Clouds In The Head

My First Crossword
21 March, 2011, 4:35 pm
Filed under: Nobody Loves A Thinker




Top heavy artists urged initially to groove back into bewitching that’s miraculous. (14)

10 Back back-answer’s golden rice dish. (5)

11 Youth, before making bets out west, hit the ball north. (9)

12 Give too many weapons to Trevor Chappell delivery, not. (7)

13 Diminish the French follower of religious academic holding first place. (7)

14 Jungle pig makes pirate lose direction. (5)

16 For cruelly punishing law of negligence ancient city beheads cleverness. (9)

19 Unordained one to drop egg on each boy child. (9)

20 Distillation loses carat more. (5)

22 Spirit within shifting death, without each rural journal. (3, 4)

25 Runner to make Tolkien’s tree go on and on and on. (7)

27 It spoils a lie (sic) to choose emphatic type. (9)

28 No nephew ever heard such spice. (5)

29 Falsely painted seers mend tripe confusion. (14)


2 Pessimistic outlook makes buzzing fly hate MP. (4, 5)

3 Alcohol, a burning light, a sharp turn, now back up: it’s dangling in the gorge. (5)

4 To spouses, gold does mechanise. (9)

5 Flip talk you wait for. (5)

6 Kids can watch a bosom in naughty thankfulness. (9)

7 Tribespeople fail religion. (5)

8 Reduces the noise of studies. (7)

9 Shoot bookie then decimate. (6)

15 Take another look. As to the former, I’m interrogatively born male. (2-7)

17 Plasterers’ transcendental number in thick mix with three R’s. (9)

18 To exclude bone is within relic. (9)

19 Hesitation after high sounds high after helium. (7)

21 Blow rental horn. (6)

23 Welsh family mineral water drops one point.  (5)

24 Rider addled but not so wet. (5)

26 Model downpour for coach. (5)


“she wondered”
12 August, 2010, 11:15 am
Filed under: Nobody Loves A Thinker

“She wondered: How could people respond to these images if images didn’t secretly enjoy the same power as real things? Not that images were so powerful, but that the world was so weak.” The Corrections, page 352.

Mogens & The Awgie
1 September, 2009, 2:20 pm
Filed under: Nobody Loves A Thinker

Somewhere between winning an Awgie last Friday (on a script co-written with the inestimable Chris Lee) and re-reading one of my own scripts yesterday coming home on the train, I made a discovery. It’s a dumbo kind of discovery – I remember a lecturer at NSWIT once saying they thought that semiotics either stated the obvious or said something so obscure it was meaningless – well my discovery is one of those “stating the obvious” kind of things. And it’s not even my discovery, it’s really only me applying something Mogens Rukov said at Indivision a couple of years ago at last to my own work.

I’ll have to paraphrase. What he said was: in a script, this happens, and then you ask yourself what would happen next, what would this character do, how would you yourself feel, and then that’s what happens next, and you ask what happens after that, and that is what happens after that, and so on. The point is not to treat your characters like insects or lego people who do what you want, but to let them do what they do. I’d always thought this was both obvious and merely one way of approaching story-telling. And I’d always tried to be true to character in my writing, to be honest etc. But I’d also been doing a lot of other things as well, like trying to rationalise why my character would perform the action I needed them to.

But last week I applied this principal to a close, scene-by-scene rewrite of a sequence in Timing Chain, a feature I’ve been writing for many a yonk. I’d already decided on a new structure, so I wasn’t applying Rukov to the larger structure. No, this was about feeling the question and the situation and then responding to that with the next event or action or intention.

So I rewrote about 15 pages of my feature script. Then I went off to the Australian Writers Guild Awgie award night with a heavy, unemployed-writer kind of heart, a heart that is all miserable, hopeful, and outsider-observant at the same time, with my bonza shiela by my side, and ran into a heap of people who seem to like me (which doesn’t seem real when you have that heavy heart thing happening) and whom I like very much and things were suddenly looking up. I normalised, won an award, gave a semi-crap because semi-demi-prepared speech, and realised I have to be very careful to avoid being a solipsistic mega-fauna just because I work alone in a room on a farm in the bush (which explains David Foster [and isn’t Moonlite an amazing book?]).

Then on the train home yesterday, I re-read what I’d done. And it was strong. It wasn’t laid out like a hopscotch game the way the more obvious scripts are, or following a single-minded emotion or situation. It was more complex. People did things uncertain of the outcome, because that’s what people are like, they tried it on, they protested and wheedled and wheeled and dealed and shook and stood still and reacted and proposed. The discovery was that what they were doing from scene to scene or within a scene wasn’t driven by the premise of a film. The premise is there, an Easter Island statue gazing across the script, but not every moment is the premise: forget that Hollywood wisdom that “every scene is the whole film in miniature”.

This is about script-writing as exploration. And here I am still discovering how to write a script, still finding serious basic working policies for myself, still finding tools. I’m a carpenter who after 15 years has been given his first hammer.

The strangest thing is that, at least in the sequence I’ve rewritten, I can still do anything I want. I want the gun to go off. Well, the gun can go off. I want Tony to tell Marta that he loves her much earlier in the film, he can do it. I can interrupt the action with something else. As long as the people in the action feel it and as long as it is like an interruption. The sequence is imperfect, maybe even wrong. But it’s fuck-off verisimilitudinous. And now I’m going to try the same technique to the other scenes that aren’t working. Maybe even to my life. Wish me luck.

Check With Her, boys
15 May, 2009, 1:09 pm
Filed under: Nobody Loves A Thinker

I read this blog and many of the comments about the Four Corners report from last Monday, the dire behaviour of those guys and some of the consequences and responses.

It’s from Sam de Brito’s blog on Sydney Morning Herald. I rather admire Sam (and briefly worked with him on Water Rats) for his honesty and ease.

I crafted this contribution but by the time I tried to send it, they weren’t taking any more contributions. I liked this enough to stick it in Clouds In The Head. Probably best you read Sam’s blog first, unless you feel like you’re across the issue already.

It seems to me that the issue of consent is very grey in here – in part from “Clare’s” recollections and Four Corners not filling in every detail. To give the footie players the benefit of the doubt, let’s assume they thought that there was some form of consent. Let’s also assume – since they don’t seem to have spent much time talking to “Clare” – that they had doubts in the back of their minds.

It’s pretty clear that the woman was objectified, that resting their dicks on her face for example is abusive and bullying behaviour (I’ve got memories of the year 10s at boarding school bullying younger kids by eg putting their dicks on a younger lad’s shoulder in front of all their mates). The Four Corners transcript paints a pretty vivid picture.

And it’s clear that there are some women who relish the wilder aspects of sex with sportsmen – I’m sure there are a few who would give their consent readily to a gang bang. Problem is, they aren’t necessarily the norm, nor even a desirable model for the guys to have in their heads, but you could see how guys might get that idea. Especially guys who aren’t that hot at chatting up girls or getting to know women…

For me, though, it’s about the culture of abusive sexual activity in the League. The Four Corners report probed that culture very precisely. It’s there. It’s not at the heart of the code but it’s not exactly on the edges either (how many “group events” do we reckon the average League player might get the chance to participate in a year?). It’s also not isolated from the wider culture we all participate in. And it’s something that everyone should acknowledge is in there, and that continuing efforts need to be made against. Same as with bullying in schools or the workplace, the price of non-bullying is eternal vigilance, year after year.

Finally, how do you move on?

Well, Mattie Johns may not have been captain but he was a leader – some of these men have to assume some leadership.

There have to be serious opportunities to meet women in non-sexual ways – do a bloody cooking course or something (I’m serious).

The code has to keep awareness high – yes group sex is obviously potentially very erotic and powerful and team-building, but if you let go of your dick for a sec and take a step back you’ll have to ask if the woman really wants it. You don’t ask after it’s all over, you stop and ask at the start, you stay aware whenever the situation might change, and you ask her in the middle. You give her a chance to speak. To be a human. To be real. And if she’s pissed as a newt, you ask yourself whether you’re such a big successful star as all that after all.

That should be the new Code of the Code: Check With Her. She’s human too.

Tomes For Terl
8 May, 2009, 4:54 pm
Filed under: Nobody Loves A Thinker

My sister-in-law is starting a writing course and as I’m staying at her place for a couple of days I’m keen to get her a gift, perhaps something that might be a good influence on her writing, something inspirational and helpful and not useless. The idea that I could provide her with any or all of these things and then talk about it in my blog is the rankest egotism, of course. But I am very attached to my own opinion – who isn’t? it’s mine, isn’t it? – so what the hell? Fortunately no one reads my blog anyway.

I’ve already loaned her a David Sedaris, and am also loaning her The Lovely Bones and Kindling Does For Firewood. Both are books chocka with honesty and verve. Richard King’s book is terribly funny, like my sister-in-law.

The prose I love most is that muscular American prose of Updike’s Couples and Least Heat-Moon’s Blue Highways. Those are my blissful stylists: not sure they’d be a good influence, mind.

My absolute two favourite books of all time, and probably even worse influences, are Chandler’s Farewell My Lovely and Faulkner’s The Sound And The Fury. (Marquez says he suffered under the influences of Joyce and Faulkner for too long.) I remember reading the first three pages of the Faulkner and telling a friend: “I think it’s going to turn out to be the greatest book ever written,” in that early 20s Significant Way young men think. As for the Chandler, the next time anything like it happened in American letters it was Blue Velvet.

(I told you I like my own opinion.)

Beyond those novels, there are smaller, bite-size creatures – there are some pages in Kathy Acker’s Blood & Guts In High School that are the essence of human agony; the funniest thing I ever read was the Alan Coren piece that begins “Today I swallowed the little house”; Dickens has a running gag in Pickwick Papers that has never been bettered. Red Harvest dragged the detective novel to its logical conclusion.

So what do I buy her? And which would help? And who do I think I’m fooling?

(In the end I managed to find her Blue Highways, after looking through I think it was eight bookshops. Not exactly Chick Lit but not exactly evil either.)

Footnote: I wrote a whole piece around the word “hoick”, only I spelt it wrong. I left out the C.

Mea Ulpa.

from the night novel … part two
30 December, 2008, 12:57 pm
Filed under: Nobody Loves A Thinker

(don’t read this until you’ve read part one, OK?)


An even worse bar where I meet the man with the stolen riff. Vengeance kisses me on the mouth just to see how I taste and likes the flavour. Drole things to say when staring death in the face. Someone dies, I hope it isn’t me. My season in purgatory. The comeback kid comes back. Chase scene through seedy pulp writer’s fevered imagination. Integument, ligature and we all land safely again.

Welcome to further light night novel. A tale judged with high confidence until my early departure by drink.


At the Erko, where I once nearly got strangled on my own necktie, I found out the blonde’s real name.

In the back streets of the Cross, where seven guys once chased me round the same block for an hour, I found out that the dead guy used to deal in the area.

At the Cricketer’s Arms, where a friend once pointed out Abe Saffron and the old geezer smiled at me, I discovered the Cricketer’s Arms has gone up market.

At Abdul’s in Auburn, where I once bought a man have a spiked falafel, I met the brunette.

On the phone to the container terminal where Detective Rogerson once reminded me where my true loyalties lay, I found out the address where the Bobsy twins helped plan and execute the operation.

In a dive hotel in the city with no locks on the doors, where I’d taken many another brunette, the new brunette told me there was a contract out on me.

At a low-key jazz bar in Redfern, where I’d once returned some stolen property to its rightful owner, I met the man with the stolen riff.


He was a musician. He said:

She stole my riff.

And I want it back.

Don’t tell me it’s everybody’s now.

I can’t even play that riff the same.

It used to be pure. Now it’s screwed.

I couldn’t help him. Intellectual property is outside my area. But he did lead me back to the blonde.


I said: So it comes to this?

He said: Was that a rhetorical question?

She said: I think he was talking to me.

He said: Bobsy works for me.

I said: I love her.

She said: Not that Bobsy, the other one.

She said: Thanks for the work.

He said: Thanks for the work.

I said: You’re going to kill me now, aren’t you?


I thought fast, but all I came up with was funnies.

Can I just see that bullet, the one with my name on it? I want to see if they’ve spelt it right.

Of course I’m not scared. Thanks to my early onset Alzheimer’s.

Here’s the deal. You let me go. You disarm all your guys. You march yourselves down to the station and turn yourselves in, and I’ll – return the favour some day, I’ll be forever in your debt, you’ll be on my Christmas card list and I’ll introduce you round town, make you some more friends, maybe someone who isn’t in the racing industry.

Look up there! Is it a black cockatoo? I didn’t think so.

You know what I’m thinking, did you fire five bullets or six? Do I feel lucky? Well do I, punk? I don’t know, do I look lucky?

What do you mean, shaking? You should have been here yesterday, the cowards were this high.

Go on, kill me, I’ll see you in – limbo.

I’m not stalling, I’m bunny-hopping down the road.

Will you marry me?


I was dead. I guess that’s what you get for having an inappropriate sense of humour.


Purgatory is like the countryside. There’s less to do there. You have to make your own fun. You can’t drink and drive. You get to know your neighbours. They’re usually nice people. It’s quiet and you can hear bird noise in the morning. Mist rises slowly. You can’t always get your favourite radio station. A distant chainsaw is like music. You have to drive a long way just to get milk, and the shops close early and some nights there’s nowhere to eat. You dig your own garden but it never rains but it pours. You find yourself liking married women and have no designs on them at all, not really, not given the circumstances. Someone took out too many trees. No one votes the same way you do. You have to be able to change a tyre. Petrol is expensive. Everyone offers you free lemons at the same time of the year. There’s no nightclubs. People kill animals themselves. You find yourself staring for long periods at the dawn light. You see the dawn light without staying up all night. You sleep well. You miss things.

Things like insurance, broads, violence. The goodness of beer, the truthfulness of whiskey.


I found myself praying for something impossible to a God I don’t believe in on a night that never existed with a brain that had just been pronounced dead. Next time I’ll do it your way, I cried with high confidence. Next time I’ll do it right. Next time there’ll be another next time and another and another. No more stupid risks, but I’m missing the goodness of beer et cetera.

The Doc brought me back. And I heal fast.


I was back. There was a chase scene in Afghanistan or was it Paris?

Two walked in, fewer than two walked out alive.


I’m moving to the country Thursday week. With one of the women. Can you guess which? That’s love for you, it gets you going and it gets you …

from 1001 nights cast. Thanks Barbara C.

from the Night Novel … part one
18 December, 2008, 11:55 am
Filed under: Nobody Loves A Thinker


This is what the people who want things want. Immediate orgasm. They want a murder on page one, a rape on page 20, inconceivable complications throughout the first chapter, probable film rights, an author who in interviews talks good economics and social justice and sense but more importantly has that ineffable quality. I don’t know what it is, it’s ineffable. Effing ineffable. But we’re not going to start that way. We’re starting this way.

 Theme blonde. Hair of the dog. Interior nightclub. He meets the broad and gets the job. Bad guys are somebody’s son also. One dead, two to come. We decide to intubate. I Take A Phone Call. Redheads are just matches and other rhetorical questions. A throbbingly fine sex scene.

A short intermission but no one leaves the building. And that’s just to halftime.

Welcome to a night novel. A tale told in fragments written before the hangover set in.


The old crowd, all the losers and hangers-on and I don’t exclude myself from either category. The old scenes redound and repeat. Interior bar London, interior diner Baltimore, interior soup kitchen Sydney, exterior hot-dog stand Boise Idaho or maybe I just dreamt that one. Interior blonde, Marrickville, that was a fine establishment. Old memories are full of pain, like women.


 Blondes are the ones you notice first and you sell your soul for or rent it to them on a lease-buy basis where the terms are in their favour not yours – and somehow it’s not just your soul you’ve sold them it’s all the souls around you, anyone you ever loved and meant to say I love you to.

 Brunettes are the clichés of womankind, they’ve got the full package and they usually mean well and some of them have bedroom eyes but some of them will do it anywhere. And they help you with your dreams and they make them come true and you hate letting them down but you do.

 Black-tressed gypsy women sit in the corner and make you come to them and when you get there you’re a better man for it, what’s left of you.

 Gorgeous dyed-hair heroin punk chicks have music in their blood and snow in their veins and sincerity in their principles and chocolate in their mouths and shattered glass in their hearts.

 And redheads, God save me from redheads, in their powder blue dresses with necklines plunging so low you’d swear someone had just turned on an anti-gravity machine to rip the earth out from under you. Reheads know you better than you know yourself so no wonder they keep their nails so damn sharp.

 Problem with the world is, too many women, too much time.


She said: “I hear you work nights.”

 I said: I do tonight.

 “What do you do by day?”

 I don’t like to talk about it, I’m in insurance.

 “That’s what I want, insurance.”

 Life, property, personal?

 “All of the above, I want a man to suffer.”

 Well it doesn’t sound personal.

 “I need to know the truth.”

 Get a PhD.

 “Why did you have to have a really inappropriate sense of humour?”

 Why did you have to be the blonde?

 “I didn’t, they had a special on at the hairdresser’s.”

 A likely story, what’s the job?

Sober, the tick-a-tack typist talks to the others, they talk nothing, I try to glean the meaning. It’s laughter. At each other’s jokes heard 100 times. At each other’s jokes they’ll tell again tonight in the pub down the road when they’re drunk and it’ll be like hearing them from the bottom of the well. Even the bartender laughs. I laugh creepily.

“I’m sorry, Mr Smith can’t see you now. He said to come to this address tonight.” Oh well, Tom Waits for no man. Bad guys are all husbands fathers sons. Or so my mother told me.

Take two pints of blood. Make it five. Take one square metre of carpet. Soak in blood for – let me see – blod’s still warm. Using bullet, remove one eye. Add rictus of terror. Stir.

They said, “we have to intubate”. I said it was too late. They said, no, we have to intubate the woman.

 I met Bobsy. She said she had a twin brother, also named Bobsy, also a rehead. I knew there’d be a fucking redhead in here somewhere. She was in the film industry. She said she wanted to call herself The Edge in her first two films. They’d said, not American enough for this kind of film, they, the men who claimed to respect her professionally. There are more oldest professions in the world than you can imagine. I’m in one myself.

 I wanted information. She wanted to give it to me. But given that redheads are all bad, I wanted her to give it to me now, and certainly before her evil twin brother Bobsy came back from the can.

She was very good looking. We went to bed.

Bones, limbs, blood pumping through extremities, worn down after the day’s vicissitudes but still up for somebody new tonight, getting the tone right and then not bothering at all. Letting slip about the dead guy, letting slip about the case. Skin on skin soft and wet with sweat. Letting slip I loved her. Letting slip I didn’t. Letting slip the dogs of sex and by now too slippery to care. Coming up with stunts (never say THAT five times quickly.) Fingers in hair, pulling, wrenching, scratching, all desire, no mod cons, until at last I was falling falling falling, why does the best sex always end up with the girl’s brother coming in and beating me unconscious?

(first published on the 1001 Nights Cast site. Love you Barbara.)