Wednesday, June 22, 2011

Philip K Dick's Useful, Profitable 'Madness'

By Darryl Mason

The Letters Of Note site has published the controversial letters that author Philip K Dick wrote to police and the FBI in the early 1970s, naming friends and colleagues as possible enemies of America.

The Letters Are Here

This is a comment I submitted to Letters Of Note, which will make more sense if you look over the Philip K Dick letters first. It didn't get published at LoN because, as you can see below, it was too long :

Philip K Dick and his second wife were approached in the mid-1950s by FBI agents who, like in films and fiction, turned up on their doorstep in suits and hats and tried to recruit them, to help save America from communists and the enemy within. They were told they could study for free on the FBI dime at a university in Mexico, they'd just have to report back on what political activities, movements and ideologies were gaining in popularity amongst the student body. They refused. Instead of being terrified and paranoid, PKD and his wife thought it was an absolutely hilarious idea that either of them would work for the FBI.

One agent continued to visit with PKD regularly, became friends of the couple and eventually taught Philip to drive. These visits continued through the late 1950s. Strangely, for someone who wrote so frequently of police states, surveillance and big brother government, PKD never went into any great detail about the discussions he had with that FBI agent during all those afternoons they spent driving together, not in his essays, speeches, letters or occasional interviews.

Philip K Dick went on to set many novels, many short stories, in future security states, police states, which are everyday familiar now to people who dwell in cities in England, the United States, Australia, China. Sometimes it seems like he wrote easy to follow blueprints for those who wanted to install modern democratic security states, using the latest tech. In his efforts to warn against the rise of such police states, did Dick actually tell intelligence agencies and authoritarian governments how to implement them? Make them seem normal?

Did American intelligence agencies, police agencies, read the novels and short stories of Philip K Dick through the 1950s, 1960s, 1970s? Yes, they did. Dick was one of the thousands of writers, actors, movie directors, musicians, poets, that American intelligence agencies kept tabs on for decades. They might not have been sitting in vans outside the numerous houses or apartments he called home over the decades, but they certainly kept up on what he was writing, and what influence he might be having on American youth.

Like William Burroughs' Junky, many thousands of copies of Philip K Dick's novel A Scanner Darkly were brought by FBI agents and police agents fighting the Nixon implemented War On Drugs through the 1970s. A Scanner Darkly provided law enforcement agents with an insider look at what a house of drug-crazed freaks and refugees from the flower power generation might be getting up to.

In A Scanner Darkly, which Dick began writing shortly after he sent thoe letters to the FBI, the lead character, an undercover drug agent named Bob Arctor, narks on all his friends, including himself.

Philip K Dick said a great relief washed over him after he sent those letters to the cops and the FBI. He felt he had done what he needed to do to clear his name, so to speak, to get the heat off his back.

By the mid-1970s, though, Dick was no longer sure he'd beaten the bad guys he once believed had been trying to take control of his work, and destroy the America which he dearly loved. He once said he was told that if he were to suddenly disappear, books would continue to be published under his name.

In the mid-1970s, PKD re-read every book and short story he'd written (a massive undertaking of more than 1.5 million published words) searching through his back catalogue for curious, revealing links between novels, between characters. He re-examined every word he'd published, and then he wrote novella-length notes, dozens of pages a night across hundreds of post-midnight marathons, detailing weird or illuminating or possibly mystical connections he'd thought he'd found in his writings, what they meant, whether "encoded" signals and information might already be in print under his name, and, of course, whether or not an orbiting alien satellite really had beamed information into his head. And if so, had the satellite actually been God?

From all those thousands of pages of notes, he pulled novels like Valis. He knew how this new Mystic Phil would be perceived and summed up the reactions he expected to get as :

"Took drugs, saw God, big fucking deal."

Those who become PKD addicts, and soak up his life and his fiction, and his sometimes blatantly self-fictionalised life, know he took drugs, but did he really see God? Or did he just make up all those 'pink beam' experiences because he knew, from the success of his science fiction writing colleague Ron L Hubbard, that readers didn't want just spaceships and time travel and emotional robots, they wanted to read the work of writers who claimed they knew God, or had seen God, or even better, had talked to God, who had been enlightened, illuminated. That's what the New Age-influenced American reading audience of the second half of the 1970s wanted, and that's what Philip K Dick delivered. He did what all great pulp writers did, he fed the marketplace what he knew would sell. Hell, he'd been doing it for decades.

Whatever 'pink beam' was, hallucination or purposeful myth making, the incident marked a turning point in the last decade of Philip K Dick's life, when he became a once more productive, but far more professional, writer.

During the second half of the 1970s, after the 'pink beam' episodes, when Philip K Dick has been deemed by some to have gone truly bonkers, he rose early to get on the phone to chase back royalties owed to him from publishers on the other side of the world; he produced award winning, best selling novels; he worked hard at repairing long fractured ties to his children and former wives; he pushed and promoted the production of the movie BladeRunner; tried to get movies made of his novels Ubik and Flow My Tears, The Policeman Said; signed new novel deals and began the long process of getting his entire back catalogue of short stories and novels back into print.

And yet, even while all this Busy Professional Author activity was going on, Philip K Dick purposely fed stories about his claimed spiritual and mystical experiences to journalists and fanzines. He knew what they wanted to hear. And if they in turn wanted to write that Philip K Dick Spoke To God, well, that was fine by him.

He knew how to make his own legends.

Some 'madness'.

Wednesday, May 11, 2011

On The Information Revolutions

By Darryl Mason

An extract from a ramble-babble I wrote in August 2006. Hadn't re-read this in a long time, but it made me smile to remember how bizarre and uminaginable it seemed in 2006 that a worldwide youth movement, driven by internet information sharing, could revolutionise the Middle East and change the face of modern global politics. And it's only begun.
August 23, 2006

Bizarre, broken, swarming with change and chaos, magic and miracles, madness and joy.

This is our world today.

But for all the cries of 'Terror!' and 'Hatred!', the divisions amongst the youth of all nations are few and far between. There has probably never been a time before in the history of our races that so few young people view war as the way to remake the world for the better.

There is another way, a hundred other ways to make it better and a few million info-rich youth-fresh brains are chewing over those ideas into the early hours while you sleep. Before you wake, they will have discussed their ideas online in front of audiences in the tens or hundreds of thousands. The ideas will spread, the good ones will stick, the brilliant ones will change minds and lives and the future, subtle brick by brick, before you even finish breakfast.

Hope then is high, regardless of what the headlines may tell you.

The war pigs of the boomer-plus generations don't seem to understand that the world they knew is drawing to a close. They want bigger armies, they want wider wars, but how do they get such things when the majority of the world's youth simply do not want to fight? When the majority of the world's people are repeatedly asking, "Sorry? You want another hundred billion to buy more weapons? What exactly will that achieve?"

The will to fight isn't gone from the youth. But the drive to fight pointless, blood-soaked wars that solve little, change nothing, destroy everything, that drive is not only gone, but it seems it will now be impossible to motivate it, or reinstate it.

The youth of our world want to fight. They want to fight for their future, but they don't want to fight each other.

At least, they don't want to fight outside of the online world. There are a million battles underway tonight in the gaming worlds of another reality, but the bodies from those wars are not piling up in the streets of our real world, and most of the hatred is short-lived and is disguised admiration for the skill of their online enemies.

This weird and wonderful, strange and beautiful world.

Sunday, September 06, 2009

One Summer Bondi Dreaming

(I wrote most of this the night before I left Sydney to go back and live in England for another year in late April, 1999. The story is based around real events of the previous summer, living in a crumbling apartment near the cliffs of South Bondi. I only recently found the notebook and typed it up. Hope you enjoy it)

By Darryl Mason

Summer 1998-1999

It's a November dawn on Bondi Beach. The first official day of Summer, and the cream sands are dotted with more than three dozen sleepers. Not drunk locals, or the homeless. Backpackers. A new breed, doing it on the super cheap. They avoid the usually overcrowded hostels whenever possible, instead they bed down outdoors, on beaches, at bus stops, train stations, parks, caves, the backyards of obviously vacant houses. They network each other over the internet and in local bars as to the best, the safest, places to sleep for free.
Feena is a 19 year old Swedish backpacker. She seems unbothered to be approached at dawn by a complete stranger, asking questions.
She arrived in Australia the night before, late, with her two friends 'Wendy' (Venda, maybe?) and Tanjetta, who now still sleep, dressed in t-shirts and shorts, curled up on blankets, their backpacks as pillows.
"We like to sleep outside," Feena says, unlacing her boots to change her socks, emptying out the sand. "When it's hot like this it's better. We save many money, so we can keep travelling."
It's a bright blue sunny day, the fresh clean light makes everything seem crystal clear. It should be too hot, too bright, this kind of heat should be uncomfortable, painful. But it isn't. You sweat sitting still, and your skin prickles like it's trying to crawl away from the intense burn of the sun, but it feels....utterly fantastic.
I suggest a coffee, Feena nods enthusiastically. Her stomach growls so loud we both laugh.
"Breakfast," Feena coos to Wendy and Tanji, but they are sleeping too deeply to do anything but grunt and wave us away.
"We'll be here," Wendy mumbles through what is probably a German accent and folds her arms over her eyes. We leave them to nuke their flesh under this dangerous sun.

Thick almost cloying smells of rich strong brew...freshly heated croissants, molten jam and syrupy butter mixing together, rising wonderful sugar/salty fumes, catching the breeze, tiny twirls of air currents from the push of the thick passage of people along the Bondi Beach cappuccino strip of Campbell Street...steaming waft of hot milk, the powdered chocolate for anointing the coffee froth blowing out, finer than dust, riding, mixing with the other scents....focaccia toasting deliciously....swirling with the bitter fumes of the already heavy, crawling road traffic only a few feet away.
"I'll have breakfast if you will buy," Feena says, no shame, no guilt, straight-up, as we sit down at an outside table. She's too hungry to wait too be asked.
She will take anything she can get that is free, she says. It bothered her when started traveling, living off complete strangers, shoplifting, haggling with takeaway food shops for double servings for the same price. But not now. Feena has adapted well to backpacker poverty, and it's carried her far on a minimal amount of money. What Japanese tourists spend for one night's accommodation in a swank Sydney hotel will carry Feena through weeks of backpacking.
"My meaning of true backpacking is to eat for free, travel for free, get clothes for free and sleep for free," Feena announces after we order coffee. She explains how she and Tanjetta and Wendy (she met both girls in England) mooched and grifted their way through Europe, for two months, on less than fifteen Australian dollars a day. Food, travel, accom, booze, even clothes, clubs, drugs all gifted from the men they met.
"But we never have to sleep with anybody to get everything for free," Feena adds, almost as an afterthought.
In most of the cities they've visited so far they'd tell the local guys they met ("chose to meet" as Feena says) their terrible tales of the cockroach-dictatorship state of the hostels and how so many horrible men wanted to take advantage of them. The girls would then quickly find themselves being offered lounges, beds and floors to sleep on.
After she chain-sips her freshly-delivered coffee and reads off her breakfast order to a sickly-willow, amphetamine-eyed waitress, Feena explains how it is easier to make sure the one or two guys who live in the house you're crashing over at are okay, and not mutant perverts, than it is to suss five guys, from as many countries, in a unisex backpacker dormitory. She's seen girls younger than her raped in unisex dorms, had had a knife pulled on her once when she tried to intervene.
"Sometimes sleep is safer if you're outside somewhere you can run away," Feena looks down sadly at her coffee, keeps talking.
Feena, Wendy, 19, and Tanjetta, 20, all fresh out of university, have travelled through Spain, Germany, France, Belgium, Italy, England and one beach of Fiji together so far.
Sydney and Australia is a three month Summer stay and while she's here Feena plans to learn skydiving, mountain climbing and scuba-diving. She wants to see Byron Bay, Cairns, the Whitsundays, Kakadu, the Great Barrier Reef. Lots of big plans, like most of the young backpackers who flow endlessly through the Bondi Summer turnstiles, so many plans, so many things to do and places they simply just have to see.
After Australia the three girls will turn back and head up through South East Asia and into China, down into and across India and finally back home again via the bits of Europe they missed on the first leg of their trips. It's like an annual backpacker migratory route.
I offer her and her friends the use of my living room floor. There is a pile of old futon mattresses in one corner for the never-ending stream of 'guests' who turn up on my doorstep. You never realise how many old friends you really have until word spreads that you're living in an apartment overlooking Bondi Beach.
Feena smiles at my offer, but shakes her head.
"You don't look like you can afford to feed and house yourself," Feena laughs. "We'll find places to stay."
Can't deny the truth. Feena is right.
My flatmate Grover and I can't afford any of the three major life priorities anymore. 1) Food. 2) Shelter. 3) Something to cover the nakedness.
He's a musician. I write. He's writing an album. I'm writing a screenplay. Neither of us have a deal, but I did pick up a few grand last month from a wannabe British movie producer who liked a story I told him about growing up in the western suburbs of Sydney. Teenagers and cars and loud Australian rock, he's thinking a Down Under American Graffiti. I'm not sure if what I've already written is anything much, but the pages I fax through to him seem to keep him happy enough. For now.
Me and Grover share a crumbling apartment in Nott's Avenue, Bondi Beach. A few weeks ago I saw a story in the paper claiming Nott's Avenue is one of the top five most expensive streets for real estate in all of Australia. So what the hell are unemployed writers and unsigned musicians doing living there? Lucking it out. Somehow, some way, we are managing to hold onto this last pocket of abject poverty amongst the mega-wealthy. The real estate agent comes by every now and then to remind us that the owner will want to start renovating soon and we should start looking for somewhere else to live.
They'll have to drag us out of this place.
There are no cupboard doors in the kitchen, the toilet has to be flushed with a bucket, the stove was already broken when Grover totally lucked into the place two years ago, the phone's only good for incoming calls, the carpets are abstract artworks of multi-coloured smears, ancient pizza grease and grey-black smudges and the walls seem to cracking wider and wider every day, paint peels like old onion skin when the heat hits extreme.
But, oh God, the view from the windows up here, four stories high. The views from every window, including the bathroom and the laundry, even the toilet, looking down over the IceBergs club to the sparkling glowing blue bay, out across the one kilometre long, soft cream-coloured curl of Bondi beach. A perfect postcard suspended outside every window and from the balcony the whole sky open and huge all the way out to sea.
I'm managing to stretch the screenplay payment out for longer than I imagined was possible, not worrying too much about food or fashion makes this easier. Grover, being an unsigned musician, collects the dole. One week's rent equals about one of his fornightly dole payments. I pay a week, he pays the next. He also sells a bit of hydro-pot to friends who visit, who visit to buy pot from him. Not a lot, not enough to bother any local cops at least, but the sales give him free gear and a few bucks left over for food.
The bonus of living in Bondi, as local restaurants and cafes try to keep the backpackers coming back, is that there are plenty of cheap eats to be found. A free sausage sizzle at a local pub on Sundays; huge yet inexpensive lunches at the North Bondi RSL on weekdays; humongous servings of rice and curry at Terrific Thai. And there's always two minute noodles, rice, pasta, and Vitabrits at home.
After a while of living on such a meagre budget, you don't even notice anymore what you're missing out. You go shopping, but you don't stop to look at the things you can't afford. They no longer exist in your limited cash reality. You do without.
The landlord refuses to fix anything in the apartment, even the toilet, and we can't fix it ourselves without replacing the whole cistren. It's grim, but you learn to time the harder-to-bucket-flush toilet trips into visits to the Bondi Icebergs.
There's still a few months left on Grover's lease, but it's clear now the landlord and estate agent just want us to get the fuck out. They're practically daring us to stay. But I've shared a house with a rock band, and Grover lived in some rainforest up north for six months. We can live without the luxuries like a fridge, a stove, a working toilet. Every other apartment in the building has been 'renovated' and the rent doubled or tripled accordingly. One day soon the notice of eviction will come and we will have to leave this place.
But not right now.
For now we're safe.
Just to last the Summer out...that's the plan.
Three more months, one final Summer of freedom here in this beautiful paradise on the edge of the Olympic 2000 city....The 2000s are going to be fucked up. You can feel something bad on its way, beyond YK2. Maybe a tsunami will claim this beach. Maybe there will be a nuclear war. Maybe a chunk of old planet will find its way through the galaxy to slam us all into another ice age.
Grover and I seem to talk about these things a lot.
Well, he talks, and I stare out the window, at the point where the sky meets the sea, where the dark blue of the water melts up into the blinding blue of the nearly always cloudless sky.
He talks, he ramble-babbles, and I stare, or write, or sleep. It doesn't matter, Grover keeps on punching back those billies, keeps on talking.

Back at the cafe. Feena takes her last bite of scrambled eggs, drains her juice, gets up, thanks me, leaves me with the bill. But that's cool. She'll buy me food maybe one day when I'm hungry, that's the way it works. Or seems too. We don't need to make plans to catch up. We'll run into each other, in the street, at the Regis Hotel, the North Bondi RSL, or on the beach, at the IceBergs...somewhere.
Feena will be around for the Summer, and so will I.

The IceBergs Club has perched on the ragged rocks and jagged cliffs of South Bondi since the late 1920s. A building so old has become a rarity around here, but soon the Icebergs too will close its doors for the final time. Someone has decided, for good reason, that the numbingly gorgeous views the building hogs across Bondi Beach will be the perfect place for a five star restaurant, one of those bars with a glowing wall, a new place for those who can access enough credit to claim they are wealthy to hang out and eyeball each other.
The Regulars of the Icebergs Club, some of whom have been coming here since the club's first decade, know their days of ultra-cheap beers and beautiful views are numbered. They have been promised a place in the New Club to continue their daily vigil of drinking and talking and staring out the windows, but nobody really believes it will be even remotely the same as it is right now.
Through the windows, glorious bodies gleam along the sand, showing more and more flesh each year, as one of the oldest regulars explains. He remembers when Bondi bathers were bloomers to the knees and long sleeves. From these windows, he's watched the fashions of generations come and go. He's seen the tides climb higher and higher up the beach, higher every year he reckons, eroding the sands away.
Out there, across that beach, that fucking beautiful beach, everything changes.
But in here, inside the main bar of the Icebergs, nothing much changes at all. People get older, some die, some of his oldest mates disappear into nursing homes, the little kids of locals are one day asking the old timers about the day a sandbar collapsed and killed and injured dozens, and before they know it, those kids are standing alongside the old timers, drinking a beer, talking about marriage, and surfing of course.
Nothing really changes here in the IceBergs. Not until the renovations begin. Then everything changes. It will never be the same again.
Borrowed time - it ticks away at twice the normal speed.

"This beer is going down like Mother's Milk," he says, still shining from the surf. He is young, a semi-legendary wave rider, and the other Icebergs Regulars nod to his choice of words.
"It always has", says another elderly Regular, his face baked to tan-leather by decades of Bondi summer sun.
For a moment, this old man finds himself in one of the old club photos hanging on the walls. He proudly points himself out to me in the sun-faded pre-World War 2 image.
He's standing in a line with his friends on the edge of the IceBergs ocean pool; they are teenagers, grinning, young and fit. Friends who are mostly gone now, dead, moved away, he says, then sadly adds "or in those bloody time-to-die old bugger homes. They won't get me in one of them. I'll bloody die right here with a beer in my hand."
The other Regulars agree that right here would indeed be a very fine place to keel over and stop breathing; that to go like that, draining the last of an ice-cold schooner on a hot day in the cool shadows of the Bergs, would be the ideal way to die.

Most of the thirty or so surfers out here this morning are 20-something males and terminally unemployed. But they aren't dejected by this reality, they accepted it a long time ago. And they manage to make the most of it.
They do not wake every morning with a sudden jerk and heart palpitation to the electric shriek of an alarm clock. They rise when they choose, or when the waves call most invitingly. They slum around, smoke their pot, eat their big bowls of Weetbix and bananas and bowls of fresh mango, they slurp their sickly-sweet coffee and take their time getting out into the new day. The real surfers are long gone by the time these guys reach the waves, or what's left of them.
They have no money, but still they can exist here. They find a way to get by. Some of them tell me, yeah, they eat, just not everyday. They drink, sometimes, they surf most of the time, they fuck backpackers, and they sit around a bucket bong when the skies are grey and the waves are shit.
There are few waves today. But that doesn't matter.
Crash and his two mates are too stoned to stand up on their surfboards anyway. They come out here not always to surf. Just to bob around sometimes, lie back on their boards or stare down into the water, sometimes watching for sharks, and they talk. Stoned talk. About the surf, about other surfers, about the easy English backpacker chicks, about drugs they've had, about drugs they're going to get. Hours of talk like this, between the occasional set of something surfable. The sun is even brighter out here than it is on the beach, and occasionally it reflects off a ripple and blinds you good and solid.
"Wanna go another scud?"
Paul is asking Crash this question. Paul is the singer/guitarist in the band Crash plays bass for, the band that has been together for a few years, but never seems to actually gig, or record, or even write songs. Crash does wanna go another scud.
"Scuddly-duddly," he says. "Fire that fucker up."
Stu, the drummer in their band, is disinterested, staring out at the horizon. Other riders hear the talk of 'scuds' (long fat joints) and paddle themselves closer to our circle.
From within the left sleeve of his wetsuit, Paul slips out a long, thin plastic container. It was once an airline toothbrush holder, now it's a waterproofed joint storage unit. Paul fishes the joint out and into his mouth without touching it, attaches a crocodile clip so our fingers won't get it wet, then strikes one of the matches also stored in that little case. He sparks the scud into life.
Crash, Stu and Paul not only play together in a band that never seems to rehearse much either, and they also share an apartment back off the beach that is so....gritty that it makes the one I'm sharing with Grover look like a fucking palace.
Their conversations out on the waves, as the scud is carefully passed around, have a well-worn ring to them. Lots of big statements, few questions.
- "Don't take any shit from grommits Stu, they get on your wave, you spear 'em with your board. Only way the little fuckers learn to respect your ride."
- "She's like, 'you gotta wear a dommie', I'm like 'fuck that, my dick don't wear raincoats for nobody'. So she gets all peaked out, says she's goin' home. I'm like 'well fucking go then!' but she changes her mind, right? Like that. Starts in with the 'please let me stay pleaseletmestay', I'm like 'well get your gear off and I'll throw one in ya', right?"
- "They build that railway station down here and these waves are gonna be packed with hundreds of losers. The whole beach will be chockers, everyday. And all those models and actresses back there who get their tits out for the sun, right? they'll stop doing it, or go to another beach, 'cause then there'll be thousands of pervy dudes hanging round, freaking out over the all day titty show."
It's Guy Time out here on the waves. Serious Bloke Talk. Do they believe each other's stories?
Does it matter?
Fuck, no.
The joint goes from Paul to Crash then to me. There's a moment of stark terror when I almost drop it into the water. You can't fuck up much more than that, and I'm relieved to take a few hits and get it out of my hands again. Nobody wants to be the fucking arsehole who drops a joint out here. Bummer time.
New Year's Eve is long gone, a blur of faint memory. Late January now, and the summer heat is breaking weather records. But the sun becomes addictive, the searing of skin feels good, we are told the Sun Is Death now, but nobody really listens. The attitude is, 'Who gives a fuck if you get skin cancer when you're an old cunt'?
The sun is shining, the sun is for now, to be soaked up, absorbed. It feels like this Summer will never end.
Crash, like a few dozen other local guys in their 20s, haunts the backpacker-ridden Bondi bars on and around Campbell Avenue. Shitholes like the Bloodbath (a local hotel renowned for its brawls), the Regis, the Beechwood cafe. They are guys on the hunt, and the Bondi Savannah is crowded with game.
"I try to bang the continental Euro-babes mostly," says Crash. "For the challenge. It's harder to wrangle a Swedish babe back to your place, than to nail some pommy scrubber."
Paul and Stu nod.
"It's weird," Crash continues. "You can always find some English chick at closing time, pissed out of her mind, hanging round, like she's waiting for some Australian guy to pick her up and give her one. You don't even have to try much with the English chicks. They're always up for it. They leave their boyfriends back there in that grim shithole and come over here and bang their way around Australia."
What's the attraction of Australian guys for the English girls? I ask Crash, and he is ready with his Theory, one upon which he seems to have spent much time speculating.
"It's the Neighbours/Home And Away fantasy thing of Australian men. It's a teenie-girl fantasy thing to them to come halfway round the world and fuck one of us... I don't understand it, but I dig it. You see dudes like automatically checking their pocket for condom-machine change as soon as they hear that the chick they've just eyeballed is pissed up and English. They know they're gonna get a root, definitely!" Crash laughs.
When the joint is gone, and the paranoia is in full-force, we regularly check the water beneath us to make sure sharks are not cruising, readying to take a chomp out of our boards, or out of us.
It never happens.
There hasn't been a shark attack on Bondi Beach for almost sixty years, but the possibility never truly leaves your mind.
Stu says he's heading back in. He wants to grab a shower and get down the North Bondi RSL for a $3 weekday lunch. The best feed bargain in the city, but few Sydneysiders seem to know it's even there. You will, however, always find backpackers in the line, plate in hand. They somehow, always, seem to know where the good, cheap food is to be found.
Vegetarian Lasagne, or T-bone, or veal/chicken schnitzel, with a steaming mound of mashed potatoes and gravy, a bowl of salad with sweet chilli sauce, and schooners of beer for two dollars.
This day that had started so hot and bright is now greying under dark silver clouds that none of us noticed had quickly moved in. The water melts from inviting-tropical blue to a threatening icy black beneath us. Steel blue waves crash down hard on inexperienced surfers, rolling and washing them in a wall of foam and churning sand back towards the beach.
It's time to get out of the water.

It's early February now, hotter than ever, Jesus, like holidaying on the fucking sun.
Mind drifts off and I watch the flow of people side-stepping the tiny footpath cafe table I share with Wendy, the (German? I never did ask) backpacker. She never has much to say, and when the heat hits like this, my mind shuts down. We've got nothing to say to each other. We're just hanging out.
A parade of maybe-one-day-they-will-be-famous actors and models patrol the strip, some in bikinis, some wrapped in towels, shoes and thongs are always optional.
Wendy watches me watching the girls for a moment then goes back to writing her postcards. When we're walking back to the beach later, to meet up with Feena and Tanji, and their eight other Eurobabe friends who daily gather to try and sun themselves darker than the indigenous who lived on this beach for tens of thousands of years, Wendy she shows me the postcards. I flick through them, catch lines here and there, noticing how excellent her written English has become in barely a few weeks : ...'but you never want to sleep when everyday and everynight is best party in the world....we are so alive....everyday perfect, everyday filled with sunshine and laughter and friends....but you stay here too long and you get caught up in this tiny, tiny world....I'm sorry I didn't ring you at Christmas, I'm sorry I forgot you while I've been living my dream....'
The screenplay I've been working on is almost done, and the producer is waiting for the last five pages. If he likes those as much as he liked the rest, he says he will option it and pay me to do another draft, then he wants to get it out to agents. This isn't the first time I've heard this kind of thing, so I let him live out his movie-making fantasy through a screenplay that will probably never get made, I'm getting paid something, as tiny as it is, to write, to keep writing, and that's enough for now.
Wendy waves goodbye as she runs across the hot sand to her friends. Feena waves at me, and motions for me to come and join them for another afternoon roasting in the sun.
But I've spent too many days already lying around this beach in the middle of a gaggle of jaw-droppingly beautiful Eurobabes, coping dirty looks from suburban boys who can't fathom what the hell I'm doing there with all those girls. That's fun in itself, for a while, but today I've got places to go, people to see, more time that urgently needs to be wasted, so the writing that is due will take on a sense of dire urgency that always sparks the true inspiration.
Fucking hope so, anyway.

In his sand-strewn apartment, in his clothes-and-damp-towels draped bedroom, the air stinging with mildew and sweat, Crash has a world map on his wall, with little flags pinned to eighteen different countries; thirty-seven different cities. I ask what the flags signify. He grins stupidly, then explains that every pin on the map marks the home locale of a backpacker chick he's picked up in Bondi. He has a pin laid out on the table, ready to go up on the map...Tonight, maybe a new country, or so he hopes.
Crash, like so many other young people in Bondi, particularly the musicians, writers and actors, seem to live in an existence composed almost solely of hope.
Crash hopes to get laid more, hopes to get a record deal, hopes to make millions, hopes to get out of Australia, hopes to tour the world, hopes to pay his rent tomorrow, hopes to be able to score some decent green. Hope, hope, hope.
Almost anywhere else, it would be gutting to live in such desperate hope after five or more years, but here in Bondi it seems to be much easier. How can you feel like your life is crap and going nowhere when you are living in such a beautiful, world-famous and now increasingly expensive beach community?
But Stu, Crash's flatmate, confesses that all the good points, and there are many, to wasting through another Bondi Summer, still dreaming, doesn't keep up the blinds forever. Stu wants to leave Bondi, soon. He knows the good times will not, cannot, last forever.
The afternoon slinks by outside the musicians ground floor, back-of-the-building, apartment. No view from here. Just trees, a fence, a glimpse of the sky between houses. More billies. More silence, then bursts of conversation that fade as quickly as they arise.
Crash and Paul and Stu have funny-sad arguments about the band and their own drug intake, their futures, their demo tape, the talent and potential of other musos in the area versus their own, if they should record their unwritten album in a studio or on home-recording equipment in the apartment. Or even do it acoustically on the beach at night, with twenty friends as the audience.
I ask them how their first gigs together went down. They look at me blankly. Besides a busking session at Circular Quay and a few rough jams at local talent nights, the trio have yet to actually, officially, perform together as a band. Anywhere. This is almost five years into the band's existence.
But aren't live gigs the most important kind of groundwork for a rock band?
Stu nods, but Crash and Paul shrug.
"You can break out real quick now," says Crash. "Don't even need to gig. Just gotta get the songs recorded. A few people from round here have sold songs to American movie soundtracks, for like $20,000 a song, plus royalties."
"Spice Girls," Paul says admiringly, from a strictly business point of view. "More than twenty million albums and a hundred million pounds in two years. Good marketing, man. The sweetest. An all round top marketing package ramming mediocre product to the top of the charts."
Crash nods enthusiastically. This sounds much easier than slogging their way to fame through hundreds of hard, shitty gigs like The Angels or Cold Chisel had to endure to build their audience, to secure their legend.
Paul brings up a story he heard of how US ex-record company execs are signing up young, unrecorded musicians, singers, songwriters, and are putting their careers, and future potential earning power, on the stock market. Self-funded, no record companies, each song or album then leased out to smaller labels, or sold direct to the audience over the internet.
Yeah, maybe in a decade, but who is doing this right now? Paul heard about it all from another Bondi muso, so that's as good as truth to him.
The trio nod along to each other's fantasies and loose themselves in more dreams of what life will be like when everything comes good for them, and they get the record deal they know is out there, right now, trying to find its way to them. After they write some good songs of course, after they get the live show together, play live together
Today was going to be a band rehearsal day, but....
There is always something else to do. A coffee at a cafe, a beer at the 'Bergs, a booze soaked lunch at the RSL, a surf, another long afternoon of punching billies, a jam with other local musos "happening somewhere, but we have to find this guy and then get him to get this other guy to give us a lift there, with him, cause he's got awesome amps."
There's no left time for things like writing songs, recording, rehearsing, gigging and promoting their band.

It's after dawn now, and there should be stunning, gorgeous early morning views of Bondi from the living room and kitchen windows, but the curtains are drawn tight, the rooms dark.
There are four backpackers sleeping in the living room, another on the floor in Grover's bedroom. We charge them $10 each night to stay here, but they have to be gone for the day by 9am and not come back until early evening. Suits them all fine. We undercut the hostels by $10-$15, and Grover has said he might start sleeping in the living room, too, so he can put six bunk beds in his bedroom and rent them all out. He's already done the maths. With six in his room, everynight, we'd be free-living here and making another $120 or a week to split between us. The broken toilet was fixed by one of the backpackers, a German guy who turned up late, slept five hours, found a way to bodgy up a solution to the toilet problem in the early morning, before departing.
Feena is here, for a few days. So are Tanji and Wendy. They spend all their days now lying in the sun on the beach. It's already the beginning of March, and none of their travel plans have come to fruition. Whole weeks have disappeared at lightning speed. Most of their money gone over night-club bars and into local E dealers' pockets. They sleep until the day is warm, then lie as still as corpses in the baking sun for two or three hours, a dip in the ocean, then yet another afternoon back on the sand, then they hit the local clubs and bars until midnight or later, playing pool, meeting guys, getting toxic-drunk on whatever whoever is willing to buy them. They always seem to find some guy with the cash to get them hammered. This goes on, and on, day in, night out. Time, dates, soon lose all meaning.
We have a barbecue on the tiny balcony. Stu and Paul come over, Crash is up the coast at a family funeral, a few of mutual friends are also here, they got the meat, and the drugs.
There's only a few precious hot rocks for the barbecue left, so we use bound logs of newspaper, cardboard, old wood from the crumbling kitchen cupboards, and three cans of zippo lighter fuel.
Soon enough, the fire is raging, but nothing cooks properly of course. It's all flame, no heat.
Then it's all smoke.
The smoke pours heavily, twisting off in a long column, away from the building. Thank God.
But then it breaks into a wide cloud and blows back in through the open balcony doors of those who live above us, and below us. We ignore the angry yells from the neighbours, and turn up the stereo when they start knocking too loud on the front door. I keep telling myself I'm only still living here, in this shithole, because one day all these experiences might make a good book. I convince myself that this lifestyle is actually some kind of reportage for a future writing project. But I'm stringing out the hard return to reality for as long as I can.
Like Crash, like Paul, like Stu, like Grover, like the Eurobabes.
People pass by down below on Nott's Avenue, they stare up at us as we kick back on the balcony, tilting icy beers to our mouths, and they seem to be wondering just how the hell a bunch of degenerates like us can afford to stay here, right next door a multi-millionaire like James Packer, in a place with such magnificent views, so very close to the beach.
We wonder this, too.
And often.

A game of touch football on the beach at sunset in early February.
Me and Grover and Crash and Paul and Stu square off against young guys from Ireland, the US, Scandinavia, Germany, Holland.
We ignore the touch-football rules and tackle them hard and brutal. We almost remove their heads with illegal head-high tackles, then drive their faces deep into the hot sand. We hit them with running shoulder charges that knock them back five feet. They get the shits in the end, and leave. But the girls who gathered to watch, they stay.
Crash and Feena have somehow managed to not meet before the football game, or at least, if they have crossed each other's paths in post-midnight bars, they don't seem to remember.
So Crash meets Feena. Crash invites Feena out for dinner and drinks, just the two of them. Crash takes her to Terrific Thai in Curlewis Street, where you can score a huge entree and rice for less than four dollars. Then once it's dark, he takes her for a walk around the cliff path to Tamarama Beach where they polish off a half bottle of cheap bourbon. Feena and Crash (he tells me later), stop in the cave under the lookout along the coast path for a joint. You can see the whole bay of Bondi from that cave. I used to sleep there sometimes, back in the early 90s, when Kings Cross was just too fucking ugly to take for another night.
So Crash fucks Feena in the cave, then she passes out. He steals $40 out of her purse and leaves without waking her.
The next time Crash sees Feena in the IceBergs he gives her this look like he maybe once knew her ten years ago, but he can't remember exactly who she is, what her name might be, or what they could have done together. He gives her a vague smile of recognition, then completely ignores her. Feena is used to this. She doesn't care.
There have been worse guys than Crash....

Feena wears the look of the utterly desperate as she comes back from the city. Her father has canceled her already maxed out emergency-use-only credit cards, and in a rage demanded she return home immediately. Her friends Tanji and Wendy went back last week.
Feena also confesses that she has been pissing painfully for more than two weeks now - for some reason she thinks I want to know such details of her private life. In the city, at the doctor's, Feena found out why it burns when she takes a piss. She thinks Crash gave her herpes, if not the first time then one of the other times, she thinks, she can't be sure if it was him. Too many guys.
In an echo I can hear Crash laughing about the backpacker chicks he says he has sent home with a "permanent Bondi souvenir".
Feena bursts into tears. She flies home the next morning, but she has to be at the airport by 6am, but she doesn't have enough money to get a taxi or even a bus, nothing for drinks on the flight home, or touristy shit for her little brother, nothing for food on the nine hour stopover in Osaka.
"Please help me," she begs, but I don't have any money to give her. The screenplay is finished, the wannabe British movie producer hasn't been heard from since he received the last draft. I'm working in a bar, but the shifts are few and far between, as the summer ends, and the tourists leave, the work dries up. The real estate has told us we have to be gone from this apartment soon, a few weeks at the most, the owner has big plans for the renovations and wants to get started as soon as the loan goes through. I tell Feena to help herself to whatever food she can find, but there's not a lot of that either, maybe some plain rice and porridge and bayleaves and cinnamon and prehistoric pasta. A bottle of soy sauce. Somewhere.
Feena goes back out to sell all the CDs that have soundtracked her Bondi Summer Dreaming to a second hand record shop. She'll probably get enough for a bus ride to the airport, a meal there, maybe an 'Australia Is Awesome' t-shirt for her little brother from one of the tourist junk shops there.
She's cleaned out.
"I sold the car my dad brought me before I left to come here," Feena says. "I quit my job, I gave up my apartment...I gave all my furniture to my friends....I don't have anything left. My father said I have to work for him to pay him back for the credit cards. I have to move back home again...."
She sags under the weight of the reality she will soon have to deal with.
"I thought I'd meet some nice guy and stay in Australia and get married."
I nod, shrug, watching the surf from the window, waiting.
She leaves with her bag full of CDs.

Feena's crying again as I lug her huge suitcase down the stairs and out to the street. She sold all her CDs and the guy in the record shop took enough pity on her and gave her an extra $20. It's enough to exchange a bus ride for a taxi.
The coming dawn is blood red, peaking through the black night, eerily beautiful.
The taxi driver stands by his car, staring at us, impatiently drumming his fingers loudly on the metal.
"I don't want to go home...." Feena mumbles, but I'm still half-asleep, so it's sort of like dreaming. "I hate it back there. I want to stay here...."
She's about to say something else, but I open the back door for her and give her a quick hug goodbye. Feena promises to write and come back to Sydney soon, but it's doubtful if she'll do either. And who really cares anyway? People drift in and out of your life, some stay longer than others, the rare few become true friends.
She slept in my bed last night, I was out on the futons. I think of her lying scungy on the sheets, riddled with Crash's super herpes, and I wonder if I should wash them or burn them.
The taxi pulls away, Feena waves frantically from the back window.
I'm about to head back to the futons, but I notice a police boat doing a lazy sweep of the bay, its spotlight flickering across the rocks, the points, the shoreline, the path of the light seems lazy, half-hearted, disinterested. Whatever they're looking for, they don't think they're going to find it.
A police car is parked on the promenade, lights flashing. I go for a closer look.

Crash and Paul are standing near the skate ramp, on the edge of the beach.
They are sullen, slumping statues, staring alternately out to sea or down at their shoes. And they don't look at each other, at all.
One of the two cops leaning against the car flashes his torch at the police boat and it toots back, then surges out of the bay.
A few other people stand gathered, in small groups, along the promenade, maybe a dozen in all. A few more down on the waterline. The cops are talking about why someone would be stupid enough to go swimming at night after a hit of smack.
Stu, the bassist, is the missing swimmer the boat was looking for.
I mumble a hello to Paul and Crash, but they don't notice, too caught up in their own nightmare-realities for now.
""I have to tell his mother," Crash is whispering, like a mantra. " I have to tell his mother, I have to tell his mother...."
Time to get out of here. Back to bed. This scene is way too heavy.

Late April. The eviction notice, finally, slides under the door, it is followed by a court summons, for Grover, a handful of other papers and long forgotten bills that are also quickly screwed up and tossed into the bin.
Push it all away, pretend it doesn't exist.
The electricity was cut off a week ago. A mate of Grover's from Queensland who is about to join the migration of mine workers to Western Australia, is staying here in these last days. We use candles, bags of ice in an old esky to keep stuff cold, mostly beer.
The night lights of Bondi and the moon on the water are even prettier without television and electric illumination.
We sit in darkness and watch an incredible storm barrel in from far out at sea, swamping the beach with slamming waves, primal-terrifying bursts of thunder and great huge splinters of hot-pink lightning.
"It will never be this good again," Grover whispers. "You know that, don't you?"
I know what he means.
We're all leaving here within days. Grover's decided to head to WA with his old mate and find work there. The British movie producer wants me to find my way to England where he thinks he is close to setting up a deal for another movie script we came up with when he got bored with the American Graffiti in the western suburbs thing as I assumed he eventually would.
Summer is gone, again, and Bondi doesn't feel the same anymore.
Stu's death seems to have poisoned everything. Before Crash wandered back home to his parents house in Queensland, he kept saying, over and over, "We had it too fucking good for too fucking long, someone had to pay." It sounded like a line from a movie we'd watched a dozen times but barely remembered, except for the good lines.
There is still talk of a train station for Bondi, new developments, apartment blocks, high-rise office buildings towering over the beach, and a hundred renovations of shitty old apartments like this one.
A lot of wealthy people are moving into Bondi, and they want to change everything. Change Bondi, the whole face of it, but not just its appearance. More people move in, more tourists flow in, and they will change the social landscape. More locals will get jack of the tourist families crowding Campbell Parade and the soaring rents and will leave. And the sense of seaside community that only a few months ago felt so strong here, so fucking ingrained, the community of old and young people just living their lives without worrying too much about what the rest of the world is doing, or who's earning how much, it will fade away, dissolve away, it's already begun.
What was once a strictly working class village for almost a century - on the edge of Australia's biggest city - all of what made Bondi Beach feel so special, so downright majestic and rare, will be lost forever.
More trees have been removed from around the beach, replaced by slabs of concrete, a bigger carpark is coming. Dodgy but cosy little cafes are being stripped of everything old and refitted with chrome and mirrors and those stupid fucking glowing walls.
The beach is still the same, but it already looks different. More like a postcard reality.
Campbell Parade has just had its first arrests in as long as anyone can remember for hookers working the strip. The Kings Cross crowd, driven out of their old digs by soaring rents and police actually policing, are relocating here. So many familiar old faces you hoped to never see again. Someone got shot the other evening. Gun fire seems to echo in through the windows every few nights, it's nowhere near that often, but it seems like it.
Most of the backpackers are gone, for now, favourite cafes and restaurants are either closed for the best part of the day, or shut down completely for renovations, and shops that so recently hummed with life and noise now sit empty, or are down-trading, casual work is gone, the bar jobs are gone.
And everybody, it seems, is selling hydro majestic gear now.
Grover had a good thing going for a while, but it's over. The deals are shittier, but cheaper, and Grover can't compete. That's why he's bailing for WA.
The party's over.
Fucked out, blown out, wasted away. As was intended.
The weather is previewing the harsh winter to come. It grows slowly, almost reluctantly colder, like a tired old man not wanting to get up from his snug warm bed.
The sea most days seems dark, steel blue and terrifying.
It will never be this good again.
And maybe it's not supposed to be.
Life goes on, gets on, and you either catch up and jump aboard, or you get left behind. Some of the same breakfast-wasted surfers will be bobbing on those waves barely changed a decade from now. The question is whether they will care about all the things they missed out on.
The desire to stay, to find a way to never leave here, like the old blokes in the Icebergs, is still strong, a gnawing temptation.
But this dream is over now, this One Summer Bondi Dreaming is done.
The front door of the apartment clicks shut for the last time.
Wake up, reality is waiting.

Thursday, June 04, 2009

A comment I left at the JF Beck blog :

It was Tim Flannery who said dumping sulphur out of planes might be a solution to combating global warming. Others fear-mongering global warming for personal or corporate gain have also talked up this 'solution'. It sounds like an insane plan.

Weather modification isn't a conspiracy theory. I don't want to shock you, but we've been spraying stuff out of aircraft all over the world to alter weather for decades.

As for 9/11. The Bush official story of 9/11 has been changing, quite dramatically, over the years.

Rumsfeld said Flight 93 was shot down by terrorists, Bush said he saw the first plane go into the World Trade Centre on live TV, Cheney recently said the towers were blown up.

10 Australians were killed on 9/11, including a good friend of my mother. I'd like to know for sure that the Bush-era official story is rooted in at least 90% fact and that it will stand up to scrutiny in the decades to come.

9/11 was used to sell the Iraq War. More than 5000 American, British and Australian soldiers have died in Iraq, and it will ultimately cost a couple of trillion. Don't you want to be damn fucking sure that there is nothing dodgy about the Bush official story of 9/11?

I don't understand why the desire to question the reality of global warming, and the intentions of those who promote it so heavily, is so popular with the people who frequent here and Bolt's and Blair's, but you all have zero curiosity about whether you know all the truth or not on the events of 9/11 and the intelligence that was used to sell the Iraq War.

Friday, May 15, 2009

A comment I contributed to a post at Larvatus Prodeo on the coming reality of robot soldiers and autonomous war-fighting machines :
I hope you all realise that when the robots become totally autonomous and take over they'll be searching back through internet archives to find anti-robot talk, like some of the ahove, they'll trawl archives for dissent, and they will know who to round up and target as potential enemies.

Do you want to have to front up to a robot interrogator one day in 2018 and explain why back in 2009 you started mouthing off like "Fuck those robots, man, we'll kick their metal arses!"

And remember, robots can travel back in time from the future, so if you're already mulling over plans for an anti-robot insurgency, you'll probably have one crashing through your living room window any moment now.
And some fightback advice for the anti-robot insurgency from another commenter at that thread :

I gather one of those magnetic pulse thingy counter measures would give the robots a bit of trouble?

I don’t even think you need to go that hi-tech. Try lobbing a variant of the Molotov cocktail: instead of lit gasoline, use salt water. Cause you know the first models would be vulnerable to shorts, and are going to have giant ventilation ducts to prevent them from overheating.

Wednesday, May 13, 2009

FatPride & Fatism

By Darryl Mason

From The Orstrahyun :

Q : How do black women control crime?
A : Abortion.

Q : What's the difference between Santa Claus and a Jew?
A : Santa Claus goes down the chimney.

Q : How do you stop a poofter from drowning?
A : Take your foot off his head.

Q : Why did God invent alcohol?
A : So fat chicks can get a root.

Which of the above jokes is the most offensive?

Why would so many cringe at the first three jokes, but have a chuckle at the last?

The Gruen Transfer wanted to find out, so they tasked two ad agencies to come up with a campaign to sell Fat Pride, and to fight obesity discrimination and prejudice.

One of the ads aired on the show last night, but a second was deemed "offensive" by ABC censors and cut from the show, along with the occasionally heated, revealing and challenging panel discussion that followed.

If it's wrong to make jokes about Jewish people, black people and homosexuals, then why is it okay to make jokes about fat people?

Homer Simpson pushing maximum density can be mocked on Channel 10 at 6pm with lines like "Hey Fatty! I got a film for you. A Fridge Too Far!" But a joke about Homer walking into Moe's Bar when the lights are off and not being able to see his black friend Carl sitting at the bar wouldn't even leave the writers' bong room.

And if, then, it is wrong to make jokes about fat people, then is it wrong to make jokes about tall, gangly people? Jokes about midgets are out, but jokes about seven foot tall giraffe limbed freaks people are acceptable?

If it's wrong to make fun of someone in a wheelchair, then why is it acceptable to make jokes about someone who wears glasses?

If it's wrong to make jokes about someone's race, skin colour, religious beliefs, missing limbs, their height, or lack of it, then why is okay to make fun of their hair colour? Or their beards? Or their acne? Or their teeth?

Why can a current affairs show make fun of people who believe in UFOs, but they can't make fun of people who believe in invisible deities?

Why should you be allowed to make fun of someone if they believe in global warming?

Why should you be allowed to make fun of someone if they don't believe in global warming?

Why should you be allowed to make fun of soccer players? Or netballers? Or lawnbowlers?

Why should vegetarians have to tolerate TV ads pumping lamb making fun of their preference for the flesh of vegetables instead of animals?

Why should you be allowed to see a four year old kid run full sprint into a pole on funny video shows, but you you're not allowed to see a four year old kid in a wheelchair flop into the street when his attempt at a spinning wheelstand goes hilariously wrong?

Why is it acceptable to make fun of dimwitted American presidents, but not black ones?

Why is it acceptable to make a joke about the stupid face of a kitten, or the dopey head of a puppy, but you can't point at someone's newborn baby and ask the parents if they got a discount because it's so fucking ugly?

Why is it acceptable that humans find it so funny to mock and point and laugh at monkeys in a zoo?

They're almost human, and some of them have very dark skin.

Tuesday, May 12, 2009

A long comment I contributed to this post at Grods :

I was in the US for a big chunk of 2001, and up until September 11, Bush was regarded by many on the Right, and particularly in the Righty media to be a dunce, pro-illegal immigrants and soft on Islamist terrorism.

Fox News, and pundits like Michelle Malkin, went after Bush hard before the September 11 attacks somehow turned Bush into Hero President.

In the first half of 2001, the online Righties were still pretty excited about what they thought was a great victory in smashing Bill Clinton into utter mockery, they thought they had real power and influence and they were going to make sure Bush did as they demanded. But Bush was not delivering what they wanted in the first half of 2001, they hammered him pretty hard, at least as hard as supposedly Lefty shows like John Stewart's The Daily Show did.

Bush made a string of dimbulb verbal gaffes and took an incredible amount of holidays in those first nine months of 2001, and many of those Bush Is Stupid memes that came into popular circulation when it became clear Bush had lied his country into an unnecessary war and, with Hurricane Katrina, did not know what the fuck he was doing in general were first popular and foundationed into the President Bush II public perception by the hardcore conservative Righties in early 2001 who didn't think Bush was conservative enough.

September 11 gave Bush, as Condoleeza Rice put, "an opportunity", with the vast majority of all people in all nations on his side, to change the world for the better and to turn the aftermath of the attacks into something positive and inspired and brilliant. No world leader has ever had, and will ever have again, such a tidal wave of home and international support, he could do, and did, anything he wanted.

But Bush fucked it up. He blew it. He bailed on Afghanistan, attacked the people of Iraq, who hadn't done one single thing to him or the people of the US, hyped and mythologised a CIA list of mujahadeen the CIA and ISI trained and armed in the 1980s into the global enemy Al Qaeda and is ultimately responsible for the deaths and disablement of tens of thousands of American soldiers and hundreds of thousands of Iraqi civilians.

Looking back on the Bush years and thinking "Gee, he really did a good job" is a sign of a sociopathic mind.

/verbose rant off

Monday, April 02, 2007

American Sniper

A Poem By Darryl Mason


"Kill one man, terrorise a thousand"
the instructor had pointed to the sign
on the wall at the school where I learned to kill
Camp Pendleton, California
it didn't have a fancy name, this school
like 'tactical depopulation training'
we called it what it was
Sniper School
three months training
then they sent me here

"Kill one man, terrorise a thousand"
he smiled when he read the sign to me
my scores were good
he told me he was proud of me
never heard a man say that to me before
I see him now still tapping that sign
to a roomful of kids who are now
mostly dead

"Kill one man, terrorize a thousand"
That's what the sign said
So I learned it
and I loved it and now
I'm living it


a rooftop in Fallujah
came in by helicopter
Black Hawk at full crank
flying low enough to collect television aerials
others in my squad are on other buildings
on other rooftops
close by
we're alone here
not enough of us to go in pairs
not today, they said
you'll be okay
I know I'll be okay
I'm a fucking killing machine

Go Here To Read The Whole Poem

Thursday, February 22, 2007

How To "Cut And Run" Without "Abandoning Your Mates"

This post was originally published on 'The Road To Surfdom' blog

By Darryl Mason

As expected, the wild and unhinged rantings of John Howard, Alexander Downer, Brendan Nelson and Peter Costello regarding the Kevin Rudd plan for pulling Australian troops out of Iraq, is about to bite them back in the worst way.

Tony Blair is but a few hours away from announcing the withdrawal timetable of UK troops from Iraq, with around 1500 to be pulled out within weeks, another few thousand by Christmas and all but a few ‘trainers’ out by the end of 2008.

From the UK Guardian :

The prime minister is expected to say that Britain intends to gradually reduce the number of troops in southern Iraq over the next 22 months as Iraqi forces take on more responsibility for the security of Basra and the surrounding areas.

Ministers have taken on board the message coming from military chiefs over many months - namely that the presence of British troops on the streets of Basra is increasingly unnecessary, even provocative. The reduction of just 1,000 by early summer cited by officials yesterday is significantly less than anticipated in reports that British troops in southern Iraq, presently totalling 7,200, would be cut by half by May.

A more cautious reduction may reflect concern expressed by the Iraqi and US governments about British intentions. The US has privately admonished Britain claiming it is interested only in Basra. British ministers and officials say the situation in the Shia-dominated south cannot be compared to Baghdad, which is plagued by Sunni-Shia sectarian violence.

Under the plan due to be outlined by Mr Blair, British troops will gradually move into a single base on the outskirts of Basra. They will continue to take part in operations but in a role supporting Iraqi security forces rather than leading them, according to defence officials.

The Brits have suffered more than 130 fatalities in Iraq so far, with more than 600 seriously wounded.

The White House claims the British pullout is a sign of “success” :

“We view this as a success,” (White House spokesman) Mr Johndroe said, suggesting the British move was a sign of increasing stabilisation in Iraq.

“The President is grateful for the support of the British forces in the past and into the future. While the United Kingdom is maintaining a robust force in southern Iraq, we’re pleased that conditions in Basra have improved sufficiently that they are able to transition more control to the Iraqis.

“The United States shares the same goal of turning responsibility over to the Iraqi Security Forces and reducing the number of American troops in Iraq.”

John Howard’s first comment on this news, that Blair was “cutting and running” and ‘abandoning his mates’, was met with a fear-grinnning “I’ll talk to you guys later”.

Yeah, once he sorts out how the hell he’s going to spin his way clear now he and his muck-pack have pre-tagged the British as a bunch of cowards and terrorists appeasers.

Not surpisingly, the British want to focus on training the Iraqi Army up to take care of their own security, and you can expect Tony Blair to announce that such training will take place in Jordan, or Aman, or another neighbour of Iraq.

Of course, this is very much like the plan for Australian troops proposed by Kevin Rudd, and another plan now being considered by the American Democrats.

Despite the bile-drenched spewings of the Australian foreign minister, Alexander Downer, Rudd has made it abundantly clear that he intends to leave Australian troops in place to guard Australian diplomats and visiting corporate executives for as long as necessary, but to shift ‘trainers’ to a neighbouring country to continuing training Iraqi Army units.

Howard recently, and repeatedly, claimed this was as good as abandoning your mates when they need you most, and Downer, Nelson and Costello took the PM’s rhetorical football and ran for the try line, spouting gibberish all the way through the past week.

Downer in particular disgraced himself, and insulted millions of Australians, when he claimed in Parliament that voting for Labor would mean handing victory to the terrorists because an Australian troop withdrawal would follow, and troop withdrawal means “victory” for Al Qaeda and “terrorists” in Iraq, and around the world.

The man is a pathetic moron who continually embarrasses Australia internationally and insults our allies and members of the Australian, British and American military. And he does this repeatedly.

What’s worse, Downer actually appears to believe the garbage he spews, even though he has access to intelligence that tells him exactly how the “terrorists” view their progress in the Iraq War.

The “terrorists” in Iraq look at their tally of downed helicopters and literally thousands of blown apart Humvees and a stream of American casualties that is now so intense, military hospitals back home can’t cope with the flow, and the “terrorists” know they have already achieved a victory beyond what they could ever have anticipated.

All across the Middle East, and the Arab and Muslim world, media discusses the post-US defeat environmnet in Iraq, and what happens next in the Middle East. They are not discussing or debating a coming US defeat in Iraq, they talk continually of the one they believe has already happened.

Downer is not interested in salvaging what he can from the Iraq fiasco and helping to repair the damage done to this souvereign nation by the invasion and occupation. He still buys the Bush line that one day they can declare victory and say nah-nah-nah to all those who ever claimed otherwise.

If it was just political weaponry from Downer, it would barely be excuseable. But it’s not. Downer thinks the Iraq War can still be won in a way where Victory bells will chime out and grateful Iraqis will fawn at his feet. But even worse than these deluded fantasies, Downer also believes that Australians who don’t vote for the coalition this year want “terrorists” to win in Iraq.

It’s beyond pathetic. And way beyond a joke. Downer treats the most serious issues of our age like they’re just more games for him to play, just more opportunities for him to try and show how clever he thinks he is. He cares not a fig for the damage he does, or the pain he causes good and decent people, with his mindless propaganda.

Downer should apologise to all Australians, to the American generals he insulted last night on Lateline, he should apologise to the British troops who want to go home, he should apologise to Tony Blair, who still leads a country that remains a key ally of Australia, and most of all Downer should apologise to the Iraqis who have suffered the most of all from his dreams of transforming the Middle East via the big stick of war.

Downer will no doubt back-track and try and downplay the filth he has uttered in the past two weeks, but it’s too late. The historical record of what he has said, and how it applies to troop withdrawals by the Brits, the Americans, or Australians, is locked in.

He deserves nothing less than to be held in total contempt, and disgrace.

There’s more on this British troop withdrawal over at ‘The Fourth World War’ blog, with a round up of Iraq-related news, but the key details known so far of the UK withdrawal plans are above.

Blair is expected to make his (according to Downer) “Cut & Run” speech in the UK Parliament tonight, Australian time.

UPDATE : John Howard claimed today that he has "known for a while" about the UK's plans to announce their withdrawal of troops from Iraq.

If so, how does he explain these words, straight from his own mouth, on February 14 :
"If governments start nominating dates by which forces are going to be withdrawn, what they are doing is inviting our enemies, inviting the terrorists in Iraq, to persist with the destabilisation and the mayhem and the bloodshed."

But today, Howard now says this :

"A reduction has been in the wind and the reason I understand Mr Blair will give is that conditions have stabilised in Basra. I don't think it follows that there should be a reduction in our 550. I mean you have got to maintain a critical mass..."

There are plenty of people in Australia now wondering if the prime minister has "lost it". And not just "lost it" in the frame of his once formidable political powers. They're now talking "lost it" in terms of his mind, his sanity.

UPDATE : The UK prime minister has formally announced the withdrawal of more than 1600 British soldiers from Iraq, to take place over the coming months :

Mr Blair told MPs in the House of Commons that Britain's 7,100-strong deployment in the south of the country would be reduced to around 5,500.

Further withdrawals could cut the force to less than 5,000 by late summer, but British troops will remain in Iraq to support local authorities into 2008 "for as long as we are wanted and have a job to do", Mr Blair said.

Mr Blair said that the pull-out of troops had been made possible by the successful conclusion of Operation Sinbad, which has seen UK and Iraqi forces going through Basra district by district removing insurgent hotspots and supporting reconstruction.

This meant that Iraqi authorities were now able to take over responsibility for security, he said.

UPDATE : Almost to the hour that Tony Blair made his official announcement on withdrawing troops from Iraq, John Howard made public the news that he intends to nearly double the number of Australian military personnel in Afghanistan to almost 1000 :

Cabinet's national security committee has approved initial planning for the deployment - which includes sending a special forces task group back to Oruzgan province and additional air support - with a Defence team to report back soon on its scope.

The result could be the deployment of up to 450 extra personnel and new capabilities, possibly including Black Hawk helicopters and an air defence radar team.

The security cabinet is expected to sign off on the new commitment next month, pending the results of a reconnaissance mission to Afghanistan.

The plan to commit a new force of up to 250 ground troops - composed of elite SAS and commandos - comes as NATO-led coalition forces face an uphill battle to stabilise Afghanistan and as security in Oruzgan province remains precarious.

Tuesday, February 20, 2007

The David Hicks Hex And Mocking Phillip Ruddock

This is a piece I wrote for the Road To Surfdom blog on February 20, 2006, following a nationally televised debate/forum about the five year long detention of Australian terror suspect David Hicks In Guantanamo Bay.

By Darryl Mason - 'The Orstrahyun'

It's not often you get to see a roomful of Australians laughing at the Attorney General, twice, in the space of an hour. And it wasn't a pretty sight.

No doubt Phillip Ruddock was expecting a particularly uncomfortable afternoon when he went along to the taping of SBS's Insight forum show debating the American detention of terrorism suspect, and Australian citizen, David Hicks.

You can only imagine Ruddock never expected it to go as bad as it did. How bad?

Absolutely terrible.

Ruddock was given numerous chances to make his case for why the Howard government had not done more, earlier, to pressure the Bush administration into getting the David Hicks military trial underway, or to get him released. But there was nothing new from Ruddock. His talking points were dashed by lawyerly waffle and blame-gaming.

Blame Hick's defence, blame the other Gitmo inmates who appealed against the earlier, discredited, Supreme Court rejected military trial set-up, and yes, even blame the Americans as well.

Ruddock wasn't out to save the credibility of the American military trial system now in place. He wasn't out to save the credibility of the prime minister, or Alexander Downer, or President Bush. Ruddock was there, with his Amnesty International pin in place, to try and rescue the last fading threads of his own credibility. And he failed.

The loudest laugh from the audience, a laugh full of contempt and disbelief, came when Ruddock said the Australian government had never been happy with the time it had taken for Hicks to firstly be charged and then for the military trial rules to be finalised and accepted by the highest court in the United States.

They laughed because they know the Howard government only changed its tune on Hicks once it became clear that his five year long detention, without trial, was the sort of "fair go" issue that could hammer Howard hard at the 2007 federal election. They changed their tune when the polls showing almost 70% of Australians were not happy with Howard on the issue of David Hicks told them they had no choice.

But even worse for Ruddock, his waffly, defensive rhetoric seemed even more cold and empty than usual because David Hick's dad and his shattered step-mother were sitting only a few seats away. The distress on her face alone made Ruddock's words seem all but meaningless.

Ruddock looked close to tears himself, on a number of occasions, even though the case against what has happened to David Hicks was argued reasonably, and calmly, by Terry Hicks, former Guantanamo Bay detainees, audience members and Hick's defence lawyer Major Mori.

It was hardly a gang assault of abuse and shouting aimed at Ruddock, but he still came close to cracking.

He was there to represent the government and his department but he also found himself, as usual, defending the actions of the Bush administration, something he was clearly not happy having to do. But there lies the rub. Ruddock had choice but to try and back up the stance of Bush Co. when it comes to detainees like Hicks. They're our closest ally, after all. And this is supposed to a war against terrorists, suspected and/or confirmed.

Most in the audience didn't look particularly angry, just sad, disappointed, worn out by the apparent pettiness of the evidence against Hicks that was raised by his military prosecutor.

Is that it? Is that all they've got on this guy?

As terrible as it is that a young Australian went to fight for an outfit as odious as the Taliban, the charges still not formally laid against Hicks, and the case made by the prosecutor (who couldn't have asked for a more open forum to say whatever he wanted), still don't add up to enough to make most Australians think Hicks deserves to be held like a rat in a steel box for half a decade. Let alone be tortured and mind-fucked.

There was something historical, instead of hysterical, about the calm, measured tone of the Insight debate. In essence, it encapsulated some of the most important legal and moral issues thrown up by the War On Terror. How many violations of human rights and decency will we accept to win a war of such vague definitions?

Do we ignore the injustice piled on those who we are told are our enemy? Do we accept genital electrocutions and months of sensory deprivation and threats of rape and murder because those we are told are our enemy do even worse?

Or do we seek to impose the laws that contain and maintain our societies against those who may wish to destroy us?

Do we have to become like those we wage war against to ulitmately 'win'? And if we have to accept detention without trial and torture and detainees being beaten to death as necessary parts of thsi war, then what exactly will we have won?

We didn't imitate, nor accept, the behaviour of our enemy during World War 2 or Vietnam, so why must we become like our enemy this time?

In the end, the military prosecutor and Ruddock could do little to counter the chief arguments raised against the five year imprisonment of David Hicks, and those which have been primary in forcing the Howard government to act, if only by the sheer force of public opinion.

Why has this all taken so long?

Why have Taliban leaders been released from Guantanamo Bay years before David Hicks has even been charged? What the hell has been going on over there?

Neither Ruddock nor the American military prosecutor could counter these questions because the answer was so straightforward and they both knew that answer so well.

Howard, like UK prime minister Tony Blair, was offered by Bush the opportunity to take back Hicks, years ago. No charges, no trial, no lengthy detention. Howard has already admitted as much. But the prime minister had insisted the trial must go ahead and that the evidence against Hicks be heard and judged in a military court.

And it's becoming increasingly clea that Phillip Ruddock has pressured Howard for months, if not years, to take up the Bush administration offer to send Hicks back home, but Howard refused, because he would not back down, he could not be seen to have flip-flopped, to have gone back on his word on such a war-vital issue.

But it was Ruddock who had to face the disgust and disbelief of Australians, and Hicks' parents last night, while Howard got to harp on about how he had been the phone to Bush, ramping up the pressure for the David Hicks trial to go ahead, quick smart, lest his beloved Australians be further disappointed.

The case made for the charges now leveled against Hicks - attempted murder, aiding terrorism - was weak, and there were many promises from the US military prosecutor about evidence and witnesses that would be unveiled in an "open court" and how Hicks defenders will be changing their minds when they learn just what he was really doing in Afghanistan all those years ago, after September 11.

He went back to pick up his passport so he could come home, Terry Hicks stated, and the prosecutor said nothing to counter this simple claim.

The mention of an "open court" by the prosecutor was particularly interesting. It was made to sound like the trial of David Hicks might even be televised. Though this seems doubtful.

But even the prosecutor was forced to all but admit that some, if not the majority, of the eyewitness testimony would be hearsay, perhaps even two or three witnesses removed. Ruddock sounded as enthusiastic about the credibility of such hearsay evidence as he did about evidence collected by torture. Not at all.

As Major Mori pointed out, the real evidence, the meaty stuff, if it even exists, is unlikely to even be seen by the jury, let alone heard in court if the trial goes ahead, because it falls in the realm of "classified."

By the end of the Insight debate, something of a stalemate was in place. Would the military prosecutor accept a plea bargain? Would Major Mori get David Hicks to plead out guilty, on the promise of a fast trip back home? Will the charges even be accepted by the judge now looking them over? Will Hicks even be formally charged?

It is clear that Howard and the rest of his government want the David Hicks nightmare to just disappear, well before the federal election. But it's also increasingly clear that this simply isn't going to happen.

The best Howard can now hope for is that the US judge who will decide whether or not the prosecutor's charges should be formally laid against Hicks will instead throw the whole thing out, and this could happen as soon as next week. Hicks could then come home, be deemed a security risk by the federal police, placed on a control order, be banned from talking to the media and disappear back into the suburbs of Adelaide, months before the federal election campaigning officially begins.

But for this to work to Howard's advantage will require Australians to become bored by the Hicks fiasco, and that doesn't seem likely to happen any time soon, despite the near ceaseless daily media coverage.

The nightmare for David Hicks may end soon, but the nightmare of what happened to David Hicks has only really just begun for John Howard.

As Posted To 'The Road To Surfdom'

Sunday, February 04, 2007

Why Are Movies From The Great Young Directors Of Today So Few And Far Between?

Directors In the 70s Burned Up The Screens, Today's Star Directors Make Cameo Appearances

An excellent story from the New York Times looks at why so many of the great young directors of the 1990s are so unproductive.

Some of them, like Kimberly Peirce of Boys Don't Cry (1999) fame, are moving at a Kubrickian glacial pace. She's got a new movie out this year, Stop-Loss, but that's almost eight years between films.

Darren Aronofsky
turned out Pi (1998) and Requiem For A Dream (2000), and then six years drifted by until he directed The Fountain.

David Fincher
has moved a little faster since his groundbreaking serial killer smash Seven (1995), with Fight Club (2000) and Panic Room (2002), but still it will be five years between movies when Zodiac is released later this year.

David O. Russell
sated hungry adult humour audiences with Flirting With Disaster (1996), and then delivered brilliantly with Three Kings (1999), but apart from I Heart Huckabees (2004), and a documentary, he hasn't turned out another new movie and is unlikely to in the next two years.

Spike Jonze directed Being John Malkovich in 1999, and then Adaptation in 2002. Then a whole bunch of videos and did some writing for Jackass (it has writers?)

Quinten Tarantino
directed Reservoir Dogs in 1992, then Pulp Fiction in 1994, and Jackie Brown in 1997, but seven years slid by before he turned out Kill Bill in 2004. He's got a new movie Grindhouse coming soon, but five movies in some 16 years is hardly prolific.

Tarantino has more excuses than most of the director-slackers of his generation. He's wasted time writing and directing episodes of CSI and ER, acting, producing, hosting film festivals, but those gigs only chew up a few weeks or a month at most per go. What has he been doing?

Australia's star director crowd of the 1990s have been no less slack than their American counterparts.

Baz Lurhman directed Strictly Ballroom in 1992. He directed Romeo & Juliet in 1996, then turned out Moulin Rouge in 2001. He's about to start directing a new movie called Australia, but we won't see that until mid-2008, if not later. Fifteen years or so since his first big hit, but only four movies.

Stephen Elliot directed Frauds in 1993, then Priscilla : Queen Of The Desert in 1994. He turned his eyes to Welcome To Woop Woop in 1997, but since Eye Of The Beholder in 1999, nothing.

Alex Proyas looked set to have an awesome career after crafting the still-brilliant goth-epic The Crow in 1994. He's since directed Dark City (1998), Garage Days (2002) and I Robot (2004), but again, that's only four movies in more than 13 years. And there's no new movie due this year.

Some might hold up Stanley Kubrick as an example of a great director who turned out new movies sometimes with a decade long hiatus in-between. But in his 30s Kubrick turned out five total classics, including Dr Strangelove, 2001 and A Clockwork Orange.

And the star directors of today may also like to claim that great movies take time, and that higher production costs mean it's even harder now to get new projects greenlighted. Pah.

With HD video and thousands of great actors and crew members standing around idle and 100 million people waiting on YouTube, why are they pottering around making music video clips, TV ads, docos for DVD re-releases and doing rewrites of other peoples' screenplays?

And why do they have to make movies that cost $100 million? Kenny cost barely $500,000, and Wolf Creek only a bit over twice that, yet both of these movies were as good, if not far better, than most of the mega-budget flops turned out by Hollywood in the 2000s. They also generated millions for their investors and producers.

By the way, it's freakishly disturbing how often the name 'Sting' comes up when you go looking to see what some of the above directors have been devoting their time to, instead of making new movies.


As the New York Times story points out, compare these bare cupboards of those supposed to be amongst the most talented directors of their generation to the heaving, crammed wardrobes of key directors in the 1970s.

Francis Ford Coppola
directed and produced The Godfather 1 & 2 and The Conversation, and wrote the brilliant Patton screenplay, all within three years (between 1971 and 1974).

He then turned out the monstrously huge epic Apocalypse Now (which he mostly funded himself), started a film studio, produced at least three box office hits and directed the highly experimental movie-on-video One From The Heart by the end of 1981.

In the next three years alone, Coppola made four more movies, including the morosely wonderful Rumble Fish and the teen gang classic The Outsiders.

Or take a look at what Martin Scorsese got up to from 1973 to 1985 : Mean Streets, Alice Doesn't Live Here Anymore, Taxi Driver, New York New York, The Last Waltz, Raging Bull, The King Of Comedy, After Hours.

Or dive into the filmographies of directors like Hal Ashby. He directed The Last Detail, Shampoo, Being There, Coming Home and Harold & Maude in less than eight years. All classics, and all still extremely good movies to watch today.

Between MASH in 1970 and Popeye in 1980, Robert Altman directed 13 movies, including Three Women, The Long Goodbye and McCabe & Mrs Miller. Even when Altman was in hitting 80 years old and dying, he still turned out two new movies.

In the 1970s, directors directed movies. One after another. No fucking around, or more importantly, no waiting around.

Some of the 1970s crop were good, some were okay, but many were brilliant. The point is when directors like Coppola or Ashby or Altman or Scorsese were hot, they burned up the screen. Again and again.

And they built fan followings that were forgiving of the mis-steps and the experiments that didn't quite come off. These were directors who built careers on the back of high productivity.

But the directors that won us over in the 1990s with their first and second movies make cameo appearances as directors in the 2000s.

And they can't blame the studios.

Why wouldn't major studios want reasonably budgeted new movies from Fincher and Proyas and Lurhman every year? They do. But the directors aren't delivering.

It's that simple. They are not delivering.

From the New York Times :

The current lack of productivity among promising filmmakers in their 30s and 40s has become a cause for quiet consternation among producers and agents, not to mention film lovers. It is felt in the paucity of movies creating excitement around the Oscars, and in the desperate trolling for new talent at the Sundance Film Festival.

“I say it to these guys all the time, and some of them are my friends: ‘I feel like I want to see more movies from you,’ ” said Lorenzo di Bonaventura, a producer who was in charge of production in the ’90s at Warner Brothers, where he championed both “Three Kings” and "The Matrix".

“Why not more David Russell? Why not more Darren Aronofsky?” As filmgoers we’re being deprived. We as a business have to reach out to these filmmakers and beg them to make more.”

But it is possible that the self-indulgent American culture that shaped these filmmakers and made them so successful in the 1990s has left them ill equipped to take on the weightier questions facing society in the new millennium.

“It’s part of the larger culture,” said Laura Ziskin...“There’s not a lot of encouragement to go deep on anything. In the ’70s people had the feeling they could change things through art, through creativity.”

Says leading Hollywood agent Jeremy Barber :

“We have an indulgent system....The industry celebrates them prematurely, and we don’t enter into a dialectical relationship with them.”

Director Cameron Crowe believes there is a lack of 'creative ferment' in Hollywood today, unlike the 1970s when it flooded the veins of the film industry like cocaine filled the sinuses.

In short, there are no great challenges left for the directors today, they are not clashing and banging and scraping up against each other, trying to outdo each other. Or even impress each other.

But if that is true enough, then all hope is not lost.

We just have to look elsewhere. To Mexico, for example.

Three of the best movies of the past twelve months came from Mexican directors.

Babel by Alejandro González Iñárritu.

Pan's Labyrinth by Guillermo del Toro.

Children Of Men by Alfonso Cuaron.

All three have picked up writing nominations in the coming Academy Awards. All three have made decent-to-huge profits for their producers and investors, and all three will go down as utter classics of the 2000s.

And while Bryan Singer (director of the The Usual Suspects) was remaking the 1970s version of Superman, these guys were diving into hardcore adult-minded subject matter.

From alienation to the breakdown of society, to giving in to total evil, to police states and environmental Armageddon.

To say that such subjects are too heavy for modern audiences is a flat out lie. Adult film audiences are literally hanging out in cinema foyers waiting for quality movies, with big stars, that will challenge them, and awaken them.

The key to why these three Mexican directors have succeeded so brilliantly is very simple.

They share amongst themselves a creative friction, and set for each other infuriating, yet enormously inspiring challenges of the kind that seem to be totally lacking in Hollywood, and in the so-called mainstream of Australian cinema :

“These films are like triplets, they are sisters,” Mr. Cuarón said in a telephone interview from Mexico. (In the middle of the conversation his cellphone rang, with Mr. Iñárritu on the line. “I am trashing you as we speak,” Mr. Cuarón told him in Spanish.)

“We are very good friends,” he continued. “We are big fans of one another, we respect each other so much. If Alejandro says, ‘That stinks,’ I know he is not trying to hurt me, he’s trying to help me.”

When Mr. González Iñárritu ran out of steam in the editing room, Mr. del Toro trimmed several minutes from his film; Mr. González Iñárritu returned the favor on “Pan’s Labyrinth.” After months of research in London, Mr. Cuarón showed an early draft of the screenplay for “Children of Men” to Mr. González Iñárritu.

“He said: ‘Man, this is a piece of junk. You can’t shoot this thing. Where are your characters?’ ” Mr. Cuarón recalled. He spent a sleepless night, then went back to the drawing board.

This mutual prodding has been going on for years, Mr. del Toro said. “We have a relationship that is not guarded, and that is invaluable in an industry where most people expect complacency...”

In other words, they're not afraid of harsh criticism, even from their best friends. They are not in commercial competition with each other, they are trying to blow each other's minds.

They don't fear criticism. They welcome it. They soak it up and learn from it.

As they should.

And if you've seen Babel, Pan's Labyrinth or Children Of Men, then you would know their careers and their movies are all the better for it.

And so, too, clearly. is their friendship.