About Tyrannicon

Made of fire and caffeine from the very depths of nature's space - of the future.

My final moments with Cassini, via the Guardian

Dear the Internet,

So, I was one of the 30 people selected to be present at the CSIRO/NASA-run Canberra Deep Space Communications Centre for the final moments of the Cassini probe last Friday (15 September) before it plunged into the atmosphere of Saturn. And it was one of the most emotional nights of my life.

I wrote about it before on this very blog, but I also wrote this piece for the Guardian, entitled Tracing Cassini’s fiery death was like watching a heart monitor flatline, which was written immediately after negotiating my white-knuckled way down the hillside from the CDSCC site in Tidbinbilla after multiple warnings from staff about the propensity of local kangaroos to hurl themselves at passing cars.

One thing that I’d like to highlight was this bit:

“Half an hour before the signal was due to vanish, the skies above the complex cleared and everyone trooped outside to where the DSS43 was pointed at Saturn, which looked like an unusually bright star in the western sky. By this point, the data of the final transmission had passed the orbit of Jupiter and was heading towards that of Mars.”

And here’s a pic I took of that moment:

It was an amazing, once in a lifetime experience, and a much-needed reminder that we’re really pretty amazing when we work together on problems together, we humans.

Yours ever,



New article: Marriage Equality – a History of Avoidance

“This festival of dumbarsery began in 2004 when the government of John Howard decided to change the wording of the 1961 Marriage Act because it didn’t specify that the people being married could not be of the same gender. A line was added to make marriage “the union of a man and a woman to the exclusion of all others, voluntarily entered into for life”. And thus was an entirely avoidable political problem created.”

Even as you tick “yes” and send your voluntary survey ballot paper in THE VERY DAY you receive it, thanks, it’s important to remember the completely unnecessary bullshit that has brought us to this ugly point in Australian cultural and political history – and, importantly, the people who lied and keep lying to you about it.

That’s my new article at Rolling Stone Australia, Marriage Equality: A History of Avoidance.

PROGRAMMING NOTE: As anyone who listens to my’n’Dom Knight’s podcast The Double Disillusionists (available at Omny, or subscribe on iTunes) would be aware, the constant barrage of homophobic No arguments does a lot to send the message to LGBTIQ folks, especially young people, that they’re not welcome and not valued.

Therefore, I’m instituting a zero tolerance policy on my social media and this site: if you have a problem with marriage equality, you’re very welcome to rant about it somewhere else because I’m just going to delete anything hateful that’s submitted.

I don’t imagine that the sort of people wanting to check out an Andrew P Street website are huge No voters, to be honest, but in any case they don’t get to use my platform to spread their weird fears.

Yours ever,


The new book is done! DONE! It has a title! It’ll be out for Xmas!

Dear The Internet,

I learned a very valuable lesson this year, and it is this: don’t pick the first six months of your debut child’s life as the perfect time to write a new book.

My son is many things: cute as a button, utterly hilarious, filled with a variety of fluids, destined to rule this planet and so on, but he’s also proved remarkably time consuming. To be clear, this is something which people did mention to me before he turned up, and I correctly figured there’d probably be a steep learning curve that started literally the second he turned up, but I had a cavalier faith in my ability to manage my time and multitask because I am a fool.

Pictured: the things that informed the book, and the thing that was enormously and marvellously distracting during the writing of it.

However, the book is done – I just went through the final edits and was genuinely chuffed with how well it read. I’ll say this for writing 80k words in the throes of sleep deprivation: it meant I read the finished product with fresh eyes, since I had zero recollection of writing most of it.

I’ll be doing a revamp of this site once I have a release date and cover art and so on, but the short version is:

  • It’s called The Long And Winding Way To The Top: 50 (or so) Songs That Made Australia
  • As with my previous two books, it will be published by the good people of Allen & Unwin
  • It’s the story of 50 (or so) songs that shaped Australian culture, either by capturing a moment in our history or by changing the national conversation in some way
  • Almost all of the songs are brilliant, much loved favourites that are part of our shared cultural heritage
  • At least one of the songs is genuinely, irredeemably ghastly
  • I tried like hell to ram several of my favourite songs into it and failed because I have a noble dedication to critical objectivity, but I’m hoping that I’ll find some other way to go on and on and on about why Models are and were such a pivotal Australian band who have never gotten their due. Also the Hummingbirds. Also the Falling Joys. Also [goes on like this for some time]
  • It’ll be out for Xmas and it’s exactly what you should buy your parents/colleagues/neighbours/sibling/other person you’re obliged to get something for if you can’t think of anything else to buy them
  • At the very, very least it’ll make one hell of a playlist of great Australian tunes that will play in your head unbidden simply by reading the contents
  • Every chapter is about a standard toilet visit long
  • I’m obviously biased, but I’m really proud of it

Hopefully it’s something that a very casual music listener can flip through and still enjoy, and if you’re a fan of the artist in question you’ll still find something out that you didn’t know.

There’ll probably be events launching it around the place, about which I shall endeavour to post. But just a reminder: you’re welcome to follow me on Facebook and Twitter if you want to know what’s happening generally.

And now, to get back into normal day-to-day writing again. Say, anything interesting happened in politics lately?

Yours ever,



Cassini and I: a love story #GrandFinale

Dear the Internet,

Let me tell you about a somewhat one sided love story between an Australian writer and an interplanetary Flagship-class unmanned spacecraft.

I’ve written before about the way that the Cosmos series was pivotal for me and loomed large in the relationship between my father and I, how it became tangled up in my grief when he passed away in 1987, and how it ended up with Voyager-themed ink being permanently applied to my left arm.

See, by the time Cosmos was being made the Voyager spacecraft were only half way through their grand tour of the four giant planets of our solar system: they’d taken the first close up shots of Jupiter and then of Saturn, with Uranus and Neptune to come.

And those pictures of Saturn were mesmerising. Aside from being scientifically fascinating and the mission a triumph of human ingenuity, Saturn’s also just stunningly beautiful.

For me, like so many other people, Voyager 1 and 2 became symbolic of the finest human impulses. The thought of these two robotic emissaries rushing toward interstellar space, bearing a fragile message of hope (and music) seemed like the actions of an optimistic, inquisitive species to me. And, as I have previously written, there was also that resonance with my father – “a recognition that Voyager and Dad exist a long way away from where I am – one in space, the other in time – and that neither are ever coming back.”

But one spinoff was that it whet my interest in space probes more generally, and due partially because of the Saturn connection and mostly because it was a few months after the tenth anniversary of my father having lost his battle with leukemia, I poured a lot of grief-energy into learning about the Cassini-Huygens mission that was taking humanity back to Saturn.

It would take four years for Cassini to get from Earth to the ringed planet. Once there it would drop the Huygens lander on Titan (which was in itself astonishing: the one and only lander humans have successfully deployed beyond Mars) and then dedicate itself to sweeping through the Saturnian system to, among other things, take a whole bunch of photos. And god, how I wished that my father would be there to see them, which was to be something of a theme for the next few decades.

A very well-loved Voyager shot of Saturn, complete with blutack stains.

I logged every infrequent update in those early-internet times, wept at the gorgeous Van Gogh swirls of the Jupiter in the photographs it shot in 2000 during its slingshot path out of to Saturn, and rejoiced with completely indefensible joy when Cassini successfully carried out the Huygens landing and began taking the first close up pictures of Saturn’s moons and rings.

And it just didn’t stop: Cassini would finish one phase of its mission, still be completely operational, and then have its mission extended: when it got to the end of the Prime Mission in 2008, it was extended for another two years. And then another seven.

And during that period it was discovering more and more things about the marvellously dynamic Saturnian system (including seven new moons!), and thereby giving insights into how the solar system – and by extension we – might have formed out of the gas and dust surrounding the Sun five billion years ago.

And I very much appreciated the fact that when it took the heart-burstingly beautiful photograph of Earth through the rings – known as “the day the Earth smiled” – it just so happened to be my 41st birthday. You know, just in case I wasn’t already emotionally invested enough in this damn mission.

Yep. Annotated. ANNOTATED.

And this September Cassini ends almost 20 year odyssey by plunging into the atmosphere of Saturn to be vaporized, lest it collide with one of Saturn’s moons that might potentially harbour some form of life and really not need any Earthly contamination. And because of the way that the Earth is aligned, the mighty dish at the Canberra Deep Space Communication Complex will be picking up the final radio signals it ever sends*.

In other words, this mission I’ve been following since the beginning officially ends within driving distance of where I’m living.

So: it would mean a ridiculous amount to me to be there at the end to say goodbye to a friend that’s brought me so much joy and fascination for so very, very long.

And if you want to see me get overly emotional on Twitter live from the CDSCC, then here’s hoping I convince the good people there that I should be one of the invitees to cover the #GrandFinale live. And this is my case for inclusion.

Yours in Cassini-related hope,


*Well, technically that final radio signal will arrive about one hour and ten minutes after Cassini’s been silenced, since Saturn will be about 8.5 AU away from Earth at the time. But you know what I mean.

What’s the most significant Australian song?

Dear the Internet,

So it’s been a long, long while since I updated this site. And that reason for the silence is fairly straightforward. He looks like this:

My phone more or less exists entirely as a daily archive of JPS photos these days.

James Peter Street turned up on New Years Eve and has been busy being the best thing in the entire universe. And being awfully distracting from the many, many things his father has to do.

So, if you haven’t been following me on Twitter or Facebook – and you totally can do those things – you might assume that I’ve not been spending the fleeting hours when James is briefly asleep madly writing columns (such as the View from the Street column at the Sydney Morning Herald) and/or doing podcasts. But rest assured: that’s what’s been going on.

(Speaking of which: the next live recording of the Double Disillusionists podcast with m’self and the charming and erudite Dom Knight is at Redfern’s Giant Dwarf on Tuesday 2 May, with special guests Mark Humphries of SBS’s The Feed and the former premier of NSW, Kristina Kenneally! Tickets are on sale now, and if we do say so ourselves it’s going to be a great one.)

But on the subject of writing: I’m working on a book at the moment about Australian music – yes, the one that got mentioned about a year ago, before I got completely sidetracked by The Curious Story of Malcolm Turnbull – and I was wondering… what would you say was the most culturally significant Australian song ever?

Not necessarily your favourite, you understand – but the one that you think either changed things or signified a significant moment in our culture. ‘Treaty’? ‘Khe Sahn’? ‘Friday On My Mind’? ‘Cattle & Cane’? ‘Man Overboard’? ‘Down Under’? ‘Throw Your Arms Around Me’? ‘Shaddap You Face’?

The book, y’see, will be the 50(ish) songs that shaped Australia, and I’ve got a long, long list which I’m still winnowing down. And you, beloved reader, could be part of that process, either by making me feel better about my choices and/or reminding me of something I completely, bafflingly overlooked.

The comments are yours: what are the songs that shaped our nation?



My email to the Salvation Army, regarding their statement on Safe Schools

This email was sent to the Salvation army (nsc@aus.salvationarmy.org) on 5th December 2016. Since their statement regarding their non-support for the Safe Schools programme was made in public, I’ve decided to make mine public as well.

Dear Salvation Army email reader,

In these straitened times it’s hard to work out where an engaged citizen should send their charitable donations, and so I want to thank you for making that decision easier.

I have previously donated to the Salvation Army in recognition of your homeless outreach work, but that decision will be changed having read your public statement regarding Safe Schools.

safe-schools-logoIn this statement you make clear that the organisation does not support the programme on the grounds that it discriminates in favour of LGBTIQ children*: a baffling argument given that you simultaneously acknowledge that these children experience higher rates of bullying, self-harm and suicide in the previous paragraph.

To argue that an anti-bullying programme is inadequate because it helps the people disproportionately affected by bullying is a bizarre and inconsistent argument, and looks awfully like discrimination against people based on their sexuality and sexual identity.

It’s one thing to hold that opinion privately, but it’s quite another to make a public statement on the matter.

Clearly, the organisation wishes the public to take their position seriously and to make decisions on that basis, or you wouldn’t have issued a statement to this effect. And so I will respectfully take you at your word.

Therefore, I will no longer be supporting the Salvation Army.

There is nothing remotely Christlike about putting children at risk – an especially bad look, given the revelations in September of the Royal Commission into Institutional Responses to Child Sexual Abuse with regards your organisation’s historic failure to protect children.

I urge you to reconsider your position, but in the meantime I will be putting my resources toward organisations that do not put conditions on which children are worthy of love, respect, and protection.

Yours in disappointment,

Andrew P Street

*The statement declares “We believe the availability of support services for every vulnerable student including those identifying as LGBTIQ is vital. We also believe the provision of a government approved anti-bullying program needs to consider all high risk student groups.” Thus the criticism of Safe Schools appears to be that it doesn’t deal with other high risk groups – which the statement neglects to identify – in favour of the one high risk group which it explicitly acknowledges.

Come to our live Double Disillusionists thing! Also, other stuff!

Dear the Internet,

If you’re wondering whether the US election result is a bad thing or an absolutely catastrophic thing for Australia, then you’re definitely going to want to come join The Double Disillusionists – myself and Mr Dom Knight – at Giant Dwarf next Thursday (23rd Nov)!

The excitement of live entertainment!

Thrill to the excitement of the Double Disillusionists LIVE!

That’s where we’ll be unpicking the election in forensic-yet-hilarious style with two experts on the political game: Fairfax’s Jacqueline Maley and BuzzFeed’s Mark di Stefano! There’ll also be copies of Mark’s new book What A Time To Be Alive and my books as well, which will make Xmas shopping INCREDIBLY EASY.

(Speaking of my book, here’s a review of it!)

It’s one of the last things I’ll be doing before hunkering down for the arrival of li’l Chewbacca Smashmouth, so do come and say hi.

There’s also the Double Disillusionists podcast on Omny and iTunes, which ought to get you in the mood for the show, and also ROMANCE!

In other news: I’ve had a very writerly sort of a time of it lately. I’ve started serious work on book #3 (the music-related one that got pushed aside when Curious Malcolm began), so that’s going to take me merrily up to… um, whenever it’s done. I’ll probably have loads more for it than I can shove in the book, so I’ll start dumping leftover gems on this very site. Honest.

There’s been a bunch of non-column things lately too, like…

And here are the last few Fairfax columns as well, in case you’ve missed ’em: