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Invasive Species

Seizing Australia

Invasive Species

The Mighty Firbank (and Myself)
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Yuri Hospodar

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June 19th, 2011

Clarence Clemons

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waiting ... waiting ...
It was always in winter during my high school years, somehow, I'd return to Springsteen & the E Street Band. Having taken over the basement 'wreckroom', annexed from my elder brother who was off in the Marines or just flown the nest, I'd shroud myself in the thickest blankets I could find, huddle next to the space heater which had been placed as close to the stereo as it could get without melting the vinyl records shelved beneath, and in the darkest gloomiest time of the year it was Springsteen & co that somehow had the most to say.

The shivering grey of the east coast US, slopped over with muddy slush and caked in sheets of ice, freezing damp temperatures creeping into the house - especially the basement from which I refused to budge, like any decent respectably sullen teenager - seemed the perfect compliment to Springsteen's dismal tales of trapped souls and losers stuck in towns they could never escape. Which of course I identified with completely, my town being a farmfield Klan-and-militia-drenched cesspool of fundamentalism & xenophobia, its education system hardly encouraging betterment or lofty dreams or even welcome to the world outside (anything east of Lansdale at the furthest was communism, man - Philadelphia? People read books there. And there's universities. And ... and ... negroes). Sure I'd discovered the outraged helpless furyshriek of punk rock - the only person west of the mysterious Lansdale-esque partition to do so to that point - but come the worst, most punishingly defeating time of year, I was just a dead-end loser in a small mid-Atlantic town who probably would never get out - hence the shrouded stereo vigil. As always, rock and roll, that greatest of religions, the only one ever to deliver the goods, saved my soul.

To this day, the opening roar of "Born to Run" is a sonic talisman, and I rarely escape tears within a minute of the song. And - since my first year or so listening to that album was on the dreaded 8-track machine before I could afford to buy a vinyl copy at Zerns Farmers Market or some other post-apocalyptic feeling zombiefield of the area - to this day I have to verbally add the kaCHUNK noise at the part in "Jungleland" where the 8-track would switch over to the rest of the song. But the doomed lonely songs of "The River" hurt and cleansed the worst and best. In winter's slimy vortex, there was no room left for rebellion - far more, you needed to hear others - others who'd escaped their pits - describing what slouched and shivered around you, what was probably going to defeat us all.

But just when the despair of Springsteen's lyrics would be cutting too close to the bone, there would come a break, and a sound: a feeling like a protective giant lifting you out of the slush, brushing off the mud and snow, standing you up and with a big warm smile pointing to the horizon telling you - convincing you - it's all gonna be OK, being alive is beautiful, and that horizon is closer than you think, someday you'll walk to it and past it and never have to turn back to this tiny puddle of illiterate ooze. And that sound was the magnificent hope-pouring roar of Clarence Clemons' saxophone. Springsteen may have been the chronicler, but Clemens was the soul and salvation of the outfit, and of my horrible peeA winters. He took what would otherwise have been miserable tales of smalltown dead ends and added transcendance and triumph.

Not much else to say beyond that. Just that he's passed on now, like so many from the Great Heroic Age Of Rock And Roll as they go from blundering into tragic young deaths into that range where they're just ageing and mortal, a generation that gave us some of the best folk music (as rock and roll basically is - music of the people by the people &c &c) the planet has ever produced passing from pop culture into genuine history. We'll have to get used to watching them (us!) go one by one, but some of those deaths are going to hit harder than others. And for anyone who grew up in the mid-Atlantic east coast of the US in the 70s and 80s, Clemon's death has gotta hurt, if they have any soul at all.

Thanks, Big Man. You took on pennsylvanian Februaries for me and kicked their ass. I owe you.

June 16th, 2011

LiveJournal Oopdate

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The Mighty Firbank (and Myself)
Dear LiveJournal, how poorly I've been treating you. And by implication myself - for lo, thou art basically my diary by which I keep track of things before my lousy memory deletes them from my mental inbox. So some bullet points of things I ought to have writ down fully, of what's been up the past few months. If you're catching this via Facebook linking, you've probably heard it all before in shorthand-entry form, so you needn't bother.

1) Fun In Hi Skule. Well, university actually, but then I couldn't reference a Marx Brothers stage play. Since February I've been doing a "bridging course" as they call it, in order to return to uni and maybe this time actually finish a degree. I meant to write more completely and hopefully and in detail, and perhaps still will someday if I can just reignite my LJ-entry skilz, but in a nutshell(-ish): I'm taking a basic English Lit survey which will hopefully be all I need to apply via University of Sydney's adult-reentry system and mayhap be a fulltime student come 2012. So far so good: the teacher is great; we have similar literary taste - very important in arts-style edumication, as I discovered my last attempt to do lit at Hahhhvard and ran into the banal drywall of Vendlerist disciplery. First paper on Keats got 20/20. Soon work must begin on paper #2 (TS Eliot & Modernism). Paper #3 methinks will be on Sam Beckett. We get 3 topic choices each time; I try to avoid the crappy "detective genre" focus which will be coming up shortly. Peter Temple's The Broken Shore - yawwwwncraprubbish. And films Rear Window and Crash - horrid little things (apologies to Hitchcock fans for abusing the former, but I really didn't like it and hated Grace Kelly's acting). Anyway, it's a project in progress. Hopefully I'll be an entrenched ivory-tower intellekshool the sort that drives conservatives mad, whittling away at a lit degree very, very soon.

2) Dax, Princess Of Absolutely Everything. We had to put our high-maintenance but lovely-cuddling Abyssinian cat, Dax, down a few weeks ago. She was diabetic and various dosings and injecting regimens didn't seem to be stabilising her; she was getting petulant about not using the litterbox; she was arthritic and creaky in her back legs, and obviously unhappy and uncomfortable and tended to live under the bed and under the dining room table. On one hand I feel terrible, like we off'd her because she was inconvenient, rather than she was really on her last legs. A few hours before we took her up the street for the end, she was luxuriating on my lap, stretching, purring, headbutting and alert. But yet, most hours of the day she was grumbly and hissy in her hiding places, only coming out to crap on the floor in the bathroom and then run upstairs, hissing endlessly at poor friendly Firbank, our other qat. And the vet was in agreement that it looked like only getting worse for the diabetes and creakiness. So best let her go before things got really bad. I wonder in reverse about Weensie, my beloved buddycat I had to put down 2 years back - maybe I waited too long; he was so slow and sad and wouldn't eat in the end but I couldn't bear to part with him after 17 years together. So I think we (well, I left it to Nick, as she was his cat before we married up) made the right decision for Dax. She was such a svelte ruling-class glamourpuss for so long, I'm sure she wasn't enjoying the indignities of her last few months.

3) Dacha Renovation. Nothing yet, but we at last have plans in place, all approvals from legal riffraff bestowed. Now we just line up the actual builders and landscapers and &c and off we shall go. Who knows what sort of timeline - the going's a bit slower than we expected. The architect friend-of-Nick's-family guy has had various family crises and while good has been a bit tepid in his proceedings. Once it all starts we'll probably have to move out for a bit. That should be ... fun. Once it's all done though the dacha will be even more wondrous: an upstairs bathroom, stairwell moved from the middle of the back kitchen/dining area and into the wall, another office/sunroom/somethingsomething upstairs with a small deck and stairs going down into the back yard, the yard itself rearranged a bit so the view from back windows isn't into a white cement wall and tiny rickety wooden steps up into the yard but rather a bit more patio space with easy-access steps up to the yard level - nothing too landscaped; I want my grass to plop down into during summer, dammit. But much of my gardening effort of the past 4 years will be ripped away, so a whole new gardening frenzy will be needed. Hence the idea of a pro gardener brought in with whom I might conspire this time, to make sure I pick the right plants & put them in the right spots. For now it all remains theoretical of course. Oh! Plus, I'll be easy on the back of the dacha (gardening aside), but I shall battle for the 1880s front workers' cottage bit to be reborn in period splendour. One might view the ideas as Victorian decor ... or see it as trying for pissant bordelloism. Red velvet wallpaper. That's all I'm sayin'.

4) Citizenship, I Is Elegible. Time to begin accumulating the paperwork to apply for Aussie citizenship. Should be a simple process, since much of it was needed for the first emigratory steps & I've got them all in one place. Just gathering the forms and getting them in, then a 3 -6 month wait (they claim). Then let the ceremonies & citizenship parties commence! Along with videoing me burning my US passport, scraping the ashes into an envelope filled with a verbally abusive obscenity-laden note, and sending it to the conservative-dominated US congress. I wonder if I could convince Grahame Bond to dress up as Aunty Jack one last time and oversee whatever ceremony goes on. Anyway, also theoretical at the moment, though more within my power to get things moving quickly.

5) John God & The Choir Invisible. Dormant! Occasional workings-on of song ideas, some nearer to completion than others, but rassling so long with cd label-making and such has been so frustrating that getting word out re:the first release has stalled. Oddly enough, some people have bought it though - even people I don't know, I think. But I must be a more confident & active self-promoter - I was never good at that bit in any endeavour I've attempted. As well as I must budget more production time to new stuff.

6) Writing. See above. I have taken to referring to myself as a "former poet", it has been that long since The Muse has whalloped me with pomestuff.

... ummm, this is all I can think of at the moment. All else is lost in the mnemonic haze of my poorly-functioning hippocampus, or wherever the memory centre is in my squishy squishy brane.

I vow (again) to LiveJournalise more often. Gotta get the creative juices flowing somehow. Discipline! Discipline!

February 10th, 2011

LiveJournal

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Bronze Horseman
Man, I'd probably want to post more often on LiveJournal if my daily visits nowadays didn't consist of clearing stupid Russian spam suddenly turning up as comments made to entries written months/years ago. My beloved Russian cousins! Gone from Voznesensky to venality within a generation. How sad.

Maybe a switch to Blogger is in the cards. If only its master, Google, had a way of transferring entire journals over there ... I'd hate to lose what, almost a decade's worth of journalling.

January 21st, 2011

Months ago in a cheap bargain bin I picked up 1938's classic b&w Algiers, and like many bargain bin purchases put it on a shelf and forgot about it. I'd re-discover it & pluck it out, put it on the to-watch pile, and it would sink again into oblivion. Finally, last night, as Nick decided he'd rather plunk around online after dinner, I vowed dammit, I'm going indulge my love of old b&w movies & watch this thing. And lo, I was rewarded amply.

Of course every scene, every line, every frame was judged against its majestic counterpoint Casablanca, even if C was released a few years after. But Algiers definitely held its own, once I stopped waiting for Rick and Ilsa to show up and enjoyed the ride. I mean, Casablanca is perfect in every way, so it's cruel to fold one's arms and hope for another loveable-rogue-in-Mediterranean-exile movie to approach it. Sort of like listening to the Stones and thinking yeah, fantastic rock and roll band - but it's not The Beatles, y'know? Not worth it, and ruins the moment.

Anyway. Algiers. Charles Boyer was great as Pepe le Moko - criminal-yet-loveable, sympathetic yet gruff. And the atmosphere of the Casbah itself was magnificently done. Sure it was full of villains, smugglers, murderers, hookahs, and hookers, and filthy and cramped - but hey! seems like everybody knew your name and waved hello in the morning. You wind up feeling like "of course I'd fit in and have a swell time with those scamps, 'cause I'm a bit of a misfit too, they'd love me!" . Granted, in real life you'd have been dead within minutes or at least relieved of most valuables, most likely, but ... golden-age Hollywood. What's this "reality" of which you speak.

Unlike Casablanca (see? you can't help it) though, the cast of Algiers was not perfect, and so there were moments I was snapped out of pleasurable immersion and realising I was watching a moving picture. Gene Lockhart (as Regis) was ... bad. Every move he made I was aware I was watching a bad Yank actor in a funny hat try to play a craven Casbah crim. Between the lousy peformance and the fact that he was named Regis, I could not wait for him to get his comeuppance & finish his screen time.

And unlike ... well, you know - I had no wish to see the leading man (the fantastic Boyer) throw over the Casbah and run off with the leading lady. Hedy Lamarr was astonishingly beautiful to be sure, but wooden and boringboringboring. Pepe's Casbah gal Ines had much more spunk and fascination - even though played as empty-headed, stupid, yet treacherous, Sigrid Gurie would actually hold my interest beyond the initial contemplation of her outfit (unlike ol' Hedy). I mean, Ingrid Bergman - sure, she made it an actual dilemma to choose between Casablanca and her. To choose a mannequin like Hedy Lamarr over the Casbah, one can only think Pepe le Moko had been whiffing second-hand hookah fumes a bit too long.

"Venn I am viss yoo I sink of Pahree ... yoo remind me oov zee soobvay ..." Boyer cooed to Lamarr at one point - I can only assume this was an implied compliment - but Lamarr's bland heavy-lidded dead-vamp reaction only made me think "yeah, she reminds me of a subway too ... empty, unlit, stationary, waiting vaguely for something to show up and fill it in."

But enough fussing. I don't want to give the impression I disliked Algiers, far from it. Like the best films, at its best moments (of which there are tons) it definitely transcended "ooh, I'm watching one of my old b&w's" and felt ... well, I hate the term "contemporary", 'cause that implies that movies being made currently are the best benchmark (and Allah save us if that's the case). It felt timelessly good like a good film should.

The best performance by far was Joseph Calleia as the careful Inspector biding his time and weaving the web in which he hopes to finally catch good ol' sad jaded loveable rogue Pepe. Not having movie-star looks, he was doomed to play gangsters & secondary characters on film, but the calm wily languidness he oozed every second made me look to him every second he was onscreen. Twenty or thirty years later, when 1970s Hollywood had its brief "hey, let's give good directors and producers money and have good actors play good roles in good movies that we'll actually support" moment before Star Wars brought in The Blockbuster and ruined everything forever, Calleia might have had a shot at stardom. But ah well, he did a good job in Algiers and thus garnered a smidgen of immortality nonetheless.

And poor Sigrid Gurie, hyped Garbo-ically as "the siren of the fjords", fizzled and wandered off to make jewelry in the desert apparently (or so sayeth Wikipedia), while that mannequin Hedy Lamarr went on the screen legendry (cue the Kinks' mournful "Celluloid Heroes").

But I digress (quelle surprise). Algiers is definitely one I shall put in the watch-again-repeatedly file. Hollywood's golden escapist era at its best.

We pause to issue the inevitable trivia tidbit that no, "Come with me to the Casbah" is not uttered in the movie. It is, however, in the movie's trailer clip. If you spend the whole movie waiting for it, as I did, you'll have wasted energy you could have spent listening to actual dialogue instead.

January 16th, 2011

We pause now for a shameless plug: announcing the very first official release of my musical project known as John God & the Choir Invisible - their full-length (well, around 50 minutes' worth of music) recording Simply Divine. Yes! I must have done something right (or tolerably), as iTunes has deemed it worthy enough, production-quality-wise and cover-art-wise, to make available for sale on its hallowed little spot on the world wide whip.

So, those of you with iTunes, you are welcome if you wish to search on the band name, dabble in the sample snatches of various songs available, and see if you'd like to purchase any tracks or the whole goddamn thing for your eternal sonic salvation or at least mild occasional entertainment. They seem to set the price themselves, for I'd've willingly dropped a bit below the $16.99 (entire thing)/$1.69 (individual tracks) that is their standard price via their Australian store - not sure what they charge off the US store or elsewhere, a bit cheaper surely, so you Yanks hankering for sonic abuse, you win.

And whilst never one to undercut the free pursuit of capitalist joy via corporate monoliths, I have a lead on a special cheapy-cheaper bargain - if you wish to go an alternate route, there is the handy-for-all-sorts-of-smaller/unsigned/yet-unknown bands & performers, ReverbNation. They are great with tools for uploading your music, designing your actual cd, and pointers toward getting word out &c &c. The band tells me they like it immensely.

The band's personal profile page is linked at John God & the Choir Invisible at ReverbNation - here, I was able to set prices myself and lower the bite significantly, given the planet still teeters on vergings of global depression and wotnot. Those with thinner pockets can head here and thus pay:

mp3 album= $9.99
individual tracks= $0.99
actual cd = $11.99

Huckster voice Did I say "actual cd"? Yes! Actual cd! Unsure of the postage (ReverbNation is a US-based co.), but for $11.99 - $5 cheaper than an mp3 lp from iTunes - you'll get a real live (well, hard copy - a living one might scream as you wedge it into the little disc slot of your computer or stereo) cd, with cover art & lyric sheet and everything (except a giraffe).

Other ways to access JG&tCI's ReverbNation store: check the Band Profile tab on their
Facebook page.

Or if you're an Anti-Facebookist, the band requested I set up a blawwwg for them to tell of their mad adventures. Only one post so far, so it's not exactly an internyet Hard Day's Night yet. But oh, the stories they've told me. Anyway, there's a sidebar link to their store there too.

HOKAY. Commercial break done. I feel soiled somehow; hopefully you haven't minded the intrusion. We thenthitive artiste sorts would prefer to just work on the creative end and not do the hyping bit ... but no Svengali Epstein-McLarens are breaking down my door, y'know?

Hey, if'n you get anything via mp3 download & still want lyrics, email johngodchoir@gmail.com and they'll be duly sent to you. No charge (for once, feelthy greedheaded music stuff).

*sigh* ... now to make up a buncha sampler cds and send 'em to we-love-new-bands radio outlets, I suppose.

Next entry less self-promotional, I promise.


John God insisted I put a pic of him in here somewhere. I did so, in order to get him off my back and into his room where he's sulking curmudgeonly over a bottle of cheap cabernet again.

January 6th, 2011

A Day At The Cricket

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Michael Hussey
We have a mixed marriage at the dacha. I am a footy tragic of the Aussie Rules variety. Nick is a cricket fan from way, way back, since childhood. So basically during autumn and winter weekends, I'm in front of the telly or dragging Nick and any gullible friends out to the Sydney Cricket Grounds to watch my beloved Sydney Swans, while spring and summer weekends (or weeks for test games), Nick is plonked in front of the screen watching Australian cricket. It makes it all interesting for squeezing in weekend chores (or revels).

This season's test match for Australia was the big rivalry vs England known as the Ashes - so I figured what better xmas prezzie to give than a day out at the SCG so Nick can watch his team in mortal combat (OK, not mortal, but, y'know). And here was my chance to see an Aussie cultural institution in action. Who knows? It might be on the citizenship test.

"Mr Hossssssspodar, have you attended a cricket match live?"
"Errr ... no sir."
"OUT!" sounds of red ink being stamped all over paperwork

So it seemed like a good idea.

Alas, this is the year that Aussie cricket seems to be cementing its implosion. Where for a long time it had been the terror of international cricket, dominating it to the point of arrogance, many legendary players have all retired and the up-and-comers have yet to up and arrive. And their captain Ricky Ponting struck me as a petulant little goon. With a face like a squished-in doll's head. Now, the various other national teams - England, India, South Africa, &c &c - long in Australia's shadow are having their moment in the schadenfreude sun watching as the playground bullies get "kick me" pinned to their shirts.

For Yank friends, cricket is sort of the sport of which baseball is a corrupted form (baseball created pretty much to wean healthy free amurkins from those wicked unmasculine British things like cricket that amurkins should be free of because they're free amurkins and anyway free rich amurkins can make more money from a free amurkin sport telling other amurkins that this sport should be played and not some non-amurkin thing). There are some similarities, but it's quite different. Look it up yourself if interested for the whole picture, but my favourite example is, you can actually bat behind your back - not just are there no foul balls, you can hit it in a straight line behind you and score points. So there are enough novelties (to me) to make me more interested in cricket than ever I was interested by US baseball. Sort of like playing checkers and discovering 3D chess in the old Star Trek. Plus, cricket jargon is the best bar none of any sport anywhere ever. Utterly incomprehensible to the outsider, like some silly other-galactic (yet oh so British) language.

On the other hand, the traditional form, test cricket, is not a "short spree during the afternoon" thing like what short-attention-span tv-fed 21st century sorts expect. No! A test match goes on for days. Days. And they stop for tea (how quaint!). And with no "three strikes you're out" thing, the same batsmen can bat for pretty much the whole day, with his opposing team fielding the entire time. It can get, to a non-cricket-fan, pretty ... dull. Unless it's your team batting nonstop and whalloping the opposition, I suppose.

This is what happened to us yesterday. The fading Aussies wallowed in the field ("on the green", cricketers might say) whilst the strengthening English team (the dreaded Poms ... a derogatory term for a Brit - derogatory even though no one knows quite what the hell a "Pom" is) just batted and batted and batted and batted. And we sat high in the stands the whole time, my scrawny butt falling asleep in the tightly-wedged-together wobbly plastic rows of folding seats. Pretty teal-ish blue seats, to be sure, but quite uncomfortable for an all-day affair.

I suppose I'd have been more invested had I been a cricket fan - though on that side, I'd have been in a dismal mood at watching the Poms spend a whole day stomping my team. As it was, I think I spent more time watching the game than Nick, who spent a bit of time delving into his beloved Lucia books by E.F. Benson . This was not cricket apostasy on his part. Indeed, one of the things I wanted most to see in action was the atmosphere of test cricket, which is far more laid back than a footy match. People bring bags of food, snacks, drinks, books and newspapers, and sprawl out and take time to leisurely watch the game or eat or read as the mood (and pace of the game) strikes. I assume it was more fun in the Olden Days before the Sydney Cricket Ground grew into more a traditional sports arena, and back when it had a few stands and a few green hills on which folks spread blankets and relaxed. Hard to picnic when you're wedged into a pretty teal folding chair bumping elbows with unknown neighbours. Though I did get to experience a recent addition to cricket - or at least Ashes - culture: England's ... Barmy Army.

In the dark days when Australia regularly whomped the Poms, the hardcore UK fans - who'd spend tons of money to get to Oz (Australia & England trade off hosting the Ashes every 2 years-ish) just to watch their team go down in flames regularly - were derided as mad sport tragics. So they embraced it and began calling themselves "The Barmy Army". As the more bogan (redneck, chav, whatever equivalent) element receded it became sort of charming to watch this mob distract themselves from failure, pain, and boredom by bursting into old Brit anthems and pop songs and self-deprecating chants. Of course as time went by, the words began to change and became more give-and-take taunty ("You All Live In A Convict Colony" to the tune of "Yellow Submarine" being my favourite), but still, entertaining. And when you're in the stand where much of the Barmy Army is seated, hearing these things well up out of the chests of a thunderous crowd of entertained (and ever-more-beer-soaked) Brits can be exhilarating and fun (unless of course you're invested in Aussie cricket and silently fuming).

The Poms batted. The Barmy Army bawled. And as I'm taking another non-booze-bender after returning to wicked ways during the inescapably alcohol-soused month of December, I had no means of mushing the long day into a comfortable mist (well, except for the Kipling biography I'd brought along, which wasn't quite doing the trick). And even cricket-tragic Nick was getting a bit bored. So, with an hour or so left, and no end of the Brit batting spree in sight, we decided to head back to the dacha and - remaining true to Australia's part as a bit of Her Majesty's mighty empire - crack open our recently-purchased Indian cookbook and try an authentic home-made lamb curry.

Unlike the Aussie cricket team, the curry was a triumph.

My xmas prezzie to Nick might have fizzled, and Nick's dreams of turning me to cricket fandom might be postponed to another day, but I can at least now say I had the native cultural experience of a day at the cricket. I must say I cannot wait to return to the SCG ... granted, in March or so, when Aussie Rules season starts up again and we're there for a Swans match. But I do not dislike cricket - so who knows? Nick might just turn me to the dark side (the baggy green side?) yet.

And I still want an anatomically-correct Mike Hussey doll.

I leave you with perhaps the best description I have yet to find of a Yank outsider trying to comprehend cricket, that of Bill Bryson in his book In a Sunburned Country (Down Under in the UK and Oz) which despite some Aussie-friends'-and-family grumblings I think is a great intro to Australian culture & history for Northern-Hemisphere-impaired types. Take it, Bill ...
______________________________________________________
Mr Bryson speaks:Collapse )

January 4th, 2011

2011! I am not one to make (many) resolutions - in fact, one I'd made to begin 1 January lasted less than 36 hours ... but still, one vow is to say screw the world, or worries about it at least, and full steam ahead with doing what I want to do creatively whether it reaches anyone else or not. And part of discipling myself thataway is steady writing, even if journaling here on LiveJournal.

But ohhh, how LiveJournalistically-lax I have been. Averaging about one entry a month is not good. Granted, I've not been doing much aside from gardening and GarageBanding, but I still have to polish & post the last bit of our Byron Bay (yay!)/Noosa (booo!) journey back in ... wot, early November. And much boasting of my slow bonding with the rainbow lorikeets finally coming down into the dacha yard. And ... and ... well, whatever I'm doing and plotting and &c &c - this is my semi-diary, goddammit. Said diary just happens to be not hid under the mattress but rather wide-open in a shop-display window. Entry-a-day for as long as I can keep up the attempt? Mayhap. Hey, it connects to Facebook so those folks will be engaged too.

So, write things, Yuri, you fool. Write.

I shall.

November 25th, 2010

Day Five of the trip, as prophecied).

3 Nov

A bright sunny warm morning promising a pleasantly hot day; this helped smooth over my "relaxed by nature, sideswiped by return to shallow urban-wanna-be glitz" hours of last night. Noosa Heads might be a vapid brandname-soaked monstrosity a la most of Sydney's high-end commercial horrors, with its residential hills above cramped with house piled atop house like the canyons and gullies and hills of eaten-alive Los Angeles, but at very least once out of it and along the little peninsula of Noosa itself there are some stunning Aussie-style beaches.

The main beach, as said, is just another beach - beautiful sand, blue water, surrounded by crass shops and restaurants mostly priced above their station (location location location &c). Too many people, annoying teens, families negotiating with the children loudly and wondering why their tepid reasonings lead to the child ignoring them and rushing off screaming anyway.

Once you hit the rainforest walk, though, you escape Noosaness and get a whiff of old-school Aussie wilderness. The population of the beaches and beachlets peeping out past clumps of ancient rock and trees, accessible by tiny trails down to the sand, attract the more ardent sorts - hikers, nature-lovers, and swarms of surfers. By the time you get to the tip, and round a cool massive gash cut out of the rock by time and the Coral Sea called Hell's Gate (name aside, it's quite beautiful, leading one to helplessly quote Aussie saint Bon Scott and sing "Hell ain't a bad place to be"), you see a wonderful sweeping white-sanded beach nearly totally devoid of people - Alexander Beach, which is where we headed. It's also the unofficial local nude gay-friendly beach, and of the maybe 10 people dotted along its vastness, I assume many were gay and nude. I didn't really care, I was communing with my only girlfriend, the Coral Sea.

No, really; if I was to have an extramarital affair it would be with the Coral Sea. Which makes Nick a very lucky husband in that Coral and I would need, by necessity, to keep it on the side (as I told her whilst I walked along the beach with her) as any attempt to run away with her and take up a full-time relationship would quickly result in me, you know, drowning. Plus, Nick has no need to worry since, as I'm primarily a compulsive fellatist, Coral really has nothing really in the sexual-turn-on department. Her and my relationship is strictly teh woo.

So anyway I dunked in and chatted with the Coral Sea like Sophocles long ago on the Aegean (well, no, he just listened didn't he) whilst Nick chatted up a nude gay man. I woo'd with a cool white-bellied sea eagle that was enjoying hovering overhead on the thermals and sea mists, trying to steal my Coral Sea's affections perhaps but no!, he could not possess her. Nick continued chatting up the nude gay man.

We hung at Alexander Beach for an hour or two, then rainforest-walked back to the car. Returned to the guest house, dunked in the pool (hot after the walking), went down to the Los Sydneyles strip of Noosa Heads and ate at a seafront restaurant. Back to the guest house to kill time before dinner (once you do the beach, not much else to do here).

Nick was kind enough to locate the local Big Thing: The Big Pelican over in Noosaville, which we drove to and I got to make my pilgrimage. Then Nick … did the beach again (just the basic right-at-Noosa one). I kept reading "An American Tragedy" … one of the dullest, driest novels I've ever plowed through - and this is form someone who loved Tolstoy and Melville (two usually accused by the stupid of being dull). Still, one of the founding pillars of 20th century lit, so I figured take it along and be forced if reading to read this, so to get through a chunk of it. I hadn't figured on Noosa Heads: I have made a significant dent in the novel in the last two days.

Nick got back, we waited and waited till dinner time. Ate dinner. After dark, if one's I.Q. is above your shoe size, there's not much to do hereabouts - otherwise, back down to Los Sydneyles and sit in a Lower Hastings Street restaurant/pub and listen to crappy 80s/thumpa music. So we went back to the guest house, dabbled about a bit, went to sleep.
Odd how with so little filling my time aside from work and forays to Sydney's Zen Centre of late, I still am not able to finish posting my entries writ during our swing up the north coast of NSW and into lower Queensland. So, here is Day 4, to be followed quickly by Day 5 next, if'n I can give them both quick look-overs and proofy reads ...

2 Nov

Just as I managed to relax and get some balance and tranquility and openness, we headed into Noosa. Noosa! Pristine beaches, greenhill horizons, cramped hideous houses and a main drag full of uselessly fashionable shops dripping of brandnames and LA-vapid status. Noosa! Another example of profitable societies'* trait of finding a peaceful, serene landscape - smashing it to pieces - crowding it full of consumerist bogans whose sole idea of interaction with the land is to shout "whooooo! parteeee!"

Two hours of enduring such at Bondi for white sands, warm sea, and surfer-ogling before heading back home to decompress from the cramped crowded crap is one thing. The thought that we have signed up for three nights at a b&b in the midst of this, extending the experience like a bad tape loop, has me in spiritual hives, especially after the sublimity of the first leg of our trip.

I was hoping it was only because it was Melbourne Cup day. Our hosts steered us to Lower Hastings Street for lunch, where we were assaulted by club/bar/restaurant after club/bar/restaurant with sound system at top volume and the nattering nyahhh-hah-hah-hahhhhs of blonde toothpicks whose IQs barely equalled the height of their stilettos. We ran through sonic booms of bullshit cutesiepie danciepoo 80s/90s pop ("Groove Is In The Heart" and every song afterward by anyone else since they all sound the same, punctuated by INXS's identical song they re-did throughout that vapid era)**, eventually in desperation stopping in a strip mall and a TGI-Fridays-ish rubbish diner called Hogs Breath Cafe or something and an either hungover or extremely dim waiter haggardly attempted to be charmingwackyzany and take our order. Then we did the main beach (may as well have been Bondi), as the allegedly less-crowded one to the side was sandless as the tide came in.

Then back to the b&b to lie in bed (there was nothing else to do) until dinnertime, when we skulked back down to that horrid strip to see the crowd had thinned but several spots were still blasting out music - the blocks-spanning loudest now a terrible, terrible cover band doing unrecognisable-for-the-first-two-minutes renditions of terrible, terrible songs. We fled beachward and found better(looking) restaurants filled with exhausted Melbourne Cup bimbos and himbos staggering about, and families with children banging implements on the table, said little miracle angels also knocking over their high-sugar ice creams ("hey, you were so tired a second ago, where'd ya get that second wind?"), tugging on skirts and tablecloths and yowling to go home as, in the spot we eventually settled for, and at the table next to us, a BoganDad taught his son that the current Prime Minister's name is "Julia Ghoolia" ("haw haw haw I learnt that from Murdochian hate radio, mayyyyyte, I was taught to think for myself and I obey") as his vapid blonde wife babbled on about how inappropriately drunk which friends of theirs had been at various events.

By this point the low-level headache that had started yesterday had for some reason become a screamer (buzzing louder even than the contest the table-next's children's who-can-howl-louder contest). The moment I noticed Nick had finished, I bolted for the cashier, paid, and we fled b&bward. I then hid under the blankets, as I plan to do for the remainder of the time we are in Noosa, aside from any sidetrips as far from it as possible that we might engage in.

Friday we head back to Byron Bay, Bangalow, and our friends' friends' bucolic safe-haven rainforest retreat of Revelwood. It's 3.05am Wednesday as I type, so that's what, 30 or so hours left? If I fill enough with sleep/under-the-blankies time, I might live to see it.
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* I cannot even say "anglo civilisation's" anymore, as with the rise of wealthsucker mentality in the Persian Gulf, India and China they're doing the same damned thing, which means all humanity sucks and we can stop gibbering on about how shallow is The West.

** I no longer ever want to hear anything about boo-hoo-that-wicked-Baby-Boom cramming its musical taste down our innocent throats nonstop; Generation X (as marketers tagged & controlled it) is far the worse in its monolithic infantilism and refusal to let go of its idealised golden-tat era of youth).

November 14th, 2010

Foul failed me; I have been neglectful in organising my notes on our trip of a week ago up through Byron Bay and Noosa. So let us Wayback-Machine ourselves to 1 November, aaaaaand:)

We arrived at Revelwood in Binna Burra … outside Bangalow … outside Byron. It's a new(-ish) retreat owned by friends of friends, just getting up and running. Its main focus is, it's a gay noodie resort. I tend to mistrust hardcore nudist sorts; often like anti-male-circumsion people they can get quite obsessive and creepy about their cause (and usually it isn't so much a moral crusade as just gilding on a fetish). These blokes however were nice, down-to-earth sorts who just happened to be happier around the house and garden nekkid (a trait I somewhat share, at least around the dacha) and a bit more into the woo end of the bucolic gay pool, which is fine by me. One of their mums was visiting, so between that and a cooler downturn in the weather, everyone was comfortably clothed most of the time anyway (morning yoga-postures by the pool by one of them aside).

And besides, from very early on my own occasional bouts of meditative/Buddhist/zen/woo-in-general surfaced, along with the joyous country-poofery of my Paso Robles days, and I settled right in. This, I thought, could definitely be the spot to hang out (so to speak), centre, relax, dry out, &c &c.

Wonderful, secluded, up a dirt road off a long windy drive, the property is all restored rainforest (with a smidgen of actual old rainforest in as well) planted 20 years ago and thus really starting to kick in - ecosysteming out, attracting and protecting native species of all sorts. I very very quickly went troppo-woo-native.

After arrival late Sunday afternoon we wandered the retreat. After perching by a point at its creek that seemed platypus-likely to no avail (heard a suspicious splash as I approached though) , we had dinner down at the local Bangalow Hotel; the town itself is a nice little strip of shops both cute and functional, like a town created by folks who wanted to live there and so made exactly what they wanted and accidentally created a bucolic tourist spot, as opposed to the self-conscious faux-artsy one often finds in such places. The dinner was quite good. We went back and I went to bed soon after; Nick stayed up a bit chatting with the owners and their young German houseboy who's there on some sort of international gay traveler volunteer something something.

Next morning Nick did the platypus vigil - by now we were told that at that spot are one or two big turtles as well, so that was probably the splashes we'd heard and ripples we'd seen. Oh well, that spot - a little clearing down by where the creek widens a bit - was serene and magical anyway, plat sighting or no.

We took a bit of a drive around the territory. Into Byron Bay proper to see the big(-ger) town. Not as beautiful-quaint as Bangalow, but a solid clunky fun little coastal town, plenty for tourists but still feeling functionally local too, like the best of small central coast California. I think I realised this was still a Real Place (accusations of over-commercialisation be damned) when my shopping gene kicked in and I decided to start rebuilding my old SLO County days' relaxed semi-woo rural wardrobe, and bought a colourful patched-up beach-bum shirt from a beachside shack complex housing three quite similar beach/summer/countrywoo-who-gives-a-damn-I-like-it-wear clothing shops. I examined the shirt. No price tag. I took it to the counter where a bangled, sundressed, frizzled-haired, relaxed woman sat chatting with several friends.

"Do you know the price of this shirt?" I asked her.
"Yes," she said. A wry smile played at the corners of her mouth and she said no more. As someone who often does this to people who ask me if I know the time, I went along with it realising it was my turn.
"… might you tell me?" I delivered the punchline. She told me, I bought it, I was in locational love.

The shopping gene well and truly kicked in. Nick, who'd been smirking at the items of clothes I'd been ogling, had, whilst I was engaged in the above transaction, begun rifling through the cramped racks himself. Between this store and the one right next to it we walked off with two pair tie-at-the-waist hippie pants, and I had my shirt plus two garish tropical Hawaiian-ish shirts - the opening shot of reconstruction of my once-treasured collection which vanished long ago, probably in the fogs of '95-96 when I sold or gave away all and fled to Prague.

Then to the nude gay beach. Nick had found the listing for a nude gay beach. It was cloudy and not that hot any longer, but Nick wanted to go to this nude gay beach. So we went to the nude gay beach. It was suitably desolate and empty and nature-y for me, and with rainforest around it with mysterious trails in the woods behind the beach which were obviously used for sexually nefarious purposes, as well as wandering having a good time looking at twisted vine-covered trees. I went tree-peeping; Nick chatted up a nude gay man. I went back to the towels and sprawled out to nap. Nick soon returned, we headed off to elevate our chi at an undiscovered - at least by the outside world (which is great about Australia, so much is here but it's so distant for most tourists that the best bits aside from Sydney and the Barrier Reef are left alone) - anyway, a gem of woo called the Crystal Castle.

Apparently some rich mining fellow went all holistic and crystally whilst making bamillions in Brazil, and bought this huge swath of territory in the Byron region (with the help of a financial advisor who was a "bikie & bank manager" - I love woobucolia), which he proceeded to stuff full of huuuuuge chunks of various crystals (I'm talking VW-sized rose quartz, &c) and big Booodist and Hindoo statues. Garden'd up a storm, began restoring the rainforest in the big realm he'd bought. Oddly, it's not a retreat centre or anything; the building complex is just a big cafe and shops full of rocks and gnu age stuff (the bookstore alas is Bad Woo - no real original or academic Buddhist/Hindoo texts-histories-summaries to be found, it's all Deepak Chopra and aura books and such … the only disappointment there). But any "haw haw haw yew fayyyke" blustery look-at-me smirks faded when I noticed the immense amount of charities this place is funding (and really funding - not taking a hug dollop off the top and sending off a pittance). Schools for orphans and street kids all over the world, Tibetan schools to keep its language and culture alive in exile, and of course kilometres and kilometres of Australian rain forest restoration. I give a hearty thumbs up to the place, as shallowly its woo may go (though I want the VW-sized rose quartz chunk: gimme).

We walked the grounds - had my pic taken with a big friendly Ganesh statue, my favourite bodhisattva Avalokitesvara, all that. Through the restored rain forest, through still-being-restored areas, then attempted to loot the gift shop (my shopping-gene chakra having been opened wide as related above) but aside from a rock or two nothing really intrigued.

Then back to Revelwood and - praise be the visiting mum - an authentic homecooked Indian dinner (she being originally from southern India). A complete and utter nomfest. More relaxation, reading, and bed - alas, with the cloud cover, no immense infinite starfield was visible that night, unlike the night before when one could've read Blake to the universe and utterly believed one had traipsed into Infinity. I could feel all the tensions of the stupid lout-loud world slaking off like outgrown unholy scales.

Next morning - brilliant sunshine! Warmth! But no more Revelwood for us for now - we were to head off to the next leg of our road trip, north past the Queensland border toward Noosa and points thereabouts.

Luckily, I was up early enough to head down to the grove and creek and widened-reflective-pool bit, sit down, and just … well, sit. Alone, me and and the trees and the everwarming sun and whatever the hell was burbling about in the calmer wide bits of the stream (along with the occasional fish jumping up to catch a low-flying bug). I was probably feeling the best I've felt in ages - better-grounded, clear-headed, and suncharged - if not utterly centred and Buddhified. Still, moved myself a bit closer back into my skin and realtime-awareness.

Then back to the house to pack and head Noosaward. Hopefully more peace and quiet and bucolic woocalm might lurk there.

(to be continued &c &c)
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