The Magazine

Reader beware of the inappropriate content that ensues…

Observation Blogger

hustler.jpgI remember when I was fifteen I was given a mangled Hustler magazine in which all the women’s breasts were the size of watermelons. So I took it home and stashed it. I had heard they were stroke-books, but I couldn’t really fathom that since my mother lived under the same roof.  I did consult the magazine, mainly the plumpish New Orleans centerfold, who reminded me of my biology teacher when she sat on the lab bench dangling her legs apart, stretching her short skirt outwards.  Suffice to say, student’s fumbled their pens more than usual.

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Observation Blogger

The crooked rocks, waves lapping my legs
Must be Mornington, feels like the beach
you popped in to say ‘hi’, your echo drew me here
To await the ferry which will cast me out

Forget those seedy districts, weirdos and bums
I mean that peacenik cafeteria, do you remember?
In the garden the sun poured down
And opportunists recited from their manic works

I want to revisit one of our earliest performances
than have another day like the one I had yesterday
Still wondering how I got here from where I started
I wasn’t born in chains.

I was fairly dismissed by you by the quay
in that jumpy district after the third bottle of wine
I have earnt this dull humourless voice
This art is cruel

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The Appointment

Here is another excerpt from a book I wrote in my early 30s. It’s a sister-post to another I reblogged recently called ‘The Screen’.

Observation Blogger

appointmentI have an appointment with the computer. Every night nearly. It is waiting. My chair. A one man seat. My accustomed place that allows me to view everything that I feel needs viewing. Once again there is music in my ears. Songs which I downloaded are now playing on my crummy speakers.  Some go in one ear and out the other. Some stay and keep nagging me because they come attached to some memories. Some so strong they nearly bear a family resemblance. They don’t come out until I’ve hummed them out of my system. The online chat and beer flow in equal quantities.

Then MSN went quiet; it may as well have thrown me away.  I was overtaken by a feeling of frustration. I had to wonder what was happening to me.  I stared at the live camera image of myself and saw reflections of my own dull torn…

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The Wonder Years and ‘Catch The Wind’

Observation Blogger

In the chilly hours and minutes
Of uncertainty, I want to be
n the warm hold of your loving mind.

To feel you all around me,
And to take your hand, along the sand.
Ah, but I may as well try and catch the wind.

– Catch The Wind (Donovan)

the-wonder-yearsProbably no episode of any tv show pounded more at my prepubescent heartstrings than the one below from the 80’s big tv hit –The Wonder Years.
In this episode called ‘Brightwing’, Kevin’s sister becomes a peace-loving radical, running away from home to join her boyfriend in a hippy commune. As the show draws to a close she eventually returns home as a folk song called Catch the Wind cues in. The coupling of this song with the narrator’s words about ‘how people were trying to find their way in life, only to find their way home again’ floored me…

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North Brother Mountain

Observation Blogger

North-Brother-Mountain275-26111105When we were away on holidays at my Nan’s place in Laurieton – 5 hours north of Sydney, my father had his sights set on trekking down North Brother Mountain (image inset). He’d planned it for what seemed weeks.

‘It’s gonna be a real adventure.’

‘When did we last have one of those?’

‘Kids, huh what do you say?’

His unbridled enthusiasm matched those of Clark Griswald. He may has well have heralded ‘Wally world, here we come!’

So we set out on our ‘family of four’ adventure and tore and pushed our way through the recalcitrant rain forest scrub on our way down the steep, uneven terrain. For sixty clenched minutes we were pushing through what seemed a living wall of flies, gullies, undergrowth and ferns which kept smacking us in the chops. Fine scratches covered the back of our hands. Then came the rustling and tickling feel of…

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Trax boy and now ain’t dat a man!

Observation Blogger

traxOur family always tried to achieve middle-class respectability, and never quite got there. The kids at my school had made up their minds. I was the Trax boy; the school kid who wore the cheapest sneakers. Most of the kids’ families had farms with parents who wore flannelettes – not the untucked Western Suburbs style which smelt of bourbon but the settled, crisp, happily country garb which reeked of ‘contented money’.

These rich come-ins lived on cheap land (well, modest for them) with newly built double-storey houses; driveways manicured by shiny white pebbles – not the sharp suburban asphalt ones which tore your legs to shreds.

When my family’s debt mounted and loan repayments became exorbitant we would sell up and buy a cheaper house further away from Sydney. You could count on the housing market to skyrocket after we moved away. We missed the housing booms every time.

My father had to…

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The Tattoo

When I was in my late teens I wanted a tattoo. The Navy seemed like the right place to make this happen. Tattooing, I learnt had been linked with the seafaring life of the Navy for centuries. I remember one of our parade trainers hollering, “A sailor without a tattoo is like a ship without grog. Not seaworthy.”

In 1993 on a sea-familiarisation exercise, I and ten others were posted for a week to the Garden Island Navy base in Sydney. It is located next to arguably Australia’s seediest tourist spot – Kings Cross. We were assigned to a frigate alongside, whose name escapes me. Anyway, all we really had eyes for was Kings Cross at night.

Sprawled across a pub booth seat in a state of drunken ruin, my mate Mal and I somehow met two girls. They were Maoris who had been living in the Cross for six months or so. They appeared to be nice girls. I could see three of each in my blurred vision, which only multiplied their beauty.  Welcome to Kings Cross, I thought.

The next night I decided to get a tattoo. I had a few beers to try to settle the nerves but that didn’t work. I stumbled with my Navy mates into a run-down tattoo parlour on the main street of the Cross. Even as I entered the grungy shop I had no idea what I would get. I browsed the tattoo displays, nervously shifting from one board display to another in the hope that an illustration might grab my attention. The guys got bored waiting so they congregated outside. I soon came across a drawing of a treble clef surrounded by flames. I bent my head sideways and down towards the picture. I nodded. “Treble clef … flames”, trying to ascertain its symbolic importance. I noted to myself how the treble clef represented my infinite love of music. The flame was my passion. The fire in my soul as it were. It was the best I could conjure up in response to the inevitable question: “Why did you get that?” My mates quickly stepped back in. They were as excited and curious as I was. They hadn’t seen anyone get a tattoo.

I peered over at the guy at the counter; his stomach hung over the bench. The customer service oozed from him as he snorted and swallowed his phlegm. I peered back at my mates, who all wore cheesy grins as I stood there at the counter. Eventually he looked up, mildly annoyed that I had interrupted his reading.

“Okay. So what ya havin’?”

I pointed to the treble clef and then smeared my mouth with the same hand.

“That,” I said.

He snatched the picture off the wall and I noticed him squinting as he viewed it closer.

“C’mon,” he grunted.

“Um okay.”

When I saw the chair I nearly regurgitated the beer from my stomach. I would have preferred the dentist’s chair at that moment. I removed my shirt. He moved close to me. Too close. His breath stank. Then he coughed and mumbled in between juggling his phlegm. Reassuringly he remarked, “This hurts.”

Did it hurt? Some superheroes in their own lunchtime have described the procedure as a “hot scratch” or just simply “annoying”. For me it felt like someone jabbing a needle into your back and scraping a figure out of it. I think that’s all I have to say about that. I was allowed to take the bandage patch off after twelve hours. On first inspection my friend raised his hand high and slapped his thigh in short repetitive bursts. He was laughing. Laughing so loud. He was hard pressed to put two words together:

“You …”

“You …” he spluttered like a blabbering idiot

“What is it?” I shouted.

“You … you … your treble clef is traced on backwards – inside-out!”

My jaw dropped. I stared at his face fastened to each of those words dangling from his lips. Treble clef backwards inside-out

Everyone wanted to look at my defective tattoo.

TattooMy tattoo is small and located on the right shoulder blade where I cannot see it. Its placement is its greatest asset. Suffice to say I am reluctant to show it off. It’s neither sexy or wicked, simply faulty. When people view it they don’t gasp excitedly; they just look at it slightly indifferent and say “Oh” until the penny has dropped of course. It’s never encouraging.

‘You do realise your trebel clef is backwards’?

‘Yes of course’ I reply.

‘Music and what it means to me is internalized deep within’.

‘So that’s how it appears to you on the outside’.

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The Telegram

Observation Blogger

AthleticsA school-friend kindly sent me a telegram after I won at the Australian Schools Athletic championships, admitting I was good enough despite wearing cheap sneakers called ‘Trax’. I still have the results of the event which show my Australian record just below Cathy Freeman who also won at the same event. For those of you that don’t know, Cathy Freeman went on to win the 400 meters gold medal in the Sydney 2000 Olympics. This is arguably the most heralded track event win in Australian Olympic history. You can watch this historic moment here.

Later the local paper would interview my brother and I:


Most 15 year olds would not readily admit they owe their success to their brother two years junior.

I have few claims to fame, but as Charles Bukowski  put it, ‘Hey baby, when I write, I’m the hero of my shit’.

I have kept…

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The Master (2012) – Paul Thomas Anderson

Lancaster Dodd: I am a writer, a doctor, a nuclear physicist and a theoretical philosopher. But above all, I am a man, a hopelessly inquisitive man, just like you.

MasterWhile Paul Thomas Anderson’s film catalogue may not be expansive his movies certainly are. He hit fame and encountered some notoriety with his highly original and flamboyant expose of the pornographic industry in Boogie Nights. Since then he has continued to go on to make some of the most challenging and innovative cinema. The Master in particular seems to bottle what is so alluring about how Paul Thomas Anderson makes movies.

IMDB Storyline of The Master: Returning from Navy service in World War II, Freddie Quell drifts through a series of breakdowns. Finally he stumbles upon a cult which engages in exercises to clear emotions and he becomes deeply involved with them.

For the regular cinemagoer The Master might seem like a hard nut to crack. You’ll find no redemption or atonement for wrong doings, nor even a typical narrative structure in this movie. We don’t follow a path well worn by any other movies, none which I can recall anyway. The Master leaves us to pick up the pieces and assess what it means to us. *You will find what it means to me in the last paragraph of this article. The Master on the surface is a story about an intense and complicated friendship (some say love story) between two men with alter egos who despite their obvious inadequacies and at times repulsive behaviour find some extraordinary kinship in trusting and believing in one another.

Here in lies the tragedy – the summation of such a profound friendship does not equate to much by the end. This is where many viewers might find the movie unclear and elusive or simply off putting. We don’t arrive at the end and say, ‘Oh Freddy Quell (Joaquin Phoenix’s character) is a better person for thinking this or behaving like that’. That despite such a profound kinship between the two egomaniacs, the movie and the characters essentially ends where it begun. They seem to be souls touched but as easily untouched by each other and those around them. To me the Joaquin Phoenix character is the alter ego of Hoffman’s Cult Leader character which is alluded to in the last scene between them. ‘If you leave me now, in the next life you will be my sworn enemy‘.

It dawned upon me in a later viewing of the movie when Freddy Quell is watching a movie in a cinema and Lancaster Dodd happens to call him out of the blue, that Paul Thomas Anderson like Dodd is having his way with us.  Anderson in his director’s hat and The Master (The Lancaster Dodd character) are one of the same puppeteer. Dodd is pulling Freddy’s strings and we the audience like Freddy are going wherever he motions us. The irony is like the charismatic cult leader Lancaster Dodd in the movie, Anderson is seemingly making this up as he goes along. But he is The Master and we (the audience) are his loyal followers. Even if he sends Freddy from wooden paneled wall to window and back over and over again we like Freddy go along too despite how futile or meaningless the exercise may appear. He is the Master after all.

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Breath – Tim Winton (A classic Australian novel)

“It’s funny, but you never really think much about breathing. Until it’s all you ever think about.”
Tim Winton, Breath

tim-winton-2Tim Winton is Australia’s most-lauded novelist. He has won Australia’s highest literary merit the Miles Franklin Award an unprecedented 4 times including once for the novel I will discuss here – Breath. I have read nearly all off Tim Winton’s books. He is undoubtedly my favourite Australian author. To me what sets Tim’s writing apart is his ability to capture that almost inexplicable strange beauty of Australia. I have lived overseas a long, long time and of course I miss my home country, but if I ever want to get reacquainted with my island home then I will dive head-first into a Tim Winton novel. I have him to thank for that.

Good reads’ description of Breath: On the wild, lonely coast of Western Australia, two thrillseeking and barely adolescent boys fall into the enigmatic thrall of veteran big-wave surfer Sando. Together they form an odd but elite trio. The grown man initiates the boys into a kind of Spartan ethos, a regimen of risk and challenge, where they test themselves in storm swells on remote and shark-infested reefs, pushing each other to the edges of endurance, courage, and sanity. But where is all this heading? Why is their mentor’s past such forbidden territory? And what can explain his American wife’s peculiar behavior? Venturing beyond all limits—in relationships, in physical challenge, and in sexual behavior—there is a point where oblivion is the only outcome. Full of Winton’s lyrical genius for conveying physical sensation, Breath is a rich and atmospheric coming-of-age tale from one of world literature’s finest storytellers.

breathShortly after Breath was published in 2008, I went to see Tim do a book reading in Melbourne to inaugurate the release of his much anticipated book. I had never before or ever since procured a book and read it as quickly as I did with Breath.  I would read it another 3 times that year before I eventually moved overseas. A week ago I dusted it off to rekindle that old flame and see if my obsession with it was justified. Part way through I realised I was reading from a master at work. I was just as mesmerized as I had been 10 years earlier. Every page I was gobsmacked by some outstanding literary prose thinking to myself, ‘How did he come up with that, and that, and that?’. To put it bluntly, reading a Tim Winton book is a very humbling experience for any writing enthusiast. He sets the bar high.

“That was the simple objective, being airborne, up longer, up higher, more casually and with more fuck off elegance than anyone else in the world. I never understood the rules or the science of it but I recognized the single-mindedness it took to match risk with nerve come what may. Some endeavours require a kind of egotism, a near autistic narrowness. Everything conspires against you – the habits of physics, the impulse to flee – and you’re weighed down by every dollop of commonsense dished up. Everyone will tell you your goal is impossible, pointless, stupid, wasteful so you hang tough. You back yourself & only yourself. This idiot resolve is all you have.”
Tim Winton, Breath

What struck me this time around apart from it being more of a page turner and easier to read than I remember; is this coming of age story of two adolescent surfers on the West Australian coast launched me back into my own adolescent self. Better than any family photo album could evoke, all the sights, smells and sounds of my youth in Australia came flooding back.

Arguably, Tim Winton’s magnum opus up to this point is his 1991 novel Cloudstreet. It’s nearly thought of in Australia as un-Australian if you haven’t read that ‘tower of book’. Many would recommend if you were going to get your feet wet with Tim Winton then Cloudtstreet would be the go-to book. However, I would contend that Breath is more easily consumable due to its no-nonsense literary prose and and it can be read in less sittings due to its shorter length and entrancing plot. As a blogging enthusiast, even if this post inspires just one person to read Tim Winton then I will be content.

The first sun gave the water a benign sheen and for a few moments there was nothing to see, little enough for a swoon of relief to course through me. I was, I thought, off the hook. And then a mile out I saw the sudden white flare. A plume of spray lifted off the bommie like the dust kicked up by a convoy of log-trucks and after a second’s delay the sound of it reached us. Now that was a noise to snap a boy out of his dreamy sense of wellbeing.


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