Wednesday, December 24, 2008

~ decompositions of the season

THEYesterday a small car ploughed into the venerable magnolia tree on our nature strip. My wife arrived home from a free solarium treatment, (shared in its entirety with a fluttering moth) to find the car abandoned, two vacant child restraints and the neighbours milling about. Someone called the police, who were at a loss as to how a vehicle could have generated the necessary speed to destroy itself so thoroughly, coming up a steep hill on a perfectly straight, short and narrow suburban street ... A momentary suicidal urge, perhaps?

A lady from Somalia was found at her house around the corner, presumably in shock. The magnolia tree is noticeably canted and almost ring-barked. It’s been there as long as I have, the poor thing, I have seen it flower every year of my life, and to be struck like that ... out of the blue ...

Greyish Blackish seems to have caught her first mouse - though it may previously have been partially incapacitated by Tweety Bird, the Jack Ketch of the household. GB is a very sweet natured cat and appeared unaware that the object of the exercise was to kill.

The mouse in the image below is accompanied by a item of biological refuse discovered by my wife in the shower. Tweety Bird seems to have have chewed off the outer coating of something’s head and left the remains as her customary matutinal gift.

(Just now, as I was writing, my wife called me to see this morning’s offering: another bio-hazard on the shower floor, this one resembling a grub-shaped grey-green kidney. Can’t find the camera ...)

Recent rains have eroded the banks of the Grey Creek, revealing an item of archaeological curiosity. This shopping trolley was surely buried long ago, possibly during earthworks associated with the laying down of the abutting Monash freeway. It might have sedately decomposed down the aeons, but no, the elements have thrust its ghastly corroded form back into the light, to further pollute the habitat of Immaculata, that pure white duck.

I’ll let you know how the supermarket responds, when I report the trolley for collection.

And by the way: the best wishes of this dread season to you all. Thanks for reading, [and commenting upon,] my meandering, probably perplexing diary. I hope you all get as focused and happy and prolific in this next year as I am determined to be. Sorry, as usual, for the unpredictable timing of my posts.Usually, it's concomitant with my state of mind. [William Burroughs despised the word concomitant.) When the the posts dry up, I am either in a slough of despond or so obsessively busy with my life that I can’t pause to reflect ... Anyway ...

I hope you get something really good for Christmas. May the wind fill your sails.

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Friday, December 19, 2008

~ a mould of note

These last weeks, my mentality has been feverishly occupied.

Many of my ideas have sunk, slowly, like a poisonous dustfall through the Glimmung’s phantasmagoric ocean, past the sunken cathedral of aeons past - and still deeper to that place where bad thoughts go to die.

But some have served to feed the ever burgeoning Encyclopaedia of Nonesuch. Choices for the name of my protagonist have been whittled down from about twenty to two: Alsus and Alsace. At present I am leaning towards the latter.

Alsace has a new tutor, a tall unsmiling man named Northy, who is more bodyguard than pedagogue - sent from afar by Alsace’s father, Ashen, as the political situation rapidly deteriorates. Touched while still a babe, Northy is formed from canon-tree wood. Another new character has emerged: Jequirity Pea, a girl from a local tribe of Emeraldim whose tattoos - with their eldritch geometries - strike to the heart of Alsace's’ sexual instinct. Jequirity is the only person with the ability to perceive Almathea, the blue spirit who walks behind Alsace. Jequirity, like all women of the Emeraldim has pale green teeth and an intriguing tablier Egyptien ...

But now, to the point:

Please observe this section of soft refrigerated tofu, abandoned for an indeterminate period in a zone reserved for non-preferred mustards, 99% fat-free French salad dressing, blue cheese salad dressing and Outback Brand lime, chilli and ginger sauce.

Mould comes in many colours - green, grey, blue etc. – which are often specific to the substance on which it grows. But upon this block of tofu there appeared an outcrop of almost fluorescent purple, which my camera could not perfectly reproduce. I made repeated attempts with different backgrounds, in various light conditions, but you’ll have to trust me that it was even brighter, even more purple and iridescent than it appears in these images.

Purple mould. Livid ultraviolet mould. Perhaps I have seen too little rancid tofu in my time, but I do find this extraordinary.

I ask myself, since the species appears so unnatural, could it perhaps be unnatural. Might some outrageous additive have spurred a providential mutation?

Further to the dreadful food-industry practices I described in a previous post, some recently announced Chinese food safety protocols have outlawed a swathe of other stomach-turning activities. Boron (among other things, an insecticide) has been used to increase the elasticity of meatballs and noodles. Formaldehyde and/or lye are routinely ‘added to water in which seafood is soaked to make the produce appear fresher and bigger’. Also banned, interestingly, is the traditional use of ‘an addictive substance made from the poppy plant ... used in hot pot, a Chinese dish where meat, vegetables and tofu are cooked at the table’.

In a culture where food colourings seem interchangeable with industrial dyes, increased regulation is certainly good news but, typically, I have veered from the subject of my post: this novel and uncommonly beautiful mycelium.

I won’t prattle on further, except to pose a series of questions.

Is the steady increase in the size of the strawberry a reflection on our society? Perhaps even on our humanity? What is the meaning behind our urge to force the species so far beyond its natural size? This very day, if one wished, one could go out and purchase a strawberry approaching the size of an apple. Why have we worked so hard to grant ourselves this dubious boon? What lies behind this strange imperative?

As the strawberry bloated under the devious hands of the food-scientists, initially the flavour did not keep pace – but now this hurdle seems to have been overcome. The hydrocephalic supermarket strains are becoming as sweet and densely-flavoured as the strawberries of yesteryear – though not, of course, the wild strawberry, which now tastes like an entirely different species.

As the concept of the punnet becomes increasingly ridiculous, broad trays of strawberries are becoming more common. Soon perhaps, we will purchase them in something akin to egg-cartons. Commercial Fruit Behemoths will develop a hardier skin, allowing the strawberry to enter the aisles, if not of golden delicious and fuji, then of the stone-fruit which it has already begun to dwarf.

And, as their genomes are mapped and turned inside-out, will raspberries and blueberries also become subject to the same process of forced gigantism?

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Monday, December 8, 2008

~ melonette

How would you feel if you woke up one morning and everyone was calling the orange a florida? Amid streamers and bunting, posters in the supermarket aisle announce the arrival of a brand new taste sensation – the florida. The same sweet spherical orange citrus fruit as before, but now it is a florida.

Somewhere, in the high boardrooms of Big-Fructo a decision had been made and acted upon. Celebrity chefs have been enlisted as ambassadors, deals arranged with fruiterers, juice-merchants, vitamin and lolly-manufacturers, Microsoft spell-check has been suborned ... and before you know it the coup d’etat is a fait accomplit.

But consider their perspective: the orange isn’t going anywhere. It’s hard to excite someone with such an ancient and fundamental flavour and a fruit which – in a monumental slap in the face of human imagination – is blandly named after its colour. Sales are growing at the pace of the population and to an economist this means stagnation. Something needs to be done. The orange needs to surge. The orange needs a makeover.

So, let’s rebrand it. Let’s rename it after something everyone associates with sunny weather, leisurely retirement and water-sports ... consumers in benighted Belarus and Liberia can suddenly purchase a sweet slice of paradise ...

An impossible scenario? Perhaps, but I experienced something very similar at the age of about seven. It was my first personal experience of the crushing impotence of an individual in our society. The venue: Chadstone.

And a very different Chadstone to the one we know today. A proto-Chadstone if you like. The germ-plasm of the monstrous entity that exists currently - which still shows no signs of slowing its inexorable growth - like a reptile shedding its old skin every few years to re-emerge larger and shinier than before.

At the time, I was learning about fruit. I was fascinated by the variety of brightly-coloured, strangely shaped botanical products – and this was nearly twenty years before I tasted my first avocado, (thank you, Anne Harding,) Mango and Macadamia. I was learning their names from my mother and then memorising them. (In a prelude to the machinegun–like frequency of my obsessions in later life.)

Of the fruits available at that time, the Chinese Gooseberry was one of the more exotic. By way of education, my mother bought me one and I loved it. I loved being able to say the name. Perhaps I could even spell it. I looked forward with great enthusiasm to my next Chinese Gooseberry.

But then a pall descended on my child’s excitement.

On out next visit to the fruiterer at Chadstone, I saw the streamers and bunting; the posters in bright colours espousing a brand new taste sensation. And a new word. A strange unfamiliar word ...


A thing has a name. Adam walked through the garden of Eden and he gave everything a name, and one of those names was Chinese Gooseberry. When my mother explained to me that this kiwifruit was not something new but a new name for my Chinese Gooseberry I was bewildered and disappointed.

And before long, outraged..

I questioned my mother, who must have acquitted herself admirably. She helped me understand that businessmen and advertisers had decided that 'Chinese Gooseberry' was not a good enough name, and that more money could be made if it was called a 'kiwifruit'.

How could you rename something as fundamental as a fruit? My young brain swirled. And why a kiwi fruit?

She explained the connection between New Zealand and the Apteryx or Kiwi bird - though I am uncertain how widespread that link was in the public imagination at the time.

But it’s a Chinese Gooseberry, I complained. Well, now it’s a kiwifruit, she answered. I began to understand that a bunch of NZ fruit-farmers had stolen the fruit’s identity for the sake of profit. And they had named it after themselves, or at least their country. The gall. Had they even asked the Chinese for permission?

Jaded as I am, an act like that would barely ruffle my feathers these days. But at the time, the lesson sank deep. It still riles me to call the Chinese Gooseberry a kiwifruit, though I am aware that it is not strictly a gooseberry. But it is very Chinese. It was first exploited there about 800 years ago. Indeed, the yang tao is the official Chinese national fruit.

What I am attempting, belatedly, after learning of the fruit’s history, is to revive the name melonette. This was a transitional term. It appears that US importers were dissatisfied with 'Chinese Gooseberry' and, being Americans, they called for something snappier. The first shipments arrived under the new name 'melonette', which caused the product to attract high duties ascribed to the melon and berry category.

'Kiwifruit' was their second try and the Americans were satisfied, though these days they simply call it 'kiwi'. Wikipedia says that we add the ‘fruit’ to avoid confusion with the bird and the people. Hmmn. Others say that the name is connected to the fuzziness and flightlessness of the bird.

To quote the Purdue University site in the US: the name has been widely accepted and publicised despite the fact that it is strictly artificial and non-traditional.

Melonette ... Melonette ... charming, perhaps inaccurate ... but inoffensive and sweet. Unlike another of the fruit’s names: the sheep peach.

Wherever you are, whoever you are, why not give the finger to those greedy Antipodean gardeners and their American clients? Just say melonette. Or Chinese gooseberry, if you’re traditional. If you want to give due to the fruit’s Chinese heritage, then say Yang Tao. Or Strawberry Peach. Or Hairy Wood Fruit. Anything but kiwifruit.

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Sunday, December 7, 2008

~ donald's christmas fear 2008

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Thursday, December 4, 2008

~ the stigma of the booth

I don’t like speaking of my enslavement to spasmo-nemigron. In my shame, I even give it a nom-de-plume. I like to think of myself as a whole person without the inclusion of the controversial Bentley compound, but currently I’m not. The equation – at this time - is incomplete without my 9am sublingual dose ... and my diet vanilla coke ... and my copy of the Age ...

Polly’s school is just behind the Pinewood shops. After their children have gone in, many of the mothers mill in the courtyard before breaking up to go their separate ways. Some use the opportunity to go shopping. A few of these go shopping at the chemist where I acquire my spasmo-nemigron, and where my wife acquires her spasmo-dromoran.

I wonder how many mothers recognise the austere booth at the rear of the pharmacy for what it is? Well, one actually works there, but she takes her responsibilities seriously and appears unprejudiced. Neither of us have spoken openly with her about it, but she had no obvious reservations about leaving her daughter at our house for Polly’s party; if she considered us ravening drug fiends, might she not have had second thoughts?

It’s the other, less informed parents that need watching. B--- is a single father who also sups at the evil well of spasmo-dromoran. He tells a cautionary tale.

After he was recognised receiving his dose by a parent from his son’s school, the word spread among gossiping mothers. It wouldn’t have been much of an issue if they had merely shunned B--- - who is bearded, shabby, alternative and an unnatural fit for any suburban socio-parental bloc - but the pall of fear and prejudice also descended upon the innocent son.

I wish I could give you more details on this, but my memory fails me. Also, there may have been an element of paranoia, plus the school involved was Wesley, which may have skewed the parental reaction away from the mean ...

Earlier this week, my wife was seen emerging from the pharmacotherapy booth by the mother of one of Polly’s more obscure classmates. Who knows what the repercussions will be? One thing she has in her favour is her excellent grooming. Only on particularly bad days does she even come close to resembling a hollowed-out, slack-featured, opioid dependent Piltdown woman. The problem is the junky who exits the booth before her and the one who scurries in after.

Often, these are the characters who give the game away, who make the purpose of the booth all too evident. Some, but not many, are indistinguishable from the general clientele. Some are grey shadows, barely noticeable even when you look directly at them. Others lurk in attitudes of extreme discomfort, casting glances of suppurating evil about the store. Others, in faded track-suit pants, runners and beanies give themselves away sartorially. Others speak in loud voices, warmly greeting strangers like friendly drunks, pontificating on subjects of which they are entirely ignorant ...

Who knows what the average customer thinks of this, passing through the chemist on a casual visit ... It’s hard to look at it subjectively after visiting this and other similar booths on thousands of mornings. Do I look any better than my peers in this mournful sub-set of society? Perhaps someone out there can tell me. All I know is that the best way to solve this problem is to take a blade to my nemesis, to finally slip the manacles of my indifferent slavemaster.

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Tuesday, November 25, 2008

~ the party mill

my daughter's first attempt at a sick note

It may seem unbelievable, but in my prep class, there were fifty kids. In Polly’s there are about nineteen and ten of these are girls. When birthdays come up, the boys go to the boys’ parties and the girls to the girls’. There are no exclusions and little overlap.

By the time of Polly’s birthday in November, the ten girls of Prep P were experienced social operators. That is - they were familiar with each other in the celebratory context, (as well as the educational). They’d been to lots of parties and their behaviour was becoming formalised: with the screaming, the dancing, the eating ... Familiarity with the process also makes it easier on the parents; they know what the children expect and deliver it. Nice and simple. A party mill. Drop them off at one end. Let the apparatus do its sweet pink deafening business. Pick them up two hours later.

One can even have it done by a third party. Any Fairy Shop worth its salt will run a lucrative sideline in girls' parties. And, for children of the void, there is always the freakish hamburger clown, whose minions will happily provide a loud, reliable, desolate, fattening sub-celebration.

The birthday girl functions at an extreme level of excitement. Rationality evaporates in a welter of cake and chocolate crackles. Hard won conditioning is lost in a chaos of triumphal screaming. and the security of pack-behaviour. The most trivial of slights or misadventures brings a flood of tears and it is no wonder. The ductile young brain, (perhaps excluding the pre-frontal cortex,) runs red hot at one of these birthday parties. Like locusts the children descend upon table loads of treats, reducing them to a sticky ruin before proceeding to the next vortex of fun. There is something wildly orgiastic about a six year old’s birthday party.

This year, to my shame, I failed to manufacture a piñata. Instead I forked out a ridiculous sum for a prefab: a traditional pink quadruped which might have passed as a horned alpaca or llama, if it hadn't been advertised as a ‘mystical unicorn’...

And the shimmering mountain of gifts. Bratz dolls. Bratz bedding. Bratz stationary. A catadapt Brat. Two Polly Pocket equestrian sets, [horses and dolls with matching outfits and bridles indistinguishable from hats]. A revolving fish nightlight. A Veronicas outfit. Make-your-own-windchimes. Make-your-own-finger-puppets. Jigsaw puzzles. Skipping rope. Hair accessories. And Beados - the replacement for Bindeez. [These ones taste more poisonous than strychnine.]

With the removal of packaging, the gift mountain diminished by two-thirds, but it was still impressive. Too impressive. A monument to over-consumption.

I have a plan for next year and it involves making Polly’s party carbon-neutral. We’ll arrange for a few very nice presents, but beyond that ... guests will be invited to spend potential gift money on the salvation of the moonbears ... or on carbon offsets ...

(... or on the installation of a modish self-destruct switch assembly on the dash of their SUVs. Passing drivers will envy its design ethic and its subtle metallic sheen. They will not previously have seen the colours thream and plome employed in a commercial device, (though they may have heard media reports of their discovery by the deep space robot-probe orbiting Fomalhaut.) ...

- You know, he could just reach over and just ... flick it, observed Ahenobarbus with undisguised envy.

His wife looked up from the pages of her magazine.

Keep your eye on the road, Ahenobarbus.)

Polly’s friend Mia was the odd one out. She’s not at school yet and is just a little timid. She is also innately sensible. When asked why she wasn’t playing with the others, she replied, “I just don’t want to run around screaming, that’s all”.

a guy from one of my wife's life-drawing classes produced this pastel sketch

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Sunday, November 23, 2008

~ immaculata

On my walks, I pass a place where the Grey Creek briefly swells into a pool. It was once a surprisingly picturesque spot, but since the council removed the ancient shady willows it has lost its character. The exposed grey mud is speckled with shards of coloured plastic, faded whiskey cans and lost lime tennis balls; it bakes in the pitiless sun, releasing the earthy, septic smell that is characteristic of the Grey Creek. The odour is toxic and would not be present if the creek flowed through pristine lands, yet it has always been there and I associate it, almost fondly, with my childhood.

When she first moved into the region, the beautiful white duck Immaculata chose this pool for its beauty. Now, despite the changes, she does not leave. She has come to know the place. Experience has taught her that it is defensible against her enemies. The struggling ecology of the Grey Creek is just rich enough to afford her a staple diet and walkers on the nearby path will sometimes stop to feed her bread.

She is far from being a gregarious creature. I have seen her fight the native black ducks for bread and she is capable of a frightening display of ferocity. I can imagine her defending her chicks in the same way, but a family is something that is denied her. It is unlikely that she will ever find a mate. Yet she is prepared to do everything she can to survive, regardless of the hand that fate has dealt her.

The odds do not lie in her favour. For beginners, she is perfectly white. Foxes, dogs and cats can see her at a distance, even at night, but she seems to have developed a survival strategy that works. Because she is not native to anything outside a farm, she lives under constant threat – just like the willows – of being removed from a habitat reserved for native species. And there is always the chance that a low man will attempt to take her for food. That is why her reticence with people is encouraging.

Despite everything, she is strong, healthy and beautiful. And she wags her tail in a very endearing manner. She does seem a little flustered and stressed, but that is to be expected given her circumstances. I feel a great deal of sadness and respect for Immaculata, defending her tiny cul-de-sac between the motorway and suburbia, forgotten, abandoned by nature, excluded by the plans of humankind.

Happily, over the last week, she seems to have formed an alliance with a pair of chestnut teals and a pair of black ducks, with who she sits with in the shade of the creek bank.

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Tuesday, November 11, 2008

~ the tunnel

The clear blue sky is an affront. The sweet warm air and the gentle breeze are a plague upon my senses. I walk quickly, shunning the flowering bushland and the birdlife, concentrating on the vast concrete wall ahead and the black patch of shadow at the angle of wall and ground, which is the opening of the tunnel.

Upon entering there is an instant change in temperature. I feel the sensuous cool of the crypt. Gone is the murdering light of the sun that impales the material world with writhing spears of poisonous energy. Now just the flat sullen glow of neon panels, set in the ceiling at intervals wide enough to maintain the analgesic gloom. Immediately, I feel the dampening effect on my soul and I am thankful.

I tread through the near dark at an even pace. A pace I could maintain indefinitely. The walls are roughly poured concrete, still bearing the fossil imprint of hessian. The roof too, which I could reach out and touch, like the lid of a coffin, and the floor, where a thin layer of grey sand has collected, and which bears the many footprints of moving bodies such as I.

Everything relaxes in these tunnels. Electrons find their resting states. Systems idles. The eyes have only soft dull shapes to process. The skin feels only cool. The smell, which I have come to love, is that of damp concrete.

As the square of light that is the entrance diminishes to a point, so the silence strengthens, broken only by my breathing and the soft impact of my footfalls. I am coming to a place. I am leaving it. No one sees me. No one expects me. No one remembers me. I walk towards a goal which I need never comprehend, nor which I will ever reach. I am compared to nothing. I am the last man and the first. In the healing null-space, I am unrecognised. I need not be provided for. I am on pause. Effectively, I am nothing.

The tunnels fork, form tributaries, recombine like a vast neutral river system. From time to time, I sense other men flowing through the shadows, but never is a greeting exchanged. It is enough to hear the footfalls in the lifeless sand, to know that there are others, many others, who have developed a taste for this singular resource.

The tunnel system is extensive, that is clear, but just how vast, I do not know. Nor do I know how many walk its dark floors, at peace, neither before nor after, neither alive nor dead.

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Monday, November 10, 2008

~ the sweet death knell of ABC Learning

The monstrous entity that is ABC Learning seems at last to be on the skids.

Readers of this blog may recall a couple of posts dedicated to the corporation and its venal progenitor Eddy Groves, and I feel obliged to wind things up with some sort of eulogy

My opinion was, and remains, that something as delicate as early child care should not be run for profit. As I understand it, a publicly listed company must by law attend to the needs of its shareholders before all others – yet the others in this case are very young children in the most formative periods of their lives.

Eddy Groves lived the high life, feeding off this teratological outgrowth of the free market system. He owned basketball teams, luxury sports cars, before, in September, he was at last removed from his position as head of the failing company amid reports of ‘dishonesty’. To my mind, he deserves rotten tomatoes and the stock. A ghastly parasite that would happily fatten itself on our very young ...

ABC’s fall into receivership gives our ostensibly socialist government an opportunity to shift early child care out of the private sector. Sadly, I've heard Julia Gillard say that ‘we are not in the business’ of child care - yet perhaps actions speak louder than words as the Federal Government – albeit of necessity – is providing grants to keep the centres running. We have a government run education system, do we not? What is so strange about extending its boundaries?

Somewhere along the way, it may be discovered that providing good child care at a reasonable price is difficult enough without skimming off the top. Always there will remain the question: should this dollar go to the shareholders or to the children? I caught a news-bite yesterday saying that 40% of the individual ABC centres were unprofitable. It’s curious, as financial overextension has generally been given as the prime reason for the corporation’s downfall. Who knows? Probably, along with the company itself, the structures that generated the appearance of adequate childcare - and they must have been complex – are themselves collapsing. In time, perhaps the receivers will learn the true costs of proper child care ...

Just woolgathering here, I’d like to make clear.

If parents choose a centre run by a company like ABC over a not-for-profit community or council-run centre, they are buying discount child care. The investors expect to be paid off. The skim money has to be found somewhere. That is why, for instance, staff are paid a minimum. In order to restrict expenditure, I am told, ABC centres buy their toys and general supplies from designated providers with whom the company has formed an agreement. One would assume that cost would weigh more heavily than quality in these relationships.

As the company crumbled, I read many articles and analyses. Pundits from the business desk treated it as they would any other company, in those terms. It could have been mining, IT, retail or pharmaceuticals. Where are we as a society, if we include childcare in that lot? Happily, amongst it all, I did hear one commentator question, in general terms, the worth and the morality of corporatised early child care. The Greens have suggested ‘that the government use the opportunity ... to lift child-care standards by running centres itself and turning others over to the community sector.” Right on.

Consider: as our children grow, we have the choice of sending them to private or public schools. If we choose private, it is almost always because we expect a superior grade of education. Imagine taking an ordinary old state school – like Pinewood Primary, where Polly goes – and running it for profit

I was going to suggest, with gladness, that this will be the last we hear of the monster Eddie Groves – but, once the forensic accountants have been through his books, we may yet be treated with the spectacle of his punishment.

~ eddie groves' evil empire
~ an exercise in physiognomy
~ more pernicious mischief from eddie 'the milkman' groves

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Friday, November 7, 2008

~ aerobones

During our recent trip to Bairnsdale, Polly and I - with the help of Kyowa and the spinal column of a cow – developed the concept of the aerobone. Just one example of the enjoyment that may be derived from imaginative employment of decomposing animal parts.

When I was Kyowa’s age, there would not have been a boy in the land who did not immediately recognise the markings on these vertebrae. For better or for worse, I found myself teaching the children how to draw a swastika. How ancient I have become.

Belatedly, and as promised, I have injected some images into the post The Den of Nargun ...

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Thursday, November 6, 2008

~ the reluctant herbalist

Although I think of myself as a staunch rationalist, some of the things I do don’t quite fit the picture. For starters, I’ve always been addicted to the emotional thrill one gets from certain moments in sport, film, music and politics...

Yesterday morning I was walking around carrying dream-like expectations in my heart. Could America again be something other than a villain? With Obama in the van, it seems possible. But on what am I judging that? Probably some propaganda spillage. Media bullets aimed at wavering voters in marginal American states which hit me instead. Yet I was certainly not the only one ... And this morning the US seems like a wholly different land.

Sometimes I just take it on trust and hope and faith. Because it’s so important that I mollycoddle my liver, my ears are open to tall tales of herbs that can protect or nourish it. Or even ‘aid in the secretion of bile’.

Western medicine recognises these substances, but rarely recommends them. You are left relying on the wisdom of the naturopathy industry which is veined with homeopathy, witchcraft, Ayurvedic, Chinese and Thelemic medicines, and a whole lot of other things which, though interesting, aren’t strictly evidence based science, and which provide green fields for mountebanks and quacksalvers.

Never mind, I’ve decided to trust Microgenics. I’m fairly certain what
they sell is actually Milk Thistle. And they’re one of the few companies that supply the high dosages used in clinical trials. The medical establishment does take the active ingredient, silibinin, seriously. After all, House even mentioned it once, (albeit at a moment of desperation). And a company in Belgium has created an injectable form, (primarily to treat poisoning by Death Cap toadstools).

Turmeric with its active ingredient curcumin is something no one’s going to make a lot of money on – somewhat like aspirin - so perhaps that makes it a good safe bet, as unpleasant as it is to ingest. Currently, I’m mixing 2 measured grams with a teaspoon of marmalade to form a semi-edible bolus. Curcumin is said to dissolve amyloid protein deposits in the brain. This, apparently, is why Indians have far less Alzheimer’s. It’s also supposed to be good for the liver, but at least one naturopath has told me this is ‘because of the colour’. I’ll have it just for the brain thing, thanks.

Shisandra, the five-flavoured-fruit, is the latest addition to my regimen. It’s an ancient Chinese herb with a good safety record. It’s easy to find as part of a liver tonic, but not in a discrete form. I’m getting mine from a Chinese herbalist in Springvale. Wikipedia speaks of studies done in China which suggest benefits for sufferers of chronic hepatitis. Should one trust studies done in China, after the hair-sauce thing? I don’t know, but this herb is really delicious as a tea. Something like rosehip.

After watching a recent episode of Sixty Minutes, I’ve started buying a trans-resveratrol formulation. Now this is a very good money maker, as it’s showing marked life prolonging properties in laboratory mice. Only problem is the dosage. T-resveratrol is made from red grape skin. My current daily dose is equivalent to 6 bottles of red wine. The dose that helped the mice was a massive fifteen hundred bottles of red wine.

I also consume dandelion, goji berries, artichoke tea and probably others I can’t recall just now. I spend a fair amount of time on what is ultimately an act of faith. You swallow this pill or drink the tea and then what? It all melts and joins the complex digestive soup in your stomach. Certain molecules shear off and work their certain magic in a biomechanical operation of mind-boggling intricacy. Without vast scientific expertise, how can you really know what's going on?

I’ve no idea whether I’m feeling better as a result. I am feeling good, but that could be the exercise, or the almost-vegetarianism, or the near-total exclusion of alcohol. I’d hate to think I was being taken for a ride. Especially someone as rational as I. But then a sense of looming mortality can lead you in directions you might otherwise not take.

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Tuesday, November 4, 2008

~ hair sauce

I remember little about Camberwell market. I was too tired. But I did come away with a wad of small denomination bills, a jacket heavy with coin, and far fewer books. No sign of the recession biting.

Polly, whose mother blanched at the idea of rising earlier than six o’clock, set up her own micro-stall, selling small shoes and videos. She made a few dollars too, but I was particularly intrigued by an obvious growth of her interest in commerce. With the prospect of a pay-off, any shyness evaporated, and she was happy to sit right up the front, hawking her wares with a combination of cuteness and rock bottom prices.

Countless times, I’ve tried to get her on stage in front of an audience, but failed. Perhaps I should have been offering a fee? I’m going to attempt to do a stall at Oakleigh market in a couple of weeks and this time I’ll set Polly up properly. My neighbouring stallholder at Camberwell – who was very impressed at Polly’s mercantile skills - suggested baking bread and getting her to sell it. Perhaps biscuits will do. Or chocolate crackles ...

With perfect timing, Barack Obama’s grandmother has just died. There was a sound bite from him on the radio this morning, culled from one of his speeches. He was speaking of his grandmother, who had a large hand in raising him. “She poured everything she had into me.”

I immediately felt inadequate as a parent. But, I guess, so would any other parent.

Again on the radio: a news item on the melamine milk-poisoning scandal. Apparently, in China, there are many other incidences of food substitution by greedy manufacturers. The reporter reeled off a list. What stuck in my mind was ‘soy sauce made from human hair’.

Could this truly be? I did some googling and found what was clearly the text I had heard broadcasted ...

‘They've found meat filled with hormones, eggs containing poisonous paint, soy sauce made out of human hair ...’

Are unscrupulous operators setting up deals with hairdressers? Sending their trucks on weekly hair pickups? Like the biodiesel freaks who buy used oil from fish and chip shops. [note: instant noodles are said to be fried with pre-loved oil sourced from hotels and restaurants]

Do impoverished families, with no other option, surrender their hair to the soy sauce people for a few measly yuan? In what system can human hair be a cheap substitute for soy beans? Or does it add a certain texture, colour or odour? Is there anything wrong with using it? I believe hair contains a fair amount of protein. Or is it just cannibalism?

And the process? What do they actually do to the hair to turn it into sauce? What’s the recipe? Is there a purpose built machine? A hairdresser once told me that by the end of the week the hair-bin at her salon was always very full, and if you burrowed right down to the bottom you would find that the oldest hair had begun to liquefy. Perhaps this is a clue ...

Investigating further, I learnt, on a particularly breathless site, that soy sauce was also made from blood clots and animal bones. I began to feel sick. Whatever the truth of it all, I think I’ll buy a better class of soy sauce from this time on.

PS: Interestingly, this site also speaks of ‘toxic fungi processed with trashed fungus products and soaked with ink’, ‘toxic shredded meat made from dead pigs and processed with bad bread crumbs,’ and ‘toxic duck blood made from cheap pig blood.’

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Monday, November 3, 2008

~ serpentine dream theory

Southland Tales: the newish film by Richard Kelly, [Donnie Darko]. It’s very entertaining, a sprawling futuristic comedy not unlike Idiocracy; more vaudeville than high art, and different in nature to Kelly’s previous film.

I mention it because of a seemingly casual reference made to the ‘self-destruct switch’ of an SUV.

An interesting idea, no? It flows with the essence of the device, does it not? Fictional spacecraft tend to be fitted with them. And I’m sure the driver of, say, a Hummer would think it was right on ... the power to annihilate himself in an exploding ball of fire ... right there, at his fingertips ...

Rather than mandate it, authorities would automatically frown on such a thing. Too much collateral damage for a start. But if we are capable, as a society, of inviting such monstrous devices into our streets, then surely the sight of them detonating should not appall us that much? In a frightening greenhouse future, things that may once have seemed shocking may become commonplace. It’s just a question of emotional perspective.

Like seat-belts and air-bags, the self-destruct system would naturally have to pass stringent regulations and be of the highest quality manufacture – yet it’s still difficult to see how extraneous damage to other vehicles, infrastructure, onlookers [and their emotions] would ever be avoided.

Does this kill the idea? I don’t think so. Designated zones might be created, even thunderous death arenas; but my instinct is that a high percentage of self-annihilators will be acting on the spur of the moment - and the world would not want to lose those precious seconds in which a noxious parasite was prepared to voluntarily wipe itself from the face of the Earth.

What we require is implosion, rather than explosion. In a necessary riot of harmless light and sound, the vehicle would safely crumple in upon itself, leaving a small recyclable cube or sphere. Crumple zones are already incorporated into car design, they just need more development.

The SD switch, required by law for all personal vehicles over a certain weight and fuel consumption.

Southland Tales also mentions something called Serpentine Dream Theory. Whatever it is – and the explanation just washed over me - it could never be as good as it sounds.

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Saturday, November 1, 2008

~ the cloud of unknowing

On Thursday I took the long road to Langwarrin in order to console Kylie, who broke four ribs falling off a fence. Interestingly, she claims to have been only slightly intoxicated - at least in comparison to her personal precedents.

Kylie is one of my dearest friends and near to qualifying as a nurse. I cannot think of a person more suited to the job. She is almost pathologically empathetic, particularly when it comes to animals. She is feared by local vets, to who she regularly brings near-dead possums scraped from edges of roads. She keeps a blanket in the back of her car expressly for this purpose.

It’s been a while since I’ve been down that way and it was unrecognisable. Indeed, I got lost. What was once pleasant and semi-rural is now undergoing rapid change.

Housing developments are spreading like a necrotising rash, an untiring cloud of unknowing. These are the fabled mcmansion estates, which may only be visited by converting large amounts of gasoline into poisonous exhaust. Other means of transport are either impractical or non-existent. The children who grow up here will struggle to avoid alienation in their cavernous, appliance-filled houses. Perhaps the internet will be their saviour. Perhaps there will be helicopter airlifts.

I saw no solar panels. No water tanks. I imagine the large developers have lawyers to sleaze them out of those annoying obligations. Do these houses have double glazing? Solar hot water? I wonder just how ugly they really are? When carbon trading begins, just how difficult will it be for the dull sublunary occupants of these macmansions?

At least the financial ‘meltdown’ will slow the carbonators down a little.

I do go on.

I’ve got a stall at Camberwell Market tomorrow, in case any one is in need of vast quantities of ridiculously cheap books. It’s been a while since I’ve culled the distributed tumour that is my book collection. The blame rests with my embarrassing second life as Lampsucker the ebay seller - and with what my wife calls my ‘Asperger’s syndrome’.

Admittedly, I do have trouble disposing of objects. I am a recovering hoarder. And I am subject to sudden consuming obsessions. And I have a well-established reputation for saying inappropriate things in social situations. And I have been accused of lacking emotional reciprocity. And I do react with abnormal intensity when others interrupt my routines ...

Aspeger’s is a ‘spectrum’ now, not a ‘syndrome’ – so perhaps I lie somewhere in the very mild reaches. Personally, as the occupant of my own mind, I think it’s possible. Others, excluding my wife, say it’s just eccentricity. But these days even things like eccentricity seem to need a medical description. So be it. After all, Einstein has apparently been post-diagnosed with Asperger’s.

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Thursday, October 30, 2008

§ moth body

In these dark,
Ever more uncertain times,
As the great and proud are reduced to gibbering madness;
As the mighty cringe in cellars,
Nursing frail hopes,
That the global conflagration will somehow pass them by;
As we clench for the final penetration,
As primal fears diffuse amongst us,
Like a deadly gas,
In this time of shadowy terrors
In this epoch of bowel-loosening panic …
In this climate of exhaustion,
In this aeon of wet corruption,
In this season of dread ...

I offer my Moth Body,
To the women of our world.

Men! Do not be envious.
For you too will benefit.
We all will benefit.
Because happy women make for a happy world,
Happy, satisfied women.

Women! Do not fear.
My offer is unconditional.
Every woman is eligible.
Every woman is compatible,
Spiritually, emotionally, physically.

This is the magic and the miracle
Of my Moth Body
It naturally encompasses the body of any woman.
Whether nubile or arthritic
radiant or moribund
statuesque or squat
gorgeous or grotesque
resplendent or repulsive
demure or deformed
My Moth Body will take your measure,
then give you pleasure

I have offered my Moth Body
To women of every physical configuration
To women of varying levels of sentience
To women of extreme temperaments
To women of doubtful authenticity
To women of terrible beauty
And to women who were little more than rudimentary stumps
I have offered my Moth Body
To women with prehensile tails,
To women with dewlaps and humps
And let me state
In the most categorical manner
That not one of these women
Came away unfulfilled.
All were re-energised and fully prepared
To face the gruelling demands
Of a doomed and terrified world.

On other planets,
I have shared my Moth Body with luminous women,
Aluminium women, coagulated blue women
And oscillating ghost women.
I have offered it
to women of variable reality
to cylindrical bone women
to darting skink women
to prismatic mole women
Yes, and to rustling whelk women -
And never has my ravening moth-like virility fallen short.

In recent times, I have isolated my moth body,
Exposing it only to occasional, carefully prepared women.
I had come to believe
That I had been too lavish with my gifts,
Learning that the touch of the Moth Body
Is a dangerously complex experience,
with unknown spiritual and emotional repercussions

Some women experience tumultuous after-effects,
And, in their innocent confusion,
declare undying love for the moth body.
These poor bewildered women have demanded exclusivity,
forgetting that the moth body is a resource
to be shared by all women.

In truth, there is a risk.
Some of you will come to love my Moth Body more than most,
You will consume too freely of its bounty -
Whether the bristling mouth parts or the olfactory bulb -
And enter a warm netherworld
In which the only truth is the truth of the Moth Body.
And its overwhelming sexual charisma.
To be honest, most of you will enter this state,
And some, will never leave

Yet is that so bad a thing?
To spend the balance of your lives
In a misty stupor of desire,
governed by a mindless slug-like hunger for my Moth Body,
Coming to me, each day,
for smooth immersive satisfaction.
You! Members of my expanding global voluptuary!
My universal harem!
You will exist only to partake of my moth body.
To swoon in the pungent tornado of my pheromones!
To drool freely
On the softly furred bulb of my abdomen!

After great deliberation,
I have come to believe,
That nothing should stand in the way
Of my universal gift.
Now, as I renew the offering of my Moth Body,
I also offer a course of preparatory counselling.

As the host of such a body
I have a duty of care.
I am to maintain the moth body
At an elite level of arousal.
I am to preen and plump the recursive spiral penis.
I am to flush the cloaca with sweet oils.
And perform daily parasite inspections
I am to keep my Moth Body magnificent
For the women of this world.
And it is here, now,
Before you, ready -
Like a weird gelatinous coconut -
Freshened and fully aroused.

Women of the world,
Do not pause for reflection!
Do not heed the stale, fusty words of your creaking calcified elders.
The time is now!
The Moth Body is ripe!
A glistening pearl is poised at its tip!
In your heart the decision is already made.
Come to me!
Shed your facades of probity!
Fall upon me like decorticated zombies!
Together, you and I -
Your Body and my Moth Body -
Let us light a coruscating furnace of desire,
An erogenous meteor
that will thrill every genital on Earth,
A fertilising force
powerful enough to arouse every species in the world
To recharge populations of krill and coral
To fire the panda and the orange bellied parrot
to bouts of sympathetic carnality,
So board my Moth Body!
Impale yourselves!
Skewer yourselves
upon the mystery that is my Moth Body!
Consume and be consumed by my Moth Body!
Taste of its many secretions
Cleave unto the moth body!
Render unto the moth body what is the Moth Body’s!
For a miracle has occurred!
The word is made flesh!
A prophecy is come to pass!
A phenomenon!
A marvel among marvels !
A wonder! A glory!
A Moth Body.

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Wednesday, October 29, 2008

~ again with the moth body

There is a most convivial atmosphere at the Last Tuesday Society. My Moth Body exegesis was given an extremely groovy reception, though perhaps the dire message behind the words was masked by the vortex of absurdity. We allowed Polly to stay up late on a school night in order to get a true picture of her progenitor’s mind in action.

Lynne, who – owing to the restraints of my costume - was acting as a human pulpit, suffered an attack of the shakes and veered in a wholly unexpected direction, suddenly demonstrating the likely behaviour of a fille de joie from the Moth Body’s ‘global voluptuary’. It was more than edifying to glance down and see a nude-suited woman in situ at my feet, although, sadly, my ‘gland’ did not function to specifications. It was my neck, rather than the audience which ‘tasted of’ the Moth Body’s ‘many secretions

(try this facebook link for some better images by Sean Whelan)

I’d like to thank Jodie, who agreed to inquire - from the audience - if ‘intercourse with the Moth Body accords with the tenets of the Christian faith’. And my wife too, for asking ‘if sex with the Moth Body would give her a disease’. And also Justin Heazlewood [if that is indeed his name] for his very subtle and quietly strange performance on the night. His site: The Bedroom Philosopher

I love doing these strange one-offs. They’re quick and dirty and wholly different from the huge, life-encompassing projects to which I so often commit myself.

You may be interested in knowing that Tweety-Bird is no longer leaving curl grubs with indelible black ink-sacs on the shower floor. Her source, wherever that may be, at last seems to have run dry ... it’s difficult to imagine where she could have found so many of them, (I calculate in excess of fifty) - and why. Could she really be spending the night digging through garden beds in search of these horrible creatures?

Interestingly, my wife claims to have seen her trying to clean her lips of the unpleasant taste. I think it is a matter of pride for Tweety Bird that she delivers at least one item of prey to the household each day, regardless of its edibility.

About a week ago we found a large dying dragonfly on the laundry floor. Each day since, we have found a dead tailless skink. From this point on, I am going to do my best to be legal and keep her inside at night.

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Tuesday, October 28, 2008

~ come to my moth body

A very late note regarding a performance I’m attempting tonight at the Last Tuesday Club. Unluckily, I’ve fallen foul of some kind of physical ailment and will be struggling to get the piece finished – I’ll spend the day in bed with my [gorgeous] new laptop and hopefully something unique will emerge. Lynne Ellis is helping me with the performance and has, thankfully, provided a moth-body costume.

Sorry about the late notice. If you need more info click the Last Tuesday link somewhere on the right. It's at the Old Bar on Johnson St Fitzroy, Starts at 8pm.

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Tuesday, October 21, 2008

~ m night shyamalan

I have a such a thing for M Night Shyamalan. It flies in the face of the critics – and there seem to be a whole lot of them – who have canned every movie he’s done since The Sixth Sense. I can see where they’re coming from – or, rather, It doesn’t surprise me that people miss the point, or fail to react to the magic at the heart of his films.

I’ve just finished watching The Happening on video. I saw it in the cinemas and loved it - but with reservations, as it had that slightly flawed feel that a lot of his films do. On second viewing, I was surprised that I enjoyed it nearly as much. I managed to suppress my annoyance that – in the face of a microscopic airborne threat – too few people were masking their faces. I think, if you stumble on details like that, you will never enjoy his films. I don’t think Shyamalan is unaware of these things; I suspect he deliberately lets them fly loose, as a reminder that we are expected to suspend our disbelief, that we are to look elsewhere for the meaning of the work ...

Sure, it’s a kind of artistic vanity; the same as his inevitable Hitchcock-style cameos, but I find it very easy to forgive him, as, along with Guillermo del Toro, he sits very high among the leading exponents of the horror/fantasy film genre. Even at his most indulgent – and I guess Lady in The Water stands accused – what he creates is both fascinating and moving. Lady in The Water – the story of a fantastical water nymph who appears in the swimming pool of a routine apartment block – is one of my favourite films. It’s one of those works which explore the meaning of narrative and are sometimes called post-modern. Think of Italo Calvino’s If On A Winter’s Night A Traveller. Lady in The Water is unique, beautiful, sweet, inspiring and, inevitably, flawed. It puts on display Shyamalan’s flair for showing what it might really be like for something incontestably magical to blossom in the everyday banality of our lives. It’s pure Magic Realism.

I think this talent, more than anything else, is the reason his films work so well. Sure, he’s a past master of the long con; his twists are very good, (though The Happening was lacking in this respect), but in the end these are plot devices; they’re in with the nuts and bolts he uses to construct his films.

Then why, as the ring bounced in The Sixth Sense, and the film slowed - allowing time for the viewer to process what he was seeing - did I, like so many others, feel not only a shiver but an emotional charge. What made it more than just an ‘uh-huh-moment’?

Because Shyamalan knows that we have to care about characters if we are to really travel with them. The people in his films are nearly always sympathetic; we understand the way they behave and feel - so that when the queer shit starts, it’s as if we are there ourselves ... Mel Gibson’s priest in Signs ... Mark Wahlberg and the gorgeous Zooey Deschanel in the Happening ...

Indeed, the human element of his plots is almost strong enough to support the film in itself, magic or no. It is never secondary to the special effects, and often the mundane and the eldritch are inextricably entwined. Think of the extraneous drama in a porn flick – well, this is the diametric opposite. Shyamalan has a real knack in this regard. I think it’s the core of his talent. It’s what really raises his work above the quagmire of bad horror that lines the shelves of our video stores. That and the novelty of his scenarios.

That news flash in Signs: the home video of the children’s birthday party in which the world gets its first glimpse of the alien menace. The abyssal horror emerges in the most pleasant, comfortable surroundings we can imagine, where our precious children are happy and protected. I found it profoundly creepy. I went cold all over. Not like the fright I got from the hand in Carrie, nor the sickening fear of Alien. Something a lot closer to home.

The Happening is replete with similar incidents. In fact, it’s an orgy of them. Again and again, the unspeakable tears apart the contented illusion of day to day life - and to watch is horrifying. Repeatedly, characters seek to kill themselves as expeditiously as they can, as if the act is no more unusual than tying a shoelace ...

So, now that I’ve consumed a couple of valuable hours ruminating on this random topic, know this: the next time you read one of those negative reviews on a new M Night Shyamalan film, claiming that he reached his peak with the Sixth Sense, be warned. The critic probably didn’t get it.

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Monday, October 6, 2008

~ The Den of Nargun

I know, another long hiatus, but this time the reasons are entirely different. For one, it’s been school holidays. I made another trip to Bairnsdale, this time just with Polly, and this time I remembered to bring my spasmo-nemigron …

We didn’t see a great deal of Tosie; she’s abandoned her work as a goat-wrangler and is picking broccoli in Lindenow. One of her close friends works at a vegetable packing facility in Bairnsdale proper, where salads are wreathed in plastic for the great supermarket chains. To my disappointment, I learned that produce grown near Perth arrives in Bairnsdale by truck, is packed and sent back out, by truck, to supermarkets in Perth. I shake my head. Even when it’s in their own financial interest, the combines can’t get it together to be efficient. At least, when emissions trading arrives they will have a of fat to trim.

They were a cool few days in the country … my fascination with birds is widening, intensifying, and there were many, many birds to enjoy. We spent a day wandering through a vast morass, where we saw sea eagles, swamp harriers, a giant nesting colony of straw-necked ibises, mallards, coots, shelducks, black ducks, swans. We smuggled out an impressive pelican skull, which Polly is taking to show-and-tell tomorrow. According to my beautiful new Encyclopaedia of Signs and Symbols, birds are symbols of the human soul, “representing goodness and joy, standing for wisdom, intelligence and the swift power of thought.” I am certain my latest obsession is entwined with this symbolism … dissolution into the upper air … severance of the bonds that hold me to the ground …

We detoured on the way home to Melbourne, visiting an aboriginal site called the Den of Nargun. It is a cave, hidden in a dark mossy valley just off the Mitchell River, where a ravening beast – equal parts stone and flesh – lies in wait to steal careless children.

Wednesday night is the opening night of Llareggub, an adaptation of Dylan Thomas’s Under Milk Wood. It’s playing every night until Saturday at the Kaleide theatre at RMIT. It is directed by Lynne Ellis, who is the Director-in-Residence at the University.

There is a huge cast of characters. I am playing a Priest, an Undertaker, an Amorous Sailor and a Poisoner. I’ve been absolutely loving taking the trip into town and rehearsing, though, this late in the day, the stress is beginning to equal the enjoyment.

This may seem surprising, but I purchased my first ipod a couple of weeks ago. It’s a fabulous thing, a metallic blue nano, and I’ve been running it hot, reading to M83, walking to Duffy, riding to Beirut, falling asleep to William Burroughs reciting Junkie ... There’s an element of truth to what they say – it is like having a soundtrack to your life…

Since my last post, I’ve been on the most enduring health kick of my life. It started with Lee’s funeral, where I found my own mortality staring me in the face. And, as is my way, I’ve become obsessed. Not a drop of alcohol is passing my lips. I’ve been swimming, walking, drinking water, watching my diet with a gimlet eye … and I think it’s beginning to show. My wife says my moods are better, that I look better … well, I’m in a play with a couple of dozen spritely youth, I have to make an effort … but I’ve yet to find a balance, I don’t feel settled in my new self, I feel impermanent, and last night I had a dream in which I, and all my old friends, all with failing livers, were gathering together to make a final trip into a damp, cold concrete bunker half buried in the earth, and there to die. It was a horrible nightmare.

Things are a lot sweeter than that.

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Sunday, September 14, 2008

~ extraordinary things

Life used to be flush with excitement. Awesome things used to happen all the time.

But these days, not only is my existence monotonous, predictable and unexceptional, but I would fight tooth and claw to keep it that way. Sure, those ever advancing years are at least partly to blame. And yes, my life is probably a little more interesting than I make it out to be – but reasonable certainty that tomorrow will be pretty much like today is a large part of what keeps me together, helps me stave off depression, be a consistent father, obey the orders of my beautiful wife - and work.

If you’re writing a novel, you need to work pretty much every day, and for hours – in my case at least four. The days go by. The words get written. And I find I’m spending a good part of my mental life in the chaotic fantasy world of Nonesuch.

That’s how I’ve replaced the madness of my youth. That’s how I get my jollies these days. In the mind. The mind.

In Nonesuch. In Alastair Reynolds' space opera House of Suns. In David Mitchell’s Cloud Atlas. In my library, where thousands of books, accumulated over decades, emanate an aura of profound comfort and potential … I can go anywhere … what's more, in the next room, the internet, and you ...

Did you read the article about cognition and exercise last week? An experimental study strongly suggests that regular daily exercise leads to improved mental function. It makes sense to me, gives me even more impetus for my exercise regime. What's more, a few days ago I discovered
Dr Norman Doidge and the concept of neuroplasticity. The act of thinking actually involves synaptic growth and can even turn genes on and off. Believe me, I’m back doing my crosswords. I'm an immediate convert. No doubt, cerebral exercise is at least as important as physical. Particularly – as I repeat myself like a weary, warped, worn-out record – if the years are accumulating behind you.

They say your mind goes as you die from liver cancer. What a harrowing thought. I’ll have to put something in my will about that. I want to be turned off before my wits go. Just pump me to the eyeballs with morphine and let the sisters of mercy call down the birds ….

Lately, you see, I've had this thing with birds … And I feel I’m about to have a thing with fungus … It’s my way of going deeper, finding the Breugelian phantasmagoria beneath every rock, brick and decaying log … Imagine how much there is to learn about those strange growths … imagine knowing the name of even the humblest toadstool ... Who cares if they’re a hundred feet from the Monash freeway … My god, I’m shivering with excitement!

There’s a whole boring old suburb out there, full of boring old people; there are mundane parks and common species … but when you get into the detail, well, it can transform into a wonderland… That’s what I started out trying to say. I’ve learned to take delight in the little things. I'm learning to find community in the place I live, rather than where I go mental.

Howard Arkley, the artist who lived and died not far from here, was unearthing something similar in his work. Lounge suites, common as muck, burning with neon intensity. But when drugs intervened, then his sense of wonder was whisked away - and he was left with shabby old furniture and a rafter from which to hang himself.

Here are the lyrics to a song I wrote in the nineties. It was for Lynne, the woman who taught me that ordinary could be astonishing.


extraordinary thing

she likes terrifying things.
she likes death-defying things
beware her paperclip and her useless piece of string.
beware the texture of her skin.

he loves convoluting things
he loves interwoven things
M.C. Escher folds his hands under his chin
enthralled by the deployment of her limbs

that girl who lies beside you -
has got the strangest idols

she likes ordinary things,
but she’s no ordinary thing.

she likes mortifying things.
she likes nauseating things.
beware her laser beams and her paralysing sting.
beware her vanities and sins.

she likes aggravating things
she likes modifying things
she wants a murky world where logic is a sin
and where confusion reigns, she’s king.

that girl who lies beside you -
has got the strangest idols

she likes ordinary things,
but she’s no ordinary thing.

extraordinary thing
extraordinary thing

(From Sweet Secretions by Fact. Available in your local remainder bin or op-shop.)


A final note. I've added an important update to the post titled Blue Streaks of Paranoia

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Friday, September 12, 2008

* 6 June 1981 Saturday 2.00pm

I am in the bath feeling strange. Listening to the football. St Kilda is winning. I think that by remaining in hot baths you must sweat out a lot of weight … also by picking your nose, I suppose …

The Ears broke up. Last night was the final performance. A very touching evening. Later I found myself at Debbie’s place, with Ned. I was very drunk. For better or for worse. I woke up with a bruise on the end of my cock.

I finally went to George’s Philosophy School this week. It was interesting, but creepy.

I’m on the verge of starting a new band with Frizz. He’s an ugly bastard, but a good bass-player.

Last Saturday, there were punks marauding outside the Seaview with knives, attempting to recover a stolen elk’s head.

Well, so long to the Ears. This is turning into a book of epitaphs


I was at least a little anorexic in those days; anyone who incorporates the removal of dried nasal mucus into his weight plan has to be anorexic, by definition … but it never reached a life-threatening point. (I had plenty of other lifestyle choices doing that.) I occasionally induced vomiting for cosmetic reasons … it’s just that, you see, at the time – and to the present day – the thinner your body, the cooler your band. A proposition set in stone, if ever there was. Just ask The Mighty Boosh.

George’s Philosophy School turned out to be a cult. You may remember the ads they used to - may still - run in Saturday’s Age, always titled with the word ‘Philosophy’ in bold print. They were a queer bunch; the women had to wear long drab-coloured skirts, the men suits, and they addressed each other as Sir or Madam. They always had hard uncomfortable wooden chairs at their meetings. The purpose, I was told, was to sharpen your attention, but basically they eschewed pleasure of all kinds, including upholstery. One particular fool willed them the mansion on the corner of Robe and Acland Sts, where they held weekend programmes. Like many cults, they practised sleep-deprivation in order to soften the will. George’s rotund old Lithuanian mum somehow got herself involved in one of these events, at which all she did for nineteen hours a day was housework … The School of Philosophy has a rich and invidious history. It originated in England and I’m certain there’s plenty of lurid exposition on the web, if one cares to look.

For the life of me, I cannot remember Frizz. Probably wise that I didn’t take that road. Those punks outside the Seaview? As much a mystery now as then.

Because the Beargarden album is creeping towards release, I’m going to open a new diary thread beginning a few years later. I won’t double the frequency of diary posts, but I’ll try to increase them.

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Monday, September 8, 2008

~ the path of Abraxas

This is a mixed media piece called The Stream from the East, which Polly has helped me glue together over the past few weeks

This is the Path of Abraxas

This is Donald at the Wreckery reunion gig on Friday night, after a gruelling day editing Priceline commercials. He is tossing up whether or not he should cut back his lifespan with a nice cold one.

This is the Path of The Decretals

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Sunday, September 7, 2008

~ the worm princess

Drawing is one of Polly's preferred activities. She does it as soon as she gets up, hunching her back over the paper while the kids' shows play, barely noticed, on the telly; and as a mess of lidless textas, pastels and glitter pens steadily collects around her. The depth of her concentration is really encouraging, and if she has inherited any of her mother's native talent, then she'll really have something going. As if she doesn't already ...

She's excited about learning to write and lately she's been incorporating text into her pictures. And a little less pink. And crowns. Suddenly everyone is wearing a crown. It's good to watch the little fascinations come and go ...

What I like most are the feet and fingers. And the way she draws the hair. And I really like the fact that anyone looking at these pictures will think she's a happy, well-balanced child, which of course she is - but being an unbalanced, depressive father [with an unbalanced depressive wife to boot] I can't help but worry. I know I needn't. Polly has had a powerful destiny from day one. My only job is to step out of the way.

PS: I was privileged to observe Steve Kilbey on RocKwiz last night. I'd forgotten how rarified an aesthete he is. Poised between a couple of lumpen music nerds, deploying his subtle wit with the ease of a practised raconteur, debating yoga styles with the openly flustered Julia Zemiro, offering his musical erudition to the world like a pious lama - or occult master - descending from the accursed summits of far Kadath with the elder wisdom of mad Abdul Alhazred inscribed on a tablet of gleaming electrum.

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Thursday, September 4, 2008

~ what football can do for a man

My father, Vilis Sejavka, arrived in Australia around 1952. He was a refugee from the Second World War, a displaced person who had spent at least six post-war years in internment camps around Germany.

Latvia, his home country, had fallen under Soviet rule. To return there meant probable incarceration in the Gulags. As he had been a (19yo) conscript for the Latvian division of the Waffen SS, this would more than likely have lead to his death.

His kidneys had been ruined after a night spent playing dead in the snow as a Red Army column passed close by. His German lieutenant, with whom he had deserted, lay beside him but his was no act; the pair had been fired upon earlier by the Russians. It was standard practice for the Communists to bayonet the dead, so Vilis did not so much as twitch. Imagine that. He claimed to have never been quite the same.

As truckload load after truckload of refugees departed Germany, bound for new lands in which to settle, Vilis watched and waited, praying that eventually his turn would come - which, ultimately, it did.

It is not difficult to understand the gratitude he felt towards Australia - though, as a willful, contrary child, I did my best. Once here, he worked in logging camps in order to fulfill his contract with the Government. While doing so, he contracted rheumatic fever and then tuberculosis. Down the track, it was the rheumatic fever that doomed him.

In a TB sanatorium, close to death, he fell in love with a nurse, my mother, and so on and so forth. But that’s not the story for today.

What I want to communicate is his unconditional love for Australia and all things Australian. He threw his heart and soul into this country. He had little contact with the local Latvian community - to my later chagrin - largely because of the Soviet spies who were thought to have infiltrated. He was fervently anti-communist, almost to the point of paranoia - Australia, his country, and the new family it had given him were all that he trusted now.

While I was being called a wog at school, he was calling himself a New Australian with absolute, unadulterated pride. He whole-heartedly embraced our traditions and culture. He acquired English at speed. Though he retained his accent, and was partial to borscht, pickled herring and sauerkraut - these things were all that remained of the Latvian Vilis.

My father grew up with the slow, exasperating species of football we call soccer, but once he hit these shores Australian Rules became his code. He was a New Australian and soccer was for ingrates. Because he lived with my mother in one of those little worker’s cottages on Acland St. up from Greasy Joe’s, St Kilda became his team. Not long after I was born, I was attending matches in my swaddling, first at Junction Oval, then, in actual clothes, at Moorabbin.

My father and I had precious little in common. He was an engineer and I was an artiste, but on football we saw eye to eye. It may seem sad, but it was our strongest link as father and son. The one certain thing we shared. For me the night of St Kilda’s 1966 Grand Final triumph is a volcanically joyous memory, perhaps the sweetest of my boyhood.

Now Vilis is long gone, but our team is not. Whenever I set foot in the stadium, whenever I bellow the team song, whenever St Kilda manages to win a game, the my father's ghost is there. That’s why I sometimes cry at matches, in case you were wondering.

We start another finals campaign this week, and already I feel him stirring. We’ve had a few chances over the years, but,
since his death, no premierships. Still just the one ... Just the one ... This year Geelong stands in our way, but there is always hope.

From my father, with his harrowing, unforgiving life, ... from his thankless son ... for Robert Harvey and his twenty-one seasons of scintillating brilliance and old school tenacity … let me just say ... Carn The MIGHTY SAINTS!

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Wednesday, September 3, 2008

~ the hanging tree

I’m stricken with a particularly bad chest cold – the sort of thing that inevitably happens after a few weeks of healthy living. Despite the fever, the headache, the burning throat and the hacking cough, I managed to queue up for the all important tickets to the Geelong vs. St Kilda final, and to retrieve my beautiful reincarnated Renault 12 stationcar from dear Don Shaw, the greatest mechanic in the world.

The whole of my yesterday was consumed with an attempt to save a tree. There are some units being built on a block behind us and a particularly wonderful tree is at threat. Usually I miss the opportunity to say my piece on these occasions, but this time I was determined not to let it slide by.

Here’s my submission. I was in a hurry, so some of it is a bit inelegant and repetitive – but I think I get the point across without sounding insane and/or obsessive.

Attention: Senior Statutory Planner, Nick Sakolevas
Re: TPA/36426
Property: 14 Russell Crescent, Mt Waverley, 3140

On behalf of myself, my wife and daughter, I am asking that plans for the proposed development at 14 Russell Crescent be amended to include the majestic pre-existing tree at the rear of the property.

Though not terribly obvious from Russell Crescent, the tree dominates my property at 3 French St, where I have lived for forty-eight years. It is a source of great pleasure and atmosphere for both myself and my family. Looking out from the rear of the house, it covers about a quarter of the sky and is one of the few visible trees remaining which are not in our own backyard.

Though plainly not a native, I contend that it adds enormous environmental and aesthetic value to the surrounding properties. It’s presence allows us to visualise ourselves in a forest [or at least a leafy suburb]. It flavours the ambience of warm Summer afternoons. It draws bird-life from the nearby parklands. Watching the wind buffet its leaves in the breeze is a tonic for the soul. It is healthy, mature and beautiful and should be preserved – even if it was only for these reasons alone.

In recent years, many large, mature trees have been removed in our near vicinity, reducing the natural amenity of the area. There has been a loss of cooling arboreal transpiration and summer shade. The line of great pines that followed the rear of houses on the Foster’s Rd side of Howell Drive, and which loomed magnificently over my property has been removed tree by tree over the years. A large scenic tree opposite me at 4 French St was removed in the last few years and next door, at 5 French St, a number of large mature trees have recently been felled. Plans for 7 French St allow for the extraction of more large native trees.

What was once a very leafy environment is fast becoming dominated by artificial structures, and I ask that this particular tree, so important to the amenity of our house, and all those backing onto the Russell St property, be preserved. Though deciduous and currently leafless, it is a spectacular, inspiring sight in the Spring/Summer months and, hopefully without sounding too overblown, we would deeply mourn its passing.

Monash Council prides itself on its environmental values. Here is one instance where it can act to help preserve the environmental integrity of an area in which the greenery is fast being depleted by development. The block bordered by Foster’s, Stephenson’s and Waverley Rd is undergoing a level of new construction unprecedented in my memory and few trees appear to be being saved - in what until recently has been a very green zone.

Secondary to the case I have stated above, the tree has importance of another nature. Some years ago, the son of the previous owner, Paul Love, committed suicide, under tragic circumstances, hanging himself from the tree at issue. Paul Love was a childhood friend of mine, who lived a short troubled life in a troubled family, and the tree has a degree of memorial value, at least for me. Watching it being felled - by workers entirely ignorant of its history - would be a very sad experience.

To conclude, I have no objection to the construction of units on the site, but I feel very strongly that the tree in question ought to be preserved, not only for my own and my family’s sake, but for all the residents, and future residents who live in its abiding presence, for the general atmosphere and health of the suburb, and by extension the world.

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