it's all over now

Wednesday, June 27. 2007

a colour without a name

Sunday, June 17. 2007

something so old, something so new

Sunday, June 17. 2007

A note, hastily scrawled, and stuck on your door

Sunday, June 17. 2007
Tomorrow (well it's so late, today actually) I'm riding solo to Taichung. It's the first big ride on my new bike. Monday and Tuesday are public holidays, so it's two days, no computer. It would be more than two days if I didn't have to play a stupid, retarted gig tomorrow afternoon. I might've left today, tonight, or tomorrow morning. As it is, I'll probably get away about 7pm. If I'm lucky.

A guy is coming to pick up the new dog, Wangzi, to look after him till Tuesday. I'm taking a camera this time. I'll take photos and write it up. I promise.

So I'll see you then.

I Can't Stop

Sunday, June 17. 2007
If the spirit of the now-undead Smashing Pumpkins is being kept, like a precious treasure bound in trust, by the likes of My Chemical Romance and Panic! At The Disco, where is the flame of Sonic Youth these days? The one that made their record company suck it up and do the legacy re-release of their Daydream Nation record? It’s entirely possible that they still have it, even when the youth might have left. Damn good thing, because like the Led Zeppelin live album from a few years ago, Daydream Nation represents something that hasn’t been done properly since. Nobody plays like this anymore, not even Sonic Youth themselves. And there’s precious little amongst the talent doing the rounds these days that lends itself to handling such work, such vision, such unbridled passion. And ain’t no-one lining up to get the screwdriver under the strings.

While the subtleties take a hit due to the loudness-enducing remastering, it sounds as fine as ever. But it feels like I’m the only one around who still (ever did?) likes Sonic Youth, the people around me all totally underwhelmed by this event. It gives me an excuse to crank it up on the stereo again and piss off the neighbours. What happened to Sonic Youth after the glory recorded here? The corporate sellout days happened. That, by the way, is their own term for the post Goo output. And the SYR series happened. It’s like the progeny of Daydream Nation went their own separate ways, with the colourful, high spirited child taking the early spotlight riding the wave of punk breaking on the MTV shores and the quieter, arty kid sitting in the shadows and brooding for a while – sticking its head up for an extended feedback solo here, an abstract music video there – until the dust settled and it was time to get experimental again. And didn’t that divide the critics, what with NYC Ghosts and Flowers earning several prominent low scores from the critics (including one very public zero out of ten), a turn for the books from the same voices that shook their heads and took point off for losing that experimental edge. Sonic Youth never claimed to be trying to please anyone and for what it’s worth, Ghosts and Flowers remains one of my favourite albums, ever. It’s that modern art piece that just sticks to you, that you can’t shake even when it shouldn’t, that sounds good despite its own seeming attempts not to, it’s that thing that just isn’t like any other thing, while being carved from the same materials by the same hands; it just is.

I like their early work as much as I can, that is to say, without the context of being there, without hearing it when it was all that sounded like that, before what they created was ever there. It’s raw, cheap, thrashy, tight, angry, and then none of the above. It has its place. The sonic shapes on Sister are where it gets really good for me, a wave that rolls right into Daydream Nation, where it makes the abstract feel completely rational, normal, sane and complete. Nothing would be the same after that. People talk about the divide in their career, the indie years vs. the corporate sellout years. I admit that I have a lot more time for the sellout years, but, the more recent stuff in particular. Everything since A Thousand Leaves, the experimental stuff included. But it’s all good, even if I’m just talking to myself about it. And despite what anyone else has to say about it. They’ve lost it and gotten it back so many times, I hear. Maybe that’s complete fucking bullshit. Maybe the band are, maybe I am too. It doesn’t matter.

In this very space a while back (more a long while than a short while), a very strange and wondrous thing happened. More a small wonder than a big wonder, but a wonder none the less. The J declared the Gorillaz last album to be made of pure rock, and his statement completely complemented my feelings toward the album. Without the strain of me even having to think of something to say about it, he said it, and I totally agreed. A rare thing, since for all our posturing, we see eye-to-eye on a very short list of subjects. Which is something I thank God almighty for, because if he actually agreed with half of my shit, I’d have zero respect for the guy.

The other half, I lost respect for him because of, but that’s a different story. It’s with a preface like that I urge him to download the new UNKLE record. You got to download it, because it won’t be on any shelves for a while yet (this time it’s probably more of a shirt while than a long while) and it is another wonder (and I fear it’s a big wonder more than a small wonder), is this album. UNKLE got noticed in a big way by getting alt-rock (remember alt-rock, kids?) singers to add vocals, thus inventing hip hop. That cat from Radiohead was there, I remember, and that Richard Ashcroft fellow, right after he got kicked out of the Rolling Stones. It was good and legitimised kids wearing Nirvana t-shirts (still) listening to something with beats. Anyway, it’s back and since we’re all a little older and have either a Daft Punk, Air or Justice record in our collections (lose points if you think I should add the Prodigy to that list, then kill yourself) the whole “I can’t get into electronica, dude” vibe is hopefully gone away now. Right away. And since hip hop, the real hip hop is now pretty firmly in bed with bits of the rock glitterati, rap that isn’t on the Grand Royale label is mostly accessible. But what the fuck man, this album is killer stuff. I can’t get the vocabulary together, I’m resorting to italics to get that across. Verily, did a rock fall to earth, a rock that could only be carved by the most gracious and in-tune hands of our musical generation. And did some dude who liked turntables and vinyl way too much carve from it the perfect combination of stuff that hit right into the middle of the hearts of the downloading generation. Go forth and listen, a voice said. Listen on shit little earbuds while on the train and stare blankly ahead, but please don’t while you ride a bike or something – that shit is dangerous.


I name dropped the Smashing Pumpkins before. We go way back, we do, and I can’t think of too many good things that I took away from that relationship. I will, at this juncture, state for the jury that I like the Zwan album. Less than a month from now Zeitgeist will be here and on the strength of the first single ‘Tarantula’ and the shithouse mobile phone videos that are doing the rounds, I have formed an uneasy truce with myself, and built up a tiny fortress of hope. In it I have planted seeds of both joy and sorrow – the fruits of which I’ll only have to eat one of. Sweet, oh-so-very-sweet or wish-you-were-dead-in-the-ground-bitter. I have my money on the former. Mark that, because I think it could be really very good. Just keep in on the left of weird and scale it all back a notch or two, and it might even be a huge success. At this point, things feel ripe for the taking. Billy Corgan doesn’t need those other two, those soft wimps, all he’s got to do is not fuck it up somehow. I started out wanting to say that I think it will be good, a comeback in the vein of post Nirvana Dave Grohl rather than baseball-ear Michael Jordan.

It’s looking a lot like 1996 in here all of a sudden. I mean, it’s not really. I don’t really remember 1996, and I don’t think I missed anything much there. But with the Pumpkins lining up for another tilt and a new Manic Street Preachers album, I wanted to point out that it’s old guy time at the new music article. I think I fucked it up.

Manic Street Preachers were, once upon a time, relevant. They howled against the grain, against everything that stood before them, they channelled the punk spirit that’s written in the Bible itself. You know, the one that never actually existed? Either way, they threw slogans around and sounded like the Clash might have, and also played riffs that might have fallen off a Megadeth recording. Somewhere since then they lost the angry-psycho-super-genius mental illness lyrics and turned that discerning eye on themselves and became less important. Not even using the same font as The Holy Bible, not even dressing up the models on the front the same way that they used to get around, not even still being the Manic Street Preachers, makes them more important these days. The fire has died, leaving… Something I don’t think I want, no matter how hard I try.

out of rhyme and out of season

Saturday, June 16. 2007

words and pictures

Saturday, June 16. 2007

Truthiness

Wednesday, June 13. 2007
I'm melting!!!

An unevented turn of expects

Wednesday, June 13. 2007
I'll be damned, it's almost like we're on a normal update schedule here.

I wish we were doing with this page. For the past half year KC has been determined to soar in his posts to the ethereal heights in his own muddy depths of dispair. I, on the other hand, have dragged it through the mundane days of my life. In all honestly, we're both faced with the same problem. We just deal with it in different ways. I know KC is worried about my 'gentrification', and rightly so. I am worried about him too. I unintentionally realised some time ago that KC doesn't realise he is the greatest player in his own life. It's not that he doesn't think he's the greatest player in his own life - far from it. It's just that he (and, for a long time, both of us) was always waiting for some force, like wind of the gods, to intervene and make stuff happen. Like so many others, he believes he's chosen and that it's a matter of time before the fates reveal it to the world.

He right; and he's wrong. He is chosen. He's chosen by himself (and by me). The hand of fate he's waiting for is nothing but his own.

I checked myself into the emergency room at 3am on Monday morning. I've never wanted so much to get out of my own head.

The pain was splitting, isolated in the left side, and the cause completely unknown. I'd done nothing, ate no food, drank no alcohol. The blood tests showed nothing but that I was normal. The first injection did nothing. I wanted to sleep, or escape, and I could have neither. An IV drip, a second, different injection, and about 30 later, the pain drifted away and so did I. I checked myself out just before 6am.

Exhausted, I didn't go to work that day. I slept, then did nothing in the afternoon. I watched the Last King of Scotland.

Friday Night Football

Tuesday, June 12. 2007
I went to watch an AFL game on Friday night. It was the first time I’d ever been to game at that level. Many freezing afternoons had been spent watching local amateurs and my older brother’s junior games, but despite growing up in the home state of the game, I’d never been to see the spectacle played live.

There are some very good reasons for this. First and foremost, I don’t really like the game. It’s nothing about the sport that I intrinsically hate, more the associations I have. Those freezing days watching the low level games should have been enough to put anyone off the game. Boring, uncomfortable, the stupidity of the spectators watching from their cars honking their horns when a goal is scored. Usually being restricted to the back seat where you can’t see from anyway. Having no emotion vested in the game helps not caring.

As a school kid, it was the game of choice in the schoolyard. As a six year old, it was kind of fun. But soon enough it becomes a glorified excuse to beat on kids you don’t like. I recall being on the receiving end of late hits more often than actually getting my hands on the ball. The presence of teachers, something I vested a lot of faith in, seemed to only increase the pain coming my way. In later years, suspicious teachers who overlooked the lunch time sporting activities that left me bruised only added fuel to the flames when they confronted the heavy-handed bullies later. They assumed that I had told the teachers, when no such thing had happened.

At primary school, I eventually found other things to amuse me. At high school, other sports took the place of the local game, but the violence continued. A schism happened in the student population at that point. The knuckle dragging farm boys played football and role-played their way into the alpha male positions. The rest played a variation on soccer and fought amongst themselves. My divorce from the game was complete. But a high school in a rural area, you could be a genius and not get any attention. All they wanted to know is if you could play for the school team. If you weren’t good enough for that, they didn’t want to know. Nothing else really saw any funding. We barely had a debating team. There was no drama or music course, not really, and equipment for other sports was barren, old, and replaced only when crumbling. So not much happened, and everything happened. I had nothing but reasons to hate the game and did for many, many years. I had emerged from my childhood with a team I followed, but whose fortunes I followed with little passion. As a final and firm ‘fuck you’ to the sport, and its traditions, and to those around me who seemed obsessed, I chose the West Coast Eagles. The team from Perth that had joined the then Victorian Football League – the first West Australian team in the league and hated for it, and the first non-Victorian team to win the Premiership. Despised by the local puritans, they were the only team I could even consider.

As a side note, in the 21 years since the Eagles joined the league, the second non-Victorian based team and first team without Victorian roots, there are now teams in Adelaide, Fremantle and Brisbane, joining the Sydney team, who were transplanted there from South Melbourne. And since the Eagles first took the Premiership out of Melbourne in 1992 only five cups have stayed in Victoria. The locals have had to let go of their game, even if the rugby playing northerners have little time for the code and especially when the western neighbours proved to be much better at it.

All that aside, when I left the rural backwater I grew up in, I had the chance to let it all go. And so I did, finding a new crowd who had even less time for the game than me. I lost myself in uni life and there was no love lost between us – especially as the Eagles endured a run of horror years, there was nothing to watch.

Then I left the country entirely. Contact with Australia was limited to what news I could read on the internet. The Age website was my primary source and while I paid little attention at first, I found myself reading more and more articles about football as the year wore on. The writers, who I had dismissed as foolish for their embrace of the sport as part of their careers, made an impression on me. Their written descriptions, their emotions and feelings toward the sport, it felt like they were describing a totally different game to the one that I had grown up being tortured by. Their eloquence impressed me, and in turn impressed upon me a sense of wonder and admiration for the warriors they talked about. It was nothing like those frozen afternoons at the local sporting grounds, more like a cross between brutality, ballet, chess and finesse. I knew that it was a game for hard men to play, the tough were sorted from the weak very quickly. I knew that the skills required were taken from the templates of brawlers and artists. You needed to be fast and agile, but also to be able to take a hit and get on with it, to go in with the rough and run off with the wind. These writers made me believe that now, and I rediscovered the game through their words.

I followed the scores, the rising and falling fortunes of the games, week to week, player to player. I came to know the tactics of that level of competition and the cut-throat nature of the league. I read about the long history of the sport and how it was interwoven with that of my birth city. I developed an appreciation for the game. Not what I had endured, but the game, the spirit, the life of it.

I still keep up with the comings and goings of fortune but I find watching it on TV too restrictive, too non-representative of what I consider the game to be. I never had reason to go to a game before, but I’d talked about it with my sister and last week the Eagles were coming to play the Essendon Bombers, and we went.

There, in the boiling stadium, was the game I’d read about. Seeing it all from the stands, high above the grass, the interconnected nature and flow of the battle – television doesn’t do this justice. The roar of the crowd was like nothing I’d heard before. To be there was another experience. To see players I’d only read about doing their thing and finally understanding what it was all about, it was worth it all. But most of all, it confirmed that what I was watching was not that game I grew up with. No sir, it’s a different ball game in there.

The Eagles lost by a single point. The tension, the agony of the dying minutes felt longer than the rest of the game. The roar of the crowd when the siren sounded to end the game sent me walking to the gate in disgust. To be soft right at the pointy end of the game, I felt anger. But it was a spectacle, one that could have easily been a non-event blow out, or worse, we could have been flogged comprehensively. No, it was a loss, but a discovery, and a win for me.

I don’t think I care enough to go see any other teams play, but when the Eagles come back, I’ll be there.

cities of waste

Tuesday, June 12. 2007

dust in the sun

Monday, June 11. 2007

An honest appraisal and a praise chorus

Monday, June 11. 2007
Total control, something we have over parts of our lives but partial control is all we can have over the whole…

I don’t open messenger these days because I know I can’t face telling people the truth when they see me come online. Where are you, what have you been doing and how have you been? The only thing I like less than the idea of lying to the handful of friends who will have been wondering why I seem to have been dead for the last few months is the truth I avoid letting out. It can’t all be gravy, there’s got to be some gristle in your food. The voice in my head just won’t let go the idea that people don’t want to hear about my gristle. I guess I have a shield up, not wanting to let myself appear rattled, or troubled.

This is where I ended up. I could go somewhere else, be someone else. But here and now, I’m a brother and a son. I was going to leave… I got a new passport, I was standing at the counter in the travel agency. I had it all planned out – a plan that still stands, postponed – as I thought about the devastation I might wreak on my family if I took off again. I was going to slip away unnoticed, too. Just go. Be off again, wandering, looking, learning, feeling, moving. I liked who I was back then. I liked how it all felt, the reality I stare at now was nothing but a distant blur. Look over somewhere else and it slips into the blind spot for another week while I had another new country to explore and new city streets to get lost in. It felt somewhat comforting, but more than that, energising. Lively. Electric. Especially compared to what I have now.

The reality. I don’t like Melbourne, not one bit. The people in charge and the assholes who run the media have a grand delusion about the importance of the city in the global scheme, a complex begun by the eternal arm-wrestle with Sydney for local dominance and writ large by the sheer geography. Melbourne is so goddamn far from anywhere, anywhere important, and those places are barely closer to the rest of the world again. There’s just so much distance between here and there, and in the big picture not much of consequence here. If people ever ask me in the future, I’ll tell them, just don’t bother.

I don’t like myself when I’m here. I’m a pedestrian of the highest order and an aficionado of public transport. Despite wind blowing and good will seeking from the politicians, everyone from those fat, suited-up windbags down looks at me with derision. Don’t have your own car? What’s wrong with you, Melbourne shouts. Rely on the train? You’re either unemployed, underprivileged, some kind of freak or hippy, or some other mutation from the gentrified middle class who love their cars more than their kids.

See, that’s what I’m talking about. But count the stares from the drivers as I walk down Southern Road and you’ll know what I mean. All the figures tell me that the nation needs a head check. Every cultural experience tells me just how little there is to be had. Distance is the tyrant here in these parts. Disconnected physically, the nation desperately tries to forge an identity connection with what it can grasp – the rose tinted visage of its own past, the signals beaming into the television, the hardy and rough interpretations from short-sighted journalists. Maybe I look too hard, maybe I think too much, maybe I have too much time on top of it all. But this country is dry and getting dryer and nothing real is being done about it, racist and unrepentant, sexist and loving it, elitist and ignorant of the very fact. I am part of it. But that’s the reality I feel unhappy about sharing with the few out there who care to listen.

In my head, the battle is worse. I know that my fate will lead me away from this place soon enough and return visits feel unlikely. It’s that bad, it’s been that bad, I want to do things my way and in my place. I got ideas about where that is, but that talk isn’t for here. So I am trying to stop myself caring about the fate of the continent, because it can rot in hell. It can go hang, it can die off and sink – just as long as I’m not on board at the time. I just don’t get what goes on and why.

My head. Half a year it raged with a battle of wills, to stay or go. Stay, go, stay, I was going to do them both and tear myself in half in the process. I hate Melbourne and it’s the best of the bunch for me. Everything else I might have to choose from is horrible, just horrible, and not ever going to happen. If you don’t, then don’t. But here I stay. I had an epiphany, somewhere near Collins Street. That I’d stay, at least until next January. Survive and build until then, the euphoria of recent year fading away, the ravages of time to do their thing, then onto my own again. I have to stay a while longer. I felt a debt to my family, like I owed them more time together, and that if I slipped away now they might never get over it. I could live like that but would I want to? There’s so much time we have on this planet but for some reason, I know that this time now, these months now, are when I need to be here. A place I don’t want to be (if you think I sound bitter about Melbourne as a whole, wait till you hear about this suburb we all live in) with people I need around. That’s how it is.

I’m not one for huge emotional sweeping statements. I found something out. I have the greatest little brother in the world. I’ve been blessed, simple as that. What good there is in me glows like a spark when we hang out and the fires that can start…

Most of all I hate what I have become while being here. Fat, lazy and unmotivated. Scared and apathetic about myself. So many things I used to have in my soul have faded. I lost my faith, I lost it and I can’t imagine where it went because I haven’t exactly gone anywhere myself. The hating and the jadedness were always there but they grown strong in my current ways. That can’t go on. Time is catching up too fast, the way it cuts back my hair and made it less, as if to mark me as no longer a young man. No longer prime, no longer a buck, but one that’s tagged as yesterday’s product. It’s over, nothing to do but find some way to occupy the next however many years till my death. After which, nothing. There’s nothing out there anymore, no comfort, no reward, no peace, just nothing. And here? Nothing still, nothing worth being or doing, nothing I see value in. I see value in what I was and I see a way to be that person again, sort of, or at least to be nearby.

But committed to another six months and some menial task, that’s me. I no longer can afford to dream or aim high. So I shoot for whatever I can hit; praise this, for it makes me a man of the city. A prisoner, an exile; a local.

Thunderbolts and lightning

Tuesday, June 5. 2007
I'm sitting outside writing this, watching the typhoon rain pour down and the dark grey clouds flash with sheets of lighting. It's strange, after having my laptop virtually bolted to my desk for the longest time, the last few days I've wanted to take advantage of the wireless network I set up and use it around the house. Why the hell was I thinking about buying that Mac mini? Out here the breeze is cool and although the rain falls a few feet from my own feet, I'm dry.

How things change.

The day before my birthday, now more than a month ago, the extra RAM in my computer fried. After I finally worked out why my computer wouldn't booted (and what had probably caused all the crashes I'd been having in preceding months) I took the RAM back to where I bought it. Although I didn't have the receipt any more and I'd bought it over two years ago, a check on the manufacturer's website revealed it had a lifetime warranty. Unfortunately the guy there was anti-helpful, mumbling in such a way that I couldn't understand anything he was saying, although I did manage to glean that I would be expected to pay for some kind of shipping costs. Fine, I said, how about I just buy a new one?

"Oh, we don't have any."

Well what about if I go to the computer market?

"I doubt you'll find any, they don't make DDR RAM anymore. It's all been superceded."

What! I know my computer is already a couple of years old, but seriously, you can't get the RAM anymore? I gave up, went home and checked online. Of course I found a ton of DDR RAM... then realised I need MicroDIMMs which are apparently quite hard to get.

In the meantime, the computer is practically totally useless. XP Pro doesn't let you do much with just 256 meg of RAM. God forbid you do anything intensive like edit images or video.

In the hope of at least being able to get an idea of their return policy, I took it back to another branch of CanKun. Success! The guy behind the desk was friendly and helpful. He took it and didn't ask me to pay for any shipping.

After the first couple of weeks waiting, with no communication, I went in and asked. Sorry, sorry, it's still at the factory, they're really busy right now but they're on it and it will be back soon. Fine. Call me when it's done, please.

Another week. I go in and say, where is it? It's been a month?

Still friendly and apologetic: "Oh I'm really sorry, I just got off the phone to the factory... it was a girl... I really wanted to tell her off but I dunno, she's a girl... she said that the offices had moved or something and everything was in chaos and I told her you'd been waiting so long so please hurry up."

Another week. Come on... this is ridiculous. "They called and said they're testing it, and it will be here in one to two weeks.

By this point, I figure another week or two isn't going to make a difference. In the time I'd been waiting I'd gotten so sick of crappy performace I actually got off my ass and backed everything up, reformatted and did a fresh install, only to find that really, by the time you add anti-virus, all the laptop software like battery monitors and whatnot, 256MB doesn't cut it, if if your registry is clean. I was sort of getting used to not being able to do anything because I didn't have the apps installed. I installed a program called FreeRAM XP Pro which is supposed to monitor RAM and "free" it periodically. Unfortunately it runs like suck with only 256MB available. When free RAM gets low it automatically tries to free it - and with 256 the process is painfully slow. About every 30 minutes your systems freezes while it frees - a major pain in the ass. Fuck this, it's time for a new computer, I thought. Time for that Mac mini.

Then yesterday, five weeks and two days after I put it in for inspection (and over six week since it actually died, and incidentally about three hours after I was telling my girlfriend about how I was planning to pay off the Mac over six months) I got a text about my RAM. I could pick it up.

As it happened I was close by. What happened? I asked.

"They replaced it with a new one."

Great.

"I'm really sorry about this. If you ever need your computer fixed, bring it in. We won't charge you."

Thanks for the offer, I thought, but if I ever need my computer fixed I'll need it in less that five weeks.

I spent yesterday night making as many tweaks to system services and background programs to extract the most speed before I put the RAM back in. I finally got it in tonight. The difference is amazing. Hell, even FreeRAM doesn't take forever to free up the RAM. Still haven't decided if I'll keep it, but for the time being it stays as I like to see how much RAM is free when I run various applications.

Next time: How Things Change.