Greater and greater things -#mythreewords for 2016

Time may be an illusion but it certainly felt like it since my last post four months ago. Where did it all go? Maybe we should all be praying for time …

Unlike last December I’ve had little time for year-end reflection, but that is a story for my next few blog posts. Nothing happens in Australia during January, especially in the nation’s capital. I have the whole month off. I figure I have time yet for my end of year reviews and defragmentations …

What I have had time to do is think about my next three words for 2016 (‘What are you talking about?’ I hear you sub-vocalise? Check out the creator of the exercise in his own words). I found this approach radical in the deepest and most original meaning of the word and vowed to do it again at the end of this year. After all, it has served me well if my last blog post is any indication – two out of three aint bad, but as to which two? Well, that’s a story for January …

This year my watch words were Nietzsche’s ‘rechristen your evil’:

In 2016 my three words will be ‘seek greater defeats’:

What will you be defeated by this year?

‘The purpose of life is to be defeated by greater and greater things’ – Rainer Maria Rilke (Created by my philosophical friend Antoine Hardan – check out his other quote to art pairings and badger him for business)

Rilke was one of the greatest poets of the twentieth century in any language and is one of my favourites. While this might strike some as, well, defeatist, like much of Rilke’s work I was struck by its creative alloy of humility and transcendence. There is method in it which I will unpack later, akin to the whole history of the very human practice of self-transformation a la Sloterdijk, as well as in (despite or because of?) design and systems thinking. But I feel intuitively that I’ve let the right ones in.

It gave me the same feeling of ‘cosmic humility’ that left me with the same shiver of delight as when I recently came across this song by the Tibetan Buddhist master Milarepa:

listen dear
listen up rechungpa
yr old man milarepa here
I sleep sometimes
& sleeping. . . meditate
sleeping & sleeping
just that is meditation
the murky fog turns clear
there’s a way
& I’m the guy who knows how
others don’t
but if they did, I’d be happy

old man milarepa here
I eat sometimes
& eating. . . meditate
eating & eating,
just that is meditation
food & drink a sacred feast
there’s a way
& I’m the guy who knows how
others don’t
but if they did, I’d be happy

old man milarepa here
I move about sometimes
& moving. . . meditate
moving & moving
just that is meditation
moving & or sitting a sacred thing
there’s a way
& I’m the guy
who knows how
others don’t
but if they did, I’d be happy

old man milarepa here
I work sometimes
& working. . . meditate
working & working
just that is meditation
this way of acting is truly freedom
there’s a way
& I’m the guy who knows how
others don’t
but if they did, I’d be happy

my dear Rechung, practice like this
& you too Megom—wake up!
it’s time to make the soup!


It’s the only resolution I can do these days, along with those from the likes of Gary Snider:

But for now my dear friend and reader, let’s remember that while even this is meditation, this must also pass:

And I’m the guy
who knows how
others don’t
but if they did, I’d be happy.



Of (staying in front of the lack of) Spring and blog posts – the Gurdjieff Internet Guide paper, Charles Fort chapter, and designing a working life

Here be very long (form) dragons!

This is a long post, just over 2600 words. I considered breaking it up but it ended up looking like rags instead of cloth. Think of it as a quarterly catch-up email from someone who used to write letters with a typewriter, and thinks blogging is a waste of time.

Now, of course, it’s Spring in Australia. As this is the internet, the only way I can express my dismay is through a GIF:

how is it september aleady

Because, dear reader, I saw this in August and thought of you – I really did:

And how it had been three months since my last confession about my lack of blogging:

I really was going to post something in August, honest!

Despite its provenance, I thought it would be a cute way to kick off a late winter blog post. But as August only has so many days, it wasn’t long before I looked down at my smart wrist and saw this:

But as a good friend pointed out to me, Nietzsche of not, as long as you’re alive and are willing to pick yourself up and dust yourself off, there are no last chances.

That gave me pause. For a dramatically perfectionist person (read ‘pro(fessional)crastiator’) like myself, that’s a terrifying thought.

Because it’s been a real shitty year, not just personally and in my wider circle, but – and I hesitate to say this without the proper humility – almost ‘cosmically.’ Those who have ears, let them hear.

Now I’m not one for quoting others in image macros <barely contains laughter> but it probably won’t be a surprise for anyone reading all of my blog posts (nor would it take too long) that I have often fetishistically printed and pinned up the following mid-twentieth century one liner:

The only opportunity I can see in shit is that it’s the perfect fertiliser for growing big trees from little seeds. Despite my ambling preamble, then, it put me in mind of an old proverb which I think is the real and best start for this post-Winter post:

best time to plant a tree

Now is as good a time as any, I suppose, I hear you shrug. But a good man who I hardly knew died a little over a fortnight ago. It was sudden and without warning. He was healthy and not much older than me. That in itself is a shock. Yet it was the funeral that broke my heart: not just eulogies from his siblings, wife and children not much younger than my own, but it was full to bursting of people who he had touched and who loved him for it. Like a character from one of Tolstoy’s short stories, I was involuntarily transported into his mortal issues. I found myself wanting: would my funeral be as well attended and rain as many healing tears?

Then as often happens I noticed the following haiku in one of my feeds and my machine was floored, in all senses of the word:

Life and death are of grave importance—
Impermanent and swift.
Wake up, all of you.
Do not waste your life.

From Zen Chants by Kazuaki Tanahashi, page 48

In the midst of that chaos before and after the funeral, I suddenly recalled an insightful online piece by a fellow student of Gurdjieff Patty de Llosa that I had stumbled across some time earlier and would normally have filled away to digitally rot in my Evernote account:

I suddenly realized that if, instead of correcting my stance or criticizing any childish internal reactions or longing to be better than I am, I simply entered into the state of uncertainty, confusion, and mixed messages — to stand there in the midst of it, acknowledging it, sensing it, and feeling it — a gradual change would take place. If I could stay long enough as witness, the reorganization of thoughts, reactions and the body’s strained position would happen all by itself.

“Eureka!” I thought. “Here’s the Rosetta Stone that can replace my busy drive toward making myself better than the flawed person I am.” But as anyone who attempts it will find, it’s not an easy shift to make. In fact, it’s so uncomfortable to stay there in the newly discovered imbalance that we almost never try, even if we’ve heard about it for years!

I first learned of this approach from Jeanne de Salzmann, who led us in the Gurdjieff teaching for many years. She would invite us to “stay in front of the lack,” suggesting that when we wake up to a moment of being lost to ourselves, we stay with the impression that we are not how we want to be, instead of immediately trying to change it. The moment I see something I don’t like in myself I could stay in front of it, as if looking into the mirror of my thought or action, rather than turning away toward some comforting shift of improvement.

“To stay in front of the lack”, this has become one of my practices, part of my work, as they say in the Gurdjieff Work. This is why I’m back here on this blog and why I’ll keep coming back.

If you are still with me, dear reader, and haven’t done this yet:

He’s making a monkey out of my attention economy! make it stop!

lest you think I have been overcome by Churchillian optimism once again, I will close my arboreal meditation with one of my favourite horticultural quotes, as recorded by Fritz Peters in his memoir A Boyhood with Gurdjieff:

“Nature make many acorns, but possibility to become tree exist for only few acorns. Same with man – many men born, but only few grow. People think this waste, think Nature waste. Not so. Rest become fertilizer, go back into earth and create possiblity for more acorns, more men, once in while more tree – more real men. Nature always give – but only give possibility. To become real oak, or real man, must make effort. You understand this, my work, this Institute, not for fertilizer. For real man, only. But must also understand fertilizer necessary to Nature. Possibility for real tree, real man also depend just this fertilizer.”

Gurdjieff Internet Guide paper

This segues well enough into the acorns I’m most immediately trying to grow that will prevent me from posting again until next month at least.

I’m currently madly trying to finish writing a paper on the Gurdjieff Internet Guide for another Journal for the Academic Study of Religion special issue on Gurdjieff. The abstract is below:

‘If Gurdjieffians are supposed to be so secretive, why the hell do they write so much?’ ‘Gurdjieff Studies’, ‘Gurdjieff Internet Guide’ and the growth of the Gurdjieff Industry

It is one of the great ironies for the student of contemporary religions that G.I. Gurdjieff and his followers have produced the largest body of literary works of any modern esoteric movement. To explore and explain this dynamic within the critical study of religions, three themes will be pursued: category formation/disciplinary boundaries of ‘Gurdjieff studies’; the epistemological problems of archival study of esotericism in the digital age; and the way academia is inescapably enmeshed in the ‘Gurdjieff industry’, i.e., revelations of primary sources that occur in the inevitable sectarian conflicts that arise in heterodox ‘invented traditions,’ in this case between the hierarchical ‘Foundation’ groups founded after Gurdjieff’s death by Jeanne de Salzmann that tried to formalise Gurdjieffian principles and exercises, and the independent groups founded by other first generation of Gurdjieff’s followers that remained outside of it. The themes meet in the ‘Gurdjieff Internet Guide,’ originally an online bibliographic catalogue for Gurdjieffians that has developed into a repository of spiritual exercises crowdsourced by the Gurdjieffian community itself. In this light, the possibility of a more critical study of Gurdjieff through a digital humanities approach to enable more critical cross-fertilisation if not deeper ethnographic collaboration between scholars and practitioners is finally circumscribed.

It’s a riff on a piece I wrote for the Religious Studies Project podcast series earlier this year. I’m trying with this one to learn how to write ‘less’ – my last article for the previous Gurdjieff special issue was just over 8,000 words, and this time I’m aiming for half of that. To do that I’ll need to be more focused on one exercise or example – really try to make it a ‘one idea’ article. If I keep trying to overcompensate (he says noticing the word count is now at 1386) I’ll never be able to bang out stuff for publication quickly enough and pretty soon I’ll be dead. I’ll post up excerpts of my submitted material in my next post for comment, but happy to hear from you before then.

Charles Fort chapter

After that’s done this month, I have a book chapter to complete on one of my intellectual heroes, Charles Fort, by the end of October. The abstract for this call for papers:

‘Measuring the Circle: Hegel, Western Esotericism and Charles Fort‘s Natural Supernaturalism’

Although a renaissance of intellectual appreciation for Fort has begun (e.g.,Steinmeyer, Kripal), the preponderance of Hegel in Fort‘s work has been little examined, and as there has been some recent solid work on Hegel as part of the (modern) western esoteric tradition, I want to look at the intellectual relationship between Fort and Hegel, especially in the laters capacity as a ‘gateway drug’ (at least at the time) to the secularised western esotericism, and in the context of what Abrams called the ‘natural supernaturalism’ of the Romantics. This will help answer the question as to what is the relationship at least historically between the categories of the relatively new ‘Fortean’ and the more traditional ‘esotericism’ in the Western imaginary.

The aim is again around 5,000 words, and again to bang it out as quickly as possible, to fight against my dramatic perfectionist tendencies. If Fort is your thing and you have some ideas or suggestions, let me know in the comments below.

Using design thinking to design myself (into a design thinking job)

It’s my struggle with the same dramatic perfectionist tendencies that led me to this thing called design thinking. There’s been a lot of ferment online about it recently, that its: come of age; no longer a competitive advantage now that everybody’s doing it; going to fail. It’s even managed to make it to the cover of the Harvard Business Review:

This is already such huge topic that I’m going to completely avoid filling you in on it and move my story along [if you are interested, though, you cannot do better than checking out the blog of PhD candidate Stefanie Di Russo who is writing what will be ‘The  Book’ on the subject: go on! If you’ve read this far, I’ll still be here when you get back. This is the internet, after all].

In the last 12-18 months, I’ve used design thinking in a number of projects, including:

And I’ve concluded that I could think of nothing better than getting paid to design solutions with and for people as my ‘day job’. You might think that as I work in Canberra (‘I’m from the government and I’m here to help!’) this may be an easy fix, but it’s proved a lot harder than it looks. Roles specifically for this kind of design are still rare, although this is changing and I’m starting to apply like crazy.

My observations of the current professional status of design thinking in Canberra is the topic of another post. But it has meant that, in classic design thinking style, I’ve had to cast further afield in my quest to become what to some is called a business designer and for others an impact designer:

Out of all this recent online material, some of the best advice I’ve seen is to use design thinking to introduce design thinking into a new sphere like government. However, the one that effected me most deeply was Katie McCrory‘s seemingly simple article in the Guardian: How to design your life for happiness. It’s a quick snapshot of how she used the design thinking principles of empathy, innovation, iteration, prototyping and testing as “design-led life hacks” to “to change my life”.

Suspending your judgement about her selection and description of design thinking principles for a moment [as while there is a broad consensus on principles there isn’t one ‘method’ or way of doing them], the story of how she ended up moving to Copenhagen from her life on London, which she once loved but now “just felt so badly designed”, moved me, too. Three points she made I keep coming back to:

  1. “Start with empathy: It’s easy to feel sorry for yourself, but do you truly understand what the heart of the problem is? Take the time to unpack the things which upset and delight you – and talk to people who know and love you. They often see things you may otherwise miss.”
  2. “Create your prototype: … ‘minimum viable products’ … Start by doing something, anything. Don’t let imperfection prevent you from action.”
  3. Charles Eames – designer of the iconic Eames chair – said it perfectly: ‘Design is a plan for arranging elements in such a way as best to accomplish a particular purpose.’ So what’s your purpose? Let’s stop thinking about our lifestyle and start thinking about our lifedesign to get us there.

That start is what is coming up next.

Next!? Fear not: the lack of an end is just the beginning

For now, a world of deadlines – which normally looks like this:

And this:

The question of how to break the N+1 cycle was the one I started my year with:

For a long time, like a lot of us, I was ashamed of “my” procrastination. But maybe I’m actually OK as I am, I just have to figure out how to use it to get our new Satan (same as the old Satan) behind me:

My experience with design thinking has also shown me that this can actually be framed as a capability: procrastination can be a good. In a way of working that is built around short sprint projects created out of constant, rapid and strictly timed iterations, it becomes an asset, not a liability. I could restore my fallen angels.

What’s does all that have to do with Gurdjieff and the fortean, I hear you say with hindsight? What’s the connection? This is something I hope to explore in shorter pieces over the summer break. There are some superficial similarities (for example, Gurdjieff was among other things a designer as were some of his followers; the devil was a hero to both Gurdjieff and Fort, and designer’s are often the devil’s advocate), but beyond that I suspect that they have at least one deeper theme in common: all three require a ‘staying in front of one’s lack’ by the cultivation of ever greater awareness in attending to and embracing the anomalous. Perhaps metaphysically, in design terms, to paraphrase the now forgotten physics James Jeans, who said:

And that maybe:

I look forward to your own design thoughts on this idea, your experiences of landing a design role (or trying to!) and any suggestions you may have for either my Gurdjieff Internet Guide paper and/or the Charles Fort chapter.

In the meantime, even summer will get here eventually:

– and as good men and women everywhere remind us, the road to our lack is wide open …

Blog Resurrection – my shortest post for the nadir of the year

Today is the Winter Solstice in Australia.

Father Winter Solstice

I’m a green man in oh so many ways …

And so in keeping with the occasion, this will be my shortest post for the year.

In the five month since my last, the nights have lengthened longer and longer still into the days. And in this new year I’ve really felt that darkness as I’ve groped about trying to find a new synthesis for my latest and greatest antithesis.

And so the ‘New Year’s’ kept flying past me – Orthodox, Chinese, Persian – each as good as the other to review 2014 and project my plans for 2015, to start, but sometimes it has to get as dark as it can before something can come to light.

The solstice is a natural turning point in the year. From now on it will be the days that will lengthen and the warmth of summer will be on its way. Historically, it was a time of new beginnings, of rebirth and revival – “the year as reborn.” In the past week it occurred to me that today could be my true New Year’s Day.

I’ve done much that could still be material to work on: immersing myself in the ‘Bindu Shards’ Perceptual Cell at the James Turrell Retrospective; taking part in a Google Garage, a Peer Academy workshop and Noted, Canberra’s experimental writers festival; publication of an interview about late 2014’s Canberra MapJam. Projects and books begun and sometimes even completed. I’ve rejoined the Gurdjieff Work.

Yet July to October aren’t also called the “famine months” for nothing. And the previous six months weren’t much better. So I’ll be making no promises and I won’t be writing any cheques I can’t cash. Yet it is heartening to wiki-read that “the majority of wine and beer made during the year was finally fermented and ready for drinking at this time.” I hope to multiple gods that this will be true in my case.

But old promises? That’s another story:

A change (of name) is gonna come …

For now, I’m celebrating.”Think pagans, druids, ley lines and stone circles” – I’m in good company:

At Elizabeth Bay House overlooking the harbour, early risers will be hoping for winter sunshine. The house is aligned to the direction of a winter solstice sunrise. All being well, sunlight should pierce through the front door, down the axis of the house and then out the back door.

People gather before sunrise at Elizabeth Bay House, lining the hallway ahead of the Winter Solstice. Photo: Dallas Kilponen

From the ancients to Turrell, we’ve sought ourselves in the sky when the sun and the stars are right, and proves that thankfully even my immediate seemingly disenchanted neighbourhood is no exception. Next year I’ll need to pay Robbie and Tracey Wallace a visit:

For now I’ll just add my own words to theirs:

Happy Winter Solstice 2015

Until the next time, remember as I will that we all need just a little gratuitous divine intervention, some ‘other-power’, if we are to escape the gravity of our humanity:

Even atheists. Maybe especially atheists.

“It’s always February 2nd and there’s nothing I can do about it” – Gurdjieff, Ouspensky’s ‘hobby’ & the origins of the film ‘Groundhog Day’

I almost missed it – until I saw @nevverdaily‘s obligatory Bill Murray post in my newsfeed:

“…it’s always February 2nd and there’s nothing I can do about it.”

“…it’s always February 2nd and there’s nothing I can do about it.” Courtesy of This Isn’t Happiness

That’s right, woodchuck chuckers!

I am equally astounded that it’s Groundhog Day … again.

Groundhog Day is one of the most mainstream of all the ‘cult favourites’ there is – so much so that watching it has become a become an annual movie tradition, at least in large chunks of the northern hemisphere. It’s definitely one of my favourite films in that sense.

Yes it was written and directed by Harold Ramis and yes it starred Bill Murray – but that is not the limit of its appeal beneath its snappy comedic surface. And, to be sure, that it’s the first Feb 2 since the death of Ramis, who passed away Feb 24, 2014, adds to the poignancy. Yet there is something about the story of a man endlessly repeating the same day that has additional appeal, both personally and intellectually, to a student of spirituality and of Gurdjieffian ideas and practices in particular.

It’s that meta-sense we all have of ‘It’s Groundhog Day … again’ that captures why this film has so ingratiated itself into contemporary minds and hearts. Do we not all of us see or at least suspect that there is a little of Phil Connors’ in all the circling and grinding repetition of our lives? And I don’t mean just the ‘outer’ 9-to-5 stuff, but the ‘inner’ automation which dominates most of us, most of the time …?

Our inner automation is all the stronger because it is usually invisible, especially our own – to give you a sense of its sheer power: have you ever sat down and really thought about how long the film really is?

Well I have had cause to listen to the DVD commentary and bonus material, where either Ramis or Danny Rubin tell is that the intention was that Murray actually spends thousands of years in it. Why have I had cause? Because for my own cycling sins I wrote a paper in 2012 on the origins of the film in the little known and posthumous only novel of one of great 20th century thinkers who had the (mis)fortune of being among one of the great pupils of Gurdjieff: Ouspensky‘s Strange Life of Ivan Osokin.

I could tell you now about Oupensky’s connection to Nietzschean currents and pre-Einsteinian non-Euclidiean mathematics as well as his pre- and para-Gurdjieff genius, how the novel was a product of the internecine sectarian death struggles between the ‘Ouspenskyians’ and Gurdjieff’s final flock, about how Bill Murray himself was (is?) a Gurdjieffian … but why spoil your fun when you can read all about it yourself, either above via Scribd or my page?

Just think of this as one of the good deeds that culminate in the denouement of my own Groundhog Day …

And here’s another, to balance the dark decades of purgatory that we all experienced in our above journey with Phil, one that to me illustrates the ‘divine’ core of the both the novel and the film, and that reveals to the audience that repetition is a gnostic sword that can cut both ways:

So I’ll leave you to take away this image: “I’m a god, not the God … Maybe the real God uses tricks; maybe He’s not omnipotent, He’s just been around so long he knows everything.”

Yet there is something we can do about it – because like those now proverbial quantum participles, it is our precise observation of it, our awareness, that stops the indeterminacy and changes the course. Indeed, arguably it is the only thing that ever has.

We can play tricks on the trick, play with the trick, pay tribute to its trickery:

Let’s go make some weather! Let me know about your connection to the film or your thoughts about my paper on the film’s origin in Ouspensky’s novel below in the comments below.

“Remember inner work!” Happy birthday Mister Gurdjieff – I remember …

Today is the day I along with thousands of people around the world celebrated the birthday of this man:

Georges Gurdjieff, head-and-shoulders portrait, facing front Janet Flanner-Solita Solano papers. -

Georges Gurdjieff, head-and-shoulders portrait, facing front
Janet Flanner-Solita Solano papers. –

G.I. Gurdjieff, who among other things, was one of the three great esoteric modernisers (the other two being Blavatsky and Steiner, but that’s a story for another day). Anyone who describes themselves as ‘spiritual, not religious’ owes this man much.

He and his ideas and practices have been part of my life in some fashion and degree for a quarter of a century, and 2015 is the year I acknowledge that debt. For those of you with eyes to see, you know the significance of what I write here: a toast!


The most visible manifestation of that debt will be the publication of my 2005 thesis (I know! I KNOW! So much ‘disease of tomorrow’) on embodiment and materialism in Beelzebub’s Tales this year. In this post I am committing to ‘put real attention on Beelzebub’s Tales‘ and blogging about that revision process as part of my goals for 2015. More on those goals latter this month, as I conduct my review in my holiday break before the start of a new school year.

In the meantime, please pause and absorb the hose of my tweets and re-tweets today which focused on Gurdjieff which I have curated for you here, dear reader. I also wish to acknowledge here the influence of philosopher Jacob Needleman, about whom I can say that he was my first ‘teacher’ on the way and the one I keep coming back to. You’ll find a video from him on Gurdjieff’s work below; more about him in coming posts.

This is it. Fight like hell. Stay amazing. Apologies to @gapingvoid

Last year’s words still cling too much to me.

“For last year’s words belong to last year’s language,
And next year’s words await another voice –
To make an end is to make a beginning.” -T.S. Eliot, Four Quartets

I haven’t yet reached even a three word understanding of what my aim for 2015 will be, but while I gather my thoughts over the next few days for review of the past 12 months and direction for the next, I hope you find what is below as nourishing and guiding as I have:

this is it fight like hell

All signs point to you not making it.

This is when you dive in anyway.

It’s not rational. If you consider the endless factors, the variables, the possible bad outcomes – you’ll never begin.

Ignore everything. Go for it anyway.

This is it.

You know what you need to do.


Love is weird! Gnostalogia is All! Have yourself a Countercultural Ball!

So, now that WordPress has (finally) sent me my annual report, I have hunkered down in the final hours of 2014 to crunch some numbers – such as they are – and pull together a few of the highlights from the past several months. At least to provide a rationalisation of my lack of blogging.

Thankfully the kids were distracting themselves on the Wii with a one of their gaming Christmas presents. But something strangely familiar kept tugging at the edge of my attention (OK: admittedly this doesn’t take much) – I looked over and this is what I saw:

During the last few days I had seen the kids play Just Dance 2015 out of the corner of my eye and I finally realised what it was I had heard that had been bugging me – this was a cover of one of the first music videos I ever saw:

Within the first few bars I was suddenly transported: a 6 year old boy in a darkened room at my local municipal library, sitting knee to scrapped knee with other kids on a Saturday morning, feasting our young mind’s eyes on this strange old 8mm film with its psychedelic soundtrack.

But why the library? I had a hunch I saw it straight after a reading of a children’s book; I had a few childhood memories along those lines. You could’ve guessed that I emerged from the rabbit hole some time later with the answer:

The Butterfly Ball and the Grasshopper’s Feast is a concept album and subsequent live rock opera appearing in 1974 and 1975 respectively, based on the children’s poem of a similar title. The album cover design is from Alan Aldridge‘s design for a 1973 book based on the poem.

Go ahead and have an internet party on me, but if you’re pressed for time because you’re going to a real one, allow me to summarise – an adaptation of an 1803 Georgian children’s poem made famous in the Victorian weirdness of Lewis Caroll’s England

And on the smooth Grass, by the side of a Wood, Beneath a broad Oak that for Ages had stood, Saw the Children of Earth, and the Tenants of Air, For an Evening's Amusement together repair.

And on the smooth Grass, by the side of a Wood,
Beneath a broad Oak that for Ages had stood,
Saw the Children of Earth, and the Tenants of Air,
For an Evening’s Amusement together repair.

was illustrated in 1973 by arguably the 20th century’s greatest album and science fiction cover designer

Alan Aldridge

'Dreamy in the afternoon Froggy went a-wooing' Alan Aldridge

‘Dreamy in the afternoon
Froggy went a-wooing’
Alan Aldridge

'Swallowtail, the real Me Behind the painted mask you see (Truthfully I must reply) Is someone most extremely shy.' Alan Aldridge

‘Swallowtail, the real Me
Behind the painted mask you see
(Truthfully I must reply)
Is someone most extremely shy.’
Alan Aldridge

inspired a concept album which was to be a vehicle for an ex-singer of Deep Purple

A concept album and subsequent live rock opera appearing in 1974 and 1975 respectively, by Roger Glover

which was to be animated in its entirety by Halas & Batchelor (who got a lot of the government PSA work after WWII) but which never ended up being made, except for the short for the single, which is – yes, you guessed it – ‘Love is All’.

It never made much of an impression in the UK market for which it was intended, but its subsequent international history ensured that it continued to haunt us, verily, unto to the present generation:

The single “Love Is All” … accompanying animated short movie …  gained unexpected success in France, where the newly launched second TV channel Antenne 2 used it as a fill-in every time it experienced “technical difficulties”. These random airings, together with the psychedelic tone of the clip and the lack of subtitles, made it very popular amongst young viewers.

Many Americans in the late 70’s, 80’s and 90’s recall seeing the animated song clip “Love Is All” being regularly played in children’s TV programs like the The Great Space Coaster and Nickelodeon morning shows.

It was in this way that it wormed its war into the inner ears of Australia:

It became something of a favourite well into the 1980s on pioneering Australian music show Countdown (1974–1987), and was also regularly used as an interstitial program on the ABC. With its rousing lyrics and parade of animals marching through the forest on their way to the mythical Butterfly Ball, the song attained Top 10 status ‘Down Under’ four years after it was recorded.

Got that so far?

And as I knew I might not get around to writing anything else tonight, this is my party-ing gift to you, dear reader, to help you navigate the path between the aeons: a pure piece of forgotten throaty hauntology distilled from the cumulative tailings of the mid-20th century counterculture that then fell between the cracks in our collective television screens and is seemingly still being beamed from the Scarfolk Broadcasting Corporation.

Also, an ear-worm shared is an ear freer of worms.

'And although we're wearing different faces, nobody wants to hide!' Until now ...

‘And although we’re wearing different faces, nobody wants to hide!’ Until now …

You’re welcome! Anyone else have any memories about this film? Ring the bell and let the people know by leaving your comments below.