Top 10: Switched-on Bach

Earlier this year I was tagged on Facebook for one of those things where you post favourite albums and I didn't finish

When it came time to pick a final album I blinked.

After some consideration I'm picking Wendy Carlos' landmark electronic music recording.

I can remember asking my mother to play it when I was a kid and loving the otherworldly sounds.

That would've been around a decade after it was released, so I can't imagine how wild it must've been when it came out.

There's a lot of electronic music I've come to like decades later, particularly techno and then electronica in the '90s.

All For You

Been a while since a song caught my ear in the way this has

Exhibit local culture at The Roxy

Leeton’s iconic Roxy is many things to many people

As one of dozens who have exhibited in that venue it seems important this activity is promoted as part of future development.

Between 2012 and 2013 over a thousand people attended exhibitions in the Roxy Artspace based on figures collected by Western Riverina Arts (WRA).

Regional Arts Development Officer Dr Greg Pritchard revealed many of the talents in our region and they were literally put under spotlights thanks to funds secured to develop that exhibition space.

The Roxy is the only public facility in Leeton Shire with quality lighting for exhibitions and neutral-coloured walls.

In 2014 WRA supported a visit to the Artspace by Parkview Primary students and a number of that Year Five art class said they had never visited an art exhibition previously.

Many studies have found benefits for students who are able to attend exhibitions.

I am certain that I am not the only person who enjoyed the opportunity to see exhibitions in the Roxy and hope to see more.

Let me add how much I’ve enjoyed the displays on local history, for example.

While I am a member of the Leeton Art Society and the Western Riverina Arts Board, the views expressed here are my own.

I believe it is important for Leeton Shire to retain a visible presence for local culture.

Hey! Nietzsche!

Pun from my son

Oscar asked to bottle the stout

As he was tipping the fermenter forward to get the last of it, I asked him to be wary of slime at the bottom and he replied with a pun: "I'll see those in gradients"!

Wild At Heart

Recently I returned to the film Wild At Heart, which has been a favourite since I first used a fake ID to buy tickets to see it at the cinema

I remembered an idea to use lines from the film in a song and added them to lyrics about how I met my partner, Jo:

Thinking back to when we met
years ago but I can’t forget
a staring woman, I couldn’t ignore her
you later told me you could see my aura

After that I kept seeing you in town
seemed like you were always around
you then confessed it was engineering
inventing ways so that you could be near me

It wasn’t easy but you persisted
your thoughtful charm overcame my resistance
you opened my mind with the things you said
then found a way into my bed

This whole world’s wild at heart and weird on top
If you’re truly wild at heart you won’t turn away from your dreams

There we were talking in the dark
I touched your arm and I felt a spark
a fairy tale cliche but I do believe
then I knew you were the one for me

It was strange how I became bewitched
and it was like our roles then switched
I asked you to marry me you said get in line
you’re here for a good time not a long time

This whole world’s wild at heart and weird on top
If you’re truly wild at heart you won’t turn away from your dreams
This whole world’s wild at heart and weird on top
If you’re truly wild at heart don’t run away from love

Now I've tried the song using different chords on my ukulele:

Fixing Facebook

This week I read Facebook have a patent for identifying household demography based on users' photos

Having just seen this ad for a $175 panty, I thought I'd help improve their data by uploading a photo of my underwear.

Pretty sure I've been wearing these shorts since last century but I can't think of having shown them to many people before now.

Broken Facebook

The popular social media platform is showing signs of strain this morning

From boobtube to Youtube

My kids watch a lot of Youtube, mostly videos of people playing video games

One thing that bothers me is the unregulated nature of the content, especially the ads they are forced to watch.

There is strict legislation surrounding the advertising (particularly at children) on television, yet it's quite shocking to see the branded content masquerading as user-generated material (like unboxing videos) and those commercials that play before videos too.

I was watching one the other day that basically told kids to pester parents for sugary cereal in the supermarket.

Another example is that advertising which has been banned from television is still available Youtube.

Like this Holden ute commercial that was deemed as showing unsafe driving.

Kombucha? You betcha!

Starting new batches of kombucha today

Shown here are a blood orange tea, Jo's "Immuni-tea" and brewed ginger with mint from our garden.

The last of those is the stand out at first sip, though I'm a bit crazy for mint and ginger at present.

Lush and juicy fully holding love

Wrote a song this morning drawing on words from women I know

One has written with a line from one of my dreams, so it feels kinda appropriate to be uniting our experiences in a way.

I'd like to acknowledge the chorus contains words from Waking Inanna, while the second and third verses draw on Tales from a Neon Light Diamond.

Last night in a dream
a mother said to me
the child doesn’t know
that he’s asleep

afterwards I cried
just the moon and I
walked the streets and reconciled
my inner child

now I am closer to knowing
the form I fever for
know there is a lush and juicy,
fully holding love

This hand is shaking
at the thought of reaching out
I think of myself as a helper
not one being helped out

This hand I am waving
could say hello or goodbye
and with it the words I am saving
are hold me while I cry

now I am closer to knowing
the form I fever for
know there is a lush and juicy,
fully holding love

This gap we must bridge
seemed the hardest thing to do
barely had energy to function
let alone reach out to you

but I am learning to think about my needs
tell when I’m not okay
and know you will listen
to what I have to say

now I am closer to knowing
the form I fever for
know there is a lush and juicy,
fully holding love

Youtube's idea of heaven

Forget meditating, you can feel at one with everything on Youtube!

Usain is insane

Coles had this on special for fifty cents

Presumably I've missed out on Dawn Fraser's Crazier and Freeman's Steamin' sauces.

There's no evidence of mental illness in the ingredients but the product design is questionable.

I'd like to see Michael Diamond Smells Like Dyin' branded fish sauce!

Beg, borrow or pay overdue fines

I like that Narrandera Library offers piracy as a language during self-checkout

Times they are a changin' back to fanny packs

Found my old bum bag and it still fits

Dark nettle beer

Brewed another nettle beer

The nettles were boiled a week ago and I let them sit in glass bottles until today.

I heated them with ginger, mugwort, mint, spearmint and a little wormwood and tansy.

Also added a few leaves from a wattle that was sprouting in the backyard,

And then there was a few shots of vodka which had soaked about four handfuls of lavender.

I also added three star anise.

Just under three kilos of brown sugar, one box of Cooper's brewing sugar and half a jar of molasses were stirred into 25 litres in the fermenter, with a starting gravity of 10.70.

I've read that nettles taste better with brown sugar, so I'm hoping the molasses will complement that flavour.

I used a dark brown sugar previously and got a dry ginger ale-like flavour which suited the green taste of the nettles.

Used more ginger this time, which seems to give a deep flavour, as well as bowl of mint that gives a strong punch in the mid-palate.

I've put leaves of mugwort, mint and a few tansy fronds into a bag to soak in the wort for the first few days too.

Hoping for an earthy porter-like flavour.

Edit: a week later and it has around 5% alcohol with still sugar to go.

Cult classic

This is an outfit I wore for Halloween a couple of years ago

It was great to see kids simultaneously scared and curious, both wanting to know who it was and fearing the answer.

Recently I wore it at Burning Seed and it was the first time people stopped and asked to take a photo of my outfit.

One bloke lined up a beaut shot with the Temple lit behind me. He was a professional and the result on his camera was terrifying because I imagined it would appear in a magazine with the headline "DEATH CULT!"

Another guy delighted in pashing me in front of his friends because there was plastic preventing actual physical contact.

Netted more nettles

Collected more stinging nettles after posting a request on a local Facebook page

It was kind of the woman to respond, she couldn't believe someone wanted these weeds.

I'm boiling them with ginger and turmeric and hoping to add lavendar too.

However, my fermenter will be brewing another batch of nettle beer for a week.

So I will strain the liquid into bottles and hope they're okay until next weekend.

Full moon dream

I've observed dreams are weird and this morning I had an interesting experience

The setting was an old family home from my childhood but I was holidaying there with my father and his current wife.

I was in the kitchen, checking on my homebrews and find many of the bottles were leaking gas.

My stepmother came home with a pet cat and I joked it was their child.

The cat began stumbling into the kitchen cupboards and my stepmother said "the child doesn't know it's asleep."

At this point I think I realised I was dreaming and, as usually happens, my conscious mind kicked in and I awoke.

It was early morning and I didn't think I'd get back to sleep, so I got up and started watching a movie.

Around the time of the full moon, I stopped the film to pee and started crying.

This was a sustained sobbing in the backyard under the moonlight.

I went for a walk and cried around the block.

Then I came home and wrote a series of haiku.

There were a variety of things going through my mind but I felt that I've turned a corner in my life.

I feel I've taken a large step away from my childhood as throughout my sobbing I felt surprised to hear my voice was that of an adult.

Later, while on Facebook, I was surprised to get a message from a burner who I see at Modifyre asking how the moon had been for me.

He's a lovely bloke and one who models a very different energy, a caring and calming kind, which seems to contrast with his big Maori presence.

I've been feeling quite emotional all day and thought I'd write this down so I can think on it again in the future.

Nettle beer with mugwort, yarrow and borage

Having bottled a recent brew, I was eager to begin another

A recent highlight had been a beer made with stinging nettles and ginger, so I was keen to experiment further with that weed -- which has had a bumper year in the Riverina.

My friend allowed me to collect nettle from her yard and I found there was also flowering yarrow and borage.

Added to these was the remainder of the nettle in my yard and also the mugwort I tipped, which will hopefully bush up and provide plenty of material for a future mugwort beer.

The experiment was adding a can of wheat malt and also a box of Cooper's brewing sugar, both of which I found on special recently.

I've read that stinging nettle tastes best when brewed with brown sugar, so hopefully it'll taste okay.

Original gravity is 10.38 and I'm expecting to pitch yeast around 26C.

Beer with boiled sweets

Thought I'd keep track of my experiments making beer by posting about them here

Today I've bottled a mint, wormwood and rosemary brew and it's an experiment in a couple of ways.

It's the first beer I've made that uses an existing beer, as I added a few bottles of a rosemary beer that has a flavour I found a bit strong.

(Other drinkers have enjoyed it but tellingly they were mostly women who weren't beer drinkers.)

And, as shown, it's an experiment with using boiled sweets as carbonation drops.

I'm curious whether the flavour of the sweets can be discerned, so I've put the wrappers on the bottle to indicate what went in.

Burning Seed 2018

Once again Burning Seed was a wonderful experience shared with many friends

This year I didn't make many plans aside from supporting my partner, who'd committed to a few projects.

As a result I got to have a small part in the Forest Rising effigy led by Flamewriter Glenn Todd.

My role involved collecting soil and seedlings to make a garden at the base of this sculpture.

My partner Jo, through her role with Red Earth Ecology, worked on the murals that showed Wiradjuri seasons and fire management as well as local flora and fauna.

It looked incredible when the "puppet effect" was launched during the fire, see video below.

Battle of the soft blues

Some months ago a friend passed a cheese platter and indicated the soft blue was a recent favourite

As I bit into the creamy centre I thought it would have to be the Emporium Smooth Blue from Aldi.

Then I considered it might be the Castello Creamy Blue and wondered if I could tell the difference between them.

So I recently bought both and compared them, alongside a King Island Lighthouse Blue.

Served a slice of each onto a plate and, straight out of the fridge, the Smooth Blue was softer.

As I sampled each still cold, the Emporium cheese warmed quickly in my mouth and began to feel buttery.

It melted on my tongue, separating salty liquid and dairy solid.

In contrast the Castello Creamy Blue had much more mould and this would be significant.

By the time I had a second round about ten minutes later, Castello was getting the buttery result but it had a piquant quality that hit a high note both sharp in the palette and slightly fragrant.

When I looked at the nutritional count on the Castello and Emporium boxes, they were identical.

The ingredients looked similar too and both cheese are imported from Denmark.

I wonder if the noticeable increase in mould in the Castello shows it is cellared for longer?

Might this explain the difference in price between the two cheese?

The Emporium is 50g heavier than the Castello, with the latter on special at $5 -- which met the former and made both cheeses equal in price.

In contrast the King Island double-brie blue wasn't beginning to warm up until the final round.

As the blocks of cheese were eaten over the following days, I noticed I would grab the Emporium for a quick snack.

It would closer to being ready to consume, while the Castello would taste better after warming to the ambient temperature.

All three cheeses taste great, I've decided.

Especially on hot potato.

Top 10: Funkungfusion

Recently I was tagged on Facebook for one of those things where you post favourite albums

The Ninja Tune record label has given inspiration for around two decades.

Music like Coldcut, who started the label, music from the periphery of bigbeat, triphop, downtempo and jazzier corners of turntablism.

Music like their Solid Steel radio show tagline (“the broadest beats”) a collage of soundtracks, soundbites and surprising breaks.

Funkungfusion must be someone’s idea of a term to encompass their variety of music.

Many of the producers on this sampler have great albums, but this one brings together a couple of rare gems.

Up, Bustle and Out’s version of ‘Emerald Alley’ is one of my favourites from a group exploring a world of music.

Likewise the live version of Coldcut’s ‘More Beats + Pieces’ has an energy that’s distinct.

One time a friend asked why the version of this song on their album doesn’t sound like the one she remembered.

I have many memories from taking over hi-fis at parties and playing these beats and pieces and seeing everyone moving with it.

Amon Tobin’s ‘Sordid’ is one of his snappiest tracks built from Gene Krupa samples, and he has a few of those.

That’s a good song when you’re mixing tracks because it can go around ten beats per minute faster or slower as required.

The jazz influence was big in the Ninja Tune roster and, while Cinematic Orchestra would define a serious-minded corner, Clifford Gilberto and Mr Scruff both found cartoonish interpretations.

There’s often a playful character to the music, like the latter’s song about singing fish baits an earworm.

DJ Food’s ‘The Crow’ has a sombre orchestral tone that seems like a coming of age for the moniker that was once an alternate for Coldcut to release breaks, but has been redefined by Kevin Foakes.

Likewise the “DJ Food Re-Bake” of The Herbaliser’s ‘Mrs Chombee Takes The Plunge’ steers that track back into jazzier territory.

The music on Funkungfusion carried me from making mixtapes to making mix CDs, then the wonderful Ninja Tune Forum community led me into remixing and having a hands-on experience with music again.

It’s great we’re still making Shinobi Cuts and the “Let Us Play!” ethos of Coldcut has been an influence throughout the last 20 years.

Top 10: Medulla

Recently I was tagged on Facebook for one of those things where you post favourite albums

There’s a lot to admire about Bjork and I’ve chosen her and this album to represent a number of influences.

When I first saw Bjork she was squeezed between The Smashing Pumpkins and The Ramones at the 1994 Big Day Out.

It still seems like a weird spot for her and I wandered in and out of that set but it was clear something new was coming to the surface.

Her album Debut had some airplay on Triple J and it was my first introduction to Nellee Hooper’s influence, since it’d be a couple more years before I listened to Massive Attack and Sinead O’Connor but also the trip-hop of Portishead.

Bjork worked with a number of interesting producers and managed to get a cohesive result, just look at how ‘Army Of Me’ and ‘It’s Oh So Quiet’ both sit on the first side of the album Post.

These collaborations between artists and producers are a dialectic central to popular music and, in many ways, it’s a formula I enjoy hearing in singers like Madonna and Kylie Minogue too.

Many popular singers get dismissed as record label products but those that build a career seem to be able to maintain a firm grasp on their image and material.

Madonna has a reputation for being present throughout the recording process and it seems clear that Bjork occupies a role overseeing the realisation of her albums.

I’ve picked Medulla because it seems Bjork’s album where she enforced a strict artistic vision with both her collaborators and her audience.

The album is almost entirely a cappella and manages to fuse both her taste in Warp Records-style electronica (particularly Mark Bell) and composers like Arvo Part, who’d she introduced me to musically.

The track ‘Where is the Line’ demonstrates those influences, for example.

Her voice sounds incredible on this album, particularly intimate and the recording is faultless.

I also love this album for ‘Triumph of a Heart’ and there are other themes which seem connected and optimistic.

Bjork has often been marginalised as “weird” but I adore her varied influences and abilities at realising challenging ideas in music.

Top 10: Ritual de lo Habitual

Recently I was tagged on Facebook for one of those things where you post favourite albums

Jane’s Addiction had come to my attention via ‘Mountain Song’ on Rage and I still regret not accepting an invitation to see them perform at the Hordern Pavilion in 1991.

Ritual de lo Habitual blew my mind in terms of what could be done with a genre like rock, which had become a bit paint-by-numbers in the late ‘80s.

There were other bands successfully pushing boundaries in this area — and this album sits amongst Faith No More’s The Real Thing, Red Hot Chilli Peppers’ Bloodsugarsexmagic and then the watershed of Nirvana’s Nevermind — but I think it deserves more attention.

One critic argues Jane’s Addiction revived interest in Led Zeppelin and I’m not sure that ever went away, but I think this album paved a way for Soundgarden’s Badmotorfinger — which is a more obvious heir.

Ritual de lo Habitual has a huge dynamic range and the track ‘Three Days’ is particularly epic.

That track also exemplifies the beautifully understated bass playing of Eric Avery, which carries most of the song.

Both Flea and John Frusciante of the Chilli Peppers have acknowledged his influence.

As someone who’d ’Been Caught Stealing’ it surprised me that a song about shoplifting could be so funky and those dogs happily barking in the opening also spoke to me.

I still get a huge rush of energy when I hear the opening chords.

Top 10: Feed

Recently I was tagged on Facebook for one of those things where you post favourite albums

Skunkhour were everything I was looking for in a band when they came to my attention in ’93.

They played the funk music that’d started shaking Sydney with hiphop influences and a distinctively Australian delivery.

I think the Larkin brothers, Aya and Del, are criminally overlooked as lyricists, and Del also did beaut illustrations for releases by other bands in their cohort, such as Swoop and Juice.

The self-titled Skunkhour debut showed they were able to sing about admiring arses (‘Bootyfull’) and also to consider gender roles (‘A Cow and a Pig’), as well discuss the heroin epidemic of the early ‘90s (‘Horse’).

Then the follow-up album Feed in 1995 expanded their focus musically and lyrically.

‘McSkunk’ was released as a single well in advance of the album and runs through a critique of capitalism exploiting natural resources. (It’s a theme they would later explore as the ballad ’Tomorrow’s Too Soon’ and that’s one of those songs that I love for making my eyes water.)

The track ‘State’ then slipped out on an EP and, as a first-year Philosophy student, I appreciated the parallels with Plato’s writing for comparing divisions in the soul with those in society.

I’d begun writing for Canberra’s BMA Magazine and spoke with guitarist Warwick Scott for a couple of interviews, as well as having opportunities to quiz the band after their shows.

Ahead of the release of the album Feed I got a promotional three-song cassette, which included ‘Treacherous Head’ and ‘Strange Equation’.

The former addresses our human impulses and their potential to undermine our best intentions, while the latter rhymed the song title with “race assimiliation” to discuss the hollow words that “all men are created equal” in the United States Declaration of Independence.

I’ve picked Feed as my favourite Skunkhour album as it showed the band hitting their stride and broadening their sound, literally with the addition of keyboardist Paul Searles.

‘Green Light’ is a phenomenal track to hear live as the Sutherland brothers lock in their bass and drum parts.

’Sunstone’ speaks of driving Australia’s back roads with wry observations that feel like an aural equivalent of a Russell Drysdale painting.

I’m also a fan of Skunkhour’s album Chin Chin with ‘Weightlessness’ another great dance song and the opening lyrics for ‘Childish Man’ are often quoted by me:

“If reality is ‘sposed to be the safest, why is everyone in some way an escapist?”

Top 10: Master of Puppets

Recently I was tagged on Facebook for one of those things where you post favourite albums

As a bass-playing teenager I asked my peers about their bass-playing dreams and identified a trend in our lessons with Cliff Burton on the astral plane.

I remember a couple of dreams about Cliff and in one he was sitting on a high stool and showing me how to play arpeggios.

His parts on Master of Puppets are as superlative as Hammet’s guitar harmonies or Ulrich’s dynamic playing — that muted cymbal grabbed mid-riff in the title track, for example.

This was the heaviest album in the world for half of 1986 before Slayer released Reign In Blood, and I can still remember the way it challenged my ears when I heard it in '88 or '89.

These days I have difficulty reconciling that Metallica with the one that found wider fame singing about going to bed in ‘Enter Sandman’ the following decade.

Much has been written about the precision of the playing on this album and the massive sound achieved through layering over a dozen guitar recordings, which is testament to Hetfield’s role as one of the greatest rhythm guitarists.

The anger in his lyrics is palpable and I think I’m right in saying this was the last Metallica album to have a song inspired by HP Lovecraft.

A lot of the difference between Metallica in the ‘80s and the rock band that emerged in the ‘90s comes down to the death of Cliff Burton.

Burton’s basslines are as distinct as Ulrich’s famed drum parts, with their dynamic fills and propulsive rhythms.

Sadly, Master of Puppets is one of the last times bass playing would be a feature of the band.

When Jason Newstead replaced Burton Metallica ruined the sound of bass in heavy metal -- I argue it does as much as the dry cardboard box-like drum sound on the album Justice For All, particularly their first single ‘One’:
“[After] Lars and James heard their initial mixes the first thing they said was, 'Take the bass down so you can just hear it, and then once you've done that take it down a further 3dBs.'”

Cliff Burton accentuated Metallica’s European influence in particularly Bach-inspired parts, including the penultimate ‘Orion’:
Burton arranged the middle section, which features its moody bass line and multipart guitar harmonies. "Damage, Inc." [...] starts with a series of reversed bass chords based on the chorale prelude of Bach's "Come, Sweet Death",

Those chords were otherworldly with their volume swells and added atmosphere.

I remember opening the Master of Puppets tablature and feeling aggrieved that the chords were transcribed for guitar when they were clearly Burton’s bass.

Top 10: Money Jungle

Recently I was tagged on Facebook for one of those things where you post favourite albums

This album brings together a couple of my favourite jazz musicians and captures in their music a fierce inter-generational argument.

Let me set the scene by explaining a bit about the personalities involved.

In 1917 when 'Duke' Ellington was eighteen, he'd wanted to become a painter.

In the decades that followed, Ellington remained a painter although it was in the guise of a prolific jazz composer.

In my mind he is one of the greatest musicians of the 20th Century.

In conducting his orchestra Ellington arranged music as though it were colour on a canvas, with deft movements of his hand (the piano his brush) he would sketch outlines for sonic landscapes and illustrate a path for the other musicians.

Yet Ellington should not be viewed as a maestro in the mould of European composers like Mozart; the Duke's talent was to recognise and arrange melodies that were created through the improvisation of his band.

I’s a model that performers like James Brown and Frank Zappa later used to great effect too, and probably akin to managing racehorses in pairing personalities for performance.

It was with wily leadership skills that Ellington stamped his ideas onto his musicians and, while he developed their talents, this leadership is his claim to authorship of so many jazz standards.

Money Jungle captures a lot of this stamping and more.

Ellington was 63 and, like Hollywood actors who’d fallen out of favour with movie studios or audiences, he was in the wilderness between bookings.

It would be a few years before he was celebrated again near the end of his life and there’s a painful story in Zappa’s book that Ellington would be reduced to visiting his manager and begging for money to survive.

For this album Ellington was paired with a couple of jazz giants from the next generation, 40-year old bassist Charles Mingus and 38-year old drummer Max Roach.

Mingus was so forceful that, despite being a bassist, he became a bandleader.

He had a reputation for being hot-headed and there are accounts from his students of leaving lessons with bruises from being punched.

There are also various stories as to why the recording sessions that became Money Jungle ended abruptly.

It was unusual for Ellington to record a piano-based album and it was Mingus who was signed to the record label, so the power dynamic was clearly tilted against the elder maestro.

And I’m amused to read just now that:
“according to Roach, he and Mingus were given "a lead sheet that just gave the basic melody and harmony", plus a visual image described by the pianist: one example was, "crawling around on the streets are serpents who have their heads up; these are agents and people who have exploited artists. Play that along with the music".”

I’d guess it’s the kind of approach that mightn’t have amused Mingus.

The album contains versions of a couple of Ellington standards.

‘Caravan’ was written by Ellington’s longtime band member Juan Tizol, who Mingus reportedly had fought with during his brief stint in the Duke’s band.

There are some wild versions of ‘Caravan’ that have been recorded since and it’s usually a song performed with a jazz orchestra but on Money Jungle you can hear Mingus playing a number of parts and making his mark with his remarkable bass playing.

Money Jungle isn’t the greatest album but it’s one that provides insights into how turbulent music can be when you mix strong personalities and musicians with different styles.

Top 10: Solaris

Recently I was tagged on Facebook for one of those things where you post favourite albums

Another soundtrack album and another that reminds me of my son Oscar.

When Jo was pregnant we listened to the Solaris soundtrack a lot.

It’s one of those albums that could be described as ambient in the sense that Brian Eno proposed the term, as the music easily slips into the background to mingle unobtrusively with daily noise.

Or with volume it can do a good job of masking noise too.

I also had an idea that it was good music to be heard by unborn Oscar.

Years earlier I’d read a story that babies in a British maternity ward would fall silent to the sound of the Neighbours theme song, as they relaxed like their mothers had done while watching the TV show during pregnancy.

So, after Oscar was born, Jo and I continued to play the album daily.

It’d go on when he lay down for an afternoon nap but I was never convinced it had the Pavlovian effect I’d hoped to see.

However, I feel very relaxed when we hear Cliff Martinez’s Solaris soundtrack.

And Oscar might be old enough now to appreciate the film, which felt like 90 minutes of not-much-happening before a wonderful insight came into focus afterwards.

Top 10: Saturday Night Fever

Recently I was tagged on Facebook for one of those things where you post favourite albums

Saturday Night Fever was the first album I owned.

It was an unlikely birthday present at age eight from my grandfather Jack, who probably had been informed that I’d developed an interest in disco.

That would’ve been around the time I saw The Village People movie because a screening of The Empire Strikes Back was sold out.

‘Staying Alive’ remains a great tune, especially now I know the 100bpm tempo is the perfect pace for CPR chest compressions.

Walter Murphy’s ‘A Fifth of Beethoven’ is another fun track, one of those disco cover versions that can be really memorable at early hours on a dance floor.

I don’t listen to them much now but it’s been interesting for me to see my son Oscar has also gravitated towards these songs.

Top 10: Check Your Head

Recently I was tagged on Facebook for one of those things where you post favourite albums

If pressed for my all-time favourite album, it’s likely to be this one.

I first started listening to the Beastie Boys in 1986, when I bought Licensed To Ill at a Bondi Junction record store after seeing the ‘Fight for your right’ music video.

Check Your Head is my favourite of their albums for the mixture of musical styles, which range from the familiar sample-based hiphop through to punk rock and jazzy funk but particularly for the blending of these.

It’s also the album that brought in key contributors Money Mark and Mario C. and also saw a significant change in their approach to recording.

Where previous albums had developed with the three MCs writing rhymes over beats produced by the likes of Rick Rubin and the Dust Brothers; this album saw them spend a lot of time jamming then sampling their ideas and assembling tracks.

The shift was necessary as copyright had caught up with sampling and, while the Beasties had done well from British Airways, it’s still an issue for contemporaries like De La Soul — whose early albums are unavailable on many online services today.

Check Your Head was also the start of the Boys’ Buddhist influence and I think this redeemed them from some of their earlier sexism.

For me it’s been a cornerstone of my musical education, as I’ve used their ideas like self-sampling and also scaffolding to create my own tracks.

Join the dots

Many political commentators have failed to join the dots in explaining the instability faced by Australian prime ministers

That the current Prime Minister Scott Morrison is known for taking a piece of coal into Parliament should be a clue.

The coal was shiny with lacquer to prevent it tarnishing the hands of the Coalition’s front bench and this tacky prop is rumoured to have been supplied by the Minerals Council of Australia.

That organisation spent $22 million on advertising during May and June in 2010 to remove Prime Minister Kevin Rudd after he announced a Minerals Resource Rent Tax.

Likewise they responded angrily when Prime Minister Julia Gillard told the Minerals Council "you don't own the minerals" at their annual dinner in 2012.

Her observation seems fair and our Commonwealth should be proactive in ensuring this wealth is enjoyed by all Australians.

After Malcolm Turnbull lost the leadership, his son Alex said in an interview that a "very small number of people" who "own a lot of coal in the Galilee Basin" have "undue influence" in the Coalition Government.

Former Coalition minister and now Queensland Resources Council chief executive Ian Macfarlane welcomed the sudden elevation of Morrison to the role of Prime Minister, saying he “understands the importance of our most valuable industries – like resources.”

Dr John Kunkel, a former deputy chief executive of the Minerals Council of Australia, has been appointed Chief of Staff by the Prime Minister.

There is clearly an unhealthy link between the Coalition government and the mining industry.

While Scott Morrison has been keen to present coal as shiny and clean, the impact of organisations like the Minerals Council in tarnishing the Government and undermining Australian democracy is clear.

The joy of text

For over two decades now I've been claiming that my interest in pornography is academic

It was 1997 that I spent countless hours visiting so-called adult websites at uni claiming I was researching an essay on internet porn.

The particular assignment only got a credit as it was handed in late, after I prioritised writing about sperm donation for the student newspaper Woroni -- who would publish the porn essay the following year.

Anyway, recently I was trying to appear highbrow when a friend shared news that Pornhub had introduced closed captions on their website.

She virtuously claimed that it was more inclusive and that now people with hearing problems could follow the plotlines.

I, somewhat ashamedly, scoffed at this suggestion.

Just now I've observed that this move will see a thousand memes bloom.

As a casual observer of the genre, I immediately recognised Riley Reid when a friend retweeted this gem.

Then, when I thought maybe I should share it with Reid, I found she'd pinned this tweet.

I anticipate that an unexpected benefit of closed captions might be an improvement in the quality of dialogue in porn.

Which is not a comment on Reid's enthusiastic exclamations.

Revisiting a master

It was in my last year of primary school that I became obsessed with Japan

This was informed by an interest in samurai and ninjas but probably laid the groundwork for my haiku writing earlier this century to present day.

Aside from exploring martial arts, reading James Clavell's book Shogun and learning to love eating rice, one of the highlights was watching movies by Akira Kurosawa.

My mother saw the ANU film group were screening his work and kindly drove me to see The Seven Samurai.

I sat next to a couple who seemed to be at the film solely to kiss each other but hardly noticed.

In hindsight I can appreciate the skill of his filmmaking, it held the attention of a boy raised on television cartoons for around three hours of black and white storytelling.

The fight scene at the end is still epic.

However, I've also come to appreciate the influence Kurosawa had on other films.

George Lucas has spoken of the C3PO and R2D2 characters being inspired by two peasants in The Hidden Fortress, and the video below shows other influences from that film.

And when I realised the Italian westerns my father liked were remakes of Kurosawa, I became more interested in them.

This week I tried to interest my kids in watching Yojimbo, priming them with the Youtube videos that make Jedi of Kurosawa's ronin.

They didn't watch much of it but I got a new appreciation for the film.

First, the soundtrack is awesome. I've had the track covered below in my head for days.

Second, the scene with the dog holding a human hand is clearing referenced in my favourite movie of all time: Wild At Heart.

And, finally, my interest in film studies has been stirred by the observation that the formerly fascist countries of Italy and Japan both began making westerns in the decades after World War II.

What does it say about the countries that these films focus on a stranger coming into a lawless town and setting things straight with violence?

Searching for Cod

I've been a bit obsessed with Murray Cod since being part of the 'Fragments' exhibition

Hape Kiddle, curator, gave me a fragment of River Red Gum from a Murray Cod statue he's creating.

His statue will be 2.2 metres, which is apparently the largest Murray Cod on record.

To the right is one of the Murray Cod studies he exhibited with the other fragments.

Below is a video I recorded at Ulupna Island earlier this year, which might be a Murray Cod.

Something brewing

Do you know those times when you sense resonances across disparate subjects?

I've been having a few of those recently and it's surprising how, after reading across seemingly unrelated subjects, patterns start to form between them.

For example, I've mentioned my interests in fermentation starting with Kimchi to lately brewing beer, as well as Star Wars.

While reading Stephen Harrod Buhner's Sacred and Herbal Healing Beers: The Secrets of Ancient Fermentation, I've been learning about the mythology that informs -- as well as, in a sense, scripts -- the process of fermenting.

Many cultures describe the god-like figure that shared the first recipe for beer, gruit, mead or wine as being one who also returned from the dead or the underworld, possibly also as being a fertility figure with plants literally growing as a result of this heroic potency.

The stories explain processes like bacteria growing and seeds germinating, these illustrate how human culture grows with agriculture.

Both are demonstrated in beer-making too, particularly yeast and malt.

The respect for the ability to cultivate life underscores religion, just look at Jesus' bread and wine.

So, why was I thinking about Star Wars?

Recently there was news of a conversation with George Lucas, creator of Star Wars, when he described his idea for the trinity of films that have been developed by Disney:

"...they were going to get into a microbiotic world."

George Lucas' space opera draws on mythic themes, particularly the apparently spontaneous inception of Annakin Skywalker as a parallel with the virgin mother Mary.

Then there's Skywalker's return from death as Darth Vader.

I guess his siring of the twins Luke and Leia might also be significant too.

Now that I think about it, it's significant that Star Wars has become a new kind of May Day in recent years.

Now the idea of Darth Vader as a fertility figure seems a bit weird, but as I read how indigenous cultures display few of the negative effects of alcohol, I pondered if he demonstrates the dark side of our relationship with fermentation.

Did Skywalker's anger lead him to misusing the sacred Force or did this antisocial tendency develop as a result?

Those Sith Lords seem like a bunch of lonely guys, right?

In contrast Jedi seem very social.

Does Darth Vader embody toxic masculinity?

Hannah Gadsby’s Nanette

Recently visited my father and, after learning he had Netflix, quickly organised a time to watch Hannah Gadsby’s Nanette

I’d already watched the trailer and seen many comments encouraging people to see the full hour-long performance.

I was aware Hannah Gadsby was actively using stand-up comedy to undermine the culture of that medium, which is signalled early on:
“I have built a career out of self-deprecating humor, and I don’t want to do that anymore,” she says in the special. “Because do you understand what self-deprecation means when it comes from somebody who already exists in the margins? It’s not humility. It’s humiliation.”

I’m keen to sit through it a second time because I expect it’s like watching The Sixth Sense and noting all the appearances of dead people with knowledge of the twist in the story.

Quotes like the one above stop being a signal of discontent and actively signpost the surprising twist in Nanette, where Gadsby seems to open an emergency exit and lead most of the audience through it — then talk back to those still seated as they realise what has happened around them.

That's a thing I'm marvelling, how she describes personal impacts and unites much of the audience in recognising their injustice yet leaves them blinking uncomfortably in the light of Gadsby's revelations and wondering how mainstream Australia can callously discuss issues like marriage equality.

Freddo in Fragments

Around the time I last mentioned Hape Kiddle, he invited me to join the exhibition that opened in Narrandera this week

Fragments is a collection of River Red Gum timber that Kiddle distributed to a number of people.

The fragments come from a massive trunk that will become a 2.2m Murray Cod.

Western Riverina Arts commisioned Kiddle to develop an exhibition for the Narrandera Arts Centre, so he sought perspectives from local artists and artisans.

When he initially asked what I'd develop, I suggested it might be music or poetry.

He left a piece partially burnt that made a few musical tones.

The more I looked at the wood, the more it seemed to be smiling and I thought I recognised that smile in the wood grain.

It was the power of the frog spirit, which are magical creatures that I've seen emerge from the ground like River Red Gums.

I suggested the title for the piece be "Co-opted" because I feel the frog spirit has been misappropriated to sell compund chocolate.