Wednesday, December 19, 2012

In Absentium

I'm currently trying to write an essay for Express Media's Voiceworks.  I've got like two and half weeks to get it down and it's still utterly shit.

It's kinda vaguely dealing with post-irony and what I see as a crucial need, on behalf of a lot of young people, whether intellectually or not, to engage more deeply into what I want to call sentimentalism.  Or, to put it another way, to have the balls to admit that some things in life matter.  To accept that there are certain things we can say we love, that we care about, that we ultimately fucking need, without ironist sentiment causing us to look down at our shoes, embarassed, that we were stupid enough to let people in.  Basically, we should be brave enough to say or feel certain things, without being scared of the jeers, of the scoffs, of the general opinion that we are so lame.

I don't know.  Maybe I'm a recovering ironist.  Irony has always been the tool with which I felt most comfortable, wether it be in a social or academic setting.  Here again you can read the influence David Foster Wallace has had on me.  Those who point to his 'look at me, look how smart I am' schtick have entirely missed the point.  For Wallace, fiction was about "what it was to be a fucking human being" to quote him directly.  As someone who has been raised on the ironist tools of the post-modernisits, Wallace suddenly saw the potential damage a culture based purely on irony could inflict.  Rather than highlighting the limitations of literature, art, music, general day to day life through irony (the beginning of which was, admittedly, constructive insofar as it highlighted shortcomings of these things) perhaps we would be better of creating the new worlds by which to live.

I guess I just have this overwhelming sense that almost my entire day is caught up in this disgusting loop of online in jokes, failed face to face run ins, and a lot of time spent by myself thinking about this loop, the entire engine of this life being irony, sarcasm and, in some case, brutal rudeness.  It's all fun and games of course but one finds that, after a while, yeh you have shared some laughs, but you haven't really achieved anything with your day/week/month/god damn year.  All you have done is, quite effectively, deconstructed certain aspects of your life through various mediums.  This makes you very aware of the limitations of your existence, but fails utterly at helping you construct new meaning through which to make something that truly resonates as crystal clear true. 

This is kind of like the point at which a lot of people say well yeh james that is obviously true, just get off the internet, or start writing, or read more.  Take control for fucks sake.

This is all well and good until your realise to what extent irony has entered the very crux of your life, the abandonment of which would probably result in you losing a good deal of friends and activities, such is the nature in which you would have to end this particular behaviour.  There's this sense of entrapment wherein you realise irony has shaped and in some sense hollowed out your life.  To admit that certain things matter more to you in life than irony allows is to admit that there is much, much faller to fall should everything, for want of a better term, not end up ok.

The other day I was trying to explain this to Charlie and she replied with the true but terrifying prospect: 'you'll sort it out James...or, um...maybe you wont....I'm not sure.'

Pretty sure this blog is done.

Saturday, November 24, 2012

The Phone Is Ringing.

I called my Grandma, from hereon in referred to as Nan, for her birthday last night.
"Don't worry" Nan said, as I listed off the number of vague but unsettling existential concerns I have been grappling with these past few months, "you'll find you're feet."

There it was.  That unspecific, but terribly comforting insistence, that old people spout having, you know, quote- un-quote, seen it all before.  Pragmatic wisdom with enough depth of age to at least lend some kind of credible tinge to it's insistence that, in fact, Everything Is Going To Be Ok.

As uncomfortable as I am with this blog having slowly become a sort of wretched note pad for everything which kind of like concerns me, the likes of which, prior to the internet, would most certainly have been of the bound and locked in bottom draw variety, I can't seem to stop myself from occasionally writing something here that, on subsequent re-reading, makes me literally want to bang my head against a wall, such is the frustration and utter futility of my realisation that I can't take back the limp, angsty, nauseatingly self-aware prose.  I could delete it, sure, but that would be even more unthinkable.

I visited Sydney last week.  Weak and kind of dizzy from three day of food poisoning, I arrived on Wednesday morning, to find a hot sunny day was waiting for me.  I kind of pottered around the botanical gardens, visited the Francis Bacon exhibit (spending my last money on entry) and ate a wrap that I realised half way through had cheese in it.  It kind of didn't bother me.  In the arvo I met up with Tom and Simon, my classmates from my honours year in Melbourne who have both moved up to Sydney Uni to pursue a Masters in Philosophy.  What can I say other than it was an inspiring time?  The Sydney Uni grounds are beautiful, and the philosophy department seems full of interesting and smart people.  Every little part of me wanted to stay, to talk to these people, to not go back to Melbourne, where the kind of proverbial and literal Winter that had just passed, still seemed to overshadow my day to day actions and thoughts.

Cycling and racing (and here I can't believe I even attribute this much emotional weight to this dumb past time, but there you go) was the furthest thing from my mind.  Having recognised cycling (slowly, over time, nutting things out alone), or more specifically my cycling 'renaissance' of training and racing, as a direct response to my Dad's death - a kind of obsessive compulsive behaviour that allows me to fill my life with bullshit structure, emotion addling fatigue, and local, club level narrative - I find myself both despising and loving this pursuit more than ever.  I can't envisage a world where I can do both: namely, commit to cycling, and commit to being a hardcore, full time, student of philosophy.

There's this kind of stricken fear to my outlook.  Part of me wants to never race again, so I can just go sit in the library quietly and do the things that have been bubbling away in my mind for years now; but I also just want to ride my bike.  I want to do both, but experience teaches me that I can't.  Not to the extent that I want.

This isn't some kind of issue where I am thinking about literally hanging up the bike.  I guess I'll always ride.  It's more about the kind of person I want to be.  Do I want to accept a kind of middle of the road job, commit to hardcore amateur cycling and be done? Or do I want to give this intellectual life one last gasping chance?  One more crack at maybe convincing others, but more importantly myself, that I can do this.

The Tour of Bright is next week.  What can I say?  I haven't ridden for a week.  I probably won't do very well and, for the first time, I don't care.  I can't decide if this is liberating or a major concession of defeat.

The more I think about it, the more I'm convinced it's not really about cycling at all.  It's a great thing, and makes me genuinely, un-complicatedly happy.  It's more that it's representative of, to put it blandly, another path, another way to live.  A more modest, perhaps more genuine life.  Do I accept a normal life and race bikes on the weekends with my friends?  Or do I throw caution to the proverbial and try and be a philosopher?  The risk being that if I fail, I will be in the same situation as I am know, but I will be 4-5 years older and probably even more existentially, howdaysay?, ropeable...

Tied in with all this is the undeniable influence the gargantuan Infinite Jest has had on me this year.  Its staggeringly long and emotionally ambiguous shadow has played a role in my outlook this year, to be sure.  A book that deals with depression as much as it does, succeeds more than it perhaps should, at making me feel hope.  I'm now convinced this is a work of genius, like most people who like it say.  I don't really know what it means for something to be a work of genius, but I suspect I probably know it when I see it.  Infinite Jest, just like all the blurbs say it will, makes me really think, I mean think, about what it is to be a human being.  David Eggers in the introduction claims that, on finishing it, you are a better person.  I completely agree.  For if I've ever needed a book that deals with the various ways we, as humans, grapple with the at times bottomless abyss of living in this world, it has been this year.  The book is deeply moral, insofar as it shows how we live rather than how to live.  It's incredibly comforting to know that, the things that make me worry, probably made Wallace, and countless other too, worry as well.  This isn't necessarily a problem we have.  It's just, you know, being.

You'll find your feet, nan said.  It's beautifully comforting while being nauseatingly limp and meaningless.  But it seems appropriate in summing up what has been a year of violent emotional changes, marked by real playing catch-up grief, anxiety, boredom, ecstasy, with a serious commitment to physical exercise as addiction, and brief literary episodes as moral/existential compass.

There's this bird that's made a nest in the air vent of my dad's study.  You can tell because there's all sorts of sticks sticking out of the shitty Victorian plasterwork, but also because you can hear the bird itself hopping about and doing pragmatic bird stuff.  I'm undecided if this is something deeply poignant or entirely meaningless, an attempt on my behalf to link human constructed emotional confusion to naturalistic and ho-hum every day events, the presumed hope being that, it's ok james, you're just part of the bigger picture, etc, etc. and similar such bullshits.  

The dog is yawning.

Monday, November 19, 2012

Summoning Lupine.

Here I lie
Under a black, starless sky.

Sunday, October 21, 2012

Mi Ritrovai In Una Selva Oscura

Hell, if Dante and Slayer are to be believed, is a fairly shit place.  At least that's the vibe I get.

I spend a lot of time thinking about metal in it's socio-historical context.  Why it emerged when it did, how it did, and what it all kinda means.  I've always followed the fairly traditional method of acknowledging metal as having emerged when Black Sabbath awoke the youth of working class Birmingham in the late sixties.  I'll nod my head toward theories that point to the band Blue Cheer as having developed the proto-metal sound, and maybe even give the time of day to people who want to claim Helter Skelter by the Beatles was the first song to showcase that indescribable 'feel'.

But maybe we should be looking further back.  The notion of something being 'metal' is bandied around a fair bit, without any real thought as to what the fuck it means.  Does it just mean all grim and shit?  Is it all just throaty vocals and inverted crucifixes?  Is it all pomp and posture?  Or is it maybe just the modern manifestation of something we as, you know, 'people', have always been obsessed with?  Namely, that of that darkened world.  The word where hope and Goodness is extinguished.  Is it, in other words, a fairly traditional exploration of Good v. Evil?

It's here where we look at Dante.  As form of kind-of-half-hearted-backstory, Dante is essentially Italy's Shakespeare.  He lived in fourteenth century Florence, was a poet/writer/mad dog, got caught up in some serious political shit storms, (which Florence was fairly famous for at around that time)/was exiled, then died.  During his life he managed to bang out a book called La Divina Comedia, or The Divine Comedy.  It follows Dante, and his mate Virgil (he took some liberties with time....Virgil was a famous Ancient Roman poet) as they go through Hell, Purgatory, and Heaven.  It's pretty epic.

As a small backstory, when I lived in Italy, I had to memorise the first four verses of the Divine Comedy and recite it in front of the class.  I had only been at school for about two months, couldn't speak the language, and was so shit scared that I can, to this day, still reel off those verses without a hitch.  

The first verse of the first book, Hell, goes thus:

Nell' mezzo del camin di nostra vita
Mi ritrovai in una selva oscura
Che la diritta via era smarrita.

Which roughly translates as:

In the middle of our walk through life
I found myself in a dark forest
Where the right path had disappeared.

Basically Dante has a bit of a mid life crisis, goes for a wander, ends up in all three other worlds, and comes back a better man.  But the first book, where he goes through the nine circles of hell, is fucking grim.  It's a classic Christian depiction of Hell, where all the sinners, depending on the severity of the sin, spend the rest of eternity undergoing constant torture in one of the rings.  Lucifer himself is to be found in the bottom ring, with all the most evil/hated men and women.  Sure, it's kind of odious, given we have to account for all the people ever who came before Christianity find themselves in Limbo, the first ring, just purely out of bad timing, not to mention those who committed suicide, who find themselves in the seventh circle along with the sodomites, etc, etc.

But the point is is that it is a fucking terrifying depiction.  I remember going through a huge illustrated copy of of my Mum's when I was a kid (full disclosure: I scribbled all over it, it was worth like 400 dollars) and being utterly transfixed by the images of, well, Hell.  It was, I now realise with the benefit of hindsight, having the same effect on me Slayer had ten years later.  It was a depiction of the Dark, of the Dying, and of the Lost.  It was despair without hope.  It was terror with no chance for redemption.  These images tapped into the darkest recesses of my mind.

Keep in mind I didn't believe any of these places existed, I was just utterly consumed by their depiction of dark eternity.  And, you know, you look at these images, these depictions of tales of epic journeys through fantastical realms, masking what in reality are meant to be real human existential concerns and horrors, and you are face to face with what metal does today.  Death metal's obsession with ancient Sumerian gods, twisted worlds, murder, torture are merely artistic representations, and subsequent (admittedly often ham fisted) explorations of what are really pragmatic, every-day concerns: why are we alive, why are we scared of dying, and why do people do horrible things to each other all the time?  Black metal's obsession with pagan worlds, Nature and misanthropy achieves a similar thing, asking kind of vague questions about the nature of the World, our place in it, and the sadness that seems to pervade many of our lives on this world.

All of which brings us back to Dante being pretty fucking metal.  And we can dismiss the idea of Dante being metal as absurd.  Firstly because Dante didn't live in a time where 'being metal' was possible, making after-the-fact socio/pop-cultural remarks about him kind of absurd.  Secondly, we still haven't defined what 'being metal' entails, other than pointing to some vague ideas about good and evil, and other such bullshit.  But if we treat metal as but a sub-set of one of many artistic urges to try and describe/explore/make sense of the world and us and everything else, then we don't really need a proper definition, in the same way that romantic literature doesn't, or post-war post-modern lit doesn't either.  If we can accept, even tentatively, that metal is part of a great obsession with the Dark, in a kind of deeper, existential sense, then we can begin to see why Dante and Burzum had a lot more in common than first appears.

In the middle ages, the inverted fifth, the musical root note that all metal is based around, was banned.  It was believed to 'bring out the devil' in people.  It was said to cause a shiver down the spine.  That was supposed to be Lucifer entering your body.  Ideas around Lucifer, the Devil and the blackness beyond the gate were obviously prevalent in the Middle Ages and Renaissance period.  The Divine Comedy is a perfect snap shot and example of how scared we were, and still are, of that tingle down the spine.  The one you get where it occurs to you that, perhaps, all is not as it seems.

It may be that metal did in fact emerge out of Birmingham in the latter half of the twentieth century, and that anything that came beforehand that seems artistically similar, is unrelated.  It seems to me, however, that metal deals with something we have always, and I suspect always will, deal with.  Metal is really anger and grief.  Power and despair.  Bleakness and misanthropy.

I can't see much difference between when Dante stepped down into the ninth circle of hell, to face Lucifer himself, and when Morbid Angel wrote Fall from Grace.

From the first circle I descended thus
Down to the second, which, a lesser space
Embracing, so much more of grief contains,
Provoking bitter moans. There Minos stands,
Grinning with ghastly feature: he, of all
Who enter, strict examining the crimes,
Gives sentence, and dismisses them beneath,
According as he foldeth him around:
For when before him comes the ill - fated soul,
It all confesses; and that judge severe
Of sins, considering what place in Hell
Suits the transgression, with his tail so oft
Himself encircles, as degrees beneath
He dooms it to descend. Before him stand
Always a numerous throng; and in his turn
Each one to judgment passing, speaks, and hears
His fate, thence downward to his dwelling hurl'd

Hot wind burns me
Burning as I fall
Cast away
Speechless in the holy way
I survive
The scourge and banishing
To scorching land
I am lord, I take command

(Fall from grace)

Forgive me not
This knowledge makes me strong
To resurrect
The cities of the damned
All the treasure of sodom
Now belong to me - celebrate
Fallen angels take my hand

(Fall from grace)

Whores long for my flesh
And my desire
Lust annointing me now
Consume my soul

(I ride the flesh and the sinners of hell)
(I am belial)
(I bend knee not before my selfish desire

Saturday, October 6, 2012

Faultless,Battled He.

When I was a kid, maybe around three to four, I spent a lot of time hanging around my parent's bookshelves.  I guess this is kind of par for the course for young kids growing up with academics for parents.  None of the books were in any way accessible (I was pretty late to reading anyway) to a young boy, being mostly a collection, at least in the case of the bookshelves outside my parents respective studies, of classic fiction, autobiography and letters/diaries.  I remember running my finger along the spine of my mum's battered copy of Lord Of The Rings (a book she claims she never liked), attracted to the picture of what I now realise must have been Gollum.  I would take this book out of the shelf, leaf through the pages, examine closely the nine figures walking toward a mountain in the distance.  None of it made any sense to me of course at the time.  But I was already turning into a bit of a fan of the magical and fantastical, and I was pretty sure I wanted in on the book.  This led me to dragging the volume out from those it sat next to, quite regularly I seem to remember, and demanding to know from my Mum, when exactly I would be able to read this damn novel.  I can't remember what she said, but I am fairly certain the answer was not exactly pacifying to a small boy who can barely imagine the next week, let alone himself in, say, eight years time.

In light of the need to finish this sub-story, I did indeed read LOTR when I was eleven, and loved it so much, that I read it once a year, every year, for four years straight.  It was a good time.

I spent some time at mum's today, some of it helping her re-arrange some of dad's stuff.  Mum needed some correspondence of dad's, for some other academic person somewhere in the world, a general task she understandably finds depressing and boring, an unfortunate combination.  Here we were, sorting through these boxes and boxes of things, that used to be dad's.  Years of correspondence, all pre-dating email of course, often written under Monash, or Harvard, or Oxford letterhead.  All written to people I'd sometimes met, others I might have heard of, others I never knew existed.  It was strange, seeing my dad's scrawled notes to friends, and formal letters to colleagues, often written ten or more years before I was born.  There's this kind of universal style to academic's personal notes, often warm and inviting, yet stuffily choreographed, betraying the obvious popularity of writers like George Orwell (his letters, not just his novels) to the left wing scholars of the latter part of the twentieth century in the English speaking world.

It was as I thought about this that I came across the three volumes of Proust's In Search Of Lost Time.  I  have this sick obsession with long, difficult books.  Their length impresses me, intimidates me and their difficulty makes me want to conquer them.  With this in mind, I had had vague plans to tackle Proust at some unspecified time in the future, probably after War and Peace, and perhaps before Ulysses.  I picked up the battered copy, noticing the cover had come away entirely from the spine.  That distinctive name in the front, Carolyn James, written seemingly identically every time, told me they had been mum's copies.  Looking at the spine, each book with a little picture at the top, perhaps depicting a different character, I had a flash of recognition.  Just like an aroma you remember from when you were a kid, or a song you haven't heard for years, the spine's of these three volumes of Proust, had me instantly back in front of the bookshelf, lying on my belly, slightly dusty carpet tickling my nose, running my finger along the spines of these books, containing words I couldn't read, about people I didn't know existed.  I remember thinking that one average household bookshelf probably contains hundreds of different stories, the subjects of which might be so magnificently varied so as to make one really quite overwhelmed by the world.  I didn't know who Proust was then, obviously, and I don't really know who he is now.

As I sit here, looking at these three volumes though, just as clueless as to what this book is about as I was twenty years ago, I have this rush of memory and nostalgia.  I feel like, in starting to read this book, I would be continuing a story, rather than beginning one.  I spent ages wondering what all these mysterious tomes on all the bookshelves at home were about back when I was a kid.

The first book from the adult shelves I tackled was when I was ten.  It was called 'Out of the Shelter' by David Lodge.  From what I understand, David Lodge was a very popular writer in the sixties/seventies/eighties amongst left wingish leaning academic types.  He tended to write a lot about left wingish academic types so I suppose I can see the appeal.  Dad used to always explain his enjoyment of Lodge due to their same age, and his writing about places he had studied at (London, etc.).  Mum used to scoff, call Lodge a filthy sexist, and claim that all his stories were about old white academics wanting to get laid.  The point is, from a ten year olds perspective, 'Out Of the Shelter' was really fun.  It was about a young kid, growing up in post war Britain, going on holiday to West Germany.  It also had the most (for my age) vivid sex scene I could possibly imagine.  When I read it, Dad bought me 'Tomorrow When the War Began', and wrote in the front cover

"To James, for reading his first 'real' book.  Love, Bill"

I was pretty proud of myself for taking the step into 'real' literature, sure, but most of all I was excited that I had, finally, begun to unlock the secrets to the thousands of stories I had grown up with for the past ten years, surrounded by, but inaccessible.  Over the next few years I made my way through some more titles.  I read some Turgenev, some Orwell, bits and pieces of other writers. I found I had a strong attraction to the now dead genre of what I like to call 'A British man wanders through Europe'.  These books basically entail lavish descriptions of rich British gentleman walking through Italy with a cane, talking about Tuscan spring, churches and (occasionally) what a good job the fascists had done to clean up the country.  It was all pretty pleasant.

It all stalled a bit when I got into metal, and I was too busy scouring the internet for information on obscure British death metal bands, trying to understand the real tangible differences between Florida and California proto-death metal, or grappling with the world black metal was opening up to me.  So the reading didn't stop, by any means, but it definitely slowed.

Now, fired with this urgent desire to do something, I'm suddenly turning to these books again.  To the same bookshelves, some books now read and remembered, others as mysterious as ever.  I think back to that sweaty excitement I felt when I finished that David Lodge book, knowing I had entered a world that had not been made for me, but that I had stolen in anyway, taken a peek at what was inside, and snuck out just as quietly, wanting more.  Now I pick up 'In Search of Lost Time'.  That same feeling of childish eagerness to know more about the picture on the front, like that I felt when looking at Gollum, stirs in me.

Maybe, when I read Proust, I'll inscribe a little note in the front.

James, for finishing your first 'real' book.

I hope mum doesn't mind.

Friday, October 5, 2012

I Could Be The Queen Bee.

There's that feeling one gets when looking at a sentence with an errant comma.  You know it belongs in the sentence, somewhere, you're just not entirely sure where.  You move it around, read the sentence out loud, playing with the words, seeing where the movement of the comma takes you in regards to what the sentence conveys.  Yet, and here's the catch, it doesn't seem to belong anywhere.  It doesn't seem quite right in any of the various positions you place it in, but to remove it would, surely, be obscene, unthinkable w/r/t the sentences core.

It's these little discomforts with language that I grapple with every day.  I'm fairly comfortable with the written word and, I suppose, you could list it under the column labelled 'Shit James is ok at' rather than the opposite.  Writing talent is, actually, a bit like cycling.  To a degree, if you work hard, you get better at it.  But, at the end of the proverbial day, there's also those who have the natural spark, the limitless potential, the seemingly effortless ability to make the thing that you wish you were better at appear easy and, heaven forbid, beautiful.  I didn't think people like Stuart O'Grady and Cormac McArthy, Sean Kelly and Kafka had much in common.  They don't really.  What they do possess is that spark.  That element that makes us the rest of us hang our heads in despair, looking up only to stare at the sky and wonder what it was that these people had/have that we don't, that allow them to, without a wish to ramble, sparkle.

But there it is.  I'm as uncomfortable as I am familiar with the written word and, frankly, I don't know how to change that.  I definitely feel as if my writing has become stagnant as far as its quality is concerned.  There's this vague desire to, I don't know, write.  But write what?  When?  In what manner?  About whom?  To whom?

Of course those who know what the deal is will of course dismiss these concerns, citing the importance of simply writing, as being of the utmost importance.  It doesn't matter what you write.  So long as you do.  Eventually, slowly, agonisingly, something will happen.  Usually when you lease expect it.  Or at least so goes the advice.

Maybe one of the real train wrecks to come out of po-mo-ish writing is that sense of self awareness that surrounds a lot of writing these days.  The topic of the writing sits alongside the the very act of writing itself, that act in itself as much a part of the art.  That's not to say this is a bad literary style, simply that it makes it harder to start writing.  Not only does one have the awareness that one is writing to grapple with, one also has the awareness that, in writing, we are also aware of our awareness of writing.

Or, alternatively, it's always been this hard and we just started getting a bit more theoretical about the shit that goes through the standard human's brain when you sit in front of a computer, or a blank piece of paper and think, 'right, this is it', only to find yourself trolling the internet (the modern day procrastination equivalent of endlessly sharpening your pencil and making cups of tea) with the overwhelming sensation of 'oh shit, what now?' enveloping your soul.

That sense of doubt, that feeling that you haven't quite got what it takes, is embodied by that feeling you get, when you look at an errant comma, and can't quite find a place for it.  It's almost as if the comma itself is fine, it's the rest of the sentence that's the problem.

Thursday, September 27, 2012

Little Do They Know, That I Hear Their Choice Of Life.

Today was the first proper hot day of Spring.  It was only 27 degrees, but the sun and wind were warm.  I rode my bike for four hours, popped into the shop to say hi and drop off the guys some tofu rolls, and worked on my tan lines.

The summer heat represents a mixed bag for me at this point.  On the one hand, I'm very happy that I can turn my back on what was probably one of my unhappiest winters ever.  On the other, I'm also a bit sad that the time has gone.  While unhappy, it was certainly an interesting, frenetic, heart wrenching and ultimately vivid few months.  That shit doesn't go away.

Meanwhile my mate Shamus continues to live his dream up in the northern American forests, the photos on various facebook pages, suggesting that, like me, Shamus won't be forgetting the past few months any time soon.

Right now I'm sitting down, testing out the play list for the Sydney trip I'm going on tomorrow.  Apparently I'm racing bikes but, really, I'm just gonna hang out with chums and get blind drunk in the sun.  Know Your Enemy is playing right now.  I stayed away from the more introspective music, the key here being Party, rather than Doom.  There's a lot of thrash and death here, of the more up-beat, fast played variety.  There's also some Ladyhawke, No Doubt, Veronicas, Rihanna and even some Shakira.  When put on shuffle, this play list is going to be pretty great, but also fairly representative of my general state of mind.  My love affair with all things hard and heavy has never wavered, but my obsession with pop and top 40 is quickly gaining momentum, to the point where all semblance of irony is gone, replaced with wild eyed, tongue out of mouth, enthusiasm.

Summer and winter represent the divide in my personality.  One half wants to dance to Beyonce all night.  The other wants to sit under the leaden sky and cry.  I've never managed to reconcile the two, but I do know that, once the temperature starts to fall around mid-march, I'll put an Ash Borer record on, and everything will seem that little bit more grey.  

Now Rihanna is playing, and everything I've written seems absurd.

Thursday, September 13, 2012

A Whispered Wind.

This post is about my friend Shamus.

Shamus and I met a few years ago through mutual friends at university.  Aside from the odd party, or the occasional uni catch up, we didn't really hang out that much.  At that time 'friend' was perhaps not the most appropriate label.  I always thought he was a rad/interesting dude.  But we just never hung out that much.

Fast forward to the beginning of this year.  I haven't seen Shamus for months, possibly more than a year.  Up pops a Facebook conversation, from none other than the man himself.

"Hey James.  Do you know much about the Cascadian Black Metal scene?"  

I inhaled sharply.  Not only did no one I knew like this music much, I had no idea Shamus was even into metal, let alone the stuff that had so utterly and completely captured my imagination for the past year or two.

We chatted for a long time that night, swapping bands, and vague impressions as to what the music meant to us.  It was exhilarating.  I couldn't talk to anyone about this stuff, because I always came off sounding like a total nut-job.  Even I was suspicious of the things I was beginning to say in regards to how this music made me feel.  

Shamus obviously felt the same way, and the excitement on behalf of both of us was pretty clear.  We've been communicating online for months now (he's overseas).  Since that cool March night when the world of Cascadian black metal suddenly exploded from being inhabited solely by me, to Shamus as well, Shamus has released a solo record.

Inspired by the Cascadian scene, Shamus has taken the music that means so much to him, and has attempted to transform it and apply it to what surrounds him, here in Australia.  Shamus did me the honour of consulting me in regards to some of the demos, and has even credited me in the tape sleeve, which is to be released this coming October I believe.  

Here is Shamus' band.  While perhaps not a perfect record, as the first attempt of a solo artist, it is breathtaking.

Since the release of the record, Shamus has travelled to the Cascadian region, and has since met up with almost every single artist I would, without hyperbole, give my left something or other, to simply shake their hand.  

From discussing split demos with established bands, to staying with the members of Wolves In The Throne Room at their farmstead (!!), Shamus has, it's fair to say, so far lived the dream.

I'm incredibly inspired by Shamus' actions, not simply due to reflexive star struck notions, but also in part at my total admiration at his ability to utterly change his life in the space of six months, based purely on his fervent, passionate, perhaps almost violent, love for this music.

Please support Shamus, his band Cicadan, and any action or protest that seems like it might support the idea that we, as people, are somehow vastly and disastrously disconnected from the Natural World.

It's with some amazement that I type the above.  My support for Shamus is non-controversial, but it's my changed world view that's hinted at that leaves me reeling.  Please indulge me for a little longer.  The italics are simply to separate this from the above.

I know a lot of people who like, for want of a better term, 'hipster black metal.'  Namely enviro/anarcho inspired black metal.  What seperated Shamus from the rest of the trendies is, I suspect, his total conviction that this music has somehow created a sonic landscape that does in fact touch us on a deeper level than any other music.  I felt the same.  But I didn't want to.

I had grown up, as a child, utterly engrossed in false and imaginary worlds.  Through literature, gaming and various embarrassing miniature driven hobbies, I came to view the normal, pragmatic world as something of a bore.  What was the fun in realism, i suppose i asked myself, when the metaphysics of the soul can take you anywhere?

This all changed in university when, bludgeoned into the analytic way of thinking, I came to believe that philosophy (my study of choice) was the process of sorting out confusions in language and that language, by the same token, was only meaningful if it referred directly to something a priori (true by virtue of itself, rather than by virtue of the world (eg. 2+2=4) or something scientifically verifiable.  Any other, perhaps more metaphysical considerations were, for want of a better term literally meaningless, insofar as they did not refer to anything in the world.   No object could be picked out (eg. 'soul' is as a term meaningless because there is no soul to verify it's truth status....'God' is another good one.)  To put it crudely, the majik was killed, and i revelled in this new, simplified, beautiful world.  You know the type.  The smug bastard who reads a lot of Richard Dawkins, is convinced the scientific method is the path to finding out capital T truth (ie, how the world is.  Most scientists of course deny this, they say that theories are simply the best way to describe the current data at the present time, waiting for that particular theory to be falsified (see Karl Popper), but you would be hard pressed to find a scientist who doesn't, in his hear of hearts, believe that what he is uncovering is in fact Truth, the way the world is).  

Punk rock and thrash/death metal are good music tastes to have with this world view.  Militant realism goes hand in hand with reactionary politics/social consciousness/basically giving a damn.  Ie. 'Enough with this philosophy bullshit, and this mumbo jumbo, there are real people/animals starving/being tortured/murdered, and we don't have the luxury to speculate from our armchairs'.  I listened to black metal casually (the conventional European stuff) with a tongue firmly planted in cheek.  I scoffed at the mythology, the rhetoric, the white boy angst that came out of the early 90s movement.  It wasn't real.  it was a bunch of kids pretending to be wizards.  It was bullshit.

Wolves In The Throne Room changed all this for me.  In the same way that Metallica changed my world view forever on that early Winter day in 2005, so too did WIITR in late 2009.  The spasm of excitement when i heard the opening riffs in 'Diadem of 12 Stars' has largely remained with me since.  Suddenly, the militant rational walls that I had built up in my mind to fend off any fears that, perhaps the World was more mysterious than Science allowed us to think.  The majik returned.  Images of ancient forests, whispered myths, shamanic ritual were swirling through my consciousness.  

How could i possibly feel nostalgia for a time I never experienced, for a place I have never been too?!

What the fuck is going on?

How am I so certain that the screams coming from the pressed vinyl are somehow summoning an ancient sadness that we, as people, all somehow feel.  How can i know that it represents the dying cries to be reunited, somehow, to an older world?

Anarcho primitivists have long spoken about this.  It doesn't mean destroying your iPhone and living in a yurt.  It is more about (and we return to my disbelief at my own words) a spirit or soul that has been lost.  A way of seeing the world.  

Almost every time I listen to this kind of music I am overwhelmed with a sadness I didn't know I had, for a place of which I have only seen pictures.  

Shamus feels this majik too.  It's gotten to the point where I don't give a fuck if I sound like a white city kid pining for the fjords.  That my romanticism of this music has reached crescendo/absurdity.  Ultimately it doesn't matter.

What matters is that this music has utterly, fundamentally changed the way i see the World, and my place in it.  Suddenly, I'm not so certain about all the Truths i held closely.  Ritual and myth (even religious ones) suddenly make much more sense, and are calming to me, rather than subject for hatred.  My strong sense is that the World is  a much larger, more confusing place than we give it credit for, and I am suddenly much less quick to judge how others deal with this fundamental existential fear/dilemma.  

This isn't necessarily about believing in ghosts, or hobgoblins.  It's more about being open to the idea that we, as human beings, somehow need to feel spiritually connected to a power larger than ourselves. It's ideas of Humanity, God, Nature, the World that come into play here.  Maybe we can't divide and break down everything into atoms and particles, genus and species.  Perhaps some things can't be explained.  

Maybe that's ok.  Maybe it's crucial.

I'm much more comfortable, now, with allowing spirits to dance on the peripheries of my vision.

Suddenly, my heart stirs, and I feel the majik again.

Somewhere, in the Cascadian wilderness, I know Shamus does too.  

Friday, August 31, 2012

I Picture Things A Certain Way.

My Dad died the day I moved out of home.

To say it was symbolic would be, I suspect, to labour the point.

Yesterday marked two years exactly since ol' mate Bill died peacefully at home, after dealing (I refuse to succumb to the bullshit of verbs like 'battling') with cancer for the past two years.

Late August always reminds me of these two (kinda, you know) pivotal moments in my life.  The weather is always a bit nicer...a small taste of what's coming.  There's that hint of heat in the wind blowing off the coast.  Everyone seems a bit happier, as if rising from a four month slumber.  So it is that this part of the year reminds me of moving out and dad's death.

My music tastes are pretty seasonal.  This time two years ago I had recently purchased Dinosaur Jr's Green Mind record.  I was listening to it a lot.  I didn't love it, but there was something about the mid-western mellowness that appealed to me.  As is the case with most music, this record has now taken on a nostalgic role, reminding me of those strange days two years ago, where I wandered my new house, building Ikea furniture, thinking about the fact I'd never speak to dad again.

This day two years ago I didn't go to uni.  Dad had been dead for fifteen hours and I decided, as mentioned above, to hang out at home, and build furniture, try and sort out why the power wasn't on, and maybe do a bit of gardening.  The weather was almost identical.  I remember sitting on the porch by myself, perhaps not entirely aware of what was going on, as a warm breeze went through my (still long) hair.  I briefly considered taking up smoking.  I just as quickly dismissed the idea.

From the stereo in the living room, just recently set up, Green Mind was blaring.  I thought about crying, but decided it wouldn't reflect my mood, which was probably closer to confusion than sadness.

I thought about the farce that had been getting the fridge into the kitchen, noting to myself that I should tell dad the story, then remembering that I couldn't.  I found this incredibly frustrating.

The sky was cloudless and the sun was just that little bit warm, you know that feeling in late winter/early spring, where you feel warmth from the sun, and your body kinda shudders.  I realised this moment was going to be remembered for a while.

Today I went for a ride and listened to Green Mind again.  When the record ended, I stopped, and played it again from the beginning.  The weather, like I said, was pretty similar to two years ago.  Maybe a little colder.  Or perhaps I'm just remembering wrong, so keen to create a neat narrative.  It probably doesn't matter.

Riding my bike today, I felt the sun on my legs, and thought about Ikea furniture, no power, and wanting to cry, but not really knowing how in the circumstances.

When the self title track came on, I thought I might cry.  It wasn't sadness I was feeling, but relief.

It's nice to feel happy again.

Thursday, August 16, 2012

The Evil That Men Do.

Today I got up early.  I had a plan in mind.  I'd bumped into Jim yesterday.  Jim is a masters student at Melbourne Uni who I had gotten to know last year while completing my honours.  I've become increasingly interested in the things he is looking at in his thesis: namely the emergence of myth and intellectual dialogue, and how it has affected philosophy (or more like thought really) for the past two thousand-ish years.

With this in mind, I took the tram to Melbourne Uni early this morning to go have coffee with Jim.  It was a great chat.  We talked about my various misgivings in regards to current philosophical debates, why I was enable to engage with it, the dangers of adherence to dogmas (whether intellectual or every-day), literature, politics, etc, etc.  It did, it's fair to say, span some pretty serious (read: hardcore) topics, and ones that I hadn't had the opportunity to broach while wrenching in a bike shop.  It was exciting, illuminating, whilst simultaneously being terrifying.  I hadn't felt that kind of creative buzz for a long time, and I wasn't quite sure what to do, now that I could feel it bubbling away in my belly.

I left Jim, two coffees down, a reading list of his suggestions as to where to start reading again (surprisingly, the analysis of the history of thought it remarkably hard to get a grasp of) with a happiness I hadn't felt since I bought stationary for my honours year.  Jim hadn't just helped me sort out my ideas, he had also dismissed my various misgivings re. me having another shot at academia.  There wasn't any harm, he pointed out, in damn well trying.

Fair enough.

I was so happy that I didn't even care that I got busted for no ticket on the tram; the thought of me getting a fine in the mail at this stage, an arbitrary and distant concept.

When I got home I found out through my friend Sarah that an old family friend, an artist who had actually painted my portrait when I was seven, and with whom I had spent a lot of my childhood with when I lived in Italy, had died on Tuesday.

After that I felt pretty bummed out, and all the progress I had made that morning suddenly seemed very distant and far away.

Saturday, August 11, 2012

Macabre Eternal.

The car park for Northcote Plaza is strange for two main reasons.  Firstly, it's kind of convoluted.  It twists and turns, is narrow where it shouldn't be, and is kind of wide where it's perhaps entirely unnecessary.  The second reasons is in regards to the birds.  You won't notice this during the day but if, as I have, you ever wander through there between 12am and 6am, you will notice there is an absolute cacophony of bird noise.  I'm not talking a pleasant kind of lulling sound, the likes of which might allow you to fall asleep, I'm talking Supreme Racket.  The kind of sound that makes you imagine the birds all have cruel faces, all gathered around some limp and dying bird, as they all caw-caw caw-caw for this dying birds head...or beak or something (I don't know what symbolic piece of the body bird's would call for if they were calling for death).

The reason this is interesting is that the bird song starts well before birds are meant to wake up which, as far as I know, is anywhere between 4.30am and 6isham.  So if you wander through there in the middle of the god damn witching hour, there is this absolute god damn racket.  It's very disorientating, firstly because you're usually unsure of what time it is in the first place, and secondly it causes a sort of despair (in the like 'omfg i have to get up in like two hours' sense).  In short, it makes it seem much later than it actually is.  I had a huge panic attack the last time, thinking I had been out all night, and knowing I had work the next day, only to discover it was in fact 12.30.

Why, then, do these birds start making the ruckus so god damn early?  I pondered this for a while, occasionally making side trips late at night to ride or walk slowly through the car park, trying to figure it out.  (For those who want an insight into the mind of James Kent, this is the kind of shit that preoccupies me for a large part of the day.).  The answer came to me suddenly one night a few months ago, as I stared up into this tree, the sound of babbling birds literally making it appear the tree had some kind of schizophrenic awareness and was screaming at the world.  The lights used in the carpark are exactly the tinge of what I want to call 'dawn' gold.  Since there are a lot of them, the whole car park is bathed in this kind-of-but-not-quite pre-dawn glow.  Basically, the birds think it's dawn before it actually is.

No shit Sherlock.  I felt immensely clever for figuring this out, but also a little saddened that the answer was so glaringly obvious.  I was also secretly shattered that there was no evidence for some sort of bird witch craft going on in the car park.  You know, X-Files styles.

So kind of smug but sad I pushed on, glad that I could throw my proverbial tie behind my back and comment to no one on particular that this was, indeed, the end of that particular chapter.

It was only a little later that the horror of the bird's situation became clear.  Imagine starting up the pre-dawn party a good six hours before it actually arrives.  Not only that, but due to what I can only assume is one of the more primal birdy instincts, they don't seem to be able to over-ride or learn that, in their particular environment, golden glows do not mean the arrival of dawn.

The only human equivalent I could think of is that incredibly tense but happy time you undergo in the five to ten minutes before your favourite band comes on stage.  There's that butterflies in the stomach feeling, the impatience, the wondering whether you should pee, the adrenaline caused by knowing that particularly burly man next to you is surely going to cause all kinds of hell to your kidneys at some point.  But then the band comes on and you lose your shit and carry on with your shirt of in a very male-look-at-me display.  The closest I can think of (carrying on with the clunky analogy) to when this experience turned into the birds at Northcote plaza experience, is when I saw Slayer in 2009.  (By way of backstory I should detail that the cleches are in fact true.  Prior to this show I got madly inebriated, walked to festival hall in a large band of long haired louts, screaming Slayer at any passer by that looked like they would not retaliate.  It was awesome.)  Slayer didn't come on for ages, even after Megadeth cleared the fuck out, and the stage went dark and the tell tale screams of SLLAAAYYYEEERRRRR from big fat drunk men got louder (a key sign that Kerry King is at least, you know, within earshot).  I was inebriated and excited and feeling aggressive and just wanted to fucking crowd surf already, but there was no sign of the band appearing.  Tensions mounted and some Megadeth v. Slayer scuffles broke out, proving of course that no one here was in anyway remotely interested in Fugazi.  At that point, come to think of it, neither was I.  Once the band finally did emerge, perhaps in one of the most unpleasant shocks of my life, Tom had lost his voice, and proceeded to indulge us all in a very expensive, very bad karaoke session.  I suppose, in terms of the birds, that's the equivalent of the dawn finally coming and it's raining acid or something.

Piss take human analogy notwithstanding, I am quietly kind of horrified at the purgatory I now feel sure these Northcote Plaza birds live in.

Bird experts please feel free to correct me if I am unjustified in attributing absolute moral and existential despair to the birds of Northcote Plaza.

Monday, August 6, 2012


Just now Brendan asked me, a look of slight concern in his eyes, "are you ok James (I actually think he said Jamesy, but that makes me sound dickless).  You seem like you're losing your mind a bit..."

I replied that maybe I was.  I mean, last night, I spent a good thirty minute period in which I was fairly certain, no, sure, that I was the fourth man in Great Britain's pursuit team.  I tossed and turned in bed, unsure of what to do, knowing that we had already won gold, but also being overwhelmed with some sort of omnipotent expectation.

I should, I suppose, offer as backstory the fact that on Saturday I ate some dodgy indian and have, thus, spent the past two days vomming, running for the toilet, or wandering the house believing I am a member of the gold medalist pursuit team.  

So I can perhaps blame the delicious veggie curry for my immediate insanity, all drool filled fitful sleeps, and inane facebook statuses.  What I probably can't blame the curry on (or maybe it was the roti?) is my general change in attitude in the past few months.

This isn't a James cracks the sads post.  At least, if it is, I'm trying hard for it not to be directly about me,  per se.  Anyway, Rolly has solved my problems by telling me I should go to LA to visit Tom Singer.  He thinks that would set me right.  He may be right, and if I had more than $220 dollars to my name, I might even give it a shot.

But anyway.  For the past two years, where I was in inverted commas 'training', I developed for the first time what I'll call, for the sake of convenience, a SPORTS VIEW OF LIFE, or, SVOL.  This essentially entails living and viewing life through your chosen sport.  It involves doing the sport, preparing for the sport, eating for the sport, not to mention all the things you end up not doing, for the sake of the sport (think drinking, eating to excess, going out, etc.).  

It should be stressed that this way of looking at things has absolutely no correlation (in fact it may be negatively correlated) to your particular skill or aptitude at the given sport.  I could provide you with a long list of elderly gentleman who have dropped several k's in wind tunnels.  By the same token I could think, just off the top of my head mind, of the young kids who, and I quote "just race pushies a bit" who are currently racing the National Road Series and beyond.

So I was pretty caught up in SVOL.  Not addicted.  But pretty into it.  This, in turn, leads to a particular  kind of, not so much outlook, as lack of outlook.  Not much going on upstairs.  Brain function reduced.  Creativity zilch.  Just look at my blog in 2010/2011.  Pretty dull reading, for the most part.  That's another offshoot of SVOL.  Anything you end up writing (it might be the same for artists and musicians but it seems to me those cohorts are less likely to become entranced with sport.  This may be a gross generalisation) is usually about SVOL.  Thus, as your entire entire life revolves around this, like, one thing you love, the ability (at least in my case) to think creatively, imaginatively, outside of dogmas, becomes harder and harder.  Then, as the fatigue sets in (not fatigue from a hundred miler.  Like, real fatigue.  Fatigue that comes about because you've ridden your bike with no respite for a year and half, without the base to back it up), you find yourself utterly unwilling, unable, to write a short story, let alone some shitty blogpost about how you are tired.

But that's finished now.  At least, for now.  I can't promise I won't get caught up in the 'just gotta get another fix' outlook that is low grade amateur racing.  Back on the bike, I can feel its allure, even after a month of very easy pedalling.  But, still, the spell has been broken.  With it, it seems, my old mindset has returned.  I'd almost forgotten it existed.  Where the SVOL me is focussed, willing to make sacrifices, dare I say...happier (this is complicated and would require a footnote in normal circumstances...I don't necessarily mean happier in it's pure sense, more in a 'life is simple' sense), the non SVOL me is a bit more erratic, much more creative or imaginative, and perhaps, a bit more up and down.  Take right now for instance.  I'm lying on the couch, under a blanket, eating a boiled potato.  It's cold and dark outside.  A year ago that would have meant 'holy shit it's getting late I better turn in for the (insert distance) ride tomorrow morning.  Now, I look out into the dark and see lots of different things: of my still latent kind-of-fear-of-the-dark, of my suspicion that the night is still kind of evil, that I am, in some fairly strong, metaphysical sense, entirely alone.  One thing is for sure.  None of my thoughts are SVOL related.  It's taken some time.  After a few months, the fatigue that I had accrued slowly lifted until, about a month and a half ago, I suddenly felt like my old self.  Switched on, brain connecting dots it once would have passed by in a haze, a sense that there was something stronger, something more to connect to in the world, beside just the sports bubble.

This is kind of a double edged sword.  On the one hand, I am reading a lot, writing a bit more, and generally feeling more involved with, I don't know, 'arty stuff'.  On the other there is a tendency for me to focus more on the dark outside the window.  But it's this kind of stuff that reminds me of when I was a kid/youngish adult.  That fear of darkness as a kid.  Like, pure darkness, where you can't see your hand in front of your face.  Bushes moving at night for reasons you're not certain of and care even less to investigate.  Strange, semi-autobiographical pieces of writing that teachers mark well, but also include a proviso: ie. what the hell are you on about?  In short, a slight sense of alienation from the rest of the world.  Not in a negative sense necessarily.  More in the way you view the world.  A slight removal from it.

SVOL means you are very much caught up in the HERE AND NOW of both the world and yourself.  You don't really have the time, or the mental facilities, to look outside and wonder about stuff.

But, here, right now, I am looking outside.  It's pitch dark and I can't see a thing.  And the wind is blowing. 

Sunday, July 29, 2012

This Entire Fucking Battlefield

"And the reality is that there’s a lot of stupid fucking crap about black metal, but it’s not a joke!"

John Gossard, from the band Weakling.

I struggle with black metal.  I really do.  I have this totally aware of its shortcomings but simultaneously utterly, head over heels, outrageously in love with what it does relationship with it.  You're aware of the pomp, the pretentiousness, the at times simply boring passages of music.  You try and explain it to people you respect and you see their eyes glaze over, the nodding of the head becomes rhythmic, trance like, as you discover that in fact they don't care at all about your musings on this music.  You begin to sound, you realise with a sudden rush of anger, just like that guy you hate who talks about Shakespeare in a manner that suggests that you, as the guy who-isn't-that-into-Shakespeare, doesn't really get it.  You awake with a start one night and wonder whether this music that means perhaps too much to you is in fact, perhaps, utter crap, and you have bought into the bullshit, and are so far down the rabbit hole that you can't reach the muddy sides, such is the speed that you're falling.

You think about that indescribable, almost other-worldy tingle down the spine the music gives you, which you want to think is entirely unique to you but you in fact know everyone feels about different kinds of music.  You settle, therefore, for just shrugging your shoulders, and suggesting that other's simply, 'don't get it'.  And so you're back at square one.  You are, it emerges, that guy.

Arguing with Brendan last night, trying to fend of the elitist moniker, I concluded that where punk, for example, is about community, the sharing of ideas, black metal is entirely about the self.  It is intensely private.  That doesn't mean it isn't for everyone...simply that it manifests itself entirely differently for everyone, making it impossible to 'compare notes' so to speak.  

To return to the example from the last post, it's a bit like concepts of pain, or colour.  No matter how sure we are that my pain, and yours, my red and your red, are in fact the very same, there is no way to verify it.  If I point to a red patch and say hey that's red, and someone else agrees with me, for all i know his red is my green, but we both agree that that certain point at which we point is what we call red.  Concepts of colour are entirely private, they are inaccessible to anyone else.

It's the same with black metal.  The very same riffs probably mean something entirely different, perhaps radically different, from person to person.  Go to a black metal show, you'll see a lot of people with their eyes closed.  There is an unwillingness to let anyone else into this world that you yourself have fabricated entirely.  

Most people who like black metal protect themselves by acknowledging the absurd qualities of the music.  They joke along with others about corpse paint, about church burnings, of sacrificial suicide which, by the way, only applies to a a small sub-set of bands.  But here's what Gossard was getting at, when trying to explain his feelings about black metal.  He was in a band called Weakling, with members from The Fucking Champs.  Gossard felt the jokes came too thick and fast from the post punk guys, that perhaps he was a metalhead stuck in the middle of a hipster joke band.  Where he looked for sincerity, he found perhaps a tongue firmly in cheek.

They released Dead As Dreams and in so doing created the blueprint for American black metal for the next ten years.  Was it a joke band to the other members, Gossard wondered?  Was his sincerity being mocked by those who only saw absurd posturing?  Listening to the record, I find it hard to believe the other members were't also caught in the spell.  So transfixing, so other-wordly are the songs, it seems impossible that hipster irony could penetrate the languished wails.

But that's just it.  Despite all the bullshit, black metal isn't a joke.  It touches something in us, or at least some of us.  Something that is inexpressible in words, or at least something that loses all its profundity once vocalised.  

We could wax lyrical about perhaps it being the music touching the infinite, or the soul, but that would be a mistake.  It wouldn't do the music justice.  

A lot of North-West American BM bands, caught up as they are with concepts of humans interaction with the natural world, suggest that their music is perhaps the sound of a long forgotten desire to reunite ourselves with mother nature.  The death rattle, if you will, of our longing to live in harmony with a world we have long since become entirely alienated from.  

I have no idea if this is true.  Maybe it's just pretentious bullshit to sell records to gullible Earth-First hipster kids.  

But what if it's true?  What if the intense, darkly melancholic, yet strangely hopeful mood this music puts me in is in fact, I don't know, somehow taking me somewhere else?  Maybe it is the sound of the infinite.  Maybe it's just the sound of humanities' anguished screams, reverberating around an un-caring, or dying world.

Maybe it's the sound of the dying world.

And there it is.  At the point at which I think, yes, finally, I've got black metal nailed, the crux of why you love this music so fucking's gone.  Nothing but ranting, pseudo philosophy, and a slightly embarrassed, (as in, look what you wrote fuckhead) kid.  All that's left is the music, you, and the World.

But that's just me.  It's probably something entirely different to you.

Saturday, July 28, 2012

Consider, Like, The Situation.

My mate Chaz, who for those who don't already know, has a blog here, said the other day, that he didn't read this blog any more because, it "isn't funny".  It should be noted that I completely agree with him.

I kinda miss the days where I ripped off various metal and cycling blogs to brutishly beat a highly stylised and, now that I take the time to think about it, largely false depiction of my life into submission.  These days I have to come to terms with not only my own misgiving about this place, but those of people I respect like Chaz.  Why has this blog become, to put it bluntly and, you know, inyaface, so fucking dull and boring?  

We could, if we wanted to be dull, and follow through with pop psychology, point to the various what we'll call 'shit goings on' in the past two or three years as the insidious force behind the self indulgent, existentially undergraduate rants this blog has seen in the past few years, and especially months.

It might be, I suspect, a little more convoluted than that.  Whilst my existential confusion has been undergraduate, that does not prevent it, unfortunately, from being very puzzling.  Why isn't this blog funny anymore?  Because I see less stuff that is funny.  Instead, I see more stuff that is sad, alienating, disgusting, ugly, and even evil.

Consider the statement, 'I don't know if I am in pain.'  Grammatically sound but, when examined, totally meaningless.  You can't doubt you're in pain.  You either are, or you're not.  It isn't mental, or examinable.  It either is or isn't.  On, or off.

I reckon it's the same as something being funny.  It's kinda meaningless to say 'I don't know if that is funny'.  You either find it funny, instinctively, or you don't.  If I explain a joke to you, that you were at first unsure about, and you then find it funny, it isn't that you weren't sure if it was funny, it's that you didn't understand it in the first place.  It wasn't a comic problem but rather one of comprehension.  You don't know something is funny.  It just is.  The minute you pick it apart, examine it, think about why it's funny, it almost always ceases to be funny.

Maybe I'm less funny, or make less funny jokes in this blog, is because I'm examining, or thinking (albeit clumsily, fumbling in the dark) too much about the things that I once found funny.  Now, I'm more likely to find it sad.  Or perhaps events of the past few years have tinged, overshadowed what has in fact been a comedic frenzy.  Maybe I've just lost my sense of humour.

To give a forced and perhaps dangerous allegory.  The other day I was on the tram.  Opposite me was a family with a toddler of maybe 2-3.  She was flinging her arms around, stamping her feet, making conversation with random people on the tram, and generally being a rad toddler.  As she sat on her mum's lap, pointing at things outside, asking questions, laughing, I found myself smiling along with her.

Maybe, I sat there wondering, the world really is a great place, so long as it's unadulterated by the worries of adult humans.  Maybe we tinge the world, ourselves, with the darkness that lurks at the corners.  I found this thought pretty encouraging.  As I followed the girl's finger, still pointed outside, just near the supermarket on Smith st, I noticed there was a guy, doubled up in the gutter, vomiting what appeared to be blood onto the street.  

The girl didn't notice, but I sure as hell did.  

And that's what i'm trying to get at here, if any of you out there are looking for what we might call a crux of the matter, is that I don't notice funny shit as much anymore.  On The New Timer, it's all cycling lolz, and that's one persona I have, and one that I enjoy, but the crux of the matter is that, when I think about the World now, and where my place is in it, I don't think about funny guys with bikes, or hilarious metal bands that wear tight pants, I think about that guy vomiting blood into the street.  Of misanthropy, of despair, of a sense of loss.  Not loss as in I've lost something, but loss as in I'm at a four way cross roads and fuck knows where I'm going and, besides, I've only got a few litres of petrol left anyway.

So, sorry Chaz, but that's kinda where this blog is at, at the moment.  We can dismiss this is white guy angst and, let's face it, it is.

But there it is.

Maybe I'll sort it out, maybe I won't.

Saturday, July 21, 2012

Consciously, Holding Your Hand.

I was feeling down the other day.  That's kind of par for the course at the moment but, on that evening, I decided to do something about it.

I went to hang out with my mates.  Michael and Tim are some of my oldest friends, and Martina, Tim's Italian girlfriend, seems on a fast track to becoming a good friend too.

I had, no doubt naively, assumed I was one of the few in my old high school bunch who was not exactly stoked on day to day life at the moment.  Everyone else seemed to have found jobs, adventures, inspiration, partners, coupled, seemingly, with a positive outlook.

Instead, that night, I found a bunch of young kids totally bummed out.  Tim hates his job.  Martina has been feeling alienated and alone in Australia, unable to find anyone who recognises her engineering degree.  Tim seems unable to come to terms with Martina's sadness.  I watched them both, Martina murmuring about her fears, Tim's face drawn, saying nothing, and I, too, became pretty sad.

Maybe, I reasoned, nursing my beer, it's just part of the territory.  I usually scoff at attempts to landmark periods of life with certain emotions, outlooks.  But, it does seem as if everyone my age is plagued by doubts.  Maybe not ground breaking doubts, maybe just little, pragmatic worries.

But they're worries just the same.

It's almost as if the very first glimmers of the future we all envisioned has begun to become visible.  And, you know, maybe it isn't as shiny as we first imagined.  It's not that it's bad, or unhappy.

It's more that it's not entirely flawless.  There's marks here and there, grimy bits, small chips where the paint has begun to already fade.

It could be just that we're coming to face up to what was always coming.