Homo Oblivious


My archaeologist son will be so proud of me. I have discovered a new genus of human which I have named ‘Homo Oblivious’. Some of the distinct characteristics of this breed of humans include:

·         Being lost in their own little world of electronic sights and sounds

·         Having wires protruding from their ears

·         Strolling aimlessly along the footpath while focused on their semi-raised right or left palm

·         Wearing backpacks that appear to have no depth or volume

·         Social interaction that involves the entire locality of their presence yet their focus is again only the contents of their hand

·         The inability of the male of this genus to wear belts to hold up their pants

·         The inability of the female of this genus to go anywhere without an electronic hand-held device somewhere about their person

·         The inability of both members of this genus to converse with others of their breed without including the word ‘like’ in every sentence

My discovery of Homo Oblivious comes from many wasted hours commuting to and from work by train. The main source of amusement when observing this genus centres around their unique ability to focus totally on the screens of their phones, swearing profanities when their signal drops out and occasionally missing their alight station because their concentration is so deep with the enjoyment contained in their hands. Squinting and a future that contains bifocals is assured so future entrepreneurs should start investing in OPSM outlets now to avoid the rush.

I had occasion to nearly bump into one of this genus recently. A female of the species was walking the same straight line that I was on, her head down, palm was elevated and her ears were wired. I, of course, spotted this creature from quite a distance away and decided to experiment with the Large Hadron Collider principle to see whether two particles travelling in opposite directions can generate a reaction. Neither of us two ‘particles’ varied from our assigned pathway, neither of us wavered an inch from the anticipated collision. But within a mere metre of what could have been an inevitable calamity, her phone rang and she looked with a stare that could have taken the wallpaper off a 1970’s hallway. This raised a question: who has right of way when one encounters a Homo Oblivious? Clearly the answer lies somewhere in the distant future where archaeologists will dig up many of this genus and then speculate as to why so many of them have had surgery for busted noses!

One could also speculate about generations to come. If we are experiencing this phenomenon now, would it be fair to say that progressive generations will encounter even odder behavioural traits or will science save the day? Instead of wires protruding from one’s ears, perhaps one’s ears will already be hard-wired for AM/FM. Perhaps a future genus will have in-built radar that detects approaching obstacles and makes appropriate adjustments to the walking trajectory. The possibilities are endless. But for the poor suffering older generations that have yet to understand the differences between PDF and URL, for goodness sake “Watch the hell where you are going” or Homo Oblivious will become Homo Extinctus.

The Orchestra

The Orchestra

Imagine if you can, a conglomeration of musicians assembled in the one place under your direction. These musicians are all professionals, trained to perfection after years of practice and it is up to you to entice the very soul of their training onto the stage known as the orchestra. Good luck! Imagine if you will some of the clashes you may encounter – the first violinist against the tuba player – highly strung versus deep and mellow. Or the meek and mild triangle player versus the buffoonish bassoonist. Each character in your orchestra presents with a different personality – some will strive for perfection, some will seek motivation, others will seek a damn fine lunch at midday, yet all will be there for one reason – to be concerted and conducted into a working machine that produces a sound that the audience will appreciate and applaud. And your task, should you decide to accept it, is to meld these professionals into a thing of great musical beauty.

To start such a venture, one would need to first choose a particular opera or symphony and then build your team of musicians around this production. Diplomacy is essential in the selection of your musicians as many can be sensitive to rejection. Choosing Musician B over musician A could land you in symphonic hot-water as they battle it out for the right to perform. This could lead to a fencing match between violinists; or duelling bongos at 20 paces; or much carnage if the double-bassist starts using his strings as a make-shift bow and arrow arrangement. Imagine the trianglist flinging razor-sharp ninja-like instruments through the air that embed themselves deep in the timber of the introverted cellist’ cello – the therapy bill alone will be worth thousands! Or worse, the harpist aligning her instrument to strategically topple onto the unsuspecting Afghani rubaba player, causing a diplomatic incident the likes of which sees the start of exploding turbans in your orchestral pit and a very expensive cleaning bill. Despite the obvious issues with personalities and the inevitable disappointment suffered by those that miss out on the ‘call’, the show must go on!

Another aspect you may have to deal with is lighting, props and scenery. The audience will notice cheap scenery more than they will notice a missed note or a dropped quaver. Use good tradespeople and above all ensure the prop-wheels are oiled like the finely tuned machine you desire, otherwise the critics will discuss the production with the merriment of a school-boys on their first excursion to the beach. Take particular care with the lighting too as this aspect can ruin a performance especially when a spot-light globe is blown during the leaping sequence of Swan Lake – many feathers will be ruffled!

And finally (and forever as this will be my last raving), I am reminded of the words of the great African philosopher named Chief ‘Naguma’. His insight into the psyche of the human mind and his observations of the way humans interact, astound even the great thinkers of our modern era. Little did he know that his timely words would echo around the world and resonate in the ears of all great composers and conductors even today. A graphic representation of his words are attached below ….


The Langeleik

The Langeleik

This is the national instrument of Norway and from my indelible research, I have uncovered evidence of this instrument dating back to the early 1500’s. This instrument is somewhat unique in construction and looks for all intents and purposes like a harp with attitude, its melodic sounds have soothed the savage vikings over the centuries and they no longer pillage anywhere of significance anymore (except the tourist that visit their country and pay outrageous prices for pewter viking long-boats to adorn their bookcases – hhmmmm!). And it was from these humble and violent beginnings that the following story emerges ….

Eric the viking was away from home again on his long-boat with his crew of bearded warriors on another venture into the warmer waters of the south. The vikings liked to get away from home as often as possible because the cold weather of the north played havoc with their sinuses and they grew tired of all the opera singing from their wives. In times when the sea becalmed, the warriors would row for a while then sit back and attempt to recreate songs with the use of primitive instruments that they had plundered from villages along the coastline. Eric had some musical talent and could quickly master any stolen instrument within days of its confiscation. While going through a sack of booty he uncovered this weird-looking harp-like instrument. He plucked it for some time but found that using a plectrum on the instrument produced a better sound. Soon the other vikings were singing along  to the latest songs on the Norwegian hit-parade. Unfortunately no one was watching where they were going and they sailed off the edge of the world never to be seen again (or so the legend goes). One of the crew however survived because he got left behind in the last village they plundered – seems he’d been at sea too long and found more interesting things to do with the remaining locals. He had followed the long-boat to the edge of the continent and watched it disappear over the horizon. He returned to his village in the north to report the demise of his colleagues and so the legend of Eric began; a viking with a weird instrument and bad navigational skills.

Many hazards await your troupe should you decide to conduct an orchestra in Norway. Be prepared for much snow and bitter cold on your arrival in Norway. It is recommended that you conduct any musicals indoors away from the weather. Other hazards that may befall you include trolls. These insidious creatures only come up to your knee-caps and have a terrible habit of stealing items that don’t belong to them, so post a guard over your instruments at all times. But perhaps the greatest danger is the wearing of horny hats. Many an eye-ball has been extracted from the hap-hazard way the female Norwegians have of throwing back their hair plaits in strong northerly winds.

And finally, should you encounter a maddened audience that seem intent on more than pillaging, then a quick rendition of ‘Ride of the Valkyries’ by Wagner will settle them down and appease any gods that happen to be in the area at the time. With any luck you should escape an ascension into Valhalla and an unfortunate encounter with a female named Brunhilda!


Thanks to National instruments of the world for the pic.

Touring Portugal with the ‘Witch’

Another social comment that has nothing to do with music unless the sounds of an automated GPS fall into this category.

Imagine, if you will, driving on the wrong side of the road, navigating streets that are not spelt in English, in an unfamiliar vehicle, on village roads that are only wide enough for horse-drawn buggies and where street signs are practically non-existent. My companion (and navigator) on this journey does not have a driver’s licence nor has ever driven a vehicle in her life. In only my second attempt to drive the roads of Europe, it seemed appropriate to obtain as much assistance as possible from available technology for our recent drive around Portugal. So the option to hire an English-speaking GPS was happily accepted when I collected the vehicle from the hire company. Putting our trust in this talking box of technology proved satisfactory at first as it guided us dutifully north to Fatima. However on arrival at this town the GPS became confused as to which street to direct us to our hotel. Twice around the same streets and I parked the car, wandered into a hotel and asked directions.
The next day I keyed in the location of our next destination and off we drove on the directions the GPS was ordering us to follow. It soon became clear that we were taking the ‘scenic route’ to Leiria as the A8 highway distantly faded into the opposite direction to the one we were travelling. After passing through four quaint little villages we spotted a road sign that led us in the desired direction. My navigator joked that perhaps the GPS was ‘possessed’ and after some little debate this marvel of modern technology was nick-named the ‘Witch’.

So each time I keyed in the vital location of our next destination, the ‘Witch’ acquired her satellites, mapped our route and issued her instructions. These instructions can be quite amusing as well –

  • ‘turn left, then turn right’ but when you circle around the town to arrive back at this instructional point in the road it becomes ‘turn left, then turn left’;
  • ‘at the next round-about, take the 5th exit’ (which is all well and good but what constitutes ‘an exit’ is debatable on many round-abouts in Portugal) and
  • ‘ take the highlighted route’ which is fine if you have a navigator but imagine being on your own and having to watch the screen instead of the road!

I found myself answering the ‘Witch’ too. Expressions such as ‘ok then’; ‘what?’ and ‘she has no idea where we are going’ became common during our journey. But when expletives replaced niceties and threats to hurl the ‘Witch’ out the window became more common, my navigator became a fast learner in the subtle art of map-reading.

We found less reliance on the ‘Witch’ as the holiday progressed. For us, the lovely people of Portugal were ever-willing to offer their local knowledge about the whereabouts of hotels. This proved easy in smaller towns but somewhat of a nightmare in the big cities. Indeed the ‘Witch’ did locate the bigger cities (as did we by following a good old-fashioned road-map) but became confused and less accurate when negotiating tiny streets and alleys that can house the entrance to your desired location. I recall circling the same block four times in Porto before abandoning the ‘Witch’ and driving through an intersection to discover our hotel 200 metres from where she suggested that we had ‘arrived at your destination’.

Another issue that taunted us was our travel documents (hotel vouchers) sometimes lacked a street number. The ‘Witch’ needs this street number because this allows a more accurate pin-pointing of your desired destination. Without this number some of the streets and boulevards in Europe are some kilometres in length. I found by inserting the number ‘100’ helped but again it failed to accurately deposit us in the correct location. So it is recommended that if you plan to use a ‘Witch’ then ensure that your travel documentation is complete and accurate before you depart.

The hire company was sympathetic to my complaints and discounted the cost of the ‘Witch’ by 60% when we returned to Lisbon. I calculated that the ‘Witch’ misdirected us by adding approximately 200kms to our journey and cost us valuable time as a result. Technology is excellent when it works but having a keen sense of direction, a worried look on your face when seeking assistance and a complementary ‘Obrigado’ works far better!

The Santur

The Santur

The santur is the national instrument of Iran. Like its people, the santur is bashed with mallets although the mallets used on this instrument are somewhat softer and don’t leave as many bruises. The instrument itself is played widely in this country and forms the basis of many of the eclectic tunes that emanate from Iran. It also helps to keep the flies away from the player as they are somewhat scared that they too might get bashed into oblivion! The santur has a long and distant past dating back to a time when Iran ruled much of Mesopotamia. My deep and meaningful research has uncovered this long, lost fable which begins something like this ….

Mahmoud Burkerjimadad was a simple goat-herd from a central valley in Iran. While he liked his basic existence and rarely complained of anything major, he really wanted to stretch his life experiences beyond the realm of his valley and onto the stage. He had bargained 3 goats for a santur and faithfully practiced his new art under the only tree within spitting distance of the local militia office. A rumour was spreading that Mahmoud was actually becoming quite accomplished on his santur and this worried the militia very much. If one succeeds in life, then others may follow and before long, who would tend to the goats? Worse still, who would clean up the mess when a stray goat happen to wander over strategically placed land-mine? A council meeting of the militia was called and a jihad was issued on the life of Mahmoud. Friends close to the goat-cheese industry warned Mahmoud of his pending death. And fig growers from far and wide were concerned for their ability to sell their produce without any cheese to eat with it! A secret society was formed consisting of cheese makers, fig growers and goat herders ,,, this society became known as the ‘burkers’ which is evidently something worn around your head to protect your anonymity. The burkers met to discuss how to protect their livelihood. A simple plan was formulated. Mahmoud knocked on the militia’s front door and offered to play his music for free to the council. On entering the council, Mahmoud excused himself and disappeared into the bathroom. 20 seconds later, his santur exploded killing everyone in the room, thus extinguishing his jihad and freeing his fellow burkers from a life of misery and breathing their own carbon dioxide.

Your chances of playing any orchestral master-pieces in this country are somewhat slim. Very few westerners are permitted to bring any joy to this country so I suspect any application for a visa may be refused. If you do succeed in securing entry to a performance then it is highly recommended that your fellow musicians strictly adhere to the rules of engagement. These would include never mistakenly wiping your nose on what you think may be a tissue draping from a turban; never accepting any alcohol at a post performance function and never passing any comments on the lack of camels to take you back to your hotel. In short, I’d avoid this country altogether as you may spark an unwanted diplomatic incident by discussing a ‘B’ flat encounter with the wife of a dignitary and end up as rifle fodder with Salman Rushdie.

And finally, if any of your troupe happen to utter the following words in delight of their time in Iran, then it is advisable to claim diplomatic immunity and head for the nearest CIA office.  The phrase to avoid is : ” Gee, had a great time there!” as the last four words of this phrase will not be heard over the accompanying gun fire!

Santur Playing Position

(Thanks to ‘pics of santur’).

The Tracky-dacks

The Tracky-dacks (a Social Comment)

In the history of all the musical instruments ever invented, there has been none so profound as the tracky-dacks. This instrument rose to prominence in the 1980’s when people from the western suburbs of Sydney discovered the comfort and ease of wearing loosely fitting track-suit pants. This instrument is more a fashion statement rather than a real musical instrument as it draws its inspiration from its ability to hide seemingly flabby bits of body fat under a layer of cotton and waisted elastic. These pants are also very valuable instruments as the ‘athletes’ that wear them are prone to run away from the police at great pace when spotted breaking and entering into local properties when the owners are at work. Combined with a checked flannelette (that clearly reminds the wearer of their ‘western’ suburbs roots), this outfit optimizes a lost generation of cowboys and their desire to normalise their lives. It also brings to mind the following story …..

Davo sat idly on his rented Housing Commission porch one sunny winter’s day wondering what to do with his time. His local drug dealer had failed to show up on pension day and word had it that he had been arrested for trying to sell prescription sedatives to minors with ADD. While staring aimlessly into his neighbour’s yard he observed a brand new track-suit flapping in the breeze. Looking down at his dilapidated Amco jeans with the missing knees, he sprang to his feet (which made him feel light-headed as this was the hardest thing he had done all day), and proceeded to the back fence. Taking care to scan for any witnesses, he scaled the fence and bolted for the Hills hoist. He quickly removed the track-suit from the hoist and quietly stepped towards the fence. He was about half-way back when the neighbours pit-bull terrier decided to attack. Davo only made it half way over the fence before he felt the searing pain of fangs in his buttocks, followed by the accompanying rip in his jeans. Much blood and teeth-marks later, Davo leapt to the relative safety of his property. He called an ambulance before he passed out. After cutting his jeans away and attending to his wounds, the ambulance workers stitched him up and gave him a tetanus injection for free on Medicare, before advising him that they had reported the neighbour’s savage dog to the police. Davo went pale. He had to think of a plausible story to explain how the dog had jumped over a 2 metre high fence, bitten him and then jumped back again. While all this was going on, the owner of the track suit arrived home from his work at Centrelink, realised his clothing was missing from the hoist and called the police. Davo didn’t have a leg to stand on (nor, in fact, a bum to sit on). The same police that visited the owner of the track-suit also visited Davo and yes, Davo was arrested for possession of a stolen track-suit and 2 pit-bull terrier teeth.

The opportunity to bring your music to the western suburbs of Sydney would be well received by the locals because it would deliver much-needed ‘culcha’ to the region. Imagine the throngs of people assembled in your midst, all slapping their rubber thongs together in time with the likes of Mozart or Schubert while you artfully dodge empty cans of VB propelled from the hill overlooking Panfers stadium. Consider the joy you will bring to all the little Davos who for the first time in their lives, will experience what it is like to miss an episode of ‘RBT’ where they get to see their relatives trying to avoid a day in court due to a rough evening on the turps the night before. Or where music replaces a Thursday night at Macca’s. The inspiration you bring to this place may inspire many to ditch their duff-duff music for a chance to play in an orchestra.

And finally it is highly recommended that you employ strict security at the venue because you may find that your hub-caps are missing at the end of the performance or worse still, someone has stolen your nicely pressed tuxedo and replaced it with the afore-mentioned tracky-dacks, dog teeth-marks still present in the rear!