November 30, 2004

The Cobham

The Cobham: the unit used to measure the horror you feel as you realise the beautifully-rhythmic, tightly-flowing jazz piece you're listening to is about to lumber to a crashing halt as the drummer spends a minute or two flailing around arythmically with a drum solo.

November 28, 2004


The short stretch of East 7th between 23rd and 29th, busy, cramped, untidy, the trucks offloading fish, the stripped-down engines being worked on in the back of pickups, the pallets stacked against fences, the swerving of forklifts, men in rubber boots and white smocks carrying seafood containers, tough dogs barking behind barbed wire, pale painted walls smeared with industrial dirt... further down, across 29th, The Kabul Commissary, Hondaland, the railroad tracks...

(Part of Oaktown).

November 22, 2004


"The sad thing [about the Eagles live concert, 19/11 Sydney] was that the audience actually believed they were having a real and meaningful contemporary musical experience when all the music really did was reach deep into their youth and remind them that in 1977 they had a choice between XTC, Elvis Costello, the Sex Pistols, Ian Dury, and the Eagles singing New Kid In Town -- and they chose the Eagles". -- Bruce Elder reviewing an Eagles live concert at the Sydney Superdome, 19/11, in today's SMH.

Ah, Bruce, I'll bet you were the sort of commissar of taste who used to abuse people like Angus and me for actually liking the Eagles as much as all the others (and for playing a little Hank Snow or Creedence along with Per Ubu or LKJ or whatever...). It's all music, dammit, and there's a lot to be said for cynical, slick, brilliantly-crafted pop, regardless of (or because of?) the supposed lack of authenticity (urgh!) or real heart behind it.

The really sad thing here, though, is that Bruce uses the Herald to condescend to remind us all that he at least made the "right" choices way back then, unlike the poor deluded peons at the concert (or Angus and me, for that matter...). But he misses a crucial point, I think: most of the older audience really didn't have much of a choice back in 1977. XTC, Elvis Costello, the Sex Pistols, Ian Drury, etc., really weren't easily heard in Suburban Sydney in those days, nor easily accessible if you didn't already belong to the small club that went on to (retroactively) define what we should have been listening to then, and if -- like the vast majority or people -- music is only a sideline to real life, what does it matter? And why should they have sought out the other stuff?

But most of all, I suspect the audience just believed they were having fun, dammit. "[A] real and meaningful contemporary musical experience", indeed.

November 21, 2004

His Music Is Not As Bad As It Sounds...

It's sobering to think that -- as exemplified by the current Adelaide Opera production being glowingly reviewed throughout the Oz press -- the summit of 19th Century Western Art Music is basically an extended earnest Hobbitry for adults, all lords, rings, treasure-guarding dragons, and ludicrous histrionics.

November 16, 2004

Empires On The Make

Naming is the most overtly political act of colonisation.

In Wellington, the collision of names like Seatoun, Newtown, Strathmore, Victoria, Roseneath, Brooklyn, Kelburn, Kilbirnie, Falkirk (the sun, again) with a landscape of names like ghosts: Maupuia, Hataitai, Karori, Matiu, Kaiwharawhara, Muritai... In the Bay Area, the recent eruption of names like Embarcadero Cove or Emeryville Commons. In Sydney, it's the flowering of convenience stores, lifestyles, cookies....

November 13, 2004

Ya Reckon?!

"Aristotle reckoned our love of mimicry was more than just the mere pleasure it seems to bring us -- it was an instinct, intrinsic to the species, part of the hardwiring of the brain and heart, and absolutely necessary for the individual's survival and acculturation into the community." -- Angela Bennie in today's SMH.

I bet he had something to say about anachronism, too.

November 07, 2004

Slim Dusty

Slim Dusty's dead. He's been dead more than a year, apparently, but how would I know Out There? (He even got an obituary in the NYT, but I clearly missed it).

When he mattered, he didn't mean much to me except as one of those cultural sleights of hand so common in Australia, lying somewhere in that hazy area between straight importation and outright cargo cult. But when he didn't matter? A hard worker, good-humoured, smart, original in his own way; and, maybe too cruelly, a template for the sort of cultural collisions and scrappy imported nationalism at Tamworth. Let Chad Morgan do his worst instead....

November 05, 2004

Through The Window

Glimpsed through the window of the train back to Newtown: a small blonde woman, well-dressed in a beige business suit, sitting sideways on a bench on Redfern platform, one shoe off, holding her bared foot up on the bench, with a toothless bearded old derro sitting next to her foot, chewing continously, looking down at her foot and apparently offering advice.

November 04, 2004


The new, much-hyped, international terminal at SFO: soul-free, busily-empty (or emptily-busy), filled with the gloomy dead glare that attaches to chrome and carpet, long corridors that dwarf any sense of purpose, generic food and book outlets, a banal cathedral to separation and distance. This could be any one of a dozen airports I've visited in the past 10 years.

November 02, 2004


The strange beautiful landscape around Dumbarton Bridge: the steel-flat blue or white flat flooded salt pans, the broken piers, the pylons, the curved power cables, the hazy reflections of today’s light cirrus, the pre-sunset pinks and oranges in the water, the flood control gates, the birds, the joggers... The horizontal geometries of the water, the banks and ditches, the piers and gates and locks, the old railway bridge, all under the verticals of the pylons and bridge supports. The snaky lines of the bridge from the west, the beautiful soft brown hills near the toll booths; the subdued colours of both the water and the earth banks...

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