Monday, 23 June 2014

It's so seductive to think you're rubbish

Lel - published poet, and as thus a
thousand kilometres ahead of me
I was in the DVD store the other day talking with my friend Lel.
Lel is a poet, and has had a few poems published.
I have great admiration for her in doing this.
Whenever If I think Trying To Be A Writer is hard, try being a poet.
If you crack odds similar to winning the lottery, and get something published, a book, even a short story, it is an amazing feat of accomplishment.
The corollary to that is, that someone will only publish it, if they think that someone will read it, or more importantly, buy it.
And thus, as I'm sure you can imagine, trying to get someone to buy a poem is many times over more difficult.
Mostly, from what I remember, anyone I knew from my brief forays into the world of culture, mainly in Sydney, and to a small extent in London, anyone who was a poet, ended up giving their poetry away, as gifts mostly.
Thus a birthday would come around and you would provide a nicely framed poem to the recipient, which would go on the wall or the bedroom dresser.
A nice gesture, but as a source of income, a drastic failure.
So for Lel to get a poem published, gains my highest regard for her endeavours.
To compare, Clive James, the Australian writer, most famous for his TV shows, Clive James in London, and Clive James at Home, and also for his books, starting with Unreliable Memoirs, says he is actually a poet, first and foremost.
But have you ever heard of his poems?
Me neither, and I thought I'd read everything of his.
So Lel has done better than Clive in a way.
As we talked, the discussion led to the eternal nightshade for those of us who try anything in the creative field: REJECTION - and its effects on your self-esteem.
Which is what this post is mainly about.
When I write something, an article, a blog post, and there are not a lot of readers, measured by pageviews, it is quite a blow to my self-esteem.
However I have to try to remember that something that doesn't get a lot of pageviews doesn't mean that I am suddenly rubbish as a writer.
Mind you, when talking with my work colleague Scott about this, he pointed out that maybe I am. (Thanks a bunch Scott, you arsehole.)
Yet of course, I think it is the human condition, to not like rejection in any form.

However, you have to go on, you have to keep trying things.
I remember once someone making quite a good point, which was this, "No one quits when things are going well".
Which may seem like the bleeding obvious but it's often the case that it is only when something is laid out so simply that you get the point.
But here is where the title of this post comes in: "It's so seductive to think you're rubbish."
As I've documented here to the point where regular readers are yelling "enough!", I had a horrendous childhood.
My parents spent ten odd years screaming at me that i was worthless, I was no good, I was lazy, I was destroying my parents happiness, I was shiftless, nothing I did was any good.
So obviously by the time I came to a man's estate, I was totally, dead-set certain that they were right.
So I had no, that is NO, self-esteem, not just low self-esteem, but NONE.
With some esteem, you can handle better a rejection, with none, it cuts to the bone.
So that reminded me of this incident.
When I was a young man living in Sydney, earning lots of money in IT, and drinking increasingly heavily, I first began to explore the idea of therapy.
This was hard, as one of the things my parents made clear to me was that there was nothing wrong me, I wasn't allowed to complain, and there was no way I needed to see a shrink.
Not that my parents had any concern for my well-being, it was simply that if I went to therapy, they would be exposed for the appalling parents they were.
Anyway, one mid-morning I left my computer on the 20th floor of a glass tower in North Sydney, and went down to meet Nick for therapy.
It was my first session, and Nick quizzed me about my past, to get a handle on where things were for me.
After a very short period he could see that a big problem for me was low-, or more accurately, no self-esteem.
Nick then asked, "Where does esteem come from?"
Offspring even released an album on the topic.
I stopped and thought about it (for a long time), and couldn't come up with an answer.
I eventually uttered, "Well, when you get some praise from the boss at work, could be one instance...", then ended with a hopeful question mark, "...?"
Nick then gently said, "But wouldn't that indicate that in this instance, your esteem is in fact coming from your boss?"
I nodded my head, that was perfectly logical.
I then commenced a long silent period of contemplation, that came up with zilch.
I truly had no idea where esteem came from.
Nick then explored my comment.
My job at the time was on a computer magazine.
My job was to lay out the stories on a page using a Desktop Publishing package called Quark Xpress.
I had to add a headline, and make the copy fit to the space available.
Quite finicky, but ultimately satisfying.
What Nick pointed out to me was that I never gave myself credit for anything, that I knew was good, I only accepted credit if, in this case, my boss, said I'd done a good layout.
Which brings us through a long thirty paragraphs to the point, such as it is.
If you rely on other people for esteem, you will be, eventually, unsatisfied.
It's bad enough in the workplace, but where it really comes loose, is in your relationship.
Now here I can already see that I am letting the dogs of controversy out.
I would like to say that I am not trying to hand out relationship advice here, but more, as with my parenting comments, pointing out a common pitfall.
One of my favourite writers in David Lodge, and in his book Changing Places, one of the characters asks why another character went into a relationship that was clearly wrong for them.
The character replies, "The same reason anyone goes into a relationship, I guess, I was scared of being lonely." 
Loneliness is a great fear and it often leads us to enter a relationship that we know from the off is wrong.
Often, certainly I did this, we are hoping that the other person in the relationship will make us happy.
However, the problem here is of course that, the other person has their own stuff to deal with, and if they allow themselves to fall into the habit of propping up your self-esteem, then you move immediately into a co-dependent relationship, and the outcome of those is never good.
I saw a lot of this in my travels through rehab and alcohol recovery.
Quite often I would see a relationship in which one person drank too much, and/or took too many, or indeed, any drugs.
Then the other person would continually pick them up, and get them to rehab, and recovery.
Often observers of this would then say, why are they doing this?
They can't be getting much out of this relationship, can they?
Well often, the constant rescuing gives the rescuer a feeling of worth.
But as you can see, this is dysfunction writ large, and it comes to the rescuer in the end to understand that the only way to heal this relationship is to not rescue the other person.
That's hard, but it has to be done if the relationship is to move out of the co-dependant, two-way, shame spiral.
But, and here lies the complex rub, clearly, both people are getting something out of that hopelessly dysfunctional relationship.
Either party ending it, opens up the appallingly terrifying prospect of a) change and b) loneliness.
Worse that that, someone is going to be rejected, and as far as I know, no one on this Earth gets out of bed in the morning and says, "Gee, I hope I get rejected today."
Rejection is hard, and we all (sadly) have to deal with it.
Rejection for me came from relationships, when a girl would say "she had to stay home and wash her hair".
At work, if the boss chewed me out for making a mistake.
But even in ordinary life, if, for instance, the bus driver didn't say 'hello' to me when I bought my ticket, I bizarrely took that as a rejection, and spent the rest of the bus ride wondering why the driver hated me.
And of course, dealt with rejection, both real, and merely perceived, by drinking too heavily, and smoking hectares of pot.
At that time in my life, when drinking and smoking so heavily, it was a dark world, that makes me shiver just to recall.
However there was an upside, which was this.
Going into rehab was, even for me, the hardest thing I ever did.
The upside, much later, was this, for the first time in my life, I gained some self-esteem.
I struggle to utter really of the difficulty of giving up drinking, particularly in our Australian society where alcohol is so prevalent and so admired.
To admit, as an Australian male, that you are an alcoholic, meant for me, admitting that I was weak and less manly than others who could handle the drink.
Being manly was one of the few ways I had erroneously gained self-esteem.
So to openly contradict this, was exceptionally hard.
But eventually I knew that I was affecting my friend's lives badly with my drinking and acting like a total tool.
In the end, a long forty years after I came down the chute into this world, I knew that if I didn't give up the drink I would never be able to look in the mirror again.

Thus the upside was that in the end, I am able to say today that I finally showed some courage, and got off the drink.
I was luckier than I can say with good support from some of the same friend's I'd treated so badly while drunk, and also from my therapist Paula the Wonder Horse.
But I did it, and thus for the first time in my life that I gave myself credit for something.
Ironic really, that I had to nearly die of alcohol poisoning to finally give myself the most miserly amount of credit.

My Most Unmusical "Career"

So moving on, this picture is an odd one, but as ever, there's a minor point.
The other day I was getting changed when this coin fell out of my pocket and jangled onto the floor.
Although I wasn't looking, I could tell it was a two-dollar coin from the sound it made.
This told me that after thirty years I have finally developed a somewhat musical ear.
So lets go back in time to Bathurst in the seventies.
When I was a boy, my mother made me go to guitar lessons.
Not an uncommon story, many of you reading this were forced to take music lessons, and had music destroyed for you as a thing of wonder and joy.
My mother, as ever concerned with her image in the town, wanted her sons to be "accomplished", as the characters in Jane Austen novels were.
Music, painting, dance, all of these things my mother wanted us to be.
So I was sent to have classical guitar lessons with the formidable Mr August.
That was his name, he wasn't the centrefold in Playgirl for the month preceding September. So each Thursday I would attend Mr August's house and be abused by him for a half hour as I got everything wrong.
All he wanted to teach me was to play scales, and where's the fun in that?
It was no coincidence that I remember absolutely nothing from those lessons, except the abuse I copped.
Never was I so happy as when the ten lessons ended, and (I assuming here) Mr August told my mother than dying skunks being dragged under a car made more melodious sounds than I ever would.
At about the same time I took a further blow to my musical prestige, in class, at Bathurst Public School, from the similarly abusive Miss Manning.
I was in fourth class and we were all forced into singing, in some recital or other, like performing seals.
So she got all the class out and made us all sing, and then went around listening and decided who could sing and who couldn't.
Now I saw a chance of escape, so while singing at the "audition", I sang in the deepest possible voice that I could engender.
I had some thoughts of her saying, "what a deep, manly, melodious voice you have got".
But I should have known.
All she said was, "You're a drone. You won't be singing."
I should have been happy, as I thought I was unrequired for the performing seal bit of the exercise, but then I was wrong.
First, some ancient, and internecine linkage gripped in my brain, and I thought to myself in panic, "Shit, now I'm officially not musical, my mother is gonna kill me."
And I was downcast.
Then, to compound my misery, Miss Manning said, "since you can't sing, you can play the triangle for the others to sing."
So me and the other drones, then had to join the performing seal troupe as bit players of percussion instruments.
Since this meant that every afternoon in class leading up to the recital we had to go through an hour of boring rehearsal for something we didn't even want to do, it was another form of torture handed out to those of us who attended primary school in the seventies.
I would like to think that today, the kids would be asked if they would like to perform, rather than ordered to do it.
Anyway, long after this, when I was eighteen or nineteen, I finally made my own, voluntary, forays into the world of music.
Like all young men of that age, I saw myself playing the guitar in a band with many admiring young women looking up at me through desirous eyes.
So yes, like everyone else, I learned the guitar to get sex.
So I bought a guitar from the the local music store, and then got a book, called "How to Play the Guitar", or something like, and went at it.
However, I immediately came up against a major problem, I had no musical ear.
I couldn't tune the guitar.
This was best demonstrated by one afternoon when I was sitting on my bed making another hopeless attempt to tune the thing.
I turned the knobs up and down, and couldn't tell if the string was going more into, or more out of tune.
But thankfully, our neighbour in Prospect Street was Steve McLeod, the best guitarist in Bathurst.
I'm guessing that he had been driven mad by my hopeless attempts at music, and driven beyond the point of distraction by me playing the thing out of tune, and so this afternoon, I was moving onto another string when Steve's voice came through my bedroom window, "Lachy, go back to your B-string."
I looked up startled, and happy for the help, did as he said, I plunked my B-string.
He listened, then said, "it's flat, turn the tuning screw so the string is tighter."
I did so, then plunked again.
He once more listened, then said, "Ok, a little more tighter."
I did so, then plunked again.
"OK", said Steve, "The B-string is in tune, tune the other strings to that."
I did so and more or less then played my guitar for a while, in close to tune as I'd ever been, and certainly that Steve had ever heard.
So for the next period of my life, whenever I wanted to play my guitar, I had to go next door to Steve's house, and get him to tune it.
If I hadn't I think Steve would have ended up coming over and smashing the thing to pieces.
However, this process couldn't go on.
So I read more books on guitar, and finally found out how to develop a musical ear.
What the book said was to get four styrofoam cups, and, put salt, flour, sand and sugar in each separate cup.
Then without looking inside, pick up each, and shake them, when you can tell what's in the cup from the sound it makes, then you have the ability to tell when your musical instrument is in tune.
So I did that.
It was a labourious process, but I persevered.
All those pliant young women waiting to have sex with me were at the end of this learning road.
After some time I could tell the sand from the flour, but then as I worked at it, I began to make the finer gradation of telling sugar from sand, and salt from flour.
And it obviously worked, as evidenced by, thirty years later, being able to tell what coin had fallen to the floor.
I never did join a band in those early days, "thank fuck for that", the pub patrons of Bathurst cried.
But I did become remotely competent at the guitar.
Puff the Magic Dragon - I wrote it
twenty years after Peter, Paul and Mary did.
So much so, that I began to try to write my own songs.
Man, were they bad.
I am more glad than I can say that no recording of them exists.
My song writing efforts were best exemplified by my first performance of one of "my" tunes.
I put four chords together in a remotely mellifluous form, and then said to my father, "do you want to hear this song I wrote?"
He assented with grave misgivings, knowing the appalling sounds that regularly came out of my bedroom while practising, and so I played my four chords, in four-four time (the easiest time signature).
He listened, then said, "It's quite good, but isn't it 'Puff, the Magic Dragon'?"
I played the chords again and realised he was right.
Thus is the curse of songwriters, trying to come up with something new.
No wonder it sounded so good to me.
Anyway, after that I had other things on my mind going off to Sydney Uni in the main, and so gave up my music "career".
But then nearly twenty years later, while living as a freaky hippy on the coast just out of Port Macquarie, I had a something of a musical renaissance.
Some members of the commune I was on wanted to form a band.
Everyone there could play the guitar, it seems to be a qualification for being a hippy.
So with all this instrument competence, there was no need for me to play the guitar, so I auditioned as the singer.
I went to the rehearsal and said, "Look guys, I haven't got the best voice, I'm not always in tune, and I don't really know what 'key' means, let alone being able to sing in one, but, I can remember all the words."
To which the bass player replied, "Well, you're the best we've had so far."
So I joined the band and we began performing, I drank to much to calm my nerves, and I definitely smoked to much pot, but I did get out there and do it.
I learned that songs have to be learned, not just the words, but how to get the notes in order, and to prepare my breathing for different parts of the song.
I learned when to take a breath, and all the rest.
Yet ironically, even after all that, we were still totally rubbish.
Still, thankfully, our regular audience was a stoned as we were, so everyone had a good time.
Hurricane by Bob Dylan, was probably our best received song, all ten minutes of it.
So in the end, I gained some esteem from that too.
I sang in a band in public, and I gave up drinking.
It isn't much for 49 years, but it'll do me.
If any of you have any thoughts on where esteem comes from, feel free to comment.

Monday, 16 June 2014

Peppa Pig out rates Andrew Bolt 2:1

Rarely, if ever, have I been happier to see something so mundane as a ratings figure.
But no, when the figures came back from the ratings website I requested them from, there it was.
On Sunday June 8, Andrew Bolt's show, The Bolt Report, achieved 100,000 viewers, with 90,000 for the same show repeated later in the day.
On the same day, our favourite cartoon pig garnered 231,000 for her first show, and 234,000 for her second episode.
I was happy beyond belief.
For those who don't know him, Andrew Bolt is a dangerous right-wing extremist.
He is racist, sexist, the lot.
He is a columnist for The Telegraph, and News Limited pay for him to do his foul show on Channel Ten.
He is rabidly, saliva-droolingly pro-Tony Abbott, and has a volcanic hatred of the Labor Party and the ABC.
Now for those of you who may think that being a journalist is even remotely glamorous, consider these words from the first host of Media Watch, Stuart Littlemore.
Said Stuart: "Many comment to me that I have  a great job, but don't forget the down side, which is that I have to watch shows like A Current Affair."
And likewise for me, to do this post, I had to actually watch Bolt's show.
It was hard believe me.
As it happens, I watched one full episode and eight minutes of another.
So the reason I only watched eight minutes in my first attempt was the subject matter, deaths of asylum seekers.
Bolt pointed out that under Labor 1100 asylum seekers had died trying to get to Australia.
Since the Abbott government had taken power, only one had died, the young Asylum seeker killed during the riots on Manus Island.
I was sick to the stomach.
I felt it too inappropriate for words to be using death numbers to make cheap political points.
Sickened beyond belief, I turned off the show and deleted it from my storage device.
I couldn't go on.
However I was successful with my second attempt, and managed to get through the whole episode.
And this is what went on.

The show opened with David Leyenhelm, newly elected independent senator.
A friend of the Abbott government, he is voting to get the budget through, our estimable host went easy on him.
Then we came to a story was the only one that could be considered in even the most minor way anti-Liberal, the purported challenge for the leadership of the Liberal Party by Malcolm Turnbull.
But here we realise that Andrew is pro-Abbott first and foremost, and pro-Liberal only in as much as everyone agrees to keep Tony Abbott as head of the party.
So Andrew spent some time demolishing Malcolm Turnbull’s intelligence, and castigating him for his temerity for doing interviews (!!!), with the ABC(!!!!!!!!), and even doing (gasp) MORE THAN ONE interview on the topic(!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!).
So Malcolm was cast out into the darkness.
His guests on the show this week were Michael Kroger, former power broker of the Victorian Liberal Party, a man so right-wing he makes Vladimir Putin look like a bong-smoking hippy, and Cassandra Wilkinson, of the Centre for Independent Studies.
I’m not sure of she was supposed to be the left-leaning token “voice-against” here, but Andrew went easy with her as well, and if she was vaguely small-L liberal, she certainly hid it well.
Together the three of them went off down a lovely path of agreement, broaching such topics as why the PM’s current overseas trip was going so well, and why the ABC, most particularly, was saying it wasn’t.
Then we got the head of the ABC, Mark Scott, should have resigned over the Chaser-Chris Kenny affair.
For those who don't know, The Chaser boys showed a picture of News Limited journalist, Chris Kenny engaged in bestiality.
Kenny sued, and the ABC didn't have enough money to defend the case, and so were forced to apologise for it.
Michael Kroger - a wedding planner would
seat him to the right of Genghis Khan.

Anyway, that was good for several minutes of attack on our national broadcaster.
“WHAT IS HAPPENING AT THE ABC?!” screamed Kroger at one point.
He also referred to “the great John Howard” at another.
The only way 'John Howard' and 'Great' should ever occur in a sentence is if it is spelled 'Grate', as in: John Howard, grate, doesn't he?
Then it was “Why is the media, particularly, and needless to say, the ABC, going easy on Clive Palmer?”
This surprised me a little as I had a general notion that Clive was a right-winger.
But then I remembered that Clive was being fractious over passing the budget through the Senate, and so thus had become an enemy, apparently.
Then Hedley Thomas from The Australian came on, and together he and Andrew rehashed “Why is Clive Palmer getting gentle treatment from the ABC?”, question.
Then we had “Why did the media refuse to cover the Gillard slush fund story?”
I thought they had, I certainly remember Julia Gillard, attending a press conference on the topic and staying for an hour until there were no more questions.
To be fair to Bolt though, even Media Watch pointed out that in some States the 7pm ABC news didn't cover the most recent doings in this case.
NSW's ABC news did, though, albeit the news was low down the running order.
There was no comment presented as to why this was the case.
Then we had Barack Obama has given the Taliban a victory by swapping five Taliban prisoners for one American deserter.
“Obama has made the US look weaker than ever”, as our host put it.
And at the show’s wrap up we had an emailer who accused Andrew of being biased himself.
To which Andrew then launched into a spray, again against the ABC, indicating, that he was a conservative, and admitted it, while the ABC was populated by Labor-loving lefties, and the problem was that they don’t admit it.
Then, thankfully, ever so thankfully, the show ended.
On looking back over that, I’m actually now convinced that Andrew sees the ABC as the enemy.
Perhaps he thinks they broke into his house, or killed his dog with their car, who knows.
Anyway, make up your own mind if the show is biased.
I agree watching one episode, and eight minutes of another is hardly an exacting study, and maybe the other episodes of the show have been rabid left-loving diatribes from Andrew Bolt, but I need to be able to keep my food down, so if you want to know more, you’ll have to watch the show yourself. (Not that I am in any way suggesting you do that, but if you do, make sure you haven't eaten first, as you'll almost certainly toss your cookies, a I nearly did on  repeated occasions)
What's more, The Bolt Report seems to me to contravene The Commercial Television Code of Practice.
I was on the FreeTV website looking something else up, when I happened across the section dealing with News and Current Affairs, in which it said this:

“4.3 In broadcasting news and current affairs programs, licensees:
4.3.1 must broadcast factual material accurately and represent viewpoints fairly”
Bolt does generally present facts accurately.
However it's the second part of that sentence that no one can possibly believe is being followed -  "represent viewpoints fairly".
I did contact Channel Ten (twice) hoping for some answers, but have had no reply.

For the record, these were the questions that I wanted to ask:
Is The Bolt Report considered by Ten as News and Current Affairs?
If so, does Ten maintain that The Bolt Report presents all viewpoints fairly? (as required by The Commercial Television Code of Practice, section 4.3.1) 
If anyone bothers to reply, I will present their side of the story, I will present their viewpoint accurately.

So why do I care?
Well unlike Bolt, and almost anyone who works at The Telegraph, I am a real journalist, and as such had it ingrained in me to present both sides of the argument, and never present a distorted story.
Bolt, and News Limited have a blatant conservative agenda, and as such are one of the reasons that Tony Abbott is Prime Minister.
This was evidenced all too clearly by the tone they took from the start of the last federal election campaign.
It irks me beyond belief that one of the main things Bolt accuses the ABC of is rabid bias, when Bolt and News Limited display exactly the same reprehensible bias in the other direction.

So if Andrew Bolt’s show is biased, and I strongly advocate that it is, at least we can be thankful that no one is watching it and twice as many Australians content themselves with the wholesome caperings of Peppa Pig.
Indeed it has been one of my long held contentions that the voting laws should be changed, and you can only vote if you're under 18.
Imagine what a world we would have then?
Kids in general have a much greater desire for a clean environment, and would vote as such.
One of the problems with the current crop of state governments, is that the environment has not only dropped off the political agenda, but certainly the Newman government (QLD), the Baird government (NSW) and the Napthine government (Vic) are actively working to destroy the little we have left in the pursuit of cheap, fast bucks from coal.
And of course if the state governments are out to stick the boot into the Australian environment, the Federal government, under Tony Abbott, are doing it better and more comprehensively.
Dumping on the Reef, removing forest that is locked up in national parks, actively helping coal mining companies like Whitehaven flout environemtal safe guards, as at the Maules Creek mine in NSW's west, and all the rest of their reprehensible environmental behaviours - the list of degradations goes on and on.

Bad as all that is, I'll finish with some good news.
Malaysian saw milling company Ta Ann have made an agreement with conservation groups in Tasmania.
They will not use old-growth forest timber in their new veneer plant.
There is still a lot of controversy about this, but it's something.
And what's more, it's another victory for environmental protest.
Ta Ann were losing money at the height of the Tasmanian forest protests.
Consumer activists had targeted Ta Ann's Japanese sales, and brought the logging company to the negotiating table.
The negotiations saw Ta Ann sign its own deal with conservation groups, recommitting the company to the agreed supply areas (AKA: timber will not be sourced from old-growth forests) in return for their support in the market. 
So well done non-violent, peaceful, consumerist protest.

In the end it comes down to this summary of our place in the world.
When China gets around to criticising Australia on human rights.
And when China gets around to criticising Australia on greenhouse gas emissions. 
And when a Malaysian logging company gets around to telling us how to look after our old-growth forests, then clearly, we've got political problems.


Monday, 9 June 2014

Oh, now f%^-king what, a week of two halves.

To start with my week was Byron Bay perfect.
For those surfers among you, these are
the fins I invented, they work like flippers for your board.
I consider my week these days blog to blog, mostly Tuesday to Tuesday.
However as I write this on the Monday of the long weekend, I realised that this week for once I was actually saying, "Thank Christ  it's Monday", signifying the end of the week.
Not an expression that you hear often, like 'pretty as toxic waste dump', or 'gee I wish those Christians were less logical'.
So here's the story of my week in this sub-tropical paradise, and at last I hear you cry, we are back to non-stop f%^-king moaning.
And damn right an' all.
So back to last Tuesday.
My phone rang and it was my friend Ivan, he works Wednesday to Sunday driving a drug bus.
Those hopelessly clapped-out diesel conveyances that drive up from Byron Bay to Nimbin, ostensibly to see the sights, but really to get off the damn bus and buy drugs as quickly as possible.
And already we're onto a digression, but stick with me as usual and we'll return to the main theme.
When I first moved to the Rainbow Region, centred on Byron Bay, I was still a walking mass of drug-soaked confusion.
In need of some pot, I took one of the buses up to Nimbin and went down to the alley next to the coffee shop that was the centre of dealing.
I middle-aged man came up to me and asked if I wanted to buy some dope.
I assented, and he asked what I wanted.
I replied, "could I have a fifty of indoor-outdoor, please?"
Indoor-outdoor marijuana is germinated inside and then taken outside to ripen under the natural elements.
It's the middle of the scale for pot strength.
Outdoor, or bush weed is the weakest, and hyge (from hydroponic) is the strongest.
Hyge would later lead me to understand that I had to give it up, as I had a psychotic episode after smoking some one night.
Ivan is one man who knows how to relax.
Anyway, my drug selling friend nodded to me, then turned and addressed a thirteen-year-old boy sitting nearby on his bicycle.
"Damian," he said, "Could you ride home and get me a fifty bag of indoor-outdoor?"
The boy nodded, then cycled off.
He returned ten minutes later with the bag, entered the coffee shop where I was enjoying a latte, handed me the bag and then left without a word.
Now that's what I call a family business.
So Ivan drives these buses full of tourists up there five days a week, and on his days off we surf when we can.
I mention this because on the second day, Wednesday, the surf was too flat for words and Ivan decided to just relax on the beach.
I spoke with him on the phone before I set out, found out where he was, and we took these pics as I went past.
I had quite a good surf, despite the a) nearly flat ocean, and b) the unholy numbers of splattercakes (learner surfers), and  that got in my way, and then returned to my desk for a bit of writing to wind Wednesday down.
But then Thursday came, and things began a rapid descent in the nethermost pits.
To start with, and I should have realised what this portended, I broke my favourite red coffee cup while having my breakfast.
And I might add, I did it while cleaning my place in preparation for my landlord, Scott's visit that was upcoming.
AKA: Never clean up, it only causes trouble.
So Thursday began badly, in The Hitchhikers' Guide to the Galaxy, Doug Adams writes of Arthur Dent, "Arthur never could get the hang of Thursday", and it was no coincidence that he chose a Thursday for the Vogon Destructor fleet to bring about the end of the world.
So, I had two lawns to mow in Ballina, this is a stressful day for me, as when I have to go a long way from home, my round of checking that things are off, escalates in stress.
If I get all the way to Ballina and have a sudden fear that I've left the oven on, it's problematic to say the least.
However, my friend Scott has agreed to help me, and he came into my little flat, known as The Cupboard, I've now learned, and stood with me as we checked that the windows were shut, the taps were off and there was no power flowing into the oven and electric jug.
I was thankful for his help, and therefore was able to get away reasonably on time.
So down to the underground car park.
Turn the key," urggagh, urrgagh, urr...." went my engine.
Flat battery.
Switched off, went back upstairs and asked Scott for a jump start.
He agreed and we went back downstairs.
Batteries linked, I turn the key.
Same noise, a slow, and slowing, grunting noise as of a walrus giving birth came from my engine bay.
Double NUTS.
Battery cactussed.
I thanked Scott and he went back to his desk.
I called the NRMA, and duly he arrived.
"How old is your battery, mate?" he asked.
"Er, I don't know." I said, feeling slightly less manly as all us men do when we are caught out as being less than mechanical.
I might add, probably the only thing less mechanical than me is a dairy cow in a field.
So the NRMA man nodded and then removed my battery and examined it.
"2008," he said laconically, "You've certainly got your worth out of this one."
I nodded.
For the record, modern batteries have a three-year warranty.
If you get four years out of it that's average, five is great, and six near miraculous.
However, since I only recently bought this car, what that really meant was that my friend Tom, who I bought it from, got the near-miraculous life out of the battery.
So with the new battery in, I turned the key and the engine kicked over like a newly shorn sheep exiting the shed with gleeful high-bouncing.
Caitlyn could afford to relax,
I was mowing her damn lawn.
Well that was something, at least.
Like all of us, whenever the NRMA has to be called, there is the innate fear that it may be something serious involving a tow to the mechanic and a lot of money.
So I handed over my debit Mastercard, and the NRMA man phoned it in.
He read out my numbers twice, then turned to me and said, "Sorry, your card has been declined."
Triple NUTS.
I rubbed my already fevered brow, then hit on a solution.
I raced upstairs and asked Scott for his help for the third time already this morn.
"Can I borrow your credit card? Mine's been declined."
Scott nodded and handed me his card.
As I turned to race back downstairs, he added, "Just don't use it for buying porn off the internet."
This was a regular joke between us, but my sense of humour was already failing on this day.
I smiled wryly, nodded and left.
I gave the NRMA man Scott's card, and he called that in.
This time there were no problems, thankfully, and I was now ready to leave.
I raced back upstairs, gave Scott back his card, and then finally got underway for Ballina.
I pulled up outside Terry's house in Tamar street, got my whipper-snipper out, and launched in.
Things were back on track.
I finished the edging and then got out the mower.
I was halfway through when the mower gave a few lugubrious gasps, then came to a puttering halt.
Quadruple NUTS! (And more, most of it unprintable).
I stared at the thing, then up at the sky, wondering why god had it in for me this day.
So I pulled out my 'carry-with-me-tool-kit', pulled off the plug lead, checked that, pulled off the air filter, checked that, then remembering a trick that I'd learned, I pulled off the petrol cap, and pulled the rip cord with the cap off.
This does some internecine thing to the airflow within, and the mower started.
Thank f^#-ing Christ I said.
I put the cap on, and finished the job.
Back in the car.
Over to Cambden street and got Caitlyn's lawn done.
Icing my knee, a common site for
men playing soccer well past their use-by date.

Loaded my gear and drove home, more thankful than I could say that this Thursday was coming to an end.
So then Friday came and I was due at Physiotherapy.
I'd hurt my knee playing soccer, and Marty the physio, was working on it, trying to get me through to the end of the year.
He did his treatment, and then I went out to the reception area to pay.
The receptionist there, in an echo of yesterday's contretemps with the NRMA man, ran my card twice through the Medicare machine, then handed it back and said to me, "sorry, your card has been declined."
Later, when I told Scott about this, he would remark, "Man, you're the only person I know who has had their Medicare card declined, just how poor are you?!"
Answer: "Very!"
So I paid out of my own pocket, and then left the physio surgery, heading for the Medicare office to sort it out over the phone.
In Byron, we don't have an actual office, just a little nacelle in the corner of Pharmacists Fleur's chemist shop, where you sit at a desk and call Medicare on an in-house phone.
I arrived through the door of Fleur's shop like a man breasting the tape at the end of the Boston marathon, and skidded to halt where the Medicare nacelle should have been.
It was gone.
"Fuck me," I said with considerable vehemence.
I turned and asked one of the counter staff where the Medicare nacelle had gone.
"It's in the Centrelink office now."
Ok, well that was something.
Least it hadn't relocated to Ballina or Lismore, where many of our services have gone.
So I hotfooted over to Centrelink.
I sat down at the desk and called up Medicare.
The photo was staged, taken by
Scott after I had genuinely fallen off
After a wait during which I once again renewed my vow to find and terminate with extreme prejudice whoever it was that converted Greensleaves to three-tone electronic muzak, a human came on the line.
We went through the process, organised my refund and then I asked, what had caused this hiccup.
She replied, "Looks like we sent you a new card out yesterday, and so that means we cancelled your current card at the same time."
I choked back what I really wanted to say, which was, "don't you think that it would be more logical to wait till I get my new card, and use it, before cancelling my old card?"
However, it wasn't the fault of the nice woman on the phone, so I let it be.
With that done, I then went for the exercise that my physio Marty had recommended, some cycling and a gym session.
This went quite well, but I knew this week hadn't given up on testing me, and thus I shouldn't have been at all surprised when I fell off my bike and nearly broke my arm.
What happened was, and this is a lesson to all those who use their mobile phone while driving, that on my return to my place of residence, I was coasting down the concrete ramp toward the underground carpark where I leave my bike when I saw Scott ahead of me walking down the ramp.
I was listening to music on my headphones at the time, so I thought I would be a smartarse, and coast silently up to Scott and then yell loudly in his ear.
To do this I took my phone out of my chest pocket and was manipulating it down the menu stream to the music player to turn it off, when it suddenly occurred to me that I better start braking before I ran into Scott full pelt, and really gave him a shock.
But with one hand holding the phone, I unconsciously pressed the brake with my remaining hand on the handlebars, and the extra, unbalanced pressure brought the front wheel round sharply, and over I went.
Note: Concrete is hard.
Ever so thankfully I hadn't broken anything, or worse, re-damaged my knee.
Once I felt around and realised that I wasn't badly damaged, I was able to laugh about it.
But if I laughed at medium strength, I'll tell you who laughed so hard he nearly burst his spleen: Scott.
In the end though, I had provided a service, Scott was having a real bad day, with the  multifarious stresses of his life as manager of a forty unit apartment complex, and my hopelessly dorkish spill from my bike released the tension for him.
I picked up my bike and wheeled it into the garage and chained it up.
I then called time on Friday, and went home and carefully did as little as possible for the rest of the day, casting occasional glances vaguely toward the ceiling, wondering what the universe had in store for me next.
As it turned out, it came on the Saturday at Bangalow.
Scott was playing in a six-a-side soccer comp up there, and asked if I would fill in, as one of their players had cried off.
After much soul-searching I agreed.
I really should have given my knee another week off, but by the same token, a gentle six-a-side tourney could be the fitness test I needed.
So Saturday came and off I went.
Scott was all concern for my plight.
As I'm sure you understand, given the week I was already having, this was risky, and damaging my knee was my real fear.
However, as It turned out, I  got through the soccer Okay, no, what the universe had in store for me was another player stepping on my carelessly thrown jacket, and breaking my glasses that were in the chest pocket within.
Quintuple NUTS! I said, when I went to put them on after one of the games.
Thankfully the lenses weren't cracked and so I was able to put them inside my sunglasses and drive home with reasonable vision.
The problem with that was though that when I pulled the car into the subterranean gloom of the underground carpark, I reflexively took off my sunglasses, as it is as dark as night with them on, and in doing that the unsupported lenses fell from my nose onto the floor of my car, where I nearly completed the job, started next to the soccer field at Bangalow, and trod on them with my boot.
Thankfully they survived and I parked the car, then got my glasses and went, once again, home vowing to do nothing more to tempt fate.
I then spent Saturday evening watching TV in my sunglasses looking like a sort of white Ray Charles.
Sunday passed thankfully without incident, I drove up to Clunes and did some gardening for my friend Eric, thankfully without cutting off a finger with my secateurs, or anything like it that this week was constantly threatening me with, then spent another evening at home watching TV and listening to the sound of the winter rain.
Monday came and I raced into the office to call the optometrist to get my glasses fixed.
To my consternation I got an answering message saying the office was closed.
WTF?? I said to myself.
Then it hit me, it was a long weekend.
Of course.
Glasses broken like my
spirit was becoming.
One thing that I may have mentioned about my home town is the rubbery grip on time that we all have.
Everyone here knows what the tides are doing, but no-one, myself included, can tell you what day of the week it is.
This is due to most not working nine-to-five, but having various rolling shifts to do with the hospitality industry.
And doubly so on that is that long weekends catch us all by surprise.
We usually don't know it's a long weekend until someone going home on the Friday evening notices a seemingly eternal nose-to-tail line of traffic coming into town from the highway.
Additionally, I have three stories to research and get comment on from various politicians, and needless to say none of them were in the office.
However, I did get the time to write this, so at least my day hasn't been wasted.

Victory is ours

On the up side though, this week did mark a victory over Channel Ten.
I, as you well know, have spent a lot of time ranting at Ten over those annoying promos in the corner of our screens.
Well me and my complaining compadres seem to have gotten through, as the picture shows.
The promos have disappeared from my show Modern Family.
I'll just add my usual rationale for getting so hot and bothered about this, as many of my friends grow concerned when I start talking about this, as I look like I'm about to detonate.
The fact is that 80-90% of Australians get their information completely from commercial television.
So therefore, I feel, it's important to get them to behave.
There is a commercial television code of practise, but this was written by the networks and is about as effective as an Alcoholics Anonymous meeting held at a vodka bottling plant.
This code actually says in black and white that promos are allowed on screen full time.
But there is no denying that the networks are trying it on to have them there full time.
I say that this means they have advertising on the screen for thirty minutes out of every thirty.
Additionally, as most agree, it is rude beyond belief to the makers of, and watchers of, a show, to have these promos horning in and destroying the flow of the show.
As the picture shows, there is only the Ten watermark now and now promo, which used to sit next to it.
So well done all of us who complained, just goes to show what I have been saying for 66 posts now, over a year and change, complaining does work.
So everyone out there, do more of it.

Sunset over my town

And before I go, I'll leave you with some of those sunset shots that we all love.
I took these on Thursday night and very much enjoy the process of photographing my town as it winds down for the day, and on Thursday I bloody needed it, I can tell you.

Monday, 2 June 2014

That's a cover, did you not know that?

Don's release was in 1984.
I was in the gym the other day, trying to shut out the music on the gym video feed with my
headphones, when the song I was listening to ended and in the silence between tracks a bit of what was on the TV screen filtered through to my ears.
It was familiar, but I couldn't quite place it.
So I took off my headphones for a moment and listened and watched.
It was a young woman, weighing about four kilograms, walking along the beach and singing..., no wait, don't tell me..., it..., it was Boys of Summer, by Don Henley, formerly of the Eagles.
I was, not astonished, but sort of surprised.
I've looked up on the web to see if I could find who this diaphanous female was, but have had no luck.
But it reminded me of something I've (sadly) noticed lately, which is that one sign of ageing is that you were young and hip when a song came out originally.
And so it was with Boys of Summer.
I watched this lissom female cavort on the screen and I had to admit that it wasn't a bad version.
Those who have been watching this space will know that I am as crotchety as a wild boar with a sore tusk, and a card-carrying member of the Old Fogey society, and so may have expected another vitriolic rant along the lines of "this kid is nowhere near as good as Don Henley".
But no, I kind of enjoyed it.
However, as I watched, I suddenly had a realisation of my age as it occurred to me that this cover was actually, I'm pretty certain of this, a cover of The Ataris cover of Boys of Summer, which came out in 2003.
So effectively I was at grandfather generational level of covers of this song.
The original version by Don was released in 1984, the Ataris' version in 2003, and now this microscopic female with no clothes on in 2014.
So sadly for you middle-aged readers of this blog, when your kids are going mad for a new song, and you know it's a cover and they don't, it's a sign of ageing.
The Ataris went at it in 2003.
Other songs that come into this category are Cats in the Cradle by Harry Chapin.
The original came out in the early seventies, and the cover by Ugly Kid Joe in 1992.
I had glimmerings of being old then, as I was one of the few in that time that knew this was cover.
However I was on the right side of knowledge for a few covers.
Always Something There to Remind Me by Naked Eyes, was one, this came out in the 80s, and I evinced considerable surprise, and demonstrated my lifetime-long considerable ignorance, when I found out it was a cover, the original version was from the 60s and was written by venerable song writing team Burt Bacharach and Hal David.
Puttin' on the Ritz, likewise caught me by surprise, when I heard Taco's version in the eighties, and just only just now learned what a long term popular thing this song is, being written in 1927.
Forever Young is another song that confuses most to its attestation, even Wikipedia.
On the Wiki page is says "originally released by Alphaville in 1984".
However just down the page it correctly shows the lineage as written by Bob Dylan in 1974.
Another was the theme tune to Four Weddings and a Funeral, Love is All Around.
The song for the movie of the nineties was performed by Wet, Wet, Wet - the band name comes from a weather forecast for Glasgow, where two of the band members were from, and is not a character reference.
The song Love is All Around stayed at number one in Britain in 1994 for 15 weeks and easily was the biggest seller in the UK that year.
I quite liked it, but then was surprised to find it was cover as well, it was originally released by the Troggs in 1967.
But for once, and for the last time, I was in the "young persons'" position of not knowing it was cover.
So this week's tip of fighting the onslaught of age is this, if your kids come in raving about a new great song, and you know it's a cover, don't say that.
Then, pretend you like the song.
This way you can remain a bit younger for a bit longer.
The classic old fogey thing to do is say, "This is rubbish, only the original version was any good."
This damns you eternally as a foge.
What's more it's a handy technique for stopping your kids liking the song, and therefore playing it incessantly around the house.
The logic your kids follow is that "Yeechhh, if mum likes this song then it must be very lame", and so you will then be free of it from then on.
Deriding the next generation's music is of course a human trait, and I'm still not sure why people do it, but I'll have a go at nutting it out.
It was best demonstrated for me at a flea market in Bathurst when I was about 16.
For those who was wondering flea market is likely named as such because the original markets were thought to contain mouldy old furniture with fleas infesting the lining.
The Bathurst Flea Market - "it is ordained that the market of the lame, by the lame, for the lame, will never perish from this Earth".
Another theory is that a market near a swamp in New York state had so many flies hovering around it that it was termed the Fly Market, and the term warped back to the old-world term, flea market.
My mother was addicted to these things, first going there an buying any piece of junk that could fit in the car, then later, having a stall herself.
With this stall my mother gained the possible title of the greatest disseminater of useless, f%^-king garbage that the central tablelands had ever seen.
I might add, I had no general objection to her doing this, but the problem came when my brother David and I were yoked into the slave harness to carry all the junk down and set up the stall.
Needless to say we didn't get paid, or even thanked.
Oh Dear!
What's more, to get the best spot, you had to be down there pre-dawn, and getting out of bed in a Bathurst winter before the sun had shed it's warming rays on the town, was critically endangering to life.
Among the junk that my mother sold was old records.
One Saturday morning a middle-aged man came over and found some records that he liked and went to buy them, as he handed them over, I looked at the cover slip and could find no price on them.
He said, "how much do you want for these?"
I replied, "Looking at this stuff, 5c a record would be about right."
I can't remember exactly what the music was, some totally lame arse swing music from the thirties as I recall, and my 5c remark, and my tone, clearly indicated that I thought I really should be paying him to take it away, it was that lame.
Did that open the flood gates to a rant from this lame arse character.
"what are you talking about? This is real music, none of your rubbish that you kids listen to", and more on the same theme.
I should have known better, I was somewhat trapped as I was, behind the table of my mother's stall, and so couldn't a) go away somewhere, and b) tell him what I really think.
The wages for speaking out would of course been being beaten up by my mother and or father when I got home.
Anyway tirade finished he paid his dollar, for twenty records and left, no doubt with the self-satisfied feeling of cogently explaining to me why his music was better and no doubt feeling that the first thing I would do is change my musical tastes because of his reasoned argument.
So again, I repeat, if you don't wish to be seen as lame and old, don't bag the next generation's music.
And so to The Simpsons where as usual, this whole vexed debate was done best.
What happens is Homer has to take a group of kids to school as car pool driver, due to a certain "unscheduled offroad excursion" that Otto takes the school bus on, rendering it unviable as a transport device for elementary school children.
I might add, in a lesson for school principals everywhere, Principal Skinner sends a note home explaining why the school bus is out of action, and says at the beginning of the letter, "By reading this letter out loud you waive all rights to sue", which Marge doesn't notice until she's already read it out at the Breakfast table.
Bart and Lisa admirably demonstrate how
embarassing parents are, no matter what they are doing.
Anyway, in the car Homer puts on his music and then can't understand why the kids a) don't like it and b) (recoil by Homer) have never even heard of the band before.
So Homer goes down to the record store and asks the clerk if he has any Grand Funk Railroad, the band he was playing in the car.
The clerk jabs his thumb over his shoulders and says one word, "oldies".
Homer is downcast.
realizing that the seminal band of his youth is now in the "old" category, and therefore he is old and uncool, he then goes on a process of trying to prove to his kids that he is anything but and ends up taking his kids to the big music fest, Lallapaloosa.
Once there he buys a Rastafarian beret and then tries to blend in with the crowd.
This last for about three seconds before the kids swaying to Smashing Pumpkins notice him trying to fit in and immediately decry him as an undercover cop.
He is then ejected from the back of the crowd, and faces the realisation that he is finally and ultimately uncool.
So watch out for it parents, there are things you can do to stave off the onset of fogeyness, but never forget this, as a parent, your very existence embarrasses your kids, no matter what your behaviour.

The physical signs of Ageing.

But that's all to do with your mental state and your outlook inside your head, what about the physical signs of Ageing?
I'm sorry here if I am making anyone feel down, but since it's germane to this issue, I have to bring it up.
When I was a young man, I made the somewhat mature vow to myself, that is I didn't go bald, I would go grey gracefully.
If you are a bald man reading this, I'm not trying to be luckier-than-thou, I'm simply leading up to my loathing for men who dye their hair.
It's invariably done to look younger, and I'm here to tell you, it doesn't bloody work.
There is no dye treatment, costing any amount of money that is fool proof up close.
Then you fall into the even lamer category of one who has gone grey, but is trying to hide it.
So in then end I was genetically lucky, and didn't go bald, and that is why you see me these days, and forever after sporting a head of grey hair.
And while we're on the topic, there is a persistent myth that baldness comes down through the mother's side of the genetic crap shoot.
This is completely untrue.
Men get their father's hairline.
If your dad is bald, you will be too. (sorry)
And what of women dyeing their hair?
Well this seems to be more acceptable in our society, why I don't know, but it seems to be to do with society's stereotypes to do with sex and relationships.
My friend Evo, once pointed out a little piece of philosophy that highlights this quite admirably.
Said Ev, :"There seems to be some sort of intangible moment in a man's life when his sex desire moves from an older women to one younger than himself."
This certainly hold true and the classic teenage boy fantasy is for the mother of one of his friend's, or the hot young maths teacher at school.
But then as men age this turns around and I can assure you that my home town Byron bay is infested with middle-aged self-styled gurus who hang around the Beach hotel and try to pick up 18-year-old backpackers from Denmark.
"Hey Fellas, here's a tip, stop it now, nothing looks lamer than you".
So women have a genetic imperative to look as young as possible and this is highlighted by the truly staggering amounts that is spent on Makeup in Australia each year.
the MoneySmart website tells us that Australians spend a staggering eight billion a year on Beauty in one form or another, with make up, high on this list.
I think that's a sorry state of affairs, particularly when considered in the light of the current federal budget in which out treasurer asks us to all do some heavy lifting financially.
Well, if we stopped wasting our money on going to the beauty parlour then there is a few bill that could go back into the coffers.
I'm hoping not to strike a note of attacking women about this, what I am genuinely attacking is society's mores (pronounced morays, like the eel, referring to standards, morals and views in general) which put so much pressure on women to look younger.
Time for us all to be allowed to grow older gracefully.

The War with Channel Ten

But in a final note of uplift for the future of our society, channel ten last week premiered a reality TV show that I struggle to utter over the moronity of.
It's called I Wanna Marry Harry, and is some sort of skankfest where they got a load of female dumbarses and they all compete somehow for the right to marry prince Harry and have the real life fairy tale of becoming a princess.
To my utter, utter and complete joy, the show was an abject zarking failure.
It didn't appear in the top 20 shows for that night, and so despite the fact that 51% of Australians are clinically defined morons, which is why Tony Abbott is Prime Minister, it seems that the line has been drawn at last and even a show as truly nauseating as this one has no viewers.
So well done Australian TV viewers, now let's move this general uplift along and vote intelligently an' all.