Friday, November 30, 2007

Election night special

Let me see now, where were we? Oh, yes, the election.

About 25 years ago - March 1983 to be precise, the start of my second year at University - a bunch of like-minded individuals gathered together around a television set to cheer in the election from opposition of a Labor government for the first time since 1972, when we were too young to know much at all but from which we remembered the words "It's time".

Now, a generation later, another bunch of equally fresh-faced individuals were, presumably, gathered around a television somewhere doing the same. On Saturday night I felt happy for them.

Twenty-five years seems like a long electoral full-circle, but there you go. I wonder how many of those 1983 revellers, well into careers as doctors, lawyers, chartered accountants or merchant bankers, are still fighting the good fight.

Oh. And I am no longer named after the only sitting Prime Minister to lose his seat at a general election. "John Howard Emmerson" will have to wait for the next generation.

Friday, November 23, 2007

Bad politics, baby

Tomorrow we vote.

Twice in the months before the start of the election campaign I had the feeling that we were about to witness the unedifying spectacle of a government falling apart before our very eyes.

It was not to be, and the government has actually run a pretty credible campaign, given the limitations that were imposed on it, or which it imposed on itself.

Nevertheless, in a country where the prime minister (a) largely sets the agenda as to the direction the country is to head in and yet (b) is not elected, but rather is chosen by the party which holds the majority of seats in the lower house, and in accordance with whatever obscure and arcane rules that party follows in making that choice, it seems to me an insurmountable leap of faith to ask voters to choose a party whose leader has made it a campaign platform that he won't in fact be the leader "at some point" during the next term. In other words, we are being asked to put the future direction of the country in the hands of, well, nobody can say for certain, or at all, effusive praise (in some quarters) for the incumbent treasurer notwithstanding.

And in any event, as you know, I am rigid with fear over the issue of climate change, and neither of the major parties has really come to grips with the magnitude of the problems facing us all. Hence, although I have never entertained the idea of voting for a single-issue party (what if everybody did that?), the single issue this time around so far outweighs everything else (i.e., if we don't sort out climate change it doesn't really matter what your mortgage interest rate is) that the Greens must come into contention. (I quite like their "two Bobs' worth" television ad, too, for what that's worth. I had no idea Bob Brown had a sense of humour.) Tomorrow night, all will be revealed.

Meanwhile, on with the show.

Song of the day

Pelle Carlberg, "Clever Girls Like Clever Boys Much More Than Clever Boys Like Clever Girls". As compensation for the longer than usual wait between Belle and Sebastian albums, may I recommend this jaunty slice of sunshine pop.

Wednesday, November 21, 2007

Local content

I like how the Canberra Times is always keen to put a local slant on the stories of the day. (A friend once described the ideal Canberra Times headline for us: "Grass grew on the Tuggeranong Parkway".)

For example, today's Ben Cousins Story is along the lines that whilst it is highly unlikely that Ben Cousins will play in the local australian rules competition next year, it would provide the kind of low-key playing environment that just might do him the world of good. And they may just be right (on both counts).

Echoes of Frozen Faces

The first, self-titled album by Neu!, from 1971, has influenced so much of what has come after it that making a list is futile if not impossible. But, M Ward? How, you might say, could there be any possible connection between him and them? And yet it's there. I swear. Take a listen to the final track, "Lieber Honig", and imagine you are listening to something from "Transfiguration of Vincent". And you could be. It's kind of like staring into one of those magic eye pictures. (Well, not at all like that, really.)

Monday, November 19, 2007

"We're a service industry" of the day

We thought we should stop for coffee before I went in to work today. We stopped. We ordered. We waited. No coffee came. Those who arrived after us were enjoying their coffee. I could wait no longer. I had to get to work. I went to the counter and said: "I'm sorry; our coffees haven't come and I have to get to work. Can you scratch them off the list?" The person behind the counter (who was also the person who took our order; we are regulars there, "the usual" is a known quantity) said: "Okay, no problem." We left.

It only struck me later that this was a slightly odd response. The problem was wholly ours: loss of half an hour's work time for no coffee is no quid pro quo. I will see what kind of belated apology I get tomorrow. As Dick Cheney would say, all options are on the table.

Friday, November 16, 2007

Thursday, November 15, 2007

It's Only Words

Those who know me would be aware of my unhealthy obsession with bad translations of foreign material, with a particular interest in instructions for electronic products. This now ties in nicely with my equally unhealthy obsession with the New Yorker, from the 16 November 1940 issue of which comes this extract from the preface for a book published in China entitled "Correctly English in Hundred Days". If they typed it correctly, and I have re-typed it correctly, it is all "sic".
This book is prepared for the Chinese young man who wished to served for the foreign firms. It divided nearly hundred and ninety pages. It contains full of ordinary speak and write language. This book is clearly, easily, to the Chinese young man or scholar. If it is quite understood, that will be satisfaction.

Indeed it will.

Wednesday, November 14, 2007

Memo to Weird Al Yankovic

We have discovered that you can sing "I'm feeling queasy" to the tune of "Crazy", by Gnarls Barkley. We will not be pursuing this idea any further. It's yours if you want it.

Tuesday, November 13, 2007

What did you do on the weekend?

1. We got a lot done in the garden. Two and a half rows of carrots planted; tomato plants transferred from pots into beds; planted two new jasmine bushes to replace the dead and/or dying stumps that have languished by the side fence for several years; contemplated replacing the back lawn with paving, fruit trees, and a bigger veggie patch; harvested a couple of bowls of strawberries. Mmmm. Gardening really is the new rock and roll.

2. I re-read the two volumes of Alan Moore's "The League of Extraordinary Gentlemen", in anticipation of the release (finally!) - possibly as early as tomorrow - of, not Volume III, which is slated for publication in three parts in 2008 (as if), but something called "The Black Dossier", which, well, I'm sure we'll know it when we see it. (Moore has a unique ability to drag out the publication of his most important works, beyond the patience of most ordinary mortals. Does anybody else remember the interminable waits for the last couple of issues of "Watchmen", back when it was first coming out in "monthly" parts? "From Hell", too, limped out in fits and starts over a very long period of time - and bounced from publisher to publisher, just like "League". And then there's "Big Numbers", which remains stalled on issue 2, and has been for, what, almost 20 years. We live in hope.)

3. We had a nice walk along the lake.

4. We checked out the John Brack exhibition at the National Portrait Gallery. Brack is a stunning artist, formidably skilled and with a great vision. (Perhaps I like him because of the natural affinity I see that he has with the comic book artists I most like (see: the Raw artists; Daniel Clowes - who, if you haven't been keeping up with his New York Times serialised strip, well, you're a fool, because it started off pretty good and just keeps getting better); in fact, some of the people in Brack's portraits wouldn't at all look out of place in a Clowes strip.)

5. I listened to Masada's "Live in Sevilla 2000". One of my many regrets in life, but one of the bigger ones, is never getting the chance to see Masada play live. (We did attempt to see Greg Gohen's own group at an afternoon show at the Knitting Factory in NYC back in 1996, but it was cancelled. On the other hand, we were introduced to the joy of vodka and cranberry juice: it's an ill wind etc.) Anyone who feels obliged to perpetuate the canard that Zorn cannot, like, "play" the saxophone, man, should listen to the first four minutes of the final piece on this disc, "Bith Aneth".

6. And, like, family stuff, y'know.

Sunday, November 11, 2007

The "d" of "th"

Regarding yesterday's entry: I may have been a little harsh in one aspect of my criticism. I now see that yesterday's Melbourne Age refers to Murali as "Muralidaran". Cricinfo, however, has "Muralitharan", which is how it has traditionally appeared. I wonder if Murali is having an identity crisis. (This reminds me, very slightly, of the "Ejaz F" brouhaha from some years ago. The "F" being short for "Faqih", which was apparently more than some sensitive Channel Nine viewers could take.)

[Meanwhile, speaking of yesterday's Age, Tim Lane has an excellent piece highlighting the AFL's hypocrisy regarding (a) Ben Cousins and (b) Richard Pratt.]

Saturday, November 10, 2007

The curse of modernity, part 193

Today being Saturday, I took the opportunity to watch a few overs of the first cricket Test between Australia and Sri Lanka. But what kind of cut-rate third-world coverage is Channel Nine offering this year? The modern trend is to cover the screen in "useful" facts and figures (we get it in the AFL coverage, too, with regular updates as to who has, for example, "gone missing"), but it is probably worth ensuring that the person responsible for same has some basic literacy skills. In the short time that I was watching, I saw three mis-spelled Sri Lankan players' names: "Muralidaran" (phonetically not far off); and (on the one screen) "Jayawardena" and "Jayawardane" (presumably to help viewers distinguish between two players inconveniently born with the same surname, Jayawardene). Plus one gratuitous typo, "comparsion". Sigh, give me Kerry O'Keeffe any day.

Friday, November 09, 2007

Last Thoughts on Neil Young

1. I don't think I want to listen to Neil Young again for a little while. But I probably will.

2. How is it that, when Neil is singing in that wobbly high-pitched voice he often uses, I could swear I was listening to Thurston Moore?

3. If the word "shambolic" has any reason for existing, it is to describe Neil Young in the 1970s.

4. I would sure like to hear Crazy Horse let loose in a live situation on "Danger Bird", breaking through the frustrating fade-out on the "Zuma" version, and working it to its logical conclusion some, say, 15 minutes further on.

5. Could somebody please explain the song "After The Gold Rush"?

Thursday, November 08, 2007

Listen Now

This just in:

David Kilgour live on Minnesota Public Radio. Enjoy.

(link courtesy largehearted boy)

Life During Wartime

Of the many time-wasting activities in my personal canon, the one that is most interesting, if useless, at the moment, is my ongoing project of reading, in "real time", the New Yorker as it appeared throughout the years of the Second World War. Right now we are in late October 1940, in other words the middle of the Blitz. Each week Mollie Panter-Downes files a short but mesmerising report on how London is coping with life in what can only be described as a Living Hell. Reading history is one thing; reading contemporary accounts, from people who (obviously!) don't know what's going to happen, is both fascinating and inexplicably exciting (i.e. I know what happens, and yet I can still see it through the eyes of those who don't). A couple of weeks ago her report didn't appear in the magazine; and I spent the next seven days anxious for her safety (even though, as I know, she continued to write for the magazine for many more years).

And then when I've done that, there is Test Cricket to be followed. Never a dull moment.

Wednesday, November 07, 2007

Song of the day

Every so often the International Man Of Crate-Digging Mystery who is uncovers a track that lifts you out of your shoes and attaches electrodes to your head. He (or she) has done it again, with "Desintegracion", by Tabaco, an awesome slice of hard-edged psychedelic rock. Googling around reveals that it is from an album of the same name, from 1971, and that Tabaco hailed from Spain. Unsurprisingly, Tabaco otherwise remain somewhat obscure. (There appears to have been a two-CD reissue of this a few years back; the danger, I have found, with such surprising one-off tracks is that the rest of the associated album doesn't have what it takes. See, for example, "Edge Of Time" by Dom.)

And if you're verra verra quick, you can click across and download this little beauty for yourself.

Tuesday, November 06, 2007

Song of the day

"Shake It Off", by Wilco. I still have no idea what lay behind the negative response across the Internet to Wilco's "Sky Blue Sky". As the year has gone on, my love for it has only grown stronger, to the point where I now have my very own copy. (!) (It even comes with a "bonus" DVD, which I will, in accordance with normal practice, assume - at least until I watch it - to be entirely useless.) Perhaps you have to be as old as, or older than, Jeff Tweedy to really appreciate where this album is coming from. Perhaps you need to be well versed in Television's "Marquee Moon" and other records of that era and ilk. Perhaps it just wasn't "experimental" enough for some people's liking. (Whatever that might mean. To my ears at least, the album is anything but straight four on the floor.) Perhaps end-of-year results will show that it has been a "grower".

Anyway, "Shake It Off" just jumped into my head, so it must be the song of the day.

Monday, November 05, 2007

Song of the day

"The World May Never Know", by Dr Dog. Aside from the nice mental image conjured up by the band name, I like this song for the pleasant early-70s vibe it gives off. I have heard other stuff by Dr Dog which I have liked a lot, and yet other stuff I haven't liked at all. That gives you a lot of useful information, doesn't it?

Thursday, November 01, 2007

Halloween has its uses

(photo found on drawn and quarterly's website's blog)

And speaking of same, the second Moomin comic strip collection is now "in stores", and I am hoping mine is flying its way to Australia as we speak.

Halloween video of the day


Hacienda, Manchester, 1982. Link via

I used to think that if Halloween existed in our country (it now does, and I wish it didn't - a licence for kids to essentially come and knock on your door and say "give me some lollies" (like, someone thought this was a Good Idea?) - last night one of our neighbours did just that, and didn't even go through the least motions of dressing up) it would be totally scary just to dress up as Nick Cave. (Now he has that facial-hair thing happening it would be, if anything, even more scary.) I actually still own one of the original "Eeeek!" t-shirts put out by Philip Brophy and Bruce Milne, notionally a graphic representation of the lead character in the original version of "The Fly", but actually, I suspect, a photograph of Nick Cave with a giant fly head superimposed on top.