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Send in the clowns

“Isn’t it rich?” … “Isn’t it queer?”

I could weep for humanity … I could just f#cking … weep for them … for us. If you were to look at it objectively, you’d have to agree that most of the advancements made for the betterment of society, have been made not on the successes, but on the back of failures of experience. Hence, perhaps, the old adage: “Experience is the best teacher”. The absurdity reaching great heights, surely, in this current LNP cabal of idiots and fools.

I was down the Central Market a couple of weeks ago and while my paramour was buying veggies at the Chinese stall there, I was perusing the posters on a board advertising live theatre, bands and such, and I was most amused by this one poster announcing a farewell tour by a “tribute singer”. There was a comic/tragic air to the poster announcing that the Elvis impersonator was doing his … his “farewell tour” … also a touch of absurdity, considering that the performing artist, having talent enough to impersonate, but not quite enough to create his own original show, has nonetheless accumulated enough of a fan base to announce his own farewell tour … A “farewell tour” of a farewell tour.. And I am reminded of that wonderful ABC satire; “The Librarian” where the librarian’s partner is mocked for his tribute band ”Oils ain’t Oils “ … And then just below this announcement is another poster of a tribute act by three blokes impersonating “Great voices of Pop” (or some such) … what is it with all this nostalgic impersonation?

Are we so run out of originality that impersonation is all the go? Our politics, our relationships, our love and affection … or is even that now a shallow impersonation of what it once really was? Has that essence of deepest affection and loyalty become more a convenience of companionship … temporary and carnal? Which of us would really suffer, or even die for another person that we say we love? Yet our greatest literature passed down from time immemorial is bleeding with examples of the supreme sacrifice for; “Le don de l’amour” (always sounds better in French) … or is this just another example of a hunger for a lost sentiment?

“What has brought this on?” you may ask . It was in a conversation about science and I had this theory about how life-forms were spread about the universe … pretty big stuff … I thought, but it seems my “theory” was not only unoriginal, it had been first prognosed by a Greek bloke named Anaxagoras back in circa 500BC. F#ck! … Now that is a bit late coming on set! But you see … what I concluded now, was thought of back two and a half thousand years ago … so one has to conclude that the human thought pattern of logic and reason was the same then as it is now: There is nothing new under the sun. And this is where we as a species have become so tragic … a farce! … If clarity of thought was so prevalent in the earliest days of civilisation and so many calculations done and achieved back so long ago, what have we been doing since then? F#ckin’ asleep on the job … that’s what! Christ! … We got idiots spruiking stupid political shit, climate denial shit, social compatibility denial, capital, civil, international and anything else that is divisive and conflicting FFS! … Where oh effing where is the originality of thought? … Why do we have these great big f#ckin’ universities when we are only turning out “tribute education”?

Another “great big idea” I had, only to have that also ruthlessly quashed, was the theory that an organic life-form (us!) can only develop so far, in a physical sense, before it reaches “max-evolution capacity” and then self-destructs by imploding within itself or by becoming too overbearing on its environment and destroys all around it and therefore … But it seems this too has not only been thought of a long time ago, it even has a name … I forget that now … but hey … it just goes to show..there’s nothing new under the sun … no siree, Bob! So I suppose the only thing one can do is to try to be personally original … it was something many of us in the seventies strove to achieve … hence all those weird clothes and flairs … I mean. Who in their right mind would wear heavy, brocaded strides in summer in Oz? You’d have to be nuts. But talk about nuts … here, helvitnyi, a little escape for you:

Mrs Hancock

It’s funny, you know; the image of adults one has as a child, compared to the actual reality known by the adults of the time around you. Mrs Hancock used to cut our hair when we were children … the four of us; from the oldest brother (about 10 yrs), down including to my sister, then myself (the youngest about five yrs). We would be marched down across the railway-line by the eldest (“hup-two three four”), each clutching a bob (one shilling) in our sweaty little hands to get that one generic haircut for which Mrs Hancock was infamous: “The Basso” … about once every couple of months, it seemed, most of the kids in the district would sport a Mrs Hancock “special”. And we’d be lined up on the railway station going to school, looking like a lot of miniature “Moes” (as in The Three Stooges) waiting for the train … girls included! I wonder that some social science person didn’t do a study on “Demographic by haircut” kind of thing for those days. Truth be known, I believe most barbers – like most architects – have one basic style … and everything else is a derivative there-off.

The image I had of Mrs Hancock as a child was of this frumpy old lady, dressed in ‘lop-sided’ cardigan and dress, living in this dreary old fibro house, with creepy shadows and dull lighting … she would sit us in an old stuffed, armless chair next to one of those “side tables” of dark timber and curved legs and armed with scissors, a smelly fag and the endless glass of water, she would attack our tangled locks with all the tactics of “Tojo in a Zero” coming out of the sun! The fag-end would send an endless swirl of smoke past her wincing eye … she’d take a gulp of water, vice-clasp our head unceremoniously with her left hand and her right hand would start with the then continuous ”snipsnipsnipsnip … snipping” as she dove into the job, to come out the other side in an undisturbed arc, the arm ascending upward to hover above our heads somewhere “sit still, child!” … mechanically, continuously, snipsnipsnipsnip snipping! One sat in a horror of anticipation for the next “strafing” (and you know, I can’t stand being “dive-bombed” by mozzies to this day … I don’t mind so much the bite … it’s the hovering, whirring, buzzing that drives me crazy). Her house was the last one on that side of the road … behind the train station … I think it was called “Cygnet Terrace” before it was pushed through and became “The Cove Road” … a cold wind would cut down through the barren gullies there in winter.

But it wasn’t till years later, when I first started going to the pub as an older youth, that I realized that the “glass of water” always at her beck, was gin and tonic. Yes, poor old Mrs Hancock was a gin-soak … and, going by her familiarity with her fellows in the front bar of The Seacliff Hotel, where a cluster of “oldies” were mangling that Englebert Humperdinck (I mean; really?) song “Please release me” … Christ … it’s tragic … I could just weep; she was an old hand at the game. I suppose that is why her front parlour where she “scalped“ us kids always had the curtains drawn … but, you know … my mother would have heard of that. But then again, many in that “fringe district” where we lived were escapees from reality … my old man bought there because it was cheap land … not now though! It was at the end of the railway line … hang on, that’s not quite true … there was one more stop … ”Hallett Cove” … but that place only got two or three trains a day then and it was the refuge of bankrupts, hermits and criminals. I got to meet quite a few in later years, so can confirm the statement!

Back to the mistaken image of adults one has as a child … I remember also being taken into the front-bar of the Brighton Hotel by my dad as a very young boy … he having a beer and me a raspberry … and this man bending down to me and saying in a beery voice ”hello, little fellah..what’s your name … eh? Eh?” And I got real scared, but my dad was just smiling … I couldn’t then understand why he didn’t chase the ugly man away! Poor old bastard was just another drunk saying hello to a kid … but then … I was a sensitive child! … Still am!


13 comments

  1. The Pied Piper

    Speaking of clowns it seems to me that Chucky the killer clown/doll gives a very apt portrayal of the psychotic clowns that now control humankind and its future.
    I saw the original film – it was one of the most sickening film that I had the misfortune to see.

    The film has recently been remade or updated to portray the tempo of the times. There could be an interesting synchronicity in this.
    Just as Freddy Krueger portrayed the dark reality of the Reagan years during which Reagan’s acolytes were busily cutting up the future for the children then alive, and for the generations to come, which is of course us.

  2. helvityni

    Thank you , Joe, for the ‘escape’, today it’s getting away from the Finkel/ Turnbull idea about how us ordinary little people can save a dollar or two on our energy costs, so nice, so thoughtful and caring of them…too much to bear…

    Anyhow in my little village there were no gin and tonic guzzling Mrs Hancocks, so us girls could keep our plats and long locks, but our brothers’ hair was shaved off for the long ( three month) summer holidays… I did not know the reason for this weird practice, as the same barber mums also knitted little striped cotton beanies for those shaved heads of boys….I’m still puzzled… Never mind, they were the golden happy days of childhood, we were lucky.

  3. Joseph Carli

    Hello helvityni…

    My father, who grew up in the Italian Dolomites use to relate that when summer came, all the healthy men and youths in the village were taken with the grazing animals up into the higher lands to let the animals fatten up on the green feed there and the youths were taught the trades and skills needed to become skilled and useful for the continuity of that village and society…The young men were set to work not only to teach them trade skills , but also to keep them out of mischief if they were left in the village over summer…and the only males left in permanent place in the village over summer (depending on the times of course) were the old men and the very young boys.

  4. Michael Taylor

    “Are we so run out of originality that impersonation is all the go?”

    That resonated with me, Joe.

  5. Michael Taylor

    The reverse happens in the Dolomites these days, Joe. All the young people head up into the mountains in Winter to spend their days snow-skiing!

  6. helvityni

    No more clowns ,please, we already have more than our fair share of them…in our Government…

  7. Joseph Carli

    Am having trouble connecting to the political message around at the moment..it’s why I put up that post about absurdity..there’s so much of it about now..I can hardly believe it..Most think it is blatant hypocrisy..but I think it is a sign of society slipping into mass irrational absurdity…and like that tragic Elvis impersonator in my post, they start to believe in their own attractiveness to the population because that same population, in their hunger for recognisable familiarity will cheer on anything that satiates that hunger.
    The “mob” is mad!

  8. Joseph Carli

    The Unloved.
    Who will give them kisses, sweet kisses,
    Essences distilled from secret sentences.
    With touching fingers palpitating the heart.
    And..and desire..
    Ahh! DESIRE!..that wicked,
    Wily, wonderful want! That demands attendance
    At just about twilight.
    When everyone else but thee is in a clutching embrace.
    And then, late at night,
    When all the bedroom lights turn off,
    Leaving thee with no company…but the cold, dark press of night!
    And unshakeable echoes of regrettable vanity.
    …or pride (O’ the affection you scorned!),
    “But they were hopeless, boors, losers!..
    Where is that damn Tinder when you need it?
    Ah! ..Here!” :
    Read..: “Do apply if you are honest,
    Attractive, with positive outlook.
    I am an interesting intellectual,
    54 years.
    Seeking same for intimate evenings,
    Sharing thoughts and hot toddy’s
    By a flickering fire……………”
    “Reads good!..I hope it brings ‘em in…”

  9. Miriam English

    I kinda disagree, Joe. I mean, yeah, the politicians are worse than useless, but I see plenty of originality around at the moment.

    I just finished watching a wonderful TED talk by a photographer who uses an amazing technique of taking lots and lots of digital photomicrographs of small insects at different levels of focus, then cuts out the in-focus parts and joins them into a montage to make giant, amazing pictures of these tiny creatures entirely in focus. Try doing that just a few decades ago, let alone a century or a thousand years ago.

    A lot of the programs I write use techniques that couldn’t even have been imagined when I was a child. It still gives me a thrill whenever I use a simple set of “regular expressions” (or regex) to completely change the form of a list, or create a few commands to manipulate a sequence of images in a directory then compile them into an animation, or run the output of a random number generator through a set of filters to create a convincing simulated sound of a rocket launch, or painstakingly write a set of rules to give my computer’s speech synthesiser an Australian accent.

    Recently an old girlfriend, who lives thousands of km away, asked me to create the 3D model of a pendant she wanted. She sent me the photo of it, so I created the model in a 3D modeling program, and emailed the model file back to her. She has another friend with a 3D printer who then printed it up for her. Many people nowadays still haven’t even seen a 3D printer yet. It promises to change so much about the way we do things. I imagine young kids emailing or instant messaging files to each other of something they’ve designed, or improvements on someone else’s design. Imagine how quickly robotics will evolve when 3D printers are commonplace and young kids can play about with it.

    Tiny capacious flash drives let me carry a library of hundreds of thousands of books in the palm of my hand. There has never been anything like this ever before.

    One of my favorite TV shows was the beautifully romantic “Roswell” series. When it was first out I downloaded the TV shows from the net so that I could re-watch them. That was totally new. When the DVDs became available I bought them and, as is my habit, ripped them to my computer as AVI files and stored the DVDs away as archive so they couldn’t be accidentally damaged (the plastic they make the disks out of is so damn soft). That was new. Recently I have found out how to encode them as mp4 files so that they include video, soundtrack, subtitles, commentary soundtrack, and commentary subtitles all in one file, and not only that, they are considerably smaller and clearer than my earlier rips. This kind of thing was impossible not very long ago.

    Recently I bought the DVD of the film “Carol” starring Cate Blanchett and Rooney Mara based on the legendary book of the same name (originally titled “The Price of Salt”) — legendary because it was the first lesbian romance story in which the two main characters have a happy ending. I had read the paperback years ago. Intending to read it again, but disdaining paper, I got the ebook, but found it didn’t contain the afterword which the author, Patricia Highsmith, had added to my paper book. So I got out my handheld computer (really a smartphone without a sim card) and took photos of the several pages of the afterword, then after moving the photos across to my computer, ran an optical character recognition (OCR) program on the pictures which turned the photos of text into actual text. This let me then add the afterword to the ebook. The fact that I can turn photos or scans of pages of articles quickly and reliably into text is wonderful and makes life so much easier.

    As you know, I love trance music. Some of the music I listen to would have been far beyond listening tastes not very long ago. Much of trance music is energetic, uplifting, optimistic, with shifting, complex melodies behind the main, driving beat, but some trance (especially “hard trance”) is quite bizarre, and even while I’m trilling to it, I imagine my younger self being unable to comprehend how anybody could enjoy it. Things change. Some music, even after thousands of years, still finds original forms.

    Not long ago Fermi pronounced his paradox by asking, “Where is everybody?” He’d been calculating what came to be known as the Drake Equation, which gives a way of putting boundaries on our ignorance as to how many advanced civilisations there might be out there in our galaxy. The number, no matter which way it was calculated seemed to give a surprisingly high number, hence his question, and why the silence of the universe appears to make it a paradox. Not long ago the parts of the equation that gave the number of stars in the galaxy and the number of planets around those stars were mere guesswork. Now, due to amazing space telescopes we have those numbers. This is new. We’ve never before had this information. And just look at the beautiful images the Hubble space telecope has delivered — the Eagle Nebula, for instance. Nobody had any idea of the wondrous structures out there in space. That change in a big way soon when the James Webb telescope goes up. It’ll be more than twice the size of the Hubble. New discoveries; new knowledge; things unanticipated.

    Politicians and the wealthy have always been able to just do what they want and we little people have just had to put up with it, but now we’ve been having a series of wins against the wealthy 1%, and the corrupt politicians. One by one we’ve cowed the banks into backing away from Adani’s awful, bankrupt coal mine. The test law in Tasmania, attempting to make peaceful protest illegal has been struck down by the High Court as unconstitutional, so the Federal and Queensland governments who were hoping to be able to ban protests must be worried. We will win. There’s no way Adani’s mine can go ahead. Things change. The power is shifting.

    Even while politicians continue to plumb new depths of hypocrisy and stupidity, there will always be amazing scientists, artists, and engineers of pure genius who find and create new things and push new boundaries.

  10. OPPOSE THE MAJOUR PARTIES

    comparing clowns to politicians is insulting to clowns. clowns are honest in their naivette while politicians are conscious liars

  11. Joseph Carli

    Well, Miriam….

    ” I use a simple set of “regular expressions” (or regex) to completely change the form of a list, or create a few commands to manipulate a sequence of images in a directory then compile them into an animation, or run the output of a random number generator through a set of filters to create a convincing simulated sound of a rocket launch, or painstakingly write a set of rules to give my computer’s speech synthesiser an Australian accent.”….

    That may be easy for YOU to say…

  12. Joseph Carli

    One thing is certain, Miriam…there are BIG social changes in the air..one can feel a kind of “ice-berg turning moment”…and probably not before time if one reads the headlines..Some of these changes will be for the better..no doubt about it..but some are going to bring down a lot of collateral damage on the way..no doubt about that either..but there is no choice but to stand aside and let social need for change run its course..but as any penguin will tell you ; “When the ‘berg flips, you either jump off or you start running very fast !”

  13. king1394

    Getting back to barbers: we had Mr Butterfield in Mittagong. He only did one haircut too, as I remember. He once told my husband that the trade of barber was the best trade: you didn’t need much in the way of tools, just good scissors, some clippers and a comb. You could set up a business anywhere or you could travel about and always find some customers.

    While he is long gone, we still have a local barber in a nearby town who has been cutting the hair of generations of men, who pride themselves on wearing his distinctive and cheap handiwork. My sons accept his ministrations but find his recollections of their grandfather to be a bonus.

    I also remember a large family of Italian migrants arriving here in the 80s. Dad set up a business and as each of his four sons reached adulthood they did their apprenticeship with him before branching out to run their own business in the nearby towns.

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