A new low in self-referentiality

Sunday 29 August 2004

Filler by Proxy: Journey to the Centre of a Mattress

Sunday 29 August 2004

Well, I celebrated the blog’s one week anniversary by going on a three-day bender, which kind of took the edge off the momentum I had going there for a while. I shan’t wallow in the sordid details but I’ve had a killer hangover since waking up this morning all cold and dewy on the verandah of the house my ex-wife used to live in, clutching an empty bottle of Kirov in one hand and a fistful of lipstick-stained cigarette butts in the other.
Because I can’t bothered writing anything I’m just going to do what most blogs do and link to some other web page. With all the attention in Australia focussed on a bunch of spoiled kids in Greece pumping us up with illusions of achievement and self-worth, the story about chess grandmaster Bobby Fischer finally getting arrested hasn’t been discussed all that much. For years he’s been laying low in Japan, passing the time by phoning up talkback radio shows in the Philippines to spout anti-Semitic diatribes, and avoiding deportation to the U.S. where he faces a federal indictment of breaking international trade sanctions, when he took a $3M paycheck for playing a chess match in Yugoslavia in 1992.
One aspect of the story that doesn’t get mentioned is that this isn’t Fischer’s first brush with the law. In 1981 he was detained by police when he refused to identify himself (at the time he was insisting on being called Robert D. James), and later chronicled his ordeal in a pamphlet titled I WAS TORTURED IN THE PASADENA JAILHOUSE! Described as “a bestseller in chess bookshops”, the booklet’s brief chapters include headings such as “Brutally Handcuffed”, “False Arrest”, “Horror Cell”, “Isolation & Torture”, “Sick Cop”, “Police Crimes”, “Sham” and is filled with chilling statements:
This simple statement spilled the beans on the entire police operation and clearly revealed it to be the filthy stinking set up it was.
To say the whole thing stinks and is a frame up and set up is to put it mildly.
I would add that in order to save my life from the freezing cold I would have been fully justified in destroying one or even a thousand of those mattresses, or even destroying the entirety of the prison. If one is allowed to kill in self-defense, how much more should he be allowed to destroy a cheap prison mattress to save his life. Although I reiterate I did not destroy said mattress or anything else in the jailhouse.
And, most tellingly:
At some point the police said, if I wasn’t such an asshole they wouldn’t have arrested me.

No wonder the guy’s reluctant to help police with their inquiries.

“Lurkers support me in email.” The tenth posting anniversary

Tuesday 24 August 2004

In an amazing feat of persistence and stamina I have kept this blog going for one week and ten posts. And the accolades just keep rolling in!
The following endorsements are from genuine unsolicited emails. Names have been removed for the sake of privacy.
“The letters are so small… I can’t read it.” Ms X, Melbourne.
“I… ended up throwing up half an hour later, in the Myers toilets, repeatedly.” Ms Y, Noosa.
“i have been searching for a liable person who can help us secure my father’s wealth deposited in Europe in a security out fit. Our only hope now is in you.” Prince Z, Nigeria.
“Add inches to your penis! hologram obviate” An anonymous wellwisher from China.
It’s underserved praise like this that keeps me going. God bless you all.

Fumbling Towards Nirvana

Tuesday 24 August 2004

I’ve always been a bit out of touch when it comes to popular culture, so perhaps someone can help me on this one. There’s a share house round the corner that’s had a sign up in the front window since April saying “Kurt We Miss You” in lettering constructed from wads of chewed-up toilet paper pressed against the glass. I can understand that on a certain anthropological level, but last week the sign changed to “Sarah We Miss You”. Did I overlook a news report about Sarah McLachlan eating a bullet? Or are the occupants simply expressing their love of Richard Pleasance’s oeuvre?

Jumbled in the Yooralla box: part 1 of a series maybe

Tuesday 24 August 2004

A few years back, just before Christmas, I found a cardboard box full of LPs on the pavement in front of a Yooralla shop, so I took it home. Don’t get all snippy and send me nasty emails about how I’m going to hell for nicking stuff from a charity: this box was in the middle of the pavement beside a pile of discarded crap right underneath a big sign in the Yooralla window saying “This shop will reopen in February so don’t just dump your crap on the pavement, dumbass!” This box was not a charity donation, it was some girl getting even with her boyfriend after a yuletide tiff and if I hadn’t rescued it some drunken tosser wd have kicked it all the way down the street into the path of a truck.
Nevertheless, to assuage any residual pangs of guilt, and because anyone with a website is compelled by law to post bits of their record collection on it, I shall share with you a small and random sampling of the box’s bounty. If anyone can deduce a profile of the box’s previous owner from its contents I wd like to hear your theories. NOTE: The Thurston Potential, besides being my favourite Robert Ludlum novel, is the likelihood that sometime in the next five years the album will be “re-evaluated” (i.e. wildly overpraised) by wankerous fanboys after Thurston Moore* inexplicably professes a liking for it.

Everything You Always Wanted to Hear on the Moog (but were afraid to ask for)
Dig the hip and slightly ribald Woody Allen reference! Yes, it’s just one of many attempts to cash in on the success of Switched On Bach. Back in the late 60s a bunch of musical nerds fell into league with clueless but evil record company executives and churned out platter after platter of this gash, flogging one of the most important developments in electronic music until the word ‘Moog’ turned permanently into a musical term only slightly less respectable than ‘accordion’. The album is credited to “The Mighty Moog, semi-conducted [ha! ha! ha!] by Andrew Kazdin and Thomas Z. Whogivesashit”. Thanks to the miracle of vinyl, side 2 of this puppy is taken up entirely with a Moogified Ravel’s Bolero (insert your own Bo Derek joke here), complete with synthetic applause at the end – a feat of painstaking skill and complete worthlessness to rival synchronised swimming. Total length: a generous 12 minutes. Weren’t LPs wonderful?
Sleeve quote:We think that what you wanted to hear was an album of your favourite works”. The emphasis is theirs, a reminder of the glorious days when naked corporate paternalism was still believed to be an effective sales pitch.
Thurston Potential: 60 to 1. It will be hard to make earnest claims for this stuff so soon after its kitsch value has peaked (remember kids, Switched On Bach ripoff: cool; Switched On Bach itself: not cool) and without seeming like belated logrolling for that Groovebox compilation Grand Royal put out a while back.

The Residents, 13th Anniversary Show – Live in Japan
This is probably the best score in the box because I like The Residents just enough to listen to one of their records but not enough to pay for it. Also it has one of those intricately detailed cover drawings that you really need to have in the 12-inch version to fully appreciate, and because I can’t get wildly excited about the music I don’t mind that it’s on crummy lousy horrid awful vinyl. So it’s a winner on all counts.
Sleeve quote: “Featuring Snakefinger”. Hey, he’s dead now!
Thurston Potential: 120 to 1. Still too famous for being obscure, and in need of rehabilitation after stooping to feed off Silverchair for free publicity.

Ronnie Ronalde, The Yodelling Whistler
An album equalled only by Polka Disco for having the most repellent title ever. It prompts one to speculate on the existence somewhere of an LP called A Very Bagpipe Christmas. Apart from the singing and yodelling, the sleeve notes make a big deal out of his whistling, referring to him with the French title of siffleur (their emphasis) and generally beating up putting your lips together and blowing into some rarefied talent on a level with the Tuvan throat singers. The resulting music (with orchestra conducted by Arturo Steffani) is of a quality that makes you anticipate each song to be followed by a score out of fifty and constructive criticism from Bernard King. At the time of writing there are only four surviving people in Australia who can remember when entertainers cd build a career out of yodelling and whistling.
Sleeve quote: “‘Look out Bing and Frankie’, wrote one enthusiastic American critic, ‘A real singer has come to town, so don’t forget the name.’” Sadly Ronalde’s fame was soon eclipsed by that of the Beatles, a group that cd sing, yodel, whistle, and play the spoons.
Thurston Potential: 40 to 1. There’s an outside chance the Breton nationalists will become flavour of the month soon, but this is more likely to result in every café and bookshop playing some Les Mystères des Siffleurs Vol.II CD than genuine interest in this siffleur manqué.
* Thom Yorke if you’re under 25.

August Drag (low budget version)

Monday 23 August 2004

Speaking of diminished enthusiasm across the general populace of Melbourne in August, the last Bus Gallery opening had more paintings than punters in attendance. Maybe it was another case of August Drag. Maybe it was because there was something else happening that night. Maybe it was because the punters have learned that Bus in winter is the only place in town colder on the inside than the outside. Or maybe it was because Bus never bloody updates their webpage or mails their subscribers any more.

No Go the F-Lo

Monday 23 August 2004

For years now I’ve been bugged by people asking me what I thought of Francisco Lopez’s gig last time he was in Melbourne, and then having them yammer on for half an hour or so about what an amazing performance I missed. So I jumped at the chance to catch him this time at Fortyfive Downstairs. Last time he was playing inside a giant empty sewage backup tank somewhere under Hawthorn; I suspect many of the punters there that night were overwhelmed more by the atmosphere than the music.
Lopez likes performing in total darkness, something about the purity of sonic essence unsullied by extrinsic perturburances or somesuch yaffle. This cd be pretty effective inside an unlit, resonant, subterranean tank, but is less so when you’re sitting in a plastic chair on a creaky wooden floor, and asked to wear a piece of cut-up pantyhose over your eyes so you’re not distracted by the EXIT signs over the doors. He had a four-speaker surround sound set-up, with us sitting around the room in a circle, facing away from him in the centre. The size and shape of the room meant that no-one, except maybe Lopez himself, had the benefit of any spatial design in the sound: everyone was either facing into a speaker directly in front of them, or facing a wall and having to settle for the sound bouncing off it.
The trouble with these spatialised gigs is that it’s so often like going to an Imax movie: impressive technology scratching around for a reason to exist. Inevitably for any piece of electronic music with high production values these days, the majority of it sounded like it was recorded inside a well, with lotsa reverb and profound bass rumblings. I’m not sure if this was meant to impress us of its seriousness and importance, or if what with the dark and everything we were supposed to feel like we really were in a well. A very noisy well, filled with lots of clanking machinery that served no apparent purpose. Occasionally there was the mandatory sound suddenly rushing across the room to remind you there were more than two speakers in the room.
There was one section which did a nice job of creating the impression of sitting in a grassy glade on a hot summer day, but you’d have much more fun doing that for real if you like that sort of thing, and – considering I spent the entirety of last summer holed up in the back bar of a darkened pub knocking back G&Ts until I was insensate – I don’t. Then it was back into the gloom of the techhead’s aural lingua franca, the sonic equivalent, in interest and ubiquity, of sewers in computer games. Really, you can’t win with this stuff: it either sounds like real life only not as interesting, or like the sound design of all those straight-to-video action movies made in the 1980s with a “futuristic” theme, every single one of which has a set with that big fucking industrial fan slowly rotating with a light behind it like in Blade Runner.
The August Drag was again present in the form of benign punters yawning and smiling wanly while thinking fond thoughts of their nice warm beds back home.
Beer: Hahn Premium stubbies, $6.

Exciting performance shot of Lopez in concert.

Not sure about the “great crowds” bit, though

Sunday 22 August 2004

Great crowds at the Olympic games, but not of people.

Diogenes, 4th Century BC. Of course, he actually went to the games to see them for himself, and then bagged the other punters present. I admire that level of commitment to cynicism.
So much for my attempt at topicality. It’s been a big week and I’m off to bed.

Uncharitable thoughts

Wednesday 18 August 2004

Due to some zany mix-up or a drug deal gone wrong at the studio headquarters, Danny Deckchair has been released in cinemas in the U.S. The Onion‘s review begins:
Danny Deckchair‘s title, premise, and Australian origin all serve as a giant warning sign reading “Danger! Wackiness Ahead!” An example of why the phrase “Australian comedy” strikes fear in the hearts of so many discriminating moviegoers…

Just reading this has swung me 100% in support of the Free Trade Agreement, especially if it really will annihilate the Australian film industry as the doomsayers predict. If years of subsidies have reduced Australian culture to such a state of international humiliation that even outward-looking Americans know that Australia = Crap it’s time the film industry was euthanatized. And while we’re at it we may as well take out John Cornell too.
If Australian movies are supposed to be “telling ourselves who we are” and we’re at risk of being swamped by American culture, then I’d rather be a wisecracking cop who doesn’t play by the rules than an Abba-loving transvestite wog who exchanges stilted, unfunny dialogue with my insufferable friends, who each have one irritating quirk instead of a personality and wilfully misunderstand everything I say to get us into hi-la-rious situations before a bunch of slow-witted sheep-shagging cockies teach me to believe in myself. To add insult to injury I’d probably also fall down a lot, accompanied by a wacky sound-effect.
At least it’s better than the days of not so long ago when by law every movie made in Australia had to have horses in it, but there’s still too many people working on Australian film sets whose job is shovelling shit.

Also, I just like saying “Lindt et Sprüngli”

Tuesday 17 August 2004

It was a good day. I discovered the Priceline in town has several aisles containing nothing but Lindt 85% cocoa dark chocolate, marked down to $1.99 each. I love this chocolate, not only because it’s as bitter, black and evil as my heart, but also I’ve finally found a type of chocolate the housemate will not swipe from me and eat. As I type this she’s lying on the floor clutching her stomach and groaning feebly, with little spirals slowly rotating where her eyeballs used to be. Eating a square of this chocolate is like swallowing a box of Cadbury Bournville cocoa, and after half a block of it I start hallucinating I’m bedecked in quetzal feathers, sitting on a throne on top of a pyramid giving a priest the nod to cut out the virgin’s still-beating heart. If anyone wants to find me during the next week I’ll be inside a small fort constructed from 100g blocks of Lindt 85%, eating my way out. And no, you can’t have any.

A square of the Death Chocolate

Paved with good intentions

Tuesday 17 August 2004

I made a rare expedition south of the Yarra on Friday evening. A friend had phoned asking me to meet her down at the ACCA opening. The Melways in my house is too old to include any of Southbank’s features, and instead claims the area is entirely occupied with small bark fishing huts and jute mills. In fact I cross Princes Bridge so rarely that everything after Map 44 may as well be blank paper for doodling and phone numbers, with the addition of the legend “Here Be Monsters” printed in the vicinity of Prahran.
So out of friendship I stumbled through the dark across the trackless field of mud that separates the Yellow Peril from the Red Menace and which I am beginning to suspect is a consciously-designed landscaping feature. The aforementioned friend wasn’t there, and never showed up: it turned out she had a last-minute change of heart and was happily curled up at home in front of a heater and watching Burke’s Backyard. Apparently a lot of people wanted to know how to grow a hedge that night because I’ve never seen the place so empty at an opening. Either that or the August Drag has settled in over Melbourne. The good things about having ACCA relatively empty are (a) you can see people you recognise before they’re right on top of you, and (b) you don’t have to kick people in the ankles to clear a path to the drinks table. ACCA is about the only place around that still has free, albeit hideous, wine and doesn’t demand some form of notarised photographic ID before letting you in.
ACCA contracts a squad of nice young ladies to prevent you bringing your free and hideous wine into the exhibition, so my exposure to the show was limited to what I cd see from the entrance. Besides, the exhibition’s called Cycle Tracks Will Abound in Utopia, which frightened me off because it implies that Utopia will also abound with cyclists: smug, sanctimonious cyclists in shapeless hemp clothing congratulating each other on the fine job they’ve done of making Utopia abound with the corpses of carnivores suspended from gibbets.
From what I cd see, the show contained videos. Lots of videos. I’m sure some of the videos are very, very good but whenever I see one in an art gallery I think “FAILED FILMMAKER” and move on to the nearest artwork that doesn’t expect me to wait around until it’s ready to start for me. Everyone in the videos seemed to be doing something purposeful but uninteresting: a lot of them had subtitles, which meant that either someone had finally realised you can’t hear a bloody thing at these openings, or that they fell into the cultural genre once defined by Patrick Cook as Ethnic Anything. I know that last remark makes me sound like a columnist from the opinion pages of The Australian but look at the curatorial brief in the show’s promotional blurb:
architectural [sic], social planning, migration, industrial relations, politics, economics, environmental activism…

Even if you are an artist who wants to be “relevant”, wd you feel comfortable being seen dancing to a tune called by some government minister’s junior political adviser who’s been asked to draft a discussion paper on The Vision Thing? And you know who those advisers are. Remember when you were in VCA or whatever and met some student politicians, and discovered they were unscrupulous scum who wd stab their mothers in the back if they thought it cd even slightly further their own interests? That’s what those guys are up to today: writing stuff like that.
Anyway, if you want to make the world a better place through your art, good luck to you but there’s something you shd ask yourself. Do you know what will happen if you actually manage to make a successful career out of pursuing these goals? You will end up like Bono. Do you really want this to happen?

Limited potential

Saturday 14 August 2004

The house got sold on the weekend. This is the decaying, double-fronted weatherboard place I’ve been living in for nearly two years now, in the part of North Fitzroy known locally as I-Can’t-Believe-It’s-Not-Brunswick. The house itself was dubbed Miss Havisham’s Barn, on account of it being about a hundred years old and untouched for the last fifty or so: faded, mouldering wallpaper curling off the crumbling plaster walls, floral carpeting with inexplicable bald patches in random locations, wiring and plumbing dating from the time of the Chifley government. The good thing about it is that it’s huge, with enough space to keep away from the mouldy bits, keep a good distance from the housemate when necessary, and avoid contact with the neighbours.
It’s probably for the best that our sometime landlord, Mr Dum, was averse to making any repairs to the house, no matter how essential. Rather than spending money on someone marginally competent he wd attempt to do them himself, with results that wd be comical if we didn’t have to live with them. (He earned the name Mr Dum when we found him trying to fix a broken light switch by jamming an unshielded screwdriver into the wiring, with the mains power still on.)
Mr Dum paid about $400,000 for this place a few years ago and was asking for at least half a million at the auction. The house was described as having three bedrooms: it took us while to figure out that the mystery bedroom is the lean-to out the back which fills with water every time it rains, thanks to Mr Dum’s efforts to block a small leak last year. Cleverly, he picked a day it was pissing down to hold the auction. We were betting he wd hold out for more money and not sell on the day, but apparently Mr Dum needs the cash because he brought his reserve down to $470,000 when it passed in at $457,000: he settled for $463,500.
Thankfully, the new owner wants to renovate, so I can probably stay on for a bit until the housemate’s rellos come through with a spanky new townhouse in Kensington at the end of the year. It also means no bond hassles! (“Yeah, don’t worry about that blood-soaked patch of carpet in your bedroom, it’s all coming up anyway.”) The condition report originally supplied by the agent had every spare millimetre of blank paper on the first page filled with reported breakages, markings and defects; the second page had a large cross through it and an exasperated “HOUSE IS OLD” scrawled across it.
Oh yeah, and someone at the auction left their umbrella behind. Score!