GET UP MUM SIDE STORIES

To mark two years since the release of my childhood memoir, I’ve made there be a soundtrack album on Bandcamp. For bonus amusement, here are some beside the scenes tales of nostalgic and emotional interest.

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In primary school I clocked my transition into maturity as switching over from ABC cartoons (repeating Wizard of Oz for the 10th time)  to the Southern Cross antics of Monty the weatherman and Roscoe the newsreader. The Today Show with Steve Lieberman and Liz Hayes had a clock in the corner which helped me track my timing to leave for school. I had a game where if it read 7:47 I’d sing the line ‘riding along in a 747’ in my head. It was from some country song Uncle Ken must have played when I visited his place in Canberra in grade four.

 

 

I wanted to include this detail in my book (I’ve probably been singing the line ever since). As you can imagine, I was pretty keen to hear the song again – the first time in 30 years. Thing is, I had no way of tracking it. I googled the lyric in many variations but there were no matches! (Not you Beatles 909! I’d be late for school.) I wasn’t in touch with my Uncle, so asking him was moot.

Over the time spent writing, this was the white whale of nostalgia trips, which is saying something considering the most obscure Commodore 64 games are on YouTube these days (you mean Trapdoor did have gameplay, you didn’t just wander around aimlessly opening and closing the door?)

Late in the piece I had another cheeky search ‘riding along on a 747’ and found a hit! It seems the Australian singer/songwriter Kevin Johnson (no, not the Phoenix Suns point guard) had launched a new website which included the lyrics to Man of the 20th Century. He was a bit of an unsung Australian JJ Cale type best known for Rock and Roll I Gave You The Best Years of my Life. The song and album are fantastic. Do yourself a favour.

 

Deep Deep Trouble

My favourite moment of ‘constructive procrastination’ was listening to one of my many tape recordings from the 1992/93 childhood season. In the one marked SLIDES with NIGEL POP JUSTIN – Pop, Uncle Nigel and I (funnily enough) spent an evening in the summer before grade seven clicking through the family slide collection. We’re up late being silly and eventually wake up Nan! Uh-oh. Uncle Nigel is pretty funny and pins the blame on the infamously placid Pop. “We might be able to get away with it, with a few swingin’ words,” he jokes, “but not you pal, you’re in big trouble.”

 

 

You then hear squeaky lil’ me sing “you’re in Deep Deep Trouble.” When I searched I was pleasantly reminded that The Simpsons put out the single in 1991. Do The Bartman gets the attention and reruns on r a g e (it was written by Michael Jackson you know?) but I’d completely forgotten about the difficult second single. From this discovery I was able to reference the ‘Bart in hell’ scenes as a reference point for my childhood understanding of the afterlife. So, within that session you could surmise that twelve year old me was helping with the writing of his own story. Coolness!

My Friend Jenna

At the Fitzroy Writers Festival launch of Get Up Mum in 2019 I met a fellow only child with a Mother with schizophrenia. This ultra rare combo match twin was exciting for a lonely Gemini. Consider that until this point I was only friends with about two other only-children (we’re quite rare in my generation) and I knew of only two other people who had a Mum with a mental illness. Between striking up a friendship with Jenna and the several other mental health organisations such as Satellite Foundation who reached out to me (all of which I wasn’t previously aware of), Get Up Mum really did act as a distress paper firework of light and hope.

The Kid and the Whip

I liked the Sydney book launch because not only was the effervescent Benjamin Law hosting but a lady came up afterwards and said that John Faine was really unfair to me during the notorious Funemployed interview from 2014, which was one of the nicest (and most accurate) things anyone had said to me in a while. DSCF0927

It was one of the few launches where small children were present. These weren’t just small kids but restless ADHD-ish youngsters. Towards the end they were running around getting glasses of water and being a bit nuisance. I drew them in by holding up a blank tape and describing in detail how magical it was that this brown ribbon could trap magnetic particles and turn them into sound. The kid had a good look before peering up and asking “could you use it as a whip?” IMG_0083

In a troubling snapshot of the post-Fortnight generation’s mindset, the kid had managed to weaponise a TDK 90 cassette. Ha ha! A whip, I dunno mate, maybe torture someone to death with Michael Bolton.

Amanda Palmer’s Post

[Now, just because I am preternaturally conscientious and self-aware doesn’t mean I’m not immune to some straight up ego-shooting and name-dropping, as I am well within my rights to do as my jaded friend Jo accused me of in 2005 after returning from tour with Tripod and daring to refer to them by name in answer to the question ‘so how did the tour go?’ No sheepishness present from the presence of excommunicated friends at this juncture, just an alarmingly unguarded and unsolicited outburst of conscious rationalising, for which you can assume a psychologist would be all like ‘you go girl.’]

[[Think what you like but as Kurt Rambis said ‘you miss 100% of the shots you never take.’ Kurt, Kurt he’s our boy, if he can’t do it no one….will.]]

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my dad (approx)

[[[Rest assured that being me, I will still manage to self-deprecate my social standing to its lowest possible ebb. Cover up that light people – COVER!]]]

Amanda Palmer posted out of the gates early, having been given an advanced copy. It was a rather confronting time as I contemplated sharing my secret life story with the cosmos. From my furtive glances betwixt the slits in my pillow case, I noted there were what seemed like hundreds of comments below her post which almost entirely consisted of impassioned confessions of American experiences of mental illness. The only comment mentioning me said that my promo photo (sans glasses) made me look like Paul Dano (which is true). This was mildly exciting in that it was the first time I had been assigned a famous person I look like without glasses. (For the record I used to like to think I had a Christian Slatery vibe.) Oh, I have been assigned about (last count) 102 people I look like with glasses. Austin Powers anyone?

NOTE: Paul Dano’s 2012 film Ruby Sparks is pretty close to a documentary on me. Although I’d attest that if I was ever invited to Annette Bening’s house and had a hot girlfriend like Zoe Kazan there, there’s no way I’d just sit around reading a book while everyone played in the pool. NO WAY!

Honesty Training

Being such an intensely personal book, I was shaky about the thought of doing interviews. To assist me with this my publisher Affirm set about preparing me. (Cue Rocky style montage with More Than This and me pushing myself on a swing at Burnie Park laughing and crying.) This was the first time I’d been given any kind of media training in my life. My publicist Laura transmitted me a set of practise questions to cut my heart on. I found the support helpful.

There was an eclectic spectrum of emotional niceness from journalists. “You should have expected being asked about that,” was fired at me accusatorily a couple of times. Journalists desensitise themselves as an upskill. It sure was weird being trapped in my favourite restaurant on a blind date digesting invading personal questions about my Nan. (Did you know I have a secret conspiracy theory that media goes harder on me because I’m a comedian and because I’m a boy but there’s no way to prove this until the next life?)

Others like Myf Warhurst were especially warm. This approach coaxed no lesser potency of frankness out of me. Arguably more. “Warmth will get you further than shock” as Charlie Pickering once told me. Would I do it all again? Shit no. Justin 2.0 I’m going straight into advertising and learning to drive.

Read my Age Lunch Feature interview about Get Up Mum if you like candidness to the apeshit.

Metallica Email

We were trying to get permission for using lyrics to popular songs included in the manuscript. I was actually sending an email to Metallica’s management at one stage (unforgiven_2@hotmail), which is a pretty rock and roll thing to do on a Wednesday. I was trying to imagine James Hetfield flicking through my book about caravan trips and Nan going on about the mossies. In the end there wasn’t really much time or budget so we just did a bit of paraphrasing.

Funfact: The song Unforgiven is h e a – v y.

That Question

Everyone (everyone) wanted to know what Mum thought of the book.

So what does your Mum think of the book?

“I’m not sure what Mum thinks about anything” was the preferred reply (come up with months after the event.) Thanks media training! Look at me go like a swimmer at the Olympics just taking it one lap at a time.

Mum read the book, which was a lot for her considering she may not have read a whole book since Mozart’s biography. (To which I found her in her room laughing more than anyone in history over the reference to his brisk walking style as ‘old scissor legs.’) Laughter is contagious and the memory is beautiful.

 

Mum thinks my book was well written. Of course there was a pause when we finally met up and spoke about it. She said, in as many words as she was comfortable with, that she was happy if the book was going to help others. You may want a neat little answer to put in your compartment (sorry ‘you’, I know you’re a card-carrying individual with rights to a separate autonomy, I was just amalgamating the last few women and Auntie staff I’ve met), but almost nothing in my life works that way. Please assemble pieces into an esoteric hexagon.

To be honest I’d say that there was a little guy inside me secretly disappointed that not a single person thought to ask ‘so what do you think about the book’ but that would be saying a lot more about me than it would about the audience which is beside the point and out of bounds on the full.

Izzy from Art School

Way back in the day Mum was friends with Izzy from Art School. They lived together in a sharehouse in Hobart when Mum was working in the Miss Fitz & Co shop (at Fitzgeralds, a Tasmanian department store) and training to be a Mothercraft nurse. They used to push each other around in shopping trolleys and have paper sailboat races along the sodden streets. In the chapter in the book which gives an overview of Mum’s history I made sure to name drop Izzy.

The two had long since lost touch and Mum wasn’t even sure of her surname so there was no way of tracking her down. Izzy ended up reading Get Up Mum and reached out to me by email. It was from there that I was able to set up a reunion lunch between the two in Burnie. Paper firework to the rescue! Seriously, write a book – it’ll do cool things.

Love Graffiti

There’s an iconic bit of graffiti along the beige cement walls as you head to Wynyard after passing Burnie Park (the best way to see Burnie haha). During my childhood the thick paint always read 1981 ALL YOU NEED IS LOVE with a peace sign.

For NYE 2001 Someone ‘updated’ it artfully (not) turning the 1981 into a 2001. Disastrously, this only drew untoward attention towards the freshly complicated missive triggering the wrath of the local council who covered it up like a streaker at the football.

The unnecessariness of this maneuver was matched only by its lack of execution. The graffiti wasn’t hidden. All they did was leave a scar of the love, a lighter shade of beige. I referenced the message in my book, going to the trouble of using Windows 95 Paint spray can feature to render the original as authentically as I could. (Thanks Mr Badcock.)

A few months after the release of Get Up Mum someone spray painted over the words in white paint! I chose to assume that my book, which had been received surprisingly passionately and positively in Burnie, had somehow shone a light on the cultural significance of the artefact. All you need is John Lennon.

There’s no year this time. The message is timeless. Love is for all ages.

  • Check out the Google Map reference to the graffiti pre-2019 makeover.

Thanks old mate Dion McCall for this pic

 

 

LYNX

Get Up Mum is available from Booktopia.

Check out the RN radio series and freshly minted soundtrack.

You can hear some more tape samples and promotional videos here, here & here.

BONUS: Man of the 20th Century (or 7:47 as it can be known) was released in 1976 and came during a very cool era for smooth rock dudes penning songs about air travel. See also JJ Cale’s Travelling Light (1975) and Steve Miller Band’s Jet Airliner (1977).

reading // reading // reading

Little Golden Books Frankie 2014

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I’m not always reading. I wrote a piece for Meanjin about this. I also gave anecdotes to the ABC about self-doubt recently. I answered these questions for Hobart’s Weekend of Reading festival last year. Dig.

Library tagQ: What is a book that everyone should read?

Maus by Art Spiegalman. It’s a graphic novel about the holocaust by the cartoonist who used to do the Garbage Pail Kids trading cards from the 1980s. It teaches you about everything that is relevant in our modern world – in case you need some perspective – which you probably do (no offence).

Q: If you could save one book in a fire, what would it be?

My original pressing of Grug and the Rainbow. Ted Prior made only five copies with an actual rainbow inside. That guy is next level.

Library tag 2

Q: What are you currently reading?

The blurbs of several books in my friends’ bookcase including Extinction. Seriously, who would read a book that’s all internal monologue and no paragraphs (sorry Tom Doig x). Gee you ‘readers’ are suckers for punishment. I got the Karl Ove Knausgaard cookbook and it was 1000 pages of his memories of soup. I don’t read so many books these days but I do like settling into middle age by enjoying the weekend papers.

Want more fun? I delivered further witted insights about my bookish behaviour to Brunswick Bound here. I read out my grade seven diary in the seventh episode of the Get Up Mum radio series. What have you!

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“On my bed is a new pillow case and matching doona cover which has lots of crazy padded squares in green and white and pink paisley. I have a dark brown wood veneer bedhead with bedside table and three drawers attached. On the bedside table is an old style silver reading lamp and my ‘P’Jammer’ clock radio that used to be Mum’s. There’s also my new Korg guitar tuner and the book Michael and the Secret War which I have to finish and return to the library by next week. I’m really enjoying it.Michael and the secret war

It’s about a boy whose mirror cracks and from then on his life is in turmoil. Strange creatures come and visit him and he unintentionally gives them his help. He gets messages from the ‘enemy’ asking him to stop helping. In the end he helps the friends to win the secret war. I reckon I’ll give it nine out of ten.”

Taken from the first draft of Get Up Mum. 

Michael and the secret war review

 

MY REVIEW FOR ONE OF THE LAST THINGS I READ:
KENNETH COOK’S WAKE IN FRIGHT

 

204 pages – feels like a short read.

School teacher goes on a dark bender in an Australian desert town.

Mood: Hot, dark and claustrophobic. The hazy mash of inebriation. Trapped in a car with foul men. Face to face with a stabbed kangaroo. 9781921922169

Best sentence: Things half remembered and terribly feared, shrieked at him; tears of mystic terror rimmed his eyes.

Original review: “A classic novel which became a classic film. The Outback without the sentimental bulldust. Australia without the sugar coating.” Robert Drewe

Funfact: A keen amateur lepidopterist, Cook established the first butterfly farm in Australia on the banks of Sydney’s Hawkesbury River in the 1970s.

Best Australianism: “What the blazes…”

Suggested food pairings: Overdone steak from a hot bonnet. Lashing of cold beer.

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SOME OF THE BEST BOOKS I CAN REMEMBER READING

 

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A Heartbreaking Work Of Staggering Genius // Dave Eggers (Came through the uni magazine pigeon hole when I was twenty and basically influenced how I write.)

220px-Space_Demons_front_coverSpace Demons // Gillian Rubinstein (Came through the primary school library pigeon hole and took me inside an Amstrad and influenced how I problem solve.)

A Confederacy Of Dunces // John Kennedy Toole (Gotta be the funniest book I’ve ever read. Cannot look at a hotdog.)

Lolly Scramble // Tony Martin (Followed closely by Sir Tone. Fab book cover!)

On Chesil Beach // Ian McEwan

Freedom // Jonathan Franzen
He was like the new Eggers for me.

I Never Promised You A Rose Garden // Hannah Green (A brill book about schizophrenia which was always sitting mysteriously on the bookshelf at Nan & Pop’s. The girl on the cover gave me my biggest ethereal crush since The Childlike Empress.)d5544cb036f17cb7b2b8fc8bdd6ca66a208bd461

Life After God // Douglas Coupland (Catherine Duniam recommended this. I cried massively at one point. One of those big ones that taps into your locked up late 20s melancholy.)

Maus // Art Spiegelman (Similarly. That last page panel reduced me to liquid form. It didn’t help that the girl in it was called Anja.)

The Sense Of An Ending // Julian Barnes

The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-time // Mark Haddon

1984 // George Orwell (A documentary, non?)

Lolita // Vladimir Nabokov (I did think at the time it was the best written book I’d ever read.)

Bridge To Terebithia // Katherine Paterson (Also one of the last books I had read to me. There was much talk at Parklands High School about how much Miss Stones cried when she got up to that bit.)

The Journey // John Mardsen (Read to us by Ms Moore in Grade Nine. She refused to vocalise the infamous ‘barn scene’ and said we had to read pages 57-59 ourselves. Incidentally, I absolutely dug the Tomorrow When The War Began series but forgot to read the last one and now I can’t remember what happened. Shit.)s-l1600

Chronicles, Volume One // Bob Dylan

The Big Sleep // Raymond Chandler (A lovely gift! I really dig the writing style. Probably my favourite book cover.)

Tess of the d’Urbevilles // Thomas Hardy (Did I enjoy it? They made us read it in high school. Essay hint: The weather reflects her outlook.)

To Kill a Mockingbird // Harper Lee (yessum)

Extremely Loud & Incredibly Close // Jonathan Safran Foer

Grug and the Rainbow // Ted Prior (A metaphor for…everything.)

Strawberry Hills Forever  // Vanessa Berry (My favourite Australian author and retro-genius. Seek out her recent output!)

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The Bus Driver Who Wanted to be God & Other Stories // Etgar Keret (A very funny, clever dude. Recommended to me by Vanessa.)

Honourable mentions to Christopher Pike, Anna Krien, J.D. Salinger, Enid Blyton, Nicole Krauss, the Fighting Fantasy series & David Foster Wallace (Mainly for his essay Ticket To The Fair in which the greatest writer of our time reviews the US equivalent of the Burnie Show.)

Last book I technically read? Maybe The Circle by Dave Eggers. I thought it was fine. Or Follyfoot Farm by Monica Dickens as part of my Get Up Mum research (Mum always had it lying around). Research also included Where’s Morning Gone by Barney Roberts, the only other memoir I know set in the north-west coast of Tasmania. I remember it was a big deal for Nan and Pop in the late 1980s. Someone had come along and painted their childhood.

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Hey, I’m not the only one not reading!

(Taken from Guardian interview with Etgar Keret 2019):

What’s the last really great book that you read?

I’m usually honest in my writing and less honest in interviews, but I can tell you that for the past year, I didn’t read any book, which is the first time since I went to first grade.

Why was that?

My wife and I were working on a very demanding TV series, a project that demanded relocation and that we direct in French, when we don’t speak French, so all in all it was a very overwhelming experience. It took a lot of my inner space.

This year, I’ve been doing something that – if we talk about changes in humanity – all humanity’s been doing, but I guess I gave myself a very good alibi. Whenever I wanted to delve into a book, I would go and watch a Netflix series instead; I must say for pure laziness, because I think the big difference between a TV or film and reading a book is that reading a book demands creativity from you, because you need to imagine things and you need to create them in your mind. And I felt so drained at the end of the day that I wanted somebody else to think out how the characters look.

As a child, were you a keen reader?

From the moment I started writing, I read less. I think reading was a way of widening the world in which I lived, and that the moment I started writing I found a different way to widen it. So I would alternate between writing such a reality or reading such a reality.

funemployed book 3 (smaller)

what are you lookin’ at 🙂

I am sorry this is happening to you

I’m a writer with anxiety and have been self-isolating for a while. I’ve got a rolling start on this like Daytona. Don’t get me started on performing with no one in the audience.

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Whisper-out to all my mentally ill friends; those with anxiety and depression. The melancholic and broken. Perhaps it’s easier to be calm in a crisis when your entire life has been a crisis. Lean into the rollercoaster, one day at a time.

You are always stronger than you think.

You are always stranger than you think.

A brief history of the Rhythm Of The Night YouTube (as provided by Nate Vic 6 days ago):
“Comments be like:
2000-2013 – wow still an amazing song
2013-2020 – GTA V brought me here
2020 – CORONAVIRUS!!!”

Godspeed. There’s no panic in pandemic. Y’know, in a way it feels like we’ve been here before. Not at least referring to the general sense of ‘end times’ catastrophising. I wrote my first ever Frankie column about it called The World’s Fucked in 2007. For a long time it was the #4 thing people typed into google to find my website.

Go meditate. Folded Hands on JoyPixels 5.5

Decades of the decade (2010-2019)

1. The 90s (Millennial girls dress like my friends’ Mums in high school. Double J, the Harvest Festival of radio stations.)

2. The 80s (Stranger Things / Glow / Arpeggiated synth bonanza.)

3. The 60s (Never left! 50 year mooniversary & The Beatles on Spotify mate.)

4. The 70s (Influenced the 90s so get a double comeback. Ariel Pinko yacht rock whippersnappers like Drug Dealer sound like 10cc.)

5. The 00s (Thanks for reality TV (you can have it back now) / BoJack Horseman’s 2007 episode.) Let the Myspace nostalgia begin!

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Weekend of Reading Hobart

JH Backyard shot 2019 LO RES Shannyn Higgins

photo: shannyn higgins
  • Get Up Mum is discussed at length in this Readings Bookshop podcast.
  • I’ll be yarning up a storm with good pal Elizabeth Flux about mental health and Get Up Mum biz at the Weekend of Reading festival in Hobart Oct 12.
  • I’ll make a cameo at the Mental Health Week Comedy Roadshow Oct 11 at the Hobart Brewing Company
  • Get Up Mum is discussed at length on cool new 90s TV Show THE BOOK ZONE! Cool dude.

Life Flux

 

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  • There are signed copies of Get Up Mum + Funemployed available on my shop.
  • Following the success of the Get Up Mum radio show, it may be developed into a one-man theatre show. 12 year old me will be played by me or Shane Jacobson.
  • I’ll be presenting the book at a forum for Mental Health Carers Tasmania in Glenorchy, as you do.

You know, completing a project as dense and intense as Get Up Mum sure does have you falling into a light to moderate ‘empty underground carpark’ of self. Also, for much of this year I’ve been in Burnie caring for Mum who has rheumatoid arthritis. Suffice to say, I arrive back on the mainland a little light-on for personal infrastructure.

Now I’m on the road for an abode in Melbourne. If you happen to have any tips on a spare room / holiday shack / granny flat / mountain villa for a weary writer to dwell – feel free to electronic mail.

While I’m there (here, everywhere) – I am also interested in some 2-3 day a week work activities. Perhaps your swingin’ online hydroponic brewery / nursery / children’s organic zine workshop is seeking additional funky gen-x’s to write the world’s tightest copy for your social integration platforms. Or, I can make a mean iced milo with almond milk and no milo.

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MODELLING
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UNLICENSED COUNSELLING

Finally, my exquisite, delicate goal in the forthcoming future is to pursue my ‘Sensitive Beck’ esque songs. I’ve been writing them since I was 16 but recorded zilch. Nick Drake, Radiohead, Kings of Convenience et al – If anyone is interested to record or (stop) collaborate (and listen) and has a mean set of fingerpicking / vocal harmonising tendencies – or digs on a particular open mic / songwriter variety showcase to get the ernie ball rolling, make yourself known to staff at my reception counter.

WATCH THIS SPACE (message to self).
*Stares into middle distance. Assumes best*

SEE MORE AND SUBSCRIBE TO MY LATEST EZINE

 

The Adventures of Get Up Mum

💔  Collect the whole set! It’s a matchbox jigsaw cube solved by inspector astro boy. Choose your own fighting fantasy featuring cassettes, caravans, catastrophe, crackups, acoustic noodles and a country practice. Best served in a beanbag.

TAKE ME TO THE TAPES!

Read more about tapes.

Buy the book.

“Strong and fragile and real.”
Anna Krien.

⛔️ Excess consumption may cause gut wrench.
     (Flush effected area with Deep Forest.)
Heazlewood family (FRONT COVER)

The tape orbited smoothly inside a case when docked inside the carriage of a machine. A time machine, with a knack for blasting the past.

Tape pic 1

Each morning I recorded the Get Up Mum episodes on my cassette deck.

Now I have two more tapes to add to my collection.

Thanks TDK!

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