Blog for Conan — songs I am digging


I caught up with Conan at Jane and Pat’s wedding on Saturday and he immediately asked me what I was listening to. It had been a while since we had gone through this ritual.

Conan is a good friend to have, not just because he is charming, incredibly funny and crucially — beautifully mad (just like me I hope). The most glaring reason I thoroughly love Conan is that he is a comic genius. But he’s a comedian that actually laughs. And he has one of those crazy, genetically unique laughs. I was reading about laughter on the QI website recently — pretty crazy stuff.

The other, other reason I thoroughly love Conan is  because when he asks you what you are listening to and you have nothing to say, that can be pretty levelling. In other words, Conan keeps me on my toes. There’s a kind of competition amongst music fans. If you’ve got nothing good to say about what you’re into, or nothing that anyone else has a hint of understanding or affection for — well you feel pretty pathetic.

This wholesale investment in new music might be misinterpreted as a type of snobbery — but if you listen to a lot of music, and if you NEED to listen to a lot of new music, you naturally get a bit picky.

Believe it or not — it is quite a job sourcing good new music that you can connect with. And in some ways it gets harder each and every time. The wiser you are, the more you’ve devoured, the more you’ve understood about all kinds of music — the tougher it gets to be inspired. And by inspired I mean that feeling you got when you hooked into a song like “Smells Like Teen Spirit” and your life would never be the same again. Once that vibe is ever-so-much just a dot in the rear-view mirror of your music history you could be forgiven for just shutting-up shop to modern music and just trawling over your back-catalogue like a zombie for the rest of your life.

I saw a hint of that on ABC Breakfast just recently when Virginia Trioli was played a snippet of Tame Impala and instantly dismissed it as having “been done before*” and thus invalid. How sad I feel for you Virginia.

* She thought it was some T-Rex rip-off


And so you just might be forgiven for losing hope with music. But it is and adventure you should never lose faith in.

And luckily there are three things that counter this imperative to shut up shop. Firstly your taste in music oscillates just like a sound wave. Sometimes grungy guitar stuff will be your thing, other time electronica, other times folk or whatever. The second thing that really helps is a genuine love of “the element of crap”. Matt from Custard claimed in an interview once that Custard songs were always spiced with this “element of crap”. On the face of it he was self-depricating about their talent and their musical abilities. But I think it went deeper. Although I might be wrong in my interpretation, I wonder if he meant that the ‘element of crap’ was an honest personality put into songs, and changes and words and simplicity that exposed the humanity of the singer/band/writer. And mistakes and originality that conventional music shies away from.

The third thing I will illustrate by way of a bike-analogy I saw somewhere. And it went — “No matter how good you think you are on the bike — someone is always better.” And so no matter how smart about music you think you are — well, there’s always someone smarter. By that I mean, music is a medium that you cannot just let go of it. You need to stay on top of it.

Anyway — back to Conan.

He did another amazing speech. He is a genuine comic. He has a swagger on the stage. Looks entirely confident, although secretly he is a mess of nerves. Smiles all the time like a hyena.

When I had to do our engagement speech I was just in awe of what Conan had done at Tracey and Jon’s wedding and just had to practice and think and write just so I could get at least comparable to what Conan had achieved that night. And obviously he kicked ass last night too. Amazing!

And here’s some SONGS for Conan

Cherry Glazerr: Grilled Cheese

Ghost of a Saber Tooth Tiger : Too Late

Harlem: Gay Human Bones

War on Drugs: Under the Pressure

Let’s Wrestle: Rain Ruins Revolution

Bass Drum of Death: Leaves

Tegan and Sara/Lonely Island/Lego : Everything is Awesome

Mac DeMarco: Passing out Pieces

Hookworms: Form and Function

Strfkr: While I’m Alive

Barbaganouj: Too Late For Love


Yeah, I know what you’re all thinking: “Bike bags! Rock n roll! Can’t wait to read this!” But just calm down ok. It really isn’t that exciting.

So a few of us just might be doing another overnight ride soon and this time we will need to carry our shit there. Shirts is the MASTER of this activity. He carries everything he needs on his bike and despite some occasions when it’s been arranged a driver can schlep everyone’s stuff — he pointedly refuses. 

And so Shirts straps his gear to like every spare spot on the frame that you can string or zip-tie or tape or velcro something to. He likes to have the bike bear all the load. And I imagine that’s why he bins the shirt so often too.

Naturally I have never, ever seen him with a backpack.

But it’s not just Shirts that espouses this vibe. It seems there’s this feeling in the bike community that a backpack is like an albatross or a Cross or something. It’s just not keeping it REAL. After all you don’t see Cadel or Jens rocking that shit. I remember Ryan had a pack on our first o/n trip but then on our ride to Uki in Northern NSW he was so against carting a backpack he stuffed an insane amount of shit into the 3 tiny pockets of his back jersey. Admittedly he got a lot of stuff into that tiny space, not shoes, and that meant he did almost get kicked out of he pub for not wearing footwear and he was pretty cold most of the time! 

Conversely I am like — “wow”, a backpack is pretty awesome. I mean Finn always has one. And Gerling. And George in Gravity. And pretty much everyone in a movie about mountain climbing. But I’ll get to my love of backpacks in more detail later.

Here is Shirts, looking like “SHIRTS”, on our trip to Woodenbong with his bike super-pimped up. Look at all that strapping and all those bike bags. And then there’s that bottle under the down tube: it’s not for water — just another spot where he can stow shit.




Here is an earlier picture of Shirts (avec gears) on DAY 1 of our very first overnight ride — a three day adventure to Byron, then over hills to Lismore and back home:



I still can’t believe I made it home after that trip. So many hills, so many beers, so much rain and grit and then so much heat on the final day. Crazy.


So I guess I am kinda alone in the cycling community with my love of backpacks. But I did see a guy at Nudgee on Easter Monday rocking a fucking suitcase on his back and I overtook him and made a point of giving him a hearty — “rock-on dude!”. TRUE STORY.

I am totally into the backpack vibe. Last year I bought this bad-boy — a Deuter 10litre pack. It cost $70 (but now it’s on special fr less) and that may seem extreme — but it literally weights only 350grams. It’s insane. It feels like nothing on your back but can be strapped up tight so it doesn’t swing about.



I can fit a whole change of clothes, plus shoes and heaps else into this bad-boy. One of my favourite things about a backpack is to have this trick on SUPER-HOT DAYS. So I hide a frozen water-bottle in there, wrapped up in an old t-shirt and break it out about 1 hour into the ride when my first frozen bottle on the bike has expired. And the bottle in my pack will only be about 80% less frozen and thus I get cold water for al least another hour. Genius.

But in saying all that — I accept it is pretty agreeable that you need to keep as much weight off your back as possible. This is SHIRTS talking but I think I cannot help but concede. Especially on really long rides.


And today I got a package from the internets. And it was for this Deuter triangle bag. I’ve never had such a device before — only seen one strapped to the Shirts-Mobile. But I could immediately see it’s benefits. 



It can carry quite a good deal. It says it can handle a whole LITRE and in practicality that translates to an iPhone charger, multiple phone cords, a pair of boxer shirts, a long sleeve hooded wet-weather rain jacket and some nitrous canisters. And maybe some more stuff if you really wanna push the extremes. And it only cost $20! 


The front bottle is quite hard to grab — kinda trapped under the triangle bag. But in a fight you would be able to get it free and put it back. But the rear water-bottle is fine for access and once you get used to reaching for that rear cage it feels only about 10% less natural. And then you can use the rear bottle until you get a break and a chance to switch. Maybe even while rolling.

So the seat bag (top) is just full of spare tubes (2) and levers and a canister of CO2. (And a folded up $20 note).

The next bag (just below the seat bag) is meant to be a top tube nutrient bag. But it has three velcro straps and sits pretty good there behind the seat-post. In this picture it is holding another tube, two Endura Gels, an apricot bar, another CO2, a sunscreen lip balm  and a tube of actual sunscreen. And all pretty quickly accessible if you need it without too much fuss.


For long-distance riding it really does make a difference having as much weight you are lugging actually ON the bike, rather than on your back. I concede those guys on touring bikes with their panniers on the back and front wheels and nothing much on their person must know what they are doing. See below: (not my photo!)




But these guys are camping and rocking triple chain-rings and probably lugging a laptop so they can blog about their adventures and   travelling so, so slow. It might appeal to me one day — but not now. No.

I really like travelling light. It really is like you are on the run. On the run from the world, all your problems and all the bullshit of contrived living. Escape.

To be honest it kinda feels like a Lord of the Rings adventure — just without the Ring-Wraiths in pursuit. You just leap out into the dark with as much as you can carry away into the unknown away to some destination that has some meaning. And yeah — every one of these adventures has brought some meaning at the end. Mostly good meaning, but at least one adventure brought me so close to the end that it made me question ever riding a bike ever again. (Another story).


And so here is the ride-map via Bikely.

It will be good to go into the unknown again and ride into some tiny town in our lycra like we were in some Western and just eat all we can and drink with a bit of impunity. Yes.





I have three TV shows that somehow my internal body clock is super-tuned to watch. Mediawatch, 4Corners, and then Insiders. But probably in the reverse order.

I’ve watched Insiders since it started in 2001. (9am, Sunday mornings from about late February to early November.) And I just guessed that 2001 was the year this adventure all began. I haven’t even googled that so I am not sure. Ok – let me check. BRB.

OMG! I am right! According to wikipedia it started in July of that year. I have watched it as religiously as I could ever since. As a demonstration of that fact I will talk about TODAY. 

TODAY I was on STRUGGLE STREET. We were partying hard all Saturday night and there was dancing and bumming cigarettes and I think I told a woman I had just met that she had a lovely face cause she looked a bit like Tilda Swinton. (TRUE STORY).

Naturally this meant we only got home at 2am but somehow I threw myself awake at 8:30. Actually I am not surprised I was awake so early. Usually after partying so hard I wake and quite suddenly attempt to go through all the evenings events in as much detail as my poor brain thinks possible just hoping whatever bullshit came out of my mouth would be forgotten or excused or placated by excessive damage-control on my part.

But as it happened this morning, although I did speak some epic trash, I didn’t think I had too much to be overly concerned about. By my standards anyway. But you, dear readers, would be HORRIFIED.

Anyway. Immediately  my thoughts turned to Insiders. I had 30 minutes to recover so I lay there willing myself to be composed enough to get up and watch it. But I was a mess. As the deadline approached and passed I told myself I would get up later and watch it on iView. Problem solved.

But then at 11:30 when eventually I could muster the strength to crawl out of bed — I quickly realised it was Easter Sunday and that means it was a day off for the show. I should know this after 14 years right? I suck.



Bazza is the perfect old dude I wish I look like one day. With a weathered, ancient and wise-looking face, but still pretty attractive. His forehead creases look like a maths excercise book. They go across, and up at some Pythagoral angles! Good head of hair, pretty solid (but not fat). Unfortunately I think my ageing will be horrid. Let me explain. Although I am well old, I don’t quite look it. Indeed I could pass for 10 years younger (and that is not me bragging). But this will soon be a curse cause I will get old suddenly and just look ghostly and half-old and therefore like I have a disease or worse. People will take a second look at me just wondering if they have missed something.

But Baz is such a dude. He was a staffer for Bob Hawke but I think he isn’t a company man. I might be biased but he seems to just rip shit up no matter which side of politics he is dissecting.

I love his tiny segment on ABC Breakfast on Friday mornings. He’s a guest and it shows. He does a bit of analysis of the week’s politics while answering deadshit questions from the presenters, then gives a tiny preview of the Sunday show. In this format I think he dresses about 10% down — love it — and he smiles more, generally looks so much more relaxed, and that weathering in his face is so much smoother.


Once upon a time they had this segment called “Your Shout” which I adored. It was just some goob spruiking their politics for 30 seconds. Later it became like a group of friends doing the same thing and having a bit of a quiet debate about politics (which in the best examples they were so not used to). In 2002, less than 10 months after it started I emailed the ABC gushing about Insiders and said I would love to be on “Your Shout”. I confessed I worked for a politician and they wrote back saying, “thanks, but I was ineligible.”



This segment which Mike Bowers pretty much owns — has been around forever. I think. Anyway — I think I have a visual bias when it comes to the world. I love maps. I remember things by colours and scenes. I learnt the guitar by mapping the chord patterns in a look, rather than a math. I don’t connect with history until I can see, or visualise it.

So looking at politics is a really accessible and perfect way for me to understand it. I think cartoonists and photographers really are underrated when it comes to comment. And thus it is so good to see them get the credit. I mean cartoonists like Cathy Wilcox are just fucking incredible. Just check out her O’Farrell ‘toon:


And David Rowe — wow! It’s always so creepy, but I guess that’s the point right? (and ART!)


Back to you Bazza!




1) Paul Kelly — don’t miss.

2) Matt Price. RIP. He was really, really fucking amazing and I am so glad they still honour him at the end of every season. He was such a DUDE.


3) I actually miss Andrew Bolt — mostly so he could be accountable for his idiocy. (He had to leave the couch cause he got his own show on Channel 10).

4) The couch right to left set-up from 2001 – 2013. In 2014 suddenly Bazza was on the right hand side. the switch was entirely unsettling. Of course I’m over it now, but it really felt gratuitous and so, so contrived.

5) I would love to miss every time Piers Ackerman says something sensical and not tainted by super-super bias. But in fact that is pretty much every time he appears. Whenever he is on the couch— especially with David Marr opposite — I know it’s gonna be a good show.

6) I missed Annabel Crabb when she couldn’t appear cause of some conflict of interest — I think she had a paying show on the ABC. I am pretty sure I have a major, major crush on Annabel.

Here she is with Bazza. Too much awesome in this photo –V


7) Miss not having those epic, extended mash-up collages of the week’s events over some deadshit modern song that’s vaguely applicable. They go on forever — sometimes there are two per episode. (Actually they have brought that back!)

8) The major interview at the beginning just goes on TOO LONG. You can almost start watching the show at 9:20am.

9) I miss how during October-April (up here in Queensland super protected from the evils of daylight-savings-time) I can tune into ABC24 at 8am and get Insiders LIVE! Then watch it AGAIN on Queensland time. Amazing!

10) I really do miss Matt Price. 😦

Vale Sue Townsend — my favourite author


‘Lo the flat hills of my Homeland.

When I was about 11, about 3.5 years after it was published there were suddenly these whispers about an awesome book. A book — apparently for kids — that was pretty much banned by our library, and every other library. And this book was “The Secret DIARY OF ADRIAN MOLE aged 13 3/4”.

No one I knew had a copy I could borrow. But some kid purported to have read it back in New Zealand (where he had just migrated from) and said it was incredible. There was certainly a “buzz” about it despite the fact no one knew much about it.

I might have asked my dad to buy it for me — but I am not sure. Now I think about it I don’t think I ever asked my dad to buy me a book. We were so poor in those days. And books were free from the library or if you asked for a book — it was through that evil scholastic book club at school. And yes — it was evil.


You might think that a book club at school is a very proper and grand and worthy institution. It cannot be “evil” — right? But when I was a kid, it was horrible. And this was because we just couldn’t afford this luxury — and thus it was such an ordeal every month. Everyone in the class would get this lush catalogue and you would get so close to all these books you really, really wanted — but then you’d have to accept that they were unachievable. Meanwhile you’d get these deadshits in the class just ordering as many books as they could and you knew they wouldn’t read them — it was mostly posturing.

And then, a few weeks later they would get presented with their orders — usually on a Friday — in class-time — and like it was their very own personal Christmas. The rest of us suffered while we watched them gleefully receive their booty.

I really hated that shit until in year 7 my dad finally had a decent job and he splurged and I suddenly got a chance to be THAT DICKHEAD who got to buy a few books. It was only once — but it was incredible. A maybe revenge.


Anyway. I am pretty sure it was just before Christmas in 1986 when I finally got a hold of Adrian’s secret diary. I was in Sydney visiting my mum and we were in Balmain and happened upon a bookstore and I begged her to buy me a copy. She must have been a soft touch, being the parent with visitation rights. (But then maybe I had asked mum to get me a copy because I was too worried about the potential content to ask dad — I don’t know.)

And then reading the book that night – it lived up to all my expectations — and more. It was so irreverent and being a diary (maybe just accidentally) such a kid-friendly format for a novel. I was so excited about this book I can remember reading out-loud passages to my semi-illiterate friends. I suppose they tried their best to be as enthused.

Why me and Adrian connected is pretty easy to explain. In my mind Adrian was 13 and I was only 11 but getting an insight into an “older kid” was full-on. I loved the comedy and I loved Adrian as a dweeb. I adored Pandora just like he did. Just like Adrian I desired that complex and hardcore woman who was tough and brave and formidable. And lastly I also knew he was the tragic hero in a succession of domestic dramas that I could really relate to. There was a sadness about all his adventures. (Indeed in the sequel Adrian has a breakdown and runs away from home.)

And his mum — Sue Townsend in disguise — was just a bit like my mum. It was all falling into place. But it was his beautifully naive belief that he was an “intellectual” which really connected with me. I really felt I was also cursed by “thinking too much” but mostly— worrying too much.

Me and Adrian were super-worriers.

Ultimately I learned that these books were not “kids books” — they were clever and profound satires of the Thatcher era, of adolescence, and of just life in general. There were characters from all ages, all classes, all political persuasions and even cameos from other nationalities.

I have read the Adrian books over and over. I will continue to do so. And I have read pretty much everything else Sue has written. (The Queen and I is probably the best).

Goodbye Sue and thank you, thank you, thank you.