Monthly Archives: March 2019

David Bowie: A profoundly ironic kind of guy

Posted on 22/03/2019 by

David Bowie unveils a new single ahead of a January release of his 25th album Photo: SuppliedThis article was first published on January 7, 2007

David Bowie as Nikola Tesla is a crafty piece of casting. He barely appears in Christopher Nolan’sThe Prestige, but his elusive character sheds a vast, unifying, enigmatic glow across the film’s tortuous narrative.

Tesla was a unique and divisive figure in the early 1900s. All who embraced modernity would listen to his radio in the light of his AC current, though he was variously considered genius, quack, charlatan and showman. A century later, well, let’s just say that David Bowie has certainly illuminated a few more corners.

Nearing 60 and playing himself, he looks very much the aged oracle in Wim Wenders’ short film,The World’s Greatest Record Stores. His once peerless cheekbones are dimpled anchor points for sagging jowls. His hair is a mousy brown coif where crazy styles and colours have come and gone. A black skivvy abdicates his longstanding fashion-icon credentials.

Bowie’s voice is weathered too, as he makes comments between a series of interviews with owners of specialist record stores from Sao Paulo to Tokyo, Chicago to Brisbane. “Hearing these people talk about their jobs working in record stores is really exhilarating,” he croaks wistfully, like a man watching his youth flash before him in the half-light.

“They’re all talking with the same energy about the same subject: just being knocked out by music that you’ve never heard before. Listening for new things is a real driving force for me, and I know I couldn’t have lived my life without that … Happy listening,” he smiles, like a fading, affectionate uncle.

Bowie’s strange new gig is in the employ of Nokia, whose portable digital media devices are flourishing like weeds where record shops like these are closing daily. Wenders’ film, screened to an invited audience in Melbourne in December, is hence a profoundly ironic advertisement for Nokia’s new online initiative,musicrecommenders杭州龙凤论坛m. But from Ziggy Stardust to Nikola Tesla, David Bowie has always been a profoundly ironic kind of guy.

He’s the appointed “godfather” of Music Recommenders, a site dedicated to expert, independent advice on new music, continually updated by 40 hip music stores around the world – and Bowie. The role fits him like a black skivvy: he’s been a visionary conduit between old and new; obscure and mainstream; difficult and cool sounds and technologies for 51 years.

Well, that long in his dreams. David Robert Jones was nine when his father brought home his first stack of 45s by the Moonglows, Fats Domino, Frankie Lymon and the Teenagers, the Platters, Fats Domino and Little Richard. He told biographer David Buckley he had to play them on a 78 rpm gramophone, spinning them with his finger until they sounded “wonky and wobbly”, but about right to his ear. It was a poetic precedent for his future as a cunning manipulator of found sounds.

His penchant for filtering and processing disparate elements from the fringes of popular culture would define Bowie’s very particular gift to rock’n’roll come the 1970s. Though often derided by genre purists for his opportunistic dilettantism (Mick Jagger once sniffed “he’d steal your shoes if he thought he could use them in his next show”), he dragged into the mainstream a range of influences that commercial forces might never have entertained.

Most commonly cited are Lou Reed’s Velvet Underground and Iggy Pop’s Stooges who, without Bowie’s recommendations, might never have reached the ears of Sonic Youth, the Pixies, REM, Nirvana and countless other architects of ’80s and ’90s youth culture. Less often credited is Bowie’s brazen appropriation of black soul music withYoung Americanscirca ’75, a chart-topping entree for the Bee Gees’ earth-shattering disco crossover.

By that time, he was hearing new music again. The relatively few believers who followed the newly christened Thin White Duke to Berlin were among the first kids to hear NEU!, Kraftwerk and other robotic drones, textures and techniques that would infuse the new romantic, hip-hop and dance music waves of the future.

What was perennially attractive about Bowie was his refusal to make his bed with any of the musical movements he had heard coming. He was the seer, the recommender, the restless agent provocateur, and nobody’s dancing monkey.

Under that kind of pressure, it’s easy to see why he killed himself off with his ingeniously self-referentialScary Monstersalbum at the end of the ’70s, and why, exhausted and underpaid for his efforts, he opted to pander to the lucrative mainstream withLet’s Danceonwards.

Ten years ago, Bowie shrewdly threw his own 50th birthday party at Madison Square Garden. Any interim suggestion that he’d misplaced his currency was roundly refuted by his backing band: Sonic Youth, Foo Fighters, Billy Corgan, Frank Black, Robert Smith … even estranged ’70s comrade Lou Reed turned up to plug in and tug a forelock.

There are no such celebrations planned this weekend. Bowie has kept a low profile since he was hospitalised in Germany in June 2004. We were told it was only a pinched nerve, but a week later he had emergency heart surgery and called an abrupt end to his Reality world tour.

He has posted just seven brief blogs since, and apparently stays close to home on Manhattan’s lower east side, where he’s rarely photographed at the opening of a play or opera with his wife, Iman, or glimpsed at a gig by Arcade Fire, Deerhoof or TV on the Radio.

“I’ve never seen (13-piece avant-garde ensemble) Icebreaker,” he volunteered to Q magazine in November, “but would drive a mile or more to do that thing.”

With convincing portrayals of the elephant man, Pontius Pilate, Andy Warhol and Nikola Tesla behind him, he’s about to appear as two cartoon characters, first in Luc Besson’sArthur et les Minimoys, then alongside Spongebob Squarepants.

In May he’ll curate New York’s inaugural High Line Festival, for which he’ll play his first full concert in three years – though there’s no sign of a new album since he pronounced himself “fed up with the industry” at the end of a fallow ’05. Instead, “I’ve been particularly excited about seeking out emerging artists and giving them a place in the festival,” he says.

And so here he is, a moist-eyed seer in a darkened room, telling Wim Wenders about his undying love for Chicago blues, the fabulous experimental momentum of hip-hop, a wonderful samba version ofZiggy Stardusthe heard recently.

Ultimately though, there’s also the rather deflating disclaimer that, as far as the rest of his “to-listen-to pile” goes, “there’s really not enough time sometimes”.

Cripes, not you too, David? Oh well, many happy returns.

Golden years

1964: Secures first national TV exposure at 17, as founder of the Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Long-Haired Men.1969: WritesSpace Oddityin time to capitalise on Apollo moon landing. Played throughout BBC telecast, it becomes his first hit.1971: Reclines in flaxen hair and a “man’s dress” on the cover of third albumThe Man Who Sold the World. “My sexual life is normal,” he insisted.1972: IncendiaryMelody Makercover story: “I’m gay; always have been.”1972: Unveils ready-made rock star alter-ego Ziggy Stardust, a self-fulfilling prophecy of success.1975: Least comfortable moments in pop, No.1: Bowie cements US conquest singing R’n’B medley with Cher on her top-rating American TV show.1977: Least comfortable moments in pop, No.2: Bowie discusses his son and singsLittle Drummer Boyon Bing Crosby Christmas special (wins sole custody of Zoe soon afterwards).1980s: Duets with Freddie Mercury, Tina Turner, Mick Jagger and Annie Lennox bring him comfortably in sync with “people who bought Phil Collins albums”.1990s: Selective photo-ops and collaborations – Jeff Koons, Damien Hirst, Brett Anderson, Tricky, Placebo – rebuild squandered credibility.1996: Becomes first artist to offer new single exclusively on the internet.Telling Liesclocks 46,000 downloads in four days.1997: BowieNet is first paid subscription artist website, includes unprecedented degree of personal input from Bowie. Bowie Bonds issued, backed by future revenues of his first 25 albums. $US55 million windfall ranks him high on Forbes’ richest entertainers list.2007: Royalties from first 25 albums return to Bowie. Extensive album reissue campaign scheduled.

EDITORIAL: Mount Sugarloaf and its reopening

Posted on 22/03/2019 by

MOUNT Sugarloaf looks out over the surrounding Lower Hunter, a benevolent, familiar presence topped with the TV and telecommunications antennas that are its crowning fixtures.

It’s the sort of place that Hunter residents visit – some of them only occasionally –but it is also one of the first spots that people take visitors from other parts, as they proudly tell them to drink in the views.

Well that’s the way it was, anyway, until April last year, when the wild wind and heavy rains knocked down any number of big trees, which initially blocked the tarred road to the Sugarloaf lookout, and to the communications towers.

The trees were apparently cleared soon enough, but another problem –damage to the road caused by landslip –meant than an initially “temporary” closure became something more permanent, to the point where the road to one of the region’s premier tourist destinations has been closed for nine months.

Happily, Lake Macquarie City Council says it has let a contract to repair the road, and in a statement to the Newcastle Herald on Monday said it expects the work could be finished in as little as a month.

While this is undoubtedly good news, the extended closure has apparently given the authorities pause for thought, with Lake Macquarie Deputy Mayor Brian Adamthwaite confirming suggestions by the National Parks and Wildlife Service and other agencies to keep the Sugarloaf gates shut outside of daylight hours.

While this is understandable –Cr Adamthwaite says there have been fewer acts of vandalism and torched cars during the months the road has been closed –it is important that the council, which is responsible for the road and the lookout, does not succumb to a knee-jerk reaction.

Daytime is not the only time to enjoy a lookout, especially when the lights of Newcastle and Lake Macquarie are spread out below. Perhaps vandalism has been a problem, but better security might be an answer ahead of outright closure.

As part of the Hunter’s treasured “Green Corridor”, the Mount Sugarloaf lookout and its attendant walking trails and fire-trails are important environmental attractions and tourist destinations. They must remain open to the public, and the public must similarly respect the responsibilities that go with gaining access tosuch treasured areas.

ISSUE: 48,130

Short story: In The Reflection

Posted on 22/03/2019 by

SITTING at his usual table in the window of the Beaumont Streetcafe, the old man, a creatureof habit, was about to begin his Saturday morning routine: a treble-shot mug of blackcoffee with the crossword, and perhaps another to follow if the puzzle was pleasingly hard.

Glancing through the cafe window at the rain-washed pavement he saw the blurred imageof a man that it reflected. He was instantly still, the sugar in the teaspoon arrested in thesteam above the coffee.

He and his mother, without even the few zloties for the tram fare, had walked, braving theintermittent rain, from Praga on the other side of the Vistula, over the Poniatowski Bridgeon their way to the United Nations Relief Agency in Central Warsaw.

Worth a 1000 words: Summer Herald will each day publish a short story competition entry. The winner will be announced on January 30. Picture Simone De Peak

It was 1946, so their path led through kilometre after kilometre of rubble, even the United Nationsofficeswere housed in a partially derelict building in Jerozolimskie Street.

He was tired and verycold, but his mother urged him on – “not far now little one” – but finally she stopped and sathim down on a pile of rubble, and produced a thermos of hot chicken broth, it warmed hismittened hands before he drank it.

They sat, she holding his hand, looking towards the centre of theintersection. The traffic was sparse, but in the middle, on a slightly raised small platform,a militiaman directed traffic.

The voice when it came was slightly slurred, but clearenough: “You think that you’re something don’t you, you pathetic excuse for a humanbeing.”

At first the militiaman did not realise that the drunk was shouting at him. Thedrunk came closer to the boy and his mother, a light blue thin-necked bottle of vodka in hishand.

“What about you Mrs?” he said. “Hasn’t that bastard Stalin turned us into imitationRussians? I didn’t fight for this, did you?” His mother didn’t reply, but held the boy’s handtighter.

The man turned towards the militiaman to suggest that he take the baton hewas waving to direct the traffic and put it to another use.

The militiaman stepped off his platform, easing the Russian submachine gun that they allcarried slung across their chests and came towards them.

He felt his mother’s handtighten on his, and with her other hand she turned him to face her holding him against herchest. “Don’t look darling, just keep still and everything will be all right.”

Walking quiteslowly the militiaman approached the drunk. The mother of the little boy was unaware that herson was looking over her shoulder at a remnant of glass in the window of a ruined shop. That shardnow acted as a mirror that reflected the drunk, the militiaman and their shadows onthe damp pavement.

“Go home and sleep it off, you’re drunk.”The militiaman was trying to stop the problembefore it got difficult.

He might have succeeded if one of the black Citroens of the UB (OooBeh), the Polish version of the KGB, had not pulled up. It was then that the drunk jabbedthe militiaman in the chest with his finger. “My brother died in the Katyn forest massacre,you piece of dirt, and you’re supporting the bastards who did it.”

Moral courage is often more difficult than the physical kind, and the militiaman wasyoung, and the UB had a nasty way of dealing with people that they thought were lessthan ardent in their support of the party.

The militiamanunslung his weapon, and fired a short burstinto the drunk’s chest.

So quick was the whole thing, that the little boy heard the tinkle ofthe ejected cases as they hit the pavement.

The drunk, shimmering for a moment in thedual reflection, fell back,his arms out-flung, one hand still holding the vodka bottle, whichsmashed as it hit the road. For a moment all was still, then one of the UB men spoke to themilitiaman and the Citroen drove away.

The militiaman started to return to his traffic dutiesjust as another shower of rain began to fall. The blood mingled with the water as it randown the gutter.

Death was no surprise to any child of his age who had lived in Warsaw through the war. But his mother had told him months ago that the killing times were over, so this feltwas somehow out of time, unjust.

“Will the militiaman get into trouble?” he asked as theyresumed the long walk to the UN offices.

“I am sure that he won’t,” his mother replied. “That’s why I’m trying to arrange for us to go to a place where such things never happen.”With all his experience of war and violence, he found it hard to believe that any such placemight exist.

The woman who ran the UN offices was all smiles when they were taken to see her.

“Mrs Kovalska I have such very good news,” her Polish was fluent, but with a very Englishaccent.

“As you know you are not eligible for resettlement as a displaced person as youare still living in Poland, however your husband’s wartime work with the British SOE putsyou into a different category. He can’t return to Poland, the Russians might give him ahard time.

“Had this been known earlier we could have been of more help. In view of yourhusband’s exceptional service, the British have expedited his naturalisation, and there isa British passport waiting for you at their embassy. How soon can you be ready to travel?”

These then were the first small steps in their long journey to the other side of the world.The old man shook himself from his reverie, spooning the sugar into his coffee, and stirringit.

He wondered if the other customers realised how fortunate they were.

Seventy yearssuddenly seemed such a very short time.

THE LOWEDOWN: Lack of energy adds to Jets’ woes

Posted on 22/03/2019 by

SLOWnews weekend? Same old stories? If I was in TV news I’d go for a happy local story, you know like Ivor Goodarm winning his ninth consecutive cow-pat throwing contest at the Dungog Show.

The Jets’ clash with Sydney FC produced a theme and result so familiar to Newcastlefans they could have written the script last week with minimal research.

Fortunately the little warrior “Aussie’’Ali Abbas provided everyone with the “against-all-odds’’fairytale finish that sporting fans relish, and respond to so eagerly.

It had taken him 405 days to recover from a career-threatening knee injury and the Sydney fans gave the little Iraqi a standing ovation when he took the field as a second-half substitute. And I’m sure every fair-minded Jets supporter would havebeen on their feet in unison.

Those fortunate enough to have spent time with Abbas in his tenure at Newcastle will recall a player with great heart, and infectious enthusiasm for the game, and life itself, and a cheeky and irreverent nature that made him instantly likeable.

They will also remember his willingness to dribble, be positive and brave when one-one-oneopportunities presented, and his almost childlike delight in scoring goals.

If, as Fox commentator Brenton Speed observed, ‘’the hairs on the back of your neck were standing up’’when he entered the game, you would have been encouraged by his busy and proactive approach, no tentative dipping of toes for Ali, and when his big moment arrived, and he finished the Jets’ slim chances of a recovery, I defy any true football fan not having to blink away a tear or two.

There was a moment, when the little Iraqi steadied as he collected Matt Simon’s back-heeled return pass, time stood still for a second, collective breaths were held, and then “Bassy’’stroked it past Mark Birighitti in the Jets goal, and released a torrent of emotion.If you backed a 1-0 Sydney victory, or are an extremely optimistic Jets fan, you would have been temporarily deflated. But for everyone who has played the game, and be it through age or injury, no longer really can, this was a moment to take you back to the joys of the game, and youthful vitality. Uplifting in the extreme.

Unfortunately the Jets’ performance sits at the other end of the scale, right next to whatever it is that neutralises uplifting. Uninspiring, dross, choose your own word, but you get the drift.

A generously designated fiveshots at goal, with none on target, tells the tale of the threat, or lack thereof, they posed to Sydney’s goal on Saturday evening.

And let’s be brutally honest.Sydney were hardly in vintage nick either. Minus the quality of their most important player, Alex Brosque, and the pace and understanding of their left-sided Olyroo combination of Alex Gersbach and Andrew Hoole, they still had minimal trouble accounting for the Jets.

Much has been made of the Jets’ 559 minutes without a goal –that’s six matches plus, and counting –but believe me that run will come to an end some time soon.

Of more concern in my eyes is the amount of time and comfort afforded to Sydney’s key midfield players, particularly if you have a predetermined plan to defend with depth and numbers.

Milos Ninkovic is a very silky, talented No.10, but he was allowed to put on a clinic in the first 60 minutes.

Mickael Taveres, a very competent midfield anchor, but no Andrea Pirlo, completed over 60 passes witha 100 per cent success rate, and for a team defending deep and narrow, and hoping for some joy on the counter, this figure is probably the most discouraging of all.

It suggests the team is struggling to find the intensity required to make what seemed a fairly solid structure early seasoneffective at present. As intensity drops the team becomes reactive, and instantly more defensive to protect their goal.

No turnovers or steals in midfield, no springboard to launch counter-attacks, fewer chances, and further to travel to score.Who could have predicted that a club with very limited depth, a base squad of about 14 or 15, and needing to play at close to 100 per cent intensity to compete every weekwould start to drop away after nineor 10 games?

I’m sure Jets coach Scott Miller has received a multitude of suggested solutions in recent weeks, some more forceful than others. I’m also sure most won’t be crossing his mind for the first time.

Many want to point the finger at individual players, but seldom are one or two to blame for a lean run lasting 10 games. And realistically who is beating the door down, demanding inclusion in the starting eleven?

“Freshen the side up,’’ you say. Easier said than done, and with winnable home games against Wellington and Perth coming up on consecutive Sundays, you’d be hoping your best team could conjure up two victories.“Change the system,play four-four-two,”might be worth a try, but will still be reliant on the physical condition of your starting side.

MANY HAPPY RETURNS: Sydney’s Ali Abbas scored a goal against his former club in his comeback from knee surgery. Picture: Getty Images

Maybe Miller will be tempted to give the team a very “easy”week, recharge some batteries and trust that the energy conserved through the week will burst to the surface against a Wellington side, hampered by injury, and having had a very physically taxing match with Brisbane on Sunday.

Hopefully Miller and his staff can pull the right rein for the upcoming home matches, otherwise we may again, unfortunately, be talking about the prospects of another spoon.

David Bowie dead at 69Photos, videos

Posted on 22/03/2019 by

Reports David Bowie has died aged 69. Photo: SuppliedRELATED

David Bowie’s top 10 hits:Vote for your favouriteDavid Bowie: A profoundly ironic kind of guy:He was the seer, the recommender, the restless agent provocateur, and nobody’s dancing monkey.David Bowie: The world reacts​:People across the planet turn to social media to pay their respects to David Bowie.David Bowie: through the years:David Bowie, one of music’s original chameleons, is pictured throughout the years.Did you know … 20 facts aboutDavid Bowie:Twenty facts about the Thin White Duke.‘…after a courageous battle with cancer’​Pop legend David Bowie has died, according to a notice on his official website and social media accounts.

“David Bowie diedpeacefully today surrounded by his family after a courageous 18 month battle with cancer,” read a post on the musician’s official Facebook page andwebsite davidbowie杭州龙凤论坛mon Monday afternoon local time.

“While many of you will share in this loss, we ask that you respect the family’s privacy during their time of grief.”

Bowie’s son Duncan Jones confirmed the news via his personal Twitter account.

“Verysorry and sad to say it’s true. I’ll be offline for a while. Love to all,” MrJones tweeted.

Very sorry and sad to say it’s true. I’ll be offline for a while. Love to all. pic.twitter杭州龙凤论坛m/Kh2fq3tf9m

— Duncan Jones (@ManMadeMoon) January 11, 2016The Riseand Fall of Ziggy Stardust and the Spiders From Mars, in which the innovative musician imagined the archetypal rock star as a space alien, his androgynous stage persona Ziggy Stardust.

He experimented with rock, pop, soul, dance, punk and electronica throughout his decades long career, nabbing his first US No.1 single in 1975 with ‘Fame’ from the Top 10 albumYoung Americans.

The chameleon entertainer made is mark on the big screen withmemorable performances on film, includingThe Man Who Fell to Earthin 1976,The Hungerin 1983 andLabyrinthin 1986.

His last live performance was at a New York charity concert in 2006, according to Reuters.