Monday, April 27, 2009

Confound it all

I read a piece by Richard Glover in the SMH a week or two ago deriding the language pedant. Glover opened with:

One day, during my show on ABC radio, I shall summon up my courage and say it: "The Nazi Party were right for killing all those communists, homosexuals and Jews." I know I will get complaints. People will be very, very upset. Some will be almost apoplectic with rage.

"I expected better of the ABC," they will say. "You fail to understand that the 'Nazi Party' is a collective noun and should thus be followed by the word 'was'. I await your apology by return post."

Glover's point being, of course, that the language police are more concerned with grammatical errors than content.

Good point well made, as my hero of late '90s sketch shows Shaun Micallef used to say.

Anyhoo, Glover's piece wound through some common errors the language police often seize upon, like 'PIN number,' 'ATM machine' and 'potato's', and I confess I've spent many a gleeful hour chortling over misspelt, mis-punctuated and mis-written menus ("Try our samosa's! You will love it!"), but I do think form is there to assist meaning, not to shine a torch up its own, uh-hm, colon.

But I've found this week that there are sentences that, although they appear to have form and content, are completely devoid of meaning, like this little gem below. Could I trouble you to read it with me?

In his conclusion to [Blah Blah Blah], Mr Blah Blah describes the "decentering" of modern consciousness as the standpoint of the ironic, antimetaphorical mode. Against this "lack of central plenitude," melodrama "represents a refusal of this vertiginous but possibly liberating decentering, a search for a new plenitude, an ethical recentering".

Does anyone know what that means? My best guess is: "I ate my sandwich too fast and sometimes I like to wear yellow undies". I think the bit about ethical recentering at the end might be about the RSPCA but I can't be sure.

So my question is, what do you do with sentences where meaning and good sense are wholly absent? Is it best to just open the gate and let them wander onto the road?

Friday, April 24, 2009

Why didn't someone stop me?

I used to think it was important, in some areas of life, for us to take a small amount of responsibility for our actions, like when that woman in the US a few years ago sued a fast food outlet for burns to her, uh-hm, inner thighs from driving with a take-away coffee between her legs. I remember thinking at the time there may have been a few things she personally could have done to avoid the incident.

Don't get me wrong, I'm not defending the horror that is the fast food industry or their inexplicable desire to douse our nether regions in hot coffee, but I just felt the fast food joint wasn't entirely to blame for the unfortunate mishap.

But that was then and I hadn't seen Jerry Springer: The Opera.

Post-Jerry Springer any question about where responsibility lies for all future actions has been resolved. From now on, responsibility lies with everyone else but me: friends, loved ones, associated acquaintances and, why not, complete strangers. Clearly I am unable to make sound decisions for myself so the best thing I can do is stop making them and pass the decision baton on to others who might make less of a hash of it than me.

This is all a long way of saying, when I said "Jerry Springer: The Opera? Sounds awes!" you should have said "are you out of your frickin' mind? No, you fool! Put your money away and go sit on your hands."

From the refrain of the opening song ("my wife used to be my Dad!"), through the call-and-answer "'what do you want?' - 'lesbians fighting!' - what do you want?' - 'open-crotch sighting!'", to the Ku Klux Klan having their 'Jerry Springer moment' it was all so very wrong.

The funniest part was that the audience was full of dressed-up Opera House aficionados who were whooping and guffawing it up big time.

[The nicest part, as always, was the company.]

So from now on when I come up with some sandwich-short-of-a-picnic idea, like getting tickets to see Shane Warne: The Musical, what do you do?

You wave your big decision baton at me and yell: "Are you out of your frickin' mind? No, you fool! Put your money away and go sit on your hands!"

Excellent - things are going to be ok from here.

Wednesday, April 22, 2009

I thought the day would never come

Jerry Springer: The Opera!

It's on tonight, peeps. Be still my beating fun stick.

Sunday, April 19, 2009

It's such a pleasure to be here tonight...

I spent a very pleasant hour on the weekend with a cup of tea and the program for the Sydney Writers' Festival which is on next month. Pleasant, that is, until I remembered a festival a few years ago when my highschool nemesis was on the program.

Highschool nemeses, as they age, should do the only respectable thing and allow themselves to be forced by dire economic circumstances to take mind-numbing jobs in overcrowded cities and generally live lives of woe. They should NOT become successful writers and pop up on writers' festival programs.

It was entirely possible (although not probable) that my nemesis had grown into a delightful, caring and non-mean person; it was entirely possible (although not probable) that we could be best-friends-forever just waiting to happen.

But I decided to be infantile and assume not, because I could that's why. Humph.

Anyhoo, when my eye lighted upon his name on the program all those years ago I thought "ha! On the program but no publicity shot!" ... but then I saw it, all black and white and serious and writerly in the left margin. Dang.

Then I thought maybe his session had been scheduled for some inhuman time (8am Sunday morning?) when no-one was awake let alone ready to hear about former-nemesis-penned tales, but no, there he was in a prime time evening slot. Dang.

I was somewhat appeased, however, when I realised his session was free. Free! Free I tell you! "No tickets, no takings..." I thought in a shameful bad karma way, "no cash for the trip to Sydney next year?"

How tightly did I cling to this infantile reasoning, but that was years ago and I've moved on. Clearly.

Thursday, April 16, 2009

Anyone home in there?

Pic from here - awes.

Do you ever have those moments when you realise your internal monologue has powered down? Taken a siesta? Officially left the building?

Usually the sign this has happened to me is that I can read headlines about Posh Spice being hot again, a man biting a python who has hauled him up a tree, and platform shoes that will, uh-hm, "shoe us the way," without the slightest guffaw or snort, internal or otherwise.

So it has been over the last few weeks.

I suspect I suffer from Homer Simpson's displacement syndrome, whereby the addition of any new thoughts means the loss of previously held thoughts. In my case my kettly thoughts have been nudged out by my need to find a new job, and to figure out how to eat and pay bills and things like that. I've also just launched my own little business so that's occupying a significant chunk of my frontal lobe. So many projects, so little brain to go around.

On the plus side, I've answered so many selection criteria I now know my entire work history inside out! No more stumbling and trying to remember dates in interviews for me. No sirree. I've even come to believe the exaggerations in my CV! Go me.

This is a roundabout way of apologising for the dearth of posts lately and the questionable quality of those few that have so shamefully made it onto the site. I have a new bloggy project planned that I'm looking forward to starting and will post here as soon as my guffaw-ometre is working again.


Sunday, April 12, 2009

Piratical funniness

Many thanks, good Wiki folk, for the pic.

When I borrowed the schmaltzy and undeserved-Oscar-winning Chariots of Fire on dvd from my favourite local library a few weeks ago, I also picked up a best-of disc of The Goodies.

With infinitely more interesting story lines and infinitely more endearing characters than the nationalistic twaddle that is Chariots of Fire, The Goodies dvd led to hours of discussion (which Goodie did you grow up wanting to be?) and many thigh-slapping, guffawing reminiscences of favourite episodes (mine include any with over-sized domestic animals and Goodies hiding in post boxes).

To my great delight the first episode that unfolded was 'Radio Goodies', where our adventurous trio start a pirate radio station (and pirate postal service based on a complex system of balloons, air rifles and messages in bottles) in a submarine five miles off the coast. It all goes terribly wrong, of course, with Graeme becoming a megalomaniac and Bill and Tim stuck playing one record over and over again (the instrumental 'A Walk in the Black Forest' - noice) until at last the submarine sinks and Graeme's totalitarian despot plans come to a cold and wet end.

At the time I remember thinking 'what ho! A pirate radio station! Ah mercy, those wacky Goodies with their over-active imaginations' but wouldn't you know there really were pirate radio stations broadcasting from boats anchored beyond the five mile limit, bringing rock 'n' roll to the poor music-starved masses on the mainland.

And to my great delight a new film has just been released called The Boat That Rocked about none other than the UK's pirate radio movement! I suspect it will be such a laff I won't know where The Goodies ends and the movie begins.

And now, in the words of pirate radio's greatest DJ:

: "Yes, friends, that was number 1 in The Goodies Hit Parade, and now number 2, and incidentally 3, 4, 5, 6, 7, 8, 9 and 10 ... "A Walk in the Black Forest."

Tuesday, April 7, 2009


I received this postcard today from a friend who has recently moved to the other side of the continent.

A few weeks ago I sent her a postcard of Sydney Harbour in an infantile attempt to make her homesick; although, the harbour had been touched up a little and was a gorgeous, pre-settlement ultramarine so she may in fact have thought it was a Ken Done painting and that I was a touch loopy (and/or infantile) so quite happy to stay right where she was on the other side of the continent.

Anyhoo, so I pulled my friend's koala missive out of the letterbox and eagerly turned it over to read her latest news. What did I find on the flip side? This:

Thought you would like a postcard showing the many facets of the local fauna. They stretch and they sit and they all look the same... Who knew?

Ok so far. Surprisingly not unlike many of the letters I receive. Then she hits me with this bombshell:

The irony being the fact that there are no koalas in WA.

! and !! Surely it isn't so. Is it so? This raises many questions: is there legislation outlawing koala gangs in WA? Did all the koalas retire to a leafy Perth suburb with Carmen Lawrence? And, most crucially for all Phascolarctos cinereus-loving numismatists, is the Australian koala 2009 gilded 1oz silver dollar coin legal tender in WA?

So many questions, so few sensible answers.

After pulling the pin on the koalas-in-WA grenade my friend moved on to say: "So the real reason for writing is we found a new place to live. The address is..."

The real irony is that there's a big, smudgy postal mark right over the top of the address so all I can read is the bottom line: WA 6100.

I think all the koalas are working for Australia Post.

Sunday, April 5, 2009

What ho! The answer was on page 13!

Searching for a job involves looking at more cheesy images than you can circle with a red pencil.

The job hunt has continued this week with applications here and interviews there. I have answered some probing questions (where do I see myself in five years time? In residence at the Lodge, either as Prime Minister or Head Gardener) and explained, in 100 words or less, exactly how I've used my effective verbal communication, consultation, and negotiation skills to communicate with officers at various levels, within and external to an organisation (I also found myself talking about Ruth Park's novel My Sister Sif in the same interview so I'm not sure how well it went, on reflection).

Having previously only read the first section of the newspaper in order to win the weekly news quiz*, I thought this week I'd actually read the job ads that fill the bottom half of every page; I thought perhaps I'd find the answer to What To Do there. Could one be the perfect job for me?

Page six, bottom left: Senior Lecturer/Associate Professor of Organic Chemistry. I could have a crack at that. The ad doesn't actually say you need a background in organic chemistry, just that they're seeking "an individual who will strengthen this environment and also contribute with vision and innovation". Nothing a bit of perfectly acceptable application-based exaggeration won't cover there.

Page ten, middle left: Federal Court judge. Great timing to be made redundant: the Attorney-General of Australia is currently seeking nominations and expressions of interest for appointment to the Federal Court in Sydney and Melbourne. I'll nominate you if you nominate me.

Page 13, bottom left: Director of the Government Media Unit in the Office of the Premier of Queensland Anna Bligh. I read the paper every day so I'm pretty sure I'm qualified for this one.

And then I see it, page 13, bottom right:

Seachange for Two
Energetic couple to manage immaculate retirement village, 34 days annual leave each year, magnificent gardens, salary + super + spacious self-contained accommodation.

If only I was 75 I'd be able to work from home.

The search continues...

* A high score in which is more a measure of how much time you've wasted during the week, as opposed to a confirmation of the ontological status of the quiz as a true competition. Also, there are no prizes.

PS, a disturbance in the force

Maddy! Where has your blog gone!

I think the world has gone mad. First Squib packed her bloggy suitcase, now you...