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

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.

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.

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.  https://www.flickr.com/photos/andrewlorien/14789810352/in/set-72157646003875946
  • 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.

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.




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

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.

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.

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).

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.

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.


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.

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

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

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

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

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 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 5q4.com 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.


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

“i feel sorry for you”

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


And Judas asked,
“who do you think has received more: the charity which received from the poor woman who gave all she had, or the charity which received from the rich man who gave a small but regular tithe?”


Here’s something i wrote to a mailing list after a difficult conversation about humour

i’ve been thinking about this thread a lot this week, especially since my name was invoked.
i’d like to say i have laughed at adultery, but i don’t think i have.  i’ve laughed with people over the smoking remains of their home, and at death, even by suicide, and at divorce.  but not adultery.

I have been helping a friend release an album – satirical songs, mostly political.  politics and politicians aren’t very funny, but i think humour can twist the issues (and the hypocrisy) in ways that undermine the lies while making the issues bearable.  i’m a long long way from england, but we had a very similar scandal last year, and one of his songs has the line “hey bronwyn don’t be embarrased, you could’ve done worse than poor old gareth.”
he says this:
“We are a generation that no longer expects integrity from the politicians we vote for.  Which means satire has to be done thoughtfully.  It only works if you’re having more fun than the people you are taking the piss out of.”

maybe it’s hard to make adultery funny, but hypocrisy and politics and the media spin and the whole cultural



Breakfast is sacred. From doctors to aerobics trainers, anyone interested in your health will stress it’s importance. Even if you don’t eat it, you know that you should. And you probably have very well-formed ideas of what it should look like.

So you arrive at your cafe of choice with omelette on your mind at quarter past ten, only to realise that breakfast is only served there till ten. Or you’ve been a bit more relaxed, you look at the clock to realise that it’s ten to twelve, and you’re left with nine minutes to get dressed, out the door, and down the block before you’ll be forced to eat lunch. Or maybe it’s one of those days you hardly get up at all, but your rest is troubled by the knowledge that unless you want to head across town to the place which advertises breakfast anytime, you’ll have to be up by four pm, when your favourite breakfast and lunch menus are replaced by dinner.

There are a lot of people who demand the solution that breakfast be served all day. I appreciate their concerns. But for the most part they fail to account for the serious nature of the breakfast experience. By allowing breakfast all day, we run the risk of wholesale abuse of the menu, with people eating hours after waking, or even taking advantage of the system to order from the breakfast menu after they have already eaten a meal, or when the day is over. These ‘breakfast junkies’ are responsible for the decision of many right-minded dining house proprietors to limit breakfast to prescribed hours. Allowing them to indulge their laissez-faire appetites any time would, I suggest, be as bad as the draconian system we now endure.

I propose that breakfast be put back where it belongs, in the hands of the professionals. The chefs and waitpersons understand. The other day I collapsed into the bench seat of a cafe with three friends around midday, and the waiter began to ask whether we wanted the breakfast or lunch menus, checked himself, realised that we had been forced up before our time and had undergone some ordeal before arriving at his establishment, and delivered breakfast menus.

Only a food service professional can be trusted to determine whether, regardless of the time, a customer is in need of breakfast. There are people for whom a piece of Vegemite toast suffices to break their fast, and who should not then be allowed breakfast. There are shiftworkers who sleep all day, and cannot be expected to wake up to pasta or steak and three veg. It must even be said that some time after waking (dependant on lifestyle and metabolism) a person may be said to have missed breakfast, and must proceed directly to lunch. A chef or waiter worth their salt will be able to discern with a glance whether their customers are in need of breakfast.

It is time for cafe and restaurant workers to realise their responsibility, and to provide equity in menu options: breakfast for those who need it, at any time, and a ban on gratuitous breakfasting. The government must institute a breakfast authority. Health professionals such as irridologists and chiropodists, who no one knows what they do anyway, may be employed to perform random spot checks on diners. Eating establishments which through oversight or ill intent do not conform to the demands of the community should be fined or closed down. Breakfast must be served fairly to those, and only those, to whom it is due.

Jesus is Pandora’s Cat

We used to be told that Jesus was the great singularity in history, that his
death was the point at which the great sweep of human history stalled and
changed direction forever.  We were told that there were only Two Ways – the
Light and the Dark, the Wide and the Narrow, the Right and the Wrong – and
that the change of ways was an instantaeous event, which would dawn only
once, and shine brighter and brighter without cloud or rain.

Quantum physics (and it’s sister, chaos theory) have got me thinking that
the singularity is a quantum singularity, and that the two roads hold whole
universes between them.  I have felt that every instant, every experience,
every decision and movement, holds the whole of God’s creation.  All the
beauty of creation lives in the birth of a single tree, and all the ugliness
of original sin in cutting it down.

Jesus is not a discreet point, but a strange attractor.  Jesus is the one
who dances between destiny and possibility.  Jesus plays with your
perception, he refuses to be seen except by those who aren’t looking, he
does what seemed impossible.  And when he flaps his wings in africa, you
better look out for rain.

Jesus is like a cat in a box – you never know whether he’s alive or dead
until you open it up to have a look.  But when you do, be warned: if that
cat ain’t dead, he’s going to jump out, and then everything will be
different.  It’s only a little box, but there’s a whole universe scrunched
in there.

andrew 06/01

the grief

<– back to the parable of the autobahn
or my own disturbingly true story

The Grief, The Loss

…but in the meantime, i’ve been thinking about grief.

the grief of those who didn’t go to their church one sunday, or the one after, or the one after, and soon discovered that noone rang them up, and noone asked them why. what do they do? noone on the inside cares, noone on the outside understands why it matters.
the grief of the old people who have faithfully supported the church they were born into, only to find that when they most need it, there is noone to return that support – and they cannot even be buried in the place they have worshipped, since it’s been boarded up. how do they grieve the loss of the community of their youthful dreams?
and closest to home, the grief of those who have entertained dreams, but who have been rudely awakened – often by those same older, tireder people, who have not the energy to value or even understand the hopes which threaten to pull the rug out from under them, and start sanding the floors.

Maybe if everyone can come to terms with their loss, they can move on a bit and be friends again. and they can all relax their grip on the empty shell of the communities which were, and something new can be born. and once again there might be singing in the streets and laughing in the cafes.

i’ve had some other thoughts about the loss of Knowing, and the liminal (edgy) nature of the post-modern, which i’m convinced is also the pre-Dark age. i think we have to finish burning the modern before we will see what will come from it’s ashes. and a nod to something m scott peck said about the age of Anxiety — having discovered in the 17th century that theology (the Age of Faith) didn’t have all the answers, and in the 20th that science (the Age of Reason) didn’t either, we find ourselves in the Age of Anxiety, struggling with the loss of Knowing. [i’ve just found that he was quoting Auden, who’s alright too]

Andrew Lorien June 01

thanks to Mark Strom for asking

–> move on to what i believe about the truth
or the mourning of the first day

what Stephen King taught me about fiction

<– back to the creative sleep

What Stephen King taught me about fiction and the imagination

He says that writers of fiction are God’s Liars. Their primary duty is to tell us the truth about ourselves, by telling us lies about people who never existed. That seems a perfect description to me. and i like the way it contradicts the idea that all stories (all art) are out there waiting to be discovered. the lies which tell us the truth about ourselves are waiting for us to unearth them. One of the many forms of the Imagination is a gorilla. a mad gorilla, rampaging, dangerous, and totally out of control. We have a cage for it, to keep it from destroying our sanity with its primitive behaviour. Children’s cages are much more flimsy than ours, and while some adults have built safes with time delay locks which never open, others have their minds in such a mess that the gorilla comes and goes at will. Maybe, he says, the reason writers of fantasy often have such young faces is that they they have never taken the trouble to strengthen the cage. They are like the lazy pigs who built their house of straw – but instead of learning their lesson when it gets knocked down, the writer of fantasy simply rebuilds with straw again. In a crazy kind of way, he or she likes it when the wolf comes and blows it down, just as they like it when the gorilla escapes from its cage. When people read (or watch) horror stories, they agree to let the gorilla out of the cage for a while. Within the covers of a book, or the walls of the cinema, it’s safe to let him jump around and smash things, because when it’s over you can close the cage and go outside and get on with your rational, reasonable life. If it’s been a long time though, or you keep your imagination heavily sedated, the gorilla might have developed an institutional mentality, and it might have to be prodded out with a stick. Because you have to let him get a bit of exercise from time to time, or he will get sick or die. And that is a significant loss – even if you’re scared of him, he’s still a part of you. [it occurs to me that you could rewrite this in Jungian terms. i leave that as an exercise for the writer] He also told me that Coleridge was the author of the idea of ‘suspension of disbelief’. Coleridge describes it very well (poetically, even), but stephen king adds the idea that the muscles you use to keep your disbelief off the ground atrophy as you grow up. The younger you are the more disbelief you can suspend. Which means that as you ‘mature’, the things you disbelieve in have to be more and more believable, and the disbelieving has to be done in a carefully controlled environment. I haven’t really done him justice, but it’s all in On Writing.

–> James K Baxter said a very similar thing
–> on to contemplative consumption

Andrew Lorien June 01

Shoeless Man-ifesto

Why I Don’t Wear Shoes

here’s all the answers i could think of in not very long, in about as much detail as they deserve

Because I like to feel things – the texture of the ground, the weather. We don’t use our senses much in the concrete industrialised capitalist western city. We look at the advertising, listen to the crap people go on with, try to ignore the smog, sometimes touch our families but rarely anyone else, and that’s about it. As a human committed to experiencing life in all it’s fullness, making barriers to experience, especially on a bit of my body which is otherwise as open to sensation as my eyes and ears, is abhorrent. Walking without shoes, I experience the difference in texture between soft grass, concrete footpath, pebbly roads, and weedy yards. I feel muddy puddles on a rainy morning, cool shady footpath on a hot day, warm ashphalt on a summer evening.

Because i’m the only person at Sydney Airport who knows, at 5am on a freezing wet July morning, the pleasure of stepping on the warm dry spotlights which are sunk into the footpath.

Because I will be free. I will not put my feet in little prisons for most of the time. My feet, as much as any of the rest of me, want to breathe and move and dance and live. In giving freedom to the foot, we assure freedom to the head.

machine feet, by rebecca

Because naked is good.

Because I’m a cheapskate, and feet grow back. This organic footwear never wears out; when you get holes in them they fix themselves; they don’t need polish or laces; I’m not going to lose them or get rolled by homeboys for them.

Because my feet provide a heat sink, which I need, being a hot guy.

Because I want to maintain equal potential with the ground, that the eternal electricity of the earth may flow freely through my bones.

Because I am the emperor of all I survery, and Mambo makes the emperor’s new clothes.

Because everyone else does.

Because you can sneak up on people. Not wearing shoes, you learn to tread lightly on the earth. And treading lightly, you cause less damage. Too many beautiful things and valuable people are crushed by people who never learnt to look where they walk. Walking without sole armour causes less damage to the earth you walk on, because the damage is reciprocal. When I do choose to wear shoes, through habit I walk more softly, making less noise, causing less damage.

Andrew Lorien august 1998

–> i guess it’s about freedom



A quick page full of links I found when I was having a party to celebrate the end of the world (it didn’t) and had trouble finding a decent jumpstation.

The links are dying fast. You work ’em out
[edit : between 1996 and 2013, 14 of the 17 links below have died – most of the domain names have even changed names. i guess if those people thought the world was going to end there would be no reason to think the internet would keep going. links maintained for historical interest]

I’m pretty sure the next time the world has a good chance of ending is 5/5/2000. So keep the sixth free for meeting your maker.

Of course, it could be October 26 this year (the 6000th anniversary of the creation of the world, according to James Lightfoot), or August 11 1999, according to the excellent people at spiritweb, a repositary of all things spiritual. Sad, though, that they’ve been looking forward to 1994 for so long.

back to narrative