Monday, March 31, 2008
Sunday, March 30, 2008
Some of us - perhaps most of us - naturally seek out altered states. To quote Andrew Weil’s classic book The Natural Mind...
"The desire to alter consciousness periodically is an innate, normal drive analogous to hunger or the sexual drive."
And now a concept which may possibly be familiar to you – and which almost certainly, found its origins in this particular study …
"Anyone who watches very young children without revealing his presence will find them regularly practicing techniques that induce striking changes in mental states. Three and four-year-olds commonly whirl themselves into vertiginous stupors …"
For me – and, I think, for a great many others – this ‘innate drive’ gathered steam during my teenage years. Because real drugs – heroin, acid, pot etc. – were not within reach, or barely understood, necessity became the mother of invention. I have no idea how the information filtered down, but we learned that ephedrine , a low grade speed, was easily obtainable over the counter, if you had the right story for the pharmacist.
To our sweet, naïve minds ephedrine seemed like a pretty decent high.
On some nights, I would steal one of mum’s cigarettes, sneak out to the carport and smoke it like a joint. Until I caught the habit, this practice would pleasantly spin me out for about twenty seconds. It was thrilling but pungent, and surprising thoughts would jangle through my brain.
Once, just as my mind was clearing, I heard a monstrous noise in the shadowy dark - a noise I could only equate with the utterances of degenerate mutants or bog monsters from shows like The Outer Limits. I couldn’t believe my ears. The noise came again, and again. Guttural. Deep-throated, phlegmy. Threatening. Hovering between disbelief and terror, I backed away and made haste into the brightness of the house.
Later, I learned it was a brush-tail possum. Before that period – the mid-seventies – the species had been unknown in our zone.
But back to altered states…
I’ve always been prone to fainting – not the neurasthenic crumpling of Victorian England, but the blood-draining kind that occurs when you stand up too quickly after sitting for too long. As you regain consciousness, your brain is suddenly awash with freshly oxygenated blood and the world, briefly, seems vibrant and seething with fresh possibilities. It can feel like waking from a deep and healing sleep to a brand new beautiful day.
With practice, I found I could kick off a fainting spell pretty much whenever I liked. A big long stretch, hanging from a door – these were reliable techniques.. I came to use it - along with the ephedrine – as a revitalising study aid. There still remains an indentation in the kitchen door where my head impacted after a particularly gratifying collapse.
Of course, my parents used to worry. I explained what I was doing, but they tut-tutted and worried still more. They pointed out that there were dangers in passing out all over the place. My mother thoughtfully advised me to clear any sharp objects from the vicinity before I applied the technique.
Sometimes she could be very practical, my mother. Allow me to give you an example
I recall a sunny, somnolent afternoon in Mt. Waverley. It was the dawn of the Nineties and I had moved back there after breaking up with my girlfriend Charlotte, who chose this day to rock up in a condition which could reasonably be described as insane.
Recently, there had been an agreeable but drug-fuelled and ultimately false resurgence in our relationship. Nothing had been solved from previously and things very quickly turned sour. Only weeks prior, after the premiere of my play The Hive, she had lain like the Vitruvian Man on the bonnet of my mum’s kingswood, gripping a windscreen wiper with each hand, while I accelerated before braked hard in an effort to throw her off onto the road. To my drunken amazement, I could not dislodge her.
My mum was first to notice the wiper-damage. I spent some days recovering from the excesses of that night, both in Mt Waverley and in the lock-up at the Carlton police station. Mum, despite her ingrained, depression-era respect for property, managed to see the humour in it, god bless her. She just couldn’t figure out how those wipers had come to be fixed at ninety degree angles to the glass. Of course, I couldn’t reveal that Charlotte had been grasping them for dear life as her unchecked momentum threatened to launch her onto the macadam - so I lied, explaining that evil Charlotte had vandalised them out of spite.
Then she reeled into that quiet afternoon like a drunken harpy seeking bloody vengeance. Observing her approach, I locked the doors, closed the windows, but it was not enough. She found the back gate.
Although it was not locked, she proceeded without pause to scale the five foot hurdle.
Now, Charlotte has refined tastes and very good fashion sense. She wore a tight knee-length black skirt, a white silky blouse with frilled edges and a black velvet jacket. Characteristically, she was bedizened with beautiful Ukrainian jewellery – golden heirlooms gifted by her mother, strewn with diamonds, alexandrites and rubies. But as gate-scaling wear goes, it didn’t rate.
I can still see the image in my mind’s eye, as clear as day. Charlotte, the flashing curls of her dyed cinnamon-red hair framing a lead-white complexion. One leg, in fishnet stocking and black high-heeled boot, thrown over the top, along with a shoulder, one arm and a raging head.
Seeing my mother emerging from the back door, [probably with the intention of offering tea and biscuits], Charlotte immediately seized upon the opportunity to embarrass me. She ramped her invective: Your son fucks prostitutes, Mrs Sejavka! Did you know that?
For the record, it was not true. Charlotte was so infuriated by my betrayal that she had cast her breeding and decorum wholly to the wind – and was just spitting out the worst kind of poison she could cook up. My mother – a trained nursing sister, but nearing seventy years of age - assessed the situation and with a caring expression advanced towards the girl.
Gently, she took Charlotte’s hand, softly stroked it, calmly told her to remember who she was, to think about what she was doing. I can’t recall the words exactly, but they were effective; it worked. My mother had been a nurse all her life and would have had tricks up her sleeve to soothe a savage patient.
Charlotte was dumbstruck, as was I. Then she exhumed her rationality - at least partially. After that, my memory fails…
I realise I've strayed a long way from my intended subject. But I couldn’t resist the sharing of such a nutritious tale, and, Charlotte, if you’re reading, I trust you can look back fifteen years to see the funny side.
Oh, and my original subject? Next post.
Thursday, March 27, 2008
Today, I was trolling a two dollar shop, seeking some super-glue to fix my swim-goggles, when I encountered a most extraordinary product. I had no choice but to purchase it. It spoke to me in a way I could never hope to express in mere words.
Wednesday, March 26, 2008
During the mid-eighties, after the final demise of Beargarden, I spent some time lolling about London, living in squats, doing nothing in particular.
For some reason, lost to me now, I took up the drawing of abnormal chalk murals on the walls of places I lived and visited.
Please allow me to share these with you now.
Tuesday, March 25, 2008
Tonight, I went with George to the graveyard. We climbed the fence and, after a good deal of searching, found Christine’s grave. As we stood in contemplation, a dense fog floated in from all directions. I am resolved to invest my talents wisely…
It was an unhappy gig at Melbourne University tonight. Cathy’s amp broke down. I think the others want to chuck her out. Me? Do I care? Don’t I care?
Martini’s was okay. Two hundred people. Posters up. Singles sold. I jerked my mike stand up between Cathy’s legs at one point in the performance. It made her feel degraded and angry. I sang to the wall, climbed and scratched the wall. I was very drunk, as I had been at a party all that afternoon. I cried for a while after the gig was over.
The Jump Club on Friday was fine. I went home with Cathy D---, passed out as soon as I reached the bed. She behaves as if she more than just likes me. Do I care? Don’t I care?
Troy’s friend M--- is having an abortion tomorrow.
That incident with Cathy and the mike stand still makes me cringe today. I remember it as if it was yesterday and still feel stupid and nasty for doing it. My only excuse was my inebriation, and the wave of grief which consumed me that night, which sparked off my reckless and aberrant behaviour.
Regards being in the graveyard with George, this must have been an incident separate from the one I described in this earlier post.
And Troy’s friend? I have no memory of this, though I did bump into her at his memorial. I wonder why I mentioned it, if I was not involved? If so, it was one of countless potential lives truncated so that Polly could be born.
Speaking of Polly, yesterday, out of the blue, she asked me which cave my parents were buried in.
Diary of 1981 - index
Monday, March 24, 2008
Days pass. Little changes. I clutch at my routines as if they are all that prevents my fall into the abyss.
Since I’ve been attempting to correct my financial situation by selling on ebay, I’ve had to actively search for stock. Books. My wife is incredulous about my need to keep buying, when the house is littered with ziggurats of piled books. She doesn’t understand. Those great mounds are composed of incomplete trilogies or series, which I am waiting to complete. You get a better result that way. There are also an awful lot of books on which I’m undecided. They look like they might sell… but I need to do a little research… and rarely do I have time… What I really need is have a market stall to clear everything out…
Then there are the books I want to keep. Every time I’ve abandoned or sold my library down the years, I’ve bitterly regretted it. I feel peace in a house full of books. A library has an aura, it emanates a gentle bookish radiance. It is a great seam of potential, there for the realisation. I love scanning shelves, head tilted sideways, waiting for a title or author’s name to leap out at me. I love it most when the books are mine, and I know that every one of them was chosen for a reason. I love having so many books that I can’t keep track of them. I love being surprised by what I’ve forgotten.
But, of course, it’s also a burden. A great weight of material for which I am responsible and which I must keep in order. At present there’s anarchy. I have nowhere near the amount of shelving I need. My ebay stock bleeds through my personal collection. The kitten knocks over the teetering columns, and time turns my neat arrangements into kipple.
I didn’t mean to talk so much about books.
Currently, my wife has a debilitating virus. Of course, I’m suspicious, but my instincts are telling me it’s not the kind of ‘virus’ one gets from consuming too much [or too little] of the soporific honeycomb.
Indeed, she’s been reasonably controlled of late. I believe I have managed to expunge the Romanian’s phone number from her phonebook – though in the past he has shown a nasty tendency to ring out of the blue, just because ‘he’s in the area’. Thankfully, without his number, her ability to ‘just pop out for a second’ is massively reduced.
Strangely, with the easing of my own enslavement to drugs, I find it increasingly difficult to ascertain my wife’s state. I have hacked my way clear, I think, to another plane, where priorities and potentials are very different. Perhaps that’s why my first knowledge of any flare up on my wife’s part comes only when the problem has gotten out of hand. Mind you, she is now on a mind-numbing dose of Spasmo-Dromoran - meaning she needs a hell of a blast of high-grade honeycomb to become visibly stoned. She openly admits feeling little or nothing when she does it - so why does she do it? Such are the mysteries of addiction – though needle fixation and simple habituation I’m sure play a part.
But trust is a problem. Since I can no longer rely on my senses, I find myself automatically assuming the worst, assuming that any explanation is a lie, that any trip to the supermarket is a scoring expedition …
Depending on luck, Camberwell market can be a good place to find the kind of books I sell. I’ve taught myself to ignore the things I might be at risk of purchasing for myself, [ie stuffed animals, general grotesquerie], and concentrate on my task. It’s frustrating how prices vary. One or two dollars is the normal market price for a paperback, but there are stallholders who charge over ten…
Yesterday was the first time in ages I’d been at the market. I encountered two faces from Erin and Hendrik’s wedding – Kerry and Linda – working a small conceptual jewellery stall. Seated comfortably in the shade with drills, snippers and glue they do all their work on site, creating freaked-out accessories from materials sourced only at the market itself.
They were kind enough to present me with a necklace recombobulated from the legs of plastic superheroes.
Friday, March 21, 2008
It’s been a slow, stuttering week. Some grinding progress made. Some good things coming forth.
The results of my blood tests came through. The state of my liver is better than I had expected. [Although my viral load remains significant, my ALT is within normal range.] I’ve taken steps with regard to my little problem with the insurance company. I’ve located a financial councillor whom I hope will be able to mediate for me, eliminating the possibility of my ever having to speak directly with a debt collecting cyborg. I have been swimming assiduously, walking Polly to school. Doing the little things that may help lengthen my stay upon the Earth.
On Tuesday, Polly and I went to the opening of an exhibition [Beyond The Window] at Bus at 117 Little Lonsdale Street. Erin Ender, whom I recently saw married, collaborated in a neat little installation viewed through antique stereoscopic viewers. Commanding colours. Fascinating depth. Winsome aeroplane. Martina Mrongovius, a tall red haired woman with a translucent complexion whom I met at Erin and Henrik’s wedding, presented a series of complex holograms. There were eight, I think, all with that elusive quality which hologram technology imparts. There was a time when creating such things would have been prohibitive financially – now it appears the art form is within reach. I didn’t have time to inspect them closely, as the room was rapidly filling with chattering shadows with wineglasses. Martina informed me that the crepuscular lighting was her preferred luminal environment. I, too, once favoured the twilight world, but as my vision grows dim I find myself increasingly drawn to the brightness. Martina’s holograms were gleaming, intriguing and green. The backgrounds shifted through long arcs, exposing more and more detail as one changed one's point of view. Vague haunted-looking figures in the foreground performed puzzling tasks …
Sam Bond was there with little Scarlett coddled at her vast maternal breast. Motherhood seems to be doing nothing but good for Sam. Lynne was present too and suggested that Polly and I ought serve with her as a test audience for Richard Higgins’ tour of Melbourne, [a comedy festival event]. The three of us followed Richard around the city – or rather his persona, Richard Richards, a safari-suited trainee tour-guide with the ability to strike dynamic poses and an unnerving giraffe-character perched atop his staff of power. This was just a dry run, but I think the end result will be funny. I’d never noticed how utterly monged out were the pack-camels of Burke and Wills…
At one point we were noticed by a Koori gentlemen. Having observed our inspection of the Aztec nipple fields of Federation Square, he offered his own contribution to the tour. He acted out the dreamtime story of a white emu who had come to banks of the Yarra – at that time closer to Flinders Street - for water, but looked up in the direction of South Melbourne to see the eruption of a mighty volcano. The white emu ran for his life, escaping by the skin of his teeth - but was daubed by the raining ash that was to colour his feathers for ever more.
I wonder how far back the oral history of the Aborigines takes us? I have heard that the Mornington Peninsula [which more or less starts in the direction he was pointing] is a lava plain – but that happened a very very long time ago.
Greyish Blackish, the kitten, is settling in well, leaping about the lounge room like a thing possessed - from couch to coffee table to dinner table to floor, and back again ad infinitum. Tweety Bird [our other cat] liked to be held, but Greyish Blackish does not. Tweety used to freak out at her image in the mirror, taking it for another cat. Greyish Blackish reacts quite differently, seeming to understand that the reflection is imitating her movements and turning it into a game. Fascinating how personalities – both human and animal – manifest themselves from the very beginning.
If you’re wondering about the images, they’re photos of some of my stuff. Excluding the brushtails, of course. Robert has been feeding them out in the carport as he toils by night, feeding them fruit that is too decayed even for him… I’m surprised they can stomach it… The big one is the mother, the small one her baby, which until recently was riding on her back.
Monday, March 17, 2008
The heatwave - not so bad in Melbourne as Adelaide but bad enough - began last week.
I continued, as is my way, sorting the pieces of my life, adding here, subtracting here - like a watchmaker in his dotage, dithering on, yet to completely abandon hope that a tightened screw there, some tinkering here will miraculously transform his clock into a time machine…
The first few days I barely noticed. It was hot, but surely not in the high thirties as they said. Then came the school fete, where I toiled with Jenny at the face-painting stall. My system began to slow. I hovered in the shade drinking water, wondering how I came to be there…
Then yesterday, Polly and I drove to Lynne’s to pick up the new kitten, Greyish Blackish. Lynne is ‘rattled’ by the heat. She has a hot house, a crisp cardboard box that provides shade but little more. Here I really did begin to feel the heat. Mitch, Nell, and Fenella, the Canadian exchange student, perched on the big squarish grey couch, their faces illumed a faint blue by the screens of their laptops, all of us huddling against the bleaching radiation that was steadily, silently softening the bitumen outside, leaching the life out of everything. I didn’t want to drive Greyish Blackish home in that heat, so I waited, fell asleep on the floor watching Deathproof and when I woke it seemed even hotter…
I slept a long time last night, rose just in time to get the kitten-crazy Polly to school, and then – as is my habit – I put myself to work in front of the computer.
Half an hour later I was asleep again. Now I’m awake, only marginally rested, still with an inclination to stare blankly at cups and pencils. I had a lot of plans for today. The best I can do is write this.
It’s Autumn and this is unseasonable heat. My part of the world is changing. As you drive down the freeway, you see that the rugged shrubs and trees planted on the margins, chosen for their hardiness, are browning. In cracks in the concrete. indomitable weeds are yellowing and breaking away …
Oh, and here is Greyish Blackish. [Because she’s greyish blackish she’s rather hard to photograph.]
Saturday, March 15, 2008
The letter I have been so dreading arrived on Thursday – an envelope with the logo of insurer AAMI in the upper left corner. A warning within. I will be expected to fork out roughly eight and a half thousand dollars for impacting the rear of someone’s car.
I had been expecting a figure of the sort. I’d put big numbers in my head so that I wouldn’t be too shocked when the news came – whilst half hoping it would be somewhat lower…
Well, it may not come as a surprise to you that I don’t have, at this moment, even one per cent of $8,500. Indeed, it’s not all that far below the amount I live on – reasonably happily – per year. I long ago realised that fulfilling my life’s dream and making truckloads of cash were never going to happen simultaneously.
The best I can do with my predicament is – as Helen from the Lion’s Club op-shop in Mt Waverley advised me – not to stress. On Monday, I’m going to get on the phone and work out the best response. Maybe I could pay them five dollars a week for the rest of my life …
Strangely, given my anxious nature, it hasn’t gotten to me all that much. Just another black cloud of potential hanging high above me in the stratosphere. Like hepatitis, I suppose – and the chance that I’ll develop cirrhosis or cancer.
I visited the liver clinic at the Alfred last week. It’s been some time since my last interferon treatment, [I’ve had three,] and I’d been hearing rumours of new medical developments. Alas, nothing that could help me right now.
They are currently trialling a triple therapy, adding a protease inhibitor to the interferon/ribavirin regimen, but are only accepting ‘naïve’ patients. ‘Naïve’ means previously untreated. I am a ‘Relapsing’ patient - I almost cleared the virus, but it rebounded.
My doctor, [Keith Noack,] isn’t terribly upbeat about this new treatment anyway, so it’s no great tragedy that I’m ineligible. I just have to keep doing what I can to mitigate the effects. Diet and exercise…
In truth, despite everything, I’ve had a good week. I’ve done laps almost every day, been walking Polly to school then riding home on the old mountain bike which Lynne recently gave me. I’ve been working diligently on Ambergris, my play, and doing what I can to get myself out of my current [non-$8,500 related] financial pit. This means, as it usually does, getting back on Ebay and selling books. You’ll find me there under the name of Lampsucker.
Thursday, March 13, 2008
This perpetual drunkenness is perpetrating a haze… still this group keeps churning its way through my life. it was the Matthew Flinders tonight – a rough looking punter told me I sounded like Bowie. It looks like Cathy may finally be thrown out of the band. Tonight was a good night.
Monday I went to Blitz night at inflation. Later I wound up with Lachelle – for better or worse. I snorted some novocaine – a strange experience and my nose still hurts.
Sunday I went out with Anthony, Kerry, Franka to Pokies – stealing drinks all night
Saturday I was hopelessly drunk, following myself from party to party – from Prahran to North Fitzroy. Somebody photographed me for Ragtimes magazine….
Friday we played at Monash Uni in the day and Paradise at night. Nothing to recount. It was good. But so?
The record is out – signed two hundred copies for this Saturday night. Will it be a good launch? I don’t know. Snakefinger and New Race are playing in town on the same night, we may have our work cut out for us …
Stop drinking, Sam.
The above was written in an almost illegible scrawl and some of it I had to guess at - I don’t think the word ‘punter’ was in common use in Melbourne yet, outside betting circles that is. I didn’t have to guess at my state while writing it.
Monday nights at Inflation. Blitz night. That was such a scene. I have no recollection of Ragtimes magazine.
Novocaine. I don’t remember that. I remember ‘Champagne & Novocaine’, which I think was the name of a Roxy Music bootleg …
I clearly recall that night at Pokies, [a gay club upstairs at the Prince of Wales]. We were absolutely skint, but wanted to go out. Anthony Smethurst was the ringleader; we’d wait for people to put down their drinks and turn away. Then we’d snatch them. Fun, huh? I didn’t enjoy it, I’ve always had this aversion to stealing.
Kerry was one of Anne & Christine Hardings' closest friends
New Race were a partial Radio Birdman reincarnation from Sydney. I think Dolores San Miguel ran the Paradise Club, but I've forgotten where it was…
Tuesday, March 11, 2008
The science of physiognomy [or face-reading] has long been discredited, but it retains a certain curiosity value. In my possession I have a book entitled ‘Character Reading From The Face’ by Grace A. Rees M.B.E. The author freely admits that physiognomy is not an exact science, yet feels certain that its use ‘in several ways, is both of the utmost importance and interest.’ Particularly, she says, in the field of vocational guidance.
Samuel Wells, a leading authority on physiognomy, explains its scientific basis. ‘The cranial nerves rooted in the brain, spread, along with muscles, over the face. These nerves and muscles effect and make expressive the facial features.’
Let us then, for interests sake, apply the rules set forth in the book. As I have given much contemplation in these past weeks to the fortunes of Eddie Groves - CEO and founder of ABC Learning, the behemoth of privatised childcare – I shall use him as the subject of a brief study.
First let us regard the overall appearance. ‘When the body is plump, and flesh rather than bone predominates, the Vital temperament is indicated. The body is round likewise the face, neck and chin.’ This seems to clearly apply to the subject. ‘This rotundity denotes vitality, resilience and stability, “Let me have men around me who are fat,” said Shakespeare. Conviviality is the keynote of this disposition.’ But be warned, ‘this temperament needs to have signs of self-control in the features, otherwise love of good living may get the better of the subject, Look out for this in the formation of lips, jaw-line and width of mouth.’
Very well …
Groves’ distinctive mouth does indeed provide a bounty of information. The book instructs us, interestingly, that ‘ a love of money, greed and a desire to hoard will lift the upper lip, exposing the centre teeth – with a decided droop at the mouth corners.’ Groves’ mouth appears to conform very closely here, but the following seems also to have relevance: ‘protruding full lips, loosely closed suggest a boastful disposition, large gustatory desires and unrefined, even coarse, tastes.’
It is said that ‘intemperance, sensuality and unbridled appetites mark the mouth indelibly. Muscles definitely slacken when passions are allowed to sway the whole nature.’
A somewhat short round chin is easy-going, warm in affection but not passionate. There will be a fondness for kissing, a desire for marriage and children.
Much could be discerned from a profile view - the positioning and shape of the ears, the angle of the jawline can be very indicative - but as I do not have access to one, I shall have to work with what I have. Groves does appear to have a relatively weak jaw line. People with weak jaws are 'often the tools of disreputable, bad companions’.
Groves seems to have light bluish eyes. ‘A light blue eye in an adult indicates a nature likely to philander, that is inconstant in attachment and emotionally capricious.’ He is slightly heavy-lidded, which would suggest a reticent, reserved nature; receiving confidences, but giving none in return. The general puffiness of the area and the underlying bags may reinforce the suggestion of intemperance mentioned with regard to the mouth.
His eyebrows are darker than his hair – therefore strong feelings, passionate intensity, force of character and ardour are indicated. Their ruffled nature suggests irritability and quixotism.
Groves’ ‘boxer’s’ nose does not conform to any of the general types described in the text, although a ‘broad base from root to tip shows that the mind is logical, solid and enduring. On the negative side, ‘thickness in the breadth of the nose just above the wings of the nostrils is a sign of acquisitiveness and love of gain.
I am afraid Groves’ lack of wrinkles are not a good sign. ‘Self complacency and self-centredness may save you from having wrinkles. An insipid nature and a frivolous, mediocre mind will not acquire wrinkles until later in life.’ His light hair colour belongs to a demonstrative nature, perhaps with a love of ostentation and fickleness with the opposite sex.
How one combines this information into a meaningful whole is anyone’s guess - but here and there, to my mind, it reveals more than the odd flash of truth.
~ more pernicious mischief from eddie 'the milkman' groves
~ the sweet death knell of ABC Learning
Sunday, March 9, 2008
Scientists are outraged at the lack of quarantine employed by Australian security services at the first official meeting between an Earthly leader and ambassadors of the alien race calling itself The Phlegom. Dr Amelia Rogerson of MIT claimed, ‘such a wanton display of sheer ignorance could easily lead to the extinction of the human race. Has Mr Rudd not seen The War of The Worlds?’
This aside, the meeting was deemed a success. Though the Phlegomatic language remains impenetrable to linguists, [some even claiming that the entities’ constant wet squeezing sounds are not vocalisations at all, but a simple by-product of their physiology,] some communication seems to have been achieved through simple mathematical exchanges involving coloured blocks. When presented with a laptop computer, their leader became profoundly alarmed and - in what we are told was a benevolent act of mutual defence - obliterated the device with the enormous bone that designates his authority. When confronted with a pencil and paper, his reaction was similar but xenobiologists warn not to make the mistake of judging The Phlegom by our standards. Dr Rogerson said that ‘to underestimate The Phlegom merely because they appear obtuse or perhaps absurd would be a grave, potentially fatal mistake’.
Although the Phlegomatic craft, which landed in Central Australia on Tuesday, remains at the epicentre of a tight military cordon, some second hand reports have filtered through. There is general agreement that it is constructed of a material resembling leaves and that it has visibly decayed over the past days with huge cracks appearing in its fuselage. There is also said to be an accompanying odour variously described as that of decaying food scraps and burning hair.
Dr Jackson Smith of Parkes Observatory in NSW has suggested that it may be a single-use vehicle and that if The Phlegom decide to depart they may simply construct another. Other sources have suggested that the race appears to lack the necessary scientific and cultural sophistication to have developed a star-faring culture – although this is somewhat belied by their astonishing ability to raise vast rotating donuts of wet mud high into the atmosphere by power of thought alone.
Friday, March 7, 2008
I guess you could still call me a relatively new blogger. I’ve been uploading lunacy since the dying days of September 2007, and more or less keeping to a self-imposed regimen of four to five posts a week.
But lately it’s been getting hard. Not because I’m losing interest – I want to make that very clear, as I believe the weblog is an important new medium. It’s more because of my recalcitrant brain. I have reams of ideas, it’s not writer’s block - but I’m prone, as regular readers may have gathered, to periods of despair during which writing is a trial.
Why am I subject to these lapses? I must be bi-polar - at least to some extent. My mind has probably been set askew by drugs. Or slowly fogged by the murky vapours of hepatitis. The intermittent stress of living with a beautiful sylph who has an even more hellish inner life than me - that must play a part too. Then there’s the accursed Spasmo-Nemigron and the way it drains the spirit. And the chaos I have naturally generated about myself as long as I have walked this Earth. And the fear, love and stress of serving as progenitor to the precious Polly. And the nagging witch of penury. And the slow ripping talons of age. And the lofty expectations I set myself – while blithely ignoring the existence of all the above.
But before I drive myself deeper ad profundis with self-pity, I will cease this catalogue of my trials. After all, you are probably quite familiar with most, if not all, of my afflictions. I suspect I’ve moaned and groaned enough for now.
I just want to beg your indulgence, apologise for not answering your comments in a timely way, for being generally uncommunicative. It happens from time to time, there’s not much I can do about it, and I pray you won’t damn me for it.
I’m thankful I have a forum where I can vent so openly. I'd like to think that other online diarists suffer what I am suffering now and live to write another day. Actually, I feel better already. You can put away the restraints. I’m feeling much much better now. Really. Nurse, I won’t be needing whatever’s in that needle …
Now a delightful reward for enduring my lamentations. For your certain pleasure, allow me to share a little tale I’ve been wanting to tell for a while. It’s the kind of story that only works because it’s true. And because it happened in Queensland.
I was determined to include it in my slowly evolving play, Ambergris, but it wouldn’t fit, it seemed made-up, and today I finally admitted this to myself.
As wise old editors say: once you’ve finished your final draft, go back, find your favourite line and delete it.
It was Nikki Lambert who posted me the article from the Courier Mail. I think this was around the turn of the century..
I had intended that it be retold like this …
beamish: The Midas was a long-line fishing vessel … They’d hit upon a concentration of tuna; the sea was boiling with them, and with frenzied sharks... The crew couldn’t haul fast enough; they’d been working like dogs for hours, not a second to scratch themselves, when Tony noticed that The Greek was missing….
This was a guy they'd hired at the last minute; big ugly bloke with a ventriloquist moustache, ears like starfish and a hairy black mole on his nose the size of a marble. They scoured the ship for him, but The Greek, he was well gone. Reluctantly, they abandoned their work and criss-crossed the area till night. It was dawn when the captain called it quits. There’d been so many wired up sharks that day; he didn’t hold an ounce of hope for the guy.
You see, this captain had a special respect for sharks; once, he’d almost been taken overboard by a grey nurse they’d brought up by mistake. The thing was rabid and smeared in blood and convulsing round the deck like something they might have fished out of hell. It bit down on the guy, nearly dragged him through the rail, and he still bore the scars…
Anyway, the crew of The Midas had a meeting that night. What to do? Sail home, make a report? They were way out in international waters, the hold only quarter full in the middle of a teeming sea. If they left then they’d take a beating money wise, if they stayed, they’d clean up. It didn’t take long to decide what The Greek would have wanted. They’d fill the hold first. After all, what difference would it make? So they spent another week out there. Good catches – tuna, pink snapper, cod, jewfish, even an massive grouper which the captain knew he could sell for a mint to this particular Vietnamese restaurant.
blueboy: Which restaurant?
elspeth: Fine Kettle of Fish!
beamish: Shut up. I’m telling it. So they get back home, report the incident, sell the catch - and the captain goes out of his way to personally present the grouper to this extremely delighted restaurateur, who serves it up whole that night to a party of his most valued customers. This thing was fat and more than a metre long and nearly a hundred pound - there on a huge plate garnished with lemon slices, coriander, whatever. The maitre de starts slicing it up in situ and they tuck in with a vengeance. But just as one of them picks this hairy meatball the size of a marble from his mouth and all eyes turn to the fish - a filthy big human head just rolls on out onto the tablecloth.
elspeth: GIGGLING: With starfish ears …
morgen: I wouldn’t have recovered from that.
beamish: It got in the papers.
elspeth: TO BLUEBOY: Up here anyway.
blueboy: Where’d this happen?
beamish: Way way up north.
blueboy: And… It’s a true story?
beamish: I said so, yeah.
Now, the original article has long been inhumed within the turmoil of my room, but I assure you the meat of this story is real. For accuracy’s sake, I’ll give you the important discrepancies
The name Fine Kettle of Fish is on the money, but unfortunately further research seems to suggest that it was a seafood wholesaler not a Vietnamese restaurant. Sorry. I’m sure the level of shock would have been similar and the human head was definitely said to have ‘rolled out’. [And I guess, at the restaurant, the fish would have been gutted first.]
The fish was probably a 97 lb. 1.6 metre long Morgan Cod. This species, unlike groupers, are opportunistic bottom-feeders. ‘As cods do not attack humans it is believed that the crewman was ripped apart by sharks that habitually follow fishing boats to feed off fish scraps thrown overboard and that the giant cod, a bottom feeding fish, found and swallowed the head.’
After spending most of the day drinking with Pierre, I spent most of the evening drinking with Pierre. He has a vital, but diseased and cynical attitude to life. Through those many hours I shared with him, he must have described in detail at least twenty of his most memorable fucks. There is much to be said for his way of life. I wish I were capable of allowing myself such wanton shallowness.
I don’t think I even like Cathy D--- any more – perhaps because I associate her with Pierre and his bunch of cronies – perhaps because I’ve just lost faith.
I think it’s better to be alone and lonely rather than to be intimate with fools. I drank a bottle of whiskey with old Mick Lewis later that night
I slept with Tobsha on Monday night. We were celibate. She’s a dominant kind of girl. Lovely in many ways, but just not my type.
My voice is better now. It’s exciting to be able to sing again.
I am hating too many people now… or else I am feeling nothing for them… not caring – not at all –their lives seem so bleak and desolate… it depresses me – I keep looking to their deaths, or their old age. It is just one of those times; I cannot keep all those brutal facts of life out of my mind.
It’s to do with fear, you know – feeling so cold towards them …
I’ve mentioned the remarkable Pierre Voltaire before. He was a charismatic rake with a charming manner and with a goatish sexuality. To be succinct, a devil. At this time or very soon after he would be singing with The Fabulous Marquises, a pretty cool group which also boasted the talents of Ed Clayton-Jones, [who was later to play for The Wreckery and, briefly, the Bad Seeds].
I recall that night with Tobsha vividly. It was a clean, very white, very comfortable bed in a small room. There was definitely some form of attraction there, but nothing ever happened - I think, in a way, we were polar opposites. And I know I was intimidated by her sexual predation.
Mick Lewis reminded me of something amusing the other day. At some point around this time, [it may even appear later in the diary,] The Crystal Ballroom hosted a battle of the bands, with the voting done by the audience. The Ears took first place and the Serious Young Insects came second. First prize was a record contract with Laurie Richards and second was a crate of cider. There was no way we were going to get into a legal situation with Laurie [as Mick tells it] so we negotiated with the SYI to swap. In those days of short term goals, pennilessness and the necessity of immediate gratification, a crate of cider was magnificent recompense.
Tuesday, March 4, 2008
Erin and Henrik were married in a blustering wind on a beetling ocean cliff. Behind them the sky was a startling unreal blue, streaked with long clouds which were beginning to glow orange with the coming sunset. On the shore beneath, waves beat themselves to a chaos of spume on dark jagged rocks. With only a fragile wire fence between the swooning couple and certain bloody death on the murderous crags below, one could be forgiven for mistaking the ceremony for a suicide pact - if it wasn’t for all that love in the air. And this particular agglomeration of freaks - at least one of whom was in a mouse costume - were plainly no run-of-the-mill Death Cult.
To be brief, it was by far the wildest wedding I’ve seen. At one point, to my bewilderment, I found myself getting quite weepy. There were origami envelopes with messages of love, communal gospel singing and, I’m told, a streaker - a large dark skinned man whom I believe was aiming to cause a ruckus. Instead, Lynne gave him a couple of dinner plates to use as nipple protectors. Others nodded in greeting before he scaled the back fence and evaporated into the darkness.
As the light faded the scene grew ever more Gothic. The shadows lengthened, the sea raged and the wind grew piercing. Stark against the brute elements, Heathcliff and Catherine stood hand in hand … but Heathcliff was wearing a top hat so lofty it resembled a chimney and Cathy could not resist flaunting her arterial red vinyl hotpants. What cool vibes there were. I loved how Erin just kept kissing Henrik the whole way through. ‘Nobody told me I was limited to one kiss’, she said.
Erin and Henrik, like are rusted-on arty types they are, turned their wedding into a three day carnival on the Mornington Peninsula and christened it The Love Fest. Polly and I travelled down on the Friday, just prior to the wedding itself, with the carless Lynne in tow. We pitched our tent and erred off the edge of the world for two dreamy sparkling days.
Almost immediately, Polly found a friend – Pepita – the daughter of some organic farmers from New Zealand, and somehow, after all that time in the sun, in a triumph of parenting, her cheeks were the only part of her the slightest bit burnt. On the Sunday, she was brave enough to spend eight minutes on a yacht before freaking out over its sloshing movements …
I had promised to do a reading of my egg poem [the ovist] but things were so bleached out and hyper-real that I couldn’t imagine actually doing it. After all, I only knew a handful of the people there and I was somewhat monged out and Erin’s father was doling out quantities of his excellent Buckley’s Beer … Yet I held to my word and it proved to be a pretty good performance. Raving, gibbering absurdity on an idyllic Australian beach … I’d hoped to use an emu egg as a prop, but had to settle for normal one … probably funnier in the end … I’m going to do another performance of it at Lynne’s Snatches show at RMIT.
The whole crowd was dressed in white that day and at one point we clustered together while Henrik took a series of 3D lenticular photos. I had unearthed a Najee suit direct from the Eighties and could easily have been mistaken for Simon Le Bon.
Such a fabulous weekend. Children dragging huge flaccid branches of kelp. Mirror ball helmets. Lou Lou, a circus girl from Cologne. Tierra del Fuego plagued by black and white rabbits, their rivers clogged by feral beavers from fur farms of long ago. A man who took too much viagra and could only see the colour blue. Rich kids in the Mediterranean getting themselves microchipped so they can be scanned as they enter clubs. Great permanent piles of frozen penguin shit in the Antarctic with a tart, fishy smell.
Lynne told us there are several categories of children at kindergarten: pushers, biters, pinchers, scratchers and Chinese burners. She asked Polly, ‘which are you?’ ‘All of them,” Polly replied.
Monday, March 3, 2008
'The board of directors “must act in the best interests of the company as a whole’ with their main task being "to drive the performance of the Company" - ABC Learning Annual Report 2004, p. 32'
And how far down the list of priorities are the children?
Can’t stop myself. Sorry. But it isn’t every day a bone fide capitalist swine meets a sticky end. With his brown winkle-pickers, his Ferrari and his basketball team [the Brisbane Bullets], he is the corporate vulture to end all corporate vultures.
Since my earlier post on the subject, I’ve learnt some more things about Groves’ operation which I just have to share. In Sunday’s Age a financial commentator named James Kirby discussed his fall in a wider context. The piece was far too apologetic for my taste - concentrating on Groves' impact on the business world rather than on our society - but Kirby did point out some of his failings – hubris was the word he used.
In 2003 Fast Eddie sued the child-care union for defamation. It began with his insistence that carers [then on $10, now on $14 an hour] wear uniforms and pay for them themselves. The LHMU [Liquor Hospitality & Miscellaneous Union] reacted with an ‘Uncle Scrooge’ campaign. distributing ‘defamatory’ pamphlets at his centres. Groves spat the dummy, “they made it personal and they are going to regret it. I'm looking for $500,000 in damages.” He refused to meet with the union, and the case, though it did reach the courts, seems to have fizzled out.
In a 2003 article, Kirby wrote that ‘big profits are drawing free-wheeling entrepreneurs into the industry’. One financial adviser commented, 'I'm 77 and the child-care business is the best business I've ever seen in my life. The Government pays subsidies, the parents pay you two weeks in advance and property prices keep going up."
Kirby tells us that ‘diamond miners, dot-com pioneers and real estate agents are getting on board.’ but it does trouble him that due to a lack of appropriate regulation ‘anyone in any business, from cigarettes to strip joints, can buy a chain of child-care centres’. That was four years ago. I wonder if anything has changed? It does tell us that Groves was not the only one with his finger in the pie – he just stole the biggest slice.
Claire Kimball [a ministerial advisor to Howard's Minister for Children Larry Anthony] was quoted as saying. "There is no regulation of ownership and there is no reason to believe there should be."
Astonishingly, the maleficent Michael Kroger [and, for a time, father in law Andrew Peacock] also got involved in the child-care industry. I wonder, would someone like him be in it for the money or the children? Or, a more pertinent question, would you put your children under his care? Kroger’s company Child Care Centres of Australia would up getting into hot water with ASIC and pulling its horns in.
While on the political angle, The Age also draws our attention to the aforementioned Larry Anthony who, after he lost his parliamentary seat in the 2004 election, was appointed to the board of ABC Learning. Anthony was Howard’s Minister for Children. He was instrumental in the creation of the 30% government child-care rebate, which was largely responsible for those ‘diamond miners’ jumping on the childcare milk-wagon. Labor accused him of a conflict of interest. Anthony would give Groves ‘unparalleled access’ to the Howard government. Indeed, I recall reading that a new defence Department building had chosen ABC to manage their in-house crèche.
I have also come across a very revealing 2006 report by The Australia Institute, a left-leaning think-tank based at ANU. It was gratifying seeing many of my perceptions and suspicions given weight by a scholarly paper.
Though there is much disparity in the quality levels of ABC centres, they are generally deficient compared to independent or community based centres. There are poorer staff-to-child ratios. Staff have insufficient time to develop relationships with the children. Some centres have no cleaners, and the staff must pick up the slack, as well as wrangling a large amount of paperwork - leaving too little time for their primary responsibility.
There is often insufficient food or it is of poor quality, or lacking in fresh fruit and vegetables. Qualified cooks are poorly paid. ‘Equipment budgets appear to be adequate but… staff felt limited by the fact that these budgets must be spent at an ABC Learning-owned toy company that does not provide a wide enough variety for programming which is developed for individual children.’
‘Staff were ‘expected to present a professional program without being paid or treated as professionals. A number said that they and other staff regularly complete tasks at home. Some said that they were not paid for set up time, clean up time, or for evening staff meetings. One said that since the introduction of the Work Choices legislation, staff had been told that they were no longer permitted even to claim time-in-lieu for these necessary tasks.’ [Some familiar Work Choices horror scenarios follow].
In my previous post, I quoted many ex-staff members who felt obliged to lie. Something similar crops up here. ‘Staff appear to be discouraged from raising any concerns about the operation of ABC Learning centres outside the company itself.’ The report goes on to suggest that since so much public money is paid to these centres, then the public has a right to know what’s happening in them. They conclude, wisely in my opinion, that the government ‘should consider the wisdom of allowing any further expansion of corporate chains in the long day care sector’
It’s a detailed paper and I suggest you look at it, if you’re interested in the subject. It reports that ‘children are secondary to concerns regarding efficiency and cost-containment’, and warns that if there is pressure on the share price – as there is now - these strictures will tighten.
You may wonder, where did this all start? Who let the dogs out? Well, perhaps you can guess.
‘In 1997’, quoting Kirby, ‘the Howard Government scrapped special subsidies to non-profit child-care centres and in a single stroke, child care was changed. Privately owned and non-profit child-care centres could charge roughly the same fees. Now… the reality of a privatised child-care sector is hitting home.’
I couldn't sleep at night if one my centres was not up to scratch – Eddie Groves.