Author: Glen Available
The Rise, Fall & Rise Again of Gary Numan (Pt 2)
Gary Numan was a chart topping artist in the late 70’s. By the age of 21 he was worth an estimated $12 million. In 1981 he announced his retirement from music – something he now says is one of his biggest regrets.
He fell out of the commercial spotlight almost entirely and spiraled downward into crippling debt. His 2021 autobiography REVOLUTION is the story of his slow, obstacle-laden journey back to the top.
In this installment, we take a look at Gary’s experience with Asperger’s Syndrome (a form of autism) He writes –
“It’s been a feature of my life that I’m rarely able to live in the moment, to simply enjoy what’s happening right now, no matter how rewarding or satisfying it should be.
I’m always thinking ahead. always trying to figure out what it really means, where it might take me, what dangers are hidden within it, what I need to do to shape what comes next.” p69
Gary was diagnosed with the condition in his early twenties. He reflects –
“Becoming famous quickly, at a young age, especially when you are essentially a solo act, is not ideal. When you add Aspergers, you have an unfortunate mix that is almost guaranteed to lead to struggle. My rise was sudden, meteroric almost. I was totally unprepared for the reality of fame, and I had no experience of anything.
I was young, naive and with a mental condition that, although I would never wish to change it, was crashing around in my head like a wounded elephant. I would not recommend the way I made it to anyone, not that we ever really have a choice. I’m amazed I survived, relatively intact”. p 77
And on his unique, self-taught eye-contact method…
“I can’t remember when I came up with this, but at some point I discovered that eye contact is important, even though I have no natural feel for it. I don’t know when to look into someone’s eyes or when it’s ok to look away. I read something about it once, and eventually came up with a system”.
“I will look into someone’s eyes for no less than two seconds and no more than five. It used to be three seconds, but I’ve adapted it over time.
“My theory is anything less than two seconds doesn’t show enough interest: anything over five is too intense and can seem a bit creepy. So, whenever I’m talking to someone, I’m always counting and adjusting my eyes according to the count.
I find having a conversation with anyone I don’t know well, and sometimes even people I do know well, to be extrememly stressful – a bit like riding a bike before you’ve mastered it. I feel like I could fall off at any second and make a fool of myself.”. p197
And before we wind things up for this installment, there’s always time for a song from the…
We look at the time Gary and his girlfriend (at the time) had a real-life UFO encounter.
READ IT HERE
A Year in Teddy-Land
It’s been 12 months since we welcomed Teddy to our place.
From the timid, non-toilet trained six-week old puppy we drove home with from the breeder’s a year ago, through to the prankish bundle of tail-wagging energy cum world’s best security guard we have inherited today, it’s been – cliché alert! – quite the journey.
Fair to say there’s been highs, lows and a few surprises along the way.
Getting Ted on the books of an animal talent agency and a week later getting the call-up to do a fun K-Mart ad was one of the obvious highs.
Lows? Ted as world’s best security guard? That’s a laugh! ‘World’s most OVER-ZEALOUS security guard’ might be more like it.
Case in point: I’ve exited our house – closely observed by our furry companion’s always-on-record brown swirlpool eyes – literally 10 seconds later to re-emerge back INSIDE the house via a sliding side door, only to be greeted by mate raising merry hell, fully believing a black-masked, mustache-twirling intruder is now in our midst. That’s taken some getting used to.
Before the Teddy era, my reaction to the sound of barking dogs disturbing neighborhood tranquility could be summed up in this clip from a Season One episode of THE KING OF QUEENS –
But annoyingly I will say it’s different when your OWN dog is doing the barking. We’ve all gotten pretty good here however, at shutting him down and shutting him up – real quick. Like, REAL quick.
Owning a canine also automatically gifts you entry to that world-within-a-world of pet owners. ‘Doggie Society’ you could call it. There’s every giggle-worthy accessory you could possibly conceive of – including some truly diverting outfits –
the fine print of pet insurance – the well-worn back issues of DOG MONTHLY in your local vet’s waiting room – the overpriced doggie motels (used one of those when we couldn’t take Ted on vacation with us) – the off-the-leash beaches and naturally the lingo – so it at least appears you know your Chow Chows from your Bedlington Terriers from your Toy Cavoodles from your… you get the idea.
Oh, and let’s not forget that fascinating ecosystem of human/animal social order known as the local dog park. We’ve gotten to know who’s who in our zoo quite well.
Australian comedian Mel Buttle talks all-things dog parks from the 3 minute 15 second mark of this video.
As far as surprises go, probably the biggest overall has been finding out just how intelligent little Ted is.
Reaching deep down into my blue velvet-lined hamper of grand words, I
BESEECH you – that’s right… BESEECH you! – to click on this smart dog video HERE. Remember to have the sound ‘up’ and this nine second chuckleworthy delight has every chance of being your entertainment highlight of your day.
As intelligent as our Ted is, in his own super-sniffing way, he’s also… and there’s no easy way to say this, but, since he’ll never read these words I’ll allow myself to say it, also soooooo dumb.
See that installed fence gate in the video? We have one just like it. It swings inward rather than outward. I’ve watched Ted study that gate. If it opened outward he could just push through it.
But because it swings backward, he can’t coordinate using his paw to wedge it open a few inches so he can then use the side of his head to prize it back enough for the rest of him to go through. I’ve stood fascinated watching him repeatedly try. And he’s come close. But he can’t. He just can’t.
One thing’s for certain. Life has changed – for the better – since Ted arrived. I’d even go so far as to concede the balance of power inside our household has shifted. And that’s a big statement to make.
Because when it comes right down to it, nothing – absolutely NOTHING (that I can think of anyway) comes close to a welcome home every day like this –
To visit the site HAPPY DAYS: THE FIRST FIVE SEASONS click HERE
And the Sea Will Tell
I’ve read three books by author Vincent Bugliosi.
If the former crown attorney was still alive and writing today, I know I’d be reading more.
Bugliosi is best known as the U.S lawyer who succeeded in putting 1960’s hippie cult leader Charles Manson behind bars. His legal career included winning 105 of 106 felony jury trials (including 21 successful murder convictions).
AND THE SEA WILL TELL is the true story of two couples from opposite ends of the social spectrum who visit and briefly inhabit Palmyra Island, a remote 12 km2 atoll in the middle of the Pacific Ocean between Hawaii and Samoa.
At the end of three months of living together, only one of those couples was still alive.
In 1974, Malcolm Graham (aged 43) and his wife Eleanor (aged 40) – a wealthy couple from California – sailed their 38-foot ketch SEA WIND to Palmyra, hoping to find it deserted and to spend a year or more there.
Convicted felon Buck Walker and his hippie girlfriend Stephanie Stearns (whose name was changed for legal reasons to “Jennifer Jenkins” in the book) coincidentally were also headed to the same island, arriving three days after the Grahams.
Walker had served time in San Quentin for armed robbery and at the time was fleeing the United States on drug possession charges. He had come up with the idea of growing cannabis on Palmyra to support himself. He and Stearns sailed there on a patched-together wooden sloop named the IOLA.
Buck Walker was convicted of the Graham’s murder more than ten years later, in 1985. He and Stephanie Stearns were tried separately.
The task given to defense lawyer Vincent Bugliosi, who represented Stearns, was to convince a jury that Walker had acted alone and without any knowledge or involvement from his girlfriend. On a tiny island in which only four people lived, this was no easy assignment.
To describe Vincent Bugliosi (1934 – 2015) as both an author and a lawyer as ‘meticulous’ is too weak a word. The lazer-focused skill with which he is able to piece together complex chains of logic is truly breathtaking.
Bugliosi’s book was made into a two part made-for-tv mini series in 1991. Richard Crenna (one of my favourite actors) played the role of Bugliosi and Australian actress Rachael Ward portrayed Stephanie Stearns.
True crime writer Tom Bucy published a rebuttal of Bugliosi’s conclusions in 2015 in his book FINAL ARGUMENT.
He proposed that Stephanie Stearns was wrongly acquitted and was in fact fully complicit in the murder of the Grahams in collusion with boyfriend Buck Walker.
Buck Walker passed away in 2010 of a stroke, aged 72. Writing under the name Wesley Walker, he penned a book which was posthumously released in 2015.
In it he fancifully claimed to have been seduced by Eleanor Graham and, in the midst of lovemaking, been caught by Malcolm Graham, who shot his wife and then attempted to shoot him.
Did I mention that now makes it two reads of Bugliosi’s AND THE SEA WILL TELL – 20 years apart? You never know… there might be a third. It’s that good.
Click HERE for fun at HAPPY DAYS: THE FIRST FIVE SEASONS
The World’s Greatest Mystery (Part 2)
One of the more fascinating UFO cases described in the Netflix series TOP SECRET UFO PROJECTS DECLASSIFIED took place in Melbourne (Australia) back in 1966.
I know – I know. That’s the naïve pre-internet days – back when people could be fooled a lot more easily, right?
That’s what I thought, but wait ’till you hear the details of this case yourself. Then judge for yourself.
At 11:00 am on Wednesday, 6 April 1966, approximately 250 students and staff from Westall High School, (now Westall Secondary College) in the Melbourne suburb of Clayton South reported seeing a flying object, described as a grey saucer-shaped craft with a slight purple hue and about twice the size of a family car.
According to the students, the object was descending, overflew the high school, and disappeared behind a stand of trees.
Approximately 20 minutes later the object reportedly reappeared, climbed at speed and departed towards the north-west.
It was at this point the headmaster came out and ordered everyone to go back to class.
Some accounts describe the object as being pursued by five unidentified aircraft.
Perhaps an even greater mystery is what happened following the sighting. Within 40 minutes, airforce and army personnel in their trucks poured into the area and formed a security barrier around the reserve.
Government officials warned staff not to say anything. Andrew Greenwood, who was a Year 9 Science teacher at the school at the time, recounts his experience in the interview below –
A 52 minute documentary was made about the incident back in 2010 –
And to round-off the clip-fest, the WESTALL INCIDENT is discussed at length in a 2020 documentary called THE PHENOMENON –
U.S. author ELLE COSIMANO has released the third in her Finlay Donovan mystery series – FINLAY DONOVAN JUMPS THE GUN.
Title character Finlay Donovan is an author and single mum. In this installment she takes on – in her own mumsy, writerly way – the Russian mafia (something Denzil Washington did to inspired effect in THE EQUALIZER 2014).
READ IT HERE
The World’s Greatest Mystery (Part 1)
Deep breath folks. At the risk of ridicule and destroyed credibility, the subject of UFO’s has now landed on the SCENIC WRITER’S SHACK discussion table.
Netflix have a number of documentaries devoted to the topic and TOP SECRET UFO PROJECTS DECLASSIFIED is one of the better ones.
Across six fascinating episodes, the series proposes the need for a paradigm shift in our thinking. For 6000 years the preeminent lifeform in the Universe has been humanity. But in the face of a growing recognition of the possibility that ‘we are not alone’, a momentous and fundamentalist revision of history may be required.
Thanks to planet-finding techniques like stellar wobble, the transit method, direct imaging, and microlensing, scientists now know there exists trillions of planets across millions of galaxies.
You read that right. TRILLIONS and MILLIONS.
Telescope technology that previously only allowed a view – to use an analogy – to the end of the street – now allows us to see across the park and beyond.
The $10 billion JAMES WEBB SPACE TELESCOPE (100 times more powerful than the HUBBLE telescope, which launched back in 1990) commenced operating from it’s position 1.5 million km into space in late 2021.
It has ushered in a boundary breaking new age of infrared astronomy.
What are the mathematical odds of Earth being the only planet – of trillions of planets – to harbor intelligent life?
Further speculating, can you imagine technology 100 years from now?
What if there existed a civilization – or many civilizations – that were ten’s of thousands of years ahead of us and had learnt how to bend space-time, engineer electro-magnetic, anti-gravity propulsion and build craft using principles based on non-classical physics that could accelerate to 40 000 kilometers per hour without burning jet fuel?
These conjectures are put forward and taken seriously across the series. The point is also made that contrary to popular belief, UFO sightings are NOT purely a modern phenomena.
Since ancient times in recorded history, sightings of craft-like objects in the sky have been observed. As an example, native Hopi Indians, Cherokee and Inuit have all all worshiped flying discs and ‘sky gods’.
Above: Ancient cave paintings going back 7000 years, depicting alien-like beings and space-craft.
For so long, the subject of extraterrestrial life and UFO’s (or UAP’s – Unidentified Aerial Phenomena – as they are now being called) has been relegated to the realm of mere pop culture, rather than the scientific community.
Talk about government cover-ups, alien abductees, secret military divisions specializing in reverse engineering projects, experiments involving the mixing of human and alien DNA and to top it all off the story of a priest who one day waved to aliens and they waved back, SHOULD have all been ridiculous to me.
Yet, the further I progressed in watching this NETFLIX series the more convinced I became that the whole subject deserves, at the very least, more scrutiny from the scientific community.
Recognition of the existence of intelligent life on other planets would indeed signal a turning point in human history. But are we ready for that?
Mankind has been trying to engineer a more enlightened and accepting society since, it could be argued, the 1960’s. Probably longer. There’s still such a long way to go in that endeavor.
Acknowledgement that we share the Universe with other lifeforms would surely add another dimension to our aim of respect for diversity – in all its forms.
I’ve always said I’d believe in flying saucers the day one landed on the school oval at lunchtime.
Well, too late. It’s already happened.
Known as the WESTALL INCIDENT, the school-oval landing took place in Melbourne, Australia. And that’s what SCENIC WRITER’S SHACK will be looking at next time.
Published just last month, THE WRITING RETREAT by Brooklyn-based writer and practicing therapist Julia Bartz, places a group of wanna-be writers at a haunted mansion for a month long writer’s retreat.
There’s a seven figure publishing contract up for grabs but with murder afoot, will anyone live long enough to ‘tell the tale’ ?
Lots of ‘buzz’ around this book which has already made it onto several best seller lists.
READ IT HERE
Fascinating Questions – Interesting Answers
This year, SCENIC WRITER’S SHACK has linked up with the good folk at QUORA to bring you interesting answers to fascinating questions.
QUORA describes itself as “an on-line platform to ask questions and connect with people who contribute unique insights and quality answers.”
It’s visited by 300 million users a month.
There’s a topic of interest for absolutely anyone and everyone on this site. Here’s one I came across recently…
It’s cute that people think we are a completely different species from people in those days.
It all comes down to camera quality and fashion trends. If you had today’s “hot” woman photographed in similar attire with ratchet makeup and moppy hair, you’d get a similar result.
They were usually taking one photo and didn’t even know how to pose. I’ll put it a different way. If you took any of these woman – or in the case of picture ‘B’, teenage girl – who are being photographed for the first time in the 1890’s…
and gave them modern clothes, haircuts, and an Instagram account—boys would be wagging their tails instantly. The girl’s Instagram follower counts would tick up faster than a lightning bolt.
To check out HAPPY DAYS : THE FIRST FIVE SEASONS go clickety click HERE
A Day Too Late
This one’s a children’s story I wrote recently. It’s about kangaroo culling and drought. Hope you like it.
Cracks grew deep in the barren, parched soil; baked hard like a wrinkled old face. Hot and dusty – the sort of dust that got in your bones. No rain, no clouds, just the blazing hot, unforgiving sun. We have owned, lived and loved on this property for twenty-four years. Twenty-four dry, hard years that neither man nor beast could enjoy. We pray for rain. When will our prayers be answered?
I stand outside our homestead gazing across a barren horizon. I feel hot breeze on my cheeks and I taste the dust in my mouth. I see a dust devil – some call them whirly-whirly’s – rise up and start to spin its pocket of hot air. As I peer across the olive plantation, the smouldering heat begins to play tricks with my eyes. The trees look blurry as nature’s fever glistens upon the air.
Drought conditions are a worsening bad dream; only tufts full of yellow, knee-high grass are left. The native animals, kangaroos especially, are near death’s door. They are each waging a brave and desperate struggle to find food and water.
The dams are pitifully low. Our hearts are heavy with worry, as soon we will have to disconnect the pipes and turn off the olive plant watering system, going back to watering by hand. Even in day time, kangaroos are scattered like battle-weary soldiers amongst the olive trees, simply to nibble the juicy tips of young leaves. They hold a desperate hunger that makes them brave enough to come close to the homestead in search of food.
Then, as I sit on the veranda, I overhear my dad and uncle having a conversation about a practice they call ‘culling’.
“I say we target the big grey males first. It’ll disperse the herd,” says Dad.
“It’s time to go spotlighting tonight,” adds my uncle, then he calls me and asks, ”Can I count on you to hold the spotlight, Paulie?”
In answer I nod obediently. I really have no other choice.
As darkness falls, so do my spirits. Doubts fill my mind and I start to feel uneasy and nervous about killing our native animals. I realize the battalion-sized troops of kangaroos on our land are a pest, but I am a stranger to the act of ending the life of any living thing. It is not something I have ever done before.
We set off in the “Bushpig”, my name for our trusty old Hilux. I’m propped up in the front seat gripping tightly onto the big spotlight – it’s golden beam baths the field in light. Before long I’m a magnet for all sorts of winged bugs, drawn as they are to the light.
It isn’t long before we come face to face with a mob. Uncle looks through the sights and aims the 22. A pair of big red, innocent eyes, unaware of the mortal danger about to unfold, are shining back at me. My stomach is in knots of unease. I desperately don’t want it to die. Then, at the speed of thought, an idea enters my mind. I move the spotlight ever so slightly. The shot explodes into the night… and misses!
“Whose side are you on kid?” bellows my Uncle.
No words come from my trembling lips. This time I must hold the light steadier – or he will know. This time he doesn’t miss. In an instance the sick feeling rises up in my stomach, followed by a wave of sadness. I can see the kangaroo is somehow still alive, writhing in pain from the bullet wound. My right knee begins to shake uncontrollably. Uncle shoots it again; this time up close. By 1am, there are eight more bodies.
When there are no more bullets left and the killing spree finally ends, we arrive back home. Guilt keeps me awake. I cannot sleep. It was my light that helped Uncle aim. The stench of death still fills my nostrils. In the darkness on my knees I pray beside my bed for the drought to end soon.
By the next night, my aching soul has grown to accept what happened – mostly – and I sleep more soundly. But then a noise awakens me. The sound of large droplets of rain splashing on the tin roof starts slowly and then gets louder. Louder and faster, like thousands of bullets landing from above.
I race onto the veranda for a better view. Nature has finally, finally waved it’s magic wand! I see the ground being soaked with rain and I feel joy; joy and overwhelming relief. The drought has broken. After making us wait for so long, the watery alphabet of the clouds has now come to sing upon our roof; and our land. I breathe a deep sigh and press my palm to my heart. My lips part and I whisper to myself,“Thank you”. I will never have to go spotlighting again.
Since I’ve now swapped my once regular cinema-going habit (it had been dwindling for a number of years for a variety of reasons before Covid finally put the sword to it – for good) for the far more immediate and present live-theater-experience, and will be seeing eight plays in 2023 on a Queensland Theatre Company subscriber’s package, I thought I may as well go ahead and tell you about FAMILY VALUES, the play I went to see last Saturday.
The name David Williamson has been synonymous with Australian theater since the 1970’s. He wrote FAMILY VALUES in 2020. It’s what you’d label an ‘issue-heavy’ play. Characters are used as mouthpieces to voice views on various social causes and concerns. The juxtaposition of various characters with opposing views creates the drama.
It’s talk-heavy and, if I’m being candid, not traditionally what I go looking for in a piece of entertainment, but for what it was, it was very well-done. Among a great many issues dissected and ‘unpacked’ in FAMILY VALUES is Australia’s treatment of it’s refugees. The most common description of this play I’ve read is ‘thought-provoking’.
Commiserations to the PHILADELPHIA EAGLES (est. 1933) who lost this week’s U.S Superbowl to the KANSAS CITY CHIEFS (est. 1959).
I was kind of hoping in a not-too-serious way the EAGLES may have gotten up, since the team included two Aussies – Jordan Mailata, who plays left tackle and Arryn Siposs, who plays punter. (The EAGLES Aussie connection actually extended to a third player, Matt Leo – originally from Adelaide – who was in their practice squad.) But it wasn’t to be.
Sidenote: The Aussie connection to Superbowl extended even further when Melbourne man Eamonn Dixon caught the game ball (which he gets to keep) after it was kicked through the posts to score the match-winning field goal by the Chiefs. The ball has now been valued at in excess of $400 000.
In the lead-up to this game, I re-watched the classic Oliver Stone directed ANY GIVEN SUNDAY. Featuring a to-die-for cast that included the likes of ‘old-timers’ Charlton Heston and Anne Margaret, this film is one of the most seminal, five-star sports movies ever put to celluloid. I am completely soul-jiggling proud (lol) to have it in my personal DVD collection.
READ IT HERE
The Rise, Fall & Rise Again of Gary Numan (Part 1)
I’ve been listening to Gary Numan songs for more than 40 years. While there are artists who I loved in my youth whose music now grates like fingernails down a chalkboard, Gary Numan‘s music has stood the test of time.
I remember around the age of 15 thinking to myself about future happiness and what that might look like. I pictured myself behind the wheel of my own car, hair blowing in the wind like some type of movie star (Jerry Lewis, Charles Bronson or Don Knotts – take your giggle-worthy pick!) careering down the highway with Gary Numan‘s song CARS pouring out of the CD player.
Now if I wind down the window of my Mazda 2 (wife has the not-so-ancient Mazda 5) I can pretty much do exactly that, minus the movie star bit of course.
When Numan published his 1997 autobiography PRAYING TO THE ALIENS I rushed to get my copy. Now he has a new self written biography REVOLUTION which is an equally, if not more so, fascinating read and update on his life.
Gary Numan’s music career is the classic ‘hills and valleys’ rollercoaster ride.
It’s the story of a musician who exploded onto the world stage back in 1979 with successive number one chart-topping hits (‘CARS’ – ‘ARE FRIENDS ELECTRIC?’ – ‘WE ARE GLASS’) only to spend the next 38 years in relative obscurity trying and never really succeeding to recapture the magic of those early years.
He did taste commercial success again when his 2017 album SAVAGE reached No. 2 on the UK Top 40 album charts and No. 1 on the U.S. Billboard dance/electronic chart.
In the book, Numan describes his reaction at learning the album had gone to No.2 on the charts…
“Nearly 40 years of longing, hoping, battling and set-backs all came out at once and I cried like a baby. I had no idea the emotion was there, waiting to come out. No idea at all.
People assume that it couldn’t compare to when I was number 1, but they don’t see it the way I do. It’s not just about the chart position – it’s about knowing you’ve finally got back to a point that is undeniably successful.
That number 2 was the end result of a thirty-five year struggle, and it honestly meant more to me than all the number 1’s. They’d come easy – this had taken more than half my life.
I’d been all but dead and buried, written off more than once, vilified, ridiculed, dismissed, and yet here I was again. I promise you it was the most satisfying, rewarding moment of my career. So far.” (p 449)