Thursday, May 29, 2008

Day residue*

*Freudian term intended to reflect my growing conviction that blogging can have a similar function to dreaming.

1) TAUTOLOGY OF THE DAY

'... the ugly side of binge drinking ...'


2) FRIDGE MAGNET OF THE DAY

'WE CHILD-PROOFED THE HOUSE ...
... but they keep getting back in.'


3) THE TRIUMPH OF THE IDEAL OVER THE REAL

Shopping list: margarine, Johnson's facial wash, cat litter, Vegemite

Actual shopping: Elizabeth George's new Thomas Linley novel Careless in Red, Robin Bradley's Australian Wine Vintages 2008, 1 bottle Parker Coonawarra Estate Terra Rossa cab sav, 1 bottle Pike & Joyce pinot, homemade potato gnocchi, panforte from Siena and two chicken micro-roasts (spinach and garlic).

As T.S. Eliot might have said, if he had been a different kind of person: 'Between the Shopping List and the Afternoon / falls the Sunlight.' But what the cats are going to pee in is anybody's guess.


My philosophy of blogging, which I expound briefly here lest my psycho-troll come back to excoriate me once more for writing about my personal daily life, is that the details of one's personal daily life exist along a continuum with big abstract issues in public life (examples from things currently in the news: buying petrol; one's relationship with one's adolescent children), and that one writes about one's daily life in the hope that those who read will see in it fragments of themselves and their own lives, and will recognise their kinship with the rest of humanity in the tiny mirrors of personal experience.

And that's what I value most in other people's blogs. If I want good commentary on public affairs I can get it from experienced, knowledgeable commentators via an assortment of media from all over the world, online or off. But I can't catch the flavour, the immediacy, the Zeitgeist or the rich, dense micro-detail of people's daily lives anywhere but here in the blogosphere.

Next week: pantaloons on the piano legs

Oh for crying out loud.

In decades of literary training I have never had reason to suspect that there was any category beyond farce. Until now.

Not even Ratty ever presided over anything as ludicrous as this. The Ern Malley hoax pales into insignificance as a demonstration of what a ridiculous country we can be when we put our minds to it. Imagine the international headlines: AUSTRALIA'S NATIONAL POLICE RAID ITS NATIONAL ART GALLERY. One can only hope that Barry Humphries is getting a lot of new material out of it.

Some time over the last 24 hours the Bill Henson fiasco has assumed the proportions and hysteria levels of a witch-hunt; one manifestation of this is that the discussion has broadened in some fora (see for example the link to Larvatus Prodeo, below) into accusations that Henson has also "exploited" drug addicts in Europe as subject for other photographs.

And despite the many precedents in various countries (notably the US and the UK) regarding art versus the moral-panic perpetrators, I am actually a bit frightened about what that says about this country and the people in charge of it. There are several different discussion threads on the subject over at Larvatus Prodeo; I've left a comment at one of them that I might paste in here as well.

... No doubt like many other tourists, I was and remain haunted by the addicts in Vienna’s underground railway stations, particularly those in the Innere Stadt. One in particular, can’t remember its name, was so full of floating, dazed, emaciated, deathly bodies that it looked and felt like some nightmare underworld. Some of them were begging. Some of them were unconscious. Some of them were vomiting and/or incontinent.

If representation of them in photography is ‘exploitation’, would representation of them in painting be any different? What if you wrote a song about them? I have been known in the past to write fiction and I hope to write more fiction in the future; If I put this vision of hell into a story or a novel, accurately describing what I saw, is that exploitation? If I write nonfiction in which this scene is described in a documentary manner, is that better or worse? If I refuse payment for these works, does any of that make a difference, and if so in what way?

Here’s another example: ten years ago Robert Hannaford painted a fabulous portrait of Robert Dessaix when the latter was very ill, with, at that stage, a not-wonderful prognosis. The painting is profoundly haunting. Was that exploitation?

My point, and I do have one, is that the logical conclusion of arguments like these is that all art depicting human subjects is exploitation and should be banned. Given the degree of hostility to art that is oozing out of public discourse as we speak, perhaps that’s the aim. I am so appalled by the federal police’s raid this evening on the National Gallery that I’m now prepared to believe anything.

Tuesday, May 27, 2008

Absolutely revolting!

In an article in last Saturday's Australian, Beth Driscoll reminds us that the Prime Minister will be the final arbiter of his new and lucrative prizes for literature. The man who thinks Bill Henson's beautiful, powerful, emotive photographs 'absolutely revolting' will be having the last word on which books represent the country's best literature.

The judging panels -- Peter Pierce, John Marsden and Margaret Throsby for fiction, Sally Morgan, John Doyle and Hilary Charlesworth for non-fiction -- were, if their response to this news was anything to go by, invited to be judges without being told that their decisions would be subject to Prime Ministerial approval and/or veto, and were apparently not told until after they had already accepted and could not get out of it without looking bad from a number of angles.

That was a piece of appallingly bad management on the part of the administrators. And while one understands why the PM might want to have a say about the winner of a prize with his name on it, the inclusion of this very unusual and highly contentious condition suggests to me that whoever was developing this project behind the scenes knew less about literary prizes and the administration thereof than was required not to stuff it up before it had even got off the ground.

Pierce and Marsden voiced their disquiet at the time. Think how much worse they must be feeling about it now that we have so much more precise an indication of the Prime Minister's taste and discernment when it comes to judging the arts. What a good thing Vladimir Nabokov doesn't qualify for this prize, what with being Russian, not to mention dead. Clearly he wouldn't stand a chance.

Monday, May 26, 2008

This is not an argument: thinking about the Bill Henson debacle

As the farce continues to unravel around the work of photographer Bill Henson, here are a few pertinent scraps. This is not an argument, just some pictures, a couple of quotations, and a few tenuously connected points.

1) You can't 'sexualise' something that is already self-sexualised. Obviously I can't speak for blokes but any woman who tells you she was not sexually aware (not necessarily 'experienced', just aware) and curious by the time her breasts had begun to grow is either lying, repressed or very very unusual.

2) Adolescents are not children.

3) People who persist in framing the debate as one of two clear-cut binaries -- the 'anti-censorship v. wowsers' brigade, or the '"OMG they're enabling paedophiles, arrest them" v. "It's Art, you oiks"' brigade -- are never going to listen to each other. These four groups all appear to have plasticine their ears.

4) Kevin Rudd is a bureaucrat and a Christian. We all already knew that. Also, if your mantra is 'working families', it's dangerously off-message not to Loudly Denounce anything that appears to threaten 'family values'. Anyone who was surprised by Rudd's reaction hasn't been paying attention. Which is not to say that if he finds the Henson photographs 'absolutely revolting' then his knowledge of the history and theory of art must pretty much nonexistent. Which is depressing, but not surprising.

5) Trying to sort these issues into 'left and right', and to attach one's views to one side or the other, is the single least intelligent and most common thing I have seen commentators doing, on and off line, since this business first hit the fan, and has produced some of the most nonsensical commentary.

6) The populist scorn heaped upon the 'arty-farty', the 'luvvies' and so on and so drearily forth is to do with hysterical rejection of anything that is not understood, coupled with eleven years of thought-training in scorning the "cultural elites".

7) Freud abandoned the seduction theory -- that many of his patients' psychological problems had their origin in childhood sexual abuse -- under heavy peer pressure that mostly took the form of ridiculing the notion that childhood sexual abuse could possibly be so widespread, much less involve actual *gasp* fathers. This was in Austria. I mean, I ask you.

8) I've been looking at Bill Henson's work since Peter Craven and Michael Heyward used to publish it regularly in Scripsi, (and do read that, it's terrific, and very informative, and there are some wonderful images) of which Henson was graphics editor, in the 1980s and early 1990s, and it has always weirded me out. But the point is that that is the point. Like the painting of Goya, Heironymous Bosch or Francis Bacon, or Nabokov's Lolita, it is supposed to weird you out.

9) Here's a question: would those who scorn the claims that art is qualitatively different from p*rn in its intents and effects claim that this Greek vase is not art?




10) This is from Margaret Drabble's novel A Natural Curiosity. The character Liz is a psychotherapist; she is on a TV panel, arguing, on the basis of a recent Romeo-and-Juliet type tragedy, that the 'age of consent' law should be abolished.

'But you can't deny,' said the politician, 'that the removal of legal constraint would open the floodgates?'

Liz appeared amused, quizzical, interested.

'You mean you think that everyone is longing to have sex with the underaged, and that only the law prevents it? ... Do you really think,' she inquired, innocently, this time of the unfortunate headmaster, 'that the desire of adults for sexual contact with children is so widespread and so strong that only the most severe social and legal sanctions can control it?' While he hesitated, she pursued: 'And if this is so, does it ever occur to you that this desire itself could be less abnormal than you believe it to be? And less harmful?'

Now, Clive could tell, she really had gone too far, she had broken a taboo, she had said the unspeakable.

... When asked if her views represented those of her profession as a whole, Liz, for the first time, hesitated and then continued: 'No, I wouldn't say so, these views are my own ... But may I say that I haven't really been expressing views. The rest of you have been doing that. I have been asking questions and making suggestions.'

11) Here's another picture; this is a photograph of Alice Liddell, popularly supposed to have been the 'original' of Alice in Wonderland, taken by Charles Lutwidge Dodgson AKA Lewis Carroll. He has dressed her up as a 'beggar-maid'; the reference appears to be to the story of King Cophetua and the Beggar-Maid, popular and well-known at the time, and in essence a love story about adults. Here is Alice. It's 1858, a date most will recognise as mid-Victorian. Alice comes from a secure, loving, educated and enlightened family, her father a classical scholar. This photograph was taken in the earliest days of photography, an art of which Dodgson was a pioneer.



Alice was six.

I find this photograph far more disturbing than any of the Henson ones, and would not like to try to say exactly where that disturbance lies.

To repeat: this post is not an argument. These jostling fragments and images are what occurred to me first in the wake of the Henson implosion, as signposts to different ways of thinking about it.

Every victim of childhood sexual abuse that I've ever seen or heard speak was in some way perceptibly damaged by the experience, and sometimes all but destroyed. But the question of the Henson photographs is entirely separate from that. The photographs are art, and art is an exploration of the human condition and the world beyond it. No subject matter should be disallowed, if we are to know ourselves.

Wednesday, May 21, 2008

The Tibetan flag and the best possible answer

The mayor of Unley (an inner (sub)urban Adelaide local council) was on ABC radio this afternoon being interviewed about the protest calls and emails he has had from, among other bodies, the Australia-China Friendship Society about the Council flying the Tibetan flag.

Since this story was published on May 5, the Mayor must have come on board, because he was vigorously defending his Council's actions. Asked what he thought about the Australia-China Friendship Society's protests, he gave the best answer there was: he pointed out how wonderful it was to live in a country where (a) a local council was free to fly a flag, and (b) anyone was free to protest.

Pavlov's Laws: pop quiz (multiple choice)

If you're standing at the bathroom mirror putting in your earrings and you thoughtfully grab the plug so that the tiny pearl earrings won't end up down the drain and the plug is stuck to the soap and the soap is stuck to the little wooden soapdish and they all come up in your hand and then break apart in mid-air, will the object they hit on the way down and knock to the tiled bathroom floor be

(a) in a hard bottle that shatters into a million horrible little chips designed to pierce and gouge the feet of the humble blogger and the tender pink paw-pads of her feline overlordsladies?

(b) by far the most expensive thing on the ledge? (Thank God the Chanel No. 5 is in the cabinet)

(c) almost full?

(d) very, very aromatic?

(e) something that takes 20 minutes to clean up properly when you were in a tearing hurry in the first place?

or (f) all of the above?

There are no prizes.*

* Up until about 20 minutes ago, of course, I could have offered an almost-full bottle of Jurlique Pure Rosewater Freshener.**

** Note product placement with proudly South Australian brand name.***

*** Although, inexplicably, I am still waiting to hear from Haigh's, Fox Creek and whoever now makes Balfour's Frog Cakes.

On reading The Spare Room

There's a post about Helen Garner's The Spare Room over here. It hardly scratches the surface, but I hope to write at least one more when I've given it some more thought.

UPDATE: As you were. Yes, I'm sufficiently rattled by the viciously insulting (and, naturally, anonymous) comment that just turned up over there to take that post down. It was meant to be a particular kind of personal post about the experience of reading, of a kind that only a blog will let one write. But if that's the effect it has on a particular kind of troll then I would rather it wasn't there at all. I might try for a more orthodox post on the Garner book later.

I have a very good idea of who it was and why he did it. In fact, I am almost sure. But that doesn't actually help very much.

Monday, May 19, 2008

Beem me up, Scotty, it's teaming with illiterates down here

This morning, for the umpty squillionth time, I have seen this combination of words in print, where it has presumably been written by professional writers/journalists and then passed the scrutiny of professional editors, and not just in print but in the online version of what used to be one of the country's best newspapers:

SNEAK PEAK

They mean "peek", which is a quick, often surreptitious look at something. A peak is the usually slightly pointy top of a mound. Mountains have them, as do meringues and nipples.

You might get a sneak peek at a peak in a wardrobe malfunction situation, or into the briefly opened oven door, or through the swirling mist. But it's not an excusable mistake from anyone who's paid to write words and/or check them. It Just. Is. Not.

*Sulks*

Thursday, May 15, 2008

On thinking about not eating meat

Warning: long post

'I blame Peter Singer for turning my wife into a vegetarian,' said a friend of mine about fifteen years ago, and it was enough to send me off to read some Singer and see what the story was. I have continued to admire Singer even through the radical ideas that have made a lot of people write him off or worse, partly because I admire anyone rational and detached enough not to be automatically, unthinkingly anthropocentric, and partly because I also admire anyone who can follow a train of thought all the way to its logical destination without losing her or his nerve.

Also falling squarely into both these categories is novelist J.M. Coetzee, well-known for his views on animals and meat-eating, and since he and his partner Dorothy Driver moved to Adelaide it's been my good fortune to have encountered them in various places. One of the most memorable of these occasions was a public reading at a fundraiser in the Adelaide Hills where Coetzee read a passage from Boyhood about watching men on a farm kill a sheep.

Coetzee is not an elaborator, at least not in the writerly sense of what John Steinbeck once called 'hooptedoodle', but the unexpressed horror and fear and revulsion felt by the watching child is there in the syntax of these quiet sentences. Listening to the reading was a very weird experience, because on the one hand I could feel the horror in the writing, and on the other hand could imagine the scene very clearly because I'd seen this sight myself, many times, at a similar age in a similar place. And for me it's an interesting but matter-of-fact memory, framed by the context of a very happy childhood.

If you grew up on a farm in the 1940s or 50s or 60s, this was just something you saw. In my case we were (like every other kid in the district) inured to it as a natural part of farm life. If you farmed sheep -- and in those parts, everybody did -- you would regularly kill one for meat as a matter of course. There was even a kind of unspoken primitive-hunter-type 'honour the creature' thing going on when animals were killed to eat. My sisters and I, from a very young age, would be neither encouraged to watch nor discouraged from watching the sheep being quickly killed, hung and gutted, but if we were on the spot then we were expected to make ourselves useful, mostly by being handed a bowl of warm brains and kidneys and told 'Here, take that up to Mummy.'

Sheep destined for the table, like the doomed chooks for special-occasion meals, were killed quickly and efficiently; the worst thing they felt was a few moments of fear. A quick death was mandatory. A sharp, clear line was drawn between killing for food and causing pointless pain and suffering.

Any cruelty or neglect shown to animals was despised, and failure to look after one's animals properly was cause for shame. In tandem with the vivid but undistressing memories I have of watching sheep be killed, there are equally vivid memories of my father trundling around in rain, hail and gale in the middle of the night, bodily lifting pregnant ewes or newly shorn sheep into the back of the ute or even, in uteless years, the boot of the car to drive them to shelter.

Obviously much of this was economically based and God knows sheep are very hard to love, but whatever the motives may have been, I grew up steeped in an ethos of treating all animals humanely. Sheepdogs and farm cats were loved, cared for and regarded as individual creatures with personalities and feelings.

All of which is to say that I grew up with a clear sense of the difference between neglecting or mistreating animals, on the one hand, and on the other hand raising them in the open, providing protection from predators and weather, making sure there was always water and plenty to eat, keeping them mainly for wool and eggs and occasionally killing a sheep, a chook or a goose quickly and humanely for food. I think these things were too deeply imprinted ever to be erased.

So, on the continuing-to-eat-meat side of the argument:

-- I grew up in the country; there was enough money; my parents loved each other and me. Beliefs acquired in that sort of childhood cannot be shed easily, if at all.

-- I don't regard eating meat as in any way unclean or defiling.

-- I appreciate the benefits of protein and iron.

-- I really like meat.

-- These days I am very, very careful when shopping about the conditions under which the animals for animal products were raised. Eggs and chooks are free range only. I never eat pork or cured meats at all.

-- I take the point about the environment, but my shopping habits don't support the sorts of farms that do it the most damage, and in any case I think there are more urgent environmental disasters happening, and in any case anyway, I think it is too late.

-- Most of the extreme 'animal liberationist' rhetoric and behaviour I've seen has looked hysterical, irrational, ignorant, sentimental, self-righteous and/or obsessed.

And yet, and yet:

-- I once found myself, after several weeks of getting very run down through overwork and no proper meals, tearing into a couple of half-cooked veal chops still dripping with bloody juices, standing over the sink like Mia Farrow chowing down on raw hearts in Rosemary's Baby. I know the body demands meat -- but look at that comparison I drew there. Why is Mia Farrow chowing down on raw hearts? Because she's been possessed by the devil.

-- A.S. Byatt, perhaps the single living writer I admire most, spoke more than 20 years ago at the Melbourne Writers' Festival about how lived experience gets used in writing fiction. She told a story about opening her fridge one day, seeing the assorted sausages and bacon and chops and chooks, and thinking 'My God, this thing is full of death.'

-- I have no respect for or patience with the anthropocentric view that all other species are there for our convenience, and even less with the view that might is right and therefore the smartest species gets to treat all the others any way it likes.

-- I have even less respect for or patience with people who argue that animals do not have a 'self', feel emotion, or think; that to me simply indicates that these people have never spent any time with animals.

Grapple, grapple.

I can't imagine taking up a formal position on this, or sticking to it if I did. But what with Singer and Coetzee and Byatt, and living with two cats and a gardenful of birds, and the disgusting conditions -- physically as well as ethically disgusting -- under which so many animals are farmed, I can see myself moving further and further away from meat-eating. Not with any conscious resolve or intention to stop altogether, but more in the spirit of what Gertrude Stein once said about her unintentional estrangement from her brother. 'Little by little, we never met again.'

Just in case there's anyone out there who hasn't heard this one already

As Comicstriphero would say, I love this joke so much I want to marry it. I'm a farmer's daughter, what can I say. You can take the girl out of Curramulka, etc.

NB dated technology; a skilled cultural historian could tell you when this joke originated, not only to the year but possibly also to the month.



A farmer is attending to a mob of sheep in a remote paddock when suddenly a brand-new BMW advances out of a dust cloud towards him. The driver, a young man in a Broni suit, Gucci shoes, Ray Ban sunglasses and YSL tie leans out the window and says "If I tell you exactly how many sheep you have here, will you give me one?"

The farmer looks at the man, obviously a yuppie, then looks at his peacefully grazing mob and calmly answers, "Sure. Why not?"

The yuppie parks his car, whips out his Dell notebook computer, connects it to his AT&T cell phone, surfs to a NASA page on the internet, where he calls up a GPS satellite navigation system to get an exact fix on his location which he then feeds to another NASA satellite that scans the area in an ultra-high-resolution photo.

The young man then opens the digital photo in Adobe Photoshop and exports it to an image processing facility in Hamburg, Germany. Within seconds, he receives an email on his Palm Pilot that the image has been processed and the data stored. He then accesses a MS-SQL database through an ODBC connected Excel spreadsheet with hundreds of complex formulas. He uploads all of this data via an email on his Blackberry and, after a few minutes, receives a response. Finally, he prints out a full-color, 150-page report on his hi-tech, miniaturized HP LaserJet printer and finally turns to the farmer and says, "You have exactly 1586 sheep."

"That's right. Well, I guess you can take one of my sheep," says the farmer. He watches the yuppie select one of the animals and looks on amused as the young man stuffs it into the trunk of his car.

Then the farmer says to the young man, "Hey, if I can tell you exactly what your business is, will you give me back my sheep?"

The young man thinks about it for a second and then says, "Okay, why not?"

"You're a consultant," says the farmer.

"Wow! That's correct," says the yuppie, "but how did you guess that?"

"No guessing required," answered the farmer. "You showed up here even though nobody called you; you want to get paid for an answer I already knew to a question that I hadn't asked; and you know absolutely nothing about my business. Now give me back my dog."

Wednesday, May 14, 2008

I'll never make the water polo team, but I could procrastinate for Australia

I got this meme from Hoyden About Town. And I'm doing it because (a) I'm having a thought-provoking mid-decade birthday, (b) I have to meet a deadline, and then (c) I have to go and have a local anaesthetic in my face. Call it an escape to a parallel universe.

Apparently these are the 106 books most often listed as 'unfinished' on LibraryThing. The rules are that you bold the ones you've read all the way to the end, underline the ones you read for "school", and asterisk the ones you started but didn't finish. I'm ignoring the 'school' thing, and underlining the ones I started but didn't finish.

From where I'm standing it's an extremely interesting exercise in cultural history. These are the books that pretty much any Australian of my age with a postgrad-level liberal education will have read -- and, perhaps even more revealingly, will have failed to read. An alert historian of reading would be able to deduce my year of birth from this list.

It's not just a matter of curricula, but also of fashions in reading; for instance, second-wave feminism and the (closely related, I think) resurrection of Jane Austen in endless screen adaptations and variations on the fanfic theme will have made her about four times as popular these days as she was in the 1970s.

God it's depressing to be so predictable.

Jonathan Strange & Mr Norrell
Anna Karenina
Crime and Punishment
Catch-22
One Hundred Years of Solitude
Wuthering Heights
The Silmarillion
Life of Pi : a novel
The Name of the Rose
Don Quixote
Moby Dick
Ulysses
Madame Bovary
The Odyssey
Pride and Prejudice
Jane Eyre
The Tale of Two Cities [I never finished this, but I know it's actually called A Tale of Two Cities]
The Brothers Karamazov
Guns, Germs, and Steel
War and Peace
Vanity Fair
The Time Traveler’s Wife
The Iliad
Emma
The Blind Assassin
The Kite Runner
Mrs. Dalloway
Great Expectations
American Gods
A Heartbreaking Work of Staggering Genius
Atlas Shrugged
Reading Lolita in Tehran : a memoir in books
Memoirs of a Geisha
Middlesex
Quicksilver
Wicked : the life and times of the wicked witch of the West
The Canterbury Tales
The Historian : a novel
A Portrait of the Artist as a Young Man
Love in the Time of Cholera
Brave New World
The Fountainhead
Foucault’s Pendulum
Middlemarch
Frankenstein
The Count of Monte Cristo
Dracula
A Clockwork Orange
Anansi Boys
The Once and Future King
The Grapes of Wrath
The Poisonwood Bible
1984
Angels & Demons
Inferno
The Satanic Verses
Sense and Sensibility
The Picture of Dorian Gray
Mansfield Park
One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest
To the Lighthouse
Tess of the D’Urbervilles
Oliver Twist
Gulliver’s Travels
Les Misérables
The Amazing Adventures of Kavalier and Clay
The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-Time
Dune
The Prince
The Sound and the Fury
Angela’s Ashes : a memoir
The God of Small Things
A People’s History of the United States : 1492-present
Cryptonomicon
Neverwhere
A Confederacy of Dunces
A Short History of Nearly Everything
Dubliners
The Unbearable Lightness of Being
Beloved
Slaughterhouse-five
The Scarlet Letter
Eats, Shoots & Leaves
The Mists of Avalon
Oryx and Crake
Collapse : how societies choose to fail or succeed
Cloud Atlas
The Confusion
Lolita
Persuasion
Northanger Abbey
The Catcher in the Rye
On the Road
The Hunchback of Notre Dame
Freakonomics : a rogue economist explores the hidden side of everything
Zen and the Art of Motorcycle Maintenance : an inquiry into values
The Aeneid
Watership Down
Gravity’s Rainbow
The Hobbit
In Cold Blood : a true account of a multiple murder and its consequences
White Teeth
Treasure Island
David Copperfield

Tuesday, May 13, 2008

But I doubt if any publisher would let me call it Femmobolshoblogohemisphere, no matter how hard I begged

I find that some time in the last 24 hours I have written, if only in my head, most of the introductory chapter of a book whose subtitle (visible or otherwise) would be 'Blogging and Gender'.

Unfortunately, much as I would love to research and write said book, there's the small matter of doing the work to pay the bills, including the time-consuming paperwork I'm sure will be involved in taking out a petrol loan, and the several months it will take to clean up the house for sale so I can keep paying for health insurance, which in any case is largely a scam.

So much to say, so little time.

Wednesday, May 07, 2008

When they finally come to take me away, it'll be over something like this

The light fitting in question has three globe sockets, which is a bad thing for a start, even if I do only put small, low-wattage, energy-saving globes in each one. But the fitting is mysteriously, intricately bound up with the ceiling fan in a way I'd need an electrician to disentangle.

The fact that it requires three globes means I have to buy two packs of two. When choosing these two packs of two, I carefully tick off every item on the list that follows, for each represents some past mistake in globe-buying:

Energy-saving non-incandescent spiral globes: check
5 watts (25 watts in old money): check
Bayonet caps not screw-ins: check
The bayonet caps are standard size, not those little skinny ones: check
All globes for the fitting are the same brand: check

I made this purchase some time ago. And so when the second of the three little old-style incandescent globes in the light fitting gave up the ghost a few days ago, shortly after the first, I prided myself on having bought the desired replacements in sufficient quantities, and on having checked all the relevant details.

And I've just aggravated a very nasty old neck injury craning up to screw them into the ancient, dusty, crumbling fitting. Headache escalating to migraine tomorrow unless I spend the next few hours with a hot wheatbag draped around my neck and then sleep with my good friend Diazepam.

Did I notice, when I bought these globes, that they come in both 'Warm White' and 'Cool White'?

Did I buy one box of the one and the other box of the other?

Have I just spent twenty minutes craning up at the ceiling with my head tipped back, something my physio has told me I must never ever do, jiggling with glass shades, delicately trying to get the spring-loaded thingies straight, getting the globes stuck crooked, getting them unstuck, dropping the little tiny screws on the cat, shrieking obscenities that could no doubt be clearly heard three doors away and nearly losing my balance several times before I finally got them all in straight, got down off the stepladder and triumphantly switched on the light, before I realised the error of my ways?

And is 'Warm White' really quite remarkably different from 'Cool White'?

What do you reckon?

Tuesday, May 06, 2008

He lives

'You either die a hero ... or you live long enough to see yourself become the villain.'

Sunday, May 04, 2008

See t'other blog ...

... for some thoughts on Tim Winton's new novel Breath and on the current issue of Australian Book Review, here.

Saturday, May 03, 2008

Two things I've learned in the last hour

(a) Kipfler potatoes, cut in half lengthways, make fantastic wedges.

(b) My backside and I are going straight to hell.

President McCain, leader of the free world. Sigh.

I just wrote that up there to start trying to get used to it.

Regular readers of Get Fuzzy will know that cartoonist Darby Conley unfettered feline Bucky Katt (from his Siamese POV of Republicanism) has lately christened his opponents the Demolitioncrats.

And ain't it the truth.

Friday, May 02, 2008

New(ish) cooking/kitchen/gastronomy/culinary arts blog!

Now that I have been patiently led by the hand to the cyberplace where it resides, I can in turn direct the as-yet-uninitiated to Zoe-from-Crazybrave's beautiful new food/cooking blog, Progressive Dinner Party.

The watershed

You know you've been blogging for a long time, possibly even too long, when not only have you told all your best stories on the blog but you have forgotten that you've told them and have begun to tell them again.

Thursday, May 01, 2008

"Never mind the boring old spelling, grammar and punctuation, kiddies, just be creative": the aftermath

If one is engaged to teach creative writing -- and I don't mean technical writing or professional writing, I mean graduate courses in creative writing, ie with students who already have a university degree -- one will almost certainly find oneself, eventually and of necessity, spending hours teaching students about dangling participles, dangling modifiers, squinting modifiers and other ghouls and monsters of the deep dark grammatical forest. This fact is something I have known for many years.

Teaching grammar is torture for all concerned, but in this era what's even worse is the reluctant, resistant and generally bolshie attitude manifested by some -- not all, but some -- of the people on the receiving end. They seem to think you are trying to inflict on them some moral imperative when all you're really trying to do is get them to be realistic and pragmatic: if you want to be a writer, then you need to acquire the technique and the tools of the craft, because if you don't write good English, people won't publish your work.

I'm motivated to be as patient and helpful as I can in this thankless task by the still-vivid memory of my own grammatical baptism of fire, being hurled at the age of twelve into French and German classes taught by a European woman to whom it did not once occur that when she based her lessons on our assumed familiarity with the nominative, accusative and dative cases, none of us had a clue what she was talking about.

No matter how much they pay you for toiling in this thistly, thorny, stony corner of the pedagogical vineyard, it isn't enough. Or, to put it another way: "After enjoying a few chapters of the latest Harlan Coben, the marking was hard graft."