Tuesday, October 31, 2006


"I've had a perfectly wonderful evening. But this wasn't it." I really didn't feel like going to the 2006 Gay Pride March, or whatever it's called. Do i really need more photos of rainbow coloured flags and gay exhibitionists? No i don't. Once upon a time, Gay Pride marches had some political grunt. They had a point and a purpose. They promoted equal rights for homosexuals. But what's the point of a Pride march these days? Gays wanting to take their sexuality out and rub it in your face. There is just not much appeal, photographically speaking, in all that colour and life and movement. Yawn. But having no plans to go to Northbridge is useless once fate intervenes. Safari Bob phones. He is down at pcp (which, in this context, stands for Perth Centre for Photography, not angel dust), and is fairly intent on having a few drinks. I'm visiting Mayhem in her Death Bed. She has fallen into a swoon and collapsed, and is lying in state. She is expecting more of her friends to visit soon, and talk about how much they love her, and how much they will miss her, et cetera. I have seen Mayhem in this state before, and i know it is sometimes possible to revive her using lasagne, or beer, or cocaine. Or all three mixed together and applied as a poultice. On this occasion, however, Cooper's Sparkling Ale does the trick. She sits suddenly upright, takes a draught of beer, and miraculously arises from what looked like certain death. After her first, faltering steps, she is on the slow path to recovery. But she will not yet be drawn into a night on the town. "We have the garage sale tomorrow, Art Director," she points out. "We are going to Melbourne. We must cull." It's true; we must rid ourselves of all material possessions in order to embark upon that long, thirsty trek across the Nullarbor Plain. I'm just going for a quick drink with Safari Bob, i say. "Quick drink. Safari Bob. Not words that naturally go together." She shakes her head. "You ought to be culling, not sculling." I promise to be on deck by six a.m. to help her set up the Garage Sale - a rash promise if ever i made one, and one which is never to be fulfilled. Because the town is crying out for a fresh lick of red paint. And Safari Bob and i are just the men for the job.

I kickstart the motorcycle, and head out to buy a bottle of Bacardi and meet Safari Bob. The roads are blocked for the march, so i take it to the footpaths. The dykes on bikes are assembling their parade out the front of the pcp. There are cops everywhere, but it is difficult to tell which are the real ones, and which are the ones in the parade. Arse cut out of pants is always a clue, i'm thinking.

We drink, we watch the festivities, we show some punters around pcp. I take a brunette in the darkroom. The rum supply dwindles, and with it our common sense. Safari Bob has a damaged foot from dropping a wall on it, and has difficulty walking, so it suddenly seems a good idea to put on matching Hawaiian shirts and ride the motorcycle straight down William Street, right on James, and into ground zero. The Block. Artrage party central.

Things begin to go a bit awry on William Street. Smoke pours from the front of the motorcycle. We are on fire. I just keep going, with the half-assed half-drunk thought in the back of my head that the fire might blow out and the bike suddenly repair itself, but no. The corner of William and Roe Streets is a kind of motorcyclic Sargasso Sea. This is where my motorcycle was mysteriously and magnetically drawn into a steel barrier only a few posts ago. And now the bike is spiralling out of control in a seething vortex of smoke and flame. If i had a compass on me, it would no doubt be spinning on its axis. William and Roe is no ordinary intersection. It is a nexus of evil. We leave the 650 smoking quietly on the pavement outside the body piercing shop, and walk the last few metres into ground zero. We walk there on foot.

The Block party is still going. There are Blockheads partying wildly inside the marquee. From what i can gather, Artrage is an excuse for people (sorry, artists) to play dress ups, talk fatuously and throw parties at one another. Obviously, all this suits me fine. I walk by the doorman (being a marquee, the proper term is flapman), say "it's ok to take photographs inside" and whether this is a question or a flat statement is left hanging in a deliberately ambiguous manner as i continue on without breaking my stride. My AJA card and Nikon are slung casually, yet visibly, around my neck. The card and camera get me into parties and clubs where i would not normally be invited. These are the only parties and clubs worth going to, as I stand firmly by the Marxist principle that i don't want to belong to any club that will accept me as a member. ("Those are my principles, and if you don't like them... well, i have others." "A child of five could understand this. Send someone to fetch a child of five." "Time flies like an arrow. Fruit flies like a banana." And so on. R.I.P. Groucho Marx and his principles. Groucho, the only man ever to have eyebrows more rediculous than our Prime Minister's.)

Once inside, Safari Bob and i begin drinking in earnest, the night's earlier consumption of a bottle of rum serving us well as an apertif on our three course meal of alcohol, too much alcohol, and way too much alcohol. I take the odd photograph, but generally the night is about drinking beer and talking in earnest. I run into PCP Justin, and Donstar the Pink Minx, and Jude of Bankwest, who appeared in this blog recently in a leopardskin toque.

Also Irish Steve, who is completing a PhD in something or other and sporting a rather fetching set of Mickey Mouse ears. Our long and earnest conversation is one of a number of long and earnest conversations i have that evening, of which i can now remember nothing at all, other than whatever was said, was said at length and in earnest. I photograph Steve standing unnaturally close to a friend of his in a white singlet.

As is inevitable when completely totalled on alcohol, i am suddenly struck by the beauty of the girl serving the beer. I gaze at her with a combination of lust and reverence. Her youthful beauty is enhanced, in a strangely compelling way, by a vicious scar running across her cheek. "A know a gentleman," i say, "who got a scar like that whilst fencing." Oh, really? "Yes. Working with barbed wire can be quite hazardous." She gazes at me with a combination of incredulity and contempt. I order another beer. After they kick us out, Safari Bob and i go on a trip to The Moon. We make our entrance with the Art Director proclaiming loudly that all the staff are totally lazy and we will be waiting an eternity for service. "I'd like a crocodile sandwich, and make it snappy!" We seat ourselves at a booth and soon there is a huge carafe of red wine in front of me. "I'd rather have a carafe in front of me than a giraffe in a car with me." Mmm, white rum, beer and red wine. Halfway through the one litre giraffe, i realise it must be time to go. "Demlishun Blob," i slur ruefully at around three in the morning, "i'm garaging a car sale at six." We stare at each other confusedly. "I think." I leave Safari Bob drinking red straight from the carafe, and weave my way back towards Harley Street.

Remember kids. Binge drink responsibly. Art Director out.

Thursday, October 26, 2006


How is the documentary looking?

“The Ford Maestro”, set in Rino’s garage, is looking very rock’n’roll. If you accept rock’n’roll is ultimately about cars and girls. The 2006 Art Director / Mayhem production is currently set to bulldozer mode. Full speed ahead, and damn the tomatoes. We are going all out. We pin 83-year-old Rino down and grill him at length under bright Arri lights. We allow him some brief respite, when a customer in a Cadillac Eldorado rolls in to fill his tank. We shoot a quick interview with this tank commander. "Rino is the dictionary definition of cool," says the young Cadillac driver. How long has he been coming to Rino's garage, we ask? "Since before i was born," he says - completely truthfully. He books up his fuel and rolls on down sunny Scarborough Beach Road. When i fill the Madaz, i discover Rino does not have eftpos or credit card facilities, but is quite happy to take a cheque. Hmm. The good old days.

We record some of the Rino lifestyle, logging interviews with Rino and his real estate agent, who turns up with an offer on the garage; film tasty overlay shots around the place, and capture Mayhem hurtling around the Town of Vincent in a lipstick-red ‘64 XM coupé - the 2 door Pursuit model, retro-fitted with a late model V8 powerplant. Quite a rude proposition when combined with Mayhem’s urban guerilla driving tactics. So cool it’s zero cool, says Melinda 'Che' Mayhem. The simple narrative (Girl in Red Car with Engine Problems pulls into Garage) draws the viewer seamlessly into a touching exposition of Rino’s life as Sicilian Immigrant slash Ford Specialist: Rino, who arrived on these shores in 1948, who used to deliver market produce to Wellington Street markets on a horse and cart and race Norton motorcycles. Although not at the same time. A well-tuned Norton will win hands down over a horse and cart nine times out of ten.

The little red coupé is courtesy of Brendon, deep-sea diver and underwater construction specialist. Brendon may make a future appearance on the electric nerve, explaining to avid readers what life is like on the inside of a fibreglass helmet wrestling with steel pipes supported by airbags on the ocean floor, armed with a compass, a two-way and a set of spanners. We will ask the tough questions: is there time for spearfishing?

Meanwhile, Brendon is being driven around the streets of Vincent by Mayhem. He is impressed by the effectiveness of his coupe’s air vents in lifting the hem of Mayhem’s 50s style dress to reveal the fishnet stockings and suspenders which grace the upper regions of her milky white thighs. Ahem. A true professional, I have the presence of mind to carefully document the entire wardrobe malfunction on video. “One of the most erotic sights I’ve seen in a while,” Brendon tells me confidentially when i deliver his carton of Coopers a few days later. “Will that be on my copy of the DVD?” Yes. A definite for the Director’s Cut. And anything said to me confidentially will almost certainly appear on the blog.

The documentary rolls on. You notice, once you start making a film, how everybody has an opinion on how you should go about it? Well, i've got two words for back-seat film directors: shut the fuck up.

Storyboarding a documentary seems to be a contradiction in terms, but all documentaries are constructed. For me, documentary filmmaking tends more toward organic growth, like Bonsai, rather than the plastic brickwork of Lego. You must choose a start point, and an end point. This in itself will construct a narrative. The rest depends on your view point. The in-between ... how much of it is to be directed? How much is pruned, and how much left to run wild? How much is to be explained, how much left open to interpretation? These are some of the choices facing the documentary filmmaker.

Art Director chooses rock’n’roll. Never apologise, never explain.

A narrative has a beginning and an ending, a fact that simultaneously distinguishes it from the rest of the world and opposes it to the “real” world.
– Christian Metz, Film Language

All reality is constructed, but unreality is really constructed.
– Art Director, Out of Range

Saturday, October 21, 2006


Yes, i realise we live in a postmodern age. It’s all over the shop. All the fine arts: painting, architecture, sculpture, dance and music: and of course the music video would constitute the postmodernist’s avant-garde, if such a linearly progressive notion were permissible outside the modernist ethic: all these artforms have collapsed, been swept up and thrown into a pluralist gunny-sack with film, books, magazines, TV quiz shows and ringtones, given the label “texts”, and succumbed to a play of intertextualites, ‘ironies’ in inverted commas (i.e. the ironic use of irony), carnival, self-reflexivitities, self-consciousnesses and even self-contradictions. The cannibalism of the retro. The pastiche of languages and styles. What Henri Lefebvre called the increasing primacy of the ‘neo’. The Society of the Spectacle. And the gunny-sack has been flung into a quagmire, the logical swamp of late capitalism ...

Sure, i can dig it. No wuckers.

But in a deliberate attempt to escape the solipsism of writing a blog which, as far as i know, nobody reads, i began (sorry, but isn’t David Bowie’s Sound and Vision just a really cool track?) to peruse other blogs. And, Dear Lord, how i wish i hadn’t. I feel somehow contaminated. Like i imagine i would feel if i ever cheated on a girlfriend with someone who had radiation sickness. (Ex-girlfriends out there in alice-in-wonderland: i never did, honest) . I just hope this short foray into blogland doesn’t corrupt my style, although i can already feel it etching my paragraphs like acid on copper. So, prithee, what is it with all this writing (or blogging) on all these blogs about the techniques of blogging? Writing has finally disappeared up its own colon: Oh i neet to get Blogger Beta, can anyone tell me if the edit functions are much improved? I don’t think such-and-such a feed program is any better than so-and-so. This, from what is allegedly a Blog of Note called ‘Philosophical Musings’. And perhaps voicing one’s opinion on contemporary American politics does constitute philosophy these days - i confess i’m a bit out of touch with the discipline. And while on the subject of the contemporary American schoolyard and feebleminded writers, cop this from Perth’s new Drum Media, the freshly imported streetrag from the East, issue 004: “it may come as a surprise to learn that Ok Go are actually a very politically aware band.” Hmmm. Their singer posted an online guide to ousting George Bush. Very politically aware? Doesn’t the realisation that Bush should go just require a brain stem?

Back to blogging on blogging. Who cares what your technical difficulties or preferences are? Who gives a flying duck which software you use? Imagine if Shakespeare had rambled on like this in The Taming of the Shrew:

Pray, this quill is more pleasant, pithy and effectual
Than any quill i hath purchased before
And here it is in my writing, fairly drawn.

Oh i know i’m just an old man raging, raging against the dying of the light. McLuhan was right. And there is no escaping that sad fact. The technique has finally outstripped the content. The medium is indeed the message. Which iPod you wear is more important than what it decodes. But let’s cut to the chase, as they say (and what does that mean? Is it culled from film language? Generation XYZers use lines from films to communicate concepts they find difficult to elucidate themselves. A spurious impression of a line of dialogue, a raising of the eyebrows, a nodding of the head, like, know what i’m saying? Very perplexing indeed if you’ve never seen that particular film. It’s like listening to a rapper in an East-LA dialect who finishes a rapid verbal montage with just that line: know what i’m saying? Would you like a simple answer? No, i haven’t got a fucking clue.)

Back to blogging on blogging. Avid and imaginary readers, i confess: i bought a computer. There. It’s out. Oh, this is what the Greeks meant when they spoke of katharsis. It’s true, i am a CPU luddite. This entire blog has been constructed on and posted from the Borrowed Computer and the Internet Café. But i am now the proud owner of a fifty-dollar jellybean blue ex-Department of Indigenous Affairs iMac which talks to me. Actually, sixty dollars. I cut a deal and got a keyboard, a mouse with a little red light on its belly, and a Sony TC-K33 cassette deck thrown in. Ah, i knew all those cassettes would come in handy one day.

So this is the first time i have actually been able to blog from the comfort of my own room (while listening to the sweet strains of Bowie’s Low, The Fall’s This Nation’s Saving Grace, and Parliament’s The Clones of Dr Funkenstein. Yeah. Do That Stuff. Ah, Celestion made some good speakers, didn’t they?) - sorry, not blog, in fact. Write. Because Jo and i have no internet connection here in our Harley Street squalor, so blogging is out of the question. What, you cry? Everybody’s got an internet connection, i hear you say. Oh really, i reply, somewhat smug in my superior knowledge. Did you know that two thirds of the world’s population have never made a telephone call? And did you know there is a little piece of that Third World right here in Harley Street, Highgate?

But all this ultramodern supercomputerisation has done me no good. (We all return, salmon-like, to the fundamental source, the original question: does the techné do us any good? Has Bill Gates done any of us any good? If not, why has he got so much of our fucking money?) I am become a rambling, lazy, postmodern sap. Oh, the terrible power of computerisers. I am sunk so low as to become interTEXTual! Self-reFLEXive! It’s disGUSTing! I am become so lazy, all i have to do is save this concise blog entry to a little portable hard drive, take it down to the Internet Café, plug it in and save two dollars on blogging time. The iMac will pay for itself within a hundred posts, i reckon. While simultaneously corroding my writing.

What’s become of the buzz, the rush, of writing against the clock on a hired computer? As a writer I am become bloated, like some belletristic beached whale. And while we are on that subject, i have a theory. No, it’s not American submarine sonar driving them nuts and causing them to beach themselves en masse. No no no no no. It goes much deeper than that. It’s evolution. Whales are evolving into land dwelling creatures. Eventually, through a random mutation, a whale with mutant fins will beach itself only to discover it can walk about on land!

At the peak of our technological performance, the irresistible impression remains that something eludes us – not because we seem to have lost it (the real?), but because we are no longer in a position to see it: that, in effect, it is not we who are winning out over the world, but the world which is winning out over us. It is no longer we who think of the object, but the object which thinks us. Once we lived in the age of the lost object; now it is the object which is ‘losing’ us, bringing about our ruin. – Jean Baudrillard, The Irony of Technology.

Wednesday, October 18, 2006


Today i picked up a can of Mr Sheen thinking it was flyspray.
We've still got the flies, but at least they're clean.

Sunday, October 15, 2006


I like the band name, it's anti-perthness. Well that's how i read it anyway, which possibly says more about my state of mind than anything much else. Get me out of this town! I got dragged into being a fan of this outfit from a number of directions. For one, my colleague, friend and wisecracking technolectual filmmaker Sebastian Craig shot their clip. Two, Ronan's work i been a fan of for years, since my days doing live-to-digital recording at the ramshackle Initiation Studio (don't get me started). Ronan's recent bands include Seahorse Radio and a stint in Futurist, a nominally three-piece jazz-crazed group that performed intermittently at the Flying Scotsman on Friday nights. Fender Rhodes, Fender Rhodes, drums and Fender Rhodes was the line-up if i remember correctly. And the Futurist stoned party at the Italian drummer Dan's, where he fed the masses with what seemed like only a token amount of pasta, chilli and oil. Dan could walk from here to South Perth without using the bridge, such is his godlike stature as a cooker of pasta. Futurist noodled through the kind of anti-structure numbers with bouts of dynamite drumming that would sporadically take your mind off even beer. They were cool and had interesting email invitations to gigs, with a kind of stylised trotskyist slant ... and the music, well, Zappaesque comes to mind, but so does Tortoise (Tortoisesque?) And reason to get dragged into fandom number three, vocalist Sascha Ion's work heard from the days (ah, the good ole days) when she was playing around town with Spank. I think i was bassist for metal alloy outfit Botticelli's Angel around that time. I mean, i'm pretty sure i was bassist for them, but not sure if it was round that time... oh, you know what i mean. Heard good things about the spanksters, heard their work, but never actually saw them play. Solipsistic? Moi?

This is not a gig review. This is an excuse to publish my photos, let's face it. Though the gig was pretty good. Friday night, Mojo's (the bar formerly known as The Stoned Crow, where flatmate Jo19 cooked the Sunday roasts back in the 80s - never knew that until very recently) where tonight i run into ex-Code Red Art work colleague Brett Todman (the artist formerly known as Roy), Poon's Head recording guru Rob Grant, Alex from Kill Devil Hills, former Cinema Pragueist and current Rice guitarist George Kailis doing a brilliant job on the mixing desk, and the documentary producer Nathan Jones who is doing a film on the modern day pirate and treasure hunter Captain Mike Hatcher - but more on that later.
Now i'm not convinced the vintage Fender Rhodes instrument really stands up to the punishment dished out by a postmodern touring act. Especially one where the keyboardist is inclined to play particular chords with his right foot, and jump about on the keyboard. Ronan, Ronan. Wrestling with technical problems onstage i always find entertaining. In the way one finds any unfolding disaster entertaining that doesn't involve oneself or any of one's immediate family. Glad that's not me, i'm thinking, having to juggle one instrument while pulling the lid of another to find a faulty connection and keeping on playing while desperately trying to remember where i left that third hand. But what a fat bass sound Ronan gets out of that keyboard! Yeah, they kick a bit of arse when all is functioning, and Sascha's got a mean big guitar sound and a solid gold look. And her voice - hmm, that's one of the good things i used to hear about Spank. Flighty, melodic, beautifully idiosyncatic ... do i sound obsessed?

Check at Ronan's AWESOME webdesign at one horse town then go buy the tshirt. They rock.

Saturday, October 14, 2006


Our documentary filmshoot is underway. The Madaz is full of big roadcases stuffed with shotgun mics, tripods, redheads, cables, a brand-new aluminium clipboard (a must-have), and a serious-looking high definition video camera with interchangeable lenses and a bewildering array of knobs, buttons, levers, dials, displays, sockets, plugs and orifices. Goddamn it, i'm a photographer! Moving images make me giddy. What does this button do? Oops a daisy!

Earlier this week, Mayhem and Art Director went to lunch with FTI and TOV representives, as well as the other esteemed filmmakers. One filmmaker is making a documentary on a Iraqi refugee woman who spent three years in an immigrant detention centre and now lives in Town of Vincent. Mayhem and i are making a documentary on Rino Orifici, an 82-year-old Sicilian mechanic who came to Perth in 1948. Rino specialises in pre 1980 Fords. Therefore we plan to commandeer a Ford Mustang or 1964 XP convertible and career around the town of Vincent, seeing, through Rino's eyes, how the town has changed. We hope his story will serve as a metonym for the 1950's Italian migrant experience. It is provisionally entitled "The Ford Maestro."

The other two filmmakers are engaged in making a slapstick comedy about a jogger. I tell them the story of how i stopped to help a woman trying to pushstart her car at Port Beach carpark one afternoon. When i offered to help, she looked at me askance, and ran away. It was then i realised she was a jogger, stretching her calf muscles by leaning on the back of a parked car.

So the lunch is going smoothly. The Recreation Officer turns up with bottles of wine, as any good Recreation Officer should. The rice-paper rolls and stuffed chicken entrées are delicious. The main meals are good, although mine is not quite so good as everyone else's. Why? Perhaps because i ordered my meal in Vietnamese, without knowing how to read or pronounce it. I just make indochinese-sounding noises and point at the picture. The Vietnamese waiter, who speaks English better than me, appears unimpressed. My meal, when it arrives, consists of about two kilograms of snow peas, and very little else. Then, to make matters worse, one of the comedic filmmakers makes the mistake of bagging out Angelina Jolie and cocaine-sniffing celebrities who jump on the back of this or that cause. Uh-oh. This sends Mayhem off on a diatribe. "What, if you have all that power and media attention you're just meant to shut up and say your lines? You can't voice your political views? What's wrong with drawing attention to the injustices of this world? I think Angelina is cool. What's wrong with cocaine? Anyone who criticises cocaine obviously hasn't had enough of it!" and so on. It seems there might be a food fight. Mayhem is flicking a lot of victuals about the table anyway as she grapples with her chopsticks, although most of this culinary carnage is unintentional. I am thinking it best to change the subject before a stir-fried baby corn becomes a missile. I begin to talk learnedly about Special Effects. "Look what i got," i say. I procure a pair of wind-up Groucho glasses from my coat pocket. "Who needs CGI."

I put them on. The moustache and eyebrows move mechanically up and down, accompanied by whirring clockwork noises. The people around the table stare at me blankly, before Mayhem and Comedy Man resume the Angelina argument, only more vehemently than before. Hmm. Should i have brought the Billy Bob Teeth?

The lunch convenors usher us toward the door. Mayhem is still arguing with Comedy Man. Admittedly he does look like he just stepped off the set of Australian Idol, with his fancy embroidered shirt and carefully spiked hair. For my money, this is an automatic veto over any rights he thinks he may have had to hold an opinion. "Special effects?" Mayhem is saying. "How about i pour petrol over you and strike a match? That's a good effect." Yes, that would be pretty special.

The subject raises some interesting issues. If you accept the proposition 'everything is political' (which i do not - for reasons i will go into later) then it follows that everybody who thinks or speaks necessarily holds a political opinion, even if their opinion is that nothing is political. But in our society some persons' opinions carry more weight than others. This may be because they are a spokesperson for a particular group, like the Greens Senator Bob Brown, the Pope, or Noel Pearson. Or it may be that they have a record of being a lucid and coherent commentator on complex issues, like an Eva Cox, or a Don Watson. But what if their opinion carries weight because they are simply entertaining? What if they occupy the middle ground, like that strange beast, the political cartoonist? (Think Bill Leak, or my favourite, Michael Leunig - who would probably say that he is not political). I have alluded to the idea that if a person dresses like a rating TV show clone, they perhaps forfeit any claim to hold an original thought. This is a particularly clothesist stance, i admit, but there you have it. Should the political opinion of a celebrity similarly be vetoed because of their (frivolous?) rôle as entertainer? If they have no track record as a writer or a thinker capable of constructing a political argument or any cogent critique of social values?

Celebrities have a hold on such a large chunk of the public ear. Film stars get a lot of attention outside their work, and are paid ridiculous amounts of money for what they actually do, which is, basically, lie extremely well and look good when doing it. The notion that people should be paid in proportion to the virtue of their work is a fanciful and romantic one, but hey, i like it. Why should Bill Gates be one of the richest people around? Why not Mother Theresa or the nice lady at the opshop? Has Bill done any of us any good? Perhaps Bill, like Angelina, has done nothing particularly worthy to amass his fortune. But what fascinates us is that a Bill or an Angelina might choose to do something worthy with all that wealth and power. That's what gives their charitable actions such import. What does someone who "has it all" want to do with it all? Rather than what someone with a mission or an agenda wants to do. And yes, we are a pack of clones. What they do does have an effect on how many of us think and raises our awareness about a range of political issues.

If awareness of injustice is a good thing, does it matter where this awareness comes from? Nope. The idea that it might is a logical fallacy, although i forget which one. If something is a good idea, it is a good idea regardless of where the idea comes from. So if the idea for the Volkswagen (the "People's Car") is a good one, it is a good one regardless of whether Adolf Hitler was part of its genesis. Eureka! That's it - the Genetic Fallacy. That's the name in the formal logic of Western philosophy for this error in thinking. If you're interested in this stuff, click here and be sure to check out the cool argument for free will over determinism near the bottom of the page. Very good to have at hand next time someone argues that you are not drinking that beer out of free will.

So, just because it may be Angelina and not Mother Theresa raising awareness about refugees fleeing Burma (or 'Myanmar' as the regime insists), that doesn't make the plight of these refugees any less of a reality or any less of a tragedy. Similarly, i should acknowledge that a person's opinion may in fact be a legitimate one regardless of their clothing and/or hairstyle. My clothesist attitude must go!

But why listen to me? I'm just a photographer...

To return briefly to the nonsensical "everything is political" proposition. If everything is political, and nothing is apolitical, then politics ceases to exist. It becomes invisible, intangible and ineffectual. You can only see something in terms of what is is not. A figure needs a ground. It's like "seeing through" everything. By seeing through everything, you see nothing.

Politics harms most those who ignore it.

Thursday, October 12, 2006


"When bodyguards require bodyguards, just shows how much we all enjoy being alive eh?" Such is the cryptic text i receive from Mayhem on Monday. I know she's been doing a bit of bodyguard work for the Mistress Kallista, but what's going down now? Here's the scenario: the Mels (Melinda Mayhem and Melody) are having a quiet Sunday on the front lawn. A few beers, a bit of sunshine, a pill and a bit of a lie down. Mr T is visiting. When i pop around on the motorcycle to say hello, everything is quite normal. Mayhem is off her dial, drinking Corona, spouting her singular blend of the fustian and the sententious. Mel is as imperturbable as ever behind goggle sunglasses, and Mr T is looking deadly in wraparound shades leaning against the Merc. Looking at Mr T you'd figure he's probably got muscles in his shit. I hang about briefly then head for the boredom of Fremantle.

Then all kinds of hullaballoo breaks out. Some of these youths with knives turn up, the ones you read about in the newspapers. The very same ones. Threatening the girls, one crazy crackhead cutting up his own hand like a cheap version of Iggy Pop. Mayhem had just rescued Mel from houseshare hell with these stooges, and Mel took a bit of money to cover her out-of-pocket expenses (she'd been ripped off). And now they come around wanting the money back! Tsk, tsk. Cruising the streets until they spot the Mayhem Merc. The cash belongs to someone else (gee, I wonder what that someone else does for a living) and here they are prepared to wave their knives about to get it.

So it's a quiet suburban Sunday on the front lawn, with these kids are carrying on like a Demtel's Tim Shaw on crack. "But wait, there's more! I've got steak knives! That's right! A full set of steak knives! Quality German steel! I'll throw them in, no obligation! Stick 'em in now, you pay later!" This pitch goes on and on until Mr T politely asks permission to get up and deck someone. Which he does. Mr T has a stake in the bodyguard business. Keeps in practice with the kickboxing. His hobbies and interests include playing with fire, and guns.

Later, i send Mayhem a text asking if she is sleeping with a knife under her pillow.
"No, hmmm ... but i am sleeping with a deadly weapon." Ah, she's now got Mr T as her bodyguard. All a bit of a worry though, isn't it? I come home to see the West Australian, that right-wing political pamphlet masquerading as a daily newspaper, and what's on the front page? A big colour spread of flick knives. I've got to get out of this town. The kids are all going beserk on the crack pipe and we're all going to die.

Sunday, October 08, 2006


The Art Director has landed back in Perth. I'm in Fremantle today, to be exact. Blowing the cobwebs off my recently repaired motorcycle, after an horrendous smash on the horseshoe bridge which left me scarred for life. Mental scarring, at the thought that Mayhem might not get back on the bike with me, after this latest demonstration of self-barbarism. The 650, at least, is repaired. It's amazing what you can do with a welder and infinite patience. I'm out enjoying the sunshine and the great ocean roads once again.

The local Perth roads aren't as hairy and scary as the ones i was riding around on last week. (See snap of Art Director, above, about to head out onto the wild backstreets of Bangkok, on a lovely 1960s Suzuki 125.) In fact everything back home now seems a bit dull, like, unsaturated. As if somebody's gone beserk and bombed the town with a tin of clear matte spraypaint, and taken the gloss of everything. Is this just coming back home syndrome? Or something more fundamental? I mean, Fremantle has gone completely to the dogs, let's face it, ever since Notre Dame University took over the beautiful, historic West End. Now it's the weekend, and Freo is chockablock with tourists. Tourists from other suburbs, even. The Fremantle sidewalks are so pedestrian. And the roads are jammed with fools doing bog laps in their hotrods up and down the cappucino strip. Not to mention poseurs on motorcycles, on the road and on the sidewalk. And yes, the irony is lost on me.

Oh well, let bogans be bogans, i say.

Yesterday I had a small task to do, hiding Mistress Kallista the dominatrix's dungeon. She has a rent inspection Sunday morning, and it just won't do to have signs of a commercial enterprise in a residential area, particularly an expensive status-driven suburb like Mount Lawley. Her yuppie landlords are subject to fits of epilepsy. Mistress Kallista's boyfriend slash bodyguard is busy processing dirt from his goldmine, and doing very well thank you very much. So he wasn't around to help. "Call Motorcycle Mark," he said, when Mistress Kallista asked him how the hell she was going to dismantle the den in only a matter of hours. "He knows his way around a set of tools." That's true. Meanwhile Mayhem is filling in as Kallista's bodyguard. Apparently Mayhem is handy with a set of nunchukas. There's something about that girl...

What else is going on in the world? I'm glad you asked. The Ig Nobel prizes have just been awarded! Welsh Engineer Howard Stapleton took one home for his teenager repellent. An electrified device to drive young people out of public spaces. Is this going a bit far? Isn't this just a bit ageist? What about youth rights? Having said that, i wouldn't mind one of these teenager repellents. Annoying little shits, aren't they?

Even more inspirational than the Ig Nobel Awards is the missive i received recently from Hai An. The girl genius is travelling in Vietnam and Cambodia, so i didn't manage to catch up with her in Bangkok. But she writes. (In about five languages).

"While waiting for things to settle down a bit [in Bangkok] I've been traveling first in Cambodia and beautiful beautiful Angkor. Quite an inspiring place! Full of power and vibrations and energies. Interestingly enough, stronger in the hold of the forest over the ruins than in the stones. Then Phnom Penh. I've confronted myself to the barbary of human beings, their ignorance and shed tears for humanity and my family. What a shame! Shame! (it is so much the appropriate word!) To choose darkness rather than light, fear rather than love, pain instead of well being. All that out of fear! Fear kills, my friend. It is what we could teach our children instead of the multiplication table. I still feel so sad, so angry, I feel so much. Sometimes I feel like an alien lost on this planet. But I swear I'll meet everyone of them with love and this world is going to change!!

Did I read to you the inaugural discourse of Nelson Mendela? It has supported me when I felt down. Beautiful inspired word from a master: "Our deepest fear is not that we are inadequate. Our deepest fear is that we are all powerful beyond measure. It is our light not our darkness that most frightens us. We ask ourselves, "Who am I to be brilliant, gorgeous, talented, fabulous?" Actually who are you not to? You are a child of God. Your playing small does not serve the world. There is nothing enlightened about shrinking so that other people won't feel insecure around you. We are all meant to shine, as children do. We are born to make manifest the glory of God that is within us. It is not just in some of us. It is in everyone. And as we let our own light shine we unconsciously give other people permission to do the same. As we are liberated from our own fear, our presence automatically liberates others.'

Isn't that beautiful? Every time I read I feel inspired to master my fears, be courageous. And rather than show our children that fear leads the world, show them that with love we can overcome our fears. I confronted another of my fears lately. I went to Vietnam. I was so scared first of what I would find, of how I would be welcomed, of what it would do to me. It moved me deeply for sure but it wasn't that bad and I love it in fact. I shall be spending a few more days here before deciding on going to Thailand or not ... and if you feel too much down go to Wat Pho and get a massage at the school! They are the best in SE Asia so far (in my opinion of course!)"

Hai An is wholly and objectively correct about the What Pho school being el supremo in the art of massage (in my opinion of course!).

Friday, October 06, 2006


Ned has been living and working in Thailand for five years. Originally from New Zealand, he had a stint "driving girls around" in Perth before taking up an English teaching job in Bangkok. When the school discovered Ned's background was in physical education, he was given the job of PE teacher. He'd played club cricket in Perth, and one thing led to another ... the result being Ned is now a high order batsman and wicketkeeper for the Thailand International Cricket Team. "Not bad for an old man of 36," he chuckles. He's also now a member of the fairly exclusive Royal Bangkok Sports Club - people with less sporting prowess fork out around $80,000 for their membership.

Do you mind if i use your real name on the blog? "Oh, no, it's ok," says Ned, "it's not my real name anyway!" Laughs. "And when the girls hear that, they say, 'oh, no, that's not right.' And i say, 'no, you're right, Jasmine, or Mercedes ... or Angel ...'

Now Ned (real name Kiwi Richard) is being flown about representing the Kingdom of Thailand in cricket. Against Singapore, Malaysia, Afghanistan and the like. "I faced one of the fastest bowlers in the world, an Afghani, clocked at around 150 clicks!" recalls Ned. And how did he fare? "Oh, i was out after 5 balls." The Afghani national team will be visiting Australia in March 2007. In England in June, the Afghanis were beating the County second teams, who play at the level of a State second-11 here, said Ned.

The South-East Asian cricket season starts again in November, when the ground dries out a bit. Is Ned going to quit smoking for it? "No, I'm fit enough to run around," he says. "There's no regulation on it." This is one thing Ned likes about the Thai life: "No-one tells you what to do!" You can walk around Bangkok drinking alcohol if you want to, although no-one here really does much. Apart from maybe a handful of Westerners. Named Jules, Carlo and Mark

- like as soon as they got off the plane. Well, it was being flown by Muslims. They didn't exactly get us drunk. Here, you don't have to wear a helmet on your bike. No babysitting by the Government. There's no barrage of social engineering TV adverts, telling you what to do, what not to do, as if the Government were concerned about your health, ha ha, rather than saving costs. You're pretty much free to do what you want, within reason, says Ned. This is apparent to anyone who has been on the roads in Bangkok. Without being worried about litigation, being sued by somebody for not doing this or that. But at the same time there is a strong sense of personal responsibility. It you fuck up, you have to wear the consequences.

Is he happy here? Would he go back? "No," says Ned. He's weighed up the pros and cons, and decided he's better off here. "I spent five years in Perth, and that was enough! (laughter) No, no, it was good." One reason Ned came to Perth was that it was sunny. When the sun's shining, people are in a better mood, he reckons. "Rather than those cold dark winters we have in some countries - everybody's miserable!" Ned's had a steady girlfriend here for a while, and figures kids are the next logical step.

Well, i'm off for a haircut, i say. I ask Ned if i should ought to go wash the day's sweat and grime out of my hair, before i present myself to be shorn. He looks at me in disbelief. "You don't have a dog here and bark yourself, mate." True enough.

So after an extremely labour-intensive trim, with a shampoo, a shave with a cut-throat razor, a manicure, and a head massage - three women working on me at once - it's back to the pedestrian life of Perth. I leave Thailand in the capable hands of "reluctant politician" retired General Surayad Chulanot. Surayad was appointed caretaker Prime Minister by the military junta on the day before I flew home. The 63-year-old is a former buddhist monk, grandson of a coup leader, and son of a communist insurgent. His father, a disillusioned lieutenant in the Thai army, left his family and young son to join the communist guerillas in northeastern Thailand. Later, as Surayad led military forces against these same insurgents in the 60s, he was plagued by the Oedipal possibility of killing his own father. But they never met during the armed conflict. In 1981, Surayad was granted special leave to visit his father, who lay dying in Beijing.

After a bloody Thai coup in May, 1992, when troops opened fire on student protesters killing more than 50, Surayud became convinced the army should never be involved in politics. Students today in Bangkok struggle to uphold this same principle. Convinced the army should stay out of politics, they are voiciferously protesting the coup, the banning of political gatherings, and limitations placed on voicing political opinion under martial law. Ironically Surayad has become the "reluctant politician", appointed to the post of caretaker Prime Minister by the very people his is convinced should not meddle in politics, the army.