Thursday, 9 November 2017

south of Princes st

I took this on October 20. Check them out, would you.

Wednesday, 8 November 2017

Vinnie's here

Hello, I'm on the couch and Vinnie is sitting where he likes to sit, on top of the backrest part. He thinks it's his couch, but no matter how many hours he puts in sitting here on the couch, he will never catch up to Basil. It's Basil's couch, end of conversation.

I made a droopy stick out of the red wax casing that "baby cheeses" come in and I've been sort of poking Vinnie in the face with it and this is making him extremely happy. I don't mind. I already used the red wax to take an impression of my front teeth so I could consider further whether Pip the lovely dentist was onto something when she said I have an overbite like a Simpsons character and the only way out is immediate, no expense spared installation of "Invisalign" braces as seen on a great many women of about my age and degree of crippling sudden onset uncertainty about place of self in world, and having decided my toothprints look OK I have no further use for the wax and do not mind making it all gross with cat hair by using it to poke Vinnie in the face. As I said. At least this way I don't have to touch him.

Pretty soon Vinnie will go to sleep and perhaps then I will put down the wax and just think quietly about the things I've been thinking I should think about. The mental picture I have of what these things are like is of the foot of a cliff or mountain, with the pile of things rising into heights obscured by clouds. There is a patch of bright sunlight striking the cliff/mountain surface somewhere above ground level but below cloud level, and in this light a few gulls are tooling around. Maybe there is even a cheesy little rainbow somewhere way up high, with an illegible motivational quote written over the top in a font that isn't comic sans but something much more difficult to precisely articulate the dismalness of.

Or maybe the cliff is like this

1. Down at the base of this cliff, where I seem to be, is the thing I have been thinking about today whilst actively wanting not to think about it. This is Seven Pillars of Wisdom

2. Next on the pile might be, Why is it that my response to almost every book or movie or record I read or listen to or see lately, is irritation and fault-finding? I'm very ready to accept that it's me, not the book/movie/tv show/record/whatever, because it's happening with almost everything. Stuff that other people say they think is great, people whose judgement and opinions I really respect and value, probably you are one of these persons in fact. Because I'm shifty but also cunning I've managed to come up with possibly rational-sounding & maybe persuasive arguments to justify my irritation and I did think about abusing blog privileges to lay some of them out & see how they fared. But that would be avoiding the real question, right. Why right now does almost everything seem to me not as good as it could have been if the author had just done a slightly better job of it? You know, I think this might be connected to something I've written about before, ie, my doctor's frustrating habit of listening to anything I tell her about how I reacted to some text or artwork as if the actual content of the thing doesn't matter. It's like trying to discuss art with Spock. I just think that when a person develops some sort of fixation on a piece of music or a loathing of a book or whatever the response is, the nature of the object being responded to can't be completely irrelevant. Nevertheless I'm sufficiently convinced that this condition originates with me rather than reflects an unlucky run of crap art that I am postponing the reading of a book I've long looked forward to until something changes.

3. Can't remember what 3 was. Probably something about what specifically is wrong with the book Draw Your Weapons but I had best save all my carping about it for the essay club meeting coming up on the weekend.

4. I've found myself wanting to write letters to a small handful of people who I am no longer in contact with, to try to mend bridges perhaps, maybe to justify past bad behaviour or maybe just to apologise. I don't think I will actually write any such things. (But doing what I'm doing right now sometimes flips a lever and gets different processes in motion, so who knows?) The wish to write those letters at all is what I should be thinking about.

Tuesday, 7 November 2017

Things definitely keep on happening

I've missed a lot of highly blogworthy events. Having been doing this for a while now, I have grasped that what I have to do is just get them written down. Otherwise the pipe stays clogged, so to speak.

  • I went to Wodonga. Too long ago now to do more than acknowledge that it's a fuck of a long way to travel by train and kind of enigmatic when you get there. Who am I to expect Wodonga to reveal to me its inner self just like that, simply because I went there for a while? It rained a lot. 
  • The workplace day of 'thousands upon thousands of schoolchildren + unnecessary quantities of horses = ???' came and went. I am paid for my labour and as part of the contractual arrangements around this exchange I am obliged to abide by the Victorian Public Sector Code of Conduct and also by my workplace's Social Media Policy. So I can't say much, maybe nothing. Please feel free, nay feel positively encouraged, indeed, feel browbeaten, negged and gaslighted into reading between the lines. I feel how I felt when I was hanging out in Canberra with the people who run the J.A. Festival there - desperate and maddened by the ethical and pragmatic challenges of talking about what I'm witnessing. And so I've already put in a proposal for a journal article I intend to write about the whole biz. I shall have my venting, eventually (are those two words related?) but I will do it in absolute obscurity. It's not every day that someone like me gets to be involved in something like that. By 'something like that' I mean the deliberate and complete confection of an artificial festival of collective memory. Last year 31 October, nobody gave a crap, this year 31 October, Prime Ministers flopping around in Israel, episodes of Landline, the whole monstrous giddy catastrophe. 
  • I did something really stupid but I think I got away with it.
  • The same day as the horse thing was Halloween and there was a high level of activity on Canning St, much of really rather charming. But it all transpired on the footpaths and in the front gardens, not on the median strip, so no use to me, here, now.
  • One of my ancient metal fillings fell out and from poking it with my tongue I could tell the tooth was now a thin cuplike thing with a big crater in the middle. So at eight oclock the next morning I made a carefully not panicking phonecall and got myself an appointment at the nearest and most available dentist clinic which was 'Smile Solutions' in the Manchester Unity Building, instead of where I had been going before, which was to a likeable and overwrought Iraqi woman doing unusual dentistry out of a house in Preston that was evidently in recent use as a brothel. 'Smile Solutions' has six beautiful, heartless receptionists and a huge army of even more beautiful dentists and dental nurses. My dentist was called 'Pip' and her helper was called 'Tenille' and the room they worked me over in had a picture window facing the balcony of the Town Hall where Abba and the Beatles formerly stood, just not at the same time. Pip admired my shoes (they are indeed admirable) and offered me a $300 filling that would last maybe three to five years or a $1200 filling that might last ten years. (I think numerals for single-word numbers, as opposed to spelling the words out, is a mark of illiteracy, by the way. It's good that nobody comments on my blog anymore or possibly even reads it as I do not feel I have enough time left on earth to be wasting seconds defending my views on this and many other questions, it's bad enough having to write them down in the first place. There is this cat here who makes me do it.) I opted for the relatively inexpensive yet still quite expensive filling and they got down to business giving me injections in the roof of my mouth, going up my nose with a rubber hose and jamming the cheap but filling filling stuff in. They put in more than they needed to though. Even though the interestingly etched glass wall panelling and well-maintained deco plaster friezes and beautiful receptionists and and iconic views created an aura of collectively knowing what's what when it comes to fixing fucked-up teeth, after about eleventy years of Pip grinding down the too-high surface of the newly installed filling, I began to wonder whether this aura had very much substance behind it after all. When she'd had enough of grinding and of telling me it was no wonder really because my whole mouth is basically hideously deformed, I was allowed to depart. Look the MU building is brilliant and I highly recommend going up in the lift for a wander about in its lovely corridors, but colour me mildly sceptical about expensive dentistry. Dr K. out in Preston also wreaked her fair share of mayhem and pain but it was nothing that a day or two binge-watching In The Thick of It did not put right. This most recent bout all went down a week ago and my mouth still hurts and feels weird. 
  • Leonard had a haircut - the first one since January - and he looks like a different person. Very much more vulnerable. I love him. He is the best thing in my life. Sometimes I feel afraid to think about how important he is to me. Not because of morbid fears that something might happen but because it is such a big thing for a child to carry, all that immense love.

Sunday, 29 October 2017

reading log

I don't think I can do this properly right now so this just a list of what I've been reading.

All Hell Let Loose by Max Hastings
Life by Keith Richards
Moral Panic 101 by Benjamin Law
The Trauma Cleaner by Sarah Krasnostein
Draw Your Weapons by Sarah Sentilles
The Rings of Saturn by W.G. Sebald (re-read)
A Woman in Berlin by anonymous (re-read)
Soul Repair: Recovering from Moral Injury After War by Brock and Lettini

Currently engaged in rereading Seven Pillars of Wisdom. After that, Broken River by J. Robert Lennon.

Saturday, 28 October 2017


You know how people go 'all of the chickens are coming home to roost'? Well this is eighteen moronic chickens roosting on and in an upside down shopping trolley that the chook group uses as a quarantine pen for sick birds. They have a perfectly fine and huge room with perches to sleep in but this night they all wanted to sleep here instead

It's hard to know what to say. I might start with what I don't want to say. I don't want to list all my troubles. To some extent they involve other people. I don't want to whine in a free-floating way about the quality of the troubles or the effect they're having on me. Not much point in doing that, from my perspective, since I think about these things all the time, and as far as 'you' are concerned, without 'you' knowing specifically about the background I don't think it would be all that edifying for you to receive a decontextualised account of my feelings. All seems a bit Livejournal, in short.

I'm trying to deal with things by thinking about them. As far as it goes that is all right. I am coping and that is because I am thinking rather than acting out. But to go beyond coping and into changing the situation, I don't know how to do that. There isn't the necessary space in my life as I currently live it. I think this is entirely my own fault. I have recently and foolishly ruined some friendships that brought good dimensions and textures into my life and which I now miss very much. I work very hard all day during the week, at work where I have traded off not being bored for being overinvested, and then at home cooking dinner etc, and I'm tired at night. I'm absorbed in that state. The weekends, when that busyness isn't there, are difficult, and recently, the early morning bike ride to work has also been very challenging. I'm fresh, alert, not preoccupied, and I'm alone, and on cue, in comes rushing more emotion than I am able to handle. It doesn't improve matters that I eat breakfast alone every day at my desk. It's a very delicious breakfast (muesli, apple, blueberries, walnuts and soy milk) but still, I should change that.

Would you do me a favour? Tell me what you think about this question. Let's call it the anti-AB Facey conundrum. When you have a problem and you're unhappy, but you also know that your life has been, relative to many other people's, amazingly fortunate and holds many wonderful things, and also that relatively speaking your problem and associated unhappiness aren't all that intractable, what do you think you should you do with all of that, including the bit where you go, unattractively, 'well at least I'm not as messed up as that other person.' Should you just get over yourself, or try to, and get on with it?

I have a friend who's a Holocaust survivor. He was born in Paris in 1939 and when the city fell he was two years old, very cute and heartbreakingly small and vulnerable in the studio photo on his ipad. The photo was organised by his mother who sent a copy of it to every relative she could locate so that if anything happened to her, etc etc. He's travelled a lot and also on the ipad are photos of holocaust memorials around the world. I've been shown several times the pictures of this one in Miami. Usually when I'm looking at these things there are lots of people around, doing their nice everyday Melbourne stuff. The look on his face, though - he's alone, entirely isolated. I think maybe he's been like that all his life. Don't know.

I've been reading while not blogging, and I'll force myself tomorrow to write a reading log. I do feel a bit better having written the above. Confused, bitter, sarcastic, unnecessarily long and plain unnecessary attempts at jokes will be back on the time-wasting agenda soon enough I dare say.

Sunday, 15 October 2017


I am very sad today and at a loss to know what I can do to make things better. Monday tomorrow and that's a good thing because it means absorption in work and a release from other upsetting thoughts. I have worked there a year and a half now. These are peace cranes folded by children in the holiday program we ran over the last school holidays. They are beautiful don't you think?

Tuesday, 10 October 2017

Going back

Well, I went out to La Trobe. I was asked to give a paper in a research day on Jane Austen, so I did that with great pleasure. The research day part of it was all fine. Visiting La Trobe was a pretty intense experience.

The weather was beautiful. I went on my bike and I got there early on purpose so I could have a really good wander around. It's only been about three years since I left. So it was just how I thought it'd be: uncanny how much the place hadn't changed and how much it felt like I'd never left. That is such a trite little cliche but you must understand, it was a raw and very strange emotional state. I felt as if the last three years had just been a dream I'd had last night, now fading in the light of the morning.

But also, at the same time, plenty had changed and that was uncanny too. Like, this had bemusingly appeared on the bit of grass between the path to car park 7 and the loop of the moat that rolls in front of the John Scott. I pulled over and looked at it for a while.

I knew I was expecting to find the place different - by the time of my departure, the VC had already plunged La Trobe deep into a convulsive physical change - but I'm afraid it wasn't until I saw this sculpture that I understood that I was fully expecting all the changes I found to be making the place worse. 

That recognition, then and there, put the lie to what I'd thought - that I was over La Trobe, no longer emotionally entangled in it as if it was, I don't know, a lover or something and not in fact a university campus. Lately the doctor has been all like, you can't accept deprivation and loss and rejection and unavailability, because not accepting it when you were small is how you survived. And I have been thinking that this notion of hers is just a bit too textbook Freudian to be very useful to me. So that was a bit of a shit, to find myself on campus for less than three minutes and already taking the loss of things overly personally. She isn't the sort of person who ever needs to say 'I told you so'. She works it so you come to that conclusion independently. 

There's a lot of sculpture at La Trobe and it's almost all very graceful, clean, modernist - a couple of recentish additions like the upside down Charles La Trobe monument are the exceptions and they are not improvements. This is also not an improvement, indeed it is fkn horrible. It's in the "small and quirky" sculptural genre which I have invested a lot of energy and words into hating and pouring scorn upon, on this blog, over the years, only this example isn't small. Well, maybe it will be destroyed by vandals. There are precedents. Someone has vandalised the Donald Whitehead building by peeling the brown bricks off and replacing them with metallic strips, possibly of the kind that are so good at catching fire and melting, there is no way of knowing. Well, I suppose it would not be appropriate for the university to issue MBAs unless the students who receive them have learned about 360-degree feedback tools, emotional intelligence, the seven habits of highly successful people and the like by watching video lectures recorded by sessional academics working in buildings which the THE World University Rankings has verified as being appropriately clad in metallic strips. 

Change comes even to the car pool: that little hut at the end of the row used to be inhabited by James the car pool administrator who lent out cars from his place in the centre of a puddle of empty fast food packaging which rose up as high as his armpits. You cannot see it in the photo but there are overflowing bins out the front. There must have been a coup. I hope James is okay.  
The lawn behind the Thomas Cherry building has always been able to make me feel happy. I once saw a handwritten poster advertising a riot scheduled to occur on the Thomas Cherry lawn. "Bring your own weapons" it said.
The one unmitigatedly great addition to the campus to happen in the current epoch is this set of sculptures by Reko Rennie.
Can't tell you how relieved, surprised and pleased I was to find that the Leonard French glasses are still in their places under the David Myers building. Last I heard they needed extensive restoration because the black stuff between the pieces of glass had deteriorated and it was going to cost hundreds of thousands of dollars (money that needed to be spent on metallic strips, and oh my fucking god, on painting the exposed concrete surfaces of Robin Boyd's Menzies College ORANGE AND BLACK)

Also very happy to see Inge King still in the moat and has thus far escaped being painted orange and black. The corporate colours doncha know!

This was my office in La Trobe Learning and Teaching, on the ground floor of Humanities 2. In Room 101. The room containing the worst thing in the world.

My previous office was on the fifth floor of the same building. Count back five window bays from the right and there it is. I was too unsettled to actually go inside Hu 2 but now I wish I had
 The Ag.

Menzies: you can't see the orange and black bits in this photo which I took while thinking, well, they can be stupid and paint it but they can't really ruin how nice it is here.

Unfortunately this tree stump has been made into a "designated smoking area"

I was just about weeping by the time I walked through the level 2 corridor bridging Hu 2 and Hu 3. Ridiculous I know.

 ]The research day was held inside the library, which has been most assiduously cleansed of books. Even the catalogue got disappeared.

This is what you see when you are walking back to Hu 2 from the Agora. That walk, that place, is the essence of La Trobe for me. The picture, well, you will just have to take my word for it that this is a photograph of a place where I have spent years of my life on an inward exploration, and that seeing it again, just waiting there in the morning sun, same as it ever was, makes me incredibly emotional. I know the picture is so boring that this sounds ridiculous. Those trees on the left will be doing their stupendous springtime flowering right now.

the thaw

Canning St this afternoon was more or less coated in people, flopping about on the median strip's spring grass like fur seals on Chinaman's Hat, exposing all their pasty limbs to the sunlight. They were all flopping about individually however so I did not bother stopping to disturb their solitudes by cracking out the somewhat rusty moves in the Diane Arbus / Joan Didion department. A necessary exception was made for this little one, solemnly holding a private tea party on the grass, in her purple fairy dress and red sneakers. Her dad was supervising from the footpath and he gave me permission to take the picture. 

Obvs Canning St is going all out to melt my miserable hard frozen heart. Bring it on you bicycle superhighway, I am ready.

Saturday, 7 October 2017

Just what is it that makes today's homes so different, so appealing?

Were you forced to read Mythologies in first year university? And by 'forced to read' what I mean is, was a bit of it on the reading list for one of your arts subjects, so you read that and then you went and got yourself a copy and hoovered it up so fast that you finished it then started again at the start before the bus got to your stop? I know that you did because it's a very important part of why we are friends: this capacity that you and I both have, not just to perform a semiotic reading of a cereal box as easily as breathing, but more importantly to take it entirely for granted that reading the semiotics of cereal boxes is a worthwhile, indeed necessary endeavour, core to human existence in its deepest, richest, truest form.
It's a long time now since I spent my days only with people with the same sort of education and assumptions as myself but I'm still not really used to the change. I was very startled to be asked, the other day, in the gentlest and most nonconfrontational manner imaginable, why I insist on overanalysing everything. I didn't have a good answer for that, in fact now I think about it the answer I provided probably just demonstrated the justice of the accusation. But a little later on I happened to see someone else's facebook post about nothing much, a daft bit of ephemera, but that person's friends had played so gracefully and funnily with that bit of ephemera that i thought, well, it's really ok, these are my people (they weren't actually people I knew but you see what I mean), there's nothing too wrong with them, or with me. 

Tuesday, 3 October 2017

Look away now if you do not like to read about spiders

We attempted a camping trip and it was not a success. I think you'd have to say it wasn't successful. I acquired my current bout of sickness while we were away and got home just in time for the full-blown fever. So then there was two or maybe three days in bed, and when I say 'bed' I mean the fold-out bed in the study where I retreated to quarantine myself, and on which I haven't slept before, turns out it's so uncomfortable that it must have been deliberately designed that way. Fucking hipster fold-out bed designers! Fever is gone now and I feel just enough like shit to be unable to take proper advantage of this one-in-a-billion day (nice weather, annual leave, child happily ensconced in holiday program). Well, I'm not complaining. IM NOT

When I was packing up every piece of crap we own to cram it into the car to take it camping with us I brought in a cloth bag from out of the shed. God, one day I will blog the inside of our shed and then you will really understand why I deserve nothing good in life.  Anyway, the cloth bag. It had been in the shed for maybe four years and it had some patterns in that I was going to get rid of because about four years ago I suddenly realised I was never going to sew any of those patterns. So I put the patterns back into the chest of patterns drawers and used the bag to hold the clothes I wanted to take camping.

Cut to the first morning of actual camping, I was in the tent taking my clothes out of the bag - clothes I was shortly going to put onto my body - when I saw a spider crawling with intent down the side of it. It was a horrible spider. Now, it wasn't a huntsman - I know what a frigging huntsman looks like for god's sake - but it was the same colour, ie horrifying rusty brown, and it was about the size of a half-grown huntsman, and it was pointy in the body and legs rather than kind of rounded like a huntsman. In short, a very bad looking spider. So without taking my eyes off it I slid across to the door of the tent and reached outside and picked up a couple of gum leaves. I held the leaf in the spider's path hoping it would crawl slowly onto the leaf (but not then immediately swap crawling for speed running, and run up my arm and onto my face, into my mouth etc). Of course it did not go on the leaf it went under it where I couldn't see it. Spiders suck. So I pushed the bag up to the doorway and as the red mist descended I flicked the spider out the door. It went outside which was great, but then I couldn't see where it went.

When we got home from 'camping' (I'm not going to go into the tragic details of how much a gigantic fail of a camping trip it was) I was unloading the car and I slung that bag of clothes on the couch in the study (ironically that very same piece of shit fold-out bed I mentioned earlier). A little later I was unpacking stuff and I picked up the bag to take it to my room.

On the couch where the bag had been there was a spider exactly like the one in Apollo Bay.

So what I think is that the first spider was one of a clan of about nine, that had been living in the bag in the shed, and all of them hid in the bag's corners when I picked it up and shoved my stuff in there. And the second one I saw was one of the remaining eight. And those two were were dumb enough to come out and thus got seen, but the remaining seven got into my underwear, my shoes, my bathers, and most of all, into my black trousers with six pockets. I'm still going to put them on now though.

Sunday, 1 October 2017

Get well soon

I am the one who needs to get well soon. Get well soon, me! Please accept my best wishes for a speedy recovery.

I feel like I've just smashed into a wall, or that the way I've been living - very much a matter of burning the candle at both ends, only the candle is a mingy, pallid austerity candle, not a lovely bright party candle - has finally caught up with me. The self-pity is strong all right. I guess I will feel better again and sooner rather than later. I think it's just a bad cold or maybe a mild flu, and it comes on the back of a run of badly broken sleep and some other problems which are utterly doing my head in. About which, probably more later. I am going to have to write this stuff down one way or another.

If I was a little less blah I would write about the book I've just read, Kim Stanley Robinson's New York 2140. One thing I can suggest immediately is read this book when you are not weakened by fever because it is very heavy and my arms are aching. Honestly this is a great novel, I have no upper tolerance for the kind of world creation that KSR does - in the Mars books it was the willingness to imagine and write the colours of a terraforming world that did me in, in this book its the emotional mapping / excavating / skyscrapering of the city *and* overlaying it with a tidal sea that rushes up and down the city streets and morphs with the changing weather and seasons and the reality, intricacy, aliveness of his flooded New York (and planet) is a seriously awe-inspiring thing to behold, and entirely free of the morbid disaster porn quality of many lesser works of anthropocene fiction, because the ecological disaster is imagined so intensely only because it is a possible future derived from our actual disastrous present, also very carefully expounded, ie late capitalism, the ridiculous, evil, deformed menace that has the world in a brutal stranglehold and which requires nothing less than the destruction of the world in order to continue flourishing. The book imagines a string of climate disasters and abrupt sea level rises as things that have already happened. So it's like a mirror image of now: in a time of relative, if fragile stability, with awareness of disaster around the corner, it's possible to see that capitalism could be checked with a concerted movement of civil disobedience and principled political action. The book is actually as much about global finance and the crash of 2008 and the insanity of the bailout as it is about adaptations to rising oceans and New York becoming a 'supervenice'. Well, I suggest you read it especially if you haven't read anything by KSR before - he's the kind of writer who restores your faith in humanity and after the week I have had that is really saying something.

Thursday, 14 September 2017

Howard Arkley flats

I ride past this block of flats in Rathdowne St pretty regularly and sometimes I wonder if any of the residents know that Howard Arkley painted it twice: 1987, 1999

Either the real estate agents are unaware of this fact or they've been apprised of it but they don't regard it as a selling point. This is very disappointing. What is capitalism for if not for ouroborosses of reification?  

I won't be making an offer.