FILE 6: This is like Red Hand Files only nothing like it but still great. (Daryl)
It is very similar, isn't it?
I've never gotten into the author of those Red Hand Files, Mr Nick Cave. Don't try to convert me. I respect him, I just don't get him.
I tell you what I do get into, though, and that is Nick's appearance. Does he always wear suits? That's pretty funny to me. I always dress like an extra in Starsky and Hutch, even when I mow the lawn, so I get that, for sure. If you've got a look, stick with it.
I'm into Nick's hair, too. He used to be pretty thin on top, now he's not; he's all plugged up. Fair enough. I don't think I could folk out as hard as I do if I looked like my dad. His long-time collaborator Warren Ellis looks a million years old, too, but Nick is all airbrushy with youth. He even has black eyebrows. He must dye them. That's an interesting thought. I wonder how you do that.
Me, I trim my eyebrows, ear hair and nose hair on the first weekend of each month to stop them taking over. Now you know.
I find that all pretty funny.
FILE 5: Why do you have three fingers?
I've been asked this question a lot in my life. Usually by little kids, who haven't yet learned to repress their curiosity.
I have a few answers, all of which are true in their way: I traveled back in time and was attacked by a dinosaur; I grew up in the Northern Territory and was attacked by a crocodile; I was attacked by a stray dog; I was attacked by some machete-wielding machete man and deflected his machete with my special machete-deflecting Judo chop.
So, lots of being attacked, basically.
In other versions of the story, I am picking my nose too enthusiastically and lose two fingers up there, or I confuse my digits with the fish fingers on my dinnerplate and eat them.
Sometimes I am actually partway through cosmetic surgery to honour the hands of the Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles / the hands of jazz guitarist Django Reinhardt / the feet of emus / the claw in those Skilltester machines you see in shopping centres.
Sometimes it's just "I'm from Tasmania... You work it out."
One time I met a doctor with a hand like mine. I neglected to ask him if he knew why he was born that way, but I did offer him a high three. I have also met a drummer from Tassie's northwest coast who had three fingers on both hands. He said he didn't know why he was born that way and that he "just got on with it". Then there was the bus passenger in Sydney with two three-fingered hands. She didn't want to talk at all. She just wanted me to step away from her so she could catch her bus.
The doctor who first held me asked my mother if she had taken any drugs. My mother has never even smoked a cigarette. Was there any family history of Ninja Turtle hands? Nope, not for the Townsends or the Clarkes. I was just a little underdone, was all, so they put me in a humidicrib to warm me up and then sent us all home.
FILE 4: Donovan said "First there is a mountain, then there is no mountain, then there is." How is this so? (Carly, NT)
How did Donovan say these words? Donovan would have brought the air up from his lungs to his larynx, where his vocal folds would have vibrated to make the relevant vowel sounds. He would then have shaped some of these vowels into recognisable consonants using the articulators in his mouth and nose.
As for why Donovan said these words, there is consensus among the international scientific community that it is because he desired us to hear them.
Regarding what these words meant to Donovan, many people will erroneously believe that he is describing a literal mountain. These fools would tell you that Donovan is reporting that a certain mountain (Mountain A) had been visible whilst the alpine air was clear, that this same mountain (Mountain A) had been obscured when the fog (Fog A) settled in, and that the mountain (Mountain A) had become visible once more after that fog (Fog A) cleared up. Donovan is English and English weather is like that.
Of course, the shameful truth is that Donovan used drugs. He was the first British pop musician arrested for possession of cannabis in 1966, long before The Beatles or the Rolling Stones were experimenting with the thrill of being arrested, so it is certain that these lyrics, like every lyric of every musician who is a drug user, are metaphors for his drug use. In short, Donovan is bemoaning that he had once possessed a mountain of drugs for which he was then busted. This mountain of drugs was taken from him and he was then taken to the police station where he was presented with that exact same mountain of drugs as evidence.
This is everything there is to know about all of Donovan’s lyrics.
FILE 3: I hope this is appropriate... Why did you temporarily relocate to the NT? And in what ways did you find it similar to Tassie? (Zoe)
In the Darwin airport there is a billboard above the baggage carousel. The ad features a cartoon of two men. One is wearing a suit and a big grin; he is handing his business card to the other fella, a ragged, weary traveler with a bemused look on his whiskery face. The tag line reads "Running from lawyers? We have them here too."
Sometimes it feels as if the Top End is populated exclusively by those who are there to make a buck and those who are there to make a new start: The clean-shaven and the unshaven. Lawyers and runaways.
The week I arrived in town I headed to the Hotel Darwin. A bloke, looking not unlike the caricature of that traveler, asks me where I'm from. Not how I'm doing. Where I'm from. It's the Darwin greeting. When I tell him he grins like the lawyer and half-states, half-asks, "Nice place to run away to? Run away and disappear?"
That bloke had me pegged. He might have been right.
I was running from stagnation, leaping from the pages of a book with an ending not worth sticking around for. I guess I was running from my past too. I was tired of people knowing me before they met me. Stuck in a moment you can't get out of.
I was also sick of being broke. Poverty is romantic in retrospect but it feels like you're always sitting under a falling piano. So when a full-time music gig came up at a rural NT school I was ready to go. I will always remember the first time I fueled the car in the NT and stopped partway to check my bank balance. It's difficult to describe the absence of worry.
So I was a runaway, looking to make a quick buck.
It took me a long time to love the NT. Like a colonial, I just kept seeing what was wrong with the place, what wasn't there. In time, I found myself moving slower, sitting on footpaths with locals and falling in love with storm clouds and Tata Lizards and back sweat and the sunlit eyes of new arrivals. With clap stick buskers, bush band musos and phrases like "Hey, you mob" and "Nah, Mister. That's shame."
Turns out 1 in 3 people in the NT are neither runaways or lawyers, too. In Tasmania, as in the Top End, it always pays to seek out the slow wisdom of the locals.
FILE 2: Hey Dan. Have you ever thought about mixing in 5.1 surround sound? (Nick, TAS)
To think is to have a kind of conversation with yourself, to take opposing views and just natter away inside your head.
I don't really do much of that much thinking. Mostly my mind just wanders around like a puppy on a leash as I stand around waiting, occasionally wondering who is leading who while that little critter sniffs and snuffles through the long grass.
My mind has a mind of its own; a thoughtful puppy of its own.
Today that puppy wandered through thoughts of the current British Prime Minister, hospitalised with a virus he once defied by visiting a hospital and shaking the hands of everyone there. Then the puppy took me to the Winston Churchill's Fight Them On The Beaches speech, then to memories of a teenaged Princess Elizabeth addressing British children via a radio show, then to the livestreams of New Zealand Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern.
Then I realised that I really love Jacinda Ardern's personality. Then I thought about that Beatles song about love (you know the one?)
After that, the puppy went sniffing around thoughts of The Beatles and discovered that the path which leads to their songs also connects to the melodies of Nirvana. Then I had this mental picture of The Fab Four standing behind The Grotty Three and it made me think of the cover of the Sergeant Pepper's LP, which made me think of Marilyn Monroe, which made that puppy go sniffing around Arthur Miller's play The Crucible, which made me think of the power of metaphor. Made me want to write something transcendent, something which is both timely and timeless. The story of The Crucible was about the 1950s, but it was dressed up like the 1690s and yet it somehow hasn't gotten old. The puppy is particularly interested in this smell, and sniffs it for most of the morning. As a result, I've got almost nothing done.
Oh, I led the puppy to the thought of mixing in 5.1 sound but there was a butterfly nearby and we both got distracted.
FILE 1: How do you define anything? (Pamela, VIC)
I love this question. It is as if it's moving, morphing, made of mercury. My mind emphasises different words each time I read it: How do you define anything? How do you define anything? How do you define anything? Any thing?
I suppose the word itself is easy enough to define. It's a thing, no matter what. You can ask me things, no matter what.
As for whether definition is even possible, here's something I've noticed: Humans love naming things. Our first words are mostly nouns, things with names, and this process is the first step towards defining things. We go through life collecting nouns, absentmindedly shoving them into our brain in half-sorted boxes, and rarely unpack them until some Philosophy lecturer asks you to prove that you exist. Then one party's over and another one begins.