27 February 2008

Standing on the dark canal, by the gasworks...Celebrate the ghost gone by, when the love hurts...

You'll all be pleased to know I've recovered from my girl-induced funk and am ready to face the world again. The kind words and friendly jibes and pro-bono counselling from the folks back home certainly did wonders for my self-esteem. But I'll tell you, nothing makes you realise your own self worth like a drunken snog with a married woman at 3am in a seedy bar in Shoreditch (which from now on will be known as Fo'Sho'Ditch).

It was a bumper week for moochers last week. I won a free double pass to a private viewing of the Ducamp, Man Ray and Picabia exhibition at the Tate Museum on Tuesday. They were a bunch of artist friends who hung out in Paris a lot in the early 1900's and inspired each others' art with in-jokes and the desire to subvert existing art forms by combining and defiling them, like using garish colours in a cubist painting...blasphemy! They were interested in ideas and were jaded with the existing forms of art so together they created the Dadaist movement, which is basically an absurdist art form and allows you to do pretty much whatever you want. Barry Humphries was a Dadaist in his early life and you could argue that Dame Edna Everidge is the most enduring creative symbol of that genre. Man Ray was principaly a photographer and he invented solarisation and rayograms, and he was also part of the Paris writers group who created surrealism. The art itself was interesting but I have a love-hate thing going with most abstract expressionism and most of the time I just don't get it. I've seen some of Man Ray's sculptures in other surrealism exhibitions, but Duchamp's "layer" paintings were probably the highlight.

I also blagged a free pass to a screening of 'Edge of Heaven', a film about Turkish people living in Germany. I went there straight after work so I was wearing my square bear clothes which, combined with the loud crunching from my enormous packet of Sainsbury's cheese and onion crisps, earned me scornful glances from my cinema-going comrades. What, I can't like arthouse AND crisps? Just because your arms were too full of berets and Fellini posters and espresso machines and ironic cardigans that you couldn't get it together to bring some snacks don't be staring at me, Artschool! I'll come at'cha! Like a shark with knees! And let's not forget that we're ALL here because we got free tickets, you tight-arse artschool fuckstick moochers...

It's interesting the effect that non-mainstream cinema can have on you. We're conditioned to crave the predictable Pavlovian emotional payoff that Western cimena provides, so when you see a film that eschews it you're left in some bizarre Quantum state of unfulfillment and fulfillment: you want the payoff but you're pleased to have been taken somewhere you didn't expect. Sometimes when you're exposed to a culture you've never seen before, you realise how similar we all are in our reactions when things go wrong. Sometimes when you're forced to witness someone else's pain and the stoicism with which they endure it, you realise you don't really have that much to complain about and a broken heart is a conceit. Sometimes when you think you know everything there is to know about yourself, you realise you're more of a stranger to yourself than are the dozens of people sitting around you. And sometimes you realise that the reason they give away free tickets to arthouse cinema is because it's a great steaming pile of tedious meandering horse shit.

I've decided to look for somewhere else to live. I can no longer do without an internet connection at home and after repeated denials from the landlord to put a phone line in I'm voting with my feet. Plus I've been in the south east for 5 months now so I feel it's time to explore other areas of London and see what they have to offer. Plus, even though the house is great, the rent is pretty steep for what we're getting. I'll miss the cast of High School Musical but it's not like I'm moving to the other side of the world or anything.

Fast-breaking news! I got the good news last night that I've got a new place to live. It's with a couple of lovely aussie girls up north near Clapton Pond. The house is pretty nice in a quiet tree-lined street and I get a balcony overlooking the backyard. It'll be nice to have a few less personalities to deal with and a whole new area to explore. It's in the East End right next to Fo'Sho'Ditch which used to be a bit of a dodgy area, so I'm told. But there's a lot of "urban renewal" going on so there's plenty of trendy bars and cafes and such filled with pretentious cool kids for me to mock and complain about. Have to get my skates on as I want to move this weekend. So exciting!

Anyhoo, that's all for now. Hope you're all thriving in Kevvie Land. Ruddslide!

20 February 2008

When the world falls apart, some things stay in place...Levi Stubbs' tears run down his face...

I've been breaking the theme a little bit over the past few days as I struggle to deal with why girls are so horrible and smelly. When you're pondering your reflection at the bottom of a deep dark well, sometimes you lean over a little too far and fall in. It took me a while to climb back out but when I got to the top, my old friend Mr Cheapwine was waiting for me with his gleaming self-pity mobile and we took a short fast trip back to the Land of Cold and Dead Inside. Funny, the trip didn't take nearly as long as it did last time...

Gradually I've worked my way through the five phases of grief: junk food, cheap wine, chocolate, crying, and wiping your snotty nose on your flatmate's dressing gown, and am almost back to my former cynical and astringent self.

It's times like these when you realise who your true friends are and why they're your friends in the first place. Special thanks to my flatmates Chloe and Luisa for providing the dressing gown and chocolate, respectively. Super special thanks to Libby and Sarah for being my inspirational desktop calendars and giving my self-esteem a swift kick up the arse. And extra super special thanks to Pauly for igniting a flame war in the blogosphere in defence of my balls. Not only is he a true mate but a paragon of all that is Belco Metal.

I started a new role recently on an internal project. I'm the functional architect for a reporting and metrics application, which is a whole new and interesting world. Having the typical feelings of self-doubt and being out of my depth that you get when taking on something new. Fans of the Far Side strip will remember the giant cockroach lying in an alley talking to a bum saying: "I had it all: great job, great car, money, success, beautiful wife. Then one day someone shouted, 'Hey! He's just a big cockroach!'". One sympathises...

The good thing is I get to go to India in a couple of weeks to meet our off-shore development team and try and convince them to respect me and let me wreck their beloved application that they've been building for the past 2 years. The Seagull strikes again!
I've heard some horror stories about what life is like over there so be prepared for some exciting tales upon my return...or perhaps 'should' I return.

Hope to have some good news to report soon...

19 February 2008

The cruellest thing that I've ever known...Time and circumstance taking their toll...As the storm beat and roll...

The cruellest thing that someone can do is not to call you names. It’s not to laugh at you. It’s not to hit you and make you bleed. It’s not to hate you and it’s not even to pity you. The cruellest thing that someone can do is give you hope.

Hope is the rarest and most precious of emotions, even more so than love. Love can be bought, love can be sold. Love can be made and love can be faked.

But hope can’t be manufactured and it can’t exist in a void. You can’t give yourself hope, someone else has to give it to you. But then you’ve fallen in to the trap because you live the rest of your life in fear that they’ll take it away.

Because, like any other curse, only the person that gave it to you can take it away...

18 February 2008

Haiku du jour...No. 1...

No calculator

And I ran out of fingers
Counting broken hearts

12 February 2008

I never thought it would happen, with me and the girl from Clapham...Out on a windy common, that night I aint forgotten...

People often ask me about my tattoo and what it means but, unless you're Paul or Azza, "Belco metal" just doesn't paint a very vivid picture. So for those of you unlucky enough not to be 'Live from the One-Five', perhaps this will help you:

First off, the tattoo itself is representative of two things: Belconnen (Belco) and metal (heavy metal music). These two things together describe my roots, where I came from, where I grew up, and the sort of crowd I hung with and the music we listened to. My tatt consists of two sets of numbers - 2615 and 666 - arranged in a cross with a kick-arse demon skull looming over them. Why? Because nothing says Belco more than '2615' and nothing says metal more than '666'. The kick-arse demon skull speakes for itself and was supposed to win me the title of best Belco metal tatt as per the drunken pact Paul, Azza and I made in the Basement bar just prior to me coming to the UK. But, predictably, the other two piked out cos they're homos and not nearly as metal as they make themselves out to be. Which is just as well for them cos there's no way they could have topped me and they know it.

So what does it mean to be Belco metal? Well, unfortunately, unless you're One-Five by birth you just won't get it. But here's a few examples:
  • Getting a Belco metal tatt;
  • Getting pissed at the Basement bar listening to Rake Sodomy;
  • Doing a piss off the red bridge at Belco Mall at 3am after listening to Rake Sodomy at the Basement;
  • Wearing band t-shirts that young dudes have never heard of like Iron Maiden, Helmet, Carcass, and Teeth of Lions Rule the Divine;
  • Having the same name as the lead guitarist of WASP.
Coincidentally, these are all of the things that Paul, Azza and myself did the last time we went to the Basement bar at Xmas time. That just goes to show how friggin' Belco metal we are...albeit some of us more than others.

Strangely enough, there's a sheet metal fabrication company called Belco Metal so I guess if you work for them you can qualify but only on a technicality.

Looks like Spring may have arrived. The weather on the weekend was absolutely gorgeous, which lent even the most mundane of activities a pleasant edge...

On Saturday I blagged free tickets to a screening of a documentary about photographer Annie Leibovitz at the Institute of Contemparary Arts. It was really interesting, if a little shallow, but it was shot by her sister who I gather is not a professional doco maker so you can excuse it for being more complimentary than in-depth. More that anything else it let her work speak for itself. Which was a good thing because she's a remarkable artist and I had no idea how iconic her images are. I've seen dozens of them over the years and had no idea they were hers. I find her covers a little contrived and stage managed, to be honest, but her real work is incredible. In a world where so many people take endless photographs of shit that's simply around them, it's so amazing to see a talented artist using her tools to show you the beauty in what she sees.

On Sunday there were Chinese New Year celebrations in Trafalgar and Leicester Squares. I missed the parade down the Strand at 11am (cos I was tucked up in bed eating Vegemite toast and drinking coffee straight from my new one cup Bodum) which turned out to be a good thing because by the time I got there the rest of London had already arrived. I know I tend to go on and on about the teeming hordes of people in this city but everything I said up until now has been an understatement. You would not believe the number of people who showed up, crowding and jostling and fighting for a spot miles away from the stage where robot children in garish costumes traipsed and capered about for our amusement. I was sadly disappointed with the calibre of the event as it felt very bland and commercial. Even in Chinatown there was no sense of the real China in any of it, simply something they'd turned on to please the tourists. It was filtered down and tatty and soulless, like something designed by a committee: London's concept of China's idea of London's version of the Chinese New Year in London. All in all a disappointment, mainly due to the selfish and insensitive attitude of locals and the mob mentality of the tourist crowd. For two hours I fought my way through a gauntlet of elbows and howling brats; pretty eurotrash with their tight jeans, big sunglasses and ridiculous hairdos; overweight Americans with their logo-festooned spray jackets and inability to read a map; loud drunken neo-Aussies with their 'I live in LONDON now so I don't have to acknowledge you cos I'm rool fuken classy' attitude; haughty Londoners with their endless tisking and 'we don't DO that in this country' bigotry. So pretty much your typical weekend in central London, really. But the firecrackers were awesome!

Monday night saw me treking over to the Hammersmith Apollo to see Queens of the Stoneage. I bought the tickets months ago so I've been hanging out for this show for such a long time. And the best part was I didn't have to go in Nigel No-Friends mode thanks to Sarah "The Manski" Safranski who put me in touch with her good buddy DJ Lou Reeves who, despite her appalling lack of knowledge about kick-arse rawk music, proved to be a most adventurous and entertaining companion. Regretably, the show itself was something of a disappointment, but exactly why I can't quite put my finger on. The song choice was a not entirely what I would have liked to hear and technically the guys were all in top form (although Josh totally borked the solo in "Little Sister"). Perhaps they're suffering a little from George Lucas Syndrome in that when you're at the top of your game you don't have anything left to prove so some of the fire goes out of it. Overall it just came off as a bit like they were going through the motions rather than truly rockin'. The major highlight of the night for me, though, was the drummer. Two words: Dave Friggin' Grohl! The guy is a monster. If anyone wondered what happened to Animal after the Muppet Show wrapped up and The Electric Teeth went their separate ways, well I can tell you that he went on a 3 week booze and barbituate bender culminating in a hideous gargling death drowning in his own vomit whereupon his spirit rose up and possessed the body of Dave Grohl. The guys arms are like massive industrial cables and he's got new tatts all over his shoulders and pecs and he plays the drums like he's trying to kill them.

Fortunately, I was able to conduct a little
surreptitious reseach while I was there to further my thesis about Maynard's Constant which posits that no matter what type of music you like, everyone likes Tool.

I've just been offered a new role, which I've accepted, with an internal project. Not sure what the work will entail but there's a possibility of some travel to India which is exciting. Good, then, that on my second day I was 2 hours late cos our boiler broke down on one of the coldest mornings this Winter and after the repair men finally did their thing I managed to get on the wrong bus and only noticed when the driver kicked me off at Catford Bus Garage cos I was too busy reading my book. Siiiiigh...

Anyhoo, there's new photos to peruse which you can access via the links on my blog. I hate that term: blog. Why can't it just be a diary or a journal? Blog sounds like something you excrete after a night on the curry and lager. Hope you're all well...

5 February 2008

Towers of London...when they had built you...did you watch over the men who fell?

I've been trying to find a website which would allow me to have all these diary entries and all the accompanying photos in the one place. So far I haven't found anything which works quite the way I want it to and I couldn't be arsed coding something in html. So for those of you who've missed any of my previous missives (or are just dying to read them again) and have links to the latest piccies, I've created a blog where you can see the lot. Check it out at http://blindphineas.blogspot.com/. Can you dig it? I knew that you could. Of course, if you're reading this then you already knew it was here...how existensh!

On Saturday night my flatmate Chloe had birthday drinks at this place called Verve in Covent Gardens. There was a bunch of her gal pals and some work friends and her 3 cool flatmates. It was nice to see her having a good time but I felt so out of place, as one tends to do when one finds one's self in a nightclub at 36 surrounded by hordes of bright young things drawing in attention like they had their own graviational pull. Whereas I'm more like dark matter: there's a theory I exist but no one can actually see me.

On Sunday I went to the 62nd annual Clown Mass at Holy Trinity Church. Every year a bunch of clowns get together to commemorate the memory of Joseph Grimaldi, the father of modern clowning. It was held in this little church in East London near Highbury and Islington and was pretty much your standard church service with prayers and hymns and blessings and all that palaver, but the place was full of clowns doing skits and frightening children, and paparazzi clogging the aisles and clambering all over each other and frightening everybody. All in all it was quite a surreal affair. I sat at the back next to this lovely lady called Elizabeth who is a painter and was hoping to get some inspirational shots for her next series of works. We talked about how evil clowns are and giggled and joked through the whole thing and she even forced me to stand and sing the hymns. Me! The poster child for cynical secular aethist jerk-offs everywhere. Is there no end to the blasphemey? Most of the clowns were horrid old white guys but there was this awesome hot chick clown who caused my bow tie to spin around, let me tell you. But it would never have worked between us as I'd be too scared to go down on her cos her vajootz is most likely full of confetti or an endless string of hankies or something.

For those of you who don't know who Joseph Grimaldi is, check out the previous post to this one called "Send in the Clowns" where I've reposted an article I wrote about him for argus, that awesome lefty Canberra street mag, years and years and years ago.

I saw this contortionist street performer the other day, which got me thinking. When I see a guy contorting and bent over double and all that with his feet locked behind his head, I don't see a breath-taking marvel of athletisism and flexibility. All I see is a bloke who's sucked his own cock. We've all tried it, fellas...but this guy's living the dream! Right about now you girls are all looking at your men folk and going, "Have YOU tried it?" and the blokes are all staring wistfully off into the distance going, "Oh...no, no, no...no. Siiiiigh." Yes, ladies, we've ALL tried. Tried and failed. That's what we're ashamed of: the failure...not the perviness.

I'm starting to feel somewhat at home these days, I guess. Now that there's something of a routine and familiarity in my surroundings. But it's the litte differences that catch you out, the things that should be familiar but are just a bit off. The sensation is called jamais vu, which is the opposite of deja vu, and it's when familiar things seem strange or foreign. For instance, when you go to buy a packet of potato chips all the colours are wrong. Plain is red, salt and vinegar is blue, bacon is pink, cheese and onion is green. It's a world gone topsy-turvy!

I've worked very hard not to pick up the London-Aussie accent cos it just sounds so pretentious and lame, but whenever I think to myself or have a moment's inner reflection, the voice in my head has a really trashy low-rent english accent, cor blimey, you big fat limey, that's a bit risky, have a drink of whiskey.

Next Monday night Queens of the Stoneage are playing the Hammersmith Apollo, which is gonna rawk! I just missed seeing them before I left to come over here so I feel like I'm getting some closure on that one.

Anyhoo, hope you're all well and over the shock of realising it's 2008. Feel free to write back to me sometime, anytime. It's like Civic on a Sunday out there. Check out the blog and the links to all the new piccies...

Send in the Clowns...

"What are you afraid of?"

Ask someone that question and I bet spiders or clowns make the top three (in reality for us men it's vaginas and being caught masturbating, but we'll never admit to either of them). For me, hands down, it's clowns. They freak me out. About the only thing scarier than a clown would be a giant spider in a clown suit, and even then it's a toss up.

The official term for my phobia is coulrophobia. Luckily, I didn't get one of the weird ones like arachibutyrophobia (peanut butter), kolpophobia (genitals), or lutraphobia (otters).

Why are clowns so creepy? It's ironic and sad that a profession epitomising selflessness, devoted to making people laugh at its own expense, could inspire such dread in its audience. Once, when I was five, I went to the circus with my family. A clown was capering aroundthe ring like a bumbling grease-paint dervish and happened to fall down right in front of me. Of course, being a small boy, I pointed and laughed at his misfortune. The clown leapt up, grabbed my legs and started dragging me over the barricade. I was terrified! I dropped my popcorn, spilled my coke, and pissed my pants. I screamed at my parents to help me, but they just laughed. The whole tent was staring, gawking, laughing at me. My pants ripped, my legs bled and I honestly thought I was being dragged to my death. But then, as suddenly as it had started, the nightmare was over. The clown let go and bumbled off to torment some other fragile eggshell mind.

I was hysterical. I cried and demanded we leave, earning me the scorn of my entire family for years.

What goes on in the mind of a man who wears make up? Apologies to the sisterhood, but in my bigoted ignorance (bignorance?) I've never encountered a female clown. In fairness, not all my childhood clownish encounters were bad, but that one horrible incident was enough to sour the whole thing from that point on. One bad egg, perhaps?

Before the days of photography , clowns would paint their face makeup onto eggs as a form of copyright. One such egg bears the face of Joseph Grimaldi, the so-called "Father of Modern Clowning", held to be the progenitor of circus clowns. As with many early clowns, Grimaldi's life was full of misery, in stark contrast to his merry public persona. Clowns are obliged to make us laugh, even when fettered with the misery accompanying any human life. Grimaldi's sadistic eccentric father died when Grimaldi was ten. His son died at thirty from a mental breakdown and alcoholism, and his second wife from a long illness. Grimaldi himself was rendered crippled from poor health and the exertions of his craft and conducted the last of his performances from a chair. Could the tragic life of this "Michaelangelo of buffoonery" have laid some taint upon the lives of his successors? Is his the one bad egg that spoiled the whole bunch? Did the pathos of Grimaldi's life trigger some karmic bozo backlash that has soured the image of clowns ever since?

Here's a joke for you: "My girlfriend wanted me to f*ck her silly. So I wore a clown suit." Now, I'm a funny guy (ask any of my sycophantic friends) but I just don't find that funny. And anyone who does is either a clown or a sicko. Either way I don't want to know you.

* Originally published in argus, Issue 10, www.argusonline.com.au

1 February 2008

The greatest Irish joke in the history of the world...

I thought of this when I was in Ireland and all my Irish friends claim it's not funny but they're just jealous because not only did an Australian come up with the greatest Irish joke in the history of the world, but I also managed to learn a word in their screwy language...

"So I was down at Dublin Castle there the other day and I bumped into your man Bertie Ahearn. I was carrying a bottle of water and I spilled it down the front of his shirt. "Ah jays howrya, Bernie," I quipped. "I guess now we can have a wet Taoiseach competition."

Ba-da boom tish! It's even funnier if you do it in an Irish accent...