Eight Pairs of Legs

They say to be a better writer it helps to be constantly on the look out for new material, sponged from daily life. For a while now I’ve had a cloud-based folder in Notes.app on my phone, crammed full of mysteriously-titled files covering all sorts of random topics. Brave. KP2. Double-cross. Winning. Details. Each one of them a list of sentences or paragraphs, mostly unconnected, describing something I’ve either seen on the street, or pertaining to an upcoming project or kernel-of-a-project which I simply had to write down before it evaporated.

A couple of weeks ago, just after we temporarily moved into the colourful neighbourhood of Surry Hills, I started one called Crazy People. The mission: writing down anything I happened to catch, uttered by the local vagrant or special population, of which there seem to be quite a strong showing of in the area. Not surprisingly, this file is filling fast; so fast it’s becoming clutter, especially as I have no current project where this anthology of nuttiness will end up finding a home.

What I’m also discovering is that the more I’m listening to these people – not only writing down whatever hollered sentence they happen to utter as I mosey by, but also details about what they were doing, how they looked, and what might have caused their outburst – the more some of them are starting to make sense. When I started, my intention was to capture the strange things these often-disturbed people said, thinking there’d be some comic value in it somewhere, especially if it had originated in an authentic place. But now that I’m actually trying to document, most of them just make me feel a bit sad: there’s often a lot of logic behind their apparent madness.

Like yesterday. There was a 50yo man in a filthy blue polo shirt, holes in his shoes (though not a vagrant), his wild eyes and sweaty features asymmetric enough that you could tell at a glance he wasn’t all there. He was walking down Bourke street, shouting: “Eight!! … Eight!!! ... EEEIIIGHT!!!”, over and over, with unintelligible muttering in between. Curious about the muttering, I got in close. In between the eights, he mumbled : “Two, four, six, eight. Eight pairs of legs. Nice legs. Summer legs. Two-four-six-eight.. EIGHT!!!” Turns out he’d just passed a bunch of girls, farther down, all still laughing at having dodged a crazy man, each of them wearing tiny denim shorts to match the summer weather. Eight legs, all in a row.

He wasn’t crazy. Well, not completely. Sure, he was bad at maths, but it’s not like I hadn’t noticed the same group, both of us reduced to being just a couple of dudes noticing a bunch of pretty girls. The only difference between us was that I kept my mouth shut about it, and my shoes were clean. Nearly every one of these people I could’ve said the same about; all larger disability issues aside, in the one-on-one isolated incidents I’ve been documenting, nearly every person has been motivated by exactly the same things as the rest of us would, the only difference being their method of expression, their hygiene, and how the world bluntly responds to their presence, usually putting distance between them.

Whether there's been any deep understanding gained from having noticed, I don't know. I’m still going to keep writing down their pearls of wisdom, still for exactly the same self-serving reasons as before; there'll be no human-interest, life-changing-experience paragraph to end this tale. But if the observation has left it’s mark on me at all, perhaps it’s that I’m now listening for stories, not soundbites. That, and for any helpful crowd-sourced tips on whether there are any beautiful women in the vicinity…

The 7 Best Music Videos On YouTube in 2012

Let's just clear up a few things: by "Best" I mean favourite, by "music videos" I'm mostly not referring to the original, official artist release, and by "2012", I'm only talking about the year I first had the link come my way, not the year it was actually published. That having been said, this year has been full of pure gold. I'm sure there are plenty more I've forgotten on this list, but let's just jump right into it without further disclaimers:

1. "I'm Good, I'm Gone", Lykke Li


Great track, awesome chick, an infectious sense of fun. I haven't seen the original clip for this song, but so far as I'm concerned, there's nothing Lykke Li could do to improve on it!

2. "Kiss From A Rose", Bard55's Drunken Cat Serenade


So much passion in the delivery. Brilliant.

3. "I Fink U Freeky", Die Antwoord


One of the most-played albums all year, working, writing, whatever. The film-clip rocks my world in so many ways. Roger Ballen's messed up imagery just works for these guys...

4. "Party For Everybody", Buranovskiye Babushki


They didn't win Eurovision 2012 in Baku, but these feisty old gals were certainly the most memorable act of the night. Creepier than Die Antwoord too.

5. "Papa Was A Rolling Stone", The Undisputed Truth


I don't really care for the track all that much, but hot damn the Soul Train dancing and fashion choices are the bomb!

6. "Sexy And I Know It", LMFAO (Spandy Andy Version)


Spandy Andy's video to this song should've been the official video - way more entertaining than the one LMFAO's record company dollar paid for, with a good deal more wiggling.

And last, but certainly not least....

7. "IMDABES", gmcfosho


I could watch or listen to this track all 2013 long and still be finding new, subtle nuances I hadn't picked up on before. You'll laugh. You'll cry. You'll be flummoxed and as yourself: "Why?"

Enjoy. Plenty more where these came from in 2013...

Shut Up And Drive

Last night I had a disturbing, overly frustrating dream.

In it, I was leafing through a friend's battered, dusty CD collection, when I came across an old, 90s-looking disc by Paul McCartney, titled "Shut Up And Drive", complete with terrible bright purple "cyber", and with Sir Paul sporting a shocking haircut. Something about it caught my eye, so I put it on.

The song which played was none other than the 2009 Rihanna hit of the same name. Not a different version, not with Paul McCartney singing: the same, damn song.

Confused, I asked my friend about it, and he said: "Oh, no. That's a Paul McCartney song. Rihanna only covered it", to which I replied: "...but that's her singing, right? Not Paul McCartney". Not hearing a word of it, my buddy shook his head and said, flatly, "No", pulling out some kind of internet song database on his phone as proof. Sure enough, Rihanna did indeed release a single by that name in 2009, but it was all samples and lip-syncing. Frustrated, I refused to believe it, and the argument continued along those lines for quite some time until I grew tired of the dream and woke up.

What does it all mean?

I can understand Paul McCartney popping up, as he'd only just popped up in quite a bit of radio chatter, after his recent guest spot for charity with a reformed Nirvana, but as to the twisted Rihanna connection - a song I'm not particularly fond nor attached to - and the 90s back story, I have no idea.

At least if I'm going to be performing such bizarre artist mash-ups in my sleep, you'd think they'd be with folks I actually enjoy listening to, or at the very least, morph into something a little more entertaining, such as Rihanna herself arriving on the scene to plead her case to me in the form of a sensual massage.

On Hating Christmas...

A few days ago I casually mentioned to a friend that I did, quite passionately, dislike the festive season. I hadn't set out to shock, just throwing it in there to add a bit of context to the additional stress it'll no doubt bring to these next few busy weeks, mostly spent preparing for an impending move overseas. But the depth of the horror displayed on her face - mouth hung open like I'd taken a swipe at the core of her very being - reminded me again that perhaps I shouldn't let that tidbit slip so freely. The conversation stopped, I was forced to explain.

I think the annual loathing boils down to a few basic points of personal history

1. It's somebody else's holy day - why am I celebrating it?

My family isn't religious. We don't even pretend to call ourselves religious but then not practice. Religion wasn't actively discouraged during my childhood; it just never came up. Once Santa was out of the way, and once we'd all grown to an age where we'd essentially agreed not to give each other presents anymore (mostly borne of the lack of teenage finances) then suddenly all that was left for December 25th was an opportunity to bicker. Add alcohol, bickering turns to open warfare. No thanks.

2. The pressure to get the day right far outweighs the payoff.

Every Christmas-celebrating family has it's own traditions, rules and regulations as to how the day (or days) must proceed. We must be awake by 6am (no matter how much we drank last night). We must eat a hot roast for lunch (no matter how much we ate yesterday, or no matter how hot the Australian summer is for such a summer-inappropriate menu). We must be happy and nobody must spoil the day (no matter how many big personalities are shoved under the same roof, or their brattish children). There's too much expectation. Some years it's met, sure, but I find myself sitting there each year feeling imposed upon by Christmas like it's some freaking-out Bridezilla making unrealistic demands on the wedding planner at the last minute and having a full-blown hissy fit.

3. I have major baggage about those bloody carols.

This is by far the worst offender for me. In a former career as a professional piano player, some of my fragmented income required rehearsing local choirs several nights per week. It came as no surprise to me that these groups wanted to get in early and learn a few decent choral arrangements of the popular carols in the weeks leading up to Christmas. That would be fine, but in reality it wasn't weeks. Months. Seriously. One year, the Christmas repertoire rehearsals started - and I kid you not - on August 10th. The other choirs followed one by one, and by mid-September, I was rehearsing Christmas material on Monday, Tuesday and Thursday nights, three hours at a time. Insanity. Then of course, the other corporate/commercial work kicked in around late November as you'd expect, filling up all the rest of the days with various other Christmas functions, parties, televised performances (live AND pre-taped), so that by Christmas Eve itself, I'd quite easily heard and played the same twenty regular carols several hundred times each. At least. (And I'm not even going to start tallying all the other times and places you hear carols - shops, television, films, door-to-door, people whistling in cars...) And that's only one year. Next year, the same twenty songs. Over, and over. I wouldn't mind so much if they rotated the carols the way the Chinese rotate their Year Of The animal each year. But that's not how it works, and now, years later, no matter how many years there are between me and professional piano playing, I'm scarred.

I don't mean to go all Bah! Humbug! on people. Mostly, I keep it to myself, except for the rare moments where I meet a kindred spirit intent on sharing. To so many people - my wife included - the day itself holds so much magic, religious or not, and I certainly don't want to be the one to crush that in them.

But what about us: the Christmas-hating minority? What are we supposed to do? Destined to block our ears to all the rampant fa-la-la-la-la-ing, chomping down on a hot, fatty roast in 32-degrees-Celcius, and plaster on those smiles each year wishing people Merry Christmas like you're actually feeling merry?

There's an island that I'm sure many will want to round us all up and dump us on; so long as it's got a pool, a bar, and somewhere to read a secular book, sign me up!