Thursday, March 31, 2005

Stray thought: 1

What if our skin is transparent in some wavelengths of light? Some creatures might see us as skeletons with organs packed around them; they'd probably be wondering how we kept everything together.

And no, there's nothing more to this thought: that was the entire thing. No explanation before or after, no real redeeming qualities. I just think it's interesting.

Monday, March 28, 2005


It matters, yes? The fact we're alive, it matters. I've had hours and years and decades to think about this, and my conclusion is, we matter. You, me, we mean something. Paul Hester's death has shaken this resolution, but I'm holding fast. Bugger him. Bugger him, the poor bastard. God bless, et cetera, but mainly I'm thinking (God forgive me) fuck you, you bastard! How could you?!

Living matters. Do whatever you have to. Stay here. Face it.

Life and death

Paul Hester, the drummer from Crowded House, was found dead in a park near his home in Melbourne on Saturday. The news reports don't seem clear on details, so I'm not linking to them. All are saying he'd gone out walking with his dogs and didn't come back. Most are saying that he killed himself. Some have named the dogs. (I put that last bit in because it amuses me. I also think, without any justification whatsoever, it would have amused Mr Hester.)

Whatever the circumstances of his death, it's tragic, and it should be a private matter for his family and friends. On the other hand, those of us who remember Crowded House, or the other bands he was in, had something of him in our own lives, however remote or detached from his actual self that public part of him might have been. I've written previously that Crowded House songs are so tangled up with some years in my life I can hardly remember scenes from that time without also hearing the music. "Don't Dream It's Over" was one of the finest pop songs ever made, in my opinion, and hearing it now takes me back to a specific desk, looking out a specific window, breathing a specific air, and feeling fine. There was something of Paul Hester in that song and in all their songs. His exuberance and stage-presence was so impressive. He looked so damn happy.

I don't know what to say. Maybe he didn't kill himself. Maybe he did. Who can't understand that impulse, the desire to stop being, to just go? I've thought about it, and I bet you have as well. Anyone with any imagination can see that death is always an alternative, until the day that it catches us or we catch it. We should do all we can to avoid chasing it, I think now, unless driven by extraordinary circumstances (extreme illness, say). I wrote about this in an earlier post. But now I just want to add - no offence to Mr Hester, I don't know anything about him - the suicide of someone famous hurts everybody: it's someone we might admire, but they're saying no to life, when most of us need all the encouragement we can get to say yes. It's just so bloody sad.

Sorry about the crassness or whatever (it's an Amazon catalogue...) but if you've never heard or need reminding of what Crowded House sounded like, you can hear bits of tracks from their self-titled album here. It's "Now We're Getting Somewhere" that most reminds me of the public Paul Hester, whacking those drums and dancing. Bless him.

Saturday, March 26, 2005

Trouble ahead

I’ve got no explanation for what I’m about to tell you, despite stuffing around on the Net trying to find one. So here, all unadorned by sense, is my premonition experience.

I was going for a walk with the dogs a few weeks ago, intending to walk along the coffee rows. Approaching the start of one row, I had a sudden very strong feeling of dread and stopped for a minute to wonder what was going on. I’d been feeling fine, not anxious, not worried. There seemed to be no reason for feeling this dread. I looked along the row and thought about the electricity pole midway along: was something going to fall on me if I walked underneath it?

The ludicrous nature of this thought then propelled me along the row. That pole has been standing there for years. Nothing has ever fallen off it. I’ve walked along that row so many times and never been hurt by anything. I was just being stupid. It was a weird random feeling of panic for no reason. The dogs and I would walk on. Which we did. I nevertheless kept my eyes on the electricity pole overhead, just in case.

Which turns out to have been the wrong direction to look, because just as we walked under the pole there was a noise from the ground. There, escaping into the distance (away and not towards us, thank God!) was the fattest brown snake I’ve ever seen in my life: about 2 metres long and at least as wide as my elbow. And bloody hell it moved fast. Given the inclination, it could have bitten all three of us before we even realised it was there.

Can you explain this? Because I would certainly like a sensible explanation. There’s no way I used normal human senses to predict this snake was there: the feeling of dread struck about 30 metres away from it, too far to be able to see or hear it. And it was camouflaged so well against dead grass that even from 5 metres away, and even if I’d been looking in the right direction, I probably still wouldn’t have seen it. And even the dogs didn’t seem to notice it, which is perhaps more alarming. I always assumed they’d warn me of dangers. (Wasn’t that Lassie’s job?)

What I’m saying is this: this feeling of dread, this premonition, was not initiated by me, or at least, not initiated by any process that I know of. So where did it come from? You’ve probably got every reason to think I’m a total Fruit Loop, but from my point of view, no, that’s not so. I’m highly sceptical of all claims of extrasensory perception, and living in the land of Gurus Inc (north coast NSW) I’m way past believing in airy-fairy notions of ... well, any bloody thing. I want to believe this premonition had a scientific explanation, but have yet to find one. Any ideas?


Okay, just because I’m stupendously obsessive, here is a re-creation of my premonition experience in pictures. We’ll go backwards, because otherwise you won’t appreciate the distance between snake and premonition, which is kind of the point of this update – it’s a long way.

At 5 metres:

The snake (played by two wooden stakes, about the same colour and combined-length) heading towards those coffee trees at the top; you can also see Big Pup, showing about as much concern for the venomous one as she did at the time.

At 10 metres:

The snake as seen in the 5m pic is travelling to the right of the pole, across the row to the right of this one. It had probably been sunning itself on the dead grass around the pole seen in this shot.

At 20 metres:

You can see Big Pup near the pole (if you squint hard enough), and sad to say, that’s my stupid finger lounging across the lens.

And at 30 metres, where the premonition stopped me in my tracks:

You can’t see the dead grass from here. Or the snake. It’s hard to believe I could’ve smelled or heard anything from this distance. I’d been walking towards this point from behind the camera, so this was the closest I'd been. And I was walking with two dogs, and they aren’t quiet. And it was probably breezy, the wind at that time of day usually coming from the north-east (behind the camera to the left; the snake would have been downwind, in other words).

So if the explanation is that I have a great sense of sight, sound or smell... well give me a trophy or something, eh? It’d be superhuman.

Thursday, March 24, 2005

Autumn air

UPDATE or Entirely superfluous details added for the benefit of persons who just have to have every last little thing pinned down... ;)

The top photo shows a macadamia plantation. At this time of year the ground beneath the trees has been swept clean ("swept" in the sense of being air-blasted, going by the sounds of the machinery used, though I'm not sure about this). The macadamia nuts grow encased in a green husk which bursts when ripe; the nuts then fall to the ground and are collected. No matter how hot the day, the cool dark green of the macas (as they're known here: pronounced MACK-az) and the long shadows always look inviting. And there's something about the regularity of the rows, all those straight lines, the way the trees are spaced out so evenly, which seems serene.

In contrast to this clean expanse of ground there is the plantation boundary where the windbreak trees grow. The macadamias no longer need a windbreak, being quite large enough to take care of themselves now. But I'm glad the windbreaks are still there. For one thing, they act as a corridor for koalas. And the mess of leaves and twigs and so on that collects under the trees (the bottom photo) looks beautiful in its own way.

Tuesday, March 22, 2005

The wind whistles through

If you’re thinking that after my decades of template tinkering this new design looks remarkably similar to the standard Blogger Minima - I know!! It’s a miracle! What are the chances?

The truth is that my little adventure in blog-house-building led to nothing more than clunky designs, and sore eyes from staring at the monitor too long. I've downed tools now, after hitting my thumb with the hammer just once too often. My little blog house is bare, as you can see: just foundations and a roof. But as long as you can avoid slipping on sawdust, or stepping on bent nails, or hanging yourself on those looping electrical wires - as long as this place doesn't kill you, in other words - I'll just tinker around the edges and carry on with blogging as normal.

Of course, now I can't avoid looking at the problem: I need to write something to post.

Friday, March 18, 2005

Building a little blog house

I'm fiddling with the template.
Back soon (and that'd be "soon" in the sense of "some time this millenium").
Please let me know if anything isn't working.

UPDATE: Sunday afternoon

I'm going for the "stark" look: what do you think? In fact this is just me still fiddling. (I thought I was joking about the millenium thing, but maybe not.) There'll be colour here eventually.

Hope you're enjoying the weekend, Reader. It's a lovely day here.

Thursday, March 17, 2005


I’m back, and Blog-Fast is over. I learned a few things (eg. never do another Blog-Fast) but tonight it doesn't seem to matter anyway: my sister J had a car accident yesterday afternoon and could have been killed. She wasn’t. She wasn’t. Thank all the gods in heaven, and anything else that might have helped. She’s okay, except in pain: stitches along a cut down her head, and sore ribs. Plus a grazed knee from where the front of the car got pushed in. I was over at her place with her kids till she and her hubby got home tonight, and we knew the basic details: another driver ran into her car, head-on, in a 60km zone**. We knew she’d probably be okay: taken to hospital in an ambulance, needing attention for cuts and bruises and an x-ray to rule out anything more serious. We heard from people who’d driven past her car that it looks like a wreck.

But it wasn’t until she got home that I actually felt what it meant: a car accident even at a slow speed can kill people. The front of the car smashed in and grazed her knee; if it had smashed in much further she'd now be dead. What are cars made of, that the whole front can get pushed back through the dashboard like that, at 60km? Sobering is not the word, but a better one is beyond me.

Drive carefully, reader. It's important.


In fairness to J's car, it didn't try to kill her. Regarding "the whole front can get pushed back through the dashboard like that" - in fact it didn't, and perhaps couldn't. The driver's side of the engine was smashed, not the whole front (so technically it wasn't a head-on? I'm not sure) but nothing was pushed back through the dashboard. What's it bloody matter? Well, yes. But it was a great little car, and not the bad-design monster I suggested. Sorry, car.

**No details yet. The other driver has no memory of the accident and thinks he might have blacked out before crossing to the wrong side of the road. J only remembers seeing him driving straight towards her, as if he was doing it deliberately. He wasn’t seriously hurt.

Thursday, March 10, 2005

Signing out

Can't think, don't care. Same old story, too often repeated. I'm going to take a blog-break (no reading, no writing) to see if that helps. Back next Thursday 17th March. Bye for now.

Sunday, March 06, 2005

Wide skies and grace

I recently stumbled across a poem by R.S. Thomas (having never heard of him before; sorry, Wales). Many of his poems can be found online but, in the two whole minutes I tried, I couldn't find a good link for this one:


It was like a church to me.
I entered it on soft foot,
Breath held like a cap in the hand.
It was quiet.
What God was there made himself felt,
Not listened to, in clean colours
That brought a moistening of the eye,
In movement of the wind over grass.

There were no prayers said. But stillness
Of the heart's passions - that was praise
Enough; and the mind's cession
Of its kingdom. I walked on,
Simple and poor, while the air crumbled
And broke on me generously as bread.

- R.S. Thomas

Elizabeth Goudge, A Book of Peace: An Anthology (London: Michael Joseph Ltd, 1967) p.28.

Mind your language

With thanks to dock of the bay, here's a great link:
Common Errors in English
The aim of this site is to help you avoid low grades, lost employment opportunities, lost business, and titters of amusement at the way you write or speak.
If, like me, you've always written "no-one", you'll discover that in fact it should be "no one" (two words). And all the times you've dithered about whether to use "enquire" or "inquire"? They're alternative spellings of the same word. D'oh... You idiot.

You might also discover that the man who wrote the site,
Paul Brians, has given the world an even greater resource, in Mr. Gradgrind's Literal Answers to Rhetorical Questions, a page of sensible answers to life's stupid questions:
How high the moon?
It varies between 356,000 and 407,000 km in distance from the surface of the earth, its average distance being 384,400 km.
He also uses the word "persnickety"... My hero.

Saturday, March 05, 2005

A very quiet scandal

Senator Bob Brown (Australian Greens) held a press conference in Canberra yesterday to announce that The Australian Press Council has upheld his complaint against Melbourne's Herald Sun newspaper for an article published before the 2004 federal election. From Senator Brown's media release:
"The article came a day after Prime Minister Howard flagged an expose of ‘kooky’ Greens polices [sic]. It continues to be used by the Liberal Party, most recently in WA election pamphlets."

The Press Council's Adjudication No.1270 states that the article written by Gerard McManus made a number of false claims about Greens Party policies. "Given the sweeping and unqualified nature of the claims, the newspaper ought to have checked the veracity and currency of the policy claims. [...] In the context of an approaching election, the potential damage was considerable. The actual electoral impact cannot be known but readers were seriously misled."

According to Senator Brown, the article "...perverted democracy. When a journalist misinforms readers on their way to the ballot box democracy is sacrificed. [...] This was no accident or mistake. The aim was to attack the Greens, not through the editorial column, but through the news pages. The outcome of the false concoction of the Greens policies was to lose our party tens of thousands of votes and, in my calculation, seats in parliament."

According to Alan Ramsey (Sydney Morning Herald) there are more than 150 reporters in the federal press gallery. Yesterday's event - in Brown's words, " of the most important press conferences I've ever held" - attracted four reporters and three camera crews.

Thursday, March 03, 2005

Back to the light

Centuries ago as a student in Canberra I made a regular pilgrimage, probably about every second or third weekend (though with my last post in mind, who'd bloody know?). I’d ride a bike into Civic (the town centre), and stop to get a mango ice cream (possibly the most important part of the whole expedition). Then I’d head around the lake to the National Gallery, wander through a few rooms, and settle into the Gallery cafe with a pot of tea. After this it was home again, sometimes stopping to sit in the sun for a while on the wall that surrounds the water. (Yes, I know, what a thrillseeker...)

One of the few things I remember visiting in the Gallery was Ansel Adams’ “Mount Williamson from Manzanar”. It was exquisite. A large print, perfect in every way: perfect subject, perfect composition, perfect exposure, perfect printing... the man was a genius. I mean, look at this:

© 2004 Best's Studio Inc & The Ansel Adams Gallery. All rights reserved.

At the Gallery bookshop I splurged just once, and it was for a book of Adams’ photos, Yosemite and the Range of Light. It's like an old friend now, this book - we've been through years together, and I've cut bits out of it to tack photos up wherever I've lived. Except here. Until now.

With many thanks to the mighty Project Gutenberg, I’ve finally found the source of that book's title, in John Muir’s The Yosemite:

Looking eastward from the summit of the Pacheco Pass one shining morning, a landscape was displayed that after all my wanderings still appears as the most beautiful I have ever beheld. At my feet lay the Great Central Valley of California, level and flowery, like a lake of pure sunshine, forty or fifty miles wide, five hundred miles long, one rich furred garden of yellow Compositoe. And from the eastern boundary of this vast golden flower-bed rose the mighty Sierra, miles in height, and so gloriously colored and so radiant, it seemed not clothed with light, but wholly composed of it, like the wall of some celestial city. Along the top and extending a good way down, was a rich pearl-gray belt of snow; below it a belt of blue and lark purple, marking the extension of the forests; and stretching long the base of the range a broad belt of rose-purple; all these colors, from the blue sky to the yellow valley smoothly blending as they do in a rainbow, making a wall of light ineffably fine. Then it seemed to me that the Sierra should be called, not the Nevada or Snowy Range, but the Range of Light.


Wednesday, March 02, 2005

Yes, I remember

These days I carry a pen and paper everywhere (in case a miracle occurs and I get an idea). But when I got back from mowing today they were missing. In my head I went back over the events of the afternoon, trying to work out where and when they might’ve fallen from my pocket. I could remember getting off the mower (a small tractor) to pick up palm fronds from the lawn. I could remember making a note before getting to that area, stopping the mower under the shade of a tree, and I could vaguely remember what I wrote. After that: picking up the palm fronds. And after that: no other notes. The palm fronds area was probably the place - the pen and paper would be lying there in the grass.

I came in to tell my father I’d be driving down the road to retrieve the pen/paper (Dad works here during the week). He picked up something from the desk and said, “These?” handing over a pen and paper.

Why, yes, actually. Why, yes. The same pen and paper I could remember using to make a note. The same pen and paper which had been sitting in the house all day while I was elsewhere, not making a note.



Sorry, it just didn't occur to me that this could be read as a tale of otherworldly mystery. Which - now that I realise - just adds emphasis to my intended point: this brain is letting me down. I thought I remembered writing that note, but no, I didn't (didn't write it, and thus couldn't have remembered it). That's all; a bit boring, yes. So please carry on with the ghostly readings - a far more interesting interpretation. I wish I'd thought of it myself.

Tuesday, March 01, 2005

Take a break, do

Sitting in front of this computer I often lose track of time and just forget to move, sometimes for hours. Stupid, yes. But I can now recommend SCIROCCO’s Take a Break 2.7, a program which reminds you to take a break. I downloaded it on Saturday (saw it mentioned in SMH's Icon) and so far it's working really well. You can adjust the interval between breaks, the interval of a break, the sound played when it's time for a break (the nightingale is cute and won't scare the life out of you like some of the other sounds do), and it's free. Sadly, it can’t make coffee or massage your shoulders, but then life just isn’t fair, is it?