Lazy Luddite Log

30.1.06

Australia Day Long Weekend

I spent the Australia Day Long Weekend along the Ninety Mile Beach (a few hours drive east-south-east of Melbourne) staying with a few friends in a holiday house. It has been a while since I have been away from Melbourne for more than just a day so it was an excellent way to spend a weekend. And the weather was just right for slumming it on an ocean beach - sufficiently warm to want to swim but sufficiently overcast at times to prevent the furnace-like conditions we have been getting lately.

The group was an interesting one - there were five of us and the mix of generations and perspectives and backgrounds was the subject of much fun and conversation. One amusing anecdote is that we had a teenager among us (the relative of one of the others) and she referred to something she objected to as 'gay' (as in the teenage slang of "that movie was gay"). Some in the group are queer and naturally took her to task (nicely) over the use of 'gay' as another word for 'lame' (none of us are crippled so nobody objected to that word). We discussed other words to use and settled on 'vegan' (as in "this album sux - it's so vegan!") just to make fun of the person among us who is vegan.

Pretty much every day involved a visit to the beach. The only circumstance I can think of in which it is fun to get pummeled is in surf waves. We waded and swam right into some waves that packed a punch and left us swallowing salt-water and giggling like children. We also did some walking along that long secluded shore both by day and by night. Particularly at night one gets an exhilarating sense of the enormity of things - the enormity of the ocean dwarfed by the enormity of the sky.

Every day we also lazed about the house snacking and chatting and playing games. The others got into a game of Scrabble that generated some stupid arguments. I had the sense to sit apart and read. The holiday house had a few old novels on shelves for guests to read. I was staring at them and then had a whim to do something I had never done in those exact circumstances - read one of them. I selected Jaws (the novel which predates the 1975 movie) and was surprised. I have never seen the movie (except for the opening and closing scenes) but I expected it to be just another thriller with the shark substituting for the more usual mass murderer. But the thing that made it a page-turner was the way in which it explored the inter-personal relationships and the political economy of a small resort town in crisis. It may have also made me a bit more cautious in my swimming habits!

We did some home cooking but we also went to some restaurants. One night we drove to a town in the region and had dinner at a Mexican restaurant. It was in fact a restaurant run by Peruvians (wonderful cosmopolitan Victoria). I assume they get better custom by packaging themselves as Mexican. However the decor was Peruvian as were some of the menu items. We had some coca tea, which was rather nice in a bland if vaguely fragrant way. It came in commercial tea-bag form. In Peru coca tea is a normal part of the economy and culture but the US 'war on drugs' has been putting pressure on to eradicate the crop entirely simply because one of its applications is the production of cocaine.

By the last day we were all annoying each other a bit and it was nice to get back home. Also I missed what was reportedly an excellent party (the right size for vibrant conversation). But all in all it was a fantastic weekend and very much a needed thing.

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Bohemian Rhapsody versus the Evie Trilogy

Now is the time for some controversy on this weblog. Nobody has been provoked by my political postings so now I will take it to a much more volatile topic – music – with the brave assertion that the Evie Trilogy is better than Bohemian Rhapsody!

Why compare these two tracks in particular? Well they both are classics of the same era (1974 and 1975 respectively) and both can be described as three-songs-in-one (in the case of the Evie Trilogy cut across three separate tracks).

Why is it controversial to say that the Evie Trilogy is better than Bohemian Rhapsody? Bohemian Rhapsody is universally lauded as one of the all-time greatest songs while there are many who will say “Evie who?” It helps to be Australian to know the Evie Trilogy – it was originally done by Stevie Wright (a big figure in Aussie popular music at the time) and was recently redone (very faithfully) by a hastily constructed band – ‘The Wrights’ – comprising musicians from major Australian bands of this time. In the rest of the world many will never have come across this track. The surprising thing is that I am saying it and am known among friends as a big Queen fan. I am. I have even been a groupy (only in the sense of regularly seeing shows of a local Queen cover band). I think Queen is the best band ever but I can still say that Bohemian Rhapsody is far from the best song ever (one definitely gets over-exposed to it).

So why is the Evie Trilogy better than Bohemian Rhapsody? I find the mix and sequence of musical forms explored in Evie more satisfying than those in Bohemian Rhapsody. Also Evie tells a coherent story anyone can comprehend while Bohemian Rhapsody is - well - who knows what.

The Queen track starts with a piano ballad then changes into mock operetta and concludes with some hard rock. So it starts slow and soppy then gets quick and silly (honestly who is into operetta these days – turn off your Gilbert & Sullivan CD while I’m writing at you!) then finally gets hard and fast. I suspect that most fans of the song are really just into the last bit so they can head bang like in Wayne's World and are prepared to sway loyally through the rest of it.

In contrast the Stevie Wright track starts with hard rock (Part 1) then changes to a piano ballad (Part 2) then concludes with something I am tempted to call soul (Part 3) with the vocals and electric organ in particular giving it a righteous feel. So it starts energetic (Part 1) then gives you a bit of a rest (musically) while elevating the emotional content (Part 2) and finally brings back the musical energy while intensifying the emotion even further (Part 3).

My comments on emotional content need elaborating. Evie tells a story in three parts. Part 1 is the story of a teen date sung by the boy saying how hot his girl is and imploring her to come have some fun on the town. It is raunchy and exuberant. In Part 2 we discover they are still together - it is a love song declaring how much for the better Evie has changed the life of the singer and making reference to the fact that they are expecting. It is soppy and sentimental. Part 3 then brings on the 'shock horror' part of the story - Evie dies in childbirth leaving the singer anguished and shattered. It all fits together and takes the listener on a vicarious ride into a whirlwind tale of life and love and death.

Compare this with Bohemian Rhapsody. What is it all about? What thematically brings it all together? Who can tell? Who even cares? We all just mechanically chant 'Galileo Galileo' for the sheer heck of it.

So that is why I think the Evie Trilogy is better than Bohemian Rhapsody. Anyone care to comment?

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16.1.06

Swampy Dream

I woke this morning from a dream that seems worth relating.  I was in some kind of swamp wading in water that was anything from knee-deep to shoulder-deep.  There were reedy parts but also open expanses of water and I was wading along some sort of winding pathway between the reeds.  I was relaxed in this setting except for one time I had to stay still while a snake swam across my path.

Eventually I came to what I was looking for - a big mound made of mud and branches well above the waterline.  I knew I was looking for it despite that fact that I cannot tell you now why.  I also knew that it was hollow.  Someone or something was inside and I wanted them to come outside.  So I started poking at the mound with a stick.  Eventually the inhabitant of the mound emerged - Sith Gollum!

Yep - basically it was Gollum from Lord of the Rings holding a red light-saber a-la Star Wars.  We were initiating one-on-one combat and I think Sith Gollum made some swaggering comment (e.g. "I am strong with the Dark Side my precious") just as I woke from the dream.  On waking I knew there was something peculiar about the character but it took me a minute or so to realise that it drew on two completely different universes - the combination of Gollum + Sith seemed so natural.

This is an unusual dream for me.  The wandering alone in some natural setting is normal.  The presence of a lot of water is also normal.  But the inclusion of elements from fantasy and science fiction is abnormal.  Most of my dreams are more mundane than that.  Substitute a personal friend (or possibly a person who is an amalgam of a few different friends) in for the fictional character and you have a much better picture of what my dreams are normally like.  Of course if it were a friend then we would be chatting over food and drink rather than fighting!

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Photon Twirling

I went to a party on the weekend at which some fire twirling was happening. It's a pity my brother Lukas missed it as he has been very into fire twirling for some time. He has been branching into the use of electronic light batons that look very cool and add a whole new dimension to the craft. Lukas has even got a web address dedicated to fire twirling but is yet to do anything with it. I figure that my linking to it will give him some incentive to put stuff on the site. Others may want to think the same way...

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15.1.06

Products

I have been noticing how particular products have changed over time and the interesting thing is that they seem to have changed for my benefit. Here are a few instances of that…

They played cartoons on Saturday mornings when I was in primary school but then they played music videos when I was at secondary – which is exactly the way I wanted it.

Drinks that were once sold to my parents in big bottles to keep in the pantry to give us kids as a way of getting us to consume something both nutritious and tasty are now sold at convenience stores in small bottles for adults to have ‘on the go’.

And ice creams on a stick that were once the preserve of children are now advertised as ‘adult’ indulgences.

Why? Maybe my generation have more discretional funds than others. Maybe product developers think that we still have childish tastes that simply need rebadging to placate our adult egos. Well whatever it is I am off to get me a Magnum Ego ™ right now…

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1.1.06

Exaggerated Differences

I had a look at a news item today and it reminded me of something that annoyed me during the media coverage of the whole 'Live 8' thing several months ago.

The media and political commentators regularly exaggerate the political differences that exist between interests. During the Live 8 concerts there were lots of opinion pieces in the media (well in The Australian anyway) from writers condemning Live 8 and declaring that the only way to combat world poverty was via trade liberalisation (rather than things like foreign aid and debt forgiveness).

The funny thing was that once you took a look at the Live 8 site you discovered that one of the key things they were campaigning for was trade liberalisation. Yes they also were keen on issues of aid and debt but nonetheless they were all for the reduction of barriers to trade. In other words the bleeding heart hippy musos and the pro-globalisation economic commentators substantially agreed on a very major issue!

Yet if all you had to go on were the writings of those commentators then you would be forgiven for thinking that they and the Live 8 mob stood for violently opposed things. Why did they do this? Possibly these writers resented the fact that musicians who had never had to suffer as they had in studying for economics degrees were now having a significant impact on economic debate. Possibly they cannot see past assumed or superficial political differences. Possibly they enjoy ranting and raving at the expense of others. And possibly it is because they think that conflict and controversy sells papers and that we the consumers expect it of them.

Anyway this is just one of many cases in which the things that unite us are wilfully overlooked for the sake of things on which we differ. The focus in too much politics is in winning an argument (even if it is a fabricated one) rather than in identifying solutions.

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The First of January

We in Australia have nothing like the Independence Day of the United States. Sure there is Australia Day in a few weeks but as it marks the arrival of the First Fleet it is more like Thanksgiving than it is like Independence Day. The nation-state of Australia was established on 1 January 1901 - the date of Federation - but it is never a day we will celebrate as we are all too busy recovering from the excesses of the preceding night!

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