Wednesday, January 31, 2007

@#$%& feral mongrel doorbitch

Profuse apologies to anyone who is having as much trouble with the Blogger Word Verification Thingy, whenever you try to leave a comment, as I am having myself -- it keeps telling me the letters are wrong even when I know perfectly well they're right, and it takes me two or three tries to get into my own comments box.

Blogger reckon the new version is 'out of Beta', but I think they're having themselves on.

Tuesday, January 30, 2007

Late Australia Day Meme

In response to popular demand, ie two people have said it would be kind of nice, and as a late gesture to Australia Day, I here reprise the Australian Literature meme I made up and posted over at A Fugitive Phenomenon shortly after I took up blogging. It's been tweaked a bit, but most of my answers are the same as they were in December 2005 -- nice to think there are some things I'm consistent about.


1) Which Australian poem are you most confident you could recite from memory?

Gwen Harwood's 'Suburban Sonnet' -- only because Robyn Archer set it to music and I used to have the album ('Wild Girl in the Heart', title taken from a Dorothy Hewett poem). We're talking vinyl here.

2) Which of the Seven Little Australians are you?

Bunty. No question.

3) Which is your favourite Patrick White novel?

The Eye of the Storm.

4) Which is the best Patrick White novel?

Gah. Um -- A Fringe of Leaves or The Tree of Man, I think. [UPDATE: I don't know what I was thinking about here. Clearly the answer to this question is Voss.

This week.]

5) Which Australian fictional/dramatic/poetic character do you fancy most?

There's a sailor in a Dorothy Hewett poem called 'Go Down Red Roses' that I always rather liked the sound of.

6) And which do you identify with most?

Shannon in Ride On Stranger.

7) If you had to read five Australian poems to a heterogeneous unknown audience, which five would you choose?

John Shaw Neilsen's 'The Orange Tree', Gig Ryan's 'If I Had a Gun', all of Kenneth Slessor's 'Five Bells', all of Les Murray's 'The Buladelah-Taree Holiday Song Cycle', and all of Judith Wright's 'The Shadow of Fire: Ghazals' ("There's altogether too much I know nothing about.").

And I'd allow breaks for meals.

8) Which five Australian books would you take to a desert island?

Voss, Come In Spinner, Carmel Bird's Penguin Century of Australian Stories, David Marr's bio of P White, Nadia Wheatley's ditto of Charmian Clift. This is about memory -- these are the books that would elicit the greatest breadth, depth and variety of memories to contemplate as I sat on the beach getting skin cancer.

9) If you were a guest at Don’s Party, would you be
(a) naked in the pool
(b) upstairs having sex
(c) outside having sex
(d) sulking with a headache
(e) huddled round the TV
(f) crying
(g) more than one of the above (please specify)
(h) other (please specify)

(g), namely (d), (e) and (f) -- I'd be huddled round the TV with a headache, sulking and crying.

10) Tim Winton or Christos Tsiolkas?

Gotta be Christos.

11) Banjo Paterson or Henry Lawson?

Gotta be Henry.

12) Henry Lawson or Barbara Baynton?

Gotta be Barbara. The blacker of two options, every time.

13) What’s the worst thing you’ve ever seen at a writers’ festival?

Edmund White saying to a fellow-panelist as they climbed onto the stage to do their thing: 'What is it that we're supposed to be talking about?'

Yet another missed opportunity

I don't know. Reahlly I don't.

I bought a digital camera for a very specific reason: to enhance and improve this blog and have even more fun with it than I already do.

So far, so good. What I have to do now is remember to actually take it with me when I go places where I might see things that would make good blog posts.

Things like the sign in the supermarket this afternoon that said


Monday, January 29, 2007

Doesn't think much of his fellow Australians, does he?

Tony Abbott, the Minister for Forcing Everybody Else to Fall Into Line with His Own Personal Belief System, appears to believe that many of his fellow Australians are potential murderers:

'"If euthanasia were legalised there's a whole range of old people who would suddenly be at risk of being bumped off," Mr Abbott told The Age.'

Has anyone noticed him applying that sort of bogeyman-on-the-slippery-slope argument to, say, nuclear power? No, I thought not. He's also wilfully ignoring the fact that voluntary euthanasia is the only kind that anyone is advocating -- that is, he's assuming he can control the populace by playing on their ignorance and fear.

As long as voluntary euthanasia isn't legalised, Minister, there's a whole range of old people who are not just 'at risk' of acute physical and mental suffering, but are experiencing it 24/7, sometimes for years and years on end.

But you, no doubt, would just say that suffering was good for their souls.

Friday, January 26, 2007

It's a fail, but it could be worse.

And it's a hell of a lot better than I was expecting to do on Geoffrey Chaucer's Medieval Trivia Quiz, let me tell you. Stephanie will be proud of me. Well, proudish.

Ye are 43% proficient in medievale trivia.

A pretty good attempte. Peraventure ye knowe much of the middel ages, but nat of thes topiques. After al, thys quiz is fairlye specific. It hath no thing concerning Germany, for ensaumple. Cursid be my ignorance!

The Gret Quizz of Medievale Trivia
Quiz Created on GoToQuiz

Thanks to Christine Keeler via Barista.*

*I'm trying and failing to imagine what a non-blogger might make of this sentence.

Thursday, January 25, 2007


Australian of the Year

Tim Flannery. Gotta love it.

Australian Open First Men's Semi

Roger Federer, who humiliated Andy Roddick in straight sets in less than 90 minutes, and who during his on-court post-match interview with Jim Courier was not even sweating.

For the record

Word has it that I am being traduced and misrepresented at various points around the blogosphere. How excitement!

But as I seem to have upset several people with Tuesday's post on the implications of the PM's re-naming of the Department of Immigration and Citizanship (DIC, formerly DIMA, formerly DIMIA), and it has resulted in libellous misrepresentations of my views in ways and places I can't control, let me make a couple of things clear.

I did not call John Howard 'a racist'.

I did not claim, nor did I imply, that he had actually used the word 'assimilation'.

What I said was

(a) that his policy was assimilationist, which it is. Short of stopping immigration altogether, assimilation is the only thing left, by a process of elimination, after you erase the alternative, 'multicultural', from the name and the policy of the department in question,


(b) that assimilation was essentially a racist policy, which it is. 'Assimilate: to absorb, to become absorbed, incorporated ... to become or cause to become similar'. What this means is the erasure of cultural difference, and cultural difference sometimes, though not always, includes racial difference. A desire to erase racial difference would seem to me to indicate a negative attitude to it.

A quick look at the post in question should confirm the accuracy of both (a) and (b). But I do admit, with shame, to having optimistically assumed that these things were understood without me having to spell them out, and that people would be able to follow the argument. One would hope that the people reading one's blog can, in fact, read, but it seems this isn't always the case.

UPDATE: Oh and another thing: I would be very interested to see any of the people who called that post 'drivel', 'stupid', 'prejudice', 'nonsense', 'wankery' or 'deception' (deception? que?) explain clearly and in detail just exactly what they think Howard's reasons were for the last two changes in this department's name. Go on. As the PM himself would be proud to say, have a go.

Thomas Harris, eat your heart out

This is a frilled shark.


It is, say the news reports of a recent sighting and catch of one of these creatures, rarely seen. This is because it lives in the deepest darkest depths of the deepest darkest bits of the deep dark ocean.

Half-shark half-eel, the frilled shark is a cannibalistic bottom-feeder that eats other sharks.

It has evolved very little since prehistoric times.

"Rarely seen", eh? These people clearly don't spend a lot of time in the blogosphere.

Tuesday, January 23, 2007

Prime Minister kills two linguistic birds with one stone

John Howard has always hated the word 'multiculturalism' and has grabbed his chance to erase it from the country's vocabulary:

The PM also announced he would rename the Department of Immigration and Multicultural Affairs the Department of Immigration and Citizenship.

Yes, the former Department of Immigration and Multicultural Affairs -- product of an earlier erasure in which the word 'Indigenous' had been likewise obliterated --- was most recently known by the acronym DIMA (pronounced DIMMER, at least by me). It has been replaced as of today by 'Department of Immigration and Citizenship' and I am quite sure is already being referred to as DIC.

And, as I've said over at LP, I am sure that they will proceed to wave it, along with the flag.

Could this have been a deliberate longterm two-step plan to bid a symbolic good riddance to formal acknowledgement first of Aboriginal people and then of any reference to any culture other than Australia's narrow grey outgrowth of 1950s Anglo-Saxon dreariness, to which the PM has been systematically attempting to return us for eleven years now?

But wait, there's more:

The whole purpose of immigration is to recruit more people to the broader Australian family,'' Mr Howard said.

Oh, that's clever. Propose assimilation, a fundamentally racist policy that has been comprehensively and internationally outdated and discredited, and then dress it up with the 'family' reference, by which, as we all know, the PM means hubby, wife and 2.4 children, in that order. Two bits of reactionary rhetoric in one sentence.

I wonder whether it's all his own work.

Saturday, January 20, 2007

Saturday Cityblogging: Adelaide Central Market

This is one of the places I drag interstate and overseas visitors to. I remember it from the time I was in high school, when the dominant cultural influences in South Australia, other than Anglo-Celtic, were German (a huge influence in SA since early settlement, when the state, founded by idealists, was a haven for religious refugees) plus Italian and Greek, by far the two biggest ethnic groups to end up in Adelaide in the postwar wave of immigration.

The Central Market in those days was where you went for imported groceries. There was an ornately fronted continental-cake shop run by a Viennese woman with whom our German teacher had an arrangement: every now and then for our German lesson we'd walk down to the market from school, which was less than 100 metres up the street, and buy a cake each. We had to ask for it in perfect, polite German before she'd hand it over.

It's got bigger and bigger over the years. Adelaide's Chinatown now kind of melts into it. There's a stall that sells Russian food. People queue up in droves to buy Asian greens. You can buy artisanal cheeses from the Adelaide Hills, or really seriously stinky cheeses from France at $86 per kilo. You can buy everything from bottom-of-the-range mega-shoddy mass produced statuettes of Ganesh the Elephant God to black pearls and unique gold jewellery of great beauty. You can buy fresh roast turkey and cranberry sauce baguettes, that morning's field mushrooms, corn-fed chicken, organic beef, giant chocolate crackles and still-warm wood-oven bread. The noise is overwhelming. The smell is fabulous.

Part of the car park is an old warehouse ...

... and when you get out of the lift, you see this.

These are the people with the gold, but their amber is even better.

I wonder where they keep the Mundane Fruit and Veg, and what it is. Parsnips, chokos and cabbage?

Meteorological intrusions

Apparently this demented weather pattern we're being subjected to down the nation's central strip is called a tropical intrusion.

This part of the paving in the back yard is not supposed to be under water. God knows what that seeping tobacco-coloured stain is; the mind boggles.

This (colour) photo was taken from under the verandah of Quince (top cafe, Quince; fab toast) in the upscale shopping strip down Unley Road in the genteel well-to-do Adelaide inner suburb of Unley at about one o'clock this afternoon.

We're having an intrusion
A tropical intrusion
The temperature's falling
It's slightly appalling
Cos we're having an intrusion

Thursday, January 18, 2007

And as the hearts of moderate, reasonable Australian Muslims sink even lower ...

Radical sheikh (yeah yeah, I know) Feiz Mohammad -- who only looks about seventeen himself -- in Sydney, addressing Muslim parents, via a surreptitiously circulating DVD, on the human sacrifice of their children:

"Teach them this: that there is nothing more beloved to me than wanting to die as a Muhajid."


Why doesn't he, then? Think of all the young Muslim lives it might save.

"Big retirement payouts for former AWB executives"

Ah, that'll be because they did such a fabulous job.

This is my favourite bit: 'Mr Lindberg received $3 million for less than five months of service last year.'

That's about $30,000 per working day.

What could you do with $30,000 a day?

What could 100 drought-ruined wheat farmers do with it, if they shared it around? Or the Smith Family? The CFS? East Timor?

Monday, January 15, 2007

Put the telly on

11.30 pm (CST) on Monday night, and if you want to see a bit of sports history being made and a new tennis star coming streaking up over the horizon, put the telly on and have a look at the bloke who's belting Marat Safin all over the court -- one B. Becker from Germany (no relation). He's 25 and the reason most of us have never heard of him is that up till recently he's been off studying, which is why he got the late start.

He seems to be making up for lost time.

Saturday, January 13, 2007


Top to bottom: lavender, morning-glory, plumbago and bougainvillea. All already here when I bought the house nine years ago; all very good for covering up unsightly sheds, unattractive wide white PVC pipes, falling-down fences, and next door's ugly Dodgy Brothers extensions. And all what my Scottish grandma would have called common as muck. They're very pretty in their full effect, but I've never looked at any of them so closely before.

And the Gestalt of the Garden is rather good at this time of year. Summer Blues, I call it.

Friday, January 12, 2007

Anything to get away from the daily grind of plots and characterisation

Got a job.

More of the usual: reading novels and writing about them (Suffer, as my friend R would -- and indeed did -- say), work much of which can be done in bed, which is my kind of gig.

But the other thing about it is it's regular. Which means that I now have an income within the usual meaning of that word, rather than an assortment of varied, isolated, stumbled-upon sums of money at unpredictable and sometimes uncomfortably long intervals.

Intoxicated by the very thought, I did something today that I haven't done since 1997, which is, oh dear God, ten years ago. I bought five, five, books. I bought them all at the same shop, all at the same time, and they are all for me. And this on top of the two as yet unread Christmas presents, Judith Brett and Anthony Moran's Ordinary People's Politics: Australians talk about life, politics, and the future of their country and Charles Frazier's Thirteen Moons, his long-awaited second novel after Cold Mountain.

These are the books I bought:

Drusilla Modjeska's The Best Australian Essays 2006

'Education, my parents taught me, was one of the most important things -- not because, or not only because, it led to better employment and more options in life, but because it was about what it is to be human.' (Margaret Simons, 'Beyond the Comfort Zone')

Alexis Wright's novel Carpentaria

'When he talked about the stars, they said he knew as much about the sky as he did about water. The prickly bush mob said he had always chased the constellations: We watched him as a little boy running off into the night trying to catch stars. They were certain he knew the secret of getting there. They thought he must go right up to the stars in the company of groper fish when it stormed at sea, when the sea and the sky became one, because, otherwise, how could he have come back?'

Clive James's autobiographical instalment North Face of Soho

'Between author and publisher, the relationship works awfully like sex: there is no substitute for being keen on each other.'

Pamela H. Smith'sThe Body of the Artisan: Art and experience in the scientific revolution

'Leonardo da Vinci and Dürer also regarded imitation as a learned bodily habit that became a cognitive practice and, finally, led to knowledge and the production of effects. Leonardo advocated that the apprentice should first learn by tracing and pouncing, among other mechanical means of copying, and then by copying after life. All this was done with the aim of developing 'giuditio d'ochio' ('judgement of the eye'), a kind of bodily judgement that not only shaped the images the painter produced but actually shaped the painter's own body.'

(This is a gorgeous book lavishly illustrated with some very unusual and not-often-seen images.)

And finally,

Sebastian Faulks's Pistache,
a dear little handsome book of 'fanciful, satirical and surprising parodies, squibs and pastiches'. The neologistic 'pistache' is defined as 'possibly a cross between pastiche and pisstake'. Highlights from 'The Brontës Place Some Lonely Hearts Ads' include

Married woman, 32, recently certified, seeks loft conversion specialist.

Are you my Mr Bounderby? Youngest of three N.Yorkshire sisters seeks escape from repressive family novel-writing business. Anything to get away from the daily grind of plots and characterisation! Office or manufacturing work preferred.

Orphan gypsy boy, aged 12, from Liverpool seeks loving family for quiet life. Countryside preferred.

The Charge of the Light Brigade Revisited

(With apologies to Alfred, Lord Tennyson.)

Half a league, half a league,
Half a league onward,
All in the valley of Death
Rode the six hundred twenty thousand.
"Forward the Light Brigade!
Charge for the guns!" he said.
Into the valley of Death
Rode the six hundred twenty thousand.

"Forward the Light Brigade!"
Was there a man dismayed?
Not though the soldier knew
Someone had blundered.
Theirs not to make reply,
Theirs not to reason why,
Theirs but to do and die.
Into the valley of Death
Rode the six hundred twenty thousand.


Wednesday, January 10, 2007

On the Difficulty of Teaching Creative Writing

Cross-posted at A Fugitive Phenomenon

I've been teaching creative writing on and off for 25 years and have written and spoken many, many words on the subject. But this -- from a short story called 'WritOr' in a book called Touchy Subjects by Irish-Canadian writer Emma Donoghue, of whom I had not previously heard but of whom I most certainly expect to hear more in the future -- says it better than anything I've ever said myself, or anything I've ever read or heard. It doesn't quite cover all the bases -- but it covers most of them.

The writer considered whether to tell BJ that to print five hundred copies of his so-called coming-of-age novel was a criminal waste of trees as well as his ex-girlfriend's money. That it would never get reviewed, stocked, or bought. Instead he dragged the dog-eared manuscript towards him and opened it at random. "This sentence doesn't have a verb."

The gilt shades looked back at him blankly.

"If you don't know what a verb is, BJ, why the fuck do you imagine you can write a novel?"

Tears skidded down BJ's face. The young man tried to speak; his Adam's apple jerked. He bent over as if he'd been stabbed. There were salt drops on the writer's desk, on the manuscript.

"I'm sorry," the writer said, breathless, "I'm so sorry --"

But BJ didn't seem to hear him.

Sunday, January 07, 2007

First Sentence meme

Because I have two urgent and three semi-urgent deadlines, a movie date this afternoon, a week's worth of housework to get through and a great swag of gardening to do before the next (and imminent) Adelaide heatwave, I'm going to do a meme. This is a nice turning-of-the-year exercise that I got from, very appropriately, The Imponderabilia of Actual Life.

Instructions: Copy the first sentence that you posted in each month of 2006.

It was a textbook New Year this year: dinner in the Adelaide Hills with three of my oldest friends.

February [post head 'True Confessions' -- Ed.]
And it's a shocking one: insofar as one is stuck with the politicians one has, within the party that one must suffer to be in power, I've always had a bit of a soft spot for Amanda Vanstone.

Groaning at my own idiocy in putting my hand up to review two different productions of the same play within four days for the Adelaide Fringe, I trudged off tonight to the seemingly bizarre venue, the SA Railway Museum, having been newly informed that no cast member of this production was over 17.

Longtime Labor liability Marn Fern is quoted in this morning's Age as having dismissed the poll figures on Julia Gillard's rising popularity as 'neither here nor there', while the corrupted and crippling Labor factions are, he said in their alleged defence, 'a fact of life'.

My closest beach, five or ten minutes' drive away, is Semaphore in Adelaide's north-west.

As I drove home from the vet's a little while ago with the cats singing a duet of post-shots protest in stereo (one in the back seat, one in the front), I heard something on the radio that made me blush for shame at my own ignorance.

This is what people mean when they talk about the fusion of style and substance.

Today I planted seedlings of these ...

... and one of these ...

... and some very late clumps of these:

Apparently the building of a new and improved space ship for another trip to the moon is going be a snip, but they still haven't found a speech therapist sufficiently gifted to teach the US President how to say 'nuclear'.

If at this time of year you spend a week trying (and failing) to get at least one of the four book reviews finished while you clean the house, pack for a two-day Sydney trip, prepare for the meeting that said trip is about, and prioritise above all else some time out for a fleeting visit from a distant beloved, and if you finally stagger out to the cab for the airport secure in the knowledge that you've ticked everything off the packing list (except your hairbrush; bummer) and that there are biscuits and coffee for your elderly father when he comes over to feed the cats and that there is enough money in the accessible bank accounts to get you through whatever staggeringly expensive Sydney events may arise (for Sydney absorbs one's money like blotting paper) -- if, as I say, you spend a week like this, too busy to go outside, then be prepared for chaos in the garden by the time you get home.

About half an hour ago I caught sight of the cats gazing more purposefully than usual out of the back screen door; clearly there was something exciting on cat television.

From today's online ABC news:

'A German company plans to launch a spray-on condom tailor-made for all sizes. ...'


Now Pavlov's Cat is very deliberately designed and run as yer average dog's breakfast (so to speak), a blog that determinedly mixes the domestic, the trivial, the political, the personal and the professional (mine, I mean, and therefore slanted toward issues of writing, literature, language, history, psychology and other namby-pantywaist humanities-type things) -- in a word, a blog with a subtextual feminist undertow, designed to demonstrate that life is not lived in labelled compartments hierarchically arranged in order of importance.

As this exercise would appear to prove.

Still playing with the new toy

Macro mode.

This is a miniature rose; that central full-blown bloom is only about 3 cm across, if that. I didn't see the spider or the web at all until I'd downloaded the photo and could see it full-sized on the screen.

Friday, January 05, 2007

On the difference between erotica and porn

Over at Club Troppo, have a look at comments #16 through #19 on this thread. Yobbo opines that if his post of the Japanese girl sucking on the octopus tentacle doesn't get a look-in in Troppo's Best Blog Posts of 2006 then the game's crook. Fyodor replies that this footage reminds him of the 'infinitely classier' egg yolk scene in the 1985 movie Tampopo. Yobbo comes back to say the egg yolk scene is gross.

Not having seen either, I checked them both out. (The clips, that is, not Yobbo and Fyodor.) They certainly have something in common: they are both about Japanese people chowing down on raw protein as part of a sexual spectacle. But that is where the resemblance ends.

The Japanese girl sucking on the octopus tentacle is, well, a Japanese girl sucking on an octopus tentacle. She also gnaws, bites and slobbers on it. The raw tentacle is large, shiny, pink and tumescent, with grey suckers. It appears to be a bit slimy. The girl is 'dressed' in a pomo hodgepodge of received-opinion porn-style attire including shiny black PVC gloves (which do nothing for her grip on the recalcitrant mollusc) and some kind of rabbit ears, or are they kitten?

She appears to be underage. She has a bad haircut and a little-girl voice. The scene constructs her as the object of the gaze, indulging in a deliberate arousal of autoerotic response in the viewer, who is constructed as solitary and male, and to whom, via the camera, she coos occasionally when she comes up for air.

It's low-grade, harshly-lit amateur footage with nothing happening in it except for this simulated rock-a-bye-baby-style fellatio on a bit of under-prepared sushi. No sexual tension or release is visible on the part of either the girl or the octopus-fragment, but then, it's not their sexual gratification that's being served.

It is incredibly boring.

The clip from Tampopo is a brilliantly shot scene of a beautiful and sophisticated couple sexually besotted with each other, and the focus of the scene is the two-way flow of their mutual desire. In both shot and plot they seem to be equals and the scene is about both of them. As they pass with astonishing delicacy an unbroken raw egg yolk back and forth from mouth to mouth without ever breaking the fragile sac holding it together, a process we see in closeup, there is clearly a lot going on below the waist and out of shot.

The erotic charge is to do with the violent contrast between containment and abandonment, with the finely wrought gentleness and precision of the egg exchange during the increasing sexual chaos we can't quite see -- but can deduce from what we can see. Then she whimpers; the egg yolk breaks in her mouth and dribbles down her chin as she slumps half-fainting against the table.

This is a story. There's some narrative drive in the sexual exchange, and some narrative mystery in the nature of their relationship. The egg yolk is profoundly sensual and suggestive, a testicle-shaped food with a silky, delicate skin, something whose explosion will be messy and irreversible. The mouth-to-mouth exchange is suggestive of great intimacy and great precision between the partners.

It is disturbing and beautiful. It is also ... Well, go and have a look. Make your night.

Friday Mogblogging: Cool Change

Thursday, January 04, 2007

ABC TV News, 7.02 pm

'The Government says no claims of abuse against David Hicks have ever been proven.'

*Waits for other shoe to drop*

*Keeps waiting*


Okay, I'll do it:



Thank you.

Wednesday, January 03, 2007

Wednesday dinnerblogging

Because I can!

Tomatoes straight from the vine; basil straight from the pot; bocconcini straight from the water buffalo supermarket.

It's all right, I'll calm down about this camera in a minute.

Elective affinities

Can anyone explain to me what it is about a clean pale-yellow bedsheet that brings a mostly black, semi-longhaired cat all the way from the other end of the house specifically in order to lie down on it?

All hypotheses thoughtfully considered.