Enough with the heat

I’ll tell you what I’m sick of: hot weather. Today is actually reasonable, 24 or something, but it’s been bloody hot more often than not.I read this morning that January was the hottest month on record in Oz, following on from the hottest December on record. Personally, I can’t remember a hotter January in Melbourne.

It’s funny how such fierce weather can be so pretty. January was a beautiful month. There was hardly any rain, though there was a picturesque thunderstorm on Wednesday, few clouds, and the sky has been that very Australian blue. We need rain though, as always, and too many hot days lead to exhaustion and ill temper.

I find it trying, but I can live with it. My heart really goes out to all those beasties who have to endure this without the comforts of home. On those really hot days, I close the back door with Rigby inside and leave the aircon running for him. It also means I come home to a relatively comfortable environment, and it’s easier keeping the place cool than making it so.

January we had two days of about 44 degrees Celsius, a couple more in the low forties, and probably eight or nine days in the thirties. For most of the month, I had only the bedroom aircon working. The main aircon actually conked out on the first of the 44 degree days. I was able to sleep okay with the aircon in the bedroom but I’m never completely comfortable sleeping with it on. It dries out the air and makes for a lighter sleep and most days I would wake up weary. Tack a few days on end like that – and mine is a hot home – then it begins to add up. And it’s the same for pretty well everyone.

I managed to get the aircon fixed last week (on the same day I had a specialist appointment costing me $380; got my car aircon regassed; and had my bathroom taps replaced – on a 38-degree day). This weekend we have another 35 and a 39 forecast.

This sort of weather is made for staying indoors where it’s cool, or socialising out in the sunshine. I spent Sunday afternoon wading up to my knees at Hampton beach before having a few beers, some wine, and some take-away fish and chips with some friends on the foreshore.

This is what summer should be, only there’s too much of it. This is all over Australia and it’s hard not to think climate change and global warming, and be fearful. I wonder what those born today will have to endure in years to come. There’s no real reason to believe the small-minded politicians all over the world will ever wake up to the fact and actually cooperate in doing something to prevent this. By the time they do it’ll be too late. Hands up who disagrees? Barring some technological miracle, I figure that in a thousand years’ time we’ll be pretty well wiped out. All our doing, too.


Burning zeppelins

Watching Brexit play out is like watching a replay of the Hindenburg catch alight and the flames slowly engulfing it. I don’t know how many times I’ve seen that footage, but it’s iconic, and Brexit looks just like it. From a small spark the whole thing gradually becomes ablaze, crashing to earth an inferno from which little survives.

There’s a couple of months before it becomes official, unless the British government either asks for a stay of execution, and/or calls another referendum. As it stands it’s a shambolic mess with no-one really knowing what’s going on, and no-one who can agree what they want, even among the Brexiteers.

I have to admit watching on with wry fascination. It could hardly be messier or more confused. Though Theresa May is the architect of much of this mess I’ve developed a grudging admiration for her bulldog spirit. She’s on record as a remainer, but true to the result of the referendum ploughs on in the face of discord and abuse, the intransigence of parliament and an obstinate EU, she persists seeking a solution.

It would be clearer and easier if the divide between those who want to leave and those who want to remain was clearer, but half the Conservatives want to leave, some fanatically, and Corbyn on the Labor side has come out in support of Brexit to, though most in his party are opposed to it, because that’s what the people voted for. Then there’s the people themselves. There’s much talk that many have changed their mind when confronted with the facts of Brexit, but the fact is there are increasing protests by those who support it.

It’s the hope of the remainers that a second referendum will be called, and while I understand that I have problems with it too. They voted. There’s many an election here I’d have liked recalled, but just because you don’t like the result you can’t ask for a re-vote. I mean, that’s not what democracy is. And if, say, they did call a second referendum then that’s a can of worms that shouldn’t be opened. It basically discounts the votes of everyone who voted exit and there’d be blood on the streets, I’m sure.

Either way this is a divisive situation. I think the best option is to seek an extension and hope in the time available to find an agreeable solution – whatever that is. I’m not sure if another couple of years will settle things down, and the uncertainty may lead to greater problems. As someone who things the very notion of Brexit is ridiculous this looks like a lose-lose situation.

It really is funny if you’re so involved. Who knows, May might just pull a rabbit out of the hat. Otherwise, this Hindenburg is going down.

The myth of Bundy

I finished watching a short series on Ted Bundy on Netflix last night. He’s a fascinating figure in history, but I found my perspective to him shift as I watched.

Bundy is close to being the most famous of serial killers, and surely the most romanticised. His alleged good looks, charm and intelligence enough to elevate him beyond the common rank of psychopaths. I think much of the mystique comes from the fact that such a ruthless killer could also appear like ‘one of us’. I think he seduced and fooled many people like that, but the rest of his mystique comes down to his good looks.

That’s the background, and that was my general perception of him leading into this program. I can say after watching all four episodes that he was a supreme narcissist who thrived on attention and personal engagement. I thought his good looks overrated, and his ‘charm’ creepy and contrived. I’m viewing him in retrospect, aware of the full scale of his crimes, but I still don’t understand how so many so readily fell for him.

Watching him closely he seemed to me full of tics and twitches in the form of great smiles, greetings, and winks. He was someone who craved recognition and sought a response. Observing him it felt like a performance, though heartfelt, and by that I mean while it wasn’t authentically born the reaction he sought was vital to his sense of self and wellbeing. Deny him that reaction and I imagine he would appear the monster he was in actual fact. To me, an Australian, much of his behaviour came across as smarmy.

Much was made of his intelligence also but again, I thought him very cunning, but not nearly as smart as he thought he was – which was much of his downfall.

It was fascinating as so many of these stories are. We’re forever drawn to the lurid, and nothing is as lurid as a serial killer. It’s an interesting story to when you consider his repeated escapes from the law. At the end of it though I found that the aura he had was much diminished in my mind. He was murderer who just happened to have a face and manner that some people found attractive. It was a squalid tale of a squalid personality.

That’s my take, but clearly then – and it appears now – found something more in Bundy than that. Most of them appear to be women and I suspect a lot of it is sexual – here is the ‘acceptable’, even handsome face of murder. It’s dangerous and illicit and thrilling, evidenced by the breathless girls and women who attended his trials and sought to meet him. That too is a lurid fantasy, though it didn’t stop him from fathering a child by one such devotee.

Now there is a movie coming out starring Zac Efron. I guess there’s a story there, but I fear what Hollywood will do with it.

Musical curmudgeon

I spent a good part of yesterday morning going through the annual Triple J Hottest 100 to see if I could find a song I liked.

I can’t say I grew up with the Hottest 100 – I was already in my twenties when it kicked off – but I was an avid follower of it for many years. It became a bit of an institution, with many Australia Day barbecues using it as the soundtrack. Back in those early days I listened to Triple J more often than not, and reckon I must have purchased a half dozen of the Hottest 100 CDs they put out each year – but none since the mid-nineties.

It’s been a while since the Hottest 100 was relevant to me, and same could be said about Triple J. I noted some commentary on the Hottest 100 yesterday, much of it negative, but a lot of it coming from people around my general age. They said that Triple J had changed since the golden days, and the music was a reflection of that. But then Triple J was always on the alternative cutting edge, and it probably is today – even if the music itself is much different. If there’s an issue it’s probably that while Triple J has moved with the times, a lot of us haven’t. Despite my promises long ago, that’s the case with me.

I’m not close enough to make a fair assessment these days. Like so many, I listen to the radio rarely, preferring instead streaming services like Spotify, which can be curated. I listen to the radio when I drive, and generally one of the commercial stations that play older hits and more acceptable contemporary music. There’s little played on those stations you would hear on Triple J – which is different from back in the day when you would hear crossover artists like Nirvana and Regurgitator and the Whitlams. Not so today.

I scrolled through the Hottest 100 playlist on Spotify, which went all the way back to the start. It was amazing to see how music had changed. The further I went back the more songs I liked, and way back there many more I liked than didn’t.

I don’t want to be one of those grumpy characters complaining how things were better before, but, well, musically at least, they were. A lot of it is personal taste, but I think all the same there’s a fair argument that popular music these days is less substantial. In fact, much of it seems disposable. Growing up rock and pop centred around guitars pretty much. There were techno phases, and some great bands like Depeche Mode who were almost pure electronica, but they were a part of a diverse rockscape. That diversity no longer seems to exist, and guitars themselves much in the background.

I remember growing up we were all into music in a big way. We would save our money to go down to the local Brashes to buy the latest big LP release. We would discuss it at school and, if you were lucky, someone would make a tape of it to share. We all knew the stories, we watched Countdown and Sounds and Rock Arena and Nightmoves and maybe even listen to the American Top 40 with Casey Kaysem. Music was a subject.

It was a rare kid who didn’t want to grow up to be a rock star, and if you didn’t want to play the drums you wanted to play lead guitar. Most of us never got that far, but those who did were grounded in this tradition and emerged as passionate musicians who believed in the craft. Music was a calling and they put their heart and soul into song writing and performing. There was plenty of dross, but there was some great stuff too, and some of it profound. It was a lived experience.

Listening to music these days so much of it feels fabricated. Music used to move me, but these days it feels much more like backing music, with little to really engage the heart or mind, and little profundity. It seems to me the market for a lot of music these days are young teens, and teen girls particularly. The intellectuality around music – some of it quite pompous and self-important – is now quite absent, but with that we have lost context and the sense of musical journey.

I know, there will be plenty out there today who love music now as I did then, and who find the same profundity and meaning as I experienced back in the day. That goes to show we look to find the same things, but find it in different places.

I always believe things happen in cycles and I reckon there’ll be a trend back some day to more traditional rock music. Popular music has always been subject to fashions and trends. When I look back the golden era of music is roughly 1987-1994, but everyone will have an opinion on that. And regardless of my comments here, there’s always some decent music to be found, though most of it is in patches, rather than threads.

For the record, I don’t reckon there’s been a better Australian band over the last ten years than the Hilltop Hoods. Internationally I’m left with old bands like the Foo Fighters, and even Muse. And, to be fair, there is some very clever and artistic contemporary music – top of my head though, I just can’t tell you what it is.

Breaking the cycle

As controversial as the Australia Day long weekend is, I’m happy to have an extra day to myself.

It seems like this is always happening, needing the time to think through things. That’s symptomatic of things being pretty bad. Each time I go through this process they’re bad, and each time nothing really comes of it because I have so few feasible options.

I’m really talking about work here. It’s a mediocre, middlingly corrupt organisation generally happy to exploit both customers and employees. That could be a hundred different places. That’s the broader picture. Zoom in and there’s me, underpaid for so long and generally under-valued, but committed to getting the job done right. I put my heart and soul into it despite my misgivings, because that’s who I am. I focus on the work.

That’s fine, my choice, etc, but every time it feels like a punch to the gut to discover they couldn’t care less about the effort I put in and how, despite the work I’ve done, they disregard any constructive contribution I make. No-one knows the stuff I’ve built better than me, but there’s zero acknowledgement of that, no feedback to communications, and when I send on detailed recommendations and proposed next steps I get no response – ever.

I have to admit what I think I’ve long known: they don’t care, and no matter what I do it will never be enough to make a difference to them. I’m in the position of an abused employee.

I have to wonder why this is. I think some of it systemic process ineptitude. A lot of managers have been with the company since day one and never been exposed to the rigours of a competitive, contemporary and professional marketplace. Because of that there are cliques that resent any challenge to it, and who look out for each other – and so a cosy mediocrity is perpetuated.

Structurally, it’s a confused looking business. Most organisations have either a classic pyramid or flatter structure, but this one is like a bowl of spaghetti with lines going everywhere. It makes for great inefficiency and shocking communication.

You walk into this business and you either toe the line or you push back. By nature, I push back. The people I work for toe the line. So ultimately it comes down to me. I suspect some managers resent me making proposals to them and pitching ideas. Clearly, the proposals are generally sound because often times they are adopted, but without any reference to me, and delegated to another (manager) to implement. Is it any wonder I feel disenfranchised?

Everyone knows I’m smart, but I’ve also got a masculine, direct style. I suspect as a male presence I might confront some of my fellow blokes. I get comments sometimes about how I’m a private schoolboy, about how I live near the beach in the nicer suburbs too, enough that it makes you wonder about it. In that way it’s different from anywhere else I’ve ever worked – I’m one of the minority who don’t live out west.

Regardless of the reason, the bottom line is I’m not going anywhere here.

I met with the CEO of the chatbot mob I’m working with the week before last. The first thing he said was to ask me what my plans where when I was finished with this project? I was surprised by his question as if he had read my mind. I told him I would see what opportunities were within the business but wasn’t keen to go back to my previous function. I would look elsewhere if necessary.

He reiterated what a great job I had done and suggested that surely opportunities would open up on the back of that? I wasn’t sure then, but now I’m almost certain that nothing will because nothing is recognised. He also said to me that if I choose to leave then he could probably get me a job either with him or with one of his clients.

There’s that possibility. One thing I know I have to break this cycle – I have to remove myself from what is basically an abusive relationship.

My street

Last week, an old townhouse up the road and across the street from where I live was demolished. They were there a few days with an earth digger dismantling the property. This is not uncommon these days. Properties are always being torn down to be replaced by shmick new apartment complexes, and I expect something similar will appear here.

One morning on my way to work I passed by. The house was gone and cleared away, but the tractor was at work tearing apart bit by bit an old tree in the corner of the property. It tore one limb from the tree, then another. I walked on, feeling uneasy, as if I was witnessing something fundamentally wrong. I didn’t want to see anything more. By the time I returned that evening the tree was gone, the block vacant, and the tractor carted away.

Yesterday after getting home I put on a pair of shorts then when out to the bins at the front of the property with some rubbish. A skinny old man with a floppy hat was standing there looking up at the sprawling old gum tree in the nature strip. He turned at my approach and said affably. “Great old tree, isn’t it?” I agreed it was. Unwilling to be rude I lingered a little longer talking about the tree. He told me he believed it was this or that particular type of gum tree, but would “have to smell the leaves” to confirm it was. He picked up a handful of fallen leaves and inhaled from them. Nodding his head he said, yes it was as he thought. At that moment a woman approached.

She was my next door neighbour. I’d see her around but we’d never actually came face to face. She was dressed casually and had a towel spilling over the edges of a large shoulder bag. She had paused deliberately to meet me. “Hi,” she said, “We’re neighbours. I’ve seen you but we’ve never met. My name’s Eva.”

She had a slight accent and combined with her blonde good looks I thought she might be Scandinavian or Eastern European. Somehow I’d never considered as anything else but Aussie on the occasions I’d seen her. I’d found her alluring right from the get-go, not just attractive, but seemingly with a lively, vivacious quality that resonated with me every time I saw her. Yesterday she smiled at me, friendly and wanting to engage and I found it a gracious quality.

I introduced myself and then made the obvious comment that she’d been to the beach, adding “good day for it.” She agreed, we parted, see you around.

Art as inspiration

I took my nephew to the Escher exhibition at the NGV yesterday. He was ill when I caught up with the others before Christmas and I promised to do something to make it up to him.

I wanted to see the Escher exhibition, but I wasn’t sure he would want to. When I gave him the choice though, he jumped at it.

It was an excellent show. I’ve long been fascinated by Escher’s curious and challenging art, but it’s only when you get up close to it that you really appreciate it. The detail is wonderful, and the imagination to conceive of – and then hold in the mind – such unexpected and intricate designs are mind-blowing. You can’t help but wonder where this came from? I’d have liked to have met him.

When you consider that much of his artwork was made from woodcuts the craftsmanship involved, and the patience needed, is off the charts.

The exhibition presentation was a work in itself, cleverly refracting off Escher’s work, by a Japanese mob called Endo.

My nephew was similarly fascinated, spending minutes sometimes peering at one piece or another. For a creative and sensitive kid like him, it must have been mind-expanding – he admitted it was inspiring.

I was chuffed at his response. I wanted to introduce him to art as I think it’s a great gift as you mature. In his case, the timing was apt as he was trying to figure out what course he would be doing this year – photography or visual communication. On the back of the exhibition, he sent me a message later thanking me and saying he had decided to do visual communication. I think Escher showed him how provocative imagery is a means of powerful communication, and it excited him.

I don’t know where this leads, but I would be proud to think I set him on the road to a rewarding career. My options are limited, but I would like to do what I can to cultivate and nurture this interest. Perhaps when I’m more comfortable, which surely must happen.