Saturday, 27 February 2010


The question that's most asked of me about my place of work is, 'do you meet heaps of famous actors there??'. Well, the answer to this is, no, not really. No one at work is on the lookout for famous people. And when they do turn up, as they invariably do from time to time, there's never anything to be overawed about. Mel Gibson came in once, surrounded by his minders, looking like the local plumber dressed in a nice shirt and tatty jeans. Many of our graduates who are now stalwarts, even celebrities, in the local or international scene are often seen strolling around. Sometimes they're doing workshops or are teaching a course, or giving a guest lecture. It's always nice to say hi to these celebrities and to anyone else for that matter. They're usually really cool people. I enjoy the people in the building, no matter who they are. This is what makes it a special job, and why I've lasted into my 15th year at the institution.

I even see Cold Chisel's Don Walker come into the building on Wednesday afternoons with his coffee and newspaper, sitting himself in the foyer cafe, probably waiting to pick up his daughter who may be involved in some work experience activity or open program course. And come to think of it, every time I've casually seen Don Walker he's always having a coffee or reading a newspaper! Now Don is someone with whom I'm truly awed with, one of my musical heroes, yet he's now familiar to the point that I ignore him as I walk past him in that open foyer. There's no need to talk to him. I've met him a couple of times previously; he's a nice man. (He even signed his book for me! :)

Though when in comes to fame, a handful of our graduates do become major international stars. The most recent one is Sam Worthington. He started his acting degree in the same year I started the job, in 1996. I didn't see him for a few years after he graduated and I wondered what became of him. I saw him in Tandy in the Broadway Shopping Centre in January 2003, where I was choosing a printer for myself. He's since come into work a couple of times, and chatted with him there, although I haven't seen him since he hit the big time.

I'm very glad for Sam. I always liked him. He seemed roguish and abrasive, but he was a good guy, straight-up and honest in his interactions. He had dreadlocks when he started the course, so that he cut more of a "rougher" Byron Bay character, than say, the more affected gentilities of a John Butler. I liked his acting too, it was honest and straight-up, and it appealed to me. Apparently he was a brickie before he tried his hand at acting. I can relate to that as my dad was a brickie when I was growing up, so I can understand that particular sensibility. Sam hated paying his library fines though, miniscule as they were back then (5c per day per book). He probably had no money. Now he's rolling in it.

I suppose the only aspect of encountering fame that I find awkward is the money side of things. Money, of course, the subject of it, being a major bugbear of mine. But, anyway, I'd like to ask Sam what's it like to be sitting on 10 million bucks?? To me, and most people quite frankly, that is a dream that will remain unrealised.

So good luck to Sam, he deserves it. He's a good bloke. And like everything, money and fame are temporary, fleeting. We're only avatars, after all, who land into this dimension of swooping bodies that inevitably fade and pass into countless circles of awarenesses, and existences.

Sunday, 21 February 2010

groovus RSLius

from the balcony of the Newtown RSL, a few hours ago

For someone who's mostly perceived as gentle and calm ('sweet', even), I'm not one who's known to 'lose it', to 'blow my gasket' as it were. Happens very rarely at work (although they've been very few occasions). It's usually when I'm out gigging that I curiously metamorphose into a somewhat different creature, becoming like a lioness defending her cubs and territory.

This afternoon the band were specifically asked to do a set at the Newtown RSL in Enmore. They really wanted us there, to headline for an awards giving ceremony for a song competition. Now I usually have no input or involvement with song comps at all, but because we were asked to perform, and because a lot of mates were there, I said yes to it. The timing wasn't terrific as it's a warm sunny day. And being a Sunday afternoon, I would much rather have spent the time relaxing at home.

There were free beers on offer, which was nice. I had three light beers as these provide only mild buzz and low blood-alcohol readings. I arrived at 2:45. The dank, burgundy interior contrasted vividly with the summer whiteshine outside. We were meant to go on by about 3:30. By the way of things - and it was no-one's fault (other than an overall feeling of casualness amongst the participants and organisers) - we weren't on by 4pm at which we had to forfeit our set. I blew my top. I stormed over, picked up my bass, and made a rush out, grumbling my displeasure all the way. But Pete the percussionist held me back to say that there could be a chance to play, and as it turned out, the trivia man who was scheduled to start his show at 4pm generously allowed us to do a 10 minute set. He only just got there in time anyway, and he had a hangover (like Gav our guitarist) and told us it was all "easygoing".

So we got up and did three storming songs and it went very well, and I was much more settled afterward. It's not the playing or "not playing" that bothers me so much as having been specifically asked to come and play and then being told "we've run out of time". I can't stand that sort of disorganisation. I'm a little peculiar that way. I've been told I have a "soothing personality" and a "lovely energy" and how kind I am, and all that. But really, I'm not a laid-back type. In many ways, yes, I am laid-back, but I'm also forward-thinking and acting and very much into precision and organisation. I'm antsy and quirky and becoming more like Woody Allen's character in 'Annie Hall' with each passing day. I'm not really a groovy social-type. I'm intense yet very personable and prefer one-on-one relations.

Across the road from the Newtown RSL is Notes where I saw the Church last Thursday. It was a fabulous gig, and a fine venue, although I think it's a former wedding reception hall given the layout, stage, and room dimensions. I had a great time enjoying the band and the music and meeting some other sk bloggers. The band were in fine form, always are, and continue to weave musical magic together.

Two weeks ago the band headlined at the Basement, on a Monday night granted. Turned out to be a fun gig. Juggling a full-time job and lots of gigging is hard. I do love my downtime, relaxing and just re-energising. I'll talk more about this band in further detail in another blog, but to say I wrote up a stream-of-consciousness bio (the concept is not mine) that can be found here.

Often, almost always, I love nothing better than a walk in the park with the birds singing and the late-afternoon sun glistening through the trees; heck, that's what I'll do right now!

And later on tonight I may skip up to Bondi Junction to see Avatar. More on that, and Sam W, later. My dear friend drove up from Sydney for the Northern Rivers (and Southern Cross University) on Friday so I'll likely be doing more things on my own from now on. But coming into autumn, that will be the perfect time to recharge and reflect, and stay cool and calm. And gentle.

Monday, 8 February 2010

The 80s are back! Powerhouse Museum exhibition

Last Sunday, on what was a fitfully sultry, cloudy, murky, steamy day, we ventured into the Powerhouse Museum to see the 80s exhibition. We also walked through most of the museum afterward as well. We even got to see an extraordinary piano made out of glorious Tasmanian Huon pine (see below). Most of the photos that follow are taken from my cellphone.

Needless to say it was a thrilling and exciting exhibition. The 80s are firmly entrenched in my psyche, for I was aged 10-20 throughout the span of the decade. The 90s and beyond seem more like a spin-off of the 80s to me. I guess it was the time that I was absorbing a super amount of influence, and it's stayed with me since.
Ah, the album wall! Memories abound! Notice that the "best" is tucked away in that bottom right corner of the photo there...
Sade's Diamond Life still holds a very special resonance for me.

Here I am, posing with my "lover(s)", as Sarah likes to call them (or him, sk!)
What can I say, Heyday is class!! My good friend David picked up on the album as a masterpiece as soon it became released, late in 1985. It took me a while longer to discover the album's genius, oh well! I was too much into the Beatles, Hoodoo Gurus & the Jam to really notice Heyday at the time.

Thriller & Crowded House, yeah, big albums at the time.I quite like the first Crowded House album now, like, 23 years later!Memories!!! Spy vs Spy! Billy Idol. Tears for fears & the curly mullets! Gawd I looked like those fellas then!Emerald haunt in overdrive...

I bought this album as soon as it was released, along with the single 'Bittersweet', mid-1985. This album was quite good but didn't compare to 'Stoneage Romeos', the Hoodoo Gurus' debut album. I remain very fond of 'Romeos' to this day. The Gurus really broke with 'Mars needs guitars' but unfortunately attracted a rough surfy element to their gigs in the process. Before that it was strictly garage, post-punk, sixties trendwarts of the early 80s that followed 'Le Hoodoo Gurus'. They're still gigging and reforming intermittently to this day, but I'm not interested.

A typical 80s poster. They were everywhere. The 80s in Sydney were a flurry of music and activity. With the recession and the advent of poker machines in the 90s, the music scene bummed out to a large extent, and has never fully recovered to the levels enjoyed in the 70s & 80s.This photo was taken off a random slide-show. Many photos of funky, hairdo partygoers. It was such a vibrant scene. I noticed there were a lot of posters promoting "rat parties". I paused to remember; I hadn't heard the saying 'rat party' since, omg, 1986?? They were all the rage back in the mid-eighties, but a shy schoolboy like me wasn't to be made privy to these parties, alas. Really, rat parties were something of a precursor to the more modern dance/house party. They were more eclectic, featuring a wider range of people and types, with a vaster array of music. They were very "80s".Stay alive in 85, yep. I wondered why a Choose Life t-shirt wasn't exhibited as there were a proliferation of these in 1985. Perhaps people were too embarrassed to 'fess up to them. ;)Oh, the Dukes of Hazard, yes...The Boss, and Boy George & Culture Club. The Boss did a tremendous run at the Entertainment Centre in 1985. I didn't go but my brother & sister went and had a ball. They were into him more than I was, but I do enjoy a taste of the Boss occasionally. Culture Club did a 4-gig run at the Ent Cent in 1985 - amazing - but I didn't go. In 1984 all I wanted to listen to were my Beatles records, and Stoneage Romeos.The era of AIDS-awareness and safe-sex. I like this caption, it says it all with a bit of a humorous bent to it, particularly as it stands as an exhibition piece.

There was almost an innocence to these cartoons. Humour and levity is a way of relating the seriousness of the message.
The AIDS-quilt, a memorium to many lives and talent lost, a human tragedy beyond measure.

The games we played. They were simpler then, a lot more fun too.
The giant rubiks cube. We all owned one in '84. They were a cyclone that swept over us in one crazy fix. Within three months of constant dreams of twisting this coloured square around - and having every school kid around you doing likewise - the craze ended, and the cubes were never seen again. Until today.I was never much into games. I did like nintendo and I owned 'parachute' and the infamous 'donkey kong' which was a foldout game, like a minituare laptop. Amber/orange in colour too.

I had the book of solving the rubiks cube and could solve the thing in about 30 seconds. I wish I still had my cube and book. I've no idea how they just disappeared, and when. I suspect that, after the initial rubiks boom, aliens came down and confiscated all rubiks cubes, and we'd long forgotten about them anyway. But a quarter of a century on, they materialise as artifacts to be viewed in a contemporary museum.The lyric sheets of the late Michael Hutchence. We noticed in one of these sheets he had a list of numbered goals. Conquering the world was one of them!
I wasn't a huge fan of INXS and to this day I'm not especially interested, although I do remain fond of 'Shabooh Shoobah' & 'The Swing', the two albums that I think represented the band at their peak. I recall all those videos too, and those mullets!
The Korg, stand-up rock-guitar keyboard. Made famous by Pseudo Echo and the video of their cover of 'Funkytown'! That keyboard, and the Steinberger bass guitar (black, rectangle, with no headstock), are musical instrument eyesore nadirs of the modern era.The films we saw and TV we watched. There were booths with TV commercials from the decade where you could watch and listen in with headphones.

A chisel t-shirt from 1982. Since splitting up in 1983, and despite the occasional reunion, Chisel have remained great Australian icons whose stature seems to magnify with the passing of time.

Colourful apparel.Students at my work love the 80s; most of them were born in the late part of the decade and don't remember them at all. That's inconceivable to my mind, but that's the cycle of life in operation. I wasn't around for the 60s and the Beatles and the Stones and Bobby Dylan. Life is a massive circle of oneness, really, spinning unceasingly like some galacial tumble-dryer.Brit-pop stuff. Notice the Jam's 'The Gift' album up top. I became a massive Paul Weller fan from 1985 and remain so to this day.Bicentennial bilge.An apple from 1984. The i-mac I'm typing on now is a vastly slicker instrument.

Compare cellphones!
Yuppie paraphernalia.And so were the 80s. Some musical memories of the decade include: adam ant & the new romantic movement -- all those hairstyles! -- discovering the beatles and becoming totally obsessed -- culture club televised live from the ent cent -- purple rain released -- the boss rocks sydney -- live aid concert televised live -- amadeus the movie released -- the shire [sic] council tour australia and my interest in paul weller is aroused -- the cure's in between days -- mtv and truckloads of music videos! -- madonna and like a virgin -- desperately seeking susan film -- choose life 1985 t-shirts -- sade diamond life -- U2 and the joshua tree -- finishing school and listening to 'under the milky way' for the first time -- seeing the church for the first time at the tivoli in december 1987 -- the modern house music era begins 1988 -- catfish 'unlimited address' & crowded house 'temple of low men' released, two great albums -- the lullaby single and the 1989 year of disintegration and the cure.

I think, when you look back, Sydney enjoyed one long party from about the mid-70s to the end of the 80s. There was a lot more creativity, artistry, egalitarianism and 'get up & go' generated by people of many varied facets of creative & social life. There was a lot of crap, too. But living in the city was easier back then, and more probably more exhilarating too.

Yet it's two American productions of the 80s, the Purple Rain film and Diamond Life album, that somehow remain etched in my psyche and heart to a greater extent than anything else from that decade.

And me, in 1985, in the photo above. I recall growing that mullet for a few months longer. It was a mullet that put tears for fears to shame!

Oh, and twenty years ago today was 1990. The 80s are gone, finished. And time marches on. The question is, to what...?

Saturday, 6 February 2010

Taboos of city life

It's been a strange month of lone evaluation, mind heatwaves, comparisons and self-inflicted shortfalls, all of which were doing me harm. So I've ceased the death by a thousand cuts and have aligned by body and mind into some reasonable evaluation of my fundamentally good situation.

Work has been a significant backburner for this particular mood. Many times, as I gazed over the capital works and my team of student labourers knocking books and boxes and heavy shelves about, I felt that leaden, guttered feeling as you do when you're looking right up a 300 metre cliff, knowing you have no choice but to climb it, but resisting and wishing to take a swim in the stream behind instead. I had to also deal with new staff and orientation of new students, all of which has gone swimmingly well. And now, there are database reports due for the security system people, and submissions for new equipment & furniture too.

But hey, that's Monday's problem. Or Tuesday's...

It's interesting to have just come across Alain de Botton's 'The consolations of philosophy'. In it, he talks about Ancient Greek philosopher Socrates, and how Socrates would wander amongst the cityfolk of Athens and speak to strangers at random. Socrates wanted his subjects to question the status-quo and their own motivations in maintaining it, and indeed, to examine whether the status-quo had any real validitity or true value when looked at through rational perspective. Much remains timeless in the ways and values of the West.

It's coincidental that I've recently had the idea to conduct some sort of study, to ask a lot of questions of people, to open up a taboo subject that is all-pervasive in our cities yet is rarely discussed other than in a 'blanket' kind of way. That is, inheritance, money, property-possession. You see, I can sit around a lounge bar with a bunch of friends, having a drink, a pleasant time, enjoying the day and the company. Yet each of us will be of varying financial status. We'll talk about our jobs and what we like and what we don't like about them. We're a little coy about discussing our properties and where the money came from, which is fair enough. But it's interesting to me that one person owns 5 houses including a heritage-listed guest house, the other's been able to buy a free-standing house in a leafy part of the north shore, the other can buy a unit through family money, and another who's never worked a day in his life is handed with an apartment with a balcony and city views.

Over the last month I tended to be living via the 'half-empty' mentality. Maybe the heat fried my wires a bit. I felt insecure and a little fucking pissed off that I've worked for 15 years full-time, and while I have enough deposit to secure a 1-bedroom city box (and live very tightly for many years hence), it seems like people all around me have their pockets showered with moolah and are spending up on some fabulous cave-kit without the financial strains of high-equity mortgages.

During the hot month I felt this sense of being short-changed somewhat; looking back over the past - which is really fucking boring and stupid I know - and hurting that my dad made a virtue of pissing his money up against the damn wall and making the publican (and brickyard owner) rich in the process. I think this train of thought was sparked off during my uncle's death & funeral period. My cousin, 14 years my senior, was telling me that he used to drink with my dad in the pub and how great my dad was and all that. Well, that's very nice for you, dear cousin. But what about us, my dad's children. Very easy for my cousin to talk as he and his siblings got an apartment each at illustrious Bondi Beach. I'm cool with my cousin, but next time we meet up I want to discuss this with him, that he got the best bits of my dad saved for him.

But by demeaning my dear late father, and even worse, myself, with thoughts and emotions of lack serves only to debase myself, my being, and my character. I don't need to suffer self-esteem issues because I don't own a fucking home. Why should I suffer status anxiety just because a numerous load of individuals living in very close proximity to me drive Very Expensive cars. Fuck it. And fuck them. I would never buy a Very Expensive car if I had the money, nor a Very Expensive house. I like my material possessions in moderation.

I want to know if money, inheritance, and property ownership makes people happy. I want to know if people are more satisfied when they have a house they can call their own to come home to. In my observation, no level of external riches or acquisitions seems to make people more happy or fulfilled. They often add to burden in life. It's possible that property ownership and material wealth can remove to some degree an impediment to happiness (ie, poverty, housing-stress), but these things in no way have the power to remove unhappiness as a substantive psychic entity that lives in most human bodies on the planet.

There is the whole life. There is our love life, work life, social life, active/sport life, creative life, travel life, as well as home life. Just because we own a home it doesn't mean we're happier. Everything needs to be balanced, and balancing life requires looking at what we do have. We have our bodies, we have our level of health, we have loved ones, and we have so much. We have our parents who did so much for us, even if we think they didn't. The 'good' (or "now" as Ekhardt Tolle would say), is every moment. As long as we have food, clothing and shelter we are doing fine. We can make the time to divine gratitude for all that we have. In any moment that we are aware, we find we do not need what the other person has. Every moment has brought 'me' to his point.

I would not wish to swap or give up any quality, attribute, capability, gift or talent that I have for money and possession. You got it? You can have it.

I went to the wedding a year ago of the one with the 5 houses including the heritage-listed guest-house. To his credit, he doesn't drive a Very Expensive car. But I do find it sad and a little dismaying that he wasn't very happy when I ran into him at the supermarket a month before he got married. He was stressed and his face showed it. He was chronically busy and the impending marriage was causing him some degree of strain. How easy would it be to scale back and enjoy the fruits of what's been handed to you? (And have since cultivated and nurtured, admittedly). Well, that's easy for me to say. When you have that level of acquisition, to scale down must feel like a form of death. But in holding onto millionaire lego-land comes all the responsibility and burden of material ownership.

I walk around looking at big houses and wonder where I'd put the studio. I bet most houses don't have a music studio within them. I'd make it primarily a rehearsal space, with only minimal gear. I don't like too many trinkets - but I do like space to make noise.

The key is to enjoy your life, and to enjoy it by enjoying the sensation of your body beyond mind and emotions, and to be grateful for what we've got. I'm pleased to say I'm back on this track after a month of faltering, and I don't think I'll falter no more. In short, Christmas through to late-January had me in a funk, but I'm climbing out of it.

Besides, I may consider buying a shoe-box; I cast my eye to Marrickville!


I've taken an interest in the case of a missing 52 year-old Melbourne man with a famously "illuminati" surname. He was a multi-millionaire businessman who made his money through property investment. He was found hacked to death and burned up in a downbeat suburb of Melbourne some two weeks after his disappearance. Two people have been found and charged with his murder. Apparently, the businessman led a double life; he had his loving family and dream home, and he was also actively involved with underground swingers' circuits.

On the day of his death, the illuminati-surnamed businessman parted from his brother at the airport after a day doing business in NSW. He was to drive home to his lovely wife and house and family to celebrate his daughter's entrance into medical school. So why on earth did he decide to stop off at a suburb very different to the one he lived in, for an illicit, frenzied fuck?? It's a horribly sad way to live. He forsook his family, his home, and his children each and every time he partook in a swingers' session, and this time it cost him his life.

What interests me is the motivation for murder. The couple that the businessman visited, in their housing-estate home in the working-class suburb of Hadfield, had expected that the businessman bring his "wife" as per the arrangement. A fight ensued and the businessman was killed and sawn off with an electric saw that had been purchased that day at Bunnings.

Now, why go so far? Why murder? The working-class man, selling used cars off a house-yard for a living, likely had low self-esteem and a fundamentally low opinion of himself. He wouldn't have liked to have been duped by a guy pretending to be in his thirties and lying about the wife he didn't bring. The wealthy businessman wanted 'action' and that would have caused great ire in the used-car seller who saw himself being duped in the bargain.

Is this enough to aggravate a murder? No. If the businessman had been some average joe, a heated argument may have ensued but some degree of understanding may have leveled things off. What I think happened was, at the heat of the argument, the used car guy somehow became aware that the man in front of him was some rich prat trying to take advantage of his partner. The businessman may have shot off a covert insult that unleashed the stark contrast between the two men. If so, it was a fatal mistake. The lowly used car guy, trying hard in life but never making do with the limitations imposed on him, in having some rich cock in his house demanding to fuck his wife, would have had all his emo buttons detonated. In a moment of insanity the pair killed the businessman. In a harrowing moment the two men were made equals by sexual depravity, two men who would not have crossed paths in any other way. It's awful to think what went through the businessman's mind in his moment of death, that he gave up a lovely house, a lovely garden, a lovely family, and lovely children, for this.

Be true, be grateful for what you've got, and be responsible for those you love, and that which you love. Yeah, love is the key isn't it, above money, above property, above what other people appear to have or own.

Paul Hewson shooting star

i'm in the sunshine A mate of mine produces a monthly songwriter newsletter which goes out to a hundred or so mainly Sydney-based...