Wednesday, December 21, 2005

dead men don't write spy novels


so I mentioned a while ago that I’d read every single one of Robert Ludlum’s books. now this guy died in March 2001, yet he’s still released 5 books since then (some of which were finished off/co-written by other authors). I’d read them all too, but then yesterday I was in K-mart and noticed he’s now released another two. can someone explain to me how a man who’s been dead for almost 5 years is still releasing novels? I mean, I passed the first few off as kind of finishing the books he had planned, but now I’m not so sure. is he dictating these to someone from beyond the grave? or did he just have 100 books written before he died and asked someone to release them slowly over the next 50 years? seriously, what is the deal here?

(with grateful thanks to the steve martin film which inspired the title of this post.)

Monday, December 05, 2005



I got U2 tickets today. That is big for me – big. It’s probably the last time they’ll be out here, and it’ll be a huge huge show.

The moral of this story is, don’t get tickets online; get them at a ticket outlet. I don’t know how people manage to get through, but I was trying to get through for an hour and a half before I gave up, found a ticketmaster outlet nearby, and spent a whole 2 minutes in line before buying the tickets. If only I’d done that first.

Now, I get to have between now and March 24 savouring the anticipation. Awesome.

Thursday, December 01, 2005

not a crazy frog in sight...

I finally did my soundtrack to 2005 compilation disc, and here’s the tracklist:

1. Ben Lee – Gamble Everything for Love
2. Lifehouse – Unknown
3. Bob Dylan – Subterranean Homesick Blues
4. Midnight Oil – My Country
5. Ramones – It’s Not My Place (in the 9 to 5 World)
6. U2 – Love and Peace or Else
7. Jason Mraz – Curbside Prophet
8. Counting Crows – Sullivan St (with Did She Wanna Run alts)
9. Missy Higgins – Nightminds
10. King Curtis – Memphis Soul Stew
11. Ben Lee – Desire (B-side of Gamble Everything For Love single)
12. Jess McAvoy – Easy
13. Powderfinger – Don’t Wanna Be Left Out
14. Ben Lee – Catch My Disease

seriously, it’s the best way to reflect on your year. try it sometime.

actually, that reminds me of the Nick Hornby quote from Hi Fidelity about mixed tapes.

“To me, making a tape is like writing a letter – there’s a lot of erasing and rethinking and starting again…A good compilation tape, like breaking up, is hard to do. You’ve got to kick off with a corker, to hold the attention…and then you’ve got to up it a notch, or cool it a notch, and you can’t have white music and black music together, unless the white music sounds like black music, and you can’t have two tracks by the same artist side by side unless you’ve done the whole thing in pairs…oh, there are loads of rules.”

Tuesday, November 22, 2005

I can't believe I'm admitting this...

let it be known that I picked the result from 5 weeks out.


It was about 5 weeks ago (the week James went) that I said, “I reckon Kate’s the dark horse. You can’t go ‘under the radar’ in this competition.”

too bad I’m not a betting man: I think I would’ve cleaned up.

Thursday, November 17, 2005

freakin' awesome


What a moment. I’m not afraid to admit I shed a tear or two of relief.


Wednesday, November 02, 2005

ben lee & missy higgins


The ticket read “proceeds rain or shine”, so we were lucky it was a balmy 26 degrees when we arrived at the Music Bowl. In fact, when we arrived at 5 (the same time the gates opened), the line was already enormous. I dropped Julie off so she could get us a spot while I parked the car about 12 kilometres away. We (Julie and I, Meryl and Croz and Alex and Em) ended up in about the middle of the grassy section. Instead of being my usual pedantic self, I decided to relax, resign myself to our spot, and not try to get any closer. I’m glad I did.

The opening act came on at about 6ish and was the McMannamans (try saying that 10 times fast – it’s not hard as you’d expect, but it’s a whole lot of fun) were on first, a duo on guitar and violin/mandolin. Good sound, and amazing violin work, but a little too country for my liking. But they did their job well, in fact, all of the opening acts did their job well, in whetting our appetite for what was to come, as well as making the wait as pleasant as possible.

Then it was Ash Grunwald, another aussie artist who is reminiscent of Jimi Hendrix. Long dreads and a weather-beaten face completes his surfie look. He drums with his feet while he plays the guitar, using a lot of reverb and sliding effects, and while his songs are all in a similar style, he was obviously “stoked” to be there, and his enjoyment was infectious. He was also one of the only performers to really interact with the audience, and they responded to that with their attention (although not many sang along).

By the time Ray LaMontagne (pronounced Lah-Mon-TAYN, read his incredible story here) came on, with the balmy evening, thousands of people sitting together on the grass, and the multiple artists, it had taken on the feeling of a 70’s music festival. Ray then completed the look with his bearded face and hippie orange shirt. In fact, we were debating for a long time how old he was – the girls thought late 40s, Alex and I thought early 20s. We still don’t know. Interestingly, he was the only non-Aussie of the night; a fact that has me encouraged for Australian music. I had heard good things, and I would say he lived up to expectations with some really strong songs. Perhaps a little too earnest for a support act, although it seemed like that was his style of folk. I suspect he would have won himself some fans, although probably more in the older end of the spectrum.

I was really impressed by all of the changeovers – quick and smooth, so you never felt like you were kept waiting, but it wasn’t all rushed and frantic either. I noticed because it’s unusual. Normally bands have this mistaken idea that if you’re kept waiting it builds the anticipation. In actual fact, you just get bored and tired of waiting.

The short review:
Ben Lee was fantastic, light and fun, but ultimately the set was too short. Missy was not quite as good, largely due to the fact that she rarely emerged from behind the piano. Amazing voice though, and incredible musician with some really impressive songs.

The long review:

This was the last night of the tour, a fact that was referenced many times, particularly given that this is Missy’s home town. It actually gave an element of comraderie for those who were there, because it was clearly a personal high point for Missy. Her entire family (grandparents, etc. included) was there, as was, she admitted, most of the people she referred to in her songs. In fact, it was a huge crowd, I mean the Music Bowl was totally and completely packed. That added hugely to the atmosphere which was one of excitement and anticipation, but in a relaxed and laid-back way given the venue and seating arrangements (most people had packed dinner and ate it picnic style on the grass).

Annotated setlists:

ben lee

Ben Lee (AITNS = Awake Is The New Sleep; HYYY = Hey You, Yes You, BT = Breathing Tornados)
Begin (AITNS): A moody but medium paced song that worked well as an opener.
Into The Dark (AITNS): This one’s a lot of fun, with its highpitched chord progression (capo 7th fret), bouncy feel and optimistic lyrics.
Gamble Everything for Love (AITNS): I’m loving this song at the moment so it was great to hear it live. Ben followed it up by holding his phone up to the microphone while it played the song as his ringtone. He said that it took John Farnham mentioning his name in the paper and one of his songs becoming a ringtone for his grandma to admit it was ok he didn’t go to university.
Run With Scissors (HYYY): At this point, it was pretty clear it was going to be a mostly greatest-hits + new album set. It’s a fun song though, and while it may not last as a classic, it’s good solid pop.
No Right Angles (AITNS): Introduced this by saying something about avoiding the straight and narrow. He’s certainly qualified to talk about that, given his life.
Something Borrowed, Something Blue (HYYY): This was a surprise highlight for me – I didn’t really like this when it came out on the radio, but I really enjoyed it live for some reason.
Cigarettes Will Kill You (BT): Ah yes, I was hoping this would come up. Breathing Tornados is one of those albums that sat on my shelf forgotten until recently, but I’ve rediscovered its brilliance. Left the bridge of Cigarettes entirely to the audience, although I think I was the only one singing it. Still one of the all-time classic aussie songs I reckon. Just try not to be moved by the outro: I dare you. I still can’t believe this was the only one he did from Breathing Tornados though.
Close I’ve Come (AITNS): Again, a good fun song live.
Catch My Disease (AITNS): This is the one the crowd was mostly waiting for, so he timed it well as the second last one. Song of the Year at this year’s ARIAs, and a catchy, fun tune. Everyone was up on their feet as a result, which was great. I was a little surprised he ended it so soon, especially since everyone was well into it, but I guess he was pressed for time.
All In This Together (AITNS): I suppose you could call this the theme song of the tour – he’s on this “pop music can save the world” bent at the moment, and I think this sums up his outlook on life. Again, the crowd joined in well.

So overall, too short a set, but a great one nonetheless. It was really fun and entertaining, without getting all deeply brooding or emotional, which I guess it what pop music is about. He certainly left most of us wanting more, which is a better thing than leaving us begging him to stop, but still a little less than satisfying. But then we knew we still had Missy to go.

missy higgins

Missy Higgins (TSOW = The Sound of White)

Katie (TSOW): A strangely subdued way to start a performance.
Unbroken (B-side to The Sound of White single): Nice to see an unfamiliar one in there, particularly early on. That’s the kind of musical risk that I would’ve liked to see taken on some other aspects of the show.
The River (TSOW)
The Banner (new): Good to see her trying out new material despite this being the last night of the tour.
This Is How It Goes (TSOW): One of her more underrated songs, I reckon, but she was still stuck behind the piano. Had she gotten out like she did in Casualty later on, it would have had more energy.
All For Believing (TSOW): She dedicated this song to the memory of her dog, who died 3 weeks ago, and who apparently heard this song more than any other. It’s a very pretty song, and the one that JJJ unearthed her with.
Any Day Now (TSOW)
Stuff and Nonsense (Split Enz cover): Missy and her guitarist had recently recorded this for a Neil and Tim Finn tribute album
Don’t Ever (TSOW)
The Special Two (TSOW): A beautiful song, but heartbreaking.
Peachy: Hadn’t heard this one before either, but I couldn’t find it on her discography so I assume it’s a new one.
The Cactus That Found The Beat (High School performance piece, also on Scar EP): Missy came out from behind the piano for this one, finally! She talked about how much she admired her brother, who basically gave her her start (at 16 she was lying about her age to get into clubs to play in his jazz band) and who is an accomplished musician himself. He played piano for this and Casualty which followed, and it was wonderful to see her out the front on a song.
Casualty (TSOW): Finally saw her cut loose! She ditched even the guitar, and just enjoyed the song. A definite highlight for me.
Scar (TSOW): Such a fun, catchy song, and a good one to end on, although it might have been better to end the whole performance on it.

Funny How Time Slips Away (Willie Nelson cover, Vince Jones arrangement): Missy introduced this by saying that her brother would “weep with happiness” if she played it. She started completely a capella, which was a great showcase of the calibre of her voice, and a great rendition of the song, which I’d never heard before. Although there were no tears involved, the most touching part of the night was when her brother joined in on the piano in the second verse, and then as they finished, they both stood up and embraced each other in a show of genuine affection. It was obviously like a homecoming for both of them, like they were acknowledging how the relationship had seen them both come to this point.
Laid (James cover, duet with Ben Lee): It was inevitable that it would come to a collaboration at some point, but the song choice wasn’t! Everyone just had fun with it, crowd included.
The Sound of White (TSOW): Again, a strangely subdued way to finish. Sure it’s been a big hit, but it left things a bit less than enthusiastic. I think I just expected a bigger finish. I was surprised and delighted though when Ryan Adams’ “My Sweet Carolina” came out of the speakers immediately after. Now THAT is a show-stopper.

One of the things that never ceased to amaze me during the whole performance was the number of people who knew the words to every song. I mean, I know this album has sold half a million copies, but people have clearly not just listened or enjoyed it, but have memorized it. And I’m not just talking about the songs from the radio, I mean from the very first song, Katie, to the very last song, people were singing along. I was staggered. They’ve obviously struck a very deep chord (no pun intended) with a lot of people.

It was hands down a professional, entertaining performance. She has an incredible voice that did not put a note wrong all night. You realise when you see true artists like Ben and Missy that quality of performance and sound cannot be bought with an Australian-Idol-style rocket ride to fame – it comes from years and years of putting in the hard yards in pubs and clubs, playing the gigs that no-one else wants to. Echoing the crowd, the stage lit up when she came on, with blue fairy lights making a pretty backdrop to the spartan stage. With her piano facing the audience, she belted out most of her ARIA award winning Album of the Year as well as a few extras. She ended up doing fairly well considering there’s not much of a back catalogue of songs to choose from. That would explain why she had to choose so many downbeat songs too, which unfortunately subdued the performance somewhat.

In fact, her style made it more sit-back-and-listen than get-up-and-get-into-it, which was an interesting contrast with Ben Lee, especially given that she was essentially headlining. I think her behind-the-piano performance style would’ve been better suited to a small club than a large venue, because most people couldn’t see the stage very well, so to only be able to see a stationary head and shoulders above the black piano wasn’t visually engaging. At one stage, after having ditched both the piano and the guitar for just the microphone during Casualty, she actually apologized for letting her enthusiasm ruin the “musicality” of the song. Personally it had been one of the highlights of the night for me, because she actually got into it, felt it, grunted it out. Live shows are meant to be raw – if I wanted musicality to be the priority, I’d be at home listening to the cd. Which was the same thing I thought about the performances of almost every one of the songs – they didn’t differ at all from the recordings, even in the modulations of her voice. Some would say that’s the mark of a skilful musician; I just think I’d rather experience it differently live. There are songs whose recordings I’ve hated that I’ve fallen in love with in hearing them live. But we really weren’t given a different side to these songs, which struck me as a shame, because people clearly knew the songs well, so that can’t have been the priority.

It also made me proud to be a Counting Crows fan, because those guys live are, well, brilliant. It’s not so much their “musicality”, although you’d have to say sometimes they are nothing short of mindblowing in that respect (see recent performances of Sullivan St as a case in point), it’s the overall performance. They mix the songs up, they play covers in the middle of their own songs, they play their own songs in the middle of their own songs. There are plays of light and shadow that are just simply beautiful, or moving, or exciting. They move around the stage, they act out the songs, they bring the audience in and hold them in the palms of their hands. Now admittedly these guys are towards the latter end of their career as compared to Ben and Missy, and therefore have a lot more learning experiences under their belt, but Ben and Missy would do well to learn from such showmanship.

Having said that, I was pretty much able to let all that go and enjoy being under the stars, on a warm night, listening to some pretty easy-on-the-ears music, in the company of good friends. Seriously, what could be better?

Thursday, October 27, 2005

gamble everything for love

“...although Eating Honey was a very good thing to do, there was a moment just before you began to eat it which was better than when you were, but he didn’t know what it was called.” The Proverbial Pooh

Pretty much describes how I feel before a concert. Hanging out for Monday night: Missy Higgins and Ben Lee at the Myer Music Bowl. Awesome.

Monday, October 24, 2005

back to my musical roots

Normally when people talk about their musical “influences” or getting back to their musical roots, they refer to that time in their early to mid teens when they discovered the music that would define their musical tastes – the first time they heard Dylan’s “Blood on the Tracks” or sat stoned listening to “I Wanna Be Sedated” by the Ramones. The more cultured among us may go back to the musicians who influenced the musicians that influenced them; the Miles Davises, the Bachs, the Woody Guthries.

But I’m talking about real roots music, the music you listened to before any other; I’m talking children’s music. Last night I went to a show by my childhood favourite musician, Franciscus Henri.

Now before you get all giggly (because yes, I did go by myself), he wasn’t doing children’s music on this particular occasion. Nonetheless this was for me a pilgrimmage back to someone who was a significant early influence on me. In fact, as I journalled a couple of weeks back, listening to one of his cassettes was one of the events that renewed my passion for music, particularly of the live variety. So there was no way I was going to miss him playing a show only 5 minutes’ drive away.

franciscus henri

He’s probably better known nowadays in children’s circles as Mister Whiskers, but back in the days of the “Saturday Club” at Monash University’s Alexander Theatre, he was still known as Franciscus Henri; an exotic enough name to retain as a stage persona, if you ask me, but whatever. Earlier this year his passion for the music and poetry of Sydney Carter (perhaps best known for his song “Lord of the Dance“, which it should be noted has nothing whatsoever to do with Michael Flatley) inspired him to record a whole bunch of them to CD, and he’s now touring (if you could call five shows in seven months “touring”) on the strength of that recording.

The whole thing struck me as being like the emerging church movement for the generations before gen x. Largely, Sydney Carter’s religious work centres on the idea that doubt and questioning is a good in and of itself. As reported in his obituary in The Guardian, “With irony— though never with bitterness— Sydney satirised every form of self-righteous faith; to be without doubt was, to him, the ultimate in godless pride.” So he frequently parodied or questioned the religious status quo, particularly with reference to established Christianity. As such, I gained the distinct impression that he wrote more about what he questioned than what he stood for, and as such, perhaps had a lot more to offer than he ever realised (in both senses of the word). His views are probably best expressed in his poem ‘The Interview’:

So what do you believe in?
Nothing fixed or final
All the while I travel is a miracle
I doubt and yet I walk upon the water.
That is impossible
I know it is
Improbability is all you can expect
The natural is super natural
Where are you going next?
Like you I ask that question
I can only travel with the music
I am full of curiosity.

I confess that I find that kind of “comfortable-with-uncertainty” worldview attractive, but in the end it strikes me as lazy rather than realistic, unsatisfying instead of comfortable. The easiest thing in the world is to claim there are no answers; one therefore never needs to do the hard work of looking.

I liked this poem though, entitled “Anonymous”, and although I’m not sure I agree with it entirely, it certainly gives me food for thought.

Forget my name is Jesus
From now on I am anonymous
Do not trust the people who
Hang me like a millstone
around your neck
Do not look at me
but what I am pointing at
The Jesus who keeps saying saying
“I am Jesus, look at me,
there is no substitute”
is an imposter.
Do not trust the Christian
cult of personality,
I came to turn you on
and not to turn you off
To make you free
and not to tie you up.
My yoke was easy
and my burden light
Until they made
salvation copyright,
And all in the name of Jesus
so forget my name
was ever Jesus
I am anonymous.

I don’t think that’s the whole thing, but that’s all I could find of it. I think it had another part to it that questioned whether Jesus (or Christ) had only been born once, and therefore in a similar but less cringeworthy way to “What if God Was One of Us?”, wonders whether Christ is actually as much in those we meet everyday, and our response to them therefore equally important.

There was also the following very moving anti-war song, which has apparently been covered by Jackson Browne. Performed like a lullabye, the words have a profoundly jarring effect:

Crow on the Cradle

The sheep’s in the meadow
The cow’s in the corn
Now is the time for a child to be born
He’ll laugh at the moon
And cry for the sun
And if it’s a boy he’ll carry a gun
Sang the crow on the cradle

And if it should be that this baby’s a girl
Never you mind if her hair doesn’t curl
With rings on her fingers
And bells on her toes
And a bomber above her wherever she goes
Sang the crow on the cradle

The crow on the cradle
The black and the white
Somebody’s baby is born for a fight
The crow on the cradle
The white and the black
Somebody’s baby is not coming back
Sang the crow on the cradle

Your mother and father will sweat and they’ll slave
To build you a coffin and dig you a grave
Hush-a-bye little one, never you weep
For we’ve got a toy that can put you to sleep
Sang the crow on the cradle

Bring me my gun, and I’ll shoot that bird dead
That’s what your mother and father once said
The crow on the cradle, what can we do
Ah, this is a thing that I’ll leave up to you
Sang the crow on the cradle
Sang the crow on the cradle

He sang it in such a way that the jarring words were accentuated, which gave an element of drama to the whole thing that was palpable.

Anyway, I’m still kind of digesting the experience. It was unlike any other live gig I’ve been to, probably since the Saturday Club – more theatre than I am used to, perhaps in many ways more intimate and soul baring, but also a little more grown-up, or purportedly so.

Monday, October 03, 2005

nrl grand final 2005

It’s not often you get this combination of circumstances that make it possible to just plain enjoy a grand final, no stress, no fuss:

Both teams are likeable.
You wouldn’t mind if either team won.
Both teams have an attacking style of play.
Neither team was expected to be there.
Both teams seem to genuinely enjoy themselves.

For perhaps the first time ever, I sat down to watch the grand final last night anticipating the enjoyment of the game. I mean, I was barracking for the Cowboys, but only because it made it more fun to choose a side. Both teams (but perhaps Nth Qld especially) have an attacking, exciting style of play that means that they could score from anywhere on the field, and they did (one of the best grand final tries of all time – flick pass, then huge fend). Or it could mean they’ll make a horrible, embarrassing mistake, which they did (Bowman throws an impossible pass in his own in-goal with Tigers players everywhere. what the…?). Either way, there’s this feeling that anything could happen at any minute that you just don’t normally get with other sides. Both teams were not expecting or expected to be in the grand final, and therefore looked like giddy schoolkids in a lolly convention. It was actually refreshing to see them enjoy themselves and appreciate being there, rather than the usual wearying “the shareholders of the franchise expect us to be here” look. And either way, you know that the team who wins deserved it because they were better on the day.

Thursday, September 29, 2005

they still got it...

Just when you think the Simpsons might have gone slightly downhill…along comes episode GABF09 “The Father, the Son, and the Holy Guest Star”.

father son holy guest star

Homer’s reaction to Bart’s expulsion from Springfield Elementary:

Homer: I can’t believe you got expelled! Well don’t expect to spend all week lying around on the couch like a bum, cause that’s my thing! We’re going to send you to another school! And if you get kicked out of that school, you going straight into the army, where you’ll be sent to America’s latest military quagmire. Where will it be? North Korea? Iran? Anything’s possible with Commander Coo-Coo Bananas in charge!

Homer discovers confession:

Father Sean: But if you do break a rule, you can always find absolution in the sacrament of confession.
Homer: Wait, wait, wait wait wait. No matter what I did, no matter how many people lost their pensions, it’s forgiven like that?
Father Sean: If you truely repent, then, yes.
Homer: Oookay, let’s make some magic here. I wiped a booger on your shirt, I made a dog and a cat kiss, I swiped a bolted-down TV from a Holiday Inn (Cut to Homer in confessional box) I coveted the wife in Jaws 2, I lied to a waiter, I masturbated eight-million times, and I have no plans to stop masturbating in the future. (Darts out confessional door) Wahoo I’m clean! In your face Lord!

Typical Homer:

Father Sean: I understand, but can it wait till after Bingo?
Homer: Bingo, that’s my favorite game. I just can’t remember what to yell out when you win.
Father Sean: Bingo.
Homer: That’s my favorite game. I just can’t remember what to yell out when you win.
Father Sean: How bout you just say “Yaay I won!”
Homer: Bingo!

Marge and Homer on Catholicism:

Marge: All that sitting, and standing, and kneeling. It’s like Simon says, without a winner.

Marge: Catholics can be a peculiar bunch. No birth control, no meat on Friday.
Homer: No meat! What do they eat? Lightbulbs?

Homer: Is it true you priest guys can’t ever… you know?
Father Sean: I’ll admit the vow of celibacy is one of our sterner challenges.
Homer: Celibacy?! I was talking about the meat on Friday thing. Man you guys got more crazy rules than Blockbuster Video.


Thursday, September 22, 2005

doctors and conspiracy theories

I’m healthy. Or so my blood says, anyway. My headaches have stopped since my last post on headaches too. What the? I really don’t know how you can have two weeks of headaches and then none at all, but hey – I must just be special or something. Anyway, I guess that’s good.

It’s really hard to know whether getting a clean bill of health from the doctor is a good thing. I mean, if feel unwell enough to take the trouble to go to the doctor, I want them to make it worth my while. At least tell me I had a 24 hour bout of the plague or something. Just don’t tell me “you’re perfectly fine” when I don’t feel perfectly fine. If I was perfectly fine, I wouldn’t be at the doctor in the first place – I’d be at home. It’s not like the waiting room is a fun place to be. “Ooh excellent – the June 1984 edition of New Idea! I’ve been dying to read this!”

But then, I really am grateful for good health, so…I guess I have to put up with this slightly disappointed feeling every time the doctor says, “You’re fine. Maybe you had a virus or something.” Yeah right, a virus – I reckon they reall don’t exist, they’re just a thing they teach doctors in doctor’s school when they don’t know what you’ve got. “Sheesh, this person’s symptoms are a mystery…must be a virus. I’ll tell them to go home and see how they feel for a few days, then to come back in two weeks so I can give them this news-that’s-not-really-news.”

Okay, I’m done now.

the green, green grass of home

I love grass. Some would say I’m obsessed with grass. Not the ‘spark up a doobie’ type, the regular, lawn type, just in case you’re wondering. There’s something wonderful about a nice patch of lush, springy, green grass that I just can’t get enough of. When we arrived at this place, the backyard was not in particularly wonderful shape – the grass area particularly. In fact, it should more accurately have been called the dirt area, or maybe the concrete area, because the dirt had been compacted so much from heavy wear it was virtually impossible to crack the surface. And so one of my first acts as tenant here was to remedy that situation, and create a nice, thick, lush lawn for Chelsea to play on.

I did it in sections, making sure each section was good and thick before moving onto the next, and just recently, it’s gotten to the point where it’s about as good as it’ll get, given that it’s in a fairly shaded spot and under a tree. And so I am rather proud of my patch of grass, as humble as it may look to anyone else.

Sure, I’ve been called ‘crazy’ for growing patches of grass in pots and discarded meat trays. But those patches have filled in some of the gaps and given me great pleasure in clipping and shaping them into perfect patches of turf.


So it’s taken almost 5 months, but here is my lovely, luscious lawn:

lawn 1

and from the other direction, our whole backyard:

lawn 2

Truly a yard to be proud of. And with summer coming, it’s likely this is as good as it’ll get, so I’m enjoying it while I can.

Friday, September 16, 2005

ordination retreat

went away for the last 24 or so hours with those who are being ordained along with me on November 6th. It was a great time, they’re a fun bunch.

Since we had several times of reflection, I thought I’d record some of my thoughts in those times. Particularly significant for me was the chance to reflect back on the journey of the past four or so years and the events, people, and decisions that have shaped me over that time.

One of the earliest memories I have of this process was having my psychological profile taken by the BUV psychologist. It was the Californian psychological index, and had something like 630 questions, and then an hour’s interview. I remember the test vividly, but even more I remember getting the results. I was devastated by what came back. I was completely convinced that was the end of that pathway for me: that no way would they ever let anyone with a psych profile like that become a pastor. Not because I was a psychopath or anything, just because it said things like, “Simon (or those who tested with scores similar to Simon) is more likely to be a follower than a leader,” or, “Simon prefers to be alone than with people”, etc, etc. I remember being adamant that most of it was not true, that it didn’t reflect me at all; yet when I went back and re-read it recently, it’s all pretty accurate. They let me through anyway – in fact, reading it now, it’s really not that bad, but I remember at the time just feeling like that was it, that this would destroy any chance of going down that pathway. So that was one memory.

People like Frank Rees have been so instrumental in my formation as a minister and as a person. He has consistently challenged me to go beyond what I want to do, has pushed my buttons at times, but I’ve always appreciated it (usually only in hindsight, but still). He’s not only brought out the best in me, but he’s been responsible for most, if not all, of the significant theological insights I’ve had at Whitley.

Another was the whole process that ended with us being at Whitley. I don’t entirely remember the order of events, but I do remember that simultaneous to Julie and I feeling dissatisfied with our middle class, house-in-the-suburbs life, it was suggested by Frank Rees that we consider going to Whitley as residential tutors. Around the same time, Simon and Brenda (who had earlier visited us and decided not to ask because they thought we’d never leave such a lovely situation) also asked us to come as residential tutors, a position that morphed into the chaplaincy. It’s fascinating to me now because all the events conspired to make the choice so easy, even though it was a hard decision in terms of giving up so much in terms of space, lifestyle, etc. But it was still the best life choice we’ve made, and it will have lifelong consequences (including setting up what I’m doing for the foreseeable future).

An argument with Daniel, a friend of mine, over how negative I was at the time, was also significant. That culminated in an incredibly significant experience of having a thought that was not my own pop into my head after some heated prayer time. “I am the God who made you” was the phrase, and I’ve never forgotten it.

Even the whole conversation/argument I had with my grandma which culminated in her snapping “Well if that’s what you think, why don’t you just go and be a minister, then?” is given new meaning in looking back.

It hasn’t all been easy: my depression was a tough time, especially while we were away in Cairns which I should’ve enjoyed, but couldn’t. We’ve barely made it financially most of the time, we’ve had our car broken into several times at Whitley, and I broke my leg as well. We had the time at Mentone that was so significant in shaping me as a leader, and yet involved some of the toughest decisions I’ve ever had to make. So many events, too many to talk about here, that have brought me to this point, and so many that are yet to happen. But I’m grateful, profoundly grateful, for all of them, and think I can honestly say that I don’t regret any of it. All of it has shaped me to where I am today. And for the moment, that’s a very good place.

So while I couldn’t have honestly said it before the retreat, I’m looking forward to November 6 now. Bring it on.

my penchant for destroying wonderful experiences with ridiculous analytical conversations with myself

I have this tendency to analyse everything whether it requires it or not. Maybe I’m crazy or maybe it’s just my personality, but I drive myself mad because of it. I wish, just once, I could not do it and see how that goes, but I can’t help myself. So I offer this: my thought process upons seeing a rainbow yesterday:

“That’s a nice rainbow.”
“I wonder if it’s just a rainbow or if there’s something more to this rainbow being right here for me to see, right now. Maybe the rainbow could be a metaphor for something.”
“Why does it have to be a metaphor for something? Why can’t it just be a rainbow?”
“Well, it could just be a rainbow. But what if I’m missing something else, something more significant, if I just sit here and look at the rainbow?”
“Or maybe you’re not missing anything and that’s all there is to it. It’s just a rainbow. Beautiful, to be enjoyed, but just as a rainbow.”
“But once I’ve seen it, looked at it, enjoyed it, I really don’t know where to go from there.”
“Why do you need to go somewhere from there?”
“Because it lasts longer than just my seeing and enjoying it, and I feel like I’m not getting as much out of the experience if it doesn’t go further.”
“So maybe it’s a metaphor then. The original rainbow in the Bible story was about hope for the future. Maybe it’s supposed to be about hope for the future?”
“Or maybe you’re just an idiot and it’s just a rainbow. Seriously, why can’t you just enjoy a freaking rainbow?”
“I really don’t know why, but I just can’t. Clearly.” (rolls eyes at himself)
“Maybe giving it more significance is a way of preserving the moment.”
“Why do you have this need to preserve the moment? Why can’t it just be a good moment, and then let it go?”
“Because it’s rare. I like the feeling I have at this moment, and I want to preserve it and enjoy it later.”
“But maybe it’s valuable and wonderful because it is only fleeting.”
“Maybe. But I can’t shake the feeling that there’s more significance to it happening right here, right now.”
“Well surely it would’ve happened regardless of whether or not you were there to see it. So maybe it has no significance.”
“Ah, but I am here to see it. The fact that I’m in this place, at this moment, suggests there must be some significance.”
“Or maybe not.”

Etc. Etc.

And in so doing, I somehow destroy the experience of seeing a rainbow.

Wednesday, September 14, 2005

disturbing, hilarious or both?

you decide.

don’t forget to check out the profiles.

“don’t it always seem to go, that you don’t know what you’ve got till it’s gone…”

second day in a row without a headache. gotta love it.

scott parkin 2

ok, so now they’ve revealed why they’re deporting him: apparently, he encouraged ‘spirited’ protest and was intending to teach ‘techniques for preventing police from taking protesters away for arrest’. In the context of someone committed to non-violence, we can safely assume those techniques were non-violent, so I still fail to get what he has done that is illegal, or even close to a ‘threat to national security’. how dare he encourage spirited protest? only boring, unenthusiastic protest is allowed here, otherwise you might actually have some kind of effect. seriously, surely protest, even resistance, is still a legal right in this country? just because you disagree with the government and make efforts to express that disagreement, seems now to mean you forfeit all rights to being here. that’s not just wrong, it’s downright disturbing. unless there’s something they’re not telling us about this story – and there seems to be no reason not to defend this decision – there’s every reason to be not just alert, but very, very alarmed.

Tuesday, September 13, 2005

that old chestnut

for some reason I’ve been battling again with headaches for the past four or so months, culminating this week in one every single day for two weeks. Today’s the first day in a fortnight I haven’t had one, and I feel terrific to be able to function. I thought I had them licked two years ago when I stopped drinking orange juice – immediately they stopped for almost a year. but recently it’s gotten bad again, and combined with a general feeling of unwellness, I finally succumbed to the idea of going to the doctor. A big step for me with this, because I’ve been dealing with it for a long time.

About 4 years ago I went on migraine prevention medication, but that lasted only a week, after I found that they made me so sleepy I could not physically stay awake. After falling asleep in class a couple of times (which is really embarrassing when you’re one of about 6 in the class), the last straw came when I fell asleep while doing 100 on the Eastern Freeway. Luckily I woke up in time to avoid an accident, but it was clear I couldn’t function on them.

Lately (as in the last 4 or 5 months), it’s been accompanied by a general feeling of constant tiredness, like I have no energy at all, and frequent nausea too, usually accompanying the headaches, but not always. It’s clearly not stress, because I am loving my job, and it’s not particularly taxing. Nor can I put it down to changes in my eating habits, or any other changes I can think of. It just doesn’t seem to make any sense. even the doctor called me a puzzle, which is not an overly encouraging thing to hear from your doctor. I’d much rather hear her call me any number of other things that imply that she knows what’s wrong and how to fix it. So anyway, yesterday I finally went to get it all checked out and was sent to get a blood test this morning.

I don’t do well with blood tests. There’s something about the idea of having something sucked out of you that’s meant to remain in you that doesn’t sit well. I mean, I understand why they need to do it, but that’s why we have skin in the first place – to keep it all in there. So after my usual “why is the floor rotating around the ceiling?” routine, I stumbled out of there.

I get my results next week. it’ll be nice to have a resolution to this, even though you could (quite accurately) say it’s my fault that it’s taken so long so get one since I haven’t sought one till now. Personally I’m hoping they tell me I don’t eat enough junk food, but I’m not holding out a lot of hope.

scott parkin

what is our country coming to? I guess we always knew it would happen, but really…this is incredibly depressing.

the short story is that scott parkin, a non-violent peace activist, has been detained and is awaiting deportation due to what the government has called an ‘adverse security assessment’. they refuse to give any more detail than that. scott was here to travel and while here linked up with greenpeace and then was asked to help out with some non-violent activist training with Pt’chang. now I’m not going to enter into any conspiracy theories about scott’s enemies at halliburton putting political pressure on the australian government, but the injustice of his detention alone is apalling. Iain Murray, the guy who had him out here and who was with him when he was arrested is one of the facilitators of Pt’chang, the group I did the non-violent activist training with a few months back. He led the training day, and he’s the one who’s been interviewed in all the papers. I have no doubt that they are 110% committed to non-violence, and Scott therefore poses no threat to Australia at all. It’s just staggering that this can even be allowed to happen.

any sort of resistance to this government is crushed with brutal and increasingly fearless impunity, and no-one seems to be willing or able to hold the government to account for it. we are becoming a dictatorship and the majority don’t notice, or don’t care. is this what we are coming to?

Monday, September 05, 2005

nick hornby on music

this guy writes like I think. it’s eerie, uncanny, and homely and comfortable all at the same time. I recently finished his book 31 songs which is basically just him writing about how he thinks and feels about music, through 31 of his favourite songs. I have this deep and abiding love of music (as evidenced recently by my irrational panic when my mp3 player went down for the count) and in so many ways Hornby describes that love better than I ever could. It’s also a useful apologetic for pop music, which is my main musical diet. I’ve picked out some of my favourite quotes from the book (some of them rather long, admittedly, but worth the read):

Songs are what I listen to, almost to the exclusion of everything else. I don’t listen to classical music or jazz very often, and when people ask me what music I like, I find it very difficult to reply, because they usually want names of people, and I can only give them song titles. And mostly all I have to say about these songs is that I love them, and want to sing along to them, and force other people to listen to them, and get cross when other people don’t like them as much as I do…

So seriously…why doesn’t everyone else get how incredible Sullivan St or Anna Begins are? “Her kindness bangs a gong” may be the stupidest lyric ever on paper, but I still say it’s the climax of the most incredible four minutes of anyone’s life. Maybe that’s why I love Counting Crows fans too…they just…get it, with no need to explain the unexplainable.

On the snobbery of music fans:

That’s the thing that puzzles me about those who feel that contemporary pop (and I use the word to encompass soul, reggae, country, rock – anything and everything that might be regarded as trashy) is beneath them, or behind them, or beyond them – some preposition denoting distance, anyway: does this mean that you never hear, or at least never enjoy, new songs, that everything you whistle or hum was written years, decades, centuries ago? Do you really deny yourselves the pleasure of mastering a tune (a pleasure, incidentally, that your generation is perhaps the first in the history of mankind to forgo) because you are afraid it might make you look as if you don’t know who Harold Bloom is? Wow. I’ll bet you’re fun at parties.

I remember someone asking Adam Duritz outside the Palais in Melbourne, “I’m trying to write music. Do you have any advice for me?” Adam replied (and I’ll never forget it, because it redefined what was “good” or “acceptable” music for me) “Just make music that you like.” The girl goes, “But how do I make it good?” and he said, somewhat exasperated, “It doesn’t matter what anyone else thinks about it – make music that makes you happy. It doesn’t matter it if it’s happy or sad or whatever – if you get a kick out of it, what does it matter?”

It was an incredibly liberating moment – because if a song’s catchy but was performed by a boy band, who cares? You don’t become fun at parties (or in other words, enjoy life) by denying yourself such simple, cheap pleasures.

on pop music’s disposability:

...a three-minute pop song can only withhold its mysteries for so long, after all. So, yes, it’s disposable, as if that makes any difference to anyone’s perceptions of the value of pop music. But then, shouldn’t we be sick of ‘Moonlight’ Sonata by now? Or Christina’s World? Or The Importance of Being Ernest? They’re empty! Nothing left! We sucked ‘em dry! That’s what gets me: the very people who are snotty about the disposability of pop will go over and over again to see Lady Bracknell say ‘A handbag?’ in a funny voice. They don’t think that joke’s exhausted itself? Maybe disposability is a sign of pop music’s maturity, a recognition of its own limitations, rather than the converse.

On generational musical snobbery:

There is no doubt, though, that lyrics are the literate pop fan’s Achilles heel. We have all lived through the shrivelling moment when a parent walks into a room and repeats, with sardonic disbelief, a couplet picked up from the stereo or the TV. ‘What does that mean, then?’ my mother asked me during Top of the Pops. ‘”Get it on/Bang a gong”? How long did it take him to think of that, do you reckon?’ And the correct answer – ‘Two seconds, and it doesn’t matter’ – is always beyond you, so you just tell her to shut up, while inside you’re hating Marc Bolan for making you like him even though he sings about getting it on and banging gongs. (I suspect that this humiliation continues, and that it makes no difference whether the parent doing the humiliating was brought up on a diet of T. Rex, or Spandau Ballet, or Sham 69, and therefore should avoid the literary high ground altogether. My mother, after all, belonged to a generation that danced – danced and smooched – to ‘How Much Is That Doggie In The Window?’ and if she felt able to be snooty about ‘Get It On’, then surely snootiness is a weapon available to all. Rubbishing our children’s tastes is one of the few pleasures remaining to us as we become old, redundant and culturally marginalized.)

I have this memory of trying to decipher the lyrics of Peter Blakeley’s “Crying in the Chapel” (which I found immensely engaging at the time), and thinking that what I heard couldn’t possibly be the real lyrics, whereupon my mother entered the room and confirmed for me just how inane they were. Then she said they used to dance to “Do the hot potato” and somehow that admission was enough to destroy any credibility she might’ve had in her generation being musically superior.

Theological reflection, Hornby-style; his chapter on Rufus Wainwright’s ‘One Man Guy’:

I try not to believe in God, of course, but sometimes things happen in music, in songs, that bring me up short, make me do a double take. When things add up to more than the sum of their parts, when the effects achieved are inexplicable, then atheists like me start to get into difficult territory. Take Rufus Wainwright’s version of his father Loudon’s ‘One Man Guy’, for example. There should be nothing evoking the spirit about it, really: the song’s lovely, but it’s a little sour, a little sad, jokey – the joke being that the song is not about the joys of monogamy but is about the joys of solipsism and misanthropy, a joke that is given a neat little twist by Wainwright junior’s sexual orientation – and it’s hard to imagine that God has time to pay a visit to something so wry and self-mocking. And yet, weirdly, He does. There’s no doubt about it. (And of course, in doing so, He answers once and for all the question of what He thinks of homosexuality: he’s not bothered one way or the other. Official.)

For me, He comes in at the beginning of the second verse, just when Rufus and his sister Martha begin to harmonize. Perhaps significantly (or perhaps He is merely demonstrating a hitherto unsuspected sense of humour), His presence first makes itself known on the line, ‘People meditate, hey, that’s great, trying to find the Inner You’. It’s the harmony that does it, although whether that’s cause or effect is a moot point. Does God come in because Martha and Rufus are singing so beautifully together – does He hear it from afar and think, ‘Hey, that’s My kind of music, and I’m going to see what’s going on’? Or does He enable them to sing together – does he spot what they’re pitching for and help them along the way?

When I say that you can hear God in ‘One Man Guy’ by Rufus Wainwright, I do not mean to suggest that there is an old chap with a beard – a divine Willie Nelson, if you will – warbling along with them. Nor do I wish to imply that this surprise guest appearance at the beginning of the second verse proves that Jesus died for our sins, or that rich men will have difficulty entering the Kingdom of Heaven. I just mean that at certain spine-shivering musical moments – and you will have your own, inevitably – it becomes difficult to remain a literalist. (I have no such difficulty when I hear religious music, by the way, no matter how beautiful. They’re cheating, those composers: they’re inviting Him in, egging Him on, and surely He wouldn’t fall for that? I think He’d have enough self-respect to stay well away.)

I’m not sure what difference it makes to me, this occasional vision of the Divine in the music I love. OK, maybe it comes as a relief, because a lot of people I have a lot of time for, writers and musicians and sports stars and politicians, have a great deal to say on the subject of God and hitherto I had felt a bit left out; now I have something, a little scrap of spirituality, I can wave back at them. Oh, and as a writer, I don’t normally have patience for the ineffable – I ought to think that everything’s effing effable, otherwise what’s the point? But I’m not sure there are words to describe what happens when two voices mesh (and isn’t the power and beauty and sheer perfection of a simple chord a bit, you know, Outer Limits? It’s no wonder Pythagorus got so worked up about harmony). All I can say is that I can hear things that aren’t there, see and feel things I can’t normally see and feel, and start to realize that, yes, there is such a thing as an immortal soul, or, at the very least, a unifying human consciousness, that our loves are short but have meaning. Beyond that, I’m not sure it changes very much, really. I’m not going to listen to stuff like this too often, though, just in case.

I love this chapter because although he’s coming from a different perspective (atheist as opposed to theist) we share something in common. God is never more real to me than in moments like that in music – in the tinkling piano and harmonies of the “Did She Wanna Run” alt to Sullivan St, in walking along the street to the bouncing guitar riff of The Ramones’ “It’s Not My Place (In the 9 to 5 World)”, in the blasting horns of “Kick” by INXS. There’s a sense in which the pure joy of human life and expression is not so much transcended as intensified (sometimes a thousandfold) in such moments. But then, like he said, you can’t make the ineffable effable.

On thanking God in the liner notes:

The single biggest influence on most of these artists [British Top 10, August 2001] according to the acknowledgements in their liner notes, is…Actually, let’s see if you can guess. Who do you think is at least partially responsible for such songs as ‘Where the Party At?’, ‘Bootylicious’, ‘Bad Boy for Life’, ‘American Psycho’, ‘The Girlies’, and ‘Pimp Like Me’? Who do you think inspired the rapper on D12’s ‘Ain’t Nuttin’ But Music’ (‘Independent women in the house/Show us your tits and shut your motherf***ing mouth’ – a chummy reference, presumably, to Destiny’s Child, whose hit ‘Independant Women Part 1’ opens their Survivor album)? Give up? OK.

You may well be surprised to learn that the very first person thanked in the liner notes of the CDs containing these gems is the Almighty Himself. He gets thanked on seven of the ten albums, by sixteen different contributing artists. Brian, of Jagged Edge, for instance, declares that without God ‘we wouldn’t be here doing this third album’ – incontrovertible, according to much creationist theory, but a somewhat reductive view of the universe nonetheless. Let’s face it, without God the first two albums would have been pretty tricky, too. In a similar spirit, Michelle, of Destiny’s Child, is moved to point out to the Creator, ‘There is no one like you!!’, which is, on reflection, one of the tidiest ontological arguments you could wish to hear.

You really do have to wonder at the credentials of those who thank God in their liner notes, or in their awards speeches…somehow singing “I put it right there, made it easy for you to get to/Now you wanna act like ya don’t know what to do/After I done everything that you asked me/Grabbed you, grind you, liked you, tried you/Moved so fast baby now I can’t find you” and then saying how God made all this possible (or even, in many cases, Jesus) is more than just misguided, it’s literally blasphemous. I’m not even just talking about personal sexual morality; these people usually have no concept of who Jesus is or the way he treated people.

On why he has little time for shock art (or noise music):

That’s the real con of shock art: it makes out that it’s democratic, but it’s actually only for those who can afford it. And some of us, as we get older, simply find that we don’t have that much courage to spare anymore. Good luck to you if you have, because it means that you have managed to avoid more or less everything that life has to throw at you, but don’t try to make me feel morally or intellectually inferior.

I guess this book just goes a long way towards explaining why his novels strike so deeply home for me – he gets it in the same way I get it, and it seems that’s a rare thing. Sharing such a love, even with someone you don’t know and have never met, is a profound bond.

Thursday, August 25, 2005

the genius that is radiohead

I’d forgotten about this band until I saw the scope (formerly the spastic society) ad on tv. Anyone seen this ad? There’s a guy in a wheelchair at a train station, with a bunch of people standing around waiting for the train. A few people look over at him as he starts to sing out loud to the music in his headphones. Over the course of the ad, the music gradually becomes louder, and is revealed to be radiohead’s paranoid android (a detail which is totally irrelevent to the message of the ad, but nonetheless the detail that riveted me most).

The screen text then says, “Don’t worry, he’s just another music fan. See the person, not the disability.” A good ad, with a worthwhile message, well executed. The funny thing was, the message was kind of lost on me since I spent the whole ad trying to work out what he was singing, then listening to. Especially since paranoid android recalls a very specific time in my life, I was lost in that kind of wailing Thom Yorke does and the way the song switches up and down and drags you along like a dog tied to the towbar of a 4 wheel drive.

So it seems that personally, I hear the music, before I see the person, let alone the disability. I wonder what that says about me?

Anyway, the point wasn’t about the ad, it was about radiohead, who have this unique (well, rare at least) ability to bridge that gap the Yes never bridged (which is a real shame) between fantastical, weird experimental rock and mainstream music (popular culture). There is something truly emotive about their songs, something that needs to be heard (or rather experienced) to be understood in any sense. I hadn’t even pulled out anything of theirs (except the odd random Creep from the Triple J Hottest 100) for such a long time, and it was a refreshing reminder of that time in my life when I was young enough to be experimenting with new music and let it sink and seep in enough to be a significant influence on my character. I’m not old by any stretch, but I do find myself increasingly shutting out new music, something I swore black and blue I would never do. Radiohead’s a reminder of that time, and a beautiful tug on the heartstrings of memory it is.

Tuesday, August 16, 2005

the wit and wisdom of sesame street (or, why I like children's television)

Gordon: Where’d you get that shopping cart full of cookies Cookie Monster?
Cookie Monster: Me won poetry contest.
Gordon: You wrote a poem? Can we hear it?
Cookie Monster: Me was going to call it “Ode to Cookie” but me not know what ‘ode’ is. So me just call it “Cookie”. * ahem *



Big Bird (slowly, thoughtfully): I like it. It has a surprise ending.

Wednesday, August 10, 2005

my family history obsession

I’ve always been a little curious to know what our family history is, and have had various attempts at tracking things down at various times, but nothing really substantial; until a few weeks ago. Can’t say why it’s suddenly become a burning issue for me because I don’t know; the book I’m reading (Who Will Roll Away The Stone? by Ched Myers) talks a lot about heritage and the unconscious ways it affects us, but I came across that after this obsession began. Maybe it’s a sense of rootlessness, or a search for who I am, or to be part of a larger, ongoing narrative; maybe it’s to have a good story to tell at dinner parties. Probably elements of all of them. Whatever began or fuelled it, here’s what I’ve found:

I only researched the Moyle line, because as you can imagine, once you get past your grandparents, you’re muliplying family lines exponentially, so you could end up with (potentially) hundreds and thousands of lines of descent. So I picked one, the most obvious starting place: my name.

To cut a long story short, I managed to find enough information through my grandfather to link up with a Moyle family genealogist who has about 15 Moyle family genealogies. He found where we fit, on a tree that dates back to 1536. Pretty cool I reckon. So here’s the summary, for those who actually read the genealogies at the start of Matthew and Luke (minus the begatting):

John Moyle (b. 1536) was the father of Henry Moyle (b. 1568)
who was the father of John Moyle (b. 1594)
who was the father of John Moyle (b. 1632)
who was the father of John Moyle (b. 1661)
who was the father of Stephen Moyle (b. 1706)
who was the father of Stephen Moyle (b. 1731)
who was the father of James Moyle (b. 1763)
who was the father of William Moyle (b.1810)
who was the father of William Moyle (b. 1838)
who was the father of William James Thomas Moyle (b.1868)
who was the father of William Leslie Moyle
who was the father of Eric Leslie Moyle
who was the father of Keith Leslie Moyle
who was the father of Simon James Moyle (b. 1977). that’s me.

Yes, sorry to get all patriarchal, but the Moyle name was only passed down through the male side. I have the wives details too but that would be twice as much to type out.

William Moyle (b. 1838) was the one who came out to Australia from Cornwall with his sister Charity, during the gold rush, sometime in the late 1850’s, early 1860’s. A tin miner in Cornwall, he probably came here (along with thousands of other Cornish) to strike it rich in the goldmines. He was married in 1866 in the All Saints Anglican Church in Sandhurst (Bendigo) to Sarah Jane Barnes (also from Cornwall), and they had 11 children, two of whom died around age 2, probably from a bout of diorrhea that was killing many infants around that time.

So yesterday I made the trip to Bendigo to track down William’s grave and any others I could find. There it was, no tombstone, just a mound of shale rock and dirt with a gravesite number. Judging by his gravesite, I daresay his goldmining was not overly successful; but then, only the rich could afford headstones or an aboveground structure. Nearby were buried his two children (Emily Ethel and Thomas Burgan Moyle) who died young, both in the same grave, again with no headstone. How heartbreaking to lose your children at that age. Interestingly, they gave their next boy the same name (Thomas Burgan) as the one who had just died. I don’t know if that’s a beautiful tribute or just creepy; maybe a little of both.

Then I went to the former All Saints Anglican Church in Sandhurst where William and Sarah were married. It’s undergone a number of changes since 1866, not surprisingly (it’s now called “View Hill” and is home to a progressive Anglican congregation), but a lot of it is still intact, including the original pipe organ. It was once the crowning glory of Bendigo, the largest and most impressive church building in the district for many years. The history of it can be found here.

I feel like I’m just scratching the surface of all there is to know about these people, but I’m particularly intrigued by William and Sarah, and their motivations and experiences in starting a new life out in the colonies. This was a three to four month voyage with every chance of dying on the way, either of sickness or shipwreck, so you’d need to be sure. Not to mention leaving hundreds, maybe thousands of years of family history in Cornwall behind when it’s all you or your family has ever known, to go to a place you’ve only heard vaguely about, with little chance of ever returning. It’s these kinds of stories I would love to be able to track down, or just little facts about them or their life together. An insight into what lies beneath the fact that I am a fifth generation Australian.

But more on what that means another time; I’m still thinking about it.

Wednesday, July 27, 2005

bald is the new hair

so I’ve shaved my head and I like it a lot. in fact, in a completely unrelated incident, I was researching my family history (Moyle history to be precise) and it turns out that Moyle is a Cornish name meaning ‘bald’. how deliciously coincidental.

nonetheless, here are some FAQs about my head; and I mean FAQs, because most of these have been asked at least 5-10 times:

1. Is it cold?
Yes it is cold sometimes, particularly at night. Maybe this wasn’t the time of year to inaugurate this change in hairstyle, but at least I’ll be ready for summer. It actually took my body about a week to adjust, going hot and cold every 5 minutes until it found an equilibrium.

2. Why did you shave it?
Let’s dispell some myths right here: no, I am not becoming a monk (it’s too hard with a wife and kid) and no, I am not going through some kind of late 20’s crisis. I had long hair, I decided to get it cut, I didn’t want to pay for a haircut so I used my clippers, then was curious as to what I’d look like with no hair at all. I figured the only way to know was to try it, and I liked what I saw: so I kept it. I wish I had a more exciting story than that, but I don’t. However, I am taking submissions if you’d like to make one up for me to tell people.

3. How does it feel?
Other than cold? Well actually most of the time it feels like sandpaper because with the exception of the hour after shaving it, it’s usually got a small degree of regrowth. That makes putting t-shirts on over my head extremely difficult, with the resistance. I wish my facial hair would grow as thick and as fast, but it doesn’t.

4. How long do you intend to keep it?
As long as I like it like this. Indefinitely. I think it looks as good as any other hairstyle I’ve had.

Besides, if it’s good enough for moby, ed kowalcyk and michael stipe, it’s good enough for me.

Friday, June 24, 2005

archy the cockroach

I grew up on this poetry by Don Marquis, about a cockroach named Archy who typed at night. of course, unable to use the shift key, he uses no punctuation. but he has a unique and often amusing insight into life as an insect, and hence, life as a human.

This is probably my favourite:

the lesson of the moth

By Don Marquis, in “archy and mehitabel,” 1927

i was talking to a moth
the other evening
he was trying to break into
an electric light bulb
and fry himself on the wires

why do you fellows
pull this stunt i asked him
because it is the conventional
thing for moths or why
if that had been an uncovered
candle instead of an electric
light bulb you would
now be a small unsightly cinder
have you no sense

plenty of it he answered
but at times we get tired
of using it
we get bored with the routine
and crave beauty
and excitement
fire is beautiful
and we know that if we get
too close it will kill us
but what does that matter
it is better to be happy
for a moment
and be burned up with beauty
than to live a long time
and be bored all the while
so we wad all our life up
into one little roll
and then we shoot the roll
that is what life is for
it is better to be a part of beauty
for one instant and then cease to
exist than to exist forever
and never be a part of beauty
our attitude toward life
is come easy go easy
we are like human beings
used to be before they became
too civilized to enjoy themselves

and before i could argue him
out of his philosophy
he went and immolated himself
on a patent cigar lighter
i do not agree with him
myself i would rather have
half the happiness and twice
the longevity

but at the same time i wish
there was something i wanted
as badly as he wanted to fry himself


followed closely by:

warty bliggens, the toad

By Don Marquis, in “archy and mehitabel,” 1927

i met a toad
the other day by the name
of warty bliggens
he was sitting under
a toadstool
feeling contented
he explained that when the cosmos
was created
that toadstool was especially
planned for his personal
shelter from sun and rain
thought out and prepared
for him

do not tell me
said warty bliggens
that there is not a purpose
in the universe
the thought is blasphemy
a little more
conversation revealed
that warty bliggens
considers himself to be
the center of the same
the earth exists
to grow toadstools for him
to sit under
the sun to give him light
by day and the moon
and wheeling constellations
to make beautiful
the night for the sake of
warty bliggens

to what act of yours
do you impute
this interest on the part
of the creator
of the universe
i asked him
why is it that you
are so greatly favored

ask rather
said warty bliggens
what the universe
has done to deserve me
if i were a
human being i would
not laugh
too complacently
at poor warty bliggens
for similar
have only too often
lodged in the crinkles
of the human cerebrum


it strikes me just now that perhaps the moth and warty bliggens are two sides of the same coin; and maybe that’s what I love about them both.

Wednesday, June 22, 2005

reading list

Time to take stock of my reading for the past three months or so. Not an exhaustive list, but some of the notables, in no particular order:

The Tipping Point by Malcolm Gladwell
Recommended to me by another church planter, this is a book about the conditions that cause a social movement to reach the “tipping point” and explode into a social phenomenon. It’s full of fascinating psychological experiments, including research done on why Sesame St. works so well, why New York’s crime wave suddenly took a dive in the early 90s, and why Hush Puppies had a sudden resurgence in popularity.

The Chequebook and the Cruise Missile by Arundhati Roy
This book consists of a series of conversations with social activist and commentator Arundhati Roy (most famously the Booker Prize-winning author of “The God of Small Things”). I originally became interested in her when Andrew Denton interviewed her on Enough Rope – her story was fascinating and compelling. That interview is still available online here and is well worth checking out. Just a small exerpt:

I think where there is a fear, there will… I mean, where there is fear, there’ll always be hope. Where there is oppression, it will always be challenged by those of us who will challenge it with greater intensity, you know? So that’s why I don’t believe that there can ever be peace without justice, you know? The two go together…always there will be people who demand dignity, who demand justice, who demand their rights. And, you know, that is as much physics as the physics of people who want power and who try to usurp it – it is the physics of those of us who will challenge it, and we’ll always be around.

Confessions of an Economic Hit Man by John Perkins
If you read no other book this year, etc. etc….I know a lot of people say that, but wow, this book is a corker. John Perkins is a self-confessed former Economic Hit Man (or EHM for short), who on behalf of US interests blackmailed, cajoled and tricked developing countries into debt and ultimately expanding the US empire. This is an expose on the US belief that they are chosen by God to police the world according to their own values and beliefs, and their methods of ensuring that it is done.

No Logo: Taking Aim at the Brand Bullies by Naomi Klein
The anti-consumerist’s bible. It details the very eclectic and disparate anti-consumerism movement, the reasons behind it and the tactics they employ. Marketing itself is a large part of the book’s focus, looking at the methods companies use to create community where there is none, and to brand us all in their image. It also details the horrific human rights abuses behind global corporations such as Nike and Shell, and the media spins they use to ignore or combat these events. A little long-winded for me, but certainly comprehensive.

Globalization and its Discontents by Joseph Stiglitz
Let me begin this by saying that the word ‘economics’ makes me run a mile – which is good for my fitness, yes, but my point is that I have no clue when it comes to economics. Or should I say ‘had’, since I have learnt a lot since reading this book. Stiglitz is a former economist in the Clinton government, and Chief Economist at the World Bank. This book is a scathing assessment of the International Monetary Fund (IMF) and the way their policies have continued and in some cases worsened widespread poverty in developing countries, counter to its imprimatur. The IMF is there, basically, to ensure that countries have stable and healthy economies in order for development to happen and poverty not to happen. Essentially, he argues that it is both incompetance and protecting first world interests (particularly in the form of repaid debt) that maintain the problems, and there is need for significant change.

The Promethius Deception by Robert Ludlum
Not so much significant for its own sake as for the fact that it was my last Robert Ludlum book. I went on a Robert Ludlum rampage for the last 2 and a half years, and read every one of his 32 or so books…I’m really not sure why, considering they are all basically the same, only with the character names changed. It’s the old one-skilled-but-alone-man-against-a-global-conspiracy-with-no-one-he-can-trust story, but it’s really fun stuff you can switch your brain off and enjoy. Maybe for me too it has that element of encouragement – that one person can make a difference, etc. (even if that one person is a highly trained covert ops assassin…)

How to be Good by Nick Hornby
Thus began my Nick Hornby binge – and what a beginning. The blurb explains it best:

Katie Carr, doctor (and self-declared ‘good person’) has just had an affair. It’s really not her fault – she is, after all, married to David: angry, cynical, negative (though undeniably funny) and a real pain to live with. But then David meets DJ Goodnews, astonishingly effective faith healer and do-gooder of the unbearably smug kind. And now David is good. Too good, actually – ‘a liberal’s worst nightmare’, he starts to put theory into practice, giving away their kids’ toys, reaching out to the hopeless and homeless in a very personal and, for Katie, disturbing way. It seems to her that if charity begins at home, it may be time to move…

A fascinating study of what it would be like if we were actually prepared to risk living what we believe.

High Fidelity by Nick Hornby
This is a magnificent story about male and female relationshjps. There was a movie made of it with John Cusack and Catherine Zeta-Jones a while back, but in an Americanized way. If there’s not a dozen or so “I can totally relate to that!” moments as you read this book, I’d be surprised.

About a Boy by Nick Hornby
Another book that was adapted well for screen, although the book has a slightly different slant on the characters. Basically about two boys, one a grown man who needs to grow up and the other a young boy who needs to learn to be a kid.

Currently: The End of Poverty: How we can make it happen in our lifetime by Jeffrey Sachs
I’ll let you know how it goes when I finish, but basically, it’s an explanation of the arguments behind the MakePovertyHistory campaign and the requests being made of the G8 leaders this July to forgive debt, make trade fair, and increase aid.

Saturday, June 04, 2005

an eventful week

so this week was rather eventful for me, all stemming from a 2 minute incident at 12:45pm on Wednesday.

Basically (to make a long story short) I witnessed an altercation between a young man (18ish?) and an older man (mid 70’s?) outside the front of my house. I didn’t see what started it (although I later discovered the young man had asked the older man for money), but I did hear them swearing and yelling at each other before they began fighting, and watched from my window as the younger man picked up our wheelie bin and brought it crashing down on the old man’s head before being chased away by the older man.

I won’t go into the ensuing details of police reports and investigations. Suffice to say I was the only witness to the event, so I was quite popular with the boys in blue for a couple of days. : D What strikes me most as I replay the whole situation is how this kind of thing happens. What could possibly have transpired for an exchange between two complete strangers to escalate to the point it did?

Let me start with the older man. It was his angry voice I heard first, and believe me, he was giving at least as good as he got. The only reason I can think of for him to react so angrily and aggressively was fear. He wasn’t exactly a frail old man, but I imagine he wasn’t in the prime of his life. To have a young guy come and ask you for money (I don’t know how that happened, whether he demanded it forcefully, or just requested it) is confronting, particularly if you feel threatened. The second you feel threatened or fearful, you feel defensive, and react defensively. I think the likelihood is that his defensive reaction was offense.

Then there’s the younger man. Obviously I don’t know his situation, but I do know that this occurred just 20 metres from a piece of graffiti that reads (somewhat like a disclaimer), “If youth allowance wasn’t 52% of the poverty line, I wouldn’t have to steal.” Teasing out the issues involved in that sentence alone could take days (eg/ why write that unless you are genuinely apologetic?). But clearly this kid is not alone in his desperation for that which most of us take for granted – a means to fulfill our most basic needs. No-one begs for money as an entrepreneurial venture. Maybe I’m assuming too much about a situation I barely know anything about, but it makes me feel at least as much sympathy for this kid as for the old man, both caught up in a society of fear. That fear alienates that kid, and it only perpetuates a system of inequality and alienation.

And then there’s me: why didn’t I go and put myself in the situation? Why did I watch it escalate to its conclusion from the safety of my darkened window? Well the answer to that is fear too. Not for my own safety – goodness knows my instinctive reaction to things like this is to act without thinking and jump in aggressively (demonstrated not once, not twice, but thrice) – but for my family. To intervene, I thought, would be to invite the wrath of the young man upon my house; and that meant my family. I still don’t know what to make of that, whether I did the right thing or not. But I acted out of fear, and that alone is, at the very least, sad.

I don’t know what to do about it, I just keep looking at this whole incident and thinking how it’s just a tiny, tiny microcosm of the sadness that is allowed to go on in our society, perpetuated by “a current affair” and our pm and others. I don’t even know how to end this post. I’ll pray for them.