Archive | October, 2010


31 Oct


“Puberty” 1894-5
Edvard Munch (1863-1944)



31 Oct


Just once more n’ than I’ll cut it out 🙂


31 Oct


“There’s no education superior to travel. Think of The Motorcycle Diaries or what Montrose St Millet wrote in Ages of Exploration: ‘To be still is to be stupid. To be stupid is to die.’ And so we shall live. Every Betsy sitting next to you in a classroom will only know Maple Street on which sits her boxy white house, inside of which which whimper her boxy white parents. After your travels, you’ll know Maple Street, sure, but also wilderness and ruins, carnivals and the moon. You’ll know the man sitting on an apple crate in Cheerless, Texas, who lost his legs in Vietnam,the woman in the tollbooth outside of Dismal, Delaware, in possession of six children, a husband with black lung but no teeth. When a teacher asks the class to interpret Paradise Lost no one will be able to grab your coattails, sweet, for you will be flying far, far out in front of them all. For them, you will be a speck somewhere above the horizon. And thus, when you’re ultimately set loose upon the world…” He shrugged, his smile lazy as an old dog. “I suspect you’ll have no choice but to go down in history.”

Marisha Pessl
Special Topics in Calamity Physics, 2006


30 Oct

Once in a while riding in the car with my father this song played on ABC radio. I always liked it but at the age of shallow love and unkept promise how can one understand it in the heart? If my dad liked it, hated it, I’d never know. The old man always kept the poker face well and thru some episodes that would break a normal person. He had to die before I really discovered his music, before that connection could be made.

How sad this fundamental opportunity cost. Did he ever ponder the loss? Again I know nothing. I have pondered the loss and often. If nothing else when I have children, if I do, I’ll benefit from the lesson. And so will they. If they are musical, as they must be for I would never create life with a woman without music in her heart, they will know how the old man danced.

Reproduce? Hell I don’t think I could spend a cold night with a girl that couldn’t boogie somehow. What passion can come from a womb that can’t dance? What love could possibly beam forth from the humourless eyes of one who has never been moved by melody? Such people have never known a night that’s belonged to lovers. How can one bring new life into this fucked-up place without the music to get them thru? What comfort will they get at the edge of sleep on the close of a traumatic day if they can’t understand the tune beneath the words: they can’t hurt you now?

This week I have remembered long forgotten things. Scenarios, personalities, deep cuts and ecstatic oblivion. There was much pain way back when and the old man wasn’t much help. I don’t blame him. Whenever I befriend a Scottish person I tell ’em me Da’s frame Scaw’lund, Glas’gee. They express condolences. Well it’s ain’t all bad. The bills were always paid on time. 🙂

But I don’t blame him. Growing up he had it tough in a way that’s purely of historical interest now. I’ve never known it thanks in no small part to him. I imagine it makes you hard-boiled somewhat. And who says endless sympathy for every little scratch is good for you. I’ve been regurgitating my teen angst bullshit days and find that whatever the nasty scars it doesn’t hurt anymore. Wisdom is gained when you realize you know in your heart the lugubrious sub-text of “Those Were the Days”. That it’s a brief moment only; you think you’re invincible and the dreams that are born then oxidize in the years to come. Denied or fulfilled, no matter. They will rust. It’s the way of all flesh.

What dreams the old man had he kept to himself. He never volunteered anything about his past, he never told us of his childhood, of the years before he met my mother. I’d wager that in Scots Presbyterea dreams are regarded as dangerous. Demons to be exterminated perhaps. The ethos was well drummed into you: what is real is hard. Will I, dealing with my own son, my daughter, unconsciously pass on this stern ethos? Will I drive them too far in the other direction? Who knows how much your ancestry produces you. The extent to which we are all mere puppets on strings has long been argued in the Agora without resolution. Once upon a time I believed that a revolution would sweep the cruel world away leaving something beautiful growing on the ashes. Now I know that everything originates in its opposite. The problem, at this point in history, is to keep things from getting worse.

I still believe in getting better thru the generations. I gave up on the Grand March when I read Kundera and Nietzsche. It’s not a grand march, the Bhudda was right. It’s a walk on a razor’s edge and everyone of us makes our way alone. A baton gets passed from father to son. From the mother always. It’s not simple. You can try; bring the kids up to fight the revolution and they go work for Goldman Sachs. Kids. You can’t choose what you get.

What better world comes of indoctrination? Who are you to determine what others believe? Your job is to prepare them for life. Teach them to master themselves and you’ve done the job. Give them music and laughter and they’re blessed. Everything else is their’s as your life was yours. They have their very own teen angst bullshit. It belongs to them.


29 Oct

Listen to the intro:

So relaxed these days. I saw him. Once. I stayed out all night in the Queen St Mall with the bass player to get our tickets first. It was at the end of the six-week winter you get in Brizvegas. Different rules applied. There were people from school there. People I normally didn’t talk to much. Tonight we were all outed. Closet Bowie fans at Phil Collins High.

I was in love then. Across the concrete floor under the corrugated shed-like structure that sheltered the tuck shop. If she ever realized, I doubt it. She had brown eyes and red hair. Her name was Monica. Monica was a Bowie fan. I knew that much. But she wasn’t there that night. Her best friend was, much easier to talk to. Her name was Jennifer.

Jennifer, Jenny was in my vegetable maths class. The scholastic structure of Queensland, which was designed to ensure that one’s postcode was one’s destiny, required us to study six subjects in high school’s final years. But for some reason only five counted. Veggie maths, Social Maths was all about teaching boneheads to be numerate enough to pay the rent. For us Veggie Maths was time to do what we wanted. That’s why we took it.

The teacher knew this too. That’s why she taught it. Likewise, she did what she wanted to do. This was to go outside, smoke and gossip with the other Veggie Maths teacher. Inside what people wanted to do was crap on as well. I drew, mostly. But there were quite a few people going to the concert in the class. Not necessarily fans, but interested. And so the chatter turned to Bowie; the concert, his music, whether the new stuff sucked (yes). And so on to other stuff. This was the last year of school. A few months from graduation and I made some friends I’d soon never see again.

At the concert of course, the Veggie Maths Bowie Fan Club didn’t interact at all. The Breakfast Club rule of thumb upheld. Don’t embarrass your betters in public if you want private association to continue. Bass player was okay that night. We were almost friends. Afterwards in Veggie Maths the fan club reconvened. One dude was disappointed there were too many songs from Never Let Me Down. Jenny thought he was cold. But that’s what he does, I replied, he’s the Thin White Duke: Flashing no colour; tall in his room overlooking the ocean.

Keith Richards thinks Bowie’s all about the image, not about the music. Contrived. Well Richards hasn’t liked anything since 1966 except perhaps Amy Winehouse. But he has a point. Bowie came of age in the 60s. He started recording very young and went for years, all thru the fabulous London of that decade without really getting his sound. Without a hit. A lot of his tastes were unfashionable. He liked the British dance hall tradition. He liked jazz. He still thought suits were cool.

It was only after Altamont, after the euphoria broke on the shore, after things got dark again that he found his place. The 70s underground was a kick against the hippie ethos required all thru the 1960s. This backlash against optimism, against the hypocrisy of the hippie era started in New York in the elitist circles you might find at Max’s Kansas City and in London. During his brief hippie/folk phase he wrote the following counter-point to that era’s relentless optimism:

Where money stood
We planted seeds of rebirth
And stabbed the backs of fathers
Sons of dirt

Infiltrated business cesspools
Hating through Our sleeves
Yea, and We slit the Catholic throat
Stoned the poor on slogans such as

Wish You Could Hear
Love Is All We Need
Kick Out The Jams
Kick Out Your Mother
Cut Up Your Friend
Screw Up Your Brother or He’ll Get You In the End

And We Know the Flag of Love is from Above
And We Can Force You to Be Free
And We Can Force You to Believe

“Cygnet Committee”
David Bowie: Space Oddity, 1969

You start out thinking all you need is love and that the victory of flower power is inevitable but then the tanks and the guns and the grey men on TV come back and demonstrate otherwise. The hairy faces turn angry, the naked girls find themselves violated, the knives come out; beautiful people are as ugly as everyone else after all. If the Beatles were the minstrels of the age of Aquarius and the Rolling Stones heralded revolution Bowie provided the soundtrack to disillusion. Foretelling the punk-rock strategy “The Cygnet Committee” insults its own useless generation but concludes: “I want to believe there’s a light shining thru somehow”

Bowie’s angst-ridden soaring melodies, surreal cut-up lyrics and strange clashes of sound and theatre ruled the ‘serious’ pop music of the 1980s the way the Stones and the Beatles had dominated the 70s. As with the way of all decadence it didn’t last. Rolling Stone magazine’s spurious top one hundred albums list from the late 80s features several Bowie albums, The Rise and Fall of Ziggy Stardust coming in at #4, a few years back a similar list saw that album greatly demoted and the rest disappeared altogether. Fickle innit?

Me too. I went off Bowie after that. I enjoyed the concert more than most of ’em who knew only his stuff from Let’s Dance on. They weren’t all that fussed when he played “Time” or “White Light, White Heat”. They had no idea who the Velvet Underground were. They’d never heard of Iggy Pop. Didn’t know the history. I did which made the over-produced, underfelt schlock on Tonight and Never Let Me Down all the more disappointing. Something petered away and died after that. It was the terminus, the first of many in life. The death of the idol.

Eventually you return to the music you thought you dug in the days of brown coats and Nietzsche and it’s only then that you sort out the true loves from the mere infatuations. There’s a lot of stuff I listened to in those days that embarrasses me now. All that over-arty, synth-ridden, fake misery that swamped an era and’s been recycled lately along with John Hughes films and Ray Bans Wayfarers. But records like ‘Heroes’ and Scary Monsters and Super-Creeps I’ve returned to like old friends. I know every note and every word. I can hear things I didn’t before, embossed by experience like new lines on a long-familiar face seen for the first time since forever.


28 Oct


Everyone at my high school was straight. Their idea of fun was to go to McDonalds and throw pickles on the roof. Afterward a trip to ‘Las Vegas’ computer gaming emporium where the girls’d watch the boys play Defender for 45 minutes before the inevitable tedious fumbling somewhere dark. Yawn.

Our idea of fun was to get into nightclubs and bars; live music venues for live bands. We started way too young and became seasoned scenesters before we were legal. Casually comporting ourselves on the afternoon deck of a trendy balcony bar, age 16. Bloody Marys.

This was the trendy balcony bar in Brizvegas. Not just as in the ‘coolest’ place in town. Also as in the only one in the whole flat city. The place was owned by Stefan who was the local celebrity hairdresser for the same reason. Every week-day morning on channel 9 Stefan had a thirty-minute spot which kicked off with a theme song inviting you to “discover yourself at Stefan. The exciting you with beautiful hair.” Stefan had space age franchises in every important retail zone in the greater Brizvegas area. They really liked blow-dryers at Stefan.

His trendy bar was like his salons only they put firewater in the orange juice. The Bloody Marys were 8 bucks and they inserted a whole fucking garden salad in it. This was not our kind of place. Normally we wore the black stovepipe/pointy-boots and paisley shirt uniform that declared dissent from the world of FM Smooth and Bland: The same 40 songs on high rotation Classic Rock.

That afternoon we dressed like Yuppie Scum: narrow cloth ties, baggy pleated trousers. Stuart Membrey bullshit leather tags on the back of our shirts. Leather deck shoes. Totally disgusting. Why’d we do it? That’s what we always did. Life was theatre. Here we were pretending to be something we weren’t. Just the once. The next time we’d impersonate something else.


27 Oct


He thought he was the star, totally obnoxious. I guess he saw me as competition ’cause he’d have a go at me on a regular basis. He was basically witless and so it was easy to get him to pull his head in. Besides, he was shite! Totally. He started as a guitarist. He could do some chords, three of them. He switched to bass but he fucked that up too. I’m talking Sex Pistols songs! Didn’t matter. After finishing a few songs we’d stop and he’d start.

His legs splayed akimbo, thrusting his groin at everyone like he was Steve Tyler. He’d throw his hands out to an imaginary crowd and: “Yes! Yes the girls are all going wild for me!” He was serious. He’d run down his image for each of us. I always came last as ‘the ugly one everyone loves to hate’. That was when he was being charming. Once he was over, up in my bedroom and I’m trying to teach him the bassline to “Anarchy in the UK”. He just can’t get it. He’s wearing Dunlop Volleys without socks, it’s not a good smell. He decides to take them off. This is not a good smell either. That’s why he did it. Disgusting people was one of his favourite things.

You can guess the ‘friendship’ didn’t last long. The band didn’t last long either. The drummer, the keyboards. They were good guys. We were friends. But no-one could tolerate this Brian Jones arsehole. Well that’s not nice. Brian Jones could play. The band was doomed. Two heavy metal fans, one typical arty Bowie/Velvets fanatic and a dude who couldn’t play. Alone of all of us it was he who belonged at Phil Collins High. Still we went to the Bowie concert together. I wasn’t rated highly in the social marketplace.

A few years after all this the keyboard guy ran into me on the street. Let’s call him Mick. He was driving a battered white van down Boundary St and saw me. He’d dropped out of a science degree, worked a supermarket night shift for two years and then ended up an apprentice electrician for the council. He had funny stories mostly about guys that, via acts of the purest idiocy, became as one with the city’s power mains leaving a pair of smoking boots. He drove me back thru the old neighborhood. All the forest was gone replaced by cul-de-sacs and predesigned houses: Tudor, Tara, Roman villa and plain brick. From the place I’d lived (sold since) you’d have to walk an hour to get to the wilderness. I would’ve gone nuts.

He spent the evening at my place, the kind of Art Deco apartment ubiquitous in New Farm. Students could actually rent ’em then. A river view even, now they’d ask a million dollars. We got talking about so and so and so. We got around to the bass player. Dead. Overdose of anti-psychotic medicine. Seems all his obnoxious behaviour was the mixed result of a damaged psyche and the damage done by modern pharmacy to fix it. He’d been switching schools for years escaping from the social fallout of losing it. But the obnoxious mania wasn’t his fault. Had something to do with his father. Inside all that baffling egotism was a scarred heart trying, like a ‘drunk in a midnight choir’ to be loved.