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8236 Supersymmetry

There are many words in the English language which seem like they ought to have an opposite form, but do not. At least not in common usage. Rather like the predictions of the theory of supersymmetry, which posits that each particle in the Standard Model has a partner particle, so we might conjure the missing partner words for those in our Standard Dictionary. Why, for instance, can we be disgruntled, yet never have the chance to be gruntled? Why can we postpone a meeting, but not prepone it for our convenience? Why can we can feel disappointed about something, yet we aren’t allowed to feel appointed when fortune shines? This alarming asymmetry in the English language needs immediate correction and, without further ado, I should like to offer up some linguistic opportunities which have so far gone begging, and present some sample passages displaying their possible usage.

The English language, of course, is a collaborative exercise and I must extend my thanks to those friends who contributed further suggestions on Facebook and elsewhere.

 

Appointed (adj) – Feeling pleased about an outcome.

“I felt most appointed when I heard the good news.”

 

Clare (v.) –  To hold back information.

“I’m not saying a word. I have everything to clare.”

 

Combobulate (v.) – to confidently clarify an otherwise confusing situation.

“His answer was most satisfying, positively combobulating.”

 

Concert (v.) – To settle or improve composure.

“His reassuring expression was most concerting, and I entered the meeting with great confidence.”

 

Dain (v. n.) – to show high regard; an expression or feeling of high regard.

“He greeted the lord with a great show of respect; exhibiting a somewhat over-formal air of dain.”

 

Downset (adj.) –  Feeling happy, above expectation; pleased.

“Yes, at first I was unhappy, but when I realised the truth I was pretty downset.”

 

Dulating – to have a flat form or outline.

“The Nullarbor Plain is a dulating landscape, flat as a tack.”

 

Gruntled – satisfied, pleased.

“After dinner I felt completely content, most gruntled indeed.”

 

Gurgitate – to swallow

“Doctors recommend chewing thoroughly before gurgitating.”

 

Gust (v, n) – to cause someone to feel attraction or approval. A feeling of strong approval.

“The smell coming from the kitchen was gorgeous; a wonderful, gusting aroma of cumin and turmeric.” “Her look of gust upon seeing how clean the bathroom was, was heart-warming.”

 

Mantle (v.)  – to put together.

“I bought a new cupboard from Ikea, and now have to mantle it.”

 

Member – (v.) To replace the detached limbs of something / someone. To bring separate parts together.

“In 1871 the various Germanic states were membered into a single entity.”

 

Posable (adj.) – Not intended to be thrown away after use. Long-lasting, durable.

“The market in posable water bottles has flourished in recent years.”

 

Prepone (v.) – cause or arrange for something to take place at an earlier time than scheduled.

“The 1530 meeting has been pre-poned to 1300. Lunch will be provided.”

 

Prosequences (n, pl.) – the positive effects or results of an action.

“There are many significant prosequences from early intervention.”

 

Rupt – (v.) To bring into a state of order and array.

“Amidst the chaos, John managed to rupt most of the guests and get the game underway.”

 

Shevelled (adj.) – Tidy, ordered, neat.

“You scrub up well – you look very shevelled indeed.”

 

Sipate (v.) – Appear or cause to appear.

“It was as though he sipated out of thin air. One minute the room was empty, then, before I could say Jove, Pandarr Zen’Awri was standing before me!”

 

Tant (adj.) – Nearby, close.

“It’s very tant, in fact, just around the corner.”

 

Tort (v.) – Pull or twist into shape. Give a true account of…

“With careful hammering, the front fender was torted back into shape.”

 

Turbing (adj.) – removing anxiety, reassuring.

“The good news was very turbing and I was finally able to sleep that night.”

 

There are, of course, countless other words with a form that hints at an opposite partner, but it would be far too exhaustive to attempt to detail them here. This contrariness might also extend into common expressions and exclamations where opposite meanings have the potential to be at the very least mildly amusing, and, at worst, utterly baffling. Take the expression “a pain in the arse.” Could we not describe someone as a real “Joy in the arse”? It’s all very well to say “Up yours!” and though “Down yours!” might seem counterintuitive, it is strangely absent from our language. “Fuck me dead!” is often used to show surprise or incredulity, and it can used both positively and negatively, yet surely its super-partner “Fuck me alive” could do with the occasional airing. Finally, there are many colourful colloquialisms the world over which could be even more colourful and confusing for foreign tourists were they to be inverted. The Australian expression “Don’t come the raw prawn with me,” which, in effect, means “don’t try to swindle me,” could be even more baffling were it mirrored with “You’re welcome to come the cooked prawn with me.” The rest I shall leave to your own devices and imagination, which I’m sure is sufficiently ripe to entertain thousands more such examples.

First Autumn

My favourite season has arrived in Sydney – Autumn. It begins in the balmy, residual humidity of sticky February and finishes in the dry cool of a winter prequel. Without haze the horizon flattens and sharpens into focus; the sky lifts towards the stratosphere and the shade regains a measure of chill. The sun, for the most part, shines and yet, as longer days shorten, the air acquires the nostalgic foreboding of the onset of loss.

This is my son’s first autumn. At four and a half months old he can’t yet feel those weighty emotions we associate with the shift – it is but a question of warm or cool, blanket or no blanket, hats and socks and jumpsuits. He may be excused for being unsure as to the time of year considering we still go to the beach several days a week. With the ocean at 22C, it’s hard to resist.

9167 Surfers

9582 Window wet

9201 Watcher 2

9503 Mural, off Cleveland street

9516 Bubbles 4

9379 Colgate ocean

9176 Great childhood

9343 Stormy swell 2

9635 Succulents

9442 White ceiling

9545 Broadway

9449 Mynor 2

9595 Boy at Bronte Pool 2

9141 Mother and child

8447 Stormy weather

9701 Bronte beach morning

9046 Boy at Bronte

9639 Succulents

9760 Hood

5641 Amritsar

Golden Temple, Amritsar, Punjab, April 22, 2010

 

The Golden Temple of Amritsar in Punjab is truly a wonder, and not simply because of the beautiful and elaborate solid gold upper storeys of the Harmandir Sahid, the structure at the centre of the complex seen here in the background. It is a huge site – a square of gleaming white marble colonnades surrounding a central man-made lake, or tank – and is without a doubt one of the cleanest, most stunning places in the world. The perfection of the architecture and the standard to which it is maintained is immediately apparent. Upon entering through one of the four temple gates (symbolic of the openness of the Sikhs to all who wish to visit, irrespective of religion), the blinding white marble is just as striking as the shining gold.

This was without a doubt one of the highlights of my first visit to India. I flew in first thing in the morning, after an overnight stay in Delhi en route from Darjeeling. I had not had anywhere near enough sleep and felt a little overwrought, which actually heightened my experience, intensifying the emotional response to the magnificence of this site. There was so much to be appreciated here – the chanting and music which played throughout (on without a doubt the best P.A in India), creating a peacefully exotic atmosphere; the spear-wielding, turbaned temple guards; the gorgeous, colourful clothes of the Indian visitors, so luminous against the white backdrop; the dreamy reflections in the water of the lake, and the almost cloying niceness of every single person I met.

Apart from the impressive appearance of the place, I was astonished to learn that the temple feeds up to 40,000 people each day, for free, through the efforts of volunteers. This involves using around 12,000kg of flour a day, and the number of people fed can rise as high 100,000 on religious holidays and weekends. This seemed to coincide with how nice everyone was. I had several locals approach me, all wanting to make friends and talk to me. This is not uncommon in India, but the locals around the temple in Amritsar seemed somehow to be the sweetest people I’d ever met and I actually was left feeling terribly guilty when I finally made excuses and walked away from them.

Originally I intended to stay in the town, but ended up just visiting the temple for four hours before taking a bus north to McLeod Ganj. It was a short, but sweet visit and the temple has left indelible images in both my mind and camera.

This photo is taken from just outside one of the gates, looking back into the temple. I chose this one for its various vignettes – the man inquiring of the temple guard, the cleaner, the woman taking the photograph and the man in the striped shirt who may or not be accompanying the man in the white turban. It reminds me fondly of the different people who visit the temple for different purposes and of the people who look after and maintain the place.

2525 Hampi

This shot was taken by the river that flows through Hampi in northern Karnataka in India. There is no bridge across the river at this point and the stairs here lead down to the bank along which the tiny ferry – a small, uncovered boat with outboard motor – collects and unloads passengers. The stairs pictured here were also a popular place for resting in the shade.

These school-children may have been locals, or else they may have come to Hampi on an excursion to see the extensive archaeological ruins, which I have written about elsewhere. As is so often the case in India, they wanted their photo taken and called out to me to do so. Unlike so many other children who asked for their photo to be taken, the young chap in the middle didn’t smile, but rather offered a far more serious and quizzical expression.

Aside from the strong contrast of the sunlit boy against the dark shadows on the stairs, it is his expression and body language that I most like about this photo. Every time I look at his face, I detect an intelligent and discerning personality – he strikes me as a real thinker. There is almost a hint of disapprobation in his look – the frown, which forms a neat triangle at the top of his nose, seems to indicate some frustration or impatient curiosity – or perhaps he is just squinting into the sun. Though their faces can barely be seen in the shadow, the other children are also an interesting mix of expressions, with only the one in the middle smiling unreservedly. Something gave me the impression that the main subject was older than the others, or in some way more mature, and that his friends looked up to him. Of course, one can never be certain in these brief, stolen moments.

 

The Eternal Beach

8666 Swimmers

7990 Surfer shapes 2

8516 Transient Alps  2

8800 Whitewash

8243 Aquatic

8679 In full flight B & W

7916 Shiny 2

8248 Bronte B & W

8281 Bronte

8817 Bronte surf

8576 Surry Hills, Sydney

8627 Rainy St John's college

8282 Into the Pacific

7981 Surfer's leap B&W

8495 A long way to Chile

8175 iPhone 2

7877 Pastel haze

8876 Donovan's Leap

I doubt I’ll ever get bored of the beach – it is simply far too beautiful and pleasurable. It is the key to life in Sydney for almost three quarters of the year, considering we usually swim from November through to the end of June. Sydney has many attractions, of course, and I never forget how fortunate I am to live in a society with such a high standard of living and sophisticated lifestyle. Yet, what makes the beach so wonderful is not merely the refreshing sense of well-being it offers, but the grandeur of the expanse, the light and space and the humbling, epic nature of the ocean’s power.

Years ago I came to these sea-cliffs at night and sat atop them under a full moon, pondering the incomprehensible vastness of geological history. Even the ancient sandstone cliffs tell a relatively recent story, compared to the oceans of time that preceded the laying of those sediments. I never fail to look at those cliffs against the backdrop of the Pacific and consider how deep and long is the history of the earth, and indeed, the universe. Thus the beach not only offers pleasure, space, light and beauty, but it also prompts philosophical considerations – our insignificance before both nature and time, our fleeting time in the light of our otherwise unremarkable sun.

Whilst the beach may never bore me, I do wonder how long I can continue to shoot it. It seems as though I take photos of nothing else at the moment, and yet, in truth, I hardly go anywhere else outside of work and various regular commutes. Still, considering how frustrated I feel when I forget to take my camera with me to the beach, it seems that inside I still have a burning desire to mine the sea and sand for gold. The new mission is to try to photograph surfers more, to capture the languid shapes they create as they balance themselves on their boards. One day, I’ll get around to learning how to surf myself…

3149 London

3148a London

3154 London

London, June 6, 2006

 

This sequence of shots was taken in London, near Hammersmith if I remember correctly, but I could be wrong. I was visiting a friend of a friend in June 2006 and so the details are a tad sketchy. What I most certainly remember is this curious vista of neatly divided backyards before a railway viaduct and the ladies playing badminton over the fence. The scene was a touching reminder of the cultural diversity of London; the reality of ethnic minorities living directly under a railway seems such a European trope that it has an almost fictional, invented neatness about it.

What I love about this shot is the obvious happiness of the subjects and the clear joy they get from living next door to each other and being able to interact in this way. They’ve clearly put a lot of effort into their new gardens and seem to be living happy, harmonious lives. I especially like the juxtaposition in this scene. The contrasting elements of the new – neatly bushy green grass with the fresh wood of the fences and the red brick – further juxtaposed with the dirty old brick of the railway viaduct under a ubiquitous grey sky seems in some way typical of London. I’ve always found London to be an ugly city with a bland palette, lacking colour and pleasing vistas. It’s certainly an amazing cultural and historical centre and a wonderful city, but it’s rarely pleasing on the eye and feels aesthetically harrowing much of the time. These families seem determined to create an oasis of beauty amongst the dull, industrial brick and uninspired architecture. Hear hear!

 

Easter Road Toll

In February 1988, at the tender age of 15, some friends and I decided to form a punk / thrash band. Like so many young people going through puberty we were electrified with the spirit of rebellion and longed to make ourselves heard. After some lengthy lunch-time discussions of possible band names, one good friend, Owen, suggested Easter Road Toll as an appropriately offensive moniker and we were all instantly taken with it. Six of us agreed to meet at Owen’s place on the following Saturday and, keen to drive the project and play a leading role, I went home that night and wrote 10 songs in a couple of hours.

Having no musical training whatsoever, being practically tone deaf and entirely unable to carry a tune, I just wrote lyrics with simple rhymes and meters. When I showed these songs to “the band” at school the following day the excitement around the project grew to a fever pitch and we eagerly awaited that first “recording session.”

What followed on that first Easter Road Toll Saturday was an awful mess of teenage boys screaming into a tape-recorder and making a tuneless, discordant racket in Owen’s bedroom. Only three of us – Demitri, Max and Chez – had any recognisable musical ability, yet with no preparation or rehearsal, very little of this shone through on the day.

That first “album”, which we titled Gate Crashing at the Doors of Hell, is really very painful to listen to. A series of poorly chosen drum beats on the Casio, the squealing of boys on the verge of adolescence, the hammering of misshapen chords on poorly tuned guitars, the thumping of various items of furniture and the gang shouting of incomprehensible lyrics, does not make much of an album. It was, however, a first attempt and it got us excited enough to strive for something more orderly and complete.

Easter Road Toll

Easter Road Toll, with “Chez” as guest bassist, c. 1988

Within a few months the band’s numbers had been whittled down to three – Demitri, Mike and me – and D actually took the time to compose music for the lyrics which I churned out at a rate of knots. I bought a guitar and started taking lessons, but I was far too lazy to practise properly and could at best provide a sloppy rhythm section. Mike, our drummer, couldn’t yet afford a kit and so we either recorded with a drum machine or got him to play – wait for it – chairs. The stretched pleather of the cushions had to suffice for any “live” recordings which were made in Demitri’s garage. Other noise-making implements were also employed, including a real whipper snipper, pots, pans and a bicycle, adding a hint of German industrial to something otherwise entirely unclassifiable.

The main problem with Easter Road Toll was not the lyrics, which were universally pretty awful, but the fact that I sang most of the songs. Whereas I’d like to think I could write some decent lyrics these days, and have spent years trying to improve my singing, I certainly couldn’t write anything worthwhile back then and I most certainly could not sing. We did improve over time – Mike got a drumkit and achieved a basic level of enthusiastic competence, Demitri developed into an accomplished guitarist and singer, and my guitar playing improved marginally, yet I remained by far the weakest link. The last recording we ever made was after a four-year hiatus – in 1994 – where we laid down a couple of old favourites – Schwarzenegger and Zombies are Philosophers on a four-track. Despite being drunk and stoned and the songs being unrehearsed, those two tracks are without a doubt the best standard we ever achieved, largely due to the fact that Demitri’s tradecraft had improved so much in the intervening years.

Easter Road Toll 8

Easter Road Toll 14

Easter Road Toll 4

The final line-up, D, Mike and Me – acne, angst and the garage

The reason I am summoning Easter Road Toll back from the grave is that recently I bought a USB cassette player and have begun converting all our recordings into digital format. I haven’t owned a working cassette player in roughly fifteen years and it must be almost twenty since I last chose to listen to the old ERT tapes. Initially, I was deeply moved by the process – the excitement of rediscovery, the very fact that the cassettes still worked, the deep nostalgia of hearing sounds from a time now long ago – but this soon deteriorated into a sense of impatient disappointment. Why? Because most of the songs were so utterly dreadful and reflected embarrassingly intolerant stupidity and naivety.

The basic remit was to shock and offend as much as possible, something embodied in the deliberately insensitive band name. As big teenage fans of 80s action movies, many Easter Road Toll songs revolved around killing people with shotguns, whipper-snippers, chainsaws, hacksaws and pretty much any other household implement you could get your hands on – an immature celebration of gratuitous violence. Somewhere, Somehow, Someone’s Gonna Pay – a title ripped off from the rather cheesy song at the end of the Arnold Schwarzenegger movie Commando – is about killing the conservative premier of New South Wales and taking his whole damned party with him. Blow up your Relief Teacher is a song about having a relief teacher at school who makes the class do work, rather than letting the students “bludge”. Like most Easter Road Toll songs, it advocates an entirely disproportionate response: “Blow up the whole fucking class, burn down the school and blow it up with a howitzer!” Indeed, it finishes with a line about delivering the “coup de grace, with an 80 megaton ICBM”. Yep, pretty disproportionate stuff.

Rather too many of the songs focussed on the band’s title and featured people “increasing the road toll” by running over “peds”. Songs such as Hitch-hiker, Testing a Tank, Top 50 Victims, Roadtoll Rap, Car Accident, The Morgue ain’t a Bad Place to be and Shopping Mall Massacre all involved running people over just for the hell of it.

Easter Road Toll 2

Easter Road Toll “side-project” jam at Max’s, c. 1989

There was also a desire to express forthright political opinions, inspired by the fine example of Midnight Oil. The problem was, however, that when it came to writing lyrics, I knew absolutely nothing about politics – except that the conservatives were downright evil. At least I was right about something. There were a lot of songs expressing anti-McDonalds sentiments as well, mildly ironic considering how much I loved quarter-pounders at the time. Some songs were a genuine attempt at youthful wisdom and social commentary: You’ve got the Sack, Gun-toting Customs Officer, Fuck I hate Nazis, Drugs fuck you up and He’s no Value, all tried with astonishing naivety to make some kind of point that went beyond merely advocating massacres and banging on about “twelve-gauge shotguns”.

Most disappointing of all, however, was the degree of homophobia expressed in the lyrics of some songs. One such outing, That Winning Feeling, was about a guy running rampant through the Sydney Gay Mardi Gras in a Mack truck and killing as many people as possible. It would almost be funny if it wasn’t so deeply disturbing and so awfully ignorant. It is, however, curiously indicative of a time when attitudes to homosexuality were in a swift transition. Paranoia about AIDS and HIV was rampant and Australia was yet to tackle the problem of homophobia in its society. Indeed, the word homophobia was rarely ever used – the term de rigueur was “gay bashing” – and there was no education about it in schools and no public campaign to stop it – at least so far as I recall. As a teenage boy in a boys’ school I fell all too easily into the lazy use of the words “gay,” “faggot” and “poofter”, words I still continually hear from the teenage boys I now teach, despite the far greater degree of education and awareness of this issue.

I’ve written elsewhere of how, in part, in my case, this was a response to being a nerdy kid in my first two years of high school and being called a “faggot” pretty much every day by the jocks. My homophobia reflected a resentment that I should be stuck with a label that wouldn’t exist were it not for the existence of homosexuals. Go figure. My attitude at the time must also have been rather confused, considering I went to watch the Sydney Gay Mardi Gras when I was fourteen and fifteen and enjoyed the show and felt no dislike or resentment towards gay people on those occasions. Perhaps, in the desire to shock and offend, which is really what Easter Road Toll was all about, there was simply an absence of sense or judgement on this matter and everyone and anyone who could be labelled was an equally valid target. It probably goes without saying that my views are now unambiguously gay-friendly and I whole-heartedly support same-sex marriage in Australia and the rest of the world. This is the greatest source of shame and disappointment when I listen to these old Easter Road Toll songs, yet thankfully there are only two or three songs of a large collection which contain homophobic lyrics.

Easter Road Toll 11

Easter Road Toll’s gear – quite a collection of not especially great instruments

Fortunately there are a number of tracks which I genuinely enjoyed hearing again, if only for their energy and outrageous silliness. Lemmings Know What They’re Doing suggests that lemmings are right to jump off cliffs to avoid living an empty, meaningless life:

“What’s the point of living a life spent in a burger joint?” Fingers Don’t Grow Back is purely and simply hilarious – unless of course you’re an amputee. The chorus “Fingers don’t grown back, not even when you glue them back on, so be careful with chainsaws, and things like electric knives, cos it may cause your fingers to suddenly not be there anymore,” isn’t easily put to a tune, yet somehow, we pulled it off.

I’ve always had a real soft spot for Schwarzenegger, a celebration of the man himself, who was, at the time, our biggest action hero – and, dare I say it, my last action hero. This probably constitutes our most complete song, neatly structured and arranged, it flowed better than any of the others and I still find myself singing it.

Yet, after recently listening to all this “music”, I think my new favourite Easter Road Toll song, is, beyond a doubt, Car Alarms. Of course, it’s just another puerile attempt to make a rather offensive statement about how we all (fucking) hate car alarms, yet it is fast and punchy and has a certain verve about it. I reproduce the entire song here, with apologies to any law-enforcement officers.

 

One thing we all fucking well hate

is when people’s car alarms go off late

no wonder people steal their cars

the fucking Martians can hear ‘em on Mars.

Cobra, Piranha, they’re all the same

They all piss you off right out of your brain

 

Fuck I hate car alarms, they piss me off

cops should smash them, then go piss of somewhere else cos I hate them.

Fuck I hate car alarms, fuck I hate them

Fuck I hate car alarms they’re buckets of phlegm.

 

But most of all I hate car alarms

in every fucking street

cops should authorise twelve-gauge use

so we can get some fucking sleep.

Steal the fucking hub-caps, slash all the tires,

smash the fucking windows and cut out all the wires – aaaahh!

 

Fuck I hate car alarms they piss me off,

cops should smash them then go piss off somewhere else cos I hate them.

Fuck I hate car alarms, fuck I hate them

Fuck I hate car alarms they’re buckets of phlegm.

 

I do still dream of having a re-union of some kind and trying to record a few of these songs as well as possible. Modern technology makes this a far easier prospect, as does greater wisdom and experience, yet I can’t imagine how or when this is likely to happen. Fortunately all the members of Easter Road Toll are still good friends, so there is little risk of “artistic differences” getting in the way. As for now, our three “albums” Gate-Crashing at the Doors of Hell, Loitering with Malicious Intent and From the Maw of Oblivion, are never likely to be available on iTunes, but that is probably for the best.

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