Thursday, January 31, 2008

Me and PJK, we're like that

PC on PP McGuinness at Larvatus Prodeo, January 30th:

I don’t usually believe in kicking the down any more than in trashing the newly dead, but in Carey’s case, as in PP McGuinness’s, I’m willing to make an exception.

Paul Keating on PP McGuinness in the Australian Financial Review, quoted in the Sydney Morning Herald, January 31st:

I have made it a rule never to speak ill of the dead ... I am going to break that rule in the case of Paddy McGuinness.

I can has MRI? Or not.

Those of you who have been following the fortunes of Liz, aka Lymphopo of As the Tumor Turns, will know that the aggressive Stage IV lymphoma actually went away and that she is now back in the gym rebuilding the cut physique of yore.

But her most recent post -- she's come back to the blog after what was for her a long hiatus -- was about going back to the New Orleans charity hospital she calls Our Lady of the Damned (which I assume is the same place Clayton Cubitt at Operation Eden has a photo of here; surely there can't be more than one) to ask about her residual chemo-brain and see whether there might not be some more sinister cause for her lapses of concentration and memory. She was seen by an oncologist. NOW READ ON:

'After reviewing my chart and asking me some basic questions, she said, "You know, it's not really unusual for our memories to give us a little trouble, what with aging and menopause and all. What sorts of problems have you been having?"

"Well," I said. "Last week I locked my keys in my car."

"Ha!" she said. "That's nothing. Last week I locked my keys, my phone, and my emergency beeper in my trunk. And the whole 45 minutes while I was waiting for the Pop-A-Lock truck, I had to listen to the phone ringing and the emergency beeper frantically beeping, like all my patients were dying."

"Well," I said. "I missed my turnoff on the interstate. I was halfway to Shreveport before I even realized it."

"Ha!" she said. "That's nothing. One Tuesday I went to my Wednesday hospital by mistake, and I was on my third patient before I realized it."

"Ok," I said. "I accidentally sent a fuck-you email intended for my ex to my landlord in California instead."

"Whoa," she said. "Wow. Ok. I'm ordering you an MRI of the brain, stat."'

Pffft. I'm still recovering from a mistake I made some years ago, when I wrote a long, anguished email to the co-ordinator of a graduate program explaining in detail exactly why the student whose thesis I was supposed to be supervising would never, ever be able to even start a thesis, much less finish one, and then (you know what's coming, don't you) confidently sent it straight off to the student in question.

Not only do I not need an MRI (I had a CT scan of my brain a few years ago when tracking down monster headaches and I'm happy to report that my brain is beautiful),

I don't even need anyone to remind me that Freud would say there's no such thing as an accident. And given her many Flickr photos of and comic wailings about the lack of space and leaky roof at the rented home she calls 'Le Shaque', I'm guessing that Liz doesn't need an MRI either, so much as a gentle reminder of what Papa Sigmund might have said.

Wednesday, January 30, 2008

Two videos for the edification of aspiring Australian Idols

I'm working on a long post about No Country for Old Men (the movie not the book) but I've mostly been drifting around YouTube looking for hours in a hypnotised sort of way at early footage of all my formative musical influences. So while I work on the serious post, here as filler is one of said influences plus some girls I've never seen before, singing one of my absolutely favourite songs.

Idol aspirants of 2008! Will you be able to achieve even the palest shadow of these two performances (one for boys and one for girls here) when the time comes to co-operate and sing in a group? If not, go home now and save yourselves the humiliation.

So here are Crosby Stills and Nash around 1970,

and the Wailin' Jennys in 2006.

Note also that all six of these people actually look like adults. Observe in particular the mesmerising beauty of Stephen Stills at 25, already a veteran of university, the army, and Buffalo Springfield with Neil Young, and despite the early-70s hair and sidies -- that's genius you see glowing there. No amount of product or styling can replace it.

Aha, so that explains it

Take this test!

That means you are able to draw on the strengths of both the right and left hemispheres of your brain, depending upon a given situation.

When you need to explain a complicated process to someone, or plan a detailed vacation, the left hemisphere of your brain, which is responsible for your ability to solve problems logically, might kick in. But if you were critiquing an art opening or coming up with an original way to file papers, the right side of your brain, which is responsible for noticing subtle details in things, might take over.

While many people have clearly dominant left- or right-brained tendencies, you are able to draw on skills from both hemispheres of your brain. This rare combination makes you a very creative and flexible thinker.

The down side to being balanced-brained is that you may sometimes feel paralyzed by indecision when the two hemispheres of your brain are competing to solve a problem in their own unique ways.

"The down side to being balanced-brained is that you may sometimes feel paralyzed by indecision when the two hemispheres of your brain are competing to solve a problem in their own unique ways."


I like 'unique'. That's a kind-hearted way to put it.

Monday, January 28, 2008

The difference between writers and ex-footballers

When your daily email online Age arrives with the main headline 'Police Arrest Carey', you're fairly sure they mean Wayne not Peter.

Thursday, January 24, 2008

Gobsmacked tennisblogging

Unseeded Australian Open entrant Jo-Wilfried Tsonga from France, in his first-ever Grand Slam semi-final, has just clobbered world no. 2 Rafael Nadal in straight sets and just under two hours, 6-2 6-3 6-2.

And it wasn't that Nadal was bad, it was just that Tsonga was staggering.

Look out Roger.

Saturday, January 19, 2008

More tennis-tragic blogging: Federer v Tipsarevic

Federer 6-7 (5-7) 7-6 (7-1) 5-7 6-1 10-8

So, was the Pavlov's Cat bunker barracking for the brown-haired sky-blue-clad soft-featured sweet-natured Swiss freak, or for the dark-haired black-clad Socrates-quoting Serbian bad-naughty-wrong underdog with the tatts?

Yes, it's a rhetorical question.

Friday, January 18, 2008

I thought Casey's Nan was going to have a heart attack

The Australian Open has already been worth its weight in "Garny-air" * and we're not even finished with the first week yet. As if the wonderfully gladiatorial match between Marat Safin and the beleaguered Marcos Baghdatis last night were not enough (and won't Our Lleyton be licking his chops trying to work out how he can best use the distractions of the Baghdatis kerfuffle to his advantage, and rightly so; take it home to Turkey, Greece and Cyprus, boys), we now have the magnificently gutsy and skilful defeat by Casey Dellacqua of a surprised and increasingly aback-taken and rattled Amelie Mauresmo, whose demeanour immediately post-match I thought uncharacteristically churlish.

Go Casey. Even if she loses in the next round to the scary Jelena Jankovic (and let's face it, the odds are against her), she will still now be able to afford her own room and decent transport and some serious athletes' food. And if the plug that Todd Woodbridge so cleverly set up for her in the on-court interview after the match has the effect it deserved, she'll be getting all her PlayStation stuff for free for the foreseeable.

Does anyone know the real/official reason why the women don't play five sets? Surely it's time? After three sets the shortest of which was 28 minutes and the other two of which went over 40, both Dellacqua and Mauresmo looked to me to be good to go for at least one more set, and I would question the notion that women don't have the stamina for five sets in any case. From what I've seen of women's stamina over the last 50 years it wouldn't be any kind of problem, and it would shut up a lot of the blokes who complain about women expecting equality when they only play three sets -- where, frankly, I think they have a point.

I'm more than wiling to be corrected on this one, but isn't the persistence of the three-sets-for-women rule a bit of a hangover from the days when Ladies were thought to be Delicate? Or is it just that certain sorts of blokes don't want to have to watch the horrid spectacle of women sweating and straining, or maybe just don't want to know how tough women can be?

Askin'. As I say, happy to be informed and if necessary corrected, as long as it's by someone who actually knows the answer and isn't just doing the autopilot antifeminist thing, of which I am getting very, very tired.

* How one gets the pronunciation 'Garny-air' from the spelling 'Garnier' continues to bemuse. Dudes, if it were a French word spelled like that, it would be pronounced Garny-ay. If it were a French word pronounced like that, it would be spelled Garnière. And if it were an English word spelled like that, it would be pronounced Garny-uh -- as the very smart Alicia Molik, I notice, somewhat emphatically does whenever she's doing promos for them.

Friday, January 11, 2008

Save it, Oscar

Oscar Wilde once said 'There is only one thing worse than being talked about, and that is not being talked about.'

Now for the shameless and crazy-brave Oscar this may well have been the case, but we lesser, flawed and vulnerable mortals find it kind of painful. Especially when it's kind of nasty, and kind of secretive, and we know we have indeed said and done some reprehensible things under pressure and probably deserve to be trashed behind our backs, and we also know we can't confront either of the people involved and therefore can't defend ourselves.

One of my all-time favourite TV shows was Northern Exposure, not least for the moment when that fine actor Rob Morrow, playing the besieged Dr Joel Fleischman, says to himself through gritted teeth, 'Suck it up, Fleischman.' I've been saying this to myself periodically ever since, and am saying it to myself again now.

Wednesday, January 09, 2008

How to keep 'em barefoot and pregnant down on the farm (if not in jail)

Amanda at Pandagon (tx to Kim at LP for this link) observes the predictable sexist US media reaction to a bit of a crack in Hillary Clinton's voice during an emotional speech:

It’s bad enough that the media plays the game with Clinton where if she shows any emotion, she’s too feminine or too scary, but if she’s more stoic, she’s a scary ballbuster.

Remind you of anyone?

Tuesday, January 08, 2008

Sunday, January 06, 2008

Proofreading. We has it.

302 pages down, 186 to go, lots of queries to be answered, and the whole stack has to be on a desk in Sydney by Wednesday.

Which would be easier if not for the four short book reviews due, also by Wednesday, and the still-unfinished 4,000 word essay which should have been emailed off the day before yesterday. And don't ask me why I didn't do it earlier. I didn't do it earlier because I was, um, working too hard. I've got two as-yet-unpacked green shopping bags of Christmas loot to say I was working too hard, to say nothing of the still-up tree, the untidy bedroom, the ever-growing pile of laundry, the jungle in the back yard and the fallen-down back fence.

What I had forgotten, because -- the electronic age being what it is -- it's been a while since I did any, is that proofreading hard copy the old-fashioned proper way with a ruler and a red pen (or, if you're very lucky, a second person willing to read everything out to you, punctuation and all) is in fact an extremely soothing and calming activity. There is none of the effort and strain and self-torture of writing involved, and none of the endless infuriating double-and triple-checking of names, dates and titles that must be done if the kind of writing you're doing is the imparting of huge amounts of information in the smallest possible space.

But all you have to do when proofreading is to find the errors (most of which leap out at you) and mark them with the correct marks in red pen. Every so often you neatly square the stacks of paper and watch with pride as the Done pile grows steadily higher and the To Do pile proportionately ebbs.

I'm being reminded by this task that one of the many things for which I am grateful to be an academic no longer is the fact that I no longer have to mark essays. I never minded marking one essay; it was marking seventy (at least half of which were about how much the student just lerved Wuthering Heights, though I preferred that to the fundamentalist Christian interpretation of that novel that once turned up in the pile) that used to get me down. Not least because if one marked essays in red pen, as one habitually did for editors and typesetters, the students would get upset, because "red seems angry".

Red, my children, is to make it easier to see. That is all. There is no emotion and no personal transaction involved here. No one is trying to hurt you. The only thing that ever made me angry was painstakingly correcting various errors of logic, understanding, fact, spelling, expression and documentation and explaining how to do it properly, only to see the student, in his or her next essay, make all of the same mistakes all over again. Life is too short to waste it teaching people things they don't want to know. Yet another soothing thing about proofreading is that with every correction you know that the person reading it will know exactly why you did it, and be grateful.

Wednesday, January 02, 2008

ABC holiday season TV journalists give stupid questions punishing workout

"What does the $250,000 loss mean to you and your family?'

-- Tracee Hutchison, 'The 7.30 Report', to a farming victim of the pre-Christmas storms in rural NSW

ABC cricket commentators give weapon metaphor punishing workout

"And he may be having to fall on his own sword, but he's going down with all guns blazing."

-- either Kerry O'Keeffe or the other bloke

Y is it so? Naming Australia's women, 1950-1955

Okay so I'm under massive multiple deadline guns and I got up at 5.30 am to try to cope, and here I am at 7 am, blogging. Call it a very early coffee break.

Back there at the crack of dawn I was writing a review of a book in which two major characters are, to my mind, very anachronistically named, and it's reminded me of a conversation I had with my sisters on Christmas Day about my theory that all Australian women born between 1950 and 1955 have a Y in their names. The two exceptions to this are Helen and Susan, though even then you probably have a Y in your middle name, which is most likely either Kay or Joy.

The more I think about this theory and the more I think about women I know in that five-year time frame, the more likely it seems that there was some powerful unwritten law. If I look around among family and friends for examples, I can see -- without (as it were) even moving my feet -- a Wendy, a Sally, a Robyn, a Lyn, a Mary, a Dymphna, a Jayne and a Lynne (and, of course, moi), plus several others with middle names dominated by variations on the Kay-Joy theme.

There's a thesis in it, if not an ARC grant.