cleanser of classic ud music to firmly differentiate between the nostalgia show that comes before).

I did get some beautiful looking BBC animal noises records from the record fair last weekend and I had a grand plan to just interject a few grunts and whistles in the middle of various songs. Luckily I had common sense enough to concentrate just on trying to get the proper records played (also, being so vinyl-dependent it would have taken more planning to have a turntable freed up that often). But I still think some happy accidents would have been quite cool. As it was, I cued up the beginning (the trumpet intro) of ‘Stereotypes’ on air during ‘Motor’s too Fast’ thinking the turntable was set to ‘cue’, and it sounded so perfect in the song I thought ‘I’m going to have to mix that into the actual song’, which I had already done without realising it, you understand. So I did it on purpose but presumably I put it on cue when I thought it was going to air.

I was surprised by my ineptitude (at least, I made two or three mistakes and I talked far too much). I mean if I haven’t made this clear (you might be reading this from Carson City, for all I know, and I might have inadvertently given the wrong impression) it was public radio with I’m sure a very very elite – in the nicest possible way – listenership, all of whom seemed forgiving. Still it’s a bit sad when you feel you are innately really really good at something and then you do it and you’re not terrible at it but nor are you really really good.

I ran out of St Johns Wort a couple of days ago and I think I had better grab a little more. I saw on What’s Good For You last night that rosemary tea is very good for your memory. I didn’t know you were having trouble with your memory!

Friday, July 21, 2006

dear diary i'm sorry

... I haven't been giving you much attention lately. In fact, just to make it worse, I have been blogging away quietly on my laptop but I just can't be bothered plugging it in and when I do actually get around to transferring that stuff here it's going to be way out of date.

I have had a sore neck since Wednesday morning, and have been walking a little like a robot. Now I understand why John Foxx wanted to be a machine.

On Wednesday night Mia and I went to Elsternwick to see 10 Canoes and it was amazing and highly recommended. I saw my mother last night and she liked it too.

Wednesday, July 19, 2006

10th anniversary

No salacious or otherwise intimate details forthcoming but it is blogworthy that today is Mia's and my tenth anniversary (of our first date, after which we have been a couple consistently with only one hiccup). It has been a quarter of my life and most definitely the best quarter. For the first date we went on a haphazard trip to Williamstown. Damn! I said I wasn't going to mention anything salacious...

Thursday, July 13, 2006

my homework

My homework was to write the words to a song about Rundle Mall. It was self-set homework but no-one in Ashtray Boy will take me seriously anymore if I don't do it. I have not got past a line about 'daddy of the mall' - which is lame, but true (aren't the best puns?) because it was the first Mall in Australia, I think, although I more than anyone should be well aware that one should never call anything the first anything. Let's say it was the first of its kind in Australia - a section of hitherto busy main street, turned into pedestrian-only walk.

I like Rundle Mall, what little experience I have had of it. It's particularly good after 9pm. When I was in Adelaide for a conference in, I think, 2001, I led a band of conference attendees to a place called something like the Coffee Pot. I wonder if it is still there. The coffee was ghastly but I loved the 60s folkhouse ambience. I also wish I had stronger memories of it. Well, it was five years ago.

Wednesday, July 12, 2006

syd barrett is dead

I don't have truly strong feelings about the death of Syd Barrett, except it's a pity that:

1. He probably had a pretty sad life for the last 35 years
2. His demise meant Roger Waters' ascension
3. When they said 'Syd Barrett' on the radio immediately a picture of Sid James popped into my head
4. Half of 'Piper at the Gates of Dawn' is crap
5. Radio National chose to play 'Shine on you crazy diamond' as tribute to him (Radio National gets almost everything musical wrong except when they give Tim Ritchie his druthers on that really late night show). Of course what they should have played was either:

The TVPs' 'I know where Syd Barrett lives'
Jesus and Mary Chain's 'Vegetable Man'

Or, you know, something by Syd freakin' Barrett.

Sunday, July 09, 2006

and this is tiny greg

Here he is, absolutely minute.
It's amazing he can bash out those full-on power beats

Saturday, July 08, 2006

flywheel show

Here is a picture of tiny Gavin who plays in Flywheel. He is the bass player. I actually took this picture because I wanted to show the world that, despite his big tough talk, Gavin does not always play with his legs apart like a hard rockin' devil dude, but sometimes he puts his little legs together, just like a well-behaved girl. But when I got the picture back from the chemist it dawned on me he is really a very little feller, much much smaller than his bandmates. He's practically elfin.

The Flywheel show was very entertaining, and they sounded superb. Saturday afternoon at the Rob Roy. If you ever get a time machine I recommend you go back and attend.

Thursday, July 06, 2006

Wednesday, July 05, 2006

my favourite icecream

Last night I was re-reading David Collier's book Just the Facts which is one of my favourite comic books (eg as in book compilations of comics). Collier has a few good things to say about nostalgia eg when he parodies Chris Ware's (what Collier sees as) uncritical nostalgia by making him star of a strip where, by aid of a time machine, Ware is sent back to the 1920s and goes around collecting everything he sees forever, and is of course unable to throw anything away.

I have a strong sentimental feeling about the Toppa icecream company (pic is the Toppa display at the Melbourne Show in 1954 - I'm not in it) I suppose because it was a whole culture (as much as I understood culture in 1970) that disappeared apparently overnight. I have a nostalgic feeling for all kinds of no-longer-available icecreams actually, presumably because that's one thing I absolutely know without a doubt I will never experience again, unless I get that special dementia Oliver Sacks wrote about.

Tuesday, July 04, 2006

creeping scourge

I wanted incidentally to add some text to the picture below (let your yeah...) because the way it is it looks like some kind of 'magic happens' pixie wish picture, but every time I tried I deleted the picture, so I guess I am stuck with it the way it is. Luckily I can't remember what I wanted to say.

The creeping scourge I'm thinking of is not the badness of blogger formatting, but the phrase 'a little bit pregnant'. If we don't nip this bugger in the bud it's going to shape our thinking for the eternal worse. I have heard it used about three times in the last week, once on television, once on radio and once at a nearby table in a cafe when the phrase itself just leapt out of a conversation I had not otherwise been listening to and was accompanied by a whole lot of snide laughter.

The meaning of 'a little bit pregnant', the way most people use it, is essentially that you can't be a little bit pregnant - you either are or you aren't. Fair enough in a sense. It has a mildly sensationalist feel to it and also a slightly ribald tone, I suppose, as well as arguably a subtext of 'stupid women in denial', but essentially it has a meaning unto itself. Except it seems to mean more than that to most people, and this extra meaning reflects our ne0-con world. Most people who use the phrase use it not merely to indicate that pregnancy is a life-affecting condition that needs to be addressed, but that it is more than undeniable: it always results in offspring. See for instance here, this one which is about something I simply do not understand but seems to use the phrase in the way I'm criticising, here, this attractive site, and so on ad nauseam.

As everyone knows, a significant number of pregnancies end in miscarriage, and another significant number are terminated. The women who were at one time 'a little bit pregnant' were actually just that. Being a little bit pregnant is nothing like being a little bit lame, unless you consider them as both being up for treatment, in which case they're somewhat identical. Or am I totally wrong? I hate the phrase anyway and will stop at nothing to see it eradicated.

Monday, July 03, 2006

let your yeah be yeah and your no be no

wouldn't the world be a more beautiful place...

... if everyone told each other their logons and 'PIN numbers'? I mean, really. I am no luddite (though just as Karl Marx would if he were alive today, I rail inchoately [even if that is an inappropriate use of those words] against the faddistic habit of changing approaches and attitudes and angles on e-security every few years apparently just for the sake of it, or for the sake of marketing some new device/process that brings some undeserving someone some new money; and I do this by being chronically unable to remember PINs and similar) but all the numbers and crappy phrases I have to remember just to get through the day make me feel like I am suspended in some matrixist netherworld.

I do not use the same PIN for everything (ooh, he's going to talk about his PIN, this could be a major breach of e-security!!!) but my PINs/logons etc are pretty much a variation on the same theme, which derives from a brief flirtation Mia and I had with a commercial product of the late 90s and which we decided was an easy-to-remember Video Ezy password. I feel I have no option but to use roughly the same password on everything, because otherwise I'd have to write everything down (exceptions are things like frequent flyer passwords, etc which are another branch of nonsense which I do have to write down, because I use them about once every six months and they are different to the usual style because they've been generated by the systems themselves and I can't be bothered changing them because who cares about ripoff frequent flyer crap anyway and why did I even get involved with them?). The way I remember the variations is all about creepy mnemonics that seem to strip one's character to the core and reduce you to the very basest of your being, because you know you have to see yourself as you really are to know your own impulses/leanings. Or does that make no sense. I can't put it in words any other way.

Anyway, I'm just about to change my logons all over the place, I think it's time. I should add the worst thing anyone could do if they gained my logon phrase is besmirch me temporarily - hack into this blog for instance and post some musings on Big Brother. E-banking is not for me, and I always confuse my credit union 'member number' with my old 'staff number'.

I think the point of all the above is to rail inchoately (yes) at the mental strain caused by remembering all these numbers and words and combinations of the two. I know it was harder in the old days, when everyone had to remember the entire bible and whether they were Catholic or Protestant.

the fortysomething's heart sinks

When you hear what you think are the opening moments of 'Town Called Malice' in Gladstone Park Safeway and then it turns out to be Phil Collins' 'You Can't Hurry Love'.

Sunday, July 02, 2006