The Caress

A zephyr caressed the rusting tin roofs,

A last breath of dust from crumbling chimneys,

A draft of shivers skimming across the crater

Where construction workers toiled in muddy boots.

It flurried along the cold granite pave,

Swirling skyward,

Searching for its target.

It found me there at my writing desk,

My back to the sky, groceries spilled at my feet.

I took a banana and held it as a gun,

Pointing at my temple,

Squeezing the trigger for the sudden chill of nothingness…

Willing it to come,

Wrapping my head in a wet bandanna of absurdity.

I pulled it tight to trap my thoughts but the zephyr escaped,

Swirling and roaring into a vortex,

Sucking the groceries from the floor.

The room peeled,

Tearing old plaster bandage from a seeping wound,

As I clung to my desk until a bitter gourd erupted in my mouth

Into which, my heart poured,

Purple,

Pulsing,

Expanding and convulsing

As I vomited into the tourbillon

Where it danced like a mad drunk,

Spraying blood from its severed ventricles into the blurring ellipsis,

Wrapping me in a swirling ribbon of crimson silk.

The text sucked from my screen,

Smacking my face like stinging winter rain,

And I caught her scent for one final time…

I savoured the rush of air until my lungs could hold no more,

Expunging with a cry,

As it all flew from the window buzzing in a fly.

There was nothing left.

Silence, emptiness—

The caress of a zephyr, in the sky.

© Mark Cashion 2014

The Caress recieved an Honourable Mention in the Free Verse category, of the 2015 Henry Lawson Verse and Short Story Awards.

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Book Review: The Black War: Fear, sex and resistance in Tasmania

The Black War: Fear, sex and resistance in Tasmania

Nicholas Clements, 2014. Published by University of Queensland Press

Black War

“Our night’s sport made a dozen less natives whom we left to rot…”

The Black War, Nicholas Clements’ debut historical work presents a shocking account of the depravation and inhumanities inflicted upon the Tasmanian Aboriginal population and the escalating brutality of their retaliation. The success of this extraordinary work lies in its unique approach: Clements draws research from eminent historians such as Henry Reynolds and NJB Plomley, along with a variety of records including personal transcripts to assay accounts of clashes from colonist and Aboriginal perspectives.

The result is at times confronting, particularly the graphic depictions of death and warfare. His examination dispels the history wars and assertions that Aboriginal people were impotent victims of a dominant colonial force. Instead, Clements reveals the indigenous Tasmanians as ferocious and merciless adversaries who instilled fear in the invaders, severely impeding expansion of the colony through their use of guerrilla warfare. His account valorises the effectiveness of the Tasmanian’s resistance, comparing their violent successes with those of the Maori.

Despite evidence showing that the Tasmanian Black War was the most evenly matched frontier conflict in Australia’s history, the tragic reality was that five to seven thousand Aboriginal people were decimated forty years after the British invasion. By 1843, only two full-blood indigenous Tasmanians were known to be alive. As Clements states, “Per capita…the Black War was one of the most destructive wars in recorded history.”

This well written and logically structured account has successfully encapsulated a balanced, if not stark and sobering view of the formative years of colonisation. A view formerly overlooked by educational curriculums and military history. The Black War provides an exposition of attitudes and experiences of both black and white, illuminating one of Australia’s darkest periods.

– Mark Cashion

Published: The Australian Writer, December 2014

Vale David Carr

Vale David Carr. Father, writer, columnist, journalist for the New York Times and Lack Professor of Media Studies at Boston University.

Carr, a frank and astute reporter was highly respected by his peers for his passion, integrity and generosity. He was an early adopter of social media, an advocate of its place in journalism and an insightful media commentator. His 2008 memoir, The Night of the Gun, provides a raw and much lauded account of his battle with cocaine addiction.

In the documentary, Page One, Inside the New York TImes, Carr found prominance in his interview of Shane Smith, CEO of VICE. Smith, maligns the Times when self promoting his report on Liberia. Carr, counter to journalistic norms, interjects. “Just a sec, time out – before you ever went there we’ve had reporters there reporting on genocide, just cos you put on a fucking safari helmet and talk about poop doesn’t give you the right to insult what we do.” David Carr.

It is easy to see why Carr’s legacy is that of a much-loved and revered journalist and media critic.

“David Carr was one of the most gifted journalists who has ever worked at The New York Times. He combined formidable talent as a reporter with acute judgment to become an indispensable guide to modern media. But his friends at The Times and beyond will remember him as a unique human being — full of life and energy, funny, loyal and lovable. An irreplaceable talent, he will be missed by everyone who works for The Times and everyone who reads it.”

Arthur Ochs Sulzberger Jr., publisher and chairman, The New York Times. David Carr, Times Critic and Champion of Media, Dies at 58

What Kind of Man, Florence + The Machine

The new single from the third F+TM studio album is anthemic, as you might expect from the resounding voice of Florence Welch. However, jamming guitar riffs anchored by an amped and booming baseline and brass section, kick in to drive the Machine down a somewhat different road. Florence, has been quoted as saying her musical influences for this record, along with others, have been Bowie, Neil Young and Nick Cave. Recorded in LA, the city sky inspired the album name, How Big How Blue How Beautiful, which was a descrition Florence texted to a friend. The sound fused with a pained, powerful and at times, disturbing Vincent Haycock, directed video will leave you unsettled…but wanting to play it again. The album is due for release 2 Jun…I’m pre-ordering.

Return of the wayward

A thoughtful act for something so seemingly insignificant. My writing notebook took itself on an adventure worthy of a story. It found it’s way into the hands of Mr Theophanous George of the Lost and Found Department of Swissport, Larnaca International Airport, the Republic of Cyprus. George, or is it Theo?..contacted me from this small island country that I have never visited. He then slipped the stowaway into the post. Some 16,000km later I sit with my collection of scribbled musings in my grasp, smiling at the unfamiliar stamps and the adventures of my wayward little blue notebook, thanks to the diligence and thoughtfulness of one Theophanous George.

littlebluenotebook

wayward

adjective

  1. difficult to control or predict because of wilful or perverse behaviour by a little blue notebook.
    “a wayward notebook”

The Hövding – guaranteed to give cyclists a big head

Hattar av (hats off) to those crafty, safety conscious Swedes as they have done it again. First the Volvo, now the Hövding!

To what am I referring? A clue: it was only a matter of time before air-bags escaped the confines of the car. Yes, that’s it, the invisible (inflatable) helmet has arrived!

Anna Haupt and Terese Alstin are the brains and entrepreneurial drive behind this exciting confluence of an air-bag and cycling helmet.  “The instant we heard the word “invisible”, we realised that was what the world was waiting for. An invisible bicycle helmet. That wouldn’t ruin your hair.”

It seems their hairstyles are now being threatened by crowns rather than helmets.  They have received a number of awards for their invention, along with a Swedish 2012 Innovation Award nomination. Judging by the success of Hövding it won’t be long before ‘invisible’ helmets will be appearing in your local bike shop.

No bike party will be complete without one and as a bonus, the video demonstrates that it’s gate-crasher proof.  I’m just hoping the helium canisters are interchangeable with the CO2 versions so I can use it to re-inflate my tyre after a puncture.

Following my recent crash-test-dummy experience using a mountain bike and a tree, (that would be the one that left me with a shattered right arm and a dislocated left elbow, and operations on both)… I can’t wait for Mark II – the inflatable body-suit version!

JA TACK (yes please), SIGN ME UP!


I’m thinking it’s a must have for a sci-fi themed fancy dress party

Doug Gross (CNN) has provided a good background if you are interested.

http://whatsnext.blogs.cnn.com/2012/08/17/meet-the-inflatable-invisible-bike-helmet/

PS: The video has several crash-test scenario’s so advance it if you get bored with the repetitious multi-angle repeats.

Father John Misty, Fear Fun… who’s afraid of good music?

“I got into my van with enough mushrooms to choke a horse and started driving down the coast with nowhere to go. After a few weeks, I was writing a novel, which is where I finally found my narrative voice…”  and it seems, the inspiration for  J. Tillman‘s latest incarnation, Father John Misty and album, Fear Fun.

It’s that sort of ‘Saturday-morning-door-open-to-a-refreshing-spring-day’ kind of listening. Psychedelic Indy folk melodies that float in on the vivid stream of  Tillman’s voice.  Refreshing, country rock and folk roots wrapped up in an Indy composition. Apart from the creative catalyst of his Hunter S. Thompson-esque road trip, Tillman’s inspiration sounds familiar to my demographic. Sourced deep within the heart of the 70s singer songwriters, his dreamy voice has babbled from a spring on Rocky Mountain Highgurgling on past the Crazy Horse and the homestead scents of fresh American Pieto arrive as a confluence of streams into a blue-green lake of Indy incarnation.

And as for the visuals and the sound mix,  OysterHuman sums it up with his top rating comment on the KCRW video:

“Johnny Knoxville on vocals, Frank Zappa on drums, Rivers Cuomo on guitar, and gay Kurt Cobain on bass. haha”

Fear Fun is a great listen, one that is starting to wear grooves in my iTunes library.  

BTW:  I included two videos, the KCRW live recording and the official video featuring the rising star of actress and comedian, Aubrey Plaza. She owns the  bipolar, sultry-slacker look…I can’t wait for a duet with Natalie Portman.

So all that said, WHERE’s my F*&%!G MUSHIES!? I too am in need of beat poet inspiration and a narrative voice…enjoy.

Father John Misty – Hollywood Forever Cemetery Sings (KCRW)

Father John Misty – Hollywood Forever Cemetery Sings (OFFICIAL VIDEO)

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=KtOToiIDNRA&feature=share&list=ALYL4kY05133qD1yF7uiA7MRJfi5mAIO3q

…the light bulb goes on

“I beg young people to travel. If you don’t have a passport, get one. Take a summer, get a backpack and go to Delhi, go to Saigon, go to Bangkok, go to Kenya. Have your mind blown. Eat interesting food. Dig some interesting people. Have an adventure. Be careful. Come back and you’re going to see your country differently, you’re going to see your president differently, no matter who it is. Music, culture, food, water. Your showers will become shorter. You’re going to get a sense of what globalization looks like. It’s not what Tom Friedman writes about; I’m sorry. You’re going to see that global climate change is very real. And that for some people, their day consists of walking 12 miles for four buckets of water. And so there are lessons that you can’t get out of a book that are waiting for you at the other end of that flight. A lot of people—Americans and Europeans—come back and go, ohhhhh. And the light bulb goes on.”

Henry Rollins

Your head creates your world

“You should always be aware that your head creates your world.”  Ken Keyes JR

In addition to respecting his head, Ken was an interesting guy. He was most famous as a personal growth guru and creator of the Living Love Method.  Ken self-published 14 books before self-publishing was in fashion. He studied music, launched the Miami Opera Guild, was a naval intelligence officer, suffered polio, became a quadriplegic, then an inventor, launched a business that made US $25M in its first year …and married four times. You don’t have to agree with his methods or approach to life but there is no disputing that the now departed Ken, enjoyed a wealth of experience.

Which brings me to my point. There have been a number of commentators calling for the repeal of mandatory helmet laws for cyclists. Unfortunately these commentators are betraying cycling experience and the common sense espoused by Ken when he declared, “your head creates your world”.

The current debate on Australia’s mandatory helmet laws (MHL), has largely been driven by romantic notions and confirmation bias. Those in opposition to MHL selectively misuse statistics and unsubstantiated opinion, as can be seen by news articles referencing a cycling friendly and statistically safe Europe.  If you were to take their position on face value, the exponents of this helmetless utopia would have us believe that it is perfectly safe to ride in Australian cities without a helmet.

I arrived just after a passenger swung open his door …into a truck.

Recently comedians cum writers Wendy Harmer and Catherine Deveny hopped on the helmet-less, two-wheeled bandwagon. While their sentiment may be laudable, the comparison with Europe is unfortunately, laughable.  Harmer describes her blissful park riding experience in London while bothcapture the European ideal with stylish and appealing helmet-free imagery of empowered women.

Danish-Canadian cycling advocate Mikael Colville-Andersen is featured by Deveny.  Mikael uses the Monocal magazine list of the world’s most liveable cities to illustrate that cycling-friendly cities dominate. Melbourne was ranked in the top 10 but didn’t make Mikael’s cycling friendly list, nor does it mine.

Helmet Freedom is an anonymous website that advocates its namesake ‘freedom’, as the primary motivation for not wearing a helmet. It draws conclusions that MHL have failed to reduce injury rates; conclusions that have been disputed by a number of Australian health and scientific professionals.  The assumptions drawn by this websiteare that mandatory helmet regulations inhibit the up-take of cycling and fail to reduce injury anyway.

The Institute of Public Affairs (IPA), better known as climate change deniers and partners of Gina Rinehart’s lobby group Australians for Northern Development & Economic Vision, have taken an unlikely interest in cycling. Steered by heavies of Liberal party politic and supporters of big carbon industries, it seems likely that the IPA aren’t all that interested in promoting a reduction of fossil fuel use and an increase in cycling infrastructure spending. None-the-less, Luke Turner points the finger at MHL as the prime reason for a lack of cycling up-take in Australia and the relative failure of our bike share schemes.

He lumps a varied collection of assumptions and selective misuse of statistics to support his notions. Given that this article was published by the IPA, I am left with visions of $2 a day open-cut miners riding helmet-less into the pit, on tandem cycles.

Michael O’Reilly, in an article published in The Age has also had a crack at the perceived failure of bike share schemes in Brisbane and Melbourne. MHL are singled out as the major reason for this apparent failure. “Most believe it comes down to Australia’s near-unique mandatory helmet laws, which are responsible for the lack of share scheme participation”.

Why are they wrong? What all of these critics fail to state, is that the highly successful share schemes in Europe are targeted at a very different demographic. In Europe, bike stations are strategically located to create linkages incorporating the city centre, train stations, commercial and educational centres and a lower socio-economic urban populace, residing in high-density living. This targeted placement provides residents with an affordable and effective alternative mode of public transport. In the city of Lyon, France I hired a bike as a tourist but during peak hours regularly found the central city stations emptied of bikes.  Conversely, late in the evening I had to try several urban bike stations to locate a free space to return my hire. In Barcelona, Spain the bike share scheme is restricted to residents only. Private rentals are the only option for a visiting tourist.

In Melbourne the bike share scheme targets office-to-office commuting and largely ignores urban transport and tourist needs. Stations are scattered across the city and not placed near high-density living. There aren’t helmet dispensers close by and unlike Europe there are no safe, segregated and dedicated cycling routes to connect bike stations.  It is little wonder office workers and tourists are reluctant to set off on a bike in Melbourne – the lack of safe, linking bike routes relegates cycling to the brave, experienced and assertive riders. Urban commuters default to car, tram, train or bus. The brave minority tackle the traffic, on their bike.

Europe boasts high numbers of cyclists and excellent bike share utilisation, thanks to effective targeting and infrastructure. However experience shows that there are greater factors at play when comparing to Australia. Those of us who have been fortunate enough to ride in cycling friendly Europe can confirm the comparative safety and pleasure of the experience. I’m sorry to say that I rarely enjoy that feeling of safety, acceptance and sheer pleasure when cycling in any of our capital cities in the east of Australia. Sitting in my local cafe I overhear two women who share my view.

Soon after I’m canvassing Maria and Annalise for their thoughts.  Maria has just returned to from a three-month holiday, visiting her daughter who is studying in Copenhagen. She didn’t like bikes and said she wouldn’t ride one, said Maria, who then proudly showed me a picture of her daughter’s new white step-through, resplendent with basket. “It’s so easy to ride in Copenhagen and everybody does it – she soon changed her mind”, Maria said with a smile.

“What is it that makes Europe different to Melbourne”? I ask.

“Europe is set up for bikes, the infrastructure is planned for cycling, bikes are separated from cars and have right of way, said Maria.

I won’t ride without a helmet here but felt safe there…The culture is different (in Europe), drivers are more aware and give way to bikes, there’s mutual courtesy. Here they are just putting in bike lanes and really haven’t given it much thought”.

Maria’s view is one that mirrors my experience and I’ve had plenty on a bike. Cycling adventures have taken me throughout Europe, from a week on a re-cycled bike in Copenhagen to bike shares in French cities and bike hires in Spain and San Francisco.  I have embarked on several road-biking expeditions, pedalling along the routes of Le Tour de France, up into the majestic expanse of the Pyrenees; the French and Italian Alps, the Ligurian coast, Rome and south of Salerno.

Here in my home city of Melbourne I cycle to work, suited and astride my Amsterdam style bike. On weekends I emerge from my virtual telephone box transformed into a middle-aged try-hard in lycra.

The most significant difference that Maria and I have experienced is one of culture.  Cycling is an accepted part of European culture. As an example; I was on my first trip to France, lost to the sound of my own puffing as I laboured up a narrow Pyrenees road to the 1,700m summit of Col d’Aubsique. I looked back and was startled to find four cars crawling along behind me. “Oh-oh!” I thought to myself, with a notion of guilt and expectation of an earful of abuse. To my great surprise, I received friendly waves from the occupants of each of the cars as they made their way safely past. In Australia I make a conscious attempt to acknowledge safe drivers with a wave but unfortunately the majority of my encounters are negative. That negativity covers the full spectrum, from dangerously close encounters with cars, to impatient beeps, aggressive driving, yelled abuse and objects hurled from windows.

While cultural attitudes to cycling are one significant factor in creating an environment of mutual courtesy and respect, safe infrastructure is another major difference. European cycling friendly cities provide segregated and safe infrastructure, linking commuting routes in and around the cities.  Unlike Australia, bikes are welcome to share bus lanes, footpaths, parks and public places.  In return for these liberties cyclists ride sensibly and safely with respect for pedestrians and bus thoroughfare. Lycra clad cyclists ride slowly in bike lanes and public places, on route to training rides outside of commuting areas.

I would not ride in an Australian city without a helmet. We lack the infrastructure to protect and segregate cyclists from vehicles and importantly, we lack the socio-cultural acceptance of cycling as a legitimate form of transport. One deserving of respect for shared road use.

Councils would have us believe parks are unsafe for cyclists in Melbourne

The result of this is a standoff and hardened attitudes between motorists and cyclists.  A small percentage of cyclists believe they can ride aggressively and train on shared paths and in commuting bike lanes.  Many motorists display a lack of concern for cyclists’ vulnerability on roads and in bike lanes. Taxis and motorists constantly obstruct bike lanes forcing cyclists to detour into traffic. Lack of separation means ‘car dooring’ is a constant threat.  In response the State Government launched a rear-view sticker awareness campaign – it has been an abject failure.

Today I had a lady beep and grumpily yell “get out of the way”, as I stood stationary in the middle of the road on my bike, waiting for a safe opportunity to cross. She had ample room to pass and the traffic in her lane was at a standstill 50m further on.

Last Thursday I was unfortunate enough to have 30 Rhinos, or one Melbourne Tram as the safety campaign advises, ‘nudge’ me from behind when passing.  My daughter, riding in front had stopped, as she didn’t think there was enough room for the tram and us. She was right. When the tram hit me, my bike hit my daughters, and hers hit a parked car. The tram continued on it’s way until I slapped it to alert the driver to stop. The driver then assertively denied the incident saying, “You cyclists are all dickheads!”

Based on my experience and that many others, Australia has a long way to go to catch up on European cultural acceptance of cycling and provision of safe, segregated infrastructure.  Until such time as we address awareness, attitudes and acceptance through education and widespread cycling infrastructure, lobbying for the repeal of mandatory helmet laws is misguided, divisive to the cycling community and distracting from the core issues.

I return to the safety of my local cafe and the manager Andrew, delivers me a coffee with his usual smile and ear-to-ear scar that signifies an alternate reality. Andrew is also a cyclist and the victim of a ‘car-dooring’ which speared him into the path of an oncoming car. Two months later he regained consciousness, six months later he was released from hospital.  His life has slowly resumed with his job managing a busy Collingwood cafe.

“If I hadn’t been wearing a helmet I would be dead. There is no doubt about it,” says Andrew. I just think it’s ridiculous that a minority of people suggest that helmet laws are preventing people from cycling”.

 

Other posts by Crashion:  Damn you Lance   

Damn you Lance

I always find it interesting how some of life’s more prominent events can be deconstructed with the benefit of hindsight. Those things are brought to our attention in many ways but inevitably leave us wiser for the newfound knowledge. We are buoyed by a confirmation of what we always suspected or deflated by the demise of a once respected icon.

As a child I thought Jesus was pretty cool to walk on water and then someone told me it was probably a sand bar, or submerged rocks and favourable light. Then I became an atheist and realised, damn it John 6:15-21, you lied!

Then in my youth there was Uri Geller, a self-proclaimed psychic who could recite audience members’ car license plates and bend spoons by rubbing them. Uri had me glued to the TV emulating him unsuccessfully with my sticky Milo spoon. As it turned out his manager had given him the license plate numbers and magicians outed the spoon-bending trick. A paranormal freak or a well-practiced magician? Damn you Uri, you lied!

Many years later there was that jump-suited president declaring “Mission Accomplished” from the flight deck of an aircraft carrier…when the war has never ended. Then there were those pesky ‘weapons of mass destruction’… that didn’t exist! Damn you George ‘Dubya’, you lied!

Moving along to 2010, Ride Cycling Review (RCR) published an article comparing the physiology and performance of two elite cyclists, Lance Armstrong and Cadel Evans. The article,  Lance vs Cadel: a study of two 22-year-olds  is by Dr David T. Martin, a senior physiologist at the Australian Institute of Sport (AIS).  In his role Dr Martin has been testing elite athletes including Cadel, for over 15 years. You can read the full article on the RCR website however, if you want to skip to the stage finish, here are the highlights:

“… this physiological comparison is of interest because it reiterates that Lance is not merely a physiological freak. Oh yes, he possesses many physiological prerequisites for being successful as a road cyclist but he is not a physiological outlier when compared to other pro cyclists. If anything, Lance’s aerobic capacity is lower than Cadel’s, not extremely superior and we haven’t even addressed the capacity of other top riders like Alberto Contador.

“So don’t think it has been easy for Lance. The data doesn’t support the argument that Lance wins because he was born with some God-given gift, some unique physiological capacity that makes his success as a professional road cyclist easy. There’s a lot involved in winning. Don’t assume that Lance just jumped on a bike and found out that he possessed a superior aerobic capacity and was capable of dropping everyone off his wheel while riding up a nasty climb in the Alps or Pyrenees.

“No, quite the opposite. Lance has great physiology but so do many other professional cyclists including Cadel Evans. The great physiology is a requirement but not a differentiator. I believe the data reviewed in this article supports the concept that Lance is a winner because he has committed himself, trained hard, and designed his environment to allow him to produce exceptional performances.”

According to Dr Martin, “based on physiological traits, it is just a bit too simplistic – and a bit naive – to think that all of Lance’s achievements can be explained by superior build.”

So looking back to those seven Tour de France victories Lance; what was it about your environment that allowed you to produce those exceptional performances? I know you were committed but was it just because you trained harder and smarter and made yourself tougher physically and mentally?

All along the way there were doubters that said you used performance-enhancing drugs but you were emphatic in your denials.

“All that hard work, sacrifice and focus will never show up in tests.” You said it was your body and you could do whatever you wanted to it. “Study it; Tweak it; Listen to it. Everybody wants to know what I am on. What am I on? I am on my bike busting my ass six hours a day; what are YOU on?”

Well Lance, I can tell you what I am not on. I’m not on my bike busting my ass six hours a day. I’m also not on Erythropoietin (EPO), I’m not on Testosterone, Human Growth Hormone, and Corticosteroids and I’m not blood-doping nor having saline and plasma infusions.

Oh and while I’m at it, I don’t believe the political spin of world leaders, I don’t believe in paranormal feats and the supernatural, nor do I believe in superhuman efforts. Sadly, not even those of a once revered, seven-time Tour de France winner…

Damn you Lance, your teammates said you lied!

 

Martin, Dr David (2010), Lance vs Cadel: a study of two 22-year-olds, Ride Cycling Review, RIDE #47 (volume 01, 2010), http://www.ridemedia.com.au/?p=7387

Park Alice (2012), Which Drugs Is Lance Armstrong Accused of Taking?, Time Healthland, http://healthland.time.com/2012/08/24/which-drugs-is-lance-armstrong-accused-of-taking/#ixzz29NDmSo5R