Asleep at the handlebar

I've been reading Craig Mod's account of walking the old Tōkaidō Road and the photo here is one he shared

It brought mind the time that I fell asleep while riding my bike.

I was returning home from a party in Canberra around 4am among frost and probably too drunk.

Between the Governor General's residence and Scrivener Dam is a tunnel that leads under Lady Denman Drive.

It would've been in that tunnel that I had a micro-sleep, as I awoke to the vibrations from straying off the bike path and found myself passing through the trees among the grassy slope that drops toward the Molonglo River.

Anyway, it wasn't something that I'd recommend!

I am, however, impressed with the fellow in Craig's photo and his ability to nap safely on a bicycle.

Air friar

"A Benedictine monk named Eilmer attached handmade wings to his arms and legs and launched himself from the tower of Malmesbury Abbey. According to his monastic successor, the influential 12th-century historian William of Malmesbury, Eilmer was inspired by the myth of Daedalus and Icarus, which he believed to be literally true. His experiment was surprisingly successful, though it had brutal consequences: He soared over 600 feet before smashing back into the earth, shattering both legs on impact.

(“He used to relate as the cause of his failure his forgetting to provide himself a tail,” William wrote.) Eilmer may have been the first person to travel any meaningful distance through the sky, but he remained on the ground for the rest of his life."

Altered content

Youtube have added this detail to their uploading process and, since I usually stretch and sometimes remix videos, I end up ticking the affirmative option

I recently started following a Facebook page called "Artists Against Generative AI" and was at first kinda amused by their outrage.

Then it occurred to me that this detail in Youtube suggests how human-made videos are soon going to be swamped by AI-made content. 

This morning I was reading how little support there is for AI generally: 
Among the concerns listed are the worry that AI will devalue what it means to be human.

As the arts are often used to soften a range of issues and already undervalued, I expect the novelties of generating cute content are going to be employed to make AI seem fun as people lose their jobs. 

It doesn't impact on my enjoyment of making music or videos, but it seems like I've already become caught up in that process.

Portraits for the ages

This week my newsfeed has featured painted portraits

There was King Charles in red with jokes about him being a Slayer fan ('Reign in Blood'), as well as Vincent Namatjira's painting of Gina Rinehart and her request for it to be removed from exhibition at the National Gallery of Australia.

It seems remarkable since we live in an age when nearly everyone is a photographer and AI is making ridiculous strides toward producing images of every whim within a few keystrokes.

Yet it shows how artists continue to matter and can still shock audiences — or maybe it's all confected outrage?

So I thought I'd add my five cents (rounded up due to inflation and the lack of two cent pieces).

You see it's because I've been reading Manning Clark's book A Historian's Apprenticeship at the behest of my mother.

Manning had a strong influence on Australian history at a time when national identity was being shaped and the fact they tried to make him a character in a musical is really wild.

Some of his observations about the country reflect a different time, like the line "civilisation did not begin in Australia until the last quarter of the eighteenth century" was one he clarified later in life.

The Apprenticeship book captures his reflections and influences.

Mum's copy has an inscription from Manning's wife Dymphna, who lived long enough to be recognised for her remarkable contributions to his career.

I remember the last time I saw her she was glowing in the National Film and Sound Archive of Australia, where they had screened a documentary about her and she was surrounded by friends such as my mum.

(There's a story Mum likes to share about how much I resented going to their house and so I called them "Meatball and Dingbat," which she repeated to them in front of me!)

In Manning's book, which was published after his death, the famous Australian historian discusses how he wrote the volumes of books about our country.

One of the most surprising details is the amount of time he spent looking at portraits and sculptures showing the figures from early Australia.

Manning sought out these artworks and would scrutinise them to see if his impressions of their characters resonated with their representations.

After he'd read the letters written by famous folk, as well as the diaries and stuff noted by their contemporaries, I guess he'd have to visit the painting in person since it was decades before the internet started to give us all this sort of luxurious omniscience.

It seems sorta bizarre that Manning Clark would look at such hagiographic material that was surely produced long after the deaths of the historic figures.

At one point he mentions a visit to an arcade in Adelaide to look at sculptures of Charles Sturt and John McDouall Stuart.

This shows an enduring role that a visual representation can occupy and gives me a new appreciation for the importance of art in our society. 

It always seemed like such a quaint tradition that they would paint official portraits of historic figures, yet now I see how much they are looking to the future.

Dead Heart of the MIA

This is a piece that was short-listed in a recent competition

“In Whitton they don’t bury their dead -- they walk the streets,” said old Bill Clyne at Christmas lunch.

My partner's grandfather had dementia but remembered me the few times we met.

Anyway, it's the sort of introduction that makes a town memorable.

Whitton is the oldest settlement in the Murrumbidgee Irrigation Area.

It grew between large sheep stations including Yanco, Tubbo and Kooba.

When the railway arrived in the late 19th Century it changed names from Hulong to avoid confusion with Howlong.

It had a number of pubs and businesses until a fire in the early 20th Century.

Only a fraction of the main street remains.

These days there are only a few places to shop and the museum never seems to be open.

There is a Common, a bush block on the edge of town that's thick with remnant gum trees.

It's the Common where it feels like the dead wander about.

If you're willing to walk around the watering hole and the cattle that are often stocked within the barbed-wire borders.

Particularly among the trees behind the old courthouse building.

Some of the old grey boxes show cultural scars.

They're marks made by Wiradjuri people to create tools including coolamon, a kind of platter for carrying items between campsites.

A couple of scars look like shields and I think they're a poignant reminder of the Frontier War fought here in the 1830s.

The Common offers a glimpse at a more timeless Riverina landscape.

A shady billabong among the circular shapes cut into the rough trunks of the old eucalyptus trees.

It feels like ghosts might be found here and I have heard they've been caught.

When I worked for Landcare I heard the story from Murrumbidgee Irrigation's environmental officer.

She told me the Common was available for locals to store their animals, such as the cows I saw.

However, the booking system had been reviewed after it was found that names of dead people had been listed.

While the dead haven't been seen walking the streets, they have been recorded in Whitton Common.

Under the Silver Lake

Watched this yesterday and it's the first film in a while where I've wanted to watch it again almost immediately

The story follows a dopey dude into an unbelievable conspiracy and ends with a most unlikely conclusion for an American film. 

Lots of laughs and also lots of codes, which may or may not reveal the identity of The Dog Killer if you look further into the film online

If you liked "Inherent Vice" or Coen brothers' comedies like "The Big Lebowski," although this one draws more heavily on Hitchcock's "Vertigo" and "Rear Window" than the brothers' Raymond Chandler influence.

It's got a heap of adult-oriented material though, so not suitable for a general audience.

Two steps

This weekend I formed a band and wrote a song

I'd started with the chorus riff last weekend, when I was playing guitar while watching TV and thought it would sound good through a fuzz pedal.

When the Disquiet Junto instructions arrived I set to work, writing lyrics and structuring a rough version of the song with MIDI.

Then I played along with that and gave myself three takes on each instrument.

These parts were combined and, as the song took shape, I needed less editing.

The lyrics formed around the line that I used to remember the riff, and they go:

I am ready to unlearn almost everything

board up the windows of this building

a Do Not Disturb sign hangs on the door

while I’m sleeping through all your phone calls

Life’s like a stranger all over again

the most beautiful thing is finding a friend

going around, ups and downs, no truth

feels like my life plays in a loop

Whenever it feels like I'm taking

two steps forward

I know I’ll be making

one step back

As a kid I’d always say that I’m almost done

so I’ve been training for this moment and then some

this is a time when I never complete stuff

leave the edges uncut, torn and rough

stop imagining myself sinking like a brick

let’s throw it all out and see what will stick

what if every movement was strengthening?

I want to be a building that bends with the wind

Stop the silence

It's become a joke to say "not all men"

Part of me is too invested to avoid wanting to use the line and protest my innocence, but I'm learning.

So I was reflecting this morning and realised it's one of the fundamental errors in an argument, when one mistakes the part for the whole.

One bad orange shouldn't reflect on the rest of the bag, for example.

However, the orange juice would be disgusting if we were to extend this metaphor.

As it is painfully obvious when looking at crime statistics to see it disproportionately is men committing the crimes that women are reporting.

Likewise it is clear that men are more likely to commit crime more generally.

I think this is where the discussion needs to move beyond memes and social media outrage.

There are broader measures that would address the concerns being raised, such as taking steps to recognise how breaking an apprehended violence order (AVO) is often an early sign of the need for intervention.

Earlier this century, when terrorism offences began to become a concern for law enforcement, there were observations that those terrorists often had become known to authorities for domestic violence and infringements like AVOs.

It might be necessary to improve the way these early signs are acknowledged and to take steps to ensure they are recorded.

Just as men like me are learning to sit with the discomfort, I expect that males in roles that encounter these situations might need to consider if they are an ally to women or happier to accept the word of the man involved.

This is the kind of sexism that's somewhat easy to be unaware of and I know that I've had it pointed out to me by women at times when I've taken the side of a man and excused their behaviour. 

It seems likely the same bias is being demonstrated by men in frontline roles, as well as those in positions of authority.

One anecdote I heard recently was how an AVO was breached 74 times and the Police pressed charges for five of those, before suggesting the victim stop as it was angering the perpetrator!

In this way it helps to think of the need for broader reform, where issues that are clearly based in gender need to be given more than one perspective.

It's a view that extrapolates from where I've been shown to have a blindspot, rather than feeling that I'm on the wrong team in being lumped in with the worst of men's behaviour.

I'm a man who wants to see women to be safe and also to see men get the support they need.

This begins with acknowledging they might not be ready to recognise and seek assistance, so those early signs must be acted on.

Too often I'm seeing discussion around coronial inquests conclude that he was a good guy who must've been struggling in silence.

Let's help everyone involved because men need to recognise the signs of coercive behaviours too.

The way forward is to stop the silence.