Harold Bishop has a posse

The Rae St Institute

Being the Paranoiac rantings of a black shirt wearing drunkard filmmaker / cyclist / web developer / lunatic in the inner northern suburbs of Melbourne, locked in a tiny office full of equipment that somewhat resembles a corn flakes packet full of robots. travelling the world accompanied by a miniature wind up robot. now completely disillusioned with share living, and planning some quality couch time over the next few weeks until I find a new den of iniquity. who had a ham sandwich and woke up in 1992.


- Dr Henrik Ziegler, Sunday, October 26, 2008, 7:21 AM read >

Yes, this does qualify as a post (holy shit!)
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- Dr Henrik Ziegler, Friday, April 20, 2007, 3:42 PM read >
Just poking my head in.

Yes, I managed to escape the clutches of The Fairfield Fiasco (about six weeks back). Now quite settled in a nice little terrace house not far from the old Institute.

I've been gardening. And working. And sleeping. And generally not getting angry.

I'll write more soon. But for now:

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Welcome to the House of Fun (btw cya lol)

- Dr Henrik Ziegler, Wednesday, January 17, 2007, 10:26 PM read >
You are moving out because:
  • You butter your toast before you put it in the toaster, leaving a fearsome greenish residue in there and forcing me to wake up every second day to a house filled with an odour not unlike the mould behind a hirsuite sumo wrestler's balls.
  • The walls aren't "so thin" as you keep insisting, they're double brick.
  • You refuse to believe that the "loud music I keep playing" is half-drunk 19 year olds in riced up mid 90s hatchbacks sitting at the lights outside. Look out the window. Are you blind? Deaf? Stupid?
  • Our agreed policy of "washing your own dishes" isn't generally understood to mean "washing the dishes I own, leaving the dishes I used but someone else owns to one side and not washing them.

    For two weeks."
  • Your "buttering" and "washing" behaviour attracts ants. It is not then my responsibility to "fix" this.
  • If I go away for two weeks, it's absolutely within my fucking rights to give a close friend a spare key so they can look after my vegies. Four times. In two weeks. When you're not home.
  • It is absolutely not within your fucking rights to get angry about this.
  • If you bring around 12 buddhist friends and all chant loudly until 10pm, that's absolutely fine.
  • Following on from the above by leaving a shitty note under my door because I was speaking on the phone in my room half an hour after they left (and "so noisy")... is NOT absolutely fine.
  • Only two of us live here. There is absolutely nobody else in Christendom who could have possibly wanted or been able to move my vegies out of the limited sun on the balcony.
  • Especially when your washing conveniently appears in the space they were using soon after they move.

  • No, I don't believe you didn't move them.
  • Yes, I remember clearly where they were. I have photos, in fact. Can we move on now?
  • I work 14 hour days. You work at most 8. You get up at 10am. If you say "I'm so tired" once more, I'm changing the locks.
  • Your getting up at 10am means that you have absolutely NO justification AT ALL for demanding complete silence after 10pm.
  • You wouldn't have justification for this even if you did get up early.
  • You are clearly not suited to share housing. You need to live on your own.

    Far, far away.

    In a soundproof chamber.

    In Finland.
Fuck you, I quit. Mahalo.

Looking forward to some housemate evicting, lease breaking and couch sleeping. And a farewell to Fairfield "Northcote Heights".

So there it is. I haven't written anything in ages. One or two in comments apparently thought I disappeared somewhere, devoured and spat out by an international cult and left destitute in a seedy opium den in Denpasar.

Not so.

I ended up spending the rest of my trip travelling rather than blogging.

Then I worked. And got sick.

Then I moved. While sick.

Then I was sick. And I worked.

Then my new house became the International Institute of Fighting. And I worked. And I found out why I'd been sick (I'm never shooting up industrial grade methamphetamine in Warsaw again). And I worked.

And I went away, and I came back.

And I told my second housemate in four months to get the fuck out.

And I felt a little bit better.

And I determined, on the grounds of karma and general vibe, that this house is doomed, and it's time to break the lease.

So it goes...
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Panhandle Clambake

- Dr Henrik Ziegler, Monday, June 26, 2006, 11:34 PM read >
The plane has NO inflight entertainment at all; a small rear-engined thing with stumpy wings and a tiny cockpit. The staff seem to have been in this game for a while; a late thirties blond southern belle saunters around the cabin like a grinning insect and I sit here in a brown suit jacket; vaguely tanned and no doubt looking a right Florida Wanker.

I don't mind the idea that I might look like someone from Colorado though for some reason. Someone insinuated that I did a couple of weeks back. Hah. I delude myself that I have some idea of state-by-state identity after three weeks in the country. What a wank.

We descend through clouds and the sun sets; a bright crimson floating lazily over a thick grey haze below. The waning sunlight plays on the wings as we bank hard left and The Drones belt out something melancholy and half-mad.


The air bellowed, deep, rumbling in my ears as the taxi sped away from Tampa airport onto a crazy assortment of criss-crossing, entangled clover freeway interchanges (and endless construction work for their constant expansion) in the thick of the suburban mess that is Florida. I waved my hand in the passing air through the open window and the air left a thick aftertaste on it - sticky, foreboding, as I pulled it back inside the van.

The cabbie charged me ten bucks off the meter, lingering waiting for a tip - but fuck that - as the tropical heat bit through my suit into my back. The lobby was cool, modern, open.. I was home, I thought sarcastically. A belligerent rubbish monologue belted out through gritted teeth inside my head: We gentlemen of distinction are not built for the abject squalour of a woefully neglected Hostel, no matter how tempting the prospects of rowdy sessions and German tourists may be.

I cock a half-smirk and get into the lift. The rooms at the West Shore Hotel are accessed through a shabby outdoor courtyard, and as I stepped out into it I wondered in my consumerist trance if I'd taken a wrong turn.. the sense of excess, the air conditioned wasteful opulence, the faux-marble, were all gone. Bare bricks, pebble mix concrete, stinking humidity and worn white steel fencing. I found the room easily enough (air conditioning already on, like a freezer inside.. God Bless those Wasteful Seppos), but upon realising that the sinister omen of the courtyard had born fruit, and my room was clearly too small (COULD ONLY FIT ONE LARGE 4WD AND A HIPPO) and not what I had requested, I hesitated for a moment, then returned to the desk to dispense stern and swift justice on behalf of Wankers Everywhere.

They apologised profusely, and put me in a double Queen Bed suite instead, bigger than I'd originally asked for (I just wanted one big bed for the first time in a while you bastards).. large enough to house five families (and servants) for a month, and inside I pondered the strange set of circumstances that had brought me to Tampa in the first place, and fretted that something in the air in this town was already turning me into something I hate.
CNN - The War Tapes

"...troops in Iraq tell their own stories..."

On screen is Spc. Moriarty, talking about the days just after September 11..

"It was like someone hitting my house; so I rang the recruiter and said, 'You slot me into a unit, just so long as that unit is going into Iraq.'"
So here I am, in a state run by a Bush brother, in a country run by a Bush brother, twenty miles from the epicentre of the Church of Scientology, briefly half watching CNN and polishing myself up for a night out in a town I really know next to nothing about and hadn't originally planned to come to. Due to the fact that I'm an evasive bastard numerous matters of policy and protocol, I am unable to discuss here exactly why I was there. Suffice it to say that I Had My Reasons.

Going clubbing in Florida is actually pretty much exactly what I expected.. plastic people, bad music, palm trees and ludicrously large stretch Hummers. Well, ok, it's not that the music was BAD, it's just that the DJ was trying to be all things to all people, which was more than anything a result of the clientele.. leathery fortysomethings alongside plastic/collagen synthetic thirtysomethings alongside twentysomethings with far too much makeup. I was out with someone from another state -- so for most of the time we just stayed out of the way of the weird mix and tried our best Not To Startle The Natives.

And to top all this off, the club was in a shopping centre.

I know that happens in the outer suburbs in Melbourne too, but that was one thing I found odd about this country.. to centralise EVERYTHING in large scale shopping centres, even nightlife -- there's something depressing and dehumanising about that somehow. But that's not really a rational response; maybe a touristy search for 'authenticity' that doesn't actually exist anywhere.
"Ev'bahddy ready fo' tahmarrow?"


It takes me a few seconds to deciper the bus driver's thick cajun accent.

"Thu sixt' day o' da sixt' munth o' da sixt' year. Every child born tomorrow is going to be stuck with that for life."

A Flag van ferries a cluster
of Body Thetans Scientologists
Florida when you don't own a car is pretty much impossible. To get from Tampa to Clearwater I ended up having to fork out stupid sums of money for taxis.. there were buses, but on the order of one per day.. and this was a Monday.
NO BUSES QUICK CALL THE PTUA!!!! Maybe Paul Mees could transfer to the University of South Florida....
In Short, Clearwater, FL is a town that the 'Church' of Scientology basically bought. Starting from 1975 it's been purchasing major properties in the downtown area, and gradually moving people in from all over the country. The local government is now stacked with Scientology people, too.

White 'Flag' vans scurry around town, pulling up to the curb periodically to deposit swarms of people in crisp white shirts emblazoned with the "S" Scientology logo. These swarms of people scurry into buildings, and another swarm will appear, bundling into the same van which then scrambles off elsewhere. The epicentre of downtown is also the epicentre of this activity. When I visited, at lunchtime on a Monday, 1 in 4 or so vehicles going through downtown were one of these vans. The Church owns two of the four corners of the centre intersection, and just up the road from it is the Fort Harrison Hotel; a run-down Italianate 1930s hotel, paint peeling and generally shabby looking. People in the same crisp uniforms.. white shirts with beige or black pants, and sometimes other coloured shirts in some cases (usually for 'higher' people presumably - walking in groups of two with Important Looking Folders).

Scientology's 'Superpower' building
with 'optional' wall.
Opposite the Fort Harrison Hotel stands Scientology's new 'Super Power' building. Ornate yet cheap; thin low grade rendered cement. A bridge links it to the hotel. A wall is missing... yet it doesn't appear to be currently undergoing construction work. What the hell happened here? There's no scaffolding, there's no tarps covering the holes in the building.. it's as if they just stopped, changed their mind most of the way through and decided to go off and do something else.

The whole inner downtown area has a decidedly weird feel about it.. hoardings on a Christian Church take subtle jabs at the Scientologists ("Come in here for real 'Super power'"), the non-Scientologist locals go about their business slowly, and overly-chirpy, overly-groomed, weird types scurry about half-mad, all big fake Tom Cruise grins, neatly pressed shirts and very 80s scarves for the women. They move in tight groups; they are ferried in Scientology-only vans; their buildings are connected by bridges.. all so as to avoid any potential for outside influence. Jesus, I thought, even Televangelist Pentecostals aren't half THIS fucked up.
'Park' co-conspirators swing one fearless ax

Scientology is perpetually embroiled in enough conspiracy theories to fill a grassy knoll or two. Its image isn't of a religion so much as an Orwellian shadow society carrying out its deceased leader's will via mind control while zealously protecting the brand.

But the most valuable piece of knowledge that's been reinforced of late has to be that "South Park" creator-producer-director-writer-voices Matt Stone and Trey Parker remain positively fearless, which in their industry places them in an elite group of, oh, two. And in these guys, Scientology has obviously met its match.
The sad and worrying thing is that the part of the South Park scientology episode where "THIS IS WHAT SCIENTOLOGISTS ACTUALLY BELIEVE" is down the bottom in a manner one might expect could potentially be taking the piss, IS ACTUALLY WHAT SCIENTOLOGISTS BELIEVE. Not all of them, oh no, if you're given the secrets of OT-3 before you're 'ready', you'll become sick and die. Or that's what they're told.

Upper level Scientologists really do believe that millions of tiny invisible aliens are stuck to them, and these aliens come from a distant past holocaust conducted by an alien overlord called Xenu. One must talk to these aliens to 'audit' them out. If that's not enough to bring about schizophrenia, then I don't know what is... Among other choice things that Elron decreed as holy and unquestionable truth:

Ground Zero from the air as we fly
worryingly close to the New York skyline
At Tampa Airport a scary, TARDIS-like machine called a GE EntryScan seals me inside, puffs me with compressed air and sniffs for explosives. My bag is swabbed, and my phone and wallet. The whole process is more thorough than anywhere else so far, but the once their testing is complete all they do is scribble 'TSA' on my boarding pass in green marker. Which is worrying... I know it's a little thing, but they don't even have a stamp?

Flying back I'm reminded why I decided to go by train across the country - Nobody on the plane speaks to anybody else for the entire three hours; a crabby woman sits two seats across from me, the seat between us full of her belongings, stacked four feet high. She communicates with her fellow humans purely in scowls - my first sight of her is her giving me a grade four style greasy as I walk on, yet she's eager to talk to any number of people on her phone WHILE THE PLANE IS TAXIING AND ABOUT TO TAKE OFF.

The blunt approach of a flight attendant from the first flight would have been appreciated here.. none of this "please madam, no mobile phones." rubbish, but rather "if you keep using that phone, we're all going to die a horrible fiery death."
As we were taxiing for takeoff out of Sydney, an old man standing up to get something out of the overhead lockers was rebuffed with "What the hell do you think you're doing? We're moving!"

People putting luggage in inappropriate places were also told "You can't leave that there, it'll break your legs." or "That'll decapitate someone."
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So Bad they named it Twice

- Dr Henrik Ziegler, Saturday, June 17, 2006, 5:45 AM read >

New York, motherfuckin' New York.
If fawning over New York is a text-book, well-worn tourist cliche, then give me a big fuckoff visor hat, a stupid hawaiian shirt, half a dozen cameras to hang around my neck and a sizeable beer gut, because I'm clearly a member of that particularly sick and venal sub-species of homo sapiens; one of the awe-struck, stumbling masses of homo viatoris - the Boring Wanker Tourist.

Yes, there really is steam pouring out
of the manholes, and every second car
really is a taxi.
Every corner I turned, I fell straight into a half-cocked grin, eyes glazed over. The city is a great hulking beast where every line emphasizes scale.. wide streets go on forever, canyons of brick, concrete, steel, and glass stretching to the horizon. Labyrinthine tunnels take you from one subway station to another, crossing blocks at a time on foot underground, and the subways themselves, straight lines, stretch off into the black, distant lights marking eight block intervals.

The locals can be distinguished from the tourists because they lose that glazed, fawning, sensory-overload expression and silly intoxicated grin after a few weeks, and start to take on aspects of the city instead - New Yorkers, like their city, are by and large ballsy, brash, fearless and unstoppable. The density of New York unlike so much of the US is probably behind a lot of this -- everyone is so close together and there's so little space, and so many people, that a lot of scruples held in other places are things that people suddenly just don't care about. The base, venal New York of Travis Bickle still lingers; one of the few internet cafes that I could find that I ended up using was almost entirely full of people publically looking up porn.. lots of porn. And this wasn't a seedy little backalley, but a ground floor glass fronted shop a block from the Empire State Building. So much is just suddenly out there (for lack of a better term). The traffic flows like a third world country; people walk straight out and it flows around them, or stops - or sometimes doesn't - and the constant movie soundtrack drone of car horns is another cliche (#1 being steam pouring out of manhole covers) based in fact.

New York in a thunderstorm is something really special. Even when it rains moderately it becomes a different beast entirely; the subways creak, fail, flood, catch fire. Utility workers appear from everywhere, diving into the ground, lit from below, frantically repairing things. Cars crash, sirens wail, and the whole place becomes a hive of borderline mayhem; like the innards of some colossal animal, rushing with adrenalin, trying to close wounds.

Breakfast, as a well-heeled traveller pointed out to me, is the cheapest and best meal in New York. Every block or two, somewhere will sell you eggs, bacon, sausages, potatoes, coffee and toast for $4. And like everywhere the quality varies, but funnily enough, the best I came across while I was there was from a decidedly odd and touristy place. Shamefully, on the morning of my second day in town, I ended up uptown, and came to an oddly familiar sight - the diner from Seinfeld. On the corner of 112th and Broadway, it's decidedly not the tourist hole I expected; breakfast is as cheap as everywhere else and better than anywhere else I tried, the place isn't filled with tacky rubbish, and looks nothing like the TV set. Very out of character for the USA, references to the show are scant and tasteful; it's just a diner that happened to be used a few thousand times in an establishing shot.

Tom's Restaurant
As I walked south back towards the hostel, way down on 20th St, I crossed 110th Street. Somewhere in the back of my head as I saw the sign and crossed, I started singing Across 110th Street to myself.. then I realised rather abruptly that it wasn't 1972, this wasn't a ghetto, and I wasn't Bobby Womack... let alone cool, and certainly not black. New York has a habit of doing that to you. Iconic things are absolutely everywhere, but then the city slaps you in the face and reminds you just how small you really are. My half-baked idea about eating a sandwich in Rupert Jee's Hello Deli also fell flat - he was closed every time I went there. (IS THERE A TWELVE STEP PROGRAM FOR PEOPLE WHO KEEP GOING TO LOOK AT TV STUFF I'M STARTING TO GET WORRIED ABOUT MYSELF)

Finally in New York I got to play the sophisto and do some gallery/museum trawling, and what a start. The Guggenheim may have been covered in scaffolding, and half closed when I first visited, but my god.. the beauty of its form; the unity and the clarity and the symmetry and the timelessness of the thing; the Elegance of it all. This is Architecture done as a big statement, and done right.

New York Architecture is a mixed bag. 1940s/50s tenement buildings can look flaky, thoughtless and slipshod, but the bevy of Mies Van Der Rohe-esque plain rectangular International Style boxes work so much better in the flesh than in a photograph. A photo of a rectangular glass box doesn't really grab you; but to see it tower 200m above you is such a potent statement - an assertion of pure modernist, even Fordist thought. Simple, "cheap", repetitive and unimaginative, but awe-inspiring purely by virtue of its size.

Art Deco buildings retain their beauty long after the forms they took their cues from (early cars, trains) have slipped well into the past. A smattering of Postmodern buildings bring a strange air of twisted bricolage to the city -- postmodern art deco replicas like Worldwide Plaza (near Madison Square Garden) blend in so well as to go unnoticed (there are a lot of these in Chicago too, and even in Melbourne in the form of 333 Collins St), but later postmodern buildings scream their presence at you with a baroque excess of antennas, non-functional antenna forms, spires, giant TV screens and odd decorative surfaces.

And here, in the middle of all this madness, is something that looks like it was dropped from space. The Guggenheim is unique in a city of massive differences - which is a pretty mean feat by anyone's standards.

But enough about the outside of the things; Day 3 started off with a visit to PS1 in Queens (yet another place undergoing fit-out for summer exhibitions.. blah.) -- there were only two artists with any meaningful amount of work on display - Jessica Rankins, and John Lurie.

John Lurie.


Pollock's work is deranged without being intrusive. Lurie's work is disturbing and pointedly intrusive; dreamlike and deranged - too much so for a home or office. A Pollock is a viable, cosy commercial product. Lurie's work still has the power to shock. Vibrant, Irreverent, and WEIRD.
  • "I am a Bear. You are an Asshole. God is God." (text appears underneath, typed onto thin paper with a typewriter)
    A fuzzy, childish, dreamlike painting of an angry bear's face
  • "Jesus was in my garden once but he is not there today."
    A childish painting of someone tending their garden with a rake
  • "Audrey Hepburn as The Lone Ranger"
    A fuzzy painting of a cinema with a woman wearing a cowboy hat on the screen
  • "Three dentists think of the same squirrel"
    A strange schematic picture of three figures and a squirrel
  • "Turtle - Produit de Arabie"
    "Turtle - Product of Arabia"; a turtle in plastic extruded packaging as you'd find it on a supermarket shelf, with Arabic text
MoMA proper, afterwards, wasn't half as interesting or crazy as this, I'm sad to say. Maybe I was tired, maybe I had low blood sugar, maybe I needed a hug. Fuck, I don't know, but a thousand revered Dalis don't do anywhere near as much for me these days as one truly demented work. There was some phenomenal work there, particularly photography, but what stuck with me from the whole day was Lurie's stuff.

Heading back to the Hostel, a tall skinny redhead dances alone in front of the "Alex LoDico Ensemble" playing (sanctioned/requested by the MTA) at 34th Street station; hundreds of early commuters rush by in all directions, uninterested; blinkered, as New Yorkers become after a while. This city is constant sensory overload. Gospel Trios appear from nowhere on the train, car horns blast, Times Square blares hideous advertisments through a thousand gaudy sixty foot screens, taxis stop and go and stop and go and stop and go, Jets on approach to LaGuardia fly ominously low overhead.. and everyone who has lost their sense of wonder about the place keeps walking.

Back in the Hostel a hundred teenage Scots had appeared and disappeared with equal rapidity; in a town with all accommodation full for the start of summer they expected to be able to move to another hostel at a moment's notice with no trouble. I wonder how they liked New Jersey.. A constant stream of English people had spent about two hours complaining when I first checked in.. as time went on this traffic didn't abate. The Dutch, Aussies, and Germans downstairs drank. Constantly; as if the energy of the place demanded a certain kind of demented energy in partying there.

Hungover one afternoon, I find myself at Ground Zero.

Now I'm not here to make excuses for American Military Adventurism/Imperialism, which is at its greatest height for a long time, and doesn't really serve anyone's interests. But I feel like (as hollow as this may sound) I understand more now. To see the scale of this gaping hole in the ground, and imagine just how bloody tall these buildings were (the reconstructed WTC 7 is now finished, and approximately half the height of the old towers), I can grasp why the reaction was such a gut, vengeful, irrational response. Even Americans have suggested to me while travelling here that a better response would have been to ask Why Exactly people hate the United States so much rather than just blurting out the thin and sick "They Hate Our Freedoms" tripe... and yet I can understand why this would have been an unnatural reaction; devoid of emotion. Absolutely rational and much easier to justify, but the scale of the symbolic and physical destruction would have been nearly impossible to ignore on a basic emotional level.

The lack of people selling souvenirs at the site was welcome (though there were patrols and signs urging people not to pay panhandlers/buy anything, and to respect the solemnity of the place).. but when a Christian came up to me proselytising ("Are you a believer?") I was suddenly ropable.

On my last night in town I got dressed up somewhat and skulked out into the dark and the pouring rain for two reasons - firstly, to find a jazz bar/bistro that had been recommended to me, and secondly, to take photos of the city in the rain.

So there I find myself, standing right in the middle of the Brooklyn Bridge, holding an umbrella with one hand (in a thunderstorm, smart..), and my 1970s vintage Canonet QL17 rangefinder, taking photos of a tiny wind-up robot.

And there's that half-cocked grin again.

I'm soaking wet, overdressed, possibly about to get struck by lightning, and rather cold. But I don't care. Everyone else is huddled up, running to get out of the rain, but I'm striding confidently, carefree. It's late at night, pouring rain, and I'm twisted into a weird shape trying to take unlikely photos.

But I'm looking at Manhattan in a thunderstorm. And somehow that makes it all OK.

I feel like New York treated me as well as it could.. the end of my last night in town was spent in a little bistro in the East Village called Jules.. COMPLETELY french. I got to try out my rather rusty French on the Francophone staff and largely Francophone patrons, drank overpriced (but who cares) Stella and ate very opulent cold soup and warm pudding. A relaxed but cocky (and certainly not burnt out) looking trio played some VERY French Jazz as I gradually got tipsy.

The following afternoon at LaGuardia -- The airport is crowded and run down. The roof leaks here in Terminal D; there are trays on the floor from the X-ray conveyor with plastic bags in them to catch the rain.. the security is 'tight' but clearly under-resourced. While New York (like everywhere else in America) is dirty to some extent, this is my first experience approaching anything bad or frustrating in the place.. I'm about to fly down to Tampa for a decidedly unusual adventure, which I'm looking forward to, but my plane is delayed two hours. I could easily have pulled the English Tourist tone here, and started complaining.

But it doesn't matter. The half-cocked grin is still there. There's no way I'm leaving New York for the last time here.
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