Saturday, June 27, 2009

~ the black hearted babycino vendor

As you can imagine, my life is currently dominated by preparations for Sails of Oblivion: The Gig. Our promoter Dolores is a whirlwind. Things are progressing swimmingly and at speed. There's a lot of interest out there. Already we have 85 confirmed guests on our Facebook events page.

But the general air of excitement has not stopped my ire being raised on the issue of babycinos.

I don’t know exactly when they first appeared, but when Polly was tiny they seemed like a new thing, at least here in Melbourne. They were a nice, efficient way of including her at a
café table. A small, sweet, warm treat to concentrate upon, to delay the onset of boredom, to defer the impulse to whine or crawl over her parents. And they remain useful to this day. And they were free. Always free. And fair enough. A meagre quantity of milk-froth sprinkled with chocolate would probably not break the one cent barrier in production costs. And I suspect they’re good for business too. Mothers often like to chat at cafés and can do so with more amenity if their children are preoccupied.

But then, as time passed, café proprietors would occasionally charge. A dollar. A dollar fifty. Perhaps, as the babycino became more popular, they wearied of making it for no reward. Or perhaps they couldn’t get their heads around providing a service for free. As for me, I began to judge the moral tone of an establishment on whether or not they charged for the babycino.

It all reminds me of what happened when they first introduced cat licences. Every Melbourne council had to start providing these licences, and because it involved paperwork a fee was to be charged. My own Monash council charged about ten dollars a year, (though this has risen over time to about twenty-five). Other councils asked for as little as six dollars, but some, if I recall correctly, charged more than a hundred.

You see, there were no precedents. Nobody knew what an appropriate fee might be, so they they flew on instinct and did not bother to confer with each other. And the greedier and more venal the council, the more they charged. Their ethical fibre was exposed. It was an object lesson in human nature.

Now the other day, my wife returned grumbling from a coffee session with her friends. She had been billed three dollars for a babycino - around the price of a real cino. My hackles rose. Deplorable, unforgivable, extortionate pricing. Worse even than the outrageous mark-ups on beer and chips at the football. Or popcorn and choc-tops at the cinemas. And I can tell you, with a high degree of certainty, that the individual who priced that babycino has a black heart

Here is a link that further explores this dismaying issue.


While burrowing through old boxes in the shed today, in addition to dust and house spiders and possum skeletons, I found a couple of unused designs for Ears single covers. I can’t work out why we didn’t choose the first one. It's brilliant. I think it’s by Tony Harding, brother of Christine and Anne. The other’s by Gus Till.

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Monday, June 22, 2009

~ artwork - Sails of Oblivion: The Gig

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Sunday, June 21, 2009

~ the singer’s girlfriend

It’s all still a bit patchy, but it’s moving along. The Ears took over the front room of my home in My Waverley today, all of us bar Carl Manuell the drummer. At this point it’s mostly about teaching the songs to the ring-ins Chris and Andrew.

An odd feeling, though. As if we’d come full circle and were back at the beginning, rehearsing in a suburban loungeroom. My wife is getting a little excited about it all – she’s never really seen much of my musical side and she does have a soft spot for musicians, and she will get to be the singer’s girlfriend for an afternoon.

Suddenly I’m back in a world I last abandoned more than a decade ago. Dolores thinks I’ll get a fresh taste for it. Well, who knows?

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Friday, June 19, 2009

* 10 June 1981 Wednesday 1am

I behaved extraordinarily today. I calmly executed all the actions I had planned. Perhaps Jean Genet has been influencing me more than I realise.

Everything is pointing towards my successful netting of Carol’s flat. I think my mother can sense my determination – perhaps she will help. She’s already offered to pay the gas and electricity bonds.

My third night without alcohol. My weight has not ostensibly decreased yet as I’m still eating excessively. (I usually vomit to dispel some of it.)

To carry out my present plans I will have to control myself to an unusual extent.

(But I can feel my sanity creeping off into an evil-smelling hole – embarrassed)


Hmmm. Anorexia. Bulimia even. And long before those designators entered the common parlance. I was definitely obsessed with my weight for a time, although I was thin as a rake; I even went to the doctor once, worrying that my stomach was swollen with disease. It was my imagination, he told me.

But enough of that. Richard Lowenstein has uploaded some Ears clips and a mass of photos onto the Facebook page for Sails of Oblivion – The Gig.

Diaries of 1981

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Tuesday, June 16, 2009

~ the passing of immaculata

I’ve spent much of the last three weeks writing an article on naltrexone implants. Too long for a simple article. I get buried in the research, and in polishing the text, and lastly in reducing the text by half because I inevitably write twice as much as what’s needed. I should be quicker by now, but I’m not.

Naltrexone is a drug that blocks the effects of opiates. Usually, it’s taken in tablet form by recovered junkies to prevent relapse, but there’s also a slow-release delivery module that is inserted under the skin and which can last months. It’s unproven and unsafe, but many desperate users are turning to it as a last resort. A lot of politics are wound up in this story, a lot of overdoses too, and a lot of infected incisions.

If you’re interested, the article will hopefully be in the next issue of Whack!, the magazine of Harm Reduction Victoria. Perhaps along with another article I’ve written on the shamanic drug ibogaine.

On the ornithological front, it is my sad duty to report the disappearance of the white duck Immaculata. She has been missing from the Grey Creek for at least a month now, and I fear the worst. The last few times I saw her, she seemed uninterested in food and I think she was already fading as winter descended.

Lat week, there was a huge flock of sulphur crested cockatoos feasting on the spiky balls that fall from the liquid amber trees at this time of year.

But more exciting by far was my sighting of about a dozen black cockatoos by the grey creek. Identifying them has been hard.. There are five types of black cockatoo. Glossy black cockatoos don’t live here. They weren’t gang gangs. Red and yellow tailed black cockatoos do live in Victoria but I didn’t see enough colour to tell … It must have been one of these two.

The Sails of Oblivion Gig surges on. Dolores, the promoter is a force to be reckoned with. We’ll have facebook and myspace pages set up within the next few days.

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Monday, June 15, 2009

~ give me sagging insects

Suddenly, just when I thought my life was sufficiently hectic, things have ramped up a notch. Of course, the blame sits squarely upon the Gig of Oblivion … or Sails of Oblivion – The Gig … or whatever we choose to call it

The Ears had their first rehearsal yesterday. First rehearsal in two and a half decades. Not the full band. Just Mick Lewis and I from the original group and Chris Walsh (ex Moodists, Fabulous Marquises) who’s playing bass in the absence of Cathy McQuade. (Like keyboardist Gus Till, who lives in Bali, the tyranny of distance prevents her participation.]

We spent the afternoon dredging through the deep past. Sparking memories of all shades. Voicing words written by my nineteen year old self, for the first time in so long, was a trip in itself.

Drink from the dirty nipple
Milk that’s designed to cripple
Here in the brimming crater ….

Chris mentioned to Mick Harvey (ex Bad Seeds) that we were doing a reformation and his reply was ‘Brick Woman’.

Sadly, we’ve decided to draw the line at performing ‘Brick Woman’. But we are doing Sagging Insects, the first song Mick and I ever wrote.

Give me sagging insects
Got those sagging insects
You’re my sagging insect

I have to say, it’s all so very, very exciting.

ps. You should see the link to the Twitter feed on the right somewhere

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Wednesday, June 10, 2009

~ Sails of Oblivion: The Gig: press release

After 25 years, legendary Melbourne art-punks The Ears revisit the past for a once only gig on Sunday afternoon August 16 at The Corner Hotel Richmond.

Though strictly a Melbourne phenomenon in their time, The Ears gained wider notoriety as the template for Richard Lowenstein’s cult movie Dogs in Space. The lead character, played by Michael Hutchence of INXS, was closely based on Ears singer Sam Sejavka, and the song Dogs in Space was lifted from The Ears playlist.

Appearing on the same afternoon is an impressive list of eighties contemporaries.

The Church’s Steve Kilbey is coming down from Sydney. The Brian Hooper Band is playing. Also Hugo Race (True Spirit, Wreckery), Nick Barker (Reptiles, Wreckery) and David Bridie with Phil Wales (Not Drowning Waving, My Friend The Chocolate Cake). Sean Kelly (The Models) is performing with his new band.

The esoteric Ollie Olsen (Max Q, Whirlywirld) is DJ for the event and hard core comedian Greg Fleet is MC. The show is being organised by the evergreen Dolores San Miguel, renowned promoter of the Crystal Ballroom and The Exford Hotel.

Most of these artists all have their roots in the same period, and have all made an impact on the Australian stage and beyond. Sails of Oblivion presents a unique opportunity for fans not only of the performers themselves, but of the fabulous Melbourne music scene of the early eighties.

The Ears are represented by most of the original line up [Sam Sejavka, (vocals) Mick Lewis, (guitar) Carl Manuel (drums)]. Chris Walsh [The Moodists, The Fabulous Marquises, The Great Temptation] is standing in on bass and Andrew Park [deepspacemusic, Ash Wednesday's Modern Jazz] on keyboards. Original bassist/vocalist Cathy McQuade will be down from Sydney and, while not playing bass, will be reprising her vocal parts. Chanteuse Kerry Simpson will also be doing some back-ups.

The fortnight preceding Sails of Oblivion is that of the Melbourne Film Festival, during which Richard Lowenstein is celebrating the long-awaited DVD release of Dogs in Space [Aug 1], as well as We're Living on Dog Food [Aug 2], a documentary on the film and the scene surrounding it. Sails of Oblivion: The Gig will give fans of the movie the chance to see some of the truth behind the fiction.

In the column on the right are links to the Ears09 Twitter feed, the gig's facebook page, the Corner Hotel [for booking] and other stuff too.

Sails of Oblivion – Sunday August 16, 3-8pm, The Corner Hotel, Swan St, Richmond.

Contact: 94279198

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Monday, June 8, 2009

- a rare flurry of social interaction

A little bit of a bi-polar week. Some challenges on the personal front, which have left me emotionally dehydrated, and which make it all that much harder to address the Everest of work to which I have committed myself.

In the celebration-slash-curiosity category, my dearest friend Donald finds himself married. With little warning, his predictable urbane life has been thrust upon its head and in a few days he leaves town to live in LA with his new love, Peta, a worthy soul and a thespian of some repute in Hollywood. [think of the vampire in The League of Extraordinary Gentlemen]. I can only fantasise how wonderful their lives will be.

My benefit show is gaining steam, though it will be something of a challenge finding the right angle for promotion. We’re considering naming it Sails of Oblivion - a way of drawing attention to me for those in the know, yet just a name for others. Sean Kelly, Nick Barker, Hugo Race, Greg Fleet, David Bridie are currently on the bill together with Steve K and the reformed Ears. I had my first performance anxiety dream in decades last night.

Anne Harding, a friend of even greater vintage than Donald, held her fiftieth birthday party on Saturday night. I made myself hoarse reacquainting myself with estranged friends and acquaintances – though the fact that Lynne, Polly and I had come straight from the football did not help. Another uneven victory for the steamrolling Saints. We sat in seats saved for us by my friend Andrew. I was beside a mature lady named Gwen, who happened to be the mother of Billy Miller. [Remember The Ferrets?].

I must admit to having a few drinks at Anne’s. One gets excited, over-stimulated at this type of event. Pierre, the now-rehabilitated demon-punk of the eighties [The Fabulous Marquises], Barry Sherman [The notable occultist], Jade and Martin Lubrin, Nurin Veis [Scientist and curator at the Melbourne Museum] and a host of other cronies from the elder days … I considered it a major achievement that I did not wake with a hangover.

And now to the grind … neck deep in the naltrexone implant, cannabis law, ebay and in dredging up the jewels of the past.

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