Tour Dairy Part 4.

Here begins more serious plane rides. Not 12 hours like we get to & from Australia – we as a nation have built this into our psyche. It’s a war, we fight valiantly, we win. Rather these are flights that drain a little blood, ever so gently, so you don’t notice it straight away.

An hour is just up n down with a drink if you’re quick. Two hours gets you a bit of reflection as the landscape rolls slowly below. What is that place? Are they carving pumpkins? Do they have proms? Three hours or more brings on a weary dejection, and there were going to be a fair few more of these before the week was out.

At a guess we travelled across Idaho, Utah, probably Colorado (without getting anywhere near Time Universal and Coordinated dammit), and a large slab of Texas without there being much of anything to see until Austin came up the window. I mean it isn’t the Great Australian Fuck All, a large void of void where for example they filmed Pitch Black. It was farms, towns where Wal Mart was coming soon, a silo.

The promoter had been told to take good care of us and he did it in style, we got shown the sights and told the eats and pointed at the local store for anything. He told us the Texas State Capitol is Taller Than The One In DC. I was really grateful for the hospitality, but the plan was (a) not to drink any more beer Jesus fuck and (b) enter the deepest oblivion as soon as possible for as long as possible. There had been no sleep for days, it was time.

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Y’all are sleeping in TEXAS now.

12 hours of black under the Tallest Capitol goes here.

Next morning we set out to see Austin. Imagination never fits the reality, I imagined that we’d be stationed in the inner city pretty much everywhere, but only Chicago matched the idea. We were near the Austin cultural centre which petered out pretty quick into what I guess is the hotel district, and after a quick diversion where Siri insisted we walk thorugh a hotel lobby we found the centre of town. Which was the centre of town. Nice. Temperature going up folks, got to get back to the shelter. We talked about media, programming, what materials would be needed for another tour, where money could be found. Serious things for a band that was supposed to be shutting down..

The gig was a barn like bar, pool tables and Coke stained glass, although the promoter had brought a bunch of ‘industrial’ bands there over the years it still felt like a place where a rock band comes on and the crowd goes THANK GOD FOR SOME REAL DAMN MUSIC. I mean this is the place where Beers Steers and Queers came from, and I know because I met Phildo the very man who sang just that. He takes care of the aircon these days he said.

Most of my night was with spent ranting with this gentleman:

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not wearing this mind you

who had followed us over from the Los Angeles gig and brought some more friends. I got to hear about growing down here and moving over there and visiting Australia and the whole lifestyle that goes with wearing such a hat. I think we should collaborate on something, God know what.

We played. It was good. People hooted n hollered. I don’t think the place was in danger of filling, not on a Wednesday. I mean, fuck, Wednesday is Jazz night at the pub next door to where I live. But they had a loud good time.

I love a gig where you can walk home. 2AM or thereabouts. There were very few stars. Or maybe just too many coloured lights.

We were playing New York later that day,
and so the ride was only hours away.
The Taxi. The airport. The TSA.

Tour Dairy Part 3.

To get out of LA, just hail a cab. Make sure you have a Big Ben in the hand, as you’ll need all of it, even on Sunday, as you approach the airport the traffic slides into an expensive crawl. 50 bucks to see the airport entrance, another 50 bucks to get to the gate. Whatever. Oh, and $25 to check your bag? Jesus.

Some sort of moon crater filler with water, or Portland. Not sure.

Some sort of moon crater filled with water, or Portland. Not sure. This is a Seattle joke.

Seattle! I have a soft spot for a city with a fish ladder. Also that rainy Pacific Northwest gloom was most welcome after the drought down south. If one day a gun was pointed at my head with the command to live in the USA – probably Seattle. There’s just enough Commonwealth leaking over the border to temper the Yank. It’s a small town for us, but I think I like that. Sydney is going from 5 million upwards, and that’s not so great.

Picked up by Troy of Medical Records and taken back to his bunker lair on the hill. He has a Man Cave that shames my man cave, and a Man Couch which I manned each night – although early morning exercises in beer addled shit talk left not much of that.

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Excellent choice of decor.

This is Seattle, God bless, and instead of the Magic Cupboard we had Memorial Grunge Rock Venue with Vegan Bar Food. I tried the nachos figuring that it’s hard to fuck that up, but ended up with corn chip toothpaste, comparing badly to the un-meat burger that was waved triumphantly in my face. A cool night out on the balcony with many fine punters including Mr. Stephen (No Relation) Jones – some who had risked being shot to come over the Canadian border. Not dissimilar to LA’s magic garden but raised up above the street. Actually got deep enough into conversation to forget to get on stage in time.

A good gig, and I reckon a good turn out for a Sunday. First time we were there (admittedly back in the 20th Century) it seemed Seattle was glad that our equipment fell apart on what was our last gig, just so they could see Skinny Puppy sooner. This time they cared a bit. By this time we were actually pretty tight – good thing, as the PA crew immediately played a bootleg recording they’d just made of the show. ‘Private’ they claimed. Bah.

(Actually I think I’ve been too flippant over the last few entries – the response everywhere ranged from mildly pleased to the kind of cathartic release you get in snake handling churches. Some people were crying. I felt like Oprah. If I don’t mention it that often it’s because it’s alien to my understanding.)

It all wrapped up too late for meat (vegan food is the absence of meat) from a local burger joint but not too late to go back to the bunker for a round of Talk Drunken Shit, most of which I don’t quite recall.

DAY OFF THANK THE GODS. Up for a real breakfast made from real food and down to the Living Computer Museum where Stephen was good enough to give us a private tour. Many fine toys to see although my favourite was the PDP-12 which I modelled from photos to be in the HH game as the key to changing levels. Also I think Stephen’s favourite as he restored the analogue section to at least make sound and vision – the sound is suspiciously like the noisy bit in Dead Eyes Opened.

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We four followed this up with an American Sports Bar experience (which for some strange reason included a large party of women learning how to paint watercolours in one section of the restaurant) and then back to the bunker for more Drunken Shit Talk which was definitely about turntables and vinyl, I know it. And clothes washing. You may laugh, but clean clothing on tour is often all there is holding back madness.

The taxi. The airport. The TSA again. One officer started to interrogate me about where I had been and where was I going. I rattled off my story about staying in Seattle with friends (true!). The guy behind me basically told him to fuck off, which I now know is the correct local custom.

USA Linguaphone.
TSA Man: “Hello!”
Traveller: “Fuck Off”.

Tour Diary Part 2.

LA

Grand Theft Airplane

Los Angeles is not renowned for calm. To the outsider it’s an endless miasma of cops shooting at cars out of helicopters, and you get the impression that’s just the way they like it. But Glendale – unless I’m reading something way wrong – quiet & chill. Two facts: Whole lot of Armenian people in Glendale, hence signs:

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I’m probably already in trouble for this wrongly being Eastern Armenian, but I am just innocently pointing out the linguistic charm. Secondly – Forest Lawn Memorial Park Cemetery, of great literary fame, but sadly off our itinerary.

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Hark! Across the desert dunes, a shimmering oasis in the distance.

Another Motor Inn on a freeway, but this time a nice old Indian couple with zero attitude. The decor – Indian Takeaway meets Grandma’s house. Across the street a Taco Bell, and Stewart was curious, but does a friend let a friend eat Taco Bell? Before a gig? If I didn’t have to share the stage with his bowels maybe, but I suggested Jack In The Box as less dangerous – he still got the curly fries and one of those insanely large drink containers full of Dr. Pepper, that’s surely enough kulture for one day.

Actually no, we don't have shit like this Australia.

Actually no, we don’t have shit quite like this in Australia.

The venue was a close walk down the road, and at first glance about the size of a cupboard. Be all cool about Sold Out show, but not when a cupboard, that’s bleak. What I didn’t know at first was through the cupboard was Narnia, in the form of a big back yard with fairy lights, and in that back yard all kinds of good people that I hadn’t seen in 20 something years, including Aslan*. Much socialising and LA style plotting of future projects with local celebs.

(If you’re the young lady that came up and said Hi I’m ____ and I told you Hang On A Moment, I’m Having A Conversation then I apologise but I really was halfway through a sentence).

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Really the night was a lounge room party that we had agreed to play, and the people there seemed just as happy to catch up with each other as much as see us sweating and dying on the stage/microwave oven. Sad fact – seems like the only professional photos from the tour showed up in a LA newspaper, and show two microwaved people melting in a rather unattractive manner – no I’m not linking them TYVM.

It was wrapped up all too soon, everyone being a little older. I can’t remember whose brilliant idea it was to ask for IPA beer to take back, but when we were given an entire case, we swapped most of the bottles for ice and I got to waddle homeward down the freeway, past a big Armenian wedding party, with a cardboard box dripping a trail of cold water.

I am ashamed to say that by 4AM the two of us plus Jason from Cocksure still hadn’t managed to demolish the lot but there was some total bullshit conversation, so not a complete waste. I hope the Indian couple liked the remainder.

* inside joke I will never ever explain so don’t bother.

Tour Diary part 1.

The west coast of North America has a very particular smell in the mornings. I first caught it in Vancouver, way back in 1985. It’s a fresh, spicy, sweet smell, and knew it throughout my time staying in Capitola in the 90’s – it was there again in San Francisco this year. Blind me, I would know I was on the USA west coast.

I was glad of this friendly smell because the first day was a bit of a mess. We arrived early around 6AM, and found our ride had the wrong day, and so the first of a number of ‘just get yourselves there’. OK no problem. Then the hotel had a 3PM check in. Only 9 hours to kill in the Tenderloin, and unless you’re interested in making some kind of social statement, 9 hours of exhausted jet lagged stumbling around tent piss city was a grand ‘hi there & fuck you’. Eventually we found a cafe in SOMA that was cool with three huddled lumps nursing a coffee and we gave Josh Cheon a phone.

Poor Josh had just flown in from Germany. He tried hard to keep our spirits up, but was even more buggered than we were, so was obviously relieved to escape off to work. Thankfully the hotel relented and gave us rooms at 1pm.

There are some hot showers that are life defining.

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Captain Hopper. Proof positive that we are in the United States.

I think this experience may have soured my feelings about San Francisco, but frankly the charm has died. Whatever cultural history it enjoyed, it now feels morose, burdened with bankers and wankers, and begging to stage a remake of They Live. The city was infested with body snatchers attending a Salesforce conference, I mean infested, every second person seemed to be wearing corporate dog tags leading them to speeches on Making People Buy More Shit Online. I heard they even had an ocean liner in the harbour to hold more of them.

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Accurate documentary about San Francisco.

Day 2 was better in many ways, a few hours sleep will grant that. I walked Market rather than Mission, and got around to the unpronounceable Embarcadero. There was something on which involved swathes of people milling about in matching corporate T shirts, things like GIANT FINANCE COMPANY – WINNING IN 2015. The whole place seems to be an endless logo branded game show.

The Elbo Room is often a jazz joint, it looked old, very wooden, like most interesting things in San Francisco it’s about to be torn down to make room for apartments. This being the first gig things were a little messy, actually let’s be honest it was pretty near a cluster fuck. The idea that you can organise your music gear to be there in each city is a curious one (hey, you might even call it disruptive) with a very small margin for error, and we were straight into Murphy’s Law here – the nicest possible people had brought things we couldn’t use and it was a mad panic to replace things by the 9pm opening. Video projection is an art, and the guy trying to get our image up was definitely a member of the abstract experimental version of that art, but hey, it got up, we got up, and while this was probably the shakiest show we did, it seemed alright by the audience.

Once grand moment was when a text came back stage from Stewart’s missus The Video Projector just fell from the ceiling. Yes, it had, and missed smashing her head by about a foot. Thing is, it wasn’t our projector. I guess I should light a candle for that.

We’d programmed a main set, and then an encore. We’re not used to encores, and it felt weird putting it there, but even then I wondered whether we needed something after the encore. Just in case I put Kittenette, although neither of us expected to need it.

We needed it. Not that we’d practised it.

That night I lay awake in bed listening to somebody yelling at somebody at great length. I think man #1 was caught breaking into a car by man #2 and was getting some tough love, but it was equally likely that it was about weed. Everything in that parking lot was loudly about weed.

The next morning it was off to Los Angeles. At some point during the taxi ride the hotel decided to charge everyone’s rooms to the credit card we had supplied in case of damage. On Trip Advisor there is a line of people that had the same experience.

Civic Centre Motor Inn, San Francisco. Dodgy. Watch your credit card.

In Flight Entertainment

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.

Jupiter Ascending.

jupiter-ascending

Let’s get this right. At the end of this film I am going to smile when cleaning shit. That’s my status change? Are you fucking kidding?

How do theĀ 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.

Interstellar.

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I flew my space plane over this planet and somehow didn’t notice that it was all cold mountain ranges. So when the bad guy tells me there’s warm land below I believe him? I’m a fucking idiot.

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.

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The good thing about this all desert air is that you can be 36 years older and somehow not age at all. Mind you, your jacket gets a bit dusty.

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.

Man Cave Update

At 2 months, already a virile domain.

The first object that must grace any deserving man cave.20150913_204149

But it’s not all fun and games. One must have coloured lights and knobs. The base of the Tower of Power.

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At the summit, those things that spurn knobs.

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Things high up are less tactile.

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Things that have not yet found their place.

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Mixed with things that might never find a place.

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Fruity Corky.

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Elderly and or analogue.

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It came from the flames (not Moroder).

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And of course, beer. Needs something deeply offensive and troubling to open it with.

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Third Life

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!

Today's guest lecturer will speak on corporate taxation law.

Today’s guest lecturer will speak on corporate taxation law.

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?

Roll up! Roll up! Every student wins a Certificate of Completion!

Roll up! Roll up! Every student wins a Gamification Badge!

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.

train-wreck

Pardon me sir, is that the Chattanooga MOOC MOOC?

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.

Arturia Keylab. Roland System-1M. Roland TR-8.

Beer?

Please describe best American beer to have in your zone. We will be busy gentlemen and will not have time to go to your obscure beard shop I beg your pardon. But would like have a beer after work.

Thank you for your thoughts.Map_of_usa-7

Phoenix Rising

People deal with bereavement in different ways. I keep sadness private and gallows humour public. So just a warning that you’re going to get a bit of that. It’s an appropriate healing method.

You also probably know that rearranging the living space helps, as it swaps memories for potential (you know, living space). And one does tend to want to remove the spot-where-it-happened.

It also matters when somebody suffering a mental illness has occupied a section of the house, which they have slowly turned into an impenetrable twilight zone. It became a protective fort, filled to overflowing with clothing, bags, shoes, and Unknown Feminine Objects. The windows blocked off and lit by candles all day. Everything glued with dust and candle wax. I have spent days on end clearing it out. The main feature was bags. Under several layers of clothing there’ll be a big duffel bag marked PRADA in which there’s a outer bag marked PRADA, inside that will be the PRADA hand bag, inside that will be a PRADA purse and then inside that the sort of treasures they list in JRPG’s – golden coins? used tissues? strange doctor’s letter?

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It’s about three weeks now and I’ve reached the bare floorboards. So what to do with this space? Once upon a time it was my studio, back before I had to sell all the gear. Seeing as I’ve started to re-acquire all this music junk I am set on building
TERSE TAPES – MAN CAVE EDITION.

Some people take the man cave too far. No, I just want to have something that is utterly different to what was there before. Besides, everyone else at my work gets to have an artist studio. In this space I will conduct an investigation into the nexus between musical interfaces and beer, in view of the paradoxical relationship between alcohol consumption, muscle memory and inspiration. I’ll need volunteers. And a cat.