on Don Juan

I still had the habit of consulting books on my problems, and I tried to fathom the mystery of irresistibility by studying the literature on Don Juan. It didn’t help. Moliére’s Don Juan had pride and daring, but was a rather boorish troublemaker; and Shaw’s version suggested that to be successul with women one must dislike them and flee from them. The only artist who really understood DonJuan, I felt, was Mozart. In the libretto, Mozart’s Don wasn’t so different from Moliere’s, but the music spoke of a great man. The trouble was, I couldn’t translate music into psychological insights – beyond Don Giovanni’s love of life and the wide range of his sensibilities. The psychoanalytic essays on Don Juan were no use at all. They presented him as a repressed homosexual or an egomaniac with an inferiority complex, or a psychopath who had no feeling for others — in short, as an emotional cripple who would find it difficult to seduce a girl on a desert island.

[ In Praise of Older Woman, Stephen Vizinczey ]

It’s a thin book, easy to read, which i chose because i wanted a book set in Hungary under stalin which wasn’t just all about the horror. It was that. Erotic without being pornographic, set in an opressive world without being too concerned with opression, it gave some feel for the way life was carried out during those years.
but then… the postscript. and profound and thoughtful reflection on the function of story and moral, on freedom and despair, on sexuality and community in the 20th century. it’s only 7 pages long but worth finding the book just to read it. That quote was not from the postscript, it was one of the better musings from the protagonist.

Jane River

<– back to A decade of holiday art

Jane River Tasmania, 2008

In January 2008 i went in the wilderness of Tasmania, with pete and sue and ryan and keith and judy and caroline. Our plan was to walk (two days) then canoe (ten days) the length of the Jane River. Here’s the map i made when i was trying to understand the trip:

View big map with more buttons at googleMaps

or if you have installed GoogleEarth, open this map.

–> Here are my Jane River photos from before flickr or picasa were good enough

–> Ryan has Flickr photos
[flickr_set id=”72157603806572835″]

Andrew Lorien feb 08

Dresden, 8/8/2014

last night cathy and i were walking home from the dresden tent festival… it’s a bit like the Garden Of Unearthly Delights at the adelaide festival, or the Festival Garden at the festival of sydney, but younger, more creative, dirtier, cheaper, heaps more entertainment, open later, more fun, better art, later parties.
Mic has played three or four half hour shows each night in his little tent, to really great audiences.  they gasp, they clap, they cheer.
there are a dozen little tents with a show in each, you buy three tickets on your way in and choose which three shows you will see. the last one ends at midnight.  then a band plays in the main bar for an hour or so.  then everybody hangs around the art installations making it totally impossible to go home because there’s always a puppeteer or a record store guy you really wanted to talk to.

so last night we were walking home around 3am, and as i stopped to take some midnight photos of the best painted bar in dresden we heard singing.  i thought, since the pub was closed, that a few locals had locked themselves in with some of the staff, and they were singing traditional german pop songs from the 90s.  but then i realised it was coming from further down the street, which is where we were walking anyway.  so we walked towards it.  then the singing stopped, and a saxophone started playing.  it was pretty good.  then more, a bit new orleansy, horn lines weaving around each other from the darkness.
dresden doesn’t have many streetlights.
and the newtown part of town is pretty dark and grey at night with all that stone.
so we walked towards the railway underpass, which is pretty much exactly like the train bridge over eddie avenue if it only had one street light and belmore park was a cemetary.  and eddie avenue was paved with cobble stones and you could walk down the middle of the street and only a bicycle would run you down.
so we got to the bridge and turned under it, and there they were. in almost complete blackness, two boys with a saxophone and a trombone, at 3:30am, playing their little hearts out.  i stopped to listen, and a man walked up to me and said a long sentence in German which included the phrase “free jazz trio”.  so when he finished talking i said in english (my first and last language) “yes but it’s only a duet”.  and he said in English “they are a free jazz trio, they just finished a rehearsal, the third guy has gone to his bed and they have had enough drink now that they want to play again”.

it was totally great.
and after another 5 hours sleep, i’m heading out for another day.

i’ll put a photo here eventually

but first i’ll put it on flickr

Two different people I met

Norbert Golberg

Boarding an early flight from Berlin to Copenhagen, just before turning off my phone, my Facebook community told me that Charlie Haden had died overnight. I read a few of my friends tributes to Cathy while we waited for the last door to close, and then the guy filling the third seat in our row said “are you guys musicians? You don’t often hear people talking about Charlie Haden”.  We told him Charlie had just died, and we all talked about that for a while.

His name was Norbert Goldberg (watch that link, the music starts automatically). He’s a latin jazz drummer from New York who has just played a big Jewish festival in Krakow and is taking a week to visit Berlin and Copenhagen, just as a tourist. We’re on tour around Germany with a band, and we’re taking a week off to see some friends and shows in Copenhagen and Krakow. We talk about Krakow and Copenhagen and festivals, the other bands we all work with and the shows we’re playing in Europe. Life as a touring musician – leaving the kids at home to travel the world and make no money.

After we get our bags from the carousel we decide that we all have no plans for the afternoon but to look around town, and Norbert offers that we leave our bags in his hotel room. Cathy puts his name on the guest list at tonight’s Afenginn concert. We negotiate the new currency/public transport situation, and go with him to the hotel. Talk about European cities, and share the little we all know about the cultural differences between such close countries.

We climb the skinny stairs and leave our bags. Cross the street to the fancy market, wander around sampling things, eat some fancy foods and drink some local beers. We talk about the food, and the ways we all like to travel and make our little decisions.

Then we walk out to the super-tourist floating bar across the river from the Søtorvet for more beer and coffee. We share the little we know about Denmark’s position in Europe over the last century, the wars and waves of immigration, our experiences of Berlin. Norbert has just been to Auschwitz for the first time, as has our friend Alan. Alan has spent decades in academia studying that war, and was profoundly affected by standing in that place. Norbert has grown up with the stories of his father, interned in Auschwitz and rescued by the end of the war. The rest of his extended family tree were killed, of course.  It shouldn’t be surprising how powerful the monuments and memorials to the holocaust are, but it is.

After a bit of laptop time squeezed into Norbert’s hotel room, Cathy and I leave for the venue with a copy of his CD. After sound check I tell everybody the story of the guy on the plane who we met because of Charlie Haden. When Norbert arrives everybody greets him as “the guy from the plane!”  That’s nice. Afenginn are great, of course, and we talk about professionalism and excellence. We discover that Norberts band and Afenginn have both collaborated with the same famous jazz player (although I’ve forgotten who that was).

Afenginn, Copenhagen Jazz 2014Unfortunately Norbert didn’t make it to the WooHoo Revue gig at the Tivoli a couple of days later, so that was my one day with Norbert.  He gave us a CD, but we didn’t take a single photo, so here’s Afenginn from where the three of us sat.


The man from Bydgoszcz

From copenhagen we flew to Krakow, and after an afternoon beer in an Italian restaurant just off the big square, cathy went away to scope out somewhere for dinner.

Sitting in the Italian restaurant just off the big squareI finished my drink, and I wasn’t going to have another. She was gone for quite a while, I sat with the bags watching the tourist life. A delivery van arrived, and the staff all rushed out to unload spices and serviettes.

One of the waiters, carrying too much, dropped a couple of things. He was stuck. Couldn’t bend down without dropping everything, couldn’t get anyone else’s attention without yelling in an unwaiterlike manner. And then a man appeared, picked up the dropped things, handed them back, and hopped back over the garden pots to where he had been sitting, alone, quietly staring at the back of one of the cathedrals.

I watched him then, and kept watching while he walked across the small square to trade his garden pot for a bench. He sat there, his short stocky weather worn body in faded army pants, strong but not as strong as he used to be, self contained but alone, the poorest tourist in town. Cathy still didn’t come back, and I really wanted to know this man’s story and to show some hospitality to him, who couldn’t afford somewhere comfortable to sit in his own country.

So I ordered two beers, walked across the square and said “hello, do you speak English” and in polish he said something I took to mean “no I only speak polish”. So I said “can I buy you a beer” and he understood that.

We walked back across to my table, and when the waiter returned with the drinks he was surprised and a bit suspicious that I had exchanged my cool female companion for this country hick. We had the conversation you can have when the only language you share is a few proper nouns and a couple of words of German.
I’m from Australia, Sydney.
He’s from a town north east of Bydgoszcz (a big city which would be much better known if anyone outside Poland could pronounce it).
I couldn’t pronounce his name, so I’ve forgotten it.
He likes Australia, he thinks it’s big.
We both like beer.
Krakow is a beautiful city.

Cathy came back (“mine frau”) , and the conversation became uneven as we discussed our next move. I finished my beer before my friend, Cathy had found a potential restaurant, he had to drink the bottom of his glass quicker than he planned, I paid the bill, we all shook hands and left in our own directions.

My two hour friend from bdghydcdzszBut as we walked across the square he came back towards us and suggested that he take our photograph in the square; in front of the cathedral; with the chapel… He knew all of their names, probably a lot of their histories, he would have taken us on a tour of the city in Polish if we had let him. But instead we got a couple of rare photographs of me and cathy in front of famous monuments (with the monuments in focus, not us) and these two excellent pictures of me and my two-hour friend.




Colours of Ostrava 2014 : an Australian far from home

You can think of Colours as Bluesfest in Mt Isa. The programming (in 2014 at least, apparently they had lost some city funding) was very like bluesfest: two massive stages with big international acts, half a dozen much smaller stages featuring local Czech bands, competition winners, or dance bands. Not much grass or trees, lots of asphalt and gravel (I wore shoes the whole time), and the whole thing surrounded, towered over, dominated by what was the biggest coal mine / iron smelter in the country.
The first day was pretty disappointing. We had trouble finding the camping area (don’t be tricked into camping at the castle!); after a stupid amount of time walking and catching taxis we eventually arrived at the festival, discovered that the only interesting thing on in the first afternoon was also the only thing you had to book a ticket for, and it was booked out. Didn’t really work out the festival layout properly, went home and didn’t realise till the next day that we had missed a couple of bands we wanted to see. Silly us.
That day was rescued though by three great mainstage bands. Shaka Ponk, Les Tambours Du Bronx, and oh dear i’ve forgotten the other one, but i remember the long walk home being saved by remembering how great those three bands were.

I’ve raved about the castle camp to too many friends, and i’m not going to do it again here. suffice it to say that the campsite is not in the castle, it’s in the castle grounds a long way from the castle. and the castle grounds are a very long way from the festival, half an hour’s walk if you find the directions, and hour or more if you don’t. one morning we walked along a highway for a while before climbing down onto the train tracks and walking across a derelict bridge.  It’s possible that on the last day we worked out the quickest way in, but i can’t be sure because we never walked the same way twice.

OKA was the first Australian band up, playing the Fresh stage… On the first full day of the festival. They were the most distinctly Australian act, with their didgeridoo and first nations politics.
There were lots of Czech bands, some traditional, some jazz, and some very current indie pop. The range of cultures from the rest of the world was pretty broad.
Angelique Kidjo always preaches her African heritage like no one since Fela Kuti. OKA and A Tribe Called Red brought very distinctive first nations cultures, and one of my favourite discoveries of the festival was a funky African four-piece from Belleville in Paris whose show was completely in French – a language I’m not sure any of the punters knew.

Chet Faker brought his Portland styles to the Fresh stage – the most industrial environment, tucked away in a corner of the festival underneath hundreds of meters of rusting towers and pipes.  He attracted the biggest audience I saw at that stage, overflowing way out onto the surrounding food and souvenir stalls, nearly half the audience was watching him on the screen.

On the last day of the festival, Graveyard Train played the first show of their tour to a mid – afternoon crowd on one of the smaller stages which quickly filled up with three or four hundred screaming whistling singing Czechs. The friends from our campsite all came with high expectations (thanks to us) and had them exceeded. Bo climbed around the side of the stage, leering at the crowd from the massive “Colours” backdrop. One Day We Will Be Dead struck a chord with the black – humoured Czechs and Poles, I even saw some of them laughing. They were the only band I saw sell merch from stage after their show, and they looked like they made some good money and a few friends by the time the crowd dried up.

They were immediately followed by John Butler on the biggest stage right next door. He had his Austin accent on, and, well, it was a huge gravel stage on a hot sunny afternoon and I didn’t need to hear more than ten minutes of bombastic blues so I moved on.

Shakespeare’s 450th anniversary

In 2014, many years since I have seen any Shakespeare, I took the opportunity to see as many as I could.

Lear in Yolngu

The translation of culture was amazing. The story was told in Shakespeare’s English, pidgin, and Yolngu, and the story was of an elder who splits the mineral rights i of his land between his two daughters (sending the sensible one away with nothing)

On flight to europe,

The 300 (I know, not Shakespeare, but the Greek stories are the backdrop). It was quite a silly film, with way to much exposition, and I don’t think I learnt anything about Greek history or battle tactics.

Kurosawa’s RAN, a Japanese Lear – just as many minutes of expensive battle scene as the 300,but the film was an hour longer so there was much more time for story. It was much more complicated, and the wives and daughters and concubines had much bigger parts to play.

An English Coriolanus, set in a modern Rome which looks a bit more like Tripoli. From ancient Greek swords to medieval Japanese spears and muskets to modern tanks and machine guns, I watched three legends worth of fighting and killing, and being that they were all tragedies, just about everybody died in the end.

“if ever again I meet him beard to beard, he’s mine or I am his ”

The plane landed before I had time to see Anonymous : The Story of How Shakespeare May or May Not Have Been Francis Bacon, but I might get another chance.

In Copenhagen

there was the expected amount of Hamlet’s castle tourist business, but, well, the project wasn’t just about being a tourist.

In Ostrava

there was an actual Shakespeare festival – apparently there always is. The festival included a pro production of Hamlet, two hours long, almost certainly in Czech. I tried to go, but arrived right on time and was surprised to find that the theatre was full. We listened from outside the door for a while, but I didn’t wait for a dozen people to get bored and leave so we could get in.  I don’t speak Czech.
(photo of medieval guys in Ostrava here)

It hardly counts, but i found a DVD called Letters To Juliet. it was a romantic story about lost love hinging on Juliet’s house in Verona. it hardly counts.

Australian summer festivals 2013-14

I went to Woodford, Cygnet, and Illawarra folk festivals, then the Blue Mountains, Port Fairy, and The National. All “folk festivals”, although they define folk the way Miles Davis did – it’s music for folk, not for martians or lizards.

My favourite musics from the hot days of January were Dubmarine, Lucie Thorne and Hamish Stuart, and Afenginn (especially the Cygnet church concert).  Then Pokey LaFarge, Jon Cleary, Archie Roach at Port Fairy (with the full band), and Dubmarine again.

The most audacious punter was the girl at The Basement who, during The Crooked Fiddle Band’s set, picked up the setlist from in front of Mark and added a song. That’s the way to make a request! and they played it!!

The best travel experiences were both with Afenginn – in Tasmania Alexandra (our billet) took us bareback horseriding in the river, and in Newcastle Josh from The Vanishing Shapes lent us his board to go surfing at Bar Beach.

Port Fairy easily had the best lineup – locals i know and love played excellent sets (The Band Who Knew Too Much, Things Of Stone and Wood, Archie Roach), touring bands exceeded my expectations (The Good Lovelies, Pokey LaFarge, Jon Cleary), and most hours of the day i had to choose between three bands i was desperate to hear.

I started this post at the end of January, and now it’s the start of May.  The next Australian festival is in October, but my next one will be Colours of Ostrava in Czech.

from Sydney to SXSW, 2013

This is my long-form thinking about three weeks in America. I’m on a plane high above Vanuatu. It’s 9am in LA and 3am in Sydney. I’ve watched a movie and had a sleep.

I have only been to the USA once, and it was a family holiday when i was 15. Cathy hasn’t been ever – she says that SXSW is the first thing that’s made her want to go there since she grew out of Disneyland.
So we got to have dozens of conversations of the form:

american: Is this your first time at South By?
us: This is my first time in the whole continent.
american: Well welcome to Texas! (and then, sometimes, they buy you a beer)

We went for South By South West, is a massive digital/film/music conference/festival/party which takes over the city of Austin every year. It’s huge, and I expected it to be overwhelming, and it was. We asked all our friends where else in America should we visit, and of the 100 suggestions we decided to spend a few days each in Seattle and Portland.

busker : hey i’ve never busked in Portland before, where are the good places?
me: i dunno, i’ve only been here a couple of hours.  You’re my first busker
busker [wandering off down the street]: wow, i was somebody’s first something!

Going to America and visiting Austin, Seattle, and Portland is a bit like going to Australia and visiting Newtown, St Kilda, and Brunswick. So we felt very much at home. Sometimes we’d be surprised when our barista had an American accent.

The best things from SXSW

The big speeches at the digital festival were surprisingly excellent. I knew Stephen Wolfram was going to be fantastic:

is it possible that the end result of all the computational advances we have ever made is just to create something which isn’t that different from lots of things which already exist
[Stephen Wolfram dissing the science of artificial intelligence]

And I knew Bruce Sterling would be great, but i didn’t expect him to be so crazy:

The Russians used to want to blow up Stanford. Instead they sent Sergey Brinn

But i didn’t expect to be so enthralled by the guy from The Oatmeal, or the guy from Buzzfeed, or so many of the programmers and musicians and writers who just had good things worth saying.

My favourite Big Idea

Peer-to-peer insurance. A German guy who is reducing the cost of insurance by getting small groups of people who trust each other to self-insure for small claims and buy a group policy for big items. So the insurance company has much fewer small claims and overheads, and each member has lower premiums.

My favourite busker

There were hundreds of buskers. Mostly looking hopeful but being ignored.
Liam Woodworth-Cook
Liam Woodworth-Cook was my actual favourite. “Will type you poeams. Give me a subject. We’ll see how it rolls” – and he wrote me an excellent poem, which he made up while chatting to me and other passers by.

The John Brothers Piano Company busking on the street with their clarinet and... umm... piano.But for traditional music-with-a-hat-out busking, the John Brothers Piano Company were easy winners. They found the piano after they arrived in Austin, dragged it around town all week, and left it behind when they departed.

My favourite party

The party situation was strange.  Lots of big parties with free beer (usually terrible beer), with lots of impossible-to-join guest lists.  The German music industry put on some great food and beers, the closing night of the Interactive festival was amazing, beer o-clock in the trade hall was a revelation…

But the party i most looked forward to, which was everything i hoped for, was the ShareThis party with Big Sam’s Funky Nation. A big loud funky new orleans dance band which was all i ever wanted from american music.

My favourite concert

We went to see Pokey LaFarge, whose old-timey jazz was as authentic, young, and perfect as anything i’ve ever heard.  and i’ve heard a lot.  but a lot of them weren’t from the american mid-west, and a lot of them weren’t great musicians AND great entertainers with great bands and new original music that brung the old styles together in perfect ways.  he and his band were really good.

And he was playing at Esther’s Follies, which was an amazing place – crazy and beautiful and the sound and the stage and the vibe were all right.  Even at midnight, even on 7th avenue, even in the middle of the big week of South By, it was a really enjoyable place to be (i was going to put a link to their website but it doesn’t do the joint justice.  just go there).

And after they had finished bathing us in the sounds of their beautiful voices and instruments, we walked back out to the bar… and saw… out the back window… across the courtyard… over the fence… A MASSIVE THREE STORY HIGH LIVE PROJECTION OF L L Cool J, who was playing in the carpark on the corner.  You couldn’t get in unless you won a ticket from a packet of chips.  but you could see and hear him from blocks away, his massive face leaning down at you from the side of a tower specially build to advertise chips and LL Cool J.

it was one of the many crazy contrasts which hit you every day as you walked around this town full of everybody trying to be everything more than everyone else.

My favourite pub

The BlackHeart on Rainey st.
BlackheartRainey St is a short suburband st on the edge of Austin where all 30 old weatherboard houses have been turned into bars. It’s a crazy idea, but it works. On our first day we found The Blackheart. On our second day cathy wanted to go back there instead of trying another bar, and the bouncer, the bartender, and one of the barflys all greeted us with hugs. So we went there nearly every day for two weeks.

My favourite people in texas

The light in AustinMicha and Birta, from the Cargo record label. Unfortunately I didn’t meet any Texans I liked more than these two Germans. But that’s what SXSW is all about, bringing a massive community of culture professionals together to bump their arty geeky rock and roll heads together and go home cooler, smarter, and more famous.  When Cathy realised how many people were fighting each other to get one of the cool US labels to listen to them, she decided to talk to the europeans instead.  cos europe and australia are a long way away, but meeting in the middle is fun.


A couple of months later :
transcending the content and privileging the culture

The more i tell the story, the more i realise that as South By grew from a small music conference to a nexus of massive conferences about everything, it stopped actually being about the things.  It’s really a conference about culture.  In the digital conference i didn’t learn how to do a single new thing (but i learnt a lot about the history and the future of New Things).  The film conference seemed to be more about the film-makers than the films they made.  The music conference was about the connections and the relationships and the venues and the parties and the people and the strategies – the music was just a platform.  And i think that’s how it’s grown so big – by transcending the content and privileging the culture (see, that’s the sort of sentence you make after south by).

Contemplative Consumption

<– back to the light at the end of the tunnel

Contemplation and quiet V. Consumption and community

I find myself travelling two somewhat incompatible roads. one path is the way of long meals and late-night talking, cafes and rituals and relationships. the other is the way of consuming less, eating less, saying less, and living more in the moment. I had a few close shaves with monks along the journey – alan in oxford was helped through his first terrible year by a benedictine named bernard; lucinda lives just over the hill from a trappist monastery (and i read some of henri nouen’s book about the year he spent in one); the nuns speeding down the narrow croatian streets on their bicycles, veils streaming behind them – and the public parking spaces where there was no park for the disabled, but there was one for the priest; and various other close encounters, at greenbelt, in verona, in paris… anyway, i’m wondering how those who commit themselves to contemplative consumption move their relationships along. it’s one of my big questions since staying with so many people in so many countries, and being on the receiving end of so much good hospitality.

–> on to andrew’s barefoot manifesto
or Stephen King’s concept of the Creative Sleep

Andrew Lorien oct 01

“i feel sorry for you”

on the weekend i visited canberra, for one of Fred Smith’s farewell gigs.
(he is leaving the country).
there i re-met a bloke who has travelled fairly widely.
he had two tales of converstations he had in china, and one from gana.

i will relay them to you, because they just floored me.

Iain started off sayig that he went to a 6 hour ‘opera’ in china. he said, you know, i tried. afterwards he was talking to a chinese musician, who plays their traditional classical music. Iain, who is quite frank, taunted this bloke, sayig that it wasn’t really opera, was it? wasn’t really singing? perhaps not even serious. “i mean, it’s just ‘KChaWWeeeEEEEE-chah!!!’ and “BOING” on a gong thing, isn’t it?”

this man looked and Iain and said, “Aw, I feel very sorry for you. You have perhaps 400 years of continuous culture. We have more than 3,000 years of culture. We are beyond form. We are past entertaining.”

Iain went on to say, “Actually, I’ve had several people tell me that they felt sorry for me. Once I was in Gana, travelling, and got talking to this fisherman. This man said to Iain, “I feel very sorry for you. If I had made all that money, and if I had two months to do with whatever I wisehd, I would spend the time here with my family. I would stay home. Why would I want to travel across the world. What is wrong with your home…?”

and finally, in china again, on a train from Shanghai. Iain said that his impression was that very few people in Shanghai spoke english, so he would greet people in cantonese, but he didn’t know enough to have a conversation. so after that it would just be a few ‘thankyou’s and ‘excuse me’s.

one morning he got up, and got out the things he had prepared – a little thermos of tea, and a small parcel of food. he sat in the train writing in his little book. the man beside him spoke: “You are a very civilised man. You are a clean man. You are an organised man.” I think this was gobsmacking enough for Iain. Then the man went on, “But you do not know the family life. How old are you?” Iain was 34 at the time. The man said, “It is nearly too late!”

Iain was floored by this, but agreed with the man. Also, Iain had been raised in boarding school, so in fact he hadn’t even really known ‘family life’ as a child. so he wondered just what this chinese man was picking up on…

Douglas Adams on England

I was in England at the time. I could tell I was in England because I was sitting in the rain under a wet blanket in a muddy field listening to some fucking orchestra in a kind of red tent playing hits from American movie soundtracks. Is there anywhere else in the world where people would do such a thing? Anywhere? Would they do it in Italy? Would they do it in Tierra del Fuego? Would they do it on Baffin Island? No. Even in Japan where national pastimes include ripping out your own intestines with a knife, I think they would draw the line.

[Riding the Rays, 1992]