Saturday, December 26, 2009

~ the regalia of queasiness

Sometimes it feels as if this public journal of mine - these Sails of Oblivion, these Pavilions of Lethargy, these Blue Birds of Delirium - are indeed that: the blusterings of a clueless old misanthrope at odds, utterly, with the world and determined, when he has the energy, to rail against anything that pops into his wormy green brain.

Does it feel like that to you? Sometimes ...? And exactly how serious am I when I voice such things?

To be honest, I’m not sure. Certainly, I’m not always so drained and disappointed as I might seem of late, and yet ....

The Oriflamme of Tension ... The Obelisk of Weariness ... The Cinders of Accomplishment ...

On paper, things are looking better - particularly with Jenny’s return to the household. For me, single parenting is a thorny, complex, well-nigh impossible task, and that vision of Jenny on the porch, sparkling, freshly toweled, was like the answer to a prayer. Blue beads of health gleaming in her flesh. Sclera white as the dove of peace. Sudden streaks of blonde, bleached into child-soft hair. She was, at last, an unclouded girl. My uncontaminated woman. With her bags. On the steps.

Better. On paper. But until the passing of the big black cloud, much is relative. In the half-light, my spirit is wrestling a depraved axolotl of tremendous size, while treading water at the bottom of a flooded silo in which
the concrete walls are slickened by a mat of phlegm-green algae. Better is when I briefly achieve a foothold. Better is when I steal a decent lungful of air.

The Gonfalon of Apathy ... The Ramparts of Debauchery ... The Regalia of Queasiness ...

But things will change. As they always do. And I think I have some decent karma saved in the soul bank for just this eventuality. I hope though, that during the interim, I’m not boring or depressing you with my tales of gloom and bad fortune. Especially at Yuletide, when most of you will already be battling depression, anxiety, frustration, anger and regret.

Christmas is a time when quality media input is indispensable. I must have my input; it’s as sustaining for me as food and drink.

Yet Jenny says I’m shutting out the world, that I lack the courage to be quiet and listen to the murmurings of my brain. That I’m losing my interest in people other than myself.

She’s right, but only to a point. When I put my head to the pillow and close my eyes, my mind immediately turns to the potential for imprisonment and homelessness. That’s why I need my ipod.

Even today - after Di’s characteristically elegant, inevitably toothsome Christmas feast - I slipped upstairs to have a nap accompanied by my nano and by This Week In Virology. The other night, realising that my pod was low on charge, I meditated upon the possibility of drifting to sleep without Starship Sofa or Pseudopod. Or, god forbid, X Minus One.

Before long I was out of bed, feeding electrons to my constant companion, to my dear and trusted friend.

The Waters of Lethe ... The Undercurrents of Despair ...

If you can, forgive the monotony of my emotional state. And allow me to thank you for accompanying me through such a long, peculiar and eventful year. Consider yourselves in receipt of a warm and loving Christmas embrace and a flurry of New Year kisses.

The Turrets of Crapulence ... The Bulkheads of Chaos ... The Bunting of Madness ...

The Sails of Oblivion ...

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Tuesday, December 22, 2009

~ the truth

Since the BFG's school season ended with a fabulous gala night, I've been narrating an audiobook for Vision Australia: 'Truth' by Peter Temple. It's a book I would probably have read regardless, given how much I enjoyed its predecessor 'The Broken Shore'.

It's the first time I've done this kind of work, but it's something I've thought about trying for a long time. It's somewhat imposing, well over three hundred pages and, if there's an accumulation of dialogue, progress can be very slow. I'm averaging thirty pages per three hour session, which I'm told is about average. Initially, the producers were concerned about the intrinsic gravel in my voice - refined over a long lifetime of smoke inhalation and abnormal lifestyle choices - but it was decided that it might be just right for the crime genre. That's how I wound up with Peter Temple - and it's not too bad a fit.

Christmas is approaching with its usual pitiless inevitability. The family has been unexpectedly reunited, but my heart remains deadened by the everpresent weight of my little problem. I've been having trouble generating my usual interest in the world, which, as I may have told you before, is how depression sometimes manifests in me.

When I've had the energy, I've been working on my play, Ambergris, a project I began at least five years ago. I've had some exciting new ideas; so perhaps it was worth putting it on the backburner for a while. I've been slowly working my way through Battlestar Galactica. It's a patchy series, but good on the whole, and, since it's competent science-fiction, I'm content. I've been battling with The Age crossword every morning, with decreasingly satisfying results. I thought brain function was supposed to be improved by crosswords ... But then, I haven't been very diligent with my diet lately, and that could certainly be a factor.

And I wander round the house a lot, picking up plates and cups, replacing the lids of textas, not sure what to do, bored, bewildered, uninterested, scared ...

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Saturday, December 12, 2009

~ drawing nigh

For Polly the end of the school year is drawing nigh. Her report has come home and she appears to be doing rather well, particularly in English and art. Her spelling is atrocious, mind you, but I'm reasonably sure it's at least average for a seven year old. Polly's 'interpersonal skills', in the language of today's educators, were singled out for particular praise.

To tell the truth, it's a relief - the tumultuous nature of our 2009 led to a slump in parental participation when it came to homework and assignments and all that slumbers beneath the silky rubric of Extra Curricular Activity.

You see, when it comes to ECA, some parents do. Some parents don't.

With a commitment bordering on the religious, do-bees paint fairy faces, attend Monday morning assemblies and trudge the suburb selling raffle tickets. They sweat through every working-bee. They man the sausage sizzles and the op-shops. And I doubt the school could operate without them.

In the Season of the Yo-Yo, it is they who appease their pleading children - young minds still reeling from a brutal detonation of colour, sound and spectacular skill enacted by some fly-by-night Yo-Yo Demonstration Team. I wonder ... since I still live in the same area ... could it be the same team - many generations of yo-yo prodigies removed - that visited my school when I was six?

Could there be a manager, nearing retirement age, who has eked out a living cynically reigniting the Ancient Greek fad across the primary schools of the city? Has he - like some very lightweight, commercially-minded
Ahasuerus - been working without respite for millennia? Is he indeed something akin to the Wandering Jew? Or might he be part of a guild which meets each century to negotiate operational borders and corporate sponsorship?

The yo-yos are brighter these days - ours had a white rim and bore a simple red Coke-a-Cola logo. The new ones are fatter and the plastic is different. Lighter. Ours were of a denser material, an archaic polymer now rarely seen - in my time, if one strayed into a robust attempt at Round The World then injury would certainly result.

Once the yo-yos were made in Japan, now they hail from China. Possibly, the string is all that remains the same. And possibly that devious, calculating, long-suffering YYDT manager is a deserving subject for a short story...

And I have strayed too far from my subject ...

Does the
school community have an opinion on the parents who don't engage in ECA? Is a subtle ostracism employed? Is there a suspension of that nod of recognition at eight-thirty each morning? Not to my knowledge... But I know little of such things ...

Both my partner and I help out when we can. But is it enough ...? Let me swear now, on my Honour, that the fruit 'shazliks' I prepare for Polly's end-of-year class party tomorrow will be sufficient. And edible. Even for children.

On Friday mornings this year, when circumstances permitted, I would go into the school and do reading with the kids. It's a thing the parents are encouraged to do, and I think I might have been the only volunteer for Polly's class. It's a useful way of keeping an eye on her reading, and it's interesting too; children are always interesting. Polly brought home a couple of cards from her fellow pupils thanking me for my efforts. It was nice. It was no big thing, but it made me feel appreciated for a few moments there ...

She also brought home a stack of artwork - to which, I'm afraid, you will now be subjected. (The final image is, I believe, a kangaroo.)

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Thursday, December 10, 2009

~ the elementary tastes of children

As strange as it may seem, I think I’m growing into the role of the BFG. With every performance I’m understanding more about the elementary tastes of children and what they expect from a performance. I think I had my best day yesterday, particularly during our second show. My projectile vomiting was faultless and my farting beyond compare. I believe I’m learning at last how to endear myself to a younger audience. Afterwards, when we farewell the kids in the foyer (still in costume naturally) I’ve noticed that they are approaching me more readily now. I’ve dispensed many thousands of high-fives and yesterday I even received some hugs.

My natural inclination has always been to appal and horrify an audience, but that’s simply out of the question in a kids’ show, and though I’ve suppressed these tendencies it has only been during the last week that I’ve eradicated them entirely. I am a silly, smiling, weeping, dreamy, farting, giant with not the slightest residue of scariness.

Whether my achievement is of any value is a question that only time will answer, but for now I’m having an unadorned, effortless good time – and there is something to be said for that, given the bleakness of my wider life.

On top of this I’ve returned Polly’s faulty DS to Nintendo for repairs, I’ve cleared my slate with Centrelink, purchased a widget that will bring my laptop back to life and dropped off an overdue library book. I’ve organised my eye and tooth appointments and tomorrow I’m getting a haircut. I seem to be more functional than I would previously have thought possible – but there are biting yellow-toothed rodents on my heels giving me all the impetus I need to keep things together …

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Tuesday, December 8, 2009

~ justice

Australia is commonly thought of as a reasonably fair and equitable place to live, at least compared to the rest of the world. It’s considered a place where government is unlikely to commit atrocities or human rights outrages, where miscarriages of justice are inevitably righted in the face of our abiding sense of decency.

But I wonder if such attitudes are complacent, if not wildly erroneous. There has been the case of Andrew Moore, who, though apparently a rather dubious character, was separated from his family and deported to an unfamiliar land where he promptly died. Then there was Farah Jama, an immigrant, presumably from Somalia, who spent fifteen months in jail wrongly convicted of rape due to a contaminated DNA sample. And, of course, the outrageous behaviour of our state government in directing the police to make protestors’ personal files available to the company responsible for the construction of Victoria’s new desalinisation plant … and these three examples, with others, all appeared in one edition of the daily newspaper.

And of course there are the stories we never hear about.

I can imagine the plights of these victims, inured in the cold concrete labyrinth of officialdom and jurisprudence … evaluated by clerks and functionaries and faceless enablers performing their ordained duties regardless of the human cost, holding to temporal laws, guidelines and directives as if they were the underpinnings of the universe, unwilling to deviate from the code that permits them to go home at night to their secure and comfortable loungerooms to watch Packed to the Rafters in the company of their well-groomed children and their clean, functional wives and husbands … while those they have judged are marched through the cold night to meet their fates…

I guess I’m dwelling on this subject because of my own current entanglement with our legal system. In case you didn’t know, I have dropped myself into a pretty sticky situation due to a combination of ignorance and stupidity. And unfortunately the charges with which I am faced seem designed for wealthy Mafiosi from Griffith, rather than a poor sod from the suburbs who needed something in the evenings to help keep body and soul together.

I never dreamt I would find myself in jail as a result of my wrongdoings. I didn’t think anyone would be particularly fussed. But that’s where I found myself. For sixteen days. With the potential for more on the horizon. Not only that, but my family home – home to Polly for all of her seven years, home to my partner Jenny, home to my dear departed parents for most of their married lives – is at risk. Our justice apparatus, horribly, may be regarding it as equivalent to the cigarette boat of a Floridian cocaine importer …

I just hope that we don’t become one of those sad, terribly unfair stories you read in the paper and then, with time, forget.

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Sunday, December 6, 2009

~ with chicken head and tutu

We’ve performed the BFG more than ten times now before hundreds and hundreds of screaming children. It’s beginning to become second nature: thwacking myself on the head with an inflatable hammer to the beat of John Farnham’s ‘The Voice’, feeding snozzcumbers to an entity called Bloodbottler, interpreting a military operation in dance with chicken head and tutu …

If one wasn’t in the right state of mind, it could be a hellish thing to face every day, but I’m honestly enjoying it. Judging from the state of my costume once it’s over, I must be sweating out litres of fluid per show. Though it probably doesn’t matter to the audience, I’m polishing my act with every performance and keeping thoughts of the Grublets from Blades of Glory far to the back of my head, (along with other black black clouds which I am better off not dwelling on).

Polly is proud that her dad is the BFG, which is a nice ancillary benefit. Yesterday, we traveled out to Ringwood to see her end of year dance concert. What a massive production… There must have been nearly a hundred performers from the steppes of middle suburbia… And what costumes! The sequins, the tulle and the tiffany! The non-stop rippling, flouncing procession of wild colours, demi-pliés and flourishing nubility. It was impossible not to be entertained. There were men who were indistinguishable from women. And vice versa. There was even a titillating wardrobe malfunction. A nipple, which through the course of one particularly energetic number, crept in and out of its cup as its gangly smiling blonde owner jetted obliviously about the stage.

It was a vaudevillian banquet: dance that ranged from the seemingly accomplished to the pitifully incompetent … and, inevitably, to wandering toddlers, smiling broadly in their profound bewilderment or picking their noses and wiping them on their gorgeous Arabian Nights outfits.

There were three two-hour performances to a huge auditorium, packed each time with adoring friends and relatives. As for myself, I had tried to ignore the preparations for this event, but tyrannical organisers continued to demand my concentration with their complex and exacting procedures. The costumes situation became a yawning gyre of confusion and uncertainty. For my own sanity, I had to palm off the task to other members of Polly’s support cabal.

Polly doesn’t want to do dance next year, thank goodness. Something simple and straightforward like Guides or swimming lessons will do nicely.

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Tuesday, December 1, 2009

~ here I am

Life has been a tremendous challenge lately. All manner of threats and obstacles have been presenting themselves and I have had little choice but to face them, grim-faced and dour. I’ve been unable to update the Sails of Oblivion – or to do much writing at all for that matter. For this I’m really sorry. This blog has, somehow, become central to my work and my life and I’m a fool to neglect it.

My last month has been consumed by rehearsals and performances of Lynne Ellis’s adaptation of Roald Dahl’s The BFG in which I’m playing the title role. We opened late last week after the fastest, most intensive rehearsal period I’ve ever experienced. I lost at least a stone in the process, but it was worth it. The show is very funny, even for adults I think, and I recommend it robustly.

There’s a ‘gala-night’ on Tuesday December 15 which you can inquire about at RMIT Union Arts. Otherwise the public season runs from Jan 5 to 22. (Book at M-TIX 9685 5111]

On top of my theatre commitments, I’ve been enduring the usual swathe of life-related challenges. I’m looking after Polly by myself just at the moment and my confused, absent-minded habits when blended with a child’s natural anarchy make for a very messy house and a very messy head. What’s more, Polly’s ballet concert is looming and involves an unlikely amount of concentration, organisation and driving. Thankfully, I’ve been able to palm off the sequin-sowing to Polly’s female antecedents.

As regards my ongoing legal problems, my effort to have the charges reduced to something more in keeping with the wrongdoing have been flushed down into the grease-trap of cruel mechanistic legality. I will be facing another year of fear and uncertainty, but I will continue to fight. I just wish I was the only one who was suffering. To say that my partner does not cope well with tension and anxiety would be an extreme understatement and Polly, of course, though she does not know what’s happening, is already affected by the changes in our circumstances.

I would really like to thank Jenny, Lynne, Dolores, Andrew, Robert. Sara and Di for their support the other day in court. I love you all.

You’ll hear from me soon.

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