07 November 2010

Lateralist Fast Food

It seems that fast food has been on the receiving end of some unwanted attention of late; at least, it's unwanted from the point of view of the corporations who manufacture and sell the noxious shite that generally passes for fast food. Namely, the hamburger.

I used to love going to Hungry Jack's. I'd order myself a double whopper with cheese meal (upgraded) almost every Saturday. Why? Because usually, I'd have a good deal of booze on Friday night. Now, I'm not exactly sure what the correlation between beer and fast food is, but I do know that for me at least, one was ideally followed swiftly by the other. And the combination was lethal. Before I knew it, I was seriously overweight, with blood pressure on the rise.

So I can certainly sympathise with anyone who has struggled to live healthily. But for the last six months, I've changed my way of eating and drinking. I no longer eat fast food, and actually quit drinking nearly four months ago. (More on that later.) By changing my diet and adding in some regular exercise, and I've lost fourteen kilograms, which is fairly close to the weight I'm supposed to be.

Losing weight isn't that hard, once you've made the decision to do so, providing you are committed to it, and providing you can understand just why you gained the weight in the first place. For me, it was for a variety of reasons, which culminated in a what was an insidiously vicious cycle: drink, eat, get sleepy, repeat. And get fat. Very fat.

Which brings us back to fast food. Those burgers I liked to eat contained, on average, 1022 calories (or 4273 kilojoules). And that's just the burger. Add the coke at the fries, and we're looking at an astonishing 1756 calories, or 7342 kilojoules. Given that the recommended daily kilojoule intake is 8700 kilojoules, you can see where we begin to have a problem. And that's not the worst of it. The worst of it can be measured in saturated fat and salt. That burger meal amounts to 202% of the recommended daily intake of saturated fats, and 86% of the recommended daily intake of sodium. Put another way, it's a heart attack in a greasy wrapper.

Now, I'm an educated and reasonably intelligent man. You'd think I'd know better than to eat rubbish like that. Sadly, I didn't. I also smoked for a number of years, too, so my track record for knowing what's good for me is pretty dismal. And I'm not alone. The experience of losing weight tends to atune one to the weight of others, and the number of seriously overweight people waddling around Perth is nothing short of frightening. But if you want an explanation of the phenomenon, simply glance at the shopping trolley of a large person next time your in a supermarket, and the answer will present itself.

I could spend time deriding overweight people for their poor diet choices and pathetic lack of willpower, but it would be both pointless and hypocritical. I was overweight, and unless I keep working at it, could easily be so again. I needed to reach a point in my life where being healthy became of paramount importance to me. I'm thankful that it has happened, but I don't think I can claim too much credit for it. Sometimes, people seem to have very little control over when precisely their moment of clarity will arise.

But when it comes to children, I'm not sure waiting for them to experience a moment of clarity for themselves is the responsible course of action. Obese parents all too often produce obese children. And once obesity sets in, it can be very, very hard to erradicate.

Which is why I was so pleased the American city of San Francisco has banned McDonalds (and other fast food chains) from giving toys away with unhealthy food. It's interesting how McDonalds is trying to spin the decision so it appears as though it's the Happy Meal (i.e. the Coronary Meal) that's been banned, when it hasn't. If McDonalds wants to give a toy to every child who purchases a nutritous breast of whole chicken, with actual salad (sans cheese) on a real,whole grain bun, I don't think there'd be a problem at all, do you?

I think society is crying out for some entrepeneur with some cash, some vision and social conscience to revolutionalise fast food in this country. Fast need not be a short cut to an early death. I can easily envision a restaurant with lots of colours and play areas for children, where the food is healthy, and the fries are replaced with fruit. And there are toys galore for the children, with every little meal they buy. It's a horrible reality in our society that "treat" has become a euphemism for "bad". Why do we treat ourselves with stuff that's actually harmful to us? It's profoundly, hazardously stupid.

And it's got to end. I'm not sure you can ban fast food, but then ethically and logistically, I'm not sure it's that different from banning smoking. The social and medical costs aren't that different. And when it comes to children, smokers are in trouble if they light up with kids in the car, so there's already some degree of commitment from authorities to protect the young from the poor choices of adults.

The debate about personal freedoms is long and tiresome, but essential. Too easily are freedoms lost to the best of intentions. But the obesity crisis in Australia (and other countries) is getting worse with every passing year. I think some seriously effective deterrents are going to need to be put in place before too long, to not only stop people from wanting to buy unhealthy fast food, but also to stop people from wanting to sell it. And the hip pocket seems as good a place as any to aim for.

But until that happens, we're only going to get fatter. Our desire for superficial gratification (or food porn) is alive and well. The only problem is, when scoffing down a Big Mac, we're barely one of these things.

06 November 2010

Northam - Lateralist Excuses

I feel for the moderate, tolerantly-minded population of Northam. It must be hell for her.

Okay, there's probably more than one, but right now, the voice of reason is being well and truly shouted down by the irrational voice of prejudice and fear. Why? God only knows.

It's not fair to simply dismiss the actions of those loudly complaining that refugees are going to be housed in their town as simply the ingorant braying of country rednecks. For a start, this presupposes a singular (and limited) mentality for all country folk. I know for a fact that this not true, for the simple reason that I have family who live outside the centre of the known universe that is the metropolis of Perth, and can confidently vouchsafe that they are possessed of intellects that would comfortably outstrip that of the entire population of, say, Rockingham.

And I also know that the hysterical fear of being in close proximity to asylum seekers is not a complaint shared by folk in all country towns, for the simple reason that the town of Leonora has not only accepted asylum seekers, but actively welcomed them; noting the positive social and economic benefits their arrival has had for the town as a whole. But it's probably not a stretch to infer that the folks making the most wildly baseless claims about the relationship between boat people and armageddon don't do a lot of reading as a general rule; and as such, may not be aware just how swimmingly things are going in Leonora.

So, I can't help but wonder what the problem is in Northam. Is the gene pool just that little bit shallower? Has the disturbingly dry agricultural season lead to a bran shortage that has left the entire town constipated and irritable? The mind boggles.

I mean, I simply cannot for the life of me think of a rational reason for their complaints. The notion that local resources will be over-taxed is laughable, given that there has been repeated reassurrances from the relevant authorities outlining that the decision to house asylum-seekers mandates the need for a significant increase in the availability of medical and educational resources.

Secondly, it can hardly - in the greater scheme of things - be seen as wasteful to adapt a run-down and unused facility, when the only other option would then be to build a new facility from scratch. And as much as the folks wearing t-shirts with cannons pointed at boats filled with frightened refugees might think, there is no third option.

Which leaves the complaints about escape and murder the most viable of complaints. And that's really saying something. You'd think people would be more worried about being near a prison, but no; apparently, starved folk in the middle of nowhere, possessed of no resources, no contacts and no language are a very real threat. Honestly, it seems like the greatest threat to the dimwits of Northam is their own stupidy. These really seem to me to be the kinds of people for whom labels appear on hairdryers warning against using them in the shower.

Now, I might be slightly misrepresenting their gripes, but I'm really just following their lead. Why let the facts get in the way of a good diatribe? But I'll set aside this approach for the moment, and address the one issue I've heard mentioned with which I can summon any empathy at all; the lack of essential resources in country towns.

It's likely true for Northam - and small towns all over rural Australia - that there is a serious dearth of necessary resources. And I should imagine that drought conditions - and the resultant stress and anxiety these conditions bring - would only make the folk in these towns all the more acutely aware of the things they do not have. It's a sad reality, but folk who feel deprived are more likely to feel resentful of others than they are empathetic, and this only increases in likelihood when there is a perception - no matter how unfounded - that some have-nots are receiving preferential treatment. I cannot excuse such simplistic reductionism, but I can undertstand it.

The problem to me seems to be a misunderstanding over the roles of our various levels of Government. Whilst it is the Federal Government charged with the responsibility for border protection and the treatment and housing of asylum seekers, it is the State Government that is obliged to ensure adequate facilities exist in all areas of Western Australia. To me, it seems as though a problem in one area is being indiscriminantly transposed to another; some nameless, harmless foreigners are being used for target practice, when the people who really should be being held to account - Barney and the Rabble - get nary a mention. No wonder he (Barnett) stopped well short of calling the undeniably racist, stupid, incendiary and offensive comments from the troglodytes of Northam for what they were; no doubt he is well aware that if he calls even the slightest attention to himself, people might just realise that his hands are far from clean in this mess.

And a mess it is. It's terrible that Western Australian citizens should carry on like this. I feel sorry for the refugees who have to be housed near them. But I'm reminded of the story of the man who was seated on a plane, only to be horrified to see a black man sit down in the seat beside him. In response to his disgust, he called over a steward, and rattled through a list of non-reasons as to why he really needed to be moved to a different seat. The steward listened, nodded, and invited the black man to follow him to first class, where there would be a seat waiting for him.

So, for the good of the rest of us, I think a 5m high fence needs to be built around Northam. Folks like that are just too dangerous to be allowed to roam free. They'll shoot you as soon as look at you. They can't speak English properly, they eat horrible, horrible food, and they smell. And they're heathens, to boot! Honestly, it's scum like them that ruin things for the rest of us.

Intolerance is really just the skin of insecurity. I genuinely feel sorry for the folk in the bush who are doing it tough, and even more so for folk whose fears are the defining element of their world view. But all I've got for them is this; you're a lot better off than you think. And if you don't believe me, try talking to a refugee. It's a lot harder to deny the humanity of a person when you're eye to eye with them. Northam, it sounds like a dose of humanity is what you truly, urgently need.

But fear not; help is on the way.

04 November 2010

The Social Network - A Lateralist Review

As I've said in the past, this is not a site for reviews. But once again, I shall set that aside. Put simply, the David Fincher film, The Social Network, is simply too good, and dare I say it, too important a film to ignore.

There are films, books or songs that societies hurl into the limelight from time to time. Some, like "Mambo Number Five", are novelty nonsense. Others, like Nirvana's "Smells Like Teen Spirit" and The Da Vinci Code have a little bit more to say. The extent to which they speak to us as cultural documents depends on how closely you look at them, I think. Kurt Cobain's diffident howl became the grunge anthem; a rallying cry for youth who were certainly disaffected, if hardly disenfranchised. The Da Vinci Code, probably defined a particular yearning even more appositely; an age determined to find meaning, but only from within the most simplistic and superficial of narratives.

The Social Network is different. It is a complex, richly layered film, propelled by the kinds of glaring and essential contradictions necessary to meaningfully explore so nuanced a social phenomenon as the birth of Facebook, and the wayward souls present at its conception. At the film's heart is Aaron Sorkin's impeccably written dialogue, whose rapid-fire pacing and pithy inflections should be immediately familiar to anyone who enjoyed his work on The West Wing. The sheer quantity of words in the film is at times almost overwhelming, but they give the film not only a richly intellectual depth, but also a surging sense frustration, a quality which seems to gnaw at almost all of the hearts of the film's numerous antagonists. (I'm not sure that anyone in this film is fully deserved of being considered a protagonist.)

In terms of its genre stylings, The Social Network is impressively hard to pin down. At times, it seems redolent of Martin Scorcese's underworld epic, Goodfellas, with its giddying rise and inevitable (of a sorts) fall; whilst at others, it feels almost like a mystery, in the sense that whilst the end of the tale is known, the journey to it remains obscured and alluring. That some critics have noted parallels with Citizen Kane isn't all that surprising, really; at its heart, this film is a meditation on the connection between the all-consuming self-doubt and an insatiable desire of greed. It's also a film which, for all of its indie, Gen-Y riffage, is epic in its thematic scope. This film is trying to do no less that to capture the soul of a generation, and both dissect and eulogise it simultaneously. That it succeeds is nothing short of astonishing.

Its narrative rotates between two court cases - which provide the film with its expository backbone - and the real-time events which those those court cases witheringly scrutinise. Consequently, the motivations behind Facebook's creation are portrayed as being hollowly financial and self-aggrandising at best, and spitefully vituperative at worst. And yet, the central figure, Mark Zuckerberg, emerges as a character who, whilst difficult to love, is even harder to dismiss. When others - particularly much older, adversarial lawyers - seek to ignore, malign or defame him, it's almost impossible love his sharply barbed replies.

Actually, as I watched the film, I couldn't help but consider the resemblance between Mark Zuckerberg, and another zeitgeist-defining geek; The Big Bang Theory's Sheldon Cooper. Both are intellectual geniuses who struggle to navigate the social world. But the key difference is telling: Sheldon's belief in his own self worth is unwavering, due in no small part to his dedicated coterie of friends who support his every move, in spite of their considerable frustrations with him. In contrast, Zuckerberg's status as an extremely gifted young man is offset by the cold reality of his being essentially an unloved loner, and it is easy to see that whilst he believes his abilities should afford him far great social respect and status, it only takes a few minutes with him to see why such rarefied validations were always going to be elusive. Kudos to Jesse Eisenberg, who plays him with so compelling a blend of intellectual arrogance and social insecurity.

In fact, all of the film's actors are deserved of praise. Of particular note is Justin Timberlake's convincing performance as Sean Parker, who is portrayed as a sage-like demigod for the star-struck Zuckerberg. It's telling that in one night-club scene, Parker's telling prediction that Facebook will be generation-defining phenomenon, that the lighting employed gives him appearance a distinctly devilish hue.

The soundtrack by Trent Reznor and Atticus Ross is also impressive in helping to give unfolding tale a sense of excitement and anticipation that is imbued with an almost tragic blend of the sad and the sinister. And it is sinister, the extent to which a socially polarising phenomenon begins to reveal itself as not only one of the greatest cash cows in history, but also as something indicative of the hollow centre at the core of the social networking experience.

The story is actually pretty simple; lawyers pick over the bones of the lost friendship between Zuckerberg and Facebook co-founder (and initial financier) Eduardo Saverin. These two young men - who never really seem to understand each other - ultimately give the film its heart, and render it, in a sense, in keeping with the archetypal tales of lost love and friendship. Their final confrontation is vicious, human, and utterly Shakespearean in its scope and power. Think Wall Street for 2010, but without the bathos. This is film is all sinew and muscle; not fat on bone.

I know that this film is garnering almost unanimously glowing reviews. It truly deserves them. But whether or not it captures the public imagination in the same way is less certain. It's no Avatar, that's for sure. But in a way, at their hearts, each film's story is all too familiar, and all too sad. In many ways, The Social Network has captured the spirit of the age as successfully as any text has done so, at any time in history. It's not a joyous ride, but it's a riveting one, and one that will certainly have you laughing out loud on numerous occasions if you simply love language even half as much as I do. It'll also invite you to think long and hard over the nature of friendship, and the impact of social networking sites on the reality of interpersonal experiences. We shouldn't need to see characters as socially inept or as limply misogynistic as Zuckerberg to appreciate that any mechanism which depersonalises human interaction - especially in an age where instant gratification is rapidly becoming an expected right - can cause no end of problems, but in case we do, thank heavens this film exists.

It's a film I'm going to have to see again. And probably again. If you've got half a brain, go at see it at the movies.

It (your brain) will thank you.


03 November 2010

Lateralist Nags

I'm not a great fan of the Melbourne Cup, for the simple reason that I don't like people whipping horses, no matter how small they are.

So, I reckon that a careful count should be made over the course of any horse race of just how often a jockey uses his whip. And at the end of the race, if he used his whip a dozen times, then he gets whipped a dozen times. Or better yet, gets kicked by a horse a dozen times. Seems fair to me. I mean seriously - if no one uses a whip, where's the bother?

And it was pointed out to me last night that the Melbourne Cup offers an exception to our normal "tall poppy" syndrome, whereby we (Australians) want the best and brightest to crash and burn. Not so with horses, it seems. When the great Makybe Diva won three Cups on the trot (snigger), there wasn't a person in the country who wanted her to lose. Why? It's simple. Horses can't get uppity. Success never goes to their heads.

This lends credence to my long-held belief that our Head of State should be a marsupial, and confirms for me that, given the average American's belief in America seems to exist entirely sans context, then it's fair to deduce that the average American is intellectually on par with a horse. At best.

Lastly, I think jockeys are a bit silly. If you own a horse, you should be the one who has to ride it home. Now honestly, who wouldn't love to see Bart Cummings trying to stave off pneumonia, a bad hip and eyebrow-related wind resistance in a quest for cup number thirteen? And unless syndicate ownership is given the flick, winner of the 2011 Cup will likely be a Clydesdale.

They say it's the race that stops a nation. Perhaps it does. And for all its faults, there are worse things for us all to be doing for a few minutes. Not heaps of things, but enough to be going on with...

Lateralist Football Tattoos

The one thing tattoos have going for them is that they make idiots considerably easier to spot.

I have no idea why they're growing so alarmingly popular amongst the football fraternity, but I've started to wonder how this ink obsession might be better channelled and expressed. And I think I've found a solution.

Rather than allow players to stain their arms with garish sleeves of ink, I think it any AFL who wants a tattoo can have one tattoo only. And that tattoo must be a full size AFL jumper, which can (nay, must) be worn in place of their actual playing strip.

If tats are supposed to be about being tough, then I'd reckon the meathead brigade are gonna love such an artful fusion of the old "shirts and skins" divide. Cold night? Tough it out, pal.

And if you'd spend a good deal of time, money and blood getting, say a Western Bulldogs jumper carved into your torso, you'll probably think twice about jumping ship to Collingwood just because you're not getting enough time on the ground.

Trust me, if this system were already in place, there wouldn't be anyone at the Gold Coast over the age of 18.

Tattoos might be a scourge on our society, but if a use can be found for something so inane, then society just might have a future.

God Bless.

Leonard Cohen

Last year I saw Leonard Cohen in concert. At the time, I wrote a review of the experience. As he's coming back to Perth in less than a month, I thought I'd post it on this site. Hopefully, it'll encourage you to grab a ticket while you still can. Trust me, you won't regret it.

Leonard Cohen: Concert Review.

I’ve seen some very fine concerts in my time. In fact, I’ve been incredibly fortunate to have seen some very fine concerts this past month. On January 20, I saw Nick Cave and The Bad Seeds perform at the Belvoir Amphitheatre. This was the third time I’ve seen Nick Cave, and the third time that he was excellent.
I also went to the Big Day Out to see Neil Young. This was an extraordinary experience, where the sheer depth and breadth of sound emanating (primarily) from “Old Black”, Neil’s 1953 Gibson, took my breath away. I remember spending a great deal of this concert grinning like an idiot. I’d waited nearly fifteen years to see Neil Young. He did not disappoint. Seeing songs like “Cowgirl in the Sand”, “The Needle and Damage Done” and “Rockin’ in the Free World” performed with power and passion by their creator is not an experience I’ll soon forget.

I never even dreamed of seeing Leonard Cohen. Prior to last year, Cohen hadn’t toured since 1993, and even then, toured only in Europe and North America. The notion that, at age seventy-four, he might undertake a tour of this magnitude was fanciful at best. So, the fact that he not only toured, but performed regular concerts close to three hours in length of the most magical quality seemed an intrusion into reality from the world of dreams.

For three hours on Sunday, I got to experience that dream.

Leonard Cohen is not possessed of what many would call a great singing voice. His own wonderful song from 1988, “Tower of Song” includes the dryly intoned quip that “[He] was born with the gift of a golden voice.” As ironic as that sentiment was intended to be, I can’t think of a better way to describe the sound that simply floods forth when Cohen opens his mouth. It is deep, dark, brooding, gleeful, truthful, sad and free. It is bigger and blacker than even Johnny Cash, and makes Nick Cave – possessor of another of music’s great non-voices – sound like a nine year old boy by comparison. Cohen intones his lyrics, cushioned with extremely talented backing vocalists and virtuoso musicians playing finely tuned arrangements in a style that is simply spell-binding.

There are times, certainly, when Cohen’s singing is little more than speaking. But great voices have a harmonious intent that makes for so much more than ordinary words said aloud. In the same way that the right combination of words and voice can stop one dead in one’s tracks – such as Sir Ian McKellen reciting King Lear – so too can Cohen mesmerize audiences with his rumbling ruminations. The voice here is key, but so too are the words. Good thing then that in the history of popular music, as a lyricist, Leonard Cohen is simply as good as it gets.

Although nowhere near as prolific as Bob Dylan or Neil Young, Cohen’s lyrics are breathtaking examples of wisdom carefully crafted into art. Songs such as “Bird on a Wire”, “Halleluiah” and “The Future” are as tellingly arch and pointed as anything written in the last fifty years. To see these songs performed live by their creator – a man in the twilight of his career but with his gifts fully intact – is probably going to go down as the greatest musical experience of my life.

On route to the gig, we thought there had likely been some kind of accident, given the huge build up of traffic on the road. It didn’t take long to ascertain that these were all patrons on their way to see Leonard Cohen. Once we were there the marvellous choice of the Sandalford winery as venue for the concert became apparent. Firstly, it enabled Cohen to be savoured in the context of vines, wines (sparkling) and from an inclined position on low chairs. (This was never going to be an opportunity for crowd surfing.) The expansive grounds for the concert were full of excited onlookers of all ages, some who likely had very little knowledge of Cohen and his music, along with many others who’d probably waited decades for tonight’s experience.

There were two very fine support acts. Augie March played an acoustic set (of which sadly we missed a good deal) that directed audience attention to the voice and songwriting of Glenn Richards. He doesn’t disappoint. Possessed of light but incisively phrased vocal style, he sings wonderful lyrics rich in poetic imagery that feel distinctly Australian, without ever resorting to clich├ęd words or themes. His is a band whose career will continue to be noted with great interest.

Augie March was followed by Paul Kelly, who impressed very much despite a few early audio problems, where the volume level for his voice was far too low. Kelly is one of the finest songwriters this country has produced, and songs like “To Her Door” and “Deeper Water” (both played) are master classes in the art of telling story through song. His final song – an a cappella rendering of “Meet Me in the Middle of the Air”, a song based directly on Psalm 23 was stunning. It is a risky and difficult task to adapt such established words and images into a contemporary song, but Kelly has done so with considerable poise, and without any sense of vanity. His is a slight voice, but what it lacks in range or richness of timbre, it more than assuages with its expressive sincerity. I wonder though what it must have felt like for genuinely talented songwriters like Richards and Kelly to offer support for one of the greatest of all time. An honour? Daunting? I’d love to know.

When Cohen finally took to the stage, it was to rapturous applause. Impeccably dressed in suit and hat but sans tie, he bounded across the stage with energy that belied his years. And then he sang. Any fears that time may have weakened or withered his smoky double-bass baritone quickly evaporated. His voice was as warm and wryly expressive as ever. If anything, it is better now than it was thirty years ago. It’s certainly deeper, and he when he allows his voice to climb to the top of his – at least half an octave range – a beautiful and powerful vibrato – a mark of actual singing – lifts the emotional resonance of his delivery even higher.

This was especially notable on his impassioned delivery of “Bird on a Wire” and in “Halleluiah”, a song of simply dazzling craft and imagery. That a song of this calibre has somehow become a global anthem give this citizen some hope for humanity. Not since The Beatles has such ability been so widely and publicly celebrated. (In the spirit of good will, I’m prepared to set aside the fact that too many in the UK have embraced the song its inferior cover-version form. At least Jeff Buckley got it right.)

Cohen opened with “Dance Me to the End of Love” and then proceeded through a great deal of his back catalogue, from his 1969 debut through to 2004’s Dear Heather. There are too many highlights to allow for all to be mentioned, but several still stand out.

The title track from Cohen’s 1993 album The Future was delivered brilliantly, with Cohen intoning its apocalyptic synopsis of the world with a mixture of grimness and delight. So many of his lyrics occupy that febrile middle ground between darkness and wonder, where the saddest subjects reveal in their telling, the warmth and wonder of true humanity. Plus, it’s impossible not to love a song that demands “give me Christ or give me Hiroshima.”

As well as the extraordinary highs of “Bird on a Wire” and “Halleluiah”, songs such as “Suzanne” were also fabulous to hear. Cohen’s songs can seen extremely bleak in certain contexts, but in the setting of a concert, their fraught introspection is suddenly transformed into an anthemic celebration of love and longing that unites audiences, rather than isolate the scattered individuals within. I supposed that is one of music’s enduring gifts; to empower and connect people.

Cohen played acoustic guitar very sparingly and keyboards just the once, on a wryly child-like solo in the middle of “Tower of Song”, surely one of the great homage to the craft and the muse ever written. Too see a man of his songwriting abilities carefully pick out a plinky-plonky monophonic solo on a tiny, tinny keyboard was simply glorious. The song pays great respect to Hank Williams; one of the giants of song in the first half of the twentieth century. Cohen is at the very least his equal, if not now his superior.

He was also surprisingly animate throughout, often (via the big screen) singing with fists clenched and eyes closed, even dropping to his knees at moments of great intensity. Somehow this gesture, both showy and devout seemed incredibly appropriate, given the cabaret stylings of his band, and the burning intensity to his measured orisons.

At the end of each song, Cohen would remove his hat and smile in acknowledgement of the elated response from the crowd. “Thank you, friends” was more often than not, his only response. But he did take the time to thank his extremely capable band on two distinct occasions. And worthy of thanks they were. From flute, harmonica, lap steel, bouzouki, guitars, assorted keyboards, double bass and even a gong, the sound was expertly realised and immaculately amplified. The sound quality throughout was as good as any concert I’ve heard.

Cohen also told several short anecdotes. At one point, he listed about fifteen anti-depressants that he’d tried, as well as noting that he’d experimented with immersing himself in the world’s great religions, but, try as he might, “cheerfulness kept breaking through.” It is no wonder that he had the audience in the palm of his hand.

Three hours at several encores later, it was over. The audience was on its feet for what seemed the third or fourth standing ovation of the night. And Leonard Cohen was gone. But for those precious three hours, all in attendance had the privilege of one of the great songwriters of the age giving his damndest to ensure we all had an unforgettable night. He succeeded spectacularly.

Cheers, Lennie. God Bless.