Sunday, August 31, 2008

Reasons why a blogger might suddenly not be blogging

It would be comfortable to think that the reason I've not had much of substance to say here over the last week or three is that life has been particularly busy, intense and fraught; several major tasks and crises have coincided, some of them not of a bloggable nature and/or in any case more likely to produce a thoughtful silence than anything else.

But I think the main reason is probably this thread and all that it implies. Regarding the original post, there are good arguments to make, and IRL in conversation with the author of the post one would probably at least try to make them. But any post about rape, abortion, breasts or any other area of contest and incomprehension between men and women is always going to bring misogynists, extremists and full-on florid nutters out of the woodwork and into the comments thread, and that is where you need to stop and ask yourself what on earth you think you're doing. Such is the charm of blogging that you sometimes forget how much precious time you're wasting in engagement with people you'd normally walk five miles through waist-deep mouldy custard to avoid.

Not always, though.

Saturday, August 30, 2008

AFL's little ironies

Now that it is much, much too late to matter, my team are belting the Kangaroos all over the park -- particularly the Burgoyne brothers, the Motlop cousins, Toby Thurstans, Brendan Lade and Domenic Cassisi, by the sound of the commentary. Peter Burgoyne when last heard of had 45 possessions, and the game's not over yet.

Sigh.

Thursday, August 28, 2008

I'm so proud that she comes from my home town

From the ABC's online news:

Ms Gillard mocked Mr Costello for appearing indecisive as he has failed to spell out whether he is staying in politics or retiring.

She noted the company publishing Mr Costello's book, Melbourne University Press, has the motto "books with spine".

"We await this great entry into the literary world - a book with spine from a politician without one," she said.

Housekeeping: notes and queries

Can anyone explain why it is that kitchen implements, if shoved promiscuously and willy-nilly into an overcrowded drawer, appear to breed and multiply (giving forth in the process such nightmares as what seems to be the bastard offspring of a butter-curler and a melon-baller), but that socks and underwear, kept in a similar environment, do the opposite, so that you end up unable to find any clean bras except the itchy red lace one?

Inquiring minds want to know.

Horrorscope

'Don't make any long-term plans.'

It really does say that.

And I'm telling you now, if every Taurean gets wiped off the face of the earth in the next little while then every restaurant, every orchestra, every half-finished building and every bank on the planet will collapse.

Tuesday, August 26, 2008

LOLcat of the month, or possibly even of the year

Memory loop

This morning after I'd dropped off the car for its regular service, I wandered down to the nearby Hutt Street Precinct for a protracted mooch and dawdle in flâneuse mode till the garage should call and let me know the car was ready to be picked up.

Some time later I found myself passing a narrowish restaurant frontage: old black-painted wooden door, delicate little old-fashioned door-knocker in the shape of a little wreath, ancient art nouveau leadlight panel above the door. All incredibly familiar. I peered inside and recognised it as the restaurant that four of us went to for dinner the night our English Honours results came out in 1976; we'd hung out as a gang all year, and had planned the dinner as an act of solidarity no matter how well or badly each of us turned out to have done in the exams. And we did.

The restaurant was Neddy's, which had been opened by the now-legendary Cheong Liew the previous year, and was already one of the earliest signs that Adelaide was about to transform itself into a city of excellent restaurants, with radically new fusion-style cooking and an equally radically new emphasis on fresh local produce.

I found a near-empty cafe in an old and not-too-tarted-up building, ordered a hot chocolate and had just sat down with my novel when the music started up: Jimmy Barnes, another Adelaide boy, singing 'Flame Trees'.

... and I'm just savouring familiar sights
We share some history, this town and I ...

Sunday, August 24, 2008

A message

Two of my dearest friends lost their husband and father last week and the funeral was on Friday. I wasn't going to blog about this at all, but the friend who "MC'd" the funeral said he had a message for us from the dead, and since I think S would want his message disseminated as widely as possible, I shall do my bit here to help.

Don't smoke.

Just don't.

Thursday, August 21, 2008

More Olympic coverage whingeing

How can it be possible, given its well-publicised infamy and the number of times we heard not just any old North Americans but actual Texans pronouncing the name of the place at the height of its fame, that Bruce McAvaney -- a man well old enough to have been watching the news in 1993 -- thinks the Texas city of Waco is pronounced 'wacko', as in 'wacko Jacko'?

I mean, you can see the association of ideas. But still.

Two ways of seeing the glass

GLASS HALF EMPTY

When you accidentally dislodged the small decorative basket that sits on top of the bathroom cabinet and contains dozens of small items pertitent to female grooming and titivation, and said decorative basket fell off the cabinet, there was a mighty clattering and smashing on the tiled floor.

GLASS HALF FULL

Only one thing actually broke.

GLASS HALF EMPTY

It was nail polish.

GLASS HALF FULL

It was clear nail polish.

GLASS HALF EMPTY

Because it was clear shiny nail polish, you couldn't see all the clear shiny tiny shards of broken glass lying in it.

GLASS HALF FULL

So you had to clean up with the dustpan and brush before safely proceeding to the nail polish remover, and now you've got an excuse to nick up to the shops, because you need to buy new broomware.

Self-portraiture

Inspired by Sophie's image, which I can attest does in fact look very like her within the limitations of the application and without really doing her justice, I went over there to make my own dolly.

Although it allows you to put lines on your face, unfortunately it only allows one set of lines at a time, so the possible variants go pretty much straight from fresh-faced 25-year-old to dessicated crone. While I am undeniably nearer the latter than the former, I wasn't quite ready for the crone set of lines, so ended up with this:




It was only then that I remembered that I've played this game before, with an application called 'Simpsonize Me!' that you can use to turn yourself into a Simpsons character, who by happy chance is wearing my exact reading glasses:




Those who know me will be aware that this second one is a great deal closer to the truth. I bet you're all laughing yourselves stupid. And rightly so.

UPDATE -- found a few extra options manga-wise. The first one was just an idealised decades-younger "self" but this one is just starting to move into the realms of the very slightly uncanny:


Wednesday, August 20, 2008

Shock! Labour leader lists to left

Apparently 'left-wing' is now an insult, though whether it is being spun as such by this news.com.au journalist or whether the Australian government (which was Labor last I looked) really does feel embarrassed by having used 'left-wing' to describe a Labour leader, to the point of feeling the need to apologise, is something I will leave you to decide.

Clearly we are going down the absurdist path of such North Americans as regard the beautiful word 'liberal' as something to frighten children with. George Orwell, where are you when we need you?

The only person who comes out of this story not looking like an idiot is Helen Clark herself. "I thought it was a hoot and I don't propose to release the one I have on Mr Rudd."

I'm so proud that he comes from my home town

H.G. Nelson (aka Greig Pickhaver) in this morning's crikey.com.au:


Suddenly a green and gold silver eldorado has been unearthed in Beijing. At this stage of the international school sports carnival we will take anything that glints.
...

There is a funding crisis across every theatre of sport. Australia is simply not spending enough. Figures analysed today indicate that we tip 40 million large down the spout for every gold medal. The question to pose is: does any of this lolly tipped in at the top trickle down to getting fat, unfit kids on the move?

There is bugger all evidence to suggest that up top investment is paying off slimming on the nation’s bottom end. Australia bats well above its weight in the world’s obesity tables. This is something for politicians to ponder as the bids for funding filter in.

Disgraceful Olympics commentary: update

From this morning's Adelaide Advertiser (online version):

Almost knocked off her bike by the hulking Chinese in the collision ...

Saturday, August 16, 2008

Separating the men from the boys

Unlike many bloggers I've been enjoying selected parts of the Olympics, especially the equestrian events which are always beautiful and exciting to watch -- the horses are wonderful, graceful, powerful creatures and the riders are incredibly gutsy and smart. My benchmark for watching horses and riders is an unforgettable afternoon once in Vienna when I went with my friend Helen to watch a training session of the Lipizzaner Stallions, in the indoor arena of the Hofburg palace where these horses and their riders are based.

Because it was a training session, of course some of the horses were only half-trained. They're stallions (duh), and everyone knows what that means. And because they originated as war-horse training, the elaborate, unnatural 'dancing' movements of these horses were originally designed to kill and maim, or to set up the rider to do likewise. Watching the strong, sweating, white-faced riders, some of them hardly out of their teens, as they controlled these horses without hurting them, was the second best lesson I've ever had in what it actually takes to ride a horse properly. (The best was when I fell off a cantering horse onto some rocks at the bottom of a dry creek bed and heard my mother's voice clear as a bell from 750 km away saying in ringing tones 'You get back on that horse.' I did.)

I've also been enjoying the swimming, which was my favourite sport as a teenager. What I have not been enjoying is the commentary; while I appreciate some (not all) of the commentators' knowledge and expertise, I've been depressed if not surprised by the way that the overwhelmingly male commentariat refers to male competitors as men and female competitors as girls. Several people have blogged about this over the last few days.

But I've had it on all afternoon and evening while pottering round the house and I've noticed something even more sinister. There are not two categories, but three. They're calling the women 'girls', the white men 'men', and the black men 'boys'.

Friday, August 15, 2008

Blue and yellow

I grew these, from bulbs my sisters gave me -- the daffs from C this year as an Easter present instead of chocolate when the family came down here for a hot cross bun arvo tea, the hyacinths from W for my birthday in May. The vase is green alabaster from San Gimignano in Tuscany, a town made famous by E.M. Forster, bought there and brought home in a little backpack, heavily wrapped in soft clothes.

Given that I had a black thumb till I was 45, I think our mother would be proud. Not that I did anything but bung them in pots and forget about them.




For me this picture is both nothing but itself -- flowers, perfect and powerful, with intense and brief and burning lives -- and also immediately about an accreted mass of memory from a life spent mostly reading. Wordsworth. Ovid. Forster. A.S. Byatt. My mother chanting 'daffy-down-dilly'. The perfume I wore circa 1981, whose name I now can't remember, but which smelt of hyacinths, dense and ever so slightly bruised, not exactly sweet.
There were two lemons amongst the plums, to intensify the colour. How would one find the exact word for the colour of the plum-skins? (There was a further question of why one might want to do so ... It was a fact that the lemons and the plums, together, made a pattern that he recognised with pleasure, and the pleasure was so fundamentally human it asked to be noted and understood.)

... Language might relate the plum to the night sky, or to certain ways of seeing a burning coal, or to a soft case enwrapping a hard nugget of treasure. Or it might introduce an abstraction, a reflection, of mind, not mirror. 'Ripeness is all,' language might say, after observing 'We must endure Our going hence even as our coming hither.' Paint too could do these things. ... Van Gogh's painting of the Reaper in his furnace of white light and billowing corn said also 'Ripeness is all.' But the difference, the distance, fascinated Alexander. Paint itself declares itself as a force of analogy and connection, a kind of metaphor-making between the flat surface of purple pigment and yellow pigment and the statement 'This is a plum.' 'This is a lemon.'

... Alexander ... became obsessed with a small painting of a breakfast table, on which Van Gogh painted the household things he had bought for his artist's house ... held together by the contrast and coherence of blue and yellow. Vncent described it to Theo:
A coffee pot in blue enamel, a cup (on the left) royal blue and gold, a milk jug checkered light blue and white, a cup (on the right) white with blue and orange patterns on a plate of earthenware yellow-grey, a pot of barbotine or majolica blue ... finally two oranges and three lemons: the table is covered with a blue cloth, the background yellow-green, thus six different blues and four or five yellows and oranges.

-- A.S. Byatt, Still Life

Any sighted combination of blue and yellow has immediately evoked these pages from Still Life ever since I first read it, and the date I've written on the flyleaf is 1985.

I can haz intertubes?

My internets, they sick. For a whole 48 hours.

Cold turkey city.

Tuesday, August 12, 2008

Language police corner

To flout something is to disregard or ignore it with some degree of brazen ostentation. Flout is used almost exclusively to refer to 'the rules' or 'the laws' in any given context.

Beyond this primary meaning it also has connotations of blatancy, theatricality and general drama-queen carry-on, though I may be spinning this a little through its phonetic similarity to flounce. Which would make a good mnemonic when you are trying to remember the difference between flout and ...


... flaunt. To flaunt something is to show it off, wave it about and generally rub people's noses in it, so in a sense it's the opposite of flout which is to do with the act of ignoring. Again with the connotations of blatancy, theatricality and general drama-queen carry-on, however, which may be where at least some of the confusion arises.

You could, for example, flout the school rules by flaunting the sparkly thong under your little tiny skirt as you flounce about. If you do this, your flouncing will be a way of flaunting the fact that you are flouting the rules.

This is possible but not attractive. I wouldn't recommend it, especially if you are either a teacher or a boy. Or both.

Friday, August 08, 2008

Homage to Ampersand Duck

I loved Ampersand Duck's LOLcat Report so very much that I haven't been able to resist compiling one of my own, so here is an illustrated summary of recent activities.

Because of the protracted nature of the Rubbing the Lotion on its Skin episode (NB skin cancer all gone and disgusting mess on face also almost completely cleared up, hooray), I have not inflicted my close proximity on my hairdresser for far too long, so there's been plenty of this:




I have one of those peasant-survivor metabolisms that need to eat almost nothing simply in order not to gain weight (in order to lose it, I would have to *shudder* go to the gym as well. Hah. Ew), so there has also been quite a lot of this:




Unfortunately, especially in the blogosphere, there's lately been rather too much of this:




As usual there's been far too much of this




and there's also been more and more of this:







But there hasn't been anywhere near enough of this




or this




or this:



And there definitely hasn't been enough of this:


'The music of true forgiveness'

My literary goddaughter, a sometime soloist in her university choir, will turn 21 shortly and my gift to her (as soon as I've picked it up from BASS) is a ticket to accompany me to the opera in November; I offered her the choice between Rigoletto and The Marriage of Figaro, which starts here on August 30, and after deliberation she chose Rigoletto, as I was rather hoping she would.

But in the meantime I think I'm going to have to go to The Marriage of Figaro as well. Because I've never heard the transcendent 'Ah tutti contenti' sung live on the stage, and there's always the chance that one will be run over by a bus before one gets to do things one has always wanted to do. (Should that in fact happen, I hope I'll be hearing this in my head as I lie bleeding in the road.) The music at this point just is not separable from the Shakespearean quality of the drama; as Salieri says in Amadeus, 'Ah tutti contenti' is 'the music of true forgiveness'.

Music, 'whose manifestation is a displacement of air' (Helen Garner), is demonstrably a matter of maths and physics. But I once had a conversation with a hotshot young plastic surgeon on duty in Casualty at the Royal Melbourne, while he was sewing the tip of my left index finger back on after I'd cut it completely off with a vegetable knife the morning after Bob Hawke won the drover's dog election and it (the finger not the election) had been saved only by the quick thinking and take-charge good sense of the man I was living with at the time, about whether the Art/Science divide, by which our respective educations had been brutally shaped at fifteen, was in fact a false dichotomy. We agreed that it was, and that Mozart is the proof.

Serendipitously, here's a bit that made me smile from a novel I was reading this morning for work:

We talked about music, without which, we agreed, life would not be worth living ... He was composing his first mass, for four voices. On a theological note, he observed that some people had been inspired to believe in God by the simple fact that Mozart had been in the world. And he was convinced that Van Morrison was in direct communication ("unmediated communion") with the divine.

Anyway. Here, so.


Mozart - Le Nozze Di Figaro - Ah Tutti Contenti via Noolmusic.com

Wednesday, August 06, 2008

Dear John

My darling,

I still remember that fateful day in the northern summer of 1993, when I first laid eyes on you as I cruised that beautiful store in Edinburgh and knew at once that we were destined to be together. You kept me warm in the treacherous climes of Scotland and England for a few weeks and then travelled home with me to Adelaide and took up residence with me in the chilly wilds of Melbourne, where, in the depths of winter, I continued to snuggle up with you as often as I could.

Over the years you have been faithful and low-maintenance, all a girl could wish for. You have been flexible and ready to fit in with whatever else was happening on the day. You have covered up for me on numerous occasions, softening, if not quite hiding, a multitude of my sins.

But I took a good hard look at you today, and I fear, my lovely one, that we have come to a parting of the ways. In the harsh fluorescent light of the underground meeting room with the malfunctioning heating and room temperature of -3 degrees Celsius, you looked thin, and old, and worn out, and for the first time ever, you failed to warm my heart or indeed any other part of my anatomy. You can no longer fulfil the role for which I made you mine on that lovely sunny day in Scotland, fifteen years ago.

You remain, however, beautiful in my eyes. And for that reason, I cannot bear to throw you out of the house. You are charged from now on with the important household duty of looking after the tortoiseshells and keeping them warm and snuggly. I know you will perform this task well, and I will be glad to know you are still near me.

With all my love,

PCXXX


Sunday, August 03, 2008

Friday, August 01, 2008

Performance

I just caught the last hour or so of Bridget Jones #2 on the teeve, a movie so undistinguished I couldn't remember whether I'd seen it before or not, but I did enjoy the sight of Hugh Grant and Colin Firth having a refreshingly messy, non-macho, sub-Queensberry set-to in a London fountain (I love it that the Hugh Grant character fights like a demented schoolgirl -- kicking, clawing, pulling hair and running away).

Now this is seriously mediocre film, but it reminded me that the thing I love movies for is the actors. The more things you've seen someone in, the more a sort of palimpsest effect builds up and provides a subtext that the director, if she or he is smart, will take advantage of but will know is ultimately beyond his or her control.

Thus, refreshingly, just enough but not too much was made of the fact that Colin Firth was reprising his clingy wet white shirt, here half hidden under a suit. I enjoyed this all the more because the wet white shirt was referenced much more obviously in Mamma Mia, which I saw a few weeks ago and was of course made only recently. I love it that the chronology of these layered reference points in an actor's career gets all mixed up, especially in the eyes of the movie-watcher as one gets older and watches more re-runs, and that Colin Firth has enough of a sense of humour to go with it.

The other joy in that movie is watching Renee Zellwegger and remembering what she was like in Cold Mountain, which I thought was one of those magical performances when actors go right outside themselves and do something uncanny that makes you shiver a bit. It's for this reason I plan to sit through The Dark Night, which mostly doesn't interest me a bit*, so I can watch Heath Ledger put in what looks like the same order of spooky transcendent performance, and map it onto what I remember of him in Brokeback Mountain.


*As you can see, it interests me so little I can't even get the title right.


600 words a day, every day

Well. Given that I only decided to do a post-a-day for the whole month on the second of July and therefore missed a day from the get-go, I think it's rather good that I only missed three days altogether. Clearly do-able. So now I am going to mix two dead metaphors: I'm going to take a leaf out of someone else's book and up the ante.

Because I recently saw someone else in the blogosphere, and I now can't track down who it was, committing herself (I think) to writing 300 words a day, ie no cheating with LOLcats and such. So, since I finally started my novel a couple of weeks ago but, as so often, got stuck almost straight away, I'm going to try for a minimum of 300 words on the blog and another 300 on the novel, every day for the month of August, and see how I go.

But not now, because there's an all-day meeting. Later.