Wednesday, February 20, 2008

And I haven't even heard it yet

Although the common ancestor hasn't yet been tracked down, I've always claimed kinship with concert pianist Anna Goldsworthy and her father Peter (the Australian poet and novelist), as who would not. I've been mates with the family, who also live in Adelaide, since Anna was about seventeen and have heard her play on a number of occasions since then. She's now a concert pianist (with a PhD) as well as a longstanding member of the Seraphim Trio, currently Artist-in-Residence at Janet Clarke Hall and teaching piano at the University of Melbourne.

This is her first CD, which I've just got wind of. Characteristically she and her photographer partner Nicholas Purcell, who took this beautiful shot, have made it a thinking person's album and it looks quite wonderful, as you can see here.

I'm told there are some people who don't like cats ...

Humorous Pictures
moar humorous pics

... but how can that be possible?

Strange spellings and usages: yet another occasional series

In my daily trundlings round the blogosphere I've noticed that more and more people seem to be writing the phrase 'a lot' as one word: 'alot'.

Given that 'lot' is a perfectly ordinary noun like any other, and is qualified approximately as often as any other perfectly ordinary noun by the very common indefinite article 'a' -- a cot, a dot, a jot, a pot, a tot; you get the picture -- can anyone tell me what the logic is? Do those who favour 'alot' also write 'abreast', as in 'She had abreast peeking out of her lacy low-cut blouse', or 'alight', as in 'Do you have alight?', or 'abound' as in 'With abound he was free'?

Or 'alittle', as in 'I'm alittle weirded out by your spelling'?

Guy Rundle on the US primaries trail

I'm proud to say I've been a fan of Guy Rundle's work for many years -- everything from the high-end intellectual analysis of political theory to the hysterical comedy routines for Max Gillies -- and I am really, really enjoying the excellent work he's doing for as he follows the Obamas and the Clintons round the country.

Here he is this morning, in full flight, on the subject of Clinton's utterly disgraceful bottom-of-the-barrel 'plagiarism' accusations. You can see the logic of her behaviour -- attack Obama's biggest weapon: his eloquence -- but the failure of emotional intelligence here is palpable. It's hard to believe she doesn't know what this looks like; it's like being frozen with embarrassment in a restaurant as you watch a fellow-diner sashay back to her table from the ladies' loo, blissfully unaware that she's got the back of her skirt tucked up into the waist of her pantyhose. Most observers are speechless at such times, but not, I'm glad to say, Guy:

'The Obama plagiarism charges were leaked by the Clinton camp, and Hillary then came round the front to argue that it was the media who was raising the issue so how could she not comment? Etc. ...

The strategy could well rebound because, while it would be unfair to suggest that camp Obama would never do this sort of thing if on the backfoot, the mixture of cheap shots, deniability and logic chopping feels so damn Clintonesque that it can't help but suggest the worst of times, when Bill was caught with his pants down – Hah! You see what I did there! Suck on that Henderson! - arguing about what the definition of ”is” is. It's a measure of how utterly desperate, or kool-aided up, they are that they've taken what is not so much the low road as the subway. Why now on badger-ukelele primary eve (a term I just invented using Wisconsin's state mascot) rather than droppin da bomb before the Cowboy-Buckeye-Maplesyrup-Red (let's just hope that "Firewall" name sticks) primary? Presumably because there's so few delegates up for grabs, and Bama owns Hawaii's ass, bottom, no say it goddamit, owns its ass! Camp Clinton is using this one as a trial run to see how dirty they can get before there's blowback.

Still, what really scares me is how inept Obama was in batting it back. Goddamit from brushing it off – "I prefer to think of it as homage" – to dead-bat – "the words expressed the thought perfectly so I used them, you can't footnote everything in a speech" – to a straight reversal – "well it's a good thing Hillary wants to debate the issues" – to the Manchester approach "you want stabbing, you" - I'd thought of half a dozen cute replies as soon as I heard it, and I bet you had too.'

Bumper stickers seen and coveted: another occasional series


Words I never want to see or hear again ever: an occasional series



Friday, February 15, 2008

Don't call me Mrs

Dear [insert name of CEO of relevant charity here],

Thank you for your letter informing me that I have so far not made good my telephone pledge of $20 to your charity.

Unfortunately there are a couple of problems.

For a start I have no memory of making any such pledge. I work at home and am enraged by disruptive, intrusive, unsolicited telephone calls from strangers trying to get between me and my money. (Even charitable strangers. My modest budget allows for contributions to my charities of choice and they do not include yours, worthy as yours may be.) It is highly unlikely that, having got up from the middle of a now-doomed sentence and answered the phone to such a solicitation, I would have been in a mood to offer $20 to the person responsible.

(Yes I'm on the DO NOT CALL register, but they make so many exceptions it has hardly been worth doing, and people have begun to get around it by making automated calls which one answers only to hear a recorded voice, and an oleaginous male American voice at that.

And no I can't leave the phone off the hook; I am a freelancer with an aged parent and need to be contactable at all times.)

As I say, I have no memory of making such a pledge. It would have been utterly unlike me. Are you people flying a kite and trusting that at least some of the targets of your mailout will say Duh, silly me, fancy forgetting an important thing like that, and bung their credit card number or cheque in the mail?

Even if I take you at your word and assume that I did indeed, during some sort of major brain fade, make a $20 pledge of which I have no memory, we still have a problem.

I don't know where you got my name from -- no doubt some sold-on mailing list, a practice of which most poor suckers members of the populace are quite unaware, but you have made a terrible, terrible mistake in addressing me, most presumptuously, as Mrs Pavlov's Cat.

I know there is still a large section of the populace that believes that all adult women are currently married and wish to be known by their husband's names, and if they aren't and don't well then they're beneath consideration and hardly even people at all really, but if you want our money then you are probably going to have to change your tune.

I think it very likely that there are many, many women about who would agree with these sentiments, and if you want to raise the maximum amount of money for your charity then I would strongly advise you to remember that this is the 21st century, not the 19th.

For future reference, not that it will help as your charity is now already on my blacklist, here are some guidelines. As salutations go, I prefer Dear Pavlov's. If you cannot live without an honorific then you may address me as Ms Cat. If you object to Ms (in which case you are of no interest to me), there is always the option of Dr Cat. If you absolutely cannot live without addressing me as Mrs, I believe that as une divorcée I am still technically entitled to call myself Mrs Insert Surname of Child Husband Now But a Dim Memory Here.

Failing any of those, you may call me Comrade.

Yours most sincerely,

Pavlov's Cat (Ms)

PS: Injury to insult: you misspelt Pavlov's as well. Everybody does, but it's still a bad look.

PPS: Don't waste your time looking for an enclosure. There isn't one.

Maxine13 campaign off to a good start

In today's, regular contributor Richard Farmer scores the new Parliament's maiden speeches out of ten. The envelope, please.

And the winner is ...

'Maxine McKew: Bennelong—Parliamentary Secretary for Early Childhood Education and Childcare. A polished and well delivered speech as could be expected from a new MP who is no newcomer to public life. "What it is, this stirring in our souls," she told the House, "is a realization that our famed egalitarian spirit is more talked about than real. This is the paradox of modernity: alongside the exceptional economic prosperity the country has enjoyed, we are also seeing what Professor Fiona Stanley calls an increase in the social gradients. When we look at the key indicators for the development, wellbeing and health of our children and our young people, the gaps are not shrinking; they are widening." 8 out of 10.'

Wednesday, February 13, 2008

Quite pleased to be living in a country with this person in charge

From today's online Age: photo by Andrew Taylor


"Today we honour the indigenous peoples of this land, the oldest continuing cultures in human history.

"We reflect on their past mistreatment.

"We reflect in particular on the mistreatment of those who were Stolen Generations - this blemished chapter in our nation's history.

"The time has now come for the nation to turn a new page in Australia's history by righting the wrongs of the past and so moving forward with confidence to the future.

"We apologise for the laws and policies of successive Parliaments and governments that have inflicted profound grief, suffering and loss on these our fellow Australians.

"We apologise especially for the removal of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander children from their families, their communities and their country.

"For the pain, suffering and hurt of these Stolen Generations, their descendants and for their families left behind, we say sorry.

"To the mothers and the fathers, the brothers and the sisters, for the breaking up of families and communities, we say sorry.

"And for the indignity and degradation thus inflicted on a proud people and a proud culture, we say sorry.

"We, the Parliament of Australia, respectfully request that this apology be received in the spirit in which it is offered, as part of the healing of the nation.

"For the future we take heart; resolving that this new page in the history of our great continent can now be written.

"We today take this first step by acknowledging the past and laying claim to a future that embraces all Australians.

"A future where this Parliament resolves that the injustices of the past must never, never happen again.

"A future where we harness the determination of all Australians, Indigenous and non-Indigenous, to close the gap that lies between us in life expectancy, educational achievement and economic opportunity.

"A future where we embrace the possibility of new solutions to enduring problems where old approaches have failed.

"A future based on mutual respect, mutual resolve and mutual responsibility.

"A future where all Australians, whatever their origins, are truly equal partners, with equal opportunities and with an equal stake in shaping the next chapter in the history of this great country, Australia."

Monday, February 11, 2008

If you're sorry and you know it, catch the bus

Celebrating the National Apology to Stolen Generations and their Families

On Wednesday 13 February 2008 at 8.30am (SA time), Prime Minister Kevin Rudd will deliver the formal apology to the Stolen Generations and their families.

A major community event will be held at Elder Park in Adelaide to coincide with this momentous occasion in reconciliation with a live telecast of the national apology on big screen. Details are as follows:

Date: 13 February 2008

Event: 8.00am - 2.00pm

Apology: 8.30am

Location: Elder Park

Further information on the apology can be obtained here, or from the Aboriginal Affairs and Reconciliation Division by contacting Nerida Saunders via mail to: or on 8226 8900.

Saturday, February 09, 2008

The adversarial system strikes again

Image courtesy of Tigtog at Hoyden About Town, where she has some terrific commentary on it and on recent disquieting campaign developments here.

Summit 2020

Within hours of the announcement of the proposed Summit 2020 in Canberra in April, Australian bloggers were all over it like a fire blanket and mostly, I'm sorry to say, trashing the whole idea for dear life. There was a flurry of jerking knees, a cacophony of sneering, and a disproportionate amount of envy-fuelled dick-waving involved, and the subtext 'Why don't they invite MEEEEE' was barely sub.

But some of us think it's quite a good idea. Some of us are also sceptical about the 'not just a talkfest' protestations; of course it's a talkfest, and there is nothing wrong with talkfests. They can be really useful and helpful. I've been in several in the field of the arts, and good, workable suggestions and solutions have always emerged, if not always from expected sources or in expected directions, but that is all to the good as well.

However, something has just arrived by email that makes me wonder how well this gig is really being organised.

Given how often I do something I didn't intend when using this computer, it's not all that surprising that some time last year I somehow ended up on Malcolm Turnbull's email newsletter mailing list. But I regard Turnbull as the least worst of his lot by a very long way -- not least because he is interesting and smart, which few of his coalition colleagues are (Nick Minchin is certainly interesting, but so are funnel-web spiders) -- and the newsletter usually has at least one useful or arresting piece of information in it so I haven't cancelled it.

The latest one, the first for 2008, has just arrived, and here is one of the items it contains:

Just this week I wrote to the Prime Minister Kevin Rudd urging him to reconsider the date for the proposed Summit 2020 of 1000 Australians described by him as the "best and brightest" to a date which does not conflict with the Jewish Festival of Passover. It is, frankly, incredible that a Summit of this kind would be set on a weekend which is likely to preclude the attendance of most Jewish Australians.

Isn't there somebody whose job it is to check this kind of stuff?

And now that I think about it, here's another question: given how soon the summit is scheduled for-- just over two months away -- won't an awful lot even of the non-Jewish 'best and brightest' also have been booked up months ago into commitments that will preclude their dropping everything and zooming off to Canberra for the weekend? Is the relevant public servant drawing up a 'Best and Brightest B-list' even as we speak?

Friday, February 08, 2008

Not to be forgetting Valentine's Day

I'm sure there are copyright issues so I won't display the actual card here, but I have bought a Valentine for my Valentine telling him that he is a Chocolate Button of Loveliness on the Great Caramel Pudding of Life.

Which is true.

Saturday, February 02, 2008

Strange days

Nine years ago as my mother lay dying in an upstairs room at Adelaide's Memorial Hospital, with a formal rose garden under her window and the scent of it coming in through the curtains on a warm wind, a fey Irish nurse leaned over her and gazed into her unconscious face. 'What are you waiting for?' she murmured to my mother.

It was my father's 72nd birthday, and my mother was probably waiting for midnight, so he wouldn't have to live whatever was left of his life remembering her death on his birthday. He hasn't, either; she died early the next morning, just before dawn.

At 81 my dad is still going strong, after having said over the cake and candles on his 80th last year 'Right: now I'm striking out for 85.' Last night the family was out for a birthday dinner, and we went back to his place for coffee and the cake I'd baked, and a very nice chocolate affair with silver cachous and candles it was too, inspired by the birthday cake that Suse from Pea Soup baked recently for one of her boys.

So every year it's celebratory cake and champagne with my dad on the evening of his birthday, and then waking up the next morning to the anniversary of my mother's death. I'm still not used to it.

Elsewhere has a great post here about the 'death-day', and the weirdnesses of mourning and grief. I've spent the day feeling mutedly sad and a bit ill, distracting myself by having a nap and reading Cormac McCarthy's No Country for Old Men instead of getting on with the work novels, doing the housework, and/or preparing for the writing workshop I have to teach on Monday afternoon.

Given the death-saturated subject matter of the McCarthy novel (my friend D, who will never see the movie because she hates violence on the screen -- over the years we've seen several movies together that have made her clap her hands over her eyes and hiss 'Tell me what's happening!' -- delivered a spirited disquisition this morning over our usual Saturday coffee on the excellent press the movie is getting, and the weirdness of the fascination in popular culture with psychopathic killers and the proof it provides that America 'is a death culture'), it was inevitable that the novel would resonate repeatedly with my own personal Day of the Dead.

And in a book full of eminently quotable moments, this one from the musing, apprehensive Sheriff Bell was particularly resonant, given what day it is:

... the dead have more claims on you than what you might want to admit or even what you might know about and them claims can be very strong indeed. Very strong indeed.

He's right. I should have done the housework. As an offering.

Friday, February 01, 2008

Mixed metaphor of the month

From today's

Whatever should Brendan Nelson do? His party is torn on the issue of an apology to the stolen generation and within the space of days must resolve its approach to this weeping Liberal sore and bat a few other curly ones round its depleted party room.