Category Archives: opinion

A Great Day For Freedom

On the day the wall came down

They threw the locks onto the ground

With glasses high, we raised a cry

For freedom had arrived!

A Great Day For Freedom, Pink Floyd

And so it ended: not with a whimper, but a bang… or at least with a large degree of whooping, running around and tearing off of school ties. After eight days of exams (or, rather, two years preparing for the IB diploma), the stress and the wait was over, replaced with an overwhelming sense of jubilance and lightness. Somehow (but luckily!) throughout the final exam, I managed to displace excitement from my mind and even at the point we were told to put down our pens, nothing seemed extraordinary. It was just another exam, one of the fifteen we each had to sit. It was just another essay, one of countless I had written in the past couple of months.  But as I went through each of the pages of my essay, numbering them and marking them with my candidate number (000794-018), it began to sink it- I realised that school was over and I had made it.

And so I ran down the stairs and outside (well, until the thought occurred to me it would be mighty unlucky for me to break both legs on the day I finished exams), probably singing something or else just grinning as I’ve never grinned before. I ripped off the tie I would never have to wear again and did a victory lap of the school oval (the term “lap” being used in its loosest sense).

I had imagined that moment ever since I started high school, and especially in the last couple of weeks. When I experienced the sense of relief and freedom at the end of my first set of exams in Year 9, I imagined how much better that feeling would be when the end of exams meant the end of schooling. When, last year, I saw my friends in the year above me come out from their final exams, I felt intensely jealous and pictured myself in their place. And finally the moment was there, unsurprising in hindsight, but quite unexpected at the time, as during the last week or so it felt like it would never come.

That feeling (labelled “diffusion of time” by Erikson– one of the many things I’ll never have to remember or write on again) peaked in the middle of the year. We were told that the middle of Year 12 was the most difficult part (even more so than exams) because all the major assessments were due in quick succession, as were language oral examinations and the such. The gloomy weather probably didn’t help either. At many points in the year, I would look at the “IB Year 12 Calendar”, look at all of the assessments and months still to come and despair. The end would never come, it seemed.

So the feeling was one of great discharge, of finally being unburdened of the stresses and requirements that accumulated throughout the two years of having done IB, especially in this year. It was a sense of freedom I remembered only distantly from the happiness of having come to the end of a school term in primary school, of having been given two weeks (or six, over the Christmas break) of holidays. Througout the IB, the workload had built up: even during the Christmas holidays of 2007-2008, I nonetheless spent many hours working and while relaxing, would still have the prospect of my assignments hanging over me. With each set of holidays, the amount of time allocated to study increased to the point where in the Term 3 holidays, I made a colour-coded study planner which had me studying for eight hours a day (anal much?). And suddenly, there was nothing. No assignments, no requirements, no study or pressure. 

And I am liberated, with so many things to do, to which I can look forward. First on the agenda was a complete purging of my bedroom, moving anything and everything related to school out of my room and into the garage. The notes and handouts- on my table, in my folders, stacked in my wardrobe- filled two photocopy paper boxes and nearly gave me a hernia as I lifted them. And filling those boxes felt so very good, leafing through the countless sheets of paper as I laid them to rest. Flipping through what I was throwing away was a reminder both of what I had achieved and what I had endured– what I would never have to worry about again. Looking at my Extended Essay handbook, blank CAS sheets, various subject syllubi and assessment markbands made me even more happy and grateful; the physical weight of what I was throwing a way a reminder of my new sense of ligthness. The fact that I can actually see my table for the first time in months is an added bonus (also to my mother, who tolerated the general clutteredness and dustiness of the room while I could still play the “hard-at-work” card).

So… three months of freedom and what to do? It would be tempting to literally flop into a sedentary mode, watching television reruns and getting up only for Doritos or coffee. But it would be much more enjoyable and rewarding to finally take the oppurtunity to do all those things I had wanted to do throughout the year but couldn’t. So a return to blogging is on the cards, as is seeing some jazz and learning bass guitar and piano accordion. Finally, I will use the indian cookbook I got for my birthday. Finally, I will read the books piling up in my to-read list. Finally, I will take up bike riding again in an attempt to raise my fitness from a dangerous level.

Finally, I am free.



Filed under opinion, random

Death Monologues


I like monologues. I do. In fact, I was thinking about Samuel L. Jackson’s “Ezekiel 25:17” speech in Pulp Fiction; and ended up finding a whole bunch of monologues on google (some of which I wouldn’t mind memorizing for dramatic effect). But undeniably the best kind of monologues are death monologues: the dramatic passages when a character is about to die. I realize that there are probably heaps of great ones out there I’ve never seen, or even ones I have and have forgotten about, but I wanted to share my (at the moment, to the best of my recollection, etc…) favourite “death monologues”. On second thoughts, that sounds a bit morbid…

I also wanted to include the death monologues of the three Irish Catholics in Brian Friel’s Freedom of the City, but I don’t have the book with me and can’t find the complete quotes on the internet, so I’ll update this ASAP. Watch this space!

Bronze Medal: At the end of Donnie Darko, Donnie sits in his car with the body of girlfriend, Gretchen and awaits the prophesized end of the world: the famous “Twenty-eight days, six hours, forty-two minutes and twelve seconds” have elapsed. Its complicated if you haven’t seen the film, but it involves tangent universes or something like that. In the end, Donnie, saved from death at the start of the film, puts into motion a series of events that lead to the very death he initially avoided- but doing so puts everything that is wrong right again. His final spoken words in the film are in the form of a letter written to another character, narrated in voiceover: “Dear Roberta Sparrow, I have reached the end of your book and… there are so many things that I need to ask you. Sometimes I’m afraid of what you might tell me. Sometimes I’m afraid that you’ll tell me that this is not a work of fiction. I can only hope that the answers will come to me in my sleep. I hope that when the world comes to an end, I can breathe a sigh of relief, because there will be so much to look forward to.”

Silver Medal: In The Shawshank Redemption, veteran inmate Brooks Hatlen is finally released from prison, but is unable to cope outside the penal system and takes his own life. His final words are in a tragic letter to his friends: “Dear fellas, I can’t believe how fast things move on the outside. I saw an automobile once when I was a kid but now they’re everywhere. The world went and got itself in a big damn hurry. The parole board got me into this halfway house called “The Brewer”. And a job bagging groceries at the Foodway. It’s hard work and I try to keep up but my hands hurt most of the time. I don’t think the store manager likes me very much. Sometimes after work I go to the park and feed the birds. I keep thinking Jake might just show up and say hello. But he never does. I hope wherever he is he’s okay and makin’ new friends. I have trouble sleepin’ at night. I have bad dreams like I’m falling. I wake up scared. Sometimes it takes me a while to remember where I am. Maybe I should get me a gun, an, an rob the Foodway so they’d send me home. I could shoot the manager while I was at it, sort of like a bonus. I guess I’m too old for that sort of nonsense anymore. I don’t like it here. I’m tired of being afraid all the time. I’ve decided not to stay. I doubt they’ll kick up any fuss. Not for an old crook like me.”

Gold Medal: Probably the most effective death scene I have ever scene. In Blade Runner, the “replicant” Roy (Rutger Hauer) is literally running out of time as all of his kind have been genetically designed with a lifespan of four year to stop them developing powerful emotions and becoming a threat to human society. Towards the end of the film, he pursues Deckard(Harrison Ford) after the death of his girlfriend and the two end up on a building’s rooftop. When Deckard falls, Roy pulls him back up onto the roof. Deckard retreats uncertainly from the volatile Roy, but Roy sits down and delivers a dramatic monologue before dying. A very good end to a very good film, with spacey but emotional music by Vangelis. Roy’s speech (written by the actor himself!) goes: “I’ve seen things you people wouldn’t believe. Attack ships on fire off the shoulder of Orion. I watched C-beams glitter in the dark near the Tannhauser gate. All those moments will be lost in time, like tears in rain. Time to die.” No wonder this is often counted as one of the greatest movie monologues of all time.

I would be very interested to hear other people’s opinions and their favourite monologues, especially if I’ve missed something really deserving; or perhaps a movie I haven’t seen.

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Filed under film, opinion

The Death of the Album

The Death of the Album” is how Elbow frontman Guy Garvey describes the iTunes music store. AC/DC’s Angus Young criticizes the service for enabling listeners to download only a certain number of musicians’ songs, rather than entire albums. But it is undeniable that the internet is changing the way music is created and distributed. Although internet music downloading has been around for ages, the growing affordability and uptake of high-speed internet and the increasing rate of computer literacy means that more people than ever can choose to download their music on the internet from services such as iTunes rather than buy it in the traditional way.

But not everybody uses paid download services. If you’re already on the internet, why pay for something you can get for free? The majority of music can be easily accessed and downloaded on programs such as BitTorrent. And naturally, this is giving the record companies grief and eating into their profits. This is considered theft of intellectual property and can (and has!) be(en) grounds for a lawsuit. But is this way of thinking about music outdated?

As I mentioned in a previous post, this way of doing it has been challenged by the likes of Radiohead (who released their latest album, In Rainbows, for free on the internet as an experiment) and Nine Inch Nails (who are allowing the modification, remixing and redistribution of their music through a Creative Commons license). As my friend James says:

“…no matter how they released their music, there was no way that NiN’s or Radiohead’s ‘experiments’ were going to fail, as they both have large established fanbases…”

I believe these baby steps taken by people who have already made it big are indicative of the future of the music industry, the traditional methods of distribution being killed off by internet piracy. But should this be seen as a threat to musicians and their ability to make a livelihood? My answer is: no- providing the system is overhauled.

The whole idea of buying music- whether as a grammophone record, tape cassette, CD or whatever- is relatively new. When you consider that the technology to record sound was only developed in the late 18th century (Thomas Edison’s phonograph cylinder) and remained quite limited (in terms of both quality and affordability) for quite some time, the concept of the album, the mass-produced recording of an artist’s music, is quite recent. Obviously musicians existed and worked before then. But this technology marked a new era in the way musicians could create and distribute music. So my argument is that the current technology marks another paradigm shift regarding commerical music.

Let me explain the way I see the history of musicians’ livelihoods: at first, musicians needed a patron, a king or wealthy lord who would sponsor them (and this is true of course for other creative artists) and commission the creation and performance of music. Then, as the middle class expanded, more people could afford to attend musicians’ performances and so the role of the patron diminished as musicians could make a living by giving public concerts to the “common people”. Later, as recording technology developed, and the majority of people had access to gramophones, tape decks, CD players and the like, the role of the patron (this time reincarnated in the record company) again increased. However, today it is possible to cheaply record and distribute music without the neccessity for record labels (as is evident if one only takes a moment to search through the great amount of free, unsigned music available on websites such as Myspace). In addition, viral marketing and networking have shown that it is possible to advertise and distribute one’s work without needing the vast resources of the likes of Sony and IMG.

So where is this leading? My argument is that the next natural step in the creation, distribution and even popular conception of music will result in the irrelevance of major record labels and the destruction of the current concept of recorded music as a commodity. Because recorded music need not be a commodity. Because of the zero marginal cost of information, downloading music does not directly cause the musician to incur a loss; which is to say if I downloaded an album off BitTorrent, it would not physically reduce the artist’s profit, but only in that it would make it far less likely that I would spend money on purchasing that album.

So under the current system, we see the musicians are clearly losing out. But what if there were a new generation of musicians that did not expect to make money in this way? To give an example, I would be happy for as many people as possible to read this blog; as though I spent time and effort writing it, I am not further inconvenienced by people reading it and generally want people to read what I have written. But if for some strange reason people had to log in and pay to read my blog, I would be very angry if somebody was distributing unauthorized copies of my writing elsewhere. So the way I see it, the next generation of musicians–those who would record their music without ever stepping into a major studio, promote it on internet for free and have it available for everybody on websites such as Myspace–would be only too happy to share their music, to get as many people listening to it as possible.

But of course there is the issue of money. How will musicians make their livelihood? Well, I cannot answer that, but perhaps the future of music will lead to a growing emphasis on live music (as you cannot the experience of a live concert for free on the internet). To me, this theory of the next stage sounds lovely on paper (but then again, so did communism). The way in which it occurs will have to be seen, only time will tell, etc…

Finally, my Marxist vision for the future of music is centred on a greater freedom: because patronage demands conformity. Musicians hundreds of years ago and mainstream ones today have one thing in common: they must please their benefactors, be they lords or executives. This can be seen in Trent Reznor’s break away from Interscope Records, as he claimed that their commercial concerns and restrictions were impinging in his creatvity. In Peter Shaffer’s play Amadeus (later adapted to film), Antonio Salieri says of the role of the musician:

“We gave them processions for their strutting, serenades for their rutting, high horns for their hunting, and drums for their wars. Trumpets sounded when they entered the world and trumpets groaned when they left it!”

But Salieri suffered from great mediocrity, despite his present fame and acclaim, because the conformity demanded of him limited his creativity. So, in my vision for the future of music and the death of the album, I see musicians creating music for its own sake (and still somehow making a living!), unburdened by the suffocating demands of big business and the free sharing of recorded music: a dictatorship of the individual musician.


Filed under opinion, technology

More Metablogging

I thought I’d write another post about blogging, check how that Blogging Manifesto of mine was coming along (had I stuck to my ideology? or did i abandon it, swayed by worldly pleasures?). So far I’ve delivered about one of each of the following: CD review, book review, gig review and movie reviews. (A mixed bag, one of everything, to start off with). The only real technology I’ve utilised is Youtube (to give a preview of a movie) and uploading photos; but I think the real advantage of blogging that has jumped out at me is the ability to share, to publish my views.

While writing the review for Turing’s Delirium (a book that I had read some time back), I searched up some other reviews (one from the Sydney Morning Herald and another from the New York Times) just to remind myself of what happened in the book and what sort of issues were raised (no plagarism, I swear!). It struck me that a very good aspect of the internet and blogging was that a person like me could share my opinions on books and films and that people might happen to read it; whereas there would be no way in hell that would be accepted as a piece of literary criticism in one of the major aforementioned newspapers.

Ditto the photos that I uploaded of two gigs: a smaller one (a gypsy rock band in a Brunswick St bar) and a larger one (an internationally-recognized band playing in a large concert venue). Whereas in the past it would be easy to find press photos of famous bands, promotional shots, live photos taken by professionals with massive lenses standing a matter of feet from the bands; it would not be considered worthwhile to publish, say, the photography of a person standing in Row S, taking pictures with a mid-range still camera. But now, and with almost no cost, my amateur photography is available to see, irrelevant to most; but perhaps interesting to friends– or at least an interesting personal perspective.

So I’ve done that so far. Still on the list is exploring Melbourne’s fascinating niches (using Flickr or something with geotagging), recording improvisations or jam sessions, political opinions (although I’ll save those for bit… don’t want to put people off too soon!) and some short stories and fiction. So though I haven’t really utilised all the cutting-edge technology or even that which I discussed in the first post, I’ve come to see the value for blogging as a medium of personal expression and publishing.

And finally, it struck me as rather M.C. Escher-esque that I started this blog with a post about blogging, at which point my mother wrote a post about blogging about blogging on her blog; which was then blogged about in another blog (hence the Escher picture at the top of this post). So (correct me if I’m wrong), that would be a blog about a blog about a blog about blogging. Convoluted, no?

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Filed under opinion, technology, Uncategorized

Why Blog?

The first thing I thought about when thinking about starting this blog was the question: Why blog? Of all the media (and especially of all the media available free for anyone’s use on the internet), why choose blogging? What can be accomplished, and why do people blog?

The way I see it, blogging and other internet media represent the third revolution in the distribution of technology- the first being the oft-referenced Gutenberg press which took literacy and knowledge out of the monasteries and enabled fairly regular people to own books for the first time; and the second being the advent of affordable home computers, especially word-processing and the internet. The leap from the second stage to the third is not essentially one of technology (although the development of more sophisticated web services, such as Flickr, Youtube, etc… has helped) but one of mindframe, of paradigm shift. People no longer are just able to blog, but blogging is increasingly becoming accepted as a legitimate medium of information; albeit quite different to others. At the cost of the credibility associated with major news services and other more traditional ways of geting our information, a whole new world is opened up- of personal opinion, a perspective into the lives and experiences of others and original creativity. When subjective experience and opinion is sought over objective fact, blogging becomes a medium very difficult to beat.

So then we must recognize the immense power of such a medium, giving people speech and expression like never before (even in places like China!) and helping the post-constructivists break down the meta-narrative into the voices of a billion people (give or take…). Though it is certainly the idea of blogging that is the most powerful, the technology available also increases the ways in which people may express themselves. Photographers can take photos of their home city or holidays and post them on Flickr, along with geotags (so that people may see exactly where the photos were taken); performing artists can upload audio or video recordings of themselves on services such as Youtube to increase their exposure; political commentators can by series of hyperlinks to other blogs and news services critically analyse current affairs and provide explanations, arguments and challenges to what is reported in traditional established media. All of these forms of expression can be directly embedded into blogs, providing an individual with a space in which to express themselves- in the case of writers, musicians, etc…, to publish their work for free (or close to it)!

Other than the uses of blogs outlined above, people can give their opinions on any topic, regardless of whether they are qualified to or not– however, some may argue this medium entitles and qualifies us all to give our opinions and it is the responsibility of the discerning reader to evaluate opinions and take everything with a grain of salt. People can express themselves creatively, through uploaded music or art, poetry, short stories. People can give us a look into their lives– the anonymity of the web means we may gain a glimpse into what would otherwise be closed to us. People can just make observations about topics ranging from world affairs to their own lives.

So how is this relevant to my blog? Well, I was thinking about these questions when thinking about what I should write about. We have climbed the ladder of abstraction (or have we gone down? which way are generalities?) and climbed down again to the specific (or have we gone up? I really regret bringing in the whole concept of the ladder…) to consider what is happening in this blog. Well, I see this blog as a mixture of observations, expressions and opinions. Some ideas include reviewing of albums, movies, books and gigs.  I promise (but may not deliver) to delve into the hidden areas of the city (Melbourne, Australia) and with the aid of my camera and geotagging show exactly how interesting it is. My opinions, however misguided, on various political and philsophical topics will be thrust in the face of whoever deigns to read this. It would also be a good medium for creative expression- short stories, updates on musical recordings, etc…

I’m well aware that nobody will read this, at least for now. But perhaps if I make the blog interesting enough, somebody will. So this blog has begun with a post about blogging. I’m sure that if I can find the time to do all the things I promised in the previous paragraph, at least somebody out there in the “internet” (some form of magical world?) will read it.


Filed under opinion, technology