Wednesday, December 31, 2008

THE INSPIRERS

Those who inspired me during 2008: My family and friends, the Normo students and staff (big shout out to the English crew), Doug and Syb on the Atherton Tablelands, Robbie from Kuku Yalanji Dreamtime, the Normanby Island guides, Ian and Roger from Down Under Tours, Jennifer Compton, Michelle Cahill, Mark Tredinnick, Les Murray, Anthony Lawrence, Robert Gray, Nerida Newton, Matthew Condon, Watkin Tench, Shakespeare, Brendan Cowell, Chris Lilley, Bill Oddie & Tim Brooke-Taylor & Graeme Garden, Michael Palin & Terry Jones, Charlie Sheen & Jon Cryer, Ben Stiller, Mickey Rourke, Paul Thomas Anderson, The Coen Brothers, Ridley Scott, Greg Roberts, Tim Bran, The Orb, Santogold, Trent Reznor, Oasis, Moby, The Presets, James Lavelle, Coldplay, Jamie Catto & Duncan Bridgeman, Bob Brown, Kevin Rudd, Michael Moore, Barack Obama.

LJ, January 1 2009.

Monday, December 22, 2008

TWO HOURS ALONG THE SPHINX TRAIL IN KU-RING-GAI CHASE NATIONAL PARK

From 8 to 10pm the night before last, I immersed myself in the dense, undulating, dry and damp sandstone escarpment country surrounding The Sphinx Trail, near Bobbin Head, in Ku-ring-gai Chase National Park. The place is a captivating matrix of banksias, ferns and gums, including the scribbly, with its polygraph machine bark signatures.

Armed with a torch and binocs, I tried to find feathertail gliders and eastern pygmy possums, which I'm yet to see. They're found up and down the east coast of New South Wales, according to Menkhorst and Knight's A Field Guide to the Mammals of Australia (Oxford, 2001).

The night was so perfectly still I could hear the energetic wing beats of grey-headed flying-foxes passing overhead, cicada rhythms (groups of a particular species would buzz/hum for twenty-five seconds, then stop for fifteen seconds, over and over for about forty-five minutes, an hour after the sun had slipped away from the narrow valley where I walked), the bubbling gurgles and cackles of white-throated and owlet nightjars, the sonar clicks of unidentifiable microbats and the unmistakable madman stomping of hopping swamp wallabies in the tangled brush.

I had remarkable views of three swamp wallabies by The Sphinx carpark; one solidly built adult studied me attentively for about ten minutes, his right ear flicking about; this allowed me brilliant views of his black-gloved paws, rich rufous-orange chest and long and thick tail (which made me think of king cobras). Over my two hours at The Sphinx I counted circa ten swamp wallabies, the most I've ever recorded up there.

A hunting redback spider in its minimalist web, and a Macbeth-dark, crevasse-hidden huntsman poised to strike some dim, hapless invertebrate, were other highlights.

It was brilliant to leave Suburban Sydney behind for a while and inhale life's real light.

LJ, December 22 2008

Monday, December 15, 2008

CHANGE

My young family and I are about to leave Sydney for the Southern Highlands, where I have a new teaching job for 2009. I can't wait. Although I love Sydney, I'm over it and craving new spaces, challenges and adventures. Change is to be danced with, laughed with, unfurled and embraced. Life is change; only in change can there be true experience.

LJ, December 15 2008.

Wednesday, December 10, 2008

SUSPICIOUS PACKAGE

A five minute train ride between Ashfield and Burwood Stations this afternoon took me thirty minutes because of a 'suspicious package' found in a car park adjacent to Strathfield Station. No trains were allowed in to the station for some time. I was 'alert, but not alarmed', as the Howard government suggested I be in the aftermath of September 11, 2001. I was a model citizen, really.

What the package found suspicious has yet to be ascertained by forensic squads!

LJ, December 11 2008

Tuesday, November 18, 2008

TWO THINGS PUBLISHED LAST SATURDAY

Last Saturday, in the Review section of The Weekend Australian, I had a small piece published (entitled This (Displaced) Life) about a house crow that has been frequenting the beach side suburb of Dee Why, in Sydney's north, since early 2008. The house crow is an outstandingly rare vagrant to Australian shores. This is our fourth official record. I was lucky enough to see the bird back in March or April. Added to this, I had a small, silly thing on swamphens published online with The Sydney Morning Herald that day. Where would I be without avian inspiration? LJ, November 18 2008.

Saturday, November 15, 2008

THE CARIBBEAN'S STEEL SOUL

A week ago, in the epicentre of Sydney's Centennial Park, I came across a mob of West Indians picnicking on the periphery of Lachlan Swamp's dense, sweaty tangle of ferns and paperbarks. Jamaican flags were flying high. I got speaking with a dude with blonde dreads from Trinidad who was teaching a dozen kids how to play steel drums. The sound the kids produced en masse was extraordinary: I was particularly into their epic version of Blondie's The Tide is High. After they'd finished, I asked if I could grab some sticks and have a play on one drum.

I was unaware that steel drums (or steelpans) were made from 55-gallon drums that oil was kept in (Trinidad has had a long history of oil production). Steelpans have been played since 1947; the secret to playing them well is to strike them gently! You tune them with a hammer.

Jean Michel Jarre's leftfield Waiting for Cousteau (1990), is the only CD I've got that features the unusual sonic gleam of the steelpan. The Amoco Renegades played the instrument on that album. The amateur percussionist in me was enraptured by this accidental Sydney meeting with the Caribbean's steel soul.

LJ, November 16 2008.

Wednesday, November 5, 2008

Saturday, November 1, 2008

BARRACKING FOR BARACK

My fingers are crossed for a Barack Obama/Democrats victory on Tuesday. America and the world needs a commander-in-chief who is young, dynamic, thoughtful, moderate and chilled-out (without being comatose) when under fire. I love the fact that Barack is half Kensan and half Kenyan, and he grew up in Indonesia and Hawaii; this polychromatic background seems emblematic of America and the wider world.

I'm behind Barack because he is:
a. wanting U.S. servicemen and women out of Iraq
b. for diplomacy when it comes to Mahmoud Ahmadinejad and Iran (rather than treating them as outright enemies and worthy of American aggro)
c. pursuing a fairer health care system
d. after some restrictions on gun ownership
and
e. cautious of endorsing the death penalty.

At present, according to graphs and figures at The New York Times' website, Barack is ahead of John McCain. A survey by The Gallup Poll (that received responses from about 2,800 people) shows Barack with 52% of the vote, whilst McCain is polling at 41%. It'll be interesting to see how residents of Florida, Missouri (Bush country), Indiana, Ohio and North Carolina vote: it could go either away in those states. Nevada (Bush country), New Mexico, Colorado (Bush country) and Iowa, have a swing towards Obama; hopefully, these swings will not change on Tuesday. I just hope Americans get up off the couch and get down to their polling stations. They should be forced to vote, as Australians are.

I doubt Dick Cheney endorsing McCain is going to be much of a threat to Obama... Michael Moore is cautious as to whom will win... According to The LA Times, Iraqis are split in who they want - either way, they feel America will still dominate them.

And where is Dubya at the moment? Probably shooting varmints on a big ranch somewhere! The other day someone asked for his opinion on General Motors. His response was something along the lines of, "I think he's doing a great job in Iraq."

LJ, November 1 2008

Saturday, October 25, 2008

THE TOP 10 AUSSIE SONGS OF ALL TIME

Recently The Australian newspaper asked its readers to vote for the top Aussie song of the last twenty years. The Church's Under the Milky Way Tonight topped the bill. Following that thread, here's my pick for the top ten Aussie songs of all time (in no particular order):

1. Icehouse - Great Southern Land
2. Severed Heads - Dead Eyes Opened
3. Nick Cave - Into my Arms
4. The Go-Betweens - Cattle and Cane
5. Mondo Rock - State of the Heart
6. Crowded House - Weather with You
7. My Friend the Chocolate Cake - The Gossip
8. The Models - Barbados
9. Midnight Oil - Redneck Wonderland
10. The Avalanches - Frontier Psychiatrist

What do you think, folks? Send me an e-mail and tell me what your top ten is.

LJ, October 26 2008

Thursday, October 23, 2008

MICHAEL MOORE

Michael Moore is a hero. He's a defender of the truth and a leader with a moral conscience whom we need to keep the ruthless and greedy in check.

I watched Sicko the other day (following a few trips to a doctor and a specialist, where all consultations were free!). It was a stark, essential insight into America's atrocious health care system, where the wealthy win and the poor loose big time. Some of the film looked at how damn expensive pharmaceuticals, medical appointments and medical procedures in public hospitals are. The overall message was: in the States, when it comes to medical care, it's profit before people; big companies make a fortune from not giving people adequate medical attention or refusing help altogether.

According to Michael Moore's website, there were 50 million Americans without health care n 2006; I'm guessing the majority couldn't afford it. On his site he has written up a 'Prescription for Change' where three things are suggested as remedies for the US health care debacle. He believes 'every resident of the U.S. must have free, universal health care for life', 'all health care insurance companies must be abolished' and 'pharmaceutical companies must be strictly regulated like a public utility'. This sounds so sensible.

On another note, I once showed Bowling for Columbine to a group of Yr. 11 students at Oakhill College, in Sydney's north-west, where I taught English (and, on and off, History, Drama, General Studies and R.E.) for 9 years. At the end of the film, this mob of boys and girls (some of whom were a bit ratty, god bless them) sat completely still and speechless for minutes; they didn't run out the door, on the bell, as usual. So, the world needs Michael Moore (even with his daggy clothes and Kodiak bear-on-Valium shuffle).

LJ, October 24 2008.

Tuesday, October 14, 2008

THE ANCIENT MARINER WOULD BE PLEASED TO HEAR THIS...

I was thrilled to learn, after reading The Australian last Saturday, that 100s of new aquatic species (inc. corals, crustaceans, sponges, sea stars and molluscs) have just been discovered in the depths of the Southern Ocean off Tasmania. 66% of them were brand new to science. It's great to see, in this age and day where it seems we know everything, that nature can still show her unexpected hand. Hopefully, if those in government under Kevin Rudd and Peter (why did he ever leave the Oils?) Garrett use their minds wisely, the home of these creatures will be turned into a marine reserve protected forever from fishing, pollution and disruption. I wonder whether Rudd and Garrett are happy to shake the hands of industry though. Let's wait and see what happens...

LJ, October 14 2008.

Sunday, October 5, 2008

THE ALBUMS I'M DIGGIN' (MOST ARE BRAND NEW)

MGMT - Oracular Spectacular
UNKLE - End Titles... Stories for Film
The Art of Chill 4 - Mixed by The Orb
David Bridie - Succumb
Oasis - Dig Out Your Soul
Stereo MCs - Double Bubble
Stereo MCs - Paradise
Thievery Corporation - RadioRetaliation
Salmonella Dub - Feel the Seasons Change
Cassandra Wilson - Loverly

Saturday, October 4, 2008

SPRING IN MY STEP AND MIND

I have just spent the end of September and the first few days of October at my sister-in-law's property in Bowral, in the middle of the very green and grounding Southern Highlands. It was a time for walking more slowly, breathing properly, dreaming up future biro projects and revelling in the magic of family.

Throughout this time away, it was fantastic to immerse myself in and around the landscape of my sister-in-law's home. Most days, gang-gang cockatoos, yellow-tailed black-cockatoos, pacific herons, yellow-rumped thornbills, straw-necked ibis, eastern whipbirds and lyrebird-imitating satin bowerbirds were my companions as I walked by copperhead springs, lavender plots and giant pines. Mist, rain, perfect cyan firmament, gutsy winds and temperatures from 7 to 34 degrees showcased the schizophrenic nature of Highland weather.

For an hour and a half, one flawless morning by the zen face of the Wingecarribee River, I caught up with Burradoo's wordsmith and teacher, Mark Tredinnick. We talked about the Australian writers we admire and question, Australian geography, Highland bird calls, the heavyweights of U.S. nature writing and the delicate art of penning good poetry well.

LJ, October 4 2008.

Thursday, September 25, 2008

THE MAN WHO WASN'T FROM SNOWY RIVER

I just came second in the Shoalhaven Literary Award with an epigrammatic poem entitled Equidae. I am proud of it. The poem is a celebration of horses, in all their splendid variations; I mention sawhorses, stuffed toy horses, the Troy Horse and Phar Lap. I have never had any great affinity with the equine world. Through ignorance, I treat horses as I do the surf; with wariness. However, I do see horses as amazing, venerable beasts; creatures that are breathtakingly impressive for being so utterly nonhuman. My sincere thanks goes out to poet Jennifer Compton who judged the Award.

LJ, September 26 2008.

Friday, September 19, 2008

ROCK REVIVAL ON TRIPLE H

The husband of a work colleague invited me to come on his two hour radio show 'Rock Revival', on Triple H (100.1 FM), last night. It was a blast. I spoke about Joe Strummer and played three songs that illustrated the breadth of the man's talent: the visceral pieces Safe European Home and White Riot from his Clash days and slow-burning, wrenching, posthumous track Ramshackle Day Parade, which was put together by his band The Mescaleros in 2003.

Nick Drake, Pink Floyd, John McLaughlin, Angel, Neill Young and Crazy Horse, The Telltales (lads from Beecroft, where I spent my formative years) and Jimi Hendrix were amongst the many other musicians beamed across the airwaves of northern Sydney over the show's duration. As I don't listen to a lot of these composers, much of the show was an education for me.

Tune in to Rock Revival if you get the chance. Here's the blogspot - rockrevivaltripleh.blogspot.com/. If I had another job it would be DJing full-time and I'd call myself Obese Man Thin. Imagine the power, glory, idiocy and insomnia! But hey, I'm not deserting my day job; unless you're Tiesto or Paul van Dyk, there's two pence in it!

LJ, September 19 2008.

Monday, September 1, 2008

PROFILE UPDATE/JOE STRUMMER

I've put some of my favourite song lyrics of all time on my profile page. Check them out. They're penned by the mighty Joe Strummer and are from Big Audio Dynamite's brilliant track Beyond the Pale. I first listened to this tune in a hotel room in Singapore. My parents and I were en route to London. I was fourteen years old. Ah, the song and its affecting words still resonate today...

I once shook hands with Joe Strummer and thanked him for his music. He had just finished playing a blinding set with The Mescaleros at The Metro in Sydney, and appeared out the back of the venue to chat to fans, passers by, whomever. I remember he arrived tentatively, hung in a doorway and peered off down the alley to where throngs of people drifted down a busier street - he was Captain Nonchalance really - he had no real desire to rush up and talk to the few Clash devotees that hung out to say hello. Still, he was polite, collected and dead cool. He complimented my 'Dubwiser' t-shirt (which was white and featured the Budwiser label but changed a little by the band Dreadzone to reflect their dub rots).

This was about a year before he died.

LJ, September 1 2008.

Wednesday, August 27, 2008

INLAND EMPIRE

I sat and viewed David Lynch's sprawling Thespians-with-head spins flick Inland Empire last night. I am a massive fan of Lynch's variegated, often perplexing and poignant work, but I was underwhelmed by Inland Empire. It was nonsensical, purposeless, devoid of humour or real terror, lacking inspired cinematography and filled with one-dimensional characters I failed to empathise with. And don't get me started on the trashy models (inc. one who was a rougher version of Pink) dancing to Locomotion, Laura Dern's angst-ridden performance or the humanoid rabbits whose dull lives in a muted green room were accompanied by a laugh track.

LJ, August 28 2008.

Monday, August 25, 2008

TWELVE DAYS IN THE TROPICS

I recently returned from twelve days away in tropical northern Queensland. We traveled from Cairns to Cape Tribulation and stopped at various points along the way. I was up there with 44 Yr. 9 students and several teachers from Loreto Normanhurst. The school calls this expedition Outreach.

There were many highlights... Snorkeling with green sea turtles, barracuda and blue-spotted rays, and seeing a female humpback whale slapping its tail repeatedly (a 'back off, buster' signal to approaching males that may be a threat to her calf) off Normanby Island (part of the Frankland Island group), talking to serene and welcoming Indigenous Australians on their traditional lands, walking under some of the most magnificent trees I've ever seen (kauris and figs, which were several storeys high), finding five species of bird I hadn't seen before (inc. the rare red goshawk), exploring evergreen vine-forest, Africanesque savannah and lava tubes at Undara, laughing with various wonderful people in a respite care centre on the Atherton Tableland and watching teenage Aboriginal dancers perform at the secondary school, Djarragun College.

It was an awesome, inspiring and enriching experience. Spending time away from the technology that I'm often pinned to (computers, cars, phones, iPods etc.) was liberating too.

LJ, August 26 2008.

Monday, July 28, 2008

DOGS LIFE 'PAWTRY PRIZE'

I've just finished judging a poetry prize for Dogs Life magazine which is published widely in Australia and New Zealand. I instigated the prize. It was run for younger readers of Dogs Life. The two children who won came up with the following imaginative ideas... One said that dogs 'can't help but set us aglow' and the other asked how St. Bernard's can be so 'blobbery' and 'slobbery'! Beaut stuff.

LJ, July 28 2008.

Sunday, July 27, 2008

TEN ALBUMS I'VE GOT ON HIGH ROTATION

Subsonar - Cool Accident
Richard Dorfmeister presents a Different Drummer selection
Dub Syndicate overdubbed by Rob Smith (courtesy of Smith & Mighty)
Santogold - Santogold
NIN - The Slip
NIN - Ghosts I-IV
Coldplay - Viva la Vida
Underworld - Oblivion with Bells
Moby - Last Night
Carbon/Silicon - The Last Post

Friday, July 18, 2008

INDY 4

Like thousands of teenagers in the '80s, I was a massive fan of Indiana Jones. I greatly enjoyed Indiana Jones and the Curse of the Crystal Skull; seeing Indy survive an a-bomb test in Nevada by hiding in a fridge was worth the admission price alone! Spielberg is a master.

LJ, June 18 2008.

Sunday, July 13, 2008

GLEEBOOKS BASH

I was at the launch of Martin Harrison's new poetry collection Wild Bees at Gleebooks (Sydney's finest bookstore) this afternoon. Martin was one of the judges of the Newcastle Poetry Prize for 2007 - he got a poem of mine in the Prize's anthology. Writers Robert Gray, Peter Boyle, Robert Adamson, Judith Beveridge, Delia Falconer, James Bradley and Mark Tredinnick all turned up for the bash. I chatted with Mark, Judith, Peter and Robert briefly.

On returning home, my fingertips ached for a pen, so I could put together some fresh poems to send off to various literary journals. Ah, the power of a room full of gifted writers.

LJ, July 13 2008.

Saturday, July 12, 2008

iPHONE, THEREFORE I'M NOT

Thank all gods. The new iPhone 3G has finally hit the stores. Hundreds of Apple devotees queued up for seven hours the other day at Australia's first Apple store in Sydney's CBD to purchase one. The new 3G has a 'net portal, a GPS navigator, a planner, a game console, a camera, a mailbox, a music player and a phone! I have a mobile, an iPod Nano, a CD player, a Holden... I can see the value in technology, but the iPhone just seems like flash gadgetry for the sake of flash gadgetry. Will it improve the human soul?

LJ, June 13 2008.

Wednesday, June 25, 2008

NPP '08

My Newcastle Poetry Prize entry for '08 is almost complete... It's a long piece about the necessity of rising from ill health and death moves, to a state of more than grace... In many ways, it's a song to my son... I fell into fathomless continental shelf waters with mako biters to bring the poem alive... I'm proud of it, I think... Who knows how it will be received by this year's judges?

LJ, June 25 2008.

Wednesday, June 18, 2008

VIVA LA VIDA

I am mega-impressed with Coldplay's fourth album Viva la Vida. I think Martin, Buckland, Champion and Berryman, under Brian Eno's scholarly direction, have produced one of the finest ever British albums. Many of the ten tracks on the disc steer away from plodding along traditional Colplay paths and avenues; a handful are split in distinct halves that counter each other stylistically, showing a more daring, interesting band at play. Some of the tunes, particularly Lost!, Strawberry Swing, Viva la Vida and the latter half of Yes, are golden, triumphant. The shimmering electronic pulses with which Brian Eno (I have loved this man's work ever since the ethereal Prophecy Theme, on the soundtrack to David Lynch's Dune, filled me with a sense of the sublime back in the early 80s) has enclosed the recording are exquisite. So, with Viva, Coldplay are living life to the fullest.

LJ, June 19 2008.

Thursday, June 12, 2008

THE KILLING OF KANGAROOS

According to a recent article in The Sydney Morning Herald by regional reporter, Daniel Lewis, the Kangaroo Industry Association has permission to kill 3.65 million kangaroos this year. The president of the Australian Wildlife Protection Council, Maryland Wilson, has said that if the execution of roos continues at this rate "we are going to see a sudden drop of population to the point of no return".

This is deeply disturbing. I don't want a unique, iconic creature (indeed, a symbol on Australia's coat of arms) to be pushed to the brink of extinction because it's considered a pest by farmers and politicians alike. We need to work out strategies that promote co-existence between marsupial and man.

LJ, June 12 2008.

Monday, June 9, 2008

AUSTRALIAN TROOPS COMING HOME FROM IRAQ

I'm thrilled to see that as many as 550 Australian troops are expected home from southern Iraq this month. By bringing these servicemen and women back, Prime Minister Kevin Rudd has fulfilled an '07 election promise. I always questioned our role in The Middle East.

LJ, June 9 2008.

Thursday, June 5, 2008

BIRDWATCHING

The other day a student asked me why I liked birds so much. It's an interesting question; I have no ready answer really; I suppose birds represent a glimmer of a greater existence and that captivates me.

For over twenty years, I've actively gone looking for birds. One of my life's missions is to see as many of Australia's 800+ species as possible. Thus far, I've 'ticked' 515 of them. Birdwatching is a challenging activity that demands all your senses to be in overdrive. You have to be utterly in the moment (as if one is on a Zen quest), with your eyes and ears super-sensitive, if you are to really see the avian world around you. My passion for birding in Australia has taken me everywhere from Dove Lake at the base of Cradle Mountain in Tasmania to where The Great Sandy and Tanami Deserts converge in Western Australia...

I've visited mangroves, saltpans, montane rainforests of the wet tropics, sewage farms, botanical gardens, gibber plains, savannah, channel country, spinifex-fringed creekbeds, wet sclerophyll woodland, heath, beaches, lagoons, sand dunes, ponds, swamps, saltmarshes, high altitude forest, Antarctic Beech forest and the continental shelf off NSW in the name of finding new species...

I've had green-backed gerygones two feet away in Darwin Botanic Gardens, squatter pigeons following me around at Mt. Molloy State School (Queensland), a superb lyrebird flick leaf litter down on me in northern Sydney... I've seen a rare hepatic form of an Oriental cuckoo, an origma asleep in a sandstone gully overhang, powerful owls devouring their rosella prey, a peregrine falcon pursuing a feral pigeon over ocean, hobbies chasing starlings near Southern Highland springs, 100+ flock bronzewings take to morning outback air, a white-tailed tropicbird floating up from the horizon several kilometres off Magic Point, Maroubra, like some alien crucifix and a vagrant house crow, from south-east Asian or India, pull garbage from a bin at Dee Why... priceless moments...

Basically, birds bring every day to life.

LJ, June 5 2008.

CLOVERFIELD

I was thoroughly impressed with NY+monsters flick Cloverfield, which I saw on DVD last night. Its hyper-realism was hypnotic.

LJ, June 5 2008.

Saturday, May 24, 2008

DEAN'S

Walking along Kellett St. in Kings Cross yesterday, with my son, I was sad to see Dean's (or Deans as the sign out the front always said) had closed down. Dean's, with its polychromatic, eccentric interior (that featured everything from a jukebox playing 45s to a surfboard hanging from the roof to tatty couches that looked like they'd survived the bombing of Hiroshima), waitresses-with-empty-faces and otherworldly, ambient vibe, was a late-nite cafe I loved to chill out in on the odd occasions I came to The Cross. It was an oasis in the beautiful maelstrom that is inner-eastern Sydney of an evening. I doubt the cafe/bar/restaurant that replaces it will have the aura Dean's had.

LJ, May 25 2008.

Monday, May 19, 2008

INVERAWE POETRY PRIZE

I recently entered a poem into the Inverawe Poetry Prize. It was given an honorable mention by the competition's judge, Tasmanian poet, Louise Oxley. This is pleasing. I was highly commended in the Prize in 2007. My poem was one of two-hundred and forty entered this year. Twelve poets were ahead of me with commended, highly commended and winning results. The poem was a meditation on what the construction of a tollway (the M2) did to sclerophyll bushland in north-west Sydney and those green-souled individuals who fought its birth.

LJ, May 19 2008.

Thursday, May 15, 2008

PUBLISHED WORKS

Over the years I've had a few things published... when I was at the Australian Catholic University in Strathfield back in the day I started up the campus' first student paper (Chalkdust) with about five others (including Sydney-based author for young adults, Melina Marchetta)... there were bits for the Cumberland Bird Observers' Club (mob out in north-west Sydney) newsletter in the early 90s... in 1999 my interview with Moby, poems and film reviews were all published in Vegan Voice magazine... I penned gig and CD reviews, as well as interviews, for Sydney music press publications The Drum Media, The Brag and 3D World from about 2000 to 2003... there have been CD reviews for The Big Issue on and off... an interview with Sydney jazzer (and mate) Mark Harris for Spinach7 online a couple of years ago... the odd small thing in The Sydney Morning Herald over the years (then several CD reviews for The List, their entertainment supplement in 2007)... a poem on Sydney city in the Broadway Poetry Prize Anthology 2004... another poem on Western Australia in Eclogues The Newcastle Poetry Prize Anthology 2007... check out http://www.mascarapoetry.com/ for two of my latest poems (big ups to Michelle Cahill the ed.)... the latest edition of Dogs Life (in OZ/NZ) has a couple of poems and a bit of stuff on writing poems from me as well... there's an albatross poem at http://www.adoreanimals.com/... and an article on birding Sydney in the latest edition of Wildlife Australia Magazine (see http://www.wildlife.org.au/)...

AND THIS IS NOT ENOUGH.

LJ, May 16 2008.

Tuesday, May 13, 2008

A CHINESE PERSPECTIVE

I was speaking with a Chinese gentleman today who was absolutely under the impression that Tibet had been part of Chinese territory for about 100 or 200 years and that worldwide protests against the Beijing Olympics were unwarranted because of this. His position on this was interesting, probably a by-product of governmental propaganda, considering the People's Liberation Army invaded Tibet in 1949-1950 and turned part of Tibet into Chinese provinces (according to http://www.freetibet.com/).

LJ, May 14 2008.

THE REFUGEE

This morning at Loreto, a Sudanese man came to speak to the girls. He was one of Sudan's 20,000 'lost boys'; an orphan due to war. Both his parents died when his family were evacuating Sudan and heading for Ethiopia. He was seven at the time. He told the assembled girls to listen to their parents. He said parents should always say good things to their kids. During his brief years with his parents, they never told him he was good.

LJ, 13 May 2008.

Sunday, May 11, 2008

MOBY

Moby's new single 'Alice' is spectacular - the best thing I've heard from him in a long while. It's sort of Cypress Hill meets The Gorillaz in The Caribbean. I turn it up very loudly when cruising about alone in my station wagon with the baby seat in the back - very cool, huh?! I interviewed Moby back in 1999 for an Aussie lifestyle magazine called Vegan Voice - he was a lovely bloke. The editors who ran the mag and supported my interview idea lived in a solar-powered shack ten hours north of Sydney in the middle of gorgeous subtropical rainforest at the base of a vast tableland near Nimbin (NSW's hippie/druggy HQ). Satin bowerbirds would eat fruit on their kitchen sink and pythons lived in their roof! It was Edenesque. LJ, May 2008.

DREADZONE

Absolutely up there with Big Audio Dynamite are West London's dub 'n' dance hipsters Dreadzone. Dreadzone was formed by Greg Roberts, former percussion supremo with BAD and Screaming Target. Greg is a long distance mate of mine; I approached him as a fan at a festival in rural New South Wales in 2000 and we've stayed in contact ever since. He's a sincere, gentle, cool visionary in a time when so many musicians are regurgitating pap for the mindless masses (think Justin Timberlake). Dreadzone are crafting a new disc as I type - I am hyped to say the least - again it will take them into unchartered waters where dragons and hydras dance and snap. LJ, May 11 2008.

DON LETTS + BIG AUDIO DYNAMITE

Last night, I went to see London's Rasta man from the Renaissance, Don Letts, at Sydney University's Manning Bar. He showed a doco on The Clash, a doco on Gil Scott-Heron, read from his 'Culture Clash' autobiography, helmed a raucous Q&A (where old skinheads, one whom spent fifteen minutes trying to convince me Bad Brains were the best band of all time; and wasted losers, vented rubbish) then did a blinding, uplifting 2 hour reggae/dub set accompanied by a plethora of visuals (featuring everything from dead Buddhist monks to men boxing with kangaroos and Matrix trilogy snippets).

I had the chance to speak with him a few times - he signed my copy of Screaming Target's 'Hometown Hi-Fi' (the only album from his posse of 1991), his book and a DVD of 'Westway to the World'. I was impressed with his alacrity and zest, honesty and grounded manner. Whilst his docos screened, he mingled with the crowd and often became embroiled in quasi-philosophical discussions on the legacy of punk rock and posed for photographs...

Since 1986, Don's original incarnation of Big Audio Dynamite have been THE band that moved me the most: they got me through high school, university, life in general really. If my home in Sydney was burnin' like London or Babylon, I'd evacuate my home angels, then reach for BAD's four seminal, hypnotic and polychromatic albums of the 80s. From the moment I heard 'E=MC2' in 1985 I was hooked by their bouncy-as-Hell soup of guitars, synths and beatboxes ... So, seeing Don was awesome last night. BAD never toured here in the 80s.

LJ, May 11 2008.

Thursday, May 8, 2008

MY FIRST WILD PLAYTPUS

A couple of weeks ago, on a bleak, freezing weekday of pigeon-grey skies, I saw my first wild platypus at Cecil Hoskins Nature Reserve, a beautiful, windswept domain of wetlands and open woodland (think mini-Kakadu floodplains) near Bowral (an hour and twenty minutes or so south of Sydney). I had my 10x50 binoculars centred on a feeding grey teal at the time. Behind the teal there were ripples and patterns in a sphere of still water surrounded by floating vegetation. These designs in the water revealed the back and bill of a platypus. This was at 1pm in the afternoon; usually platypuses (is that a word?) are crepuscular or nocturnal, but in cold weather they are active throughout the day; I was lucky to see the monotreme as it was right on the periphery of my binocular vision. After many searches for this creature over the years (up and down high altitude areas of eastern Australia) it was great to finally see it, although I wish my view had been better. LJ, May 9 2008.

WRITING (MAY)

There's a lot buzzing and fluttering in my head writing-wise at the moment... I have to find the space and time and mindset that allows the inspired stuff to gush out... There's an essay on silence; poems concerning the Strathfield Massacre of 1991, making the mind stone during times of bad health and the individual's responsibility to the day and its strugglers; a review of Anthony Lawrence's new poetry collection 'Bark'; and eventually, rewritings of a manuscript that did well in The Vogel Literary Award of 2005 so I can push it off to the Kings and Queens of Rejection in their palaces built from slush pile novels... I'm also about to judge a kids' poetry competition for 'Dogs Life' magazine... So, as the Pet Shop Boys once said, 'We were never being boring, we had too much time to find for ourselves.' LJ, May 9 2008

BLOG INTRO

This is my first Blog entry... Over the upcoming months my blog entries will address a spectrum of things, but there will always be an emphasis upon poetry and my adventures in the natural world... Hopefully, they won't be too self-indulgent and dull. Enjoy, or not. Lorne Johnson