Friday, December 30, 2011

Goodbye 2011

Well, it's been a big year. A year of change. It started with a bang. Dan Ilic and I wrote a film about gay marriage which made it into Tropfest. The first six months saw me teaching law at Sydney and Macquarie Universities. I owned a scooter in Sydney. Silver Cinder played at the Adelaide Fringe Festival and at The Vanguard before it came to its end. I worked at the Lowy Institute. And finally, I moved to a new home in Canberra to work for the Government in human rights. Along the way I fell in love with the writing of Frederick Buechner... and there's more to do there. I bought a piano and set up a home studio... and there's more to do there as well.

There'll be more musing and whining next year, but for now, thank you to those random selection of people around the world who continue to read this blog. I hope it serves some purpose for you, as I know it does for me. For now though, have a great New Year.

In the words of my old friend Eric Demay: Don't settle. Stay young. Stay foolish.

Thursday, December 15, 2011

Men Who Swim



I recently saw this beautiful little documentary about a group of middle-aged men/misfits in Stockholm look for meaning in their lives by joining a synchronised swimming team. The documentary follows the lives of the team-members as they train for the inaugural All-male Synchronised Swimming World Championships.

This film snuck up on me. At first it seems like a fairly eccentric look at the life of an ex-pat (Welshman and Director Dylan Williams) in Sweden who is seeking to make sense of everything around him as he arrives at middle-age disappointed and frustrated at his hitherto lack of success/fulfilment. However, as the the documentary rolled on, I found myself drawn into the lives of these men - ordinary men, all seeking something extra-ordinary.

The beauty of this film lies in its celebration of the small everyday struggles and victories that life offers up to each of us. The loss of a job. The rueing of youth past. The unexpectedly expensive vet bill. The finding of love. The film holds up these little moments as having one incredibly special thing in common - they are present moments. Through synchronised swimming, this group of men - men who up until now have either looked expectedly to the future, or ruefully to the past for meaning - learn to find meaning in the present moments of their lives.

The trailer doesn't do the film justice at all and the film's distribution is a little sketchy, but if you manage to catch Men Who Swim on a shelf in a dvd store, it's well worth a watch.

Reminiscing...

Have just been looking over this blog and some of the posts that I've put up here over the last 5 years. I feel like I haven't written anything meaningful for weeks now. I don't know what it is. I just don't feel like posting. Don't feel like commenting. Don't feel like listening to my life.

I even had a draft post about Paul Keating's leadership capabilities ready to go... but I can't bring myself to finish it.

Ah - where is the muse?

Braidwood

Photos from the recent day-trip to Braidwood, a little gold-mining town just outside of Canberra. Old antique shops, crazy bush ranging ancestors, boiled lolly shops, a well populated Gallipoli monument, three churches and - my favourite - the local town cultural hub, the "national" theatre.

Nord-tastic.

I've been looking at buying a keyboard for about 3 years. I've tried acoustic uprights, grand pianos, electric pianos - the lot. I finally pulled the trigger on the Nord Stage 2 last weekend. It has been mind-blowingly awesome. If you've ever played one, or have heard of what they offer, you'll know what I mean. My little studio is coming together.

The immediate plan is to record a few songs that have been kicking around in my head and see what happens from there. Stay tuned...

Australian Summer Sky





Road to Braidwood from Canberra

Thursday, November 24, 2011

Global Financial Crisis?

The Australian Dollar is now below parity with the US.

The front page of the Sydney Morning Herald reads : GFC II on its way

The Economist has published an article looking at the world in 2012 which basically says, "Don't expect much."

Two articles in today's Le Monde are titled: "Laughing in the face of unemployment" and "Sharehousing: A way of life".

Going down.

Sunday, November 20, 2011

Husky

How do you find new music that you love?

For me, I feel like you can't really choose to find music that you love. It doesn't work like that. Sure, you can go off the recommendations of your friends, or trawl through your favourite record shop. But really beautiful music, music that marks you, music that curls up, inextricably, inside your happiest memories; there's a sense in which you don't find that type of music. It finds you. It comes to you, I believe, as a gift. [And it need not be music! The same can be said for the experience of finding love, or more accurately, being found by love. How many times do we dress up and put on our best smiles in the hope of finding the one, only to be found when we least expect it?]

I'll never forget sitting in the living room of my apartment in Paris when Stephane plugged his iPod into our system. "You 'ave to listen to zees guys", he said. I was instantly blown away. Two weeks later, I bought tickets to see "zees guys" play at La Cigale in Montmartre. They were supported by the then-unknown-to-me St Vincent. During their set, they casually brought out Feist to help sing that song that Stephane had played me two weeks earlier. It was a concert by which all other concerts that I attend are now measured. "zees guys" were, of course, Grizzly Bear. Their music touched me then, and I cannot listen it now without thinking of the very first time I heard them in that Paris living room all those years ago.

Well... I first heard of Melbourne band Husky through Triple J. So accustomed to filtering out the bad teenie-rock, heavily-synthed-pop and over-friendly dj banter that plague that radio station, Husky's music cut through. It was transporting. I had to know more about them.

It turns out Husky have just released their first album. The below clip is a video posted on their website which documents the making of the album in their make-shift home studio. The video is set to the final track on that album, a song called "Farewell (In 3 parts)". I have listened to it pretty much non-stop for the last week. It is achingly beautiful.

The nervous admission of, "There's a lot we didn't say, wasn't there, Josephine?"

And the devastating truth of the final line: "If you sleep to long the world might wake up without you."

Can't wait to hear more from these guys.

Enjoy.
 

Wednesday, November 09, 2011

Shut down. Fit in.

Tuesday, November 01, 2011

Hey cuz. Hey bro.

New Zealand's anti drink driving advertisements have come a long way over the years.

Not sure if any of you remember the "Drunk Uncle" ad, but it certainly seemed to break through just about every shock barrier in an attempt to get people's attention. It certainly begged the question, if they have to show a small child being thrown against a wall and then slumping lifeless to the floor in order to get people's attention, how bad is New Zealand's drinking problem?

Well, if this latest anti drinking advertisement is anything to go by, it appears things have improved a little in the land of the long white cloud. It's practically a short film festival entry.

Check it out.

Ps. Is it just me, or does it sound like they are taking the piss with their accents? Deadset, he sounds like Rangi from Footrot Flats.
Pps. I resisted the temptation to write "taking the puss" above... which is commendable.
Ppps. But then I gave in.

Monday, October 31, 2011

First Aid Kit - The Lion's Roar

Loving this song by Swedish sister-duo First Aid Kit. (There's something in the water in Sweden at the moment. Some sort of musical elixir).

I had a quick look around at their other stuff. It seems like they are making the transition from acoustic guitar to full band. Good on 'em. I have to say, I sort of feel like these guys would be a bit disappointing live. That's not a very nice thing to say, I know. There's just something summery, epic and very "studio'd" about this song. I'm not sure they'd be able to capture it live. Anyway, if you're interested, they're going to be out in Australia in 2012, playing Golden Plains Festival and Womad, along with a bunch of side shows. Maybe they'll prove me wrong.

Enjoy.

Thursday, October 27, 2011

Bref

This is so good.

Great acting. Great writing. And a style all of its own.

Best of all, in under 2 minutes, it manages to tell a genuine story with 3-dimensional characters that you actually care about, something most films fail to achieve in 2 hours.

The very matter of fact description of their relationship: "On couche ensemble, épuis elle s'en va..." is beautifully juxtaposed against the ever-so-slightly rueful line at the cat's funeral: "J'avais jamais demandé si elle avait d'autres amis."

Nice one.

You can check out other videos in this series at the Canal + website.

Veuillez installer Flash Player pour lire la vidéo

Friday, October 21, 2011

The last Silver Cinder burns out


It's with some sadness that I must report the end of a significant chapter in my life.

Last night, Tamara and I decided to put our little musical project Silver Cinder to bed. It's been quite a journey. From our first performance in small café in Nowra, with an overly loud and slightly out-of-tune acoustic guitar, to the addition of violins and bass and performances at The Basement and The Vanguard in Sydney. It's been a wild ride.

In many ways, much of who I am and what I'm about has been tied up in Silver Cinder over the last two years. I was so invested in it. So it's a strange feeling to now let it go. It feels a bit like something important has slipped away. The memories can never be taken away - sure - but they have also now moved into a past that can never be recreated. Those memories are at there most vivid now. But from this point onwards, their only journey is to become progressively distant. And there's something sad in that. That said, it's also exciting. Who knows what may come out of the ashes (sorry!).

So much energy goes into being in a band. You deliberate over every lyric, every chord, every venue, every crowd reaction, every seeming open door, and you mourn every missed opportunity, every bung note, every regret and every set back. It's perhaps for this reason that it's both the most rewarding and the most frustrating thing that I've ever done in my life.

Anyway, I had so much fun playing. Our goal was to make beautiful music that moved people. And I think that more often than not, we managed to do that.  Thank you to every one of you who ever came to see us, or gave us encouragement. You helped to keep us going!

In his Letters To A Young Poet, Rainer Maria Rilke writes:
"This most of all: ask yourself in the most silent hour of your night: must I write? Dig into yourself for a deep answer. And if this answer rings out in assent, if you meet this solemn question with a strong, simple “I must,” then build your life in accordance with this necessity."
For me, I know that when it comes to music, I must. The only question now, is "what". Time to live those questions into answers.

Tuesday, October 18, 2011

Frederick Buechner is not a religious writer

"The term gives me the creeps," the novelist-essayist-poet-theologian said this week from his home in Vermont. "It means to me obvious, preachy, unrealistic. I don't think I'm a religious writer at all in that sense." Instead, he has aimed in a six-decade writing career "to see the world as it is, to be as honest as possible with the representation of life as I've known it all these years."

For Buechner, the world is all flesh and spirit, humanness and holiness he has richly portrayed in an assortment of characters. There's Leo Bebb, an unctuous preacher who turns out to be something of a redeeming figure, a surprising stage on which God performs. There's Godric, a pirate turned priest from the 11th century, a real-life monk who was eventually named a saint. As imagined by Buechner in a novel nominated for the Pulitzer Prize, Godric is racked with lust and doubts, but no less longing for God.

"In everything I write, I try to give a doubt a voice," Buechner said. "There's always a question mark, a shadow. I never pretended faith was easy. It's not so much a conscious effort to decide whether it's true or not, but the task of living in this world raises the question." Saints and sinners are not opposites in Buechner's stories, essays and memoirs. They are the same people. They are like real humans, that is, and Buechner is comfortable being human.

"Lucky is he who is flawed and recognizes he's flawed," he said. "There's a better chance to see things the way things really are, including themselves. They're not living on automatic pilot."

Buechner, now 85, grew up in a family "without any religious sensibility," but came to belief just as his writing star was rising in 1950s New York. He earned a degree from Union Theological Seminary and was ordained as a Presbyterian minister. He never held a pulpit, but he taught religion at Philips Exeter Academy of New Hampshire before returning to full-time writing in the early 1960s.

"Words are my ministry," he has said.

Among his literary parishioners is Dale Brown, a professor of English at King College in Bristol, Tenn. Before moving there last year, Brown taught at Calvin College in Michigan for 20 years, where he directed the annual Festival of Faith and Writing. He had struck up a long-distance friendship with Buechner, and had come to regard Buechner as a mentor.

Three years ago, Brown visited King College for a sabbatical, researching and writing a book about Buechner. Along the way, he planted a seed for what is now called the Buechner Institute. The institute will be inaugurated on Monday at the college, with a program that includes three seminars, a concert by Christian singer-songwriter Michael Card, and an evening interview featuring Buechner and theologian Walter Brueggemann.

"I admire (Buechner's) work not just because he's a really great artist, but has a deep understanding of faith," Brown said this week. "He kind of fills the space between secularism and sectarianism. In our area, I hope the institute can be a place that invites people from a lot of different perspectives. We want to encourage a conversation that does not involve setting up walls." Brown is planning monthly events and a future research center where scholars and artists can explore "the intersection of faith and culture," to echo Buechner's work.

"I'm touched by the honor they do me," Buechner said. This is his first contact with the college. "I'd love to see (the institute) explore other writers who work the same territory I do," the author said, naming the late Flannery O'Connor and Cormac McCarthy, author of "No Country for Old Men," among them. This territory, as he calls it, "pays attention to the thin places," those moments when the boundaries between heaven and earth, between physical and spiritual almost evaporate, when "an event that seems very unimportant becomes transparent to mystery, to holiness."

Paying attention: that's not only Buechner's calling card. That's his advice. "Henry James said writers are those on whom nothing is lost," he said. "Try to be someone on whom nothing is lost. Watch where you go, watch what memories see you through."

Thursday, October 13, 2011

The Swell Season



I can't wait to see this film, a documentary following the The Swell Season as they deal with the fame and success that came their way thanks to the Academy Award winning film Once. The film also follows the relationship between Markéta Irglová and Glen Hansard. The couple's art-imitating-life relationship has been much publicised, if not by the press, then by the couple's second album, Strict Joy, which followed their relationship and subsequent break up, and included lyrics such as:

"Ok, we're not what I'd promised you we would become. But maybe it's a question of how much you'd really want. Have you had enough? There's plenty more where that came from now." 
Check out the trailer.



The reviews so far have described the film as being "raw", "honest", "truthful". I'm not surprised. Having seen The Swell Season perform at the Sydney Opera House, I have witnessed the almost religious power of Glen Hansard's charisma first hand. I suspect you could just leave a camera on Glen all day and it would make a pretty watchable film.

I distinctly remember the way in which Glen dealt with a particularly vocal audience member who was shouting out during one of Glen's inter-song stories. In the midst of that concert the interjection seemed so... vulgar. Like someone calling out in church for the minister to get on with it. Glen simply stopped what he was doing, turned to face the man, looked at him and said, "C'mon now". Then he went back into his story. It was so great. There was no confrontation or anger. No security required. And it wasn't patronising. The way he said it, it was more like he had said, "What are you doing there? Just relax. It's all going to be ok. I know you're there. But I'm here now. So just relax."

Hansard is intensely watchable. His skill lies in his ability to lay himself completely bare before this audience. There isn't an ounce of pretence in what he is doing. And in today's world, that's rare. Audiences recognise it when they see it. They recognise that rareness in him. And they flock to it. Just to be in its presence for a while. That's special enough.

That's why I can't wait to see this film.

Wednesday, October 12, 2011

Like shooting fish in a barrel...

I feel slightly bad about posting this. It's not exactly the sort of seriously high-brow high-IQ life-reflection commentary that you're all used to, I know. But it made me laugh out loud. I don't think it's genuine, but the premise is great.

"Where do I get a barrel? This is 2011 now..."

Tuesday, October 11, 2011

Dear Friends - Elbow



I am completely and utterly in love with this song at the moment. The final track off Elbow's newish album Build a Rocket Boys, it again takes as its theme the loss of Bryan Glancy, a Manchester singer-songwriter and a great friend of the band, whose death also inspired many of the songs on their breakthrough album The Seldom Seen Kid.

I was travelling back to Canberra from Kiama this weekend, navigating the hairpin roads that cross the mountains that lie either side of the Kangaroo Valley. This song was playing in the car as the wind took thousands of petals from the white cherry blossom trees that lined the road, and tossing them up into the sky, brought them back to earth in a fragrant snow storm around the car. I was the only one there. It was a  special gift for one.

Anyway, this version of Dear Friends was performed and recorded for a Dutch radio station. There are definitely arty-er, more vimeo-esque clean-cut videos of this song out there, but I feel like this is a great performance. Something special happens in the room about halfway through. You can sense it in the look Guy gives at 3.01. The drummer starts moving his shoulders slightly more. Guy Garvey gets more animated. The violinists can't stop smiling. I feel like Guy may have been hung over, and dreading the early morning performance - a promotional pit stop on a long tour across Europe. It's almost as if they didn't expect it to be magical.

But then they just couldn't help it. The music was stronger.

ps. The Dutch radio host also brought a nostalgic smile to my face. "They did it."
pps. Sorry about the ads. Close them as quickly as possible. The video replays without ads.

Friday, October 07, 2011

Steve Jobs 1955 - 2011



“I’m convinced that the only thing that kept me going was that I loved what I did. You’ve got to find what you love. And that is as true for your work as it is for your lovers. Your work is going to fill a large part of your life, and the only way to be truly satisfied is to do what you believe is great work. And the only way to do great work is to love what you do. If you haven’t found it yet, keep looking. Don’t settle. As with all matters of the heart, you’ll know when you find it. And, like any great relationship, it just gets better and better as the years roll on. So keep looking until you find it. Don’t settle.” 
- Steve Jobs, 2005.

Don't settle. Stay Hungry. Stay Foolish.

Thanks to Eric Demay.

Wednesday, October 05, 2011

A first love...

I don't think I have ever read a more beautiful or truthful description of the experience of falling in love for the very first time than this one.

It is, of course, Frederick Buechner.

"It was towards the end of that second year in Bermuda that I received what may have been the greatest of the gifts the island gave, without any clear idea of what it was I was receiving, or that anybody had ever received the likes of it before.

She was a girl my age [11], with a mouth that turned up at the corners. If we ever spoke about anything of consequence, I have long since forgotten it. I have forgotten the colour of her eyes. I have forgotten the sound of her voice. But one day at dusk, we were sitting side by side on a crumbling stone wall watching the ferries go by, when no less innocently than the time I'd reached up to the bust of Venus [de Milo] under my grandfather's rattish gaze, our bare knees happened to touch for a moment. And in that moment I was filled with such a sweet panic and anguish, of longing for I wasn't sure what, that I knew my life could never be complete until I found it.

'Difference of sex no more we knew than our guardian angels do', as John Donne wrote. And in the ordinary sense of the word no love could have been less erotic. But it was the heavenly eros, in all its glory none the less, there's no question about that. The upward reaching and fathomlessly hungering, heart-breaking love. For the beauty of face formed flesh, for the beauty of earth and sky, for the beauty of the world at its most beautiful - and beyond that. For that beauty east of the sun and west of the moon, which is passed the reach of all but our most distant desiring. And its finally the beauty of beauty itself - of being itself - and of what lies at the heart of being.

Like all children, I had been brought up till then primarily on the receiving end of love. My parents loved me, as did my grandparents, and a handful of others maybe. And I had accepted their love the way a child does, as part of the givenness of things, and responded to it the way a cat purrs when you pat it. But now for the first time I was myself the source and giver of love so full and rich that I couldn't possibly have expressed it to that girl whose mouth turned up at the corners, even if I'd had the courage to try.

And let anyone who dismisses such feelings as puppy love, silly love be set straight. Because I suspect that rarely if ever again in our lives does Eros touch us in such a distilled and potent form as when we are children and have so little in the way of experience, wisdom, prudence to dilute it. I loved her more than I knew how to say, even to myself. Whether in any way she loved me in return I neither knew, nor as far as I can remember was particularly concerned to discover. Just to love her was all I asked. Eros itself, even pinged with the sadness of knowing that I could never fully find on sea or earth or sky whatever it was I longed for, was gift enough.

And then, as unforeseeably as it had begun, it ended. On the first of September, Hitler's armies invaded Poland. On the third, England and France declared war on Germany. The rumour soon spread that the Germans had plans to capture Bermuda for a submarine base and all Americans were asked to leave. It happened very suddenly. And in the haste and confusion of it, I never knew when she left or had a chance to say goodbye. The Monarch and the Queen [boats] were painted grey for camouflage, and on one or the other of them, with the portals blacked out with no one allowed so much as to smoke a cigarette on deck after dark, we set sail for a reality that we were forced with the rest of the world to face at last. Whatever reality is.

...

In that never never land, that 'Oz' of an island, where we had no roots, I found for the first time a sense of being rooted. In that land where as a foreigner we could never belong, I found a sense of belonging. In that most frivolous place, which travel brochures billed as a vacationer's paradise, I made what was perhaps the least frivolous discovery up till then, which was that Love is not merely a warmth to bask in, like the boatloads of honeymooners who basked on the warmth of Coral Beach, but a grave, fierce yearning and reaching out for paradise itself - a losing and finding of the self in the paradise of another."

Thursday, September 22, 2011

At the watercooler




A product of a lazy Wednesday night.

Thursday, September 15, 2011

Binary Heart

Wednesday, September 14, 2011

Missing the Point

Monday, September 12, 2011

A Room Called Remember

The name I name it by



"Mrs Taylor was the one who vastly increased my dominion over the earth and its creatures by teaching me the art of naming them. It wasn't until years later that I learned what a fatal art that is. Because if on the one hand to name a thing is to be able to address it, to appropriate it, to have a way of understanding it, it is on the other hand to erect a barrier between yourself and it that only on the rarest, most inspired occasions, you are able to surmount again.

Now that thanks to Mrs Taylor I can name a tree as a tree, what I see when I look at it is less than it actually is, than simply, the name I name it by.

When I was a child, what I saw when I looked at a tree was something as naked in its mystery as I was naked in mine. Yet I thank her anyway, if she hadn't taught me the name, somebody else would have, and probably not half so well."

Looking Back and Looking Deep

"Memory is more than a looking back to a time that is no longer", says Frederick Buechner. "It's a looking deep into another kind of time altogether."



I have recently spent a fair amount of time on buses, in particular, traveling the three hour journey up and down the road between Canberra and Sydney. As strange as it may sound, I have always loved lengthy trips. Whether it be the six hour bus ride between Montréal and New York, the four hour train trip between Paris and the Hague, or the twenty-four hour plane journey from Australia to Europe, I've never resented these journeys. Much less, I've cherished them.

You might be thinking, "Big deal, I love traveling too. It doesn't mean we all have to blog about it." And you'd be right. But when it comes to these trips, it's not so much the act traveling, but the "being travelled" aspect that I love. It's the passiveness of it, the idea of sedentary movement. In a world in which we so often place ourselves at the centre of things, where being in control is a virtue, we are for once momentarily forced to sit still, while the world moves around us.

I love listening to music as I gaze out the window on these trips, the passing scenery creating my own unique and personal music video. Most of all though, I love the fact that, for the duration of the journey, no one can get to me. When the doors to that bus/train/plane click shut, it signals the start of a period of "time out" from the world.

Perhaps it's the perfect tonic for a restless mind. Normally, any time spent pondering the hows and whys of the way we are is accompanied by a strong sensation of indulgence or idleness, of ignoring things that need doing, practical things with measurable outcomes. But somehow, on these trips, I can escape that feeling. Sitting in my seat, I have permission to stare into space, to reflect without guilt, as if were anyone to challenge me as to what it was that I was doing at that moment, I could confidently answer, "I'm going somewhere."

So its during these trips that I invariably find myself thinking about the past. Thinking back on where I've come from and taking stock of it, and wondering where that past might lead me to. Lately, I've been thinking about certain people who've influenced me along the way - particularly my family, grandparents that have since passed on, teachers I had at school... It's funny how our memories can take on new found importance as we grow older, as if our growing older has unlocked in them, and in us, a hidden level, enabling us to see something from our past as if for the first time.

Frederich Buechner touches on this in his writing. Of course, he puts it more poetically than I ever could.

"How they live on, those giants of our childhood. And how well they take even death in their stride. Because although death can put an end to them right enough, it can never put an end to our relationship with them. Wherever or however else they may have come to life since, it's beyond a doubt they live still, in us.

Memory is more than a looking back to a time that is no longer. It's a looking deep into another kind of time altogether, where everything that ever was continues not just to be but to grow and to change with a life that's in it still. The people we loved. The people who loved us. The people who taught us things. Dead and gone though they may be, as we come to understand them in new ways, it's as though they come to understand us, and through them we come to understand ourselves in new ways too. Through them, something of the power and goodness of life itself not only touched us once long ago, but continues to touch us to this day.

One imagines all of us on this shore, fading for them, as they journey ahead towards whatever new shore awaits them. But it's as if they carry something of us on their way, as we most surely carry something of them on ours. That's perhaps why to think of them is a matter not only of remembering them as they used to be, but seeing and hearing them as in some sense they are now.

If they had things to say to us then, they have things to say to us now too. Nor are they necessarily always the same thing."

Friday, September 02, 2011

Scandinavians

The Polar Music Prize is regarded as Sweden's foremost musical honor. Founded by former ABBA manager Stig Anderson, the prize is awarded annually to one contemporary musician and one classical musician. In 2010, it was shared by Ennio Morricone and Bjork. You can watch the ceremony here, which basically consists of Swedish artists being given the quite daunting task of performing the greatest hits of both Morricone and Bjork whilst the prize recipients watch on. If you can spare the time, it's pretty special to see Ennio Morricone and Bjork's reactions as their music is played.

Check out Ane Brun's cover of the Bjork classic Joga from last years prize ceremony.

I have always loved the lilting sound of Scandinavians when they speak English. If you don't know what I mean, ask a Danish person to say the word, "little".

"You push meeeyupto this stay-tov emergency."


Monday, August 29, 2011

I believe in fairies

It was my niece's 5th birthday on the weekend. My sister organised a birthday party in the local park in Berry. It was a beautiful day.



Anna had wanted to put on a show so she asked everyone to bring some dress up costumes and musical instruments. Anna's friends didn't disappoint. They came as pirates, they came as princesses, they came as fairies, they came as vampires. And woe betide the man that failed to recognised which was which. There's nothing quite like being given the cold shoulder by a five year old.

ME : Oh look at you! Great costume. What have you come as?
CHILD stares at me mutely like I've stolen his lolly bag.
ME : Oh I know! You're stuntman!
CHILD stares at me in disgust.
ME : No? Wait, I got it! You're... batman!
CHILD now looks like he might vomit on me.
CHILD's OLDER SISTER : He's a vampire.
ME : Oh... yeah... Silly me.
The children run off and I'm left to wonder how I was meant to get "vampire" from a cape and a tshirt that says, "I'm a stuntman".

This little guy was my favourite though. He was obviously someone's younger brother who, in return for being allowed to tag along with his older sis', had been made to wear the only remaining costume in the household, which just happened to be a red and green fairy costume. Far from letting the costume get him down, he worked it, charging around the park, getting some sweet fairy milage out of those wings.


Thursday, August 25, 2011

wipe your face

It All Starts With One

I've posted about Norwegian-born/Swedish-based singer Ane Brun before on this blog. I can't help but have a soft spot for her. Well, she has recently finished a tour of the US, including a magical performance at the iconic Red Rocks Amphitheatre in Colorado, which took place in the middle of an electrical storm.

Brun is now back in Sweden and looking forward to the release of her new album, "It all starts with one". This clip is the first single from the album, "Do You Remember". The video is directed by Brun's partner, Magnus Renfors, (another creative couple!) and is the first chapter of a short film featuring four songs from Brun's forthcoming album.

Monday, August 22, 2011

Silver Cinder @ The Vanguard

Some shots of our recent gig at The Vanguard. Thanks very much to Peter Pigott for these photos. Thanks also to everyone that came down to see us. We had a great time!












www.myspace.com/silvercinder

Tuesday, August 16, 2011

Mr Little Jeans covers Arcade Fire - The Suburbs

If you've ever listened to Guy Garvey's Finest Hour, you'll know that he has a segment called, "It was moider" which essentially involves him exposing the criminal act of bad musical covers. Every week he provides an example of a beautiful original song that has been criminally abused by a band trying to cover it. As the offending song starts to play, Guy always growls in his worst Brooklyn cop accent, "IT WAS MOIDER!" The worst offenders always tend to involve boy bands covering old soul numbers and it's usually at this point that I find myself wondering why we don't yet have a statutory death penalty provision that is applicable to all current and former boy bands members.

Anyway, if there were an opposite version of that segment, maybe this song would feature on it. Every now and then a band puts out an album that you think pretty much nails perfection. For me, Arcade Fire's The Suburbs was that album. So trying to cover perfection is, in my opinion, pretty ballsy! But the mellifluous strings and underwater sub give this song an extra sense of regret/sadness/nostalgia.

Every time I hear this song, I want to be back in my apartment in Paris, the lights down and the volume up, with a glass of red in my hand, as I watch the moon bounce off the sea of silvery-grey roofs from my sixth floor window.

Turn up the bass.

Gotye - Somebody that I Used to Know

This song has exploded in Australia recently. I don't think I've ever heard a song and so instantly thought, "this will be massive." The album isn't out until August 19, but it's so catchy that it already feels like a bit of a classic. In fact, I hesitated posting it here, because even though it's only been on the radio for the last couple of weeks, it has received so much airplay that it already feels a little "old news"! As much as I love it, it did feel very poppy, very quickly. It seems Gotye felt the same way when he wrote it.

Anyway, I'm posting it here because it's Australian music and because this is the third album from Gotye, so any mainstream success he gets is, in my opinion, thoroughly deserved.

I played this song to my mum, (the ultimate critic) and when the chorus kicked in she simply nodded and said, "Hm. Good song". You know you've got a mainstream hit when you can get a head bob out of a 65 year old woman who grew up on a stiff music diet of The Beatles, The Seekers and Bob Dylan.

Anyway, I digress. Enjoy!

Ps. If you're interested in listening to the whole album, it's streaming here for free until 22 August

Tuesday, August 02, 2011

Silver Cinder play The Vanguard



Tam and I are playing The Vanguard on Wednesday 10 August as part of our official Silver Cinder EP launch. Keep an eye out for some of our posters around town, and maybe even some airplay on FBI. If that doesn't excite you, the 10th also happens to be my birthday. So there'll be double the reason to celebrate!

We've got some old friends to play with us this time (Matt Chee on trumpet and Tegan Yue on violin and tambourine) and singer-songwriter Michael Pigott is playing support. If you haven't heard him before, he's awesome.

It might be our last gig ever as SILVER CINDER, so if you haven't seen us yet, or even if you have, we'd love to see you there.

Tix are $12/$8 conc. and are available at www.thevanguard.com.au. Otherwise they'll be $15 on the door.

If at this late stage you still need incentives, can I just say that there may be aspects of drum kit involved. And I might even crack open the electric guitar. That's right. We've officially gone to a little town called MAX!

Hope to see you there.

Tuesday, July 26, 2011

The Ship Song Project

I'm probably coming to this very late, but thought I'd share it nonetheless.

Make sure you watch the first linked video first. It's a "making of" doco for The Ship Song Project, a project which saw Australia artists collaborate to rerecord Nick Cave's indie classic The Ship Song as tribute to the Sydney Opera House.

If you're not Australian, this probably won't mean anything to you. But just imagine a video full of iconic artists from your country, performing a song you grew up listening to, as a gift to a much-loved national icon you grew up visiting. As one person who commented on the video put it, "I don't know how it happened, but when the song finished I discovered I was naked." Love it.

PREVIEW - The Ship Song Project Documentary - Play - Sydney Opera House Media Portal

Tuesday, July 05, 2011

'Tele'

Monday, July 04, 2011

Summer Skin

by Death Cab for Cutie

Squeaky swings and tall grass
The longest shadows ever cast
The water's warm and children swim
And we frolicked about in our summer skin

I don't recall a single care
Just greenery and humid air
Then Labor day came and went
And we shed what was left of our summer skin

On the night you left I came over
And we peeled the freckles from our shoulders
Our brand new coats were so flushed and pink
And I knew your heart I couldn't win
Cause the season's change was a conduit
And we left our love in our summer skin



I recently started re-listening to the album "Plans" by Seattle band Death Cab for Cutie.

I've been particularly taken by the lyrics of Summer Skin, a song that (as far as I understand, but happy to be corrected) tells the story of a summer romance. "Squeaky swings and tall grass
The longest shadows ever cast". I love the simpleness of the imagery in this song - shedding skin, sunlight, shadows and changing seasons. "I don't recall a single care". In three short paragraphs, the memory seems perfectly tangible.

I have been thinking a lot recently about the passing of time, and perhaps, in the midst of it all, that's another reason why this particular song has brushed up against me.

I love the way the lyrics manage to convey the passing of time, both in the sense that whatever romance it is that the song is about now seems a very long time ago, but also that, viewed with hindsight, the memories of that summer seem now to be somehow suspended - or endless - just as those individual summer days themselves seemed suspended and endless. They were timeless, in the sense that they were without time. Timeless, right up until we realised that, despite it all, time would of course continue to tick on. Endless, right up until the point that they ended, like the dying summer evening sun, that it seems will never die, until finally it does give in, and slips below the horizon.

Monday, June 27, 2011

Y2gay

Having been inspired by a recent trip to Melbourne, I'm keen to get a few more pictures/posters/photos up around the house of things that I've done in my life. I'm currently trying to make a poster for Y2GAY. It's slow going.





Saturday, June 18, 2011

The Middle East

Firstly, I love the chorus of this song.
Secondly, these guys will be massive.
Thirdly, I cannot believe that they made it through high school in Townsville alive.

Jesus Came to My Birthday Party. Yes, yes he did.

Enjoy.

Thursday, June 02, 2011

High Flight


I have been trying, largely in vain, to read more poetry this year. I recently came across this poem, High Flight, written by American aviator and poet John Magee. Apparently Magee's famous closing line, "put out my hand and touched the face of God" was largely influenced, (read: copied) from a poem entitled A Blind Man Flies by Cuthbert Hicks. I have posted both poems below.

By way of post-script, Magee died at the age of 19 (ie very young, but old enough to be described as "an aviator") when his spitfire collided with an RAF plane over Lincolnshire. He is buried in Scopwick and on his grave is inscribed the first and last lines of his poem:

"Oh! I have slipped the surly bonds of Earth
- Put out my hand, and touched the face of God."


I visited Duxford airfields with Bram a couple of years ago and was fortunate enough to see the rare sight of 7 Spitfire planes flying in formation. It was magnificent! (It seems like only last year but it was in fact 2009!).

As 6 June rolls around for another year, I can't help but think of times spent at Bram's house in Schoten, some very inebriated, some less so, but always good fun! I can remember Till and Kiki (now Mrs Zimmermann!) driving all the way form Germany with the German flag jammed in the window of their car in preparation for the upcoming World Cup. I can remember David Gault tending to the BBQ and his SLR camera in between shots at the wicker Korfball basket. I can remember Bram's brother Jasper (who possesses possibly the coolest name on earth) describing the taste of different Belgian beers with the same fervour for detail as a champagne maker from Reims. There are lots of things I can't remember, and to be honest, that's probably for the best, but Bram, this post goes out to you my friend. Happy Birthday! Wish I could be with you!

High Flight

Oh! I have slipped the surly bonds of Earth
And danced the skies on laughter-silvered wings;
Sunward I’ve climbed, and joined the tumbling mirth
of sun-split clouds, — and done a hundred things
You have not dreamed of — wheeled and soared and swung
High in the sunlit silence. Hov’ring there,
I’ve chased the shouting wind along, and flung
My eager craft through footless halls of air....

Up, up the long, delirious, burning blue
I’ve topped the wind-swept heights with easy grace.
Where never lark, or even eagle flew —
And, while with silent lifting mind I have trod
The high untrespassed sanctity of space,
- Put out my hand, and touched the face of God.


The Blind Man Flies

I am blind: I have never seen
Sun gold nor silver moon,
Nor the fairy faces of flowers,
Nor the radiant noon.

They speak of the dawn and the dusk,
And the smile of a child,
Of the deep red heart of a rose,
As of God, undefiled.

But I learnt from the air to-day
(On a bird’s wings I flew)
That the earth could never contain
All of the God I knew.

I felt the blue mantle of space,
And kissed the cloud's white hem,
I heard the stars’ majestic choir,
And sang my praise with them.

Now joy is mine through my long night,
I do not feel the rod,
For I have danced the streets of heaven,
And touched the face of God.

The Economist : Australia : No worries?

The economist recently published a very interesting Special Report on Australia, its economy and its political landscape.

In a recent survey published by the OECD, Australia was found to be the most pleasant rich country to live in. Australia is a prosperous nation. Bold economic reform in the late 1980s/1990s (ie. the floating of the Aussie dollar, and the creation of compulsary superannuation) combined with the effect of the ongoing mining boom meant that Australia was largely protected form the effects of the GFC. However, is it true that with great riches should come great responsibility? The Economist states:

"Australians must now decide what sort of country they want their children to live in. They can enjoy their prosperity, squander what they do not consume and wait to see what the future brings; or they can actively set about creating the sort of society that other nations envy and want to emulate."

The Special Report is worth a read in its totality. But if you only have a moment to browse, I suggest you at least read this article : The Next Golden State.

Bold visionary reform, requires both bold visionary leadership from politicians and the desire/trust/will of the people to be boldly lead. This Report looks at the lack of both in Australia, and asks whether the nation is missing a golden opportunity to become a truly great nation. Check it out.

Sunday, May 22, 2011

Cara Dillon

Sorry Darren, this is really getting out of control, I know. But since I posted on the Dominique Strauss Kahn affair, I thought you might not begrudge me one more musical post...

This voice is amazing. Clear, accurate and beautifully sensitive singing. Cara Dillon is a traditional Irish folk singer. Check out this live performance of her song "False, False". I especially urge you to listen intently to her treatment of the words, "no more mine" - she pulls back just slightly on letting them out, as if not quite wanting to admit them to herself. Yummy.

Another interesting fact about her, she's married to the keyboard player, and go around performing and writing together. What is it with Irish people shacking up with their band mates and forming powerful songwriting duos? See also Swells Season. I have a theory. There is a certain magic that happens between people when they write music together. Something powerful happens. Something bigger than yourself. It's an addictive feeling. However, you are palpably aware that you can't create that feeling on your own. Maybe some people decide they want to have the muse close to them at all times.

Saturday, May 21, 2011

Clarke and Dawe : Mr Abbott


Clarke and Dawe are back with a top shelf sketch in which "Australia's George Bush", Liberal Party leader Tony Abbott tells carbon emissions where to go.

Abbott : Good evening, do you want a few shots of me walking?
Bryan : No we've got plenty of those thanks.
Abbott : I normally do some. I'm quite good at walking.
Bryan : Yes you are. Why is that?
Abbott : It's a gift. Always had it.

Love it.

Friday, May 20, 2011

Demystifying the lovable French rogue




Voila, a selection of comments in the French media regarding the sexual assault charges brought against former IMF President Dominique Strauss-Kahn:

"I feel nothing but loathing for the judge who delivered him to that pack of newshounds in front of the police station, on the pretence that he was a citizen like any other."
- French intellectual Bernard-Henry Levy

"[DSK's media exposure] creates feelings and reactions which go far beyond what is, essentially, after all just another minor alleged crime."
- French commentator Sophie De Menthion

"[It was] more likely an act of imprudence, a bit of domestic tupping."
- Left-wing journalist Jean-Francois Kahn

"His treatment by the New York judge, police and press has reawakened the anti-Americanism that is latent in many French souls."
- Hugh Schofield - BBC, Paris

 "Unheard-of brutality, cruelty and violence".
- Former Minister Elisabeth Guigou’s description of images of her friend DSK being led from the police station.

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

First of all : Ummmm... sorry guys, I didn't realise we were still referring to sexual assault as "an act of imprudence" in 2011. But then again, maybe I need to reread my copy of Tess of the d'Urbervilles. 

As for "domestic tupping" - a poor choice of words? Are humans still tupping domestically?

Husband : "I say dear, why don't you put the kids to bed, I sort of feel like tupping... domestically."
Wife : "Will that be consensual or non-consensual tonight darling?"

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

All linguistic fun aside, there is a darker, more disturbing side to the above comments.

Many French journalists and politicians have aggressively defended DSK's "présomption d'innocence". It's important to say at the very start that they are right to do so. As a lawyer, I am fully aware that one of the very cornerstones of criminal justice is that an accused person should be considered innocent until it is proven beyond reasonable doubt that they are guilty.

However, regardless of DSK's alleged guilt, the above comments, [and perhaps more worryingly, the general sentiment that they seem to represent] are further evidence of the pervasive attitude of permissiveness in France when it comes to the affairs [sexual or otherwise] of French politicians. Such affairs are both widely known and well documented. In fact, when it comes to being elected as the President of France, licentious virility appears to be a pre-requisite, rather than an impediment to power. See for example: the cover-up of President Mitterand's illegitimate daughter during his Presidency; or Le Super Menteur himselfJacques Chirac's trial for embezzlement of public funds in the Clearstream affair; or more recently, the Elysée's crackdown on media coverage of Sarkozy's rumoured extramarital affairs. 

If the French are not especially proud of this fact, they are, at the very least, proud of the domestic laws that enable such behaviour, that is, France's strict privacy laws and the general acceptance of the need for a clear separation between the public and private lives of politicians.

This attitude is, in many ways, admirable. Monogamy has absolutely nothing, or at least very little, to do with inspired political leadership. [Just ask Bill Clinton.]

However, when it comes to DSK's situation, the facts are very different. Here, DSK is not merely accused of having a wandering eye, or of possessing a weakness for les femmes fatales. Here, the charges are criminal.

And yet, collective French outrage seems not to derive from the fact that a man widely tipped as being the next French President might have committed sexual assault. Instead, outrage focuses on "the judge who delivered him to that pack of newshounds" and on the fact that such a man should be publicly humiliated to the point of being treated as if he were "a citizen like any other". 

And therein lies the heart of the fallacy of extending the general permissive French attitude with regard to political scandal to DSK's current situation. For DSK is a citizen like any other, just as his French political colleagues are eux aussi, citoyens de la France.

His behaviour, if proven, will not be able to be explained away as a manifestation of some quaint Gallic cultural trait. DSK will not be able to claim he is the victim of an overly-developed but entirely excusable pre-pubescent desire for the female form. His behaviour must meet a much stricter and less sympathetic test - a criminal one.

And yet, the myth of the French political man, a man seemingly at the mercy of his sexual desire for the fairer race, continues to be both understood and excused by politicians and commentators alike in France. 

As DSK said himself, "I love women, et alors?" 

Well DSK, it seems that this time you may have been a very naughty boy indeed. But I guess, in your defence, they are very pretty, and you are very important. Now come here so I can rustle your hair... Right. There you go. Now run along. You lovable rogue.

Saturday, May 14, 2011

When you give your heart

Laura Veirs with another yummy contribution. Check it out!

"And my stampeding buffalo
Stops in her tracks and watches the snow."

Wednesday, May 11, 2011

Kashmir - Petite Machine

Reposting this song, albeit a new video, because it is, well... epic.

I get really jealous watching bands that just play so naturally together. Look at the bassist just locking everything down, whilst the lead singer smashes out the guitar solo. They know exactly what is happening. The amount of time and effort that goes into getting that level of connection is what makes this performance so impressive. As mum used to say, "If it were easy, everyone would do it."



Just to back up my point, check out the face melting build at 4:35 in this studio recording of Bewildered in the City. You get the feeling he's just knocking out an impro solo and the rest of the band goes with him. Make sure you turn it up and persevere!

As I've said before, I also love these studio videos that bands put out. It's like you've been given the chance to sit inside their brain for a couple of minutes.

Yummy!

Thursday, May 05, 2011

For Jen



"And you've been so busy lately
that you haven't found the time,
to open up your mind"

The video is... well... strange.

Wednesday, April 27, 2011

Y2GAY showing in LONDON

G'Day London ol' cobbers, ol' mates! Yes that's right! Stone the crows and flame the.. [insert jingoistic Australian joke here]! Tickets are now on sale to the 17th London Australian Film Festival. It's on 5-12 May at The Barbican.


As part of the Festival, this year's Tropfest Finalist Films will be showing, including Y2GAY, a film that Dan Ilic and I co-wrote and directed. This is your chance to go check out what all the hype was about, secretly form your own opinion that said hype was unwarranted, and then lose all respect for me as a human being.

Now I know that many London-based Australians are traditionally strapped for cash, especially those struggling away as banking sector lawyers and accountants, but there's no need to worry. The night is completely FREE!

So whack on your hipster Ray Ban sunglasses and best skinny jeans and head on down to The Barbican on 12 May for a night-time celebration of Australia's emerging and not-so-emerging film talent.

And if you're not Australian, there's no reason why you should miss out! Get on down there! Don't be shy! I've even provided you with some typical Aussie conversation fillers so that you'll blend in on the night. If you're ever in a tight spot, just rip out one of these beauties, and you'll be considered more Australian than Cathy Freeman riding Pharlap up Anzac Cove.

1 - "I just paid 6 pounds for a VB!! What the fuck!"
2 - "The refugees wouldn't be rioting if we'd stopped the bloody boats in the first place. Don't you reckon?"
3 - "These films are shit! You know, I had a way better idea for a Tropfest film..."
4 - "I went back home for Easter. Guess where I had my drinks? Opera Bar!! Yes! How did you guess?!"
5 - "I love London. You know, coke is so cheap here that I hardly bother drinking anymore."
6 - "Do you have a spare couch I could crash on?"
7 - "What the fuck is going on with orthodontic treatment in this country?!"
8 - "Julia Gillard blah blah blah ginger blah blah blah woman. Blah blah blah since Gough Whitlam and Paul Keating."
9 - "Tony Abbott blah blah blah bigot blah blah blah racist. Blah blah blah dick stickers."
10 - "Mum reckons I have an English accent now, but I well don't."


Film synopsis :

Y2GAY. Yep, it’s real. The gays are getting married. In 2011, The Australian Government has decided to legalise gay marriage and Mick is not happy. He’s convinced that everything will change for the worse once the gays get married because, well, “they’re weird”. So it’s time to dust off the Y2K bunker and head back down there with his wife Sharon and his best mate Gary.

In this comedy we get a first hand look at the inside of Mick’s anti-gay bunker. Everything in it is straight. There’s straight water, straight non-perishables, and Mick’s straight DVD set, including Spartacus, which Mick says is “definitely not gay” and Ricky Martin’s greatest hits, who as Mick says, “the lady’s love”, so you can’t argue with that. Mick’s wife Sharon is there as well, because that’s not gay, and so is his best mate Gary, because Mick thought he’d need someone to talk to while Sharon was busy cooking and cleaning the bunker.

We all remember how bad Y2K was. Well, reinforce your steel doors with concrete and stock your cupboards with anti-gay spray, because it’s happening all over again. There’s always something to be scared of. And this year, it’s Y2GAY.