Monday, October 1, 2012

Smoking storys: We Cling

Below is my first crack at a contemporary breed of fiction - Flash Fiction. 

The Chinese labeled the style 'smoke-long' fiction as the reader should be able to finish the piece before sucking down a cigarette. 

You get the idea. Fiction evolving with our ever shrinking span of attention.

Ernest Hemmingway saw it coming when he published this magnum opus - 

“For sale: baby shoes, never worn.” 

He wrote it on a bet that he could write a story under 10 words.

He did it as he understood how cities and worlds could be built in just a few words.

Anyhow, light up a cigarette...On this occassion, it's healthy for you.

We Cling

They’re yet to create a mirror that sends back yourself. It’s always somebody else gawking back, wantin’ out of there. I wonder how she sees me in this moment. Her eyes I feel, peeling paint off my face. I can’t see her. The leftovers are all I see. But we still cling; like a chook runnin’ about with no head, a crook dog yowling for a bullet, we cling.  Our haunches play the part while everything else fears the gallows. With the power of a colt’s gallop, we barrel across the marshes. 

Something’s burnin’ inside. My nose is smokin’; my eyes are given in. “Jesus Christ,” I’m yelping; ‘He’s not gonna help ya,” says she, burying teeth into my chest; looking to bite out the life in it beating like bare feet on oil drums. Before love dies, it flashes before your eyes. I remember the first time she hated me; fucking on the kitchen table after as if it would take our mind off it. Laughin’ and crying our bloody hearts out as if we had reached the end of the world. 

The room smells like funghi on pinewood, but it’s being pushed out through the cracks in the window; our breath, tears flood the room like water. She has a space to be filled; this is all I can give. A prick is all a man can offer a woman.  

A piano is playin’ somewhere; volume risin’. “Rain on me,”panting, “Rain on me you bastard!” She hears the music too and sinks her nails, teeth. A tin kettle is boiling over; a church choir rises and sings while a lone man lays down his prayer mat somewhere in the middle of a desert to pray. He knows the feelin’. “Rain, you fucker!” A gust of wind blows up the curtains skirt. We close our eyes tight like children. A rooster crows; a clown horn honks; street lamp’s flicker; a flock of birds take off...

All of em’ know it. Somebody’s world has lost something. It’ll never be ok again.

I roll off her. We lay there, sprawled. Left with nothin’. Nothin’ but leftovers, rain outside and the reflection of ourselves in the mirror.

This is the unabridged version of a 250 word story written for a flash fiction competition hosted by the online lit rag,The Lascaux Review.

The end product of this story and The Lascaux's Review can be found here. Some grand writing to be found there, mastered with incredible brevity. 

Friday, September 14, 2012

A belief in the importance of Australian rural press

I was recently awarded third place for excellence in Journalism in the 2011 Country Press Awards.

While I feel honored by the recognition (despite it only being third) I question the quality of journalism my work was held up against as rural press increasingly becomes only a training ground for cadets and a platform for press releases.

And it all comes down to that dependency on money of course. I was one of the lucky ones to work under a editor that still had the resources (well he made due) but more importantly the dedication to the honest principles of the trade.

As rural communities isolation become starker within South Australia due to the urban focused policies being implemented by the state government, the more they need to have a voice to draw attention to the ailing vital services. Rural press is that voice.

A few comments from the judges are below...enough to make a budding journo. blush -

There can only be three winners, and the following entries could have easily been published in the best national newspapers in the land - they were simply outstanding!

The Third Prize for Excellence on Journalism goes to Jacob Moss from The Border Watch for his determined and dedicated coverage of the State Government's announcement of the sale of its forestry assets in the South-East.
Judge's comments: Sustained campaign which galvanised community opinion leading to a Parliamentary rally. Strong research and writing, excellent investigative work (the campaign started with an exclusive) and a powerful contribution to a serious public issue. Very impressive.
Both Jacob and Paul could easily have been state winners in another year at another time - their work is as good as I have seen. But not this year. The winner for the Country Press SA Excellence in Journalism Award for 2011 is Lisa Pahl from The Courier, for her coverage of the State Government's re-zoning of housing land around Mt Barker.

It has been a privilege to judge the 2011 Excellence on Journalism Awards - some of the most inspired and dedicated research and writing I have seen in 20 years. An extraordinary 27 entries were received and every one of them reflected a passionate commitment by journalists and editors to their local communities and were enthusiastic illustrations of the philosophy of our craft – to report without fear or favour. They were all exceptionally balanced (a lesson to metro media), stuck to concise, detailed reporting rather than editorialising (another lesson to metros) and in most cases resisted the temptation to sensationalise.
Peter Fuller
Excellence in Journalism Judge
10th February 2011

Tuesday, January 25, 2011

Thoughts of Australia on Australia Day: 'Within its beuty is its terror'

I have discovered a wealth of stories lie dormant and untold in this country. People stories.
A retreat into the city has progressed right back since settler’s times which has evolved the social fabric, dynamics of politics and infrastructure development to become largely city-ccentric. I have realised since working in the ‘bush’ or ‘outback’ as us city dwellers or suburbians adoringly refer to it as, that my knowledge growing up was ignorant of the struggles and plight of those who lived off the harsh ‘outback’ land.
And that this breakdown of connection between urban and outback is not something exclusive to only this little urban lad. In Australia, we have gradually isolated (with large distance also a determining factor) our once prosperous country towns while at the same time reaping the wealth of the crops they grow and harvest. This has also followed a shift away in Australia from the secondary industries. This was evident yesterday when one of South Australia’s largest rural employers- Kimberly Clark paper and toilet tissue manufacturers announced it would be scaling back operations in the south east, meaning over 200 jobs would be lost. They cited the current hostile manufacturing conditions as one of the causes.

The majority of city dwellers pluck the fruit and vegetables from their supermarket shelves but are oblivious to the intricate art of cultivating and the process, which brought it there. However, they will feel it now as food prices in Australia are set to skyrocket with recent floods devastating farmers.

I arrived in this country at the end of what was another of it’s devastating droughts. I am lucky to be in a part of Australia that has not been drowned by floods over the last few months.
There is forever a constant cycle that is merciless in this country- it starves, it dies, it is reborn and flourishes into the most beautiful landscape you could ever witness. How I wish I could summon the adequate skills to describe to you through word how serene and majestic a sunset is across the flats of this land. From history we can conclude that the years of flooding rains are short and will be proceeded by long and relentless years of drought. From what I am told the last drought was as soul diminishing as that of the Federation drought (the worst Australia has known since settlement). Farmers told me of when they were forced to clear paddocks of malnourished, starved sheep in droves that lied dead in their paddocks. Imagine the feeling that, that farmer had when he looked on as this happened, knowing there was nothing he could do. Compare this to the feeling that would have came as the first drops of rains fell early this year. Amazing. Now consider this when farmers realised in some regions that those drops of rain would be as relentless as the drought. This unique volality in the character of this continent is best summed up by a line from poet Dorothea Mackellar- within its beuty is its terror.

80 percent of my country is rural yet over 90 percent of the population live in our capital cities. The stereotype iconic Australian that seems to have made it a popular kid on the world stage- with the Akubra hat, Crocodile Dundee harshness, the relaxed, easy going disposition- has been given to the country by those who live off the land- Those who live in the undesirable pockets of Australia whose very existence is validated by the fact that the town has a football club, a school, a petrol station and a pub. This breed of Australians are dying off along with the endearing genuine attitude and psyche that has made this country so loved around the world. Australia is maturing from this innocence and what I see emerging?- an over regulated, highly cynical, alarmingly patriotic, xenophobic, what-does-secular-mean?, populist driven democracy. The scariest part of all is that those shaping its future have no vision.

It is constantly said that Australia is faced with an identity crisis. In a multicultural, religiously secular society that looks to expand by unprecedented proportions this crisis will only become more difficult and they will only be left, I believe, with a shallow identity left over from an outdated marketing campaign. We need to reinvent ourselves. One requires identity to stand for a vision.

Although this is an issue that the broader world will face, it is one that will confuse Australia the most. When an individual becomes lost or experiences tragedy there is a tendency to subconsciously or consciously revert back to their childhood. Europe and the Americas have a childhood. Australia is a pubescent teenager who is determined to suppress its childhood, which involved one of the most brutal cullings of a culture and people in the history of humanity. Indigenous Australians walk around as black ghosts of this country, floating in a space between a mutation of European/American culture full of addictions, greed and freedoms conveniently available at your local supermarket, while they grieve for their culture that, I believe, is dying a slow and painful death. What has resulted is a welfare culture that has perpetuated over the years upon the foundations of bitterness towards Anglo-Saxon Australia, a sense that they are owed and of addictions that they cannot understand.
This government, more than any other is attempting to address these issues- especially the third world record of indigenous Australians- yet it is in the common Australian person that you will find the resentment for Indigenous Australians.

You may have found I have been quite cynical in my observations and I do not deny it. However, if the truth be known there is no where in the world I feel more at home than under the leaves of a gum tree.

Wednesday, December 8, 2010


HERO for freedom and transparency of information or anarchist?- The jury is relevant to who you are speaking.

However there are conclusive truths which have been exposed- The world governments get away from this information tech hiroshima is ‘sluggishly’ transpiring before it citizens, while the highly regressive, panicked and savagely revengeful complexion it acquires when caught with its pants down is also on show- Bashful bunch.

And further, the legal games now being played by the US, Britain and Sweden almost appear similar to the scene where the big slow kid in the high school hurdle race trips up the faster one out of emasculated frustration.

Wikileaks methods are unheard of and revolutionary. It represents the jack of the internet which governments had hoped and prayed would never come out of its box.

However, it has and whether it is right or wrong, they are exposed with out a fig leaf to wear, and the principle that wikileaks stands for is laughing.

And, I don’t think I am the only one joining in with a smirk at how awkward they look naked.

British authorities threw Assange in jail yesterday and denied him bail.

They locked him up for "questioning" on an incident which involved him allegedly refusing to wear a condom when sleeping with a woman in Sweden- It has been termed as ‘rape’.

Perhaps the politicians should have also thought before about wearing a bit more protection.

He has not been apprehended for terrorism or treason which is the title politicians in the US and Australia have pinned on his actions.

US Senator Mitch McConnell’s claims that Assange is a ‘high-tech terrorist’ confirms my worst fear, that we have truly lost touch with our lexicon.

Where is the public outcry, especially from his home country Australia?

His actions will be debated and have already been the stuff of play things for the media who have licked their lips like every cable leaked is a drop of honey for the bear.

The third estate, who were long ago assigned the duty to keep the authorities in check, is sitting back in deck chairs chugging back the free flow of page fillers instead of what it should be doing- chasing that bare-assed government around with a wet towel.

Where are the questions, the pressure being applied to governments around the world who are blatantly using the legal system as a snare?

Mr Assange and Wikileaks have not only exposed the government, yet the fashion in which they have done so has also exposed the traditional media.

It seems to be forgotten that it was a 250 page pile of confidential documents which Wikileaks dropped into the pond; it was not the select headlines from which we digest it.

I do not deny there was some motive on his behalf and this will not become clear until history fills in the blanks, yet I am as fascinated as a virgin boy in a female’s locker room on what effect this unprecedented betrayal the internet has inflicted on its government will have: On how we (the media) operates, governments, their intelligence agencies and most importantly the free flow of information on the net.

Policy resembling internet censorship was spoken about by the Australian government while they still had their pants on, what happens now?... watch this space.

Mr Assange’s jail time has interestingly coincided with the announcement of the date for World press freedom day.

Saturday, December 4, 2010

WIKILEAKS: The fishbowl is leaking

Santa clause isn’t real…
Neither is the tooth fairy…
My Humphrey b teddy bear did die a natural death even though I found him in the bin under a banana peel…
And politics is fictional…
Scripted…cast and recast…

The fishbowl is leaking.
Aged by years of evolution in technology, politics, and societies.
It has survived a series of dodgy bodged up repair jobs.
Its purpose has been to house us, to cradle the fluid words that inform us and lubricate that glossy film on our eyes; letting us know when it is ok to blink or squint in awe or disgust. It is the media and we are the googly eyed fish that trust it is safe to swim within.

If you look back at the screens of dated televisions -now scattered over our cities’ streets- they are similarly curved, at a coke bottle thickness like a fishbowl.

Over time, the space behind this glass has encapsulated our world, well, most people’s perception of it. Decades, it has been the main source of information moulding our debates, actions, fears, sexual appetites, and ethics. Most do their backstroke in it everyday. Those who have seen the outside have had to be willing to swim against the stream. Otherwise, it has been drained and topped up at their discretion, with history sprinkled on the top. They tell us the water is constantly renewed and replaced by the fresh stuff, yet often it is clouded, green and slimy.

It takes an inquiring mind to see through the muck but most gyrate in circles, trusting they are informed and involved in the decisions- And quite understandably. This is the media’s role. To inform without inhibitions and no strings attached, to be perched on the collar of every politicians starched shirt at every meeting. Listening, translating the snollygoster dialogue in which they speak along with their army of media advisors.

The media has nurtured us in a certain way, teaching us to swim, giving us that warm feeling like when your mother and father fit you in floatys and flippers and coach you through a paddle in the ocean. And this is what we ask of it. Nothing more. But have you ever considered the unreported, what happens outside the realm of media coverage?

This was all before the crack appeared.
A hairline fracture.
A passage between the inside and the- unpublished, unedited, never made the cut- outside.
It has been reported this week that the crack has been caused by select voices taking to it with an axe, a sickle, the web and unloading a 'return to sender' truck full of putrid garbage on politicians doorsteps.. Yes, it has come once again in a high-pitched and it has pierced the skin of this microcosm.

Words from one of the resonant voices in journalism come to mind:

We are currently wealthy, fat, comfortable and complacent. We have currently a built-in allergy to unpleasant or disturbing information. Our mass media reflects this. But unless we get up off our fat surpluses and recognise that television in the main is being used to distract, delude, amuse and insulate us, then television and those who finance it, those who look at it and those who work at it, may see a totally different picture too late.

Said Edward R. Murrows. This was when television was still black and white. It is now broadcast in ‘high definition’. Perhaps in Mr Murrow's ideal TV guide there would be a time slot allocated for the kind of information Wikileaks published this week right before Australia’s next top model. It would certainly make for interesting reality TV.

Mr Assange, the world has shifted. This is bound to rattle a few. The world has never seen such a ‘whistleblower’; such seismic shifts in our fishbowl will surely cause waves.

Has he compromised national security as they say?
Can we handle it, and more importantly, do enough care?
or is it just that this information is just too 'unpleasant' or 'disturbing'?

I think another interesting question is- how will this change journalism? What effect will this have on our fishbowl?
Mr Assange openly criticises the traditional media however I will fervently defend it in its genuine form.
What I would suggest however is that this week exposed where traditional journalism falls short, and adds a sense of urgency for it to get over its midlife crisis and reinvent itself.

It is time to clean the tank.

Sunday, April 4, 2010

Slim pickings for backpackers in outback Australia

As the harvesting season comes to a close in the south of Oz there is a matter which must not be left behind. The Murray-darling rivers thirst quenched state has affected many- farmers, local businesses, but it also seems to have taken its toll on the thousands of backpackers following the governments highly promoted ‘harvest trail’ along its once fruitful region. Due to water restrictions placed on farmers, the fruit yield is declining and the fruit being produced is becoming smaller. This has created a domino effect meaning less jobs, lower wages and hints of declining conditions for the workers. The harvesting of Australia relies heavily on these travellers, who commonly fund their working-visa holidays by picking or packing Australian fruit. So much so, that it is rare to find an Aussie out in the orchards as picking crews are generally made up of backpackers and Indians.

In pursuit of a glance into the backpacker’s life in Australia, I made a pit stop along my journey from Adelaide to Sydney in a little town by the Murray River called Waikerie, to do a spot of orange picking. What I was faced with, was something very un-Australian with workers earning less than base wage, under hostile and abusive supervisors, and borderline, exploitive conditions.

To offer a glance - the pickers are paid on a contract per bin basis- $25 for a 400-500kg bin. ‘This was an easy task and earned good money back 5 years ago’ says local and seasonal picker, Paul Dodge ‘but today with the size of the fruit and the neglected conditions of the trees, you can be lucky to earn 10 bucks an hour. Back in the day you would get fed, water was supplied and you would be driven to each orchard. Now they just take advantage of the young backpackers’. Regardless of the changes, the contract wage has remained the same. This has left many earning less than $10 per hour, on some occasions less than $5. Some of the former employees of the particular contractor I worked for, having moved on in their travels, reported to not even have been paid for their time there. In talks with other travellers I discovered this to be common place.
Conditions are disgraceful with no toilet facilities being provided leaving female workers to go under the trees. No water is supplied, even on the scorching hot days.
The farmers are not to blame, yet rather the contractors who manage and employ the pickers. When I quizzed Ivor Gents, the one and only contractor of the orange capital Loxton-Waikerie area about the situation, they got very nervous and reluctant to comment.

A local, who preferred to remain anonymous, enlightened me further on the shifty workings of this particular contractor.

‘They have been caught with their pants down before not following up with paying their workers. They were based in Berri before, yet moved on for this reason’.

With ‘immigration’ becoming a buzz word in the Australian media at present, we must remember the thousands of those who fill the holes in the labour market which the normal Australian refuse to fill, like plucking oranges from an overgrown tree in searing heat. This transfers over into our cities, especially along the eastern coast, in which the pitifully paid jobs are laboured over by those aliens who have come to the land of plenty not for the sun and surf section of the tourism brochure. If we choose to open our doors to these travellers, we cannot only open it half way, yet all the way with a cup of tea in hand and a welcome mat, as long as they don’t wipe their shoes on it.

Now, can somebody pass the salt…

Friday, February 26, 2010

Naked gun set on Sydney Beach

A well known, yet unofficial nudist beach bearing 140 people, 80 and of them stark naked, was visited by police this week brandishing guns and the intent to rid the beach of all of those tanning their rude bits. While the police puffed out their chests and canvassed the sands of the Little Congwong Beach at La Perouse, they warned the nude sunbathers that if they did not conceal their offending appendages they would be in violation of the law and in turn, arrested. A flurry of nipples, genitals and testicles was to follow as the naturists hid their bits and the police wielded theirs.

Phallic symbols aside, to concede, children were present and the beach is not a designated nudist beach. Not being a recreational nudist myself, I am unable to relate to those who are, however, what does give me an uncomfortable indigestion was that the initial reaction to solve the conflict was to use force akin to a drug raid. Were the guns really necessary? Perhaps a diplomatic reminder would have done the trick to begin with. Why is the government taking such desperate measures to cover us up? to think of all the effort our parents and grandparents of the 60s put into the freedom of baring all in public. It can be assumed of those behind the new push for clothing on beaches- the politicians, the regulators, the police force- that they have only been the spectators of such freedom.
I was speaking to an elderly fellow named Andy on the train who said he has been sun baking nude there for years. He cried ignorance, ‘I didn’t know that it was a crime to sunbathe naked there, then all of a sudden police turn up and tell me to put my trunks on. Quite rude bastards they were’. Andy was present amongst the 80 other Adam and Eves who seemingly were oblivious to their need for a leaf. Cue in: a Wave of the finger and a tutting of the tongue.

For a nudist, this is the stuff that inspires revolution! A call to arms for a mass nude protest in response! Arm in arm, united in nakedness, no armour, no weapons but that which has been naturally bestowed upon us. Let us take the beach hostage. Fight for our right to a seamless tan! To have the salt water as close as can be! To have nothing inhibiting the sand invading crevices of our body we never knew existed! and when they point their guns at us, threaten us with our lives we shall not be covered, we shall not yield, but rather we shall jump up and down and keep jumping until they cannot endure the bounce of all our wobbly bits anymore.
The naked body is a beautiful yet intimidating weapon! ahhmmm I digress.

I draw attention to this episode not to inspire such measures, yet to drag a felt tip pen under the pattern which seems to be emerging of over-regulation and over- policing leaving us only a hop, skip and a jump away from something smelling as nasty as that of a police state. As I read this back, I realise myself at risk of sounding like a prima donna left-wing political evangelist…something as exaggerated as using a gun to defend yourself against somebodies bare bum. The issue taken at face value is trivial. However, as our newspapers and our governments constantly justify the sacrifice of our freedoms for the sake of our safety and for the fight against almost everything- fight against terror, fight against crime, fight against drugs, fight against global warming, fight against teenage suicide, fight against nudity- we must take caution to not fall asleep, exhausted from all this fighting, or from the droning repetition of the tone this constant call to arms induces. We must not grow accustomed to it, we cannot accept it, to then wake up in a comfortable yet confined bubble from which we are unwittingly fighting against freedom, therefore our individual selves.

These reflections came to me after my conversation with naked Andy as I left the train and made my way up the stairs of Newtown station. They stopped short at the top when met by police, hands on guns and a sniffer dog going at my crutch. I went to pat the dog, but was barked at by the male officer not to do so and to keep moving. I smiled and flirted with the idea of stripping naked right there and then.

Be sure if you are in Sydney to check out Spencer Tunick’s next photographic installation, The Base. He will be photographing thousands of daring nude people on the Sydney Opera House forecourt. This sort of nudity is commissioned.