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


Pateras/Baxter /Brown (electronic set ? ! )

Philip Samartzis (touch parking)

Philip Brophy


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

+ dj: godcutter

Films, slides, grog etc etc…..

Curses! Homeless again

Wednesday 1 September 2004

Contrary to earlier predictions, I can’t stay on in Miss Havisham’s Barn beyond the end of October. So now I have to find somewhere to live for those awkward few months before the Kensington house is available. Too short a time for a lease. Death to the landowning classes! Drat! And double drat!

Signs of life

Wednesday 1 September 2004

My struggle to get art sites to go to the trouble of contacting people on their mailing list when they have shows coming up, conducted through a strenuous campaign of sitting at home bitching about it on a weblog, has started to pay off. The Make It Up Club is sending me email again. For a few weeks there they had some gigs on they didn’t want me to see.
It seemed that Bus had forgiven me too when out of the blue I received an invite to their latest Outer gig, but they forgot to mention anything about their new exhibition so I guess they were just teasing me.

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.