Monday, July 31, 2006

Wishful thinking: an example

In today's bulletin from, TV writer Glen Dyer leads with an item about my near-contemporary and fellow-Taurus Jana Wendt (though that, unfortunately, is where the resemblance ends), host of Nine's Sunday program, and the rumours that she was next in line after Jessica "Saved By the Ultrasound" Rowe to be 'boned' by Eddie "Skating on Thin Ice" McGuire.

The heading, in bold, is Jana Sticks to Sunday. But on my first glance at it, I could have sworn (and was thrilled to think) that it said Jana Sticks It to Sunday.

Oh well.

Depends what you mean by 'f*cked'

Actor, alcoholic, devout Catholic and vicious anti-Semite Mel Gibson is reported to have said, after being arrested over the weekend for drunk driving, 'My life is f*cked.'

I dunno, Mel, I think your life was probably f*cked already.

Saturday, July 29, 2006

Alcibiades, the hemlock, please

(or, I Have Seen the Future and it's Not a Pretty Sight)

Reader, you may have wondered more than once what a mature, serious blogger like Pavlov's Cat, given to bittersweet feminist analysis and eggheaded discussions of mixed metaphor, iambic pentameter and so on, is doing with a saturated-musk-pink blog swarming with cute kitties and twee toons.

The answer, Reader, is that I had a bloody good look around the blogosphere before I dipped my toe in it (mixed metaphor alert, oops, too late) and was forcibly struck by the fact that blogging polarises the population in curious if unsurprising ways. Non-bloggers do know deep down in the murky recesses of their subconsciouses that the human world is divided with crystalline clarity along two intersecting axes -- men and women, and wingnuts and moonbats -- but it is only we bloggers who get our noses rubbed in this unsavoury fact on a daily basis.

Male wingnuts in their early 20s, of the kind to be found in their millions slavering over at the feet of T*m Bl**r and singled out for pre-emptive ticking-off by Twisty (see final paragraph of 'Notes for First-Time Vistors ...' section), would not -- if I may be allowed a particularly unpleasant mixed metaphor and cliche to boot -- touch a woman's blog with a barge pole except to spray, in either one way or the other.

This is because they fundamentally hate and fear women (and animals as well): hence the pink and the kittens, whose function is akin to that of Baygon surface spray or one of those gate signs that say 'Never mind the dog, beware of the owner.' The plan was that troll children like this, if they happened to stray into my territory, would take one look at the site, go EEEEWWWWW, call me a lot of really unpleasant sexist names that they can't spell properly, and then bugger off sharpish without leaving any steaming little piles in the Comments box.

I have put the asterisks and no link to the Bl**r blog because it's clear that he spends hours of every day autogoogling and would be sending his moronic minions over here in swarms within ten minutes. I know this because it has happened to poor Jessculture.

And here's a sample:

"I'm young (<30), born again Christian, conservative, married, 4 kids & loving wife.

We are the future."

Now, I'm glad that this upright young sausage has a belief system of sorts and that his wife loves him. That's nice. But I can only hope he realises, soon enough for it to drive him completely nuts, that his four kids will swing the political pendulum back the other way again and rebel against his every belief, just as his own generation has done. I'd like to see that. I'd like it so much that I might even hold off on the hemlock for a while longer.

Thursday, July 27, 2006

Eureka Lemon, Tahitian Lime

Taking advantage of the clear weather (or, as some doom-and-gloom merchants are already calling it, 'the drought'), I spent a couple of hours in the garden today addressing the horticultural mayhem and manufacturing a bit of Vitamin D. It may be the latter that's making me feel so cheerful but I think it's more just gardening in general. I don't know about being 'nearer God's heart in a garden /than anywhere else on earth' -- but I certainly always feel nearer to my own.

Or it could have been the highly satisfactory bloodletting of the Texas Pruning Saw Massacre. I've been a bit conservative with the pruning of the climbing roses over the last few years and the result is a bunch of knots and nodes too high up, sprouting lots of pathetic little stems going in no particular direction. Not any more -- I just sawed them all off.

My late lamented Ma taught me how to prune, and now I just rip into plants with manic confidence that it will do them whole bunches of good. Certainly the fuchsia -- the one a few feet from the place where, five years after her death, I found the precious gold earring she lost there the day I bought the house -- is responding brilliantly to being cut back to less than half its former size. Don't believe the people who tell you never to cut into old wood.

When I'm pruning I commune with my mother, who got first go at the heavily under-pruned garden the first winter I lived here and indeed the only winter I had with her after I moved back to Adelaide: I swear I can feel her guiding hand on my wrist and hear her voice saying 'No, not there -- here.' She had a lighter touch than mine (she had a lighter touch than anyone's: a baker of perfect sponge cakes in a wood stove in her early life and she just kept improving from there) and I think a few of things I did with the secateurs today would have made her put her head in her hands and moan.

Wherever I went today in the garden I just kept thinking 'This place is a poem' (though in a different mood I could just as easily have been thinking 'This place is a shambles'), and so, inspired by Elsewhere's reading challenge, I have set myself a Writing Challenge. I am going to write a sonnet -- fourteen lines of iambic pentameter, at least, but it'll have to be blank verse because rhyming is in this case beyond me -- consisting entirely of the names of things in the garden.


Eureka lemon tree, Tahitian lime.
Three bottle-brushes and a Banksia rose,
low-flying blackbirds, magpies, a few gulls.
Camellias, bougainvillea and thyme,
some jasmine, snowdrops, rosemary and sage.
A lot of lavender, an apple tree,
some pigeons, sparrows, starlings, flowering gums,
a morning-glory vine and some sweet peas.
Anemones, ranunculi and ferns,
a wagtail, honey-eaters making nests,
a crow, a spider plant, a dragon tree.
A blood-red kangaroo-paw in the sun,
some little purple pansies in the shade.
About five thousand rainbow lorikeets.

How did I miss this one?

The only possible explanation for my not having explored this extraordinary woman's blog till now is that its name made me want to chew my own hand off. Why would a weight-liftin', furniture-paintin', conservative-bashin', sexist-trashin', totally-out-there woman like this want to build a self-deprecating joke about her perfectly good age, her ideal age (ahem), into the actual name of her blog?

Wednesday, July 26, 2006

Sign of the Week

Today I came as close as I ever have to squandering some of my hard-earned on a brand-new and reasonably good digital camera, something I'd never hankered after until I took up blogging in earnest. And here's what brought this on: I was driving home from the supermarket when a sign outside an old house, in the process of being pulled down, caught my eye. It said


Well, yes, I thought. So it is. Demolition work is indeed in progress.

But I've got a nasty sinking feeling that that isn't what the signwriter meant to say.

Monday, July 24, 2006

Define "hurt"

... the situation in Iraq is very bad and it keep getting worse with every new day, it made my parents decide to leave Iraq heading to the UAE, and to keep my self from getting hurt I have to leave my country, my family, my friends, and my cats ...

-- Raghda Zaid, Baghdad Girl, 28/6/06

Saturday, July 22, 2006

Blogger stats: how do you rate?

Heh, sucked in -- I'm not talking about visitors and page views, but about blogging habits and beliefs. Here's a study that got from the Pew Internet Project (US) and that I got from them, interleaved with meme-type answers to see how typical I am.

8% of internet users, or about 12 million American adults, keep a blog
Hmm ... I keep two and contribute to a third. Overkill, I think.

39% of internet users, or about 57 million American adults, read blogs
Rabidly, and to the detriment of other things, like housework.

60% of bloggers are white (compared with 74% of all internet users); 11% are African American (compared with 9% of internet users); 19% are English-speaking Hispanic (compared with 11%); 10% identify as some other race (compared with 6%)
Yep, Anglo-Celtic white bread through and through.

54% of bloggers are male
I'm in the 46%. That's a heartening figure, though; I would have expected it to be lower.

54% of bloggers are under the age of 30; 30% are between 30 and 50 years old; 14% of bloggers fall in the 50 to 64 age group; 2% are 65 or older
Hmm, in the 14%.

51% of bloggers reside in suburban areas

46% blog under their own name
At my other blog, yes.

54% of bloggers say that they have never published their writing or media creations anywhere else; 44% say they have published elsewhere
Sigh, in the minority again.

34% of bloggers consider their blog a form of journalism; 65% of bloggers do not
With the majority here. I think of it (at least the way I do it) as a form of communication, a form of meditation, a form of mental/writerly exercise, and a form of play. But I think that for bloggers to aspire to the condition of journalism shows a lack of imagination. It's a shocking waste of the medium and its potential.

57% of bloggers include links to original sources either “sometimes” or “often”.
Often -- I do believe it's usually a breach of copyright not to.

56% of bloggers spend extra time trying to verify facts they want to include in a post either “sometimes” or “often”.
Always. Extensive academic training means I think God will strike me dead if I don't fact-check.

79% of bloggers have a broadband connection at home (compared with 62% of all internet users)
Yep -- the phone bill is now about a third of what it used to be.

84% of bloggers go online daily
Yes, it's like caffeine. If I go without, I start to twitch.

95% of bloggers get news from the internet and 71% say they do so on a typical day.
Not all my news - a typical day also includes radio, TV and papers.

55% of bloggers get news from email newsletters or list-servs and 34% do so on a typical day (compared with 48% of broadband users)
Yep. Crikey, New Matilda, Age, NY Times, Washington Post.

15% of bloggers report money as a reason for their blog-keeping, and just 7% call making money a major reason
Hahahahahahaha ... I am losing money, by blogging when I should be working.

13% of bloggers have more than 100 hits a day, though a handful in this group has much larger traffic level.
Only on a good day.

87% of bloggers allow comments on their blog.
'A blog without comments isn't a blog, it's a website.' I'd link to the original source if I could remember who said it.

9% of bloggers have had their blog mentioned by the news media.

35% believe that their readers are mostly people they have never met.
Maybe not in person, but I think my regular readers (all three of them) know me much better than many of the people I 'know' socially.

Friday, July 21, 2006

The important things in life

Pausing only to point out that yes I do know what's happening in the world, and no, I don't think that anything I have to say will help, I'm going to move right along to something uplifting: Ampersand Duck's Five Things Meme!

In my handbag

* Spare car key (for when I lock myself out of the car, which I do more frequently than I would like)
* Industrial strength painkillers
* Small tube of Prescriptives concealer, of a shade matched to my skin tone, which you can't get any more in Adders since they downscaled DJs and pretended it was an upgrade
* Superfine black pen
* Three different pairs of prescription glasses, which is what happens when you can't tolerate either glare or graduated lenses

In my fridge

* Tulip bulbs (deep-burgundy-to-black) I should have planted ages ago
* Brussels sprouts I should have eaten ages ago (I like Brussels sprouts, it's just an oversight)
* Half a bottle each of Brown Brothers Pinot Grigio and Fox Creek Semillon/Sauvignon Blanc
* Half a jar of Yackandandah Morello Sour Cherry jam
* Half a lemon

In my closet (except that what I have is more properly called a wardrobe)

* A beautiful Indonesian paper parasol I don't have room to display, and Chinese fan ditto
* A bronze, silver and black scarf/shawl, figured velvet on gossamer-weight black silk georgette with a silk fringe, that I bought in Vienna
* A leather jacket of very soft matte black with a silk lining that I bought many years and far too many kilos ago and cannot bear to get rid of
* Some black fingerless mittens knitted for me by my mum
* Possibly a ratbag tortoiseshell cat, depending

In my car

* A small bottle of Jurlique rose refresher spray
* Three boxes of books I keep meaning to take to the second-hand man
* A Red Cross first aid kit
* A straw hat
* A brown, cream and black plaid woollen blanket with fringes

In my bathroom cabinet

Four different kinds of hair 'product', none of which is satisfactory
Five pairs of nail scissors, yes it's a mystery to me too
Tea tree oil
Chanel No. 5
A packet of band-aids with cartoon characters on them

If winter comes, can spring be far behind?

How do I know Spring is coming?

Because the naughtier cat's very very long-haired palm-frond tail is all wet and bedraggled.

Why is the naughtier cat's very very long-haired palm-frond tail all wet and bedraggled?

Because she has been sitting on the kitchen windowsill while the sink was full of hot water, detergent and dishes.

Why has she been sitting on the kitchen windowsill?

Because just outside the kitchen window, two honey-eaters are building a nest in the tangle of jasmine, rosemary, bougainvillea, passionfruit vine and climbing rose.

Why is there a tangle?

Because I didn't do the pruning in time, before they began to nest, and of course I can't possibly prune that stretch of the fence now. And besides:

I know a bank where the wild thyme blows,
Where oxlips and the nodding violet grows,
Quite over-canopied with luscious woodbine,
With sweet musk-roses, and with eglantine;
There sleeps Titania sometime of the night,
Lull'd in these flowers with dances and delight.

Thursday, July 20, 2006

Feral child

I read this story in a rather cheerful hard-nosed way till I got about halfway down Page 2, but there is something quite unbearable about the end.

I wonder if the researcher types, concentrating on the 'raised by dogs' differential, have attended properly to such other variables as foetal alcohol syndrome. Or genetic material, or cultural considerations. And I wonder most of all what moves a creature of one species -- not always female -- to mother a creature of another. Surely dogs kept by a family this degraded would have been more likely to eat a three-year-old child than to look after her.

Wednesday, July 19, 2006

Adelaide Icons #1: The Balfours Frog Cake

Image from the Encyclopedia of South Australian Culture.

Never mind the bollocks, read the books

In the wake of the weekend kerfuffle over Patrick White, Laura at Sarsaparilla has proposed a Virtual Patrick White Reading Circle to get the focus back onto the important place: White's novels themselves. Big Brother-style voting will take place tonight at Sarsaparilla to decide which book will be chosen to read.

Early indications are that most people would rather not read Voss. Bunch of sissies.

Tuesday, July 18, 2006

It's just not right

The David Jones Food Hall is a wonderful place, but I saw something in it today that I found, well, disturbing.

I'm a purist about quiche. The most adventurous I'm prepared to get about quiche is something involving smoked salmon; anything wilder than that is just sad. Asparagus and spinach, two of my favourite veg when properly cooked (ie steamed for a minute and then eaten with a small amount of butter), are disgusting in quiche.

But this one was even worse. I mean, I believe in fusion, and in imaginative combinations, but ... roast chicken and leek curry quiche???

When I saw that sign on the sad little pie in the refrigerator cabinet I went all faint and had to go get a macchiato in a hurry.

Sunday, July 16, 2006

So, did Marilyn wax?

I patched another tiny hole in the ragged fishnet that is my movie knowledge last night when I finally watched Legally Blonde, which happened to be on the teeve and in which my interest, previously nil, had been piqued by Reese Witherspoon's more recent, and excellent, turn as Becky Sharp in Vanity Fair.

Couldn't help thinking of the recent populous and protracted discussion over at LP about Brazilians and the pros and cons of female pubic nakedness when I realised why there was such insistent hammering in the movie on the name of Elle's sorority. Does this mean that 'Brazilian' somehow signified 'West Coast' in the US in 2001?

'Delta Nu' is a very East Coast joke.

Friday, July 14, 2006

14 juillet

Around this time nine years ago, I was working up to a huge life change. I made it a few days later, and have never regretted it. And I can't help thinking that the storming of the Bastille was in the back of my mind at the time. Some things just have to be done by force.

I've made July 14 my day for personal Bastille-storming ever since. Mind you, very few interior Bastilles can be completely torn down in one day. And one would hope not to make quite this much mess.

Wednesday, July 12, 2006

Would you buy a used car from this word?

'Brazil's Globo television also employed lip-reading experts, who concluded Materazzi had twice told Zidane his sister was a "whore", before directing "a coarse word" at him.'


So what's whore, chopped liver?


(Quotation from here.)

Liveblogging Kathy Reichs

1351 (CST): I'm pleased to report that the plot has picked up. As has the Ro-mance sub-plot.

Just as well.

Tuesday, July 11, 2006

Thoughts on crime fiction with utterly inappropriate illustration

Thanks to my friend Lynne from a choir I used to be in (that's us in the back row, her third and me fourth from the left) (hi Lynne), I have learned of a hitherto unfamiliar and absolutely cracking new crime fiction writer, a leggy British blonde by the name of Mo Hayder: so far I've read Pig Island, which was gruesome and which ended with the plot poisonously flicking its tail after the manner of Minette Walters, and Tokyo, which was even more gruesome and which engaged with the Japanese invasion of Nanking and massacre of the citizens thereof in 1937. If you've got a strong stomach, she's really, really good.

On the down side, I don't know what has happened to Kathy Reichs but her sentences and paragraphs are getting shorter and shorter and more and more annoying, probably in a misguided attempt to make her character Tempe Brennan appear more 'sassy', a word the use of which I think should be punishable by five years in the company of, oh, maybe Madonna? I suspect there's some New York editor telling her to break it up and make it all snappier, which is idiotic when you think that Reichs's greatest strength is the intelligence and depth of first-hand knowledge and experience of forensic pathology, a topic that cries out for explanation, explication and meditation.

So her new novel -- I can't even remember the title except that it has 'Bones' in it again -- is so far disappointing, because there are more and more of these two-word paragraphs of first-person narration from an increasingly irritating Brennan who is barely recognisable as the heroine of Reichs's first four or five books.

To the best of my knowledge, no crime was committed anywhere in the vicinity on the night this photograph was taken, although rumour had it there was a fifty-million dollar public liability insurance policy to cover what might happen if 250 people, a grand piano, smaller but equally precious instruments without number, and/or an awful lot of microphones and lights somehow fell off the barge into the water. It's Easter Saturday night 2005, and by the end of the concert a huge buttermilk-coloured Easter moon was rising across the river.

Sunday, July 09, 2006

I Am Spam

Suddenly both Sarsaparilla and Larvatus Prodeo (see 'links') have decided, or rather their spam filters have decided, that anything at all from me is destined for the great spam can in the sky. I know that this is about some chance combination of letters and/or numbers and nothing more, but words cannot describe the sense of desolation and personal rejection it nonetheless engenders, to say nothing of paranoia. So this post is a test to see whether even my own blog doesn't want me...

Saturday, July 08, 2006

Is there life after death?

Listening, as is my wont, to 'Talkback Gardening' on local ABC radio as I drove into town this morning, I heard a woman ring up and ask some staggeringly esoteric question about her espaliered apple tree, which was grafted so it produced three different kinds of apples. I didn't even know you could espalier an apple tree, and listened in fascination as the presenter struggled with a verbal explanation of what was essentially a visual problem.

And I was reminded by this conversation that there is a special little section in the Adelaide Botanical Gardens where they've got a sort of mini-garden of espaliered plants: I've got a dim memory of ripe lemons against a warm brick wall in the sun, a spectrum of golds and butters and terracottas and glossy greens. And I thought 'I really must take Ma to see that some time, she'd love it ... Oh, wait.'

My mum died in 1999.

Friday, July 07, 2006

Friday Mogblogging

"There is a mystery about the birth of those kittens. There were seven. One, a white kit -- and it is painful to think how beautiful a cat he would have been -- she pushed out of the nest, and it was found dead a couple of days later ... And she pushed out another, too, a little tabby. I left it for half a day, cold and unfed, thinking I must stop my sentimentality, grieving about nature's choices: if she had thrown him out then who was I etc. but I could not bear it, hearing his feeble mews, and I put him back among the others, and there were six thriving kits. Susie, then, had an ambiguous attitude to those kittens. Seven, she had clearly thought, were too many, and even six were. She had not been prepared to mother more than five kittens, and certainly when the six were rampaging around my room one could see her point.

I am saying that this cat could count, and if she was not thinking one, two, three, four, five, then she knew the difference between five and seven. Most scientists would dispute this, I'm pretty sure. That is, as scientists they would dispute it, but as owners of cats, probably not. It is interesting, watching a scientist friend talk about cat capacities that he would officially deny. His cat is always in the window waiting for him to come home, he says, but wearing his other hat, says animals have no sense of time, they live in an eternal now. He may go on to say that if he is not expected home, the cat is not there, but this takes him into regions he finds intolerable."

Doris Lessing, The Old Age of El Magnifico

Thursday, July 06, 2006

World without feminism, part 2

Never thought I'd hear myself saying this, but perhaps Chinese foot-binding's not so bad. The real killer in this linked article is the third-to-last paragraph.

Shoot me now.

Pomo relativism hits Athens of South: moral decay imminent

I had a letter (yes, a letter! In an envelope addressed in handwriting) today from an Adelaide-born friend who's currently in London. She enclosed a BM postcard of a Michelangelo head and a fortnight-old cutting from Column 8 of the Sydney Morning Herald that she'd been carting around Europe with her waiting for a spare moment to send it:

'"While flying the world-renowned Xiamen Airlines from Wuhan to Hangzhou, China, yesterday, I read an interesting article (the only one in English) in the in-flight magazine about 'The Athens of the South'," writes Vicki Steven. "Apparently Adelarde (sic) is a city of 'many different ethical origins'." Ah! Finally we have confirmation of what many have long suspected.'

Oh hardy har.

Sydders, of course, is a model of urban rectitude.


Wednesday, July 05, 2006

And this is what a world without feminism looks like

I can't decide for the life of me which of the characters in this story I should be most enraged with, including those shadowy behind-the-scenes types who enlist and train the US Army.

There are just too many good candidates to choose from.

As you can see.

Ya gotta love the old girl

Update: original photo removed and replaced, by popular demand!

Germaine Greer, herself a short-lived former contestant on the UK version of Big Brother, has, as always, some diamond-bright words to say:

'Australia's prime minister, John Howard, sensing a heaven-sent opportunity to be seen leading the nation, provided the inevitable comment: "I think it is just a question of good taste. Here is a great opportunity for Channel Ten to do a bit of self-regulation and get this stupid programme off the air." As if. This pious hope was converted by the media into the PM "demanding a ban" on Big Brother. The tabloids pretended that they believed that Howard actually knew what he was talking about.

... Endemol Southern Star, which makes the BB series in Australia, had suffered a serious blow when its adults-only version of the show was taken off air, apparently, after complaints about "excessive nudity". Endemol does not respond to complaints from viewers; it was probably the advertisers who pulled the plug. A phony scandal of the sort provided by John, Camilla and Ashley was just what was needed to pump up viewing figures for the tamer version of the show.

... Last September, Big Brother was found to have breached broadcast standards for the massage footage. Network Ten responded by announcing that "this year's housemates will be taught how to avoid sexual harassment and bullying". Words, like everything else on Big Brother, are cheap.

... One of the mysteries of Big Brother is just how much money is made by telephone voting and who really gets it.

... When Pete was sexually harassed by a woman in the current series of British BB nobody thought it anything but funny. Nobody seems to regard the British women's unremitting sexual display as harassment of the men (who seem, it must be said, unmoved). Meanwhile, much is made of the vulnerability of certain of the housemates who are thought to be mentally ill, when in fact all the housemates are being driven crazy.'

Read the whole excellent thing here. And, since we live in a world where one must look good in order to be heard -- is this some diseased form of synaesthesia? -- here's Greer in her prime.

Tuesday, July 04, 2006

Seasonal Affective Disorder

Is everyone else completely, totally and utterly fed up with about five minutes of chilly daylight per day, during which, as during the other 23 hours and 55 minutes, the cold eats unceasingly into one's bones, or is it just me?

And yet, and yet ... When I came out of the supermarket yesterday at 5.55 pm, it was not yet quite dark, as it certainly would have been at the same time two weeks ago. It was so cold that moisture had already condensed and begun to run off the roof of the car, but also so clear that over on the northwestern horizon, above the sea, there was still a subdued navy-through-azure-to-gold-pink sort of glowy effect, against which the ancient architectural lines of the Greek Orthodox church and the sharp shapes of palm trees sat like black satin cut-outs.

It was gorgeous. It was so gorgeous I forgot, for half a second, to be cold.

Monday, July 03, 2006

It pays to increase your word power

I've learned two new expressions in the last week: 'boned', meaning 'f*cked' but, like its synonym 'shafted', being used metaphorically, as in 'f*cked over' (and don't you just love it that there's a certain kind of man who sees nothing unusual in this word having both of those meanings, much as the c-word is the most vicious insult they can think of) and 'turkey slap', meaning 'flap your nasty flaccid florid little penis in some other poor fool's face'.

I come from the young end of the generation that's now being blamed for the current wave of yoof's diseased attitude to sex, as manifested in the BB controversy. But in my own yoof, as I remember it, one engaged in sexual activity only with people that one liked. And while one was having sex with them, one was nice to them.

Some thoughts on the Big Brother kerfuffle

Not that I've been watching this series, but hey, the world is full of people who don't let their complete ignorance of a topic prevent them from having an opinion. So ...

When I first heard about this yesterday, I took it for granted that it was a staged and ratings-grabbing exercise for which the participants would no doubt be rewarded in some unpublicised way.

Having read some of the reports this morning, I'm now not so sure. The bigger picture is that BB contestants are obviously selected for their combination of youth, hotness, stupidity, narcissism and potential for sexual and emotional upheaval of one kind or another. (As somebody has pointed out, of course they are selected for these qualities, as one does not wish to watch BB and be bored by the behaviour of a bunch of non-exhibitionist, well-regulated and well-controlled housemates.)

That being the case, the show rides along a sharp and narrow ridge where unchecked savagery (I use the word in the anthropological sense, as of a rampant and unmediated Id) meets the 'strict BB rules'. The entertainment factor of the show has its heart at the place where the potential for sexual and emotional anarchy meets a bunch of regulations set to stop the House just short of that anarchy. And in the meantime, management titillates it towards that unbalanced point all the time, as with the idiotic instructions about Camilla having to kiss Ashley and Ashley having to resist and so on and so, mindlessly, forth.

Yes, it's immoral -- not in the wowser way that people are fretting about this morning, for my view here is that the young people can amuse themselves any way they want, as long as I don't have to watch them doing it or pay the cleaners, but because it's a ruthless, cynical, greedy, exploitative exercise in making money for the producers and their shareholders. This unsavoury show is about exploiting the character weaknesses of a bunch of young morons who are deeply imbued with this country's current (sexist, conservative, consumerist, hypocritical) values and pushing them unrelentingly to their various well-defined limits so that slick older people behind the scenes can make as much money as possible. Every now and then, with so dangerous a formula, it's going to blow up in their faces.

So to speak.

And if young Camilla had had her wits about her, she would have used her teeth, pled self-defence, and given every sub-editor in the country a field day thinking up headlines.

Sunday, July 02, 2006

Now that's what I call a sentence

This is what people mean when they talk about the fusion of style and substance. Here's a character we've only just met, on page 13 of Jonathan Franzen's The Corrections: the elderly Alfred Lambert, sufferer from Parkinson's Disease, is standing in his bedroom, wondering why the dresser drawers are open and whether he opened them himself, when his wife suddenly appears in the doorway and asks him what he's doing.

Look at the control of grammar, punctuation, metaphor, interiority and free-association linear and non-linear that are all going on simultaneously in this marathon sentence. And think how many pages of careful characterisation a less skilled writer would have to produce to convey the same amount of information about Alfred Lambert: his age, his health, his wife Enid, his anxieties, his personal history and his much-disquieted and foggy state of mind.

'He began a sentence: "I am --" but when he was taken by surprise, every sentence became an adventure in the woods; as soon as he could no longer see the light of the clearing from which he'd entered, he would realize that the crumbs he'd dropped for bearings had been eaten by birds, silent deft darting things which he couldn't quite see in the darkness but which were so numerous and swarming in their hunger that it seemed as if they were the darkness, as if the darkness weren't uniform, weren't an absence of light but a teeming and corpuscular thing, and indeed when as a studious teenager he'd encountered the word 'crepuscular' in McKay's Treasury of English Verse, the corpuscles of biology had bled into his understanding of the word, so that for his entire adult life he'd seen in twilight a corpuscularity, as of the graininess of the high-speed film necessary for photography under conditions of low ambient light, as of a kind of sinister decay; and hence the panic of a man betrayed deep in the woods whose darkness was the darkness of starlings blotting out the sunset or black ants storming a dead opossum, a darkness that didn't just exist but actively consumed the bearings that he'd sensibly established for himself, lest he be lost; but in the instant of realizing he was lost, time became marvelously slow and he discovered hitherto unguessed eternities in the space between one word and the next, or rather he became trapped in that space between words and could only stand and watch as time sped on without him, the thoughtless boyish part of him crashing on out of sight blindly through the woods while he, trapped, the grownup Al, watched in oddly impersonal suspense to see if the panic-stricken little boy might, despite no longer knowing where he was or at what point he'd entered the woods of this sentence, still manage to blunder into the clearing where Enid was waiting for him, unaware of any woods -- "packing my suitcase," he heard himself say.'