The Basement Tapes

Friday, 2nd July 2021 –


Early morning in Newtown. Winter mist. Everything in a cloud.

I’ve sat in the car watching YouTube, killing time while my partner gets her second Pfizer shot at RPA. The video is one of those ‘know everything in ten minutes’ about Albert Camus’ The Plague. It’s pretty good. We fight this thing inside ourselves with what Camus calls ‘decency’. Not heroism in a grand manner, but something more everyday and ordinary in how we live, act and get on with our working lives…

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Why You Shouldn’t Underestimate the Upper Class

Read a fascinating piece in the Australian Financial Review by Pru Goward called ‘Why You Shouldn’t Underestimate the Underclass’. Apparently just everybody is talking about it!

Now another of her colleagues at the AFR, Crud Blower, has replied along like-minded lines to deepen the top-of-town class analysis even further.

There seems to be no stopping this neo-liberal rethink of our social ills. Caring condescension for all! Bravo! Rah rah! Read on….

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The Ghosteen Cathedral

I wrote this reflection on Nick Cave and the Bad Seeds’ Ghosteen about a year ago for one of those 300-word column glimpses where you are meant to reflect personally on a record. My choice never got taken up because it was ‘already old’, I was told. I was supposed to choose something more of the moment. Oh well. It’s been sleeping in a computer file somewhere. I still like it. Short and sweet, as they say…

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Waterloo Sunset

I’m sitting here watching the world slide by. Tower blocks loom. It’s a beautiful day. A few kids on skateboards and scooters grind across Waterloo Fernside Skatepark in Sydney. There’s not much history to the place that I can find. Just what can be glimpsed on YouTube videos, or is writ on the wheels and memories of the kids riding now – a­nd those before them, wherever they might be.

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Tumbling Leaves

It hurts my bones to love you.
It hurts to see the bottle-brush needles
like dried blood on the ground.
It hurts to drive in circles round my suburb
named for ashes on a field…

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Immaculate Friend

I heard the news yesterday that my friend Paul Cormack had died. The message came to me through his daughter Lena. Many might know Paul as the founding bass player for Crow and then Peg, key musical entities on the indie scene in Sydney. I first met Paul back in very early ‘80s when we shared a house together in Petersham.

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An interview with Barry Lopez

News is just coming through that the American writer Barry Lopez has died. Lopez was one of the world’s most important nature writers, a profound essayist and poet of landscapes and place. I met him fleetingly and by chance in Alice Springs in the late 1980s and enjoyed a correspondence with him much later when he offered me encouragement while I was working on my first travel book, ‘Dastgah: Diary of a Headtrip’. In 1999, Lopez consented to a lengthy interview with me for the Australian literary quarterly, Westerly. It was a wide-ranging and generous conversation and still holds up today as an insight into one of the great writers of our time.

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America, I Love You

America, I love you: you’re Peggy Lipton in Mod Squad, you’re Patti Smith in the ‘Piss Factory’, you’re Cary Grant and Sidney Poitier, Arsenic and Old Lace and the Lilies of the Field, my grandmother and I watching you on the television, laughing and finding holiness and beauty in a prayer. You’re the fast talk…

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Sinister and rousing, Donald Trump’s Fourth of July speech at the foot of Mount Rushmore will go down as one of the great political speeches of modern history.

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