Sunday, May 31, 2009


Attended the opening of Kerryn 'Kez' Hughes' exhibition 'Don't let go' at 3rd Drawer Down, 93 George St Fitzroy yesterday. This allowed me not only to see some fine art pieces in the exhibition itself but also to use the event as a base for the record shop up the road and the bookshop down the road (didn't buy anything at either). Did drop in on Dylan Martorell's 'Splintered Guilders' next door at Lamington Drive (89 George)
and marvelled a little at the house across the road which is a 1980s home to the dimensions of an 1880s one. I wonder what it's like inside.

Wednesday, May 27, 2009

on becoming a man

Well I picked up a book called On Becoming a Man today in a rather remarkable Hadfield op shop. It is in beautiful condition, to the degree that I suspect whoever was once given it did not actually read it, or if they did, they respected it immensely. Since the subhead is 'A book for teenage boys', the first five words in the title create the name OBAMA, an extraordinary piece of prediction (though it doesn't explain the rest of the acronym, which reads in full OBAMABFTB) The 20th century Nostradamus responsible is one Harold Shryock, whose name is an anagram for Hard Rocks Holy and Arch Lord Oh Sky.The book has no date (it might be from 1968* but it does not mention the Jefferson Airplane) and though it is American (Shryock was from the College of Medical Evangelists, Loma Linda, CA) it was published in Warburton, outside Melbourne, by a publishing house called Signs. I can picture it now.

By the way, some seem to regard the work as still relevant. This is not my other blog.

I haven't read it from cover to cover, of course I read the section on homosexuality as, being such a mad fag myself, I love to see how we are persecuted (actually it just fell open at that page). I notice that Shryock adheres to the interesting fallacies of the time (he sees gay men as frozen in an emotional state by, for instance, the death of a family member at a sensitive time) but considers a two-step scenario the most likely, wherein a boy is oriented to homosexuality by personal tragedy but only then activated - turned on, if you will - by an exploitative older man. Anyway, Shryock doesn't pull too many punches, except perhaps the punch that, while the book is plainly a Christian book, it doesn't say anywhere that it's a Christian book, until you start reading the fucker.

The pictures are possibly the best bit (since I'll never read it fully I'll never ever know). They are a mixture of oddly posed photographs and strangely but finely painted scenarios.

(By the way is it a syndrome that sparks off songs in your head when you're reminded of them? Because I keep thinking of a ditty 'bout Jack and Joanne. You can't really see the caption, not if you've got eyes like mine, but it's worth clicking on the pictures if that enlarges them. They look strangely more lovely pixilated anyway I think).

This one intrigues me, not just because I believe its central message to be true:

But also because I wonder what the hey this trusted pedagogue has drawn on his board. I mean, really:

It's so easy to laugh at this kind of stuff (I don't mean this picture specifically, but the whole book) that it's almost not funny. I suppose there is a generation or two of people whose knowledge, such as it is, of this sort of cheesy upright western civillisation certitude is derived entirely from retro greeting cards with funny talks balloons. This thing was probably published in my lifetime but I could never have ever looked at a picture like this without simultaneously finding it creepy, possibly funny, eminently defaceable, ridiculous, and standing in some ways for many things it is meant to be entirely the opposite of.

I mean, the world moved on; it doesn't matter particularly. But it does bear some consideration, that this kind of thing - I was almost about to say this kind of garbage, because that just seems so self-evident - represents a universe that is entirely gone now, with a huge amount of evidence left behind, but evidence which is for most of us entirely meaningless. I am not saying people don't still believe in families or America or god or whatever this stuff is supposed to represent, but that the certainty of its moral position and the coccoon-like right places for everyone has been entirely assailed and to my mind destroyed. When I see a picture like this, the endpapers of the book which for some reason I've made really teensy but you can still make it out kind of:

I can only see a phallic building over the back fence, a perverse set of relationships between the women in the picture and the young man in purple, and the whole thing so unutterably fraudulent and sterile, yet fraught with strong and corrupt meaning. None of these people can ever be happy until they cast off their crippling stereotypes. I mean maybe it's just me. Is it just me?

*Actually Father Dave says it is from 1951, which seems more plausible, I saw an edition on eBay dated 1968 however so maybe there was an update to mention Jefferson Airplane.

there's been a death - in the opposite house

Well up the street actually.

almost better (millie update #445)

Millie is occasionally putting weight on her bad foot and though the pad is still not 100% she is clearly almost completely fine. There is a scarline on her foot which I suppose will be pretty much there forever (contrasting with her tumor-removal scar on the other leg very complimentarily) and she refuses to stop chewing and licking the foot, which means she'll probably have the buster collar on for at least another few days. However, the whole thing turned out grouse.
I had to take Charlie to the vet yesterday for an injection. What a wuss! They couldn't hear her heartbeat, she was panting so loudly. She is slightly overweight but she has incredibly good teeth for a 5 1/2 year old. So now you know.

Sunday, May 24, 2009

hot bargain and milk

There is a shop in Bell Street, Preston called Hot Bargain and Milk. I was driving past it so I didn't get a chance to take a picture of it. Luckily about half an hour later I was able to take a picture of this elephant picture on a sack of basmati rice in Pascoe Vale Road Market. Enjoy!

Saturday, May 23, 2009

lunch in the country

What could be more pleasant than lunch in 'the country' (actually a regional city) with a select collection of some of my favourite people: Fran, Hairy, Kylie, Bren, James, Miranda, Felix, Shane. I was going to alphabetise them but instead I kind of went round the table of my mind. The food was delightful, the cake my goodness, the coffee sublime, the music remarkable (hmm... Kings of Leon sound more like U2 than I had anticipated, then in the same song they kind of morph into some kind of odd post-punk thing rather funky, and that new royalchord album christ! And all that mazung Bob Welch music...) I wasn't taking notes so until Hercules Poirot comes and tells me a terrible thing happened that night and wart deed yew tock abeaut, great Belgian accent Hercules if that is your real name, I can only remember the definition of 'piss fit' and discussion of a certain individual and a certain other individual and how one is apparently obsessed with the other, and discussions regarding retirement (good lord!), the concept of how a chocolate cake might 'shit all over' another cake and what form such shit might take and japanese bowing competitions, but I daresay there was a large amount of even quite erudite discussion like what about Felix's drawing a big F for Fran and the like?
One odd thing no doubt the first indication of my impending appalling nervous system disease that will rapidly spread and claim my life in two weeks for now ('look he even joked about it, little imagining the pain') was that at the end of the evening I rose from my seat tripped on a chair leg and fell flat on the ground. I did put a hand out to stop myself I think but essentially I just went down. It was one of those odd things that you think about as it is happening, though not much (come to think of it I had a similar experience on the Calder going up when I saw, too late to do anything about it, that I was about to drive over a pillow; the effect was, actually, minimal). I scraped my knee and that was about it, my beautiful face was untouched. But it was a most interesting experience. I was not at all drunk (one beer all day). Anyway, that was mentioned only as a point of interest it did not at all mar the day (for me at any rate) which was marvellous. What a good idea, let's do it again next weekend.

Wednesday, May 20, 2009

listening to the words

You know how much I like pop music, it's one of my great joys. I first became properly aware of pop music (after being tangentially aware) when my father had a brief re-flirtation with it in the late 1970s. He was in the process of separating from my mother and claimed - not just to me but to others, for I also overheard him saying so - that the emotional experience meant he came to listen to the lyrics of pop songs much more than he had ever done, at least (I imagine) since the early 1960s when he was into folk music, which is not the same thing.

I place this at 1978, but I remember he and I discussing the words to R. and J. Stone's 'We do it', a number three song in 1976 and the 12th best selling record in Australia that year. At the age of 11 I felt I had little insight into the broad and unabashed (and completely unerotic, but that didn't hit me either) celebration of sexual experience. My father thought the song was intensely idiotic and, I imagine, coy and banal. In retrospect, now being older than he was then not that that is crucial, I agree with him.

He also opined that he felt songs about touring (possibly this observation was brought out by Sherbet's August 1978 hit 'Another night on the road') were an example of a lazy songwriter who expected us, the average punter, to care about the angst of being a fairly successful working musician. Once again, this hadn't really occurred to me, though I never had much interest in such subject matter. One song we did agree on the quality of (is that grammar?) was Doug Ashdown's 'Winter in America', and I remember my father repeating a story about this song, that people had criticised Ashdown for writing a song about America when he should have written it about Australia. Regardless, we agreed it was a great record. I think we might have discussed it in the context of the LRB song which starts 'Can you guess where I'm calling from/The Las Vegas Hilton' which I can't remember right now because Spicks and Specks is distracting me.

Anyway for all that, and considering how much I like words- some of my great joys - I don't listen to the words in songs as much as some, and I get them wrong a lot, and I find it boring to read lyric sheets too. I think it might partly be music overload - when I was a boy I had to save weeks to buy an album (and I usually made a dud choice but for some reason didn't give up) and so I had to be pretty intimate with what I had, but now they are too easy to get hold of, and underappreciated except in rare instances. In fact, I find the things I can't make out more compelling than the things I can, which usually seem pretty humdrum. This might explain the recent attraction pop records in foreign languages have held for me. I don't have to listen to the words. But I'm not depressed.

Tuesday, May 19, 2009

what girls are saying near me lately

Very attractive girls (not my type, mind you) handing out vegan booklets on campus. I actually steeled myself to take one because I assumed it was right wing religious literature but I didn't want to deviate from my course. Anyway between the first attractive girl and the second I noticed that the literature was produced by Vegans from Queensland. I said to the second one, 'Why Queensland?' and she said: 'I... have no idea!'

A few hours later a tall young woman walking past me in conversation laugh-says while snapping her fingers to emphasise the weirdness of it, 'Completely Jewish theatre!'

Saturday, May 16, 2009

goin' up the brunswick street

The cost of deviating slightly on the way home from the city to drop in at Brunswick Street Bookstore, Grub St Books, and Polyester, all the while coming slowly and more strongly to believe that in the hopefully fading phase of your viral illness there was actually a meter you were supposed to put money into at the place you parked but you didn't notice it? - $45
The cost of realising that actually there was no meter? Well, priceless, but also you feel like you suddenly have a hundred dollars in free money, which is just a little deceptive.
I purchased a book about activism (for my day job) and the Mum Smokes album/s (for my private use).
Feeling much better today, though dehydrated and dizzy, which is problematic particularly when driving.

pete campbell

Been watching a bit of Mad Men in my illness. Have to say how much I enjoy Vincent Kartheiser as Pete Campbell (and the writing of the Campbell character). Such a perfect combination of arrogance and smarminess, a kind of Eddie Haskell I suppose but not a type of character you see a lot of on television. Kartheiser is brilliant because he always looks like he has six different thoughts running through his mind as well as what he's going to say next - and none of them are at all pleasant.

I was surprised when looking through YouTube for any classic Pete Campbell moments that there was a lot of Pete-Peggy fantasy stuff. Why anyone would be interested in the union of these two is beyond me. He is so delightfully vile. I suppose she is, too, in a way but less so.

cats past

In my illness I had a long conversation with Asha about previous cats I have owned or part-owned. There have been about twelve. Almost none of them lived to old age under my custodianship, though since about half of them disappeared (I got used to this as a child) I can't say for sure that they did not live long lives. I have had about 12 cats, starting with Patch who was my mother's cat when I was born, up till the present Bela and Asha, yan and yin or more like, Satan and a nice cat. I was a cat person until I became a dog person about 15 years ago. Sorry cats. No wonder Asha wanted to escape my blabbing.

Wednesday, May 13, 2009

they are still rhapsodising

...over Millie's recovery at the vet's. Today they were so pleased with how she's healing they wouldn't even take money for a check-up and a 7 1/2 hour stay, on the basis that they love having her there.
At present she is temporarily enjoying the thrill of not having a bucket (aka 'buster collar') on her head, as it means she can lick her front legs and bite her arse. I have to keep an eye on her because I know she's seconds and centimetres away from having a go at her damage. What she hopes to achieve I do not know. Presumably Mother Nature has an approach there.
(seconds later) She went there, so the bucket went back on.
Meanwhile what about me, it isn't fair. By mid-day I felt very ill, on the way home I believed I could smell vomit, though there was none (otherwise) apparent.

real estate, clement freud, pure shit, will it be funny tomorrow..., millie updated

Alright, so I was skiting about being a homeowner before, and that probably is unforgivable, even though my point really was not that I was lucky enough to be able to buy a home, which in any case was only made possible by the generosity of parents and a thirty-year loan of money which, if it plays out in full, will mean paying back that sum about twenty times over, but that I have often grinned and borne jokes about our area and that it has come good as an investment nonetheless – nothing more than that. If I’d been defending Jacana ardently just as a pastime with no vested interest for the last five years, I’d have wanted to make the same point. In fact (as I think I have mentioned here before, or at least by implication) until I first came to Jacana and looked at houses here in 2004, I was actually under the impression that Jacana was the east side of Jacana railway station, when in fact, it’s the west and not even west of the station, kind of north-west. You have to admit the fact that neither the Jacana station nor Jacana Street, which is near it, are in Jacana is a little misleading.

I mean I wouldn’t say we have suffered a lot of gags at the expense of Jacana and who really cares anyway but you probably know what I mean. There is a bit of – er – not schadenfreude but the other thing.

However speaking of schadenfreude Clement Freud died the week before my birthday and I never got to say anything about him bloggingly because Millie had her accident and I didn’t want to think about death. Well, I was very saddened by the death of Clement Freud, whose work I had enjoyed for decades.
When I was a child I had a book by him, actually two short novels in one (but still a book), Grimble and Grimble at Christmas. I enjoyed those. And he was of course the last of the originals on Just a Minute (except for Nicholas Parsons). Up to the end he was extremely amusing, whether he was terribly quick witted (I like to think he was) or relied a little on schtick in his last days is neither here nor there. He also had a marvellous timbre to his voice. The Just a Minutes they repeat on the ABC on Monday mornings are very Clement Freud. I suspect they are from the year after Kenneth Williams’ death, I think they were trying to replace him with Wendy Richard (who of course also recently died) and who keeps complaining when CF does his lists, ''e's listin' again'. I suppose they are all jamming with Jimi Hendrix in heaven now. If Jimi Hendrix has any other reason to wish he hadn’t died it is surely that everyone who gets to heaven gets to jam with him. Clement Freud had a good innings and for some reason, mysteriously (see the link to the JAM blog at right) he said Nicholas Parsons wasn’t allowed to come to his funeral, but he did anyway because Freud's widow thought Parsons had suffered enough.

I just read Stephen Cummings’ book. Stephen probably has written a book’s worth of commentary on this very blog and in fact at least once he tried out a chapter here I think but I have to say, the book is very very good and I enjoyed it greatly, laughing in some places – I would like to say crying in others but I didn’t. But put it this way, I read about four chapters last night which was all I could do because I had work deadlines but this evening, with the pressure off a little, I read the whole rest of it in one sitting. Chronologically it is all over the place (I mean, it doesn’t claim to be chronological; the achronologicality of it is actually a plus) and the sexy bits feel weird but generally speaking – and as much as I liked Don Walker’s very veiled and bleak Shots – it is probably the best memoir by a musician I have read, and I’m counting Dylan’s glib one and even Mick Fleetwood’s, which had long been my favourite. Certainly it is a lot better than Mark E Smith’s Renegade, which I finished reading recently and was frankly quite disappointed by. Well it’s not a competition, as I am always saying, only because I know full well it really is one.

Then when that was finished I watched Pure Shit, which came out on DVD on the weekend and which is everything I had hoped. The one thing I never realised – why not? – is that it’s in colour! The descriptions of this film, which I have wanted to see for so long but never been able to, don’t do it justice, and are also in many other ways deceptive. For instance, I never realised Helen Garner’s involvement was just one scene; but it really is very funny and indeed believable. I will write about this film properly sometime when I’ve absorbed it completely. The package of the DVD is incredibly good – three discs and an explanatory booklet in a fold-out sleeve which is immaculately and lovingly designed – you have to see it to believe it, it’s perfect in every way – one disc is the film (plus commentaries which I haven’t got to yet) another is extras of interviews and a third is the soundtrack music, an audio CD. I am a monster Bert Deling fan, and would love to see Dalmas given the same treatment. Another thing I didn’t realise about Pure Shit was that it was shot by Tom Cowan, whose The Office Picnic is one of my favourite films ever. Oddly, both Pure Shit and the Office Picnic have one feature in common – there is a point at which the action turns to something else happening on a screen, in the firstnamed it is a chat show featuring a drug dependency doctor (played by a goggle-eyed and brilliant as always Max Gillies, god he looks like Murray from Flight of the Conchords here) and in the second it is, if memory serves, a kind of training film.

Funny to get the Stephen Cummings book (which is called Will it be funny tomorrow, Billy?) and Pure Shit on the same day as the book talks about Helen Garner, Martin Armiger of course (who did the PS soundtrack) and in fact even briefly mentions PS itself. Zeitgeist with a 35 year time delay.

You probably read this far hoping for a Millie update. Well, she’s still not walking on the foot, but it’s obviously getting better, at least, it’s looking better every day. She still has to wear the bucket on her head as she will chew it (the foot, not the head or the bucket) assiduously if she gets a chance. But I have every expectation that, when she visits Darren the vet today, he will say it’s still looking very good, etc etc. And I think on balance it is. I wish I could take her for a walk though as I think she is going a bit stir crazy.

Charlie is still bonkers about the whole thing and acting like a freak. A couple of days ago I invited her out for a walk just the two of us, which as you have seen previously she enjoys, yet she steadfastly refused to come to me; she slunk off instead with her tail between her legs as if she was in terrible trouble. It was really quite funny, mainly because at no other time would she give a loose root if she was in trouble or not. Except the time when I’m actually trying to get her to do something she’d really enjoy.

People ask me if Millie’s learnt her lesson. This question reminds me of when we had Millie and Silver, mother and daughter, together. People would say, ‘do you think they know?’ which is actually an interesting question, in one sense, but in another, it’s kind of like, even if they know, why would they care? But in truth, Silver did take a very domineering position over Millie and would occasionally make her toe the line. As far as whether Millie has learnt her lesson – I feel fairly confident in saying she is unlikely to link whatever happened on Johnson Street (we still don’t really know) with her escape from the grim bounds of the backyard where she has everything but the freedom to roam under car wheels and bust her foot. As non-sensible as beagles generally are, Millie has usually been fairly sensible when it comes to cars (whereas Charlie, who has little experience of them, is shit-scared of them). Oh anyway I guess when it comes down to it, no I doubt she’s learnt her lesson. She’d so much do anything for food that she’d even randomly roam around putting herself in mortal danger on the offchance that she might find some accidental food somewhere.

It is interesting, in an unsurprising way, how much I appreciate her more now she’s had a new lease of life. Of course, I have long been a pathetic, lame-arse sook about these dogs and I don’t deny it, but what can I say? To me she is an unusual and important character with all kinds of quirks and depths, and we have a good time together a lot of the time.

Monday, May 11, 2009

a dream goes on forever

bananas with salt

Did I ever tell you that in July 1974 my mother gave us breakfast of cornflakes and chopped banana with salt on top? She thought it was sugar, of course. We all laughed. I still occasionally desire that taste of salted bananas, though I have never been brave enough to try it. Do you think this is a desire to recapture a happy moment, or something else?

Saturday, May 09, 2009

silver sage

There is a cafe in Post Office Place, Glenroy called the Silver Sage. We occasionally ridiculed it from afar because of its strange name and seemingly archaic style, and like a lot of ridicule (from afar in particular) this came from ignorance. Part of the ignorance was, I have to say, invited by SS itself, because if you pass by there in the evening or any other time it's closed, you don't get a very good sense of the fare it offers; you get a sense of a transplanted cafe from Horsham (toasted sandwiches, instant coffee, coke spider, it screams without actually saying as much) with the bench of bad magazines at the front window, and the back wall of the cafe area masking a much older kitchen where god knows what happens. But this morning we went there and it is tops.

The food is not ostentatiously turkish, but that is in fact what it is - or at least that end of the mediterranean. The 'European breakfast', for instance, is (a) oddly labelled 'European', considering it contains olives, cucumber, tomato, fetta and turkish bread,* and (b) there's no b, I summed up the whole thing in (a). The coffee is excellent and the service friendly and remarkably (sorry Glenroy as a whole, all due respect) efficient. We both had European breakfasts, actually, and the olives in particular were grouse - I think perhaps home grown.

Delightfully, the east wall is adorned with artistic pictures of locations in Glenroy, including night shots of the station and the very remarkable library building.

I can't say more, because that's the sum of my Silver Sage experience, but I will say, highly recommended *****.

* Hey I know these are European, they're so European they're European with Wegener on drums, but they're a particular kind of European aren't they, you know what I mean.

Thursday, May 07, 2009

usual beagle dynamics x 1000

As Millie is on the mend - the leg is obviously quite itchy but very sensibly when she is restrained from doing anything about it she seems able to put it out of her small but actually quite orderly mind - she is finding it more and more frustrating to be cooped up inside, where she has to be mainly because she has to keep her wound dry so it continues to 'scab up' and crystallise or whatever other gross terms the vet can come up with. She is 10 but she is a pretty lively 10 (I am not thinking about Bo Derek - stop putting your tawdry sex fantasies onto my dogs). It's not that she doesn't love the idea of sleeping most of the day, it's just that when she's awake she wants to be really awake. It suxs. About this time next week she should be fine to do whatever she wants, apart from busting through the fence and being hit by another car. What I would really like to do at the moment is wash her, as she totally stinks.

Charlie meanwhile has ramped up her anxiousness into full-on antisocial behaviour, monster-puppy basically. Frenziedly ripping things up. It's going to be a gruelling week.

I was lucky enough to get a late birthday present from my inestimably talented and marvellous friend Toby. It is a painting of Charlie and I have to say it captures her angst stunningly.

He didn't ask me to and may even find it embarrassing but I want to tell you you can commission Toby to do a portrait of your pet at a very reasonable price. Have a look at some of the others he's done here. I couldn't imagine a better kind of pet painting. They are beautifully composed but spirited, so they're not tacky or maudlin at all, which I am sure is usually the danger.

Tuesday, May 05, 2009

charlie goes to dallas

Yes, yes, I know, 'Charlie does Dallas' - well I'd prefer not to sexualise my poor six year old if that's OK, even if that's 42 - god, almost my age - in dog years. Charlie and I went for a two-hour walk to Dallas. We wish you'd been with us, as we love spending time with you, but fortunately we took some pictures along the way so you can vicariously experience it.

We set off wagging our tails on a fine-ish Saturday afternoon.

A house on the way to Dallas.

A house on the way to Dallas.

'I am enjoying looking at that house, it's fine.'

A house on the way to Dallas.

A house on the way to Dallas.

The rear of the Dallas shops. They are lively. There is a bookshop, a fruitshop, a really weird bottle shop. And two supermarkets, it's really quite good.

Birds washing in a puddle. Or you think up a caption.

'Quiet please, I am looking at birds washing in a puddle'.

This is a place called Break Point. Who knows what it is.

This is a nissen hut we saw. There are two at the school at Dallas north of the shopping centre.

Time to go home. 'That was tops master, all that remains is for me to crap on the nature strip and you to efficiently scoop it into a ripped-open cigarette packet and carry it for blocks and blocks!'

(And by the way: Just wanted to make sure you noticed on the front page of The Age on the weekend that our area was one of the very few that went up in value over the last year - by conservative estimate Chez Lorraine has appreciated at a rate of about 12 000 a year since we bought it five years ago and unlike most homes in Melbourne has not reduced its value under the GFC.)

milllie update

Good news. Millie is now bandage-free. (Bad news: it looks gross). Fingers crossed she won't need them anymore and she will be fine; the vet said today he expected complete recovery. All agree (all in the profession I mean) she is an extremely lucky dog, inasmuch as she was unlucky to be hit by the car in the first place, but she was lucky thereafter. She sends you her love and has another message: 'please come round and take this stupid plastic thing off my head so I can bite my foot to bits'.