Sunday, December 30, 2012

thinking up title takes too much effort

Once again, I'm ill once more. This is the season for hangovers of course but I do not have one. It is just another ridiculous minor illness as Old Testament God (OTG) goes on trying to turn me into some kind of modern day Job with death by a thousand irritating and briefly incapacitating minor ailments.

Yesterday afternoon was quite delightful as we attended a party in Hepburn Springs for my old friend Fiona, who unbelievably is turning 40. As I said to Mia as we left, Fiona is one of the few people we know (I realise this is a slap in the face for almost everyone I know who reads this - oh well) who is simultaneously a lot of fun and no bullshit (this doesn't do her justice if you don't know her, as it might suggest for instance she is some kind of naif, which she isn't). Anyway it was a very nice afternoon I must confess.

I finally watched the first two seasons of The Killing (the original) and while I liked it very much I also have to say that Mia is quite right when she says (after watching 2 1/2 eps) that it is quite contrived. I won't go into detail about the problems I had with it (PM me! No, don't) but I will say this: while I appreciate the different strands/storylines/spheres that are covered over time, I don't think all of these realistically work within the 3 week timeframe, specifically: the political stuff does, the family stuff doesn't. That said, I really enjoyed the characters and performances. Particularly the characters of Meyer and Lund, and also Theis and Pernille. I also - but I would - loved the Copenhagen locations. A city I've never actually seen.

I just checked out Job on w'pedia to make sure he really was OT and he is. W'pedia says he had a daughter called Keren-happuch, a name meaning 'horn of eye-makeup'. That cannot possibly be true, as it is so nonsensical.

Saturday, December 29, 2012

comics at the ngv

Yesterday Shane got into town and he, Mia and I went on a trip to town, firstly to the Botanics to see the corpse flower (55 minute wait in the sun, no thank you, we glanced it through the front door of the greenhouse, it was impressive from afar) and then to two branches of the NGV to see firstly photographs & a short film by Thomas Demand and then photographs by Jeff Wall. But at the main NGV in the foyer they had this arrangement going on. People were being invited, unsupervised or actually generally untutored, to 'draw comics'. 

Here were some of the efforts - just a random few from the top of the pile:

And here's the one I did. You could barely call it 'off the top of my head'. Because really if it had been thirty five years ago I would have done pretty much the same thing.

Sunday, December 23, 2012

butterball lost & found

Butterball spent a long afternoon/evening yesterday stuck under the house next door. He didn't like it. He crammed himself into a space near a vent and meowed pitifully - once he realised this would get attention. He is still very dirty. But pleased to be back.

Monday, December 10, 2012

and to top it off...

it tolls for thee

It was simultaneously depressing (for the reinforcement of the known fact that dogs are slaves to their own - well, pavlovian responses) and hilarious to see Charlie and Barry's routine last night.

A week or more ago, Bela had somehow cast off his collar; it lay next to the front door. When the dogs come in at night - which they always do, for an hour or two at least - Charlie goes to bed almost immediately, presumably half out of agedness/laziness and half out of the desire to find a surveillance/control point in the room. Barry however has a different mode of asserting himself - he trots around and finds things to do, minor annoyances so we tell him off and his existence and importance is reaffirmed. Last night, he found Bela's collar and took it into his bed to chew (it tasted like a cat's neck, presumably).

The ringing of the collar bell immediately got Charlie awake and aware. As far as Charlie was concerned, there was some cat, its bell resonant, just flagrantly and actively present in the room. Barry, unaware of the effect on Charlie (he was facing the opposite direction), continued to harass the bell. Charlie was bolt upright trying to pinpoint the location of what was clearly, to her, a prancing and audacious cat. She got up and went to every possible corner of the room, at each point listening again for the bell, which was persistent but less revealing each time. Finally Barry cottoned on that Charlie was excited about something strange in the room, and both went into sentry mode. They patrolled for some time until Barry got sick of the lack of hard evidence and went back to the collar. At which point Charlie started all over again.

It could have escalated and been even better slapstick but then Barry got sick of what was, surely, a pretty lame chewing exercise and went to sleep. The end. But a good scriptwriter could spin that into something pretty fine I would say.

Sunday, December 09, 2012

bad day

I was looking at posts from 2008 a while ago and wow, they are the halcyon days of this blog. Nothing even remotely as good happens now. There are some real classics there, not just me but the respondents, what a classy bunch. I guess they have all moved on. 

Today was a bad day as I broke the car door and haven't been able to find my keys for about 30 hours now. It occurred to me that perhaps shingles impaired one's cognitive function but I guess I was just looking for a scapegoat. Besides shingles feeds on your anger/angst/discomfort, so you can't let it get to you otherwise it grows. 

Hope you're well. 

Saturday, December 01, 2012

100 reviews #6 Shirl

I seem to be barely able to keep pace with Jeff Apter, the Barbara Cartland of rock bios. Apter’s Shirl has popped out so soon after his contentious (to me) book about Marc Hunter that one would assume he had a secret, except reading the books show it’s no secret: he bashes this shit out, and that’s all.

I wish I was Apter’s friend, or perhaps his mentor. I would love to have had the conversation, having read Shirl in manuscript form, along the lines of:

Jeff: So, mate, waddya think? I reckon I really nailed this one, this, er, ‘Shirl’.
Me: Yeah, Jeff, I read it over the course of a day.
Jeff: Amazing, ‘cos I wrote it over the course of… never mind. Any comments, but?
Me: Jeff, I had a few things I thought you could develop.
Jeff: Aw geez, ‘develop’, ‘things’… that’s all I ever hear from you!
Me: Well, like Louisa Wisselling. That’s an interesting angle.
Jeff: (sigh). Why. Who is that.
Me: I didn’t know she was the first co-host of Shirl’s Neighbourhood. You should have tried to track her down.
Jeff: Look, I put a whole week into the research. What do you want?
Me: She was the Judith Durham replacement in the mid-70s Seekers, they were huge. In a way, she might have had an even bigger music career than Shirl – some sources say that ‘The Sparrow Song’ was their biggest hit, and that group sold 50 million records or more.
Jeff: (looking out the window) Uh
Me: You could have asked her whether she ever talked with Shirl about their respective careers.
Jeff: (looking at his fingers) Uh
Me: You could at very least have mentioned she had a huge music career in the mid-70s, like Shirl. I mean, Shirl had ‘cred’ somehow, at least some of the time, but let’s face it, they were both hacks in their way.
Jeff: Gawd. Alright, I’ll put me Keith Lamb bio on hold for two more days.

What gets me about Apter – as I probably mentioned in my review of his Hunter book – is his lack of curiosity, his ‘straight-down-the-line-ness’. He is a clever horse who puts on the blinkers to get to his destination faster. He doesn’t bother to seek out Louisa Wisselling or even mention her background (or, apparently, even type her name into a search engine). He is very focused on the notion that Shirl gave up rock and roll in the late 70s, to the degree that when he mentions Shirl’s early 80s work with the Party Boys (as a touring lead singer) it’s as an afterthought. It doesn’t fit with the narrative, and so there’s no point in talking to any of the other Party Boys from that tour, and nor is there any point in talking about the actual record they made. I remember Kurt Vonnegut once writing about the plotting of a novel – was it Slaughterhouse 5? Breakfast of Champions? Was it actually part of the narrative of one of those novels, or did he write about it elsewhere? Anyway, his method was to draw different coloured lines, characters’ lives, parallel to each other across a large piece of paper. This is pretty much Apter’s approach. Do not deviate, do not pontificate. Fremantle to Midland, stopping some stations.

It was probably a little painful for Apter to work on Shirl who was – if not a hack – a moneyminded showman (ok, a hack), whereas I suspect he enjoys artists who at least bother to muster a sense of artistic vision. This is not a putdown of Shirl. I like Shirl, I liked him when I was 10 and I like him now, long-dead. I think his honesty about his showbusiness career was refreshing, and on this I think Apter and I agree.

The fact of the matter is the best book on Skyhooks was written by Jenny Brown in 1975, at the height of their infamy (and, as it transpired, just months after the height of their success, unless you count as Shirl might the height of their success as being their lucrative reformation tours of the 1980s). Brown’s is a book that satisfies every requirement a Skyhooks/Shirl afficianado might have except that of historical perspective – it’s of the moment – and detail about Shirl’s working relationship with Louisa Wisseling, because that had not yet happened. There was another Skyhooks book, Jeff Jenkins’, which similarly has good points, though Jenkins like Apter is another ‘rock historian’ who is all rock, no historian.

One of the things Apter can do, for which we should be grateful, is (as was also the case with Hunter) get to the dead man’s relatives, and assure them that while this will be no hagiography… nah, it will be hagiography, pure and simple. So for what it’s worth, the parents and so on will talk to him, and for all I know he lets them approve the MS in draft form (and look, I don’t think there’s anything wrong with that – your informants can validly demand a say in how they, and in this case their loved one, is presented).

To go one step further: Apter basically just doesn’t write the kinds of books that satisfy me. Today I heard on the radio of a Simple Minds – the Church? – Models? I can’t remember, old ‘heritage acts’ event, that’s on next week or something, a completely gross event that makes me want to laugh except it might turn to vomiting. Also today listening to The Now Show on BBC radio 4 there was mention of some racist political party’s website which glamourises the old days of Britain (pre-immigration or something – only there aren’t actually that many people alive now who’d remember that period) as a golden age. It was pointed out that the 'golden age' is just whenever the beholder was young - whenever that was, 20 years ago or 40 years ago. This is why Apter et al bug me. If you believe in the golden age, you have just given up. To my mind, the task of the historian is to put the present into perspective, or as we periodically joke about in my workplace, to ‘show relevance’. It’s not to wrap everything up neatly and take a stroll through it to confirm how great our childhoods were (which – sorry to break this to you – they were not).

So in summary:

  1. This book has a lot of interesting material in it. Frustratingly undeveloped interesting material.
  2. The lack of development is either for a secret reason of the author’s or because he can’t be bothered
  3. It is for people who remember the 70s/80s and think they were great times.
As I so often say – ‘But then, I read it from cover to cover’. That is, I found it compelling. But it’s only half the book it could have been. That possibly says more about the publishing (and nostalgia) industry than it does about Jeff Apter, the cog. 

gentleman's herpes

OK in addition to the cats having all these injuries and inflammations I have my old shingles back. I have absolutely no recollection of when I first got this - maybe a decade ago? But last Sunday I was bitten by something while out on a long walk with the dogs (see where healthy living gets you - !) and over the next day or two it developed into what is technically known as herpes zostex.* It is not very serious (so relax) in fact it only slowly seeped into my consciousness that I had a particular stinging pain (not a rash like on the wikipedia page, which is just wallpapered with gross photographs) down my left side. Even then I was content to be stoic as it was not really destroying my (high) quality of life, but it didn't seem to be getting better, in fact yesterday I think it seemed definitely to be getting worse (headaches etc) so I went to the doctor this morning. He told me if I'd come to him in the first couple of days he could have prescribed something, but back then I was barely conscious of it, so I told him to fuck off  didn't. Anyway it will apparently fade in the next week or so and I will emerge stronger and better for it.

Remember a few months ago I was complaining about a spate of colds etc? Well, I have just been run down since then and I am not making things any more relaxeder for myself, though perhaps after next week it might get a little easier.

*In case you can't be bothered to read the wikipedia page, I couldn't, particularly trying to avoid those pictures, it is not like (um... I think it's called) herpes simplex, it's apparently a hangover from chicken pox, which subsides as an affliction but never leaves you once you get it and can flare up whenever.