Wednesday, August 29, 2007

comics curmudgeon

I have spent far too much time in the last couple of days reading the Comics Curmudgeon. I have to say it has been a bit addictive. There are a lot of US newspaper comic strips I wasn't very aware of, and which I am enjoying in a sarcastic way as much as I've been enjoying CC's discussion.
There is a link at the right.

Monday, August 27, 2007


My family and I went to Adelaide in the summer of '73. I was entranced by two things: an apparent plethora of 50c pieces (I don't mean people were giving them to me, but that there just seemed to be a lot more of them around. My father must have commented on it or something) and the existence of another brand of icecream aside from (or instead of?) those I knew, Streets, Peters, Pauls (? did that exist yet?) and Toppa (the late, lamented). Yes it was AMSCOL. This ad was in the Loxton historical village, being all historical. I wonder if that makes me more historical than I thought.

what a wice surprise

Thou who knowst me knoweth my obsessions with Mildura's De Garis family and their extraordinary works, lives, deeds. Recently I collaborated on a paper given in Hobart on Lucas and Mary De Garis and their Credit Crusade. Part of this campaign for economic reform was the adoption of two forms of currency in exchange for the present one. One of these currencies was known as Wice, supposedly an old english word for money and also an acronym though I can't remember what for (work, income, cash, exchange? I don't know, but probably not, but that kind of thing). Anyway, imagine my surprise when I go into a Cheap as Chips in Mildura and what do I find? Yes.

There is an added strangeness to this, because on balance all things considered at the end of the day, Lucas De Garis probably was cwackers.

mallee driving

Just imagine this kind of scene for hours and hours. I really like it.

loxton centenary parade

Spent the weekend in north-west Victoria and middle-eastern South Australia (AKA 'Riverland') - all around the Murray. Loxton is dead on the Murray, a small and attractive city 100 km from Mildura. On Saturday it celebrated 100 years with a big parade (and some other things). Highlights are not captured here (highlights for smartarse city slickers was the semiclangers of the lively commentators, my favourite was the bit during the chronologically themed parade where they said, during a lull, 'and it's still the 1950s', which is of course the standard insult directed unto any little town, but hardly fair, so it was really just ironic but my real favourite bit was the guy with the furphy water tank on a trailer who was still circling the main drag an hour after the parade was over - funny!)

Anyway, the parade was teriffic and kudos to everyone. Though I'm sure the politics of such an event are fraught, I reckon there is a real community going on here.

Sunday, August 19, 2007

ivor cutler

I think one of my favourite things about Ivor Cutler is that he drags the joke out.

sorry, another dream

I know it's boring for you. Well, I dreamt that I was reading about a beautiful mid-19th century house in an elevated position in Melbourne's CBD where I had never been before. I was reading this in Mojo. Then I was there with a family that in the dream was I think Mia's family, though they were not really revealed, and we were all part of a Jamie Oliver TV show in which we visited a fairly low-key zoo. I think the zoo might have been a tourist attraction attached to the C19 house.

In my dream, every Jamie Oliver show featured a practical joke at the end. In this case the joke was for Bela, while asleep, to have an enormous vampire puppet stuck in his throat. So Bela wakes up and he's choking on the one huge tooth of this puppet, and he disgorges it and it's all rolled up and covered in vomity stuff. I give it to a member of the production team to wash and take away ('I'll find you a plastic bag') and I wonder why they hadn't actually filmed the 'joke'.

Saturday, August 18, 2007

parker posey dream

I essentially slept until 3.30 today, though admittedly I did spend a bit of time at Gladdy Park buying groceries. I had a dream that Parker Posey's real name was Park Lane, though she had it changed by deed poll to Percent Lane.

Friday, August 17, 2007

foul cravings

I may have described in this very forum, or just to you when we spoke last week, how earlier in the year I developed a strong craving for Lapsan Souchong tea. In fact it was in this forum because now I recall the wonderful Kathryn Clarke dropped in on me at work with some, having read in the Perth Sunday Times version of this blog (nb that's a joke - an unfunny, meaningless, peculiar joke, unless you laughed) how I had got this unusually strong desire for a beverage I last tasted, and rejected, about 20 years earlier (and which Mia refers to as smelling like burnt wood etc etc). Well, now something worse has happened.

A couple of years ago I purchased from the Pascoe Vale Road Market, a bottle of fermented turnip juice, on the basis that I could not imagine what it would be like. It was probably the worst-tasting liquid I have ever tasted apart from a strange homeopathic concoction presented to me by the very delightful naturopath who worked at Russells in Glebe when I worked there in 1985. Anyway, fermented turnip juice tastes, I'm guessing, like the piss of a lower vertebrate from the salt flats - some animal with a lot of salt to flush out, anyway. It must have some kind of medicinal application, or it is just produced on the credo that someone's always ready to taste the most disgusting thing imaginable.

And now I really want some.

Thursday, August 16, 2007

flinders st station penthouse

I like the little window on the top of Flinders St Station. The light is always on. At various times I have seen the silhouette of a man (?) in a turban, an afghan hound, and a hungarian woman, all gazing out into the dazzling furious nightlife below.

Saturday, August 11, 2007

continuing my bastionisation of democracy etc

I will be filling in, as I sometimes do, for Alison on Two to the Valley tomorrow night at 11.30 or maybe it's 11 I can never remember.

(Later: Tracks were Blowfly - Professor Ratbaggy
Short and Sweet - Tony Hatch Orchestra
Disco Beat - Love Cuts Kill
Action - Popolice
Chelsea Kids - La Femme
Looking through the eyes of a beautiful girl - The Strangers
Attack hold release - On
Whirlpool - Some Velvet Sidewalk
I wanna be with you - Mi-sex
There is a plan - Human Six Billion
I Like 'Lectric Motors - Patrick D. Martin
Palm - Possum Moods
Jets - Machinations
Will you? - Sly Hats
Me Japanese Boy - Harper's Bizarre
Memory Lain, Hugh - Caravan
Stalkerbait - The Titanics
Hold Music - Architecture in Helsinki
It's Obvious - Au Pairs
Beggar's Farm - Jethro Tull
Living Dead Blues - Chris Smith)

Friday, August 10, 2007

lively mind

I was trying to write a letter to the Age complaining about... well...

'In his interesting article on Melbourne’s future rail transport options, * * manages to get the details of the city’s defunct rail lines so hopelessly wrong he creates an even greater mess than the truth (no small feat). Three suburban rail lines are conflated in his discussion of the ‘Outer circle lines’, and within the text itself he contradicts himself as to where these ‘lines’ might have run.

'Of course, where these rail lines did and didn’t run is fairly unimportant. Anyone who wants to analyse public transport development in 19th century Melbourne can do so at her or his leisure, though valuable space was wasted that might have been used in discussion why some rail lines do and don’t ‘work’. But once again I am left wondering: if a journalist – and then editors and subeditors – can get a series of facts so wrong, how can I believe The Age when it comes to other subjects outside my field of knowledge?'

...blah blah. How can I prevent myself from wasting my own time on these futile exercises. Ridiculous. Hope you liked it.

state of play

Well, one great thing about today was that it was payday. I have been unfinancial for about a week now a situation partially related to waiting on a massive expenses claim. Which I am still waiting on but in the meantime I got paid for my hard work. I am savouring the moment right now and in fact have no intention of going on a spree unless you count dinner at some inner city hotel this evening to launch a young couple of our acquaintance on one of those international trips they seem to go on every two months, for 6 weeks at a time.

I have to don my flash overalls for a time and do some more digging, as (a) I want the hole to be dug and (2) I don't want those muscles, such as they are, to atrophy.

Fiona Negrin gave me a bunch of old fanzines, including some I did in the 80s, and it's been a really interesting read. I was particularly intrigued by reading a report I had done for someone else's fanzine about my trip to the UK in, I think, about 1990. It was interesting chiefly because I remembered nothing at all about the events related in the piece, though the events themselves were terribly boring (and I've already forgotten what they were - something about an argument I witnessed on a bus between a white woman and a black man, she was accusing him of stealing her sister's money or something). Also a few issues of the long-running Adelaide fanzine DNA which incidentally is still going. Actually, this is weird:

(1) Last week I was directed to a website which sold a few Australian rock books that looked interesting. I realised this was operated by Harry Butler, the editor of DNA
(2) On Wednesday on my way to Korean class I dropped in at Sticky to get the latest issue of Erinsborough exploits and on the top shelf were a bunch of recent issues of DNA
(3) Then I get these fanzines from Fiona and there are three issues of DNA

No offense at all meant to Harry Butler or his excellent publication, but I hadn't thought about him or it for years. Come to think of it how could that not be offensive? Except that if you always thought about everyone you ever met or knew of, you'd need an extra head. I would anyway.

Now I am listening to the La Femme album. I can't remember why I never got this the first time around but it is really, really good except the crappy 'I wanna be your man' which I think we could all do without.

Wednesday, August 08, 2007

making a difference

I have been digging a hole.

Mia dug most of it, fyi, and I have only recently begun paying attention to its form and function. When it is done she will put her studio in it. One might envisage a kind of Ciao Manhattan! kinda thing but no, not like that.

I am unused to physical exertion of any sort aside from furrowing of brow over difficult issues, so this has been a major trauma similar to the intellectuals' apres Cultural Revolution, a ghastly enterprise that I should not be joking about, except the joke is of course primarily against myself, fyi.

The neighbours have got involved by deciding to mow the fuck out of their lawn giving me a mower headache to add to the aches 'n' pains of muscles which never even knew they existed previously. Who would have thought digging would be so tuff. At least I get to do a lot of resting (and I get to wear my new King Gee overalls which were purchased *new* from a Dapto Salvos' and are from the 70s - I know because (1) they are made in Australia and (2) they had a guide for converting imperial to metric on the plastic they came in).

Thursday, August 02, 2007

nsw trip

21 July A very tiring day and more to the point a day of being tired. In fact I have never been so sleepy on the road in my life and probably a danger to everyone. I always think of the opening part of Beetlejuice. There was a moment when I began to think too much of how the signposts on the side of the road were like burnt matches. Anyway after a while I did something else I never thought I’d do, I pulled over and had a powernap. Once I got over anticipating every car that went past crashing into the back of me (and sending us both over the side of the mountain I was parked on) I probably did doze for about ten minutes. It made all the difference, I felt perfectly normal afterwards.

For some reason the only radio I could get was local ABC in Canberra (I never forget their call sign, 666) and once I left Queanbeyan I couldn’t get that either, so I had to listen to CDs. The CDs I listened to were Hot Rollers, Antenna, Kylie, Panel of Judges, Scritti Politti. Thank you all.

Batemans Bay and Ulladulla are, I have to say, a little horrible in a few ways. They are over-commercialised and overbuilt and being more and more overbuilt all the time. Big vacant lots with announcements of forthcoming bullshit facilities no-one needs. Or am I wrong. I felt like I was on the Sunshine Coast or some other place I didn’t particularly want to be. I am sure up till about ten years ago they were the greatest places on earth. One day they may be again.

22 July

It is tinkling down with rain, which is the last thing I needed on a day which was supposed to be all about taking photographs. Hopefully there will be some breaks as I am unlikely to be passing this way again in the near future (unless I absolutely have to).

It’s funny how when you listen to a lot of music on long drives some records are good because they are bugger all to do with anything – they add an extra layer onto your experience and remind you that there’s a whole other world out there – whereas others seem to totally add to the experience.

This is probably partially about your attitude at the particular time which is related to your comfort level in the terrain you’re driving through, and I suppose how attuned you feel to the music (or whatever else it is) you’re listening to. And of course the fact that, since about 1930, we’ve all often experienced that absurd notion that the visuals are very tied to the aurals, even though we know in our heart that most of that (apart from the odd occasional snap on the snare/some young guy clutches his heart) is in our imagination, or rather, our lacks of imagination, since for some reason our poor minds still can’t get totally into the idea that seeing something at the same time you hear it isn’t random.

Earlier this year I ran into Geoff from Sly Hats in the library at Latrobe University and he gave me a copy of his new album. It’s the first Sly Hats album, though it’s really Geoff’s second album because there wouldn’t have been much to last year’s Crayon Fields album without him (as much as the band were spectacularly empathic players). I played ‘n’ liked it but it didn’t bowl me over, I think in part because there is a frisson of sixties LA to the sound that I have heard too much already from real sixties LA people (Beach Boys and other Brian Wilson, Van Dyke Parks, Harpers Bizarre etc etc). But today, driving through and getting lost in Vincentia and looking for Jervis Bay ‘village’, I chucked it on and it all gelled.

I suspect, though I could not be certain, that it is a breakup album, with a measure of post-breakup seduction of the narrator (though he certainly doesn’t object) by others there as well. Geoff has a number of peccadilloes: one revolves around ‘sips’, another seems centred on ‘lips’, and the whole thing takes on a slightly cannibalistic air. [NB later I read in Mess + Noise that Geoff could never write from the heart, according to him - ha!]

There does appear to be a number of different singers on the album (unless Geoff is more versatile than he initially appears) but they do not seem particularly to offer different points of view, rather contribute to the general variety of atmoses, like flicking through one of those books of old logos or patterns for pressed metal ceilings. One song in particular has what sounds like a cinema organ on it, as played by someone who might not have been unfamiliar with Gary Numan’s ‘Are Friends Electric?’ and the work of Storm Thorgeson. And recently I had it in my head under the impression it was some old record only half-remembered, rather than some new record dislodged from context.

In Culburra, which is not exactly the wilds but it is a distant strange semi-suburb south of Nowra, I saw a teen in navy blue tracksuity stuff step achievedly from a 4WD in front of his modest two storey house, in his hands (cover out) the new Harry Potter.

Sun 22

Annabel and I went on field trip through Marrickville – Earlwood – Rockdale – Arncliffe – Ramsgate – etc and I found about three sites out of the 20 or more visited that were really interesting, but that’s OK, as I said (but only realised it was true as I was saying it) to Annabel, it’s as valuable to know what’s there as it is to know it’s useful for the project.

It did not rain very much, and the Sydways was very handy. We had chips at Brighton-Le-Sands which I have to say is a terribly ugly place.

24 July

Yesterday was spent mainly at the SLNSW, which at the moment is a bummer because the Mitchell is closed. They have a temporary Mitchell which is a few tables in a corner of the downstairs part of the regular reference library, and there are huge amounts of stuff that are unavailable (or should I say ‘there is huge…’). I irritated a skinny man with a ratty beard by ripping up my request slips to bookmark pages I wanted to photocopy. I also had massive heartache at the photocopier whereby the only landscape A4 setting automatically converted to something called ‘8K’, which meant the end result was akin to looking through Ned Kelly’s headplate aka from the inside of a letterbox. Like many such situations it’s egregious enough to see it happening, but it is doublegregious to then have to explain it to a librarian when you’re trying to fix it. In the end it was unfixable.

A short time ago (it is 5.47 am) I awoke from a dream wherein I was reading to my brother Michael from an old American examination on road standards, I suppose from a surveyor’s qualifying exam or something. Question one was something about road surfacing or correct qualities or something. The second and third part of the exam read: ‘What gives? Haves; gives?’

I saw four beagles yesterday walking around in Alexandria. Four separate beagles! When I told Mia this on the phone she said well, they are a popular breed which is true (though I noticed last week that the generic Safeway brand of tinned dog ‘meat’ had stopped using beagles on the label) but at least one of them was quite old. I didn’t do what I once would have done, run up and enthused to the owners about the benefits of a beagle, because I now realise that is strange behaviour. Except maybe in the general Jacana region.

28 July 07 The last few days have been workwise a time of diminishing returns. I seem to end each day more exhausted and yet having actually covered less ground. The weather has been quite pleasant by and large. I think the most productive day was probably 25 July at which time I went to Bankstown and found some lovely remnants of vintage old progressive Bankstown including some very pleasant mosaic work on the side of a shop and (though the photograph totally does not do it justice) a Dickens meets Dr Caligari rear view of shops/flats from probably the 70s. In main street Bankstown.

My irritation with Sydney peaked at a certain point when I was in amongst the appalling drivers, terrible roads (complete lack of street signs etc) but I reconciled after a time and now feel accepting. I realise I will never know the Victoria I left again, as Bracksy and Thwaitesy will both be ‘gone’ by the time I arrive, though I did always quite like Brumby, but I would have liked a chance to know I would never see Bracks’ Victoria again. Never mind. This is one of the reasons why I refute the idea of ‘changing the course of history’, as though history was a pipeline that continues to deliver the same stuff until someone makes an impact. You know.

30 July 07

Amanda’s party was a blast, a small affair dotted with celebrities and friends (same thing) from long ago in equal measure. I was pretty impressed with the enormous amount of alcohol but amazed by the fact that quite a bit of it remained afterwards. Amanda and Greg have these amazing cats, who I enjoyed very much. The party went very quickly, considering we went to bed at either 4.15 or 3.15 (accounts differ). The Lighthouse Keepers played which was a rare occurrence and went well, though of course I know there were songs they should have done that they didn’t. At least they did do ‘Power Ring’ and ‘Wheels across the desert’, and ‘A time of evil’ so it’s all good. Annabel’s poetic tribute to Amanda was another highlight and not only was the work itself magnificent but the delivery (entirely from memory) a great achievement.

Mia came down for the night and so we saw each other for the first time in a week (we are not that used to being apart) but then she was gone the next morning (that was yesterday) so it has been an interesting slow reintroduction, as I will be back in Mel tonight.

Today I have driven across a substantial part of Australia, from Sydney to Canberra via Nowra/Princes Highway. I had a devious plan to take a short cut called Wandean road from Wandandia to Braidwood, which was a bit risky as it was marked on the map as unsealed. I thought this was an OK risk as it would be interesting and even if it took twice as long (which it surely wouldn’t), every part of my being was against going so far south as Batemans Bay again, particularly since it’s shit anyway, but also because it seems so far out of the way. Except they were doing roadwork in the road at Wandandia and I couldn’t find Wandean road. Finally after a couple of times back and forth I did find it, and got on it, and thought, hmm, this is OK – a few potholes but I can handle this. then it started to get kind of gravel. Which didn’t seem that great but I figured it would probably settle down. Then about 1 km from the Princes Highway it turned into an orange nightmare covered in huge rocks. I didn’t photograph it as I couldn’t imagine myself ever feeling sufficiently unpissed off to blog politely about it. I had to turn around and come back. What with missing the road a couple of times and so on I had probably wasted an hour, AND I had to go to Batemans Bastard Bay. I grinned and bore it. What I wasn’t expecting hours later when I got out of Braidwood was seeing the other end of Wandean Road – it looked so gloriously beautifully made you wouldn’t want to drive on it for fear of messing up its tarmac. I hope, in case I ever have to drive between Nowra and Braidwood again, that somewhere between those two towns there is a little person with a steamroller or whatever it is they use, asphalting Wandean Road into submission like a mother.

As I write I am in Bungendore which is nice enough though holds no real excitement for me. But I was told by a girl called Skye (true, but so what) at Qantas that my plane from Canberra airport is leaving an hour later than it should be, because of a ‘disrupt’. (Probably itself due to a disruption). So I have to cool my heels in Bungendore – or somewhere, anyway – until I can take off. Geez!

Listening today was: Architecture in Helsinki, Powderfinger, The Titanics. The Titanics was a surprise pleasure, particularly the song ‘Stalkerbait’ which occurred to me a short time ago might be some kind of joke about Spiderbait, but what’s the joke? Also, a bit of Radio National. Thanks everyone!

Wednesday, August 01, 2007

sunset 10k from Queanbeyan

My diary of recent NSW travels, inc. an extensive but frankly incomplete rumination on the Sly Hats album, to follow.