Vale Kris Hembury

Kris Hembury and his mate Gary at our pirate party, 2005

Kris Hembury, left, and his mate Gary at our pirate party, 2005

I met Kris Hembury, as with many of my Brisbane friends, through the Vision writers group. He had a wicked sense of humour, a love of puns, and a fierce imagination. I still remember a space story of his, about a guy trapped in what amounted to a box. A beautiful piece of writing, affecting and sincere. Poignant even if you didn’t know the author was in a wheelchair with limited mobility, who relied on voice recognition software to handle his prose. Who could play a mean thief in Dungeons & Dragons, too, the one time I had the privilege. Thing was, this guy with the heavy, battery-powered wheelchair would be at everything – signings, workshops, the monthly meetings, with enthusiasm and interest and a damn fine eye for a critique. He put me to shame in terms of getting up and getting out there. I didn’t know him well enough to give you a proper obituary; he was 29, and too damn young with too much damn promise and way too much potential. So news of his death has sent a wave of regret through this community who knew him. The emails came plentifully today as the news spread, with words of praise and sadness, and sympathy for his family.

Life is short, maybe even shorter than we know. Live without regret, value your friendships, and try to leave something beautiful behind. I like to think Kris has done all three. Vale, friend.

adam hills at brisbane comedy festival

Comedian Adam Hills brought his Inflatable act to the Brisbane Powerhouse at the weekend. And it was good.

Hills is a thorughly likeable chap and has a big following thanks to his hosting duties on ABC’s Spicks & Specks music quiz. Plus, no doubt, the fact he’s one of the country’s most accomplished comedians.

Hills came out firing on Sunday night, his sixth session in three days as part of the Brisbane Comedy Festival.

The hour-plus long show was anchored around the loss of two friends last year, both of whom he described as ‘inflaters’ – people who have the knack of making others feel good through a positive outlook.

It sounds like dark material, but not in Hills’ hands. He himself is an inflater, even when tackling issues such as religion and disability.

His act was a fine remedy for a week of gloomy news: economics, oil spills, school massacres, electioneering.

Hills is taking his Inflatable routine on tour. Catch him if you’re feeling down. Or even if you’re not.

Here’s a taste of part of his routine, from a few years ago.

Gary Numan blasts Brisbane

Unfortunately, Gary Numan’s triumphant return to Australia, playing Brisbane’s Tivoli on March 2, coincided with my losing net access, hence the late post.

Suffice to say, Numan was superb. Brilliant light show; deep, timber-rattling bass that didn’t make the ears ring; hot young dudes on guitar, bass, keys and synths; and Gary, ah Gary, turning 51 next week, so clearly enjoying his renaissance since making such a profound impact with his Tubeway Army back in the late 70s (when he last toured Oz).

The two-hour gig concentrated on his most recent album, Jagged, recently released as a two-CD remix called Jagged Edge. But the crowd — and it was a pleasingly but not uncomfortably large crowd — also thrilled to the early hits including Cars and Are Friends Electric?. A blue-washed rendition of Down in the Park went over a treat.

The gig really did showcase how far electronic music has come, and Numan’s role in it.

The set unfolded almost continuously, and there wasn’t much chitchat from the man. Which was a pity. But Numan was a charismatic presence, stalking, sometimes a little meandering, and flashing a grin during those older tracks as the crowd responded.

It was a sign of a great gig that I had his Haunted running through my head the next day.

Flashback: my interview with Numan is here.

memento mori

My weekend was a no-news weekend. My head and my heart were elsewhere. So here’s the thing. I get to work this morning, pick up the paper. The cover is black. A real rip snorter of a Big News Day. The newsroom is in a lather. The TVs are turned up. Never a good sign. The paper was hours old, of course. The net gave me the figure. 120 dead, and climbing. It hit 131 before I logged off. It’ll go higher, they say. Possibly much higher.

I’ve been in shock most of the day. Maybe we all have. Even the politicians were lost for words. How the fuck do 131 people die from a bushfire in 2009?

It makes you want to check the calendar. Stick your head out the window and look for smoke.

This was, we’re told, the motherfucker of all bushfires, in all its fractured number. One quote that struck me, paraphrased: they had a 30m dead zone, gutters full of water and a wet roof, and he told me the kitchen just exploded.

The kitchen just exploded.

How do you deal with that? How much of a firebreak should you need to stop your kitchen from exploding?

My country is burning and we’re reeling because the damage is staggering. All we can do is count heads and hug each other, donate to those who survived with nothing and mourn those who lost it all.

Now, add in the floods that are devastating my home state. Nowhere near the loss of life, but the property damage is massive.

Floods in the north, fires in the south. And there’s more.

Five dead in a head-on, both cars aflame. Miraculously, one woman survived.

And a five-year-old gets taken by a crocodile. It’s almost surreal, isn’t it? Five, a crocodile, amid all this other horror and misery.

The country feels like one massive wound tonight, shell-shocked from its Big News Day.

Ready for the kicker? You won’t read about this in the paper. There won’t be a headline, an interview, not that I’m aware of. It wouldn’t rate on a Big News Day.


I’m looking at a MySpace page because I got sent a message. One of my MySpace Friends has died, peacefully, of a brain tumour. She was 26. Her page is bright, vibrant, filled with attitude and pictures of smiling young people and what I would count as an admirable taste in pop culture. I reckon I would’ve liked her, if we’d met, her and her friends swapping messages about gigs and other ordinary stuff we use to fill her lives. Twenty-six.

And it’s not over yet. Rain’s still falling up north, fires are still burning down south, the funerals haven’t started yet.

Front page, back page, MySpace page: doesn’t matter which, it’s a Big News Day. Every day is a Big News Day for someone, and maybe that’s the point I’m looking for here as I try to make sense of today.

Not what’s worth dying for but what’s worth living for. And making the most of it while we can. Because we just don’t know, do we?

Go safely, friends. There’s been more than enough news today.

so bloody Awstraylian, maate

It’s Australia Day here in the land of Oz, and, like any true patriot, I skived the day off. (tis a public holiday, but nobody told the mass media masters that. bugger that.)

To celebrate the auspicious landing of white fellahs Down Under — ones who weren’t intending to leave, at least — I ate a sausage roll for breakfast and a meat pie for lunch (with tomato sauce, true blue!) with Anzac bikkies in between. In keeping with the spirit of the occasion, someone kindly brought Arnotts bikkies to our little gathering but I didn’t have the heart to tell them Arnotts isn’t Aussie any more. It’s American-owned. Fortunately, our bikkies haven’t been rebranded cookies, just yet.


Now, a couple of hundred years ago, there was another takeover in Australia, and it’s one that’s causing a bit of dissension among the ranks. Well, some of the ranks. Those ones at the back, actually, largely outside the hall, standing on the steps, shouting to be let in. I’m referring to our indigenous people, the noisiest of whom brand Australian Day ‘invasion day’.

I wonder if we shouldn’t consider, between the beach cricket, the park barbecue and the social piss-up (or in our case, a photography outing to Brisbane State Forest), that maybe those invasion day claims have a bit of currency. Our PM took a big step forward with his apology to indigenous Australians for their mistreatment since white colonisation. Maybe a shift of our national day to something a little brighter and inclusive might also be in order.

The debate brings to mind a great cartoon I saw years ago, in which two Native Americans are watching a sailing ship arriving at a big rock, and one is saying to his mate, “I think it might have been better if Plymouth Rock had landed on the Pilgrims.”


Tasty.

ADDENDUM: I just caught the news, and PM Kevin Rudd has quashed the idea of changing Australia Day’s date. Let’s hope we can find a space outside the jingoism for making sure we don’t repeat the mistakes of yore, and make the national celebration something we can all share in.

the clock ticks

Here we are, sitting in the sweltering heat, watching the clock tick down to midnight, hoping for a cool change.
Lose weight, quit smoking, drink less, get laid, be happy, whatever.
Meanwhile the shells are falling on the Gaza Strip, the man on the TV’s talking global recession, there are junkies on the street. Maybe our new year’s resolution should be to be thankful for what we’ve got. But that’s not the human way, is it? Whatever you wish for — careful now — I hope you find it in 09. Maybe we can compare notes this time next year, while we wait for the fireworks and that cool change.

that Christmas spirit

Ah, Christmas. By all of 15 minutes according to the computer clock. Woot. The season of peace and goodwill to all men. Hm. Not quite. I’ve never had much tolerance for bigots. Bullies. People who use fear and intimidation to coerce others to fall into line, especially when all they’re advocating is one opinion among many. Live and let live, I say. Do what you will and harm none. Love one another. Do unto your neighbour… and so on. So when the Pope, “God’s rottweiler”, spreads his fear and loathing about homosexuals, well, that just isn’t Christmas to me. So, whoever you are, wherever you are, whatever you are, have a happy, safe Christmas season. Be yourself. And chill