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Send My Conscience Home in a Taxi

Externalised Memory

New Gym Program.... I kicked my own butt!
Drawing of a trike
So I've been working out for just over twenty years now, for which I should get some kind of award - so many people join and then drop out after a couple of months.

I write my own programs these days, because in fact there's really not much to them. Your body has, what, five or so muscle groups, so as long as you're working them you're doing OK.

I do about twelve sessions for a given program, so it came time today to create a new one. I thought rather than more pyramid training I'd try something else. So I re-arranged my program, and started with working my biceps and triceps, rather than doing them last, and then rather than doing an arbitrary number of sets I'd just keep doing sets until I could go no more.

Turns out I'm stronger than I thought, but damn actually training to failure is tiring! By the time I'd done five sets of preacher curls (a type of Bicep exercise) of 50 pounds, I was genuinely fatigued. It all worked, but by the end of my session my body had pretty much decided it was done. I went to do the leg press, where I can usually do three sets of 420 pounds (that's about 190 kilos), my legs just went "yeah no we're done" and I barely managed to do ten repeats.

But it's good, my body now has that pleasant ache you get from getting decent exercise.


Reviewing an Australian film from 1970 - 2000 Weeks
Tram In Snow

Cross-posted from maxcelcat.com

Recently I became aware of an Australian film which I'd never previously heard of. Which is not that unusual, many of them fall through the cracks or are so awful they deserve to be forgotten, and I'm by no means the film aficionado I once was.

The film was 2000 Weeks. I was interested in it because of the unusual title and because when I looked it up, it appeared to be the first of a wave of Australian films after literally decades in which none had been produced. The title refers to how much time the lead character has left in his life in which to achieve his goals.

2000 Weeks

Actually getting to see it proved difficult. It had never been issued on video let alone DVD, and appears to have not been shown since it's first run nearly fifty years ago. It had made a loss when first shown, and had been savaged by critics and audiences, hence the lack of later releases. I searched the usual locations, and could only find a few clips on something called Australian Screen. But the clips fascinated me, if only because of the what they showed of Melbourne and it's people back in the very late sixties. Here were some people of my parents generation in the city they lived in. In fact I bet if I did some digging I could find some connection between my parents and at least an extra from the film.

Eventually I made contact with the National Film and Sound Archive, who had at least six copies in various formats. I thought it woulkd be a struggle to see a print, since the NFSA is based in Canberra. But to my delight they have a small office in Melbourne, crammed into the back of something called ACMI X. If you ask nicely, they'll let you view any item in their collection at their shoebox office.

The print I saw was a washed-out VHS copy complete with timecode. And... I can see why it was not a huge success. It's a very interesting film mostly for the time it documents, the way people dress and talk, and the views of Melbourne. But it's almost like it's three or films or plots mashed into one. There's a story there about the lead character's father being on deaths door. He was, by the way, the one who utters the phrase "two thousand weeks". The lead character also having an affair, which seems to at most trouble his wife. Meanwhile an old friend returns from the UK and there is some quite interesting arguments with him about what we'd call the "cultural cringe". Oh, and the lead character is also busy writing for a major newspaper, which appears to the The Age.

The film is full of details that interested me. There are a number of locations that were probably accurate for the time, but seemed odd to my eyes. For example the protagonists house, which he shares with his wife and two young children, is large, spacious and well furnished, which seemed at odds with his apparent struggle with his job and ambitions. There's a long party scene in the middle which takes place in a house that looks like what would have been a modern home on the fringe of Melbourne at the time, and is decorated with paintings by Boyd, Tucker and other Australian artists. Works that these days would fetch hundreds of thousands of dollars, if not millions.

The film is all over the place. The plot, such as it is, revolves around Will Gardiner, a frustrated journalist who wishes to be something more - a play write or screen writer, telling uniquely Australian stories. But he's also having an affair with another young woman, openly it seems. And is father is in hospital, dying. And finally, and probably most interestingly, old friend has returned from the UK, where he appears to have evolved into an arrogant elitist prat who looks down on the art and culture of his home country.

The print I saw was so washed out - it's black and white - that in a few scenes I wasn't too sure if it was his wife and or his girlfriend whom he was interacting with. And the film jumps about with no real structure. In one scene Will is talking to his boss in his office. In the next scene he's suddenly on a beach with a woman who turns out to be his wife. The next he's on a ship saying goodbye to his girlfriend who is, of course, heading to London like everyone from Australia does. And his children seem to feature in only one or two scenes, and then are not mentioned nor is their welfare of any concern to any of the characters. This was confusing to me as a parent, and added to an air of unreality for me. And in there Will is visiting a hospital room where his father is dying, but somehow manages to terribly over-act. Or Will is driving or drinking or often drinking then driving with his old friend, arguing about Australian culture or lack thereof.

There's one particularly stupid flashback, where Will catches his wife cheating on him. His response is to strip off her dress and burn it in a fireplace. This was accompanied by an overwrought voice-over by Will talking about Love and it's meaning. The voice-over is present in most of the film, when Will is not actually talking at one of the female characters. Both of whom would have been well advised to give him the arse.

This should have been two or three films really. At most it's a very interesting document of the times, the attitudes and even just the cars, clothes, buildings and the endless cigarettes. These were young people at the time, but look today like that group of baby-boomers whom are now the establishment. I envied their enormous houses filled with great art, and their relatively untroubled lives, and their lack of concern for anything like money or having spare time. This film made today would have been set in some much smaller spaces, and paying the rent would have been a plot element. The one theme that particularly interested me, the lack of an Austrlian cultural voice, is well and truly not an issue. At least in part because of films like this, it must be said.

A footnote: In response to the commercial and critical failure of 2000 Weeks, the director Tim Burstall, whose previous work included Sebastian the Fox, helping found La Mama Theatre, and documentaries about Australian artists, went on to make the cringeworthy "sex romp" Alvin Purple. Which, by contrast, was a huge financial success... can't beat boobs...

Goodbye Livejournal......
Drawing of a trike
So, it's been a while. Looks like my first entry on was on July 26th of 2005. (Which I can barely look at - it's entirely about my then-girlfriend, a very unsuitable lass some 11 years my junior...)

But... The time has come to leave.

Livejournal's gotten quiet of late. When I say "of late" I mean since about 2010. LJ pre-dates such notable sites as Facebook and Twitter, and they have largely usurped all the things that made livejournal interesting, and pretty much killed blogging.

LJ was the one of the first sites that encouraged connections between people and encouraged updates on what you were up to. Now I can do that ten times a minute with Twitter. And slowly all the people I knew on here either stopped blogging, or moved to different blogging sites, or simply disappeared from the online world entirely. I can't even remember their usernames now, let alone their real names.

And I'm to blame too. I used to blog here every few days, now it's maybe a few times a year. I tried starting several other blogs, but between working full time, having a four year old son and trying to get some exercise, I don't have a whole lot of spare time.

But I resisted moving from LJ for many years, as people migrated to wordpress and Dreamwidth. Mostly because I'm actually something of a software and platform Luddite (which is funny because I'm a software engineer), I still use Winamp for example. If I find a think I like, I tend to stick to it till well after it is no longer supported.

I stuck to Livejournal even when it was bought out by Russians - which made sense as a business deal since there was a lot of Russians on here. I stuck around even as Livejournal became something of a wasteland.

But then.... There were stories that the site's servers had been moved to Russia, which doesn't bode well if you don't want people going through all your data. And then... There was the TOS. Russia has imposed some draconian laws on it's bloggers and online sites, banning discussion of politics and all things LBGTI. I can't in good conscience support or use a site that does that....

So from here on, I'll be on Dreamwidth. You can also find me on Facebook and Twitter.

Goodbye Livejournal, it's been an interesting ride.

LJ 18th anniversary
Drawing of a trike

#mylivejournal #lj18 #happybirthday

Of course.... I'm about to leave....

Belated Blogging: Seeing The Loudest Band on Earth
Once again I find myself blogging about events that happened nigh on a year ago. I know it was nigh on a year ago because it was the day after I got my EN logo tattoo, and that was... getting on for a year ago.

The loudest band in the world is Sunn O))). The O))) is of course silent, so their name is pronounced "Sun". The origin of their name is lost in the mists of time is because they're fond of a brand of amplifiers called Sunn, whose logo was placed next to the name and looked a bit like an O witht three brackets.

I digress.

Sunn O))) are the loudest band in the world. And not just in a the way The Who once had 50,000 watts of amplification. Or The Grateful Dead's Wall Of Sound.

Crikey that's a lot of speakers...

No, all the above bands are rock bands who happen to play very fucking loud. For Sunn O))), loud is their modus operandi, it's the reason they play, it's an essential part of the band. They're more like the band Disaster Area from the Hitch-Hiker's Guide to the Galaxy.

They're so loud they don't need to turn on the PA at they venues they play at. They're so loud they hand out free ear plugs to audience members.

On top of which, they usually pump enormous quantities of smoke into the venue, and dress in druid outfits... Then play songs that go for upwards of twenty five minutes each.

An actual shot of the band playing.

I saw them in March of 2016, in a basement venue called Max Watts. I was unfamiliar with the venue until I realised it was the HiFi Bar, renamed. I spent a lot of time in that dive, mostly seeing TISM.

The building shook. Dust and old confetti worked loose from the ceiling and drifted down on the crowd.

They're the kind of band whose songs you can feel in your chest cavity. I swear a number of audience members had some kind of spiritual experience.

Lift me, Stephen O'Malley!

Sunn O))) are like music boiled down to its essence. No attempts at rhythm, no drums and few vocals. And those only screamed. Except for one notable, very strange song with Julian Cope. I enjoyed them from well at the back with industrial earplugs in my ears!

Anyway, here's a concert to give it a listen, turn it up loud:

This almost melted my laptop...

Belated Blogging: Getting a new Tattoo
Einstürzende Neubauten
Seems I failed for just on a year to blog about the tattoo I got. That'll tell you how much spare time I have of late. Oh, it doesn't help that the last tattoo I blogged about was an April fool's joke.

Of course, no tatt I get is ever quite going to top the fame my last tattoo achieved. Here it is on on the Science Tattoo blog, which later became a book. My leg it on page 154 or so!

When I get a tattoo, I like to really be sure about what I'm getting inked on my skin, since it's going to be there forever. Which is probably why I've only gotten three tattoos over the space of twenty-three years. Which averages out at, what, one every seven years? I figure if the design still takes me after a year or so of thinking about it, then it's the correct design. Unlike some folks - while I was getting this done several folks walked into the tattoo studio, seemingly on a whim, and looked for designs from their design books. Folks, this is going to be forever remember!

In this case, it took a lot longer to get needle applied to flesh. I first had the idea around 2011 or so, and vaguely planned to get it done around the time I got "married" in November 2012. I even did a design, which I eventually used. Then life took over - we had a kid, moved house, my partner broke her leg. I was broke. But the biggest impediment was actually finding a tattooist.

Something about the design will help you see why.

I wanted to get this:

But done as if it had been stencilled. That's the logo of the band Einstrende Neubauten, a pioneering German industrial band I happen to be a fan of. But more than that, it's a fantastical simple symbol that makes for a great tattoo. And indeed it been tattooed so many times it's not funny. Here are a few hundred examples, including on on the shoulder of a certain Henry Rollins. And indeed at least two people I know.

It also says something to me about being into music, the owners of said tattoos all being super enthused about music.

Now I like to get unique tattoos - not for me the heart with a dagger through it, with a scroll and someone's name. So I thought how can I join the community of EN tattooed folks, but in a way that's unique? That's where the stencil idea came in. Because I'm also from Melbourne, which is rather known for its stencilled art.

I took the design back to the place I got my previous tattoo, Robot Shogun in the now defunct Peril Underground record store, and they said it couldn't be done. So I left it be for a few years (see also aforementioned child, wedding, moving house, lack 'o cash and broken leg) until I found I had a small stash of cash that I'd forgotten about. The I went looking online for tattooists, starting with the websites for tattoo expos, because they're full of galleries of work by local tattooists. I narrowed it down to a couple, fired them off a scan of my design, and lo I got a positive response from a guy called Spud in a studio up the road from where I work! I went in in person and showed them my designs, they said "Sure we can do it Tuesday". So after some five years of planning it was happening in a few days.

Here is the design on my leg before inking:
Outline Standing

And here's the finished product:
Finished Tattoo

The whole album is on flickr, including some shots of Spud hard at work.

The whole thing took the better part of four hours, in one sitting. This is by a fair margin the biggest tattoo I've gotten, although the sample size is small! I was a bit spacey afterwards, a bit like I was in shock. For the record, tattoos hurt. I think Spud got the spray effect with a wide brush needle, which gives a faint layer of colour rather than solid one.

You know you're getting a good tattoo when other tattooist in the parlour come and admire it. You know you've got a good tattoo when random people come up and ask about it. Also, and this is odd, because I planned it for so long, now that I have it it feels right, like my leg was always meant to be that way. And also it goes against tattoo convention, it already looks old and a bit rough around the edges because it's meant to.

The very next evening, I celebrated my new music-related ink, by seeing the loudest band in the world, Sunn O)))

Finally, I can recommend the work of East Brunswick Tattooing.

No more music stores...
Drawing of a trike

Spent the day in the centre on Melbourne.

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Not a huge fan of sports, however....
So I'm not a huge fan of sports in general. At school I was more your nerdish booky type - which in retrospect is odd given I'm quite strongly built. The one exception is, oddly, American Football, also known as Gridiron or, less charitably, Hand Egg.

A game with rules so complex that one needs to watch for three or seasons just to figure out what is going on. A game where an important part of the action is the two teams lining up either side of a ball on the ground, and just staring at the each other. A game where each team brings something like forty three players to a game when at any one time there are only eleven on the field. A game where if the ball is in fact kicked, there are two different team members who specialise in certain kinds of kicking.

I digress.

Needless to say, the Olympics usually pass me by. I'm not filled with the Olympic spirit, I'm not interested in watching a sport as dull as rowing just because I share a home nation with some of the competitors.

But there was one athlete, or more specifically one athlete and her story, that caught my attention. Not least because she is a she, and women's sport is both poorly reported and poorly resourced.

I first heard about Claressa Shields in the lead up to the 2016 Olympics, I think from an article in the Guardian. Long story short, Claressa comes from the very tough town of Flint, Michigan, started boxing when she was eleven and insisted that her dad - who spent a lot of her childhood in jail - teach her. And at the 2012 games, at the age of just seventeen, while still in school, she fought her way to become the first women's Olympic gold medallist. Women's boxing was only added to the Olympics for the 2012 games because, hey, women you know, shouldn't be allowed to do certain things just because.

Oh, they also reported she'd had trouble getting sponsors because she wasn't ladylike(!) enough and said things like "I like hitting people".

One problem with my continued disinterest in sport is that when I do watch it I often have no idea what is going on, nor what differentiates a good athlete from a mediocre one. For example all I really know about boxing is from watching When We Were Kings. Highly recommended by the way. But I decided to watch Claressa fight at the Olympics anyway. In 2016, aged now only 21, she was defending her title.

And damn, she hadn't even stepped into the ring and I could tell she was good.

Most of the boxers would wander out behind someone holding a banner for their country, jump around and stretch a bit. Claressa come out with a look on her face like she wanted to kill someone.

In the three bouts I watched she was amazing. Again, I don't know much about boxing, but it quickly became apparent that she was very very good at it. She had no wasted motion. She stand almost still till her opponent took a few swings at her. Then she'd dart out of the way so none of them connected. Then she'd take her time and land a whole lot of brutal punches, punches that would have sent me reeling, even if I was a lot fitter and stronger than I am. In one bout her poor opponent was left gasping on the ropes, wondering what had hit her!

This was the only vid I could find of a full boxing match, from the Olympic qualifications:

Needless to say, she won the gold medal, again. First American to win back-to-back Olympic boxing medals. She's only 21 so she might well be back for two more Olympic games. I might just have to follow her career now.

Election Day was a depressing experience
Cross-posted from www.maxcelcat.com

For political junkies like myself, election day is supposed to be something of a highlight. Actually living through a very long election campaign when you've made up your mind some years ago how you're going to vote is not that much of a spectator sport. I just wanted it to end and for there to be a result - hopefully one that I liked.

But the actual process on election day was depressing, not just because I missed out entirely on a Democracy Sausage. For the first time ever I was handing out how-to-vote cards for a party other than the ALP. Following my decision to leave the party after more than twenty years as a member, I threw my lot in with the Greens. Particularly in the seat of Batman because of a particular dislike of the sitting member, David Feeney, a waste of oxygen from the ALP who was gifted the seat after being dumped from the senate. And a particular liking for for Greens candidate Alex Bhathal.

I was also roped into helping in the seat of Scullin, where I now live. And which is a very safe Labor seat. So for three hours in the afternoon I was handing out how to vote cards at a high school in Lalor. On the plus side, it was a fantastically diverse group of people there voting - I handed fliers to Kooris, folks of African extraction, retired migrants of a Mediterranean background, women in Hijabs, including a large number of feisty young woman, and a few in Niqabs. Lots of folks coming from works in the paint-cover clothes.

But then there was a fair percentage of folks who were completely confused by the whole process. Some were first time voters, tall teens who had never done this before. But a fair number were just perplexed, and were asking us, the how-to-vote folks how to fill in the ballot papers. I've always thought the voting process here in Australia was relatively straightforward, consistent between elections and explained a fair bit. But apparently not... We found ourselves explaining the two ballot papers, about how you had to number all the boxes on the green ballot, and who all the parties were. People were saying they'd only ever heard of Labor and Liberal, and were perplexed by all the other parties. I'm not sure what the percentage of informal votes where at the booth, but I suspect it was quite high. Which makes me sad that some folks didn't get to express their preference.

The more depressing event was the two other how-to-vote folks there whom I ended up having a conversation with. The first was a chap from the ALP, who quite readily told me he was a member of the Labor right. The thing that impressed him the most while we were there was a Mercedes that pulled up. He was telling me how much it was worth. A lot, it would seem, the kind of money I would use if I had to have, say, half a dozen sponsor children.

Then I got into a heated discussion with a women from something called the Australian Christian Party. Her sole concern was her strenuous opposition to the Safe Schools Program. She told me an extraordinary stream of misunderstandings and lies about same-sex couples in general and the Safe Schools program. According to her one of the main creators of the program was a pedophile enabler. I asked her what on earth she was talking about, and she quoted me something from a paper this person had published. To me it sounded like the gist was "Teenagers who are same sex attracted, queer etc. need same-sex adult role models" - a perfectly obvious thing to say. But no, according to this mob that meant they were meant to sleep with adults. Other aspects of the program that made her angry: Role playing as Gay or Lesbians as a learning experience - this was teaching kids it was normal to be that way and no doubt converting them. That being LGBTI was being normalised, while claiming at the same time that there was nothing wrong with being gay so long as she could prevent anyone under twenty from ever hearing about it ever. Because of course no teen has ever been bullied for being out.

As you can imagine, she was vehemently opposed to same-sex marriage. Because, I kid you now, marriage is defined by god and science! She could not explain what that meant. I told that she was denigrating the relationships of some of my good friends, and that marriage was a social construct - which she didn't understand.

And then the guy from the ALP chipped in that he too opposed same-sex marriage. Apparently all the religions he was familiar with opposed it. Which I would have disputed but I run out of breath and time. It seems words in a two thousand year old book, and indeed a 1300 year old book hold more import than the diversity of the modern world. Here I was reminded again why I left that political party... Which was confirmed firmly when I discovered they'd preferenced Derryn Hinch in the senate!!

I thought of my friends who are in same-sex relationships, or who a cross-dressing or indeed just not gender-bound. And I felt sorry for them, if this is the kind of frankly irrational opposition they face. I don't have a problem with people being conservative, but I have a strong objection to people holding completely incoherent views that have no solid basis. I'm going to teach my kid how normal this stuff is in a fairly simple way - in fact I largely won't need to, since he'll be surrounded by gay and lesbian couples.

I upped sticks from that booth and headed over to a primary school in the seat of Batman. Happily the mood was different there. I stayed after the polls closed to scrutineer. In this seat the contest was been the Green, my candidate, Alex, the ALP and in distant third at Liberal candidate. There as a total of eleven candidates, but in the booth I was at some of them attracted all of eight to twenty five votes each.

They sort the lower house ballots into piles by first preference votes. There was three notably piles - ALP, Green and Liberal. And one other pile of note - the informal votes. This grew depressingly large. I watched the ballots that went into that pile. A number of them were people who clearly didn't give a stuff, they'd left the ballot blank or crossed the whole thing out. But a large number of them really had tried, but they'd messed it up. Putting a tick or a cross in one box. Numbering only six of the eleven boxes, probably confused by the new Senate voting rules. The informal pile grew till it numbered nearly 10% of the total votes cast. Which depressed the hell out of me. Batman is likely to be decided by a margin of less than 1%, and here was a huge number of people who wanted to vote a certain way and failed.

The next step of the process is to distribute preferences. The three piles were roughly 1000 votes for the ALP, 450 for the Greens and 415 for the Liberals. The Libs were distributed between Green and ALP, because across the whole seat the contest would be between the other two parties. And so I got to watch still more votes head towards the ALP... The Liberal how to vote card had preferenced the ALP tenth and the Greens eleventh. So some 70% of them went in the ALP pile. There I was watching a party I intensely dislike deliberately sabotaging the chances of a party they intensely dislike. I know it's not sabotage but it certainly felt that they hated the Greens more than they hated their traditional rivals the ALP.

I eventually headed home, despondent, and watched the results come in on ABC. And here I was bummed out yet again. I've spent that last three years watching in horror as the conservative government in Canberra has demonized minorities for their own gain, in the process enabling a number of racists to rear their ugly heads. And trying to destroy fabled institutions like Medicare and the ABC and the union movement, repealing working carbon reduction legislation, lying about their being a refugee crisis, nobbling the NBN and... Well, it felt to me like every day there was something new they were doing to get angry about. And here they were on election night in with a fighting chance. Rather than being dumped out office by an outraged nation, there they were sitting almost neck-and-neck with the opposition. Rather than having a prime minster having to make a humiliating speech of defeat, we had smug blue-tie wearing Liberals saying they were hoping to form government again in a few days. I'm not sure what the combination of rage and despair is called but that is what I felt. And to find that the senate is going to be worse than the last term. Pauline Hansen, the prototype racist nutjob is back. Derryn Hinch, a loud angry white man may be in there. Jackie Lambie will be back possibly with a friend. The next three years are going to be grotesque.

I had a fitful nights sleep. I'm going to be spending the next few days refreshing the AEC's website for results.

New Tattoo!
Drawing of a trike
Well, it's taken me another eight years since my second tattoo, but I've finally got myself another tat!

Inspired largely by Mike Tyson, but all by that "Alien Doctor" from Dr Who, who it turns out is of the species Kahler, I decided the best way to make a statement with this tattoo was to get it on my face.
02 - face tat - Glad Wrap.JPG
It's still under wraps, obviously, because it's fresh. They cover them with glad wrap for the first few days to help them heal.

Deb was none too pleased:
It was a surprise to her. I mean, she knew I was getting a tat, but not one like this!

I can't tell you who did the work, since it's still (I believe) technically illegal in Victoria to get tattoos on your face. Tattooist will do it, but you have to be careful. It was a safe and clean place, and anyway, I've been immunised against Hep A and Hep B.

I took the covers off briefly to get a picture. Sorry about the shitty quality, I'll get a better one in a week or so when it's healed properly:

What do you think? Makes a statement doesn't it!