Tuesday, March 31, 2009

The view from here

Being newly redundant, I've spent several days now puzzling over What To Do.

What with the worry about feeding and clothing myself and my associated loved ones, not to mention keeping myself in the confectionery style I have grown accustomed, I thought perhaps my kettle-ship was doomed, that I might *sob* never laugh again.

To remedy this situation I read the whole newspaper on the weekend thinking that surely I'd come across some silly buggers doing stupid things with bungy cords and elephants, but, cover to cover, I only laughed once. Once! And that was over this quote by someone called Vickers in an article about Prince William: "Extraordinary presence, tall and upright; if you put the requirements of a future king into a computer, that's what you'd hope to come up with." That sure beats the current method for selecting a monarch.

Anyhoo, so I decided that if anyone/thing had an answer for What To Do it would be The School of Life, and what ho did I find but this post on The School of Life's Alternative Job Centre.

Forget the whole employers-advertising-positions caper (that's so 2008), the Alternative Job Centre invites you to write an ad for the job of your dreams and let employers decide if they are able to offer it to you.

So here goes:

Hi, my name is Kettle and I am the kind of person who understands that money can be exchanged for goods and services. I care deeply about books and tea, which is possibly why I have so little money to exchange for goods and services.

My best personal qualities are that I know when to plunge the coffee and I always carry an umbrella. My special talent is that I can tell you, with a moment's notice, the percentage of books on my bookshelves I've read. I value libraries with ladders with wheels on them, and my ambition is to have such a library one day (or at least one of those ladders).

My special wish is to have a job where I can sit in this chair:

Please direct all offers of such work to this website.

Yours, etc,

What is your dream job for the Alternative Job Centre?

Saturday, March 28, 2009

The Very Hungry Global Economic Crisis*

In the light of the golden arches from the Maccas across the road, a little house with a sub-prime mortgage sat in the middle of its block.

One Sunday morning the warm sun came up and - pop! - went the US property market. Out of the rubble came a tiny and very hungry economic crisis.

It started to look for some food.

On Monday it ate through one bundle of securitised loans. But it was still hungry.

On Tuesday it ate through one half of the middle management of a mid-tier bank, but it was still hungry.

On Wednesday it ate through the rest of the middle management of the mid-tier bank then ate all the other levels of the bank, but it was still hungry.

On Thursday it ate through one Merrill and one Lynch, but it was still hungry.

On Friday it ate through one emerging market economy, but it was still hungry.

On Saturday it ate through one nest egg, one framing business, one aid program, one maternity leave provision, one camping trip, one Laura's Hot Bake and one nice new pair of Connies (Chuck Taylor All Star Multi Eyelets). That night it had a stomachache!

The next day was Sunday again. The caterpillar ate through one nice greenback, and after that it felt much better.

Now it wasn't hungry any more - and it wasn't a little economic crisis any more. It was a big, fat global economic crisis!

It built a house, called corporate law, around itself. It stayed inside for more than two weeks. Then it nibbled a hole in an amended subclause of a subsection, pushed its way out and...

Boarded a private jet and winged it to the Caymans where it's now lying about in a banana chair drinking pina coladas and barking commands at the help.

* Apologies to Mr Carle and his very lovely caterpillar.

Sunday, March 22, 2009

Would you? Could you?

Piki from Wiki.

Taking a bag of rubbish out to the communal bins earlier today I noticed a book, nay an entire small bookshelf of books, in one of the bins.

Throwing out books is like throwing out your nearest and dearest: "I'm awfully sorry son/daughter/significant squeeze/friend since forever but I think I'm done with you now. If it's quite alright with you I think the best place for you now is this, well, bin. Once again, awfully sorry, thanks for the memories, etc."

So like the valiant gal I am I looked into the bin and thought "I might not be able to save all of you but I can save one of you".

There were books about selecting the right cat for your lifestyle, several science fiction titles involving lords and daggers and magical rings, and one little volume with a pretend-aged-leather-cover dust jacket with these words on the back: "Warning: Not to be Read After Dark".

Since my inner voice objects to being told, well, anything my first response was "I'll show you 'don't read it after dark' - humph" (I do wish my inner voice was less objectional; I do the same thing with tv ads: "Don't tell me to spend less on my fabric softener and expect better results - humph").

Anyhoo, so the little book was saved from the bin because I felt sorry for it and because it directly challenged me to read it after dark if I was game. Being impatient I started reading it on the way back from the bin (more 8am than after dark), and what did I find between its covers? Allow me to share with you:

I like Ellie a lot. She's warm and friendly in a way that makes you feel that she really cares about you. Mam says that marrying Ellie was good for Jack because she helped to make him less agitated.

Less agitated? Ah, ok.

Ellie has hair the colour of best-quality straw three days after a good harvest and skin that really glows in the candlelight.

Three days after a good harvest? Riiight.

By page 13 I was over it so skipped to the end. Page 324:

Poor Billy Bradley's back in his grave outside the churchyard at Layton, but at least he's got his thumbs now. None of it's pleasant but it's something that just goes with the job. You have to like it or lump it, as my dad says.

I'm glad to hear poor Billy Bradley's back in his grave and I must say it's always good to have your thumbs (?). I'm sure you'll be glad to hear this little novel is back in the bin and that my thumbs helped put it there.

Could you, would you, throw a book out?

* Edit: While it was fun writing the bit above about thumbs and bins, I must confess I couldn't actually throw the book out. It's sitting here on the desk, and since I can't physically make myself throw it out I'll need to find a home for it. Would anyone like to actually read The Spook's Apprentice by Joseph Delaney properly, something I've failed miserably to do? I'll send it to you.

Friday, March 20, 2009

Kings highlight employment growth area

I just read a review of the Kings of Leon in concert in Sydney. Frankly I don't know why, I'm not a member of the Kings of Leon fan club (in fact I would gleefully throw little lamingtons at them if they tried to pass me on the escalators) but read the review I did and am glad for it.

Why? For two reasons: the reviewer threw in reference to Noiseworks and to "please-everybody mid-paced rock and slightly cheesy vocals" (take that, Kings of Leon); and happened to mention the band came on stage to Carmina Burana.

I like a bit of classical melodrama as much as the next lamington-throwing gal so I popped over to YouTube to spend a few giddy moments re-living the classical melodrama of Carmina Burana:

Watching this clip led me to a few mid-afternoon realisations:

1. Hair styles were inherently more fluffy, thus fun, in the early '90s;

2. The quality of spectacle design at this time was far superior to today (a point John Faulkner has always known);

3. We should all have timpanis at home and use them when we want to reinforce a point: "I want a cup of tea [boom], a soothing cup of [boom]."

4. Writing subtitles for songs with Latin lyrics would be my dream job:

Fate - monstrous
and empty,
you whirling wheel,
stand malevolent,
well-being is vain
and always fades to nothing,
and veiled
you plague me too;
now through the game
I bring my bare back
to your villainy.

Mercy! There simply aren't enough 13th century manuscripts written in Ecclesiastical Latin metre being put to music and requiring subtitles these days. I think it's a growth industry, though, and many thanks to the Kings of Leon for bringing it to our attention.

Wednesday, March 18, 2009

The University of Life

Four principal realisations I've had over the past 24 hours (with four sub-realisations and one dialogue transcription):

1. Going to bed two hours earlier than usual just means you wake up two hours earlier.

i. There is suprisingly little to do at 4am.

2. It's quite difficult to teach three-year-old children how to fly kites.

i. There are at least five points on small children's shoes the world over that kite string can and will get caught on.

3. Chariots of Fire is not a rousing film about breaking the four-minute mile but rather nationalist sporting twaddle.

i. Incorrectly attributed filmic memories from childhood can lead to disappointing evenings spent in adulthood.*

ii. The Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences does not always award the Best Film accolade to the best film (or even the best mediocre film, sporting or otherwise).

4. Wrong number phone calls received from universities can lead to the following conversation:
"Hello, I'm calling from the University of New South Wales and I'm looking for Jane Citizen.** Is that you, Jane Citizen?"
"Um no, I'm not enrolled at UNSW."
"Why not?"

I will puzzle over this while I have a cup of tea. Why not, indeed.

* What was that bloomin' film about the four-minute mile?
** Not real name.

Monday, March 16, 2009

Oops! I left my brain on the train!

Tomorrow: "How Conniptions Will Save the Global Economy" but for tonight, just this my friends (from here via Ampersand Duck):

Sunday, March 15, 2009

Dear Ms/Mr Dictionary Writer

Is it just me or does this Shakespeare look like he needs a cigarette?

After considerable thought, I have decided that life would be better if I was Shakespeare. Sure, there was probably a little more scarlet fever and smallpox in the late sixteenth and early seventeenth centuries than I'd like, and definitely a little less sanitation than I'm into, but what would you give to have created thousands of words, at least 1,700 of which are still in use today?

Since there are many reasons why I will never be Shakespeare, including that he lived and died several centuries before I was even a twinkle in my parents' eyes, and that he had a gargantuan brain while I am, well, a kettle, in my quiet moments I like to think on what small amendments I could make to the rolling stone that is the English language. They are thus, and I humbly submit them to you:

1. 'sea-hice' as a plural of 'sea-horse'. I always find it rather awkward saying 'sea-horses', so many esses. I believe the substitution of 'hice' for 'horses' would allow discussion of herds of sea-horses (sea-hice) to be more easily enunciated. After all, we say 'mice' rather than 'mouses'.

2. When 'so' is used to indicate a great amount of something, it should have an additional 'o'. Thus, to indicate cause and effect it need only have one 'o': "Snow White ate the poisoned apple so that she'd pass out then get a snog from a dashing prince with great hair"; while to indicate a great deal of something, the extra 'o' should be added: "Snow White was soo pissed off that the prince was into that totally hot guy from Silent Witness".

3. 'boilt' as an alternative to 'boiled'. No reason, just sounds funny.

My goal for Monday is to use each of these little enlargements to the English language, and to use them more than once if I can bring up sea-hice twice in one day without sounding like a cream-faced loon. I would be delighted to do my bit to advance any suggested enlargements you have; just say the word.

Thursday, March 12, 2009

To tweet or not to tweet

I've been thinking a lot about Twitter over the last few weeks, partly because it's been in the news (apparently Demi Moore twittered heavily from a post-Oscars shindig, keeping the peeps up to date with celebrity fro-ing and to-ing), partly because 140 characters feels like a haiku challenge, but mostly because of their curly, birdy logo:


But what Twitter has really got me thinking about is how accessing information about an event or thing before it happens changes my experience of it.

I read a post the other day on the digihub blog about Twitter and the earthquake in Melbourne. Apparently someone had tweeted about the quake within 20 seconds of it starting ("um earthquake?"), while it took 20 minutes more for info to start appearing on mainstream media websites, and over an hour to make it onto telly.

So We the People can use Twitter and other online outlets to pass information between ourselves at a cracking pace, which is all well and good and would certainly be beneficial if one or many of us were sitting on the loo when the quake started ("um earthquake?", "no! beans!").

On the other hand, my compulsion to ferret through the whole silly list of online things I've signed up to means that I often preemptively deflate the things I plan to do. For example, last night I went to see Coldplay, which, I'd read from online reviews, tweets from people who had seen the Perth show, comments on blogs etc, was meant to be pretty great. Someone in all that ether mentioned a particular effect the band used during the song 'Yellow' so of course I had to check it out on YouTube.

The end result was that they played the song, the thing I'd read about and seen on YouTube happened, my inside voice muttered "yeah, yeah, seen it," and I felt a little stupid for paying $140 for a great seat then ruining it for myself.

Am I doing myself out of great experiences by reading about them first, or have I just shifted that thrilling moment of discovery and newness back from the event itself to the reading about it? Would you pay $140 for a ticket then watch a clip on YouTube?

Wednesday, March 11, 2009

Great lines put to good use

You know how you sometimes hear a great line that you just know is the most perfect thing you could possibly say in a given situation? The kind of line you make yourself memorise in the hope that one day, somehow, you'll find yourself in a situation where you can use it? I did this a lot with Top Gun through the '90s, despite my complete lack of contact with fighter pilots and/or the aviation industry.

Now, 15 years after the episode was first screened I finally have occasion to use one of my favourite lines from The Simpsons:

"Discount lion safari!"

Oh lordy who ever heard of such a thing? Imagine! A discount lion safari!

Happily for me the global crisis thingy has finally led to lion safaris being discounted to never seen before prices:

So not only am I able to use one of my all-time favourite lines but I can also Save Big $$$ on my next African safari. This global financial crisis just keeps on giving.

Monday, March 9, 2009

If I was in charge

Last week I read a book on Australia's system of government (mercy me it made those long hours on the plane fly by), so this week I've been noticing constitutional thing-bits everywhere (I did a similar thing with Hobbits after The Lord of the Rings and animals with revolutionary tendencies after Animal Farm).

From the rousing description of the constitutional provisions of the Executive Government in the opening pages all the way through to the definition of 'voting' at the end of the glossary, this book had me hooked and ready to buy a cheap island to set up my own democratic wonderland.

And in my small republic (since this is a wishful thinking, imaginary island), the Prime Minister's primary duty would be to go around ceremonially warning people of approaching 'political shit storms', just like this one:

Next week's exciting reading: All About Ships: A Book For Boys by Lieutenant Taprell Dorling, R.N. I'll let you know if the lieutenant has any insights on the constitution or how to spot a shit storm from out at sea.

Saturday, March 7, 2009

A holiday is a very good thing

A confused sailor/diver mistakenly hitting on a dugong that he/she thinks is a mermaid.

I've had a marvellous few travelly days and have now added 'pilot' to the list of things I want to be when I grow up since, as the pilot chirped happily at the start of my first flight, all we have to do to get between Sydney and Brisbane is "make a few right turns".

During my time away I learnt that working in an un-airconditioned room during summer helps you acclimatise to tropical heat, and that while your freshly minted acclimatisation might make you feel smug as you watch friends and loved ones sweat around you, no-one will think jokes about turning on the heater are funny (even though they are).

So in true cheesy holiday-maker style my time off has included a trip to an aquarium.

I'm a big fan of aquariums; what's not to love about the "If the fall doesn't kill you, the crocodile will" sign above the croc enclosure and the discretely positioned snack and gift stores amongst the tanks? "Ooh, look at that Southern Purple Spotted Gudgeon. Ooh, look at that chip and drink combo."

But my favourite part of my latest trip to the aquarium was the dugongs, those lovable cows of the briny deep.

While the dugongs themselves were great, the aquarium's advertising campaign that dugongs are just like mermaids was snort-worthy: tell a small child to expect mermaids and they're thinking Disney hair and shell bikinis when what they get when they walk up to the glass is stubby snouts and dugong pink bits. Next they'll be trying to tell us the giant Wobbegong is in fact Santa Claus and that the Southern Purple Spotted Gudgeon is actually the toothfairy. Way to kill the dream.

The only thing worse than trying to convince kids that dugongs are mermaids is trying to convince adults that lusty sailors confused dugongs for, ahem, very lovely ladies.

Anyhoo, a fine holiday, Dungongidae-human confusion aside, and I can't wait to see what sort of tourist-based anthropomorphism they've got going on at the zoo on my next holiday.

Monday, March 2, 2009

Can't see the wood for the... State?

A map of Australia with the 'remote' island of Tasmania pictured bottom right. The miniscule island is only 90,758 square kms and sparsely populated by half a million people, who are hard to see amongst the old-growth forest trees.

I spent some time on the weekend reading a thorough yet accessible book on environmental science. As it's a 'self-teaching' book it's full of little self-teaching quizzes, my favourite so far containing this question:

12. IOTPF is an acronym that stands for
(a) Indoor Outdoor Tennis Players Federation
(b) International Octopus, Turtle, and Piranha Foundation
(c) International Oil Tanker Owners' Pollution Federation
(d) Indigenous Owls of Temperate Pine Forests

I don't know the answer, I must have skipped the IOTPF page, but I'm happy to live in a world where any of these four are a possibility (provided (c) is anti rather than pro).

Anyhoo, reading through the chapter on 'Ecosystems and Biodiversity' I came across this delightful little sentence:

"Old-growth forests are found primarily in northern climates, although there are small caches of untouched trees in remote locations like Tasmania."

I don't actually live in Tasmania but I live in the country of which it's a State, and I'm pretty sure Tasmania itself isn't, you know, 'remote' in the whole 'forget electricity, McDonalds and the wheel, all they have in Tasmania is old-growth forests' kind of way. I'm pretty sure it's, oops, got a State Parliament and a postal service, and even its own floral and mineral emblems.

I thought perhaps the book had been written many years ago, before the mythical Great Southern Land had been discovered? But no, it was published in 2005. Then I thought perhaps the author him or herself may have been living under a rock? But no, he or she appears to be connected to one of those big, Western university-type places (which, on reflection, doesn't exclude living under a rock).

But no matter. I will have to leave Tasmania to its bi-cameral parliamentary system as I've got a week of travelling and bits and bobs ahead of me so see you back on Saturday.