Wednesday, June 21, 2017

NEWS: Wok and I interviewed by Melbourne Webfest about 'Bruce'


Myself and Warwick were asked a few questions about Bruce, our motivations, our inspirations, our attitudes to improvisation, and how it's really fucking hard to get any money.

READ IT HERE IF YOU WANT TO 



FICTION: A Small Man Takes A Stand, Or Not, Depending


You walk carefully, the tray of five mocktails more precariously balanced than ideal, especially after the duo of decidedly un-mock drinks you and your Better Half have downed in rather quick succession.  Your drinks contained equal amounts gin, green Chartreuse, maraschino liqueur and freshly pressed lime juice, shaken with ice and strained.  Very pleasing.  Very drinkable also.  Rather moreish, to use your Better Half’s turn of phrase, rather moreish indeed.

(The mocktails on the tray of course contain none of the gin, green Chartreuse, or maraschino liqueur, but you’re quietly proud of the verisimilitudinous combinations of pungency, spiciness, and cherry-sour sweetness you’ve achieved without the aforementioned alcoholic liqueurs.  Don’t want the girls getting tipsy, even if they are of an age when alcohol could most likely be responsibly introduced, you decide firmly.  No, not on your watch, nor the watch of your Better Half; save that sort of shenanigan for one of the shabbier parents, one of the smoking single dads or something, one of those Middle-Australian parents who don’t take all the proper precautions with their teenaged charges, don’t take their custodian roles altogether seriously.  No, you are firm about this kind of thing: mocktails until sixteen, that’s the rule.)

The tray is difficult to balance, but you soldier on: no shirker of difficulty you, most definitely not.  Five mocktails on thin stems on a gleaming silver tray, and nary a drop is spilt.  If there were medals awarded for the responsible and stylish serving of non-alcoholic drinks to giggling gaggles of teenagers, you’re convinced that you’d be first in line.  Nary a drop, you note again, proudly.

You pause on this side of Angelica’s stout darkwood door, not to eavesdrop, quite: more to listen without being observed, in a parental capacity. To take decent and proper care of an aforementioned gaggle of teenagers, sometimes one must bend the rules of common etiquette in order to more fully understand the details of the situation at hand, you decide firmly.

There is much giggling going on, of the sort to be expected when five fourteen-to-fifteen-year-olds of the female persuasion are in shared company, safely secured behind a stout and dark-wooded bedroom door, a door which, while not expensive, was definitely more pricey than one’s Better Half had led one to believe, but no matter.  One pays for quality. 

You are quite literally about to knock upon the door (a complicated but doable maneuver, with the palm of your left hand directly centre beneath the serving tray’s underside – and, true to form, the full sum of the liquid remains contained within the five evenly-spaced vessels upon the topside), when you hear, quite clearly, quite unexpectedly, and quite definitely, from the enclosed space of Angelica’s bedroom, your fifteen-year-old daughter giggling about the small size of your penis.

The exact words she used are lost in a blur of shock and disappointment and gin, but the overall anecdote is as clear as day: back when she was a young child, the two of you shared the occasional bath, and, in her memory of these shared bathing experiences, you had, for want of a better word, a tiny, tiny penis.  Tittering.  She remembers it clearly, she says.  Tittering once more. 

The sharing of this gross distortion of the truth results in her peers cackling with mirth, as though the size of a man’s appendage were any laughing matter at the best of times, let alone while said man was in the really quite difficult process of bringing a tray full of drinks from kitchen to bedroom while nary spilling a single drop.  And gross distortion of the truth it is, you know in your heart: not that you’ve spent much of your adult life comparing dimensions, to be fair, but you have caught the accidental glimpse of another man’s package at various times (and even, though you are loathe to admit it, once or twice Googled the various averages of length, width and girth as found in different races and age demographics), and, damn it all, you are certain that your own attributes, while not on the rampantly gargantuan end of the bell curve, fall well within the acceptable. 

“It was like a cashew, a teensy cashew!” is not a phrase that any man likes to hear, and is not a phrase that you ever thought might be directed in a descriptive sense at your own nether regions, but that particular phrase you can’t help but overhear, nor can you help but overhear the raucous unfeminine laughter that the cruel and blatantly untrue phrase brings forth behind that scandalously over-priced dark-wood door.

Your hands shake with furious horror, and the glasses lose a small amount of their contents onto the gleaming tray.  Not a large amount given the severity of the circumstances, you note, but still.  Damn it all.

There’s no way any man could enter that room at that moment, you decide.  Even the most grandly-bestowed gentleman in the world could hardly enter a room in which he knows a chirruping gaggle of just-pubescent harridans are chuckling crudely (and cruelly) at his God-given organ.  Instead, you turn on your shaking ankles and march right back to the kitchen, where your Better Half is busy preparing another cocktail.

“They’re just so moreish,” she says, and stops, looking you up and down.  “What happened?  The girls didn’t want them?  Too much lime?”

You rest the tray on the bench top and breathe deeply.  You remove a perfectly-ironed and bleached white kerchief from the pocket of your bone/camel slacks and wipe your forehead.  The kerchief smells of fabric softener.  You turn to your Better Half.

“Those children,” you begin.  You reach for your drink and down it rather too quickly, but forgivably given the state of affairs.  “Those girls,” you try again.

“They’re not smoking, are they dear?”

“What? No!” you bellow, then sigh, then wipe your forehead again.  “They were talking… they were laughing, you see… Angelica was telling her little friends… about bath time.”

Your Better Half has an uncomprehending look on her aging face.  Damned woman, why can’t she read between the lines!  Fine cheekbones but no sense of subtlety.  She’s going to make you spell it out in all it’s confounding detail, isn’t she.

“Well, of course they can have baths if that’s what they’d like, dear.  But the hot water system-”

“Angelica said I have a tiny cock.”  Damnation, the curse just bursts out of you like a bullet. You attempt to blunten your harsh language with a softer tone.  “I overheard her telling her friends I have a very tiny penis.”

And damn it all, your Better Half doesn’t draw you into a sympathetic embrace, or attempt to soothe your sorrows through kindness, or even silently but ruefully pour you another drink: she laughs.

“I’m sorry, dear,” she says, trying to hide her cruel amusement behind sad eyes and a caring gesture, “that was unexpected.  Your… really, what context… are you certain?”

“Yes, dammit!  I heard it with my own ears, clear as day.  Like a cashew, she said.”

Your Better Half hides her disgusting joviality behind her hand, her petty tittering beneath her.  Oh the shame, to be surrounded by the weaker sex, to be so alone in this moment of ridicule, so damned alone at this time of torment.

“Oh dearest,” she says, too late, and through lips that struggle to carry compassion rather than mirth, “you’re really not that small.“

“You think I don’t know that, woman?” you want to shout at her. “A man knows the size of his own endowment!  A man knows the hang of his own heft, and I know that, statistically-speaking, my dimensions fall well within the racial average!  I’m not an idiot!” you want to scream, red-faced and ruddy.  “I was having a bath!  Any fool knows that the coolness of the surrounding air relative to the heat of the water causes a certain amount of shrinkage!  Any damned fool knows that!” you want to rave, fists waving and jaw jutting pugilistically.  You want to huff and puff, you want to roar, perhaps even break some crockery (not the good set – heaven forbid! – no, the ugly set given to you by your Better Half’s Middle-Australian sister with no taste).  But instead you say nothing, stare at the kitchen bench in awkward fuming silence.  You don’t like raising your voice, and, now that you’ve said it, it seems that your Better Half finds your concerns petty and amusing.  You don’t know that you can take more humiliation. 

“Well, no point crying over spilt milk, is there dear.“ Your Better Half says, wiping the tray clean of drips, few as they are. “What’s done is done.  No point getting all worked up about it-”

“Not for you!” you say, raising your voice.  You immediately regret it: your Better Half has had no part to play in this ghastly farce.  You breathe again and try to get her to see reason.  “It’s all right for you, dear.  They’re not in there casting aspersions about your whatsit, are they. It’s me they’re making fun of!  A cashew!  It’s much larger than a cashew, you know it is.  They’re laughing about the most precious portion of a man, his very manhood itself.  It’s just so unfair, it really is.  I can’t go back in there.  A cashew!”

With a look she normally reserves for political issues or besting you at whist, your Better Half picks up the tray and expertly carries it aloft.

“You’re a grown man.  I really don’t see what all the fuss is about.”

With that she whisks the rather convincing mocktails away with fluid motions that really do seem to minimise the actual amount of effort and concentration that it takes to carefully balance so many drinks on such a thin and valuable tray.  She waltzes briskly from the kitchen as though carrying several stout-bottomed tumblers, rather than five spindly and elegantly-shaped cocktail glasses made of pure crystal dammit.  Dammit dammit dammit.

Damn her to heck. 

As silence settles into the kitchen around you, you imagine a whole series of cruel and angry epithets to call your Better Half when she returns.  Pouring equal measures of gin, green Chartreuse, maraschino liqueur and freshly pressed lime juice, you imagine cursing her repeatedly with increasingly witty retorts, until you are empty.  As you shake the mixture, only partly hearing it sluice and clunk inside the gleaming metal canister, you realise that really, instead of taking your embarrassment and anger out on your Better Half, you should funnel it into something more constructive.  Namely, shaming your daughter and her vulgar acne-infested brace-toothed associates.  The cheek!  The damnable cheek of those pimply harridans, those selfie-worshipping narcissistic unsexed nincompoops: as though they even know how a proudly turgid male organ appears when properly tumescent!  How little experience, you think, how little practical knowledge these giggling children have in such matters!  What do they know about the male organ’s expected dimensions?  They are simply unqualified to judge!  How dare they.  How dare such ignorant infantile schoolgirls pass judgment upon one’s flaccid member (effected by cold-air shrinkage, no less!), when the real test of a manhood’s mettle is in the swollen glory of arousal – about which they knew nothing!  It was like judging a peacock without its tail, or, or, well, some other thing with a central component missing!  Why, if these spotty-faced immature waifs ever glimpsed his shuttle in full-flight, they’d think twice about laughing-

“Delivered, without incident.”  Your Better Half’s paucity with words is matched by the limited range of emotion displayed by her sullen gaze.

“I’m sorry dear,” you apologise, quickly pouring the cocktails, though with your angry quivering hands, they do come together with far less panache than usual.

“You need to forget all about it,” she says, her sternness melting away at your stammering apology.  She touches one hand to the shoulder of your cardigan.  “They’ve already moved on, let it go.  Put it behind you, that’s the way.”

“You’re right, dear.”

“Forget all about them.  They’re just silly school girls.”

“They are, dear.”

“Now,” she says, “let us drink to something.  To what shall we toast?”

“Maybe…” you start, then stop.  Then start again.  “Maybe you could just have a quick word with them.” 

“Pardon?”

The shame, the hurt, the statistical untruth of it all!

“Maybe you could, you know, put in a good word for me.  Just pop in, mention offhand something about the perfectly regular dimensions of my, you know.  My hardware.” Your Better Half doesn’t say anything.  “Just, perhaps, maybe, I don’t know, balance the debate somewhat.  Unskew the, you know, data.  Add to the discussion.”  Still nothing.  Just a look.  “The, ah.  Help right the scales of justice, so to speak.”  Is that too much to ask, dammit?  Is that really too much to ask?

Your Better Half’s usually quite tolerable face is now a frown-eyed hatchet-featured fishwife’s, a wrinkle-lined axe-head of a thing.  Most unflattering.

Silence.

“Have you finished?”

“Ah.  Yes, I believe I have.”

She glares at you.  “Are you seriously asking me to waltz into my daughter’s bedroom-”

Our daughter-“

“You want me to confront my daughter and her friends, and tell them that you, my husband and Angelica’s father, have a perfectly standard-sized penis, thank you very much, have a lovely evening.”

“Well-”

“You want me to announce, to a room full of children – that’s right, children – you want me announce to them, loudly and clearly, that your penis is an average size.  Is that what you’re asking me to do?”

“Slightly above average, if you believe the figures-”

“Is that what you’re asking?  Am I correct?”

You take a sip of your cocktail.  It’s hard to focus on its deliciousness when she’s looking at you like that.  And those are top shelf liqueurs, top shelf.  What a waste.

“Yes,” you say quietly, “yes please.”

Her glare is cold, so very cold.  Colder than the ice slowly thawing in the strainer.

“I think perhaps you ought to retire upstairs for the evening,” the damnable woman says, “I can take care of everything down here.  I think maybe the cocktails have gone to your head.”

“I’m fine!” you bellow, then quieten down. “I’m fine.  I’m just, I’d just like this to be, ah, laid to rest.”

“I’m not doing it.”

“Please.”

“I’m not doing it,” the damnable woman insists, looking for all the world like a stubborn ruminant.

“Just a quick word.”

“No.”

“One word, please.”

“No.”

“Please, just one small tiny little-“

“No!”

“Damn you!” you explode, like red fireworks.  Why won’t she help?  Are they all on one team, automatically, just because of whatever damnable biological mishap made them female instead of male?  Hateful, spiteful, weak creatures, united against common decency and the Standard of Truth!  “I’m not asking you to lie, dear!  Just to correct their mistake!”

“If you talk to me like this much longer,” says your Better Half, barely moving her cold thin lips in a treacherous murmur, “you may not be welcome in the bedroom tonight at all.”

Bah!  It could all be so simple, but no.  No, first scandalous lies about one’s proportions, then complete and utter mutiny from someone who is supposed, according to your solemn vows of betrothal, to stand by you through all binary extremes.  No support!  No help!  What do marriage vows mean, to what do those sacred promises tally, if, when it comes to moments like this, your Better Half chooses to side with injustice over truth?  Bah! 

“I’m going to smoke a cigarillo in the den,” you mutter angrily, turning on your heel and marching away from your supposed partner.

The den is plushly carpeted, and barely audible smooth jazz skitters along persistently from your towering black German speakers (cost a small fortune, but the quality of sound is highly praised by audiophiles from London to Detroit).  Normally, a slender cigarillo and a cocksure smattering of anonymous swing standards does wonders to rouse you from even the most sullen moods, but you can’t seem to let this one go.  It’s not just about your personal groinal aspect, no: it’s the lies, the untruths, the spreading of falsehoods.  That’s what you can’t abide.

The more you think about it, the more the situation appears to require some sort of reparative action.  Despite your Better Half’s insistence that you move past the issue, that you “drop it” in today’s parlance, you still feel that a Great Wrong has been committed.  Despite her assurances and protestations and damned advice, despite her suggestions that everything is all right, it feels all wrong.  The entire state of affairs is just so unfair, so monstrously unreasonable, that you can barely think straight – that, and the continuing series of neat single-malt whiskies you pour yourself in the den to help ease your mounting fury. 

Your member was flaccid!  Of course it was flaccid!  Is it unreasonable to expect that a man’s member remain flaccid during a bath with his own infant daughter?  Of course not!  Indeed, had your protuberance been engorged to its fullest during said bath, warning bells would – and indeed, should – ring out!  No man of sound principles would be tumescent in such a situation, couldn’t that coven of cackling pock-faced harpies understand that?  The fact that your manhood had sat tucked so honourably in repose, so decently atrophied, so sensibly and properly petite – this, this should have been the focus of the discussions!  Proof you are a good man!  Proof you’re not some deviant!  Its smallness – not that it was even all that small, let’s be clear here, it was well within the averages, slightly towards the larger end – its smallness should be recognised as a mark of honour, not seen as some matter for cruel childish amusement!  Would they rather you be some swollen predator, some inappropriately-sexed miscreant?  Damn them all!

You throw back another Scotch.  Damn them all.

Your cigarillo is pleasing, if not entirely to the tongue, at least to the spirit.  You are not a bad man.  You are not a small man.  You are a good man, and a sensibly-sized man.  Damn them.  You are a man of the correct proportions.  And the truth will out.

Another puff on the cigarillo, another shot of the single-malted peat-smoky top shelf Scotch.  Pricey, but in this state you are in no mood to care.  But still, quite pricey.

The plan is clear: you will massage yourself in the area in question, until you are properly turgid, properly engorged.  Then, once your manhood is undeniably within the middle-to-upper side of the statistically-appropriate limits, you will simply deliver the irksome ingrates another tray of mocktails, or some other beverage more suited to the late hour.  Perhaps hot chocolate, it doesn’t matter.  Perhaps just tea.  Anyway, doesn’t matter what the beverage is, damn it all.  In the process of delivering the aforementioned drinks – perhaps hot chocolate, perhaps tea, it really doesn’t matter – in the process of delivering these drinks, the dull chattering urchins won’t be able to help but notice your lower portions, stiff with pride beneath your bone/camel slacks, and, as their eyes widen with mixtures of both shock and appreciation (as well as some red-faced flushes of pubescent lust, let’s not quibble), you simply leave the room without a word.  Justice, as well as some suitable beverage – perhaps tea, perhaps hot chocolate, nevermind which – will have been served.  And no-one needs ever speak of these events again.  You will have been restored to your rightful position, and all and sundry shall know your true dimensions.  Truth will out!  Victorious.  And righteous.  And all without actually exposing yourself to teenagers. 

You drink to that.  You, sir, are a genius.

Your cigarillo now resting in the crystal ashtray, one hand reaches at what lies between your legs beneath the bone/camel slacks, and, once it makes purchase on your hidden and sleeping shaft,  you begin fondling your manhood beneath the cloth, caressing it into action.  Despite the bitterness, despite the humiliation, and despite the copious alcoholic drinks, you sense movement down there, and your breathing quickens.  You close your eyes and picture your Better Half when she was a great deal younger, that one night in the hotel room in Luxembourg when she let you erupt while still in her mouth (that one time, that one precious, memorable time, revisited on so many occasions in the theatre of your memories), and you can feel the tightness in your undertrousers growing.  You feel harder than ever, to be quite frank.  They’re not going to be able to believe their eyes.

A niggling voice creeps into your consciousness, saying:
This is not right. 

(Almost immediately, your todger begins to cool in your lap, and you sigh, frowning.)

You clear your throat and adjust your belt.  You pour another really quite pricey Scotch.

This is not right.  This is not right at all. 

It’s too subtle!  Blinkered self-obsessed square-eyed ignoramuses like Angelica’s flibbertigibbet school-mates could easily miss even the largest trouser bulge, and the whole thing, the whole damn enterprise, would be rendered pointless.  As though flighty witless Twitter-fed youngsters like that would even look up at you as you brought them beverages!  As though they’d even look!  They were likely to grunt something incomprehensible while locked on their smart-phones, not even a thank you, let alone an acknowledgement of substantial groinal sizability.  Or, knowing them, they’d just titter, titter like the sparrow-witted harpies they are, laugh right in your face, with nary a look beneath the belt for what wonders may there lurk!  Stupid man!  Furthermore, a tray of beverages, whether carrying mocktails, hot chocolate, or tea, it really didn’t matter, a tray of beverages – or snacks, that was always another option, you suppose, not that it matters now – a tray of any sort would likely cast shadow across the very region you’re hoping to highlight!  What were you thinking?  A tray?  Madness!  No, this plan is a bad one, no two ways about it.  Too subtle, and too obscuritan.  You need something more powerful.  Something that can not be missed.

“Are you in here?”  Your Better Half startles you with her unwanted words, and you jump in your aged leather armchair.

“Yes, yes dear.”

She enters: she’s carrying a small plate of biscuits.  But the biscuits are not what fills you with rage, no: it’s her expression.  The biscuits look delicious, to be perfectly honest.  But that look, that expression on her tired, aging face: it’s a look of pity. 

“You’re not still thinking about it are you dear?” she asks, putting the really quite tasty-looking biscuits on the coffee-table next to your extinguished cigarillo and your empty tumbler.

“Leave me alone, woman!” you want to bark, ferocious that she fill your den – your own private space! – with that most inappropriate of emotions, pity!  As though you had already lost!  As though you had seen humiliation and simply taken it, lying down!  Prostrate, helpless, defeated, the hideous girls stomping all over you and your manhood with their expensive heels, laughing, always laughing – well, no!  “I think you’ve done quite enough, don’t you?” you want to yell at her, make her quake a little – just a little – at your lion-like rage, your animal prowess, your silver-backed might.  But instead, you mutter quietly:

“Sorry, what?  Thinking about what, dear?”

She smiles gently.  Still that damnable look of pity, like she’s humouring a small child.  Damn her straight to heck.

“Come to bed, dear.  It’s getting late.”

She’s complicit in all this, refusing to help you in your time of need.  She’s One Of Them.

“I’ll come soon, dear,” you say quietly, “I’m just enjoying a little Maynard Ferguson.”  The nearest CD cover with the largest writing on the cover says ‘Maynard Ferguson’, and you know your Better Half has even less of an idea who’s currently playing on the 5-CD random shuffle than you do.  “I’ll join you later.”

Your Better Half glances at the bottle of really very expensive single-malted peat-smoky Scotch on the coffee-table, damn her eyes, and then back at you.  Pity, and concern.  Concern!  Bah! 

“You’re slurring, dear.  Please.“

“I’m fine dear.  Off you go.”

You wait, closing your eyes and nodding slightly to the beat of the smooth jazz whispering from those towering great audiophile-approved speakers, until she sighs, stands up, and leaves.  Immediately you get up and close and bolt the door behind her.  You stride back to your throne and collapse into it (slightly more forcefully than you’d hoped, but righteous indignation can make one fragile at the knees).

You pour yourself quite a sloppily large Scotch, and weigh your options.

If you decide to simply “man up” as they say, march right in there and set the girls straight with a clear and descriptive oration about the exact size and shape of your package, both flaccid and erect, and all the good and proper reasons why your member appeared so wanting in the bath so many moons ago, turn to page 18.

If you decide to slip into your daughter’s room once she and her friends are asleep, find her phone, take a picture of your upstanding member with the telephone’s ingenius in-built camera (a “dick pic” is apparently the modern terminology for such an intimate portrait, you’ve heard), and then proceed to send said “dick pic” to her friends, as lasting proof that her description of your organ fell far short of the truth, turn to page 23.

If you decide to change into your snug-fitting bathing suit, engorge yourself, arm yourself with a towel, and confront the roomful of chattering pubescents under the guise of quite innocently asking if any of them would care for a midnight swim, turn to page 25.

If you decide to wait, naked and aroused, in the bathroom (under the pretence of being about to have a shower), lurking with the bathroom door ajar, waiting until one of the giggling young ladies accidentally comes in and spots your resplendent outcropping in its proper state before rushing back to the herd and breathlessly reporting on your correct size and stature, turn to page 31.

If you decide to strip down to nothing, stumble drunkenly into your daughter’s bedroom, swearing and spitting incoherently, and brazenly stand there, angry stamen in full bloom, red-faced and shiny and slick with perspiration and drool, shouting momentarily, arms flailing, reaching, grabbing at limbs, yanking at hair, forcing yourself upon that disrespectul teenaged harem with brutal bright carnivorous vengeance, before you collapse, cross-eyed and brittle, having been struck over the back of the head with one of Angelica’s heavy netball trophies by a quick-witted and instinct-driven young friend of Angelica’s who had already seen too much at the hands of an abusive step-father of her own and was not going to take this kind of shit ever again so God help her, turn to page 37.

If you decide to sit alone and rock back and forth slightly as you cry salty silent ethanol-scented tears of hopelessness and embarrassment and futile worthless despair in a plush-carpeted prison of your own making, turn to page 42.

Wednesday, May 24, 2017

NEWS: AND WE WON!


WE WON!
WE TOTALLY WON!
WE TOTALLY WON BEST DRAMA!

...which is kinda funny, because we always thought Bruce was a comedy.  But we're not fussed, really: it was a fucking dark comedy, and we're definitely happy that the story-telling and characters were strong enough to impress.  So huzzah to us!

NOTE: I couldn't be there at the awards ceremony, but I did photoshop myself into the picture of Tony and Wok accepting the award. And, in this new age of "alternative facts", that seems perfectly fine and dandy.




Monday, May 1, 2017

NEWS: More Accolades for Bruce!


Will ya look at all these laurels???  Woohoo!

We're totally stoked! Super exciting. 

Don't forget, the whole thing can be watched for free here:

BRUCE BRUCE BRUCE BRUCE BRUCE!

Onwards!

Wednesday, April 26, 2017

ESSAY: In Love With The Monstrous: Why The Hell Am I Attracted To Such Horrible Things?



An essay about my love for the physically and morally repugnant, and some sort of weak attempt at justifying/explaining it, in the context of knowing with some certainty that not everyone considers this interest/attraction "normal".   Published on Heathen Harvest, gently edited by Sage Weatherford.

"Some of us seem drawn to ugly art, strange music, and real-life depravity, and some of us don’t.  I have an inkling that the two are related (being drawn to ugly strangeness in sound/vision, and being interested in ugly strangeness in real life), but of course nothing is ever actually that simple, and I definitely know people who refuse to watch scary/freaky movies but insist on weird/noisy music at all times, so I’m pretty sure whatever conclusions I come up with will be highly variable in their personal mileage, and the whole lumping-this-all-together thing I’m attempting here may very well be a terrible mistake.  But, well, I’m going to attempt it anyway."

Wednesday, April 19, 2017

NEWS: 'Bruce' is a Webby Award Honoree!

I know!  I had no idea there was such a word as 'honoree' either!   But there is!  There is!


And 'Bruce' got honoured - and check this out - IT'S FOR THE WRITING!

That's right: even though it's magnificently shot, amazingly costumed, incredibly cast, brilliantly make-upped, astoundingly acted, staggeringly directed, somehow the Webby folk managed to look past all that full-on epicness and honour us for THE WRITING!  Just mind-blowing.  So cool.  Yay!

Go see proof yourselves!




REVIEW: Seirom - Mesmerized

A review of Gnaw Their Tongues' Mories' strangely soothing synth-ambient project 'Seirom'.  
Written for Heathen Harvest, and gently edited by Sage Weatherford.

"As suggested by the reversed name, it turns out the project Seirom is the very opposite of normal Mories.  For instance, the first piece (and title track) is almost the kind of uplifting indie electro shoegaze that wouldn’t be out of place on an advertisement for the latest ever-so-zippy (but oh-so-roomy) urban sportscar, complete with soaring lush feel-good harmonies and energetic techno drum sounds.  I could almost taste the car deodoriser."

Seirom - Mesmerized

ESSAY: Over the Wall: The Power of Fictional Activism



A short piece about the oft-overlooked power of fighting the establishment, not with angry placards and cold facts, but with engaging characters and immersive storylines.  Published by the very lovely Quo online zine.

"More people have heard, and really listened to, and can sing along with “Imagine” than have ever been to one of our protests.  And it works precisely because it’s fictional – like a sci-fi novel, it merely asks the audience to “imagine” a world without countries or possessions or religion, rather than trying to make an argument using facts or figures.  It’s not presented as a fight, but an invitation"

READ IT HERE.

Thursday, March 16, 2017

INTERVIEW: LV Book Design ask me about Writing


We talk about heart-warming rejections, the vortex of the research/writing cycle, the pain of editing, and the slippery moments of inspiration.

"As far as I'm concerned, I'm a very normal person. It's just everyone else that's quirky and undecipherable and irrational and were told the rules of the game and when to start playing."


REVIEW: Gordoa, McNab, and Myburgh - Passive Transport

Great experimental music by three stalwarts of the Australian experimental music scene (well, two and one Mexican Berliner), that is completely ruined by too many painful high noises.  Review scrawled for Heathen Harvest and mildly meddled with by Sage Weatherford.

"It’s not like I don’t like abstract sound clusters or expansive passages of non-music—man, they’re  some of my favourite things—and there are lot of really wonderful sounds on this release.  Unexpected clanks, richly timbral scrapes, rising waves of frictional textures, deep floor-warping low tones: they’re all there.  But whenever the trio finds a really awesome space, along comes this fucking high sine, like some kind of malarial parasite, determined to burrow into my grey matter and cause me sickness and discomfort."

Gordoa, McNab, and Myburgh - Passive Transport

REVIEW: Svarta Stugan - Aspects of Our Future Selves

Interesting but kinda forgettable post-rock synthcore free-soundtrack kinda tunes by Swedish three-piece Svarta Stugan.   Review artisanally-crafted for Heathen Harvest, editorial assistance by Sage Weatherford.

"The drums pound away with expert precision, hitting all the right beats; the keys warp and weave with all the wowing eighties saw-wave charm you’d want them to, and the guitars are loud when they’re meant to be loud and quiet (or even absent entirely) when it’s the right place for them to quieten down.  But, even though they seem to be doing exactly the right thing musically at all times, not much of it really hit me in the feels (as the young people say these days).  To be clear, there was nothing wrong with any of it, but I wondered if that was exactly the problem:  It was maybe a little too right?"

INTERVIEW: King Seesar talks to my Musical Personality, "A Demon Sheen", about Chaos-Musick



For those of you unaware, I make a lot of music.  Seriously, lots and lots.   I'm not necessarily very good at it, and it's not necessarily to everyone's tastes (I have a leaning towards abrasive noise, unfriendly metal, and anxious atonality), but I do it regardless: it's something I just have to do, and if I haven't made any music for a few days I get really stroppy and annoying to be around.  So yes, I make a lot of music.  And nearly all of it at the moment is produced under the name "A Demon Sheen" ("A Demon Sheen" has a lot music projects himself, but occasionally makes solo releases - it's all very complicated).   The name began as "A D Machine", back with my first proper band in 1993 (the band was called "gLOBALmINDfUCK", and we were an awesome blend of Hawkwind meets Ministry meets Melvins meets Mr Bungle), but it slowly morphed into "A Demon Sheen" through strange pronunciation shifts.  Anyway.  Point is, I don't normally talk much about my own music on this blog, because it's kinda mostly been focused on my written work, but the music is a huge part of who I am / what I do, and so it does seem a little odd to so radically compartmentalise my life in such arbitrary ways, when, to me, it's really all connected.

So, recently I was interviewed by mad English Occultist, Instrument-builder, and Cthonian Soundscaper, King Seesar, about my musical outpourings, motivations, techniques, and belief systems.  And here it is!



Monday, February 27, 2017

REVIEW: Stephen Palke - Evolutionary Exploration Sequence

Strange songless pieces of art-noise that completely tickled my phant'sy.  Review artisanally crafted for Heathen Harvest periodical, editorially embetterised by Sage Weatherford.

"Each track here takes a singular theme—a particularly nice series of synth sounds, for instance, or an aurally pleasing set of strange effects—and lets them play out until the theme is comprehensively dealt with.  Then it ends, and we’re on to the next piece.  All in all, this CD has the feel of a display cabinet filled with scientific curiosities or a table of lab results more than an ‘album’ or collection of songs.  Each piece has its own interesting set of experimental rules which are allowed to dictate each piece without frills, without ‘beginnings’, ‘endings’, ‘growth’, ‘codas’, or any fancy musical concepts like that, and each piece is completely self-contained, clear, simple, unexplained, and just about perfect."

Tuesday, February 7, 2017

REVIEW: Plasmodium - Entheognosis

An incredible Melbourne band, combining atonal riffs, furious bursts of energy, dissonant textures, sexnoises, and wacky surreal lyrics about tantra, drugs, and consciousness.  Review scribbled for Heathen Harvest, editorial refining by the ever-industrious Sage Weatherford.

"So, what do I think of Entheognosis?  It’s great. It’s overwhelming, it’s all over the place, and it’s extremely confusing in almost every way.  Like the act of entheognosis itself (which means something like ‘knowing the divine within‘), it’s full of twists and turns, dead ends, and traps for the unwary, and the (albeit annoying/funny) lyrics are rich with references to both psychoactive substances and tantric sex acts, both of which are renowned for their entheogenic properties.  Even the fact that I found myself laughing at the dubious thesaurus-poetry of the lyrics made me actually enjoy the album in a different way than what I was expecting, and who knows—that laughter could very well have been intentional as well.  After all, the perilous Chapel of the Entheogene has always been filled with as much mirth as fear."

Plasmodium - Entheognosis

Wednesday, February 1, 2017

FICTION: An Interview In Which Old Timbo Explains His Choices



“Sure ya won’t stay for tea?” the old man offers one more time, a twinkle in his eye, as I start packing up my gear.  I know he means “tea” the old-fashioned Aussie way, not “tea” meaning the warming caffeinated beverage but “tea” meaning the third and final of the three traditional meals of the day, what I’d call “dinner”.

“No, but thank you again,” I smile, returning his ocular twinkle with my own.

It’s been a long day, and hot.  Early summer in this part of Australia, and especially nowadays, is a harsh sudden snap of dryness and heat, and the gently curving pastures of Tim “Timbo” King’s stud farm (“The Kingdom”, he calls it) already shimmer with hot air, like the atmosphere itself is sweating.  Being a city girl myself, I’m not used to the long distances required of country travel, and I’m aching to get back to my comfortable air-conditioned apartment in the hustle and bustle – but of course, that’s not really the main reason I refuse Timbo’s offer of dinner.

Mr King has been a pleasure to interview: he’s got that special kind of old-country tale-telling easiness about him, he’s able to spin a yarn without any kind of nervousness or self-consciousness or showiness, like we’re old mates just sitting a spell (even though, in reality, we’re honestly completely different people, him a leathery red-cheeked old farmhand, and me a soft-skinned city-slicker journo roughly thirty years his junior).  I was instantly comfortable around this twinkling-eyed old man, in a way I’m rarely comfortable around anyone, especially older men: there’s just something… kind about him.  Although his hide may be leathery and his white-bristled face is pocked with the places where modern medicinal science has plucked out small lesions from too many days in the sun, there is nothing about Old Timbo that is harsh or hard: even his voice, a sound like creaky door, carries with it a certain softness or familiarity, like it’s a creaky door to a larder full of your favourite childhood sweets.  It’s a warm sound, a smooth wooden sound.  I think he’s just a really decent guy, who is genuinely trying to do what he thinks is the right thing.

Before we sit down in his modest white-walled living room to conduct the interview, Timbo walks me around the paddocks – quiet, soft-hilled, lush – and shows me the horse shed, where his twelve stallions sleep, eat, and shelter from the harsh summer rays.  I’m not a horse-lady by any means, but even I can tell, with my untrained urban sensibilities, that these are horses that are content, flourishing even, and that they are well-loved, even if their owner is, amongst his human contemporaries, a figure of at best amused derision, and at worst complete disgusted ostracisation.

We chat.  He lays it all out in the open for me, with a candour that is refreshingly unselfconscious: I don’t feel like he’s hiding anything from me, or attempting to manipulate his own history, or colour his life’s events any way.  When Old Timbo tells me his unusual tale, it feels like he’s just explaining how he went from where he was then to where he is now, without any motive other than clarity.  It’s easy to listen, and time passes remarkably quickly.  

As I leave Timbo’s squat red-brick farmhouse (cooled only by a few half-opened white-wooden windows and a reluctant meandering breeze), I feel exceedingly strange.  Partly, of course, it’s the strangeness of his story, and the strangeness with which we “normal people” view his current lifestyle, but it’s also that I know, as I jump into my car and begin the long journey home, that I’ll likely never see this man again: a journalist and her subject are only ever brought together for that one story, and, now that that one story is recorded, it’s all over.  We’re back to being strangers, and I’m somehow already nostalgic for the brief time when we weren’t.  He seems like a better person, deep down, than most of us ever dare to be.

The drive is long, and there are so many thoughts and feelings stumbling over themselves inside my head as I drive.  When I get home, I feel like I’ve been away for a month or more, rather than the single day it’s really been.  And even now, although it’s been weeks since I spoke to the grizzled twinkly-eyed old man on his country estate, every time I sit down for a meal, I get a flash of his kind, weathered face, and I have to push the image away before I can eat.

Like I said: exceedingly strange.

Here’s the unedited transcript of my interview with Tim “Timbo” King.

*****

TIMBO: So, what’s that, a little tape recorder?

ME: That? No, that’s just my phone.

TIMBO: [chuckles]  Nifty little gadgets, eh?   My eldest gave me one of those a couple of years ago, tried to teach me how to use it, never quite got the hang of the bloomin’ thing.  Not much need for it at my age, you follow? I just use the, what do they call it these days? The “land line”.  I just call it the “telephone”, ha.  Not that… well, not that anyone calls Old Timbo on the phone much these days.  Lucky Old Timbo likes his own company, ha!

ME: So you live here alone?

TIMBO: Oh yes.  Oh yes.  Very much so, I’m afraid.  Wasn’t always the way, but… well, life goes on, you know how things go.

ME: You don’t need-

TIMBO: Course, I’m not really alone, am I!  Old Timbo’s got plenty of company, out there in the paddocks.   Darn sight better conversations with those old fellas than with most folk, present company excluded.  [chuckles] Old Timbo says to me horsey mates “is there any trouble and strife for Old Timbo today fellas?” and the old fellas out there in the paddock, they say to me, “nay!” [chuckles]  Sorry, I did cut you off there, terribly impolite of me.  Forgive an old fella, won’t you?

ME: Forgiven.  No, no, I was just saying, you don’t feel the need for company? Human company?

TIMBO: Well, truth be told, now and then of course Old Timbo will pine for maybe a spot of whist or a couple of hands of euchre… but, no, no, on the whole, humans are a bit complicated.  Bit complicated and… well, not saying they’re hypocritical, but most folk are too scared of appearing a certain way, you follow?  Most folk are frightened of standing out.  Most folk are scared of doing what they really believe, in their heart of hearts, out of fear of being frowned upon, looked upon poorly by their peers.  Sticking to your guns… sticking to your guns can drive people away.  [sighs] House wasn’t always empty.

ME: So, when you stick to your guns… what are Tim King’s guns?  What drives-

TIMBO: Please, call me Timbo.  That’s what everyone used to call me.  And then, once I crossed a certain line in the age department, they called me “Old Timbo”.  That’s what I call meself now, seeing as I’m the only one who talks to me any more – “Old Timbo”.  “Tim King” is a man from long ago, it’s been many moons ago that fella was around, I can assure you.  Just “Old Timbo” now.

ME: So, what drives Old Timbo?

TIMBO: Well… well, I just don’t want to make a mess of it.  Of being alive.  I just want to… I don’t want to bring any more suffering into this tired old cryin’ world.  Everywhere ya look, pain and suffering. I don’t want to add to it.  You mind if I tell you a little story?

ME: No, please!  That’s exactly what I want you to tell me.

TIMBO: You’re a darling.  Well, see, Old Timbo was once a young man – devilishly handsome, quite the raconteur, I don’t mind telling ya – who didn’t give a howling hoot about anyone but himself.  Couldn’t care less, this young man, about anyone or anything but himself.  Took what he wanted, whichever way it came to him, he wasn’t fussed, you follow?  Charming bloke, real flash, but not a nice fella, not in the least.  But had it all.  Lovely wife, bonny children, a nice little house on a nice little acreage… King by name, king by nature!  Had a very profitable little farm chugging away, cows, sheep, the works.  But then one day… I dunno, there was just something nigglin’.  Nigglin’, chewing away, on the back of my mind.  I think it started with the cries… I just don’t know, hard to pinpoint it precisely, but when I think back on it to best of my ability, I think it began with those cries.  The cries of the cows when we took away their children.  Just wee little tackers, they were!  The cries of those mums – and of course the cries of the calves when we took them away.  You know what sadness sounds like.  You know what sufferin’ sounds like.  But you have to get real creative to make it sound like something else.  It’s amazing what the brain can come up with, you follow?  To pretend it’s not real sufferin’.  But that niggle, well, it just got bigger, and all those clever tricks I’d been usin’ to turn that cryin’ into something else, well, they all stopped working, didn’t they.  I just couldn’t do it any more.

ME: Is that when you started to-

TIMBO: Hold your horses, darl, I’m getting there.  Old Timbo sometimes takes the scenic route, you follow?

ME: Sorry, sorry.  Please.  Carry on.

TIMBO: No, no, you’re all right love, you’re all good.   Just workin’ my way there.  I don’t talk to people much these days.  Humans, I mean.  Human people.  Forgive me, love. 

ME: Its fine, really, it’s fine.

TIMBO: And so yeah, the King was on his throne.  The King was still on his throne in his Kingdom, but he wasn’t a happy chappie any more.  I ignored it, of course, as well as I could – heaven forbid! – of course I did, I hid those voices away, and acted like nothin’ was happening.  But it was.  I was changing, inside.  And, like a dam under a hundred-weight of water, well, even the strongest walls fall under enough pressure, don’t they.  And I had what they call nowadays a “breakdown” – although it was never called anything in my day.  [sighs, arms raised in a resigned-type of shrug]  We just shut up and kept on going, didn’t we, my lot.  But inside, I tell you no lies, I was dying inside.  You know what got to me the hardest?  It was just so, well, it just seemed so ruddy unfair.  That’s what it was.  Just ruddy unfair.  Just out of bad luck, nothing else, just blind dumb luck, these little unlucky blighters were going to be ruddy tormented – real torment, mind you, just as real as yours or mine – these little poor bastards scuse my French, they were going to be mistreated and slaughtered, all because of me. Yours truly.  Hundreds, thousands, countless numbers of poor ruddy souls, they were given Hell, all under my watch.  Couldn’t take it any more, I couldn’t.  And I shut the whole Kingdom down.   Just like that.  Closed for business.  And my we had rows we did, massive blues we had, the missus and me, and the kids, they got on board too, thought their old man had gone round the bend!  But truth be told, I had actually finally seen reality, like the old man behind the Wizard of Oz, you know the picture, with the munchkins and the flying monkeys?  It was like I was seeing behind the curtain, you follow?  And everything I’d believed in was a lie, and now I had a chance to fix it, and I don’t know, for some reason I just couldn’t ignore it any more.  It was the unfairness, love. 

ME: So you became a vegan first, is that right?

TIMBO: No, no, not straight away.  And I haven’t been a ruddy vegan for many moons now, I can tell you.  Not since I heard that thing on the radio about the plants talking to each other.  No, not for many years.

ME: But-

TIMBO: No, this is what happened.  First of all, I just broke down entirely, completely, didn’t know what to do, or where to turn, or how to make it right.  Complete and utter collapse on all fronts, you follow?  I think that’s an important part to write down, because it’s easy to tell the tale of “Timbo the farmer comes good” or what have you, but it’s important to know just how low I got first.  Weeks of this, like the floodgates were opened in my heart, opened up wide, and ruddy if I didn’t almost get swept out to sea myself when those rivers of grief started flowing.  I don’t mind telling ya, Old Timbo was a complete mess.  So there was that stage.  But then I thought to meself, I thought, well, I’ll make a rule, and that’s when I invented the idea of being a Wrestlerian.  [name clarified in written communications with Mr King post-interview] Because at that stage I still didn’t honestly know what I was going to do, so I was open to try anything, anything that I thought would help make it all right.  The idea of being a Wrestlerian was a simple one: the rule was, you can eat anything that you can defeat in a fair fight.

ME: What’s a “fair fight”?

TIMBO: Well, I guess I was trying to make it “natural” or something, wasn’t I.  So the basic premise was, in “nature” creatures eat creatures all the time, but they don’t round them up with fences or use guns or trucks or cattle-prods or artificial insemination, do they.  No bloody way, they just use what the good Lord gave ‘em, and just try to survive.  “If you can beat ‘em, you can eat ‘em.”   That was actually going to be the motto of the movement – I had visions of it becoming a movement, back then, and any good movement needs a few good mottos, right?  Hahaha – Old Timbo was always thinking big, love. “If you can beat ‘em, you can eat ‘em.”

ME: “If you can beat ‘em, you can eat ‘em.”  So we’re talking poultry, lambs, rabbits, things like that?

TIMBO: Ever tried to catch a rabbit with your bare hands love?  No rabbits on the Wrestlerian menu, I can tell you that much for free!  Flighty little beggars, fast!  My word, they go like the clappers.   But you’re on the right track love.  Trying to make it more natural, fit into the natural order of things.  Cows, well, they’re obviously out.  Sheep?  If you can catch ‘em, it depended on the sheep.  Just beast versus beast, you follow? Old Timbo the organism, brute animal force versus brute animal force – or cunning, speed, whatever qualities the particular beast was blessed with, in each specific case.  I’d get naked and race at ‘em, and pin the bastards down scuse my French and go for the jugular, or try to break ‘em on a rock or what have you.  I can tell ya now, it’s a ruddy hard-earned dinner when you’re a Wrestlerian.

ME: How long did that last for?

TIMBO: I can’t give you the specifics with any great deal of accuracy love, I’m sorry to say.  I know it was around when Joan left me though, so that’d be the late 90s.  Last century!  Ha!  Well, and who can blame her, eh?  They, none of ‘em really understood what was happening to Old Timbo, and fair enough.  Thought I was kooky as a crackerjack, they did.  So did I sometimes, to be fair and honest.  But really, I was just finding a place where it didn’t hurt to be alive, truth be told.  Finding a place where I didn’t hate meself.   So.  I thought the answer was in being “natural”, in being a “proper animal”, but to be completely honest with ya love, I hated every minute of it.  Some of the victories felt good, on a primal or visceral level, you follow, Old Timbo felt like a great warrior!  And not only a great warrior, but like I was doing something good, something right.  But that feeling of triumph was short-lived and always – always – mixed with a feeling of just deep-down badness and sadness and just, I don’t know, just more trauma.  It was unfair still.  I was still causing harm.  And the harm was honestly worse harm than the harm I’d been causing before!  A ruddy bolt through the brain would’ve been a ruddy God-send compared to some of the bastards I wrestled to death, compared to how they ruddy died, I kid you not.  I just gave it up after one particular sheep – thought killing a sheep might last longer in the pantry, a big animal, you follow, more meals in it, which would mean less gory brawls overall – well, this one sheep just wouldn’t die.  We were both covered in blood, just covered, and I was bashing and bashing this poor bastard’s head into a rock, and his ruddy eye popped out and he still wouldn’t die and Old Timbo’s crying and crying and the ruddy old sheep’s crying and crying, and we’re both slick and slippery from the blood and-

ME: [nothing, just looks of shock, I guess.]   

TIMBO: Well, never did it again after that day.  Knew there had to be another way.

ME: …Wow.

TIMBO: And the ruddy thought came to me, “Timbo, you’re still causing harm.”  At the end of the day, I was still causing suffering – and that’s when I realised that it wasn’t about being natural, it wasn’t about how I was doing it, it was about what I was doing.  So that’s when I became vegan.

ME: And that lasted for some years.

TIMBO: Oh yes, oh my word.  Some years indeed, and they were good years too.  In fact, I’d still be doing that now, if it wasn’t for that blasted show I heard on the wireless.  Ruddy scientists – I used to curse them I did, oh you wouldn’t believe the words that came out of Old Timbo’s mouth!  Went and ruined everything.

ME: What was that radio report?

TIMBO: That ruddy plants – plants! – they said that plants have feelings.  The report I heard, it was all about how plants know what is happening to them, they’re conscious.  I mean, that’s what consciousness is, right: knowing what is going on around you.  If you know what’s going on around you, you’re ruddy conscious – never mind how you know, or what you can do about it, you’re ruddy conscious.  And so this show on the radio went on, it said, it said plants know when they’re being eaten and so on, and they actually try to stop it happening.  Scientists went and tested this cress or what have you, and played it the sounds it would make if a caterpillar was eating them – the vibrations or some such because they figured plants work through sensing vibrations, you follow?  Well, this cress or what have you was played the sound of being eaten by a caterpillar, and it straight away sent this mustard oil to its leaves, so it would taste bad.  This ruddy plant was trying to protect itself!  It didn’t like being eaten!  It didn’t like it!

ME: So…

TIMBO: Plants don’t like being eaten!  That was a ruddy bitter pill to swallow, I can tell you that much for free.  So then poor Old Timbo was back to the old drawing board, wasn’t he.  Did a whole lot of research: here, I brought some out, have a listen.

[picks up sheaf of papers, puts on a pair of reading glasses, starts reading – the stumbling over words and/or repetitions have been edited out for ease of understanding]

This is from the New Yorker, fella called Michael Pollan:

“It is only human arrogance, and the fact that the lives of plants unfold in what amounts to a much slower dimension of time, that keep us from appreciating their intelligence and consequent success.”  And “Plants have evolved between fifteen and twenty distinct senses, including analogues of our five: smell and taste (they sense and respond to chemicals in the air or on their bodies); sight (they react differently to various wavelengths of light as well as to shadow); touch (a vine or a root “knows” when it encounters a solid object); and another experiment found that plant roots would seek out a buried pipe through which water was flowing even if the exterior of the pipe was dry, which suggested that plants somehow “hear” the sound of flowing water.”  You follow? 

ME: Yes… yes, I do. But there’s nothing there that suggests they feel pain, is there.  There’s no suffering.

TIMBO: Oh ho!  You’re a bright young lady, aren’t ya!  Clear why you’re in the journalism game.  Point is, love, that they sense things, they do.  They’re just not that different to us – “just very slow animals” one scientist was saying – with all the ruddy senses we’ve got.  And let Old Timbo ask you: what’s the point of senses, eh?  What are senses for?

ME: To… to sense things?

TIMBO: [chuckles heartily at this one] Maybe not so bright after all. [twinkling eyes] No, now now, just pulling your leg love, never mind Old Timbo, just having a lend.  Yes, but what is sensing?  Sensing is knowing, being conscious, you follow?  No point with all that sensing if you’re just throwing all that input away, now, is there?  No, sensing only happens if there’s something… in there.  To be conscious of the sensing.  I’ll read you a little more, love, if that’s permissible:

[shuffles papers, clears throat – again, any repetitions and/or mispronunciations have been edited out, but the words are verbatim]

“Unable to run away, plants deploy a complex molecular vocabulary to signal distress, deter or poison enemies, and recruit animals to perform various services for them.” Hear that?  Distress”.   

And this:

“Since the early nineteen-eighties, it has been known that when a plant’s leaves are infected or chewed by insects they emit volatile chemicals that signal other leaves to mount a defence.” Why would they do that, eh?  Unless it was… unpleasant in some way?  You follow, love?  These things aren’t just random, love, it’s not all for fun and games.  A plant doesn’t try to stop a caterpillar chomping on its leaves for fun, any more than a cow cries for its babies for fun.  It’s not just chemical, is it.  Well, I mean, they say our brains are all just chemical too, don’t they, but it definitely feels like something.

ME: You’re convinced plants suffer.

TIMBO: “Convinced”.  Ha!  I’m convinced you’re here, now, chatting to Old Timbo, getting it all recorded in your little telephone there, sitting in this little house, on one and a quarter thousand acres of prime stud farm.  Neither thing is less true than the other just because I’m “convinced” of it.

ME: So…

TIMBO: Course they suffer!  Pain and pleasure, they’re the building blocks of experience, love.  Course they suffer.  And here was I, munching down on the poor little blighters like nobody’s business!  It ruddy changed everything.  I felt crook, I felt crook to my stomach. 

ME: You’d been trying so hard to cause no harm, and here you were.

TIMBO: Here I was!  Tryin’ to avoid suffering, and still causing so much suffering!  [waves sheaf of papers – it really is quite a thick collection] I can read ya more from the articles, if you’d like, there’s an Aussie girl called Monica Gagliano who’s done amazing research on plant memory and learning-

ME: It’s okay, I’ve probably got enough for the article-

TIMBO: Well, it’s all real, is the point.  [puts down sheaf, peers over reading glasses] There’s so much out there, all by ruddy proper scientists and the like, about how plants feel pain – although a lot of the scientists are scared to use those specific words, you follow, but they use a bunch of other terms which are skirting around the bleedin’ obvious, which is that plants do like some things and don’t like others.  Nature works through pain and pleasure, doesn’t it, they’re like the two basic forces of organic behaviour, aren’t they.

ME: Well, I’m no scientist-

TIMBO: Doesn’t take a ruddy university degree to tell that organisms feel pain, love.  Just takes a little empathy and a bit of imagination.  I’m not saying plants have a sense of humour, or prefer classical music to head banging heavy metal music, love.  I’m just saying that if it quacks like a duck, well, you’d be a ruddy fool not to draw a certain conclusion.

ME: And so that’s when you… shifted to your current lifestyle?

TIMBO: No need to beat around the bush, love.  There’s no shame in it!  “Current lifestyle”, ha!  But yes, yes, that’s when it happened.   I just ruddy blew me top, love, I just ruddy thought “well, if plants are feeling pain, then I can’t ruddy well keep on being a vegan, can I?”  It just didn’t sit right.  So then I did me research, and tried to work out what the bloomin’ heck I was going to do with meself, and pondered, and wondered, and pondered again.  And I thought “well, what about plants that do want to be eaten?”  What about fruits, you follow?  By eating fruits, we can help disperse the seeds and whatnot, it’s in the plant’s best interests, thought Old Timbo.  But then I thought again: well, no, not really, that fleshy energy-packed fruit is for the seeds, really, isn’t it, it’s energy for the seeds, not for some plundering oaf of a human being.  You follow?  Good God how I researched!  My mind got racing, it did, and I thought up ideas pretty much every ruddy way I could.  And there was always that niggle – “but how can you be sure, Old Timbo, how can you be sure you’re bringing pleasure and not pain?”  So in the end, I just went with the obvious.  What I knew caused pleasure, in meself, what I knew caused pleasure undeniably, you follow, rather than just making any more assumptions or bold statements or grand declarations or so on based on wishy washy theories and so forth.   I went with what I knew.  And now, well, now I’m bloody confident.  I’m confident that now, finally, I cause no suffering, and bring about much measurable pleasure.  I’m bloody confident I’ve got it right now.  For the last few years, my diet has caused no pain at all, and much, much pleasure.

ME: And so… for sustenance… you…

TIMBO: Go on, love.  You can say it.  Spit it out, as they say. [chuckles, eyes twinkling]

ME: You… fellate horses.

TIMBO: [chuckles] Well, that’s what it’s called in polite company, isn’t it.  Yes, I subsist on a diet derived primarily from ingesting the semen of our equine friends.  Straight from the old fellas themselves.  There’s no shame in it, love.  No shame at all!  I’ll tell you, there are a ruddy good lot of folks who should be ashamed about the harm their diets cause, but not Old Timbo!  No shame whatsoever!

ME: Do you… enjoy it?

TIMBO: You mean “is Old Timbo a sicko”, don’t you.  Cheeky!  Well, I’m not doing it sexually, you follow?  I’m not doing it for purposes which are for want of a better word “kinky” or “perverted”.  No stirrings in the old loins, I’ll have you know.  It’s just the, what was the phrase I read, the “transference of energy”, isn’t it.  I’m just getting energy to survive another day.  It’s no more strange or unusual than cutting off someone’s reproductive organs and popping them in a vase, just because they look pretty, is it?  [shakes his head, legitimately perplexed]  I mean, it’s just a matter of perspective, isn’t it.  Is it more peculiar to suck the milk from a lady cow’s bosom than drink the semen from a gentleman horse’s member?  I mean, peculiar is just what you’re used to, isn’t it.  It’s just, what’s the phrase, “cultural norms”, isn’t it.  Do I enjoy it?  I enjoy it a ruddy sight more than being sprayed with viscera, red matter, beating a sheep’s head to pulp against a rock.  I enjoy it a ruddy sight more than lining up a bunch of teenagers onto a truck where I know they’re getting a bolt in the head at the end of their terrified journey.  I enjoy it a ruddy sight more than many many things I’ve done in this long life of mine, I can tell you that much.

ME: So… how do you do it?

TIMBO: Well, the normal way.  You’re a modern girl, you know how it’s done I’ll wager. [chuckles] No disrespect intended, of course.  Takes both hands, though – these old fellas aren’t lightly-packed in the trousers department, if you catch my drift, eh? 

ME: So you just… you just…

TIMBO: [eyes twinkle] You can stay for tea and I’ll show you, if you like.  You could even join in, there’s plenty to spare!

ME: Actually, well, it’s probably time I packed up and head back to Melbourne. [full disclosure: I just kind of panicked here.  I was blindly (and completely non-journalistically) terrified of seeing it in the flesh… and even more terrified that he’d somehow persuade me to do it too.  He had that kind of charisma.]

TIMBO: Suit yourself, love.  I can assure you, once you’re used to it, it’s not so bad.  I mean, the first time I did it, it felt a little odd, I won’t say it didn’t.  But now, well, it’s no stranger than milking a cow once was, or pulling an egg from under a chicken used to be.  It’s only me knees that cause me any trouble nowadays.  You sure you won’t stay for tea?  It’s warm, and fresh, and very healthy-

ME: Thanks so much for your time, Mr King.  I mean, Timbo.

TIMBO: Oh, the pleasure has been all mine. [chuckles]  Nothing but pleasure from now on.

[recording ends]