Thursday, August 27, 2009

Product (Tales Told By An Idiot -volume 1)

So after all my laboured preparations over the last year for creating an album, when I landed an interstate gig recently after an open-mike one night, I called up Alex with about 2 days notice, told him I was coming around Monday morning, to make an album... that afternoon.

Of course, the thing blew out immensely and what we envisioned as taking about an hour of trimming down and cleaning up the few live recordings I have, ended up being two days of intense work, but nevertheless, here it is... finished and ready right in time for me to get on the plane to Adelaide and my first interstate exposure.

Featuring recording from my 2 recent features, encompassing all Alex and I's colloborations as well as the rehearsal/promo stuff with Alex, a poem from my first Dan feature way-back-when, and a selection of the better open mike stuff I've done. Here it is. Tales Told By An Idiot volume 1: Product.

So if you're interested in owning your very own piece of Randall Stephens, we're selling this 17-track, 54 minute masterpiece for $5.00AUD ... yep. That's all (oh and postage costs if you're overseas or interstate)

Now I know I could probably get away with selling it for a bit more, but I'm more interested in having people hear it, than how much I can profit out of it.

...Want one?
-> Just drop me an email at I got a paypal account attached to that email, which is probably the easiest way to go. Or if you're a Melbournian unfortunate enough to bump into me semi-regularly ~ you can just give me the paper or buy me a pot or two and that's that.


...Lastly, just to avoid any confusion, this is not THE album I've been talking about forever, that project is still very much on the go, and will be ready by December, featuring readings from (as well as the redoubtable Alex Scott) ~ Eleanor Jackson, Meaghan Bell, Steve Smart, Libby Charlton and... the Cave Clan, and a soundscape created between various muso-friends of mine. And uh, yeah... that will be with a little more to me than five bucks.

Meanwhile, check out Product in all its cheap glory. All proceeds from the sale go directly to the "shit I am so badly in debt to my parents and the Tax office at this point that having two kidneys is looking like a glaring indulgence" charitable fund trust. Yeah.

Anyway, all my avaricious mercantile ventures aside, thanks for continuing to read and support Tales Told By An Idiot. Stay tuned for more blogging soon.


Thursday, August 20, 2009

FEAR AND LOATHING IN MEGHAULI (edited performance version) -31/07/2009



(Or 'How I learned to stop worrying and steal a safari hat')

–A True Story

Most of what he said was not true,

The story he told me while we sat there on the roof of a moving bus,
Shannon, he was a bounty hunter, on the trail of the Lazy Traveller,
Convinced he was hiding out here ~ somewhere in Nepal.

I never stopped to ask him why he wished to catch this person,
Something about Shannon’s eyes told me I didn’t want to know.
He carried himself with obvious, but quiet strength,
A self-possessiveness that could handle anything,
Yet an air of being utterly untouchable by any worldly misfortune,
He wore... Dunlop volleys.

He was going to Elephant Polo he said...
There he would have the death of the Lazy Traveller,
Elephant Polo?
You mean like people on Elephants playing polo?
, Shannon said emphatically,
It is not like that... it is exactly that,
People who ride on the backs of pachyderms with mallets four metres long,
Playing on an airport runway at the edge of the Chitwan Jungle,
The world championships of this sport are being held here in Nepal.
...Scotland are the reigning champions.

I... see, I said, warily,
You got the Brooklyn Bridge handy I can buy?
He said No... I do not, but...
Shannon then proceeded to tell me of his long hunt,
How he had chased from one country to the next,
For the death of a Lazy Traveller,
He went onto explain how he had set a trap,
Laid in the blurb, of a lonely planet guide,
The perfect bait to catch a lazy traveller,
This time... We will catch him.

Uh, we?
The first hints of a smile graces Shannon face...
Yes Randall.

Elephant... Polo ~
It wasn’t what I had expected the world championships of Elephant polo to be,
Yet, I don’t really know, what on Earth I had expected them to be.

Nepali people playing any sort of sport is scary,
They’re incredibly friendly, but also as tough as old leather, shoes kicking your arse,
While chewing tobacco wearing shorts up mountain trails,
Drunk, and carrying one hundred and six kilos,
By a strap across their head,
And laughing... at something.

If the Nepalese want to run elephants into each other trying to score goals,
You are not going to stop them,
But something ...has gone wrong here,

Banners... Chivas Regal, Chivas Regal?
Lots of tents, with no one in them,
A bagpipe player, bagpipe player?
White faces... not Shannon’s or mine, no,
The Nepalese? On the far side of the field,
At the edge of the Jungle, and roped into that one side,
No white faces over there, no dark faces over here,
Unless serving drinks or running on and off the field to hand-scoop up the gigantic shit,
That these gigantic beasts dropped,
Before the lumbering colonial beast come back swinging back at them again.

What’s going on? The game was...
Middle aged millionaires with snooty looking wives in two conversations that ended abruptly,
When mentioning you’re not staying at their exclusive jungle resort,
Brandy and cigars had nothing on these men,
The game was, one American telling me about his jewellery contracts with diamond miners in Africa,
Or an accountant in Mali at a tobacco plantation,
And I had not been watching the actual game,
Any more than guardian angels or regulating bodies have watched these people.

It was the kind of exclusivity that defines the difference,
Between the politically incorrect jokes that are funny,
~And those that aren’t.

We are kicked out of two empty tents,
We are simply not supposed to be here.
We notice the polo players leave their helmets,
In a pile at the edge of the field in between games.

Shannon folds arms inscrutable behind sunglasses,
I turn to him like an appeal to God I need to exist,
Where have you brought me? What is this place?
He had made no comment on the proceedings,
Then Shannon looks at me,
As if for the first time noticing I was there.

Randall, he says, slowly... rooftop buses and mud floors are insufficient,
He says each word implicate with conviction, and disgust,
You are becoming, the lazy traveller,
Me? I look around, for roaring elephants and overpriced alcohol to explain him... What?

These people, he explains, can’t possibly squat the way Nepalese do,
But we are in the middle of the airfield
Shannon steps closer to me, his eyes locked on mine,
You will find their toilet... all your answers lie there,
You will find it... or die, a Lazy Traveller.

So into the reserved area of I had to sneak,
The fact that I was white ensured my admittance,
Just walk through, nod to the police guarding the entrance,
Just like you were supposed to be there,
I was supposed to be there.

And there it was... a smaller fenced off area,
it was magnificent,
The most beautiful thing I had seen since the man in Morocco,
With his bucket hat and backpack on backwards,
Utterly lost, I found, the toilet!
A faucet, aluminium funnel, flushing toilet with a lid,
A trench dug –in the airfield- leading to a plumbing and a small septic tank,
It was Piggy’s glasses in Lord of the Flies,
It was homeliness and western convenience,
I understood Shannon finally... because it was everything that travelling was not about,
It was comfort in the jungle.

I walked out of that toilet cubicle, absolved,
Purified in the way a religious devotee is after a temple visit,
And then noticed... a free buffet!
And no sooner am I scoffing down food,
Than a fat, waxed moustache walks up to me.

You know... that food’s only for polo players don’t you?
I try mouthing, method acting, this arrogance,
I... am a polo... player,
Oh really, what team are you with...
Tiger tops... I mumble through a mouthful of potato salad,
And I wave vaguely back at the tents behind us,
We both know, that Tiger tops means nothing,
It’s just the name of the resort... that I’m clearly not staying at,
But the moustache is so stuck up,
He doesn’t know what to make of me,
He mumbles about having to go check with someone,
I yell after him,
Fine! Yeah you go do that, yeah!
And immediately begin scoffing food back in my mouth with renewed vigour,
And I might have gotten away with it too...

If I hadn’t grabbed for that huge handful of fruit on my way out,
Waltzing up with my bounty,
To tell Shannon I found that funnel, grinning like an idiot,
Shannon grins at me,
Don’t know look now but the police are following you... idiot.

Now we were trying to hide amongst the crowd of short Nepalese,
Ducking behind people trying to make it out of there,
But there was something in the shine of that faucet... full of shit,
Something about the fit of the jodhpurs these poncy English people were wearing,
Something about... that pile of hats.

Shannon, I say slowly his name like a long forgotten song lyrics,
I... can’t leave... I’m going back, for a hat,
No Randall, Says Shannon, you have confronted the face of lazy travelling,
It’s enough!
But in that toilet bowl I knew what I had seen,
Adventures, the difference between “hey wouldn’t it have been cool if we had...”
Instead of “wasn’t it cool when we went and did...”

So I bid Shannon goodbye, as he made for the gate,
I swung around to the far side of the field, where they would not be looking for us,
Waltzed up, asking one of the bored white people,
Get a photo of me in front of the elephants?
Oh wait wait, I said, can I get a photo in one of your hats from the pile?
I beamed at him sincerely,
Because you’re taking a photo of me taking your hat,
Wanna be raj-boy.

The camera is passed back and I just as quickly fade from his attention,
Even if I am wearing one of their hats, which, oops, I forgot to remove after the photograph.
I slowly mosey away from the crime scene,
Surreptitiously, just make it to end of this row of tents,
Then flung the hat clear over the barriers, and out into the jungle,

~ fly free my friend!

And having now evaded the wrath of the Nepali police long enough,
I unrestrictedly walk out the foreigners exit, and found the hat quickly,
Its upside down round bowl spoke to me the way that toilet seat had,
If the rich had apparently discovered the cure for irony,
Or at least a way to shield themselves from realising they were ironic,
Then I had found my own cure, for lazy by-the-book travelling,
In stealing from these fat de-evolving rich people... in polo pants.

So that was how the death of the Lazy Traveller went down,
Amongst the worst grotesquery since I was at the Kentucky Derby in 1972,

But that,
Is another story altogether...


What's been presented here on the blog tonight is the version as read at the Dan on 01/08/2009. Writing and peforming this proved much more difficult than first imagined, the length of the story got away from me several times, consequently, there's a lot of nice little details and colour that I was forced to leave out (in particular a whole thing about the Nepali government ministers who were there, and more detail on my miraculous escape). As it is, it was over eleven minutes (!!!) on stage ~ which in my experience is usually the equivalent of a six hour film, and a bad one at that. But folks didn't seem to mind.
So, at some point there will appear -at least in writing- a substantially larger, more complete version of the story, that holds truer to the gonzo thing I was trying to inject here, and hopefully leave you all the more in doubt as to how much of this I'm making up... (just look at that smile) . Meanwhile, thanks for reading, dear reader.



Sunday, August 16, 2009

"What Conditon My Condition Was In" -16/08/2009


Sunshine hitting raindrops,
As they fly up hitting me in the face.

In a race against stand still traffic,
The sun sets as my work day is about to begin,
A well paid job helping the poor and unemployed,
With very little to do once I get to work.

Sweat-soaked inside my waterproof goretex,
I glide safely through another red light,

Then continue pedalling down the motorway.


(Title from the Kenny Rogers song "Just Dropped in" )

...oh I know, as if you didn't know my pop-culture fluent friends, but every so often I do actually meet someone who hasn't seen 'The Big Lebowski'.
They're out there, scaring the shit out of me like Liberal voters or MX readers ot TV watchers. Sorry, don't want to frighten anyone... just check under the bed for monsters before lights out, cool?



Friday, August 14, 2009

The Saharan Siren Song (redux) -23/07/2009

(Co-written with Alex Scott)

There was nothing out there to see,
And I could see that.

Eyes couldn't contain it,
Legs couldn't resist it,
That feeling you have,
Every time you're on a ledge looking down,
Hearing that voice, saying (Step off).

Stepped out of the Berber tent and into the furnace.

(Step off)

Ahead – the black stubble stretch,
And in my hand a bottle of water.

...and it was that falling-off-feeling,
Stretched out flat forever,
And calling to me,
From desert mountain mirages,
Where a Bunsen-burner blue flame sky,

Ripples and swirls,

At first I headed to the north, mistaking a cairn for your slumbering form
– but collected only blood red rocks and bad omens for my trouble.

Those dunes,
Those dunes taunted me.
Like friends in high-school,
Who egg you on into a fight.

Before I left,

I said – I always get my man –

Nothing left behind to pull me back.
Those feet, once mine,
Pushing forward into nothing,
Like my turn in the queue has come.

– that I was going to hunt you in the wilderness –

And I walked and I knew and I just realised I knew...

- as I reflected that the night before I had introduced myself as your own conscience-

...I just realised I knew,

I could die,

Out here.

It was as your conscience I set out to chase you.
A mad man’s mission: find a man in a grey gelaba in the black desert.
As mad as it was,

I knew I would succeed.

I could die out here.
Not a realisation of the harshness of the Sahara,

I would succeed.

That we knew already.
But I could die out here

... in peace.

Looking from the cairn,
The silence of the place pounding like a thousand hidden drums,


Like all my machinery got switched off,

The silence of the place

And I’m not thinking,

Asking, talking, looking, waiting,

Or hoping,

The silence of the place,

The silence of the place,

The silence of the place,

The silence of the place,
Not seeing,

(A thousand hidden drums)…

I could walk out here and never come back,
Drown beneath those - black - rocks,
Like there was nothing else to do,
I wanted to,

I still want to.

I made first for the tree, and then out,
Keeping the dunes to my right and the mountains to my left.
Scanning the limits of the reliable –
Where the trees became goats,
Became men,
Became finally nothing at all,
Shapes twisted by heat horizon.

Infinity at boiling point,

Everything was flecked with uncertainty

Black marble,

Suddenly smashed by God...

A man in a grey gelaba,
In the black desert who does not want to be found,
Will not be found.

...As he threw up his hands and said…

I knew there was a road, but I also knew your hunger for nothing

…"Ah fuckit!"

And so struck out perpendicular.

Leaving empty scattered everywhere.

A gamble in the desert.

A mess not cleaned up,

But it was together


We walked back

Turned around yes,

- And you said you would not go out again

But I didn't come back,

…you said you would not go out again
-and you did,
And I sit here at camp.

Nothing else to do,
So much nothing,

Your conscience rests

Can’t contain it,

And you are gone.

Not empty enough

Not empty enough

Not empty enough,



I can't say emphatically enough what a great experience it was working on this with Alex Scott. The process, the story behind it, and how we ended up constructing (or in my case re-constructing) this poem, is a story in itself . But any in-depth discussion of that here could overwhelm/distract from what we've got, so I'll just say it was a pleasure and leave it at that.



Wednesday, August 12, 2009

...and so forth -09/08/2009


In this great competition,

We two entered into so long ago,

To see who will get the final word,

I've begun to wonder,

Who comes last?




Sunday, August 9, 2009

Rosencrantz and Guildenstern Are Not Dead -31/07/2009


You could get lost in your own museum,

And I’m a little short for a storm trooper,

I am Costanza – in the lowest common denomination,

To your Seinfeld’s astute observations.

You are,

Still ten moves ahead of yourself in a circumnavigation,

Of embracing an-attempt-at:

An emotional outcry.

I am,

Punching and yelling at computers,

While kissing my bike in public,

And together,

We are,

–the best!

We stormed the Castle de Montijuic together,

Like it was the last crusade,

And lightning, was twice striking.

Light sabres debating phasers versus lasers.

We lament George Lucas’ fall,

Like it was Napoleon betraying the French revolution,

We are the future of entertaining ourselves,

Hours long geeky exchanges... on ice,


We are on fire down a yellow brick road,

A scarecrow and a tin man,

Brains and hearts needed in equal measure,

And we’re about the business of pulling back the curtain,

With our own wizardry.

We’ve grown up together,

Down a decade and counting,

You are my life jacket when I want to sink into despair,

My conscience, when I need to lay it bear,

When my naked avarice needs a refrain,

You are the last line of defence,

For the war inside my brain.

A counsel as Sage as the words of my favourite rapper,

Kirk saved Spock and Spock saved Kirk,

Though losing the ship and occasionally the plot,

They kept coming back together,

For one last big-screen sized adventure.

We staggered across Flemington Bridge,

To the walls of great height in Meknes

The guy who halved his last piece of fruit,

When I gutter-slumped hungry,

Back there in Barcelona,

You came to find me at the edge of the Saharan desert,

Dare say now that was more than I deserved.

Alexander the Great said:

“Give me a place to stand and I shall move the Earth”

And for your namesakes clumsy attempts to conquer that world,

We have now made our own world conquests.

Sundance to my Butch,

Louise to my Thelma,

Scratchy to my Itchy,

Han Solo to my Chewbacca,

Watson to my Holmes,


You are Sam,

Yelling at me to hold on above the fires of Mount Doom,

And I am Frodo,

Climbing out of that furnace with your help,

And we, no, are not gay.

Not that they were either,

“Not that there’s anything wrong with that”,

If they were... or we were... or what-ever...

Because I'm no homophobe.

And increasingly, it appears to me,

Masculinity seems so easily threatened,

With the expression of any non-sexual affection.

Well, I say fuck that!

Forgive me this sentimentality,

But this poem is for you,

So this piece is for us,


I know there is someone out here who knows me,

At least as well as I know myself,

If not better.

I also know, as he does,

How inevitably in life you will lose people close to you,

So before that happens to either of us,


With whatever protracted skills I have gained,

In placing one phrase after another on a page,

I want to say at this poems end,

Thank you,

Alexander Scott,

For being there, for being my best friend.




Wednesday, August 5, 2009

Gambler -06/08/2009


I have chased you further,
Than rainbows or shadows,
From where I want to be.

You are everywhere but here,
And anywhere else,
Choices I never knew I made.

You are just over those walls,
Held in a vice grip,
Somewhere on Baker street.

You are as real as any excuses given,
Thinking on my feet,
Rationalised in balancing acts,
Paid for, in full.

You are my strategic tragedy,
Held in common,
And explained in a shrug.

You are my play,
On words,
Regretted occasionally,
In clear-headed moments,
All too soon forgotten.

You are the steps,
When I keep going back for even more,
Of this,
Thinking I...
I can still win,

With what little, I have left.




Last Seen -01/08/2009


"Life's but a walking shadow,
A poor player who struts and frets his hour upon the stage,
Then is heard from no more,
It is a tale told by an idiot,
Full of sound and fury,

Signifying nothing."

-William Shakespeare, Macbeth

Last seen as a square peg in a round hole,
Laughing politely in good humour,
At bad jokes that patronise his nationality,
While muttering under his breath,
I’ll throw you on the barbeque,
With another shrimp... motherfucker.

Last seen being given shit about the fosters beer,
That he wouldn’t touch,
From folks actually drinking it themselves,
Last seen blowing it,
Misspent and depleted like uranium shelling out,
For overpriced cookies,
Wrapped in plastic,
That taste like air conditioning.

Last seen in the last scene from the movie with that guy who does that thing that one time that was cool yeah that movies rocks,
Last seen rocking out to his own rhythm,
When earphones are bunker windows,
Back into down town mental health states,
Last seen swan-diving into Ani DiFranco lyrics,
Late night at Leicester square,
Living in clip while chewing the fat,
From those overpriced feeds.

Last seen,
Leading rebellions against any kind of commonality,
Common decency,
Common sense, or common causes,
Last seen causing problems in Spanish bus stops,
Like yeah you call the fuckin’ cops!

Last seen on the offensive during an anxiety attack,
Last seen of the floors crunching guts into numbers,
Fit to be seen,
From emotionally safe distances.

Last seen,
Still sitting there fantasising from behind his sunshades,
Thoughts pornographic,
Smirk on his face.

Last seen trying to hide in plain sight,
Running for the shadows,
And cursing his own left footprints,
Like they were a bin full of broken umbrellas in a spring hail storm.

Last seen on a computer screen,
Last seen seeing himself on a computer screen,
Last seen looking for himself on a computer screen,
Last seen as a status update, lately the last one to know,
Last seen missing that last thing said.

Catching his own reflection with a ghost writing spirit,
But not realising that this mirror had it backwards.

Last seen where he swears he saw it there before,
Last seen blurring against his own hindsight,
Smudged fingerprints,
Cameo appearances,
In second hand stories.

Last seen,
Last seen,
Last seen never to hear from himself again,
Silhouette of a shape that fit to your description,
At poor resolution.

Last seen,
Leaving off just a little too late before it got awkward,
Waiting long enough to get busted,
But leaving before he got anyone’s attention.

Last seen in circles looking for his own tale,
Running it into exhaustion.

Last seen expecting himself to be sighted,
In every same-but-different way,
Last seen waiting somewhere,
To see,
What he will actually look like,





Monday, August 3, 2009

You Fuckin' Poet (redux) -27/07/2009

(co-written with Alex Scott and Libby Charlton)

You have eyes
window pained and steaming
as your insides gush
hot and cold.

You have a skin
covering your insides
with outsides
so you can cover this contraceptive membrane in scars.

You want to feel everything
your are hurt, everywhere
and you squirm
a million hands on you

and you love it.

Don’t you?

A shallow bottomed vessel
you are barely...
or not at all.

Your pain is
a transplanted heart failure
the world that ends each day
just a little.

House wine?
You are the house wine!

~ a righteous lefty
skimming pages for the right recipe
so you can set them on fire
trying to find
the prefect formula

Poor soul
you really do

want the cake
and eat it too
or to have it
not to eat it
as well
just so you can tell them...


All about...
The hunger – oh how I hunger!
Or about how beautiful the cake is –it was so so... beautiful!
Or the anticipation -cake I yearn for you!

I want to eat it!
Oh, If only you could
or tell them about~
the last bad dining experience:
I was young and innocent
...and dining
whatever, because like cakes...

you can keep your cake and I hope you two are good together.

'cause its a cake-walk for the rest
While you're off
when you can’t see the forest
for the cake …trees

trees with leaves
like pages
for you to read into
between lines
trying to find
the real reason
while your stomach
stays empty.

You’re as fragile as the answers found in philosophy classes
or the bottom of wine glasses.
Why don’t you drink from a cask of arse
you farcical bastard!

The species endangered only by itself
Panda bear
picking extinction from the wine list
sitting at altitude where bamboo is the only thing that grows

and it’s about as nourishing as cardboard.

So you’re not going anywhere
if you could just keep your hands to yourself for five seconds
you could roll down hill

...and eat cake.

You’re a butterfly
caught in the chaos
of your won storms.

But for all that –
and perhaps more
you can paint with words
what no canvas can hold
and you alone
can photograph what a heart-in-motion looks like

and you alone
can see these majestic majestic ranges
in our mole hills.

You alone can conquer the whole world

So drink deeply from that split milk
twist your knickers into a fantastical tale
and terror and romance and more
no further afield than your kitchen draw.

Hollow yourself out
and take us all on this journey
–we’ll even carry the baggage for you!


You... fucking... poet.


Performed as a two-person piece ~ thought it would help take the edge off the attack on the audience. Once with Alex and then again with Libby Charlton.



Sunday, August 2, 2009

Man Alive -24/07/2009

I've been hit...
I’ve been hit with more tall sticks,
Than you could poke a stick at,
Stuck with the ugly stick,
And here I stand,
Still itching to stick it to the man.

Man alive,
For all intents and purposes,
And in all probability,
The best of the worst case scenarios,
Or at least,
A next-less-best-guess.

With two feet walking the talk,
Two feet for whom the bell toe jams,
Toeing a line of two night ceiling-staring sightseeing stops,
You can stick me in a sachet,
But get me out of the bubble-wrap,
Because I’m a proof of concept,
A challenge to the precept,
I got marching orders,
With stories to tell,
So fill me up with coffee and fly me to the moon.

And I'll,
Fill you in on a backpacker’s backlog,
Sent to the back of the line,
Drawn in the growing desert sands,
With chopsticks that used to be a Borneo rain-forest,
And when the Tarkine is used to make toothpicks,
Don’t get picky with me,
Because I know what side of that line I’ll be standing on.

Fighting the good fight with bad timing, and,
I want to be the iron man of irony... man,
When I hear poets, who declare laudably,
They don’t want to pause to be applauded, me?
I got plans to make you clap your hands,
Holler and shout, don’t leave me in doubt,
Up here being out there facing inner fear,
Steer you in a direction of circumspection,


Because it dies inside in time,
If you don’t get to express it,
So be incessant,
With the determination not to just,
Live this life of quiet desperation,
In homeostasis just taking up a space.

But take that with a grain of salt,
Take it away,
Take your time,
But don’t take it for granted,
On this planet,
Take each moment here for all that its worth,
Because take it from me,
It’s just one life you get, man,

And you have to give it, everything you can.


At last I can start releasing some more babs out of captivity. This one is the first of the materials I'd been holding back for the Dan show, and definately more of a stage piece that a page one. Nevertheless, apropos to this blog, this was my first bit on stage last Saturday. I'm hoping to get it all up here quickly, and get started on some new-new stuff soon.