Filed under Observations

Pseudorandom observations and 365Project

1) Only in Australia would you find a lady at 8:45am (nicely dressed and about to start her office job) smashing a potato-topped meat pie for breakfast.
2) I have seen every one of the films John Hughes wrote, directed, or did both. The most humourous incident being when I watched the ‘Family Friendly’ version of Breakfast Club (my first viewing too) that became incredibly non-sequitur after they removed all references to smoking mairjuana. One second they’re sitting around; next minute Emilio Estevez is doing roundoffs… They also changed and overdubbed profane insults with more family friendly varieties – e.g, “Fathead!”. Classic!
3) I have found my first grey hair. This is a moment of excitement, yet now I’m not quite sure what course of action is required…
4) Dingo observed that I should change my tagline to reflect the fact that I am not truly random, but rather most likely pseudorandom

365Project

365Project was someone’s idea to encourage people to be creative and take a photo every day for a year. I’ve decided to try and rise to the challenge and am uploading my photos to my Flickr account (For those that use RSS feeds: ‘most recent photo feed‘ and ‘Project365 feed‘). You can also click through from the front page of my blaarrg.

I’ve already had to use a substitute for one day, and I’m one day behind in uploading my pic, but it’s been good fun. I’m going to see if I can get by with only doing editing using the standard ‘MS Office Picture Manager’ and its no-frills crop, colours and contrast abilities. So far so good. Storm looks like she is also keen to start and being a much better photographer than I am, I’ll be sure to not pass on her link when it’s up…. kidding.

You can check out some others here (1, 2, and my favourite, Stormtroopers365) or you can just search for ‘365’ or ‘365Project’ etc…

A McFlurry of Ideas

I’ve been blogging for a few years now and I’ve quite often been struck with a lack of content or motivation to fill the lines and spak the cracks… But the last couple of days have presented a fairly novel conundrum – an excess of interesting ideas and an inability to filter, organise and synthesise these into one or more decent posts…

There’s a follow up post to the Joys of Older Literature post I’d recently done, with an extended list of the novel terms and phrases encountered during my reading of Jane Eyre. By book’s end, the number of pages with dog-eared markers for later reference easily exceeded the number of ants swarming the scones we’d left out o’ernight.

Then there’s the flood of thoughts that have emerged upon commencing Hunter S Thompson’s part autobiography Kingdom of Fear. After finishing Bronte’s 590 odd pages of flourishing, refined and highly considered language and context, the effusive textual outpourings of HST came as both a shock and refreshment. Classic quotes and titbits are surrounded by random stories and occasional self-righteousness that a number of anti-establishment figures seem to be unable to avoid. Tales that seem to belie Occam and his shaving ways make me wonder whether the legend has overtaken the man or whether he truly was a badass…

There are thoughts on celebrity (however minor) and its effect on personal interactions, as shaped by a couple of conversations Storm and I had with Brisbane musician Loren at a recent gig in Fremantle.

There was an SBS documentary that Storm and I saw called Frank and Daz, about a C6 Cerebral Palsy sufferer who ran and completed the New York marathon and his Scottish friend who founded a charity to open schools in Cambodia after visiting the country.

And through these thoughts drifts a theme of ‘calling’. Thompson writes that he knew that he was to be a writer. Writing was work, but it was still ‘worthwhile work’. He had to pick a career that he could do better than most others, and writing was it. After Bronte, I don’t necessarily think him to be a brilliant wordsmith; however, he certainly does entertain. There was Loren, in a room where some patrons didn’t even have the common courtesy to limit their conversations during songs, singing and playing guitar in a manner that I could never replicate, and somehow subsisting only on merchandising sales and meagre cover charges. There’s the legacy left by the late John Martyn and the raging debate of his personal and muscial worth between lovers and haters in the comment sections of his youtube videos. And then there are Frank and Daz who are striving to do what they’ve been told they can’t, and living a life to its fullest.

Unfortunately, there’s no neat wrap to this flurry of ideas. There’s no epiphany… It’d be a mis-advertisment if there was. But at least that backlog of pre-nascent posts is out and now I can try and move on to more organised thoughts and syntheses…

And finally start work…

The joys of older literature

Storm and I live in reasonable proximity to a fantastic book store, Planet Books, which is full of the kind of folk I could imagine myself chatting to over coffee, scrabble and acoustic accompaniments and the kind of books I’d love to sink my teeth into. In our first outing there, while Storm was engaged in the Dance and Autobiographical sections, I meandered to the Classics area, keen to make good on my internal promise to attempt to read a number of the classics and by extension the Top100 book list.

Ignoring the urge to read another Dickens tome at the expense of other lesser known (to me) authors, my eye drifted to the familiar orange and white backdrop of a pile of Penguin classics. I perused the pile at length, at last settling on two distinct yet equally appealing titles: ‘One flew over the cuckoo’s nest’ and ‘Jane Eyre’.

I digested the former first, assuming a pace commensurate with the goings on of McMurphy and his band of nuts. Whilst mildly discomforting and unsettling, the second half of the book was very hard to lay aside and a couple of decent sessions enabled me to polish it off in relatively short order. Storm will now have the pleasure of wishing to continue and cease reading simultaneously…

While I’m only 6 chapters into Jane Eyre, reading it has reminded me why I love delving into older literature. A familiarity with modern vernacular and turns of phrase (perhaps with the exception of the likes of David Foster Wallace and authors with a propensity to unnecessarily drop obscure, difficult words, like trophies, into their prose) means that the English language takes a back seat.

In older novels, however, the dynamism (and evolution) of the English language is brought to the fore. Euphemistic and linguistic oddities (at least to the modern eye) pique an interest in the language itself, no longer consigning it to the analogous equivalent of a ‘Coolibah tree’ in a primary school theatrical rendering.

We’re (or at least I’m) encouraged to think about the roots of words that we use mutliple times in quotidian life. Once firmly established linguistic pairings, where one has now fallen into obscurity, become reunited and illuminated.

The simple example that dragged me down this path of drivel is the word ‘ruth’. I have no memory of reading or hearing or using this word in isolation yet it abounds in the form ‘ruthless’.

“ruth – /ru?/ [rooth]
– noun
1. pity or compassion.
2. sorrow or grief.
3. self-reproach; contrition; remorse.

Origin:
1125–75; ME ruthe, reuthe.”

Other examples include the use of dread as an adjective “a dread place”, the use of ‘quail’ as a verb, and the employment of words such as ‘opprobrium’ and ‘animadversions’.

In other instances, I’m happy to see that words like ‘dingy’ have a heritage much longer than I would’ve presumed. Who knows what other gems will be turned over in the course of the next 500 pages?

On the topic of language, I did notice the phrase ‘they’d of’ in Cuckoo. Would there be anything wrong with taking two well entrenched abbreviations ‘d and ‘ve and making a triple composite “they’d’ve”? Is there a precedent, or a future, for such a contraption as this?!? Or will it meet with a tumult of insuperable animadversions and dread opprobrium?!? Ummm… ok…

You are now entering a Wave Friendly zone…

It was an interesting phenomenon, and one of the quirkier elements of our long drive west. We’re not even sure at what point it commenced but once we became aware it was omnipresent. I guess this is the nature of many phenomena – seemingly nowhere, and then {BAM} everywhere – think corduroy in the 70’s (and mid-90s), pop-balls in the late 80s, and bluetooth headsets in the neo-wank era.

And, like most fads, trends and taste defying fashion phases (think Normanby hotel on any myriad of Sunday afternoons in 2008 – I mean maternity dresses and fluoro-vomit-patterned-dress-boardshorts?), it ceased, abruptly.

At some point past Whyalla – maybe Wudinna, Ceduna, or in the proximity of one of the many silos, wheatfields or turnoffs that guide the way – drivers starting waving as we went by. As we progressed closer to the edge of the Nullarbor, the habit became much more consistent. By the time we were fixed on our black line to oblivion, with nary a spot of shade for hundreds of kilometres around, the probability of being waved at approached 1.

Like all things in life, there were a large number of variations:
* Hand held on the steering wheel with any number of fingers raised;
* Includes the single-digit salute, two finger peace sign and, rarely, the full fingers/thumb combo;
* Hand removed from wheel and held up but still;
* The enthusiastic ‘yeah man, we’re crossing the nullarbor!’ wave with jolly sideways oscillations;
* The driver & passenger combo; or
* Any of the above with a head nod or wink.

Regardless of form or gusto, the wave held a symbolism for me. It basically said,

‘We are aware that things go wrong out here and we’re just checking to see if everything’s cool with you; on the flipside, everything is cool with us.’ Or in some cases, replacing the latter half of the sentence with ‘Yeah man! We’re crossing the Freakin’ Nullarbor Dude! In a wicked camper with no aircon and a punctured spare tyre!!’

If I’m even remotely near the mark, I think it’s cool that the ‘perceived’ dangers of the Nullarbor (whilst only seldom experienced) help to establish a camaraderie amongst travellers of all ilks and destinations.

Then again, it could simply be something to break up the monotony of staring at a black asphalt, dotted lines and vast skies for as far as even the most long-sighted eye can see. Most feasibly, it’s a mixture of the two.

All I know is that past Norseman, when trees abound and water is plentiful, the phenomenon ends… Whilst most phenomena in the realm of fashion and pastimes are ended due to the passing of some point on the time (or common sense) continuum, the Wave Zone appears to have finite and well defined geographical limits.

So, if you should ever be heading out west, or into the desert (or into the heart of Lakemba) to a place where there is a collective awareness of a latent danger outside the chassis of your automobile, see if you notice the Wave Zone. Do as Storm and I did, and see how many fingers you can average, cursing the lazy beggar with a one-fingered go…

And take a can opener, because you never know when your girlfriend will get a hankering for tuna and tomato corn thins on the way….

Show me the devils…

…so I can be reminded what I wish not to be.

{Bit of a long post, avoid if necessary}

Life’s a funny thing. It’s pretty easy to get caught up in your own little web of affairs, gradually changing who you are – slowly dissolving character traits you once held dear, reinforcing habits that once you might have shied from or laughed at. I find the process is so disarmingly slow that by the time I’ve cottoned on to what’s occurring, the opportunities to take restorative action have somewhat diminished (or at least the perceived effort required is in itself prohibitive (the 9 stitches effect)).

Now I’m sure there’s an element of nostalgia or retrospective attribution that affects the perceived shift in character, but I think the basic premise holds.

When the web of self-absorption gets a bit sticky, it’s a good thing to look around and actually perceive others and observe which character traits you admire and, converse, dislike. Then, grab that garment and try it on for size…

This post has been borne of two examples I’ve thought about this morning and so I’ll quickly share them now.

1) Good mothers and others.

Upon returning to my house each day the first thing I’m bound to hear is the lady next door shrieking at her two daughters (~2 & 4 yrs). She shrieks at them over every manner of thing, from holding the door shut, to not sharing, to being little girls. The foot of concrete that separates our houses dulls the sound to a high pitched mulled-whine, but with doors open the sound is intrusive, overbearing and relentless.

As one sans kids, I shouldn’t pass judgment too quickly; however, I have the pleasure of knowing some fantastic mothers; mothers that treat their children with respect and love and consideration for one’s hearing and sanity. Examples include my mother, aunties, sister, sister-in-law, close friends, friends’ parents and so on. I know people who are soon to be fantastic mothers: Shelly, Steph and Lynda.

My neighbour seems to thrive off the negativity that fills her house (and mine) and has given me cause to reflect on the extent I now focus on the negative side of things. Once in that mindset, I find it a hard thing to shake, yet one that is worth shaking…

As if some augury of a day in 20 years time presented itself in my lap, the lady’s mother was present today, shrieking in much the same way at her daughter and granddaughters. I guess that ‘like breeds like’ and, boy, I will resolve to refrain from shrieking at my kids, unless of course they beat me at Playstation 7.

2) Golden Oak
Alcohol…. love it. Specifically beer. Sometimes, hanker for it. And have trouble stopping at one. Always have.

Coming to Perth has been a good opportunity to settle down in my boozing ways and learn to be happy sober. This has become all the more apparent with a girlfriend who doesn’t really drink and where the drunk-sober divide becomes particularly apparent and personal.

Enter Guts, a friend of one of my flatmates whose subsistence consists of Golden Oak cask wine (the cheapest), consumed by the mug-full prior to going out. Now these boys go out about 6 nights a week. Ruby Room, Hippie Club, The Dean, back to the Hippie Club and so on, week by week. Every night, mugs of Golden Oak go by the wayside, to the extent that I recommended that Guts just take himself out the back and punch himself in the liver and kidneys a few times and save himself a handful of dollars and a bad night’s sleep. It reminds me of travelling, when one’s life becomes a pseudo-reality devoid of the decisions and consequences that inhabit and hamper ‘real’ life.

Knowing Guts and his Golden Oak soaking ways has been a real eye-opener, and motivator. Were it I’d known him longer than 2 weeks, I’d probably suggest he find his own moment for reflection, especially when it comes to drink driving, which appears to be rampant here in WA.

Ok… I’ve rambled longer than I’d originally anticipated, but this post is in part to solidify these thoughts and if necessary revisit them should the lesson be forgotten. I’m well aware of the thought-action divide, but the journey starts not with the first steps, but with tying the laces…

W.A. with a capital Wow!

So, Storm and I have crossed the Nullarbor; the photos and stories from that part of the trip will be dealt with soon, but I just thought I’d leave a two-paragrapher to say we’ve arrived safe and sound and find ourselves currently in Albany, recently in Esperance and soon to be in Margaret River.

I have to say that I was, and continue to be, amazed by the beauty of the coastal regions here. Cape Le Grand National Park, near Esperance, was a breathtaking introduction to the flora, fauna and scenery of the region (save for a few unsightly remnant scars from a December brush fire). Similarly, the beaches and coves in and around Albany have been first-class, front-page tourism brochure material, with blue topaz water – as refreshing as a mango Wiess bar on a summer Sunday – stunning backdrops and verdant plant life. I have always been partial to Bonny Hills and Bartlett’s Beach (a.k.a Little Beach) in particular, but I do have to say that the marble white sand and (again) blue-topaz water here places the region in very high esteem. For those fortunates that make their way to our new abode, please be assured that we’ll make a weekend of it down here for you… with as many trips as visitors!

Lastly, two observations –
* Rest days don’t really result in much rest, especially when they’re spent climbing headlands, swimming and watching 4-5 hour marathon tennis matches. Tonight’s final must go down as one of the most frustrating episodes of viewing I’ve experienced, especially considering I was rooting for the guy that incessantly hit the ball out and missed countless first serves. That Roge stuck in there till the 5th was in itself frustrating, in that it did nothing to shorten the torture!
* Coffee snobbery does not travel well Westward. When I politely enquired as to the coffee grind in a small coffee shop in Wagga Wagga, I was informed – in a manner that did little to instill consumer confidence – that it was “Ummm… coffee?”. The ‘Coffex’ brand name plastered on proximate signage did nothing to assuage any lingering fears, sounding more like a coffee-scented industrial solvent than an enjoyable morning blend. Given the long drive that was to follow, however, and through the Hay Plains no less, perhaps we should have tried our luck…

Jimmy…

I have to admit

That last night, whilst dining at ‘The Vietnamese’ restaurant in the valley prior to attending a Black Keys/Gomez concert, I had a flutter of nerves when I realised that Gomez was sitting just a few tables over from ours. Adament that I would not repeat my starry-eyed babblings upon meeting Bruce Paige in the back of a cab and referring to him as Bruce McAvaney, I resolved just to sit and eat my meal and not reinforce the fan/celebrity divide. After all, they did appear to be slovenly, chubby, nerds who – save for being rock stars – would not likely be the first invited to one’s BBQ/wedding/baby shower. I must mention that Storm and Casey – mad Gomez fans both – made the point of sitting facing the boys leaving Cole and I the task of looking inconspicuous as we peeked over our shoulders for a gander.

I do, however, have nothing on this Gomez fan. Different Gomez, but still, you never know!

A Rant

Call me old fashioned, but there’s something inside of me that says that those that enforce the law should obey the law. I understand that there are instances in which ‘extra’-ordinary powers must be enacted in order to preserve greater justice and order, but these are not my beef.

Two instances illustrate my current peeve.

1) Round, Round, Right Round.

I was fined $60 and lost 2 points for doing a u-turn at a green arrow about a month ago. Fair enough. I broke the law. The officer wasn’t able to direct me to which item in the regulations the offence was committed under but ensured me I had erred. And to be fair, it was my fault given that I’d internally remarked that the cop car on the side of the road was most likely waiting for fools to undertake the illegal manoeuvre before pouncing. Revenues have been hit hard it seems.

However, the other night on a casual drive across town, a police car in front of me pulled a u-turn at a green arrow. No sirens a-blazing; no pursuit of bandits underway; no need for extra-ordinary powers. Just an illegal u-turn on a dusky afternoon.

Now hypothetically, if I were to follow the police officer in his u-turning ways. He could stop and pull me over, give me a $60 headache and challenge me to a simple quiz in demerit point subtraction. Is this just?

2) Taxi zones and Police drones

We’ve all struggled to find a park in the city. More and more of the available street parking seems to be directed to ‘work zones’ or ‘taxi zones’ leading one to conclude that taxi drivers and construction workers are multiplying at an extraordinary rate. So much so, in fact, that I deduce that they are most likley the real cause of climate change, inner city road rage and ankylosing spondylitis. Try and park in one of these zones and see how you go. If you are feeling particularly generous, you’re in luck, as you’ll likely metamorphose into a secret santa for that naughty little child, the Man.

Police at the City Police station seem to suffering from the very same affliction; however, they have discovered a novel solution. Fuck ’em. Park there anyways. All day. Illegally. I understand the need for more police parking so that a speedy response to graffiti bandits, horny rhinos, or, lord forbid, buskers should be necessary. So, change the zoning. Make it police zoning or have an exception for police vehicles.

But don’t give me tickets and then proceed to break the law. I bet they jaywalk and walk on the right-hand side of a footpath as well those bastards…

The Public Circus

I work with a great team. They’re all lovely, enjoy a good chat, and generally get the job done. I have noticed, however, that to every joke and smirk, there is an element of being tainted… that even the kindest souls place three drops of exasperation into every story/joke recounted. That the minor trials and tribulations of working in the Public Circus Service are much like a drop of red wine on the shoulder of your favourite shirt; not large or significant enough to stop you from loving it and wearing it, but large enough to be annoyed at its very existence and fearful that others will perceive it…

A few examples could easily populate this page just from my short tenure, but I thought I’d leave it to the expressions and exasperations of a more entrenched soul…

    Regarding the Employment Services System (Aurion ESS) in an email to my unit.

“So they design an opaque system that invariably requires victims, er, users to call up in order to access and now they remove the call-up facility. Future ‘improvements’ will no doubt include extension of the Wednesday lockdown to every other day, barring perhaps a half-hour window every second Monday between 0700 and 0730 and every third Friday from 1730 to 1800. Password protocol will similarly be ‘improved’ requiring no fewer than thirteen letters and four numbers and will expire after one hour. You will then be unable to use any of the letters or numbers in a password for a period of not less than seven years. Security will similarly be improved by limiting the secret questions to ‘What is the Linnaean name of your favorite venomous Australian creature? And ‘Who is my least favorite Sumerian monarch?’

Somebody mention user-friendliness? Those few able to access the system will be offered a choice of colour schemes, including Public Sector Grey and Billy McMahon Beige in addition to the current Smoggy Sky Blue.

Sheesh.”

It’s not quite the Cirque du Soleil , but you gotta love the Public Circus…

A welcome stranger in a room full of friends…

Last Wednesday, as I did the riding equivalent of ambling towards home, I heard the poetic musings of a local musician spilling onto the streets. The style was right up my alley – an electrified acoustic guitar, strummed and plucked by a folk singing lad with a milky voice and thoughtful lyrics. I hitched my steed to a post and wandered in, taking a seat on the floor near the front of this cosy room and settled into the music and a quiet ale. Given life’s recent goings-on, I truly felt that the music was the metaphorical equivalent of a breath of fresh air in a room full of sullied socks and undies, reminding me of the many happy nights I’d passed in the confines of the Troubadour in times now past. After duly noting the name of the musician (for a subsequent myspace search) and chatting to a elderly groupie after the set (the mother of a flatmate apparently) I made my way home, ready to spruik the follow up set the coming week to all and sundry.

Fast forward a week and with the same amount of interest as third grader’s Dollarmite account, I decided I would wander back in solo and enjoy the free musical offerings once more (one friend did appear for part and was pleasantly surprised). The main room of the Joynt hotel, which was in size little larger than an average living room, was completely packed on this second occasion as Timothy Carroll‘s September residency was to draw to a close. It seemed that everybody in attendance was familiar to everyone else in some capacity or other, with friends, acquaintances, workmates (a number of those present, including musicians and sound tech, are in the employ of the Troubadour) and hangers on crowding the room in the most civilized of ways. Indeed, a glance from one of the musicians in my direction appeared to reflect a mental parsing of degrees of separation in an attempt to figure out where I fit into the picture, unaware that a stranger had wandered into this room full of friends.

Tim’s warm up act for the evening was Cameron Elliot, another local musician who I’d had the pleasure of hearing around 2 years ago at a Nick Drake tribute night at the Troubs. Storm and I had seen him at his own gig shortly after and purchased his EP, which to this day gets quite a few plays around washing up and Sunday quiz time. Cameron had been out of the circuit for a while and while it showed a little in terms of his crispness of plucking and memory of lyrics it was a veritable pleasure to see him perform once more. As a cursory listen to his tracks on the web will attest to, his voice is mellow, deep and surprisingly agile, an enviable piece of property in a musician’s universe.

Timothy Carroll was next, playing a similar set to the one I’d been privvy to the week before. The songs ‘Something Else’ and ‘What she gave away’ were personal favourites and the etchings he’d created with voice and guitar were given wonderful colour and hue through the addition of cello, clarinet and female harmony. Tom Cooney‘s cameo appearance was a brief yet enticing entree to his newly recorded (and independently released) material before Ben Salter of Gin Club fame rounded out the evening with his powerful vocals, characteristically not-quite-in-tune guitar, and advertised (but thankfully not evidenced) weak bladder. It struck me that Ben was the epitome of a musician for whom precision and perfection is an unnecessary pursuit/distraction when an emotive, charismatic and charged performance can leave the audience with just as much.

So as I sat in this room, amongst a plethora of chatty friends of friends, downing cheap bottles of beer, in ear- and eye-shot of two potential lovers in that stage of feeling out affections and consequences, I was heartened to think that the Brisbane folk scene is so strong. That talented young men and women can get up and play and sing much as they sound recorded, with few of the hum drum, whizzbang production effects that now comprise the norm. That if Banjo Patterson were in attendance, it’s not a stretch to believe that he would appreciate their poetry (and company) and perhaps wish that he too could stitch lyric to melody in such ways. And that despite the lack of commercial backing for a folk scene such as Brisbane’s, musicians such as Timothy Carroll, Cam Elliott, Tom Cooney, Ben Salter, Luke Foran, Loren, Jackie Marshall, Jacob S Harris and countless others continue to pursue it with fervor, passion and the loving support of a room full of friends.