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January 3, 2002
I've just discovered that we're into a new calendar year. What about that: it's 2000 already, plus a year or two.
I hope you're not reading this to find out what's going on in the late breaking news department.
A few new words:
cybereft (adj.): how you feel when your internet connection is taken away. The feeling that comes over you when you're lying awake in a tent, a long way away from electricity.
And happy new 'ear to you, for whatever year you're in.
January 14, 2002
I'm so depressed I can hardly move. I'm in a comfortable house in the comofortable, middle-class suburbs. It hurts.
I'm a long, long way from Fitzroy, in both time and distance. It hurts. Everything hurts.
I grew up in a place like this, and I've spent a great deal of time and energy making sure I'd never end up in a place like it again. And yet, here I am, housesitting. Earlier today I went for a walk around the neighbourhood. It was perhaps the quietest walk I've ever taken. There are lots of trees here, and lots of driveways. There are more cars than people. There is an astonishing sense of isolation. You need a car to go anywhere. If you're too young to drive, you're stuck. Deeply and completely stuck. Despite being old enough to drive, and old enough to have only vague memories of youth, it's a feeling I remember well.
This suburb is like a small country town, which is right smack next to .. another small country town. In every direction is yet another small country town, and another, and another. There's no feeling that any of these places are here for a reason. The horizon is devoid of skyscrapers. There's no harbour teeming with commerce. There are no universities, no exotic restaurants, no streets paved with gold. This place has none of the appeal that big cities traditionally offer to their residents. I find all that ... disturbing. And more than that: I find it ... scary.
And it's also possible that I find myself ... over-reacting. I'm only here for another few days, after all, and at least I'm in a lovely house with a piano.
January 19, 2002
The interviewing thing
The suburban exile is over. On the way back to the city I stopped off in Mont Albert, and sat in a garden with a tape recorder. Initially it was fairly quiet out there, but then Tom Parbery, poet and game inventor, came out and joined me. I turned the tape recorder on and we got going. It was good. Tom is a very articulate man. He's also responsible for my all-time favourite haiku:
Like a desert cactus
So he talked about precision in poetry, the art of inventing games of pure absurdity, and being able to notice and appreciate moments. And I was certainly aware that just being with him was a moment in itself: this was the second time I'd seen him in many years, and in less than a week he'll be back in Japan. Tom, if you're out there, thanks.
He also got me thinking about the interviewing thing. Over the last six months I just decided to start interviewing people. I didn't have any set goal in mind: I just wanted to sit down with people and see what happened. It's all been really interesting: at some point there I just thought "I want to be able to do this better," so ever since I've been searching for ways to make that happen. I'm not there yet, but I'm going to persevere with the thing. It's been a delight to find out how articulate people are when they're talking about their lives, about their interests, about themselves.
Guan-Ji versus The Sandman
I've gotten Guan-Ji interested in reading Neil Gaiman's The Sandman. This is a very long, very ambitious, very dazzling comic book. The central character is Dream, also known as Morpheus, the god who looks after the sleeping world. But it also features the rest of the Endless, who are Dream's brothers and sisters: Death, Destiny, Desire, Delirium, Despair ... and one other. Gaiman takes his time to introduce the missing character, which led to Guan-Ji making guesses about what this missing Endless might be called. His first guess? Departure. Not technically correct, of course, but a wonderful try.
If I was in his position, my guesses would be along the lines of Dumbo, Dweeb, Diddleysquat ...
January 25, 2002
Classical Allusions, The Sex Pistols and The Clash
No updates for a few days: I'm halfway through finishing pieces about Eddie Izzard, Richard Thompson and Myst. (That's three different articles, just in case you're wondering how I'm going to connect them all up.)
Earlier today I went to yoga, which was the first class I've attended in a month or so. It was a very, very gentle class but even so I'm still feeling a little on the exhausted side. This tiredness thing was possibly added to by going out on a two hour walk afterwards. I seem to be more active when the moon is waxing. And, as a result, a lot more tired.
One of my ongoing concerns is devising ever more ludicrous band names. This was all started innocently enough by the late Howard Griffiths, Oxford scholar and television scriptwriter. When I last saw him, some years ago, the phrase "classical allusions" came up in the conversation. He paused and said "now there's a fine name for a punk band."
And ever since it's been an area of interest. My latest candidate in the Hall of Undeserved Fame (Band Name Division) is "Op. Cit and the Footnotes."
March 12, 2002
The art of the nickname
Six hours of teaching today, which means that I'm a little weary, but happily so. I teach something called the Professional Skills Program, which seems a little ironic, as I'm the least professional person in the southern hemisphere. I seem to have developed a peculiar need to give ridiculous nicknames to all my students. One bloke is called Corey, which seems a perfectly reasonable name, but then I discovered that he likes to sing karaoke. I'm sure you can see where I'm going with this, but yes, I then started calling him "Coreyoke."
Not too sure how long I'll be teaching professional skills for.
Christopher Brookmyre and the extra hard return
I'm on a big Christopher Brookmyre kick. I read A Big Boy Did It And Ran Away last month, and absolutely loved it. But I'd somehow come to the strange conclusion that this was his debut, and that if I wanted more I'd have to wait. The waiting time was much less than anticipated, because then I discovered that he's already written three other novels.
Well, I thought, what about that.
So I found Not The End of the World, and read that, and now I'm reading Country of the Blind. As a general thing, I love what he's doing. He uses the language of computer games; he frequently refers to bands and songs that I've heard of; and, most importantly of all, his novels are recognisably set in the world as it is now. He tends to set things in Scotland (or has at least one major Scottish character), but I have some kind of advantage there, having been there and hitch-hiked around that amazing place. I also know something about British politics and history, which is useful in comprehending some of Brookmyre's context.
A technique he often uses is the extended flashback. There's a moment in Country of the Blind when four prisoners escape and seek refuge for the night. They find a suitable place, and lie down to sleep. Then there's an extra hard return, and, at the start of the next paragraph, this sentence:
Unlike some, Tam McInnes never found himself looking back upon his life and wondering where it all went wrong, because he knew exactly, to the year, month and day.
And the next twelve pages goes on to provide Tam's backstory. Up to now, Tam hasn't really been a major character, but now Brookmyre starts to suggest otherwise. As soon as Tam's background is revealed, he becomes far more interesting.
But I was also interested in the technique that Brookmyre is using here. I found myself intrigued by that extra hard return. It just seemed such a smooth way of moving from one scene to another, even if there are many years between them. And as for the whole extended flashback thing ... I'd just completely forgotten that you could do that.
In TNTIOWABMO (The Novel That I Occasionally Write A Bit More Of) I needed to provide some backstory, but, to my embarrassment, I just couldn't work out how to do it. Techniques that I tried (and discarded) included abruptly saying "anyway, while all this other stuff is happening, let's take a sudden break and go back in time a few years," and "you may be wondering where this guy came from. Here: let me tell you."
So I think I might try just putting in an extra hard return.
The things you think of while walking to work ...
There's an area in NYC called SoHo, which means south of Houston St. It's not too far from Tribeca, the Triangle Below Canal. It suddenly occurred to me today that Sonata for Unfinished Yelling could be abbreviated into roughly the same neighbourhood of cool ... SoFo.
April 16, 2002
Meanwhile, on Neil's blogger
I can happily report that I'm not Dumbo, or Dweezil, or Dunderhead, because ... I'm Destiny. "Everything that ever was and ever will be is written in my book." Hmmm. I wonder if this is in Some Way Significant.
Some Time Later: nope.
April 19, 2002
The reason why there's so many people around the Town Hall
... is because it's April. And April in Melbourne means that there's a Comedy Festival on. To be honest, it's actually been on for several weeks and I've only just noticed. As a result there's been a flurry of comedy going activity in the last few days. Last night I saw Chris Addison, The Journals (John Hegley and Simon Munnery), and Ridiculusmus. But there's no time to write up anything about any of these shows, because now I've got to go and see more comedy.
More in a bit.
April 20, 2002
Why I'll never make it as a gossip columnist
The trick to surviving a comedy festival is to see so many shows that you end up with only a hazy idea about what you've seen, or whether you liked it, or where you live. I think I've seen eleven shows in four nights, with another three shows coming up tonight, but don't quote me. I've lost track.
Sheeit. I've also lost track of time. It's just after six, so I've got to go and jump on a tram to get to Sarah Kendall's show.
But one tiny piece of gossip before I go. Coming out of 7 Alfred Place after midnight last night I couldn't help but notice Geoffrey Rush having a chat with people in the schmoozy crowd outside. Also in the area was Stephen Kearney of the late, great, much missed Los Trios Ringbarkus. Both were looking good.
Well, at least I can say I've tried it. You've just read my attempt at being a gossip columnist. My one and only attempt. At least I've set a low water mark of quality ... "both were looking good." Ugh.
May 4, 2002
An anniversary of sorts
Went to La Mama last night to see a play called "Paradise." It'd been years since I last saw a show there, and I'd forgotten just how tiny the space is. There were two rows of chairs on both sides of the room, which meant that both halves of the audience had a great view of each other.
This arrangement gave me the opportunity to study the twenty two people opposite me, and to make outrageous guesses about their relationships to each other. Another slightly interesting feature of the evening was the temperature of the theatre. It was toasty warm in there, so at least I managed to catch up on some sleep.
The play was quite good: not too loud.
Reading Why Do Buses Come In Threes?: The Hidden Mathematics of Everyday Life. The first chapter was about Fibonacci sequences. At least, I think it was. The room where I was reading was toasty warm.
Took a break this morning from tidying up my room to go and teach drama. A few months ago the name of my class had to be changed, because its original title was deemed unsuitable. See if you can spot why: it used to be called "Exploring 14 to 17 Year Olds." I suggested that we call it "Lots of Running Around and Yelling," but the powers that be didn't like that either. As a compromise I suggested "Movement and Voice," but they saw through it.
I've now been living in the same house for exactly one year, which is the longest I've ever stayed in one place since childhood. I'm either acquiring a new found maturity, or I'm running out of puff.
May 15, 2002
Just taking a short break from the Dog Biscuit stuff. I've realised that I should be calling it "From Dog Biscuit to Dum Dum" because it's silly to stop at the Golden Temple. After getting there I spent another month or so in India, and I've got stuff to say about that time. And besides, Dum Dum is a real place, and it really is spelt Dum Dum. Trust me.
After yoga today I had an interesting conversation with Huddy, a friend who makes a living by making jewellery. She described herself as "highly computer phobic." After uncertainty about whether "phobic" means "fearful" or "hateful," she clarified the issue: "I'm not fearful of them. I hate them. I hate what they do to people."
But then she reveals that she has an ongoing fantasy of one day leaving jewellery behind to write children's books. And it's a detailed fantasy: she plans to write her books lying in bed, wearing flannelette pyjamas, and tapping away on a brightly coloured iMac laptop.
I asked if that was the standard fantasy of the average computer phobic person, and immediately received an answer of no, which rang true. So here's an intelligent, articulate person, with an interesting career, who is quite aware of what computers can do, and who is currently abstaining completely from the digital world.
On further questioning, it turns out that all the worst men in her life have been obsessed with computers, so that her dislike of computers is symbolic of a particular dislike of something else.
So she has a pronounced aversion to computers, but she knows exactly why and how that came about. It could just be me, but I like that. I appreciate it when someone is clear about the emotional reasons underlying their intellectual decisions. Especially when the emotional reasons are buried, by time or habit, and are no longer on public display.
But, above and beyond all that, I just have to admire anyone who wants to change careers so they can wear flannelette pyjamas.
Some new words:
sugarburst a temporary high. Usually followed by:
As I was strolling around today I was thinking about band names. Somewhere along Brunswick Street I came up with "Das Fluffenrabbits."
Come on. Is this or is this not a fantastic name for a band?
May 20, 2002
No updates from Real LifeTM recently, owing to doses of real life. Saturday was spent teaching drama and watching Mongerama having her hair done, while Slew, her musician brother, was putting the finishing touches to his new album. At the same time he was also packing up his house in preparation for an imminent move to Los Angeles.
Owing to the frenetic activity happening in all directions around me, it was decided that my job was to mind Mongerama's bub and keep up the conversation. But I got distracted watching the hairstyling process. I'd never really had the chance to observe this before, and was struck by how complicated it was. And by how long it took. By the time it was done, I'd grown a beard.
To my enormous embarrassment, I couldn't see much of a difference between the Before Look and the After Look. Something was definitely different, but I couldn't quite put my finger on what.
So I spent years watching a process of mindboggling complexity, and came out the other end having noticed nothing. I think I read somewhere that observational skills are useful. Oh well.
The Dadalailai Lalamama plays Melbourne
Yesterday Ammo and I went down to see the Dalai Lama, but got there too late to get a seat inside the stadium. So we sat on the concrete concourse with a view over the garden square and the video screen, and tried to make out what he was saying.
We were halfway between two sets of speakers, so we got to hear everything he said twice. But the second word arrived while we were still listening to the first, and the same thing happened with the third word and the second, and so on. It all got very confusing. The first thing he said was "thankthankyouyouveryverymuchmuch," which was at least understandable, but then he started using words of more than two syllables. This rapidly became the aural equivalent of watching someone getting a very, very elaborate haircut.
I was astonished at the number of people who were puffing on cigarettes. We left early, owing to the sound problems, and I counted a dozen people smoking while the Dalai Lama was still speaking. I'm no expert in how people should behave while a religious leader is nearby, but overt displays of addiction seem to announce "I've missed the point!" And in this case, to a audience of thousands.
Tonight was a farewell dinner for Guan-Ji, who leaves tonight for a six-week jaunt around Europe. He'll be spending time in London, which is presumably why London has been on my mind of late. He asked if there was anything I could recommend doing there, so here's a quick plug for Highgate Cemetery.
The cemetery is in two parts: the bit they've tidied up, which is where Karl Marx is buried, and the old, spooky bit. The old, spooky bit is generally shut to the public, but there are occasional open days, and tour guides who operate on an erratic schedule. Whichever way you do it, it's worth making the effort to get inside. This is one of the most atmospheric places in London. At one point, about a century ago, the cemetery's owners went bankrupt, so they closed the gates, turned the key, and fled. No one, alive or dead, could get inside for decades. Time enough for the vegetation to grow wild, and time enough for the more elaborate graves to crumble.
At the time of my last visit, three or four years ago, there were plans to renovate the old part. I counted the number of people being employed to do this massive job, and there were three. At this rate Highgate Cemetery is going to be atmospheric for a very, very long time. If London ever makes some kind of equivalent to Wings of Desire, some of it will have to be shot here.
Right. Back to Dog Biscuit.
June 9, 2002
A peaceful train ride, in the midst of other activities
The last few days have been all over the place: housesitting in the 'burbs; golf in the mountains; advising work; drama teaching; an hour-long train ride to Geelong to buy a book that was no longer there; an hour-long train ride back; a brief appearance at a birthday party, and a couple of other things that I suspect I've already forgotten about. The train ride was absurdly pleasant: there was nothing else to do but sit and read, so I sat and read.
I was reading Wired Style: Principles of English Usage in the Digital Age, and I soaked up its useful advice on a variety of important topics. These included whether "online" should have a hyphen, what the word "hacker" really means, and - the really big one - what "POTS" stands for.
Something that I've recently realised is that by publishing my innermost thoughts, other people can read them. I guess that's self-evident, but I'm only now starting to work out what it means in practice. Recently I met an intriguing woman, and invited her out for dinner. I told her about SoFo, and she went off and read through a lot of what I've written here. When we met up for dinner, she had questions for me. Fairly specific questions. Questions that depended on knowing certain things about me. Very quickly it became obvious that we had ourselves an unfair distribution of knowledge.
An unfair distribution of knowledge?
Yep. It's my new metaphor to describe the modern world.
I'm really, really proud of it.
And now, apropos of nothing in particular ...
Buddhism vs. relationships
Buddhism teaches non-attachment. When you're overcome with desire, Buddhism tells you to simply observe your reactions, and to label what you're feeling. So when you're meditating, you're supposed to think "ah. So this is desire." And by observing and labelling, you gain some detachment. Instead of being overcome with desire, you simply observe how desire feels, and thus let the feeling pass.
In other words, if you're interested in relationships, Buddhism is useless.
As I sit here meditating, I observe what I'm feeling, and label it. "Ah. So this is a lack of interest in Buddhism."
July 1, 2002
The search for two decent people
Guan-Ji and Silence are moving out, so I spent a few days trying to figure out if I should stay in the house, or, once again, move. Incredibly, despite having lived in forty-seven different houses, I've never actually stayed long enough in any of them to be part of the interviewing committee for new people. I've always been the one being interviewed.
What the hell, I thought, about time I tried life on the other side of the fence. I like this house, despite its eccentricities, and I'd be quite happy to stay here for longer still. Besides, this is where all my books are, and it would take the better part of a week to pack them all up and move them somewhere else.
I've started the process of interviewing people, but I'm uncomfortably aware that a decision of some kind is going to have to be made. And I'm going to have to make it all by myself.
Given that it's taken me twenty-three years to decide not to get a tattoo, this could be tricky.
Meanwhile, in the world of sport
Apparently the World Cup is on, or will be soon. No, it must have started, because someone mentioned that Argentina was out.
Okay, so let's just say that the World Cup is on, and some matches have already been played.
July 2, 2002
Ahem. I've just found out that the World Cup has already finished. Apparently the big news is that somebody won.
July 10, 2002
I've discovered a new trick to make the phone ring a lot.
Advertise something that people want. Such as two large rooms in a share house in a desirable location. Over the last two weeks, I've had nearly fifty phone calls. I've interviewed something like twenty-five people. It's all been very tiring. I haven't had time to blog, either, because I've been too busy answering calls and fending off the more obviously disturbed candidates.
But the good news is that La Chica is moving in, and soon. Then there's just one more decision to make, which is who gets the other room. Just quietly, I'm hoping that La Chica will decide that one. I need to get some rest.
August 2, 2002
Hours of sleep later
I'm sick. I've been sick for the last few days, and I've been unconscious for all but three hours out of the last fifty.
I think it's the chess teaching. One of the schools I taught at on Monday was Epidemic Central, and I neglected to bring my insulation suit and oxygen mask. As a result, I've lost a few days and am still feeling astoundingly average.
In the past I had a particular ritual to cope with being very sick. I'd resign myself to feeling bad for a while, and I'd take the opportunity to reread The Lord of the Rings. But I can't do that any more. I don't have that much time. It's a very long book. And it's now been turned into a movie that I have very little interest in seeing.
I've been dreaming about living somewhere quieter and greener. Somewhere healthier. I can no longer sustain the illusion that Fitzroy's pollution levels "aren't too bad."
I've also been dreaming about small, juicy apples. And leg warmers, distant mountains, dripping taps, obscure golf courses, hidden doors, derelict mansions, the longer novels of the nineteenth century and Flashdance. It's all been very confusing. I hate being sick. Anything that makes me dream of Flashdance should be strictly avoided.
August 9, 2002
Possible prognosis: myxomatosis
It's now been nine days since I got sick, and I'm still sick. It's moved around a little, so now I just have deep bone tiredness and a tendency to fall asleep every few minutes.
I can't be certain, but I think I'm still sick because I decided not to reread The Lord of the Rings, my ancient cure for every known ailment. I find that rereading a long, favourite book is a way of acknowledging one's condition, and finding something replenishing and enjoyable to do while under the weather. It's also a good way of giving one's body a time frame for recovery. It's a way of saying "by the time Frodo gets to Mordor, I want to be just about ready to face the world again."
But when I got sick this time I decided that I didn't want to be sick long enough to reread all of The Lord of the Rings. As a result, nine days have gone past - enough time, surely, to have read the whole thing again - and yet I'm still sick.
As a compromise, I'm now rereading Watership Down. I hope this works. I'm really taking chances with my health here. (One day, I'm going to write Sean's Guide to Health. I'm not expecting to sell many copies.)
I'm enjoying the hell out of Watership Down. It's also an old favourite, and it's fairly long. And, as has happened so often here at SoFo, it reminds me of something ...
Muscles and the bunny book
Nearly a decade ago, just before I went travelling, I rang up Muscles and asked if she wouldn't mind looking after a few books for me while I was away. This was complicated by the fact that Muscles knows me well.
"A few books?" she asked. "How many is a few books?"
"Well," I had to admit, "a few hundred books. But there are some bookshelves that go with them, if that helps at all."
"Hmmm," she said, which I took as an ecstatic, delighted yes.
Muscles did a fine job of looking after the books for something like nine years. Every so often I'd get a phone call asking what she should read next. I would frequently recommend one particular book, but doing so always produced a response of sniggering laughter. Eventually she tired of sniggering laughter, so she upgraded to snorted mockery.
"You should read Watership Down," I would say. (Cue: sniggering.)
"Watership Down?" she would always say, with tangible disbelief in her voice, "the bunny book?"
I eventually learned that there was no dissuading a sniggering Muscles. Over time, I even learnt not to recommend Watership Down by its real title. I would just say, quietly and firmly, "read the bunny book. The bunny book is great."
One day I got a phone call. There was a change in her voice.
"I'm reading Watership Down," she said. There were tears very, very close to the surface.
"Oh good," I said, "are you enjoying it?"
There was a shocked pause, and then she answered: "of course I'm enjoying it. It's a fantastic book. I can't believe I spent so much time not reading this." (Cue: some sniggering of my own, nine years in the making.)
And Muscles told me something else, which gladdened my heart. She loved the book so much that she was going to convince her mum to read it, too. She'd even formulated a strategy to win her mum over.
"Hang on," I said, "why do you need to formulate a plan?"
"Well," she said, "Mum still calls it 'the bunny book.'"
August 14, 2002
The Official Guan-Ji Memorial Compost Facility
Exactly two weeks I woke up feeling sick. Annoyingly, I'm still sick, but at least I can celebrate my two week anniversary. Hopefully I'll be able to do that by making a full recovery later this afternoon.
One of the things I've been doing over the last few days is reading over everything here on SoFo. I meant to do that earlier, but somehow never did. I've discovered that I never properly finished writing up the Dog Biscuit to Dum Dum travel piece, which debuted here back in May. I did some more work on the Indian section last night, and I'll try to get that up next.
Being ill has also meant that I've spent a lot of time at home lately. I figured it was a good opportunity to do something about tidying up my room. I bought a new bookshelf and moved several large, swaying piles of books into it. To my surprise this made the floor visible, for the first time in a long time. "Wow," I thought, "there's carpet down there."
In other news, I've resigned from chess teaching. Too much schlepping and not enough teaching. One of the things I'm doing to fill the gap is move from Blogger to Movable Type. It's not going all that well. Movable Type's installation manual is longer than The Lord of the Rings. And, to be perfectly frank, not as interesting.
Last month, when Guan-Ji moved out, he left us with the compost bin he'd bought a few months earlier. Seeking a way to commemorate his time in this house I stuck a label on the bin which identifies it as "The Official Guan-Ji Memorial Compost Facility." I invited a few local dignatories for the opening ceremony, but they didn't come. I invited some friends, but they also didn't come. No one came. Not even Guan-Ji came, and it was his compost bin. As a result, it was a fairly quiet opening ceremony. I threw some vegetable scraps into the bin and stomped back into the house.
But I've just discovered that a mouse has moved into The Official Guan-Ji Memorial Compost Facility. It's possible that a few weeks ago I would've been bothered by this, but not any more. After my recent confrontation with an enormous rat inside the house, I'm delighted to have one small mouse living outside in the compost bin. In fact, I think I'll go out and see if it's okay. Perhaps I'll offer it some cheese, as a reward for not being inside the house, and for not being a rat.
Oh, and Jenny Sinclair wrote a nice piece in The Age about the Melbourne blogging scene. Jenny interviewed me for the piece, and I gave her a lot of great material about dragons, mice and compost bins. She didn't use any of it, though.
September 16, 2002
Writer neglects to update website
Sean Hegarty revealed today that he has spent the last week tinkering with his website's template.
"Without much success, though," he added ruefully. "It looks worse than ever."
"And in the meantime I've completely forgotten to write anything for SoFo."
Hegarty extends an apology to his readers, and makes vague promises to rectify the situation.
September 18, 2002
SoFo author Sean Hegarty, overcome with technical difficulties, has decided to retreat to a shed in the country. He is believed to be planning no further updates for the next week.
The author, who has lost the ability to write in the first person, also cites other motives for his decision. These include problems with the Movable Type software system, eyestrain, and an upcoming birthday.
October 6, 2002
SoFo author quits anyway
Yep. I am quitting.
At least for a while. I might be back with more tomorrow, but I might not. Probably not, actually.
All I know is that I need to spend more time in the country, thinking. When I'm ready, I'll write more. I don't yet know when that'll be.
In the meantime, here's a haiku.
Trapped in an office
December 23, 2002
Viciously slapping unwanted visitors
After a pleasant month in Yackandandah it's starting to look as if I'm back in Fitzroy.
The reason for this is that I actually am back in Fitzroy. The good news is that I've been reunited with an elderly trestle table. The bad news is that I've left my computer behind in Yackandandah, so the elderly trestle table looks suspicously bare. The only thing on it is a mousepad. And I've already realised that it's going to be somewhat difficult - nay, impossible - to update this site using only a bare trestle table and a mousepad.
Obviously, I'm happy to try. In fact, as I have nothing else to do, I will try. I'll try with focus and determination, with a never say die attitude and a relentless, unstoppable drive to succeed. Phone calls will be ignored. People knocking on the door will be snubbed. People climbing through the window will be viciously slapped with a mousepad and asked to leave. Those who withstand this withering treatment will be snuck up on and clubbed with an elderly trestle table.
I will try. I will endeavour to succeed. But, in the unlikely event that the mousepad/elderly trestle table/sheer determination combination proves unsuccessful, I'll be back with more in about two weeks.
February 11, 2003
Random quotes 2002
Around the time I started SoFo I found Jessamyn's wonderful Donald Barthelme page, and noticed her clever use of a snazzy random quote code thing. ("Snazzy random quote code thing," is, if you're wondering, the actual technical name. Sadly, the acronym never really caught on.)
"I should put up some random quotes of my own," I thought, in a short lived attempt to be equally snazzy. So I did.
A year has now passed and I'm getting awfully tired of looking at the same dozen or so random quotes. These are no longer snazzy, I decided. So I removed them and put up a dozen new ones. Along the way I added a new item to my "things I've learnt from writing a blog" list: snazzy quotes can lose their snazz.
In other news I've been writing a blog for more than a year, and so far I've learnt exactly two things.
At any rate, here are my random quotes for the first year of SoFo. Three are from songs I've written, or partially written, and the rest are just thoughts I've had kicking round for a while. If you're a regular reader, you can safely stop reading now.
London is an enormous research project that ran out of funding.
Bertrand Russell's magnificent response to postmodernism was to die before it came along.
I went to a careers counsellor, unsure whether to pursue art or music. The upshot was my first band: the Jackson Pollock Five.
A picture says a thousand words, and a mime doesn't.
Pakistan is not a great place to look for overwhelming reassurance that all will be well.
The moon is rising and the road is calling out my name
I came closer to the village. I came so close that I could see how angry the villagers were. I could see their hunger, their weapons, their eyes glimmering with evil. 'What the hell,' I thought. 'May as well try to sell these people some life insurance.'
Trial and error: the way of the future.
A long time ago in a faraway land, God was invented by a schizophrenic man.
India is a kind and generous place, but only if you're a god, or a cow.
Quantum healing: paying thousands of dollars to feel a tiny fraction better.
Depression is like Zen practice, but without the point. And without the practice, and without the Zen.
Is it still a long way to the top if you start from Tipperary?
Folk music. Made by people who mean well.
Folk music. The great refusal to entertain.
Folk music. Imagine the most boring, pedantic, nitpicking teacher you ever had ... trying to sing.
As a poet, William Blake is like a pinball machine. Every so often he lights the board up.
Look before you leak.
February 19, 2003
With which pure hard emperor stands as Mentor to the side
A couple of weeks ago I met Razza, a renowned literary translator from Germany. One of the books she's translated into German is Barry Unsworth's "Losing Nelson." Razza is the real deal. She's the bomb. She's got this literary translation stuff down pat.
Before she arrived in Australia I looked her up on Google and noticed that every page that mentioned her name was written in German. Undeterred by this, I gave up.
But then I noticed that Google has a "translate this page" button. My private detective instincts returned, making a lovely whooshing sound, and I randomly picked a page. I was enormously glad I did so. I had no idea that Google had such a great sense of humour.
Part of Google's translation-by-derangement was this:
The novel supplies a complex literary haven-guesses/advises a glowing Verehrers and bio graph of the British sailor, who unconditionally identifies himself with the article of its letter soon.
As I'm sure you can imagine, I spent many happy hours trying to discover a meaning in these two paragraphs. I was particularly entranced by "with which pure hard emperor stands as Mentor to the side." This, to me, is a clear contender for sentence of the century, perhaps for best sentence of all time. It's a little bit like "all your base are belong to us," but overwhelmingly more magnificent.
I asked Razza what this sentence might actually mean, and was horrified when she starting giving me a plausible answer. So I held my hands over my ears and rocked my head from side to side. Razza was, needless to say, really impressed with this. No doubt she'd come all the way from Germany just to see an Australian man behave with such maturity and sophistication.
But I had a reason to shield myself from the truth. "With which pure hard emperor stands as Mentor to the side" is perfect just as it is. I'm not sure I could cope with finding out that it actually means something. This would take away its mystery, its poetry, its identifying itself with the article of its letter. Unconditionally and soon.
What disturbs me is that there might be people around the world using Google's automatic translation service to read SoFo. And some of these translations might be better than the original. But that's the internet, I guess. You pays your money, and it supplies a complex literary haven-guesses.
March 6, 2003
How do you like to live
When I first came to this house I was interviewed by Guan-Ji. One of the questions he asked was "how do you like to live?"
I have absolutely no idea how I answered the question, but I hope I said something vaguely truthful. Later, when Guan-Ji moved out, I found myself asking the same question to everyone who came to look at the room. I had a notion that I was keeping some kind of tradition alive.
Generally speaking people didn't like the question. I'd say "so, how do you like to live?" and I'd usually get a response of "what do you mean?" or "huh?" But some people took to the question as a duck takes to a metaphor. As a result, I've heard people talk expansively about their stamp collections or their obsession with finding every known b-side of Fun Boy Three.
Recently DJ Hardware announced his intention to leave the house, so there's been another installment of asking "so, how do you like to live?" One of the answers I got was "I'd like to live here." This didn't seem technically correct, but it was more or less what I wanted to hear. Perhaps I've been asking the wrong question all this time.
On the weekend I'm going to the Port Fairy Folk Festival, so there might not be any updates until I get back on Monday. A while back I got into a trifling spot of bother for saying that folk music is the great refusal to entertain, and that it's made by people who mean well. A couple of people seemed aggrieved that I didn't provide reasons for these comments, but I'm happy to do so now.
Rock music, at its worst, is boring and embarrassing. Jazz, at its worst, is boring and incomprehensible. Classical music doesn't seem to have a worst, or a best, and long ago settled for a steady state of irrelevance. But folk, at its worst, is intensely irritating. More than any other kind of music, folk wants something from you. It wants you to feel empathy, to inspire you to take action, to protest, to change how you see the world, to change the world.
When folk is done well, it's hugely powerful. Unfortunately, it's almost never done well. A couple of years ago I saw a folk singer play a song about a mining disaster in the 1850s. He wanted you to feel what all those doomed miners of long ago felt: that the powers that be had no concern for their safety, that they had no rights, that their lives were dispensable, that they were, in effect, sent into a pit to die.
Question: and how did this sensibly attired, well intentioned person attempt to achieve this lofty aim?
Answer: by singing a long list of the victims' names. Almost every word of the song was a name. Initially this seemed an interesting way of bringing home the magnitude of the disaster, but then it seemed like the world's laziest and least effective method of songwriting. No other information was provided, such as what caused the disaster, or what happened to the families of the victims afterwards, or why anyone in the audience should care. Instead the song contained forty seven verses, all of which were mighty similar:
I sing of all those people who died
It went on like this, and kept going like this, for the next six minutes. I was enormously unimpressed. I started hatching plans to instigate a more modern, contemporary mining disaster. For this is the problem with bad folk music: it makes you want to put on a tie, get a high paying job with capitalistic oppressors and hunt down anyone with an acoustic guitar and good intentions.
Despite this, I'll be spending the next four days at a folk festival. I'm looking forward to it, but I'm also hoping that I won't be listening to four days of names.
I suspect that therapeutic purposes are my real reason for going. It seems that for the last few months all I've done is sit in a darkened room and stare at a computer screen. There was a time when that's all I dreamt of doing, but now that I'm doing it I dream of other things, such as occasionally seeing daylight.
So I'm turning the computer off and spending the weekend away. Tomorrow morning I shall get into my Kombi and drive two friends down to the coast. I want to spend the weekend walking around a nice old town, listening to some music and catching up on some reading. For this is how I like to live.
April 6, 2003
Awash in an ocean of tribute
This might seem awfully smug, but it's no surprise to me that this blog is winning awards. I started SoFo on December 29, 2001, and won my first prize in the late afternoon of December 30, 2001. That one was for Best Debut (South Eastern Division) in a hotly contested competition between me and one other person who died in mysterious circumstances. Just after lunchtime, as I recall.
By early January, 2002, the prizes and awards started coming in regularly. That month alone saw me win the Prix d'Honneure, the Melbourne University Alumni Medal, and the Golden Banjo. I was particularly pleased to win a Golden Banjo, because that one is awarded for services to folk music. It might be worth pointing out that that I didn't mention folk music for the first few months of SoFo, and when I did they tried to get the Golden Banjo back. I can't remember the details, but it seems that the Golden Banjo judging committee all died in mysterious circumstances. Just after lunchtime, as I recall.
So the Dilly Award is just one more tribute in a veritable flood of tributes.
Except for one thing. The Dilly Award is real.
Sure, I've won some honest to goodness prizes in SoFo's fifteen month history, but even a meticulously detailed list would only reveal two items. Even worse, those items are a compost bin and an elderly trestle table.
So winning an actual award is definitely on the exciting side of smugness. I feel quite chuffed, actually, and that'd be thanks to Natalie.
May 20, 2003
Dream while reading Walden
Last night I dreamed more vividly than I have in a long time. I dreamed of destruction, of desperation, of the desire to start all over again.
I dreamed I set fire to all my material possessions. I burnt my notebooks, my bookshelves, my books. I smashed my computer, threw away my CDs and broke up my furniture with a sledgehammer. I broke every window in the house and walked off to start another life.
As I woke up, I looked back at what I'd done, to survey the scene.
It was at this point that I realised that I'd destroyed somebody else's house.
May 28, 2003
At long last
A couple of days ago I did the impossible.
I finished Walden.
Walden is the toughest book I've read since tackling Moby Dick at the age of 14. Both books are crammed with what the internet generation would call "off-topic" discussions. They sort of make sense at the time, but are difficult to remember afterwards.
As I'm worried that I might forget everything, I want to recap what I've learnt from both books.
Moby Dick was about a whale. Walden was about a pond.
June 4, 2003
Hegarty found alive
Absentminded Fitzroy writer Sean Hegarty was discovered today staring at a brick wall in his backyard.
Hegarty, the author of a slightly famous blog, is believed to be in post-Walden recovery phase. His gaunt, exhausted body clearly shows the ravages of his recent battle with "the hardest book to read, like, ever." He appears to be spending his days in unemployed contemplation of something that bears no resemblance whatsoever to a pond.
In a brief statement to his readers, he muttered something.
June 5, 2003
Inspiration and market research
The other night I went to the bloggers' dinner organised by Mark O'Meara. At one point there was a round table discussion about how everyone got involved in blogging. Almost everyone said the same thing: "Mark inspired me."
I've been blogging for nearly a year and a half, and, as far as I know, I've yet to inspire anyone to take up blogging. Not a single person. No one.
This seems disappointing.
But I'm hoping that somewhere out there is an unfilled niche. Perhaps there's a need for an anti-Mark. Maybe I can be the guy who inspires people to stop blogging.
August 13, 2003
Hegarty suddenly remembers SoFo
Goddang. It's been nearly two months. Sorry about that.
Do I have an excuse? You bet I do. Am I going to tell you what it is? You bet I'm not. Not yet, at any rate. But the last five or six weeks have been a very trying time, and further updates are looking very unlikely for at least another two weeks. In fact, if you like, we could just reconvene here on, say, September 1.
But a couple of housekeeping items, while I'm here.
The notification list is still running, and seems very likely to keep on running. Given how erratically I run my blog, and my life, having a notification list seems like a good idea. I can't imagine it's much fun to keep checking this site, only to find that nothing has changed. But thanks to everyone who's signed up.
So let's be clear about this. I fought a fictitious war with Samoa. They won. I lost. It wasn't even close. It never looked likely to be close.
Even so, now that real Samoans might find out about it, I have a very real concern. I worry that they might decide to start a fictitious war with me.
This, then, is my life. Or part of it. More in a couple of weeks.
September 1, 2003
Blasted, by winter and worm
It's probably different on the equator, but going far enough north or south means living in a place with distinct seasons. Fitzroy, some considerable distance from the equator, is certainly such a place. Officially, September 1 is the first day of spring. But if this is spring, then I am a horseradish. Winter, it seems to me, is still very much here. It piles high and gathers close.
Today I'd planned to break a long silence, but this now looks unlikely. Something I hadn't counted on was the Blaster worm. I've been well and truly blasted, and am no longer willing to connect to the net from home. In fact, I'm not actually using my computer at all. It's transformed itself from digital wonder to an item of silent furniture. It sits now in a darkened room, alone and unattended.
In the meantime I've gone back to using the Family Heirloom, which is an old Olympia typewriter. It's a magnificent machine, but even a full description of its glories won't disguise one key failing. It's not connected to the net. And so, for the moment, neither am I.
Spring has officially arrived, but, unofficially, winter continues. Hopefully, with luck and sunshine, SoFo will be back properly in a few days. Unless, of course, my own personal winter continues, which it might well do for some time yet.
May 4, 2004
Eight months after taking an eight month break, Hegarty announces eight month break
Thanks for checking in.
Should be back with a proper entry at some stage soon.
June 6, 2004
Bedtime for Bonzo
"Trees cause more pollution than cars do."
- Ronald Reagan on the campaign trail in 1980. He was born on February 6, 1911, and died yesterday at the age of 93.
June 13, 2004
Hegarty unveils Amazon wishlist, disappears again
June 30, 2004
Concentration levels hit lifetime low
Sean Hegarty's ability to concentrate on anything has reached a lifetime low, it has been revealed. "If I thought it was bad when I was a six month old baby, it's worse now," admitted the frustrated writer, before just sort of drifting off again.
July 21, 2004
The middle of the end of something
Any minute now I'm going to walk out the door, get into the Kombi Van, and drive to Queensland.
I'll be away for at least six weeks, and possibly up to three months. There might be a new entry in that time, but it's not hugely likely.
This, then, marks the end of SoFo, or the beginning of the end, or some other point on the beginning/end spectrum.
I have every intention of one day resuming active duty here, but for the moment I have other priorities. The main one is finishing a book.
In the meantime, I'd like to thank everyone who's come to my site. Extra big thanks go to everyone who's made a comment, sent an email, or offered encouragement.
The Kombi awaits, as does a long journey.
July 29, 2005
Houston, we have a problem
Well, there I was. Living in monastic retreat, secluded from the world of blogging, sheltered from the world of car parks and shopping centres, sequestered from the modern world.
Yep, there I was. Hiding.
It was all going rather well, actually.
But then Houston gave this site some high-falutin' praise, which is great, except there's no recent evidence that might explain that praise.
So if he sent you, you might want to look at one of the pieces he always liked. Or, given that a return to active duty on SoFo now looks more or less inevitable, you could start with one of the pieces that I never quite got right, which I'll be revisiting in the months ahead.
And if two choices aren't enough, there's a surprise third option. For a limited time only, you might want to take over my spot in the monastery. It's a lovely place, full of history, and one of the cushions by the window is still warm.
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