Crushing

Monday, July 30. 2007
How often do I really get excited about a game? Usually when the title begins with ‘Sim’ or ‘Mario’, or has a ‘Zelda’ in there. The only exception to this rule is Civilization, which gets in on a technicality via the ‘Sim’ clause. Sim-History? Let’s not go crazy here.

So the second expansion for Civilization IV finally drops. This series has robbed me of more of my life than university did (maybe). It’s like a fucking black hole. They can even give me an expansion that adds extra content by way of officialising the most popular fan made mods – all freely available anyway – and game features that by rights should have been in the original release. I find it hard to imagine they didn’t have this all laid out a year and a half ago when the game first came out. But I figure if it extends the playing time the game gets, I’m the real winner. The winner who happily admits to not paying a cent for it, God bless the internet and its invincible array of pirate masters. The winner who is actually a loser.

Civ IV always made my computer run hot. It’s a long game, the shortest run through on the smallest map will take just over an hour – so epic games on huge maps realistically take days to play out. Vanilla Civ IV made my machine run so hot that it would crash after a few hours in the summer, with the aircon off. The first expansion cut that to an hour and a half, but since it was cold my then, it didn’t really matter. This one, here in the dead of winter, drops my balls in about an hour. Things are just getting interesting when bam, off it all goes. The bottom of the computer is too hot to touch. I worry about the long term effects this might be having on my hardware.

I could just turn it back on and load the auto-save game. But it will crash again in less than half an hour, even more humiliatingly. But the real crushing blow? This expansion’s money shot is the expanded late game content. Stuff I haven’t got to yet because my computer can’t handle the strain put on it by the stolen software I covet so.

Here I stand, laid bare at the end of my rope.

Blonde Redhead

Thursday, July 26. 2007
Like the arthouse movies no-one I know wants to see, so I go alone. Too good to miss, no way would I let this chance pass by, I’ll take my chances and go alone. No-one I know even knows who Blonde Redhead are, and I’m going to guess that you don’t either. I didn’t, myself, until I listened to their album 23 on a whim and was instantly struck by it. Parts ethereal, parts Sonic Youth and pure modern art. 23 was hardly a revelation, hardly a world changing argument, but worthy of a place in the finest modern galleries in the world, so those with a taste for their stlye could appreciate with others of such discriminating taste. All too apt, these comments are, for a three piece band from New York. Almost a caricature, almost – until you hear the music.

And that is what it was all about. Had I just walked in off the street and seen them playing, I would have liked it. It just clicks with me. I liked it before I even knew the details. A pair of Italian brothers, one plays drums, the other guitar. A Japanese lady singing and playing guitar. 23 is their seventh album. I don’t know how I never even heard the name, but that is, as they say, all in the cards. They sound not anything stereotypically New York, or Italy, or Japan. There’s no accent in the singing to pin it anywhere. When they speak, it’s a trans-Atlantic whirl with a heady dash of the Lived-In-England-For-A-While.

23 is a great record, one of my favourites for the year, even when I first heard it. It grew even fonder as I figured the obscured lyrics out, from t he ethereal production values and round-about wording. Like there was subconscious work for the brain to be doing while you were riding the train. So when I heard they were touring, I jumped right on in and got me a ticket. I didn’t even know they had so many other albums at that point, I just wanted to see them. Then I heard it was the first show of the tour, the first of twenty-three shows, and it was on the twenty-third of July. Auspicious, no? It was also their first visit to Australia, after a cancelled tour in 2004. One show in Sydney, one in Melbourne. It sold out pretty fast. On the night, it was all dedicated fans and few curious onlookers. The crowd was there for the band, and it was good.

Having such a long history, their performance was amazing. The new album made up the lion’s share of the set, to my joy (but not the pleasure of the Indie Rock Wanker Snob who wanted to hear his favourite obscure tracks and kept shouting about it) with a few older tracks thrown in for good measure. It was 23 writ large, in widescreen, all the emotion and romance of the songs thrown up for the world to see, all on display, all for us. Consummate and equally dedicated and emotional – this is part of what should rightly be called Emo, but I am more than happy to keep it for myself.

For the whole thing, as amazing as it was for me, remains just that – for me. No-one I’ve spoken to since seems terribly interested in it at all, and that’s ok. It was a monumental show in a small venue. It was raw.

The Night Shift

Thursday, July 26. 2007
I see about three hours of sunlight each day. If it’s not cloudy. And even then most of those three hours I’m doing things inside, like taking a shower or cleaning the house (because that’s the part of the afternoon when no-one else is home) and either way, the last few weeks it has been way to cold to venture outside for any long amount of time. It’s been too cold to walk the half hour to work, even, and that’s saying something for local standards and how far past them we are. It says a lot more for local standards that it snowed in the outer suburbs recently. It gets ball-breakingly cold here, but snow is a rarity of the highest order, something unknown by most and treated as a genuine wonder by all.

There might be some kind of disease you get from lack of exposure to the sun, and I think all the people I work with have it. It makes you weird and strange. Or the night shift attracts freaks and weirdos who are up that late anyway. I say it’s a little from column a, a little from column b.

The work is just on the safe side of mindless that I don’t get to think too much about stuff while I’m there, I need to focus just enough to stay in the moment. Which is all good, but it’s hardly building rocket ships here. It pays better than it should, and even more because nights are worth more (as they should be, and that’s the real reason people end up doing it) and it isn’t like I’m going to be there a day longer than I have to – should something else come along – or any longer than I want to (let’s give it six months and see where I am, and I am having this vision of me being far, far away from here then) so as a stop gap and source of funding, it’s all right for now.

Compromise and lessons learnt. That’s the mantra of this year. Steps back I took because I didn’t have anywhere else to step when I had to – you have to keep moving, or you end up in trouble. That sums it up and will likely stay that way, barring a miracle. A fucking miracle indeed.

I miss the sun sometimes. But I see a lot of it in the future and it’s always going to be there. So it seems a little redundant to miss it when you think of it like that.

Here’s to the morning, when you wake up and I go home to bed.

Trust

Thursday, July 26. 2007
Trust this. No, fuck this. Trust that.
All you people, all my people, all your people.
You won’t beat me at this game, because I’m the master
Master of these lies, master of this web, the true and only master…
This game I know, this game… I said I’d never play
Because I know it’s just a stupid game
And a game where there’s never a winner.
Never. Ever. Never.
Trust that, and fuck you.

I don’t believe a word you said
No matter what cards I played,
No matter how true I am
I just know, I just feel, I just want to know
That you lie to me
That I can’t believe, won’t believe, won’t play, won’t win
You look so far, you look so good
Too good, too right, too hard
To believe, to know, the feel, to think
I wanted it so bad, I want you so bad, but it’s just bad
Bad for me, bad for you, bad for them all
But you won’t believe me when I tell you it’s bad to trust me.

Not exactly new

Saturday, July 21. 2007
but this is one of the reasons I don't want to live in Australia (or much of the 'civilized world' for that matter).

Jus' fuckin' around

Friday, July 20. 2007
You may (or may not) have noticed that once again I've been fucking around with the skin here. As always, it's not perfect but it's an improvement (I would say).

I've also added links to RSS feed here - like you didn't have that already - but I've also added a link to the comment feed. Enjoy them in the RSS client of your choice. One of these days I might even get around to adding proper formatting to the damn things.

Square One

Friday, July 20. 2007
Here we are (again), back online (again) after another outage (again). My laptop decided to cook the less-than-two-months-old RAM module I had waited so long for. After a week or two of being back in a place where you barely have enough memory to run Firefox (memory pig!), MSN and edit a text document, I bit the bullet. Of course the problem was I'd just had RAM replaced; I didn't know how PNY would respond to having to replace it again so soon. And besides, two modules dying in 3 months? Unlikely. Maybe there was a problem with the motherboard.

I must admit that Asus have been pretty good about checking out and repairing my laptop, even after the warranty expired. They didn't charge me this time to look at the 2nd hand motherboard they installed for me a while back. However, this computer has had a lot of downtime, including the intermittent power system problem that plagued me (infuriatingly intermittently) for so long, even within the first year of owning the damn thing but only managed to get fixed (at my cost) after the warranty expired (hence the 2nd hand motherboard).

This time, the thing was there for nearly a week while they carried out their inspections. Finally I got a text that it was ready.

Of course, the tests turned up nothing, the computer worked fine without the RAM installed, fine with other RAM, but not with mine. Tell me something I didn't know. What I wanted to know was if there was some fault that was causing the RAM to die. No dice.

Fine.

Prior to picking up my computer, I finally took my old video camera to the Canon Taiwan Service center. The camera has had a broken record button since the end of Chinese New Year. All it requires is a new switch.

The guy looked at it and then took it to the repair engineers to examine. When he came back out, he told me because this is a model they didn't stock (I bought it in Japan about 5 years ago for god's sake) there would be a fee of some kind of NT1800. At this point I was expecting him to tell me that the switch would cost a few hundred NT and I would ok, that's expensive but if it gets me my camera back then fine.

Then he said it would cost a further NT2200 to replace the button. Four thousand NT to fix a button, I repeated. That wasn't really worth it, told him. I could buy a new one with a little more than that.

So I stuffed the camera back in my bag and lugged it home.

Later, I took my RAM module back to get replaced. Still waiting on that one.

Today, I took my bike to Banqiao to get the overdue bi-annual inspection done. I'd paid the fine a couple of weeks prior in Taipei. I didn't realise it but they actually had a photo of my bike in there computer, presumably taken when the registration details were "modified" by the previous owner. The bastard there spotted that I had swapped the handle bars and added a sissy bar. This would not do, and neither would the fact that I had a fine owed. But I paid that, and I have a receipt here to prove it. "No no, you need to change all this stuff back, and go to Taipei and ask why they didn't cancel that fine".

So I now figured I could rush home and change the bars and try to make it back out... but that would be no good without going to Taipei and getting the fine sorted out. So speed over to Taipei... and a conversation with the lady there tells me that the record won't be changed until I've had the inspection done. And these incompetents idiots tell me that I need to change my bars over.

So after all that, I wasted my Thursday afternoon running and around, and I'm back at Square One. The only difference is now I at least have my (crippled) computer back. Now to play the waiting game - either way I'm fucked. If I do get my RAM replaced again, then I have to wait and see if it's going to cook itself again, and if they tell me know, then I have to buy a new computer. Well maybe it's not all bad (except I can't afford it).

MISSING

Tuesday, July 17. 2007
Important memories
Went missing sometime early Sunday morning
Likely extremely soiled
What the fuck?

Friday

Friday, July 13. 2007
When work happens on the mathematical whim of the roster making lady, and other days of the week are earmarked for drunken stupidity, Friday becomes really just another day.

Except this one, because it’s the day before my 25th birthday. And quite honestly, apart from the massive party planned for tomorrow, I can’t find any real feelings about this one. An excuse to buy stuff, yeah. And get people together, sure. But personally, I am rather numb about it. That’s because the horrible, horrible truth that it’s just another day with some arbitrary marker on a calendar. That’s my story and I’m sticking to it.

I might have picked up last night, but since it was Jmo it doesn’t really count, and he slept in Phill’s bed anyway. I feel like I might never fit in anywhere, ever again. Just when I thought my disconnection was complete, it goes even further. Just when.

So bon voyage, the last strains of my attempt to grip something larger than myself. Here I am, here I am to stay, just another god forsaken Friday.

So on this god forsaken Friday, there’s not enough sunshine in my life. There’s not enough of anything, there’s just these big deficits where things used to be. What to replace them with? I can think of a thousand options, each as unpleasant as the next. Many more fall into the category of Shit I Can’t Get On My Hands, and yet more into Shit I Can’t Get My Hands Onto. There’s no way forward with this methodology, there’s just no winning here.

What I can’t get out of my head is the idea that maybe there’s things in life that have passed me by, forever lost to me, things I might never experience because I was too fucked up at the time to appreciate it – so what am I missing out on now? I don’t want to be that guy, but I’m scared that I just might be. I’m scared I’ll get scared and… Jesus Christ, what did you do those three days you were dead? Because this problem’s going to last longer than the weekend.

Naming demons, single them out, and then fight to the death. But they aren’t the huge hulking menaces of sci-fi, more insidious, smoky wisps that defy capture and cannot be fought with our human weapons.

I can’t trust you
I don’t trust you
I want to, I want to think that the words you say are true
And real, for me to believe
But I don’t, I don’t trust you and I don’t even know
Who to blame

Farewell To The Palais

Thursday, July 12. 2007
We hardly knew you well enough at all; this wasn’t the way you were meant to go, let’s roll with the good and have one last drink for you.

The Palais Theatre in St. Kilda burned down today. One of the grand old buildings of the Esplanade, it’s one of the few buildings that I remember from childhood visits to the city, because it is right next door to Luna Park. On the southern side of the Esplanade, there’s nothing behind it but a park, the beach and the bay. It sat next to the newer Palace building and both buildings shared a common identity as places of art, music and theatre. The older and grander buildings hosted the more sedate, refined events while the younger counterpart was home to anything loud and crazy. It wasn’t just central to St. Kilda, it was the very soul of the place, right in the middle of the Triangle Site, right in the heart of the suburb. The other side of the road is lined with similar architecture and pubs of near-legendary status, the Palais – along with those across the road – form the very roll-call of night life in the city. It was the head of the list, the original, the greatest.

Recent years have seen the spotlights drift away from that façade, but nowhere was as loved deep down. Like the elder of the tribe, everyone had nothing but respect. It still hosted shows, but the pubs across the road are where the rock lives now, and the music is more of the sit-down variety than the stand and deliver. The Palace next door is home to several dance music nights but hasn’t been the same since Melbourne’s most infamous meat-market night moved out. Further down the foreshore is the true sister of the Palais, the beautiful St. Kilda sea bath building. They both look like something out of an old black and white photo from the 1920’s (even if they were built in the sixties) and what may come for the Triangle Site, the baths will look a lot more lonely for it.

Controversy over the area, some of the most expensive real estate in the country at the moment, has been rife over recent months. The state government has been trying to gain control of the area while the current operators try to squeeze more life out the old girl. Renovations were long overdue and not very long ago at all the government seemed to have won the battle – so this event is not just suspicious, it fairly reeks of foul play. The Palais deserved more than this.

The last time I was there was in 2003. I went to see Ben Folds with my friend Ash. The velvet grandeur of the interior was matched only by the sheer clarity of the sound. So I’ll finish with his words, and changed as we all were, as the city was today, as it always will be from now. It just will be not the same.

Vale, Palais.

you took the word
and made it heard
and eased the people's pain and for that
you were idolized, immortalized
you were not the same after that


Part Two

Sunday, July 8. 2007


Thanks to Es for the photo

Part One

Sunday, July 8. 2007

Smashing_Pumpkins-Zeitgeist-2007-SAW_(V2)

Tuesday, July 3. 2007
(This is later than it needs to be because my source tracker was having DNS issues and I couldn’t get onto it, but here it is… Downloaded and directly post-first-listen.)

The Smashing Pumpkins – Zeitgeist

You know who they are. But two (or three, really) of them are gone and one of the remaining pair is the drummer and we all know about drummers. So it’s more or less the Billy Corgan show, except it’s not. The real Billy Corgan show had one solo album that lived entirely in the shadow of his previous work and got pissed off and walked off halfway into a show when the hecklers kept chanting for him to play the hits from the good old days. The maligned Zwan (who we here at the Dragon were fans of) fell apart under the weight of the Personality. The only survivor, and for the record this means from Day One, of the great bullet train that is the Corgan Ego Machine Ride, is Jimmy Chamberlin. That tells you all you need to know about him and why he is still here. Years later. After everything, before everything, nearly dying and getting kicked outta the band. After it all, he’s still there banging Billy’s drums. The other two seem irrelevant to the whole package, not to talk down their skills, but I know what I’m here for. It’s the same thing you came for. It’s what Jimmy came for. And it’s all about what Billy wants to feed us. Come on home, it’s been too long since we saw those magic words spinning in our CD players.

Except, everything’s changed. I know all the stories about James and D’Arcy not really playing on most of the studio albums. I know how it’s been a single purpose vehicle for all intents. But the last departure of version 1.1 was Machina II, distributed almost exclusively by fans on the internet. No-one used CD walkmans anymore. Or buys Rolling Stone. Everything changes post-Machina. The biggest change was they were gone and we all lied to ourselves. Didn’t we, Billy? You did too, I can see. It was all leading to this, the great second coming. Part three. Because you need the name, you need what it gives you, you need to be a Smashing Pumpkin. Maybe not even you fully buy into the hype behind your own name, maybe you need that mask, that barrier, that wall. Maybe. Just say maybe… That’s what you need.

So welcome back. The music, it’s here. It’s not garbage. People will listen and people will be happy. It doesn’t go to the same heights as the peaks of Mellon Collie. Fifteen years has told a story about Siamese Dream and like a shooting star, it’s just the right elements in the right place at the right time and will never come again. After all that, there were still songs. Adore, the unloved older sister, still glows in all the same places. And Machina I and II both flew the flag. Not as high, but we knew who was coming. The music was always the point. The music remains. There’s stronger points but nothing that grab the first time round. No ditches either. Consistency otherwise not seen, clarity of some kind. That was always there.

Cynical me tell you all: IT’S OK IT’S NOT CRAP!

And that’s all for tonight. Got to go, leave some love.