in which the naked chimp is unmasked, his machines debugged, and his bugbears debunked

Tuesday, March 31, 2009

the chimp is dead (but man was he an ape to man)

Hey all,

well, dysconnect is going to be taking a break for a while...

...but the ranting continues month-to-month over at mnml ssgs...


Wednesday, February 18, 2009

Fire May Destroy (but Munt springs eternal)

It was a funny picture, I’ll give you that: sitting in a candlelit pub in Alexandra in a Ren and Stimpy t-shirt with a VB tinnie in a neoprene stubbie holder, reeking of smoke. The candles and the holder were because of the lack of power. The smoke was because of…. the fire, of course. And the Ren and Stimpy t-shirt, the one I usually only wear around the house? Well, that was what I was wearing at six thirty pm when we evacuated the Marysville house we’d been staying in, about two minutes after we realised it was two streets from a tsunami sized wall of flame.

I was sitting there in the guttering dark of the smoke-filled pub, feeling a bit sorry for my ipod, which I had forgotten in the mad rush. What does it say about me, human nature, and ipods, that this was the one object I was really upset about?

But it was hard to feel sorry for myself or my iPod once I talked to some of the other people stranded in the pub, real refugees, people who’d evacuated the only houses they had. People who only had ‘the shirts on their backs,’ and not even one t-shirt, like the woman who came up to me, saw my loud Ren and Stimpy number, and said, ‘Oh, I had that t-shirt. I wanted to save it… but there wasn’t time.’ Nor was there time for her to save the sixty or more reptiles and dozens of parrots that had to be left to the flames. Or the neighbours’ dogs, locked in the house next door.

Then, one hour later, the munters arrived. There were two of them (‘cos they always roll in twos, minimum). The Muppet hair, the slack jaw, the visible underpants, the Corey Delaney/Worthington slouch. In fact, one of them was just wearing a pair of hot pants style Bonds undies… and a pair of fluoro Nike high tops, natch.

‘Did you hear anything about Taggerty?’ asked the husband of the woman who’d left Ren and Stimpy behind?

‘Taggerty? Taggerty’s a shithole,’ the munter replied.

‘Not if it’s your home,’ came the rejoinder, which hit a face that…. this was the weird thing. It was a face that knew full well what had happened. And maybe it was a really good coping mechanism. But from where I was sitting, it looked more like the face of someone who not only couldn’t give a fuck, someone who didn’t even know how to go about giving a fuck. A person who wouldn’t know what that was or what it was for, even if you demanded one point blank.

Right on cue: ‘I don’t give a fuck,’ cried munter number two. ‘If this place burns, I’m gonna go in to the city and go clubbin’.’

‘Ye’ can’t go fuggin’ clubbin’,’ said the leathery lady behind the bar, ‘the highways are all fuggin’ closed, ye’ idiot.’

‘Yeah, well I’ll go to Shepp then,’ he said, without skipping a beat.

They stuck around, they got more drunk, they shot some shadowy pool, they called for Jagerbombs, then the big one in the pink said, ‘I’m havin’ a pool party at my place in Eildon. Anyone want to come?’ The bar full of faces, many from places that no longer existed, just looked over at him quizzically. What can you say to something like that?

Fires might kill, destroy whole towns, and change the lives of communities forever, but in the midst of it, there are still munters, and they still just want to party. The irrepressible power of the munter springs eternal. Is this cause for hope, or the best evidence of our doom?

Friday, January 30, 2009

Detox Retox (with a hose in your buttox)

So you’re on a detox. How long’s it gonna last? All year? Yeah right. I know you’ve heard this one before, but detoxes are stupid and they don’t work… The best proof of this? Americans are into them. In Tokyo I used to work with a bunch of off off off off Broadway Americans. Every year around Thanksgiving, most of them would go home to the US of A, returning in early January after Christmas with an improbable tan.

‘A lot of sun in Maine this time of year?’ I would enquire.

‘Oh no!’ Ken would reply, with freshly rinsed enthusiasm, ‘I just got back from Thailand.’

A quick glance around the staff room revealed several other equally tanned specimens. They all had that ‘glow’, which (don’t tell the detoxers) is actually caused by smugness, not brimming health. But they were tan, I will say that, a brown that took on a rather different hue in my widening eyes as Ken explained, blow by blow, the total wash out that was. Some people go to Thailand for the hoes; my co-workers went for the hoses.

‘Man,’ he’d say, ‘you wouldn’t believe the stuff that came out of me.’

Two weeks later, Ken and all the other irrigated Americans were back on the burgers, tucking in and porking up. At this time, Atkins was still the craze diet (so burgers were fine, natch), but there was another woman who was carrot stick deep into a vegan raw foods regime (including for her three year old), and several others on their own private Idaho diet yo yo. Omaha oh my. When I first started working for the company, I’d worry for their health, but gradually I realised that most of these regimens would last about three weeks, after which (metabolism now bruised and confused) they would return, nostrils a-quiver, to the barn-laid, corn-fed bombardments of Electric Weinerland (with extra sauce, and mad isms). Come next thanksgiving? Gobblers are back home for more stuffing. One guy used to yo-yo 30kg over the course of the year. Of course, such stupidities aren’t the exclusive province of Americans, but when you see them in a group, you get to witness the neuroses of the rich West, rendered with a technicolor intensity lacking from the ‘yeah nah yeah’ land we call Oz.

Since returning to yeah nah yeah, I’ve counselled baker’s dozens of January guilt puffs about their detoxing. Never mind insulin, the thing you notice most of all is how fact-resistant detoxers are. The only thing more stubborn than their Christmas kilos is their conviction that they can expunge it all by a weird mixture of abstention, irrigation, guilt, brown rice, and laxatives. You can say ‘just eat and drink in healthy moderation, exercise, get plenty of rest and drink lots of water’, but nobody wants to hear it. Why? More exercise and smaller portions can deal with the kilos, but only the infliction of unpleasantness (foul tasting thistle, growling stomach, spasming cramps) will keep the guilt at bay. People really, really, really want to punish themselves. The only way to feel good about yourself… is to feel bad… Detox, retox, wax on, wax off. Hey, it’s a neat way to live, really. It gives you something to hate and something to look forward to, ‘cos guess what? Next stop on the salvation merry-go-round is sin, and if you still feel guilty, you can smash yourself so hard jacking up fried chicken nico-martinis and transfat-enriched methamphetamine greasewashed tequila bombs that you won’t notice a thing, until the next moaning. Then you can stick a hose up your arse, and feel better.

Friday, January 16, 2009

Well Hungover

If the silly season sucks, at least you know you’re going to get blown out the other end. And here we are, far, far from the pointy end of the year that was only yesterday, last week, or… sometime. It’s difficult to remember. In fact, I’m finding it difficult to remember almost anything. And this is because I am, in seasonal style, well and truly hungover.

Today, the hangover I have given myself is damp, foggy, and right behind my eyeballs. I don’t feel that I’ve been hit by a bludgeoning object so much as I’ve become one myself: man as mallet. The other day, it was a head full of rusty nails scraping down the raw folds of swollen brain meat hard against my temples. A few days before that, I had a hangover that was like a succession of hot knitting needles being pushed in one ear, then pulled out the other. Then there are the throbbers: I had a soft throbber on NYE, and a hard banging throbber on NYD.

In the week before Christmas I twice suffered from a particular favourite: the motion sensing hangover. Turn your head to the left even just a bit too quickly and the suffering comes at you in a surging, rushing toxic lurch. Shake your head in a way that might express emphatic refusal (say, at the sight of another tequila shot, ever), and you’ll be spraying acid-washed technicolour chunks through both nostrils with such great pressure and volume that the stinging stench it leaves in your nose an mouth makes you…. retch again, inducing more shaking, which causes more retching, etc, etc…

Then there are the weird, once in a lifetime hangovers. I had one that was like a massive gas-filled zeppelin inside my head cavity. The engines were on, and it was trying to fly west (the direction of my eyeballs) but, being prevented by the head cavity, was rendered ineffectual, left to buzz and bump its soft head against my tender one with a dull machinic hum. I once had a hangover that didn’t hit until 2 o’clock, and when it did, it was like being bashed by a cucumber (just one decisive blow), with enough force to break it, leaving sticky cucumber juice to trickle down my scalp… until beer o’clock.

But I like hangovers, and not only because they’re almost the only ‘memorable’ things of this time of the year (in that they’re about all I can remember). Why do I like them so much? Well, there are so many things in life where the punishment is deferred, implied, indirect or merely possible. Smoke your whole life, and the odds of cancer are good. But you might be one of the freaks. You probably won’t, but you might. It’s possible. And in the interim, you can kinda sorta kid yourself, kick back, and enjoy one sly fag after another. With anything like this, there is the added need to punish yourself for what you’ve done. You’ve been a very naughty boy; feel bad about yourself for a while. Not so with the hangover. There it is, your head on the plate. No need to feel bad… the hangover will do it for you. It comes on like a curse and passes like a blessing, reminding you with exquisite horror what your wallet already knows: how much you’ve lost, what a fool you were, and how much fun it all was. There there.


Wednesday, November 26, 2008

I want it that way (guilty pleasures)

When people talk about the musicians that influenced them, they’re mostly talking utter nonsense. It’s not to say that they’re lying – those musicians probably did influence them. But in most cases the names we cite pale in comparison to those others we keep hidden away, the guilty pleasures we all disavow and hide.

By the late 80s plenty of kids at my school had been hooked onto ‘rap music’, mostly through cassettes of NWA, Public Enemy, Run DMC and Tone Loc, borrowed off older siblings. In my case, it was the last of these artists that had the most profound impact, and I still rate Loc’d After Dark as one of the finest hip-hop albums ever made. I mean it: if you’re ever at a flea market and you see an old copy on sale, buy it on sight. It’ll be the only three dollars you’ll spend this year that might change your life.

Tone Loc was fine and good, and has aged well. He certainly didn’t have anything like the street cred of NWA or PE, but it was okay to admit you liked him, for sure. Thing was though, I first heard Loc on the television, when Funky Cold Medina was in the top ten. And – as it was in those days – Loc would appear alongside all kinds of other artists, some unpardonably, unmentionably bad. Being a kid, I listened to them all, with an openness that’s almost impossible for me now. My favourite thing to do was to dub Top 40 Australia off the radio. I’d like to tell you how I always made edits from these tapes, but the fact was that most of the time I would just listen to the whole countdown – 40 to 1 ad nauseum.

But a hush fell on my childhood mixtape adventures with the advent of high school, a time when the music you listened to became the intimate marker of who you were, what you stood for, and what that was worth. Metallica might still have been considered cool (to the metal kids), but what about NPG-era Prince, Betty Boo, Vanilla Ice, Roxette, Ace of Base, Enigma, and Partners in Kryme (remember ‘Turtle Power’)? A blanket of shamed silence fell on all for the next six years. But I was humming the tunes under my breath the whole time.

It’s when you do karaoke that you see how most people have lived with their very own repressed top forty: given enough booze full-grown adults – who normally want to avow their sophisticated taste in obscure genres – will be clamouring for the mic when George Michael’s ‘Faith’ comes on. But it doesn’t mean that all repression has ceased, no siree. Recently, I uploaded a friend’s copy of David Bowie’s Lodgers onto my mp3 player. The first few tracks played as normal. Then there came an unexpected piano intro, followed by high mid-90s production values… and the opening lyrics, spoken in a saccharine male voice: ‘You are/my fire/the one/desire....’ I double-checked the screen on my mp3 player, which read: David Bowie, Lodger, ‘Red Sails’. But it was none of these things. It was, without a shadow of a doubt, the Backstreet Boys I Want It That Way.

Saturday, November 22, 2008

You thought Ministry of Style sucked? Meet the Drainpipe Vampires

(NB: apologies for the relative blog silence of late. Been very busy. A whole backlog of posts will follow over the next month, so stay tuned and check back regularly...)

Walking down Brunswick St after an early morning errand, I was struck with fresh force by how much the streetscape has changed in the past fifteen years. But one thing remains stubbornly unbudged: Ministry of Style.

‘Who the fuck is a raver these days?’ I wondered to myself.

Just as it’s possible that ‘Magic Happens’, I’m willing to concede that there are still ravers around, even that there’s still the odd rave happening – but are there still enough people to justify the existence of a shop that proclaims that the past ten years never happened?

I got home and switched on the TV to catch the last few minutes of Rage. Oh my God, it’s Guru Josh! The sax, the synth, the strobe lights – but more than anything else, people dancing their arses off. ‘Ah,’ I thought, ‘the early 90s: a time when people thought they could change the world just by dancing…’

Moments later, JTV started and I switched off and logged in to my email before ‘the Doctor’ had a chance to insult my intelligence. My sister had sent me some youtube clip with footage of southern American Gospel congregations going absolutely crazy ape-bonkers to Jesus, which in turn had been wedded to a soundtrack of maniacal drum’n’bass. Back in the 90s, you didn’t have to do a cut’n’paste job to achieve the same effect. You just let the track play. I’d been to raves where people dressed head-to-toe like unrepentant fraggles would dance for hours on end to music they didn’t recognise, pausing only to reapply Blistex, water and ecstasy. There was a time where whole rooms full of people used to abandon themselves to dancing – precisely the same people who shopped at Ministry of Sound for their wardrobe.

My next email was from 3000, that wannabe digest that lands, drainpipes-first, in my inbox every fortnight, full of all the latest ‘cool/fool’ info and desirable objects I’m not sure I could ever be coolsie enough to want. But this, of course, is part of being cool: you must never, under any circumstances, appear to want, do, or be anything with all your heart. That’s why there’s so much suffering involved in trying to be cool – you have to try incredibly hard, but you have to do so without being seen to try at all. This also means you can never abandon yourself to anything, least of all a dancefloor full of strangers in swishy fur pants and a track you’ve never heard of, without a chorus or a record deal on Domino. No, you must keep your cool distance at all costs. Make sure that your glossy surface is ironised flat, and that your edge stays pressed.

The 90s were optimistic for all the wrong reasons: they were dreadfully na├»ve, and the clothes were appalling. But there was also enthusiasm. In the slow move from Wednesdays at Filter, Thursdays at Teriyaki, and Fridays at Centriphugal to a week of Thursdays spent preening and aching at niche bar/gallery openings, Melbourne also forgot how to dance. Ravers were shallow, but coolsies are two-dimensional: they have to be, to get into their pants. And once they’re in them, they can barely move. Drainpipes are vampire trousers, and they’ve drained the hot blood of enthusiasm out of the city’s night. It’s almost enough to send you back to Ministry of Style.

Tuesday, October 14, 2008

Over is as over dose (you know what I'm talkin' about)

I overdosed just the other day. I’d administered a big whack not ten minutes before, cooked up in the usual way: filtered, mixed, then ingested through glass. Five minutes later I was out the door, on my bicycle, feeling the surging rush and the way it made the sunshine sharper, made everything click into keen focus. But only five minutes later the dose had started to turn, and by the time I reached my destination – a few minutes after this grim realisation – I was so shaky I could barely pass the u-lock through the spokes of my front wheel. The feeling was a familiar horror: socks soaked with a cold sweat that also covered my brow; jaws clenching repeatedly over the big wad of chewing gum in my mouth; hands and eyelids all a-twitter; a big, balling headache behind the brow; and last of all, a temper at twig-snap tension. Should anyone so much as snicker at me the wrong way, they would know the deep, sudden, scarlet flail of my wrath.

I gave myself five minutes on the lawn to calm down, letting ebbing washes of tense rage run their course, waiting until the uncontrolled urge to stab sockets and bite sinews subsided, to be replaced with a much more controllable queasiness and a dull thumping headache. I sat there, silently bemoaning the clam of my socks, and I thought: gosh, coffee is such a horrible drug sometimes. For a good few minutes there, I was so engorged with shaky anger that I could easily have lost it with anyone who so much as sneezed a marmoset-size sneeze in my direction. I really, really ought to cut down.

Two generations ago, Australians were mostly tea drinkers by day, beer swillers by night. Then, in the 70s, boomers began to swap swill for an AM plunger and some PM vino. Nowadays? Nowadays people are drinking caffeinated drinks day and night: a heart-starting coffee or three for breakfast, another at eleven, a coke with lunch, another coffee at three-thirty… then energy drinks with booze until vomit or complete neural collapse covers your evening in stench and darkness. But maybe not before you’ve punched, glassed, kicked or otherwise pulverised someone around you. Or at the very least raised the ambient aggro levels to just below boiling point.

It’s easy to see why crystal meth and binge drinking get the spotlight – the effects on sufferers are pronounced and profound. But at the same time, with all the talk of epidemics tearing at the social fabric, very little thought is given to the one drug that almost everyone is on, almost all the time. And it’s not only that everyone is on it, it’s also that they’re on it in ever bigger doses, in combination with massive whacks of sugar and alcohol. Hence the aggro. Not out-and-out anger, but just moments and people – on trains, in traffic, at the bar – right on the edge, and a city whose whole demeanour is a big fuzzball of undirected rage. If you can see the china quivering on the mantelpiece, it’s because there’s a very, very nervy elephant in the room. And its name is caffeine.

The Author

[almost nothing] about me

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PC is an animal of the antipodes believed to be related to a gibbon.