Magical aural moment: Robyn Hitchcock’s “Raymond and the Wires”

Music saves my life again. I’m headphoning Hitchcock’s latest of many (his 2017 self-titled) while despairing over work, and I reach Track 8. I remember to check out the title – “Raymond and the Wires” – and notice it is short, probably a throwaway. A rasping low cello, hand claps or finger clicks, hard to tell which, and a chiming, high guitar figure grabs me, and then “my eyes have seen the trolleybus,” his voice utterly Bowie/Alex Harvey (why doesn’t he sing like that all the time?), “on her pneumatic tyres.” Magisterial chords. “Vamping down the high road, drinking from the wires.”

Swoon. Turns out the song is a trip down memory lane, about his dad half a century earlier, six pungent verses. Listen: “You miss the love you never had, the needle skips the grooves.” Adding to the allure, I can’t decipher five of his words and badly need to. Two and a quarter minutes of longing nostalgia that could have come from the mouth and guitar of a nineteen-year-old.

After 148 listening days of my Rock Music Big Year, for the first time I flip “Raymond and the Wires” onto repeat and absorb over and over.

(Robyn Hitchcock photo from his website)



Been looking for a “smoking gun” (why am I using militaristic language?) in 1959, to anchor a plot. That did not work. Nothing spectacular happened in ’59, just many interesting (to me) events. From my mental stew, I’m beginning to see the way . . .

Kelby’s in Marrickville: busy-noisy, my style of coffee, Arcade-Fire-style radio, smiles (not mine), almost-open-air light . . . what’s not to like?

Is the Fitness Big Year flawed and a route to fatness?

My jogging route in Sydney takes me up this thoroughfare but then improves by meandering to a scenic river. The only trouble is, I can’t get to the water right now. Injured!

Injured and I’ve gained two or three kilograms over five months. How did the Fitness Big Year, so hopeful in intent, come to this pass? Who knows what’s luck and what is my fault, but the basic story goes like this. I began aiming to turn 4 weekly hours of jogging into 2 jogging hours and 6 cycling hours, but after a couple of good months, the writing pressure told, and suddenly I was honoring the “daily commitment” aspect by still being a good boy and exercising daily but dialling down the cycling hours to 3, and then I loved my red wine after headachy work days, and cycling isn’t as calorie-killing as running, and last Saturday a short run left me deliciously sore, only it wasn’t delicious but a torn hamstring (I think, I’m no doctor) and now I can barely hobble 2 kms!

I feel like bemoaning this entire Big Year, wailing “I should have stuck with last year’s schedule,” but that’s not the answer. I’m going to take a day off, then cycle short distances each and every day (my “daily commitment”), because cycling doesn’t employ the hamstring much. Next week back in Melbourne: the physio. And I tell myself this story offers lessons. I smile.

Now that I’m listening again, I can judge . . .

A wonderful post from Mark Griffin: “The Sounds of 97X WOXY, 1985.”

182 songs from ’85 – do I agree? I set myself a high bar, counting only those songs I recall as songs, not as elements of albums I recollect. Well, I only remembered 34 of the 182, and of those 34 tunes, I only “liked” 27. 1985 doesn’t reverberate as memorable to me. But I have to say, this 182-song playlist is very indie with numerous songs I don’t specifically recall but from bands I admire. Put it another way: the list contains surprisingly few top-40-crap selections. Perhaps the middle year of the 80s wasn’t so bad after all.

(Image from original post)

A future Sci-fi Big Year?

After a quarter century of tech reporting, Walt Mossberg’s column in The Verge offers parting generalities. What he describes as “ambient computing” convinces me yet again that we should embrace the full force of the modern tech age and reshape/shape it to fit our vision of the “better world,” rather than decrying our anxieties. For those interested, Kevin Kelley offers a fuller picture, elegantly told, in “The Inevitable.” I tell you, brewing over this kind of thing makes me yearn to write sci-fi. (iPhoto from The Verge website)

Dispatches from the Land of Steady: May 26

Are you ever called to the Land of Steady? This is the place where you need to just stay and be and try and stay . . . and stay. You’re at your canvas, brush dangling, panic gripping. You’re attempting the Blue Oyster Cult chord on your first guitar, again and once more, and your fingers go numb. You’re in the kitchen, nerves raw for many reasons, and you know you must keep on with the boring, the tedious, because that’s what you committed to.

The Land of Steady: you’re dying to flee because nothing good is happening and nothing might . . . but you’re better off remaining steady than ditching all hope.

You set yourself half a week to plot out Chapter 6. It’s too much. You collected too much information; nonetheless, you reckon you’re a dab hand at synthesis, so it should be easy, right? Well, after a day and a half, all you have to show is some ideas over a fraction of Chapter 6’s timespan.

This is where you’ve learnt to do one thing: stay. Never walk out. Stay. The plot will come. Stay.

Writers: homework time!

Steven Pressfield is brash and wise, a combination that invites attack. This post yesterday, on why he bins “clueless asks,” namely requests for help out of the blue, elicited mostly favorable comments but also some vitriol. My arduous, typical experience with marketing my writing matches Pressfield’s advice: do your best to get noticed but for heaven’s sake, inform yourself and don’t expect busy people to help out of the blue.  (The image is from Pressfield’s post and comes from the movie Clueless.)