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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Tuesday, September 2, 2008

~ mysterious space girls

We have these uber-cool space-girl dolls, but cannot discover their names or if there are more to the series. They appear to have been made by Irwin in 2002.

They talk and have some awareness of their body positioning, complaining of boredom when they're sitting or lying down. They each have a plug-in pet. The one on the left is clever and has an alligator/keyboard colleague. The other is daft and just wants to go shopping. She has a cat, but we're missing that. If you plug in the wrong cord, they tell you, ie: That's not Nizu!

If you know anything about them, please, do tell.

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* 2 June 1981 Tuesday 9.00pm

It is agreed on all sides now that the Ears, as such, have split. I am still startled and am not sure what course I shall take – perhaps I should just sit down tonight and write a story. Perhaps that would set the right forces in motion.

Tomorrow we’re playing at a place in the city called “The Boulevarde”, Friday at the Oxford Hotel with the Models. It will be their farewell and certainly ours as well.

This alcohol thing shall stop. I am resolved.

Last night, as is my Monday night habit, I went to Inflation. I saw Sue Ryan again and talked to her. She has so much faith in me it is painful. She kept saying, “I feel so inadequate …” Her friend Anne-Marie is definitely worth the time of day.

Will I persevere with music? Today Gus, Mick and I arranged random words in the Office Hotel and came up with the name Vast Blood Masons. I like it, but Mick prefers Running Teeth.

Franca was down tonight. I stayed Thursday and Friday nights up there, in The Patch. I went to a mushroom party on Friday. Hideous. Those boys especially. Terrifying.
Coarse. Hills people. And fancy dress to boot - as if it wasn't enough of a nightmare already. I sat out in the car for most of the night.

Franca loves me. I can see it a mile away.

Shall I go to Nimbin with her? (She has a swathe of unspoilt land in Tuntable Falls)

Shall I go to Sydney … then Europe, perhaps … singing and writing all the way…?

PS: On the RRR charts our single reached 7 and is now at 9.


We were crazy, letting the Ears go like that. At least, that’s my opinion with the benefit of hindsight. But the personal stuff going on between Mick and Cathy, in particular, would probably have made it impossible to continue. That Oxford gig, our last, was great.

I remember, that night in the hills, being in a car with rednecks on mushrooms. He hit something, probably a rabbit, and utterly freaked out. It was very disturbing

The Boulevarde was a place which later became Subterrain? Subterranean? Models farewell … Well that wasn’t a very successful break up, was it? As far as I know, they’re still playing.

Alcohol. Yes, alcohol. No alcohol for me these days – it would ring my glass liver like a bell.

I have a handbill from a secret Vast Blood Masons gig, which I will scan as soon as I get my scrapbook back. Andrew Till is using it for the packaging of the Beargarden CD. I wish that little cut-up session with Gus & Mick had yielded something really good, or at least something that didn’t sound like ‘beergarden’.

Mick was later to form a group called The Walking Bellies, I wonder if it was inspired by Running Teeth?

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