Saturday, September 29, 2007

Liveblogging half the AFL Grand Final

1.53 pm (SA time)

The teams have just come onto the ground. The Power are full of beans, leaping around like kids on speed, couldn't wait to get out there; Tredders led them out like a warrior expecting to kick butt. They burst through their banner as if it wasn't there.

Geelong by contrast looked as if they were about to get off the boat on the beach at Gallopoli. Some of them appeared to be praying, others to be trying not to vomit. They ran under their banner. Every one of them was wearing a tragic expression except for inspired feral redhead Cameron Ling, who looked like he couldn't wait to sink his teeth into something teal.

Port Adelaide Magpies legend Tim Ginever predicted yesterday on the radio that the first goal would be kicked by Port's Brett Ebert. We'll soon know.

2.09 pm Well, Ebert had two chances for it: the first was a point and the second a spray, and the first goal has just been kicked by the favourite for it (8-1 apparently), Geelong's Cameron Mooney. Geelong's Matthew Stokes has just been carried off the ground with a very nasty-looking knee injury.

2.19 pm Stokes is clearly not as badly hurt as he looked, as he is back and warming up to get back out on the ground. The Power's first goal has just been kicked by its captain; considering Tredders had just had his head pounded into the turf by an overnthusiastic Geelong tackler it's a wonder he was conscious, much less able to kick a goal. OTOH, judging by the volume and quality of the noise coming from the teeve, I fear Geelong may have just replied.

In other predictions, Gavin Wanganeen said earlier this week that he thought if the Indigenous players were in form then the Power would win. ('Maybe it's something to do with the spiritual side of things, who knows?' he said, thereby using a word I don't think I've ever heard a footballer use in my life before and probably never will again.) They're certainly doing well so far, especially Danyle Pearce and the magical Peter Burgoyne.

2.36 pm and as I was writing that remark about Burgoyne he kicked a goal, but it's now the end of the first quarter and the score is Geelong 5.7 to Port Adelaide 2.2, which is pretty seriously not good. Mark Williams will be having a few harsh words about now, I should think.

Matthew Stokes is back on the ground and not even strapped up or anything. Academy Award city.

The Burgoyne brothers and the Cornes brothers have seen a lot of action already, while Nathan Ablett has also been in the thick of things (no kicks but lots of hard work) but nary a peep out of Gary Jr to date. Chad Cornes just took a very nasty bump to the head so I hope he is all right. Brownlow winner Jimmy Bartel has had a hard time getting away from Kane but when he did, about a minute before the end of the quarter, he put it to very good use and kicked himself a goal.

Peter Burgoyne and Warren Tredrea appear to be the only Power players on the ground.

3.13 pm Half time and it's Geelong's 70-something points to Port's 20-something points and I'm going to stop now. It's too embarrassing.

Never mind. I mean, Geelong need it a lot more than we do.

*sigh*

Saturday, September 22, 2007

Power Cream Kangaroos

It's a little one-line poem, isn't it.

And if the bloody Victorian commentators on Channel Ten's disgraceful telecast of Power v Kangaroos at AAMI Stadium this afternoon think that their sullen, dull-witted, mean-spirited, grudging and hopelessly biased commentary (or the way the afternoon was presented at the end as having been all about Glen Archer's final game) in any way spoiled South Australians' pleasure in the spectacle of the Power giving the Kangaroos an absolute bath, then you can forget it. It didn't.

Quite the reverse, in fact. We're glad we made you sulk.

September 29, Power v. Geelong: the Burgoyne brothers, the Cornes brothers and the Ablett brothers. Can't wait.

Wednesday, September 19, 2007

Force Nine Why-ning

* Why, when I decide I really must do a load of washing, does it immediately begin to rain?

* Why does it never rain all the rest of the time?

* Why do people not actually read the emails in which I have taken such trouble to explain as clearly and simply as possible what the problem/issue/question is, thereby creating completely unnecessary confusion and wasting yet more time?

* Why do so many people want things finished and delivered by the end of September?

* Why, on a day when one cat heaves up a gigantic furball on the sofa and the other one escapes out into the street to play with the trucks and the Rottweilers, do they do those things at exactly the same time?

* Why do strangers ring up begging for money just as I have started a complicated sentence, thereby dooming me never to finish it?

* Why do the delivery people think that the small space in my driveway between my car and the gates is an appropriate place to leave a delivery for next door -- a huge, unwieldy parcel three-quarters as tall as I am and almost too heavy and awkward to lift if one heeds the This Way Up sign -- without knocking on my door or leaving any other kind of notification that that is what they have done?

* Why can I never convince my hairdresser that I do actually want my fringe about an inch and a half shorter than that?

Monday, September 17, 2007

I need three TVs, each with its own DVD recorder or equivalent

Monday September 17

7.30-8 ABC -- The 7.30 Report
7.30-8.30 Channel 10 -- Australian Idol: Monday Night Verdict
8.00-8.30 ABC -- Australian Story
8.30-9.20 ABC -- Four Corners
8.30-9.30 Channel 7 -- City Homicide
8.30-9.30 Channel 10 -- Law & Order: SVU
9.20-9.35 ABC -- Media Watch
9.30-10.30 Channel 7 -- Criminal Minds
9.30-10 SBS -- World News
9.35-10.35 ABC -- Enough Rope (with Robson Green -- *swoons*)
10.10-10.35 phone call from a beloved
10.30-11.30 Channel 7 -- Boston Legal
10.35 -- 11.10 ABC -- Lateline

Saturday, September 15, 2007

The Show with No Horses

This year's Royal Adelaide Show was hamstrung by the enforced ban on horses in the wake of the equine-influenza outbreak. No blacksmithery and farrier displays; no horses in the Grand Parade; none of the obsessive, cult-like manifestations of the subculture that is show jumping.

Show jumping is something I knew a great deal about when I was a little kid and devoured all available pony-club and show-jumping books (I was never allowed to have a pony on the farm, partly because my father had and still occasionally does have nightmares about being expected to lead his uncle Ross's prizewinning Clydesdales


around backwards when he was a very small child and has stayed well away from horses ever since).

Even my own adoration of these beautiful, powerful, graceful and intelligent animals took a bit of a beating in 1988 when one particularly unprepossessing specimen executed a tricky simultaneous gait-changing and direction-changing manoeuvre at a canter through a steep creek bed somewhere hilly north of Melbourne and dumped me on some rocks, but I'm still very sad there weren't any at the Show. The alpacas nearly made up for them, but not quite.


This little black alpaca was knackered.

Other animals I would have liked photos of: the gigantic bulls, peacefully lying in the straw with their hooves tucked under their chests like cats and the farmer's little kids climbing all over them. (Camera out of batteries by then.) The racing and diving pigs (didn't have enough energy left to wait, much less walk, around for another 20 minutes till the next race). The strange-looking people trotting their dogs around the dog-showing ring, straight out of Best in Show (batteries again).



This was supposed to be a photo of the upside-down roaring tigers, but it seems to have turned into one of those pictures of festively primary colours that look like children's doona designs.



Again with the violent colours. I liked all this raffish sideshow dazzle and noise with the soft colours and contours and the stillness of the Adelaide Hills in the distance.



This hi-tech ferris wheel is definitely not the same one I remember breaking down in 1963 with me and my sisters and my Scottish grandma up at the very top of the ride.



Meanwhile, in the handcraft hall and bakery section, someone named Susan Rabbitt had won first prize for these fabulous-looking passionfruit and lemon butters.



Shrek wedding cake, considerably more tasteful than some of the wedding cakes I've seen.



Fascinators are back, if they ever went away.



Young Elyse (this is the Primary School division) definitely deserved this blue ribbon: these are the best Chocolate Crackles on display by a very long way. No icing, coloured sprinkles or cutesy printed paper patty case thingies, just lots of chocolate and no mucking about.

And the thing I'm saddest I didn't get a photo of? Legendary Adelaide broadcaster and columnist Peter Goers, whose OTT-quirky gift for radio I have never heard equalled, striding along the path to the ABC tent clutching a gigantic Dagwood Dog dripping in sauce.

Don't think it doesn't happen here

I missed her on At the Movies, where actor Veronica Sywak seems to have told the same story, so my blood ran cold (really, it did) yesterday in the car when I caught her on local ABC radio talking about the Australian indie film The Jammed, currently on in Adelaide at the Palace Eastend and getting very good press, in which she stars as a more or less innocent bystander who gets caught up in the deadly world of human trafficking.

The chill came partly from the fact that I happen at the moment to be reading a novel, The Nubian Prince, about this very subject; it's chillingly narrated by the 'scout' who travels the world sniffing at the aftermaths of financial, political and geological disasters in the sorts of places that Christophen Hitchens has described as 'armpits of the world', in order to 'save the lives' of whatever exceptionally beautiful children and adults -- the more racially exotic the better -- he can find to take home to the Barcelona branch of an international operation and get groomed for the luxury end of the sex worker trade.

God knows that most of us are all too prone to think of our fellow human beings as commodities at the best of times (witness Kerri-Anne Kennerley's blisteringly intellectual analysis of Catherine Deveny's recent spray about women who take their husband's names: 'She probably can't get a man') but this open, naked trading is beyond understanding. Like most bottom-feeders, the narrator makes it worse by constantly thinking up justifications for his behaviour and trying to represent himself to himself as someone with more than the moral sense of amoeba, which of course he does not have; one would have more respect for the sort of criminal who says 'I'm a bad bastard: now stand aside or I will atomise you.'

Anyway, Sywak spoke to an audibly gobsmacked Carol Whitelock about the realities of human trafficking in Australia, and about her experiences bravely knocking on brothel doors to try to talk to sex workers and find out how much they knew about this trade and how much they were prepared to talk about it. And here, from the At the Movies transcript, is the story that nearly made me drive off the road; I knew the Cross was seedy (and indeed have known it for the decades since I read Dymphna Cusack and Florence James's Come In Spinner, in which something very similar is going on in wartime Sydney) but I will never look at it, or walk up it, the same way again.

'And when I was speaking with one girl in a suburban brothel,' says Sywak, 'I think in Burwood in Sydney, I was speaking with her about the issue of human trafficking and this was just - I have to clarify this was a legal brothel and the girls were there on their own accord and I was talking to them and they said - I casually mentioned that I was going to go up to the Cross to learn - to discover more about human trafficking and try and contact or try to come face to face with some of these girls who have been enslaved.

And this woman said to me, she stopped, she said, "Sweetheart, if you go up to the Cross and ask about human trafficking, you're going to be dead by this afternoon."'

Monday, September 10, 2007

Bookerblogging: Lloyd Jones's Mister Pip

Okay, so this is sort of cheating, and it is also an experiment. I'm too busy to write any but light-hearted / short / batty / photographic blog posts at the moment so here instead, for those who follow these things more closely than I am currently doing, is the review I wrote last September for the SMH of New Zealand writer Lloyd Jones's novel Mister Pip, shortlisted (trust the Poms at the Times to describe New Zealand as "nowhere", but the article itself is good) for the 2007 Man Booker Prize. I don't even know whether stuff written for the MSM is likely to work as a blog post or not. Guess I'm about to find out. Ahem:


What, you might well ask, can the 1861 London publication of Charles Dickens’ Great Expectations possibly have to do with Papua New Guinea’s blockade of Bougainville in the early 1990s? What chance hinge connects these two wildly disparate things, with so much time and distance between them?

New Zealand writer Lloyd Jones’ hypnotic novel is set on the island of Bougainville after the blockade has been imposed and all the doctors and teachers have left the islanders to fend for themselves. There is only one white man left: Mr Watts is known to the children as Pop Eye and is married to the mad and mysterious Mrs Watts, a native of the island, whom he met in New Zealand and has followed home.

The schoolchildren have been left with no teacher and Mr Watts is asked to step in. He agrees, but he has only one book from which to teach: an old copy of Great Expectations.

The story is told by Matilda, one of the children, who almost immediately becomes enchanted with Dickens’ Pip; she writes his name in the sand and decorates it with shells. Neither Matilda nor the reader can possibly foresee the appalling consequences this will have.

This novel about another novel is a skilful allegory of colonisation, using Great Expectations in some of the same ways as Jean Rhys used Jane Eyre in Wide Sargasso Sea. Peter Carey’s 1997 novel Jack Maggs is another useful point of comparison, taking as it did the character of Magwitch the convict from Great Expectations as its central idea.

For the people of the island, as represented by the young narrator Matilda, there is little to choose between the oppressive army of ‘redskins’ and the rebel ‘rambos’. They all look alike to the children: mad and dangerous enemies whose motivations cannot be fathomed and whose actions cannot be foreseen. Matilda narrates throughout with a kind of deadpan matter-of-factness that, as the book progresses, comes to look more and more like a symptom of shock.

Shortly after Mr Watts has finished reading the book to the entranced children, it goes missing. He sets them the exercise of trying to re-create it: each time one of them remembers a moment, a scene or a phrase from the novel, he writes it down in an exercise book he has been miraculously able to save from the wreckage of his own and everyone else’s possessions. This echoes yet another widely-read 20th century novel – no doubt deliberately, since this is very much a novel about other novels – in Ray Bradbury’s Fahrenheit 451, which features a group of characters who in an era of book-burning have committed one book each to memory.

As Jones has pointed out himself, this act of willed, group recollection is an image of the colonial experience, where the old-world culture is desperately but imperfectly remembered. It also gives the reader an idea of what that experience of extreme isolation and danger might be like. ‘I can remember where I was and what I was doing for every fragment I managed to retrieve,’ says Matilda. ‘Otherwise, I have no sense of time passing in the normal way. Along with medicines and our freedom, the blockade stole time from us.’

Jones has done something very difficult with this novel: he has taken a recent and brutal piece of contemporary history and has told a story that not only reveals these events to the wider world but also shows what they mean in the larger and more abstract field of human behaviour. A brutal and senseless episode – the atrocities committed during the Bougainville blockade have been compared with events in Rwanda -- becomes something from which a lesson may be learned.

It’s also a novel about imagination and about the power and value of art as a potentially redemptive force in a nightmare situation. Pip gives Matilda a focus for an increasingly precarious and fragile life: ‘I had come to know this Pip as if he were real and I could feel his breath on my cheek. I had learned to enter the soul of another.’ It’s not really a plot spoiler to reveal that eventually Matilda makes it out of there alive, for, if she hadn’t, she wouldn’t be around to tell the tale. And Dickens eventually gives her a way to emulate Pip and ‘better herself’ in life.

For so brutal a reminder of atrocities so close to home, this is still an oddly satisfying book that goes on resonating long after you get to the end. It helps to read up on the history of the Bougainville blockade, though that’s not a happy experience for any Australian with a conscience. And it will almost certainly lead you back to read Great Expectations again – or perhaps for the first time.

Wednesday, September 05, 2007

Less stuff, more staff: the mature woman's wishlist

Some years ago now, I heard something by chance on the radio that has stood me in good stead ever since. A feisty, lively and very smart woman in her seventies was doing her regular guest spot on some sort of gardening program on ABC radio; it was the week before Christmas and thus the program had a yuletide theme, and the host eventually asked her what she'd asked for in her letter to Santa.

I will never forget her reply. 'Actually,' she said, 'I'd like a great big pot of good-quality slow-release fertiliser. At my age you've got enough vases.'

She then elaborated. 'I don't want any more stuff: I'm trying to get rid of stuff, not accumulate it. I want consumables. Fertiliser, nice wine, chocolates, perfume.'

Now I am nowhere near my seventies yet, though I hope to get to them sooner or later, but even here in my relatively youthful fifties there is no question but that I too have enough vases. (Seventeen, to be precise. Some of them are very beautiful, but still.) So ever since I heard that gardening show, I have emphasised the consumable in my birthday and Christmas lists: champagne, Chanel No. 5, Haigh's butter truffles and Fox Creek wines, Body Shop moisturisers for my pre-Jane Fonda skin, and beeswax or otherwise scented candles for when the power goes off.

Today, however, I have had a radical new thought about what it is that I really want in life. I want help.

Late this afternoon, having done a day's work and a pile of weeding, I spent an hour and a half shopping. Since I got home I have unpacked the car, put away the shopping, washed the dishes, changed the cat litter, put out the garbage bins and paid a couple of aback-taking bills online, one grotesquely large power bill (as they usually are this time of year) and one heftier-than-usual water bill (and what water might that have been, pray tell? Oh I see, they've put the value of the house up again). Do I feel like cooking the lamb and zucchini? No, I do not. I feel like collapsing in front of Thank God You're Here with a large glass of champagne and a cat in my lap.

... LATER THE SAME NIGHT:

So, yes, if I could have anything I wanted in life, it would be a personal staff of nine. I work between 60 and 70 hours a week. This is not the whinge I am making it sound, because what I mainly do for a living is lie on the sofa reading novels, but that takes up as just as much time as it would if I were not having fun. It doesn't leave a lot of time for shopping, cleaning, cat care and household maintenance, much less, you know, the occasional movie or dinner out.

You wouldn't think that a small two-bedroom house and two cats would take much looking after (the Bloke is not in residence, or even much in evidence), but you'd be wrong. There's the huge yard, for a start. And the cats are semi-longhairs who live entirely inside, which means there are siginificant hair, litter and furball issues. So here's what I need.

A P.A.

Three days a week. S/he could answer the phone, do the filing, deal with the snail-mail correspondence, and keep my work diary and social calendar up to date.

A GARDENER, TREE-LOPPER AND HANDYPERSON

Part-time position after the first four weeks, during which s/he would be expected to do something about the bastard bougainvilleas, the garage being pushed down by the burgeoning eucalypt, the bottle-brush whose roots are interfering with ancient plumbing, and the nine-foot stinging nettles down the backest bit of the back yard. After that it would get easier.

A CLEANING PERSON

This one is self-explanatory.

A CAT WRANGLER

Two hours a day. By the time you've kept them fed and groomed, kept the litter tray cleaned out, played with them enough to give them a bit of exercise, marvelled and cooed over the miracles of felinitude and vacuumed up enough cat hair to knit another cat about once a week, that's a working day a week gone.

A LAUNDERER/VALET

I don't have that many clothes, which is all the more reason to Keep Them Nice.

AN ACCOUNTANT

One day a week. Each financial year I have between ten and twenty different sources of income, most of them involving tiny amounts of money and paperwork in inverse proportion to the amount in question. And they all have different methods, different templates for tax invoices, different methods of delivering the money and different ideas about what constitutes prompt payment.

A DIETICIAN AND CHEF

Fulltime position, with perks. This sensitive person would plan, shop for and cook my very healthy meals, except when I felt like getting creative in the kitchen.

A DRIVER

I would only need this person when I wanted to venture into the Barossa Valley, the Adelaide Hills or the Fleurieu Peninsula -- that is to say, north, east or south (to the west there's the sea) -- because in all of those regions they drive like drunken, brain-damaged cowboys, and in the Hills in particular I just know there is always a bikie on crack coming round the blind corner on the wrong side of the road at 150 kph, with a sheer cliff on one side and a sheer drop on the other.

A PERSONAL TRAINER

Being a traditionally built lady has its drawbacks. Me and Precious Ramotswe, we could use a bit of discipline.

Monday, September 03, 2007

Do you have any blondes?

Right, that's done it: I will be renewing my subscription to crikey.com.au whenever it comes up and whatever it costs, and they won't hear a peep out of me except for the rustling of my money.

I mean, where else could you find out completely priceless stuff like this?

'Former tax office auditor and legal brothel industry lobbyist Chris Seage writes:

While many Sydney CBD businesses are crying fowl because of the APEC presence, some of Sydney's brothel barons are cock-a-hoop at the potential for big business during the forum. Brothels located outside of the city's declared and restricted zones, particularly in Surry Hills, have been fielding phone calls from overseas for the past two weeks.

The most frequently asked questions from our economic allies are:

How many entrances are there to the brothel?
Is the brothel in a discreet location?
Do I need a booking?
Does the brothel have a stringent privacy policy?
Is there discreet parking available instead of off-street?
Can the car park spots accommodate big cars?
Can a client be taken immediately to a room?
Do you have any blondes?'


So here's a question: are the taxpayers of these visitors' countries paying for their recreational needs?

And here's another question: are any of the APEC visitors women, and if so, are any of these intriguing inquiries being made on their behalf?

I don't know, I really don't. On the rare occasions when I get to go to Sydney for work, I spend the evenings either networking over a working dinner or sitting in my hotel room frantically preparing for the meeting/conference session/writers' festival panel/whatever-it-is that I have come to Sydney for. And after that I try to get the sleep I know I'm going to need in order to function properly at whatever event I'll be taking part in the following day.

But even if I had the requisite time and stamina, I'm fairly sure I wouldn't choose to spend the evening forking out fistfuls of my own or somebody else's hard-earned for the thrill of shagging expensive strangers.