Monday, May 28, 2007


This is worrying:

KEVIN Rudd has promised to close the 17-year gap in life expectancy between black and white Australians within a generation.

Given the millions of dollars spent, relatively unsuccessfully, on Aboriginal health it seems that closing the gap from below doesn't work. One can only assume that Mr Rudd proposes closing it from above; that is, limiting the white Australian life expectancy to better match that of their black bretheren.

How will he do this? In the interests of interracial equality I humbly offer these suggestions:

  • Seniors Cards laced with strychnine.
  • High-voltage electrodes hidden in telephone earpieces that electrocute the caller when they phone an AM radio talkback show.
  • Subliminal messages encouraging suicide, embedded in 'Dancing With The Stars' and 'Gardening Australia'.
  • Scorpions hidden in boxes of orthopaedic shoes.
  • Old Spice, now with added Zyklon B!
  • Landmines at lawn bowls.
  • Replacing the entire staff at Australian Pensioners Insurance Agency with ninjas.
  • Speed cameras that shoot death rays when they detect a Nissan Pulsar dawdling down the freeway at 60 and flashing its left indicator for no apparent reason.

Further suggestions will be forwarded to Mr Rudd post haste.

Friday, May 25, 2007

GAAAH! your one stop shop for garments of unspeakable horror.

Wednesday, May 16, 2007


And I'm back. The flight home was long and dull, relieved only by Greg Bear's 'The Infinity Concerto', and the taxi driver missed my house and dropped me off a few doors down. Still, I managed to lug all my stuff up the street and into my house, then spent a pleasant afternoon unpacking, finding homes for my souvenirs, and doing that most modern of post-travel activities: loading all of the new CDs I bought onto my iPod.

The Music of Melbourne
(CDs acquired while on holiday in Melbourne, featuring no Melburnians whatsoever)

Octopus - The Bees

The Bees are the sort of musical eccentrics who could only come out of Britain. They are devoted to a Beatles-era musical aesthetic, and every track on every one of their albums sounds like a lost recording from a long-forgotten band, laid down on vinyl and left in an attic for 40 years.

I like them more with each successive album. This latest one, released earlier this year, has a new, tangy Tex-Mex flavour. Indeed, the thoroughly groovable riff in ‘Got To Let Go’ could have come from my 70s Latin Funk compilation CD.

But their strong sense of humour hasn’t left them. ‘End of the Street’ is as infectiously silly as the infamous ‘Chicken Payback’.

Beautiful Catastrophe – Khin Myint

Khin Myint sings songs that remind us that even charismatic, sensitive men with exotic good looks and “a talent for getting women to bed” feel pain and loneliness. Which is good, because otherwise the rest of us would have to rise up and murder him.

His songs are sweet and addictive, and full of finely expressed poetry. His ideas are more nuanced than most songwriters, concentrating on subtle aspects of our emotional lives that usually get pushed aside by larger feelings like anger, lust or joy.

My only complaint is that he has a tendency to get a little overdelicate, as if the crush of his high emotions is overwhelming his gossamer sensitivities. He needs to balance these moments with some muscularity – to offer some steak along with the jasmine-scented tea.

Jazz After Dark II – Various artists

This two CD set was released by the good people at Playboy, but fortunately they were tapping into the jet set 1960s era Playboy aesthetic, not the sleazy 1980s one. The first CD is instrumental, full of slow, sensual versions of standards like ‘In A Sentimental Mood’ and ‘Smoke Gets In Your Eyes’, played as the perfect soundtrack for watching a sultry, beehive-hairdo’d beauty slip off her dress in one’s swinging Manhattan bachelor pad.

The second CD contains vocal tracks, which aren’t quite as seductive, but if you play the CDs in order the next time you’re with your Significant Other, by the time Tony Bennett starts to croon ‘My Romance’ you should be well and truly busy with other activities.

Wild Volume 15 – Various artists

Stop looking at me like that. I like Wild compilations. Well, let me rephrase that; I like buying superannuated Wild compilations second-hand. They’re a little time capsule of dance music from bygone years… in this case, 2001. The later versions from the mid-2000s I saw in Dixons were a little too R&B-this and Black Eyed Peas-that, but this turn of the century stuff comes from a time when the phrase “put your hands in the air” still had some conceptual credibility.

(The Best Of) - New Order

How many versions of ‘Bizarre Love Triangle’ are there now, anyway? New Order seem to release a new one roughly as often as Lindsay Lohan goes into rehab, and it’s probably the most mashed song of all time. The good thing about New Order tracks is that they always sound fresh, even without the perpetual remixing. That’s pretty impressive given that most of them are more than fifteen years old.

Lost Horizons – Lemon Jelly

This is ambient electronica with a strong acoustic element… which is not the total contradiction in terms that’s you’d think. They use oddball samples – recordings of an American astronaut’s comments during a space walk, old Panormama-style interviews, or twee nursery songs on vintage vinyl – in a way that’s very engaging. They have a tendency to be a little self-consciously whimsical, but that’s not the worst fault a musical act can have. The worst fault a musical act can have is hiring Kevin Federline.

Tuesday, May 15, 2007


Earlier today I did some browsing on Gertrude Street, which is dominated by severe 20th century antique shops, full of severely functional and severely expensive modernist furniture, with severe shop assistants who can tell how much money you have, down to the last dollar, just by looking at you. Severely.

Currently I’m on Smith Street in Collingwood, which is like Brunswick Street in Fitzroy for people who cut themselves. Today is apparently Crazy Homeless Person day around here. Perhaps the CIA is running a ‘receive one mind-reading implant, and get another one FREE!’ promotion. It seems that every second person is completely out of it… “it” being an amalgam of sanity, reticent good manners and personal hygiene.

I’m avoiding them by hiding in a café with a small restorative coffee. One thing I’ve discovered in Melbourne is that the coffee inevitably comes in smaller doses than I’m used to. Ordering a flat white in a café results in the delivery of something with the volume of a lime, rather than the grapefruit I’d get in Perth. However, the coffee is commensurately cheaper in Melbourne, so overall you probably get more for your money. Also it’s nice to go to a café for coffee and a cookie and get change for $5… even if the coffee is gone in a single gulp.



Bum: Hey mate, you got a light?

Me: Sorry, I don't smoke.

Bum: (sneering) That's not what I asked.

Note to self: complain to authorities about poor manners of local beggars.

Monday, May 14, 2007



When on holiday I like nothing more than to spend an hour or two in a sidewalk café with some cake and a Trollope.

Sunday, May 13, 2007



Richard Grace and Tom Bolton at the Brunswick Hotel.

Friday, May 11, 2007


Today I hit Brunswick Street again, pawing through the racks in the vintage clothing stores for some new gear. Earlier I tried going to the outlet stores on Bridge Road in Richmond, where all of Melbourne goes for cut-price new clothes, but frankly the latest men's fashions have reached a new nadir. These days the look is basically T-shirts, jeans, hair gel and muscles, and I have neither the hair nor the body to carry this off. In these boutiques, their idea of "range" is to offer the same badly-made T-shirt in seventeen different colours.

But in the vintage stores I found a 60s polyester shirt, a 50s plaid overshirt, a lived-in black leather jacket, a 70s cowboy shirt and a T-shirt with a graphic of a smoking monkey DJ. I don't look good in T-shirts, but I'll do anything for a smoking monkey DJ.

Thursday, May 10, 2007


I spent today looking at furniture, as I continue my long-running, almost Homeric quest for a new couch. Sadly, it's been very difficult for me to communicate my needs to the staff in the furniture stores. Most of my attempts went something like this:

Saleslady: Hello, are you looking for anything in particular?

Me: Um... I'm looking for a couch.

Saleslady: Well, we have a very large range. Do you have any ideas about what sort of couch you'd like?

Me: I want a three to four seater, with an upholstered back rather than loose cushions, and an upholstered sprung seat rather than separate foam-filled pads, and not too deep, minimal but not too blocky, in black leather, preferably quilted, along the lines of the Danish Modern movement of the 1960s, sort of like a minimalist anorexic chesterfield, with a matching bench similar to Mies van der Rohe's seminal 1930 daybed, only without the pillow and with the strapping integrated into the upholstery.

Saleslady: ...

Me: ...

Saleslady (pointing): This is a nice couch. It's red.

I did, eventually, find a couch I liked - Charles Wilson's sensuous Boulder, upholstered in a rich, dark leather. It was lovely. It was also $9,850.

I believe I may have left scorch marks on the showroom model at LivingEdge Design, after I read the pricetag then leapt off it and raced out of the store, lest I discover that there was a $100 surcharge just for sitting on it.

Wednesday, May 09, 2007


jim green

Jim Green at the Clifton Hill Hotel.


A man in a Greenpeace T-shirt came up to me in the street and waved a picture of dugongs under my nose, and asked, in a piteous voice, "What do you feel is the biggest threat to the world today?"

The obvious answer was "Too many hippies", but that would have been impolite.


I spent the bulk of today on Brunswick Street in Fitzroy, hangin' with the cool kids and artistic types, where the phrase "Actually, I voted for John Howard" has never been uttered, even in jest.

Everybody here is just so. Exactly the right Doc Martens, exactly the right vintage hats, exactly the right tattoos in exactly the right places. I am not just so. I try, but frankly I have no idea how one even becomes just so. Perhaps it happens when you start thinking that voting for the Greens might be a good idea.

But one of the beauties of growing older is that your care for such things starts to ebb. I marched around Fitzroy in my slightly wrong leather jacket and slightly wrong corduroys and slightly wrong sneakers, diving in and out of record stores and second-hand clothing stores and bookshops and art galleries, feeling comfortable and contented. No doubt I significantly lowered property values for a few hours.

I bought some CDs, a couple of books and a dog. Every holiday needs a mascot, so I picked up this little fellow to watch over my stuff.


He's meant to be a chopstick rest, so of course, he's been named Choppy.

I also spent $200 on butterflies, but more about that later.

Tuesday, May 08, 2007


I'm somewhere high over southern Australia, or possibly over the Southern Ocean. It's perfectly dark outside - so black and featureless that the only evidence of anything existing at all is the small part of the wing illuminated by the navigation lights. There's nothing like flying at night to turn one's mind to pseudo-Twilight Zone thoughts: what if everything else really has ceased to exist? What if we're all that's left of reality?

Admittedly, a few gin and tonics have helped these thoughts along too.

We were a little late departing Perth for Melbourne, where I'm spending a week visiting friends. The departure lounge had examples of every cliche of departure lounges everywhere:

- The Jocular Obese Family, gradually increasing in girth with seniority, and laughing uproariously at everything and nothing, as their spherical boys teased and badgered each other good-naturedly.

- The Vividly Ethnic Family, a cluster of dark, silent people, veiled and robed and gazing about with little comprehension at the screens and billboards.

- The Japanese Fashion Victim, who doesn't realise that real men don't do heroin chic as a look.

- The Aggregated Louts, overactive young men on some sort of sporting trip... although they're the sort of people who never go anywhere without appearing to be on a sporting trip, even when they're just popping down to the shops for a carton of milk.

There was even a nun, which wasn't very comforting. When there's a nun on your plane you just know that you're moving dangerously close to 'Airport '77' territory.

Once I got onto the plane I discovered that a woman was sitting in my seat, with her friend sitting next to her. Rather than cause a fuss I just sat in the aisle seat. Fortunately once we got in the air I realised that the entire row on the opposite side of the plane was empty, so I moved across as soon as the seatbelt sign clicked off. Legroom = wheeee!

The only problem now is if we crash, and they identify the bodies by seat allocation, people will think I died wearing a J-Lo cap, hoop earings and hipster jeans. That's not how I want to be remembered. Especially after I went to all the trouble of wearing my Oscar de la Renta ballgown.

Thursday, May 03, 2007


If you’re in the mood for a tasty little cocktail with a touch of the Star Trek about it, you need look no further than the Japanese Slipper.

japanese slipper

It’s equal parts Cointreau, Midori and freshly squeezed lemon juice, served over an ice cube. The flavours are spectacular; tangy and spiky, and far more subtle than you’d think the individual ingredients could be. But the best part is the colour – a shade of iridescent green that wouldn’t look out of place in Captain Kirk’s cocktail cabinet. It’s the bottle you’d go for when your most shameful nerd fantasies came to life:

“Well hello, green-skinned Orion slave girl, I was just having a Blandwagian Ale… care to join me? Hmmm, good, isn’t it. What? Why yes, it is warm in here…”


Tammy Fae thought that her audition for 'The Devil Wears Puppies' went rather well.

Wednesday, May 02, 2007


While tidying up my office a few days ago, I came across some old photographs taken in the mid- to late-1990s. It was only around ten years ago, but it already seems sort of weird that people used to have to go through all that rigmarole with films, development, leaving the lens cap on etc. Did I really have to wait several days, and spend considerable amounts of money, before I saw the results of my happy snapping? To use one of Gen X's favourite quotes; "Inconceivable!"

Anyway, some of the old photos I found were so evocative (to me at least) that I decided to digitise them, in a process that would make the mid-90s me's head spin.

Step 1: Use networked copier at work to scan photo into its memory.

Step 2: Have the copier transform the image into a .tif file and email it to my computer.

Step 3: At my computer, open the image with photo manipulation software, crop it, and save it to the hard drive.

Step 4: Use the internet to upload the file from the hard drive to my Flickr account.

Step 5: Use HTML to insert the image into my blog.

I think mid-90s me had a techno-fetish aneurism somewhere around the word "email".

Leaving all that aside, I've decided to create an occasional series called Before Blandwagon (BBw), based on the few photos I took between 1985 and 2000 that don't look like they were taken by a confused monkey banging a camera against a rock.


HF, also known as Crazy Irish Girl, in Prague on a clear winter day in 1998. I love this photo for its sense of joire de vivre - the movement, the laughter, the grand architectural excesses of the background, and that clear, blue, friendly sky.

Tuesday, May 01, 2007


A Poem About Rain, and Stupidity

I look out my kitchen window
at the rain
So cool, so wonderful
So desperately needed.
Pattering through the leaves into the garden,
Washing the dust away
Bringing life
Giving hope
How I love the rain!
It refreshes my spirit,
And... wait,
Did I leave the cordless phone on the patio table?

Aw crap.