The Hofstadter Adjective

I believe the only thing that has stopped Douglas Hofstadter from being embraced by geek culture as deeply as Alan Turing or Kurt Gödel is that his name is hard to pronounce, hard to spell, and hard to make an adjective out of. I think the xkcd-following community is well qualified to work on the adjective problem.

the alt-text of comic 608 uses the word “Hofstadterially”. Hofstadtesque is an obvious candidate, although it’s even harder to spell and the adverb would be Hofstadtesquely which is just crazy. Hofstadterish is simplest. Hofstadterisch is kind of cute, but this will be the first time Google has ever come across that word…

ps i think Kurzweil has suffered for the same reason. he deserves something better than Kurzwellian – i would love to be a genius, but a Kurzwellian genius would be too scary.
Godel, Escher, Bach

I think this was the number of google hits for these two words in 2011, but I”m not sure any more
hofstadterial 133
Hofstadteresque 52

Ordinary human badness, and the future

Reading William Gibson, this put me in mind of Alan Dearn.

Person in the past: [discovers an impossible secret about the future]
Person in the future: You somehow seem to simply accept all these things.
Past: You’re the one living in the future, with nanobots eating people, spare bodies, government run by kings and gangsters and shit. You accept all that, right?
Future: No. I don’t. I hate it.

And later, this:
Evil isn’t glamorous, but just the result of ordinary half-assed badness, high school badness, given enough room, however that might happen, to become its bigger self. Bigger, with more horrible results, but never more than the cumulative weight of ordinary human baseness.

William Gibson : The Peripheral

eTender API ideas

I tried to think of some things you could do with the API which you couldn’t do before.  The sample code on GitHub does some things that would be very difficult using Excel, but here are two things which are almost possible:

Shop Ethical


NSW GovernmenteTendering


 fake green pie

NOTE: This is not actually true.  I couldn’t get actual data for this.  sorry.


Service NSW


NSW GovernmenteTendering


Brad Hazzard, minister for Health, was responsible for 396 contracts in the third quarter of 2016/17, worth $330 million.  The top 5 contractors were

Sg Fleet Aust $58,078,206
Siemens Healthcare $19,759,391
Philips Electronics Australia $18,141,908
Vision Software Solutions $14,307,485
Taylor Construction Group $10,925,942

NOTE: This actually is true.

GO BACK TO part 2 : the eTender API we actually built

The best blues, 1942

This is not Klak’s Store. But this could be what it looked like.

‘I don’t know where Son [House] took me. Down dusty roads, along a railroad track, into the back of an ageing country grocery store that smelt of liquorice and dill pickles and snuff. Of all of my times with the blues this was the best one, better than Leadbelly, better than Josh White, Son Terry, and all the rest of them. There was a harmonica player who howled and whined through his instrument like a hound dog on a hot trail. There was a mandolin player who did not pick his instrument delicately, but trailed cascades of blue-silver chords that lit up the harmonica’s chase like the hot moonlight of Southern midsummer nights. A second guitarist picked bass-string obbligato to the big country feet that whoomped out the rhythm and turned the whole frame building into a huge African drum. At the centre of all this was Son House, a man transformed, no longer the quiet affable person I had met, but possessed by the song, as Gypsies in Spain are possessed, gone blind with music and poetry.’
Alan Lomax, The Land Where The Blues Began

Fiddling Joe Martin played mandolin, Leroy Jones played harmonica, and, to my surprise, William Brown turned up to play second guitar.

New Years Resolutions

A (european) friend of mine asked how the Australian psyche is affected by not having seasons, and particularly a proper winter where hibernation and creativity and introversion can have their place. I might spend a decade thinking about that, but here’s a new idea:

Australians make their new year resolutions during a long week of partying and swimming, a week when artists and entertainers are earning their best money all year, and office workers are spending the fruit of their labours on beach holidays.
No wonder we don’t trust those resolutions.

I’m rich

I often say that I’m rich. I actually mean it, not just that i have lots of friends or anything.
On my bike this morning i was thinking about ways of defining that, and i thought about “the rich get richer…”
It’s a good measure. If you’re a person who gets a letter every year or two telling you that your house is worth more even though you haven’t even fixed the broken things, your superannuation has grown even though you never think about it, your investments are bigger even though they’re totally-ethical no-gambling-machines… then you’re rich.

I’m rich.

Band names by semantic complexity 

Looking at the Splendour in the Grass line-up this year, I realised that my favourite bands were the ones with the longest names. And that that’s usually the case. Bigsound 2016 provided me with an excellent opportunity to test my theory : over 150 bands, the peak of Australia’s indie – pop – rock – metal buzz. So after a conversation with Sky De Jersey, I sorted all the bands by length and complexity of their name, and set out for a week in Fortitude Valley, Bris Vague Arse, to find out how often the music and the stage show and the vibe fit the name.

Executive summary

Complex names correlate strongly with lots of band members (although the converse is not true). Semantic complexity of name does not correlate with sophistication of lyric. There is a tendency for bands with interesting names to look and act interesting, but it’s not a guarantee. Lots of bands with boring names were not boring, but lots of them were. There was quite a low correlation between bands named after their singer/songwriter and the honesty or vulnerability of the songs and performance. 

CKP and Chloe Gunn, silhouetted against These New South Whales

The full list is at the bottom of this post, but first I give you my reviews of the bands with the craziest names, and a few special mentions from the “boring” sections ( thanks to Naomi Crain for helping me think about it). 

Rolling Blackouts Coastal Fever (5 boys)  : this was interesting. The longest band name in the festival (but still shorter than some of my favourite bands). They were a really great Aussie pub rock band, who couldn’t decide what sort of guitar they each play a different sort. Rod Begbie could have been in this band, it was a bit like that aperture band, and the songs were had all his style of references. It was Paul Kelly and the Hoodoo Gurus and Mondo Rock,and we loved it. But I suspect that when they were choosing band names they got down to the last two, couldn’t decide, and just stuck them together. Either “rolling blackouts” or “coastal fever” would have been very appropriate names for this band, but all four words made me expect something more unusual, darker, weirder, less predictable.

West Thebarton Brothel Party (7 boys)  : acca dacca with 5 guitars. Loud shouty pub rock, one drummer, one singer, four electric guitars, and an electric bass who sometimes played guitar. Unserious and fun, and the boys from hideous sun demon were there. The name suited the band perfectly, and while I’ve never visited West Thebarton I imagine the madam there would be very happy to have them around. 

In Each Hand A Cutlass (4 or 5 boys and a girl)  : really great music, in a style which was perfected in the late seventies by the last wave of great rock bands. They looked slick, their musicianship was great, but they did not live up to their bombastic name. I never thought anybody was going to leave the stage to vanquish an enemy, and none of the instruments were wielded like weapons. 

These New South Whales : i didn’t see them. And I didn’t go to their pisstake panel session. I regret both of those omissions. They’re a hilarious Spinal Tap / Flight of the Conchords type band who sound great and star in their own video series. The name is good. Very good. 

Hideous Sun Demon (3 boys) : way too heavy for me. Interesting, for metal, but still metal. The name is interesting in an Indy-pop context, but all heavy bands have much better names than bearded hipster minimalist names so it’s not a fair comparison. 

Verge Collection : didn’t see em

Raised by Eagles : very nice complex folk. I would have been much less likely to see them if the band was just called “Luke Richardson”, and I think they are providing a great example to all the “I just sing under my own name” kids of how much a simple, unique, interesting name can make a set of honest thoughtfully written beautifully played songs more memorable. 

Tinpan Orange (2 boys and a girl) : haven’t seen them play for years, despite stopping for a chat at every second festival I’m at.

Unity Floors : didn’t see em

Coda Conduct : didn’t see em (but it’s a great name)

Special mentions

Sampa the Great : this was a good name. Her name is Sampa. She is great. She knows she’s great. Her band was huge, soul, R&B, all the business. Great show, great name. 

Kira Puru : kira was as fascinating as she’s always been. Her name always has to be in the title, there is no mistaking her. Her current band was fantastic, like they always are. But like Sampa, she needs more words, a bigger name… And i really miss the bruisy-ness of The Bruise. 

William Crighton :like Kira, he needs more to his name. He’s a big man with a strong voice and a manly name, so that’s all good. But his band have a strong identity too, and he’s not just a boy singing about his own experience. He sometimes plays as a band under a name (which I’ve forgotten), but I think William Crighton and the barbed wire or the empty dam red river would be even better.

LUCIANBLOMKAMP : an acoustic /electronic live solo show. Keyboards, drums, violin, samples, beats, and vocals. They were his own songs, it was a very personal project, but it was a much more striking thing than just Lucian. Sticking both his names together and putting them in caps was a good decision.

Simona Castricum: i thought this was a boring name, because I just thought it was a girls name. But I walked past the press club, heard some quality electronica, and looked inside to find a transgender person ripping live beats, synth drums, and netball skirt dance moves. Once I decoded “Castricum” it made total sense.

Kira Puru and her three bandmates

The list

And here’s the complete list of Bigsound Bands 2016, sorted by name length then into categories of semantic complexity (with edits thanks to Emily Collins and Luke Jaaniste).

— very interesting —

Rolling Blackouts Coastal Fever ^
West Thebarton Brothel Party ^
In Each Hand A Cutlass ^
These New South Whales
Hideous Sun Demon ^
Verge Collection
Raised by Eagles ^
Tinpan Orange
Unity Floors
Coda Conduct

— interesting —

Tiny Little Houses
Japanese Wallpaper
I Heart Hiroshima
The Outdoor Type
The Gooch Palms
Totally Unicorn
Heads of Charm
Confidence Man
A.B. Original
Totally Mild
Hollow World
DZ Deathrays
Braille Face
Hot Spoke
Rat & Co
Oh Pep! ^
Mid Ayr

— slightly interesting —

Tracy McNeil & The GoodLife
The Belligerents ^
Broadway Sounds
Simona Castricum
Teeth & Tongue ^
Shining Bird
King Social
Ecca Vandal **
Young Tapz
Vera Blue **
Ivan Ooze
Ribongia ^
Good Boy ^
B Wise

— boring but with spelling mistakes or punctuation —


— boring (just a noun (even if it is a compound noun)) —

Terrible Truths
Sampa The Great ^
The Ruminaters
Mosquito Coast
Thigh Master
The Laurels
Dorsal Fins
Loose Tooth
Middle Kids
Polish Club
Mere Women
Wet Lips

— boring (just someone’s name) —

Luke Daniel Peacock
William Crighton ^
Daniel Champagne
Missy Lancaster
Gabriella Cohen
Prateek Kuhad
Leanne Tennant
Leah Senior ^
Kyle Lionhart
Harmony James
Gideon Bensen ^
Clairy Browne
Bec Sandridge
Andrew Tuttle
Ainslie Wills
Tia Gostelow
Tash Sultana
Sarah Connor
Rainbow Chan
Mel Parsons ^
Allan Smithy
Yumi Zouma
Tkay Maidza
Ryan Downey
Empat Lima
Rolls Bayce
Alice Night *
Jack Grace
Alex Lahey ^
Mike Noga
Kira Puru ^
Alice Ivy
Gawurra ^
Catherine Satour ^

— meaningless to me —


* unless there is nobody called alice in the band and it’s a reference to nighttime in alice springs

** unless that’s actually just their name

^ means I know I saw the band

The nanny state

In my country where i come from, you don’t get paid to give blood, and you don’t have to pay for a blood transfusion.
The police get you in trouble if you’re not wearing a seatbelt, but the doctors fix you up when you have a crash.
You’re not allowed to smoke in pubs, but chemotherapy is free.

I think there’s a balance there. But I think the balance would work better if insurance companies (ie people trying to make a few dollars in between the problem and the cure) would get out of the way.


I’ve had an idea this week, which i’m quite excited about but i’m pretty sure i won’t actually do anything about.
I want to run a small (weekly/monthly) night, folk club style, where baroque music is played. It might be called Classical Club!, or something. It might be in a rock type venue with a bar (the Red Rattler?) or a BYO style warehouse (Lamps?). The important thing is that it’s the opposite to a normal classical gig:
– the musicians are on the floor, or close to it… not on a high beautifully lit stage
– the audience can eat and drink and walk around while the music is on, although they’d be encouraged not to
– the music that comes on when the instruments finish is from now
– it’s acoustic, it’s chamber repertoire, maybe small opera
– the musicians wear normal clothes
– there’s a support act. amateurs, or students. but the main act is professional
– its not expensive. less than $20 at the door, i think. and there are no guarantees
– there’s no seniors discount. this is about next century, not last century

National Protest Day

I live in Australia. We all have to vote here. It’s us and Belgium I think, where everybody has to show up on voting day or get in trouble.
I think it works great, but I don’t think we should rest on our laurels. I want to take it a step further. Annual Protest day. A day where everybody must, by law, show up to a designated protesting place and protest something.

older and wiser

It’s great how your mind gets wiser as your body gets older.
You can’t see so well, but you know what you’re looking at.
You can’t move as fast, but you know where you’re going.
You can’t hear your children, but you know what they’re asking for.

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.

what i’m going to do next

i have a horse parked in Oblivion, outside a cottage deserted except for well-armed undead.
i have an army mustered in Age of Empires, they can’t win but with luck i might hold enough territory to regroup.
i have a house slowly falling in to dis repair. that one is real, and when the rain gets in it will be trouble.

i’ll have to be poorer, and i’ll have to have a lot less options and a lot less friends. but a day might come, before i die, when i have no money and no friends and no options, and then i’ll see whether i still have a computer with a CDRom drive to start Oblivion, whether Steam still starts, whether my bones will still let me climb on the roof and check the gutters.

i guess i will have lost you, dear reader.
but we’re all still here today.

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

Andrew Lorien feb 08

How I got root / superuser / su on my HTC Desire Android phone and made it like new again

I succeeded on my now-retired 2010 HTC Desire.

After much searching any many dead ends, i found Revolutionary

turn on USB debugging (settings | applications | development )
download and unzip revolutionary, cd to the directory it’s in
sudo ./revolutionary
(you have to run it as superuser because it switches some USB drivers in and out while the phone reboots)

I tried this on an HTC Wildfire, and didn’t quite succeed (maybe with another couple of hours, or another couple of updates??)
HTC Wildfire (buzz-1.01.0002, Android: 2.2.1, ROM version: 2.38.841.1)
First I had to downgrade to buzz-1.01.0001, which is the version without the Telstra (or whoever else) branding and special useless apps.
i followed the goldcard instructions here:

as superuser (because adb needs to load and unload modules)

run all the adb commands in step1.bat

you’ve already made a goldcard, so don’t worry about the GoldCardTool.exe step

run all the commands in step2.bat

it’ll fail on the second last one:

fastboot flash zip

because telstra have special software and special hardware and special branding and everything.  i even tried the official HTC rom with the older hboot:

fastboot flash zip ../../RUU_Buzz_Froyo_HTC_WWE_2.22.405.1_Radio_13.55.55.24H_3.35.20.10_release_160191_signed.exe
sending ‘zip’ (135564 KB)…
OKAY [ 22.908s]
writing ‘zip’…
(bootloader) signature checking…
FAILED (remote: 12 signature verify fail)


back to the official HTC developer site, resign myself to plug my linux-based phone into a windows machine, install the HTC sync drivers, download and run PG7612000_Marvel_hboot_1.09.0099blahblahblah0214.exe

it finds the phone and offers to update the ROM version from 2.38.841.1 to 1.52.841.2

but no.  ERROR (130) MODEL ID ERROR

next good idea:

do all the steps, upgrade the telstra firmware (the only one that works)

then see if it will let you get the token for htcdev

don’t keep your eye on the ball

i was trying to get a few things done today, and not really succeeding, and i heard myself say to myself “keep your eye on the ball”. and i thought “but which ball, i have so many balls in the air.”
mic conway in the sideshow, where he belongs
and a light bulb came on above my head like in the cartoons, and i realised i’ve been using the wrong metaphor. eye on the ball is a football metaphor. lots of guys running around on a big field with one ball. quite helpful if you come from a football playing tradition and if that’s the sort of environment you’re in. but i spend a lot more time with circuses than soccer players, and my challenges are mostly related to there being one of me and lots of balls. more like juggling.
so i have something new to tell myself. “keep your eye off the ball”. when you’re trying to juggle lots of balls, you do it by tossing one in the air then forgetting about it until it comes down again. you never ever look at the balls. you have to time your throw exactly right, give it the perfect trajectory, and trust that it and your hand will be in the same place when it comes down. pay attention to what your hands are doing, not what the balls are doing.
i’m going to try more of that.

coffee accounting

La Pavoni_morning coffeeUsually (for the last fifteen years or so) Cathy and I get our coffee from Bruno and Maria : Maloberti’s North Queensland Gold Coffee.  I get three kilos of freshly roasted beans in a postpack for about $90.  It lasts about three months, by which time the beans aren’t all that fresh any more but it’s good value and i’m never quick enough to order a new batch when the old ones are running out so it’s better to have more.

which brings me to this week’s maths.

We ran out of coffee.  In the supermarket i chose a 200g pack of fair trade African beans for $10.  I thought that would last the few days until Maria roasted and posted some new ones.

It lasted exactly four mornings.  8 cups.  25g per cup.  $1.25 each coffee (plus the soy milk, of which i have hardly any)

Maloberti’s coffee is $91 for three kilos, delivered.  So it turns out that grinding and pulling my own coffee every morning costs about 80c per espresso macchiato.  Another day i’ll work out how much Cathy’s cup of purple bonsoy costs.


A town with its heart torn out

The handsome town hall presides over a waste – it is a town with its heart torn out. Everything speaks of its decline. Over the course of a century, as its industries decayed, it lost its work and its wealth. Then came the planning blight: the replacement of human slums by inhuman ones, the marooning of churches in traffic islands, the building of precincts where once there were shops. Finally two decades of garrotting from the government in London, and everything civic or social was choked of funds: schools, libraries, hospitals, transport. The town which had been the home of the co-operative movement lost its sense of community.
The theatres closed. Every one of the five cinemas closed. The literary and scientific societies shrank or disappeared. I remember my despair when I heard our bookshop was going to close.

[Vikram Seth describing the possibly fictitious town of Rochdale in An Equal Music, p. 90. That’s just what Birmingham felt like to me, or any of the unreformed towns of Poland or Czech ]

Things I noticed, Europe 2014

Any day on tour with swimming is a good day.  I had two swims (though there were also great opportunities in Ostrava and Wismar):

  • With Erik, in the Øresund, the strait between Copenhagen and Sweden.  Quite a lot like Fremantle.  It was one of the best tour swims ever, exactly what i needed that morning.  But i lost the photos in a hard drive crash.
  • With Birta and Michael, in the pool at the power station in Wuppertal.  A lovely outdoor pool with a waterslide for kids (and me) heated by the power station boilers.

Any day on tour with a Castle (that’s Hrad in Czech) is a good day.  Mic and Robbie didn’t actually play in any castles, but we saw dozens of them out the car/train window and visited a few:

  • The Prague castle, which is really a conglomorate of churches and palaces and monestaries.  We began our journey by searching for an ATM, which took us eventually on a long long walk through the lesser town, up the hill with the orchard, through the forest, along the ridge, past the monastery, and finally out through the front gates of the castle for a glass of wine at the vineyard.  Cathy and I each had a bar or restaurant we were desperate to go to… another day.
  • Hrad Střekov, the best-looking of all the castles along the Labe/Elbe.  Wagner began the Tannhäuser here, and I was reading An Equal Music, so everything fit.  Of course we arrive after the opening time, but there was a wedding on so the gates and the bar were open and there were beautiful people peering down at us from the balconies.
  • The 15th century Neurathen Castle, over the 19th century Bastei bridge near Dresden – it’s amazing that such a solid and beautiful bridge can take you across such precarious heights to such a old old ruin.  cathy didn’t pay her EU2 to visit the actual ruins because she doesn’t like high heights.  And the heights were pretty high.


Credit cards are not accepted. Hardly anywhere. Not the petrol station, not the expensive clothes shop, not really anywhere. I wonder whether it’s always been like this, whether Australia has become credit dependant and I haven’t noticed, or whether the GFC has made everybody stop taking credit from banks.


Rob Rayner from The Beez says that all the mean German stereotypes (they’re annoying travellers, Germany has lots of rules, Germans are really strict about everything, some economy thing which I forget …) are no longer true about Germans, but they are true of Americans.


I wish you good hat” – a benediction from a lady at a busking festival. I want to try to use it in more situations.


Random Swedish fact : Mr Celsius originally set 0° as boiling and 100° as freezing. After a couple of years one of his colleagues persuaded him to have it the other way around.


A proper Australian accent is really hard to understand. We don’t pronounce our Rs, we say D instead of T, and we cut off the end of lots of words.


After spending three or more days each in Berlin, Dresden, Copenhagen, Prague, Wuppertal, Ostrava, Wismar, our easy two best meals were both surprises : Sankt Pauli in Dresden, which we just stopped by for a while drink on a sunny afternoon and discovered that it’s a bit famous ; and San Leo in Wuppertal, where we had a lucky second – sitting booking because our friends said “should we go to the little Italian place after we pick you up from the train”. Both unassuming and fantastic.


Random joke about Poles : when Russians come to Germany to steal a car they have to steal two, because they’re driving home through Poland.


Actual travelling time, Berlin to sydney, on the fastest possible route:
Carrying things to the car in lausitzer platz -> handing in the hire car keys: 2hrs
Checking in and waiting at tegel: 2hrs
Berlin -> Abu Dhabi : 6hrs
waiting at Abu Dhabi (for a very slow transfer desk and two very slow security scans) : 4.5 hrs
Abu Dhabi -> Sydney : 14hrs
Getting through customs and driving to lewisham via breakfast (thanks Allison!) : 3hrs
Total travelling time : 31.5 hrs


The virgin in-flight entertainment has one album by Silver Chair and two by Silverchair… And one Geoffrey Gurrimul Yunupingu album under G, and a Gurrimul Yunupingu album under Y. They’re both Australian !
Etihad had the best film selection, air Berlin had the best television, and virgin had the best music. Gonna buy Beck’s Morning Phase and Leonard Cohen’s Old Ideas.

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.

Holiness in The Grapes of Wrath

“I been thinkin’,” he said. “I been in the hills, thinkin’ almost you might say like Jesus went into the wilderness to think His way out of a mess of troubles.”
“Pu-raise Gawd!” Granma said, and the preacher glanced over at her in surprise.
“Seems like Jesus got all messed up with troubles, and He couldn’t figure nothin’ out, an’ He got to feelin’ what the hell good is it all, an’ what’s the use fightin’ an’ figurin’. Got tired, got good an’ tired, an’ His sperit all wore out. Jus’ about come to the conclusion, the hell with it. An’ so He went off into the wilderness.”
“A-men,” Granma bleated. So many years she had timed her responses to the pauses. And it was so many years since she had listened to or wondered at the words used.
“I ain’t sayin’ I’m like Jesus,” the preacher went on. .”But I got tired like Him, an’ I got mixed up like Him, an’ I went into the wilderness like Him, without no campin’ stuff. Nighttime I’d lay on my back an’ look up at the stars; morning I’d set an’ watch the sun come up; midday I’d look out from a hill at the rollin’ dry country; evenin’ I’d foller the sun down. Sometimes I’d pray like I always done. On’y I couldn’ figure what I was prayin’ to or for. There was the hills, an’ there was me, an’ we wasn’t separate no more. We was one thing. An’ that one thing was holy.”
“Hallelujah,” said Granma, and she rocked a little, back and forth, trying to catch hold of an ecstasy.
“An’ I got thinkin’, on’y it wasn’t thinkin’, it was deeper down than thinkin’ I got thinkin’ how we was holy when we was one thing, an’ mankin’ was holy when it was one thing. An’ it on’y got unholy w,hen one mis’able little fella got the bit in his teeth an run off his own way, kickin’ an draggin’ an’ fightin’. Fella like that bust the holiness. But when they’re all workin’ together, not one fella for another fella, but one fella kind of harnessed to the whole shebang, that’s right, that’s holy. An’ then I got thinkin’ I don’t even know what I mean by holy.” He paused, but the bowed heads stayed down, for they had been trained like dogs to rise at the “amen” signal. “I can’t say no grace like I use’ ta say. I’m glad of the holiness of breakfast. I’m glad there’s love here. That’s all.”

The Grapes of Wrath, John Steinbeck, p81

Here’s a nice little presentation thingy with a set of quotes about God from The Grapes of Wrath

pain, joy, and calm : Ma Joad in The Grapes of Wrath

Ma was heavy, but not fat; thick with child-bearing and work. She wore a loose Mother Hubbard of gray cloth in which there had once been colored flowers, but the color was washed out now, so that the small flowered pattern was only a little lighter gray than the background. The dress came down to her ankles, and he strong, broad, bare feet moved quickly and deftly over the floor. Her thin, steel-gray hair was gathered in a sparse wispy knot at the back of her head. Strong, freckled arms were bare to the elbow, and her hands were chubby and delicate, like those of a plump little girl. She looked out into the sunshine. Her full face was not soft; it was controlled, kindly. Her hazel eyes seemed to have experienced all possible tragedy and to have mounted pain and suffering like steps into a high calm and a superhuman understanding. She seemed to know, to accept, to welcome her position, the citadel of the family, the strong place that could not be taken. And since old Tom and the children could not know hurt or fear unless she acknowledged hurt and fear, she had practiced denying them in herself. And since, when a joyful thing happened, they looked to see whether joy was on her, it was her habit to build up laughter out of inadequate materials. But better than joy was calm. Imperturbability could be depended upon. And from her great and humble position in the family she had taken dignity and a clean calm beauty. From her position as healer, her hands had grown sure and cool and quiet; from her position as arbiter she had become as remote and faultless in judgment as a goddess. She seemed to know that if she swayed the family shook, and if she ever really deeply wavered or despaired the family would fall, the family will to function would be gone.

The Grapes of Wrath, John Steinbeck, p74

working in music

3 steps to success in the music industry

1. realise that you can’t do it for the money.

there really isn’t enough money. find another job, or become independantly wealthy, but don’t plan to pay your mortgage by playing the saxophone or managing a band.
be careful with the money. don’t spend more than you earn, don’t lose track of it (or lose it), be clear with everyone about what you expect to earn and what you actually earn. it’s important, in this hand-to-mouth job, to make sure that everyone knows what to expect and gets paid what they are due.
there are lots of benefits – fantastic people and travel and parties and things you can’t buy with money. but there isn’t much money.
if you don’t love the music you’re playing (or mixing, or supporting), find a job that will pay you by the hour.

2. be organised.

Super organised. most bands can walk on stage with an instrument in their hand and play for an hour. but a great performance takes an hour of sound check, a change of clothes, a set list, instruments in tune, and for the whole night to run on time so that the audience doesn’t get bored and the last band gets to play their full set.  For the music to start and finish when the audience expects it to may have taken days of work by a dozen people.
and to support all of that, a rehearsal and a good looking merch desk and spare leads and batteries and a meal and a drink and a good nights’ sleep.
it takes a big team to put on a great night of music – a three band bill could include 15 musicians, 2 or more sound/tech supports, a couple of managers, people to run the door and the merch. you could easily be sharing $500 worth of door takings between 20 people.

3. love the music

the art is the only thing. everything has to serve the song. and if you don’t love the song, you’ll end up worrying more about something else – the food or the transport or the colour of the bass players shirt – and the music will suffer.
if i’m working with a band, i have to want to see them 200 times. because how am i going to convince 200 people to come to the show if it don’t like it that much myself. and actually, i probably will see the band 200 times.


Musicians : Don’t tell me to quit my job

At a festival recently a musician said (from stage) something about all the tired people working their lives away at jobs that they hate.
Now i’ve used that rhetoric before, and i understand that within their own community artists need to justify their own decision to do what they love at great cost.
But for the first time, it stung me. I thought “but i don’t hate my job”.  And i realised that the room was full of people who have chosen long careers, become experts at what they do, well-paid and respected, and some of them as passionate about their desk jobs as any musician is about their music (we were in Canberra, in case you’re wondering).
Dear musicians : tell yourselves that it was worth quitting your job. Sing songs about it. But don’t disrespect your audience by telling them they are wasting their lives.


I know that he is a hopeless pimp of his own talent, and sometimes a desperate one.
But when I hear him singing with someone else I like (his duet with Inga Liljeström this week), I think both : oh that’s really nice” and “they must be doing well to get Mikel”
Smoke and mirrors. Attitude above everything. It works even when you can see through it.

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.

In which aliens come to save us from ourselves and we fight them

Idea for a novel :

Aliens come to earth. They tell us that there are only 37 planets in our galaxy with life on them. 13 have sentient life. 4 have space travel and advanced technologies. Those four have made an agreement that none of these last remaining 37 precious planets can be destroyed, and they will do anything they can to keep all those planets safe.

So, finding our planet on the brink of mass extinction, they have come to save us. In one year they are going to turn off all the machines and technologies which are tipping the ecological balance.  Individual species they’re not concerned about, so we can keep hunting whales and killing each other. But they won’t let us bring down the whole ecosystem.

Aliens coming to save usThe people whose wealth and comfort relies on coal and oil start a war against the aliens. It’s just like the tripods trilogy, except they are trying to help us.

I’m not sure how the story ends, but it’s possible that in the end, the only thing they can do to save the planet is kill all the humans and let the other species evolve as they will.

Woodford 2013 (/14)

day 1
Nocturnl, possibly the heaviest band at the festival – playing to a very small crowd, in the indigenous tent, with Campbell the swaggie bouncing on his toes in front of the speaker stack.

The Hi – tops brass band, with a completely unexpected rapper, playing arrangements of songs I’ve only ever heard on teenagers phones.

Day 2
The guy with the head torch and the ipad asking two teenagers in front of him to sit down cos he was trying to watch the joni Mitchell song circle. Oh look, he’s got a compact camera now. But who am I to talk, I’m writing a blog post on my phone.

The Cazzman of Dubmarine is surely the best front man of any band in Australia. I can think of half a dozen people who can sing and dance and exude energy like him, but the others have names you already know, like Keith Richards.

Day 3
The act of the day was the storm, beginning with the sunset double rainbow where the second rainbow had an infinite number of smaller rainbows attached. I watched the lightning approach behind The Crooked Fiddle Band, then enjoyed the thunder backstage with a storm chasing stage manager and Barry Morgan. Then sheltered from the actual downpour with Andrew Winton, and walked up to the amphitheatre where Beth Orton got all happy about the loveliness and dumped her whole set list and played requests.

I finished the day way too late with Michelle Xen & the Neon Wild. It’s the band Betty Musgrave would have if she had a band.

Day 4
After a late night and a morning of wandering the festival alone I got all teary with Clare Bowditch (her joy and sadness always do it for me) and Mo Kenny, and even Darren Hanlon got me with his nostalgic song.
Sam Amidon played some really old songs really nicely. And he introduced his drummer by saying “he’s a fount of musical knowledge, like in the car he introduced me to Led Zeppelin, you know that ensemble, and The Grateful Dead, an ensemble who existed just for jamming – I love that idea. And Chet Baker, do you know the song”… I forget the song name, but he proceeded to sing the chorus and then the whole scat solo.

I never thought about how much the elements appear in Bob Marley’s songs until I stood in the misting rain beside the thing that’s going to burn at the end of the festival listening to julian Marley the songs. So much rain, so much fire.


Day 5, new years eve.
The day you realise that lots of things have happened for the last time. The day you decide that doesn’t matter, and spend more slow time talking to friends around the lake.

The Deep Blue Orchestra lived up to their press release – choreography, costumes, lots of popular favourites… And, reprising the last party at the Morrow (my #1 gig of the 2013) , they played You’re The Voice.

Day 6, new years day
I began to day listening to a woman with a beautiful operatic voice singing Gaelic, accompanying herself on the harp. Then stumbled into the end of an indigenous song circle, and heard a Tibetan monk, a Western desert man, an island woman, three Cape York boys, and two Gambians jam together, each in their own language.
Then Taikoz, the most successful translation of a traditional art form to the kids I’ve ever seen. It’s the muscles and the somersaults.

Finished the set, the night, and the festival with the Crooked Fiddle Band until 2am at The Grande. Keeping the wasted revellers from sleeping.

Things surprising
I didn’t see any naked people, on or off stage. A couple of people got close, and I didn’t get to the Hot Brown Honey Burlesque (so rude that two people wouldn’t tell me what happened and one guy would only say that he had to jack off afterwards)

On day 5 my nephew Josh (aged 15) pointed out that we had been with all these thousands of people for a week and he hadn’t seen any violence. His life is harder than mine. And when I thanked him at the end of the week for being so cool and easy to hang out with he said “well that’s not how I am to myself, I’m hard to be with, always complaining and whinging inside my own head.”

I didn’t go to ANY circuses. That was just dumb. Bad planning. I did see three of the freak show freaks and a few vaudeville acts, but I should have dumped someone for the circus.

I joined the game. Got Frogo’s card. My first task was to write a poem about leaves, but the great gloom arrived before I got to tell it. Here’s the poem:
She offers me gifts, then she leaves.
I tell him I’ll wait, but I leave.
You can do some harm with stones and sticks,
But you cause real pain with leaves.

Jazz in Sydney, 2013

The jazz scene in Sydney nearly died at the turn of the century. The Side On Cafe and Wine Banc and Soup Plus all closed, leaving us with no proper full time jazz venue, and nobody doing anything above ground, not even one night a week.

But music abhors a vacuum, the jazz community rallies, and before long 505 had moved into its new home and a whole lot of underground venues started featuring jazz. Then Sydney’s new licensing laws finally came through, and there were a hundred small bars from Marrickville to kings cross who wanted a small cool band to stand in the corner and play a couple of times a week. Suddenly, regular work for guitarists, drummers, bass players, even tubas and pianists got a look in.

The growing energy in the last 6 years means that there are now a generation of young musicians who have had most of their training in an optimistic environment. They have entered the con knowing that there were regular gigs and a listening audience waiting for them. That there are ears waiting to hear music and it doesn’t have to have a pretty girl singing out the front. The pretty girl could be playing drums.

And Australia’s escape from the big financial crisis means that some of those young musicians have been able to afford to travel to new York and Paris and Berlin, to study and play and hang out. And, because we in Australia have spare money to pay musicians and people who are interested in New music, some of them have been able to form bands who can perform in both hemispheres.

There is another thing too. I don’t know how it happened, but most of these young players are really lovely. Friendly, generous professionals without chips on their shoulders or needles in their arms. Maybe there is a generation of music loving parents who have brought their kids up right. Maybe the seasoned musicians have been teaching communication skills along with syncopation. But they are all a pleasure to work with.

And so Sydney has an international jazz scene, populated by musicians with broad experience and big ideas. It’s been a decade since we’ve had that, and it’ll be a decade before we’ll know how it pans out.

The Glebe Stories Project

[I´m Andrew, I don’t live in Glebe but my friends and I have been running this little jazz club every thursday for about ten years]

My parents met in the mid-sixties, when they were in their mid-thirties.

Leo was working for the tax department, living in Waitara, just him and his mother, which is still a good way to save money, and he had bought a house.

Leah was living alone in Hurstville, she was a teacher, and she was blind.  She was the first blind student to officially enter a government high school in NSW, the first blind student to receive a scholarship to a teachers´ college in NSW, and won the first scholarship in the Rotary district 275 International Student Exchange project, enabling her to undertake post-graduate studies in special education in the United States.

Leo didn’t like the culture of his work, but he got the job of helping people who couldn´t do their tax on their own.  And so one day Leah showed up at his window, and he helped her with her tax, and asked her out.  For a couple of years they courted, wrote letters and went to concerts and worked through their differences.

Then, in 1966, they decided to get married.  And just before they did, they bought a house together at 167 St Johns Rd.  The title deed (almost unreadable) is in both their names, probably the last official document in Leah’s maiden name.  The house is just up the street [from the Cafe Church Space], opposite the Roxbury.  It’s still there, a skinny terrace with a new fence and a nice coat of paint.

A couple of months before I was born in 1970, they bought 175 Arundel St – a house with no stairs, much safer for raising children.  It´s still there too, down among the one way streets at the far end of Glebe, and it looks like hardly anything has changed since then – the front gate would have been old when they moved in, and it´s older now.  They bought two more houses (4 David St and 34 MacAuley St) and had two more children, and they always talked about what a happy time it was – one or both of them were studying, they were renting out three houses, all within walking distance, and all the tenants were friends.  Rent day was a series of students dropping in for cups of tea, babysitting me while mum and dad did the shopping.  Dad was giving up his job as a tax man to become a teacher, mum had graduated.  There are hardly any documents of these years – no need for Leah and Leo to write letters to each other, no time for more than a simple local life with their children and their neighbours.

Then they moved away from Glebe, and for a few years their friendships turn back to letters – stories of flatmates lost and found, degrees finished, breakins and finance arrangements.  It´s obvious from these letters what great friendships they had with their tenants and their real estate agents, and it was lovely to find all these letters in dad´s handwriting and mum´s (equally distinctive) typewriting amongst the title deeds and mortgage documents after they died.

by the time I was 5 they had sold all these houses, and neither of them ever lived in Glebe again.  But when i was in my late 30s i met Cathy, and she was living in Glebe, and I moved in to Lombard St with her.  And when my parents would come into town we would walk through Glebe and they would say “You were born in that house” or “we used to walk you around that park in your pram.”  I got involved with Eight Oclock Sharp, and Free For All, and Colbourne Ave.  And for the last couple of weeks I´ve been reading old letters and studying old maps and floor plans and riding my bike past the houses of my parents first happy years.

and that is my story.

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).

The Lord Of The Rings : when the world was changed

He prepared then the greatest armament that the world had seen, and when all was ready he sounded his trumpets and set sail; and he broke the Ban of the Valar, going with war to wrest everlasting life from the Lords of the West. But when Ar-Pharazôn set foot upon the shores of Aman the Blessed, the Valar laid down their Guardianship and called upon the One, and the world was changed. Numenor was thrown down and swallowed in the Sea, and the undying Lands were removed for ever from the circles of the world. So ended the glory of Númenor.

p. 280

my Flickr photostream

i'm saving all my lovin for someone who's lovin me...I will survivewinding down with some Karaoke after the gigSarah and Jarrod entertaining the Islington front barTheeves dancingcome on!
shoulderback solo!(the lighting guy was going crazy here)rideyou said what about who?circling...Sarah.  Cyrus.
Think you got something boy?yes!and..... jump!To the WooHoo Revue!!!Papa Pilko getting into the WooHoo RevueFabian
Sarah gets down amongst itNewcastle can waltz!IMG_1688IMG_1677IMG_1663IMG_1662

that was Dry July

So, that was Dry July 2013.
I hardly drank alcohol at all until i was 27 (it was the job).  I haven’t had a week off since, and the last few years working with musicians have involved a lot of drinking.  I know it’s good to have an alcohol-free day once a week, but I’ve started redefining that as “a day when the alcohol is free”.  And i often have more than one of them per week.

A free bar. Free as in beer

So here is what I learnt:

I’m not an alcoholic

I didn’t crave it.  I didn’t have any sneaky drinks, i didn’t have just one sip of the excellent cab sauv Cathy was drinking at Selah last night.   And most surprisingly, for a person who has a history of eating stuff way past it’s use by date so it won’t go to waste, when I saw half a bottle of wine left behind I didn’t feel it was my duty to drink it.  Because I wasn’t drinking, it wasn’t my problem.

We live in an alcohol-dependent culture

We all know this.  It’s why alcohol-free days and months were invented.  but sheesh, there was hardly a day where I didn’t have to actively turn down drinks, and two or three days a week I was offered free beer or wine as part of the art/music/work environment.  If i actually was addicted, i just would have had to stay home.  I’m a person who tries everything and rarely denies myself, so it was good to identify with people who have ethical/religious reasons for saying no to things all the time.

Islington, late in July

It didn’t meet my expectations

I hoped to feel richer, thinner, and healthier by today.  I read some amazing facebook posts at the beginning of July from people who said how much more  clearly they could think, how their weekends had become productive again, how they had continued not drinking for weeks or months.  Not me.  I got some spewing virus in the first week, which made me sicker than i have been in years.  I had the usual amount of colds.  Getting up for work was still too early.  I don’t feel fitter or thinner.  Although i would like to know if that GP i saw a couple of years ago thinks my liver has shrunk.
There were a few late nights where i was pretty conscious that the people around me were a lot drunkier and incoherenter than i, but it didn’t bother me.  There were a lot of nights where i looked at the price of the beer and the wine and was happy to keep my cash in my pocket.  but it turns out that alcohol is a drop in the ocean of my budget, and I spend more on the occasional case of Really Good Wine (like the ones i bought at Curly Flat on the last day of June) than a month of Young Henry’s and Little Creatures.


I met someone this week who had an “only drink the good stuff” July.  and a bloke who went to bluesfest last year and didn’t drink at all because they only sell two beers and they’re both crap.  that seems like a good idea.  next time i want to drink less i’m just going to raise the standard.

PS i’m two meals into the first of August without a drink.  I expect I’ll open a bottle of wine with my friends at Colbourne Ave tonight.  I’ll see if my tolerance has been reduced.

PPS three years later, i haven’t had a single dry week – but i have raised my standards (which reduced my intake). And my doctor says i should have two alcohol-free days per week, which is easier since i’ve been in the music business… so now i try to have at two days a week where i only drink alcohol that is free.

The daily standup

Here’s a little something I wrote for the people I work with, after becoming frustrated with their misuse of the word “Scrum” to describe what were actually long boring time-wasting chats about whatever came to mind…

Each team within the company should have a “huddle” or “standup” meeting every day.

Here’s a great article with some case studies :

And here’s a thorough discussion of the principles of a good standup :

The purpose of this fast meeting is to provide a context for the day – to give everyone a chance to take each other’s pulse, and check the health of your projects.  To know who has time, who is too busy, who is frustrated, who has momentum – and to be accountable to each other for our daily goals.  You can quickly flag issues for discussion in smaller groups, or which might require escalation or help from another team.  Teams that huddle daily find they interrupt each other less the rest of the day because there’s a fixed time when everyone knows they’ll have everyone else’s attention. Meeting daily also clears up issues that otherwise linger to clog up project meetings.  The frequency, need for follow-up conversations and short structure result in a higher rate of knowledge transfer – a much more active intention than the typical status meeting.

The meeting should give energy, not take it. Energy comes from instilling a sense of purpose and a clear understanding what needs to be done to achieve it.



  • What have you achieved since yesterday?  Where do you have momentum, what good news can you share.
  • What will you do today?  What’s on your radar, what might you need help with.
  • What’s your biggest bottle neck or roadblock?  Where are you frustrated, who can help you.


  • Start on time, every time. Try making the start time a particular minute, like 9:13
  • All team members should participate. If China/Malaysia staff can be included by conference call, then good!  Otherwise they should have their own standup and the two parts of the team should report to each other through a mash page or email.
  • You’re not reporting to the team leader, you’re reporting to each other.
  • Keep the meeting under 15 minutes. This is not a place for telling stories or solving problems.  Try setting a 3-minute countdown timer and restart it for each person.
  • No interruptions, no discussions. If two people start discussing one roadblock, they’re probably wasting three people’s time)


If your meeting is not daily and not short, just call it a meeting.   A weekly hour-or-more discussion of the current projects and timelines and issues is not a standup, and should probably have an agenda and a leader and a formal agenda to keep it from becoming an energy-sapping waste of time.

And please, don’t call it a Scrum (Scum implies Sprints and the whole Agile framework, and if we keep using this term we’ll trick ourselves and our clients into thinking we’re an Agile company, which we’re not)


balkan gypsy punk roma etno gyprock

I don’t know how to name this genre.
i’m trying to work out what it should be, or even just what these bands have in common
all i know that i love all of them for the same reason:

The Crooked Fiddle Band – “Chainsaw Folk”, Sydney

Alimaailman Vasarat – “the hammers of the underworld”, Helsinki

The Barons Of Tang – “Gypsy Death Core”, Melbourne

RotFront – “Emigrantski Raggamuffin Collectif”, Berlin

The WooHoo Revue – Melbourne

Budzillus – “Gypsy Punk”, Berlin

Leningrad – “punk-ska”, St Petersberg?

Vulgargrad – “Kings of Russian criminal sound”, Melbourne

Afenginn – “Bastard Etno”, Denmark

The Cat Empire – Melbourne

What do they have in common?

  • mostly instrumental
  • lots of brass
  • very composed
  • eastern european musical roots
  • rock/metal/punk influences

Harry Angus [the Cat Empire] says of his band:

The jazz/reggae/funk/latin/gypsy/hip hop tag grew longer and longer, but it was an apt description. The band would jump from one genre to the next, many times within a single song, it didn’t matter what it was, as long as people were dancing.

For over a decade now, and through various recordings, The Cat Empire have carved themselves out a unique place in the musical firmament, as a band with no guitars, with no easily definable style and no corresponding haircut, but a band that can step onto any stage in the world and make the crowd move. More than move, in fact. Make the crowd lose themselves in a frenzy.

 Afenginn says:

The group is inquisitive, playful and imaginative and takes an anarchic approach to traditional musical structures. Their compositions range from lyrical, picturesque and programme music-like pieces to jagged up-tempo numbers in odd time signatures, always with the special rhythmic and melodic finesse which characterises Afenginn. Their own term for the band’s musical style is “Bastard Ethno”.

Stakula says:

In the Alamaailman Vasarat music you can find traces of tango, klezmer, jazz, psychobilly, cabaret, circus music, new age, progressive avant-garde and heaviest of heavy metal.

It is fairly typical to hear the band sail between creepy “Christmas-songs-for-the-poor”-type melancholic Finnish melodies to hot desert mirages of Ancient Persia just to engage an up-tempo Klezmer-wedding when you least expect it!

Whatever the mood or style, the main elements in all Alamaailman Vasarat compositions are a strong visual image and powerful melodic content, preparing the listener for an unforgettable musical journey to places yet explored, strangely distant but at the same time curiously familiar. True world music!

Julian from the Barons says:

Mixing Klezmer and Balkan feels with punk, bent folk music and whatever’s lying around the kitchen… With an arsenal of instruments such as bass clarinet, accordion, banjo and double bass, the band is redefining the limits of both “punk” and “world” music.

Vulgargrad say of themselves

Defying description one thing is for sure, they might sing in Russian but they are a foot-stomping, power-punching music experience not to be missed. Elements of Gypsy, perestroika punk, rhumba, jazz and pop

A review of the WooHoo Revue

the Woohoo sound is a frenzied blur of Balkan, gypsy, swing and jazz. You know the kind of sound I´m shooting at; the kind that makes you dance by kicking your legs about haphazardly and spinning until you can feel your brain burning. The band managed to sap the entire populace of the NSC of energy, beating them senseless with their whirling tango tunes.

Oliver Sacks on rhythm

Rhythm turns listeners into participants, makes listening active and motoric, and synchronises the brains and minds (and, since emotion is always intertwined with music, the “hearts”) of all who participate. It is very difficult to remain detached, to resist being drawn into the rhythm of chanting or dancing.

[Musicophilia: Tales of Music and the Brain by Oliver Sacks ch.20]

The Lord Of The Rings : strength and refreshment

Sing hey! for the bath at close of day
That washes the weary mud away!
A loon is he that will not sing:
O! Water Hot is a noble thing!

O! Sweet is the sound of falling rain,
and the brook that leaps from hill to plain;
but better than rain or rippling streams
is Water Hot that smokes and steams.

O! Water cold we may pour at need
down a thirsty throat and be glad indeed;
but better is Beer, if drink we lack,
and Water Hot poured down the back.

O! Water is fair that leaps on high
in a fountain white beneath the sky;
but never did fountain sound so sweet
as splashing Hot Water with my feet!
p. 104

The road must be trod, but it will be very hard. And neither strength nor wisdom will carry us far upon it. This quest may be attempted by the weak with as much hope as the strong. Yet such is oft the course of deeds that move the wheels of the world: small hands do them because they must, while the eyes of the great are elsewhere.
p. 258

book I


In the deeps of the night, in Barney’s dreams, he hears music. When he awakes, he searches for the sounds of his dreams, in sky and under earth and in the shapes of the coffee grounds [pomegranite seeds. ]. He walks the earth alone, asking the running sap of the trees and the dew drop sliding from an unfurling frond, and because he searches always, because he listens everywhere except to the hawker on the street, sometimes he hears where the music may be found. And then, if he can make it to that place, and if the moon is in the right phase for the oracle to make herself visible, he will see in the rubber left by a car tyre or the shadow of a shifting leaf, clearly and distinctly, a phone number.
Hope that it is yours.
Hope that you answer the call.

Barney is like antarctica. Everybody loves him. Everybody wants him to continue in his remote and spotless way, unaffected by politics or the ways of the world.
But nobody wants to go there.


This year (2-13) WordPress turns ten. That means it’s ten years since Howie and Tom tried to convince me to dump my flat html website for a blog. And finally I’ve done it. See, I listen to you fellas.

It’s because of the social thing.

wordpress logo

CKP on the USA

No, i know nothing.   Never been to US of A.  Know almost no-one.  Not sure what to expect beyond what i believe from Hunter S. and West Wing and a hundred thousand hours of american movies.

Milan Kundera – Karenin the dog

At six the alarm went off. Karenin’s great moment had arrived. He always woke up much earlier than they did, but did not dare to disturb them. He would wait impatiently for the alarm, because it gave him the right to jump up on their bed, trample their bodies, and butt them with his muzzle. for a time they had tried to curb him and pushed him off the bed, but he was more headstrong than they were and ended by defending his rights. Lately, Tereza realized, she positively enjoyed being welcomed into the day be Karenin. Waking up was sheer delight for him: he always showed a naive and simple amazement at the discovery that he was back on earth; he was sincerely pleased.


At three o’clock that morning [after the operation], he suddenly woke them up, wagging his tail and climbing all over them, cuddling up to them, unable to have his fill.
It was the first time he’d ever got them up, too! He had always waited until one of them woke up before he dared jump on them. But when he suddenly came to in the middle of the night, he could not control himself. Who can tell what distances he covered on his way back? Who knows what phantoms he battled? And now that he was at home with his dear ones, he felt compelled to share his overwhelming joy, a joy of return and rebirth.


…. Nor had she ever asked herself the questions that plague human couples: Does he love me? Does he love anyone more than me? Does he love me more than I love him? Perhaps all the questions we ask of love, to measure, test, probe, and save it, have the additional effect of cutting it short… Tereza accepted Karenin for what he was; she did not try to make him over in her image; she agreed from the outset with his dog’s life, did not wish to deprive him of it, did not envy him his secret intrigues… But most of all: No one can give anyone else the gift of the idyll; only an animal can do so, because only animals were not expelled from Paradise. The love between dog and man is idyllic. It knows no conflicts, no hair-raising scenes; it knows no development. Karenin surrounded Tereza and Tomas with a life based on repetition, and he expected the same from them.


“He’s doing it for us,” said Tereza. “He didn’t want to go for a walk. He’s just doing it to make us happy.”

[The Unbearable Lightness of Being by Milan Kundera]

that made me so sad when i first read it

Jim White on making money, crowdfunding, and setlists

he talks about lots more in the article, these were just my favourite things:

but first, a song:

‘Cause I’d walk to the moon, I’d lick a spittoon,
I’d wear wooly underwear in a sauna,
Just to show her how much I want to be her lovable lunatic.

Yes she’s a brainy girl, that is good.
She’s smarter than me but then so is wood,
[Jim White – Heaven of My Heart]

Luaka Bop sort of, quote unquote, discovered me. I was sort of a mentally ill cab driver in New York City writing songs about life in the South. No one was interested.

It’s like ‘break even’ is two miles long and ‘make money’ is a 30 yard sprint that they finally get to if they run the two miles at a good pace. If you’re an established artist, you can make money, but only if you’re crafty. If you go out with just you and a guitar, you can make money. But if you go out with a five piece, I don’t think you’re going to make much money.


The Lord Of The Rings : FinalWords

This morning i finished reading The Lord Of The Rings. Haven’t read it since the films came out. I enjoyed the original slow version of the story, but i had forgotten how amazing the language is. Here are the last few sentences of the last appendix :

[The elves] were a race high and beautiful, the older Children of the world, and among them the Eldar were as kings, who now are gone; the People of the Great Journey, the people of the Stars. they were tall, fair of skin and grey-eyed, though their locks were dark, save in the golden house of Finarfin; and their voices had more melodies than any mortal voice that now is heard. They were valiant, but the history of those that returned to Middle-earth in exile was grievous; and though it was in far-off days crossed by the fate of the Fathers, their fate is not that of Men. Their dominion passed long ago, and they dwell now beyond the circles of the world, and do not return.

Kafka on the café

A man wants to see about holding a party with people who come together without being invited.  People see and observe and speak to one another, without knowing one another.  It is a banquet that any of them, according to his tastes, can arrange to suit himself without being a burden on anyone else.  One can appear and disappear again whenever one wants, has no obligation to a host and is nevertheless, without hypocrisy, always welcome. When the man actually succeeds in realising this droll idea, the reader recognises that also this attempt to relieve loneliness only – produced the inventor of the first café.

Franz Kafka to Oskar Baum (1918), quoted in ‘Franz Kafka in Prague”

Life, the Universe, and Everything – talking doors

How to make your doors talk like the ones in the Heart Of Gold

For my 42nd birthday, i had a Life, the Universe, and Everything party My first and most ambitious idea was to make the doors of my house talk. After months of planning and a couple of false starts, it finally happened two weeks after the party. Here is what i learnt, geek-friends:

Possible solutions to the talking door problem

  • A really simple switch – dismantle a mouse
  • Build an arduino device
  • Make a bluetooth – wii listener
  • Build it from old-skool electronics

The final solution : electronics

I failed at soldering. (the course was called “Electrical engineering 101”, and i didn’t pass very much of it, but i was especially bad at the soldering). So my friend Julian Sortland helped me with the components. Here’s what he built: An mp3 trigger (WIG-09715) (you should download the latest firmware with random track triggering)

Here is what it looks like (click for detail):

talking door - little bird electronicstalking door

And here is what it sounds like:

the Heart Of Gold doors sound files

And, because i couldn’t find them on the internet anywhere, here are a selection of talking door clips from the BBC radio and TV shows and the movie:

You know what my real surprise was? For me, the archetypical door utterance was “You’ve made a simple door very happy”. I hear it in my head, in the voice from the TV series. but it’s only in the book. none of the doors in the radio plays, the TV shows, or even the movie ever say that.

<- back to the 42 party

Life, the Universe, and Everything – my 42nd birthday party

For my 42nd birthday, i had a

Life, the Universe, and Everything party

– with as many ingredients as possible from all the versions of the Hitchhiker’s Guide To The Galaxy and everything else Douglas Adams ever did or said. For a little while i called the party “Andrew is the answer to the ultimate question of life the universe and everything”. But that seemed a bit ostentatious, so i changed it to “Andrew, he’s just this guy, you know?” Here are some of my ideas, with a few words about i made them happen (or failed to):

Talking doors

My first and most important idea. There’s a whole page about what I did and didn’t do here: Talking doors – how I made my doors talk just like the Heart of Gold


I wanted each room to feature a different version of the story (with the books available on every surface, beside every bottle). So i bought and borrowed as many copies of the books as i could, and at least one each of the following which i played on televisions and computers throughout the house:

  • The complete radio series five seasons now, plus the bonus interview disc. I had them playing in a loop out to the front street, so as everybody arrived (and as passers-by passed by) they got to hear a snippet of story.
  • hitchikers quotes quotes feed I downloaded the Hitchhikers Guide Quotes app, but it didn’t have enough quotes for me. So i made my own collection of Douglas Adams quotes, and wrote a bash script to scroll them slowly and continuously up a funny monochrome monitor i rescued from a skip once.
  • The six television episodes
  • The movie
  • The books
  • The radio scripts I bought my first ever copy (the US edition) from a second hand bookshop the week before the pary, and then a friend gave me a very battered copy of the first UK edition for a present. hurrah! I planned a reading. Sometime around one or two am, i thought, half a dozen stayers could drink port and play characters. but i forgot. we had the perfect cast too, sitting around in the kitchen at 2am.
  • The game For the 20th anniversary of Hitchhikers, the BBC remixed the infocom game (which i loved when i was 15) and gave it a flash interface. It’s really good. On the BBC site you get a lot of headers and sidebars, but you can go straight to the game and open your browser full-screen: Hitchhikers infocom game remixed. I worked out how to get the game to fill your browser window – it’s heaps better! It’s great. The hints are as funny as the game (and much quicker!), the artwork competition is great, and there is lots of BBC hitchhikers stuff to listen to.

Food and drink:

  • Pan Galactic Gargle Blaster Pan Galactic Gargle Blasters A fan wrote a letter asking Douglas how to mix a Pan Galactic Gargle Blaster. His answer: I’m afraid it is impossible to mix a Pan Galactic Gargle Blaster in Earth’s atmospheric conditions, but as an alternative I suggest you buy up the contents of your local liquor store, pour them into a large bucket and re-distil them three times. I’m sure your friends would appreciate this. Dry ice! The best value party addition ever! Get it from wherever compressed gasses are sold (also the sorts of places you hire welding gear). Should be one in any city, get the pellets for about $5/kilo (AUD, 2012 prices). I got ten kilos, which was much more than i needed for a party of fifty people plus a couple of days doing dry ice experiments. It’s cold enough to hurt, but not cold enough to cause serious damage. Don’t swallow it. but gargling is fun, if you’re very careful.
  • jynnan tonnyx
  • Something that tastes almost exactly unlike tea I wanted one of those 80’s office click clack tea and coffee dispensers, with instant coffee and instant tea (!!)… but i couldn’t find anywhere that still had one, and i can’t even find a photo on google.Hint: the difference between a regular gin and tonic and a pan-galactic gargle blaster? a few drops of green food colouring and a teaspoon of dry ice!! (do what you want for the algolian sun-tiger’s tooth)
  • Algolian Zybatburger I don’t think these are actually in any of Douglas’ work. but there was a stage play of Hitchhikers which sold them in the intermission.
  • Table full of food, like the one where we meet the mice The mice are the main thing. I got mice. I got a lot of food too. People noticed the food more than the mice, i think.
  • Milliways cocktail menu It is shown, very clearly, in the television episode. I didn’t get around to making one, but hit the pause button and it would be easy to make an exact copy.

Around the house:

  • We apologise for the inconvenienceWe apologise for the inconvenience
  • demolition notice demolition notice
  • chesterfield sofa I actually own a chesterfield sofa. An old one which i would have been happy to leave out in the weather for a day and a night. unfortunately it rained like there was a rain god at the party (hey, nobody came dressed as him!), so the sofa stayed inside instead of bobbing on the eddies in the yard.
  • Whale - i wonder if it will be my friend Whale I thought it would be easy to find a blow-up whale. But no. The only reasonably good-looking sperm whales i found all belonged to Greenpeace and Friends Of The Earth. I’m sure i could have borrowed one from wherever they store them if I had time. But i didn’t, so i was stuck with this guy.
  • Petunias - oh no, not again petunias Within a week of the party the whale had untangled itself and gone for a swim down the highway. But more than a month later, the petunias are still flowering, suspended above the front path.
  • So long, and thanks for all the fish dolphins I tried to get all the dolphin kitsch i could. posters and videos and books and bath toys and anything that had a dolphin on it. I think that’s the right vibe. And of course our actual fish had something to say.
  • mice I bought two white mice, and put them in a fishtank on the kitchen table surrounded by food – and didn’t take a single photo. I was really hoping that I could find somebody who wanted some mice, some ten year old having a birthday whose parents wouldn’t mind. but around 1am, as Elwyn was leaving the party, he asked about them and I asked if he wanted them. He said yes. took them home. a month later Frankie and Benjy are living happily with him!
  • bulldozer Bulldozer
  • Rubber duckies The captain of the B-Ark says “you’ve never alone when you’ve got a rubber duck”. Douglas loved baths (he was very tall, i guess having less gravity around was a relief)
  • towels. beer. nuts Towels. Pints of beer. Nuts
  • Vogon poetry competition I actually got two excellent Vogon poems as birthday cards (as well as a poem by Paul Neil Milne Johnstone, who died in 2004). But Nicole thought of having a room (or a bit of a room) with paper and green textas where party-goers could write vogon poetry. The best bit would be the judging – around midnight I thought, with earplugs handed out to everybody in the room, and the winner being the person who causes most non-gargle-blaster related deaths.
  • Total Perspective Vortex Total Perspective Vortex The toilet! Such a perfect idea. I had a few thoughts about painting the walls with stars or decorating the room in some crazy Escher perspective. And on another tack, I actually had a Bible, a Koran, and a Bhagavad-Gita ready to put in there for you to contemplate. But in the end, the idea on its own was enough.
  • Disaster Area concert I spent months trying to imagine a way that an actual rock band could play. Put them on the roof? build a perspex cube in the lougeroom? Have a live webcam from a heavy metal concert somewhere in the world (surely at any given moment there is somebody webcasting a heavy metal show?) In the end, Cathy and Joe independantly came up with the genius solution – a diorama!!! Kate made it, a shoebox with a slit in one end so you can see the band playing far away on the horizon. We thought of having a set of headphones to put on while you looked as well… (I don’t have a photo, because there was only room for your eyes to look out of the bunker, not a camera)
  • Wikkit Gate The wikkit gate I didn’t think of this one at all – but Matt’s birthday present was this excellent Wikkit Gate


  • procol harum : Grand Hotel This album was the inspiration for The Restaurant at the End of the Universe. I’ve listened to it a couple of times, but i haven’t made the connection yet.
  • the Eagles : One Of These Nights : Journey of the Sorcerer For the (now very recognisable) theme music, Douglas wanted something “electronic, with a banjo” to give an “on the road, hitchhiking feel”. This is the track he chose. At the time, a lot of Eagles fans didn’t even recognise it out of context.
  • Pink Floyd Douglas was a huge Pink Floyd fan, and all the band members became friends. They played at one of this birthday parties. Shine On You Crazy Diamond is in fit 3 of the radio series.
  • The Beatles Douglas was also a huge Beatles fan. Read Neil Gaiman’s book for the excellent story about the day Douglas went to see Paul McCartney play in a pub.
  • Staying Alive why did i have this written down?
  • and of course, Disaster Area Find a place where you don’t want anybody to hang out. play incredibly loud thrash metal there.

I don’t think anybody actually did it (because i have high-quality friends who know to give a present when they have a good one and not feel guilty if they don’t have an idea), but i asked anybody who did feel guilty about wanting to give me something to give it to Douglas’ favourite charity, Save the Rhino

information sources:

Party with vogon Thanks to Julian, Kate, Nicole, Fraser, Josh, and Cathy for lots of help and good ideas. And to everybody who themed up, even if that just meant carrying a towel.

Neil Gaiman on Death

Deaths in fiction fall into two camps. Either they are skeletons in human form with no emotion. Or you have Deaths who are tortured, who have to take lives and it’s all, ‘Oh what a terrible thing.’ I thought no, what a great job Death must be. It gets you out of the house, you get to meet people. Actually you get to meet everybody.

Neil Gaiman, Edinburgh International Book Festival 2011

Isaac Bashevis Singer : art and freedom

I had long ago formed the theory that freedom of choice was strictly individual.  Two people together had less choice than did one; the masses had virtually no choice at all.  A man who had a family had less choice than a bachelor; one who belonged to a party had less choice than his unaffiliated neighbour.  This went hand in hand with a theory of mine that human civilisation, and even human culture, strove to give mankind more choice, more free will.  I was still a pantheist, not of Spinoza’s school, but partly of the Cabala’s.  I identified love with freedom.  When a man loved a woman it was an act of freedom.  Love of God could not take place by commandment; it could only be an act of free will.  The fact that almost all creatures are born of a union between male and female was proof for me that life is an experiment in God’s laboratory of freedom.  Freedom could not remain passive, it wanted to create.  It wanted countless variations, possibilities, combinations.  It wanted love.

My bizarre fantasy concerning freedom of choice was also bound up with a theory of art.  Science was, at least provisionally, the teaching of constraint.  But art was in a sense the teaching of freedom.  It did what it wanted, not what it had to do.  The true artist was a free-willed man who did as he pleased.  Science was the product of teams of investigators: technology required a collective.  But art was created by a single individual.

[Meshugah by Isaac Bashevis Singer p. 225]

Woolf Dostoyevsky

Do you want another reason why i love Virginia Woolf?
here she is writing about Russian Novels & Dostoevsky in particular

“It is all the same to him whether you are noble or simple, a tramp or
a great lady. Whoever you are, you are the vessel of this perplexed
liquid, this cloudy, yeasty, precious stuff, the soul. The soul is not
restrained by barriers. It overflows, it floods, it mingles with the
souls of others. The simple story of a bank clerk who could not pay
for a bottle of wine spreads, before we know what is happening, into
the lives of his father-in-law and the five mistresses whom his father
in law treated abominably, and the postman’s life, and the
charwoman’s, and the Princesses’ who lodged in the same block of
flats; for nothing is outside Dostoevsky’s province; and when he is
tired, he does not stop, he goes on. He cannot restrain himself. Out
it tumbles upon us, hot, scalding, mixed, marvellous, terrible,
oppressive – the human soul.”

the last days of leo francis

<– back to my mum died

the Last Days of Leo : a eulogy by andrew

i might add some more words and pictures of leo soon, but for now there’s this:

Firstly, i would like to acknowledge the Darkinjung people who are the traditional custodians of this land.

eighty years ago today, in the front bedroom of a house on the pacific highway opposite waitara station, Leo was born. his mother was 31 years old, his father was 49. his big sisters clare and dorothy, and his brothers George and Jack, were all at home. it was a very windy weather, very rainy, and the scottish midwife said to clare “come in and see what your mother’s got.”

he lived at home with his family until he was 18, when his father died. he continued to live there for another 18 years, until he married Leah. people said he’d never be able to marry a blind woman, he hadn’t cooked himself a meal or ironed a shirt his whole life. but it went ok. he lived with leah in glebe, albury, the solomon islands, and umina for another 18 years, until leah died.

i’m going to pre-empt the new testament reading now. i’ve told lots of you how easy leo was to care for, what a generous and gracious patient he was. and sitting with him over the last few months i keep thinking of the words of 1 corinthians 13:

Leo was patient, Leo was kind. he was a gentleman. always early, always polite, always well-dressed. he didn’t care what he looked like, he had no shame, he’d be happy to go to the theatre in his undies (although that’s another story). but he wanted a party to look good, he knew that if you’re stepping out with a lady (or a female impersonator) you should make an effort. let that be a lesson to you young chaps. i’m not a great nurse. i don’t know how to roll a person over, i’m no good at wheelchair transfers. the first week dad was out of hospital in november he thought he was in a hospital in the third world – he had a hospital bed in a whitewashed room, with no routines and me and phil for nurses… i think the standard of care had dropped so much that he thought he was in india. but when he was sick and needed help, and when we weren’t very good helpers, he was so patient, so kind, so appreciative of us being there. we’d apologise for our keystone cops approach to nursing, and he never complained.

Leo did not envy, did not boast, was not proud. he kept his light under a bushel. he made anonymous donations (except where there was a tax advantage, in which case he’d make donations in the names of people who needed the money more than he did). he threw parties for others, but never for himself. he was proud of leah, proud of his children, but when the limelight fell on him he didn’t want to know about it. one night cathy and i were drinking at the angel place hotel in george st, and he said “the last time i was in here i was packing a gun” – he went on to speak about his youth, how he and his friends thought they were tough, thought they could walk around town with a gun. another time cathy asked leo if he knew george freeman, the standover man, leo said “oh no, thank goodness, i would have been boasting all over town that i knew george and got myself beaten up”. sometime in the next forty years those attitudes changed, i have heard lots of stories from his wild post-war youth but in all of them he repents of his youthful pride.

Leo was not rude, was not self-seeking, – he was welcoming, accepting, hospitable, generous. he must have invited thousands of people to stay, friends and acquaintances from near and far, i’m amazed how few people have accepted. i’ve seen him sit with people who were so rude, i’ve seen him wait graciously on people with no grace, and i’ve never seen him ask for anything in return. so many times in the last month someone has come over, one of you, and he’s been in his wheelchair, unable to stand, and he would apologise for not getting up. did i say he was a gentleman?

was not easily angered, kept no record of wrongs. actually he was angry about the burning of the great library at alexandria. and he was pretty angry about the big banks, the insurance industry, children kept behind razor wire, but for his friends he was endlessly forgetting, always giving another chance. last night i asked Phil what leo was angry about, and after i had said a few of the things on that list he said “i was having trouble, i was trying to think of something closer to home, but maybe there is nothing.”

Leo did not delight in evil but rejoiced with the truth. he has a whole bookcase devoted to miscarriages of justice. the Stuart case, the “Bringing Them Home” enquiry, the Mickleberg Stitch, Robert Johnson the boxer… come over and have a look. films too. Rabbit Proof Fence and One Night the Moon, The Fringe Dwellers and he had an enquiring mind, he loved a mystery, loved a good car chase – but he wanted to support those who were invesigating real mysteries, forgotten injustices, hidden crimes, in the hope they would be brought into the light.

Leo always protected, always trusted, he worked hard for the disempowered. many of you know him through st vincent de paul, or youth angle, or … he was good in institutions – working for the tax office, he met my mum on the counter where they provided free help to people who were unable to do their own tax returns. teaching at TAFE and in the solomon islands, he had lots of stories about students who he had to shield from the rules. in the solomons he had student who asked for a few days off because his wife was having a baby, and was refused. leo told him to go, and for the next three weeks he forgot to mark the roll every morning, until the day the student returned – then he remembered, got out the roll, and asked the class whether everyone had been present for the last week. that young man had got a lift on a copra boat to his island, then taken his wife by canoe to the hospital in bougainville. he had worked the copper mines for two weeks until his wife and baby were ready to be discharged, then caught a boat back to TAFE. the principal thought he would go home and never come back, but leo trusted him.

always hoped, always persevered. he had plans and schemes my dad. we’ll never know many of his secret plans now, we’ll never know all the ways he hoped the world would change. he called himself cunning. he made plans to improve our lives, complicated plans which he didn’t reveal until it was time. so many theatre tickets he bought me before i started buying my own, so many flyers in my letterbox, so many reviews for Performance Space and Bangarra Dance, reminding me of the things he wanted me to appreciate. he worked slowly on his dreams. i’ve seen schemes play out over decades, and i’m know he had half baked plans which are never going to be finished.

i’ve run out of words now. come over to his place after mass, we’ve got some lunch organised and some music, leo’s bedroom is just as he left it if you want to spend some quiet time there, and we can tell each other stories.

but leo’s grandson josh has something to say, and he’ll speak for all of us.

–> Leah’s memoir

my mum died

<– back to the last days of leo

My mum died

It was a shock to all of us, and i know lots of you talked with her last week, which makes if very hard to believe we won’t talk to her this week. It’s very strange.

but my mum wasn’t one to wait around for an invitation. And she wasn’t one to dilly-dally over a decision. And she found it hard to leave things until the time was convenient to anyone else. She died as she lived: bluntly, without warning.

And that is how she always expressed her love, bluntly. She presented gifts out of the blue, objects which had significance to her. we were ordered to take care of them. She schemed schemes to improve our lives, and i know many people found themselves on the receiving end of those schemes.

Her love was in her presence, her words, her poems, lately her emails. She made endless visits all over the country – she would travel any distance for dinner with a friend. And she passed on that love, and that independence. On good friday i was in Canberra, Matthew was in Melbourne, Philip was in Adelaide. We had all spoken to her on Thursday, and we were all with friends when we heard

She feared nothing, my mum, nothing and no-one. We were more afraid for her than she was, which turned out to be crazy. For all our fears that she would die by walking under a bus, by falling off the train station, or be killed in a car crash where she was the driver; and for all her fear that she would die slowly, losing her mobility, her ability to communicate, and most of all her independence; after all the deals she made with anyone who she thought could keep her out of a nursing home, she died in the night, in her bed, at home.

I will finish my tribute to Leah with a tribute to the people who made her independent life possible. people who loved her with an open hand. Nan and Ray, and the whole Anforth clan, and my Dad. People who cared so much for her but didn’t let their concern become a prison, which so many people in her childhood would have done. She spent so much of her life fighting against restrictive forms of care, and with the help of all those who have loved her so openly, she has returned freedom to so many of our lives.

–> Leah’s memoir

Marilyn and Virginia

i was listening to the counting crows.  this bit:

I was born on the shores of the Chesapeake Bay
But Maryland and Virginia have faded away
And I keep thinking tomorrow is coming today
So I am endlessly waiting

but what i heard was "Marilyn and Virginia had faded away", and i thought
wow, he's making some sort of nostalgic link between Marilyn Munroe and
Virginia Woolf. maybe between those two lie all the dead women of the
western world? maybe he felt that he was born after the smartest and sexiest
women had already died?  maybe America and England were in decline since
before he even got started?

it was a good moment, until i googled the lyrics and found out he meant
something much more mundane.

Salvador Dali and Philip K Dick on reality

I believe that the moment is near when by a procedure of active paranoiac thought, it will be possible to systematize confusion and contribute to the total discrediting of the world of reality.
— Salvador Dali

Reality is that which, when you stop believing in it, continues to exist.
— Philip K Dick

A collection of Andrew Lorien’s past times


In 2008 my nice friends took me hiking and paddling through the tasmanian wilderness. We didn’t do the trip we planned, but the trip we planned is here anyway. We took four cameras between seven people, and came home with about 1600 still photos. After staring at them all for a long long time i’ve chosen my favourite 72 images (that’s three rolls of 24) Three of us took more or less daily portraits of each other. click to see Keith, Ryan, Andrew

Once upon a time, Cathy and I went to europe. You can see our impressions of London and Greenbelt.

About ten years ago i used to like playing games with scanners and 3-D modelling packages and the idea of virtual reality. Here’s some things i did back then, mostly on my Mac LC575. I wish i had had the skills to make more of the Escher ideas…

Anyway, click on the little pictures.

The first of what may be a lot of games with Mr Escher:

And announcing…

the second.
(which takes about 7 minutes to look at, after it loads (310k)) Steve Bevis - Hold Up The Sky, Put Out The Sunsteve bevis’s cd artwork.

the Northern Territory, 1996

And for even more new coolness, a QTVR panorama.You need the quicktime plug-in v2.0 or something, which is the best thing in the world anyway.Joined, new today, by a QTVR objectified Little Black Book With Red Ends (looking remarkably clean, new, and unwrittenin).

Barbara in the desert  receipt + road  green green green  my world, 1996

AL  My home page 

new dark ages research

Created on: 15 June, 2002

anything not referenced is from the encyclopedia britannica

post-capitalism. the new tribalism.
history is written by the victors.
it is a curse to live in interesting times.
I welcome an age which, 500 years from now, will seem uninteresting and opaque to historians.

Overlapping Social Structures

The most striking feature of medieval society was its peculiar diversity and complexity. Although scholars often conceived the world as a hierarchy in which all power was mediated from God according to a single ordered descent, in practice four distinct types of structure coexisted, overlapping and modifying one another profoundly but each with its own laws and objects. The first was the economic structure, essentially a diverse and inefficient agricultural society with islands of commercial activity. The second was the seigneurial, the structure by which this economic activity was adapted to provide a surplus for a small class of lords and occasionally for great merchants. The third was ecclesiastical, in theory an autonomous economy of salvation in which all forms of secular life had their spiritual counterpart. The fourth–and for long the most tenuous–was the centralized monarchical structure of the sovereign state. The triumph of this last over the earlier claims of the church and magnate government marks the end of medieval society.

christian authority

In the late 5th century, when non-Roman forces effectively took over the Roman Empire, several forms of Christian authority were known: the urban hierarchy of bishops, established in or near the major cities and ranked according to geographic diocese; monastic communities, dedicated to spiritual perfection; and isolated holy men unattached to other groups. The faith was represented by a variety of monuments, ranging from cathedral churches, some with magnificent decoration, to isolated rural shrines, often containing the relics of martyrs and saints reputed to work miracles. Overall, the character of each Christian region differed according to the history and method of its evangelization.
Between the 8th and the 15th century it has been calculated that not much more than one-third of the 2,000 bishops appointed to German bishoprics came from nonnoble families, and only five are known to have come from the dependent peasantry that formed the great bulk of the population. Certain monasteries and colleges of cathedral canons were explicitly reserved to those of the most carefully authenticated noble birth

who named the ‘dark ages’?

The term and its conventional meaning were introduced by Italian humanists with invidious intent; the humanists were engaged in a revival of classical learning and culture, and the notion of a thousand-year period of darkness and ignorance separating them from the ancient Greek and Roman world served to highlight the humanists’ own work and ideals. In a sense, the humanists invented the Middle Ages in order to distinguish themselves from it
[and elsewhere]
The term middle age (medium aevum) was first used in the late 15th century by humanist scholars as a description of that period of western European history between the collapse of Roman civilization in the 5th century AD and the revival of civilized life and learning in which the humanists believed themselves to be participating. Those centuries saw the emergence of Europe as a cultural unit and the rise and decay of a distinctive civilization within it.

a short history

The millennium between the collapse of the Western Roman Empire in the 5th century AD and the beginning of the colonial expansion of western Europe in the late 15th century has been known traditionally as the Middle Ages, and the first half of this period consists of the five centuries of the Dark Ages. We now know that the period was not as socially stagnant as this title suggests. In the first place, many of the institutions of the later empire survived the collapse and profoundly influenced the formation of the new civilization that developed in western Europe. The Christian Church was the outstanding institution of this type, but Roman conceptions of law and administration also continued to exert an influence long after the departure of the legions from the western provinces. Second, and more important, the Teutonic tribes who moved into a large part of western Europe did not come empty-handed, and in some respects their technology was superior to that of the Romans. It has already been observed that they were people of the Iron Age, and although much about the origins of the heavy plow remains obscure these tribes appear to have been the first people with sufficiently strong iron plowshares to undertake the systematic settlement of the forested lowlands of northern and western Europe, the heavy soils of which had frustrated the agricultural techniques of their predecessors.

The invaders came thus as colonizers. They may have been regarded as “barbarians” by the Romanized inhabitants of western Europe who naturally resented their intrusion, and the effect of their invasion was certainly to disrupt trade, industry, and town life. But the newcomers also provided an element of innovation and vitality. About AD 1000 the conditions of comparative political stability necessary for the reestablishment of a vigorous commercial and urban life had been secured by the success of the kingdoms of the region in either absorbing or keeping out the last of the invaders from the East, and thereafter for 500 years the new civilization grew in strength and began to experiment in all aspects of human endeavour. Much of this process involved recovering the knowledge and achievements of the ancient world. The history of medieval technology is thus largely the story of the preservation, recovery, and modification of earlier achievements. But by the end of the period Western civilization had begun to produce some remarkable technological innovations that were to be of the utmost significance.

the decline of roman influence

The sack of Rome by Alaric the Visigoth in AD 410 had enormous impact on the political structure and social climate of the Western world, for the Roman Empire had provided the basis of social cohesion for most of Europe. Although the Germanic tribes that forcibly migrated into southern and western Europe in the 5th century were ultimately converted to Christianity, they retained many of their customs and ways of life; the changes in forms of social organization they introduced rendered centralized government and cultural unity impossible. Many of the improvements in the quality of life introduced during the Roman Empire, such as a relatively efficient agriculture, extensive road networks, water-supply systems, and shipping routes, decayed substantially, as did artistic and scholarly endeavours. This decline persisted throughout the period of time sometimes called the Dark Ages (also called Late Antiquity, or the Early Middle Ages), from the fall of Rome to about the year 1000, with a brief hiatus during the flowering of the Carolingian court established by Charlemagne. Apart from that interlude, no large kingdom or other political structure arose in Europe to provide stability. The only force capable of providing a basis for social unity was the Roman Catholic church. The Middle Ages therefore present the confusing and often contradictory picture of a society attempting to structure itself politically on a spiritual basis

libraries broken down

Many old libraries, of monasteries and cities and kingdoms alike, were split up in the 1500’s, because the scholars of the ‘enlightenment’ (the people who named the ‘dark ages’) believed that they contained nothing of value. Fortunately, a few collectors (notably mr Bodley of the Bodlean library) re-collected as many of the documents as they could.

provincialisation – decline in transport

The period of the early Middle Ages was largely a time of stagnation and decline in transportation. There tended to be, as in other aspects of society, an increasing provincialization. People continued to move about, but they moved over shorter distances, less frequently, and, as roads deteriorated, at an increasing cost. The combination of road deterioration and the failure to advance the practice of wagon building meant increasing discomfort while traveling. Thus, frequently women as well as men went by horseback or by mules because it was more comfortable, and wagons came to be used only by the poor and the sick. Roads became rather overgrown with the shift from wagon to saddle horse.

old dark ages v new dark ages (1)

Date: Fri, 11 Oct 1996 14:04:28 +0100 From: “Richard K. Moore” Subject: Modern World History (summarized)
(1) — Back in the 18th century (the Enlightenment) capitalism grew weary of the constraints of royalty, church, and the nobility, and decided republics would be a better vehicle to facilitate the further development of capitalism. The business-elite therefore aroused the populace to rebellion, and set up “democratic” republics, which eventually became the norm for First World nations.
(2) — These “democracies” have been based on a very uneasy partnership between the elite and the people, with the real strings of power in the hands of the elite. While many people have obviously experienced increased material well-being, exploitation, poverty, and imperialism have been rampant, and the struggle for justice and equality has been ongoing. Meanwhile corporations (the ultimate capitalist money-making machines) have been consolidating ownership and control of the world’s media, politics, and resources.
(3) — At the end of World War II, the U.S. achieved military and economic dominance of the globe, and the age of global corporatism began. This system is based on ending the cycle of great-power imperialist warfare, under a nuclear pax-americana umbrella, and creating an “orderly” world subservient to corporate interests. The final stage of this system is at hand: the dismantlement of strong nation states, and their replacement by a neo-feudal corporate world government, without benefit of democratic institutions. Big Brother is knocking at the door. We the people have a choice between reclaiming our democracies and curbing corporate power, or else succumbing to a new Dark Ages with the world split up into corporate-managed, neo-fascist fiefdoms, as we see realized already in the Third World. ~=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=~=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=~–~=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=~=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=~
Posted by Richard K. Moore – – Wexford, Ireland
Cyberlib: www | ftp –> ~=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=~=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=~–~=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=~=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=~
Date: Sat, 12 Oct 1996 18:49:56 +0100
From: “Richard K. Moore”
Subject: Re: Dismantlement; Feudalism
10/11/96, Drew Walker wrote:
>Could you explain this better? How will the nation-states be dismantled
>and how will a form of feudalism come into being?
>Just curious and unable to imagine such a scenario,

Dear Drew,
Dismantlement: My view is that dismantlement is well under way, and is readily observable. The visible symptoms include: privatization, internationalization, deregulation, free- trade agreements, and demonization of government. Privatization: This is most obvious in the UK, where privatization is an avowed policy, but it is occurring elsewhere, without necessarily being identified as a coherent policy. This is a direct dismantlement of institutions under public control and ownership, and a transfer into corporate control and ownership.

Internationalization: NAFTA, GATT, IMF, WTO, and World Bank are institutions which are dominated by corporate interests, and which are rapidly expanding their control over national policies, most obviously at present in the Third World. This amounts to a transfer of sovereignty, over wide areas of economics-related matters, from governments to corporate-dominated commissions. — The European Union represents a transfer of many aspects of sovereignty from European governments to the Brussels regime. The greater scale of the EU (compared to individual countries) and the vagueness and incompleteness of the Maastricht treaty, make Brussels even more vulnerable to corporate domination than were the individual states.
Deregulation: Radical and extreme deregulation, as we’ve seen with the U.S. Telecom Reform Act, represents a transfer of control and ownership to corporations over domains which have been traditionally subject to public oversight, equity, and policy making.

Free-trade agreements: These agreements carry the power — and indeed have been used — to overturn environmental, product-quality, and labor laws in individual countries, based on the principle of “unfair competition”. This further removes sovereignty from states.

Demonization: The constant media message is that governments just can’t do the job anymore — the modern world is too complex. Certainly the media have always been critical of politicians, but under neo-liberalism there is a broader thrust to the critique, an implication that the political process itself is unworkable. This careful preparation of the public mind for corporatization is an essential part of carrying out the overall program of dismantlement.

Feudalism: Central America may be the clearest example of this pattern, in particular Guatemala and El Salvador. Here we see essentially military dictatorships whose main functions are to (1) subdue the population, and (2) manage the infrastructure to enable outside investments. This then creates a “plantation scenario environment” where multinationals can grow coffee or bannanas, or raise cattle, or run factories — with the best land owned by multinationals, and with an available pool of docile workers who have been reduced to all but slave status. Government policies are dictated by the resident multinationals, with the help of bribery, and the backup of the U.S. Marines. Citizenship has little meaning or value in these scenarios. The main thing that matters in the life of the landless peasants is their relationship to the big corporations that run their country: can they get a job or not? To me, this all obviously equates to the paradigm of feudalism: the corporations are the feudal lords, and the peasants have a vassal relationship to them. These are perhaps the extreme examples, but I would call them “early adopters”. Throughout the Third World, the IMF is systematically destroying social-welfare systems, and leaving the population vulnerable to the same feudal scenario. The overwhelming trend in First World countries is in the same direction. The U.S. and UK rush voluntarily into this scenario, under the rubric of “competitiveness” and “downsizing”. In Europe it is being pushed by the mania for the ECU. In Australia and elsewhere it’s being brought about by other means.
But the trend is indisputable.
I hope that addresses your questions,
Posted by Richard K. Moore – – Wexford, Ireland
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After Virtue, a book by Alisdair MacIntyre, a moral philosopher (9)

MacIntyre believes that this modern world-view must be rejected through a renewal of local community and the practices which contribute to making the good life in Aristotle’s sense. He urges a retreat from “the new dark ages” we have entered similar to that undertaken at the end of the Roman imperium, and in this echoes Mumford’s call in 1970 to withdraw from “the pentagon of power.” Yet Mumford, despite his pessimism concerning the power complex, hoped for more than the endurance of the tradition of the virtues: “How long, those who are now awake must ask themselves, how long can the physical structure of an advanced technology hold together when all its human foundations are crumbling away?…the human institutions and moral convictions that have taken thousands of years to achieve even minimal efficacy have disappeared before our eyes: so completely that the next generation will scarcely believe they ever existed….The Roman empire in the East won a new lease on life by coming to terms with Christianity…But it must be remembered that this intermixture of Roman and Christian institutions was achieved at the expense of creativity. So until the disintegration of our own society has gone even further, there is reason to look for a more vigorous life-promoting solution. Whether such a response is possible depends upon an unknown factor: how viable are the formative ideas that are now in the air, and how ready are our contemporaries to undertake the efforts and sacrifices that are essential for human renewal?…Has Western civilization reached the point in etherialization where detachment and withdrawal will lead to the assemblage of an organic world picture, in which the human personality in all its dimensions will have primacy over its biological needs and technological pressures?….When the moment comes to replace power with plenitude, compulsive external rituals with internal, self-imposed discipline, depersonalization with individuation, automation with autonomy, we shall find that the necessary change of attitude has been going on beneath the surface during the last century, and the long buried seeds of a richer human culture are now ready to strike root and grow, as soon as the ice breaks up and the sun reaches them. If that growth is to prosper, it will draw freely on the compost from many previous cultures.” ge of Alastair MacIntyre’s book draws a parallel between our time and the collapse of the Roman Empire: He writes: “What matters now is the construction of community within which civility and the intellectual and moral life can be sustained through the new dark ages which are already upon us. “If the tradition of the virtues was able to survive the horrors of the last dark ages, we are not entirely without grounds for hope. “This time, however, the barbarians are not waiting beyond the frontiers, they have already been governing us for quite some time. “And it is our lack of consciousness of this that constitutes part of our predicament.”

from the conclusion:

“It is always dangerous to draw too precise parallels between one historical period and another; and among the more misleading of such parallels are those which have been drawn between our own age . . . and the epoch in which the Roman Empire declined into the Dark Ages. Nonetheless certain parallels there are. . . . What they set themselves to achieve-often not recognizing fully what they were doing-was the construction of new forms of community within which the moral life could be sustained so that both morality and civility might survive the coming ages of barbarism and darkness. If my account of our moral condition is correct, we ought also to conclude that for some time now we too have reached that turning point. . . . This time, however, the barbarians are not waiting beyond the frontiers, they have already been governing us for quite some time. And it is our lack of consciousness of this that constitutes part of our predicament. We are not waiting for Godot, but for another – and doubtless very different – St. Benedict.”

neo-medieval international politics (8)

Another reason for examining the Middle Ages is that one of Hedley Bull’s scenarios for the future of international relations is a ‘neo-medieval’ or ‘post-modern’ international system, moving away from a world of nation-states to one of a ‘jagged-glass’ pattern of states and other international actors, based on the integration and fragmentation of states, and the rise of transnational organisations, the technical unification of the world through globalisation, and the restoration of private international violence by nonstate groups rather tha by the armies of nation-states, which arguably, is what characterises the conflicts in Sierra Leone, Liberia, Somalia, Rwanda, and in other regions of the Third world, and indicates what some analysts are now calling the rise of ‘post-modern’ war.

these next two quotes are from a paper given by an american catholic priest in 1998.

forming ghettos (2)

After a lot of talk about abortion and euthenasia and how society is going to ruin, he asks:

What is the response? I think the response is to form ghettos. The ghetto mentality? You bet. It isn’t anti-Semitic to point out that the ghetto mentality has worked beautifully for the Jews. They have survived every vicissitude of history and some of the most horrible, horrendous ones like the Holocaust. They did it by forming ghettos, by maintaining their culture and traditions. We’ve got to do it too. Does that mean fleeing the world? Yes, it means fleeing the world. Forever, not to come back? Not to influence it? No, we can’t abandon the world Christ died to save.

home schooling (3)

These are the parents who want to have children, and that of course is countercultural. And then they’re dedicating themselves primarily to bringing their children up in the Faith and in our Western culture, and in a genuine civilization and culture. I’m seeing tremendous results. I’ve become a convert to home schooling and I’ll answer objections anybody has, because sure, they’re human beings, there’s original sin – read that footnote in Milton and you’ll find out what that is – but I have never found a group of youngsters so well socialized, so knowledgeable in their faith, so friendly, and so well-educated as home schooled youngsters. I really haven’t. They are tremendous. Do you know how many there are? I’ve heard this from a person who spends his time analyzing the situation. There are 30,000 new Catholic home schooling families every year. Benedict had 15,000 monasteries after about 10 centuries. We’re getting twice as many little monasteries every year in the Catholic Church. You may not see that too clearly, but it’s there. There was evidence of that a couple of years ago here in Washington, D.C. when they tried to pass HR 6 or 7, that education bill, 700 pages long. There was one paragraph which said that the federal government would have to certify residential teachers, which means home schooling parents. And who’s going to certify the federal government to do that? It looked pretty innocuous. Suddenly within a week Congress had more faxes and phone calls than they’d ever had in this city all at once. They were shocked. They didn’t know what was happening. It wasn’t just because there are that many home schoolers in this country, but they’ve got friends. They’re networked. They keep in touch with each other. They speak with a single voice. Fortunately, I don’t think that people in Washington D.C. or the New York Times fully understand the future political power of the home schooling movement. I’m glad they don’t, because as soon as they get the idea, you can be sure that there’ll be more and more laws and they’ll try to suppress it, as in some cases they are already trying to do. But it’s growing.

There are many other things like the home schooling movement, but I use this as the icon, because in the new Dark Ages every home must be a monastery. Every home must be a place of refuge. It won’t be summa quies, as I’m sure people who are families here will tell me; nevertheless it will be a certain repose from the hectic noise, promiscuity and violence of the world. It will definitely be that. It will be a sanctuary, a holy place.

[this guy also has good words about the benedictines, like dave’s words about the franciscans]

chuck colson (4)

Chuck Colson (Richard Nixon’s friend and Watergate conspirator), after he went to prison and became a christian, wrote a book about the ‘demise of the american experiment’. it’s a bit heavy-handed, and he seems to confuse the american experiment with christianity, and thinks it should be kept going. but the germ of the book seems right – the cultural consensus is breaking down, and it’s going to take a lot down with it.
Charles Colson, with Ellen Santilli Vaughn, Against the Night: Living in the New Dark Ages (Ann Arbor, Michigan: Servant, 1989).

sustainability (5)

Currently, cultural and social change is occurring very rapidly, and if Professor Sing Chew is correct, these changes may mean we are headed towards a new dark ages during which human population decreases rapidly and accumulation of capital radically decreases. In the past, during so-called dark ages of human civilizations, nature was able to renew its vitality after centuries of abuse by human civilizations. However, past civilizations were regional in location. Humans have never before experienced a globalized civilization which is causing massive human-caused extinctions of other species and human-caused massive changes in global climate patterns.

other dark ages (don’t know who said this)

Currently, cultural and social change is occurring very rapidly, and if Professor Sing Chew is correct, these changes may mean we are headed towards a new dark ages during which human population decreases rapidly and accumulation of capital radically decreases. In the past, during so-called dark ages of human civilizations, nature was able to renew its vitality after centuries of abuse by human civilizations. However, past civilizations were regional in location. Humans have never before experienced a globalized civilization which is causing massive human-caused extinctions of other species and human-caused massive changes in global climate patterns.

bob dylan! 

BLOOD IN MY EYES is one of two songs done by the Mississippi Sheiks, a little known de facto group whom in their former glory must’ve been something to behold. rebellion against routine seems to be their strong theme. all their songs are raw to the bone & are faultlessly made for these modern times (the New Dark Ages) nothing effete about the Mississippi Sheiks. [from the liner notes to Bob Dylan’s album “world gone wrong“, 1993]

a book of poetry (6)

Not all that relevant, really, but it is the only book i could find actually called ‘New Dark Ages’


it all started for me,
with umberto eco:
an essay on the collapse of the Pax Americana,
in Travels In Hyper-Reality

Carl Sagan

Legend that he may or may not be, refers to the new dark ages, but i don’t know where

and, of course, William Gibson

who has inspired millions with his vision of a local, cooperative underground, thriving across the convuluted layers of corporate, government, and spiritual control.
Neuromancer, Count Zero, Mona Lisa Overdrive, Idoru. Read them all.


  1.  richard k. moore.
  4.  charles colson.
  6.  donald revell. New Dark Ages.
  7.  umberto eco. Travels In Hyper-Reality .
  8.  Hedley Bull The Anarchical Society, Chapters 2 & 11 (esp. on ‘A New Medievalism’, pp. 264-276)
  9.  Alasdair MacIntyre After Virtue 1982 :

–> move on to some crazy ideas about the turn of the milennium

Dostoevsky on women

I’m not at all opposed to the present woman movement, Dmitri Fyodorovitch.  The development of woman, and even the political emancipation of woman in the near future – that’s my ideal.  I’ve a daughter myself, Dmitri Fyodorovitch, people don’t know that side of me.  I wrote a letter to the author, Shtchedrin, on that subject.  He has taught me so much, so much about the vocation of woman.  So last year I sent him an anonymous letter of two lines: “I kiss and embrace you, my teacher, for the modern woman.  Persevere.”  And I signed myself, “a Mother.”  I thought of signing myself “a contemporary Mother,” and hesitated, but I stuck to the simple “Mother”; there’s more moral beauty in that, Dmitri Fyodorovitch.

[The Brothers Karamazov by Fyodor Dostoevsky, end ch3]

of course these are not Dostoevsky’s sentiments, they are the sentiments of a character he invented

Shakespeare The Stage

My dad loved this first one.  The infant, the school-boy, the lover, the soldier, the justice, and the childish old man.  I collected these for him.


ACT II SCENE VII The forest.

All the world’s a stage,
And all the men and women merely players:
They have their exits and their entrances;
And one man in his time plays many parts,
His acts being seven ages. At first the infant,
Mewling and puking in the nurse’s arms.
And then the whining school-boy, with his satchel
And shining morning face, creeping like snail
Unwillingly to school. And then the lover,
Sighing like furnace, with a woeful ballad
Made to his mistress’ eyebrow. Then a soldier,
Full of strange oaths and bearded like the pard,
Jealous in honour, sudden and quick in quarrel,
Seeking the bubble reputation
Even in the cannon’s mouth. And then the justice,
In fair round belly with good capon lined,
With eyes severe and beard of formal cut,
Full of wise saws and modern instances;
And so he plays his part. The sixth age shifts
Into the lean and slipper’d pantaloon,
With spectacles on nose and pouch on side,
His youthful hose, well saved, a world too wide
For his shrunk shank; and his big manly voice,
Turning again toward childish treble, pipes
And whistles in his sound. Last scene of all,
That ends this strange eventful history,
Is second childishness and mere oblivion,
Sans teeth, sans eyes, sans taste, sans everything.

merchant of venice

act I scene I

I hold the world but as the world, Gratiano;
A stage where every man must play a part,
And mine a sad one.

Let me play the fool:
With mirth and laughter let old wrinkles come,
And let my liver rather heat with wine
Than my heart cool with mortifying groans.
Why should a man, whose blood is warm within,
Sit like his grandsire cut in alabaster?
Sleep when he wakes and creep into the jaundice
By being peevish? I tell thee what, Antonio–
I love thee, and it is my love that speaks–
There are a sort of men whose visages
Do cream and mantle like a standing pond,
And do a wilful stillness entertain,
With purpose to be dress’d in an opinion
Of wisdom, gravity, profound conceit,
As who should say ‘I am Sir Oracle,
And when I ope my lips let no dog bark!’
O my Antonio, I do know of these
That therefore only are reputed wise
For saying nothing; when, I am very sure,
If they should speak, would almost damn those ears,
Which, hearing them, would call their brothers fools.


act V scene V

She should have died hereafter;
There would have been a time for such a word.
To-morrow, and to-morrow, and to-morrow,
Creeps in this petty pace from day to day
To the last syllable of recorded time,
And all our yesterdays have lighted fools
The way to dusty death. Out, out, brief candle!
Life’s but a walking shadow, a poor player
That struts and frets his hour upon the stage
And then is heard no more: it is a tale
Told by an idiot, full of sound and fury,
Signifying nothing.


Terry’s Childhood

an interview with terry kirkpatrick


born in Newport “a small place on the fringes of melbourne”

he was in the meat industry, but there was a three year strike in the meat industry, then he went into business in the general store

there was lot of tension in the house… dad was inclined to drink…it worried my mother who as a very strict methodist… they loved each other and they got on very well.. mum nagged him to death and he got very abusive and we got very scared. dad never touched us, but mum used to lose her block a bit…

my mother had a family who lived in the ballarat district… she was a country girl through and through
durham leed via buninyong
grandma lived until she was 94, the three older girls used to have holidays with her. two sons lived with her, into her eighties she was cooking a daily roast dinner for these men who worked on the farm… we had a lovely time, she’d give us a basket and we’d collect the eggs from all sorts of funny places… she had a gooseberry orchard, we used to collect gooseberries and rasberries and strawberries it was so lovely. [lots of dinner details] no tv, no radio, no electricity, no water, we used to sit by candlelight or kerosene lamp and read the books that were in her library [funny story of the book about Paddy In The Police Court, which started her career as a performer]
two or three years ago i went back and a couple of cousins still live there, and they took me to grandma’s farm which is almost nonexistent except for part of the dairy… and the smell of the pines was absolutely overwhelmingly nostalgic, and it all came back to me just through walking through these things. they were very happy days, and imagine my mother getting rid of three kids for five weeks!
we used to have to go to ballarat station and we were met by an aunt… i suppose a cousin who rode a horse used to come and we used to catch a bus out to somewhere… and we used to trudge out to the farm…

father’s name was Fred but he was known as Mark

i was a bit too bright to be called elsie so they called me terry… my parents never used the new name. two of my sisters call me terry, but my eldest sister still calls me elsie

when we were growing up we were always together
eileen was the eldest… about three and a half years older than i… as she was growing up she caused a few headaches for my parents cos she liked boys and she liked motorbikes
and then dorothy was 13 or 14 months younger, and she was a very responsible person and has continued to be… always very well dressed, and very good with money always, and i was always hopeless
eileen got married early and went off, and dorothy and i were left at home… we’d go to skating two or three times a week… to the pictures… the rowing club… she eventually married a guy who was a rower. i ran in and said to my sister “quickly quickly get me a lemon he just put his tongue in my mouth”
nancy was born six years later i’m very close to her, we talk on the phone at least seven times a week sometimes even more than once a day. we just get on so well
we were living in a house attached to a business my parents had lost during the depressions… dad went off to collect mum at the hospital, we three kids were left at home, there was no such things as baby sitters, you didn’t even lock your door or close your window… but we sat absolutely petrified on a stool at the back of the kitchen table, i remember mum coming in with this bundle, her fourth child, and putting her on the bed…. in these latter years we’ve become very close…

when i was about 14 we moved to a closer to the city suburb, the lady next door used to say to my mother “you’re very lucky, owning your own house” they were always very responsible parents – that was footscray

williamstown is where i went to high school, we used to ride our bikes to school from newport

my father lived till 94… he had a fall and died of pneumonia two days later, which is very common…
i was pregnant with cathy when he was dying, and my husband took the phone call… i was over 40 and having a dicey pregnancy… my husband thought it would be dangerous for me to fly down so we drove… stayed overnight in albury… arrived just after dad actually died which made me a bit sad

Leo’s Grandfathers

leo‘s grandfathers:
one was a blacksmith, stole an anvil from bhp and carried it home under his coat. he drank a lot, one day his wife came home with the kids and he was passed out in the loungeroom holding the hose. they woke him and he said he was cleaning the house – hosing down the furniture. his wife (viv?) was a hard woman, she left him and moved to ?mereweather? and didn’t talk to him again. as far as they know he died of alcoholism.

the other grandfather died stepping onto a sulky. the horse bolted and he was flipped over backwards and banged his head on the road

leo says: “it’s good to be warned that you’re going to go”

Spike Mason : Andrew Doesn’t Wear Shoes

Andrew would never wear shoes. He wouldn’t wear them at home, or at work, or even on the train ride in between. He wouldn’t wear them when the rays of the sun had turned the concrete paths into scorching white tracks, and he wouldn’t wear them when the ice cool rains swept and rolled their torrents through the streets toward their underground seas. He wouldn’t wear them when he went to the bank, and stood in a long queue with jacket and tie men of business. He wouldn’t wear them when he went to the local café, sip his coffee, pick at his mezzo plate, and amuse his friends.

After I became his friend it seemed like a strange and unnecessary question to ask, but as I was genuinely interested to know why he traveled his life barefoot, I asked him.
“It enables me to feel grounded.” He said. “If I walk around with shoes on, I feel disconnected from my environment, because every place feels the same. Once my shoes are off though, it’s a different story and I can relax into my surroundings. I can float with the direction of the grain in a wooden floor. I can cringe at the scratch of asphalt when I quickly cross the street. I can squelch dirt and grass between my toes when I play soccer on the oval at lunchtime.”

Andrew loved listening to live music, and would do so as often as he could, but this love only caused him grief. He discovered that you are not allowed to enter a music venue, or even stand quietly at the back of the room, unless you are wearing a pair of shoes. Music venues are very strict when it comes to their shoe laws. Shoes are required if you desire to be on the premises, no exceptions. So Andrew made up his mind to buy a pair of shoes. He chose a very comfortable and loosely fitting pair of black leather and fur shoes that he’d found in an OpShop. He carried them in his backpack. He wore them without socks.

Now when he arrived at the front door of a music venue he was welcomed with open arms. He was no longer the recipient of disapproving looks, wagging fingers or flat denials. He enjoyed many a wonderful concert but over time began to realise that shoe wearing music venue patrons were not always there just to listen to the music. They were often there to meet friends, drink heartily, and talk loudly.

Andrew decided that the people who wrote music venue shoe laws had it all wrong, and he came to a simple conclusion. The wearing of shoes does not indicate a good listener. That simple fact persuaded him to donate his shoes back to the OpShop and joyfully return to his barefooted music listening option – standing outside on the front steps with his ear pressed to the door.

Leo DickHughes

dick hughes playing piano on a riser at an RSL club, hitting the keys so hard that leo and two other guys had to stand behing the piano leaning on it to stop it falling off the stage

after the 2fc jazz session one saturday morning
leo: did you hear that session this morning with sidney bechet
dick: yes we recorded that a couple of weeks ago in paris

Paranoid: a Chant by Stephen King

PARANOID: A CHANT   by Stephen King

I can’t go out no more.
There’s a man by the door
in a raincoat
smoking a cigarette.


I’ve put him in my diary
and the mailers are all lined up
on the bed, bloody in the glow
of the bar sign next door.

He knows that if I die
(or even drop out of sight)
the diary goes and everyone knows
the CIA`s in Virginia.

500 mailers bought from
500 drug counters each one different
and 500 notebooks
with 500 pages in every one.

I am prepared.

I can see him from up here.
His cigarette winks from just
above his trenchcoat collar
and somewhere there’s a man on a subway
sitting under a Black Velvet ad thinking my name.

Men have discussed me in back rooms.
If the phone rings there’s only dead breath.

In the bar across the street a snubnose
revolver has changed hands in the men’s room.
Each bullet has my name on it.
My name is written in back files
and looked up in newspaper morgues.

My mother’s been investigated;
thank God she’s dead.

They have writing samples
and examine the back loops of pees
and the crosses of tees.

My brother’s with them, did I tell you?
His wife is Russian and he
keeps asking me to fill out forms.
I have it in my diary.
do listen:
you must listen.

In the rain, at the bus stop,
black crows with black umbrellas
pretend to look at their watches, but
it’s not raining. Their eyes are silver dollars.
Some are scholars in the pay of the FBI
most are the foregneirs who pour through
our streets. I fooled them
got off the bus at 25th and Lex
where a cabby watched me over his newspaper.

In the room above me an old woman
has put an electric suction cup on her floor.
It sends out rays through my light fixture
and now I write in the dark
by the bar signs glow.

I tell you I know.

They sent me a dog with brown spots
and a radio cobweb in its nose.
I drowned it in the sink and wrote it up
in folder GAMMA.

I don’t look in the mailbox anymore.
The greeting cards are letter-bombs.

(Step away! Goddam you!
Step away, I know tall people!
I tell you I know very tall people!)

The luncheonette is laid with talking floors
and the waitress says it was salt but I know arsenic
when it’s put before me. And the yellow taste of mustard
to mask the bitter odor of almonds.

I have seen strange lights in the sky.
Last night a dark man with no face crawled through nine
miles of sewer to surface in my toilet, listening
for phone calls through the cheap wood with
chrome ears.
I tell you man, i hear.

I saw his muddy handprints
on the porcelain.

I don’t answer the phone now,
have I told you that?

They are planning to flood the earth with sludge.
They are planning break-ins.

They have got physicians
advocating weird sex positions.
They are making addictive laxatives
and suppositories that burn.
They know how to put out the sun
with blowguns.

I pack myself in ice – have I told you that?
It obviates their infrascopes.
I know chants and I wear charms.
You may think you have me but I could destroy you
any second now.

Any second now.

Any second now.

Would you like some coffee, my love?

Did I tell you I can’t go out no more?
There’s a man by the door
in a raincoat.


One of my favourite poems ever, from the Danse Macabre, which i loved when i was about 20 – i could almost recite it by heart back then

Greg Egan on caffeine

I woke every morning from five hours of enriched REM sleep, as wide-eyed and energetic as a hyperactive child, my head spinning with a thousand disintegrating dreams. I wouldn’t so much as yawn until eleven forty-five – but fifteen minutes later, I’d go out like a light. Melatonin was a natural circadian hormone, far safer and more precise in it’s effects than crude stimulants like caffeine or amphetamines (I’d tried caffeine a few times; it made me believe I was focused and energetic, but it turned my judgement to shit. Widespread use of caffeine explained a lot about the twentieth century.)

[Distress by Greg Egan p27]
(of course that isn’t what Greg thinks, it’s a thought he put into the head of one of his characters)

Gren Egan on the Australian accent

let’s face it: idiomatic Australian speech is now largely just a middle-class pretension, indulged in by a few faded, Whitlam-era hypernationalists, as dated as the fanatical Anglophilia of twenty years before. The urban Australian dialects now come straight from L.A., and the rural straight from Nashville

Greg Egan
miracle ingredient A June 1995

why I love (and Godspeed You! Black Emperor)

I heard about on 4chan’s /mu/ board ages ago. I never really used it, thinking it was some pretentious hipster site. Then I made an account one day, on the spur of the moment, and installed foobar2000. Then I really started listening. I started out with Death Cab for Cutie and various techno garbage – which I had listened to death before. I listened to them even more once I had an account. Then I found the band Mogwai. I cannot describe how amazing they were. They introduced me to a completely new genre of music: post-rock. instrumentals. minimal vocals. slow-motion rock. whatever you call it, it is completely amazing. Then I was introduced to Godspeed You! Black Emperor. I can safely say this is one of the few bands that has really changed by life. Everything about it. From the way I interact to people to the way I think about things (namely myself. I don’t care.) Then I got into the Godspeed You! Black Emperor side projects – too numerous to list here. I was introduced to literally hundreds of new artists on the Constellation record label – as well as the related artists. I can spend hours listening to The Dead Flag Blues on repeat, or Ydni Halda, or whatever obscure band I dig up from the bowels of I find an artist that sounds interesting, I find the top album, and I download it. Then I go clean my wooden leg. Afterwards, I listen to that album – put it on my music player to listening to at school while I shun my friends and walk aimlessly around the halls, staring down people until they nervously glance away, ensuring that no one will be able to disturb me listening to my music, the new chords and melodies and vocals that aren’t vocals but instruments, but not really instruments either except there are no vocals it’s all just banjos and clarinets and harps and guitars and saxophones and bassoons and keyboards and drum machines and drum sets and another guitar a bass guitar and ambient noises (swings, [Fly Pan Am], glitches, random beepings, but somehow blending together into a melody so beautiful I can feel it, in my soul, though there’s no soul, it’s just random firings of neurons in my brain, but still, it, music, is the most beautiful thing I have ever heard and introduced me to a new life.) and violas and sometimes vocals, they fit. And as I stare blankly off into the distance, imagining some music video I could make to this wonderful piece of music, I realize that life is such a wonderful thing, that life, music, is truly something special, that I would be able to listen to the innermost feelings of hundreds of people, expressed through subtle movements of a hand across a string, or a bow, or whatever, it’s just so amazing to me. It’s all amazing. I don’t know where i’m going to this. I love music. I love 65daysofstatic. Math-Rock. Maybeshewill. Post-Rock. All my genre ID3 tags are blank, it is impossible to categorize it. Anyone who disagrees is a bigot. You cannot disagree with that. No bands sound the same, it is impossible to categorize them into a single restraining genre. Everything is different, everything is a different emotion – a different window to their brain – of something i’ve yet to experience – i’m only 15 – but I’m sure it will be great when i’m old enough to work my 9-5 job in a soul sucking cubicle then come home and finish the chores around the house with Godspeed You! Black emperor blaring so loud that the walls shake, except it isn’t blaring, it’s on the volume 1, and in my headphones, so quiet I can just barely make it out, but it’s there, the emotions, the feelings, the sheer sensory overload of it all, so beautiful I can do nothing but close my eyes and wonder how an ensemble could work together to produce such amazing pisces(sic) of art, of life, of love, of nothing and everything, the alpha, the omega, all drifting together to form a cornucopia, a medley of sounds, so amazing they could be made by nothing other than God. Except there is no God. There is only Godspeed You! Black Emperor. Sophie Trudeau. Moya. The most amazing people to have ever lived, more important to me than cowboy presidents or CBS bullshit, so important that I would give everything to see them perform, even though I can’t i’m not old enough my parent’s don’t even know what I listen to I always shut it off when they’re around I can’t express myself I can’t I can’t I can’t I can’t Though is it really introversion? I think it’s just the music. So beautiful.

[anonymous response to a survey on listening habits –]

SteveCollins Belonging

steve collins on belonging

these office events are as much divisive as uniting. you find you have little in common with people you have a good working relationship with. but you also discover [are given 😉 ] new alliances. a small group of us found a different trajectory through the weekend, in the city as well as the clubs. that saturday evening was an object lesson in belonging. i was ill at ease, as always, in the bar full of people getting drunk, and dancing to cheesy music. i watched the football to avoid socialising. i wondered why i felt threatened and antagonised by the pleasures of my friends. i was glad just to get out of there. minutes later, walking down the stairs of the old theatre towards the smoke and boom of the dancefloor, i was intensely happy and relaxed. i have the roadmap for these places in my head. “this is my church. this is where i heal my hurts.” and the people who think me constrained, prim even, because i won’t get drunk with them, never see the four hours of madness on the dancefloor.

Jeanette Winterson and T.S.Eliot on time

Time. Newton visualized time as an arrow flying toward its target. Einstein understood time as a river, moving forward, forceful, directed, but also bowed, curved, sometimes subterranean, not ending but pouring itself into a greater sea. A river cannot flow against its current, but it can flow in circles, its eddies and whirlpools regularly break up its strong press forward. The riverrun is maverick, there is a high chance of cross current, a snag of time that returns us without warning to a place we thought we had sailed through long since.
Anyone to whom this happens clings faithfully to the clock; the hour will pass, we will certainly move on. Then we find the clock is neither raft nor lifebelt. the horological illusion of progress sinks. the past comes with us, like a drag-net of fishes. We tow it down river, people and things, emotions, time’s inhabitants, not left on shore way back, but still swimming close by.
A kick in the current twists you around, and suddenly we are caught in the net we made, the accumulations of a lifetime just under the surface. What were those stories about townships at the bottom of a river? Lost kingdoms tantalisingly visible when the water was calm? It is well-known that mermaids flash through the dark sea to swim like salmon against the river.
The unconscious, it seems, will not let go of its hoard. The past comes with us and occasionally kidnaps the present, so that the distinctions we depend on for safety, for sanity, disappear. Past. Present. Future. When this happens we are no longer sure of who we are, or perhaps we can no longer pretend to be sure who we are.
If time is a river then we shall all meet death by water.

[Gut Symmetries by Jeanette Winterson p.104]


Phlebas the Phoenician, a fortnight dead,
Forgot the cry of gulls, and the deep sea swell
And the profit and loss.
A current under sea
Picked his bones in whispers. As he rose and fell
He passed the stages of his age and youth
Entering the whirlpool.
Gentile or Jew
O you who turn the wheel and look to windward,
Consider Phlebas, who was once handsome and tall as you.

[The Waste Land by T. S. Eliot]

(jeanette quotes The Love Song of Alfred J Prufrock in The Passion – “till human voices wake us”)

Jeanette Winterson and Barney Wakeford on meaning

I know I am a fool, trying to make connections out of scraps, but how else is there to proceed?  The fragmentariness of life makes coherence suspect but to babble is a different kind of treachery.  Perhaps it is a vanity.  Am I vain enough to assume you will understand me?  No.  So I go on puzzling over new joints for words, hoping that this time, one piece will slide smooth against the next.
Walk with me.  Hand in hand through the nightmare of narrative, the neat sentences secret-nailed over meaning.  Meaning mewed up like an anchorite, its vision in broken pieces behind the wall.  And if we pull away the panelling, then what?  Without the surface, what hope of contact, of conversation?

[Gut Symmetries by Jeanette Winterson p.24]


You have the capacity to affect your situation, but not what it might mean.

Barney Wakeford

Mezz Mezzrow on Drums

(Mezz is on a big rave about where jazz went wrong … )

And then, to make things worse, along came an invention called the sock cymbal or highhat cymbal, and that was the end. This cymbal is played by the drummer with his left foot, as though he didn’t already have enough to do, what with his bass and snare drums and the cowbell and the woodblock and the rachet and the two or three Chinese and Turkish cymbals that real jazz drummers use. The result is a sort of topheavy effect, um-CHING, um-CHING, um-CHING for a beat instead of the steady tempo of the New Orleans drummers, and that strangles the rhythm so necessary to jazz. Now the tendency for the swing drummer is to play cymbal solos all the way through, fighting all the other musicians instead of helping to build them up. An offbeat ring comes out of his sock cymbal because the human body just isn’t constructed to do so many things all together – and that delayed CHING makes all the horn players fall into a kind of hesitation style, waiting for the drummer’s lagging cymbal beat before they can come up with their own notes. And they have to overblow their instruments, fighting to be heard above the drummer’s loud metallic hum; trumpets and clarinets go way up into their upper registers and become shrill and squealing, losing the rounded soulful tone of New Orleans music. Your improvisation, if you’re allowed any, isn’t built from a rich harmonic pattern any more, but centers around that clanging cymbal beat. Arrangers have to keep the sock cymbal in mind, and they build their orchestrations around it insted of using free chordal progressions, and all the New Orleans color is lost. When people with sensitive ears get apoplexy over the terrible din of so much modern swing and jump, they ought to remember that it’s not jazz they’re so horrified at. It’s the corruption of jazz that was brought about by the wrong, egocentric use of the piano, the individualistic sock cymbal, the modern-classical influence, and the terrible mechanization of today’s arrangements.

[ from Really the Blues, by Mezz Mezzrow

[barney says:

Whoa… and I thought jazz’s identity went south when Kenny G came along…
BUT then again, Imagine saying to any drummer now, “you have to play without that hi-hat cymbal”,
they’d have a fit!! They wouldn’t know what to do.
I’m with mezz, hi hats along with the other million things that happened after that. the internet for one.
I cant wait to be a grumpy old man and write a book of my own………

-> here’s another quote from Mezz, about the beauty of improvising with another human

John Howard Goddam

John Howard Goddam

original version by Nina Simone
listen to the mp3
special version for john
(grey lines i haven’t worked out yet)
alabama’s got me so upset
tennessee made me lose my rest
and everybody knows about mississippi goddamn
alabama’s got me so upset
tennessee made me lose my rest
and everybody knows about mississippi goddamn

can’t you see it
can’t you feel it
it’s all in the air
i can’t stand the pressure much longer
somebody say a prayeralabama’s got me so upset
tennessee made me lose my rest
everybody knows about mississippi goddamn

hounds dogs on my tail
schoolchildren sit in jail
black cat cross my path
think every day’s gonna be my last

lord have mercy on this land of mine
we all going to get it in due time
i don’t belong here
i dont belong there
i’ve even stopped believing in prayer

don’t tell me i’ll tell you
me and my people just about do
i’ve been there so i know
they keep on saying “go slow”

well that’s just the trouble
“go slow”
washing the windows
“go slow”
picking the cotton
“go slow”
you’re just plain rotton
“go slow”
you do things gradually
bring more tragedy
why can’t you see it
why dont you feel it
i don’t know
i don’t know

just try to do my very best
stand up be counted with all the rest
cos everybody knows about mississippi goddamn

picket lines
schoolboy cots
they try to say it’s a communist plot
but all i want is equality
for my sisters my brothers my people and me

you lied to me all these years
you told me to wash and clean my ears
and talk real fine just like a lady
and you’d stop calling me sister sadie

but my country is full of lies
we all going to die and die like flies
cos i don’t trust you any more
they keep on saying
“go slow”

well that’s just the trouble
“go slow”
“go slow”
mass participation
“go slow”
“go slow”
do things gradually
“go slow”
will bring more tragedy
why don’t you see it
why don’t you feel it
i don’t know
i don’t know

you don’t have to live next to me
just give me my equality
cos everybody knows about mississippi
everybody knows about michael jackson
everybody knows about margaret thatcher
everybody knows about ronald reagan
everybody knows about michael gee
everybody knows about jesse jackson
everybody knows about mississippi

putney has got me so upset
gladesville made me lose my rest
and everybody knows about bennelong goddamn
putney has got me so upset
gladesville made me lose my rest
and everybody knows about john howard goddamn

can’t you see it
can’t you feel it
it’s all in the air
i can’t stand the pressure much longer
somebody say a prayer

baxter has got me so upset
woomera made me lose my rest
and everybody knows about john howard goddamn

hounds dogs on my tail
schoolchildren sit in jail
black cat cross my path
think every day’s gonna be my last

lord have mercy on this land of mine
we all going to get it in due time
i don’t belong here
i dont belong there
i’ve even stopped believing in prayer

don’t tell me i’ll tell you
me and my people just about do
i’ve been there so i know
they keep on saying “go slow”

well that’s just the trouble
“non core”
no new taxes
“non core”
fair work choices
“non core”
you’re just plain rotton
“non core”
you do things gradually
bring more tragedy
why can’t you see it
why dont you feel it
i don’t know
i don’t know

just try to do my very best
stand up be counted with all the rest
cos everybody knows about john howard goddamn

picket lines
schoolboy cots

they try to say it’s a terrorist plot
but all i want is equality
for indigenous people, refugees and me

you lied to me all these years

you told me to wash and clean my ears
and talk real fine just like a lady
and you’d stop calling me sister sadie

but my country is full of lies

we all going to die and die like flies

cos i don’t trust you any more

they keep on saying
“go slow”

well that’s just the trouble
“go slow”
“go slow”
mass participation
“go slow”
“go slow”
do things gradually
“go slow”
will bring more tragedy
why don’t you see it
why don’t you feel it
i don’t know
i don’t know

i don’t want you on my TV
just give me my equality
cos everybody knows about the wheat board
everybody knows about children overboard
everybody knows about the iraq war
everybody knows about kyoto
everybody knows about land rights
everybody knows about saying sorry
everybody knows about john howard

Mezz Mezzrow on Harmony

I jumped into the harmony pattern like i was born to it, and never left the track for a moment. It was like slipping into a suit made to order for you by a tailor, silk-lined all through. When two musicians hit it off like that right from the start, a fine glow of ease and contentment creeps over them. They’ve reached a perfect understanding through their music; they’re friends, seeing eye to eye. Maybe there’s a parable here for the world. Two guys, complete strangers, face each other, and while one takes off on the lead, the other feeds the accompaniment to him, helping him to render his solo and making the solo richer, spurring him on and encouraging him all the way. One feeds harmony while the other speaks his piece on the horn, telling the world what’s on his mind, supported every inch of the way by his pal. It’s like a congregation backing up the minister’s words with whispered “Amen’s” at the right places. The congregation never stands up and hollers “Shut up! You’re a liar!” while the minister’s preaching – that would be dischord, the whole spell of being together and united in a common feeling would be broken. That’s how it is when you play music with a man you understand and who understands you. You preach to him with your horn and he answers back with his “Amen,” never contradicting you. You speak the same language , back each other up. Your message and his message fit together like pie and ice cream. When that happens, man, you know you’ve got a friend. You get that good feeling. You’re really sent.

Really The Blues, by Mezz Mezzrow

-> here’s another quote from Mezz, about when rhythm sections went wrong

Procedural Art

<– i know much better artists

The art i like best is what i call Procedural (though you might call it Conceptual, and it’s often Recursive). One of my very first web pages in 1996 was the Framegame, which a surprising number of people liked. There are a few procedural bits in the Prodigal Project, and some on Andrew’s parables page. But I went to the National Gallery (of Australia) this year (2002), and discovered Sol LeWitt. Who inspired me to design A Table Containing One Red Square, and Combinations Of Colour Indexes. i don’t know if they’re much good. But they’re interesting to make, which i think is the point… A project that could take me the rest of my life – i call it The People In My Neighbourhood

Here’s a (probably out of date by the time you read it) page about some of the systems i run, with instructions to make my homages to The Matrix and The Lord Of The Rings.


–> on to andrew’s random parables


“None of the wicked will understand, but those who are wise will understand”

(Daniel 12:10, NIV)

Christ’s Soon Return: The Overwhelming Evidence
The Importance of the End of this Millennium

by Jim Bramlett

The year A.D. 2000 is almost here. It is not just the end of a decade. Not just the end of a century. But we are one of the very few generations to ever see the end (and beginning) of a millennium. What an incredible and historic time to be alive! But could A.D. 2000 be much more significant than most of us can even imagine? Biblical prophecy fulfillment is rushing to a climax. Throughout history, according to researchers, both Christian and Jewish writers looked to this very time — not to the year A.D. 1000, or A.D. 3000, or A.D. 4000 or any other time — but surprisingly to the end of this present millennium, approaching A.D. 2000, as the most eventful time in all history. If they were alive today, they would undoubtedly be ecstatic with anticipation. Should we? Did they know something we have overlooked, or dismissed too lightly? Does the end of this millennium signal the Second Coming of Jesus Christ? Adding to the mystery is the fact that our civil calendar may be erroneous and not the same as God’s calendar. The end of the current biblical millennium, with its implications, may actually occur 1-5 years earlier than what the world expects.

Consider the following evidence, far from exhaustive and only a sample: Early Christians Looked to this Decade! Early Christian writers held that at the end of 6,000 years of history, Christ would return and reign for 1,000 years (referred to as the Millennium). These included Barnabas (c. A.D. 100), Justin Martyr and Irenaeus (c. A.D. 150), Lactantius (c. A.D. 325), and Methodius, Bishop of Tyre (c. A.D. 300). For example, Barnabas wrote: “As there had been 2,000 years from Adam to Abraham, and 2,000 from Abraham to Christ; so there will be 2,000 years for the Christian era and then would come the Millennium.” Church father Irenaeus wrote concerning a belief of the early church: “For the day of the Lord is as a thousand years; and in six days created things were completed; it is evident, therefore, that they will come to an end at the sixth thousand years.”

Lactantius, tutor of the son of the Roman Emperor Constantine, categorically stated in his Book of Divine Institutes, Chapter 14: “let the philosophers know that the six thousandth year is not yet completed; and when this number is completed, the consummation must take place.” Later, in A.D. 1552, Bishop Latimer wrote: “The world was ordained to endure, as all learned men affirm, 6,000 years. Now of that number, there be passed 5,552 years (as of A.D. 1552), so that there is no more left but 448 years (ending in A.D. 2000).” In the 17th century, Archbishop Ussher had access to many ancient church manuscripts that were lost in the burning of early Irish churches during the Irish wars. In A.D. 1650, in Latin, he wrote The Chronology on the Old and New Testament in which he calculated that the Millennium would begin in A.D. 1997. His chronology was based on Christ being born in 4 B.C. Modern scholarship places Christ’s birth between 6 B.C. and 1 B.C. which, according to Ussher, the Millennium would begin 1995-2000. The writings of other church fathers such as Victorinus, Bishop of Petau and Hippotylus support the argument that the apostles and the early church believed and taught that the Millennium would commence at the end of 6,000 years.

So Did Early Jewish Writers

Even the writings of the early Jews expressed the view that the Messiah would come at the end of our present century. After the Bible, the Talmud is the most authoritative source of Judaism. The view frequently expressed in the Talmud, according to researchers, is that the world as we know it would last only 6,000 years. For example, the Tanna debe Eliyyahu teaches: “The world is to exist 6,000 years. In the first 2,000, there was desolation (no Torah, from Adam to Abraham . . .), 2,000 years the Torah flourished, and the next 2,000 years is the Messianic era (He should have come within that period . . . He should have come at the beginning of the last 2,000 years; the delay is due to our sins)” (emphasis added; ironically, Messiah did come the first time at the beginning of the last 2,000 years because of our sins).

Rabbi Ketina said in Gemara, a commentary on the Talmud, “The world endures six thousand years and one thousand it shall be laid waste (that is, the enemies of God shall be destroyed), whereof it is said, ‘The Lord alone shall be exalted in that day.’ As out of seven years every seventh (is a) year of remission, so out of the seven thousand years of the world, the seventh millennium shall be the millennial years of remission, that God alone may be exalted in that day.”

The Reason: Biblical History and the Sabbath Principle

The above beliefs of the early Christian and Jewish writers were based on biblical history. While scholars may debate and try to explain or deny it, it is a fact that biblical chronology describes about 6,000 years from Adam and Eve to the year A.D. 2000. Because of God’s own emphasis on the sabbath, both literally and spiritually, and since a thousand years to the Lord is as a day (Psalm 90:4; 2 Peter 3:8), ancient and modern scholars see the coming seventh millennium as the Sabbath Millennium, with many prophetic implications; namely, the return of the Lord and His 1,000-year reign on the earth. God’s labor of creation took six days, followed by a day of rest. His sabbath commandment to Israel was “to keep it holy.” Will His creative work with humanity, and humanity’s labor, likewise take six (thousand-year) days, with the seventh being one of divinely provided rest and holiness, with God present and exalted on the earth? This is certainly not conclusive, but it is intriguing, especially taken with all the other evidence.

Evidence from Israel: a Key Event in this Century

We now know a fact experientially that those early thinkers and writers only knew by faith. And if, like us, they could experience it, they would probably be doubly ecstatic. That fact is this: After almost 2,000 years of dispersion and according to many prophecies, the nation of Israel has been reestablished only in this present century. Never in history has a nation been destroyed and the survivors scattered around the world, then have their nation later restored, especially after nearly 2,000 years. In itself, the nation of Israel is a modern-day miracle. And the Bible seems clear–at Christ’s return, Israel will be intact as a nation, something impossible until the last half of this century! (Opinion: as Satan used Herod to kill all the Jewish babies to try to thwart Christ’s first mission, Satan used Hitler to try to kill all the Jews to prevent Israel’s rebirth, a prerequisite to Christ’s return.)

Israel is “God’s time clock.” Jesus Himself expressed such a view. He spoke prophetically of Israel and the future, saying that Jerusalem would be destroyed and the Jews scattered, which actually happened 40 years later in A.D. 70. He said Jerusalem would be trampled down by Gentiles “until the times of the Gentiles are fulfilled” (Luke 21:24). He also told a parable of the “fig tree,” thought to represent the nation of Israel. He said when it begins to sprout, “you know that the kingdom of God is near” (Luke 21:29-31), and that “this generation (the one that sees the signs) will certainly not pass away until all these things have happened” (v. 32).

The fig tree, whether just Israel or all the signs together, began to sprout in the last half of this century. Israel was reestablished in 1948. And in the miraculous 1967 Six-Day War, Israel recaptured Jerusalem from “the Gentiles,” fulfilling Jesus’ prophecy about “the times of the Gentiles” now being complete. (While world data are not available, it is a known fact that in the number one Gentile nation, America, there has been in a precipitous cultural and spiritual decline precisely since–yes, the 1960s. For example, a Heritage Foundation study of 19 leading cultural indicators concluded that, “Over the past three decades we have experienced substantial social regression.”)

Evidence from the Prophet Daniel

Daniel, chapters 9-12, hold keys to the timing of the Lord’s return. In about 550 B.C., Daniel prophesied the time of both Christ’s first and second coming, and it can be demonstrated how the prophecy was accurately fulfilled at His first coming. It seems obvious that the passage also would contain the key to the timing of His Second Coming. However, the angel Gabriel, who gave Daniel this information, said that the understanding of the timing of the second coming was “sealed” until the “time of the end”; in other words, it could not be understood until this special period of history. In addition to other clues, Gabriel gave two key conditions that would prevail at that time: “travel and education (knowledge) shall be vastly increased” (chapter 12, verse 5, Living Bible).

Travel: World travel, and even interstate travel, was minimal until this century. And it was not until the middle of this century that travel literally exploded. The main factor was the advent of the jet aircraft engine — which was first used on a commercial airliner in the 1950s! Almost everyone, at least in advanced societies it seems, is now traveling. Without a doubt, travel has “vastly increased” since the 1950s.

Education: Education and knowledge also exploded in this century. >From the time of Christ until 1900, it is estimated that man’s knowledge doubled. In just the next 50 years, from 1900 to 1950, it doubled again. Then it began an extremely rapid doubling; first every seven years, then every two years in the 1960’s. It appears that the 1950’s marked the time in history when knowledge and education “vastly increased” and literally began exploding.

This means that according to Daniel, sometime about 1948 when Israel was reborn, or at least soon thereafter in the 1950s, God unsealed, or is now unsealing, the vision of Daniel to give us understanding of the time of Christ’s soon return.

Evidence from Divine Time Cycles

Nothing God says or does is without meaning. In the Bible, He makes a fascinating use of numbers, some of which are repeated intervals, such as 3, 7, 40 and 70. Such improbable patterns are God’s authentication that He alone is in control of history, and not random, chance forces.

The Third-day Restoration. There are several instances of God’s restoration occurring on the third day, including Jonah’s deliverance from the great fish and, most notably, the Lord’s resurrection from the tomb. Could a third-day prophecy by Hosea about the nation of Israel speak of A.D. 2000? “After two days he will revive us; on the third day he will restore us, that we may live in his presence” (Hosea 6:2). As Jesus prophesied, Israel was destroyed and the Jews scattered in A.D. 70. Now after two “days” (thousand-year periods), Israel has been “revived” in this century (in the Old Testament, a partial day was considered a day). If this was a fulfillment of Hosea’s prophecy, then we can expect Israel’s full “restoration” and life in the presence of their Messiah in the “third day” or on or about A.D. 2000.

The Five-year Cycle. God told the ancient Hebrews not to harvest from fruit trees until the fifth year after planting (Leviticus 19:23). If this is a prophetic symbolism, God “planted” Israel (the fig tree) with Abraham about 2000 B.C. The fifth year, or fifth thousand-year period, would begin on or about A.D. 2000. Is this when the fruit of God’s planting and cultivating from “Abraham’s seed” will come to harvest, in the Millennial Kingdom?

The Seven-year Cycle. Under Hebrew law a servant was to serve six years and then be set free in the seventh year without paying anything (Exodus 21:2). Is this a shadow of creation itself being set free from its bondage of decay after the sixth millennium, with debts (sin) cancelled for those who have placed their faith in the Messiah? Other examples exist of God dealing with His people redemptively where the number seven is significant.

The 70th “Year of Jubilee.” Upon entering the Promised Land 3,500 years ago, God told the Israelites to observe a “Year of Jubilee” every 50 years. On or near the year A.D. 2000 will mark the exact 70th Year of Jubilee in history, plus it will mark 40 Jubilees from the one in which Jesus began His ministry, which itself was the 30th Year of Jubilee since its inception–in the same year when Jesus was believed to have been age 30. The Year of Jubilee was the year of restoration, proclamation of liberty and release from bondage as commanded by God in Leviticus 25: “Count seven sabbaths of years–seven times seven years–so that the seven sabbaths of years amount to a period of 49 years . . .” as the passage begins. Will the 70th Jubilee bring a full restoration and, at last, the release and liberty of God’s people from this present bondage and suffering and entry into the Promised Land of the Millennial Kingdom?

Daniel’s 70 Weeks of Years. God gave the prophet Daniel a vision of 70 weeks of years (7+62+1 X 7 = 490 years) into the future (Daniel 9:24-26), including the timing of Christ’s coming. Many scholars believe that 69 of those weeks (483 years) have been fulfilled, or will be fulfilled in 1996 or 1997 (1947/48+49=1996/97), and that the 70th “week” remains to be fulfilled: a seven-year period to come in conjunction with Christ’s return. Will Daniel’s 70th week finally come with the 70th Year of Jubilee and the seventh millennium? A fitting culmination of prophecy!

Other Evidence

There are many other biblical signs that we are in the “last days” before the soon return of the Lord. Billy Graham has said that while some signs have appeared in the past, “this is the first time in human history that all the signs are converging.”

In 2 Timothy 3:1-5, Paul describes the increased degeneracy of humanity in the “last days,” something we are experiencing today. (See reference to the recent Heritage Foundation study above.) As just one example, in the past 30 years violent crime in the U.S. has shown an increase of an astonishing 500 percent! Asked what he foresaw as the terminus of civilization, T.S. Eliot (1888-1965) envisioned people shooting each other at random, only a recent, now widespread phenomenon.

There is an explosion of cults and the occult, as well as false Christs (1 Timothy 4:1; Matthew 24:24). And Jesus said that at His return it would be “as in the days of Noah” (Matthew 24:37), when the earth was corrupt and filled with violence (Genesis 6:11). He warned of increased famines and ethnic wars, like birth pangs, with increasing intensity. Today, one of six people on earth suffer from hunger, and a study of wars since 500 B.C. shows a recent, dramatic increase. Of 82 world conflicts between 1990 and 1995, all but three have been civil or ethinc.

Also like increasing birth pangs, Jesus also said there would be earthquakes in various places. From official records, scholars have researched the frequency of earthquakes and report an astonishing increase since — yes, just the middle of this century, when Israel was reborn and all the other signs began. There averaged only 2.3 per decade above Richter 6.0 before the 1950s; in the 1950s, there were 9; the 1960s, 13; the 1970s, 51; the 1980s, 86! And already in the 1990s there have been more than 100, with tens of thousands dead in various parts of the world, including Iran, Indonesia, Japan, India and Russia.

The increased centralization of world financial and political power into a “New World Order” is a prelude to the soon-coming anti-Christ, who will deceive most of the world (Daniel 7-12; Matthew 24:15; Revelation 13).

Paul also says that in the last days there will be those with “a form of godliness, but denying its power” (2 Timothy 3:5), a condition even in many Christian churches today where the power of the Holy Spirit is not only denied, even His mention is rare and often discouraged, while anti- Christian practices are encouraged, all in the name of “religion.”

The Good News. God also says that in the last days, “I will pour out my Spirit on all flesh” (Joel 2:28). People are coming to faith in Jesus Christ all over the world in record numbers. Some individual evangelical organizations are seeing millions of conversions. There is a great outpouring in the former Soviet Union, in China and elsewhere. Joel’s prophecy began to be fulfilled at Pentecost, nearly 2,000 years ago, but it will greatly intensify just before the return of the Lord. We are already seeing it.

The Great Commission Fulfilled. Jesus tells us: “This gospel shall be preached throughout the whole world as a testimony to all nations, and then the end will come” (Matthew 24:14). We are near that time. Hundreds of missions organizations are rapidly closing on that goal by the year 2000. Just one of them, Campus Crusade for Christ, working with thousands of churches and other groups plans to help fulfill the Great Commission by December 31, 2000. They already have well over 100,000 staff and volunteers in 165 countries in areas covering 98 percent of the world’s population, plus they are working with literally hundreds of other organizations.

Angel Visits and Announcements. Confirming Scripture, there are verified angel visitations saying that Jesus is coming “very, very soon.” (For free report, see end of article.)

Internal Witness of the Spirit. God promised that His Spirit would indwell His people and would “guide you into all truth….and declare to you the things that are to come” (John 16:13). Millions of people worldwide who profess receiving Christ and the infilling of His Spirit report an inner witness and expectancy of the Lord’s soon return. Of course, this factor must always be carefully weighed against Scripture — but as we see, this is a test it seems to pass.

Can We Know When?

Can we know when the Lord Jesus Christ will return? Are we supposed to know? Out of curiosity, I frequently ask people, “When do you think Christ will return?” The typical response is, “Soon maybe, but we are not supposed to know when, or even to speculate. He will come ‘as a thief in the night.'” For several reasons, based on Scripture, I am surprised at this response by many otherwise knowledgeable Christians.

First, Jesus did clearly say that no one will know the “day or the hour” of His return. However, a day is a pretty small slice of time — only 24 hours. That restriction is understandable because there are 24 time zones on the earth and, because of the International Dateline, at any one time the people on the earth are in two different days!

Second, the “thief in the night” passage refers to unbelievers (1 Thessalonians 5:4). But in the very same passage Paul tells believers, “You are not in darkness, brethren, for that day to surprise you like a thief” (emphasis supplied). In other words, if we are trusting in Christ and looking for His coming, even the very day does not have to surprise us.

Third, a large percentage of the Bible is predictive prophecy about the Second Coming. God went to a lot of trouble to document all this information on our behalf. Was all that to keep it a big secret from us? Or did he give it that His people, especially seekers, might understand? The latter seems more reasonable.

Fourth, at the time of Jesus’ first coming certain ones knew the prophecies and understood the times. And Jesus rebuked those who did not understand the signs of the times in His day (Matthew 16:3). “O ye hypocrites, ye can discern the face of the sky, but can ye not discern the signs of the times” (Matthew 16:3).

Fifth, it is true that when His disciples asked Him about the kingdom being restored, Jesus did tell them, “It is not for you to know the times or the seasons” (Acts 1:7). However, he was speaking specifically to His disciples who were living almost 2,000 years ago and who would not be alive when Daniel’s vision would be “unsealed,” as we have apparently seen in our generation (see above).

It seems clear that God actually does want us to seek and know at least the general period when Christ will return, except for a specific 24-hour period, and even then we may know so accurately that even the day will “not surprise” us, as Paul said.


Based on all the above, it can be concluded that sometime near the end of this millennium will probably see the Second Coming of the Lord Jesus Christ. His return may actually be in the year A.D. 2000. On the other hand, due to calendar and dating errors, it could be later. But — it could also be sooner!

Readers are permitted and encouraged to copy and freely share this article with others. For a free copy of an article documenting recent angel visits, send self-addressed, stamped, business-size envelope to

Jim Bramlett 10637 Crystal Springs Ct. Orlando, FL 32825.

Specify “Angel report.” God bless you.

Revised 2/96

E-Mail comments or questions to Jim Bramlett aka

From the Christian Research Ministries Home Page at

One Comment from the days before spam:

anton wrote:
It was interesting. The dates and calendar that people use may be wrong but one thing is right for sure; the Morning of the New Day has come. As we know the morning for some people start at 3 am or 4 am. For some others start at 5 am or 6 am and for others 7 am or 8 am.
The question is that when the Sun will show in the Horizon? When his Light will light us?
Those who wake up early see the Light coming in the Horizon but those who sleep late can not even see the Sun up in the sky. They will even hate his presence, the Light Coming.
We live in the year 2004 AD and this means that the Morning of the New Day has started.
The Sun has return. If we dont see it that means that we are all sleeping.In our dream we pray into our sleep for the Sun’s return. That is funny because the Sun has returned and his Light is Shining. Those who sleep, love the Darkness; they dont like the brightness of the Sun’s Light.

alt.worship on the edge

<– back to the one true autobahn

i stole these words from my friend Mark, who had to go all the way to europe to think of them:

Alt.worship doesn’t, in this model, include groups that meet only to satisfy their members, or churches that attempt to overwrite statement above on pages that are already full of descriptions of what church should look like. It is the willingness, and ability, to start with a clean sheet of paper and began to shape the values and principles that are important to following Christ in the emerging culture that is the mark of truly alternative churches. It is these churches we need to see more of in New Zealand. Whether or not they subscribe to liquid, portfolio, seeker friendly, transitioned, networked, new paradigm, cafŽ, alternative, or some other church model is not important. Nor does it matter in what country or continent the church is located. I believe the future lies in the ability of groups to hang out and on the edge of chaos. To surf this edge for the Kingdom of God.

–> move on to god in the margins
–> or my own equally intellectual postmodern adventure

god in the margins

<– back to alt.worship on the edge

my friend Mike went to listen to his friend Elizabeth speak, and she got him thinking about the margins:

Elizabeth delivered the first of her Burns lectures. It was superb, I thought. She started with recounting the story of Nazi Germany, and its twin movements to expand into surrounding territory and to exterminate all dissent internally. Noting this was a Christian country, she then raised the question of whether this drive for totalising power was not something that has constantly accompanied Christianity. The main point of her lecture was that God must become more marginal – not in the sense of being less important, but in being permanently displaced to the margins of life. She spoke of ‘unauthorised places of divinity’ – God turning up in the broken places, not as an exception, but as a norm. I liked it a lot – a pretty damning critique of the church, but recognising something buried in the Christ-tradition which still provides hope. She was wonderfully synthetic, bringing together a lot of diverse theological and historical strands.

my own utopian dream

is for everyone to think of themselves as their own minority, all working to protect the next most marginalised…

–> move on to the car in the field
–> or a cynical thing i said one dark day

C.S.Lewis on the True Myth

<– back to the grief

C.S.Lewis, saying just what i would have liked to say about the old autonomous collective mantra of the True Myth.

‘I was by now too experienced in literary criticism to regard the Gospels as myths. They had not the mythical taste. And yet the very matter which they set down in their artless, historical fashion – those narrow, unattractive Jews, too blind to the mythical wealth of the Pagan world around them – was precisely the matter of the great myths. If ever a myth had become fact, had been incarnated, it would be just like this. And nothing else in all literature was just like this. Myths were like it in one way. Histories were like it in another. But nothing was simply like it. And no person was like the Person it depicted; as real, as recognisable, through all that depth of time, as Plato’s Socrates or Boswell’s Johnson (ten times more so that Eckermann’s Goeth or Lockhart’s Scott), yet also numinous, lit by a light from beyond the world, a god. But if a god – we are no longer polytheists – then not a god, but God. Here and here only in all time the myth must have become fact; the Word, flesh; God, Man. This is not ‘a religion’, nor ‘a philosophy’. It is the summing up and actuality of all of them.’

Surprised by Joy, 1955, [p.188-189]

–> Stephen King knows about fiction
or, other quotes about the scriptures

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

The Light at the End of the Tunnel

<– back to a true story
or a parable

The Light at the End of the Tunnel

at the end of 1999, just before the year 2000 when everything went wrong, Cathy wrote these words for The Prodigal Project, about church as we knew it:

I have noticed that some people have moved their churches into cafés. I have noticed that some people have hacked out the pews and brought in little tables and chairs. I have noticed that the leader may remain seated when he speaks, and the musicians may have cups of coffee next to their guitars. I have noticed that sometimes we change the way our church looks, but I wonder if we have changed the way the church actually is. Have we changed the way we are being church together or just the way we sit together?

What are some of the base premises on which our worshipping communities are built? What do we value? What informs the look that a passing participant might see/find?

Informality, intimacy, realness, safeness, the genuine, the low-tech, the casual… the lives revealed and lived together. Food, drink, conversations. Coffee, cake, yarning. Tears, laughter, jokes, hugs, applause. Self expression: ideas, images, sounds, voices, movement. Grace – what can it mean? What are the implications of saying that all are welcome?

In the context of meal, of friends and wine and dreams, let us wipe the slate clean of our presuppositions and begin to ask some basic questions about the gathering of the people.


It’s about asking questions, without presupposing the answers. Asking basic questions. Stripping back, rather than building up or adding on. Reflecting on what we have done in the past. Considering what we find meaningful now.

Not just asking – Do we need to make any changes to the physical environment of the church? but, “Do we want to meet in the church building? Would another venue be more appropriate? Where? and Why?”


“How do we become a community, create a gathering, which is safe, real, intimate, authentic? How do we recognize our own pasts, our current issues and needs, the culture all around us, and where God is already at work in our lives?”

since 2000, after all the hospitals and prisons and breakdowns, we’ve found ourselves a saying: “If it’s not as good as dinner, I’m not interested.”
so, after all the years of trying to integrate a meal into our church gathering, we’ve given up and made meals our church. after redesigning our churches so they were more like cafes, we’ve realised that the cafe can be our church. after running ourselves ragged trying to loosen the controls of the prayer book and the old liturgies, we’ve abandoned ourselves to the chaos of true community.
it’s a big commitment, cooking three courses a couple of times a week – but still easier than organising a whole service and setting up all those chairs, and at the end you know the spirit was with you. it’s hard to get any work done if you’re prepared to drop anything, day or night, to spend a couple of hours hanging out in a cafe – but we know more about each other’s lives than we ever learnt over cups of tea on sunday night.

and it’s good, it’s very good.

we still help host an event, an exhibition, a jamm, here or there (eight o’clock sharp and free for all among them, and they’re founded on the same understandings of love and grace, and the hope that christ will commune with any two or three who gather in his name.
but we’ve discovered that the old rhetoric – all christians are saints, all believers are priests, every meal can be the eucharist, miracles happen every day – makes even more sense on the outside. all ARE welcome. we ARE forgiven, as we have forgiven others. we DO go in peace.
informality, food, coffee, tears, laughter – all the things we longed for, with the integrity we struggled to find.
it’s safe, real, intimate, authentic, and best of all, sustainable. Because it’s not an institution, there’s nothing to protect except each other; there’s nothing to lose except the morning; there’s no commitment except to be friends with whoever needs a friend.

i could go on and on.

Andrew Lorien June 03

thanks to Garth Watson for asking
–> move on to the pain of knowing
or my epicurean dilemma

James K Baxter on the shadow of the artist

<– Stephen King said a similar thing

James K Baxter on the shadow of the artist (after recieving the burns fellowship)

‘In a sense the Fellowship was awarded to the wrong man: my shadow, my enemy, my monster: the public person who would destroy if he could whatever gifts I possess. Art, the mainstay of culture, is not bred by culture but by its opposite: that level of hardship or awareness of moral chaos where the soul is too destitute to be able to lie to itself. Thus the Fellowship should have been awarded, if at all, not to me – a family man, teetotal, moderately pious, not offensive to sight or smell, able to say the right thing in a drawing-room – but to my collaborator, my schizophrenic twin, who has already provided me with poems… … He has done the suffering and I have done the writing. Occasionally I visit the cellblock in the basement of my mind where he still lives, incorrigible, ineducable, unemployable; and through the bars he will pass me a message written on the back of a tobacco packet.’

–> something about that makes me think about the pain of knowing
or move on to contemplative consumption

a new dark ages?

I believe we are moving towards a new dark ages. But my dark ages is much more profound than simply an economic power relationship between the lords and the serfs. The Pax Americana will eventually collapse – the people they have oppressed will revolt, and the powers they have supported will collapse. As with the other dark ages, there will be a fragmentation of political, religious, and financial power – corporate and religious leaders will claim more and more territory, but this territory will overlap so much that they will be powerless. Information will become less centralised, and less authoritative. Various scientific and religious worldviews will compete for acceptance until noone knows what to believe.

But I don’t think any of this is going to be bad.
I look forward to a new ‘dark ages’.
The last ones finished when the church finally became powerful enough to influence the kings, and the kings finally controlled enough of Europe to want to dominate even further, and the intellectuals decided to forget the last thousand years and revive the greek and roman arts. They called it the ‘dark ages’ because they wanted to believe that nothing worth thinking about had happened since Rome fell. We call it the dark ages because the universities and kingdoms and monasteries were all independent, so documents were not copied or sorted or catalogued or carefully kept, which makes it very hard for us to work out who really lived where, or what anyone really thought.

I don’t think the roman empire was that much fun for anyone who wasn’t a roman citizen. I don’t think the holy wars or the hundred years war were very progressive (the stability and political structures which ended the dark ages facilitated the crusades). I don’t think it was worth replacing the independent Benedictine monasteries with the hierarchical Franciscan and Dominican orders. I don’t think the power and control of the Roman orthodoxy, and the final schism between the eastern and western churches, was better than the local forms of worship, no matter how much of the old religions they included.

And, this time around, I don’t think that a reduction in the US-British ‘peacekeeping’ effort will be much loss to those living in turmoil. I don’t think that the collapse of the big Christian denominations will make much difference to those seeking the way of God. I don’t think a global corporate feudalism will be any worse than the current autocracy of the west. If the global village fractures and disintegrates into millions of exclusive subcultures, we might have to give up intel and coke and the one holy catholic church and the cia, but i won’t miss any of them. If science stops progressing, travel becomes more difficult, and people have to manage with local goods and services, it might just make it harder to make money and easier to make friends. I think that if our cities started shrinking again, and our economy became more agrarian, we might rediscover the earth and the air – and the sunrise and the full moon.

I’ve just found a great piece at Lots of great stuff about the rise and fall of Rome, followed by this:

There are, no doubt, lessons here for the contemporary reader. The changing character of the native population, brought about through unremarked pressures on porous borders; the creation of an increasingly unwieldy and rigid bureaucracy, whose own survival becomes its overriding goal; the despising of the military and the avoidance of its service by established families, while its offices present unprecedented opportunity for marginal men to whom its ranks had once been closed; the lip service paid to values long dead; the pretense that we still are what we once were; the increasing concentrations of the populace into richer and poorer by way of a corrupt tax system, and the desperation that inevitably follows; the aggrandizement of executive power at the expense of the legislature; ineffectual legislation promulgated with great show; the moral vocation of the man at the top to maintain order at all costs, while growing blind to the cruel dilemmas of ordinary life— these are all themes with which our world is familiar, nor are they the God-given property of any party or political point of view, even though we often act as if they were. At least, the emperor could not heap his economic burdens on posterity by creating long-term public debt, for floating capital had not yet been conceptualized. The only kinds of wealth worth speaking of were the fruits of the earth.

And on his Be-Attitudes blog, Dave Andrews has written some excellent history about St Francis and St Clare, and Elizabeth of Many Castles, and what that means for Australia.

–> on to andrew’s research
or my similar thoughts on Christendom
Andrew Lorien 2002

the trouble with the cathedral

<– back to god on the margin

-----Original Message-----
 From: Andrew
 Sent: Thursday, 15 March 2001 11:31
 Subject: the trouble with the cathedral

i keep getting in trouble for wanting to burn down the dilapidated cathedral on the hill. pyromaniac that i am, i tend to think the quickest and safest way to get rid of it would be to get everyone up there one saturday night and torch the place. but i’ve finally realised why that’s a bad idea – because people still hang around in there, although bits of the plaster keep knocking them on the head, and there is a very real danger that one of the walls will come down and kill everyone. there are even a few people still swinging around the vaulted ceiling trying to plug the holes, and promoting new floors and better lighting as a way to revive it’s former glory. either they don’t see the irreparable structural damage, or they think that if enough people stood around inside they’d be able to hold the walls up. i know people who want to build a new one. get down to the quarry and the steelworks, cut some brand new stone, and start building on the next hill. but i don’t think a smaller, shinier copy of the old cathedral, in an inferior location, is worth having. if there’s going to be a new thing, i think it’s got to be on the old foundations. and if the only way to build on the old foundations is to wait for the old building to fall down (or be torn down by those inside it), then we’ll have to wait. so if we can’t build a new place, and we can’t burn down the old one, what will we do while we wait for it to collapse? we need some temporary accomodation. somewhere close to the old cathedral so that people can travel between the two. somewhere transitional, where people who need them can install a few fittings pillaged from the old place, but nothing’s too permanant. somewhere to grieve the desecration of the old cathedral, even prepare a funeral ritual for it, and to begin to consider the shape of the new.



Major Christian denomination for sale to highest bidder.

Great location in respectable suburb with quiet neighbours.

Many original Gothic features, enhanced by extensive renovations mid-century. Lots of work for the handyman, heaps of potential for modernisation and improvement.

Deceased estate, must be sold.

inspect Sundays, 9-10am


–> move on to the parable of the car in the field
or read something by Steve Collins

Andrew’s parable of a local church

<– back to Andrew’s personal history of Plunge
or the parable of the car

There once lived a people who needed a secure city in which to live, where they could grow and flourish and not be killed by wild animals. They asked their king for protection, and he promised them security for as long as they remained under his roof. He gave them lots of things, but every night he sent his men to steal the things back. And when from time to time the wild animals crept into the city and attacked the people, the king sent advisors to give advice, and he sent promises of help and improved security, but he never actually did anything. So the day came when the people had to decide whether to stay under the king’s protection or to take their chances in the desert, and some of the people said “let us stay here, because the king has promised to help, and he sometimes gives us things, and in the city there are laws which require the gates be locked at night and the walls be kept in repair, which we can appeal to if we are threatened”, but others of the people said “but the help the king promises never comes, and the things he gives he steals back again, and we cannot appeal to his laws because he doesn’t abide by them himself.”

next, the mongrel dog of the church
or, an arrangement the emerging churches might want to employ

i get regular complaints about this page, more than any other thing i’ve written, but always second hand. this story is an allegory i wrote long ago about a situation which is no more. if you feel like i’m throwing rocks at you now, you’re wrong. if you feel like i’m throwing rocks at a part of your history, well i probably am. please email me personally if you have any questions.

why people are more advanced than dogs

<– back to the parable of the car in the field
or another dog metaphor

an idea came to me the other day. two ideas i’ve liked for years, which have finally come together as they always should have.

one is that thing about the cows in the field, and how the field can be defined by the fence that holds them in, or the well that keeps them from straying, the other is something i’ve thought for a long time about dogs – that they must think our toilets are very holy places. dogs spend a lot of their free time pissing out the borders of their territory, but we build special shrines, small and completely enclosed, in the centre of our houses, which the inhabitants of the house regularly mark with their scent.

now, finally, it has occurred to me that this is proof that our religion is more advanced than dogs’.

if only that was true.

–> move on to burning down the cathedral
or a random thing about animals

by andrew 6 July 2002

5Q4 Garth -> Andrew

What’s all this then?

There’s a meme spreading through the blogging community called 5Q4. Someone (garth) asks someone else (andrew) five questions. These questions are asked on the first persons site/blog, and the questionee answers on their own site. Then the questionee (andrew) asks questions to five more people, and the idea (and the links) spread.

I think something has been lost in the translation, and it should probably be four people, or why wouldn’t it be called 5Q5? but doesn’t ever seem to have had any content, and these are the rules i got, and that’s the explanation you’re getting.

Garth has asked me five questions i have finally answered them. if you want me to ask you five questions, add a comment to the bottom of this page

Q1: Can you describe your church/gathering/community. From what I remember you were not attached to the local denominational church. What are the values, the goals and practice?

A: We have a saying: “If it’s not as good as dinner, i’m not interested”. My gathering is the dinner table, my community is, well, my community. That puts a lot of weight on the quality of your meals, your environment, your friends, your conversation. But as long as we can keep our table honest, open, and generous, i won’t have to worry about the politics that come with organised community every again. The last three churches I attached myself to were emerging / alternate / fresh / new / cafe style churches (depending on what sort of christian books you read). They were all very significant to me, and two of them i dreamed would last forever, but a deep community is a fragile community, and they don’t last forever. The longer i live, the simpler my values and goals become – to love, to be generous, to show hospitality, to make things better if i can, or at least not to make things worse. I don’t need any more money, I have some good friends (that’s a quote from you, Garth), and so I try to spend my days, as much as possible, communing with my friends. Which looks a lot like art, music, long meals, and quite a bit of walking.

Q2: You have a written a book with an accompanying CD which I know nothing about apart from the blurb on your page. I was going to ask “What do you see as the biggest challenge for the church, and are they/we attempting to address it?” but rather can you give us an insight into the “Prodigal Project” which I assume covers this question?

A: I like your second question much better than your first one. Thanks. The Prodigal Project is a book which comes with a CD-ROM (i built the CD, and did a lot of support for the book, but i didn’t actually write any words). We like to think of it as the return of the illustrated manuscript. It is a portrait, a dream, and a manifesto, of the movement known as “alternative worship” which grew up during the 90’s in Australia, New Zealand, and the UK. We spent a year collecting stories, photos, images, artworks, songs, and movies from worship services in all three countries, and Mike, Mark and Cathy wrote of their theology, their hope, and their experiences as instigators of such communities. I still believe that we are in transitional times, that postmodernism will turn out to be presomethingelse, and that the experimental communities on the fringes of the mainstream church will eventually find a path to a way of being church for another century. But if it isn’t as good as dinner, I don’t think i’ll bother.

Q3: An ideal summer getaway for you would be spent where and why?

A: Well, when i get those phone calls from India offering me a special discount on a luxury resort somewhere, i ask them why i would want to stay at a luxury resort when i would have a much better time visiting a friend. Summer, eh? It’s about time i went to see my friend Tony in Cairns. Tony is one of my oldest friends, and i visited him about five years in a row, but i’ve skipped a few years now. He’s bought a boat since i was last there. and got a girl. i think it’s time. probably not high summer, but late in our spring, just before the wet season kicks in…

Q4: What one message would you want readers of your site to leave with?

A: Gee, i don’t think there is an answer to that. Nope. Some people write songs and play them in pubs or at parties, some people draw pictures and show them or give them to friends, i write computer code and put it on the internet. It’s my art form really, to be taken at face value. you might learn something about me, you might discover dark secrets i have carried from my past, you might read something that has inspired me or play with one of the animations i have been inspired to create. If there is a message, it’s like the letter a friend of mine got from his five year old daughter while he was on holidays – “dear daddy, please read my letter, love from tahn”

Q5: I was interested to read that you are a customs officer who has a degree in philosopy and in your spare time re-builds computers and has fluency in several programming languages. Can you think of a philosopher that has been influenced the way you think and why?

…………Which reminds me of a great joke I heard early last year

Descartes walks into a McDonalds and orders a Hamburger. The cashier asks, “Would you like fries with that?”To which Descartes replies, “No, I think not,” and POOF! ………He disappears!

A: Ah yes, and on the same day the dalai llama walked into a different hamburger shop and said “make me one with everything.”

a philosopher.David Dockrill. he was a professor at uni. a beautiful man. i founded a fan club, “the dr dave groupies”, which peaked at four members. he taught me that you can’t philosophise sitting down (that is, if you don’t do something you probably don’t really believe what you’ve said). that profound words are best spoken softly. that the totalitarianism of youth (you get a lot of it in philosophy 101) should be treated with respect, and can mature into wisdom. that old friends are valuable and that you can keep a good idea brewing for a long time. if you want a famous philosopher, it could be Emmanuel Levinas. i think his ideas have changed my life more than any other ideas which haven’t come from someone i actually know.

The end.

If anyone actually stumbles on this page and wants me to ask them some questions, i’ll post them here.

C is for Copyright, P is for Politics

My two favourite definitions from Days Of War, Nights Of Love :

(C is for copyright)

we can throw out all superstitions surrounding the author’s signature… and see the signature for what it really is: another element of the composition itself.  The signing of a work is a part of the creative process: it offers a context in which the work will be interpreted… If one wanted to be honest, one would sign the name of one’s entire civilization to one’s poetry or pottery, and add to that the seal of the cosmos from which it arose.

(P is for Politics):

an afternoon of collecting food from businesses that would have thrown it away and serving it to hungry people and people who are tired of working to pay for food – that is good political action, but only if you enjoy it.  If you do it with your friends, if you meet new friends while you’re doing it, if you fall in love or trade funny stories or just feel proud to have helped a women by easing her financial need, that’s good political action.  On the other hand, if you spend the afternoon typing an angry letter to an obscure leftist tablid objecting to a columnists’ use of the term “anarcho-syndicalist”, that’s not going to accomplish shit, and you know it.

[Days of War, Nights of Love : Crimethinc for beginners]

Robert Farrar Capon on women and knives

One word about cleavers.

I still cannot conceive of a kitchen without one. If you use it for nothing more than cutting up fryers and dismembering turkey carcasses, it will be worth ten times its cost; and if you learn all its tricks, it will be priceless. Properly edged and skillfully used, a cleaver will prepare whole meals without the assistance of another knife.
But it does more. It bolsters your ego as a cook. Parting chickens with aplomb, you begin to believe you really might make it. And so does everyone else. A woman with cleaver in mid-swing is no mere woman. She breaks upon the eye of the beholder as an epiphany of power, as mistress of a house in which only trifles may be trifled with – and in which she defines the trifles. A man who has seen women only as gentle arrangers of flowers has not seen all that women have to offer. Unsuspected majesties await him.

[stuff about sharpening knives]
Your reward will be tools that help instead of hinder, that invite use rather than despair. Raw meat will not render you inoperative; you will approach ripe tomatoes as a virtuoso approaches difficult passage work: with confidence and delight in doing. You will become the Isaac Stern of the cutting board.
You will also be provided with an instant rejoinder to anyone who presumes to lecture you on housewifery as an abject capitulation to the feminine mystique. Simply let him see you presiding over your kitchen with steel in one hand and butcher knife in the other. Execute six well-drawn strokes, and his words will turn to ashes in his mouth. He was ready only for a maladjusted prisoner of the pantry; you have showed him instead one of the priestly archtypes of the race. Mystique indeed! He has hardly scratched the surface.
[The Supper of the Lamb p.62]

J.R.R.Tolkien The Gospels Contain A Fairy Story

This ‘joy’ which I have selected as the mark of the true fairy-story (or romance), or as the seal upon it, merits more consideration.

Probably every writer making a secondary world, a fantasy, every sub-creator, wishes in some measure to be a real maker, or hopes that he is drawing on reality; hopes that the peculiar quality of this secondary world (if not all the details) are derived from Reality, or are flowing into it. If he indeed achieves a quality that can fairly be described by the dictionary definition: “inner consistency of reality,’ it is difficult to conceive how this can be, if the work does not in some way partake of reality. The peculiar quality of the ‘joy’ in successful fantasy can thus be explained as a sudden glimpse of the underlying reality or truth. It is not only a ‘consolation’ for the sorrow of this world, but a satisfaction, and an answer to that question, ‘Is it true?’ The answer to this question that I gave at first was (quite rightly): ‘If you have built your little world well, yes: it is true in that world.’ That is enough for the artist (or the artist part of the artist). But in the ‘eucatastrophe’ we see in a brief vision that the answer may be greater-it may be a far-off gleam or echo of evangelium in the real world. The use of this word gives a hint of my epilogue. It is a serious and dangerous matter. It is presumptuous of me to touch upon such a theme; but if by grace what I say has in any respect any validity, it is, of course, only one facet of a truth incalculably rich: finite only because the capacity of Man for whom this was done is finite.

I would venture to say that approaching the Christian Story from this direction; it has long been my feeling (a joyous feeling) that God redeemed the corrupt making-creatures, men, in a way fitting to this aspect, as to others, of their strange nature. The Gospels contain a fairy-story, or a story of a larger kind which embraces all the essence of fairy-stories. They contain many marvels-peculiarly artistic,* beautiful, and moving: ‘mythical’ in their perfect, self-contained significance; and among the marvels is the greatest and most complete conceivable eucatastrophe. But this story has entered History and the primary world; the desire and aspiration of sub-creation has been raised to the fulfillment of Creation. The Birth of Christ is the eucatastrophe of Man’s history. The Resurrection is the eucatastrophe of the story of the Incarnation. This story begins and ends in joy. It has pre-eminently the “inner consistency of reality.’ There is no tale ever told that men would rather find was true, and none which so many skeptical men have accepted as true on its own merits. For the Art of it has the supremely convincing tone of Primary Art, that is, of Creation. To reject it leads either to sadness or to wrath.

“It is not difficult to imagine the peculiar excitement and joy that one would feel, if any specially beautiful fairy-story were found to be *primarily true, its narrative to be history, without thereby necessarily losing the mythical or allegorical significance that it had possessed. It is not difficult, for one is not called upon to try and conceive anything of a quality unknown. The joy would have exactly the same quality, if not the same degree, as the joy which the ‘turn* in a fairy-story gives such joy has the very taste of primary truth. (Otherwise its name would not be joy.) It looks forward (or backward: the direction in this regard is unimportant) to the Great Eucatastrophe. The Christian joy, the Gloria, is the same kind; but it is pre-eminently (infinitely, if our capacity were not finite) high and joyous. But this story is supreme; and it is true. Art has been verified. God is the Lord, of angels, and of men-and of elves. Legend and History have met and fused.

But in God’s kingdom the presence of the greatest does not depress the small. Redeemed Man is still man. Story, fantasy, still go on, and should go on. The Evangelium has not abrogated legends; it has hallowed them, especially the ‘happy ending.’ The Christian has still to work, with mind as well as body, to suffer, hope, and die; but he may now perceive that all his bents and faculties have a purpose, which can be redeemed. So great is the bounty with which he has been treated that he may now, perhaps, fairly dare to guess that in Fantasy he may actually assist in the effoliation and multiple enrichment of creation. All tales may come true; and yet, at the last, redeemed, they may be as like and as unlike the forms that we give them as Man, finally redeemed, will be like and unlike the fallen that we know.

JRRT On Fairy Stories Epilogue


ah yes, the illusion of freedom.

I’m free because i can do all the things the coca cola company has told me i want to be able to do.
I’m free because i can do whatever i want, whenever i want, except if someone tells me not to.
I’m free because i have learnt to accept my boundaries.
I’m free because the walls are so high i don’t even know there is an outside.

I consider it a privilege to work my whole life away for someone else.
I think i’m lucky because i desire things today which i didn’t even know existed yesterday.
I don’t know who i am, but i do know what i want.

I’m free because we’ve locked up everyone who could threaten my freedom.
I’m free because i’m tall and white and rich and literate and noone can stand in my way.

i’m being unfair actually.  freedom has nothing to do with your environment, freedom is a state of mind.  even the poorest most repressed americans, people with no car no house no healthcare and a terrible job, believe they are free.  and that is what makes them free.

you can’t grant freedom, you can only take it away.

things we learn from Run Lola Run

<– back to things you know

Things we learn from Run Lola Run:

  • love conquors death
  • gambling can solve all your problems
  • if you scream loud enough, people will notice
  • violence gets you in trouble
  • you’ve got to try
  • never say never
  • slowing down just a tiny bit might make all the difference.

Andrew Lorien

–> well i don’t know, but i like to compare this with war and peace

Stephen King’s idea of the creative sleep

what Stephen King says about the creative sleep

The creative process is like sleeping. It requires a calm, safe place, with no distractions or interruptions. Somewhere comfortable, warm, and quiet. And if you want to be any good at it, it’s best to go there about the same time every day, and stay for a similar amount of time (he says if you’re just new to writing, he’ll allow you a day’s rest a week – but if you’re serious… well, an interviewer once asked him whether he wrote every single day, and he said “yes, except for christmas day, thanksgiving, and my birthday” – but he lied: he usually writes on all those days). You have to go there, allow the rest of your mind to fall away, and let the dreams flow. If you do it regularly enough and for long enough, eventually your muse will get to know where to find you.

–> on to what Stephen King taught me about fiction
–> or a story about the fountain of youth

Andrew Lorien June 01

Postmodernism and the New Dark Ages

<– back to the one true autobahn

A thought i once had for the Postmodern-Christian mailing list, which i left because the good people were too quiet

—–Original Message—–
From: Andrew Lorien
Sent: Monday, 21 May 2001 12:08
Subject: Postmodern Adventure in Biblical Studies
i disagree with the thrust of the article below.
I don’t think the postmodern age is now dawning – i think postmodernism is the dawn of another age. i think the post-modern is also the pre-something else, which we will be able to name when it gets lighter. I think it IS the “overturning”, and the “self-conscious evaluation and critical assessment” of a once-dominant set of values; it IS an adventure, and an exposition of the self-deceptions we had taken for granted. This guy, though, has i think made the very common assumption that this is where we are going to stay. We’re Re-evaluating things. We’re doing Tolerance and Relativism. We’re entertaining Doubt, and investigating Other Paradigms. It’s all very exciting, yes, but it’s exciting because it’s in flux. Things haven’t changed, they’re changing.

But humans aren’t much good at all this live and let live, freedom and equality nd tolerance thing. It never lasts. For the moment, while everything is up in the air, we have no choice (as david says below, “it is unavoidable”). We can and must let everyone own their own thoughts, and say their own piece, if only because (as stressed almost daily on this list), we can’t all agree on the values or authorities we subject ourselves to.

but for all the talk of re-appraisal and re-evaluation, noone seems to really expect that there will be an end. Which there will. eventually, as a culture (or a mess of sub-cultures) we will finish evaluating, and settle quietly down to discover the implications of what we’ve come up with (possibly after the war to decide who’s appraisal wins). This surprises me a lot. There are a few people (my favourite is Umberto Eco), who can put some shape to the culture which will be born out of the death of modernism, but most people are running so hard to keep up (or to escape the Death), that they don’t have a thought for where they’re going. Let us hope we run well, because if we can’t see where we’re going we might easily trip.


—–Original Message—–
Sent: Saturday, 19 May 2001 18:25
Subject: Postmodern Adventure in Biblical Studies
David J.A. Clines
University of Sheffield

The postmodern is the name of the age that is now dawning. It is not the kingdom of heaven, but neither is it the dominion of Belial. It is the moment to which the modern has been tending, the outcome of the Enlightenment project initiated by Renaissance and Reformation. It is the overturning of the values in which we all have been educated, and yet, in another light, it is nothing but the self-conscious evaluation and critical assessment of those values. It is the spirit of the age, yet it is parasitic upon the past. If we are the modern — in our formation, our education and our shared quest for truth and knowledge — , then the postmodern is nothing other than ourselves sceptical about ourselves, ourselves not taking ourselves for granted-which is to say, the modern conscious of itself.

In a word, the postmodern is the quizzical re-evaluation of the standards and assumptions of traditional intellectual enquiry and scholarship. In biblical studies, it is, as Nietzsche would have put it, the re-evaluation of all values-not so as to negate all values but so as to expose the partiality and self-deceptions in the values we have come to take for granted. It is an adventure for us in biblical studies because we do not know where it will take us. It is an adventure because it is risky. But it is also an adventure because it is adventitious-that is, because the moment is ripe, because it is unavoidable, because it is the next step in our exploration of what it means to be humans, to be intellectuals, and to be students of the biblical texts.
from the author’s homepage

–> move on to the car in the field

DEED OF SETTLEMENT between The Church and The Emerging Church

<– back to the parable of the car in the field



The conglomeration of churches of the mainstream variety of several and various locations in the State of Certainty (“The Church”)


The communities of alternative worship, small fire, new worship, cafe style church, fringe, edge, and fresh worship, liquid church of several and various locations in the State of Confusion (hereafter collectively referred to as “The Emerging Church”)


  1. The Church stands possessed of a large number of assets including, but not limited to, spiritual gifts, (cults of) personalities, real property, intellectual property and incorporeal property.
  2. The Emerging Church are experimental fringe communities formed as a result of or in opposition to the Church.
  3. The Emerging Church as a direct descendant of the Church and in consideration of the generally very hard time through which they are put by the Church from time to time, asserts a right of inheritance over the estate of The Church.
  4. The Church and the Emerging Church have been in dispute as to the distribution of assets between the Church and the Emerging Church.
  5. The Church and the Emerging Church have reached agreement as to the distribution of the assets of the Church as composed from time to time and wheresoever situate and desire to reduce that agreement to writing.


  1. The Church shall grant the Emerging Church control over all the assets, properties (both real and corporeal), finances, and traditions wheresover situate, including (but not limited to) the right to sell your buildings, monuments and organs and to spend the money on technology and any other thing appropriately adaptable to the uses of the Emerging Church (“Toys”).
  2. The Church will retain title of said assets as trustees and on trust for the Emerging Church.
  3. The Church shall not act in any way to prejudice the assets of the Emerging Church.
  4. The Church shall retain its position as arbiter of morality and values but only for those within the Church. Nothing in relation to morality or values shall be binding on the Emerging Church.
  5. The Church will respect the position of the Emerging Church as experimental fringe communities until such time as you abdicate.
  6. As the last of your incumbent office holders is deceased, we will assume power of attorney over your aformentioned assets.
  7. From that time, We will be known to all and in all correspondence as “the church”
  8. We will inhabit the structures, both real and political, which you have left.


Signed, Sealed and Delivered by the said #

in accordance with #

In the presence of _____________________(Signature of Witness) _____________________. _____________________ (Name of Witness) ___________________


–> next, the mongrel dog of the church

the mongrel of the church

<– back to the parable of the car in the field

Alternative worship groups are the mongrel dog of the established church. It’s a nice looking animal, and it promises to grow up into something good, but if it starts to look a bit dangerous, or someone thinks it might hurt the kids, they’ll have no hesitation in shooting it.

–> even harsher, andrew’s parable of a local church
–> or, an arrangement the emerging churches might want to employ

Second Last Resting Place

back to the Little Black virtual Book With Red Ends or Leah’s funeral service

Second Last Resting Place

(Thoughts of a long-term nursing home patient) by Leah Francis

My back has been troubling me for years. Now, quite suddenly, I can’t walk. Why? Why? The doctor says old age and a hard life (but I’m only seventy-four). There’s nothing he can do. I just have to stay in bed. Someone suggested I get a second opinion but I feel it’s hopeless.

Ray* has to do everything for me – help me to the commode; bring my meals, everything.

The district nurse comes every second day to shower me, the rest of the time I stay in bed.

Ray has to get up for me several times each night. It makes him tired and cranky. Sometimes when there is nobody around I just cry. Neighbours and relatives are being kind though. They come to visit and sometimes they help Ray. They cheer me up.

There was a family discussion today. Nobody mentioned it to me, but I knew they were all there in the dining room and I think they were talking about me. Do they think that because my legs are gone I shouldn’t be included any more?

Without asking me or warning me, they have brought me to this nursing home. Not for long they say, just until I regain my strength. But I wonder. Ted comes to see me every day. He tells me about home – my home, where I no longer cook the meals, plan our finances, clean, water the garden, feed the birds, welcome our friends. I just sit here and read, and try to knit and watch television. The rest of the family visit, too, bringing me what they think I need; they are decisions that should be mine.

The arthritis in my fingers is worse. I can’t knit or crochet any more. I don’t even care to read. Life has lost its point.

I worry about Ray. He’s getting old and he shouldn’t have to take care of himself. He shouldn’t have the burden of visiting me every day. We should be sharing these last years enjoying each other as we grow old. Yet why am I complaining? I always said I didn’t want any of the family to have to nurse me when I grow old.

Most of the staff are very kind and considerate; though some are impatient and some are tough. They try to force me to do things I can’t do, like walk to the bathroom when they hold me. They all call me Bella, as if I were a child; they talk down to me and bully me, as though I were not an adult at all.

Where is this place? I don’t know where I am. How far away is home? Why can’t I go there, sometimes at least? Some of the patients who can walk go for bus trips, and some have relatives who take them out once in a while. It must be wonderful to see people in the streets, and houses and shops.

Last week they wouldn’t answer the bell and I wanted to go to the toilet By hanging onto beds and doors, half crawling, I managed to get to th bathroom. Then I must have tripped, because I’m in the hospital now, with a broken hip. It hurts so much. People have scolded me for ‘trying to be independent.’ I wish I could die.

People have been sending me cards and writing letters, but I can’t write any more; can’t say thankyou at all. They say there’s a public telephone at the nursing home but I don’t know where it is. Anyway, I suppose I couldn’t dial numbers any more, even if I could get to the phone.

I like the woman in the next bed. They put our chairs side by side in the middle of the day so we can talk together. Mostly we sit alone by our bed and it’s so hard to look directly at people, let alone talk to them. They are so far away. Strange how lonely it gets, even though there are people all around.

We had another concert today. Nice to sing the old songs but it makes me sad, and it makes me think. But, there’s nobody really close to share my thoughts with.

Some days Ray doesn’t come now. Maybe he’s getting tired, of me. Maybe he’s found someone else. Oh, how could I think like that! Poor man, he’s just getting old. If only we could be alone together sometimes. He’s my husband but I never see him in private. Why can’t I go home, at least for some of the time? This life isn’t my life. It has nothing to do with me. I’m in limbo. Nobody needs me, nobody wants me. They come smiling, bringing news, but they are not intimate any more, my family and friends. How can they be, theirs is a different world, and anyway we are always with other people.

Yesterday the entertainers brought percussion instruments with them. We all sounded like a lot of kindergarteners. I started to cry. I thought, that’s just how they think of us, as kids. “Come on Bella,” they say, “eat up your dinner, there’s a good girl.” Well, I suppose you can’t blame them. They have to do so much for us. Maybe second childhood’s right, but I’m nearly eighty. I’ve lived long and worked hard, and I’m not a child.

Arthur came on Sunday. He got me into a wheelchair and took me into the garden, and out into the street. It was wonderful. I wish he’d do it again, but it was heavy work, and matron says I’ll catch cold if I go outside. I’d like to be able to sit on the verandah and watch the cars and people go by but it’s hard to get the wheelchair down the step.

Some of the nurses give us a laugh, and the cleaners can be fun too. They remind us of the world outside, the world I know I’ll never see again.

Leah continues to bring the children. I worry when they come, though I love to see them. I think matron might get angry.

Ray* died. The family told me in the ward with the other women. I wanted to howl, but how could I do that without upsetting the others?

It’s been weeks since Ray died but I can’t get used to it. I keep waiting for him to come, then remembering, and crying. Matron said it would have been easier if they had taken me to the funeral. Then it would have been more real.

I don’t seem to remember what day it is, and when they ask who came to see me, I can’t remember either. If only the pain in my back would go away, just sometimes.

Joan, my friend from the next bed, died last week. At least she’s gone. It happens all the time, someone just goes, dies I’m sure, and the nurses never speak about it. I suppose they think we don’t know. Sometimes I wonder why I’m here with all these dying people.

My mind is getting worse. I keep thinking people are taking my things, forgetting what I should be doing. Sometimes I don’t quite recognise people. My hearing aid doesn’t work any more, and my fingers are so arthritic I can’t move them. My teeth hurt so much I don’t wear them. I can only eat mush. My throat hurts and I can hardly talk.

The entertainers came again today. I felt like a dummy because that’s what I was. I couldn’t do anything they were doing. Couldn’t even hear the music properly. Anyway it was nice for a change.

Very few people come to see me now. I am forgotten.

They’ve started to feed me now, and I dribble. I wear nappies like a baby. Only my eyes are still alert, only with them can I communicate with people.

I’m going to die very soon now, at last, but nobody can understand. Now it’s happening, as I sit in this chair, alone. No one is aware that I’m going………to my last resting place.

13th October 1982



Aunt went into the nursing home at Christmas 1975, and died in 1980. Leah died in 2003.

* Leah wrote this piece with fictional names. We have decided to replace the real names, since the details in the story are nearly all true. –BACK

* Ray Thomas was found dead in the chookyard at 2 Romani Avenue, Hurstville. –BACK

Greg Egan on the future of advertising

Lack purpose and direction?  Axon has the answer!  Now, you can buy the goals you need!  Family life. . .  career success. . .  material wealth. . .  sexual fulfillment. . .  artistic expression. . .  spiritual enlightenment.  For more than twenty years, Axon has been helping you to attain life’s riches.  Now we can help you to want them.

[Quarantine by Greg Egan p. 61]

Johnny Got His Gun

He had a vision of himself as a new kind of Christ as a man who carries within himself all the seeds of a new order of things. He was the new messiah of the battlefields saying to people as I am so shall you be. For he had seen the future he had tasted it and now he was living it. He had seen the aeroplanes flying in the sky he had seen the skies of the future filled with them black with them and now he saw the horror beneath. He saw a world of lovers forever parted of dreams never consummated of plans that never turned into reality. He saw a world of dead fathers and crippled brothers and crazy screaming sons. He saw a world of armless mothers clasping headless babies to their breasts trying to scream out their grief from throats that were cancerous with gas. He saw starved cities black and cold and motionless and the only things in this whole dead terrible world that made a move or a sound were the aeroplanes that blackened the sky and far off against the horizon the thunder of the big guns and the puffs that rose from barren tortured earth when their shells exploded.

He was the future he was a perfect picture of the future and they were afraid to let anyone see what the future was like. Already they were looking ahead they were figuring the future and somewhere in the future they saw war. To fight that war they would;d need men and if men saw the future they wouldn’t fight. So they were masking the future they were keeping the future a soft quiet deadly secret. They knew that if all the little people all the little guys saw the future they would begin to ask questions. They would ask questions and they would find answers and they would say to the guys who wanted them to fight they would say you lying thieving sons-of-bitches we won’t fight we won’t be dead we will live we are the world we are the future and we will not let you butcher us no matter what you say no matter what speeches you make no matter what slogans you write. Remember it well we we we are the world we are what makes it go round we make bread and cloth and guns and we are the hub of the wheel and the spokes and the wheel itself without us you would be hungry naked worms and we will not die. We are immortal we are the sources of life we are the lowly despicable ugly people we are the great wonderful beautiful people of the world and we are sick of it we are utterly weary we are done with it forever and ever because we are the living and we will not be destroyed.

If you make a war if there are guns to be aimed if there are bullets to be fired if there are men to be killed they will not be us. they will not be us the guys who grow wheat and turn it into food the guys who make clothes and paper and houses and tiles and guys who build dams and power plants and string the long mourning high tension wires the guys who crack crude oil down into a dozen different parts who make light bulbs and sewing machines and shovels and automobiles and aeroplanes and tanks and guns oh no it will not be us who die. It will be you.

It will be you – you who urge us on to battle you who incite us against ourselves you who would have one cobbler kill another cobbler you who would have one man who works kill another man who works  you who would have one human being who wants only to live kill another human being who wants only to live. Remember this. Remember this well you people who plan for war. Remember this you patriots you fierce ones you spawners of hate you inventors of slogans. Remember this as you have never remembered anything else in your lives.

We are men of peace we are men who work and we want no quarrel. but if you destroy our peace if you take away our work if you try to range us one against the other we will know what to do. If you tell us to make the world safe for democracy  we will take you seriously and by god and by Christ we will make it so. We will use the guns you force upon us we will use them to defend our very lives and the menace to our lives does not lie on the other side of a nomansland that was set apart without our consent it lies within our own boundaries here and now we have seen it and we know it.

Put the guns into our hands ands we will use them.  Give us the slogans and we will turn them into realities.  Sing the battle hymns and we will take them up where you left off.  Not one not ten not ten thousand  not a million not ten million not a hundred million but a billion two billion of us all the people of the world we will have the slogans and we will have the hymns and we will have the guns and we will use them and we will live. Make no mistake of it we will live. We will be alive and we will walk and talk and eat and sing and laugh and feel and love and bear our children in tranquility in security in decency in peace. You plan the wars you masters of men plan the wars and point the way and we will point the gun.

[Johnny Got His Gun by Dalton Trumbo ]

first published 1939.  so i guess that idea didn’t work out.