Start on the inside

Making a start is usually the hardest thing, no? With anything. I am particularly inflicted with some sort of start-making disability. If I’m faced with a white canvas or a white page or a pregnant pause, I become stuck in an odd, blank space freeze frame.

I figured all this out pretty early in the piece. When I was around 9 or 10 my Nan asked me draw a picture of her garden. So I head out to the front of her house one day, sit cross-legged on the nature strip in that prickly buffalo grass that seems to permeate every lawn in the greater Wagga area, with a large white sketch pad on my knees and a pencil in my hand.

I sat outside that house for around 2 hours, and nothing. All of a sudden the clouds in the sky became fascinating. I started pulling things out of the lawn, following ants through the grass and noticing wooden notches in the fence that looks like faces of old men. I became the queen of procrastination and intent on not looking that white space in the eyes. Eventually I felt the air get cooler and I knew it was getting dark. Nan came out and told me I’d have to come in soon, and I was mortified by the idea of going inside with nothing on the paper. So in a panic I took the pencil and drew a big square around the edge of the page.

And you know what? From there it was easy. From the square came the fence, and from the fence came the trees, and the gate, and the front door. And once those things came out on the page the motivation came too – I didn’t only want to keep going, I wanted to finish. And I wanted it to be good. And I wasn’t scared any more.

This blog is becoming an image of the same thing. I’m not sure what this is – it could be that for now it’s kinda run it’s course. Filled its use. It could be that some of the stuff I want to write I’m scared too now I know there are people reading it. It could be that my head is less full. To be honest it’s probably a little from column A through C. I’m not ready to finish this thing yet. I like having it here – a messy pile of words and hastily strung together sentences that mean very little to anyone but me. For a while it was somewhere to come every night when I needed an end to the day – somewhere to sign off, to recap, and to brace myself for tomorrow.

I have other routines now. I get home and cook dinner. I listen to music. I rattle around the house doing probably pointless things that don’t really need doing (like changing the rings on my shower curtain because the old ones looked like they were upside down, even though they weren’t, and for some reason this wouldn’t do). I email (or on weekends go see) the boy. I sit with my cat and watch Bargin Hunt (which incidentally is my new TV find which incidentally is followed by Antiques Roadshow EVERY NIGHT be still my beating heart).

So yeah, a couple of nights in a row I’ve fired up a Word document, only to stare at the white for maybe 10 minutes and then shut it again. Only tonight I committed to make a start, and here we are. Perhaps that’s the thing. I need to draw a square around whatever I do, to take the blank space away. Hit play and move past the freeze, one frame at a time.

Two up two down

I woke up this morning singing, in my head, the nursery rhyme Incy Wincy Spider. Wait, what? I have no idea. It sure as hell beats No Milk Today by Herman’s Hermits. That’s the song has been going around my head, like a reoccurring nightmare, for weeks now. It started in a bookshop in The Rocks and reoccurs at alarmingly regular intervals. There was a theory that perhaps the song is trying to tell me something. Let’s look at the lyrics, shall we?

No milk today, my love has gone away
The bottle stands forlorn, a symbol of the dawn
No milk today, it seems a common sight
But people passing by don’t know the reason why

How could they know just what this message means
The end of my hopes, the end of all my dreams
How could they know the palace there had been
Behind the door where my love reigned as queen

No milk today, it wasn’t always so
The company was gay, we’d turn night into day

But all that’s left is a place dark and lonely
A terraced house in a mean street back of town
Becomes a shrine when I think of you only
Just two up two down

Interesting, and not terribly optimistic. I don’t really drink milk. Maybe this is some sort of community service announcement so I can avoid the onset of osteoporosis later in life?

Milk delivery as a metaphor. What will they think of next.

I sorta thought perhaps the whole thing was something to do with the song New Slang by The Shins. Listen to the song New Slang and hum this Herman’s Hermits song in your head – uncanny, no!?!? Anyway, turns out not so much because it takes very little for this song to infiltrate my brain, and I can be no where near The Shins OR New Slang and BANG, the MF is all there up in my head space.

Anyone know a good hypnotherapist?

In the next week I need to come up with surefire ways to decrease the missing of a certain person for some weeks. Missing someone is bittersweet I think – it’s kinda nice to have that intimate thing with someone – that thing of missing their smell and their feel and the things they say and the emails they send and the way they hold you. For the first couple of weeks it’s a fairly romantic notion, and then thereafter all you want to do is see them again.

You know things are crazy when you try and decide on a weekend to hold your housewarming party, for the house in which you moved into in May, and the first free weekend you can come up with, when everyone who matters is in the right place and can make it, is in October. I think I will have the damn party and call it something else. A house heating, perhaps, because it’s well and truly warm now. I have ideas about cocktails and boardgames. It could get messy but I think it will also be an enormous amount of fun.

Trying to evolve

So, Ani DiFranco is releasing a ‘retrospective’ album.

I love how all the press the label has released so far is calling it that. Somehow a retrospective album has more cred than a ‘best of’, no?

I have no idea what I feel about this. Ani DiFranco fans, as a rule, are spoilt and whiney. We are used to new material every 12 months, and she releases official bootlegs at an alarming rate. She also toured incessantly before she had her baby girl in February, so even in the periods between albums fans in North America at least got a regular DiFranco fix.

And then, well, she goes and has a baby. And that’s a wonderful and beautiful thing, but the DiFranco flow stops. It grinds to a halt. She stopped recording and touring, and she hasn’t stepped foot on these shores since 2004. It takes one visit to any DiFranco fan forum to take in the angst about these things.

So I guess, when a woman has a body of work the size of Ms DiFranco’s (16 studio albums, 11 live albums and 3 EPs), and a group of vocal, insatiable fans, there’s one really good option. And so here we are.

I don’t do well with best of’s. I think part of it is those late night infomercials that sell packaged ‘best of’ albums for Air Supply and Rod Stewart. It just feels to me like you’re watering down the body of an artist’s work to the songs that are either popular or easily digestible. Which is really the same thing, right? I mean, if you can only enjoy those particular songs of an artist, are you really a fan? Does that make me sound like a music snob? Probably.

I also think that when a musician or band create an album, it’s an all around product and experience. Sure, you can enjoy chapters of the story on their own, but they were really creating a whole book. And I’m not talking about major label manufactured pop music here – real musicians who write real songs. The whole album is an entire story, and the songs essentially are chapters.

So with a best of, really what we’re faced with is chapters from different stories all lumped together in one book. I mean, you get a taste of the genius, but you never get a full sense of the character development and only in one particular chapter do you find out how the story ends. The album Little Plastic Castle begins with the title track, and ends with Pulse. And it OUGHT to end with the rhythmic, sexy, dark drubbing of Pulse. It’s the only fit way.

Blah, I’m starting to sound like one of those annoying people at parties who go on about an artist only ever been good on that obscure 7” release they pressed 12 copies of and sold through that Chinese medicine store in New York’s west village.

Yes. We’ve all known people like that.

I’m also disappointed with the track listing. There are barely any out and out political songs here. Sure, DiFranco writes some of the most poignant, devastating and bittersweet love songs there ever were, but that is really only one part of the amazing songwriter she is. Coming Up takes care of the religion, Subdivision the racial divide, Animal our general apathy and Your Next Bold Move general government dissatisfaction, but it kinda feels a bit like they’ve been put in as an afterthought, and just to check all the boxes. Perhaps I’m reading too much into this? Surely, though, there could have been a nod to Self Evident or Serpentine or Crime for Crime. There are some very strong political strings in her bow and they’re not really represented here.

This brings me back to what I don’t like about these best of albums though. I think they’d be worried they’d scare the majority of their potential market off. A best of needs to be easily digestible. I guess there is one advantage to that – it’ll be nice to have an album to recommend to people now, if they’re curious about her music. Had it been around for the last 6 years it would have saved me making a whoooooole lotta mix CDs.

There’s one thing though saving me from hanging myself over all this – she’s remaking 5 of her older songs, and they’re truly 5 of her best. She’s doing these with her double bass player Todd Sickafoose and drummer Allison Miller. This is enough to get me dead curious, and I’ll admit it, a little bit excited.

So it’s out on September 11 (coincidence? Probably not) and I will probably get a copy. Who am I kidding – I will be buying this album. And all I have to say is the remake of Both Hands had better be worth it.

Be still for a second

  1. Today I actually got stuff done.  At work.  This is staggering, but it has more than a little bit to do with the boss being away this week.
  2. 3 day weeks are AWESOME.
  3. I have owned the album Boxer by The National for around a month now, and the song Apartment Story is already number 17 on my top tracks on Last.FM.  This is quite something considering I have over 40,000 plays in total.  I’m not sure if it’s more indicative of the awesomeness of the song, or the obsessive nature of my personality.  I’m going to delude myself into thinking it’s the former.
  4. Who wants to come have a pyjama party with me on Thursday?  We can eat marshmallows and watch whatever terrible movie is on Foxtel Box Office and bake good things like Anzac biscuits.  It’s been ages since I made biscuits.  I have to stop for about an hour at 11 though to go and lodge my tax return.
  5. It’s getting dark later now.  I’m very happy about this because it means Spring is on the way.  In no time I’ll be back to bitching about the heat rather than the cold.
  6. Where were the rest of my songs tonight?  I only remember the North Star blues.


This probably should be one of those posts that bloggers do, you know, when the life they have outside of evenings at home with the keyboard takes over.  I mean, I could say something like ‘I’ve not posted for a while’ or ‘I’m posting here a lot less’ but that would be stating the bleeding obvious, right?  So anyway – moving right along.

I remember in very recent history feeling an uncontrollable stab of jealousy when speaking to certain friends about their weekend plans and social lives.  They spoke about going out to see movies, catching up with friends for dinner, parties where the conversation and music choices rotated around bands like Modest Mouse, and generally they were connecting with people who, in their interpretation of the world, ‘got it’.  I had an internal yearning for these things – for connections with people who liked what I liked or wanted to converse on a deeper level than just what phone company they use and the latest episode of Australian Idol.  There was a small group of friends who met this on some level, but for various reasons (like time or geographical constraints) it just wasn’t enough.  Never enough.  I think it’s part of the reason I started this blog.

Turns out you don’t need a group of people, or a circle of friends, or a whole party.  You just need one person – one person with the time for you and the inclination to listen to you.  One person who will smile when you say something because they recognized it was a Wilco lyric.  Or who understands when you spend 30 minutes in raptures over one particular Mountain Goats song, or even just one line in a Mountain Goats song.  Or who understands the need to feed your brain and your soul as much as the rest of your body.  And this is not even about the relationship side of things (even though that is some kind of wonderful).  It’s about not feeling stifled and strange and odd when it comes to your place in the world.  It’s about finding a groove that you fit right into, and getting understanding and validation when you put things out into the world.  I think people consistently underestimate how important that is to your general state of mental well-being.

On Saturday night I was back at the Hopetoun to see Melbourne band the Whiskey Go Go’s.  I’m a girl who’s always gunning for the emotional connection with music – some part of the melody that makes me catch my breath, or that lyric that makes your heart break.  Sometimes, though, it can be good to go to a gig that’s just out and out fun.  Saturday night I had great gobs of musical fun.  Not that they lyrics weren’t good – for the sort of music they were playing, the lyrics were great.  And the lead singer had this very deeply rooted charisma that was all about the tortured musician and I totally bought it.  His voice is pretty great too.

I have a lot of TV channels at my disposal here, and for the life of me I can’t find one thing I want to watch.  I could always watch repeats of Who’s the Boss, but I think every person has their tolerance level for Tony Danza and I reached mine in the 80s.  I’m toying with the idea of putting Feist into the CD player, but I was listening to Joanna Newsom all evening and I want to leave it clean in my head.  I have no idea if that makes sense, but I want to go to bed with Joanna and the song Emily having uninterrupted head space.  The sheer beauty of it swimming around in my head while I fall asleep is the only fit way to end a weekend like the one I’ve just had.

This week is also a short week for me.  After a few interesting days of fighting for leave I didn’t even ask for in the first place (don’t ask), I have Thursday and Friday off.  I have already declared that I have no intention of leaving the house and/or pyjama’s all of Thursday.  I am going to sleep in and have breakfast with my cat and potentially finish unpacking.  Friday is full of potential right now, but it finishes up somewhere that I know will be amazing, so that’s all I need to know right now.  And on Saturday night, East meets West, and it’s going to be a blast.

Fitting 5 days into 3 is gonna kinda suck, but it’s going to be worth it.  This girl feels like she’s living right now, and it’s a MF revelation I tell you.

In your radio

Yeah, you know what?  I kinda don’t feel like writing a lot tonight.  So I won’t.  It’s not you by the way, it’s me.  It has everything to do with playing with my kitten and talking online to sister # 3 and making mix CDs and staring, grinning, stupidly into space recalling the weekend and washing up and putting away washing.

Sometimes, as Even (and Benjamin) say, life gets in the way.

Still, what you will get is this – possibly THE MOST exciting music news I’ve had for some time.  Probably since I heard who the Wilco support was.  And even then, this trumps it by about a billionty.  And you’ve probably all already heard it, being the intertron-savy types that you are, but still.

Aha SPIT IT Karen.

What’s really exciting to me are rumours that –

A)    SUFJAN might be touring in December this year, and –
B)     ARCADE FIRE might be here in January next year.

I’ve kinda been holding off writing about this.  Rumours are coming thick and fast now from a few places and it’s making me a little more confident that it might happen.  There have been more than a few OMG emails and IM’s back and forth about both of these things – it’s an exciting time at CFG HQ.

And the boy and I are talking about going to Meredith this year.  Potentially, if the planets and the stars and the work schedules align.  Can you imagine SUFJAN at MEREDITH.  Good lord.  A girl can hope at least.

Also, when I hear Wake Up and/or Intervention live, I think I might faint.

And again also, just because I haven’t been random enough tonight, I think I’m having some sort of illicit love affair with Will Sheff’s voice.  Particularly in the song Another Radio Song, and particularly at the point from around 2 minutes 20 when he starts with the –

Bless this tiny alley
We have fallen from tall buildings
We have fallen through the air
Into a garden sweetly smelling of the softest
Sleeping flowers now they sit under the sidewalk
Now they’re waiting for the shining of some future sun to show us
All that is your beauty
Oh and all that brings you pleasure
I could sigh into your hide
And say I hope I’m here forever

Holy cow.

Love, love, love

So I was randomly searching the interwebs for something Mountain Goats related (I can hear you all drop to the ground, slack-jawed in shock at that revelation), and I came across this article written by Laura Barton from The Guardian in the UK.

She writes about the difference between crushing on a band/musician, and falling in love with them. She writes about the bands she grew up with –

I love their records the same way I love my parents: unquestioningly and unerringly, as if they shaped my musical features, the way my parents made my mouth, my nose, my eyes.

And she writes about bands she found herself along the way. This my favourite part of the article –

Musical crushes only placate you, they merely tell you what you want to hear, in a voice you’ve heard before. Bands you love seem to answer a question you didn’t even know you were asking.

She’s managed to pretty succinctly say what I’ve been trying to articulate for some time. Why bands like U2 are still really important to me, and why, even though I will get mocked until I die about this, sometimes I yearn to listen to Don McLean. It also helps explain the difference between, say, hearing Arular by MIA for the first time (mad crushing for at least 6 weeks) to an album like Apologies to the Queen Mary by Wolf Parade. Mad potential there for love love love, and you know it from the outset.

Also, she’s crushing on, or falling for, Elvis Perkins. And so am I. So there’s that.

Skin-scented sentences

They say that smell is the sense most strongly linked to memory.  I have zero doubt about that.  I can catch a scent of something, even vaguely, and whole parts of my childhood come rushing back like some sort of scratch and sniff slideshow.  I’ve spoken to enough people about this to know it’s a pretty common occurrence.

Today at work we had a client come in with a box of leather headstalls.  They’re actually destined for a contact of ours in Ukraine, but for now they’re sitting in my office.  My office is usually the communal dumping ground for these things because A) the other offices are a little more cramped and B) it’s not worth the bitching to put anything in the bosses general vicinity.

Anyway, these headstalls arrive, in the box, and it was less than a minute after they were in my office that I caught the smell.  That smell of leather.  It sent my senses and the memory electrodes in my brain reeling.  Suddenly I was on the floor of my bedroom in Wagga, cross-legged on an old blanket, rubbing saddle soap into my old saddle.  It was really run down, that old thing – made of pig skin and probably about 25 years old.  Once I’d had it re-stuffed though, and the wear and tear around the pommel and cantle patched up, it was actually pretty good.  I loved it, anyway.  And that’s all that mattered.

I usually only cleaned my saddle before a competition.  This was all well and good if I was competing most every weekend, like through the summer and the autumn.  But if it was the first competition in a long time, man oh man would that saddle be dirty.  Horse sweat, combined with dirt and hair, and then alternately wet and dry over a period of a few months, means that shit got almost welded on.  I had a whole saddle cleaning tool kit for such situations that included, among other things, an old toothbrush and a wooden skewer for getting in where the stitches were.

By the end of the whole saddle and bridle cleaning exercise, particularly the clean after the hiatus, I’d end up with black fingernails, pruney fingers and smelling like a saddle myself.  But there is nothing better than the warm glow of freshly cleaned leather – all sienna brown and imperfectly smooth in its colouring and texture.  Also, the smell of saddle soap and leather is the most wholesomely good smell.  Even the smell of horse sweat and dirt and general grubbiness.  It brings back memories of warm horse breath and cold, early morning air and the smell of lucerne hay and the ache you’d get after a full day of riding.  That good, dull ache, from the inside of the bones.

Anyway, those leather headstalls today bought back the saddle cleaning memory, and then the general horse memories, which got all tumbled up with the memory of buying the saddle, and then the bittersweetness of moving to a synthetic saddle that was not only easier to look after but better for my riding in general.  And that moved on to… well, there were a lot of memories from one little smell.  And they’re still coming.  Tonight I’ll move through that and kinda forget about it and fall into dreams about other things, and then I’ll walk back into my office in the morning and probably go through it all again.  A little more quickly, perhaps, but the same journey.

Work your way out

My job is a fairly huge part of my life.  Well, less so in recent months, but still.  So it stands to reason that I occasionally talk about it.  It’s helped, recently, to talk to someone who is somewhat outside of the (more than a little bit fucked up) situation.  It helps with perspective.

Anyway I was saying on the weekend that I’m not really done yet.  And he was saying to me that it doesn’t appear that I’m done yet.  And turns out the answer is yeah, I’m not done yet.  The reason I gave was that things felt unfinished – I felt like I needed to tidy things up, there were things I wanted to achieve, and I didn’t really feel like now was a smart time to walk away.  I’ve thought about it a lot since Sunday and I reckon I’ve figured out exactly what it is…

If I leave now I’d have failed.

Not so much at the job part – I’m actually pretty good at that bit.  It’s more about the conquering part.  The finally figuring shit out part.  The not letting my job rule my life part.  I’ve been saying to everyone in my life for so long now ‘it’s going to change – I’m going to sort this job out and control it rather than have it control me.’  I know for a fact my people are humouring me now when I talk like this.  And that’s okay, really, but I really want to DO that thing.  To actually achieve a balance of work and life and love and all that other stuff that is supposed to be in the mix of the balance.

And I can do it.  I know I can.  With this job, too.  And I tellyawhat – if I can do that very thing, with this job, then I can achieve anything.  I don’t have a game plan yet, but I’m tenacious.

I’m not sure any of that made any sense at all but I’m sorta too tired to work myself up to care.
Also, it’s not 11PM yet and I’m going to bed.  Bowie seems less than pleased about this idea, but he’ll learn to live with it I’m sure.  And probably kick that plastic bottle lid up and down the hallway in protest for the next 2 hours.  He has has seriously grown twice the size in the last 2 weeks.  He’s starting to look like a real little cat now.  He sorta swaggers, too, like he’s all that.

(And he is, but we don’t tell him that over here at CFG HQ, because he needs no help with the ego).