mr. zilla goes to town

Wednesday, September 29, 2004

it's time

At lunchtime today I ducked into the Australian Embassy's polling booth to get my democracy on. I bloody well love voting. I can't fathom how people consider it a chore or would pass it up given the choice. My interest goes back over twenty years now and I can pinpoint the very day where it all began: March 5, 1983. It was a momentous day in late 20th century Australia. It was my seventh birthday.

In the early 80s, my family lived in a fine old house in Wooloowin in inner northern Brisbane. We hopped around a bit from place to place in those days, and we only lived there for about four years until moving to Canberra when I was eight. But this is the place I distinctly feel was the formative place of my childhood. It had a great backyard for cricket, a tree house in a mulberry tree full of mulberries perfect for smooshing on your older sister, and a gaggle of neighbourhood kids to play cops and robbers with, pick fights with, make up with, and ride BMX bikes with pell-mell through Kedron High School across the street. I went to preschool and started school here, incessantly worried out a whole lot of my baby teeth, saw my first stripper get all her gear off, that kind of thing.

I remember the curiosity I had as we headed out on the sunny Saturday of March 5th 1983 because the folks added this odd thing called "voting" into the roster of much more essential events of that Saturday, which in particular involved buying my long anticipated Lego Police Station birthday present. Voting must have been pretty important to get in the way of the annual festival of Cynan.

Adding to this festival further, on this day I tied the knot with an abiding love that has spanned the intervening years unbroken. A couple of days before I had brought home from school a pamphlet from the nearby Teacher's North's Rugby Club looking to re-build their junior ranks, and giving rugger a belt seemed like a pretty tops idea. I was turning seven after all and had to make sure life didn’t just pass me by, strippers notwithstanding.

So in amongst the Lego Police Station and the voting and all kinds of usual Saturday morning running around, a trip to Shaw Park was made and I registered and became perhaps the tiniest ever Under 7's player in the state of Queensland to pull on a club jersey. Thriving in the barefoot 10-a-side style of QRU play, I put my success in my first season at hooker down to one particular night spent at Nana and Pop's place in Redcliffe where I had to share a bed with my younger-but-bigger cousin down from Rockhampton. Billeted with heads at opposite ends of the bed we proceeded to kick the living snot out of each other all night and the techniques discovered there worked a treat in the scrums of other wee tackers like myself. The following seasons on up through under 13s at flanker and then halfback were never quite the same, but the game was in the blood by this stage and to this day I find rugby loooiige to be as boring as puppy dung and the entire code worthy only for stealing useful players from.

So anyway, as far as I could tell the actual mechanics of "voting" involved the parents leaving us kids in the car to play with the indicator lever and scrabble piteously at the window as the temperature rose, and go into someone else’s primary school and into a little booth to do a crossword puzzle or maybe a number game, and when the tests were marked the person who got it the most right got to pick the Prime Minister. Or something. It didn’t seem really fair that only adults got to vote, though at this tender age I had already learned after badgering my Pop for a whole stubby one day that it wasn't the only thing that dastardly adults kept from us. No doubt I had my very own keen appreciation of the dynamics of class struggle and bourgeois paternalism, but of course had to keep a lid on it if that Lego Police Station was going to trickle down before sun down.

Of course March 5 1983 didn’t turn out to be just any old federal election, but a bloody beaut affair that brought world record holder (for sculling 2 ½ pints of beer in 11 seconds that is) Robert James Lee Hawke into office. It didn’t matter that he had become a teetotaller in the years since setting the belchmark, I think the respect was there regardless from the boofhead community and no doubt it’s a similar vein that armbreaker Marky Mark taps with little difficulty. It’s like once in a generation the ALP party machine seizes up and a leader with genuine populist charisma climbs over a few busted gears to the top of the machine, Metropolis-style.

This Labor government then went on to stay in power right up until I got the chance vote in my first federal election in 1996, and wouldn’t you know it I've been bloody trying to get the buggers back in ever since. Maybe there's something I'm doing wrong in the polling booth, since although obtaining a polsci degree I never became any good at crosswords.

Still it makes me wonder whether every time I vote for Labor (or these days, preference them at least) there's a small part of me trying to recreate the halcyon muddy mornings of childhood ushered into my world by the reign of RJL Hawke, or perhaps it is nostalgia for the occasional peaceful afternoon after school spent in the company of tiny smiling policemen who were never ever without a smile, even when you ran over their heads with the lego train.

Either way... go Mark. Get over the line mate. Inspire a new generation of slightly confused young tackers and put an end to this rocky Howard horror show for the rest of us.

Sunday, September 26, 2004

I've got my orange, and red

Last night Suzy and I and a couple of friends experienced the slack-jawed, hypotising thrill of being at a two hour performance at the 9.30 club by Japanese turntablist DJ Krush.

I'm really left grapping for the right superlatives to describe how technically and sonically impressive the set was. Indeed I can only dimly grasp at exactly how Krush was achieving the output he did. Set aside the talent required to master a triple-turntable technique, for the first forty five minutes of the set Krush was mixing and tripping an amazing array of rhythms using just ONE wheel. Talk about zentertainment. Using one deck he appeared to be loading loops through a sample box in his tricked out mixer and then (I think) throwing them through a series of software VSTs in the laptop on the desk - albeit a laptop he never actually touched except to close when moving to two vinyl drives later on - then feeding the loops through reverbs and filters and rapidly reassigning crossfader and EQ controls between the assigned echoing loops. Or something.

Whatever it was, it was magic. And its as if the only thing that the near capacity audience could do most of the night was stand in dumbfounded amazement as waves of triphopped illbience washed over us from a foreign shore.

Continuing on we swung by Dragonfly for a drink or two, a schmooze or two, and to note the best REM remix I've heard (and there are some awful ones out there) - a white label called "Abusing My Religion" by SFB which thanks to the wonders of the internet I've been able to have a good listen to at home this afternoon.

We rounded out the night at Red, a place I think is DC's finest late hour venue for quality house music. Empty at 1am and packed at 4, it's a treat for the aficionados of all stripes; whether they're Bolivians who want to merengue your girlfriend out the door, Marines who want your help to score some coke before they ship out to Iraq, or the occasional slightly lost but happy gay Austrian who nonetheless knows his way around a bottle of baby powder. It's where the poseurs go after they clock off posing around and need somewhere uncluttered and dark to get sweaty - either on the dancefloor, each other, or sometimes both. All around the world (or at least the pieces I've seen to date) there's a seductive velvet darkness to be found at the heart of clubland, and on the weekends Red definitely has a captured piece of this.

Saturday, September 25, 2004

and you thought he was cool before

Sometimes you come across the most interesting things when you're killing time in a record store.

A long time ago, long before he started doing a Noel Pearson and laying some tough love verbal smack down on members of his own community, Bill Cosby was a comedian, a variety show host, a Doctor Heathcliff Huckstable, and all the way back in 1969, high school teacher sitcom star of The Bill Cosby Show.

Now as well as being best of buddies with Fat Albert, Cosby was also mates with jazz legend Quincy Jones who provided the soundtrack to much of Cosby's television work in the late 60s and 1970s. As musical director for the Bill Cosby Show, however...

Jones assembled a crack team of prominent jazz and funk artists to create a soundtrack and essentially left the tape recorder running during numerous informal jams. The sessions, however, ended up in the vault and were forgotten until over 30 years later when the “lost tapes” were rediscovered during an office move....

“We discovered some boxes labeled ‘Quincy, Jimmy Smith and Oscar, 1969,’ and about fell out of our chairs,” explains Marc Cazorla, executive producer for Quincy Jones Music...

And the rest is history. The end result of their chance discovery is that not only can you get your hands on the Original Jam Sessions from 1969 but a fresh and diverse New Mixes interpretation of the body of work by the likes of Cornershop, John Digweed & Nick Muir, and Mix Master Mike just to name a few.

...and Noah said, riiight... what's a remix?

Well I picked up the New Mixes CD I found in the store that day, and it is bloody marvellous. Thirteen tracks of low down and laid back, or deep and dirty diggin funk that is an absolute treat to pick out and slide into one of our Blue Room DJ sets early on in the night. There's nary a shadow of a house beat to be found and you can feel the respect for the original vibe that have gone into the re-production work - even though some are not remixes at all but new creations based completely on samples from the 1969 sessions. So to Graham and any other folks out there who are finding the word funk irreverently applied, get your ears into these grooves.

Here's what one reviewer elsewhere had to say...

Of the many highlights on the release, the wiggle of Herbert's "Technically Amateur Mix" may be the most creative, taking the sound of the Fender Rhodes keyboard to a jaunty, carnival-steam-organ place. You may be tempted to dance like a chicken laying a dozen eggs all at once, or you can add your own vocals for extra fun (as in "root, puh-toot, puh-root, puh-toot-toot"). And don't forget to flap your wings.


Friday, September 24, 2004

inexpert expats

Thanks to a tip off from Tim Dunlop last night I ducked up the street after work to the Brookings Institution for a panel discussion on the Australian election.

I was a little disappointed with the panelling to begin with, I was hoping to hear some thoughts on the election back home filtered through American perceptions. To some degree the Brookings host Thomas Mann provided this element and I'll come back to this however three Australian panelists weren't much chop. It was only moderately interesting, but at least they were disagreeable.

Phil Coorey, a News Ltd correspondent out of New York put forward that the oz election was being fought on (hip pocket) domestic issues - the likelihood of increasing interest rates combined with high household debt exposure bringing economic management to the fore, but also health and education policies being key components of the debate. Walking out the door afterward though I regretted missing the chance to stir him up about Murdoch editorial policies pre/post Latham's declaration to bring the troops home by Xmas.

Rod Lyon, a strategic studies boffin over on a Fulbright, tended to wander in verbal circles, said that security issues haven't been as important in a generation as in 01/04, but didn't provide a convincing engagement with the election much beyond a smug announcement that he expected Howard to be returned, or counterargument to Coorey that much of the electorate are actually going to vote on the basis of security issues this time around.

"Doddering daiquiri diplomat" Alison Broinowski was perhaps the most entertaining speaker, if unwittingly, drawing occasional smirks from Coorey and beet-red flushing from Lyon. Unfortunately (and Tim D goes into some detail on this) she often also came across as less considered than the mere Murdoch hack and slightly shrill. I'm as lefty as the next person with enough brain cells to rub together to recognize the stinking pile of ideologically blinkered foreign policy incompetence we've been dropped in, but Broinowski had me flashing back to numerous undergrad polsci tutorials at ANU where you shrink into your seat at the ramblings sans reality of earnest campus lefties. Unalloyed praise for activist/journalist Margo Kingston doesn't sit too well with me either, nor did her somewhat preciously referring to the 43 signatories (including herself) being described as "the immortals" by some. For goodness sake.

Broinowski argued that Iraq and foreign policy were key elements within the campaign albeit indirectly, submerged within a general theme of the (non) trustworthiness of Howard. However if I recall the polling on the issue correctly, in the wake of Scrafton's revelations of conversations about unthrown children, the electorate didn't seem to care a great deal. Prosperity doesn't necessarily make the electorate post-materialist. I get the sense from the discussion and the papers online that Howard is certainly on the nose back home, I guess the question is whether the punters will hold theirs, or just blow them into ballot paper in lieu of a kleenex.
Rounding out, Brookings host Thomas Mann did well to provide the American perspective I was hoping to hear, sounding out to locate differences between Howard and Bush, for example the high-taxing man of steel and his tax cutting sheriff over here.

Also there was little disagreement that even if a Latham / Bush combination eventuated there would be no real damage to the Alliance relationship. Mann made the good observation that should Bush be returned, he needs to hold on to his few remaining friends around the world. I'd say, this situation might see Latham with a freer hand to withdraw the troops than were Kerry to be elected and need to show his ability to multilateralize the Iraq fracas.

Monday, September 20, 2004

canyon #2: light and shadow

Saturday, September 18, 2004

canyon #1

It’s been an intense and rewarding couple of days hiking through the Grand Canyon. The landscape, and at times pack weight, were a staggering experience. Here’s a first view down the trail from the top of the south rim of the canyon. The blue haze and lighting flare are courtesy of a fire blazing over on the north rim for the three days we were out.

Apparently 99% of visitors to the canyon don’t go below the rim, but since there are 5 million each year no doubt that’s a good thing. Still, our group of five plus guide shared the 3500ft descent down the Bright Angel trail to Indian Gardens with plenty of mule trains.

The reverse of the first picture, looking back at the top of the rim from out on the plateau, several hours and gallons of Gatorade later.

Saturday, September 11, 2004

hiatus interruptus

Bouncing out of the bandwagon onto the blogstreet are some questions about the response to the bombing of the Australian Embassy in Jakarta:

Why is it that all of the Australia's papers today scream "Target:Australia" or "Attack on Australia" not "Attack on Indonesia"? Why does the Sun Herald have a single picture of the devastation and a quote from John Howard on it's entire back cover? Why is that all of our media outlets are so eager to share with us the most horrific details of the event in colour photos, video footage, double page spreads and streaming digital audio? Why is it that almost none of these outlets will address the most important question - Why do these people view us as an enemy?

Here in mirrorworld Matt Yglesias has an excellent post I think dovetails into these questions:

The nation -- not only the "average American" but the permanent governing class here in Washington -- remains astoundingly ignorant about obviously relevant things. The national conversation is stuck on an astoundingly naive debate about whether "they" hate us because of our policies or because of who we are. Who "they" are seems barely examined. That "they" might -- like all the actual people I know -- be subject to complicated motivations that are not entirely transparent even to themselves, seems barely to be considered. People have almost no idea what al-Qaeda actually is, and the sort of people I work with -- the sort of people whose job it is to be aware of what is known and what is disputed among the experts -- have almost no familiarity with the contours of the controversy.

The fact that October 2001 through February 2002 proved not to be the disaster many feared has lulled the nation into a false sense of complacency. People don't realize that 9-11 has, in fact, been followed up by a fairly massive wave of violence, albeit violence that's largely occurred outside the United States of America.

...Confusion is still as widespread as it was on 9-12-01 but back then we at least felt confused. Like Socrates we knew, to some extent at least, what we did not know. Now the worst are filled with passionate intensity. The ratio of unknown unknowns to known unknowns is frighteningly high.

...I'm afraid. Not in the panicky way I was afraid three Septembers ago, but a deeper, less intense but more profound fear that we may have made some horrible mistakes and we have barely any idea what to do about them.

Back to the packing.

Thursday, September 09, 2004

hiatus from haters

There is a terrible smorgasboard of horrific activity around the world to discuss since I last posted.

Instead I'm going to take off to the Grand Canyon for some hiking and pretend for a while its not happening. Back in a week. But spare a moment of silence for the locally-engaged Indonesian security guards at the Embassy in Jakarta who gave their lives for Australia yesterday. If you're Christian, well rest in peace lads, and if not, well rest in peace once you all get done with your 6 dozen virgins.

Thursday, September 02, 2004

less talk, more pixels

Wednesday, September 01, 2004

less talk, more mixing

tonight::: texture @ japone : 9pm-1am
slick drinks to sip while hip tracks you're slipped
2032 P St NW, Dupont Circle

friday:::: texture @ blue room : 9pm-11pm
the on-time transfer from twilight to nightlife
2321 18th Street NW, Adams Morgan

Sean is going to represent up in New York on the weekend too, spinning a fundraiser, but the details escape me for now.

we don't need another

because Jet Li's latest flick - no, Zhang Yimou's latest film - will do just fine. Saw Hero tonight from the balcony in DC's finest and largest uniplex, the Uptown, just a few blocks from home.

The film is reminiscent of Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon in that the stunning photography and cinematography almost steal the show, from what is at heart a progressively more layered dissertation on human will and moral conduct. I deeply enjoyed the alternate interpretations of character, and the debate to the final moment of the protagonists' motivations and claims to honourable action, accompanied by striking colour shifts across the phases and moods of the narrative.

Oh yes, some occasional half decent choreography on the swordplay too. The scene amongst autumn leaves is quite compelling.

Go see.