Month: August 2015

There will be blood (but not in me)

Orinoco flow.

Today I will catch the train to Chatswood and let a Polish woman stick a big needle into my arm, in order to remove a bunch of my blood. Not enough to leave me deflated on the bed like some kind of Flat Stanley character, but enough to make me feel dizzy, maybe.

I think it’s my tenth? I’m not sure. I’ve donated a bunch of times over the past few years, and by their reckoning (or is it my misremembering?) the lives of three people are saved from each donation. That means if it’s my tenth, I’ve saved the lives of thirty people. I’m a regular fucking Superman, except my superpower is the ability to withstand being used as a human pincushion. For a period. (more…)

Synergy Percussion and Noreum Machi: Earth Cry 15/8/2015


Last Saturday evening I spent a little over an hour watching two percussion ensembles perform at Sydney’s City Recital Hall. It was the culmination of a couple of years of joint study and development between Sydney’s Synergy Percussion and Korea’s Noreum Machi. This show was the last of the tour, with the Korean trio set to fly out the next morning, so I was interested to see how the two would come together. (more…)

Book review: Amnesia (2014)

Amnesia.Amnesia by Peter Carey
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

I’ve long been a fan of Peter Carey’s work, so I was pleased to be given Amnesia as a birthday present. I was further pleased to discover that, though the work is flawed, he’s created here one of his more memorable characters – Felix Moore, a weakling, a drinker, a leftie and crucially, a journalist.

Having worked in the industry for years, the portraiture is remarkably accurate. There’s a quote in it,

“I had a lifetime of hard-won technical ability but was my heart sufficient… Did I have the courage for something more than a five-column smash and grab?”

which pretty much encapsules the mind of the jobbing journo in a few scant lines. (more…)

Perambulation and mortification

I’ve previously mentioned that I’ve had a thing for podcasts. I find they’re the best thing to have in my ears when I’m taking my daily walk, because they’re less predictable than music for when you’re strolling; it’s easier to avoid clock-watching with a podcast because even though you might know the length of the things, the content isn’t as familiar as music you’ve heard before, where the verse/chorus/verse that you’re familiar with become clock-stopping impediments.

So lately, I’ve been listening to one called Mortified. It’s made from recordings of live events, where people get up on stage and read out parts of their teenage diaries in front of groups of strangers. It’s in the same ballpark as a local event called Confession Booth, now also a podcast, except Mortified is strict about using adolescent writing as the source. (more…)

EN: on destruction and rebirth (and toenails)

Walking across the road from the chemist I caught a glimpse of myself in an upholsterer’s front window. I was wearing what’s pretty much my uniform these days: black jeans, long-sleeved shirt with a band shirt over the top. Today’s band is one I wear quite a bit – Einstürzende Neubauten. This particular shirt has an enormous eagle on it and red lettering, so it’s probably not surprising it gets a couple of worrying looks, given that it has a pretty political air about it.

Though the band does have a political side (1989’s Haus der Lüge‘s feature track is about the worthlessness of religion, working from the cornerstone of a house all the way up, ending in God’s suicide by firearm) it’s not really what I think of when I consider them. Instead, I think of Blixa Bargeld’s toenails. (more…)

Branch Nebula: Artwork

Nom nom nom.

Nom nom nom.

Earlier this week I entered a competition to win tickets to Artwork, a Branch Nebula production at Carriageworks. I scored a double pass and attended last night’s performance, the second-last of the run. I’d not read much about the show (partially because Carriageworks’ site is artfully oblique) so I entered Bay 17 with few expectations.

I knew ahead of time that the piece is performed by job-seekers. Branch Nebula (who have been developing this piece in association with Carriageworks, who commissioned the work) placed ads in online classified sites, and gathered the respondents together. They meet just before the production, and are given no instruction, other than to follow instructions according to an assigned number. They perform for that evening, and a new group will take the stage the next night. (more…)

Writing to rule: introducing a new project

I’ve always been interested in the Japanese poetry known as haiku. Something has always appealed to me about its brevity and imagery; it’s a distillation of feeling when it’s done well. When I had to write a recollection of my time in Tokyo as part of a touring taiko group, I nicked one of Bashō’s poems to convey the way I felt.

In my new clothing
I feel so different, I must
look like someone else

I’ve had an old Penguin edition of Bashō’s haiku for years now, and I come back to it pretty regularly. It’s a tale of travel, of change, and you can read more about it here. If you’ve never read it, it’s definitely worth a look. (Handily, there’s a PDF version to be found here, with links to further reading.) But flipping through it recently, I was reminded of the power of brevity.

Brevity is something which I don’t have a great handle on, which you will recognise if you’ve read some of the reviews on this blog. So to counter that, I’ve started a new project. I must be serious about it as I registered a domain name and everything. Don’t worry, I’ll still be writing here, at the usual length. But the new project, 575 Reviews, is my attempt at combining brevity and review.

Each day, I’m aiming at writing a single review of something. A book. A film. An album. A play. Manga. Snack food. The terms aren’t really set, beyond there being a picture and a review. There’s not much there now, but it will build, and it is linked in my linklist so rather than spam this page with continual mentions, I’ll let you check it out yourselves.

Here’s a sample, though, a review of Nico’s album The Marble Index (itself named for a passage in a poem) in three lines:

Bleak, black-clad death-songs
Harmonium wheezes on
Goth make-out classic.

Not exactly Bashō, but it’s early days. I hope you’ll join me there, sometimes.

Book review: Mr. Arashi’s Amazing Freak Show

Mr. Arashi's Amazing Freak ShowMr. Arashi’s Amazing Freak Show by Suehiro Maruo
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

If you know what ero-guro is, you know what you’re getting into with Suehiro Maruo’s work. He’s one of the most well-known artists working in this area – the nexus of violence and beauty (or eroticism) – and it’s pretty much a given that if you can’t handle splatter films you shouldn’t really be looking here.

No, I’m serious. I’ve seen some pretty terrible horror films, and the art on display here is fairly heinous, even by those standards. It’s fetishistic and violent, and it takes cute puppy-like things (and actual puppies, at one point) and then stomps all over them. The only thing that causes one to persevere is the incredible artistry on display. (more…)

It’s all a game (piece)

I like the idea of process music. I like it a lot. Something about the idea appeals to me. I suppose it’s the fact that I’ve always wanted to be an artist, but have lacked a sense of mastery over any form of tools. I don’t know how to paint, how to draw, how to sculpt. I only barely know how to create music, and even then I am not able to write down or record what I do, so it tends to be lost to the ether. (more…)

Considering my classical history

I am sitting in a room listening to piano music. It is the music of Charles-Valentin Alkan, a man who – perhaps with a nod to musical history hyperbole – apparently died trapped beneath a bookcase. He was an older man, so I assume an bookcase hitting you would be a terrible thing. I wouldn’t like to be hit with a bookcase now, I guess, and I’m a lot younger than seventysomething.

It’s a musical death that has parallels with Jean-Baptiste Lully. I don’t mean that they died from the same thing – I mean more that their deaths are funny. I mean, who dies from gangrene resulting from a forceful beating of time? (So forceful that his staff pierced his shoe,and his foot, delivering an infection that would end him, because he decided he wouldn’t have an amputation because it would hinder his ability to dance. Being dead does too, guy.) It’s such a laughable death – laughable until it happens to you, I imagine – that when in Paris with my then-partner, we made an effort to snap a photo with his likeness in the Opéra Garnier. (more…)