Monday, April 28, 2008
"Dad always said ‘Never shoot here when it’s onshore or too rough. Don’t waste your life or your gear. Most of all - don’t be greedy.’ The bastards got it all wrong – look.”
She gave me the binoculars with shaking hands. “Net broke. Too bloody greedy.”
Black marks on the white sand below looked like itinerant seaweed but then I focussed in on dead fish – tons and tons of dead fish.
“Look along to the main break, where the inlet comes out.”
Surfers sat upright in the water, the tips of their boards just visible. But there were other tips too, gathering around them like black leaves. Fins, the fins of dead salmon. he surfers sat on their boards in a sea of dead salmon, patiently awaiting the next set.
“This used to be our patch. This would never have happened if Dad was still alive,” she said.
- Sarah Toa
Thursday, April 24, 2008
I could stumble around Albany for weeks, and still have absolutely no idea of what's going on. Sure, i can find a pub, a laundromat and a cheap eatery - but what about the cultural life? What about the tales of its people, its places - those small swatches of social fabric that help define this southern seafaring outpost? What is a four-dollar wonton soup compared with history?
As your self-proclaimed guide to the Rainbow Coast it is my mission to fathom the soul of the Great Southern, plunder its riches, delineate its characters, and bring all its Dostoevskian drama directly to you in concise and regular instalments of 200 words or less. With pictures.
And as your self-proclaimed guide i shall interweave with my own careworn tales some occasional plush threads torn from this rich Albanian tapestry.
I am fortunate to have someone here to show me the ropes. Sarah is one of The Toa Sisters, one of these seven wild women of the southern coast, who, apart from creating the faux fur lap-laps, stone jewellery, tie-dyed slips and other varied and interesting objets d'hippy, Sarah and The Toa Sisters may also, variously, camp for months out on secluded beaches, restore wooden sailing vessels, document ancient and abandoned lighthouses, travel, study, sing, play guitar, and even work in public libraries. These seven naiads live and love, dance and sing down here where the granite meets the sea.
And, oh joy of joys, write.
It's a beautiful thing, to see a green wave rise up and reveal salmon in its window. There's a boardwalk, toilets, interpretive plaques - but this place is not civilised yet. On a still night, I can hear the swell from my bed, roaring, a pestle grinding rocks into sand.
The names of the prisoners who built the original stairway are visible on a low tide, carved into the limestone tablets. Water boils in sucky holes and the rips stretch a turquoise scar right out to sea.
"Where's the pirate treasure, the skeletons of drowned sailors?" My friend skips across a tiny beach. We share a mutual goosey moment when we find the white cross poking out of the wild rosemary. Nearby
crouches the decomposing four-wheel-drive that landed there in 1994. Both of us stand in the sand and stare up the dizzying cliff.
Trembling, hundreds of stairs later, I can still see the shoal of salmon. The white lace of a broken wave regularly obscures the black
A dark shape moves in from the deep. The salmon circle into a solid grain, trying to become impenetrable. They fail.
The Noah breaks up the outer rim and wiggles lazily into the centre like a triumphant spermatazoa in that vital moment. The salmon fold away from the darkness, creating a lime green channel in its wake.
- Sarah Toa
Sunday, April 20, 2008
The Hon. Iron Bar Tuckey is refusing to pay a speeding fine given to him by the cops for allegedly travelling at 123 km/h in a 110km/h zone on Albany Highway last year. Mr Tuckey claims his cruise control was set when police clocked him 13km/h over the limit, and intends to represent himself in a not-guilty plea before the courts later this year. Go Wilson.
The Albany Advertiser is lambasting Mr Tuckey, as it does quite routinely, and in an article on Tuckey's stand quotes local member Peter Watson MLA saying it was "unbelievable" that someone in such a senior position would quibble over a speeding fine.
"I think most Australians when they get a speeding fine, they cop it on the chin and pay up," Mr Watson said.
Really? Well i guess i am just not "most Australians". Whenever i get a fine that i believe is unfair or wrong, i don't simply "pay up". Au contraire, bébé. I challenge it with a polite letter stating my side of the story and then - if need be - represent myself in the courts and fight it. Yet somehow, according to the media, a politician questioning a fine doled out by the police will tear at the very fabric of our society:
"Someone with such a high profile saying the police are wrong and taking up valuable police time is very disappointing," Mr Watson said.
So, according to Mr Watson, should the police make a mistake (for instance, when they wrongly convicted Andrew Mallard of murder) the accused should just shut up, cop it on the chin, and stop wasting valuable police time for fear of disappointing the community. The sheer pigheaded righteousness of the West Australian police force never fails to leave me utterly gobsmacked. Sometimes quite literally. I have had occasion to come up against its brutal methodology in the past, and it is a difficult one to beat. If you question their version of events, expect to be bullied and to have even more charges laid against you.
A simple example - i won't go into firearm, theft and assault charges for the moment - i was stopped on the highway by police using a radar gun, and booked for doing a couple of km/h over the limit. Since all measuring equipment is subject to some degree of inaccuracy, i asked what the degree of error was on their radar equipment. The officer, true to form, became extremely belligerent.
(To clarify - a degree of error does not imply that the instrument or operator is wrong or stupid - it is just a basic physical property inherent in all measuring equipment. A millimetre ruler, for example, is generally taken to have a degree of accuracy of +/- 0.5mm. Scientists invariably include a degree of error in all their measurements.)
"There is no degree of error," says the traffic cop.
"All measurements have a degree of error," i say.
"There is no degree of error," the cop repeats. "This radar gun is 100 per cent accurate."
My goodness. No doubt the next thing the WA Police force will be equipped with will be perpetual motion machines.
Anyway, back to the Wilson saga. From the Advertiser:
Great Southern police district Superintendent Ross Tomasini said it was extremely rare for people to contest speeding fines in the courts, and said he stood by the accuracy of their radar equipment.
"It seems to me to be a bad message to be putting out when a lot of road safety issues are on the table at the moment," Supt Tomasini said.
"The equipment is all tested and calibrated every time they are used, and I can say with 100 per cent certainty there is no mistake in the equipment, and I have absolute confidence in the Williams officers who use the equipment," he said.
People who are 100 per cent certain of anything invariably terrify me. Apart from giving us yet another shining example of the absolutist world view of our police force, and his unquestioning faith in the infallibility of his officers, Supt Tomasini presents us with another, singularly strange, attitude. What is important is not a person's innocence or guilt, but what message they are putting out.
"I think he is setting a pretty poor example to the community as a whole." - Supt Tomasini.
Just like those damn annoying journalists, like Walkley award winner Estelle Blackburn, who go around assuming that police may not, in fact, be 100 per cent infallible and can sometimes make mistakes. What a bad message to be sending to our community. Blackburn’s work exposed an injustice which led to the 2002 and 2005 exonerations of two men convicted of Perth killings in the 60s, men who were, so it seemed, guilty "beyond reasonable doubt". Uh huh.
More recently, an inquiry was conducted into WA Police force following yet another overturned conviction. From The Australian, August 2, 2007, "Mallard police accused":
Senior West Australian police changed witness statements, deleted sections of expert reports and made a startling omission in a prosecution briefing in the murder investigation that jailed Andrew Mallard for a crime he did not commit.
Changed witness statements. Deleted sections of expert reports. But who are we, the citizens, to question the veracity of statements made by officers of the WA police force? Who are we to waste valuable police time?
The Nerve is not obsessively preoccupied with sending the "right message" to the community. There are totalitarian states and instruments of government propaganda far better equipped to deal with these concerns than is this humble blog. Sorry about that.
Tuesday, April 15, 2008
One of the more soul-destroying tasks at The Newspaper is subbing the holier-than-thou Christian column. Cutting a preacher's column is like slicing offal. It's slimy, and it stinks. Give me a column written by an emo any day - they cut themselves.
The only thing worse than sanctimonious godbotherers telling you how to live your life is when they preface their unctuous drivel with the word "friend". Our weekly columnist, who for legal reasons must remain - for the moment - anonymous, does precisely that. "Friend, the story I am about to share with you" or "Friend, perhaps you’d like a small booklet that could help you experience a better relationship with those who have hurt or disappointed you."
Friend, perhaps you would like a small glass of shut the fuck up.
Friend, this self-righteous preacher rails against hypocrisy. Friend, this ingratiating predicant tells us the Better Life is when word and deed come into alignment. He bags out a particular writer who wrote a 'historical' novel under a false name, and takes her to task in one of his columns over her deception. Which, as we shall see, is quite ironic.
Truth’s credibility is tied to the integrity of its messengers.
- April 4 column.
How illuminating. In his April 18 column, which i am subbing even as we speak, this magniloquent ecclesiast relates the story of 79-year-old Melvin McDonald, who walked into a police station in Winnipeg "recently" to dispose of a live grenade, a keepsake he'd kept for the past 50 years. Hmmm, ok. The oleaginous godbotherer then goes on to recount how we all hang on to grievances and grudges, and the dangers these pose:
The reality is, that if something isn’t done to deactivate those feelings, there could be a major explosion. There will be casualties. A business could be ruined. A marriage might be destroyed. A church could die. Innocent souls will suffer for someone’s folly.
And, of course, we must turn to god and/or this pharisaical bible-thumper's pamphlets to find the best way to defuse these potentially deadly feelings that torment us. The god squad is our soul's bomb squad ... you understand the metaphor. As a literary device, it's not bad. Not explosive, by any means, but not bad.
All well and good. Apart from a couple of things which drop a blip the size of a turd on my bullshit detector. Like, why is this small town Australian preacher talking about a friend in Winnipeg? Are stories about his Australian friends not good enough? I google. And guess what.
Firstly, Melvin McDonald did not walk into a police station in Winnipeg "recently" - he did this over five years ago, in January 2003. Secondly, this entire bombastic moralism which masquerades as a column is lifted, almost word for word, from the internet. Well, glory be.
I pull up three more of this saccharine devil-dodger's previous columns on my computer, and google some carefully-chosen key words. Sure enough, every single one of these columns has been thieved. Plagiarised from copyrighted columns and sermons on various Christian websites. A wee bit of adjustment here and there, a careful removal of the Americanized spelling - but basically every piece of material i examine from the past month with this smarmy gloryroader's byline on it is just plain outright stolen.
One of the plundered sites outlines guidelines for the use of its material. Hallelujah. It says, in part:
1. Don't change the material (this sycophantic pulpiter has)
2. Keep the copyright/author information (this haranguing pedagogue hasn't)
3. Link to us (this hypocritical sin hound hasn't).
This clearly is the worst blessed case of cheating since the evangelist and used car salesman Johnny Lee Clary visited Carnarvon.
I approach my editor, who promises to send a polite email to the wheedling sky pilot asking where, precisely, he gets the material for his columns. These pieces of writing we publish each week at The Newspaper, under the heading "Wisdom", which elevate our glutinous padre to his tightly-held position of grace within our community.
Stolen. All stolen from authors who publish on the internet. The authors' names removed and another one replaced.
OK. So i've stolen a tin of tuna and a loaf of bread once or twice when i've been out on the streets and hungry. Like, real hungry. But as we all know, devoted readers, i aint no saint. But neither do i purport to be.
People who misrepresent significant realities with trumped-up, self-serving false claims actually tarnish the truth.
- April 11 column.
God damn right, sunshine. Praise the lord.
Sunday, April 13, 2008
Okay, okay - so in my last post i was a tad harsh on the hippy stallholders at the Denmark Easter Markets. Acute hangovers will do that to you. I plead insanity.
Some mornings, around 3am, i wake in a state of total fear, verging on madness, alone in the silent claustrophobic darkness of my self-imposed self-storage hibernation in Albany City Self Storage. Locked in solitary confinement inside a darkened cell for nights on end - what does this do to a man? What are its long term mental effects? This otherworldly mental and physical deprivation is akin to the practices of those who wish to withdraw from the world in order to live the ascetic life. The monks and the hermits. Or, indeed, those trying to save enough money to print a photographic exhibition.
What if i were to die in here, i wonder. Nobody would find me for weeks. The rollerdoor is locked from the inside and no-one knows i am living here - with my motorcycle, cameras and books - inside this tiny storage unit. I turn on my battery-powered camping light and look about at the jumble of packing cartons and upside-down furniture and slowly come to my senses. I am not living in a storage unit. How can anyone call this living?
My irrational fear subsides. I switch off the light and descend once more into the abyss. I breathe deeply, and enter a meditative Zen-like state. Gradually i become at one with the mystics and ascetics, and my situation suddenly becomes clear. An all-encompassing Wisdom embraces me in its crystalline presence.
Fuck it, i think. Six hundred years from now, who'll give a rats?
I think vaguely about throwing the ham javelin for a while, but decide i really can't be bothered. I roll over and go back to sleep.
Xena The Warrior Princess lays her sword on the table and pours me another shot of tequila. I look deep into her eyes as i raise my glass. The worms are fast approaching. Yes, worms - plural. Count them, as they lie innocuously at the bottom of this elegantly shaped vessel: two worms. Now i'm not sure if the collective noun for worms is a clew of worms, a knot of worms, or simply a wiggle of worms, and to be honest i don't particularly want to open that can - I just wish to make the point that having two worms at the bottom of a bottle of Mezcal is such a tremendous idea, especially if you are drinking with a Warrior Princess. Mexicans are just so incredibly clever when it comes to alcohol. Corona with lemon is, without a doubt, the best beer beverage this side of Bavaria - and now just take a look at this Mezcal. Its warm yellow colour is a benevolent golden fire in your gullet. Just wrap your laughing gear around that for a minute and try to tell me it is not a brilliant concoction...
(Besides, i'm pretty sure that if i put any one of you lot, my trusty readers, into a sombrero, and dropped you in the middle of the Great Chihuahuan Desert with an agave plant and an empty bottle, i'd bet a bongo to a bucket you simply would not be able to come up with the goods. My average blog reader would have not a sorry inkling of how distil tequila from a plant. And there is a simple explanation for this: most of my blog readers are not Mexican.)
... and now the Mexicans have given us Mezcal For Lovers. Now, just because this bottle i share with Xena The Warrior Princess has 'for lovers' written upon it, let us not jump to any hasty conclusions ...
(But oh, the ironies and vagaries of Fate. After describing, in my last post, the arts and crafts of the Denmark Easter Markets as, and i quote, "the most inane, inept and pointless arts and crafts you can possibly imagine", the Art Director is now sharing worms with one of the aforementioned arty and crafty artists of the Denmark Easter Markets. Who has expressed an interest in reading my blog. Uh oh. Oops a daisy. Life is a cosmic Hills Hoist.)
... Xena the Warrior Princess, aka Sarah Toa, licks salt from the webbing between her thumb and forefinger, and downs her tequila. I do likewise. Darth Vader and Princess Leia are tucking into the French onion dip, while Arthur Dent, resplendent in his dressing gown, accompanies the bluegrass band on mandolin. I am wearing a silver helmet with a rotating disco ball on top, and carry a cosmic death ray, which doubles as a lighter. I am, as my faithful readers are no doubt well aware, an alien. Sucking down the last traces of the glorious tequila, i have the slice of lemon wedged firmly between my teeth, its bright yellow rind facing outwards. I turn and come suddenly face-to-face with a newcomer to the party, who looks startled. I pull the lemon from my mouth.
"Oh," he says. "I thought that was the best part of your costume."
At this moment a huge chocolate cake is brought forth as the motley assortment of space cadets sing 'Happy Birthday to Duncan You Old Bastard'. As things have transpired, this humdinger of a shindig, held at the Mud Brick Recording Studio in the wild backwoods of Albany, is a 50th for Duncan Moon. Mister Moon is the charismatic and comedic Welsh sculptor I first met but a few weeks ago, at the Ice Bar at Sculpture by the Sea, Cottesloe. He blows out the candles to a round of cheers, then holds up his hand for quiet.
As the crowd quietens, he addresses them with obvious warmth and affection, standing there in the soft firelight on this crystal-clear Southern Ocean night.
Mister Moon is wearing an airman's leather cap, with some kind of aluminium antenna protruding from the side, and a long silver cloak. "Since coming here to Australia, many years ago, i have been shown nothing but open-hearted goodness, from you, my dearest and closest friends," Mister Moon says.
"Good, now fuck off back to Wales," comes a voice.
"I just want to take this opportunity to thank you all for the infinite generosity and kindness you have shown, and for putting on this fabulous party for me here tonight, and for this," he looks down at the chocolate cake, "beautiful cake."
A pause. Then Mister Moon suddenly and forcefully plants his face firmly into the centre of his birthday cake, coming up with his hands full of the rich, chocolatey mixture, which he proceeds to pelt at partygoers, myself included. The Warrior Princess leaps unafraid into the fray, grabbing globs of cake flinging it at Mister Moon and other sundry parties. Pandemonium ensues. The Rabbit From Donnie Darko stares at me like a rabbit caught in the headlights. "Cake fight," he says, at grave risk of pronouncing the bleeding obvious. He cops a slice of chocolate sponge between his ears.
Dear readers, things are warming up down here on the Southern Ocean.
Now remind me to recount the story of my visit to the nudist beach with the lovely Sarah Toa ...