On Waste

I’ve been dwelling on waste since around the time I was born. Not in an academic way, merely as a reflection on the steps my parents took to minimize our impact on the earth. There were many things we did when I was kid that I took as commonplace, that now resurface as perhaps being a little odd, but the acorn seldom falls far from the tree. In my ongoing desire to understand who I am, I start to note the things I do that others could possibly point to as eccentricities. My foibles becomes follies, exaggerating as I age.

There were the ‘standard things’, character traits that probably point to Dad’s working-class upbringing: keeping a toothpaste tube far beyond the point where you could squeeze any toothpaste from it, then chopping the end off with a pair of scissors to gouge at the creamy inside. Tie this in to the two or three jars of Vegemite left in the cupboard, each with the tiniest scraping of Vegemite down the sides. The rest of the family would feast on the shiny new jar of Vegemite while Dad would keep eking out meal after meal from the previous jar.

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On Normality

Life slowly starts to roll back to normality after a six month upheaval. Not ‘normal normal’ obviously, but ‘COVID normal’ where we still check the news a little too often, don masks to buy groceries and shy away from people blowing their noses loudly and wiping their hands on the door handle at the dentist. I feel I should have spent the last thirty years shying away from those people anyway. As a bonus consequence I’ve been remarkably well this year. Most years I get a winter cold that takes me off work for a couple of weeks, gets exacerbated by the late night gigs and over-indulgences of tour life and somehow sticks around as a perpetual sniffle until early September when it gets replaced by the itchy throat of hayfever season.

My partner tells me I’ve been clearing my throat less this year, so there’s a small positive to this global pandemic. Other small positives? I’ve been prolific on social media, posting a weekly video for three months now. I’ve upped my cooking game, embraced cuisines from a bunch of countries on the wish-list, churned out dish after delicious dish, then sat around in agony after overeating night after night. As a counter, I’ve somehow managed to curb my burgeoning waist line through giving up alcohol (only for six weeks, my asceticism has some boundaries) and running more than I’ve ever run before. I’ve written most of a new album, and some small parts of it are stronger and more exciting than anything I’ve created before (now to gather the motivation to record this sucker!).

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On Shore

Fleet Foxes released their new album Shore last week. This is a band that I consistently have time for. They create vast sonic worlds, every song happily existing a space that’s tucked neatly in to a musical universe that no-one else co-inhabits. It’s amazing how much Fleet Foxes sound like Fleet Foxes. There are many acts who you can pick from voice alone, ie Dylan sounds like Dylan from the first word he sings, Joni will always be Joni, but Fleet Foxes manage to do it even before the words come in. The way the chords are constructed, the reverb, the room sound, the intention behind the way the notes are played are so endemic to them that you can pick a Fleet Foxes song just from the first chord.

This album Shore is a masterpiece. In classic Robin Pecknold (singer/songwriter) method, it took two years to record, and it sounds and feels like it. I follow Robin Pecknold on Instagram and he’s been pretty open about the recording process, but pretty closed about the release process. Most days for the last two years he’s posted clips of him playing snippets of songs, recording overdubs and messing around in the studio, and this album has slowly unfolded in ten second segments, but this is nothing to hearing the full album in its entirety.

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On Down Days

Last week was a pretty down week for me. Both in terms of the emotional energy I pulled out of it and in the amount of mental energy I put into it. I pride myself on rolling through life relatively staidly, coasting through the bumps and bends without taking too much of anything to heart, so it felt strange to have this heaviness hit me and to have to acknowledge that sometimes I can’t just roll out the other side unscathed.

Sometimes you have to sit with emotions. While its more enjoyable to hold on to happiness, I’d suggest its infinitely easier to sit with sadness. Sadness rises up to meet you and you sink into it, and where an emotion like joy needs to be fed and re-fed to maintain itself, sadness tends to feed itself in a self-fulfilling cycle. The sadder you feel the more you feel like retreating, the more you retreat the sadder you feel. I had a very physical response to this emotion, spending five days sinking into the couch with a book and a coffee. At any other period in the last thirty years this would have felt luxurious, but this time it just felt a little lonesome because it wasn’t self-imposed, it was thrust upon me by the wider world.

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On Giving Up

2020 has become the year where I gave things up. It started back in March, with COVID and giving up on normalcy. In quick succession I gave up gigs, my music career, spending time with friends. It carried on with giving up special occasions: friends birthdays, overseas travel, eating out, my June school holidays.

Over time it became more ascetic: I gave up meat for six months. I gave up booze for June and July. I gave up on days, Friday/Saturday/Sunday/Monday disappearing mysteriously into a muddled block of nothing. Without gigs and pubs and friends, the days that framed my work week became less ‘days with hours’ and more ‘formless vacuous space’.

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On Mum

If I’ve spent a lot of time thinking about Dad, I need to dedicate equal thought to Mum and the impact she’s had on my life. There is no Dad without Mum. There is no me without Dad and Mum. This is the yin and yang, the cosmic duality that created me and I can’t fathom seeing either of them without the other.

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On Dad

Last week was Dad’s birthday. It neatly lines up with Father’s Day (Australian) every year, landing in the same week. I feel like my Dad has always been the same age. Always slightly bald, tufts of white hair and a white beard, a little Bernie Sanders-esque. Always present, the person in the other room tapping away at his laptop, piles of papers strewn across the desk.

He’s been the constant presence in my life since birth. Crazy to imagine it. The three people who have been with me the longest still exist, still maintain spaces in this physical world. We swell from a cell into a conglomerate of matter, sucking parts of the universe into our own being for such an insignificant amount of time, days or months or years and then the time ends and we slowly expel all of these atoms back out into the universe.

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On Belonging

I’ve spent the last week watching Wild Wild Country, the Netflix documentary about Indian guru Bhagwan Shree Rajneesh. I got there via a fairly odd route, hearing this song from one of my favourite artists Sufjan Stevens. A little digging into the lyrics reveals line such as:

I’m on a path of love, I’m on a parrot
Possess me with prayer on the bluff
I’m on a task for God
Entheogen, you lift me within Upanishad

Pretty par for the course when you consider Sufjan’s back catalogue, but intriguing enough that I felt I should dig a little deeper. Googling Rajneesh brought me to Wikipedia and then on to Wild Wild Country, although I’m still not entirely sure what the connection is and why Sufjan is borrowing imagery from a 1980s Indian guru to spur his 2020 pop music. Anything can be a jumping off point for creativity I guess.

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On the Disposable Nature of Music

I’ve talked before about how I read voraciously, deep-diving into all-consuming worlds that supplant my reality for days and weeks and months at a time.

As a child I spent most of the years between eight and fourteen in bed, books wedged against pillows to hold them in a comfortable reading position. My parents supported my reading addiction by carting around boxes and boxes of books from house to house, country to country, every time we moved. Each summer I’d read through everything on my shelves, then immediately read through them again. I’d borrow a book from a friend and read through it that night, then call them the next day asking for something new. On camping trips our family would cart around bags of books, mainly for me and Mum and Dad. My brother would be out fishing. So from an early age reading has been an addiction of sorts, and I know that when I start a good book, everything else in my life will suffer until its finished. That’s how I read all seven Harry Potter books in one seven day spell, shuffling around various positions in a one bedroom apartment to find comfort. This is not meant as a point of bravado but merely a demonstration of how poor my ability is to multi-task when I have a book in hand.

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On Waking

I remember waking. Fresh faced from a solid slumber, kick up up up to free my legs from the blanket, roll off the top bunk with a bang that reverberates through the floor boards and stirs my bunkmate down below.

Morning time. I’m good in the morning, if I choose to be. I’m simultaneously a morning person and an evening person, or I possibly just lack self-awareness, for I know when the tiredness hits of an evening I tend to doze off wherever I am: living room couch, kitchen table, in the car at the traffic lights. It’s a switch, instantaneous grogginess and a stumble to bed to catch the sleep wave. I also know that I’m grumpy in the morning, for the fifteen groggy minutes between rolling out of bed and leaving the house, and then with a click I revert to my normal staid self. So maybe I’m neither a morning or an evening person. Maybe I’m just a person in these hours between when my eyes open and close, and something else entirely in those other hours.

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