Sunday, July 24, 2011

~ killer zombies

On facebook, my old colleague Robert Chuter recently posted some images from a short film of the mid 80’s called ‘Killer Zombies’ made by Zlatco Kasumovic. The prosthetic work, done largely by Vivienne MacGillycuddy, was first class, but for the zombies themselves it was a test of endurance. These are polaroids of a mould of my head being taken.

The process resulted in this souvenir - my old head, wrought in plaster, which I think I’ve shown on this blog before. It still sits in a corner of my office. Like a death mask. Like – as it gathers dust, chips and scrapes – the image of Dorian Grey.

One of the hardest things to throw out ... one’s own head ...

Onto this cast the makeup artists layered up prosthetic devices of ... latex, I think, then painted, textured them etc. Ultimately they wound up looking thus:

Activity on our set, I think in the decaying Herald-Sun building on Flinders St, was curious enough to attract the attention of the press. The following clipping appeared in the early edition of the now defunct Herald. Despite the mistaken spelling, one of my favoured appearances in the written media.

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Monday, July 18, 2011

~ do you believe in the pink and plump?

This morning I heard Rob Oakeshott phrase something rather eloquently on the science of Climate Change. To paraphrase, he asked would you take your child to the doctor if they were sick? Wouldn't you be negligent if you did not? If your car was malfunctioning, wouldn't you take it to a mechanic?

This is to say that we rely, sensibly, on experts to inform and advise us on subjects in which we are not conversant.

Why most of Australia - seemingly - wishes to dispute the overwhelming evidence provided by specialist authorities on climate science and economics beggars belief. The well has been poisoned, that is clear. Fearmongers are at large, conspiring with other agents of unreason. I see sallow-faced pamphleteers smacking their thin lips in sordid anticipation. And merchants, pink, corn-fed, redolent of baby powder, lining their wallows with profit ...

All of it working to muddle our heads on this most critical of issues. For all her faults, I feel deeply for Julia Gillard at this moment. She is facing a storm of sheer madness, the outrage of the greedy, the vitriol of the hateful - yet she is refusing to back down. I wish there was more I could do.

Science is science. It is method not opinion. The science that gives us life-saving drugs, microwave ovens, iphones, sophisticated crash-restraints, plastic, podiatry, GPS systems, X-ray machines, Predator drones and Zhu Zhu pets is the very same science that has been advising us, firmly, for decades, to act on climate change.

The scientist observes, measures, experiments and records. He or she examines the data, shares it with other scientists, and may draw conclusions. An hypothesis may result. The process is then repeated as many times as necessary. If there is sufficient evidence, a theory may be presented to the scientific community. The theory is then subject to review by peers and, if it is a good one, may be published in a journal.

But, no matter how much evidence accrues to back it up, it will only ever remain a theory - for in science nothing is certain. Will the sun rise tomorrow? It is not certain. Just very very likely.

This is the scientific (or empirical) method. It has brought us from the dark ages of fear and superstition to unparalleled levels of civilisation.

If we ask ‘do you believe in climate change’ we are asking ‘do you believe in science’.

Do you believe in science?

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Saturday, July 16, 2011

~ lichen in the face of adversity

With the last of the light, we drove to Thompson’s Dam, that vast body of water which supplies most of Melbourne’s water. Particularly during the drought, one was repeatedly shown evidence of its declining volume in newspapers and TV. The slopes of dark broken rock and the installation’s various towers and structures were therefore instantly familiar - none more so than the exposed strata along its shore, which, if the lake was not merely 42 per cent full, would not be visible at all.

But there were also the looming, crowded forests - the overwhelming verdancy of nature, everpresent and pure; ferns swarming the sides of the winding roads - ferns which, I am told, need centuries to become so large. Above all, there were the rolling columns of mist - for it was very cold - settling over the surface of the water, propagating among the ancient gums, attenuated in some areas, congested in others; obeying the inscrutable physics of the invisible winds. At any point we could have become characters in The Shining or The Evil Dead, or, perhaps most disturbing of all, that recent adaptation of Steven King’s The Mist.

Of course my eyes were drawn, as always, to the little things. The marginal things. Here are some photos. Taken in the rain.

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Friday, July 15, 2011

~ abhorrent

I was in the country yesterday. East Gippsland. With Polly, her friend Y and Y’s dad. There was a surprising coincidence that day [the meat of which was reported on the evening news and in the following morning’s papers]

On Wednesday, in Frankston [Melbourne] a woman, who was a Greens party member, had been invited to a community meeting on the Carbon Tax to be hosted by Tony Abbott. But it wasn’t really a community meeting. It was stacked with like-minded Abbottites.

Lately, in these days of divisive politics - of politicians so desperate for a vote, they will play carelessly, amorally, with issues so sensitive they could potentially crack
open our society (consider the link between the refugee scare and the shameful Cronulla riots) - in these days, extremists, cranks, and fringe elements with dangerous potential have begun to believe that their degraded, ignorant views are suddenly acceptable in general society. Think of Lord Christopher Monckton and his Nazi wall-hanging. Think of Abbott caught sermonising before a banner reading 'The Witch is a Bitch' (or some such).

The meeting proved a perilous environment for a solitary Green. She stood out amongst the conservatively dressed faithful, simply because she looked colourful and a little interesting. She was given the microphone and made a very simple statement - that she voted green and approved the Carbon Tax. You may have seen it on the telly.

She was not only booed down, but threatened and literally chased from the venue. Frightened, weeping, she was informed by one liberal that, if he had his way, people like her would be lynched in the village square. ‘You’re not part of this community,’ spat one attendee (although she actually lived in the neighbouring suburb). Mysteriously, she was asked if she possessed a compost bin. A media pack followed her, perhaps sensing a developing story, perhaps fearing for her safety, since the police overseeing events had retreated without explanation. (Later, media elements did ask if she would like to speak out over her treatment, but she declined.)

A ghastly thing, no? Angry Australians, unable to distinguish truth from lies, or else bigoted, small-hearted and greedy, shouting each other down over supermarket checkouts, casting ad hominem attacks at our leaders - as if this was Bizarro World and such outbursts somehow constituted viable arguments - or else repeating the insufferable drivel they'd read in the Herald Sun, as if it were some universal book of wisdom.

The coincidence? The hapless Greenie was the mum of Polly’s friend. We four were watching telly, alone in a big cold room, deep in the country, eating our dinner - and suddenly there was mum: crying, leaning into a lamp-post as a form of support, desperately calling for help over her phone while Abbott’s bullies harassed and threatened her. And as the media filmed.

(Earlier, in the car going East, on a very patchy phone line, Y's father had been worried by suggestions that she ‘had been attacked’. His seven year old had overheard, as they do, and asked repeatedly who had attacked whom, until she accepted the truth of her father's ignorance.)

The sweet mystified innocent did not understand the details of the situation confronting her on TV, but could see well enough that her mother was weeping and that people, their faces made ugly and frightening by anger, were plainly upsetting her. I wondered if she thought the footage was live ...

The expression on her face was moving. Even heartbreaking. Her incomprehension was telling in a way that soared over the venal behaviour of the adults on screen. She did not cry, but immediately went to her father’s knee, and pushed her way into his arms.

He consoled her: Mum was alright now, she’d been a hero, had done the right thing - but had run into some bad people who, thankfully, were gone now....

But they’re not gone. Instead they’re recruiting. And for what? votes? money? hate? To find some way of justifying the righteousness of shitting in our communal beds? That expression - that expression on the face of a child with a lily-white soul - pointed right to the heart of it for me: not just to the shameful culture beginning to dominate our public discourse, but to something deeper, something worse.

(16.07.11 Some pages have cropped up since the events described above. Links: Declan Stephenson should be ashamed, Frankston Shame, Carbon Forum Handpicked? Woman Intimidated at Carbon Rally.)

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Monday, July 11, 2011

~ then fevers came, seemingly at random

Slowly, with certainty, day by day, I’m emerging from the woes of the past 27 months. I still have plenty to agonise over as I flail in my bed at night, but it’s of a far different order than what has gone before.

All that remains of the legal fiasco is a three-weekly visit to an unpleasant office in Oakleigh, where doors snap shut with the finality of jail cells. But after the many trials and tribulations of the recent past, I can take that n my stride.

Some time before the final hearing, with the help of toxic pharmaceuticals, I began a fresh assault on my liver complaint. (see ~my intimate blood borne saboteur.) The first few months were, as expected, nasty and debilitating. Anaemia. Neutropenia. Dysphoria. Then, around week twelve, they began to slacken off, almost to a level that was bearable. I was off-colour but I could manage the odd life activity. About this time that I even went to the Rainbow Serpent festival.

But, with the inevitability of death, a seed took root in my lungs. I began to cough, and to produce a lurid green sputum. Fevers came, seemingly at random and I took to my bed. For five weeks I was scarcely able to drag myself to the kitchen - although, every few days, I shambled around the block in a dark bulky overcoat, usually at night, to forestall any pooling of phlegm in my lungs. As my immune system was suppressed by the HCV drugs, I had little defence against the infection. Despite the heavy duty antibiotics I had been prescribed, the condition grew worse. I was getting just a little scared. I’d never been quite so sick.

Then my viral load results were unblinded. (I was on a clinical trial for a drug by Bristol Myers Squibb) From a starting point of 13 million evil bits per ml, it was reduced to 275. But, frustratingly, two weeks later, it was 500 plus. At this point, I ceased medications. Once again, on my fourth attempt, I faced failure, And this time I had been just a little concerned that they might kill me.

I decided to wait for some of the new remedies come on line - what doctors like to refer to as the ‘small molecule’ drugs. Telaprevir and Boceprevir are examples. There are nearly a hundred being researched (see and one day, in the not so distant future, I pray there’ll be regimens without such crippling side-effects.

So I lay back down, played video games and waited to get better.

Now it’s three or four weeks later and I’m waking up into the world. I’m exercising again. I’m brushing the dust off affairs that have not been touched in two and a half years. My garden is tugging at me, and I dream as I pluck the hated oxalis from the flower beds. I’m thinking about my house, how I might rid it of the teetering towers of books. Within the next few weeks I’ll be gnawing happily on my various, long neglected writing projects.

And the deadly spores ... even with binoculars I cannot see their dark, roiling, semi-sentient clouds on the horizon. I am even toying with the notion of breaking my long and bitter relationship with spasmo-nemigron.

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Saturday, July 9, 2011

~ peripatetic insile

Last night, after catching the final train home from a dreamy night at Cherry watching Steve Kilbey and Ricky Maymi's enigmatic tribute to the mysterious David Neal (in addition to a beautiful set from some unnamed Triffid remnants and a session of ab-zen counseling over liqueur coffee) my sleep was profound and my spirit rose through the upper airs into the realms of the firmament. Here, to my deepest consternation, I witnessed the consumption of a pleasant green world by a Peripatetic Insile (a species of ravenous space-faring gastropod).

The next morning Polly removed a tennis ball from our new pond (a sunken claw-foot bath) turned it over and discovered this peculiar long-tailed slug-like larvum.

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Friday, July 8, 2011

~ why the coming generations may find hallucinogens passé

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