28 April, 2005



sometimes, it's a choice between the razor and the guitar ~ sometimes, it's both at once

Long before Kurt Cobain made gloom into a money-spinner, before Nick Cave made a profession out of dark folk-rock rife with Christian imagery, before Marilyn Manson turned angst into a bad Hallowe'en costume, a lovesick Canadian songwriter named Leonard Cohen sat in a room with a guitar and turned pain into poetry. To describe his playing as accomplished would be overly kind. To describe his singing as melodic would be an outright lie. However his raw vocals, moodily understated guitar and extraordinary lyrics combine to leave the listener entranced and inspired.

His later songs employ extensive backing vocals and accompaniment, but his early work - of which 1971's Songs Of Love And Hate marks the third album - is known for its bare simplicity. While more recent albums find Cohen almost crooning in a relaxed, rumbling baritone, his first handful of works feature an old soul in a young voice: rasping and anguished, backed usually by a solitary acousitc guitar. This sound - often retrospectively described as "death folk" - paves the way for Cohen's sheer emotional intensity to resonate from the unpolished, unembelished original performance.

Indeed, the 8 tracks on the simply and aptly named Songs Of Love And Hate are certainly among Cohen's most heartfelt and devastating recordings. It's important to note too, of the title: this is not a collection of some songs about love, and some about hate. Rather, it is a collection where each song is imbued with the boiling-over of feeling in every direction at once. In Cohen's world - as in the emotional world of all of us, it could be argued - love and hate are not opposites, but merely different and equal expressions of passionate feeling. One cannot exist without the other; if there is an opposite, it is apathy - and no-one could ever accuse Leonard Cohen of being apathetic.

Opening with the embittered snarl of "Avalanche", the album pulls no punches. No topic is too dark or sacred for Cohen's poetry. Despair, elation, infidelity, and obsession are all on the menu. The exquisite "Famous Blue Raincoat" is perhaps Cohen's most elegantly crafted song, a restrained musical letter to an old friend who betrayed him by seducing his lover. However in several moments he breaks out of his usual subdued, melancholic sound, such as in the rowdy "Diamonds In The Mine" where he erupts in an almost comically manic torrent of musical nihilism. The album's imagery is overflowing with Cohen's usual melange of rusty-razor tangibility, holy-ghost religious fanaticism, and throbbing-flesh sensuality. The album closes with all three tightly bound, in Cohen's most elaborate anti-paean to one of his favourite recurring images: the lust-inspiring virgin warrior "Joan Of Arc".

Leonard Cohen's songs have famously been described as "music to slit your wrists by". This, however is simplistic and infantile. As any blues musician will tell you: the music is not the trauma, the music is the therapy. Cohen's records are depressed, but not depressing. By singing of despair and darkness, he places us in a perspective of hope and light. The emotion in the music - whether it be the most intensely passionate love, or the most bitterly burning fury - is a release, a blessing and a downright joy to listen to.

5 (out of 5)



i look pretty tall, but my heels are high...

Well well well.

It has been a happy/sad week in munkeyland. Plans were afoot to spend a romantic weekend in the country with Mr Ryan Mac, but alas one of his beloved relatives fell seriously ill, so Rye-boy - having his priorities well and truly in the right order - was forced to postpone our getaway, and jet-set off to Queensland to be with his family. So this has been a "substitute" week, not to say i haven't enjoyed every moment of my activities... but I also keep remembering that I miss Ryan like a madman, and can't help wishing I could be there to hug him and be with him during such a difficult time. Ah well ~ I shall have to be content with regular phone contact for now, and prepare to lavish affection upon him when he returns to our sparkling Southern metropolis *gooey-munkey*.

So in lieu of lazing about among the trees, I trundled with Ms Snazzles and Ms Lili to the National Gallery, and took in the Andy Warhol Time Capsules, and Grotesque: The Diabolical and Fantastical in Art exhibitions. Both were very interesting... that Mr Warhol sure was a zany character, and the collection of etchings, drawings and paintings in the Grotesque exhibition is wonderful. Gotta love centuries-old depictions of sexually promiscous witches and tormented saints, not to mention muppet-like demons enjoying some serious anal probing.

On Sunday I joined patermunkey with my Uncle Mr Peter and Aunty Ms Wendy (and yes, J.M.Barrie fans, Peter and Wendy are really their names) for a glorious lunch of roast duck with mudcake and strawberries for dessert. Cousins Nick & Greg called in afterwards, and it was good to catch up with them all again. For my second free meal of the day *moocher munkey*, Oli and I drove further afield, to The Patch, for an evening with Mother Gomati and Mr Mikey, and of course Ms Snazzles and Madame Mu. Everyone's favourite eccentric neurosurgeon Mr Peter also joined us with his wife Ms Pascale and son Mr Felix. We also viewed the original Harry Potter film, which has its moments (can anyone say "Oliver Wood"?), but I must say is wearing extremely thin after so many repeated viewings. Certainly no comparison to Alfonso Cuaron's masterful rendering of the third book.

On Monday, mindlessmunkey shocked even himself by attending an Anzac Day football barbecue. But never fear lovers and dreamers, as it eventuated not a second of football was watched at the event. Hurrah! I met with Mr Daniel J for a beer in St Kilda, where he lovingly showed me photos of his new pet snake Trouza (yes Dan's sense of humour resides chiefly below his belt). We then picked up Dan's new beau Mr Lee W (and what an extremely handsome couple they make!) and scuttled off to his friend Ms Lex's house, where we enjoyed the wonderful company of Ms Lex (obviously), her sister Ms Grace, their cousin Ms Leanne, Ms D2... and many others too numerous to name. It was an afternoon / evening of beer, hilarity and pyromania, as Ms Lex and Mr Dan J both displayed their fire-twirling skills, Lex proving the more skillful of the two, since Dan managed to smack himself in the nuts (but fortunately not set them on fire). Oh and the result of the football left me torn and tormented, as my beloved Ms Andrea and Mr Josh are both avid Bombers supporters, while my beloved Mr Ryan Mac is a one-eyed Pies supporter. What's a munkey to do?

Well, that's about all I've got for this installment, dear readers. Stay tuned!



22 April, 2005


~ dream diary ~

I am driving in a city. Everywhere there are huge billboards advertising Star Wars Ep III: The Revenge Of The Sith. I am disgusted. As I pass one such billboard, with Hayden Christensen looking particularly pretty and effeminate, I scream bitterly to anyone within earshot, "Revenge Of The Sith?! More like: Return Of The SHIT!!!" I drive further. I am going to meet Snazzles. I listen to the radio about the War. America has declared all-out War on the entire Middle-East, on all of Islam. Cities throught America will be under retaliatory attack within hours.

I arrive at my destination. It is a little strange that the car-park is used as a Vet's surgery, but I like the clean, antiseptic smell. I meet Snazzles. We discuss the War. A TV is on. New York City is being carpet-bombed. All of America's allies are under attack, including Australia. There is a special episode of Oprah on, discussing the War, being broadcast from an underground studio. You can hear the explosions and the city of Chicago collapsing above Oprah's studio. This is what it feels like to be in a War. Not just watching it on a screen, happening somewhere far beyond reach. This is real. Myself, my friends and my family are all in direct, immediate danger. How in the Hell is this going to end, now that it has been started? I ask Snazzles. Bush is going to nuke all of the Middle East: Jews and Muslims, terrorists and pacifists. And once this War becomes nuclear, there will be no turning back. I am almost in tears. "I'm really fucking scared," I say to Snazzles.

My father is here. My boss, and family friend, Mr Warren is here. Other people from my work are here. Snazzles is gone. We are in a small office building, surrounded by fields containing numerous electricity terminal stations. I can hear explosions. "It's thunder," says patermunkey. But it's not. Electricity stations are infrastructure targets in any War. I can see planes in the distance, and bombs falling from their bellies. The furthest of the terminals disappear in belching flames and smoke. The ground rumbles. More planes swoop by, and the terminals in the middle distance explode. This is like waiting on the beach, watching the approach of a wave that will sweep you away.

Mr Warren is jovial. "Leanne will be shitting herself now," he jokes about his wife, who is at home, and knows that we are here. He is confident that only the terminals will be bombed, while the civilian building we are in will be safe. I am not so sure. The last remaining electricity terminal is only about 100 metres from the wall of windows through which we are watching. The planes swoop overhead. The bomb comes tumbling from their underside, like a giant, spiralling Nurofen capsule, falling in a straight line down towards the irregular metal structures of the terminal, just a stone's throw from where we stand.

"Get down!" shouts patermunkey. I am a step ahead of him. I am moving in real time, while the rest of the world lurches into ultra-slow-motion, like a Radiohead film clip. I am as far from the window as possible, in the foetal position, face down on the floor. I hear the bomb hit and explode. I feel the glass shatter and fly around me. The noise is incredible, and my eyes are closed. I do not know if the building will hold up. I do not know if there will be more bombs - a direct hit on this building. The noise continues, and I consciously relax my entire body, breathing deeply and gently. This might very well be the moment of my death, and there is nothing I can do about it. No use despairing or panicking, it is beyond my control - if this is the last feeling I will ever know, I want to know it with peaceful calm.

The noise dies away. I am still here. Covered in dust and smoke and shattered glass, but alive. Patermunkey is alive. My sister Cait is running around, scared but okay. My brother is dead. We lost him. My mother isn't here, but she's somewhere, and she's safe. I know this. The planes have left, for now. But the War will go on. Our stupid, short-sighted, conservative governments have condemned us to this fate. The corpse of my only brother lies somewhere among the ash and destruction. This meaningless hatred will claim us all, sooner or later.



19 April, 2005

la-la-la, oh my poor rheumatic back ~ yes-yes-yes, it’s my autumn almanac

Stephen Fry hates Tuesdays, and I'm generally inclined to agree with him. It's still very early on this particular Tuesday, but so far it's offered me nothing to complain about, and I'm hoping it stays that way.

Last working-week was fairly uneventful - apart from the now-regular West Wing fiesta on Tuesday night with Ms Snazzles, Madame Mu, Ms Lili and Ms Em. This week, the festivities began early, so we could watch some of Ms Snazzles's handiwork on Neighbours, as Serena got a long-deserved slappin *soapie-munkey*.

The other big occasion of the week was Thursday night, when Mr Ryan Mac arrived upon my doorstep with a bunch of roses for me and bags full of food, and proceded to cook me a marvellous dinner. It was the loveliest thing... and to think, he was the one who had just endured a very traumatic week, and here was me getting pampered! I felt extremely spoiled and lucky. *mushy munkey*

We then watched Koyaanisqatsi which I really enjoyed. One of my favourite films is Baraka and this is certainly a fore-runner to that ~ in fact I wouldn't be surprised if certain sequences in Baraka are directly inspired by Koyaanisqatsi because some of the images are almost identical. At any rate, both movies are worth checking out if you're intrigued by the idea of non-plot, non-character, non-dialogue, image-based cinema.

On Friday night, it was high time to celebrate Mistress Corredina's bold excursion into non-retail life. Hurrah! So I downed a couple of bourbons to get myself primed for the occasion and trundled up to Swan St, where I caught a Taxi to the delightfully glamorous Polly bar. The usual gang assembled there, along with other friends of Corrie's, and her EX-workmates who I'm sure are somewhat envious of her new lifestyle. Although having said that the poor girl has been working absurdly hard, not just at her wonderful new job with Aesop, but also at her studies to become an official teacher of English as a second language. Munkey had decided it was a grand opportunity to get riotously drunk (it's been almost two weeks since the last time, after all!) and enjoyed many a James Boag and gin & tonic *lightly-pickled munkey*, before clambering into another taxi home and tumbling into bed.

I slept until 1pm on Saturday, which is slothful even by my lazy standards, but dragged myself out of bed only a little hungover and made the odyssey to Endeavour Hills to help patermunkey set up his new computer. It all came together without too many problems, and before the day was out, I had everything linked and installed, and we even set up a cute polar-bear desktop & horse slideshow screensaver to please Ms Cait. Then it was time to settle into yet another evening of drinking (anyone else detecting a pattern here?), as patermunkey and I settled down with a bottle of bourbon and the DVD of Raiders Of The Lost Ark. Ahh the days when action/adventure movies still had a sense of humour.

Melbourne turned on a truly perfect Autumn day on Sunday, reminding me why it is my favourite season of the year ~ and no, it's NOT just because my birthday is in Autumn. Patermunkey had decided to take advantage of the fine conditions by visiting Melbourne's Botanic Gardens, so Mr Ryan and myself decided to tag along with my Dad, sister Cait and puppi Nimbus, as well as Ms Sheila and Mr Ian. We all crammed into the Silver Beast and after struggling to find a park (it seemed half of Melbourne had the same idea as us that afternoon) enjoyed a lovely stroll in the beautiful surrounds. First Ms Cait led us on a tramp through the new Children's Garden, which is great (thanks in large part to Mr Plantman Jez, I have no doubt). After a traipse through the fern gully (i know i'm not supposed to, but I miss the bats!), an amble along the lake (eels are so fucking abject and disgusting) and a highly overpriced snack at the café, we piled back into our vehicle and patermunkey dropped us back at the munkey-pad before heading home.

That night Ryan and I rather pathetically scraped together some coins (yes, literally, coins!) to buy ourselves some dinner, and watched the incredibly classy Jodi Foster in an incredibly bad-quality VHS copy of Contact. Hurrah for the age of DVD, says munkey. Still it's a great movie even when viewed with sub-standard technology. Mr Ryan and I stayed up late chatting about everything from Buffy to second-degree-burns to Lord Somers, before we said farewell. It was well beyond the witching hour, and I was dreading the unhealthy lack of hours I had to sleep before my cursed alarm would go off... but I crawled beneath the covers and switched off the lamp with a smile upon my face. Nestled in the warm darkness, I must confess I felt somewhat happier with the world than I have for a long time.

Join us for the late news with Sandra Sully, followed by all the action of Sports Tonight, and I'll see you again for our regular bulletin... at a random time of my choosing! Adieu.
p.s. Don't forget to check out my new website, which is currently about half-completed. Just follow the link at the top of this page.



12 April, 2005

meetings and gatherings, sharings and partings

Greetings and salutations. Well it has been a while since i posted anything newsy. Let us cast our minds back to the beginning of the month...

On the evening of April 1st, I was again graced with the wonderful presence of Mr Ryan Mac. We ate pizza and drank wine and sat in the candle-light watching The Return Of The King, side-by-side on my cozy little couch... and well I'm sure we can all imagine what happened next *ahem*. Needless to say it was a most pleasant evening, and after bidding Mr Ryan adieu in the wee small hours, I snuggled into bed feeling very warm and fuzzy. *trying-to-keep-head-on-shoulders munkey*

On Saturday night, a few of my nearest and dearest attended Chez Munkey for a very small bash. Ms Snazzles was there of course - quite bleary-eyed after spending the previous night partying-down with the stars of Ramsay Street. Also in attendance were Madame Mu, Ms Lili and Mistress Corrie, Ms Em & Mr Jez (aka PlantMan ...shhhh), Ms Andrea, Mr Chris (and later his beau Mr Hao) and a rather nervous Mr Ryan Mac. Yes I suppose we are a slightly overwhelming bunch at first glance, but as Ryan found, a very warm-hearted and lovely bunch once you get to know us. The festivities continued long into the night... including a time just after midnight when the music got pumped up VERY loud for a dance-off~ I'm sure my neighbours - who live just on the other side of the walls in four directions - were quite thrilled with me. Ah well, payback for them watching BBC World on top volume at all hours of the night, and loudly hawking up phlegm early every morning. Much alcohol of many kinds was imbibed, and many personages of the gummi-variety met untimely and unpleasant ends. After everyone else had trundled off home to bed, we got to spend some Munkey/Ryan-time once again , and by the time the poor hungover lad headed home on early Sunday afternoon, it was fair to admit that mindlessmunkey was something of a smittenkitten.

It was a very quiet, by-the-numbers kind of week. *work-eat-sleep munkey* At some point i had a lovely lunch with Dr Goo at the Axxess café - which is local to both our places of business... I forget when exactly that was *goldfish-memory munkey*. I also helped patermunkey buy a brand swanking new Dell online, as he has finally given up on trying to salvage our old shit-box of a computer.

On Friday it was Ms Lili's birthday! Happy Birthday, darling Lilikens. The usual gang, plus Ms Anne, Ms Anna-Grace and Ms Lili's (very hot) cousin Mr Casey, all converged on Iku Yakitori in Brunswick. There we had our own private room, where we seated ourselves on the floor, drank Japanese beer and sake, and enjoyed a banquet of approximately 4 courses (from memory)... which added up to a whole lot of food.

On Saturday I met with Mr Claudio, whom I have not seen in an absurdly long time. He came to visit my new dwelling, and spying my guitar, insisted on my playing a bit of munkey-music, in response to which he embarrased me profusely with praise and encouragement. I should be glad i suppose, but I'm very bad at taking compliments. Still, it was very nice to get the positive feedback - and from a former student of the Melbourne Conservatorium of Music, no less! *really-ought-to-form-a-band-one-of-these-days munkey*

A gathering at the Clifton Hill residence ensued that evening, to enjoy one of Lili's birthday presents: The West Wing on DVD. Having never caught more than a few minutes of this show on TV, it was great to be able to see it from the very beginning. And what a great series it is... snappy dialogue, in-depth characters, no dumbing-down... by golly, it just almost makes American politics inspiring! And of course, it is a liberal-lefty's wet dream. "Bartlet for president in the real world!" say munkey-and-friends.

Sunday morning saw a visit from Mother Gomes and Mr Mike - ostensibly out of interest in my new abode, but really I suspect a thinly-veiled excuse to nab my leftover boxes for their own packing. hehe. At any rate it was lovely to see them, and to show off my flat, as we will all be without their company for a whole year, come early May. *sniff, sob*

Now just a few shout-outs via the WWW. International greetings to Mr Eduardo and Mr Lee, who are adventuring in Spain and London, respectively. Meanwhile, a huge congratulatory hug goes out to Mistress Corredina on finally hitching a ride out of retail for ever! Also to Mr Ryan Mac for scoring a shot at his dream-job... here's hoping it goes all the way, and I have no doubt it will. Also for Ryan, big warm cuddles of condolence on the passing of his beloved Great-Grandfather. Even when someone you love has been gradually leaving for a very long time, it's no preparation for the moment when they are suddenly, irreversibly, gone. *hugs and kisses*
Be well, lovers and dreamers. Take solace in the offering of shelter. Seek protection by the giving of comfort. Find safety through the sharing of love. xo


Another pic of Mr Ryan Mac, for all the kurious kats.


04 April, 2005

munkey's eye view: DOGMA #2 ~ THE IDIOTS

a bunch of idiots ~ a lot to think about

Few filmmakers divide audiences and critics as diametrically as Danish rabble-rouser Lars Von Trier. His detractors point to his arrogance, his at least exaggerated - if not completely invented - phobias, the artificially inserted "Von" in his name, and his generally smug demeanour, to write him off as a misanthropic, misogynistic hack, taking his personal cynicism out on the cinematic world. Others simply find his determined contradiction of basic film conventions irritating and artless. On the other hand his films are widely regarded as emotionally draining masterpieces - the lack of crafted narratives and disregard for technical polish allowing the raw impact of the characters and their situations to reach the audience with unhindered intensity.

In 1995, Von Trier, along with Thomas Vinterberg and a collection of other rebellious Scandinavian filmmakers, created the Dogme Manifesto: a series of Laws designed to break through cinema's reliance on effects, action and artistic slickness, and tear the art-form down to its roots. Among the laws: no tripods, no sets, no additional lighting or sound, no narrative contrivances such as shootings or explosions, no re-takes to correct technical errors... the focus was to be on the characters and the performances. The first film created under the Manifesto was Vinterberg's Festen. Von Trier had just made the much-lauded Breaking The Waves, creating an international name for himself as a high-octane wunderkind tackling gritty plots and wringing extraordinary performances from his cast. With the international-cinema world eagerly awaiting his next work, he could easily have churned out a glossy, earnest, likeable film and become an art-house darling. Instead, he created Idioterne - "The Idiots".

Set to offend almost everyone on some level, The Idiots revolves around a group who live in an abandoned house in the suburbs of Copenhagen, and go on regular pubilc outings pretending to be mentally handicapped. Complete with a mini-bus and pretend carer, they visit parks, go to cafés, and even take specially organised tours of local industry, all the while very convincingly pretending to be retarded. However the point of the characters' activities, or indeed the film, is never to mock the mentally disabled. Rather, their shenanigans draw attention to the patronising, dismissive way in which mainstream society so often treats handicapped people.

The characters’ exact reasons for their behaviour are somewhat blurred. For some, it seems to be an escape to a hidden world: to find one's "inner idiot" and exist - even just for a short time - as an incapable and thus carefree individual. For others, as the film gradually reveals, it may just be a mask for their true mental problems which - while not rendering them disabled - may be preventing them from living "normal" lives.

The film also deals with the sex-lives of these characters blatantly, even explicitly – this was one of the first general-release films to depict actual sexual penetration and erect penises. At one point, Stoffer - one of the pretend-retards - is taken by his female “carer” into the ladies’ change-room at the local pool, and becomes aroused at the sight of the naked women. They, in turn simply smile at this harmless man – not concerned by him, because they believe he is an “invalid”. This is somewhat confronting not just because of the graphicness, but because it forces the viewer to consider that mentally disabled people are sexual beings, just like the rest of us. Stoffer’s mental disability is a pretence, masking the very real sexuality of a very capable man. However, the undeniable sexuality of genuinely retarded people is also masked every day, a wilful ignorance by “normal” people who find such topics uncomfortable territory.

Adhering to the Dogma ideal, the film is very rough around the edges: the camera-work is amateurish, the sound imperfect. On several occasions, the boom mike or even the secondary cameraman are visible in-shot. However, as the Manifesto dictates, the power of the film is in its extraordinary actors. The entire cast deliver amazingly realistic performances – both while behaving “normally” and when pretending to be handicapped. Special mention must go to Nikolaj Lie Kaas who is nothing short of devastating as Jeppe, particularly when Jeppe’s retard-persona becomes a vehicle for expressing his real, overwhelming emotions.

If you enjoy cinema which not only pushes at the boundaries, but kicks through them drooling, screaming and bleeding, The Idiots is for you. Don’t be fooled by the home-movie aesthetic or the seemingly-peurile humour of the subject matter. This is cinema at it’s most profound: laugh-out-loud funny and punch-you-in-the-guts moving. Lars Von Trier may be an ass, but his cinema certainly has important things to say, and will leave you thinking about its messages long after the credits fade to black.

(out of 5)

Jeppe and Josephine use the fumbling uncertainty of false disability, to express the intense uncertainty of true feeling.



01 April, 2005

words of wisdom

Albert Einstein was a very clever man. That's not news to anyone. But his real genius was not in physics or mathematics... it was in his ability to see beyond existing knowledge and develop new ideas. Here are some of his more famous quotes, for your perusal and pondering...


"Imagination is more important than knowledge. For knowledge is limited to all we now know and understand, while imagination embraces the entire world, and all there ever will be to know and understand."

"Reality is merely an illusion, although a very persistent one."

"There are two ways to live: you can live as if nothing is a miracle; you can live as if everything is a miracle."

"The only reason for time is so that everything doesn't happen at once."

"It's not that I'm so smart , it's just that I stay with problems longer."

"Anyone who has never made a mistake has never tried anything new."

"Intellectuals solve problems, geniuses prevent them."

"I don't know, I don't care, and it doesn't make any difference!"

"Learn from yesterday, live for today, hope for tomorrow. The important thing is not to stop questioning."

and munkey’s personal favourite:

"Gravitation cannot be held responsible for people falling in love."