May 31, 2004

In Britain

In Britain, the magazine for old people is called "Oldies". In the US, it's "Modern Maturity".

In Britain, I'm long-sighted, and my friend would be short-sighted; here in California, I'm far-sighted, and she'd be near-sighted.

May 30, 2004

Weapons of Mass Distraction (Again...)

Finally the New York Times's Daniel Okrent (the NYT's public editor or ombudsman) writes about the elephant in the room -- the NYT's disgraceful behaviour over the WMD issue (and the Iraq war in general). I'm a long-time NYT subscriber, and it's good to see him try to help salvage the NYT's credibility.

However, he writes:

"The editors' note to readers will have served its apparent function only if it launches a new round of examination and investigation. I don't mean further acts of contrition or garment-rending, but a series of aggressively reported stories detailing the misinformation, disinformation and suspect analysis that led virtually the entire world to believe that Hussein had W.M.D. at his disposal." (The Public Editor, page 2 of the NYT's Week In Review section, 30/5/2004).

Well, no. "[V]irtually the entire world" did not believe that Hussein had WMDs at his disposal; a significant proportion of the rest of the world did not believe that Hussein had them at all any more, or at least in usable form. I read the NYT, London's The Guardian, and The Sydney Morning Herald on a regular basis (I'm from all three countries in one way or another), and at times it was difficult to believe the NYT was covering the same stories as the other two papers. Even though the SMH syndicates the NYT stories regularly, that paper at least had the wit to question the obvious disinformation coming from anonymous US and other sources, and the SMH's commentary was skeptical in the way the NYT's should have been. Needless to say, the Grauniad's reporting was much more robust. I won't hammer away at the point too much, but in all the showy soul-searching and breast-beating apparently going on in the NYT's editorial offices (and in parts of the US in general), one thing's being lost: we weren't all fooled. And those in the media or government who were, typically fooled themselves.

As for his other point, well, it's spot on. The NYT's poor showing and disgraceful behaviour over the past few years on this issue is -- or should be -- front page news, and the NYT owes itself and its readers the duty to report it as such. Continuously and in depth, too.

[If this reads like a letter to the (NYT's) editor, that's because it is -- or at least it's a lightly-edited version of one that was actually sent -- JL]

May 29, 2004

The Future, Dammit.

Lingering images of Downtown LA through the muck from the Harbor Freeway, the dulled shiny verticals behind the palms, the hazy reflections of nothing at all; it's the future, dammit. Not the buildings or the architecture -- the omnipresent flat bright grey mugginess, the (poor) quality of light, the tangle of wires and palms...

(Part of California).

May 28, 2004

24 Hour Party People

24 Hour Party People: deadpan, dead funny, gabby, knowing, affectionate, evocative, unbearable. The Joy Division segments affect me more than I'd believe; I still feel that energy (I'd forgotten just how heavy and propulsive the guitar work was on songs like Transmission or Digital), that aesthetic, it still makes me want to get up and do; and Happy Mondays? That decisive moment....

May 27, 2004


Not seeing the wood for the trees: the perennial Pledge of Allegiance kerfuffles: I don't care too strongly one way or another about the "Under God" bit (it just cheapens both the political and religious sides of the pledge), but I object to the sheer obscenity of having ten year old kids pledging allegiance to anything, let alone something as abstract as all the US likes to think it is and stands for...

May 26, 2004

The Human Touch

There's a large Petaluma "Free Range and Healthy" Chickens truck parked just across the road while the driver gets a burrito from Taco Oaxaco. The Petaluma Chicken logo's a yellow chicken with a jaunty cowboy hat -- Rocky The Range Chicken. A variant on the turkeys with the bonnets, or the pigs in waistcoats, or the talking cows, or the singing fish.

I guess we have to humanize our animals before we can kill them.

May 24, 2004

Not An Englishman

A. Alvarez quoted in an old NYT Book Review I accidentally find: "I am a Londoner, heart and soul, but not quite an Englishman". I used to blurt out something similar in London -- a Londoner but never an Englishman -- with some sort of combined pride and longing. A Londoner but not English, a Bay Arean but not American, a Woy Woy boy or Sydneysider but never quite Australian.... Always aware, nearly my entire life, that no matter how local I looked (and I've usually looked fairly local), the moment I opened my mouth I'm a foreigner.

May 22, 2004

Sui Generis

Gössel and Leuthäuser's "Architecture in the Twentieth Century": beautiful photos of beautiful buildings, interesting architectures, astonishing constructions, regrettable megalomanias... but nothing, nothing at all, on what it's like to be in any of those buildings, or what it's like to experience these buildings at ground level, from the street, from within, or how they weathered and aged, how they related to the buildings and environment around them, what their users, inhabitants, neighbours, etc., felt about them... i.e., architecture. All form, façade, surface, and engineering (but still, endless food for my starved mind). I spend hours just imagining the experience, or looking at the detailing or the colour fields, the engineered structures... (c.f. Brand's "How Buildings Learn", a book with its own blindspots amongst the insights and "aha!" moments). G&L mention Utzon once, but the Sydney Opera House doesn't make the grade, of course. Sui generis = dead end?

May 20, 2004


Like so many in my situation, I never meant to live in California, I just drifted out here doing something else and here I still am, fifteen or more years later. I've always accidentally lived in places that are deeply symbolic of something, whether it's culture or distance (or bad weather), but California's the ultimate symbol of nearly everything, including nothing. It's the ultimate blank metaphor...

Santa Monica
The Future, Dammit
Well Prepared For the Twentieth Century
Tractor Pull At The Old Cow Palace
The Triumph Of Therapy
Four Ecologies
The Promised Land
Not Irony
Baby Bullets
Welcome To California
A Context Of No Context
Lunch A La Car
Light Relief
Lifestyle Zen
Spirituality vs. Self-absorption
The Sonoma Coast
It's Just Desert.
Disaster Envy
The Great Indoors
Three Strikes
Going To California
Industrial Santa Clara
Me, Me, Show Me!
Conspicuous Desperation (Say It Out Loud!)
Safe As Houses
Happy Happy Joy Joy
Do You Know The Way…?
Sour Cynicisms
Reyner Banham Loves Los Angeles

May 19, 2004

How We Got Here

Finally I get to finish David Frum's How We Got Here: despite his snideness, his disingenuousness, his constant misreadings, his getting details plain wrong, his tendency to just list "absurdities" as though it were self-evident why they’re absurd (or bad, or whatever)... despite all this, it's hard to argue with the overall thesis, it's hard to deny the idea of the 70's as being the point of inflexion; but it's harder still not to wonder whether it was just the inertia and momentum of the 60’s coming late to the party...

May 18, 2004


A handful of self-indulgent thumbnail sketches or impressions... (if you want full reviews, you know where (else) to go):

24 Hour Party People
Diversionary Tactics
Get Carter
The Roxy
The Opposite of Protean
La Jetée
I Missed Everything...
The Eyes Have It
The Technique Is The Message
Alyson Best's Face
Some Kind Of Monster
Farewell My Concubine
Compellingly Bad
Soylent Green
Topsy Turvy
Reyner Banham Loves Los Angeles
Ciné, ma Verité
Point Blank
The Battle Of Algiers
The Smartest Guys In The Room

May 17, 2004

For America

For America, war is so often the continuation of domestic politics by other means.

May 16, 2004

Woy Woy

I grew up in Woy Woy. Central, Strathfield, Hornsby, Berowra, Cowan, Hawkesbury River, Wondabyne ... Woy Woy -- a smallish town of about 16,000 people in an untidy strip of beaches, mangrove swamps, coastal hills and sandy forest on the Central Coast of New South Wales. Woy Woy is right on the water -- it's still a "fisherman's paradise", enough so to have its own (mostly tacky) postcards -- and right on the main railway line north out of Sydney. It's the main town on "the Peninsula", the small flat sprawl that includes Ettalong, Umina, Booker Bay, Blackwall Mountain (a small but striking hill about 110 metres high) and sundry other places all indistinguishable and long-ago joined together into one larger town often itself referred to as "Woy Woy". The surrounding Central Coast was a mixture of commuter suburbs, beaches, holiday houses and amenities, and a shrinking fishing and farming base (mostly citrus fruits and dairy). Throughout my childhood you could see the small two-man trawlers going out to sea or to Broken Bay, or coming back with a halo of seagulls, pretty much daily in front of our house or past Ocean Beach or Booker Bay. You could buy fresh seafood at Woy Woy wharf, or even fresh bottled raw oysters on the platform of Hawkesbury River station (the sellers would hawk these from the platform to people in the trains through the windows).

A Sense Of Place
Five Quid A Pop
This Isn't Sydney...
Shark Stories
Cedar Crescent, Please...
Proddies v. Catholics

I Am Someone Else

She looked at me confused and said "you're .. you're... you're someone else, aren't you?"

Yes, yes I am.

May 15, 2004

Santa Monica

A twenty block walk through the grey cold down Santa Monica Boulevard to the pier and Third Street, past the endless car yards and small shops, the long narrow alleys, the sun-drenched grime, the tall curved palms, the schools of foreign tourists shrieking in the lazy surf, the homeless bodies in groups on the grass, the armies of dark glasses and brown legs extending from shorts... At 8.30am, downtown Santa Monica has more homeless people than "normals", and oddly few decent coffee places.

Santa Monica, a shiny clean Berkeley. Berkeley? Positively Fourth Street... with nightlife. And a pier. (But how can a city survive so many shoe stores?)

(Part of California).

May 14, 2004

Sharp Rebellions

...landscapes, sharp rebellions, small places of vivid light, King Street, tracing the lips of her sex with my fingers, the small hill in Saline Valley, the smooth surroundings deep inside her, the mid-afternoon light in the front room of Wilson Street, the smooth backs of her thighs, the road to Darwin Falls, the light catching the hair on her arm, the view from the end of Glebe Point Road, her voice in the dark, the hidden places, the maps in my mind...

(An Obsessogram)

May 13, 2004

Jimmy Little

I've been "Jimmy Little" now for years, a name I first saw on a poster publicising a boxing match at Ernie McQuillan's gym in Wilson Street, a name I've used for mild rants, songwriting credits, and miscellaneous writing on and off in several countries.

So I'm mortified to learn that there's a real Jimmy Little, a famous Country and Western singer from (one of my) homelands, a guy I should have known about, a guy whose name I wouldn't have had the cheek to steal if I'd known. Humph. Check him out here

That face...

On University

On University just east of Au Coquelet, an oldish guy, thin weather-beaten face, slightly toothless looking, blue work overalls and checked shirt, battered leather shoes, sits against the wall single-mindledly playing an old portable Casio or Roland for change. He can obviously play, but there's something wrong: there's a melody and some sort of line, some sort of rhythm, no bad notes, but ... going past him I realise it sounds like random chunks –- sometimes just a note or two, other times a bar or so -– are just missing. The time signature keeps changing, the melodies and cadences don’t quite fit together....

Around the corner on Shattuck, under the scaffolding, a tall young guy in cowboy boots, stetson, blue jeans, open white shirt strolls north strumming a three-quarter size guitar, singing a slow country song with a big smile on his face.

May 12, 2004

Simple Secrets

I discover Walker Evans ("Simple Secrets"). How could I have not known? He’s written all over me, it was like reading your own diary a life later. I’ve been too long on the margins (that word, too trendy, too redolent of cargo-cult Sydney; make that "too long on the sidelines, too long illiterate"), unable to connect with the past, the present, or (obviously) the future of photography. A knowing faux naif. (That sense of everyday strangeness, of the chaotic complexity of angles, texture, juxtapositions, reflections, recapitulations, ironies, in the everyday…).


I don't know where most of these come from (or, rather, I know only too well where they come from...), and they're probably entirely too personal for most people. But here they are.. (warning for Americans: possible nudity, offensive words, and / or adult explosions ahead).

Sharp Rebellions
Oceans Of Angels
Over Memory
Cold Memory
Along 101
Slow Dreams

May 11, 2004

A User Manual

This is a little blog of fragments (a sort of Pooterish Notes From (a) Nobody), most of which don't necessarily fit into any coherent whole, and which certainly don't represent a consistent view of the world. If you're looking for depth or intellectual challenge -- or just good polished writing -- then this isn't the place for you (there's far too much good writing in this world already). And if the occasional bit of nudity (not mine) or bad words bothers you, you're better off elsewhere.

The name? It's a boring story.

There's an atom feed here (URL:, but please note that I sometimes edit entries retroactively (for things like dumb typos, mostly), so things may end up marked as "new" even if they're months old...

This is a blog, but not everything here fits into the classic blog model. In particular, there are two main differences:
  • Things don't always appear in the same order that they were written -- some of this stuff dates from a long time ago, and where it's clearly out of order there'll usually be a date of writing posted in bold at the start of the entry or somewhere like that. No big deal, but it has to be said somewhere.

  • Threading -- most of what I write either returns again and again to pick over some obvious obsessions, or strings an earlier theme out a few words or sentences past breaking point. Blogs present items in the reverse of the order they're written (or published) in, which plays (sometimes creative) havoc with this sort of thing, so I've linked some of the entries into broad threads based on subject or sequence. My favourite threads are listed in the right sidebar under "Threads"; and every entry in a thread will be linked to the next and previous entry in a thread (where possible). The first entry in a thread usually introduces the thread, but this isn't always true. Note: since Tight Sainthood is still fairly new, the threads don't really exist yet. They'll grow over time...

I can't imagine anyone wanting to, but currently if you want to add a comment to an entry you have to be a member of, which is fine by me (and it's free). I reserve the right to delete obscene or long-winded comments, or comments that advertise things, etc.

Tight Sainthood has no advertising or popups -- if you encounter anything like that while browsing the blog, it's not me. Check your PC or browser. Tight Sainthood is also not advertised anywhere, so if you're spammed in its name, it's a Joe Job.

And if you really really want to get hold of me, email me at (and remove the all xyz's before you do so). I don't promise I'll respond -- too much spam for that -- but it might make you feel better. Or not.

Tight Sainthood is part of the Ylayali Complex, a little empire of otherwise-unpublishable self-absorbed social cripples like me.

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Tight Sainthood

One evening a decade ago I was lured to a book launching in the City, a typical affair in a third-floor art gallery off Post, all shiny surfaces, oozing hipsters, and those god-awful earnest attempts at playfulness. The gallery was arranged in a series of stalls "selling" twee little competitions, books, etc., where the prize was a random word. You were supposed to string these together to make Art. All very jolly.

The first two (and only two) words I won were Tight Sainthood. It seemed to fit.

www Tight Sainthood