// Art, Wank and Political Life

What is it about politicians that stops them from engaging their brains before they speak? It really does show a distinct lack of nous in people who, by-and-large, aren’t lacking in intelligence. We’ve become (in Australia at least) used to the inevitable appeals to the lowest common denominator via the electorate’s fear du jour.

When you have a backbencher who makes regular faux pas in a party, it seems that they get pulled from the game for a quarter, sitting out their time on the bench, gagged, bound and receiving an extra dose of Deep Heat™ before getting a run in the fourth via the puppeteer’s request to ask a question of the ‘honourable member’. Giggle.

So election day has dawned and never has there been such a more disgusting choice than between the Mad Monk and Krazy Kevin…

What a farce, Damned if you do, Damned if you don’t.

// City and Colour – The Dallas Green Experience

Dallas Green image

It’s not very often I get excited by a new album from a musician. City and Colour’s latest release, The Hurry and the Harm, is one such album. City and Colour is the ‘trade name’ of Dallas Green, who until this album I had only heard of in bits and pieces; Alexisonfire (my 18 year old son is a huge fan and very competent Metalcore drummer), ‘What Makes a Man’ with Pink, tattoo and hipster websites touting Green’s ‘folkster’ style. Now, with the release of this new album, I’m a convert.

In short, I’m in love with City and Colour’s new album. Green’s lyricism alone had me hooked. As I write this, my favourite line from The Hurry and the Harm is “‘Cause I was born and raised, to live beyond, the heft and weight, of a world undone” (Harder than Stone) — brilliant. Those three words “heft and weight”, such a great visual image of the words before and after. They are also an homage to his time with Alexisonfire, as these same words are used in ‘Born and Raised’ from their album Old Crows/Young Cardinals.

This homage thematic continues with the album title, as to my ear, Green (a Canadian) is carrying on the mantle of great singer/songwriters from Canada. In this instance I hear the evolution of Neil Young’s song ‘The Needle and the Damage Done’ from his 1972 album, Harvest in the title of both Green’s album and Harder than Stone. I could be wrong, yet so much echoes in this album and the resonances of Green’s move from Alexisonfire to establishing his folk-pop career reflects the similar journey for Young.

There isn’t a moment on this album where you think that nothing shouldn’t be there. That so rarely happens for me, as I tend to be a discerning critic of the music I buy, usually before I buy it. The ‘lightness’ of the album’s overall sound is a perfect foil to the depth and darkness of the lyric. There is no standout track on the album, because they all stand out. There is a consistency of message too, which I think is what adds to the ‘heft and weight’ of this album, its gravitas.

If you haven’t heard anything from this album, head on over to City and Colour and have a listen. The generous Green has a track or two available for free, and there are offers and the ubiquitous social media feeds to keep in touch with the man as well. The Hurry and the Harm is a seriously good album that is set to launch City and Colour – The Dallas Green Experience into a much wider and wondrous audience. Deservedly so.

City and Colour - The Hurry and the Harm

// Dogs don’t ride bicycles


I love my dog. He is a mischeivious, sunning, lovable, rapskallion! This morning I rode my fixie to get a coffee and catch up with a friend. I wanted to take him with me, but he’s too wired to run with me while I ride.

He’d want to hop on too, but dogs don’t ride bikes. I thought I might get a porteur basket on the front for him to sit in. He’d love that – until he saw a cat or a bird or any other distraction that would cause him to leap off in to oncoming traffic.

So, I left him at home for a couple of hours. I now have a new front garden. It’s just like the old one, only better, ’cause he scattered the plants into new positions. He thinks they look much better there. We don’t agree.

Maybe I need to teach him how to ride a bike.

Winter in Abhalon…

I am so grateful for where I live. Tis a great place. The weather is chilly and crispy-cold, but no massive snow dumps or blinding blizzards. Even in winter, it is still temperate.

The days are warm and sunny and the wet days are really wet. When you wake up in the morning to the scene depicted in this image, you really do get a sense for life.

A friend let me down today. I’d say it was more his perception of the problem he has than the actual problem. I almost let it get to me, and then I saw this…

Volvos, as big as Whales…

advert for 79 Volvo 242 GT

So, as stated earlier, and as evidenced by my driveway, I am a Volvo Tragic. What started out as a search for a weekend wagon, capable of mildly off-road and carting bikes, dogs and punters around, has turned into a mini-obsession. Volvos are not the first thing one might think of when we are talking obsessions, but there ye go, each to their own.

The current focus of this Volvo obsesion is a recently acquired 1979 Volvo 242 GT. The GTs were a factory option that were produced to compete alongside BMW, Audi and Mercedes as a viable sports option. Yes, sports option. Yes, Volvo. The above picture is one of their advertisements from the 70s.

The GT came standard with a 2.1 or 2.3 litre EFI (electronic fuel injection) motor, some were normally aspirated (no turbo or superchargers) and some had forced induction (a turbo charger was fitted). All had front and rear disc brakes with the (for the times) awesome Volvo (Girling/ATE) four-spot calipers. The suspension wasn’t fantastic, but it could be modified to handle even better than factory, a mod still being carried out on most Volvos today, and most, of not all, the work could be done from home by a competent home mechanic.

The GT I have has been fitted with a 2.3 litre Motronic controlled turbocharged engine, close to, but not the original factory motor. They are a classic car, really, and probably only something a mother could love, but they are a great car for the price.

As with any car that is 33 years old (although the motor is 28 years old), there are bound to be a few issues. One of the most common ones is the wiring harness that runs from the ECU to the fuel injectors. Over time, the earlier looms suffer under the heat and oil and become crumbly and brittle – like this:

This wiring controls the firing of the fuel injectors and the cold/hot start sensors for the motor – not something you want shorting out on you, not at all. So. I’ll begin rebuilding it as the time and money allows.

So, as I pondered the sense in working on a vehicle that needs a bit of work before it can begin polluting again, all while whales are being slaughtered, oceans are rising and resources are depleting, I wondered at my sanity.

Why would you do this?

How would you justify this?

Well, how do we ever justify anything! We live in denial, and we cohort…

Whale protestors burned so much fuel in getting to ‘save the whales’ and pootle around the oceans; good luck to them, I say, as they have done an amazing job of bringing this back in to the public eye, but don’t then preach about using fossil fuels for our own uses. I don’t intend to drive this car everyday, nor do I plan on spending great gobs of money travelling all over the world in it, or consuming more than I need, which in my case is pretty low maintenance.

This is a hobby, one I enjoy, and one that helps keep me sane. As the Doomsday Clock moves another minute closer to our destruction, sanity is what I need most…

Is there not an irony in watching a doomsday clock tick and spending time on a car that contributes to the problem? Absolutely! Yet, unless we all stop, and I mean all 7 billions of us, right now, one man tinkering away and not driving his car isn’t really gone amount to much. Cows belch more methane in an hour than I expend in energies or creating pollution…

See, justification is easy, you’ve just got to believe you’re doing the right thing, or the wrong thing for the right reasons.

If you want me, I’ll be out in the garage…

Water from the well

Kosho Uchiyama

Been a while since I thought of Zen, which is possibly a good thing, cos thinking of Zen is like chasing wind sprites…

Anyhoo, a dear friend is staying a the moment while his boyo recovers from a bizzare illness, and it got me thinking about my own life and children, especially the impermanence of life. One of my favourite books on life and letting go/hanging on is Kosho Uchiyama’s “Opening the Hand of Thought”. I thought of it while teaching the other day.

I play an instrument called a Bodhrán (bau-rawn), which is an Irish frame drum, and I also have a couple of students who are learning from me about my philosophy toward the instrument. It was to one of these students that I said, “Holding the tipper is a constant action of holding on and letting go”, which is also a Keith Urban Album note and is also Kosho Uchiyama’s abiding mantra.

We fear loss. We fear it more at different times, and one of those times is when your child becomes severely ill. The axiom that “No parent should ever have to bury there child” comes to mind, but it does happen, and all too regularly.

So we develop the habit of hanging on tightly, gripping the things and people we love with all our energies. In doing so, though, many of us come to realisation that our hands/hearts are are only so big or strong, and we can’t hang on to everything forever. So much angst, so much inner turmoil, too much… We need to let go. Yet, how do we let go without losing those things we hold dear?

Here is what I do, and bear in mind, this is a metaphor, and a poor shade of what Kosho Uchiyama is getting at.

Take an object, any object; a spoon will do… Imbue that spoon with the weight of intense love/desire/person’s character. Hold it tightly for as long as you can, until your hand begins to burn and ache with fatigue, unable to leave even if they wanted to, then, when you can hold it no longer, let it go…

What happened when you let go? Did the spoon fall to the floor or onto the table? That is what my spoons always did when I let them go, and I saw their loss as inevitable and a part of life that must be endured. The floor soon became littered with spoons, and walking around the room became hazardous…

Then I read Kosho Uchiyama, and I saw the image on the front of his book, an upturned hand*. Suddenly I saw that I do not need to let these things I held so tightly fall; I could hold them in my relaxed and open palm, and look at them, see them in their fullness, come to know them, and then, having ‘let go’ I could put them aside, or let them leave or have them stay. They are my thoughts. Thoughts of loss, delusions that want me to not change, to keep the status quo, to live my life pretending that life will go on forever…

Water from the well, and a fresh cup everyday is worth the walk, if only to remind me that all things change, and all things die.

*The book re-release has a different image now; and open window from a room to a garden, from the constrained to the wild, still apt, but not as powerful to me, but that is another thing I need to let go of…

Desperately seeking someone

We all want to be liked and need to be loved, but sometimes we can’t bear the thought of living life alone. There is no alternative to the realisation that, ultimately, and in the now, we already are.

Some think this morbid, or a banal existentialist pith take, but it is a fair summary of life. We seek acceptance because most of us are unaccepting of who we are, and have no real love or confidence in what we are made of.

Some call it compromise or mutual acceptance; I just call it lazy. The sort of discussion that involves getting to know the good, the bad and the ugly of ones-self is one very few of us rarely have, mostly because we end up beating the crap out of ourselves. Pity…

Nigella talks dirty

So, if you’re like me, you don’t mind cooking, and you probably watch the odd cooking show or two. I find some of the Artists on these shows a tad annoying, but none more so than Nigella Lawson. I am in a household of three, and an extended household of 6, and two out of the 6 (myself included) cannot stand the soft-porn cheesiness of it.

Now, don’t get me wrong; I’ve nothing against the woman herself. She is a very attractive and curvy lass. What I find objectionable is the pure cheesiness of the whole presentation; it’s pure corn, and it really is an overindulgent, fanciful and banal series of sexual motifs that use food and the requisite cooking time to join these moments of innuendo together.

What on earth am I talking about? Well, thanks to commenter Sheeple Liberator over at No Place For Sheep, this brilliant little video sums it up!

Life as a Human