Sunday, May 31, 2009

~ burning rhubarb on the beach & swine flu

I drove to Camberwell Market through the cold and fog this morning in search of books that might be suitable for my eBay endeavour. During my time there, from a number of sources, I learned some extraordinary things about the current swine flu pandemic.

For one, independent scientists are apparently saying that the flu couldn’t possibly be of natural origin, suggesting that it was deliberately created in secret US government laboratories. H1N1 is genetically a mixture of swine, bird and human influenza strains that have been brought together from distant regions of the globe, spliced and then released in nearby Mexico …

Now why, you might ask? And does its apparent lack of lethality mean that they have failed? Nothing so simple. One pundit told me that once you’re infected with the flu, only then can Tamiflu deliver its fatal blow – but this seems a little pointless, doesn’t it? Perhaps not, if you’re part of some secret cabal like, say, the Illuminati, who, recognising that climate change will destroy the Earth, are endeavouring to clear it of a good percentage of its human inhabitants.

The lack of fatalities was also explained to me by the fact that swine flu is just a trial run for some monstrous vital genocide to come …

What makes a little more sense is the suggestion that a lot of heavily connected industrialists are deeply invested in Roche pharmaceuticals [manufacturer of tamiflu] and have purposefully engineered the pandemic to force up stock prices. Among them, of course, are the likes of Rumsfeld, Cheney and, surprisingly, Barack Obama who is, I have learnt, just as much a neo-con puppet as was Bush.

I’m not sure that this works, at least in Australia, where tamiflu stocks, if I recall correctly, were about to be replaced anyway, as they are approaching their use-by.

When I looked on the web, the scenario became even more complicated. One site offers a sceptical list of potential conspiracy scenarios: the US anti-immigration lobby is attempting to close the Mexican border once and for all. PETA may be trying to make chickens and pigs too dangerous to exploit. Suspicion is also leveled at drug cartels, Islam, the media, mask manufacturers and the Catholic church. Additionally, I discovered a recommendation for something called oscillococcinum in case of influenza.

While I give this stuff very little credence at all, I do like to ponder about it and I respect the imaginative effort that's been made.


This last week I’ve been working hard on my benefit gig; hopefully a cast of characters will solidify through the coming days, but it’s almost certain to occur in early to mid August.

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Tuesday, May 26, 2009

~ spider sac

Circumstances have forced me back into that most cruel of tasks: selling books on Ebay. I have reassumed the identity of ‘Lampsucker’ and am diligently slaving away, as I expect to be for at least the next year.

While burrowing through my stock the other day, I found the egg sack of a spider attached to an Isabel Allende biography. Though it was slightly torn, it seemed quite full, so I investigated further, to find it was filled with tiny spherical eggs of a light green colour.

The eggs seemed to have crystallised. If you crush a crystal of sugar under the end of a spoon you are left with the same type of powder residue I was left with when I crushed one of these eggs. Only
pale green instead of white.

I’m pretty certain the sac was the work of a huntsman of the holconia group – the species which most commonly inhabits houses here in Melbourne. They produce ‘a flat, oval egg sac of white papery silk, and lay up to 200 eggs’. Well there were about fifty eggs in this one, but otherwise it fits the facts. Also the ‘spiderlings are pale brown or green in colour’, so perhaps this was one of the green batches.

I was also surprised to learn that huntsmen have lifespans of about two years.

The other possibility was the dreaded white-tail (Lampona cylindrata or Lampona murina). Its saccing habits were described thus: ‘they make temporary silk retreats and spin disc-shaped egg sacs which contain as many as 90 eggs’. I saw no evidence of a silk retreat and there was nothing particularly disc-like about the sac

But I did learn something interesting.

My wife hates white-tails with a passion and is always checking Polly’s sheets for them. (They like clean linen.) Her mother, Di, was bitten once and reacted very badly, perhaps experiencing the necrosis that their bites are said to cause. I have spoken to a woman who claimed a white-tail bite caused her to lose two years of her life in the mists of chronic fatigue syndrome. Without really thinking about it, feeble sceptic that I am, I was quite prepared to believe that these spider bites could cause seeping wounds that never heal – a condition named "necrotising arachnidism". (“Occasionally, the reaction is so severe that the person loses large amounts of skin and needs extensive skin grafts.”)

It appears this is something of an urban myth or at least a vast exaggeration.

I myself first heard of white-tails around the time my wife moved in, around 2000, and it surprised me that I’d been ignorant of such a seemingly perilous threat. And apparently it has only been since the 1980s that reports of severe skin lesions have been reported.

Here are a few random quotes from the web:

A recent study has monitored the medical outcomes of over 100 verified White-tailed Spider bites and found not a single case of ulceration (confirming the results of an earlier study).

The University of Adelaide’s Clinical Toxinology Resources ( have an excellent run down of the venoms of all sorts of Aussie fauna and their effects. The entry on white-tails says that necrosis “does not occur, based on current clinical evidence”.

Bites from these spiders have been reported to cause necrosis (decomposition of the skin). This has only been verified in 14 spider bites over the past 10 years, and none of the victims could confirm the type of spider responsible. This reaction is considered to be rare. However, bacteria on the fangs of the spiders may cause severe infection or other allergic reactions.

I’m getting the feeling that the white tail thing has been blown out of proportion. In their favour, they’re an arachnovore, hunting other spiders (like red-backs and daddy-long-legs) for food.


If you’ve stayed with me this long, you might be interested to know that there’s been some movement on the Save Sam’s Neck effort, coming principally from my guru to the north, Steve Kilbey. I was thinking about arranging a theatrical-style benefit, that being the scene I move in these days, but Steve’s suggested, and offered to be part of, a musical benefit.

It’s early days yet, but it will probably be in August and legendary promoter Dolores San Miguel has offered a hand. Also, unless the sky falls in, The Ears will be doing a reformation.

I’ll leave you with this still by Marc Morel from The Goitre Birds, performed at Snatches a little over a week ago.

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Sunday, May 24, 2009

~ all the more cats

A cry of utter revulsion came from the laundry, where Polly had caught sight of this –

Lately, distasteful things - even pictures of distasteful things - have been tending to make Polly cry, and this particular jigsaw puzzle of gore and grume on the linoleum was just too horrid for her to even consider trying to work it out.

Me? Well this sort of thing is my bread and butter; it’s hardwired into my masculine identity. I am involuntarily attracted to purulent, noisome, fetid, reechy, repugnant things. Indeed, as a young boy, the very first time I used a thesaurus, these were the concepts around which I sought to build a powerful vocabulary. There seems to be truth to the whole 'slugs and snails and puppy-dog tails' paradigm.

And that’s why I sometimes include images of this kind in Sails of Oblivion. I just can’t help myself.

What you see above are the remains of Tweety Bird’s night dinner: a tail, some extraneous blood and faeces and, again, that strange bean-shaped sac which she invariably places to the side.

Previously, we had thought it might be the liver, but now the truth comes into focus. It is the rat’s stomach. Clearly, Tweety, a proud feline, deigns with extreme prejudice to consume the kind of ordure eaten by a rat.

Tweety and Little Kitty, after breakfast of a morning, customarily engage in wargames: stalking, leaping, pouncing, and crashing around the house. This morning I caught this series of images.

(By the way, my Flickr account is full up, so my images have moved to Photobucket)

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Friday, May 22, 2009

~ the revenant dolphin

First off thanks to Ross. Matthew, Sue & Katherine for donating. Thanks with all my heart. Love on ya.

Second, another instalment in the ongoing miracle of nature that is Robert (the scientist in our carport).

I don’t know about you, but I have always found can-opener technology to be a frustration. Every so often, I buy a new one that promises longevity, superior ease of use and seamless efficiency, but I am always disappointed.

Even the innovative design which appeared a decade or so back, dancing in a multi-coloured chorus line on television; the kind which takes off the whole top of the can rather than just the disc within the rim – even these prove wanting, and all too rapidly find their way into the bin

Inevitably, I find myself with my hand in the back of the drawer, extracting a can-opener I can rely on – the elderly opener of classic design with the single blade and no rotating serrated wheel; the one which requires a strong arm and which chews through the metal leaving a ring of razor sharp points.

Some months back, on a whim, I bought a new translucent green opener for a little more than I would ordinarily spend on such an appliance. It was called The Dolphin, because it vaguely resembled a dolphin, and it promised all those things which the makers of can-openers customarily promise.

A month later, it was inoperable, and sitting on the side of the kitchen bench awaiting disposal.

And this is where Robert steps in.

When he is at our place, he consumes a serving of baked beans on toast approximately every two hours, and keeps a store of cans in the cupboard. I am surprised he even recognised The Dolphin as a can-opener, but he did, and upon realising it was broken, his strange, ingenious mind set to work.

The Dolphin disappeared into the carport and emerged an hour later transformed and in full working order, with fresh innards and large Soviet-style actuating device connected to the side

Though he has plainly not allowed himself to be constrained by the aesthetic of the original design, he has - with his arcane skills, his tool mill, his industrial lathe, and his propensity for massive over-engineering - retrofitted The Dolphin into the smoothest, most-reliable can-opener I have ever had the pleasure to operate.

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Wednesday, May 20, 2009

~ the people of the shoe

At night the elliptical cement pathway glimmered dully under the constant glare of security lights. It slowly released its heat into the air, but was otherwise inert, desolate, a sign of human presence in the past, but not the present. There were a few small indications of nearby habitation, the everpresent cigarette butts, a frayed shoelace, a lolly-wrapper. On the smaller scale, spit, phlegm and human skin flakes nourished the barren russet earth, feeding the low shining weeds.

By day the path was populated by a clade of organisms I will refer to as the people of the shoe, for it is by their shoes – or sneakers, or runners, or trainers - that you will know them.

They walk anti-clockwise, always anti-clockwise, crunching millipedes under foot, collecting a fine film of the everpresent red dust in summer, or a layer of glutinous mud in winter. Their heads are bare, their hair generally short and cut with little care or skill. Their facial features are unmoving, they do not smile. Often, as they walk, they stare at the ground. Rarely do they greet each other if they pass.

Their clothes are purposefully unexceptional. T
hey are shapeless and the colours are dull. In the heat, singlets and t-shirts predominate. In the cold, plain jumpers, hoodies or track-suit tops are added. Track suit pants and jeans are the only form of trousers used. Not only do these men have forced limitations on the extent of their wardrobe, but they fear that any form of ostentation, any sign of variation from the norm might single them out. Put them in danger. This is a place where everything can depend on not being conspicuous.

The forces that drive fashion trends in the outer world are compelled to work in reverse here. Evolution selects for dreariness and tedium.

Yet there is a window - no larger than the tiny hole through which one spies the beauty within a kaleidoscope – in which these men may express their character. While all else about them is harsh and devoid of variety, if one is to look down at their footwear, the world turns on its head. It is in their footwear, in their athletic footwear, that extravagance and individuality may at last be found.

The shoes are composed of the most modern of materials: rubbers and plastics of multiple densities, substances from the high laboratories of Nike and Adidas, licenced to NASA for use in spacesuits, or to Northrop Grumman for use in the next generation of stealth bombers. Leathers grown in nutrient vats from the genetics of rare animals.

The shoes have the streamlined design of sports cars or hot rods, and it would be no surprise to learn that they had been tested in wind tunnels. The patterning over their exterior surface may be a modernist adaptation of the art nouveau aesthetic, or it may comprise a distant homage to the works of Klimt, Kandinsky or Picasso. The colours may scream or whisper; sometimes clashing angrily, sometimes crawling in imitation of spider-webs, sometimes balanced
perfectly. Some shoes bear what appears to be armour plating.

Thought has been turned to every aspect of the shoe, however small. The eyelets, glossy and black like the mouth-parts of a funnel web spider; the insole textured with tessellations from the imagination of leading podiatrists; the tread moulded to resemble Penrose tiles or the dorsal spines of iguanas.

Some appear to have nodules erupting along their edges, power-tumours that will add to the flexibility, durability, traction or comfort of the shoe. Some have tiers of fluorescent polyps with integrated LEDs that flash in time to the wearer's heart. Other swellings and outgrowths are seen, their purposes either unknown or too esoteric to be expressed.

The shoes are laden with high technology. Odometers and pedometers with USB ports are built into eerily pulsing soles. The mound of an internal brain-case protrudes from the rearfoot. Reservoirs of luminous green gel eddy and churn as if alive, slaving to correct pronation. Sheaths of carbon nano-tubes provide moisture-wicking. Cooling is achieved with a micropore system inspired by the mounds of termites. Antimicrobial actions are performed by an embedded immune system.

Through the day, these men, these people of the shoe, proudly wear these shoes from the outer world. They walk the ellipse, the cement pathway that will take them nowhere. Cockroaches travelling the outer rim of a plate.

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Tuesday, May 19, 2009

* 9 June 1981 Tuesday 2.00am

After hours of instruction from my mother, I’ve come to believe that my life is hopelessly fragmented and only partially realised – and empty.

Everything I do is rough and in minute quantities.

When I begin to write, I find a lack of opinion, vision and imagination.

I must examine how I look at life now – establish my views – know myself.

I have not discovered myself through excess. I will try through the ruthless application of my will.

I know the idea of ceremony, ritual is coming into my writings – the means we use to disguise, and implant with false importance, the things – perhaps all things - which are in reality meaningless. This human ceremony must be believed by all. Or else the very possibility of thought ignored …

Organisation. Completion of demanding and exacting tasks.

I am going to attack my goals now with commitment and zest – and with reckless bravado.

I’ve not drunken alcohol for two nights now.

I wrote the music for a song tonight.


Oh, the dreams and ambitions of the young. If I had followed through with the sentiments of this diary entry, I may have become king of the world. Instead, I became victim to my foibles and my immoderate appetites. Not that I didn’t make a lot of noise along the way.

The second night of Snatches went well, though I was tired and it’s hazy in my memory. I spent at least two hours chewing the cud in the dressing room with Frank. Sadly, I forgot my camera, but I did bring it to the football on Sunday afternoon, where I took this picture.

Yesterday, I spent a long hour with my solicitor, who scared me out of my wits on a number of fronts. Thankfully, Lynne was with there to take notes and calm me down.

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Thursday, May 14, 2009

~ larry the shrink & his runny black ectoplasm

My portrayal of the revolting Larry the Shrink did the trick. Johdi, who works at RMIT Union Arts, said she had to look away, so appalling was my character’s treatment of his hapless patient Heath, played by the sweet and sexy Ben Andrews.

A big thank you to the lighting crew in the biobox who, instead of blacking out the stage when I pulled Ben’s head down to my crotch, chose to leave the lights up for what seemed like a good thirty seconds, during which I had to confront the audience with sordid expressions of depraved pleasure while moving Ben’s head up and down like a piston. Like I said, thanks.

And why do I always play these nasty deviant characters? Well, they’re more fun, aren’t they? And I can give vent to any poisonous runny black ectoplasm that may have accumulated on my chakras. Being nice all the time is nice, but having a licence to be horrible – albeit on stage – is fine for the psychology.

Speaking of psychologists, I have an appointment with one today and I’m reasonably sure he’ll be nothing like Larry. The issue is my long and winding relationship with a certain form of vegetable matter – the same vegetable matter which has recently landed me in dreadful troubles.

The ordeal continues, populating my dreams with all manner of dire scenarios, but life goes on, in all its colour and glory, as the photos below will demonstrate (There are a few extra on Flickr.)

Don’t forget, there’s another completely different night of Snatches on Friday night at 7.30 and my short play The Goitre Birds is in the mix.

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Tuesday, May 12, 2009

~ the sweet milk of success

I don’t like to talk too much about football. After all, it’s only football, but sometimes I just get too excited to shut up. I’m hoarse [and more than a tad hungover] today from shouting my lungs out at the Docklands stadium last night. And not because it was a close, edge-of-the-seat type game, but because the St Kilda Football Club were just so, so good it was heaven to watch.

(That it was Collingwood under the sword only made it sweeter.)

For years now, we’ve been up there, a contender, but something’s been missing, some essential spirit or hardness or determination or who knows what. There was always the possibility that, instead of putting the knife in, the team would fall to pieces. You could never really be sure whether they’d shine or be shameful.

But now that elusive final element has clicked into place.

Through the long grey years of St Kilda history, there have been few sunny days and supporters have learned not to expect too much. The disappointment is just too hard to bear. But this year, this supporter, member 31800, is standing up and crying out the news:

This is St Kilda’s time! Our year!

(Will I regret this down the track, I wonder?)

Lynne, the Englishwoman I converted to St Kildaism nearly two decades ago, was with me there last night, lapping up the sweet milk of success. She’s right in the middle of preparations for Snatches, the annual theatrical mosaic she directs at RMIT’s Kaleide theatre.

Snatches' facebook page
Another Snatches link

If you are able or feel inclined to come on Wednesday you’ll see me play a squalid predatory gay psychiatrist. On Friday, I’m a psychopathic German neurosurgeon in Matthew Lambert’s play ‘Hitler’ and a venomous tool of officialdom in my own ‘The Goitre Birds’.

I promise that the title 'The Goitre Birds' came direct from my imagination. I had not the faintest inkling that such a thing might really exist - but here, courtesy of Glittersmacked, proving the old adage that there is nothing new under the sun, is a Supentius camelus or Goitre Bird ...

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Wednesday, May 6, 2009

~ the stark light of reason

I can accept that Channel 7 attempted to show both sides in Sunday Night's live debate on the vaccine issue, but I believe that giving any credence at all to the anti-vaccination lobby is a danger. For a start, so bereft of evidence are the claims of loofah-heads like Meryl Dorey [of the Anti-Vaccination Network] that it’s equivalent to putting flat-earthers on the same level of credibility as, well … round-earthers,. What’s more – to quote my favourite podcast A Skeptic’s Guide to The Universethere’s a death toll associated with their groundless accusations.

I must admit I’ve been of a particularly sceptical cast of mind recently. My ipod is mostly to blame. I began my exploration of podcasting by downloading my favourite radio programmes – The Science Show, All in The Mind etc. - but it wasn’t long before I discovered a huge untapped well of interesting stuff. Lately, at the expense of music, I’ve been listening to The History of Rome, The Material World, Hardcore History, Astronomy Cast and - most avidly of all - a suite of podcasts produced by the global sceptic movement. The Skeptic’s Guide, mentioned above, is fabulous, but there is also Brian Dunning’s Skeptoid, Skepticality and an Australian offering, The Skeptic Zone.

Scepticism is all about critical thinking and the scientific method, and now that I've saturated myself with the wisdom contained in these thoughtful programmes, I've realised that even I, who consider myself a pretty rational guy, have been guilty of a fair bit of fuzzy thinking and – under the stark light of reason - have had to abandon quite a few of my beliefs and preconceptions.

Vaccination is a big issue for the sceptic movement, primarily because of the urgency in countering the disinformation. I won’t get into the nuts and bolts here, you can find the accepted scientific truths at the sceptic sites above (or check Matt’s I like Portello blog which has a sceptical link list.)

Suffice to say it’s a dreadful disappointment that the anti-vaccination people are gaining traction here. In America, I can understand it; over there, mothers are getting their advice from ex-Playboy Playmate of The Year Jenny McCarthy and her partner Jim Carrey. Jenny’s ‘mommy instinct’ seems to trump any number of randomised, double blind clinical trials. I hoped Australians might be more discriminating, but no, Channel Seven’s presentation has proven me quite wrong, and another clutch of worried mothers will probably threaten the health of their own and other children by refusing vaccination. Already there have been fresh clusters of deadly diseases once considered under control. Whooping Cough, for instance, has reached epidemic proportions in Northern NSW. Northern NSW, you say? That would be Byron Bay, no? Second last of 118 divisions in vaccination rates.

I’ve developed a very high regard for the sceptical movement [skeptical in the US]. They’re doing an important job educating us in an era when murky thinking abounds. These days people seem more dismissive of science, even suspicious, when once the scientist was regarded almost with awe. We – the members of an advanced technological society – are increasingly prepared to take the word of kooks and quacks over that of people who are continuously broadening the horizons of humanity and furnishing our increasingly lengthy lives with so many wonderful gifts. Under the rubric of The New Age a cloud of unknowing has descended.

(I know science is responsible for some bad stuff too, but that’s another issue.)

It amazes me the amount of people I’ve encountered who have been fooled by the Hopi Ear Candle scam. Certainly not the Hopi, who had never heard of the things and have litigated to get their name removed from the packaging. We should be ashamed of ourselves.

Another favourite target of the sceptics is homeopathy, a treatment modality which I’ve always been chary of. Take a smidgeon of some agent, say bach flowers, and dissolve them in a cup, say of water. Put a drop of that water in another cup of water, shake, then take a drop of this second cup and put it in yet another cup of water. Repeat this process five or ten times and what are you left with?

Logic would dictate that you are left with little else but water, and with this the homeopaths agree. Indeed, there is often not a single molecule of the original substance remaining, but the homeopaths are comfortable with this too. So what distinguishes the expensive curative you may have purchased from plain old water? Homeopathy claims that the efficacy of the remedy comes down to the water’s ability to hold the memory of the substance it contained.

In scientific terms, this is bunkum. There is not a shred of evidence for water having this ability, and water is something it is fair to say we understand pretty well. By the way, residents of NSW’s North Coast have been urged not to use a homeopathic whooping cough vaccine that has become available.

So, where was I? Proselytising, if I remember correctly. Channel 7! Stop putting ratings over community health. Parents, if you are disturbed by the fulminations of the anti-vaccinationists, take a deep breath and have a careful look at the established facts.

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~ the resurrection of dogs in space

A few days ago, Mick Lewis and I delivered ourselves into the hands of Richard Lowenstein at his studio in St. Kilda.

For a long time now, Richard has been labouring over the DVD release of his Melbourne cult movie. (You know the one. It stars the sadly missed Michael Hutchence playing a character with distinct similarities to the writer of this blog in his tumultuous youth.) I’m not certain what the delay has been, but it appears that the long awaited release is near.

Mick and I were member of The Ears, the band whose story was used as the basis of the film. We lived, with all the others, in that ratty, shambolic, dangerous, vigorous household of ancient Richmond.

Rather than simply putting a restored copy of the film on a disc, Richard seems to be assembling a comprehensive document of the era itself, collecting a great amount of material in various media to include as extras: photos, posters, all that; some footage from the set of the film, (including my acerbic interview with Michael Hutchence). There are old Ears film clips too, plus the interviews he’s currently doing with a mix of surviving stalwarts from the early Eighties scene. These include other Ears members Tim McLaughlan and Chuck Meo (who played himself in the movie), legendary Birthday Party guitarist Rowland Howard, Ollie Olsen and Dolores San Miguel, promoter of the famous Exford Hotel.

Mick and I must have spoken with Richard for two hours. Sometimes it’s nice to have permission to be nostalgic. I enjoyed dredging back through that time. Despite our courageous dedication to drunken partying and general intoxication, a surprising number of recollections survive. Much of what we recounted sounded, in retrospect, like some scatterbrained, completely arbitrary art project, though it was certainly never intended as such. Magically, bleating lambs appeared overnight in bedrooms. Rattling gumball machines were dragged through the dead of night. Sombre dialogues were held with patient eight-foot roosters on busy Wattletree Rd. After speed-fuelled Space Invader marathons the pixelated aliens would march remorselessly across the inside of our eyelids as we threshed in our beds. Once I spent hours on my hands and knees crawling around someone’s house, entirely disoriented, desperately trying to stand up after injecting a vial of liquid phenergan which someone had appeared with ...

Through the interview, Richard didn’t concentrate strictly on the events which inspired the film, but attempted to steer things towards the broader context of the time.

When you’re young, everything is exciting, that’s a given. If you’re out there doing things, making the scene, it’s easy to feel like you’re the centre of the world, the cynosure. It may feel like it’s the first time in the history of the Earth that such fantastic new sounds have been heard, but really all that’s in play is the arrogance and naïveté of youth.

I have always suspected that the claims made by contributors to the early eighties scene in Melbourne have been overly subjective, and that, however brilliant it all seemed at the time, it was still more or less the same thing which every generation goes through. As for myself, I’ve always been reticent to suggest that I was part of something particularly unique.

But, after the interview. After listening to Rowland, Dolores and all the rest, I began to suspect that there might really have been a special something about the scene back then.

Twenty five years ago, it was a smaller, greyer, far more conservative city. There were no street cafes. Restaurants rarely had bars and you could count on two hands the number of 24 hour establishments. You’d be hassled for wearing hats in pubs and chastised by war veterans for wearing second hand medals on the tram. You could get beaten up as a poofter for wearing anything even remotely peculiar. The only alternative scenes were the sluggish festering hippies in Carlton and Fitzroy, a gaggle of Maori drag-queens in Fitzroy St, and the tribes of skinheads and sharpies in Holmesglen and Bayswater. Musical offerings included pub rock, more pub rock and maybe a bit of flaccid folk rock.

Into this dead zone stepped a new generation inspired by the punk movement in London, New York and Detroit. But it was not just the music. Because the city was smaller, because it was so disobliging of strangeness, there was a tendency for the weirdos to find each other and congregate for safety. The David Bowie queue portrayed in Dogs in Space was one catalyst for this. It was there that Mick and I and the rest of the Ears discovered a host of like minded souls who became our friends, collaborators and fans.

An example I like to use involves the freakish hair colours most of us sported to varying degrees. In the Melbourne of 1980, if you caught sight of someone across the street with dyed purple hair, the odds were you’d know them. The scene was that small. Today, well, you wouldn’t bother looking twice.

So all the alternative types were tossed together by circumstance: the hardcore punks, the industrial experimenters, the new wave pop exponents, even mods - along with visual artists, designers, artists and writers. And it became a melting pot. Today, Melbourne is large enough to support many distinct scenes, but then there was really only one, and the vibe, looking back, was singular.


There was a tragedy during the period described by Dogs in Space which was to fuel the central drama of the film. It was over this issue that Richard and I were to fall out. Readers of this blog, specifically the transcriptions of my early eighties diaries, will know I’m referring to the
overdose death of my lover Christine.

Though I’d been involved with Dogs in Space and had encouraged it, I hadn’t taken careful notice of certain plot elements. It wasn’t until I saw a rough cut that I realised that the film appeared to show the ‘Sam’ character introducing the ‘Anna’ character to smack. I was aghast. Though the film is fiction, it conforms largely to the facts of real life, and on this sensitive point, it jarred badly with the truth. I was horrified to think that anyone might think I was responsible, even indirectly, for Christine’s death.

I responded in the media with as much vitriol as I could muster. ‘Sam Mad About Dogs,’ is one headline I recall. In one interview I was quoted as saying ‘The film appears to be suggesting that if you take heroin you can go to heaven with Michael Hutchence’. Contemplating litigation at one point, I even found myself in lawyer’s office [but not for long after he discovered I had no money].

Indeed, it wasn’t until Troy’s memorial a year or so ago that Richard and I buried the hatchet. It was mostly down to me, as the aggrieved party, and I was relieved to end the acrimony. During last week’s interview, the subject of Christine’s death was raised and we discussed it like gentlemen. Richard had always thought that the dichotomy between fact and fiction was clear, but way back, when my emotions were still tender, I just didn’t believe the public would be able to make such distinctions. To some extent I was probably right, but it was all so long ago… Thankfully, we can be friends again at last, and Richard, all in all, is not a bad friend to have.


Addendum July 21 - The 'Dogs in Space' re-release premieres at the Melbourne Film Festival on August 1; the related doco 'We're Living on Dog Food' on August 2. The Ears reformation gig is on August 16 at The Corner hotel: Keep informed on Twitter

Ears photo album

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Saturday, May 2, 2009

~ market day paranoia

Most of yesterday afternoon, I spent gathering books from the four corners of this house in preparation for market day at Pinewood Primary. I priced about twelve boxes and left it at that – with all the surplus books in my possession I could open a store if I wanted, but I had to draw a line somewhere. Besides, I also had Polly cast-offs and a bag of brand new knitted baby clothes from god knows where for our stall as well.

Suburban innocence, you may think. The banal activities of an average family going about its ordinary daily business. If only things were that simple and clear cut…

Well, not really. Of course I don’t aspire to mediocrity, but sometimes, in my weaker moments, I do wish I was a little less strange. Then, perhaps, I wouldn’t get into the sort of troubles I’m experiencing at the moment.

Living in Mt Waverley, having a child, I brush up against the mainstream of Australian civilisation far more than I ever have previously. I’ve mentioned at times how odd it sometimes feels. As if I’m a kind of spy or traitor in their midst. Can’t they tell I’m an alien lifeform with two spines, a grey dewlap and a polyhedral skull? What’s wrong with them? Don’t they see the trail of stinking protoplasm I leave behind me, like a Third Stage Space Guild Navigator with influenza? They don’t seem to treat me as an outsider. I seem to be considered as just another parent, albeit somewhat eccentric.

Well, that’s more or less what I am, I suppose. Regardless of the soul-sucking nightmares that have come to life for me recently, I still had an idyllic, convivial, mildly profitable day at the market today, chatting with strangers about who knows what, getting to know the other parents a little better. I actually felt like I belonged – and it wasn’t that bad a feeling.

For Polly it was just a great big fiesta, scattering around the place in a flurry with her girlfriends. Every time she sold something, a book or a toy, she counted up her money and was off to buy another piece of worthless pink rubbish. One might almost describe it as a shopping jag. What’s more, while we were packing up, she received so many free gifts from other stallholders we returned home with more junk than we started out with.

Plus a neat, but modest fifty dollars for my survival fund.

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