Monday, October 28, 2013

The Greatest Soul Ever Prostituted.

I just watched and enjoyed Morgan Spurlock’s “The Greatest Movie Ever Sold” about advertising and product placement in the movies. Such product placement has always spoiled movies for me: when there’s a Coke machine or MacDonalds in shot, I no longer suspend my disbelief in the story and just see it as so much contrived hogwash.

My whole life I’ve been annoyed by the ubiquitous wall to wall commercials in city living: on buses, revolving billboards, football fields, dim-wits' T-shirts, on every damned step one walks up, every fucking where, nowhere is sacred. They don’t call them brand-names for nothing, logos get branded upon one’s fore-brain as if by a branding iron by the sheer number, tenacity and cleverness of their application. I feel like I’m violated, physically and spiritually, drinking in corporate crap when moving across the city, when turning on any piece of technology, even when dressing, eating and shitting. I’m the same as the protagonist in William Gibson’s novel, “Pattern Recognition”, who feels intense nausea at the sight of any brand-name, so averse to designer logos she cuts them off her clothes, turns away at the sight of a Starbucks, and is creeped out by any product signifier such as a toy Michelin man.

You might have noticed that there is no advertising on my Blog though Google has been offering it to me for years; poor and starving as I am, I just can’t bring myself to sell my soul and sully my site with commercial crap around the edges. I’ve discovered there are other Internet sites hosting my Blog or with my tales on their list of favorite Blogs and they have shit-head advertising cluttering their pages, making a living from my hard work, but what can I do about it? I don’t like it at all, it seems out of my power, and at least they provide a link to more readers all around the world, I guess I’ve got to be thankful for the promotion. Still, believe me, they do it without my permission, and I hate product placement, to me it’s prostituting my soul.

For instance, the latest movie that was ruined for me by the egregious brain-fuck of product placement was “Rush”, the racing car shlockbuster directed by Ron Howard. Okay, back in the ‘70s, racing cars had sponsors who had their logos plastered all over the cars and overalls, (and still do), and Niki Lauda, or was it James Hunt, really did have Marlboro radiating like a giant eyesore from his tail-fin. But every scene of "Rush" had someone puffing up on the noxious cancer sticks, pitstop crew, racing-fans and, most particularly, the star, Chris Hemsworth, who never had a fag out of his gob. At one point, while making a speech on receiving some award, he reached down to an audience member’s table and snatched up their cigarette and exclaimed, “I need that more than you!”

What a shameless whore! Millions of sufferers and cancer deaths for millions of dollars, what a father-fucking business! As cigarette advertising is banned from all public space and most media, movies are the last frontier left to showcase the poisonous products. There are innumerable movies with many so-called respected actors lighting up, all for filthy lucre, it’s fucking sick; why don’t they go the whole hog and also advertise crack with a sexy siren puffing on a crack-pipe? Marlboro must’ve approached Ron Howard with “a great idea for a movie”, one that perfectly represents the ideal of “the Marlboro man”, tough, brave, dangerous, masculine: racing car drivers with fag logos all over them.

There's hardly a movie that doesn't have someone or everyone smoking cigs, going back 100 years, and believe me, I watch a zillion movies and look out for it and I'm down to only a couple of costume dramas wherein tobacco wasn't fashionable yet. Even in many of those some old yob lights up a pipe. It's as if the tobacco companies also own the movie companies, or vice versa.  And most actors are probably offered extra dosh, and plenty of plum roles in future projects, if they light up, with the excuse that it will fit the time-period of the movie. But it's fucking ubiquitous bullshit!

Audrey Hepburn and everybody else smokes continuously in "Breakfast at Tiffany's" but as she ordinarily smoked three packs a day and died of appendix cancer I suppose it explicable, making smoking as chic as the little black dress. The noble Angelina Jollie smokes in "SALT". The astronauts smoke inside the spaceship in "Aliens". In "Monument Men" George Clooney bribes a German prisoner of war into betraying his country for a packet of Chesterfields, all the while Cate Blanchett is making rollies and picking tobacco off her lips as a piece of show-biz shtick. Set in World War 2, in "Their Finest" everybody walks around smoking non-stop, to relieve their tensions, even the lead actress whose character could easily have been the one healthy girl who didn't smoke. In "A Cure for Wellness" the Dane  character has been chewing Nicorettes much of the time hoping to give up cigarettes. When incarcerated in a sanatorium and chased by the thug male nurses, he steals a packet of fags, hides in a store-room and thankfully drags down on a cig, in great satisfaction and relief of tension. 

These are just a few examples, it's just about in every dam movie, they don't need billboards, television ads, fancy packaging, for the glamour of movies suck us in nicely. I am going on about this like a cat with its balls cut off because I am forever trying to give up tobacco, I've tried 21 times and right now I'm back to smoking my own rollies, around 10 a day. And when I succeed in abstaining for 6 months I to the movies and get drawn into the sight of movie stars posing with a cigarette, their pleasure and style entrances me, and the next time I'm tense I light up. This is killing me, as well as millions of others!

I just witnessed the height of absurdity for tobacco product-placement in the movie "Ghost in the Shell": in a high tech laboratory of robotics and cybernetics, that should have been a dust-free environment, the lead scientist is standing over her gear with a giant cigarette blowing ash into all the fine machinery. And then she turns out to be a robot herself, so what's a robot doing smoking a fag? None of the other actors smoked, hopefully they refused, so this one woman must've been the only one willing and she ran with it for the extra money proffered. Of course my gripe got over-wrought in this movie as it depicts a near future where hologram-advertising hovers bewitchingly in every square inch of space from shop and sky-scraper facades to the thin air above the  buildings, like a nightmare hallucination.

Repeat, I hate advertising, the industry sums up all that’s fucked about this contemporary civilization we’re all stuck in, selling rubbish, most of which we don’t need, destroying the environment, with lies and false smiles. I recently read a book, “Confessions of an Economic Hitman” by John Perkins, an economist sent into developing countries to con them into taking on debt they can’t afford. He revealed I’m not the loner flake I fear I could be and vindicates my anti-commercial attitude by factually reporting on the plundering, devastation and murder of much of the world by corporations in the name of profit. All those brand-names representing designer clothes, footwear, petroleum, construction co.s etc built on slavery, starvation, pollution, oppression; he encourages us all to disrespect the elites who own, run and represent it all, not to feel less than.

In “The Greastest Movie Ever Sold” Morgan interviews musicians who bitch on about getting coverage and audience by providing jingles for world-raping products, saying it’s a way to showcase their music to a bigger audience, that there’s no credibility without visibility, but I think they had that glazed look of fame-whores in their eyes, greed and ego-stroking causing them to kid themselves: they want the money, large amounts of it, as if it’s God’s bounty and they worship it. Private jets, limousines, designer rags, mansions, bling, pussy and cock on tap, good food to eat and eat and eat till they bloat up and explode. What the fuck! Most people, working hard, are confused, ignorant of the truths behind the products, lost in the downpour of consumer carrots dangled in their faces, they follow the mesmerizing twinkle of advertisements lighting up the fog, for they know in their hearts there is no moralizing god or afterlife in heaven, this life has to be squeezed of its juices as much as possible, even if it is only reconstituted, too bad for the rest of the planet.

I created “Toby Zoates” in 1978 as an anti-brand name, ripped off from a famous breakfast foodstuff here in Auz; I can't help but subvertize the cheesy sacred cow of the commercial world with satire and derision. It’s been the main theme of my art all these years and I’ve suffered because of it, no jobs, no good living, virtually starving, the govt. sponsored arts and/or corporatization of the arts killing me off. So be it, I’d rather be an ignominious bum than a whore. 

P.S. This rave is not calling for a "revolution" or overthrow of capitalism: given human nature it usually just swaps one tyranny for another. Without advertising I wouldn't get to watch any movies or have a modern society to live in, as Morgan Spurlock himself suggests, sharp satirist that he is, getting product placement to fund the $1.5 million budget of his documentary. History and civilization have brought us here, like a colossal bulldozer pushing us along, there's no turning back, what is, IS. I'm just saying brand-names, burnt into my eyeballs, make me nauseous and I don't want them on my Blog, if I can help it. In our own personal spaces we can resist whatever we don't like, that's my rebellious cry.

If you enjoyed this story please go to the WEB address above and consider buying my book of tales about growing up anarcho-queer, rock and roll punter and mystic adventurer in Australia and India of the 1950s, ‘60s and ‘70s.

Thursday, October 17, 2013


If I had to come up with a style or genre to describe my work I guess I'd call it "Australian Gothic" as there's definitely a twisted, dark horror element underlying my tales of the post-modern human condition. Soon to come will be a series of stories that have at their heart terrible acts from malicious souls: classic, realist Aussie Urban Myths, in the way of "Wake in Fright" or "Wolf Creek". Infamous murderers, perverted sexualities, demonic personalities, fantastic events and, for contrast, those good, kind souls who stand up to and get victimized by the demons. A typical tale would be along the lines of the following, "Northcott Ghetto Homecoming", more nasty real than any confabulated fiction could be.

After spinning around the Himalayan mountain tops for several weeks, visiting exotic fairy tale temples and sacred pagan nature sites, surviving the chaos of labrynthine Indian bazaars and rickety tinpot Chinese airport, I arrived back in Sydney to the usual Northcott madness knowing full well it wasn't going to get to me, I can handle anything. With my saintly neighbor Dolly now dead and buried, her spirit was no longer able to act as the linchpin holding together our basement floor of the flats, the dump was in fact devolving further into dissolution and detritus, when once I had prayed, "Please, don't get any lower."

Cursula, dumb schitzo hoarder to the right of me, had piled up against my apartment wall the broken furniture and bric-a-brac she'd rescued from the dumpster, a pyramid of shit and target for our local pyromaniac, who has already set my flat alight via her heaped up garbage. I laboriously dragged most of it back to our garbage shed, she'll bring it back again but as a lazy dill she will soon give up the struggle and, indefeatable, I will eventually succeed in getting rid of most of it.

Old Sandy, the reformed alcho on the other side of me, has fallen off the wagon again, (actually, this happens weekly, the wagon can't carry her rage), is dead drunk and charging in and out of her flat with much slamming of doors, screaming and cursing the world, kicking at other people she meets and calling them "fucking cunts", who would guess that she's actually a very sweet old lady? Then a mate arrives and tells me the latest horror stories my accursed neighbors perpetrated while I was away. Old Sandy had claimed that, back in the day, she was quite a rebel junkie queen and she asked Cursula to "get on" for her. Cursula was hungry for a hit so with a cut in mind did as she was asked and shot the old bird up. Sandy hadn't tasted heroin in years and quickly overdosed, dropping dead. Cursula called an ambulance who rushed to Northcott and gave Sandy a shot of Narcane.

This snapped the old girl awake and straight, she sat up and yelled, "Gimme the rest of it!" After the Ambos had left Cursula gave the old derro another shot and, finding some of the poison remaining in the needle, gave herself a hit of the leftovers, not caring that it had mixed with Sandy's blood. Later on she moaned to all and sundry about Sandy having Hep C and now she was worried about infecting herself because of her greed. Forget zombies and vampires, or maybe this was the realist version of those celluloid monsters, this kind of shit is the true horror story that makes my flesh crawl, it's way out of my ken as I've never put a needle in my arm and just can't imagine the stupidity of it.

Northcott Housing Ghetto has a 1001 tales of woe like this. It's bemusing to remember that it was originally built in 1960 as a low-income workers' housing paradise. Built possibly on sacred Koori land, where for thousands of years shamanic rituals were enacted, the buildings now crushing down on top of thousands of murdered Indigenous Australians lost under the dirt. Definitely built upon an old convict grave-yard, the bodies dug up and moved to another cemetery when the foundations were laid, but not all the bones found, poltergeists still wail up and haunt us who cling to the place, rocking the boat of our quietude. Old age and disability pensioners found refuge here as did struggling families like dear old Dolly's, and many of them died in the flats, adding  to the ghosts howling up the canyon of brickwork. Then THEY dumped the mentally ill and the drug addicted here for the hospitals were closed down and there was no money for drug rehabilitation hostels. It also provides housing for those recently released from jail, like a giant half-way house, the Crims either straightened out and lived happily ever after or they returned to crime and terrorized us the local residents.The latest wave of Northcott denizens are new immigrants and refugees, Russians, Africans, Afghanis, Iranians, Sri Lankans, the whole edifice a melting pot of ethnicities, drug addictions, illnesses and geriatrics, and I'm on the front line, no security door protecting my place, but what the fuck, I'm a warrior.

Northcott is an island of poverty and madness in a sea of inner-city gentrified wealth and stability, it's like a mirage of an oasis for the disaffected and dispossessed, squatting on zillion dollar property. How long can it last? The sharks are surrounding us, drooling to have the property given over and built up into the rich men's heavens. It's a miracle the place has sailed on regardless, seeming to flounder upon the rocks at times, with countless suicides, murders, massacres, muggings, overdoses and acts of alienated madness. But certain independent politicians like Clover Moore stick up for us and demand that there be a place for the poor in the inner-city. I'm tough enough to surf it, to get on top of it, to be creative in the midst of the turmoil, painting, drawing, writing, observing, living on, not easily done over though there's been attempts at it. To reiterate, after surviving the slums of Melbourne, Delhi, Mumbai and Pyrmont Squats, Sydney, I can handle the Gothic citadel of horrors that is Northcott Housing Ghetto.

I will write further Australian Gothic horror tales, involving Aboriginal and Irish convict ghosts rising up to lament their tortured lives and unjust treatment at the hands of the colonial authorities, the type of ruler still in power here in the hick backwoods continent of Auz. And one of those tales will again be about Northcott, a truth only I dare to tell, called "The Demon Neighbors", about how old Dolly stoically suffered elder abuse at the hands of two vicious, malevolent djiins.

If you enjoyed this story please go to the WEB address above and consider buying my book of tales about growing up anarcho-queer, rock and roll punter and mystic adventurer in Australia and India of the 1950s, ‘60s and ‘70s.

Friday, October 11, 2013

Jungle Dreaming.

In the foothills of the Himalayas, again, I can't help returning, over and over, time as a circle, not an arrow, always called back here, as if I've spent many previous lives enmeshed in the Indian landscape. As a rationalist I find it hard to believe in "reincarnation" but who's to say, in a Universe 14 billion years old, 10 billion years ago souls didn't evolve to transmigrate, or clever scientists in some far-flung galaxy didn't discover the technique of transmigrating consciousness. There are many instances of people recognizing 'other' cultures intimately, I myself have had a fascination for all things Indian since early childhood. Anyway, it's a cool sci-fi idea and kind of consoling. 

(Though born again as a blind man or breaking rocks as a slave is not too appealing. I guess we all just long for something continuing after death, the miracle of being conscious of this stunning universe not easy to give up after a paltry 70 years.)

I went up into the mountains and sat in a cool mountain stream and pondered the exuberant foliage of the jungle hanging down to the water all about me; a silent jungle, somnolent, as if it's dreaming its existence, me plonked down in the middle of it as witness to the amazing wonder of life on this planet. Life that has Scientifically evolved, yeah, but with a mystique none the less.

That night, back in the city of Shangri-la, I sat in a cafe high above the Ganges River, a Shiva moon in the sky, glowering jungle mountains, shimmering temples, city lights reflected in the water rushing away from me, and I read on the Internet that my dear, beloved next door neighbor, Dolly, died in Sydney a week ago and I am bereft. I loved her very much, she was the one reassuring factor at the hellhole that is Northcott Housing Ghetto. When I was depressed she cheered me up, when sick she brought me hot soup, when lonely she let me know that someone cared. If there is such a thing as a 'saint' she was IT, never hurting anyone, suffering much abuse stoically, she brought up her kids, and her grand kids, in her tiny flat, was in fact the queen of Northcott, had cut the ribbon on the opening of what THEY thought was going to be a workers' Utopia back in 1960.

I was in Mumbai at the time of her death but didn't look at my Facebook page, and am glad of it as Shangri-la is a better place to receive such sad news, it's more bearable here, a site redolent of the sad beauty of life and death. It's a place of Moksha, the struggle for freedom from the wheel of rebirth, from desire, pain and loss. There's a mist shrouding the landscape that makes it all feel mysterious, like the veil of Samsara clouding one's view, that one is ever trying to see beyond, to a greater reality, where all is peace, love, compassion, harmony, oneness. She personified all this and now Northcott will ring with the shadow of her presence. 

(This sentiment is in contrast to the harsh reality of the world we struggle in, of greed, jealousy, celebrity, war, profit, competition etc. which I have, in fact, run away from, to this 'other' place. Of course, such ugly reality is writ large here in India, starving millions while a few elite hog all the resources, the corruption of the world exploding in one's face, but as a tourist I'm cut off from the horror here, and try to look past it, like a dreamer, a wanker.)

I nursed my old mentor Compassion here in Shangri-la back in 1974 when I was only twenty-four years old and we threw his body in the river for the sacred fish to eat. The people carry their dead down the streets here on the way to the cremation grounds, for all the world to see, not ashamed of death, death as a natural part of the cycle of life. A few months ago, in the nursing home, Dolly told me, at 93, she was tired of life and wanted to die that night. She asked me how long it would take her to die. I had to be honest and said that as she was a very strong woman it would take about three months, that her family loved her and wouldn't want to see her go so quickly, and I was right, almost to the day, my nursing experience able to suss her prognosis.

And now she's gone, like all the billions before her, back to the interstellar dust, to mingle with the atoms of her beloved husband, who had died 21 years previously and who she had missed terribly. And I carry on, old enough to lose many friends to Entropy by now, the sad beauty of staying alive in the Dreamtime of this world.

Beloved Dolly.

 P.S. A high mass was held for Dolly at the local Catholic Church, celestial organ and soprano singing, a hundred friends and deadbeats from Northcott filing in and out, wishing her well in her quest for Christian eternity, but loving and missing her terribly in this world, for that is the only place we've known her. And I missed the whole ritual, as usual, for I was off eating lotuses in India but I will always carry her in my heart, while I'm alive, and that's where my true self resides. Even India lies there. 

I'm reading Allen Ginsberg's "Indian Journals" which a friend has just given me for my birthday. He was in India in 1962, 10 years before I got there, and he writes a similar tale to mine, only he beat me to it; always I am beaten, the beat generation goes on. Even his mystical dreaming is similar to mine, the souls of us homo sapiens are one. What matters is the story is universal, and can be told over and over, each decade with a different slant or flavor but the same themes, and it's consoling to know that I am not alone in my loss and my search, not for immortality or an afterlife, but full realization of this life.

If you enjoyed this story please go to the WEB address above and consider buying my book of tales about growing up anarcho-queer, rock and roll punter and mystic adventurer in Australia and India of the 1950s, ‘60s and ‘70s.