Friday, March 28, 2008


Yes I have been tearing my hair out over a conference paper and a journal article I have been trying to write the two simultaneously... bad idea I hear you say well, god gave us two hands or most of us anyway and it would be a sin not to. Also He gave us three computers so where do you get off.

The conference paper is finally coming together...

Friday, March 21, 2008


Actually looking at Chant No. 1 on youtube it isn't quite as brilliant as I remembered it - it's all too slick - though this clip is pretty good, particularly the bit where he's looking in the mirror, which is probably what they teach you on day one at film school but I'm still impressed. I remembered somehow this morning there's one other Spandoo song I really like, which is 'Confused', a track on their first album, much better than the rest of the tosh on that record but that's not saying much it's good anyway. I am rather surprised that I ever took the time to listen to that album and make any kind of judgement, particularly since, looking at it again on Wikipedia I notice that a la Borat it has that very annoying device in the title banner of using cyrillic Ds as As. Now if you want to talk about crimes against typography, and I know you do, there is one.

Wednesday, March 19, 2008

Spandoos and don'ts

A bummer on the station today was the displeasing sound of Spandau Ballet’s song ‘Gold’. This is just part of the appalling passing show of course and every day the music being played on PT, in supermarkets, cafes, etc is there solely and wholly to remind me that I am a middle-aged person and part of some spending demographic. The only thing worse than hearing shitty songs like ‘Gold’ and ‘Walking on Sunshine’ is, I’m sure, the day when these songs stopped being played in favour of other, later songs I have never heard before, or at least, I heard them but they were not part of my youth so hearing them again I am not reassured about my importance at the world because capitalism no longer needs me to be.

‘Gold’ is a ghastly song, and I am really surprised that market forces believed that people might buy it. The fact that some did, and it apparently still has some currency (no pun intended, because you see gold is not currency) on 19 March 2008, is pretty amazing, because it’s really bad. It’s clunky, proggy and poncy. It prances around like a robot drunk on… argh, I can’t even be bothered. On my hateometer I would say:

the you’re untouchable bit = 8/10
the always believe in your soul bit = 7/10
the sax solo = 9/10
the overall (lack of) rhythm = 5/10 (despite myself I’m impressed by its plodding nature; it seems quite adventurous, to dabble in the possibilities of making a horrible song even more horrible by giving it this extra handicap)
Tony Hadley = 3/10
The breathy repetition of ‘gold!’ bit = 10/10

That’s overall pretty high on the hateometer.

Spandau Ballet (remember when no-one knew how to say their name and said ‘Spandoo’?) had two good songs. One of these, ‘Chant no.1’ was a really, really good song, as the group had the momentary good taste to steal the essence of it from Pigbag (as did The Jam with ‘Precious’ and a bunch of other people probably as well). The only bad thing about ‘Chant no. 1’ is the crappy horn line. The rest is gold! (gold!). The last time I heard this song played in a supermarket was in 1981 when I was courting a young lady who worked part time in Coles New World, Glenferrie Road Hawthorn. 'Chant no. 1' came on the radio and I said, 'I like this song' (or words to that effect). I would still say that.

The other good song, which is really only quite good, is ‘True’. I mean it’s just a pissy ballad but within its confines and boundaries it’s really pretty fine, particularly the oomph Hadley invests in really crapola lines like ‘I bought a ticket to the world but now I’ve come back again’. I suppose the one lyric bit I am impressed about is where he wonders why he finds it hard to write the next line – that’s where he’s really putting his balls out (I once had interaction with a good independent record company person discussing switching my band’s allegiance from another, bad, independent record company to his, and he said that the bad independent record company guy had ‘put his balls out’ in taking my band on, a phrase which had conjured up so many awful thoughts I didn’t really think I could ever use it, but it’s only with brave work like that one line in Spandau Ballet’s ‘True’ that I think I can probably justifiably do so).


Whereas with ‘Gold’ they were just putting their bins out. With lots of copies of ‘Gold’ in it I hope!

PS Your challenge, should you choose to accept...


I saw my ancient friend Vera di Campli san Vito on Monday, we both work in the same place, it was around 6 pm and she asked me why I was walking on that part of campus, and I said I'm going to get and we said it at the same time - 'the 401!' We agreed it was a tremendous innovation (she lives in Seddon so of course she is happy to take advantage of a quicker way to N Melbourne as am I). I said I don't know what I'll do at the end of semester when they stop running it (which I naturally assumed they would as they waited till 1st day of semester to start running it) and she had a little brochure she was using as a bookmark and she said no, look, it will just be a reduced service.

I mean we were like a full-on suckvertisement for public transport, sans mention of mowing anyone's lawn.

Part 2 came yesterday when I was on the 401 and a girl behind me said to her travelling companion, 'this is a great service!' Everyone is happy. I was particularly happy because I had got off my train where I had sat across from a huge man in tight light green pants with an enormous black case/bag/holdall who had been talking to himself with conversational intonations for some time. You know when someone starts talking in public and you think, 'gee I really hope they have just somehow silently answered the phone?' In this case I didn't want to look but ultimately glanced and no, he didn't have one.

And just to make it worse, he was talking in a foreign language.

Then you're on the 401 and you think, maybe he blew us sky-high, we're in heaven and this is it.

PS: The power of the internet, or me in particular, is quite amazing. Two hours after posting the above (or boave, as we say online) I was at N Melbourne and for the first time had to queue to get on the 401. Looks like I'll have to find some new obscurity to champion.

Sunday, March 16, 2008

really arbitrary? probably not

It's one thing to say they're arbitrary, it's another to admit they were actually chosen from a rather large quantity of bizarre slides we keep in our top cupboard. I think they were last used as a slide show component of an early New Estate show four or five years ago. Anyway, the only arbitrary element really is the order they are in here. Most of them we did not take. A couple we did. Where is Mowbray, anyone know? I can't recall.

a reasonably arbitrary selection from our slide collection - 2

a reasonably arbitrary selection from our slide collection - 1

Saturday, March 15, 2008

April and The Mia at April's side fence

NB Aside from being a good pic this post stands as a milestone in April's life I believe as she apparently has stopped, this week, putting 'the' in front of people's names: The Daddy, The Mia etc. The Daddy in question, who has linguist tendencies, told me that definite/indefinite/or no articles in front of names is an issue for many people learning English.

Thursday, March 13, 2008

I am on the 401, a bus route from North Melbourne to my workplace which is basically giving me back 2 ½ hours of life a week and stops me being a clog in the s-bend of the North Melbourne-city loop-Swanston St tram route. Sadly they play commercial radio on this route often, happily not that loud most of the time (though it’s driver’s whim). At the moment we’re being subjected to ‘Walking on sunshine’ by Katrina and the Waves, a song that never had too much value for me, it’s all a bit slight, if Katrina somewhere had a line about ‘what happens to us when we’re dead’ or something in there I might find it more engaging and true to my general concerns. But it does make me think yet again how lucky/clever Kimberley Rew was to write a song which was not exactly the biggest hit on earth but somehow managed the hit song equivalent of low GI, it has just attained some kind of everlasting ability that I and everyone else can’t explain. Possibly a payoff for being a man named Kimberley.

I hope he kept his royalties. I wonder if Denny Laine (nee Brian Something-that-sounds-a-bit-like-Laine) wakes up every morning and kicks himself for selling his share in 'Mull of Kintyre' to Paul McCartney? No, he’s probably over it and for all we know he had his reasons and they still work for him. Nevertheless, how’d you be. If my great uncle dies and leaves me shares in a Paul McCartney song I will lean towards keeping that stake, and I hope it’s ‘Must do something about it’ from Wings at the speed of sound, something I’d be proud to own, knowing my luck it’ll be fuckin’ 'Lady Madonna', or some other song I never liked.

Wednesday, March 12, 2008

Yesterday was the day for loud conversations on public transport. In the morning it was a LOUD discussion of how teens/20s conversant was so drunk (on the weekend, I’m guessing, or some time in the recent past), she was ‘lying vertical to the stairs’ (I’m not sure how that works) and had ‘a huge bruise from my hip to my arse, I’ll show you when I get to school’. Also how, although she had been working in the same job on a Friday evening for 18 months, she forgot last Friday that she had to work. OMG. The man opposite her was wincing at her moronic pronouncements I tried to catch his eye in sympathy but he was wincing too much to want to notice.

On the way back it was a woman probably my age talking to ‘Darl’ – her cockatoo I suppose – regarding ‘are you on this train?’ I mean, really, where would we be without mobile phones? Hamstrung, in limbo, frustrated, unable to talk to people 20 minutes before we see them face-to-face.

Watching Underbelly the last few nights I have been interested to note the one big important way that you can tell the story takes place in the recent past is the size of their mobiles. It must have been hard to pick the right-sized mobile that would have credibility yet not bring forth howls of contempt and derision from the viewing audience. Oh my god, a brick! The guy that plays Carl Williams is tremendous, in fact most of the cast is really good; so nice to see Les Hill back in action after all this time. I am mildly aggrieved by the gratuitous breast shots (not Les’s) which seem terribly 70s but I guess the alternative – discreetly placed sheets etc – might also seem contrived, it’s hard to be sure. I am also not entirely sure what to make of the sex scene in the ecstacy pill kitchen with the embracing couple and the pill press popping out pink tabs – is this a metaphor or just something that happened? The eternal question in all textual analysis (as we used to beseech our long-suffering though not really to be sympathised with literature teacher at the end of high school, why can’t a story just be a story???).

Last night April came over to wreak a bit of jovial havoc, so it’s lucky we love her. The noodle soup Mia made was too spicy (she added two small chillies from the garden, which packed an amazing punch) for a -2 year old, so I made her a bagel with Slovakian plum jam on it which I ended up eating most of, which suited me though I was interested in how you can make a child eat something at least temporarily in small bursts just by showing her that you’re eating it. That has to be primal. Then we went through many funny charades, many of which revolved around picking up things, identifying whose they were and then passing them to that person. I don’t unenjoy this rather safe play, though you do end up with a bit of a pile of ‘your’ stuff before long. I always feel selfconscious playing with a small child, I think because when I was a small child I always felt patronised and let down by adults generally, there was a miscommunication overall. That’s how I remember it anyway. Probably these were only isolated incidents.

The new Verlaines album Potboiler is really, really good. I played it once a week or so ago and liked the music. When April and her parents whatstheirnames came over last night we had it on and it sounded even better. I think the much less provocative/oblique lyrics Graeme Downes produces these days compared with early Verlaines take some getting used to for some of us but on the whole, the thing sounds terrific and third listening will, I suspect, have me totally hooked. Also we played a bit of Fairport Convention beforehand which was probably the best kind of appetiser you could have. Mia is now reading Joe Boyd’s White Bicycles.

I went to the library yesterday for the first time in yonks (I had a big fine there, which I came to realise on facing up to it was much less big than I had thought it would be) and borrowed the life of Jade Hurley (he can’t have it back till I’m finished with it), Barry Crocker, Silverchair (Jeff Apter’s book which came out before Young Modern) and a book by the humorist Tony Martin whose work I have often admired. Martin is an interesting individual in lots of ways and one of those ways is that his humour is (usually or often) subtle and in another country he might be a kind of David Sedaris contemporary, yet for us he works in the mainstream. I suppose in the US, DS works in the mainstream too so what am I talking about. What I mean is Martin – like a lot of people in Australian showbiz – gets away with pretty sophisticated work and does very well in very mainstream areas up against much dumber humour just by not making a big thing of it.

Trip to work this morning (on which I wrote the above) was under an hour door-to-door, which is a good result in my opinion. The only irritant was attempting to buy a ticket in three different places (this is not an exaggeration) and only managing it on the fourth. No skin off my nose though in the final analysis.

PS Later 19/3: I finished reading the Martin book, called Lolly Scramble, and was most impressed. There is a backdrop of, if not tragedy, then something close to it, behind a lot of these somewhat mundane, but humorously told, anecdotes. And I sure identify with Martin's nerdy, fannish inclinations.

Tuesday, March 11, 2008

think calm thoughts

I realise that everyone gets angsty when I get the shits with the world, or connex, which is not of this world and does not belong in it. I have also been having headaches which remind me of the best joke in any Woody Allen film since about 1980, in Everyone says I love you, where it is revealed that the Alex Keaton-type member of the otherwise liberal family was that way because of a brain tumour. Well, a work colleague told me that headaches were going round caused by a virus (I immediately wanted to yell MENENGITIS?!*) but that kind of rallied my antibodies because I wasn't going to have a second virus in the space of two months, and my headache went away (well, I also took Herron). (Then Panadol).

At least there are dogs, cats and fine literature in the world to keep me pacified most of the time. Millie's wound has finally healed so I took her and Charlie to the park last night. Charlie freaked for reasons she could not communicate and she ran to the other side of the road and would not go into the park (then she went home). I put them both back on their leads and took them through the park that way. Charlie's hackles still rose but she suffered to be led. Weird though. I guess it's so long since she's been in our local reserve it smelt strange or something (she's been for walks elsewhere but I've avoided the local because they always end up wading in the creek/lake, and that wouldn't be good for Millie's wound). I also bathed them on Sunday which was very satisfying for me and possibly them too, at least, they love it. Millie particularly likes to be brushed afterwards which apparently is pretty much the epitome of tactile thrills. Charlie on the other hand is terrified of the brush, or so excited by it she can't believe it exists, or whatever, but she runs away. Talk about a rough tough cream puff.

Meanwhile I have just been writing lectures, watching Underbelly with my old lady, wondering what happened to the rye bread with carroway seeds I so enjoy until recently available from Coles, and doing the washing.

* Glad I didn't though as I now realise it is meningitis.

Sunday, March 09, 2008

launceston + still ill + good times-ish

So Mia and I went to Launceston last night. It was good to get away from Connex for a while, I tell you what. But we went because she was shortlisted for the Glover prize, which incidentally is held at Evandale which is much closer to Launceston airport than Launceston is. We went to the prizegiving and then we had some japanese food in Launceston and then to a bar called The Metz which appears to be where the cats hang out. Then we watched Seinfeld in our hotel room (decadentt!) And the next morning we prowled around Launceston a bit (very attractive town, by the way, quite underrated by fools) and then we came back. Then I drove Mia to Golden Plains (her first real rock festa experience) and came back. Then I had a small family gathering to go to and then I went and saw Part Timer and Jon Michell at the Recorded Music Lounge. The last bit of all this looked like this:

Yes, really that blurry because I am still sick and very tired and it's all too much. But I did get home OK.

Thursday, March 06, 2008

connex is shit

So it only took me 3/4 of an hour to get to work this morning starting with the 7:57 express train from Broady and utilising the hot new bus from North Melbourne. Great, huh? It is actually a pretty good time. But it would have been 10 mins less if the express train hadn't stopped for 10 mins about 1/2 a k outside North Melbourne station. What on earth is the point of putting on express trains - which ostensibly inconvenience a few at lesser used stations to the advantage of pushing through a larger amount of passsengers - when in fact all the time saved is squandered just before the end of the journey? The train is still packed, people were left standing, obviously irritated. I used the time wisely to call Connex and complain, I expect a response to my complaint in seven working days, by which time I hope I will be a little less irritated, but the fact remains, there is no reason for this happening, only excuses, and even if the excuse is a baby was asleep on the rail line with its head on a pillow on the track and the Connex employees didn't want to wake it up so they had to be extra careful, that can't always be the reason for delays, and in fact, the only real reason that I would find acceptable is if Connex called me back and said the reason for the delay is we are shit, and even then I wouldn't be happy unless I had it in writing.

Wednesday, March 05, 2008


These are my fellow would-be commuters at Essendon station this morning, waiting for a train that was 15 minutes overdue. People like Connex are into talking about how passengers who buy a ticket pay for passengers who don't, blah blah, which as we all know is a holey theory as all passengers are also subsidised by 'the taxpayer', and in most cases passengers would also be taxpayers anyway, but that's another story. I just wanted to have a little thought time on how much 'productivity' (a bogus notion in this and most other scenarios but handy if you wanna conceptualise) was wasted as 80-100 people were kept waiting on Essendon station for a quarter of an hour beyond the time they had expected (unless they often travel by train) to be there. I accept that some of these people probably weren't going to work (therefore their wasted time is irrelevant; all they have is time to waste) and gee, when you think about it, what if some of them were going somewhere to commit a crime or plant a bomb (also a crime) or kill themselves? In which case it's probably a good thing the train was so late. But for the rest of them, in total you would assume between one and two week's worth of wasted 'productivity'. Except good news, it probably wasn't wasted because they probably just made it up at the end of the working day! So no-one loses out.
And by the way there was no fucking announcement along the lines of Connex apologises for any inconvenience or loss of national productivity caused, unless you are a terrorist or a suicide, in which case, you should offer to mow our lawn. And a naughty lady didn't show her knickers.

don't blame me

I love this kind of thing, by which I mean I fuckin' hate it. It would firstly better read as 'Don't blame me, I am the pillar of an 8-storey building', but even if some Liberal voter had it wrapped round their head with an arrow at the end pointing to their brain, I would like to know what blame, or rather, blame for what (but I don't know how to put that into a grammatical sentence - hopefully you know what I mean) is currently being apportioned to the Rudd government? The apology? Interest rate rises? I really don't blame the present government for those, and the only thing I blamed Howard for in that regard was pretending he could do something about them (and would). Er... Brendan Nelson's 7% approval rating? I suppose that wouldn't be happening if Howard had won the last election. Or at least he probably would have that kind of rating as 'leader', but he wouldn't be one.

Monday, March 03, 2008

when a stranger calls

So someone calls us at just after 4am and hangs up. Of course I am immediately awake, seemingly forever. All possibilities of why someone would call at that time blaring in my head, with the loudest of all: they dialled the wrong number. If I accidentally called the wrong number at 4am - there are probably more people doing that than at 4pm, when you think about it - I would probably just hang up too, and hope that, like us, the person at the other end doesn't know how to figure out how to call back/ find out the number that called. Although I am still tossing that one up. Actually, if I was the kind of person prone to calling people at 4am, any people, I might get my number 'withheld' from caller ID.

I have been bedridden, largely, for the last 3 days. Yesterday I felt really good and tried to do things like vacuuming and then felt like someone with a wearying and nauseating illness really quickly and had to lie down. On the plus side I have had time to do things like read George R Collins and Christiane Crasemann Collins' 1960 book on the 19th century Viennese art historian Camillo Sitte, which I have long wanted to do, and could have done very easily at any time really since only about half of it is readable book (the rest is bibliographies etc). Then I started on their translation of Sitte's Der Stadtebau. (This is a little like watching the director's commentary before watching the film, but in this instance it actually makes it more interesting). According to the Collinses - and I suppose taking them on wholesale unquestioningly is to be as bad as the people they criticise - Sitte's ideas on planning and public space were entirely perverted in a French translation undertaken by one of his disciples just before he died. Sitte, for reasons unclear, approved of the translation entirely, and the Collinses say that not only does a lot of it completely invert the meaning of the original, much of it is a cut-up misch-masch in terms of structure. Also, a lot of the original illustrations were replaced in subsequent editions and most of Sitte's original references to Viennese/ German-speaking area places and spaces were swapped with French examples. This French translation, for some reason, served as the basis for the much-delayed English translation 40 years after Sitte's death. Until the Collinses came along and apparently rectified it all.

It is amazing to think such things happen, though they happen all the time naturally. Sitte's text is known as one of the founding monographs (apparently written in 17 nights of furious labour!) of modern town planning, and presumably those of his ideas which took hold did so through British and other European planners and planning advocates who read him in the original - apparently Raymond Unwin was one of these, and it would appear (or at least many believe) Sitte meant a lot to Unwin when it came to the built form of Hampstead Garden Suburb, for instance. According to the Collinses, anyone who was looking for Sitte's ideas in anything but the original German work during the time at which he was held to be most 'influential' (a word which makes me grit my teeth) would find only an unusual bastardisation of them in most editions.

Since I haven't read all of the Collins' Sitte, I'm not going to go into what these ideas are.

They do make an intriguing, unsourced and unsubstantiated, reference to him being commissioned to prepare plans for Melbourne and Adelaide. By whom, how and why, is my question. I wonder.