I had to kill an hour in the city this morning. (Matter of fact, Dr Who-like, I’m there right now, but you’re not and it’s much later. Timey Wimey Magic!)
I had my new iPad Pro with me, thinking I’d test it out for mobile productivity. I love this fucking thing, and will write about it some more, but the tech wasn’t the issue this morning. It was the space.
Having an hour to fill while I was waiting for my daughter to get out of the orthodontist, I started casting around for somewhere to prop up and write a few pars.
Something I quickly discovered; the better the cafe, the less likely it is to provide Wi-Fi. Hence I ended up hanging with the red headed horror clown. AKA McCafe.
First impression. Going into the coffee business was a good deal for Ronald McDonald. My flat white and muffin cost more than they would have at a ‘real’ cafe. The quality was fine. Machine-tooled even. That’s one thing about Maccas. You know what you’re getting. Every. Goddamned. Time.
The Wi-Fi was free and fast, although having been lured there by the complimentary webz, I ended up using the city’s free network instead. No reason to the let horror clown in on my pornhub preferences. The city council, however, I’m fine with them knowing.
The Maccas I chose was in the middle of the Queen Street Mall, in the old Jo-Jo’s building. It was spacious, and having been recently fitted out it hadn’t yet taken on that depressing patina of an underground city on a post apocalyptic world. The air con was chilly, the table tops clean, and there was more than enough seating for me to hide myself away from the horde.
Crucially, after purchasing my coffee and muffin nobody hassled me to buy anything else. And to be honest, they wouldn’t have bothered me even if I’d just wandered in, hooked up to the net and started work.
I dunno that I’d want to try get any real work done here during the burger rush hour, but as a place to prop up and bang out a few quick words, it beat the shit out of cooler, better, realer cafes.
But if you tell anyone I wrote this, I'll straight up deny it and curse you for a damned liar.
Douglas Coupland it was who coined the term 'option paralysis'. The tendency when faced with limitless choices to make none at all. He obviously knew music streaming was coming all the way back when he wrote Generation X. I often find myself defaulting to the same old albums and playlists simply because I can't think of what else to do. Voice control systems like Siri and Alexa make it much worse.
That why Andrew Stafford's recent Patreon tweak intrigues me. Andrew is both a music writer and a sports writer. (An odd combo, but an oddly common one too. I can think of a few others I know working both those dodges). He set his Patreon up to write a personal musical memoir – a successful experiment which will see Something To Believe In published by UQP in July this year. This latest tweak is a song recommendation, every Monday morning.
He picks a track and writes it up. There's usually a YouTube link. Simple, but hard. I think it's a brilliant idea, partly because I'm in awe of people who can write about music. I can't. All the years I wrote for Rolling Stone I never once filed an album review or a report from a gig. I have zero fucking clues about how you'd even start. And yet in four or five hundred words every Monday, Stafford writes sharply about the experience of a particular song, and the context from which it comes to us.
His most recent mini essay was about Warren Zevon's 'My Shit's Fucked Up'.
He kindly let me steal the whole thing for you, (but if you dig it you should check out his page over here):
I was tipped off to this Warren Zevon song by the Beasts' cover version. Having listened to the original, frankly - even given their weight of recent experience - they don't get near it. Zevon's performance on Jools Holland (above) is if anything even more devastating. It's not exactly what you'd call an earworm, but it might haunt you to your grave instead.
You've probably heard Warren Zevon, even if you don't think you have. His best-known song, Werewolves Of London, was a hit for him in 1978 and covered by the Grateful Dead, among others. You can find it on his third album, Excitable Boy. The cover of that album makes him look like a new-waver, but he was closer to Neil Young than the Knack, and he didn't particularly want Werewolves, which he thought of as a novelty, to be the first single.
It was no novelty, though. The Go-Betweens and the Apartments taught me about the importance of great opening lines in songs and the first couplet of Werewolves is a pearler: "I saw a werewolf with a Chinese menu in his hand / Walkin' through the streets of SoHo in the rain." Zevon was working a much weirder groove.
Back to this song, though. Zevon knew his way around a tune. His voice on this is crumpled, but the melody - and it's a good one - is fleshed out by the strength of his fingerpicking. Apparently, Zevon had a major phobia of doctors. One day, knowing things weren't quite right, he looked down in the bowl, and didn't like what he saw there.
So this song is an imaginary conversation with Zevon's imaginary doctor. It came out in 2000 on his album Life'll Kill Ya. It wasn't until two years after the album's release that Zevon was eventually diagnosed with mesothelioma, and he was dead a year later. You don't need to know any of that, though, to get what this song is about.
See, Zevon's not talking about his shit. Not literally, anyway. He's talking about his phobia and his resistance to change, because he knows that's what's going to get him in the end. If we can't confront the sources of our worst fears, the stuff that lies even deeper within us, we only end up manifesting them in the long run. And that's the fucked-up shit.
In this interview with David Letterman, a long-time friend and supporter of Zevon's, the songwriter reflects on mortality less than a year before his death, offering maybe the most pungent closing line in rock history as a piece of parting wisdom: "Enjoy every sandwich." Welcome to the working week!
I wish I could do this. But we all know I can't. Anyway, again, the page is over here.
3 Responses to ‘Staffo's Excellent Song Service’
I used to keep a bucket by the front door. No. Not that sort of bucket, you moron. That bucket we kept on the coffee table in the lounge room of the share house, every share house, I Iived in. No, this other bucket came later, after marriage and children and the sudden but related decline in my readily available funds.
This bucket was my savings plan.
Every time I’d come home with coins in my pocket I’d toss them in there. It was a small, red plastic pail of the sort you’d take to the beach to make a sandcastle with children. If I did nothing to curate the stream of coinage, the bucket would usually top out at somewhere around seven or eight hundred dollars. But if I was smart and culled the fifty cent pieces, the final value could get up near twelve or even thirteen hundred bucks. Those old fifties seemed to offer the least value for volume.
I’d fill that bucket on average every nine months. It was a great way to pay for Christmas.
But I have not filled my bucket in many years. This is not a metaphor.
I just don’t get that many coins anymore...
4 Responses to ‘The failure of my savings plan’
Conan, what is worst in modern life?
Catching the wires of your headphones on a door handle and having them pulled out of your ears. This. This is to know murderous rage.
Also to catch the same door handle on another occasion but this time with belt loops of one’s pants. How is this even possible? Conan knows not. But it displeases him greatly.
Conan, seriously, what is worst in modern life?
To ride in one’s wagon to the secured carpark and find oneself barred from entry, without notice, by a changed PIN. No other such anger has Conan known.
Come now, Conan.
Great anger and frustration also comes unto he who is cursed to sit near the dread comic book nerd in a comic book film and suffer the endless lamentations related to the non canonical nature of the cinematic narrative. Woe unto he who must endure the whining of the nerds as they explain that Sabretooth is actually Wolverine's brother, and that the organic webbing that Spiderman has in the movies is really part of his powers, or that Wolverine and Jean Grey really loved each other, but in the end it was always her and Scott. Woe unto Conan who would simply enjoy the film without a public lecture about the failure of every Marvel movie, which were all disasters, except for Ironman, but only the first one.
Conan, is that really what is worst in life this day?
Conan is often vexed by autoplay video.
Conan, please. We must know what is truly worst such that we might meet and best it.
Sudden audio from an autoplay video in a mystery tab while Conan must record his podcast with Red Sonja. Great is the sorrow and distress of this.
Unreliable phone battery discharge too. From 52% to 3% in two minutes? Not even Thoth-Amon, the Stygian wizard of great and terrible power, can summon such powerful banes. And yet Conan must simply accept this as something that happens? This. This is barbaric, Conan tells you.
But what is really worst in modern life, Conan?
Status update meetings. Such weeping and wailing and gnashing of teeth do they bring. Not just the meetings themselves, but the preparation forced upon Conan. The better part of a Hyborian Age do they waste.
Conan. What is truly worst?
Inadequate server capacity on launch day. When Conan singlehandedly fought and killed hundreds of mercenaries in the thrall of Salome, the witch queen, only to be overwhelmed by sheer numbers, captured and crucified, a night and a day without water he spent on the cross, but still did he possess the strength to pull the nails from his feet, to run ten miles to gather allies for a counterattack. Yet EA cannot plug another server in for Sim City on launch day? Give Conan a break.
Any more, Conan?
Doorway talkers, unruly children in Conan’s favourite restaurant, and a drinking straw that does not quite reach to bottom of Conan’s gourd or soda bottle. These must he endure with silent, killing rage. Especially the children. They are barbarians. And Conan would know.
Conan, is that truly what is worst today?
Great is Conan’s irritation with couriers who confine him to his redoubt for a whole day only to sneak lightly through creeping shadow and pouring dark as night falls, rap lightly, once, with velvet glove, then flee, cackling, Conan’s important parcel still tucked under their arm. Conan hates that.
But Conan, you have fought in battles and lost, you have seen cities fall, you have endured great suffering, surely you can tell us what is worst in this modern Age of ours, that we might prepare as of the champions of Old.
The accidental catching of Conan’s heel by another’s supermarket trolley would be the worst, were it not for the continual fraying of Conan’s lightning cables. And one floor elevator riders, the blatant abusers of 15 Items or less express lanes and pistachios which cannot be opened. All of these has Conan slain with his blade. Except for the pistachios which left him frustrated and out of sorts but were too small to hit with a large sword. Believe it that Conan tried.
3 Responses to ‘Conan Answers More of Your Questions About Modern Life’
We did a long drive through the Gold Coast hinterland yesterday; a strange, contrary world of mist shrouded valleys, plunging rainforests, icey cold streams and tiny hamlets. Nothing like the plastic shimmer of Surfers Paradise.
The morning started with a rescue, however. Jane and I were sitting in a cafe atop Mount Tamborine when young Kelpie came bounding in, darting from table to table. It was quickly obvious the pup was over excited, super firendly and utterly lost. He dashed around looking for love and table scraps, found himself chased out of the kitchen, and was in clear and present danger of darting back out on the busy road where nothing good was going to happen for him.
Jane managed to secure him with her belt, stapped to a post on the verandah, and I hunted up a bowl of water. He may have had some scones. His handmade wooden dog tags were useless. Chewed off. And most people in the cafe were, like us, not from 'round those parts. We rang a local vet and organised to drop off the runaway, hoping he'd been microchipped. Also, it's my experience that vets tend to see the same runaways over and over again. Maybe they'd know him.
We were headed for our our car, about to whisk the brown devil 10kms away, knowing that his actual home was probably within a minute's walk, when his owners arrived to collect him. They had no idea how he got out. (Spoiler. He's a Kelpie. He jumped the fence no matter how high it was). We were glad to get him back where he belonged. It was a nice start to the day.
His name was Taco.
7 Responses to ‘Taco; wonder dog and escapologist’
Tell me I'm wrong. I'm still going.
From The New York Times:
What inspires such loyalty? Long ago, fried chicken eclipsed burgers as Jollibee’s most sought-after offering. The pleasures of Chickenjoy, as it’s called, are immediate: The sheath of skin is as craggy as a thunderhead, crannies and crunch multiplying.
Underneath, the flesh is juicy, with its own generous measure of salt and secret seasonings, if not quite as potent as the skin’s. Online recipe hacks typically deploy garlic and Chinese five-spice to approximate the skin’s fervor. Spicy Chickenjoy is even better, both marinade and breading infiltrated with some form of chile — flagrant but not searing, just enough to jack up the pulse.