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Tuesday, December 22, 2009

Friday, December 18, 2009

Deb Talan - Ashes on your eyes

"Now you're only dreaming peaceful blue..."

Why don't people this talented earn banker's salaries? Just as Alice says in her adventures through the looking glass, "it would be so nice if something made sense for a change."

Thank you to Antonia for the recommendation.

Wednesday, December 02, 2009

The Liberals "unite" behind their new leader

Love the guy who cuts someone's head off and then just walks around aimlessly.

Tony Abbott somehow elected as leader of the Australian Liberal Party

In a bizarre intra-party ballot reminiscent of France's 2002 Presidential election bungle which left voters with a choice between right-wing Chirac and ultra right wing Le Pen, Australia's opposition party, the Liberal Party, has elected an anti-abortion, anti-stemcell research, pro "at-fault" divorce, climate change denying, John Howard-loving, outspoken socially conservative Catholic.

A sad day for Australia as a forward-moving nation. 1950s values, here we come. Please excuse me now, it's time for me to go salute the Queen...

Regina Spektor - Samson

Having had a trawl around a couple of music websites, I am none the wiser as to what this song is about.

Some internauts suggest that it is a love song about one of Spektor's lovers who died of cancer (the link apparently being that "Wonderbread" is a type of medication used to ease the suffering of those undergoing radiation therapy). On the other hand, there are some who suggest the song is a love song written from the perspective of the prostitute who, according to the Bible, is supposed to have spent a night with Samson of Samson and Delilah fame before he went on to meet Delilah (cute, but a little too literal perhaps?). Others have even suggested that the song is about the love shared between two woman ("The Bible doesn't mention us, not even once").

Whatever it's about, the imagery is definitely evocative. It touches me. And for what it's worth, I am fine with not fully understanding why.

Through my Internet travels, I came across the following comment from one fan:

"What are you supposed to do after you hear a song like that [other] than play it again, and hope [that] you die soon so you're happy."

Ok. So, I'm probably not quite ready to die over this song yet, but as a homage to the truth of the fact that music has the power to take you to the happiest place you will ever have the chance to visit, it's genius.

Wednesday, November 18, 2009

Tick Tick Tick: Climate Change Campaign

As we get closer to the 2009 Climate Change Conference in Copenhagen in December, it's time to get involved and let your local government members know that you're expecting more to come out of Copenhagen than a happy snap of Kevin Rudd with Princess Mary.

There is no reason why the foundations cannot be laid in Copenhagen for an internationally binding agreement on climate change.

Former Secretary of the UN, Kofi Annan, has put his support behind a campaign to mobilise people to pressure their politicians for a fair, binding and global deal on climate change in Copenhagen. Midnight Oil have lent their song Beds are Burning to the campaign. Check out the video below, then visit the website, and get involved. It's really easy to participate. Talk about the campaign with your family. Speak about it with your friends. Post the website as your facebook status. As Kofi says, "The issue is too important to leave to politicians alone."

Here are three easy things you can do:

1. Sign up as a climate change ally on the website.
2. Write a letter to your local political leader.
3. Let your friends and family know about the campaign.

Ane Brun - Don't Leave

I went to see Ane Brun last night at Cafe de la Danse. Standing in front of a floodlit stone wall and backed by what she referred to as her "Diamonds", 3 Swedish/Norwegian elf-like musicians, the Norwegian singer shared what was almost two hours of pure un-manufactured honesty with a packed Parisian crowd.

I chanced upon Ane Brun's second album about 4 years ago in a Paris record shop. One of those, "geez this is good" moments. The clarity of that voice, and the honesty of her lyrics. I bought it straight away. Her songs have travelled around with me on my ipod ever since.

A lot of Brun's songs seem to be about love, or lovers, or loving. "This next song is a bit of a bitter sweet love song", Brun remarked last night before smiling and adding ironically, "...which is a bit of a change for me".

I heard this particular song for the first time last night and was transfixed. I wasn't the only one. When she finished singing, eyes closed, head to one side and one hand raised, we held our breath for what must have been 10 seconds. We stood there in shared silence, a room full of people, stood in stillness, while the air-conditioning unit gently hummed. It was as if to clap was to break the spell, to signal the end of that moment, to acknowledge the end of something unusually special, something that is normally so unattainable to us. To breath was to admit the return of our own very attainable reality.

I've included the lyrics here, because I really believe they are special. I love the simplicity of her imagery. Here, Love is not a gushing impetuous superlative-laden blockbuster declaration of undying and untempered adoration. Love is a hand next to yours on the couch. You can hold it if you like.

Don’t ever leave
That is what you asked of me
do you know what it means
when you plead?

Don’t you ever leave
that is what you said to me
do you know what that can do
to someone like me?

It won’t do us no good
it won’t do us no good

I have no plan to be
anywhere else to but here
or to become someone that leaves
I didn’t even know there was an exit here
darling, don’t you try
to capture me

it won’t do us no good
it won’t do us no good

I am here now
I’m right here by your side
I’ll lay my hand on the couch next to you
you can hold it if you would like to

it will do you good

Wednesday, November 11, 2009

Painted Face

The Lucardo Effect

What is The Lucardo Effect? It is not accepting the easy option, venturing one town further than you want to, into the unknown, with nothing to guide you but belief. It is battling the darkness when your faith in the light is at its most cynical. It is turning a corner and instantly having your eyes opened to rays of golden sun, finding that place you were looking for, with that view you dreamed about, and that light you always saw it in. The Lucardo Effect. Look it up.

Tuesday, November 10, 2009

Through the Studio Door

I love it when bands let you into their studio. It's such an intimate experience. It's as if you've been allowed to hang out with them for a few minutes in the underwhelming normalcy of their reality.

Without the flashing strobe lights of the concert stage, they're stripped right down. We see their wrinkles and their bed hair. We see the bassist concentrating manically on his five notes.

Best of all though, we get a glimpse of the genesis of their songs, before they were mastered and remastered by producers across the globe, and we can imagine that explosion of excitement that came with the original moment of creation. I find it's a very voyeuristic experience, like I'm watching something I wasn't quite meant to see, as if I've chanced upon some special private gathering, to which I wasn't really invited.

This is Brothers on a Hotel Bed by Death Cab for Cutie. I have mentioned how much a love this song on this blog before. The album version is silky smooth. Every sound has been digitally laboured over. By contrast, the live version in this video is raw, but I think that makes it more heartfelt. I even like that the singer is slightly out of tune every know and then.

Another cool thing about this band is that they list what musical instruments and gear they use on their websites. Why don't more bands do this?

Monday, November 09, 2009

The Patriot and the Expatriate

The Sydney Morning Herald recently published an extract from the City of Sydney lecture, which this year was given by John Pilger. Pilger, the 2009 recipient of the Sydney Peace Prize, is a multi-award winning Australian-born journalist by trade. He has lived most of his journalistic life in London. In his lecture, entitled Breaking the Australian Silence, Pilger criticises Australia's continued involvement in Afghanistan, our continued acceptance of the existence of a so-called "war on terror", our previous involvement in Iraq under the Howard Government, and our present "tough line" on asylum seekers. Pilger bemoans the hypocrisy of our national leadership. More disturbingly however, Pilger bemoans the hypocrisy of Australia's national identity. On the one hand, we believe you should give people "a fair go". On the other, we believe that only we should be able to chose the sorts of people to whom a fair go is given. Lastly, Pilger bemoans our benign apathy for public debate, and our good-natured belief that our governments will always do the right thing.

In the following extract, Pilger describes what he perceives to be the inbuilt affinity for indifference that plagues Australia's current identity:

"One of my favourite Harold Pinter plays is Party Time. It is set in an apartment in a city like Sydney or Melbourne. A party is in progress. People are drinking good wine and eating canapes. They seem happy. They are chatting and affirming and smiling. They are very self-aware. But something is happening outside in the street, something terrible and oppressive and unjust, for which the people at the party share responsibility. There is a fleeting sense of discomfort, a silence, before the chatting and laughing resume. How many of us live in that apartment? A friend of mine is the very fine Israeli journalist Amira Hass. She went to Gaza to live and to report for her newspaper, Ha'aretz. She explained that her mother, Hannah, was being marched from a cattle train to the Nazi concentration camp at Bergen-Belsen when she saw a group of German women looking at the prisoners, just looking, saying nothing. Her mother never forgot what she called this despicable ''looking from the side''.

The suffering of the besieged people of Gaza, and of the ordinary people of Afghanistan, and of the people of Iraq, whose rapacious invader, General David Petraeus, was awarded one of Australia's highest honours in Washington on Wednesday, all lead us to the question: are we to continue to ''look from the side'', in silence?"

In Pilger's Australia, when things are good, people don't feel the need to rock the boat, even when we're awkwardly reminded that it's not always as good for some as it is for others. One might say that, viewed through the prism of Australia's relative and largely ever-increasing affluence, the "she'll be right" approach has served us pretty well. But for Pilger, Australia's perception of itself as an inclusive, easy-going, fair society is a misrepresentation of a much more complicated reality.

Enter Gerard Henderson, conservative Australian newspaper columnist and Executive Director of current affairs think-tank, The Sydney Institute. In response to Pilger's lecture, Henderson has written a stinging article, again in the Sydney Morning Herald, deploring the fact that "tax payers' money" has been spent on getting someone like Pilger to speak in Sydney, and damning Pilger as an "ideologue", who is "long on conspiracy" and "short on facts" and who regularly engages in "hyperbole against Western democracies".

Granted, Pilger's lecture is provocative (for example, on asylum seekers, he writes: "How ironic; the people in those leaking boats demonstrate the kind of guts Australians are said to admire"). He even dares to attack that untouchable nucleus of the Australian identity - the ANZAC legacy ("Do the young people who wrap themselves in the flag at Gallipoli every April understand that only the lies have changed?") . However, Pilger's expatriotic lament is somewhat disturbingly reinforced by Henderson's embarrassingly defensive diatribe reminding all just how good we've got it down under. Here is Henderson's final paragraph:

"Most Australians accept that the country has been well governed - by Labor and the Coalition alike - since Federation. Pilger hears a silence because he does not want to accept that most Australians do not share his left-wing interpretation of Australian history."

There's something so irksomely unambitious about these statements. It's not even saying, "ok John, you've probably got a point to make, and it's important that you make it, but I disagree." Instead it says, "Bloody hell John, we've got it good down here, so keep you quasi pommy comments to yourself."

Jokes aside though, Henderson's article is a classic example of the clinical eradication of public debate through shaming and of the belligerent adherence to a popular Australian identity regardless of the fact that it might not be representative of all Australians. Henderson's attempt to snuff out Pilger's questioning, and the methods that he uses, illustrates the very point that Pilger seeks to underline in his lecture.

Rather than encourage debate, Henderson's comments are instantly polarising. "Most Australians accept that the country has been well governed". So if you don't think that, you can go ahead and consider yourself "Unaustralian" - one of the most stinging epithets that one can level at a compatriot. Secondly, according to Henderson, if Pilger hears a silence - i.e. a lack of well-informed debate - it is because "most Australians do not share his left-wing interpretation of Australian history". Once again, as the reader, you are forced into the intellectual corner that if you do agree with some (let alone all) of what Pilger says, the only logical conclusion is that you are a "raging leftie" - perhaps the second most offensive epithet one can level at a compatriot. The message is, if you don't agree with these statements, you have no place in our national identity.

Henderson's writing is reminiscent of Howard's swift and skillful delegitimisation of the silent minority oft-used during his time in government. If you don't like the way things are done, (which most of us do by the way), then you're probably not fitting in properly.

For Pilger, the lack of "questioning" in Australia is indicative of the limited nature of the national curiosity for Australia's advancement, of a fear to speak out against the convenient two dimensional flag-waving, two up playing, sport worshiping patriotism of the deceivingly nebulous and ill-defined caucus of "most Australians". For Henderson, the lack of debate is indicative - quite simply - of a lack of any need for a debate. For Henderson, if there's no debate, it's because everyone agrees. And yet his reaction to Pilger is so defensive, so dismissive. What for Pilger is the endemic and self-promulgating manipulation of an Australian cultural identity that does not represent Australians, is for Henderson simply democracy at work.

For Henderson the assumption is: We've got it pretty good. Why do we need it better?
For Pilger, it is rather: We do have it pretty good. But why can't it be better?

In his second paragraph, Henderson accuses Pilger of being an "expatriate", a man with a "deep sense of alienation with the country of his birth".

And yet I want to ask four questions: if Australian democracy is working so well, why is Pilger, a "left-wing activist journalist" still living overseas? And if he cares so little for the country of his birth, why is he bothering to ask whether it can't be better than it is? Furthermore, why is the proposition that life in Australia could still improve so offensive to Henderson? And finally, which is the more patriotic, Pilger's questioning, or Henderson's refusal to hear it?

Friday, November 06, 2009


I love this photo. I don't think I have ever seen Dad look so happy. We had lunch at a beautiful cafe overlooking the Tuscan hills in San Gimignano. Just to prove it, the second photo gives you an idea of the view. Just as I went to take the photo, a couple stopped and started kissing in the foreground. When in Rome, or Tuscany, or, well... you get the idea.

Tuscany: San Gimignano

I recently spent a week in Tuscany with my Dad. Staying in San Casciano in a small B&B, we managed to negotiate our way around the Italian roads (and their Italian drivers!) to visit Sienna, Greve, Lucardo, Florence, San Gimignano, MonteFioralli and my most favourite of all, Lucca. This photo was taken from one of San Gimignano's remaining 14 towers. There were originally 72 towers but countless seiging armies have seen them disappear. The locals are still fighting today. Granted, the issues are different. These days it's more about who makes the best gelato rather than who rules the western world. And I didn't see anyone seiging per se. But it was pretty tense all the same.

Part of me thinks ...

Monday, October 19, 2009

When You are Old

When you are old and grey and full of sleep,
And nodding by the fire, take down this book,
And slowly read, and dream of the soft look
Your eyes had once, and of their shadows deep;
How many loved your moments of glad grace,
And loved your beauty with love false or true,
But one man loved the pilgrim soul in you,
And loved the sorrows of your changing face;
And bending down beside the glowing bars,
Murmur, a little sadly, how Love fled
And paced upon the mountains overhead
And hid his face amid a crowd of stars.

- W. B. Yeats

Tuesday, October 13, 2009

Clarke and Dawe at it again

Another installment from the vault of Clarke and Dawe

Cick here or on the above image to watch.

Wednesday, September 16, 2009

A Mother's Love

A good mate of mine has been living in Japan for two years teaching maths to Japanese kids. He recently decided to move back home to Australia. His mum wrote the following poem with fridge magnets for him and left it on the fridge to welcome him home.

Monday, September 14, 2009

Moto + Belle fille = Belle fille x 5

Having joined the Parisian scooter riding world this year, I can't help but notice that girls on scooter are super sexy.

They are a special breed. There are a lot of guys charging around on their bikes, cutting people off, swerving between cars, racing each other at the lights, revving past each other in what is essentially a chest beating exercise. "My bike is bigger than yours."

Enter la belle femme, petite et douce. She's calm, she doesn't need to put on a show, there's no strutting, no puffing out of the tail feathers, no false bravado. She just is - noticed. She is noticed because she's rare. In this masculine world, she stands out all the more.

There's something about a girl in high heels on a scooter, her hair flowing out the back of her helmet as she takes off at the lights. "Ciao boys."

I say yes.

Photo courtesy of David Gault

Tuesday, September 08, 2009

Clarke and Dawe: Et tu Brutus?

Another installment from the vault of Clarke and Dawe

Cick here or on the above image to watch.

By way of background, a minister in the NSW parliament resigned after it was discovered he had had an affair with a 26 year old woman. The Premier of NSW, who is constantly under fire from people in his own party, took advantage of the opportunity to knock off one of the circling sharks. Enter Clarke and Dawe...

Thursday, September 03, 2009

Songs that make me smile

Elbow - Friend of Ours

I didn't really like this album when I first bought it, principally because I was listening to it through my ipod headphones, (the right ear doesn't produce any sound, and the left ear is pretty much just treble). A couple of days ago, I gave it another crack with my AKG recording headphones and BAM! - a world of difference. There is so much colour in this album. Yes it has some anthemic tracks, like Weather to Fly, One Day Like This and The Loneliness of a Tower Crane Driver, but for me, it is the attention to harmony that really got me fixed. This song, Friend of Ours, has a beautiful swelling violin riff, which I find just so simple and mournful. It's like a deep sigh. Can you hear the discordant brass at the end of the violin riff? Like the deft stroke of a master painter, it's so faint you don't quite know whether they meant it or not... but of course they did.

Turn the lights off, pour yourself a good red, turn it up and breath in.

Thursday, August 27, 2009

Berlin underground station

Yummy yellows, lushes lines and pretty patterns.

Berliner Mauer at Potzdamerplatz

Berlin street art

I almost walked straight past this piece of artwork on a Berlin building near the Badeschiff without seeing it. If I hadn't looked back I would have missed it.

Berlin: Crossing the wall in 2009

These photos were taken just a couple of metres from Checkpoint Charlie, one of the notorious crossing points for the Berlin wall. Throughout Berlin, the former trajectory of the wall is marked with dark brown cobble stones. Sometimes you cross it without even noticing. And yet this impenetrable stone was the source of such division for such a large part of our postwar history.

Wednesday, August 26, 2009

Macca and Seano in Paris

A couple of weeks ago Macca and Seano happened to be in Paris at the same time. Out of a feeling of obligation rather than any real desire to hang out, we had a few drinks at my place. At some point late in the night, Micaela's fandangled camera somehow became the object of obsession and the evening randomly turned into an amateur photo shoot. As you can see below, the shoot got kinda serious, I mean, Seano has evidently put thought in to that duck. You can't write that. That's art man! I think I remember channeling Andy Warhol at one point. Meanwhile, Seano was directing a Calvin Klein shoot and Micaela was doing all she could to stop her camera being accidentally dropped out of the fourth floor window.

Thursday, August 20, 2009

Sweden Bike Camping Trip

Copenhagen Harbour Festival.

It's hard to travel to Copenhagen and not feel like they know something about life that the rest of us don't. It's such a special city. Resident tour guide Markie Rodgers showed me around Copenhagen's Harbour festival. Check out the scando-style kayak polo and harbourside trampolines.

Wednesday, August 19, 2009

Les Toulonaises ne sont pas que des poubelles

Histoire drôle de mon weekend:

Je suis allé regarder le match de rugby entre Toulon et Stadt Francais à la television dans un petit bar à Grasse dans le sud de la France. Il y avait à côté de mon dans le bar un monsieur toulonais. Il était une caricature, un personnage qui aurait pas été deplacé dans un film. Gros et petit, en short beige, combination sandeles et chaussettes blanches (mais oui!) et lunettes epaisses (ben, bien sur!).

Dès le début, c'était evident pour tous ceux qui était dans le bar que le match de rugby hebdomadaire de Toulon faisait pour ce monsieur le point culminant de la semaine. Il s'est planté directement devant la télévision, bierre en main, tenu en haleine, et pendant 80 minutes il a crié, il a gesticulé, il s'est excité et surtout il a soutenu son équipe de Toulon. Chaque fois que l'arbitre trouvait une faute contre les toulonais, il s'approchait de l'écran, en hurlant que l'arbitre comprennait rien du jeu de rugby (ou meme pire). Pendant une melée il s'est tourné vers moi en disant avec son gros accent toulonais: "Ecoute ca le temple!" J'ai haussé la tête. "Normal-e-ment, j'y suis avec tous mes amis!" il a ajouté avec de la fierté.

Il était à fond dans chaque action du match - tellement tendu qu'il avait les taches de sueur sur son tshirt. Il transpirait tellement que ses lunettes glissait de son nez et du coup il était obligé de les remettre en place tous les trentes secondes en appuyant dessus avec un gros doigt index. Ce geste rapide et distinctif, qui était exageré par le fait que pour toucher son nez il avait besoin de naviger sa ventre, accompagniait la fin de chaqu'une de ses phrases, comme un point d'exclamation.

A un moment il m'a regardé avec une enorme sourire et il m'a dit, "Ma femme, je l'ai laissée à la maison moi." Epuis, gardant son sourire, et comme si pour bien mettre en valeur ce qu'il vient de dire, il a appuyé fort avec son doigt sur ses lunettes qui glissait de son nez.

Mais son meilleur commentaire c'était lorsque, pendant un moment detendu dans le match, la camera s'est fixée sur trois belles filles dans la foule. Dans la silence relative du bar, une seule voix excitée s'est levée: "T'as vu les Toulonaises?! On n'a pas que des poubelles, hein!". Excellent. Peut-être il l'a dit pour se rassurer. Peut-être c'était encore une reflection sur sa femme. Mais ce que j'adore le plus c'était l'insinuation implicite qu'en fait la plupart des Toulonaises sont justement "les poubelles".

Il fait du bien de rencontrer les pures personnages de la vie.

Retour vers le futur: Lake Tahoe

Tuesday, August 04, 2009

Paulo Coelho

"Rarely do we realize that we are in the midst of the extraordinary. Miracles occur around us, signs from God show us the way, angels plead to be heard, but we pay little attention to them because we have been taught that we must follow certain formulas and rules if we want to find God. We do not recognize that God is wherever we allow Him/Her to enter.

Traditional religious practices are important: they allow us to share with others the communal experience of adoration and prayer. But we must never forget that spiritual experience is above all a practical experience of love. And with love, there are no rules."

from By the River Piedra I sat Down and Wept

Late night guitar sessions by the open window

Well, on Friday I was knocked out with piglet flu, Saturday I moved house, and Sunday I flew to Dubai for a day. It was a hectic weekend but I'm back from Dubai and I'm looking forward to August - which in France is le mois des vacances.

One of the things I will miss about my old apartment, is the view it had over Boulevarde de Belleville, a bustling Parisian street lined with trees, muslim butchers, jewish bakers and bourgeois-bohemian cafes. I used to love to sit by the open window of my apartment late at night and feel the cool breeze on my face as I played my guitar. It was a great way to relax. I could sing to the street and know that they weren't really listening.

Special mention must go to the late night guitar sessions and unplanned drum lessons that I used to have with my flatmate, Jerome. His sensitive percussive accompaniments made whatever I was strumming sound 1000 times better. We would sit for hours weaving melody and beat, accompanied always by the ambient noise and intermittent murmuring of the sleeping city.

Photos courtesy of Micaela Campagna.

Saturday, August 01, 2009