Friday, June 29, 2007

Felix Ookean

When it comes to prominent musical scientists (or scientific musicians) not many names spring to mind. (Doesn’t Brian May have a degree in astrophysics or something like that?) Surprisingly there is one such artist that was active in the late sixties and early seventies right here in Melbourne – a Romanian born multi-instrumentalist named Felix Ookean. Although he’s hardly mentioned today, his nature documentaries and accompanying soundtracks were extremely popular in their day. Ookean was unique in that he not only produced the documentaries but he personally composed and produced the soundtracks as well. Some of Melbourne’s best jazz players can be found on his albums and they are quickly becoming sought after items amongst Melbourne’s obscurantist record collectors. I am lucky enough to have obtained a CD copy of the soundtrack to his 1969 series about Australian birds, Feathered Lives. From what I can ascertain it’s the only one of his albums that was ever reissued on compact disc and even then it’s not exactly easy to find a copy, although they do occasionally show up on eBay Australia. It’s well worth seeking out for it’s very retro-instrumentation and jazz-influenced arrangements. Unfortunately, getting any of Ookean’s album’s on vinyl is likely to set you back a lot of money. The other day I spoke to a guy from Leviathan Records – a Melbourne-based label that reissues obscure vinyl titles – who said that they wanted to reissue Ookean’s catalogue but that they were having trouble obtaining the rights. Which is a damn shame because this musician is one of Melbourne’s unsung heroes. I’ve heard mp3 samples of Ookean’s amazingly ambitious 1977 double LP Australis – Four Sides Of the Other Half and it sounds incredible. If this material received a comprehensive reissue, I’m confident that Ookean would be considered a significant innovator of Australian music and music lovers would get a chance to rediscover a true original talent.

Saturday, June 23, 2007

Why I'm down on religion

People sometimes ask me why I'm so down on religion. Here's a little story. I was talking to an Amnesty International worker the other day who was describing particular human rights abuses. She cited an example of a woman who was accused of adultery and was sentenced to be buried up to her chest and stoned to death. It's a horrible story and unfortunately quite commonplace in some parts of the world. Earlier that week the worker had spoken to a woman who was interested in donating to Amnesty. She had been given some information about what the organisation does (which contained the example cited above) and was reading it after she had signed up. The woman returned to the worker and said "You have to cancel my donations. I can't give money to a charity that would intervene in this situation. According to my religion, that woman should have been stoned to death".

That's why I'm down on religion.

Friday, June 22, 2007

Someone needs to save these wealthy dullards from themselves

It's always so heartwarming when unattractive billionaires get married to models. I'm sure no Australian could have been unaware that James Packer and model/'singer' Erica Baxter got married a few days ago in a wedding costing several million dollars. The only part of the story that interested me was the possibility that they would be married in a Scientology ceremony conducted by Tom Cruise. For those of you who don't know, Jamie Packer (ie. the richest man in Australia) is a Scientologist. People like James Packer and Tom Cruise really weird me out. They believe in the literal truth of science fiction fairy tales written by a (who'd have guessed it?) science fiction author and many other accessory lies peddled by the church of Scientology. If you had an acquaintance who was a Scientologist I can only assume that you, like me, would think of them as a deluded crackpot with an overdeveloped imaginition and an underdeveloped bullshit detector. The crackpot beliefs of millionaires (or billionaires in Jamie's case) on the other hand, are afforded cautious respect. The ludicrous, unfounded claims of Scientology magically transmute into ideas with a veneer of credibility when they are espoused by the rich and famous.
I think it is fair to say with at least a plausible degree of certainty that Tom Cruise is insane. And who's surprised? Isolated from reality, constantly surrounded by employees, sycophants and yes-men, do you think he ever hears things like "Um, Tom, your views on psychology kind of sound like the ravings of an imbalanced psycopath"? Some in the media have suggested that Cruise is a homosexual who has suppressed his true sexuality via the homophobic doctrine of Scientology. I would be lying if I didn't admit that I think this is probably true. Someone needs to save these wealthy dullards from themselves. They are never going to seek help because they are apparently unaware that they have a problem. So, here's my plan: contact Tom Cruise yourself, tell him he's living in the eye of a deluded freak hurricane and that you are personally willing to be there for him as a friend, a shoulder to cry on, or just to listen as he pours his heart out about how miserable his hollow, soulless life is. I've already written my letter:

Dear Mr. Cruise,

It has come to my attention that you seem to be a little unhappy. That Oprah thing, the sham wedding; I've known you long enough to recognise a cry for help when I see one. Let's catch up sometime, maybe have a few beers, anything as long as I don't have to hear you drone on and on about Scientology. It's a bullshit religion and everyone in the world knows it (except you and Travolta). You might even think about taking some anti-depressants. Studies show them to be quite effective. Whatever happens Tom, this ridiculous facade has to end - there's nothing sadder than watching a top gun sink so low.

Dr. Jack