Rescue came in the form of Peter, our Belgian host in both 2005 and 2011. He was ferrying Crash Course In Science about in a van with room for two more, and first stop was our pop art hotel room, oblivion and eventually eggs. This was Stewart’s first sleep since New York and I imagine you could have held a sousaphone party next to his head with no response.
A mere drive around the block to play Antwerp. On the trip we chatted with CCIS about the dying fun fairs in Sydney, Santa Cruz and New York. Our destination and default home from home – the Hotel Ibis at the train station, also used as a training ground for aspiring astronauts.
Antwerp has been kind to us over the years. Where Amsterdam has shown no interest, Antwerp has always been willing to fly us up the gravity well for a show or two. I’m not able to explain how two cities so near-by can have such different cultures, perhaps its simply the New York effect, where you have to constantly remind them that you exist. The venue was a new one and the Sunday audience was ‘discerning’ in the Spinal Tap sense – the only audience of the sort I expected to meet – male listeners from the old days – whereas most other audiences were unexpectedly diverse. Probably the only troops willing to deploy on a cold Sunday.
From Antwerp we drove on to Brussels. For Australians and Americans the distance is disturbingly small, as if a trip cross town. Brussels airport has recently been attacked with a car bomb and is currently encased in concrete and men fondling their machine guns. Belgium was the only place we passed through where the population seemed divided into cultural enclaves – probably true of France as well, but our visit there was too limited to see the evidence. It didn’t seem as if recent arrivals had integrated and one wonders what the future is for Belgium’s multi-culture.
When I book flights I book afternoons, none of this 4AM rubbish. The advantage is to sleep, the disadvantage is in airport lounges. We got to know Brussels Airport pretty well. In keeping with the whole region being HO scale the international plane to Bristol was about the size that does hops in regional NSW.
But it was at Bristol I first realised my error in scheduling entry to the UK three times. Europe is essentially laid back about people coming and going. The UK, like the USA and Australia, is paranoid as all hell. Each time we’d arrive in the UK they’d start up a fuss and bother like a child with toothache and we’d have to pull out names, dates and bits of paper to calm them down. (For the record the chances of me staying and working in the UK is the square root of fuck all, thank you.)
Outside the airport the cold English rain piddled on our heads as we found that no taxis would be available for 45 minutes, if that. The bus struggled through a traffic jam more suited for Los Angeles, at times by rolling over the top of cars (as much as you could work out from staring out the windows) and we got out at the wrong spot as everything was called something like Angel And Parsnips or Lady Fogbottom’s Hallway or Winking Nun Way. A second attempt by taxi inched (not centimetered) through the morass to our anxious host.
The schedule said Amsterdam. The boarding pass said Amsterdam. At 4AM we set sail across Europe, with a limited but complete confidence that Amsterdam was at the other end, only questioning the details on arrival. ‘So now what happens?’ asked Stewart. ‘There will be a man with a sign’, I lied with utter confidence.
There was a man with a sign. SEVERED HEADS. Once cruising along the highway in the Mercedes, Stewart asked if he felt odd holding up a sign in an airport with SEVERED HEADS on it. He said there were worse things.
Now if you know anything about travel you know that hotels won’t have a room ready until about 2PM, and here we had been dropped there at about 9AM. I’m not a tour manager, but I’m smart enough to know that booking early morning flights is A Really Dumb Thing To Do To A Really Tired Band. There was nothing for it but to hang in the city, and look, it’s Amsterdam, surely that’s a nice bit of touristing, but perhaps not quite the right timing.
The hotel was pleased to have our Deluxe Room ready. God knows what their Crap Room was like, as the Deluxe Room was next to the car park and a bit Pop Art.
Stewart took one look at it, declared he would have none of it, nor my snoring, and went in search of a Room With Bath (Uber-Deluxe?) which he found, only to be told that the hotel had run out of bath plugs or some bollocks that really didn’t wash. At this point the members of Crash Course In Science arrived, and some trade in bath plugs was worked out, hell I didn’t care I was still in the car park room.
Two interesting facts about Crash Course In Science should be mentioned here. The first is that they come from the East Coast of America and therefore have a much smaller hop than we did, dragging what seemed an enormous pile of equipment with them, not Skinny Puppy enormous, but still looked a bit pain in the ass. They’d just come from Madrid, with the gastronomical consequences that go with that (note to self: do not eat in Madrid). Now we hadn’t actually anticipated sharing a tour, and so were pleased to find that they got put on late each shared night, meaning we got to perform and be tucked in well before dawn each time – win.
The Oedipus Brewery was not the gruesome beer barn I’d feared – in fact a very sunny and pleasant backyard with giant beer vats and an easy atmosphere. The Dutch can be easy going in such a manner that causes other nationals to lose their marbles, and it was never very clear what was going to happen when.
The night was on. 11PM loomed. I had stayed at the venue for dinner, but Stewart had tried to get a bit of rest back at the hotel. 5 minutes to start. No Stewart.
Time. No Stewart. I started to negotiate how we could shorten the set.
15 minutes late – the promoter, the tour manager, myself peering out into the night having stomach kittens – Stewart! At the end of the gig, expecting to be arsed off, they wanted an encore. The poor bastard had closed his eyes for the merest moment and passed into unconsciousness, and he quite rightly pointed out afterwards that 4AM flights were the cause, so there.
The night went on. CCIS played. The night went on. I started to think of how to escape. The night went on. I wondered who I was supposed to meet for the money. The night went on.
Each time I confessed to a promoter that we’d last played their city a neat 30 years ago, you could see their eyes do a little dance, like – had I been sent away for murder? Did I go on a secret mars mission? What in god’s name puts a band back on stage 30 years later? Not a bug, but a feature of contemporary music – the complete collapse of new talent – perhaps faith in new talent, I am no judge. We were not nearly the only bunch of elderly crisscrossing Europe.
It must be said that our last extensive tour of Europe was a debacle. No fault of our own – the fates attacked on every level – sickness, equipment failure, thievery – the toll was awful and I recall trying to entertain 800 people in Zurich alone with TV set for visuals – would you book that twice? No, you would bury that as long as it took to forget.
Only BodyBeats in Antwerp risked the airfares on exclusive appearances, much to our mutual benefit in 2005 and 2011. This time it was Unsound in Krakow that wanted the exclusive, but a change of government funding in Poland meant that we had to find other income. Our recent collaboration with Dark Entries records provided a network of DJ entrepreneurs that were able to take the risk.
The shows grew organically, a bit haphazardly, with no one person in charge of it. From Krakow, we added Amsterdam. Glasgow was keen. Berlin also. Slowly a network of dates came together covering two weekends, with London suddenly wanting a third and Paris very late to the party. At no stage did we have a master plan or even a sense of profit versus loss. It was enough that a second chance had come and surely – surely it couldn’t be anywhere as awful as the first.
The first time a record label brought us to London they used the cheapest fare possible – a Garuda bus that bumped up and down for 36 hours at every plausible refueling point. These days you have a lot more choice and the metric is one of:
Potential of catastrophic death vs. Price vs. Misery.
- Potential of catastrophic death: Garuda not an option, Aeroflot not really big on my wish list either. You want QANTAS, it doesn’t fall out of the air much. Nor does it fly into war zones like Malaysian.
- Price: under a grand. Can be done but requires attention to the other metrics.
- Misery: To get to Europe from Australia you need to hop somewhere near the equator. More hops, more pain. Too fast, miss the plane. Too slow… read below.
I can remember as a small child arriving at Dubai and not being hit by a missile, and found an Emirates/QANTAS flight through Dubai to Warsaw under a grand. That seemed a great idea with only one teeny weeny problem – the connecting flight left 7 hours later.
Seven Hours at Dubai Airport.
The flight from Sydney was in fact the venerable QANTAS QF1 flight to London that has operated as long as I’ve been alive. Probably since Captain Cook. Stuff of legends – so many Australians have hopped on QF1 hoping to make their fortune in the mother country. Not so many in 2016 as I had three seats to myself. Felt smug until I saw the lady next to me had five of them.
Dubai is alleged to be the busiest international airport in the world, spanning three main centers linked by train, each with four terminals. After 14 hours I arrived at A, not knowing where I would depart. I walked in circles endlessly, a kind of Arabic Ballardian miasma. No place was better than any other – it could be here – it could a kilometer away.
It turned out to be the gate next to the one by which I arrived. Or an identical gate reached by traversing the infinite bounded space of Dubai airport.
The 7 hour flight to Warsaw was by Emirates proper, and the announcements made in Arabic. The staff were dressed in the mock Arabic costume you would expect, but spoke excellent Polish – as after all they were all Poles. (This weird costuming reached a pinnacle in Glasgow where a large Scottish lady of advanced years sat behind the counter dressed as if an extra in Aladdin, but I’m ahead of myself here).
At Warsaw a firm lady in military uniform asked me where I was going and seemed to find that amusing, stamp stamp.
The young man that guided me to the train station spoke impeccable English with an accent that would have suited a Gentleman’s Outfitter of 1800 and something. That is, it was all rather smashing and I do say old chap. Seems that if you learn English at a university level in Poland you end up with sounding like Lord Haw Haw. He wanted to show me Warsaw. I was extremely grateful but the further we got away from the train station the more visions I had of running frantically down the platform after the departing carriages.
But once prompted he delivered me back to the station on time and pointed at the right platform. ‘Make sure you don’t get on the train to Unpronounceable Destination’ he warned me. The train pulled in. It went to Unpronounceable Destination. But the station sign said Krakow. I asked the guard. He pointed to a carriage. I climbed in. The train departed. I was either going to wake up in Dubai airport or the train was going to end up in Krakow and by this stage, either seemed just as good as the other.
That’s all for now, I’m tired.
Baggage. Luggage. The shit you cart around with you – stuffed in your wallet, falling out of your backpack, shoved into drawers and cupboards. That’s bad – but I’m not talking about that now.
There’s the stupid thing you once said to somebody you cared about 10 years ago, that pops into your mind at 2AM and sets you upright, thinking how different things would be if you hadn’t fucked up … bad too, I’m not talking about that either.
There’s also the baggage that we’re blithely collecting right here, right now, weighing down you and me. The encrustion of online life. Photographs and texts and fuck knows what else the machines have pieced together about you. If you were born since the Internet then there’s probably not much hope for you, you’re in your own little Truman Show and everybody is getting a good look. You might even think that’s normal, bless you, hope that job interview goes well a few years from now.
Somehow there is a rule that goes like this: the worse the photo, the more likely it will show up in online searches. It’s true isn’t it? I spend months getting fitter and happier and yet will be forever a photo The Guardian once took of me flopped and miserable, sweating with a bad flu. You might think that’s a small thing, but consider the impact on resolution, on positive feedback – do what you want, try harder, it’s not going to change a goddamn thing in “society”.
Oh and of course I can make new hi resolution videos, put heart and soul into them… but then somebody will post an old VHS on YouTube and erase everything I’ve worked on. Improvement – personal or professional – is negated by some goddamn algorithm.
Catalyst: I recently saw this band photo again –
on Facebook for a gig that’s happening in 2016. Like it’s a photo from 33 fucking years ago and it’s still doing the rounds. OK, so that’s tragic, but the main thing is Simon, on the right there. He’s dead. He’s been dead for years, and there he is, still staring out of the screen, freshly dug out of the grave. For pity’s sake – isn’t it time we did better than this?
Part of the culture of indigenous Australians has to do with people who have died – it is not right to display their likeness. I feel there is some justice in that for all of us. But go further. Let all the baggage evaporate, let it fade away. Some time after the event, wipe it, wipe all of it, and if it matters so much to somebody they can place it back again.
History? History is not what happened, as it happened. History is how we falsely recall from now, refurbishing the past. History is baggage. Drop it.
Walking the hallowed halls of eBay you will be struck by the quantity of fine folk art on offer. Something for every taste, from UFO aliens to Ronald Reagan to What Is That Shit I Don’t Know. And the prices are pretty fine for a lazy afternoon’s work. Don’t fear your next phone bill – phone in something pricey a financial planner will cherish.
It may look pretty simple. It’s not. Just being incompetent will only get you halfway. An extra spark of divine madness is needed, so best to get your Oxycontin habit up and running right now. Think of it as an investment, both for you, and the local Doc-In-A-Box.
The first step is to hoard some old bits of wood. True, you can work up some pretty fine folk art just with toilet rolls and cotton balls, but wood is the royal road to success. Old planks, toilet seats, fence posts all good. A bit of glass is OK so long as it’s cobwebbed. Never ever use a surface designed for artistic production. That’s something for city folk.
Now you are probably city folk yourself. That’s fine. All you need is to take on a hobo otherkin. No longer Royce Cigarillo of suburban dolor, you are now Betty-Hank Barnhouse, one armed midget with a career in chicken hustling. A carney ID is always a good one. Maybe a clown. Have to be from the country, have a dusty cowboy hat, and half breed. If you have some trouble maintaining this identity try adding some spirits on top of the Oxycontin. Feel your otherkin taking over. Practice a few yodels.
Get some house paint and ready to go. Slap it on. We’re going to struggle through the haze of booze and drugs to approach something vaguely resembling one of:
- A desert scene.
- Clowns having a laff.
- A right wing politician.
- Our savior Jesus Christ who died on the cross for our sins.
- Self portrait of Betty Hank.
- All and none of the above.
Do not worry if it seems to be going horribly wrong. You’re on track. Feel the divine guide you. You are the outsider. Say it. “I am the outsider”. Keep going until there’s no room left.
The paint fumes will have brought you to a place where others fear to tread (if not try huffing the fumes from a bag). You see further, higher than the rest of humanity. You also need to vomit. Quick, before the spirits leave you – take your pen and write whatever words come to mind, in round childish capital letters. Do not pause to think, or form coherent sentences or even words that other people can recognize. Just write. Throw down the pen. Vomit. You are done.
Don’t forget to date it at least 30 years ago. Put it up on eBay and wait for the acclaim that only a half-breed one armed midget clown could expect.
There’s a shed load of stuff I have to write about the recent tour – it will take a bit of time to even process it. Plus I have to wait for Knudle to get back from NYC for a bunch of photos that will sort through what is mainly hungover reverie. So in the meanwhile here’s some film reviews!
Being stuck on 12 hour flights to and from Australia is a great way to catch up with films that I couldn’t be arsed going to otherwise. No offence, but when moving image narrative is your day job, you tend to want to do anything else but watch another heroic journey in SciFi World Of The Future. God bless United Airlines they had a fine classic selection from Stan Kubrick to Peter Bogdanovich, and that’s where I spent most hours. But there are films that my students use as their aspiration (robots! explosions!) and there being no other option, time to watch.
The other advantage is that you’re seeing it all on a tiny LCD, so none of that big-3D-screen bullshit is going to save the bad writing. And there’s the general misery of being stuck in a chair to really get the anger going.
How do the Wachowskis still get funding? Seriously? It’s like two rather stupid high school students got a billion dollar cheque and made babby’s first science fiction film. The whole is framed in the Cinderella rags-to-riches trope, inside of which the same damsel-in-distress gambit is played out THREE FUCKING TIMES with fuck all character status development. Female character gets kidnapped by each of three villains in turn, each ties her to the railway tracks, each time her Dog Hybrid boyfriend has to perform some ridiculously overblown rescue mission that saves her in the nick of time to bring her back to convenient spaceship that tags along in the background.
She goes from cleaning toilets to being an all powerful secret princess that still cleans toilets and keeps everything exactly as it was, including global warfare, starvation and San Francisco start ups. Oh yeah, instead she goes flying with Dog Boy. Tee hee we are so secret flying around the sky of a major city in broad daylight.
Art direction is like ‘we saw Dune that was a pretty cool movie make it like that’. Acting is amateur night at the Dapto Shakespeare club. Fuck this film. If any Australian government cash went into it then shut down Screen Australia right now.
One of two films where a wall of cinematography attempts to hide the completely vapid premise that current biological / medical engineering is boring and we should go back the 20th century and mechanical / transport based science. (The other was Tommorrowland which I don’t even want to grace with a response – except to say that we in the 21st century are still suffering from the vertical slums, grids and production lines of the utopian Modern era and Disney can go suck on a gun.)
Oh no! A blight is eating all the crops! All of our current technology for genetic engineering has conveniently failed and the only answer is to go back to transport engineering! NASA! Big fucking rockets! Yee Haw! You get the idea that the people that make movies right now just can’t get over the toys they owned when they were pre-teens. So anyway America seems to have bombed everyone else to oblivion and now the remaining millions of Good White People are living off the corn shit they sweeten drinks with. Here’s a farmer guy with a gruff non nonsense voice that’s conveniently a super rocket pilot, that arrives at the secret NASA base just before the day blah blah blah can I even bother? I can’t.
Off we go on another Hero’s Journey drinking game. We get assemble the party with a love interest – tick. There’s a wise cracking
donkey robot – tick. Through a portal into the underworld – tick. The Rule of Threes, here as three planets – tick. The return through the Circle of Fire – tick. The Boon conferred on the real world – tick. If I could afford the drink prices on the flight I would have been pissed out of my mind by 2/3rds of the way through.
Really all that Nolan wants is to (a) remake 2001 A Space Odyssey and (b) include a shot where there’s the ground or water curving above your head, and he at least gets the latter right. Yeah we live in Space Cylinders outside of Uranus and everybody is Good White People from the 1960s.
There’s something about navigating the universe with love. He doesn’t explain it with much clarity, probably ’cause it comes off a Hallmark Card, and fuck this film.
Mad Max Fury Road.
How many Australians are guilty of this stuff? We seem to lead the world in comic book films. Anyway this is the least worst of all the films available, mainly because it knows it’s comic book, doesn’t pretend to be anything but a comic book, with flat characters with flat comic book names and clockwork roles. It starts with a page of speech bubble (and some surprisingly naff graphics) exposition for all two people who hasn’t ever experienced post apocalyptic fiction.
And then – video game – not bad graphics – probably DirectX 10 at least. There’s driving levels, a few platform levels, quite a bit of physics where for example you have to wiggle your joystick in time with a wobbling pole to get your character onto a moving vehicle. They’ve got a strong consistent palette with each character class colour coded. A couple of times I looked for the score up in the top corner. The level changes are more obvious – the camera flies through a graphic of a steering wheel with skull. Kewl.
As an actual film… well let’s just take the point where the convoy arrives at the ‘green land’ or whatever and Max says hey everyone let’s go back the way we came. So they’re done the whole journey to fuck all and now they’re returning with what? The dead old guy? Why not just assassinate him back at the start? I mean that’s how it worked all the way through history, just put some poison in his hydroponic tomatoes – job done. This wins an Oscar for “why the hell did we drive all that way for nothing?”
Because TRANSPORT. These films are about TRANSPORT. Anyone that really wants to make film that pushes into new territory has to get out of the damn car.
Postscript: I forgot I watched Chappie as well. Yeah I agree, Robocop was a great film. I forgot I watched it because the tacked on happy ending is so blitheringly FUCKING stupid that I willed my brain cells to die. The bit where the robot puts on a helmet that reads brainwaves. Because that’s just how CPUs work. Then loads their entire personality onto a thumb drive.
At 2 months, already a virile domain.
But it’s not all fun and games. One must have coloured lights and knobs. The base of the Tower of Power.
At the summit, those things that spurn knobs.
Things high up are less tactile.
Things that have not yet found their place.
Mixed with things that might never find a place.
Elderly and or analogue.
It came from the flames (not Moroder).
And of course, beer. Needs something deeply offensive and troubling to open it with.
First you need to read this. It’s fun. The guy wanders around abandoned university campuses in Second Life, and quite rightly wonders who the hell keeps paying the rent? And given the hullabaloo about Second Life at the time, its rapid decline and the sums of money that washed away on it, how can Linden Labs think they can do a reboot? They are going to do a reboot. Lordy lordy. Everyone is going to climb aboard the 3D Shit Train one more time. Virtual ding ding!
You have Facebook buying up Oculus VR, Autodesk releasing a new game engine… it’s like having a relative with a drinking problem coming home with a wine cask. About now the futuro/apologists are getting all pumped to be the first to announce the New Thing – look, Coursera Over Oculus Brought To You By Facebook powered by Autodesk.
I used to be one of them. On the TV even. But I’ve been sober for a decade or more. I look at these guys, pumping it out in the tech columns of your local newspaper and I wonder how long before they regret their ice habits and carnival tattoos?
Because they always talk about that sweet sweet high, when the technology potential hits the back of your brain and slides down slowly like sex. They don’t talk about that copy of VRML FOR DUMMIES that’s propping up a chair leg.
C.O.O.B.T.Y.B.F.P.B.A. will be a lovely thing, gods, it’s a lovely thing and one that will fill many happy hours of knitting. I dearly want to be in the locomotive of this shit mobile, I really do, paid or not, but I am sure a lot of pay is going to change hands. Already I know all kinds of people using 3D goggles to navigate some vague pixel blob that’s supposed to be a psychic blockage or some twaddle. Soon the research councils will see the complete inane uselessness of it and the desperate ‘innovators’ will have to switch over to exactly the same virtual campuses that the guy was writing about. But with better graphics.
We need to be honest. We need to say we have been here before, so many times. It fails because we think it is innovation, that the creative industries are creative, that disruption is progress. So long as this is your driving force you are trapped in a cycle of illusion. Innovation is a coil that is self defeating. Everyone who wants to build some new world should, like our journalist, spend some time in quiet reflection in one of the old worlds.
I have written 3 new pages about equipment crap.