Returning to normal

Tuesday 28 September 2004

I have just fought my way out of a room packed solid with cardboard moving boxes, having survived for the past week on the water leaking out of the disconnected hoses on the washing machine, and the surprisingly copious amount of incinerated breadcrumbs trapped in the bottom of the toaster. The new house is almost functional.
Negative: This place is about half the size of the old house, so there isn’t room to stash all the crap accumulated over the years.
Positive: The new house is fit for human habitation. To give you a brief impression of how grotty the old house was, when moving out I was faced with an ethical dilemma: whether or not to remove the large, friendly snail that had taken residence in the shower cubicle for the past year and had thrived off whatever was growing, or decaying, between the tiles.
Wierdest item found while moving: protractors. In itself, a protractor is not that unusual. But while packing my junk away, I found a total of seven protractors. Not all in the one spot, either: they turned up one by one, stuffed away in the most unlikely of places. God knows where they came from. I haven’t even seen a protractor since high school, and now I suddenly own a collection of them larger than Stephen Hawking’s.
Now, I’m heading up to Newcastle for Electrofringe, so I may or may not write about my exciting adventures up there (hint: the more exciting the adventures, the less likely I am to update this until next week).

Chaos… utter chaos…

Tuesday 21 September 2004

I’m typing this kneeling on the floor with the computer monitor perched unsteadily on a camp stool. My throat, nostrils and lungs are choked with dust stirred up from several years’ worth of books, records and papers cruelly disrupted from their peaceful slumber in piles carefully accumulated around my house. Most of them are now strewn from the verandah to the dunny, half in and half out of a sprawling mausoleum of cardboard boxes. The moving van arrives tomorrow morning.
I didn’t know how long it wd be until I cd get back to posting and checking my mail, and I don’t know now how long it will be until I can locate the computer in the new house among the ocean of worthless detritus I cannot bring myself to throw out. Service will not resume at its normal, intermittent level until further notice.

Update: Phelpsy for PM! (cue laughter)

Wednesday 15 September 2004

Just looked through the Stingers site and found this tasty nugget:

ACTOR BIDS FOR ROLE IN SENATE
STINGERS star Peter Phelps’ next role could be in Canberra — the actor will stand for the Senate in the October 9 election. Phelps will join the Your Voice group, a pro-indigenous political movement established this year. He said he was disillusioned with mainstream political parties. “So I want to give them a bit of a kick in the guts,” Phelps joked yesterday. He was talking tactics in Alphington with other Your Voice members, including founder Richard Frankland. The Aboriginal director, musician and writer said the idea for the party was sparked by the Federal Government’s abolition of the Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Commission. And Frankland was not satisfied with the alternatives: the Democrats, Greens and Labor.
So, I’m sorry for impugning Phelpsy’s intelligence in the preceding article. Actor, statesman, author, singer, and Peter Allen impersonator: Peter Phelps is a true Renaissance Man.

Filler by Proxy IV: Doesn’t anyone round here like Peter Phelps?

Wednesday 15 September 2004

Except this woman, but it seems even she has her limits. To be fair to her, it’s a full-time job keeping up with Phelpsy’s hectic career.
I was going to write something about Phelps but, Christ! it looks like everyone’s beaten me to it. So go read them instead: they’re good.

The outpouring of love was triggered by Pete’s charming and gracious letter to the Green Guide bitching about how an article about the scriptwriters for Stingers didn’t mention him, an actor. I know actors are often stereotyped as not being terribly bright, so it’s sad to see one enacting the values and going out of his way to claim even part of the credit for the quality of plotting and dialogue in that show.

* That reminds me, I must customise my blog’s design one day soon.

Jumbled in the Yooralla box part 2: The heat-death of the 60s universe edition

Monday 13 September 2004

For those who came in late, read the first installment, which includes the origin myth of the Yooralla Box (as told to Maurie Fields).

The First Great Rock Festivals of the Seventies

Now that CD technology is fast approaching its sunset years, it’s safe to say that humanity will never solve the problem of how to design a workable triple-LP gatefold sleeve. This particular specimen has ‘2XX‘ liberally scrawled over it in texta (how it escaped from Canberra remains a mystery) and is held together with red gaffer tape after having its spines broken by a generation of hairy disc jockeys in need of a bong break folding the thing backwards trying to find the side with “Whippen Post” on it. For a moment I thought they’d stuck parts of the cover back on upside-down, but closer analysis revealed that the various panels were intentionally printed in different orientations, inviting you to pick it up the wrong way round and have one record plummet to the floor.
It’s hard to not be touched by the optimism of this album’s title: apart from Sunbury, what other rock festivals from the 70s can you think of? What we have here is one LP of the Atlanta Pop Festival followed for no particular reason by two LPs of the Isle of Wight Festival. But dig the bands, man! Mountain! Cactus! Poco! The Chambers Brothers! Thinking positively, unadulterated slabs of sometime popular culture like this help remind you that the 60s were no different from subsequent decades inasmuch as they pretty much entirely sucked. And the band list still isn’t as bad as the lineup for Woodstock.
Speaking of which, this does have what turned out to be Jimi Hendrix’s last gig on it, and you can hear it without first having to sit through Kris Kristofferson, David Bromberg and a 20-minute jam by Ten Years After while cowering in a muddy field packed with stinky hippies.
Sleeve quote: “‘I was there,’ said a girl from Montreal. ‘I know I was. And I remember getting into lots of music. But, oh wow. What really happened? That’s what I’m still trying to figure out. What really happened when it was so much of everything.’” Someone thought this was worth printing on the cover. It’s good to know that even the first generation of hippies had a talent for self-parody. The daggy albums with sleeve notes trying to be cool are never as funny as the ones which really were considered cool at the time.
Thurston Potential: 20 to 1. Too much Hendrix on this album to be undervalued in itself, but then maybe it’s time for a Ten Years After revival.
Disc-O-Tech #2
An album that triggers a rollercoaster ride of emotions before you even drop the needle on it, even if you like disco. Hideous generic cover with no visibly black people on it – bad! Wait, it’s on Motown – good! Wait, it was made in 1975 – bad! A mixture of nonentities and 60s singers whose best years are behind them. They all sound like they’re trying very hard, but that is not a good thing when it comes to soul music. Nothing here sounds even half as funky as “Jive Talking”, which is a real worry. One track has the temerity to start with an acoustic guitar, which made me think for one sickening moment I was going to hear Richie Havens going disco.
There’s one exception. The other day when I was watching Rush Hour 2 on telly and Chris Tucker said that Lionel Richie hadn’t been black since the Commodores, I didn’t fully appreciate what he meant until I heard “I Feel Sanctified” on this record. You listen to this and can’t believe it’s the same guy who ten years later is moping through ballads like a suntanned John Oates with a predilection for stalking blind women in music videos.
Sleeve quote: “A Collection of Classic Motown Songs and Sounds for Dancing in the Streets… and Elsewhere.” Lies! None of these songs are classics, except maybe that Commodores track. What’s worse, they sneakily imply that “Dancing in the Street” is on the record. Of course, it is not. But then, they were so ashamed of this deception they printed it in tiny text at the bottom of the cover, in writing smaller than the actual naff track listing above it. On the positive side, you can dance to this album, even in the street; although you may feel a bit foolish doing it if you’ve moved to Caroline Springs. Not sure how ‘sounds’ are distinguished from ‘songs’: I’ve listened closely and can’t hear any classic Motown sounds, like people snorting coke or backing singers blowing Berry Gordy Jr.
Thurston Potential: 6 to 1, but anyone who tells you that mid-70s Motown has the funk is full of shit.
The Bay City Rollers, Rollin’
Next time someone whinges to you about pop groups these days putting all the effort into looking good instead of working on their musicianship, whip this ‘un out on them. They look just as dorky as boybands today but twice as ugly, and the songs sound at least as crap as whatever’s getting played on TV this Saturday morning. Take my word for it, it’s much easier to jerk off to modern-day pop kiddies’ music videos with the sound turned off than to record covers of bands that warmed the prepubescent cockles of Generation X.
Look closely and you’ll notice that most of the songs are written not by the band, but by the two guys who also produced the record. This goes a long way to explaining why last summer the Rollers (or what’s left of them) were in Northcote playing the Croxton Tavern on the $10 parma and pot night. It does not explain why it took two people to write songs which all invariably consist almost entirely of the words “shang-a-lang”.
Sleeve quote: None. The Rollers are for looking, not for reading. The facsimile autographs on the front cover photo are a nice touch, though. This album once belonged to one P. McCulloch, who wrote her name on the record label but restrained herself from drawing any lovehearts around the faces or signatures.
Thurston Potential: 8 to 1. A retro-boyband fad is just aching to come out.

Small Art World

Monday 13 September 2004

I’ve spent the last few days getting reacquainted with an old girlfriend, so sorry to the three or four people who check into this site regularly.
I went to look at the exhibition at Bus last week. There was an interesting piece in the main room: two orbital sanders suspended from the rafters puttering around grinding away on panels on the floor. What made it interesting was that I’d seen it a few months ago at Federation Square during the Next Wave Festival, only as far as I cd make out the guy in the Bus show wasn’t involved with the Federation Square show. Wow, spooky coincidence, hey?
The panels had stencilled writing on them which was gradually being effaced by the sanders. The effect was negligible because what was written there didn’t look too exciting in the first place. Most people’s reactions were either, “Cool, dancing power tools!” or “This is just like that thing at Fed Square a few months back.”
It wd have been more impressive if the two panels had been Munch’s Scream and Madonna instead, but given the way the gallery directors in Olso have been banging on about how fragile they are (hey, it’s a bit late to start worrying about their welfare now) I doubt they cd withstand a Black & Decker for more than a week or so. Better still, save yourself the effort and just grab a few pieces left over from previous shows lying around the gallery that the artists are too lazy to collect, and let some automated 60-grit paper loose on them*. That’ll learn’em.
* The artworks, not the artists. But then who am I to tell you what to do?

Filler by Proxy III: Voynich Manuscript Cracked! (again)

Thursday 9 September 2004

But probably for the last time. “It’s as if we’re all surfers, and the sea has dried up.”
Also: The Voynich Manuscript Online.

How to make your own 16th century forgery.

Australia’s Week of Shame

Wednesday 8 September 2004

It’s been over a week now since this once-proud nation won a gold medal for anything. Having once strode like a colossus upon the world stage, our hopes and dreams have crumbled like my lower left front molar did a couple of years ago. Who can Australia turn to in these dark times, when day after day passes without a single foreigner validating our existence with some shiny bauble or other? Not our preening, so-called ‘heroes’ of the pool, the velodrome and the shooting gallery (or whatever they call that place where they fire shotguns at flying plates).
Just because the Olympics are over is no excuse to get lazy! Our athletes have been resting on their laurels – literally! I distinctly saw a telltale bumcrack-induced fold in Chantelle Newberry’s wreath on telly today. She ought to be ashamed.
Things have gotten to the point where I have decided to take matters into my own hands. Anyone needing their faith in the ANZAC spirit renewed is encouraged to come round to the Brunswick Trugo Club in Temple Park on Saturday week, where I personally will be standing on a milkcrate with a Golden Rough on a piece of string around my neck. Unless it’s raining, in which case I’ll be in the nearest pub. Either way, feel free to shower me with accolades, media commitments, and lucrative sponsorship deals. If it helps, you can imagine I’ve been singled out for recognition by Nestlé, thus putting Australia back on the map.
If it’s up to me to single-handedly lift the spirits of this great brown land and give our children something to live for, then it’s a burden I am honoured to bear.

Don’t know which is worse, the David Rosetzky bandwagon, or the making-jokes-at-David-Rosetzky’s-expense bandwagon

Monday 6 September 2004

We’ve all done things that we have later come to regret. For a moment, our baser instincts conquer our better nature and we make a decision that haunts us for the rest of our lives: sure, we may have gratified our immediate appetites, but at what cost to our soul? The thought nags away, that we may have fulfilled a material desire, but did it corrupt us spiritually, make us slightly lesser as a person? Will we someday be called to account for our misdeeds, and will we pay the price for them?
What I’m trying to say is that I get invitations to exhibition openings at the National Gallery of Victoria. They serve free wine of an acceptable quality, and free food of variable quality (their impressionists show had nothing except about 3 tons of ham and cheese sandwiches). There is no cachet whatsoever in being on the NGV guest list because they let in pretty much everyone who rocks up, although this is starting to change. The last couple of times I went to one of their shindigs in lieu of dinner they actually did demand to see an invite. I guessing that someone ordered a crackdown after a sculpture undergrad from RMIT snatched the last arancina from under Steve Vizard’s nose one night.
The last invite that arrived in my mailbox was for Living Together Is Easy, “12 artists from Australia and Japan” (shdn’t that be or?). Of course, the invite didn’t bother mentioning who the 12 artists are, and nor did the NGV website until after the show opened. This is because:
  • (a) who cares about the art, it’s the concept that matters! Australia and Japan! Let’s all close our eyes and pretend Paul Keating is still PM!
  • (b) who cares so long as we get the free booze and those delicious arancini.
  • (c) the NGV honestly didn’t know who was in the show until it arrived, because Art Tower Mito loves surprises and no-one in Federation Square knows how to google for it.
  • (d) they knew we’ve seen enough of these shows by now to have already figured out that David Rosetzky will be in it.
I’d pick (a), but only because I’ve read the blurb on the NGV website.
The exhibition is an ambitious collaborative project and result of cultural exchange. Living Together is Easy seeks connections between regional specificity and cultural identity, global politics and interpersonal relationships, biodiversity and sustainable ecologies, and the natural and constructed environment.
I wrote almost exactly the same sentence last time I was applying for a job I didn’t really want. So it’s basically a show which brings together art which is either global or local, political or personal, and about people, nature, or inanimate objects. The word ‘comprehensive’ comes to mind. Also, a lot of the pieces on display have been kicking around town for a few years now. The show is, however, an ambitious project of exchange, but only for furthering the networking prospects of the artists involved. Good luck to them, but it’s a pity no-one cd think of a better way of spinning this when keeping up the charade with the funding bodies that art has some vague yet tangible benefit for Australia’s value-added resource infrastructure.
While we’re on the topic, can someone please settle once and for all if it’s spelled Rosetzky or Rozetsky?

Some journos still haven’t gotten over seeing Zsa Zsa Gabor in Queen of Outer Space all those years ago

Sunday 5 September 2004

This just in: Male sex not yet reduntant [sic].

Besides, he has the worst porn star name ever

Sunday 5 September 2004

Further evidence of The Age drifting rudderless on Wednesday was its wasting of column space in its opinion pages on that perennial waste of space, Merlin Luck. He was one of the losers in the last Big Brother series, but then weren’t they all? For those who neither know nor care, Merlin was the one who tried to extend his fifteen minutes of fame by coming out with duct tape over his gob and a sign saying FREE TH [sic] REFUGEES when he got the arse from the show a few weeks into the competition. Since then he has made persistent efforts to outstay his welcome in the feeble public spotlight by being a media tart for the Greens and the Democrats, and generally attempted to pass off his sour grapes at losing on an obnoxious game show as the vacuous sermonising of a sanctimonious tool.
Politics used to be cool. From what I’ve heard there was actually a time where it was fashionable to be concerned with human rights issues…

The opening sentences are a spectacular hybrid of Columnist’s Defiant Bullshit Basic (“Everywhere you go these days the one thing everyone’s talking about is how to find the best PR agent for your toddler!”) and Clueless Twat Explains It All For You (“I’ve heard the Berlin Wall was, like, an actual wall? And it totally went across Berlin?”) He continues in the latter vein for the next few paragraphs:
There are 11 million children orphaned by AIDS. Landmines are still maiming and killing Cambodian kids. Two million little girls are at risk of female genital mutilation every year… Just look at the front page of our biggest-selling papers that so often feature footy. Has the lead story ever once been “33,000 kids died today”?

No, it’s usually a scorching exposé about magpies attacking cyclists. I was going to be callous and observe that, on the bright side, nothing bad happens to adults on Planet Merlin. Instead I’ll just speculate on whether Merlin was cloistered in the Big Brother hamster cage for just a few weeks, or in fact had spent his whole life in there and has to share his newly-discovered realities about the outside world with us. He wd no doubt be surprised to learn that a lot of us know this stuff already, and that we learned it from reading a paper. What’s more, he might have known it too, had he actually read a newspaper instead of just taking money from one to write drivel, and had he gotten his news from other sources besides that dreadlocked private-school loudmouth with all the petitions at the Resistance stall in town on Fridays.
We, as a society, have become desensitised to a point where information alone is no longer shocking or even newsworthy.

Hey, what’s with all this we business? Where does a Big Brother contestant get off lecturing me for being shallow?
These days we need it packaged up in controversy and hype, tied to really shocking images, and even then only delivered in bite-size chunks. Snippets of digestible reality that we can process and put to one side without actually thinking about what it all means.

Now it’s starting to make sense. We need large slabs of indigestible reality without controversy or shocking images and that leaves us wondering what the point was, just like Big Brother Up Late!
Is it too hard to think about 30 per cent of Australia’s Aboriginal people living under the poverty line? Is it easier to watch a reality TV contestant win $1 million?

That depends on whether or not you were one of the losing contestants, Merlin.

I’m 24 years old. I have a bachelor of commerce. I go out all the time…

Translation: I’m on the dole.
…I love watching the Swannies play over a beer with my mates, or going to the movies with a girl and having a nice evening out. I’m an ambitious and driven person. I’m happy, positive and energetic… an informed, compassionate person.

Why is The Age paying Merlin to place the world’s most long-winded personal ad?
You might think: “But how can I make a difference?”… Inform yourself so you can hold your own in debates and discussions. Raise awareness in your own circle and make an appointment with your federal member of Parliament to raise your concerns.

Uh, Merlin? You don’t have an MP, remember? Because, as you told your fellow hamsters on Big Brother, you’re a German citizen who’s been living in Australia for 20 years without applying for citizenship. If I think about how you can make a difference, it always ends up with you getting off your arse and onto the electoral roll, not with you playing media whore.
A Lutheran pastor and survivor of a Nazi concentration camp once said…

Translation: I can’t be bothered looking up Reverend Martin Niemoller.
Merlin Luck made a silent protest about Australia’s refugee policies when he was evicted from the most recent Big Brother series.

Actually, his ‘silent protest’ lasted all the way through his brief stint on the show, considering that he spent his weeks of exposure on national television sitting around scratching his balls, saying jack shit about refugees, and never engaging his fellow hamsters in a conversation on a topic loftier than pubic hair styles. What do you reckon, voice of conscience in the wilderness or hypocritical fame whore?
As for The Age, I’m not sure if giving this rubbish column space was an exercise in the blackest of cynicism, a misguided attempt to appear cool themselves, or the side-effect of a personal vendetta among the editorial staff.

Dog Bites Man: Editorial Page 12

Saturday 4 September 2004

It’s neither controversial nor original to observe what a limp, wishy-washy rag The Age has become in recent years, but something needs to be said about the story that took up most of the front page on Wednesday:
Swooping magpies have returned with the onset of the breeding season, and experts are warning walkers and cyclists to take care.
Either there’s nobody left working at the paper who gives a shit or they just cdn’t wait for the first really hot day to run that same bloody photo of people on St Kilda beach they print every year. After all, besides that and the one of snow on Mount Dandenong they’re left with 363 other days each year where they have to think of something to put on the front page. News is hard! If only someone wd call an election or something.
For a moment I thought this issue of the paper may have been printed up for schoolkids, but then I realised that if you’re old enough to read you’re old enough to know to stick a couple of fake eyes on the back of your bike helmet if you’re getting serious grief from magpies. Hey, maybe this story’s getting a run because the CSIRO has come up with a ingenious new clever-country way of repelling stroppy birds:
Putting a sticker of human eyes on the back of your bike helmet could keep the birds away, according to Ron Waters, flora and fauna compliance manager at the Department of Sustainability and Environment.

Wow! Thanks Ron. Sadly there’s no picture of Ron Waters so we can’t see if he’s 9 years old or was wearing an ice cream container on his head while being interviewed. And remember kids, it has to be human eyes: birds aren’t scared of gorillas.

For a while there I forgot I was supposed to be talking about music and stuff

Friday 3 September 2004

For some years now my local has been The Empress, so I have witnessed the slow decline of its clientele. Dowdy boozers bravely denying their encroaching senescence camp furtively in corners once populated by clutches of not-quite-hip arts undergrads sipping pots laced with Stone’s Green Ginger Wine. Actually, that doesn’t sound like much of a decline: it’s neutral at worst, if not an outright improvement. Besides, I’m one of those ageing kidults responsible for reducing North Fitzroy to the sleepy shambles it is today.
Even before gentrifying arrivistes with an entitlement complex moved in next door and bullied the pub into submission, their band lineups hadn’t been much chop: it always seemed to be a stageful of bright young things earnestly reworking some licks off the first Tortoise album. So it had been a while since I had a reason to pay money and actually see a band in addition to overhearing one between pots/bad pickup lines/fistfights in the front bar.
Anyway, this was supposed to be a rave for having a non-alcohol-related reason for going to the Empress again, namely the gig turned on by Anthony Pateras, Sean Baxter and David Brown; but it’s hard for me to write about anything that either isn’t about me, or doesn’t let me hang shit on someone or something. In brief: Anthony got to play with the decrepit piano on stage, which until now I thought was for decoration only, and astonished North Fitzroy with the only known prepared upright piano in captivity. David practiced his usual trick of beguiling the audience into thinking he was just as bemused as they were by the sounds coming out of his guitar. Sean managed to get through the whole set without quite demolishing his drumkit and saying “cunt” only once, but that was in reference to the French so it hardly counts. A nice night’s entertainment, particularly their acoustic cover version of Xenakis’ Bohor. The soaks in the front bar hated it.

Filler by Proxy II: Worse than it Sounds

Thursday 2 September 2004

Kyle Gann gives a crash course on why new music gigs so often seem to exist for the benefit of a self-perpetuating clique.

Coming Attraction, Friday 3/9/04

Wednesday 1 September 2004

Yesterday I was planning to post something positive about the Pateras/Baxter/Brown gig I saw at the Empress, but then I saw the front page of The Age and got all cranky. Once I’ve settled down I might try writing it up again, but for now I’ll just plug their next gig.
They’re going on tour in Europe soon, but the Australia Council didn’t come through with supporting funding. Instead, OzCo preferred to give money to boy bands, the Geoff Harvey Orchestra and the Moonee Ponds Mostly Mozart Mornings, instead of any of that arty crap. So there’s going to be a benefit gig, which is simultaneously a launch for the new Phil Samarzis and Rasmus Lunding record. Won’t you help some locals take their bogan art noise to Europe to show them a thing or two?
when: this friday the 3rd

where: 11 a Hope Street, Brunswick, Melbourne

time: 9 onwards…..

cost: $7/$5 entry

live:

Pateras/Baxter /Brown (electronic set ? ! )

Philip Samartzis (touch parking)

Philip Brophy

qua

Das Butcher (featuring the sublime talents of the state wah guitar winner Justin Fuller!)

+ dj: godcutter

Films, slides, grog etc etc…..

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