Thursday, October 31, 2013

Darkness and Light: 'The happiest days of my life' & 'A post for Lou Reed'.

I thought we would take a short break from the holiday blog posts this week, just for this week. I was going to post a piece of writing titled 'The happiest days of my life'. A piece that is filled with darkness and light and then the news came on about Lou Reed's death. I then wanted to post some of his music as a remembrance of him, partly because I love so many of his songs and partly because I was shocked that many people did not know who he was. Much like the man himself, Lou Reed's music is filled with darkness and light... As I thought about this, the realisation came that it might be fitting to have both prose and ode to Lou in the one post.

Part 1:

'The happiest days of my life'

I want to say that the time
I was with you,
was the happiest time
of my life.

But that would be untrue.

Is it clich├ęd to say, that
we clung to each other
like drowning men
cling to floating debris?

I want to say that the happiest days of my life
were the days we spent together,
not the days we fought
or hated each other

Nor the days
we planned and schemed
our next victory against the other,

but the days
in between.

Those precious
few days in between.

Even then,
is too strong a word
to describe the calm relief,
the respite from
our constant war.

I can say,
that there were moments with you,
which were the happiest moments
of my life.

And in all honesty,
they were.

For all the shit,
all the hurt
and the spite,
we still had these moments

that were so beautiful
they kept us together
for (much, much) longer
than we should have been.

copyright matthew schiavello 2013

Part 2:

Lou Reed.

Lou Reed died this week, on October 27th, aged 71. He was a prickly character who wrote songs (sometimes about characters), that influenced many, myself included. If  being part of the Velvet Underground wasn't enough, Lou Reed had a long solo career and also collaborated with other artists. His catalogue included tracks like; Walk on the wild side, Waiting for the man, Sweet Jane, Rock and Roll, Heroin, Venus in Furs, Perfect Day, Vicious, Dirty Blvd, Romeo had Juliet.. to name but a few.

For those of us who know and love him and for those who don't know his music, here is a small selection of Lou Reed's work. May he rest in piece:

From the 1972 Lp- 'Transformer' here is the wonderful track 'Walk on the wild side'. With so many great lines, rather than pick one to type up, I'd ask instead that you just listen repeatedly. Brilliant story telling and a kick arse bass line (As a Tribe called quest once asked, 'can we kick it? yes we can!'):

Another track off the 1972 Lp- 'Transformer', is the beautiful 'Perfect day'. Heartbreaking lines like 'Such perfect day, you made me forget myself, I thought I was someone else, someone good.':

From 1988's 'New York' is this great tune 'Dirty Boulevard', with lyrics that force you to question critically:
 'This room cost 2,000 dollars a month
you can believe it man it's true
somewhere a landlord's laughing till he wets his pants
No one here dreams of being a doctor or a lawyer or anything
they dream of dealing on the dirty boulevard

Give me your hungry, your tired your poor I'll piss on 'em
that's what the Statue of Bigotry says
Your poor huddled masses, let's club 'em to death
and get it over with and just dump 'em on the boulevard.'':

From the Velvet Underground days, here are a couple of tunes.

Off 1967's 'The Velvet Underground and Nico' comes 'Waiting for the man. A song all about trying to score drugs':

From 1970's lp 'Loaded', here is the track 'Sweet Jane'. A song covered by many, for obvious reasons...How can you not sing along to lines like '... anyone who has a heart, wouldn't want to turn around and break it.....':

If you liked any of these tracks and had no idea who Lou Reed was.. go out and explore his musical legacy. If you loved the Velvet Underground tracks, go out buy the early records and put them on repeat, maybe you might be inspired to go out and start a rock and roll band like so many others!

next week..more holiday adventures!

Friday, October 25, 2013

Holidays 2013, Netherlands and Belgium pt 3: More Amsterdam

A few things I noticed that are very different in Amsterdam are the number of bicycles everywhere and I mean everywhere! They even have special bike lanes for them! As well as multi story bicycle 'parking spots'!

The masses of parked bicycles near Amsterdam's central station:

I also noticed a few places where people could recharge their electric cars:

The older homes are very tall and narrow. A tour guide advised (and I recalled reading about it as well), that it was because the dutch were taxed on how wide their homes were, so they cheekily built them up to avoid paying taxes! the result is that the stairs are very step and narrow! I almost fell backwards when I was trying to lug my suitcase weighing 20kgs up the flight of stairs to my rented apartment! In fact I almost fell down those stairs on a few occasions in my one week there and no I wasn't drunk! In fact I don't think I had an alcoholic drink till at least the forth day of my holidays! Anyway, back to narrow stairs, because of the difficulty of lugging things up them, the Dutch have a beam which extends off the roof over the street with a pulley system, so that they can haul items up and into their homes!

As I was walking past one house, I was fortunate to see a man using the pulley system to haul something up and into his home:

Unfortunately the photographs I took of the narrow and deep stairs leading to my apartment, didn't really work out well... Anyway this photo of a home near where I was staying, gives you a bit of an idea and let me point out the depth of these steps are very generous!:

Because homes generally were right on the street, or footpath, as well as the general lack of space for gardens etc, It was quite normal to see homes growing a climbing plant/s out of tiny gaps in the ground. It was also not uncommon for then to run up between two homes:

Something a little more elaborate was this home near Vondelpark:

Often you walked past homes with bright flowers hanging from balcony's and window sills:

It wasn't unusual to also see flowers decorating the canal bridges. Also note the bicycle chained up to the bridge. I can't recall seeing many places where bicycles weren't chained up. The above photo of flowers on the balcony of a house is a rare exception! :

All photographs copyright matthew schiavello 2013

Friday, October 18, 2013

Holidays 2013, Netherlands and Belgium pt 2: Amsterdam

During my stay in Amsterdam, I had a great apartment in Oud West. It was a 30-40 min walk into the heart of the city or a quick 10-15 min tram trip. The apartment was small but bright. Importantly it had everything I needed, a bed, shower, toilet, kitchen and washing machine!
Yes, practically speaking I felt that a washing machine was very important for this stay away, because last time I had to mostly hand wash clothes in hotel bathroom sinks!

Amsterdam is the capital of the Netherlands, interestingly  (or maybe not..) the Dutch government sit in the Hague, rather than in Amsterdam. The word Netherlands translates to something like, low country/lands and part of the country is below sea level. In fact the Schipol Airport was built on a reclaimed lake and is the lowest airport in the world, at 4 meters below sea-level! (gee as I write this I am hoping that tour guide was telling me the truth!). The tour.. yes, I think  I was the youngest person on the couple of bus tours that I took... and truth be told, I am not that young. Recently at work one of my work colleagues was freaking out that it had been forever since he had finished high school.. like a whole 5 or 6 years and now, OMG he was feeling so old!!!...he then talked about how time was just slipping away.. jeepers, I finished high school.. 20 plus years ago!!!  LOL anyway, back to my holiday!!!

I walked around Amsterdam so much and was constantly, wonderfully surprised by the beautiful sites! The canals are just gorgeous and though I tried not to stop too much and stare like a total tourist (there are lots of signs warning of pickpockets!), there were times I just could not help it.

Nothing says Amsterdam more than Canal houses and Tulips (well, and bikes, and the red light district, and weed and......). Funnily enough, though I missed tulip time in Amsterdam, back home in Australia, the tulips were all in bloom! Anyway, at some daggy tourist place that we (the bus tour) stopped at, I decide to ditch the group for a while and went to the cafeteria to get a coffee and stumbled across some dodgy plastic tulips placed in front of some black and white wallpaper of canal houses! I just had to take a photo:

One morning I awoke really early and headed out into town to take some photographs. This is the intersection around the corner from where I stayed. I love the early morning greyness of this image. The bicycles lined up waiting, still asleep like most of the residents. The early morning tram scuttling off screen and the coffee shop on the corner, lights on, waking up and getting ready to caffeinate the masses into their day:

 From here I walked into town and took many photos of the canal boats in the early morning calm:

Heading into the heart of the city. The early morning light was so beautiful and created a kind of haze:


More photos of canals:

A canal houseboat close to the heart of the city:

I stayed near this next canal and loved that at the seeming end of it there was this chimney from the power-station, continuously polluting the environment and spoiling the scene. There is something about that juxtaposition of the scene we want to see as a tourist (beautiful canals, swans in the water etc) and the reality of  modern life and what is needed to make things run... (power station... etc) that I find exciting... yes, I am odd!:

For something different I took a photo of some canal houses and their reflection in the canal. I then thought, oh, it is so predictable!  So I decided to make the photograph black and white.... and then on a whim decided to flip it upside down to disorientate everyone!

All photographs copyright matthew schiavello 2013.

Thursday, October 10, 2013

Holidays 2013, Netherlands and Belgium pt 1: Clouds

This year, through a series of fortuitous events, I was lucky enough to be able to go overseas for two weeks.

Stressed at work? what better way to relax than a quick trip overseas? To go to places you have never been to, that you don't know much about, place in which you don't know anyone there or even speak the language! A place to just 'be' and to experience.  The place was decided on a whim, "what about Amsterdam?" he asked me. I shrugged, "ok, why not? I've heard it is good". I was to fly into Amsterdam and 13 days later fly out of Brussels.

Despite the long flight to Europe (21 hours or so), the fact I can never sleep on the plane and find it cramped, even for a shorty like me! I do look forward to catching up on all the trashy fun movies I have missed. This time was no exception, films like; 'Orblivion', 'After Earth', 'A good day to die hard', 'G.I. Joe-Retaliation', 'Star Trek- Into madness', 'Midnight in Paris'... as well as classics like 'Funny face', 'Bridget Jones' Diary' and TV programs like; 'The middle' and 'Parks & recreation'. I am sure that I am missing some other things I had watched! Still, it was a movie marathon!!!

Something else I love watching and am often transfixed by, are clouds. Floating, ever shifting and changing... whether watching from below or above... it can be mesmerising. There is something about clouds that fills me with a sense of wonder and hope. A sense of inspiration and of the endless possibility.

I thought I would start my series of blog posts of my trip to the Netherlands and to Belgium, with  a post collecting some of the images I took above the clouds.... both on my way to Europe and on my return back home. These are all taken around 30,000 feet up!

Going there:

I love the lines in this one.. the horizon, clouds and airplane wing:

One my return home I captured these images of the sky just before dawn, at dawn and then later in the day:

Not sure which way I prefer this image of the sky, 
30,000 feet up, just before sunrise.. 

this way:

or this way, the right way up:

The sun starting to poke itself above the horizon line:

Later, much later in the day:

All photographs copyright matthew schiavello 2013.

Friday, October 4, 2013

The magical power that parents have to make you feel twelve years old again.... and not in a good way.

How is it that no matter what age you are, your parents still seem to have some magical ability to regress us to age twelve?  I don't at all mean this in lovely way, you know, a way in which we are transported back to a time and state of being of innocence, where we had no worries about work, mortgages, children, the environment and life as we know it as todays responsible adult. I'm talking about being regressed back to all the crap stuff about being twelve- ie. your parents spoiling your fun and making you do things that you don't want to!

Recently I had a very adult event in my life. The opening of an art exhibition which I was part of and which my mother attended. All was well, until my mother wanted me to do something for her and I was too busy attending to my guests to fulfill mothers wants. Mum kept asking me about a friend of mine I had known for ages. Mum wanted to be reintroduced to her and kept asking me where friend 'X' was. Mind you, I was busy being a host and spruiking my art which was on sale. I did respond to mum's requests with 'she is over there mum'.. to which mum would ask me to retrieve X to present to her. I know what your question is and the answer is: Yes, my mother is the Queen of England. Anyway my mother, whom everyone comments of with phrases such as  'Oh, your mum is lovely' or, 'Oh, your mum is so nice'... etc. Yes well, wait till you really know her, because if you don't give her what she wants, she will turn into the lord of HELL at any moment! as evidenced by what happened next at the exhibition.... As I was busy working the room, I walked past where the queen of England was seated (yes, my mother) and BAM! My mother just about rips my arm off as she grabs me:

Mum- In a steely tone, 'Have you brought your friend X over to me yet? I want to see what they are like after these years that have passed..'

Me, in the middle of working the room at MY event (and wondering why people ask rhetorical questions.. I mean, seriously, If I had brought X over to you, would you have to ask me If I had??)
'No mum, she is just over there' I say as I also point out where X is standing and in fairly close proximity'

Mum- 'go and get her', with her steely tone getting steelier by the syllable.

Me- exasperatedly 'Mum, I'm in the middle of stuff! I'm busy, she's over there' (ie. Queeny, get up and walk over there....)

At this point my mother, whom everyone falsely believes is LOVELY and is always saying ' oh your mum is  so sweet etc..... well, she gave me one of those looks, that dark alley stare that says  'do it now boy or I will cut you!' Then, between clenched teeth  she demands "Bring her to me NOW!'.  At which point, I regress into a twelve year old who has been told to stop playing with his friends and go and do some painful chore. My shoulders hunch up, are then released with a huge shrug and sigh as I turn and STOMP off to collect my friend X.  I find X, grab her arm and state sulkily 'Mum wants to meet you', then I STOMP back over to the queen who is smiling broadly, with X in tow....

Yep.... Parents.... no matter how old you are, they are always your parents and can always make you feel like a child, and not in a good way either.

p.s. I do love the Queen, err I mean my mum!