Monthly Archives: October 2000

The Eve of the Day of All Saints


I think of the people of Filastine and Yisrael.

 

Peace Candle:

Light a candle.

Do it in chalk and then scan it. Do it in Paintbrush. Steal. Just do it. It is the thought that counts.

Think of who you would, but be of good heart to all involved.


Circling

Saturday night party featured Bowie (acoustic guitar) and Heath (vocals) of Walken, playing new song ‘Lucy’, all their familiar songs, plus a number of songs under development, covers, and ad libs.

Bowie also gave us some Approximate standards, before being joined by Ainsley on piano in good Metallica covers.

Could a boy ask for more?

Yes

I hate being sick. I’m sick again. I never used to get sick. I am not used to it. I hate it.

PS

Adrian Martin on being a critic.

Underground Too

Immediately: without media.

‘Media’ and its derivatives are words that I love to chuck around. Often indiscriminately. When I talk of the mediation of contemporary life, sometimes I speak of the Media, that is, what was once “the press”. Sometimes I speak merely of the reproduction of contemporary life in a medium, say, a painting.

Perhaps… there is more to this confusion than meets the eye.

Media

So, in the cave at Mole Creek, what did we do amongst all this ancient and slow and magnificent creation? (There were 10 of us, during the “shoulder” season, as opposed to 130 peak. Eek.) We pointed at formations and said, look it’s the Nativity, look it’s a fairy tale castle, look it’s the Eiffel Tower, look…

Though I saw more dildoes than anything else.

Maybe they should have just embedded TV screens in the calcite for us.

Yes, I am upset… that there is no tour for those who wish to take it all in. I think I need to go caving. With friends. A la my trip into the Bolte Bridge.

Underground

The Mole Creek Caves in Tasmania were discovered over a hundred years ago by two farmers looking for their dog. There are about 250 caves in the system, referred to as a “karst”.

I love caves. Cool and dark and sacred. They form an important feature in my childhood memory.

The cave that Ainsley and I visited spirals up inside a hill, formed when two subterranean streams met. There be straws and stalagtites, flowrock and curtains, calcite and rust… And glow worms, feeding on what is drawn in by a stream, and also on their own mature, trapped, selves. There are spiders that can also be found in Chile.

Once, church services were hosted in that cave’s final large cavern. The ceiling damaged by carbide lamps is their lasting legacy. (Now my own childhood caves, the Naracoorte Caves, have been tainted by Olympic flames.)

There is a fallacy subtly implicit in my writing above. I have set nature and humanity in opposition. Humans are creatures of a day, bringing fire, creating and destroying rapidly. Changing. Nature is harmony and balance and eternity. Unchanging.

But I am seeing nature only in snapshot. Once, all caves were thick and solid ground. Once, these caves were hollow and undecorated, without the white and red stalag formations. Once, the two sets of spiders lived together on one continent. I have no syntax or grammar for the long processes of nature. My language is one of is-ness.

My language. Your language. So a pillar must be preserved forever behind glass.

And I am wrong again. For as often as I see our rapid change, I see only permanence in our situations.

Doubt. Disintegration. This terrible weather this week in Melbourne. And work. And I am sick.

Context

Dave Weinberger explains why knowledge management is doomed. “Truth is not enough. Knowledge is tribal. It has to be relevant to the tribe. It has to be expressed in the way appropriate to the tribe. It has to come from someone in the tribe or else it must be delivered in the way the tribe chooses to receive foreign ideas.”

There is a solution to this problem: personalisation. Caveat: personalisation is built on knowledge management. Whoops. Note that no one’s done great wonders with all that personal info you tap into every. single. thing. you. subscribe. to.

Luckily, people are pretty good at personalisation. Unfortunately, no one could possibly have enough clueful people to service a large organisation.

Unless… unless… we replace them all with AI! Er, hold on, got a little carried away there. AI is hard. Hmm, back to the drawing board.

Incidentally, this is why mobile phones will never even be good for the current greatly reduced vision of their commerce potential. To whit: bringing up-to-date stock quotes and such. Because mobile phones will never have the nose.

Steeljaw:

What the eyes don’t see, the nose knows. — Steeljaw

I always claim to have learned a lot from Transformers (and Doctor Who, for that matter). It was from Starscream and Megatron that I learned the word “megalomaniacal”. It was because of Brawn that I began down one of the main paths to what I am today.

But I could never have followed through with the sparks of ideas — never even thought it possible to — were it not for my schooling.

There are two schools of thought on schooling, let us call them the “vocational” school and the “ideas” school. I think all readers should know what I mean (a good conversational gambit; should you require expansion feel free to ask). I am a firmly avowed believer and participant in the school of ideas. I believe I am smarter and more capable because of this. Though ideas aren’t for everybody. But I think it should be tried first, before neurons can be locked down.

I am grateful for all the teachers I have had (and not merely those inside school or school hours).

So I am sad to hear about the degradation of Monash University. Some would say “transformation”, but I am too upset at the loss of quality education that cannot be found elsewhere. First they came for classics; then for pure maths; now, for physics.

PS

Site of the day: Alamut. “Bastion of Peace and Information.”

Footsteps

Blankets, flour, beads… disease, alcohol, death…

There are tombstones raised to colonialism and its victims, down and in front of the Museum. Voices from the past whisper there.

Elsewhere, an Australian Aboriginal flag is raised, message sticks held, leaves are made ready in a meeting place to be broken in a sacred rite.

And strong in my mind burns the final image of Ngalyod: a young Aboriginal man hanging himself, returning to the Dreaming, against the background of the Olympics.

Reconciliation… sorry…

One justification I have heard for war, and the space program too, is that it drives industry. (It is good to remember that the space program was born in war, not peace.) People went to war, and space, and created all these technologies that might otherwise have been sidelined in research forever.

And colonialism got me everything I have today. I would not exist without it.

History has passed me by, like the tide receding, leaving behind these gains.

Often I talk about how these things got here. I get stuck on first principles. These things are complex and difficult and I am often lacking information. I don’t think I can readily talk about the moral framework behind these things. For instance, to pick on a current affair, I’ve not yet seen anything worth thinking on or replying to that directly concerns Israel and Palestine.

I need to discuss these things. I need to understand how they are a part of me. For surely they are a part of me. And I do not want them to be a passive part, I want to be active in my past as well as my future. Only through discussion — talking, not not talking — can I take part in my past.

Theatresports feature the concept of blocking. In an alternate dialogue between players, one must continue from the parting idea of the other. Blocking occurs when one dismisses the other’s idea. “It was all a dream…” Good discussion requires me to be a good listener as much as a good speaker.

PS

The story of the Rainbow Serpent is a variation of Ragnarok… only placed at the beginning rather than the end.

Pictures at an Exhibition

Like Icarus’ wings I burnt in the sun yesterday.

The new Melbourne Museum is an interesting piece of architecture from without. Another piece in Jeff Kennett’s DCM vision of Victoria, built faithfully by Baulderstone-Hornibrook. This style apiece with Jeff’s Shed or the Citylink entrance or such, but on a much larger, more complex scale. In SF I realised that we don’t have much in the way of seriously imposing buildings, but now we do. But it is also a place of small, hidden, private spaces.

I think Carlton Park may be the city’s best feature.

There are parts of the Museum construction yet to be finished. For instance, eventually it will be graced with a Grollo fountain (I stand relieved as waterworks are the only elements of Grollo projects that I find pleasing). And parts of the Exhibition building yet require restoration. Then there is a Children’s Play Facility (one of those unfortunate Orwellian names) to be constructed in the North park. Then there are plants and people and projects to be nurtured around and amongst these constructions.

But it’s looking good.

Well, mostly. There is the matter of keeping Australians away from cement. Festival Square is a blight between the two buildings, a wasteland of concrete and gravel. I wish there was grass or flowers or cobble stones or some kind of art. The square should be a powerful voice joining the two voices of the buildings and engaging the many voices or our peoples.

And a curious artefact: the external elevator wells obscure the M’s, giving us ELBOURNE MUSEU.

Opening Ceremony

Opening Ceremonies are like the opening credits to a Bond film, an artform as constricted as a Mills and Boon novel, yet one which may soar with creative minds. This opening ceremony had no such minds.

Its problems were twofold, but both distancing effects.

There was the sheer perfunctoriness of it, where brilliant symbols and performers were dragged through a parade hastily with drab commentary provided by Channel 7. Worst was Steve Bracks, lamely received sacred Woi worung message sticks as if they were shop-a-dockets.

Then there was the conception of the event as a media spectacle. The podium was sat directly in front of and facing the Exhibition building. It was surrounded by a wide empty perimeter. The people of Victoria were kept well away and, literally, sidelined. The media were given the proceedings up close and personal. Channel 7 tried to obscure this, but failed miserably in the final parts, where Steve Bracks declared the Museum open — and then retired far from view, with a media throng, to actually open the Museum. The Bracks pie event happened then — not news, but rather a news-only event.

The most interesting feature was the signer for the deaf — who surely must have been even more hampered than the general populace by being placed on the periphery. But the signer (a common sight these days), despite this poor positioning, worked hard, her hands fast aflutter to keep up with the fast Channel 7 patter.

Flight

I did not brave the masses who wanted to venture into the museum immediately. Instead I took advantage of the food and art outside.

Flight is a retelling of the Daedalus and Icarus story. This was a minimalistic performance, involving the two main characters plus five ghouls and God. The narrative is circular and speaks directly to the crowd — though told without one intelligible word being spoken. While God and Daedalus remain grounded for the duration, the other players spend much of the performance atop tall flexible poles, in flight.

The inevitability of the narrative, the play of the ghouls who represented either Icarus’ internal or externals demons, and the harshness of the law of God create a disturbing sense for most of the performance. It is only Icarus’ intitial flight that truly breaks free from this cloud and my spirit soared for that short time before I realised what this transgression would cost.

Melbourne Museum

Museum: shrine of the muses. Here is not merely a collection of objects, but a small botanical garden, restaurants, a theatre, a cinema, and other bits and bobs. And it is also a museum of itself, the architecture opening up windows into the working areas of the staff. Meanwhile, the collection of objects is not merely a collection, but comes with a message too.

A display of birds is laid out like a smuggler’s chest. Labels are provided, such as “cherished” or “forgotten”. Other displays of dead animals are positively Victorian.

This is, they claim, a living museum.

There are many areas still being set up and arranged. And there are many more objects for them to display. But I wonder if they will ever fill the wide open spaces. My inclination would be to fill it with food hawkers, buskers, net terminals, and, above all, more plants and chairs.

I hope this becomes the thriving cultural centre that its directors envision.

Things to do on Thursday when you’re Friday

There is a hush over Melbourne. We are shrouded in fog. Yesterday the Festival opened with a production of the story of Ngalyod, the Rainbow Serpent, by French street theatre and Australian Aboriginal dancers. It was heralded by a powerful thunder storm that quickly passed over the city.

This month I have been preoccupied with life away from the screen, so there are a litter of unwritten-for days on the calendar. Then, lately, there have been blue days, where I have found myself unable to write.

John Howard

John Howard is a symbol in my heart. I talk about him … too much. I wonder why.

He does not want to kill me. He does not want to imprison me. He does not want to enslave or impoverish me.

I think he is a symbol for more than what is obvious. He is a symbol for all the wars I have waged over operating systems or television shows. He is the person I am impatient with.

All he has, all he is, is an idea about looking after me, that differs from my own ideas.

David Brin

These thoughts were prompted by David Brin:

People who rage at “government bureaucrats” seldom stop to think how little those bureaucrats can actually do to harm you, compared to the impulsive power-abuses of aristocrats and oligarchs in nearly every past culture. And not too long ago! Forget Caesar and Louis XIV. Read Dickens, Jane Austin, Faulkner, Steinbeck! Hell, look at Myanmar and China today.

I have had many unfortunate introductions to David Brin, but always I have recognised both that he is very smart and he reaches many people, so I persisted in trying him out. Earth is the novel that convinced me he is worthy of acclaim, a fascinating essay on humans and our world.

Melbourne Festival

Then it is afternoon and the morning is gone. The skies are mostly blue, it is warm and bright and dry. Melbourne chooses to give a fine display of her changing moods.

Then it is dusk pushed late by daylight saving, and I drag a reluctant — claustrophobic and discultural — Ainsley to see the second performance (of four) of Ngalyod.

It begins in the Carlton Gardens North, the Museum side. It is a magnificent postmodern performance piece, featuring everything from Shakespeare to Brecht to Eighties electronica to the X-Files to the Sydney Olympics. And through it all, over forty thousand years of dreaming. Time is collapsed.

As each piece of the story is laid out, a piece of my childhood works out in my head. This story was given also to us as children. Now we no longer possess but participate.

It moves to the Nicholson St side of the Museum, then round to the Exhibition Fountain, then into the Gardens South, the pond, then round to the Festival Plaza. There are fantastic entrances and exits, artful sleight of hand. The players participate with the audience, make a stage of them, and the audience in turn is drawn Hamelin childrenlike into the performance. Space — the Gardens, the Museum and Exhibition buildings, Melbourne, the shifting crowd, the ancient landscape of the dreaming — is the primary concern.

I want to live in Carlton.

The story is told. Then, the final disturbing act.

It haunts me. Check it out on Saturday or Sunday if you can.

I Do Now

I couldn’t remember what I was going to write here until a second ago.

I was going to write — I am writing — that I sometimes can’t remember things. And sometimes I remember things incorrectly, which should hardly be called remembering at all if one doesn’t want to get into protracted and ultimately futile arguments. But I’m not to know. If you see what I mean.

Now I am going to write — Sometimes I can’t see. I don’t know this, either. The first time I couldn’t see went on for some time. It ended with me, in the fourth grade, nose almost propped against the blackboard, eyes squinting hard, being called to the teacher. I tried to remember if I’d punched anyone recently or something, but it turned out I wasn’t in trouble. The teacher thought I should see an optometrist. I didn’t know why.

Worst of all the Don’t Knows is the inability to express myself at times. Discursion, dropping words, inappropriate style, involution — and worse — haunt my writing.

I don’t know, but I think we all have Don’t Knows.

Sometimes I am proud of a little DK. Some dyslexia can be beautiful. But. Forgetting which hand I write with can be disconcerting.

As you can guess, all of this, plus the awareness of all of this which I’ve just displayed for you, colours my world.

I am very self-aware. I am shy. I often turn inward and then get dizzy. I often get stuck in my own little world.

I would rather be out there with you.

This website is part of straightening all this out.

(Pardon me if I don’t talk about politics or such for a few days. No links either as I try to talk directly by myself.)

Some things I don’t express clearly because I haven’t yet worked them out clearly for myself. I’ve talked a bit about confusion and shyness. I’ve thought about them a lot, but I have little to write for it. Now I am going to try and talk about something I’ve only realised recently, my lack of patience.

I do not have enough time for people. Let me clarify that: I have plenty of time, which I could easily (and gladly, probably) give to people, but I do not do so. One of the people I do not have time for is myself. Some more clarification: I spend a lot of time with people or doing something, but rarely is it an activity of much quality. I zone into things, or veg out, or follow the path of least resistance.

I am tight. I am afraid of losing stuff, especially the stuff that is whatever it is I am doing right at that moment. I hate to lose my train of thought or my place in a book. I am stingy with my hellos and my thanks and my praise. I drink too much. I am quick to anger. Quick to issue a judgement, a remedy, a revenge.

And I don’t know why, naturally. And there is more, it is complex, of course. But there it is, some of it, for what it’s worth. Getting my shit out into the open.

Um.

I look at the above paragraphs. If I read them in a novel, they would be describing a monster. But I am not a monster. I’m just this person, you know. I think most people have this crazy stuff inside them. (In fact, I have to think that to combat my Crippled Ballerina complex — an impatience where the world sees the brilliance they have failed to recognise only as it is taken away.) I am a person, like what I think you are.

I recognise I have a problem. I recognise I am not alone. Those are the first, hardest, steps.

I had some more to say, about infinite games, but I realise that this piece has become very complex itself, so I will leave them for tomorrow.

Mona Lisa

I want to look back on August 15 as the day that I said that all artists are liars — more, that people are liars. The next day was the one where I got into a spin of justification, weaving a small narrative that justified my position. Then, the next day was the one where I started on a different path.

I was born in 1977, a world already long stuck with, for instance, the ideas of Kurt Godel. He and others like him revealed a world in which nothing is certain. This may seem at odds with common sense, even in this day and age, but these Twentieth Century investigators into the fabric of reality also revealed a world of use. Things don’t need to have a solid foundation, just strong interrelationships.

Uncertainty appears to be all there is at the basis of our universe. So sometimes I’ve said that we can’t really know anything. It’s easy to get stuck on an idea. But while uncertainty is both a valuable watchword and tool in our enquiries into the universe, saying that the universe is uncertain, period, isn’t very useful. Or interesting.

And sometimes I’ve said we are all liars. By that I’m coming at the idea of use, but I’m sticking rabidly to the idea that the Universe is Uncertain.

The thing is, a tool can become quite possessive. This tool, uncertainty, like many others, left me talking about it constantly rather than using it. What a bore. Sometimes I start seeing all problems through the lens of how they could be solved with my latest toy — erm, tool. Sometimes I think that all will fall before my toy. Must fall.

But you all get on with your lives. So I try to learn to smile.

When I think I understand how the world works — When I think I know how to solve all the problems — When I think I am really important in some generic way — I try to smile.

The smile is easy, I’m good at it, it makes me happy, it is not a lie. I don’t understand it. I think I remember some TV show or something talking about how babies respond to smiles, but I don’t remember if they gave a reason why we do. I try to always smile at babies. (I don’t smile at animals, ’cause I remember another factoid that says that animals don’t smile, they bare their teeth, therefore misinterpreting our gestures.)

As for Mona Lisa, she smiles, and I don’t know why.

dx/dy

Jeff Kennett, at great expense, gave Melbourne an automated ticketing system. It’s just like the ones in San Francisco’s underground or Sydney or Singapore. Today a lot of the gates were locked open at Parliament Station, but people slotted their tickets in before progressing through.

Aside: the Met, the Muni, the Tube, the many names of the public transport system or one of its parts…

Aside: quote of the day as we rose out of the station, “People at parties love to ask us questions about surgery, so we thought ‘let’s throw a party and invite people along to see for themselves’.”