The ‘long white sigh’: some gen-x nostalgia

On the bus this morning, thanks to the magic of the iPod’s otherwise suspiciously un-random seeming shuffle mode: The Clouds’ song ‘Pocket’, from their 1991 album Penny Century.

This is what it sounds like, and these are the lyrics:

Spending all my long days
Searching for a job to do
Any two-bit job that pays
So I can take good care of you

I’ve got love in my pocket
But I’ve got no money
So much love here in my pocket
All I need’s the dough

What could I be doing wrong?
I’m a fighter through and through
Now I’m singing a loser’s song
Don’t want to lose you, too

I’ve got love in my pocket
But I’ve got no money
So much love here in my pocket
All I need’s the dough

Anyway, as I said on Twitter just now, I really cannot think of a song that better captures what it was like to be a newly graduated Generation X 20-something in Australia the early 1990s, in the depths of the recession we had to have. Especially for people who had graduated with some really useful degree like one in music, or media, or any other arts-related discipline. I know it’s not only me who lived through those long, frustrating days and months dominated by the feeling that ‘Pocket’ conveys; something not quite like angst, and really not ironic. Something like a melancholy desire for the imagined possibility of some kind of beautiful, bohemian life, despite the reality of comparative poverty and a sense that actually it was somehow all our own fault that the successful-yet-nonconformist futures promised by 80s success narratives had evaporated. Tom Cruise, j’accuse!

And I remembered that back in 2003 Ben posted a lovely blog entry in homage to The Clouds, where he characterized their music, particularly the voice of Jodi Phyllis in this song, as a “melancholy indie longing, a long white sigh”.

Back on the bus this morning, the song came on just at the moment when I was daydreaming, partly in response to something Mel said, about past, present and future aspirations and disappointments, and thinking about how it has been my experience that surprisingly decent futures can somehow emerge accretively from the apparently frustrating and pointless minutiae of the endless ‘now’ of the present. That is, all the good things in my life have been just as much a result of bad planning and muddling through as the crap things have. I think that’s what I was thinking. I said it was daydreaming.

As Ben says, the moment that Penny Century represents does seem “so long ago” now.

5 things you didn’t know about me

yes, we all know memes are lame, but Jeremy has tagged me, so, since we’re in holiday mode…

1. When I was a kid we had a small hobby farm just outside of town, where Dad ran about 30 head of Hereford cattle. We kept horses as well, and sometimes took them on family holidays there, spending the days riding and playing in the bush, staying in a caravan and heating water for the bush shower in a big copper over an open fire. I think I learned the meaning of solitude and the value of space there, and I miss it.

2. I was in the Navy Reserve band for a brief while when I was first at uni, because they paid something like $60 a week for rehearsals. That was a lot of money to a uni student in 1988. I quit when they said I had to sign on/up properly and would really have to start wearing the uniform. I was shithouse at the marching and stuff anyway.

3. I’ve played Jimmy Galway‘s solid gold flute (or one of them), at a masterclass once. It was heavy. and sounded awesome.

4. I had a story published in the Sunday Mail when I was about 9 or 10. It was called ‘The Last Battle’, and despite sharing a title with a C.S.Lewis Narnia book, was not a fantasy. Rather it concerned a fight to the death on the “dusty plains” of the outback between an old male “boss” kangaroo and his younger rival. Unlike Narnia, where good triumphs over evil, in my story the older kangaroo died (by being squashed “until his ribs cracked sickeningly and his eyes popped out”) because he was older and weaker. Cheeful, huh.

5. I am the world expert* on the musicological distinctions between and the ideal structural forms of the power ballad and the rock anthem. And because what may seem like a perverse love for Celine Dion is actually based on a Kantian, disinterested master-knowledge of the affective aesthetics of the genre at which she excels, you can’t diss me for it.

I tag Mel, Josh, Marika, Axel and Jaz next.


alternate existence

I don’t know where I’ve been for the last 3 months (well, yes, of course I do – Thesis Hell), but I seem to have come out the other side. It might be that some of the pressure is off, or the realisation this is the only holiday I’m going to get until this time next year, or it might be waking up crying with pain from a frozen shoulder earlier in the week, but at I’m having a bit of a break and am staying away from the office until the new year, when I will finish writing up. In the meantime, I keep a hard copy of my thesis on the kitchen table, where I can write notes in the margins every 15 or 20 minutes, or whenever something occurs to me, as well as a big notebook where I can write out ideas at length. This seems to be working surprisingly well. But on my iBook, the Microsoft Word icon sits quietly in the dock, where it can bloody well stay for a week or so.

What I’m doing instead of hunching over Word for 12 hours a day like a prematurely aging scholarly Scrooge:

  1. using, instead of critiquing, Garageband – mainly very peaceful, minimalistic stuff
  2. cooking beautiful fresh food for myself and those I love
  3. reading a couple of those books-I’ll-get-round-to-one-day: The Idiot and Bleak House
  4. Christmas shopping
  5. reading the paper (although sometimes I wish I hadn’t)

…and so on and so forth. I choose to believe this is all going to make me more intelligent and efficient in the new year. And I hope you all enjoy the break as much as I intend to!

transit point

The weather turned cooler this morning: autumn is finally here. Thank you, god.

Every year, this transition works on me like the beginning of spring does on normal people – it’s the moment when fogginess and torpor give way to bright clarity.

This time last year I was doing my PhD confirmation and getting ready to head off to MIT; but now I’ve flipped a switch and transitioned into serious Writing Up mode. The tunnel vision that comes with that means I’m studiously ignoring any and all seductions re travel, conferences, side projects, and peripheral fascinations. Well, within reason, given the eclectic nature of my many enthusiasms – as evidenced by this morning’s quick-and-dirty experiment with scanner & photoshop imaging.

narcissistic filler

Four jobs I’ve had

  1. Flute choir conductor
  2. Polyphonic ringtones composer
  3. Selling crappy toys door-to-door in industrial estates, on commission (during the recession we had to have, which seems to have lasted for my entire life)
  4. Barmaid (at which I was a complete and abject failure)

Four movies I can watch over and over

  1. Wild at Heart
  2. Monty Python and the Search for the Holy Grail
  3. Moulin Rouge
  4. Billy Elliot

Four places I’ve lived (more boring than glen)

  1. Maryborough, Queensland – Eistedfodd capital of Australia
  2. Graceville, Brisbane (NEVER move from one side of the Brisbane river to the other. ever.)
  3. Leichardt, Sydney
  4. Red Hill, Brisbane

Four TV shows I love (although I don’t love TV so much anymore)

  1. The Magic Roundabout
  2. This Life
  3. The West Wing
  4. Neighbours

Four places I’ve vacationed

  1. Hervey Bay, Australia
  2. Zaragosa, Spain
  3. Paris (aaaaah)
  4. Mongogarie, NSW

Four of my favourite dishes

  1. Home-made goats’ cheese, spinach, and pumpkin pizza
  2. My marinated lamb salad
  3. Cheese on toast
  4. Sugar cane prawn and rice paper rolls

Four sites I visit daily

  1. The QUT helpdesk webpage, to find out why the email/internet access/diary server isn’t working
  2. This one
  3. Wikipedia
  4. The bus stop outside my house

Four places I’d rather be right now

  1. In a cabin in the mountains
  2. At my graduation
  3. On a night out in Melbourne
  4. Lounging in a sunny beer garden on a winter’s day, listening to a lame covers guitarist, with frosty beer in arm’s reach

Four people I tag

  1. Adrian
  2. Barbara
  3. Axel
  4. Trine

update from abroad

After a lovely, wintry European break, I’m now into the fieldwork I’m doing in the UK as part of my PhD. Spent an interesting day with the capture wales team at BBC Wales, as well as meeting some participants from canllaw online, who will be participating in the train-the-trainers digital storytelling workshop that I’m observing next week.

In one of the many transit queues I was stuck in last week, I got chatting to the guy in front of us. He turned out to be Mark Crick, the author of Kafka’s Soup, subtitled “A Complete History of World Literature in 14 Recipes”:

If you’ve ever wondered what it would be like to have dinner with Franz Kafka, Jane Austen or Raymond Chandler, this is the chance to find out. Literary ventriloquist Mark Crick presents 14 recipes in the voices of famous writers, from Homer to Irvine Welsh. Guaranteed to delight anyone in love with food and books, these witty pastiches will keep you so entertained in the kitchen that you’ll be sorry when the guests arrive.

With each recipe illustrated with an illustration in the style of an appropriate artist, Egon Schiele rubs shoulders with Hogarth, Matisse and Frida Kahlo.

Mark pulled out his battered doing-the-rounds-of-publishers copy, and I was very impressed – a really innovative repurposing of the arts and a great hybrid publishing idea. On a quick glance through, the way he captures the voices of the authors seems to be very sensitive too.


I’m off to the northern hemisphere tomorrow for a good hit of actual holiday-type activities, before my patchwork of fieldwork starts and I hit the digital storytelling and interviewing and thick description slopes.

Back in Brisbane at the end of January.

Everyone, have a lovely break, and I’ll try to remember to blog a little something while I’m away.

T-Shirt Stoushing

Have I invented a meme? Will fame and fortune finally be mine? We all know that’s less than likely, but my slightly childish (and little-understood) substitution of a t-shirt design in the place of rational debate about identities and television prompted Mark to appropriate the idea as a new weapon in “blog stoushing”, and it has caught on….once, and then been recuperated for the market as a mere exercise in t-shirt design and shameless self-promotion. 😉

More seriously, I am actually thinking about experimenting with completely non-discursive, if not non-verbal blogging (video posts of me lying in the park listening to birds, audio posts of my brain ticking over, and zany t-shirt designs), because sometimes I wish the whole internet, especially me, would just shut up for 5 minutes. We could try listening.

Even more seriously, am quite hot on DIY t-shirt design websites like spreadshirt, cafe press, et al as platforms for wearable vernacular creativity.

And, beyond seriousness and heading towards sheer terror, I have a very, very, very scary publication and general things-to-do timeline leading up to Christmas.