A ROOM TO FLY MY KITE IN

Nothing happening, very slowly. A definition of minimalist electronic music, ambient if you will. Also life in lockdown. How many weeks, now? The schadenfreude of seeing other countries returning to lockdown. Better not to suffer alone. Dangerous to boast about doing well. Contradictions produce stasis. Staying up late playing Word Collect until my eyes weep with fatigue. It’s chewing gum for the mind, but I’m hooked on the slow upwards creep of my “IQ”. Proving the brain still functions by putting it to work on something trivial and meaningless. Slow decline of IQ. I’m getting grumpy. Turning off mobile data to circumvent the ads, turning off the tv to avoid watching Rome burn. Resenting the creep of technology into every crevice of life, appreciating world straddling chats. Paradox with every meal. Freeze frame.

GLASSES

The origins of this excellent cartoon have eluded discovery, but that does not diminish how much I like it.

Yet I think it needs an update, or to be more precise, an addition:

Conspiracy Theorist

Sometimes it’s just a glass of water.

WEEKEND

Your letter arrived as I was starting work on a record review. It nudged me out of the slightly prosaic place commercial writing seems to have carved out. That sounds negative; maybe it is. After seven years of blogging and two of paid music writing there’s a rhythm, a beat I can call up fairly easily. But there is less ‘me’ in the writing. Eventually we run low on stories, I guess.

But then, unexpectedly, tales reappear (re-mixed and re-issued) and we are gently shaken, perhaps stirred. Quoting back words I’d written years ago in response to your own writing, via the connecting tissue of a sharp-eared listener certainly took me by surprise. Not your generosity and appreciation—those attributes permeate your blogging; indeed, are its heart—rather, reading what I’d written. The urge to create in response was strong and I started writing a notional piece for Lonely Keyboards. Some day we must discuss the exhibitionism of blogging, or perhaps creativity in general, but for now, here is what was written around 10:30pm that night…

We watched War of the Worlds, eating pizza out of the box. Friday evening down time. Greasy fingers and grubby Tom Cruise carrying his daughter around. Shared a bottle of NZ Sauvignon Blanc (the parents) and leaned into the edge blurring gift of poison. Somehow the end of the world seems less diverting these days. Ms Connection retired soon after the boy, both tired. Tiring times. Scary times, which we ignore by reciting statistics that do not comfort. Noting places worse off than here; higher figures, more deaths. Tom was taking his daughter to Boston, mostly on foot. I thought about my blog friend in the city people say is a little like my own and wondered if I would ever travel again, after all this hiding from an alien virus. Shook myself. There’s a music piece to write for the paying gig, an album I know so well I could write without listening. If the tinnitus continues to worsen, that might be the end point; a bottom-feeding Beethoven. Mood can take a nosedive, unexpectedly. This afternoon I was excited to be making a Click and Collect pickup from a multi-story carpark. Only novel thing this week. The band I’m writing about started in New Zealand, arty and eccentric, and broke through (to commercial success) with easier, catchier songs on their 1980 album. Be simple, be accepted. Wine’s finished. If I have a liqueur it will full-stop the writing, or at least semi-colon it. Tom’s daughter screamed an awful lot. Mrs Fanning, could you ask your daughter to scream please? Wonderful, she has the part. An incoming email distracts. An acknowledgement and expression of gratitude from the Boston fellow-writer I’d been thinking about earlier. Giving back something I wrote six years ago. Do I recognise that person, six years younger and at least six aches fewer? More arty and more articulate? Reflections on the glass being three-quarters empty are a speciality of the house. Yet this is a thing of beauty, appreciation circulating the globe. This is connection, between people shackled yet perhaps not. These are ripples, that spread and touch and seed new life. This is thank you to a deaf universe.

That should be the end, but it isn’t. I’m pasting the words into WordPress and bustling to take a photo of the pizza box because that is all I can think of for the feature image, when the sound of moaning distracts. It’s coming from our bedroom. Ms Connection is the source and she is not good. It’s a carbon copy of an attack that happened earlier this year while we were in the rental and it scared the bejeezus out of me. What to do? We agree to call an ambulance. Two young masked paramedics attend; calm, competent and firm in their recommendation to take a ride to ER. I rush around collecting a few things and bundle her into the van. Hands against the glass I mouth, message me. The paramedic nods; the patient is too distracted to notice.

Waiting up until she is cleared, I settle in to watch a rubbish movie I’ve recorded onto the hard drive. Another DC bullshit superhero story and a part of me is yelling ‘garbage!’ at the screen, but silently so as not to disturb the boy. He got up after the ambulance left, reassured by my calming report but unsettled by the sound of a parent in distress. He goes back to bed, I return to the film. It fills a couple of hours until I can go collect her at 2:30 am.

Saturday was a recovery day, except that I’d booked to collect some plants for the rear decking. We need a screen, more for the neighbours than us, so a shrubbery is called for. Driving out of the contactless carpark, some kids in a nearby vehicle laugh and point. I have a small forest in the car. I grin and wave through the fronds. That afternoon the hard drive with twenty years of family photos dies. The boy’s entire digital life from bump to 180cm, sitting in an inert metal box. Until I can get out and about, there’s no way of knowing whether that pictorial record lives.

He mooches along in lockdown, the boy. Ticking off school work with mature efficiency and a minimum of fuss. He’s amazing, really, though he doesn’t like to hear how much I admire him. Fifteen is an awkward age. But I want to do something with him and wander into his room. The door is open; reading on your bed is a teenage universal, I think. Browse the games on his shelf. Gloom. That sounds eerily appropriate for the world at present. Have we played this? Nup. And he’s had it a year and a half. This afternoon, I say decisively. Yep, he agrees. You read the instructions, and explain it to me. OK.

The game involves each player having a family grouping of odd and macabre characters. The goal is to reduce their self-esteem until they die, with the winner being the one with the lowest self worth. You gain points by having a picnic and lose them when bears attack you. I’m up for this. We’re ready to play, later than expected but keen. Except the atmosphere in the house has changed. Ms Connection’s mother, slowly descending towards the big sleep, has died on the other side of the world. It wasn’t unexpected, but it is a sea change. Something seismic shifts when the second parent dies. The boy and I hover, unable to help but ready and willing to hug. Play the game, she says. We play as she watches from behind the breakfast bar, making dinner. Gloom. The irony is laid on with a shovel. It’s surreal, and we laugh, shaking our heads at each other.

I propose the Simon Pegg film Paul for evening entertainment. It goes down well.

After the others go to bed I want to write, but I’m tired and a little dazed. I remember a poster I saw in a shop back in the mid-seventies.

I try to take one day at a time

But sometimes several days attack me at once

Brushing teeth, I look at the face in the mirror. So conscious of ageing, diminishing; the undertow of depression tugs strongly sometimes. I shake my head at the bald bloke with toothpaste dribbling down his chin. There is this family trio in a warm house; there are friends across town who will be there after lockdown; people to connect with around the world whether you see them or not; a child who replenishes wonder every day. And of course, wine and music.

Looking up through the frosted glass the moon is three-quarter full.

 

WHO IS THAT MASKED MAN?

Melbourne, population approximately five million, is struggling with a second wave of COVID-19. The premier of Victoria (like a State Governor in the US) issued a new regulation last Sunday stating that from Thursday 12:00am (or midnight Wednesday, if you prefer), everyone must wear face covering of some kind when leaving home.

Because people are alarmed by the resurgence of this very nasty virus, it is likely there will be reasonable compliance, at least to begin with, while the ‘on the spot’ fine of $200 will ram the point home. I’m hoping the Victorian Police will be thoughtful and supportive when enforcing the new rules.

[There’s a link from the above excerpt to the complete cartoon by First Dog On The Moon]

At Vinyl Connection, my long-running music blog, I posted some album covers featuring some form of mask or face covering. It was tongue-in-cheek, an attempt at humour in grim times, and most of my regular readers were instantly on-board. However a new visitor, from somewhere in the US, said the LP covers were brilliant, even though ‘face masks are not only absurd, but evil’.

Absurd? Evil? What?

Maybe I was missing something, so I looked up ‘evil’ just to refresh my memory regarding where Forces Diabolical stand on the issue of protective clothing. Couldn’t find anything particularly helpful other than the advantages of asbestos underwear.

I thought about the demonstrations against being ‘forced’ to wear a face covering, as if it was some kind of punishment.

‘I don’t want to’

‘I don’t like it’

‘Shan’t’

‘You can’t make me.’

The other theme seemed to be about ‘rights’. I have a right to do what I like. Well, that’s true, but it’s only half the story. As one of my influences (American psychiatrist Sheldon Kopp) wrote,

You are free to do whatever you like. You need only face the consequences.

[Sheldon Kopp 1972]

Or, to put it another way:

But here and now, the consequences rebound on society–neighbours, parents, colleagues–not just on the individual.

The current fashion of debunking science and mocking expertise of any kind doesn’t help. People may be equal in value, but they are not equal in expertise and knowledge. Conflating the two is dangerous. I may be an adequate therapist, but you wouldn’t want me teaching you scuba diving. We are seeing the endpoint of this process in the White House, where expertise, truth, accuracy, and integrity are all but extinguished. Democracy absorbed by the Idiocracy.

I can’t know everything. In fact I know less every day as knowledge expands while my capacities diminish. That’s why I don’t believe in science, I trust it. I trust scientists who have dedicated their lives to questioning, investigating, proving, challenging, testing and sharing knowledge based on replicable studies. Belief may be a kind of optimism, a hope for an answer from beyond, but I’m not willing to bet my life on anything lacking even a shred of empirical evidence.

I want to live to see my son grow into a man (he’s well on the way, but I’m greedy; I want at least thirty more years) so I will listen to people who actually know what they are talking about and prepare for a brave new world of death defying visits to the supermarket.

I hope people will do the right thing. It’s called The Greater Good and it has nothing to do with doctrine nor eroding anyone’s ‘rights’ but everything to do with being sensible. So I’ve written myself a reminder list.

  • Wear a mask if you possibly can.
  • Remember that while no-one actually knows what’s going on, trusting science is far more rational than swallowing beliefs.
  • Avoid ill-informed people and conspiracy theorists. Those broadcasting their fears in this way will infect you like a virus.
  • Try not to overreact.
  • Be gentle with yourself and aim to be kind. Kindness is an antidote to fear.
  • Take care at the supermarket.