Wednesday, April 29, 2009

~ a fragile beauty in the compost bin

It’s been one of those weeks when things work nicely to plan.

I’ve finished a short play – The Goitre Birds – which will be performed (by myself and the estimable Francis McMahon [He Died With A Falafel in His Hand, The Rage in Placid Lake]) as part of Snatches on Friday May 15 in RMIT’s Kaleide Theatre in Swanston St.

Snatches is the brainchild of my beloved colleague Lynne Ellis, who is Director-in-Residence at RMIT. It’s a gallimaufry of short works stapled together with Lynne’s customary wit and charm. The quality of the performances and the writing range from prime to abysmal, but it’s almost always interesting to behold – and if something’s boring, that’s okay, whatever it is will not last more than ten minutes.

I’ve also completed - at last, just this minute - my liner notes for the Beargarden CD release. We had our meeting – Bruce Butler, Andrew Till and I – and we plotted out what remains to be done. The cover/booklet design is pretty much it. We’re spending the next fortnight trawling for photos, posters etc. Also, we’re going to set up the obligatory My Space page and post all the videos we can find to You Tube. (If you happen to possess anything along these lines, we’d be very grateful to hear from you.)

With my wife away, Polly and I have been thoroughly in each other’s hair. Over the weekend, I was chafing at the bit in the role of daddy, particularly on Saturday afternoon when we played host to one of Polly’s school friends. The house, which I’ve worked so hard to keep tidy, was magically reduced to squalor in what seemed an instant. This week, however, has been a father’s dream. We’re loving each other’s company. There’s been little sign of whinging. Scarcely any procrastination at bedtime. If only family life was always so ideal.

There have been all manner of lesser duties and commitments to be confronted – some of them onerous and connected to the troubles I’ve alluded to in previous posts. Stressful, confusing, but they’re behind me now.

And today a gift was bestowed me from the mysterious unknown.

After noticing a putrid smell in the laundry, I recalled that the compost been building up for at least a fortnight. Every day I mean to move it, but the cold puts me off, or I’m not wearing shoes, or … whatever. This morning, at last, I lugged the heavy bucket of decomposing scraps out back to the compost bin, lifted the lid and was presented with a vision of splendour.

Of all the curious moulds and fungi I’ve encountered, this has to be one of the most sublime. Like hoar-frost crystallising on the decaying vegetable matter, pristine white, almost luminous in the gloom of the green plastic bin, like something from a fairy dell, or from a child’s dream of Christmas.

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Tuesday, April 28, 2009

* 8 June 1981 Monday 8.00pm

I’m still in Mt Waverley. I shall not go to Inflation tonight; a decision I bless myself for making.

The important thing is the flat I’ve found. Carol’s to be exact. In Acland St. Therefore very little chance of aid from my mother.

$40 a week. How will I do it? I will do it, I know, but how? I need an initial $400 plus, but I’ll get it somehow.


Just a brief entry this time. It must have been the era of the wonderful ‘Blitz’ nights at Inflation, where people wore the most preposterous costumes imaginable, danced to Duran Duran and considered themselves very, very cool. Up the stairs I'd go, past the Mick Jagger hologram glowing in the pillar, to sit at a curved bar in the corner and down Crown Lagers until I was brave enough to join the seething masses below. When Inflation comes to mind, the first detail I always recollect is a brief exchange of pleasantries with Siouxie Sioux.

How I made the shift from lousy punk to New Romantic is somewhat of a mystery. The underlying sentiments seem quite different, but the clothes and the excitement were comparable. So there you have it - I was lured by the clothes and the excitement, shallow creature that I was. And not just I; much of the scene of which I was a part was shifting.

It occurs to me also that Inflation was pretty much the first nightclub I and my friends frequented … Though there was that place high up in an office block at 100 Collins St on Wednesday nights – the University Club, I think it was. I used to go with Troy. I remember a beautiful night there with Christine, dancing to Ashes to Ashes

Before this, it was strictly band venues. And after, more and more clubs: Subterrain, Underground, Chasers, Hardware, Razer. My memory is nowhere near good enough to remember all the names, and when exactly they were at their peak, but certainly the clubs began to take over as social hubs for the freaks of Melbourne.

Carol. Carol Pinx? Carol Pinxt? Who knows what became of her? Her flat in Acland St … I think Cathy Denny may have lived there too. After sound-check at the Ballroom that’s where I’d commonly go to get myself sufficiently drunk to perform.

[Thanks and love to those who've donated. It will make a real difference. I'll be finding out today the true extent of my financial tribulations, but, like the black clouds looming over Melbourne, things do not look bright]

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Saturday, April 25, 2009

~ the cult of the millipede

It was a large ellipse of dark red soil almost the size of a football oval and delimited by a plain concrete walkway. The soil had been imported a decade previously, dozed from the surface of a dry exhausted region somewhere in the interior and poured over the contents of a landfill which had served the waste management needs of the capital city for three decades. The area was then graded flat and left to detoxify; over a period of fourteen years, its poisons and noxious gases leached steadily away, until the land could officially be designated fit for human use.

The red plain was vast and desolate, as devoid of ecology as the wastelands from which the soil had been procured, yet beneath, among the strata of refuse, materials were reacting with each other, merging, catalysing, gumming, fusing. The near infinite variety of society’s discards were co-mingling and beginning to seethe.

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Thursday, April 23, 2009

~ survival fund

By hook and by crook, I've managed to pay off the lawyers - mainly through bank loans - and although the aspect of my legal problem is looking slightly less gloomier, it's still dire and in the meantime I'm living day to day in a financial sense. I think I've had to fork out just on 20G which is more money than I've ever seen in my life. If you enjoy the blog, or want to help me fight what seem to be rather draconian marijuana laws - or else just pity me - please feel free to make a donation. I'll love you forever.

Below are earlier versions of this post


About a year ago, I ran into some trouble with the law. It concerned a couple of dozen marijuana plants which were discovered in my backyard with the help of a concerned neighbour. Fair cop, I thought. There's no such thing as a free lunch, after all.

But, to my horror, I spent the following two weeks in jail, charged with trafficking and cultivating a commercial quantity of cannabis. These are very serious charges indeed and are vastly out of scale with my offenses. I face the very real prospect of a considerable jail term and the seizure of my family home. Putting aside the impact this will have on me, there is also my family to consider: my seven year old daughter Polly, an innocent, and my partner Jenny. In a worst case scenario their lives would also be devastated.

The legal process has been long, nightmarish and expensive . Primarily with the proceeds of the Sails of Oblivion benefit show - to which such saints as Steve Kilbey, Brian Hooper, Sean Kelly, Greg Fleet, David Bridie, Hugo Race, Nick Barker offered their services - I have been able to pay the six or seven thousand dollars it has cost thus far.

But the trial is looming. Extraordinarily, it will take place before a jury and last four days in January 2011. I will again have to accumulate something in the range of seven thousand dollars before August this year - as the the judge has deemed that finances be in place by that time. As I own my own home, I am ineligible for legal aid, and I do not earn enough to qualify for a loan.

Naturally, any donation, however small, would be welcome. Clicking the donate button will take you to Paypal, from where monies will be transferred directly to my solicitor's trust account. If Paypal is not your thing, cheques may be mailed to 3 French St, Mt Waverley, VICTORIA 3149 Australia.

As you can imagine, it is humbling having to make this request, but my situation leaves me little option.

Love on ya.

[Below is the original text for this post. Once more, I will promise to post more often, if I am able. And I will have a hard look at the idea of selling artwork. And I am up for any suggestion.]


You may have noticed that I’ve added a Donate button.

Due to recent events, (which, for now, I can only describe vaguely as being legal in nature,) my financial circumstances have become rather dire – and further challenges are looming in the not too distant future. If you’re a reader of Sails of Oblivion and/or just want to help, I and family will bless you for any contribution, however small. In return, I am biting the bullet and guaranteeing a minimum of four posts per week. I’m also thinking of creating a members’ list to which contributors’ names will be added, if they wish. I just have to put some thought into it, and any suggestions are welcome.

I’ve been producing some pretty interesting artwork recently, surprising even myself, and I’m considering offering it for sale at some point, hopefully soon.

I’m still not wholly clear how the donate button works, but I do know any contribution will flow to my paypal account. Be sure to leave an identifier, if you wish to be identified, and please, above all, do not feel even remotely obliged.

Love on ya.

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~ milk

It was good to be a father yesterday.

For his short, milk-related film, Ben, who studies film at RMIT, found a very upscale kitchen in an extraordinary house built into the shell of an old brewery in Collingwood. The place was bursting with beautiful furniture, objets and what have you. There was an internal balcony looking down from a bedroom onto the living area you see beneath, two vast old brick chimneys beautifully integrated into still another sprawling living space, and a roof top deck with a view of all northern inner-city Melbourne. I don’t often get the chance to see inside places like this …

Maybe one day ... I can only dream.

Ben had a bigger crew than I expected and a load of equipment, including tracks. Into this complicated scenario walked the tiny six year old Polly in her school dress. I know she hates being in front of crowds and the concentrated attentions of an eight-strong film crew must have worried her, but she showed no sign of nerves. Ben took just the right tack. He was sweet, patient and gentle, but he’s that sort of guy anyway, so it wasn’t much of a stretch.

Polly discovered the meaning of the words action and cut. She saw her first clapper. She learned that sometimes shots need to be done again and again, even if the actor has done her job perfectly. As I mentioned in a previous post, all she had to do was get a bottle of milk from the fridge, take it to the kitchen bench, pour a glass and drink it. It sounds simple, I know, but it wasn't.

I was amazed – and proud – of how precisely she obeyed the director’s instructions, and how well she remembered all the little subtleties she was asked to add.

They’d chosen one of those big 3 litre plastic bottles, so it took all Polly’s strength to heft it, but the real killer was the milk itself. So many takes, so much drinking, and I don’t really think she was pacing herself. Then came a shot in which she accidentally poured a huge quantity into the glass and proceeded to swallow it down. The camera kept rolling and the room held its breath. Would Polly obey her directions and try to drink it all before looking up and smiling at the camera? Or would she work around the excess in some way? Trooper that she was, she attempted to do what she’d been told and continued taking gulp after gulp. Everyone there was feeling that milk go down. Ben and I were exchanging worried glances. I was concerned that she’d damage herself in some way, internally, or perhaps vomit …

In the end, thank god, the director broke in to say she didn’t have to drink it all. Such a determined little creature, focusing so hard on getting it exactly right

From that point on, she mimed as much of the milk-drinking as was possible, and, inevitably, began to complain of a sick stomach. After about two hours of hard concentration, she slipped, banged her tooth on the bench, and let go all the pressure with a long cry. Then a short break, one more shot, a wrap, and a round of applause for a fantastic effort.

It so happens that the camera they were using was the same one used in the filming of Brideshead Revisited. What about that? The work of Sir John Gielgud, Sir Laurence Olivier, Jeremy Irons, Anthony Andrews has passed through that device…

And now that of Polly Sejavka.

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Monday, April 20, 2009

~ the commonplace

I derive such succour from the ordinary things, the commonplace events I can reply on to be commonplace, the cherished routines …

School started today at Pinewood. I watched Polly’s green gingham back as it disappeared through the doors amongst a chirruping flock of other six and seven year olds. I’ve been spending so much time with her lately, I felt a flush of sadness this time, on top of the customary relief.

Polly is going to be in a film tomorrow. A student film by the lovely Ben Andrews, in which she is going to walk to a refrigerator, open it and pour herself a glass of milk. I’m not sure she if she quite understands what’s going to be happening. She keeps calling it a ‘play’ - as plays are something she’s reasonably familiar with - but I’m confident she’ll adapt, and not freeze-up or anything like that. I’ve been astonished by her progress lately, her reading, writing, comprehension, all that stuff. And of course, her imagination.

I’ve set her up a desk in my study where she occupies herself while I work. Long gone are the days when work was a pipe dream if Polly was in my sole care.

My wife has retired from the scene for a few weeks, requiring some peace and quiet to mend the inner fabric of her soul. My recent precipitate departure took as much of a toll on her as it did on me.

I am able to breathe a little easier now, though there is a looming darkness on the horizon and it is difficult not to worry about. Strangely, having emerged from such horror and remorseless grinding stress, I feel freshly energised. Particularly with my work. I have a whole lot of projects on the go now, and I am appreciating all the sacred little things, which, for a period there, I thought I might have lost.

The honour of feeding the white duck Immaculata is by no means the least of these.

And, of course, nothing now stands in the way of my intention to photograph and identify the native fungi of Mt Waverley.

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Sunday, April 19, 2009

* 7 June 1981 Sunday 7.30pm

I stayed with Tobsha last night. We shared a bottle of champagne. I enjoyed spending time with her, at her fine little house.

I read some of her writing. She is a terrible speller and seems obsessed by the genital organs.

Why am I speaking in such a detached tone? Is it because I am unsure of my feelings towards her? At a party last night, she made some disturbing suggestions, the exact nature of which I cannot properly recall.

She has the makings of a fine friend, but a lover? Perhaps not for me.

The single remained at nine on the RRR charts this week


Yes, I’ve reopened the tattered old green book. Not that stimulating an entry, unless, perhaps, you’re a fan of Tobsha’s work, in which case I suspect the genital obsession will make plenty of sense.

I recall being kind of condescending, and kind of jealous when she told me she’d been writing. She was a sculptor, not a writer, and besides how could you be any sort of writer if you couldn’t spell? I was yet to learn that W B Yeats, one of my literary idols, couldn’t spell to save his life.

And, over the years since, Tobsha has produced a far more successful body of work from her pen than I from mine. Who was I kidding?

Those of you interested in the Beargarden release: we’re having a meeting next Sunday which should produce a very swift timeline.

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Saturday, April 18, 2009

~ if there were no cats

At one point there, I suddenly realised I hadn’t seen, let alone touched, a cat for the longest period I could recall. Strangely - or perhaps not so strangely – it hit me with a flush of sadness. Of all the many things that were wrong, just for a moment, this seemed like the worst.

Cats weren’t the only thing denied me. I was captured in a sensory void, made worse by the constant sick-making bromide of banal television, and the thousand tiny limitations checking my thought and my movement, and the faint but constant smell of putrefaction.

All around me, the drone of communications between alien minds. Robot shells stalking the perimeter, some containing the ruined vestiges of human intelligence – not unlike daleks, I suppose – daring not to expose themselves in such a hostile environment.

Just to stroke a cat, just to hear its welcoming brr. Such a simple thing, a lovely thing that adds just a dusting of pleasure to the day.

And all the other things, the micro-things, the hundreds of them, which we use to add that little bit of comfort and pleasure to the harsh flow of life. Foods, scents, textures, personal rituals. And if they are denied, suddenly, en masse, if all the colour is suddenly drained from our field of vision, it sends a crack through the soul.

Once, a friend of mine was opining on the death of Michael Hutchence. Apparently, during the period Michael was going out with the Danish model Helena Christiansen, he was involved in a motorcycle accident. As I recall, they were leaving a restaurant in Copenhagen, when he was struck down and injured in such a way that his sense of smell was either lost or severely reduced.

My friend explained that this was much more than it seemed. For a start, Michael was something of a bon vivant, who savoured the products of all the senses. Wine, for example. I was told he was getting heavily into wine on a connoisseur level. Now, when you lose your olfactory sense, it affects your taste as well; the two, as I understand it, are synergistic. Try holding your nose when you eat; you’ll see what I mean.

This culling of his senses, as it does to many, resulted in depression. The same depression that was to play a part in his death.

All the sights and sounds and tastes and touches. They sustain us. They sustain me. We have two cats here at our house, as readers of this blog may already know, and all those random encounters, the petting, the nuzzling and the feeding, watching the small one chewing at the buttons on my shirt, watching them wrestle after breakfast time, watching the balance of their lithe bodies … well, they have a place in my life. They raise my spirits. Just a fraction. A sweet little fraction.

And I missed it. Along with my family, my friends, my work, my routines, my house, my room …

It's such a tiny, but poignant thing, our alliance with the cats.

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Monday, April 13, 2009

~ sixteen days

Just as I was about to get serious with my blogging, (amongst other things,) something deadly, deadly serious fell from the sky, scooped me up and planted me in a sixteen day Dantean nightmare, from which, thank the Blind Watchmaker, I have at last been extracted.

I don’t know how candid I should be, but for now I’ll just say that it came down to my love of the halfling’s leaf. Did it cloud my mind? Most emphatically. Did it expose my soft underbelly to the impersonal machinery of the state? Again, emphatically.

Down the track, I hope I’ll have some eye-opening tales to tell, but at present discretion is my watch-word and I won’t say too much. Or anything at all, really.

Over the last few days, I’ve just been focusing on myself and my family. At first glance, it seemed our world had been tipped upside side and left to moulder on the nature strip. But with a little effort, and the return to comfortable routines, with immersion in the love of wife and radiant daughter, and by reminding oneself that, although our financial problems seem insurmountable, they are not, and are actually a lot less severe than many.

Thankfully, there is a silver lining. When something pulls you up in your life, however ferociously, there is the chance to reset, reflect, recalibrate. To start again from scratch, if necessary. To either surge forth or clear the slate. It’s a time to count the positives, and, at least in my situation, they add up to a beautiful total.

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