Wednesday, October 1, 2014


I've been thinking about glances, unverified glances mostly. They're these momentary things that have remained pinned up in the subconscious. They're always accessible for recollection, those silent intensities that have gone without clarification and yet, they seem to exist forever with their own kind of truth.

When I was younger, I broke one such moment to question how it's possible to even dole out such a charged gaze. The intensity, apparently, was intended to correspond with sincerity. Oddly enough, I walked away, determined that I would never trust those who "gazed". After all, what are intentions without words?

I harbour an ambivalent attitude towards such moments. I look forward to them, knowing that they lead to the most meaningful and meaningless moments of my existence. I want every meaning to be defined, yet their silence provokes a confidence that suggests that I really need no clarification. I am wanted...

Thursday, September 11, 2014


A large throng of girls huddled tightly. Their school dresses were cut jagged and short, the fabric matted with dried blobs of red and yellow acrylic paint. They struggled to all fit together, some leaned outwards, threatening to topple off the two-foot high wooden platform. They held fast to one another, some girls held hands with their friends. Some pressed their plastic firemens' hats to the heads, others remained poised with party poppers.

I stood around awkwardly. Even in the last moments of high school, I never knew where to stand or who to be with. I never stopped envying those tiny microgestures of acceptance, a pose for a photograph, a pause for a moment's conversation. To be acknowledged meant everything to me, only because for those four years, it seemed as if I perpetually stood with some girl's back to me.

Once I received all the attention on that platform where we stood together. I had performed a scene from A Midsummer Night's Dream. I had never been offered the opportunity to perform in a play or a show, not even in the chorus. I had always been predestined for the orchestra pit. It was hugely gratifying to play Bottom, if only for those few moments. I screeched and hammed it up to excess. I died for as long as possible and everybody loved it.

The bell echoed across the courtyard. Girls screamed, arms flailed, confetti fell. Out of nowhere, Nancy suddenly hugged me tightly. She was a tough girl who boasted about hanging out with the Triads on the weekend. On Year 9 camp, she had pinned me down, straddled my mid-section and punched me repeatedly during a night time game. In Year 12, she was reprimanded for punching Amelia. Her swollen left cheek morphed from blue to purple and then black.

I never thought to ask why Nancy suddenly hugged me like that and it was funny that even during that embrace, she still couldn't bring herself to look at me. At the time I consoled myself thinking that the gesture was the apology, albeit the apology of a coward. In retrospect, I think she was just pleased that we would never have to see each other again.

In the years that have followed high school, I have spoken openly about the sadistic bullying practices of our year level. To each other, we used to joke about the widespread myth that every second year level at our school was particularly dysfunctional. It was funny that despite the heightened level of self-awareness (and lengthy group-counselling sessions), we could never get it together.

In theory, it should have all ended in that moment, as we stood in friendship and relief on that platform. In actuality, every incident from those four years seems to spin around in my head forever. The memory of it manifests itself in interesting ways, like I used to live with this insatiable desire to confront any and every bully. Even in my dreams, I wanted to embarrass and condemn those who are cruel.

In more recent times, I haven't been thinking about the cruelty, I have only been thinking about the classes. I loved almost everything that I did and I think back to how inspiring those classes were: Shakespeare in Performance, Women in History, Protest and Conflict, Journalism, Fashion, Photography. In my head, I continue to navigate those grounds, the hallways and the classrooms, but everything is empty. Everyone is gone.

When people ask what high school was like, I say: "It wasn't as bad as it was."

Friday, March 28, 2014


I knew it was the end when I saw that photograph of your smashed up steel-blue Fender Precision Bass. The headstock was roughly decapitated from its thick neck, the strings were severed and hung loose across the bruised body. Fans cooed dramatically, commenting on how rock'n'roll it all was. You never addressed them, but I know you would have loathed that suggestion. You only ever said: "Goodbye old friend."

I imagined your relief that came from that violence. How it must have felt for you to destroy the object that had kept you away for so long. It reminded me of our first conversation, when you told me about how you saw Richey Edwards' last show with the Manic Street Preachers. Years after his disappearance, you still seemed so shaken by the determination of his violence, diving head first into the drum-kit at the end of the show.

I hope you've managed to return to the life you wanted, free of old friends and draining obligations. I'd be lying to say that I didn't miss your hysterics, they were always so poetic. I still think of the world in terms of us and them. There are those who will swoon over the rock'n'roll gesture and then us, those who will try to derive some meaning out of it. I think we live differently to everyone else.

Monday, March 24, 2014


The proposition read as a perverse challenge to me: Sad music might actually evoke positive emotions, reveals a new study by Japanese researchers... The summary suggested that there is an odd ambivalence that comes from listening to sad music, suggesting that pleasant feelings derive from sad music because that it does not pose a real threat to personal safety. It was a vague proposition with little scientific certainty in its brief citation. In any case, I decided that I wanted to conduct my own uncontrolled study using myself, an old unfinished C60 cassette and the tape deck in my Volvo.

I tested the theory during a familiar late night drive, when time was indistinct and the streets were empty. I pushed in the tape and pressed rewind. The tape whirred, eventually clicking to start. The plane trees bowed ruefully over Orrong Road, the heavy branches clouded the flossy glow of the passing street lights. I was convinced that I could handle whatever associations it threw at me and I did. I remained stoic throughout the aggressive jangly semiquavers of Fonz. I felt fine through the scarcely discernible French ramblorings of Still Fond. Each lyrical proclamation left me unperturbed: One day, we're gonna live in Paris, I promise...

It was sad, but not in the Lacrimosa sense of the word. It was sad in that everything from its sequence to its sentiments felt so familiar to me, in spite of the fact that it had been so long since I'd listened to it. It felt like living: speeding through the darkness, being bombarded with scarcely-forgotten reminders, always battling to shut up.

Now homeward bound, the last song came on near where I spotted a Toorak fox, some nights before. I was bemused, having momentarily forgotten the song's inclusion on the tape. It was a lo-fi home-made demo with acoustic guitar and loud female backing vocals. I recalled its lyrics and sang along in a plaintive masochistic style, Why don't you call me? As the song went on to describe the devastating possibility of his crush running out of phone credit, I had to smile and acknowledge how dated and painful it all was. As much as I tried to guard the ongoing legacy of this thing, there was always the risk I'd trip over something like that. I'd come across a horrible reminder of how this is life, as it worked out.

I'll admit, I had some doubts about this scientific proposition. For one thing, I don't necessarily believe that music can be divided into the happy and the sad. There are associations, meanings and intentions, always contained and largely untapped. For me, both music and living is all about legacy management. I try to organise memories in the knowledge that time will never make the painful, painless. I appreciate that one point that study did make though: that music, like memory, poses no immediate threat to us in the present moment. Despite my initial reluctance to reacquaint myself with his songs, I will always be protected due to the nature of the past and its complete irrelevance. I am comforted in the idea that I'm strong enough to return as an unmoved silent tourist. I am safe, I will always be safe, so long as I am alone at some indistinct hour.

Wednesday, March 5, 2014


Whenever we would have guests around, my Dad would boast about my ability to identify the year of any photograph, film or song. I would be sheepish, downplaying my mad skillz, but I've always made a point to ask the year of everything. Whether it's a deteriorated red hardcover book by Arthur Mee or a DVD of a J. Arthur Rank film, I want to know where it all fits historically. I need to develop this narrative in order to make sense of the past.

When my Dad and I watch old 1950s English films together, he always remarks about how sad he is to learn that all these actors have since died. Together we contemplate what they would have been like in real life, whether the cast were friends with one another, whether they were warm, kind or funny. We often know that they led tragic lives. They were either alcoholic depressives or else closeted homosexuals who would later commit suicide.

His knowledge of this particular genre of film is astounding and whenever we sit together, I encourage him to document all his observations in a blog or even a zine. I urge him to get in touch with his old English teacher, who coincidentally has written two encyclopaedias about the history of British film. He puts it off, expressing anxiety that he needs to learn more before finally making contact. I tell him to hurry up: we don't have much time.

I suppose we share not only the desire to be experts, but also that fear that we may never know enough. I wonder if we'll ever be ready enough to reach out to the establishment. I wonder if we'll ever spar with those we admire, in such a way that might suggest that our views might even carry some kind of authority. I look forward to that feeling that might fill me one day, that satisfaction that would come from knowing enough to finally move forward.

Highly Dangerous