Monday, December 6, 2010
This is my two hundreth post, can you believe? And coincidentally the one in which I say farewell for the time being.
I started here when I was 32, and now I'm 35. We were still relatively new to Sydney, my son hadn't been diagnosed with autism, and I hadn't read Homer (at all).
Now, so much has changed, and so much of it, from before, feels like I'm reading a postcard from someone in another land. Time has indeed passed.
I've had such fun here. Thank you to my dear bloggy friends for your hilariously erudite (and eruditely hilarious) comments; I'm so glad to know you.
I'd like to start a new blog in the new year, and will post the address here in January. I would love for you to join me there (if I may be so bold); it's you who makes this fun.
Thanks for coming here, and all the very best,
Tuesday, November 30, 2010
As part of my Advanced Procrastination Program, I have set up a Twitter account. I don't really know who or what it is; other than I appreciate, very much, that it's another site for me to do things at/on/with instead of doing what I should be doing here at the computer.
I don't even know exactly what to refer to it/me as; do I say I'm @kettleschmettle? Does that sound right (to the under-35s)?
Anyway, what or wherever @kettleschmettle is, I'm there so get yourself a Twitter thing and come @ with me in Twitterspace.
Sunday, November 28, 2010
Now that I am on the mend I'm wondering whether perhaps I should take better care of myself and, heavens, maybe even give exercise a go?
I've heard about exercise. In fact, I think we even have an exercise bike? It's just that I can't tell where the clothes racks end and the exercise bike begins.
On the plus side, I do actually have a pair of sneakers now. They're so clean and white it's like they've never been worn, which makes sense because they haven't ever actually been worn.
Don't get me wrong; I love sport. I thoroughly enjoy watching the Iron Man series on telly, and I've even been to the Australian Open (where I athletically lugged the picnic basket around all day).
It's just that actually doing exercise seems like such hard work, and what with my bad back and all, I don't know, it seems better not to risk it.
Tuesday, November 23, 2010
Example: I used to giggle like an idiot whenever I heard mention of the delightful but hilariously named North American titmouse; now I find I am able to speak sedately (sometimes indeed morosely) about the respectful and respected Parus inornatus. When did such a fundamental change take place? I don't know; what I do know is that I used to be young and silly and now I am, well, old.
As I may have mentioned (or possibly droned on about), I turned 35 last week. On this otherwise happy occasion, a dear friend sadistically informed me that 35 is in fact the opening bracket of middle-aged. And so I find myself, newly early-middle-aged, suddenly aware that another change has taken place.
And that change is thus:
I used to hate series of books (same as the army: you're stuck against your will until the bitter, bitter end) but last night, settling down to read Peter Carey's Jack Maggs, I caught myself thinking "Deary me, I'm really not sure I'm up to meeting a whole new cast of characters; can't they all just stay the same as my last book? I mean, really?"
Then it struck me: if I was reading a series I wouldn't have to get to know anyone new! It would all be the same as the last book, with just a few details changed here and there.
'Marvelous!' I thought, in my newly minted, closed minded, middle-agedness, 'Never need I trouble the waters of my stagnating mind again!'
I quickly abandoned Jack Maggs and retired to the couch to dream about my ideal banana chair, safe in the knowledge that the last bit of actual thinking I ever need do is find the longest possible series I can. Bliss.
Friday, November 19, 2010
On the plus side, I now have a few answers to my questions from yesterday. If you're considering making your poetry slam audience debut, may I be so bold as to make a suggestion? Don't! Save yourself! A life lived without the experience of poetry-slam-competition-audience-membership is a very good life indeed.
* Are there special audience rules for poetry slams?
Yes, two: No person with perennially pursed lips should go to a poetry slam competition (or anywhere, for that matter), and when contestants ask for a topic to 'freestyle' about, don't yell out 'leeches'.
* Can you heckle?
I don't know if you can heckle at these things, but you should heckle. Bogan poets from Lismore should definitely be heckled.
* Does anyone do 'serious' poems at poetry slam nights? And if so, do they always go down like lead balloons?
My GOD! Serious poems yes. I nearly died from all the serious poems. We even had someone imagining their own funeral, as in: "You wouldn't say the mean things you say to me if you knew I was going to die tomorrow and you'd have to go to my funeral because then you'd be ashamed."
Also, yelling a poem does not make it more profound. It just makes you spittier.
* And finally, what does the winner of a poetry slam competition win, in addition to global public adoration, millions of dollars and a (hybrid) sports car?
Cash, can you believe? I paid $25 for the pleasure of being bored to death, and the organisers paid the contestants sums of money to do the boring. A very efficient system, I suppose.
You know what was more entertaining than the whole poetry slam evening? A sticker on the parcel I got today:
Gold. Absolute gold.
Thursday, November 18, 2010
I am attending my first poetry slam competition on Friday night. I can't wait! There's nothing I like better than a roomful of highly animated poets.
So my questions for you are:
* Are there special audience rules for poetry slams?
* Can you heckle? If so, must it be in blank verse, say, or can it tend more towards the bawdy limerick?
* Does anyone do 'serious' poems at poetry slam nights? And if so, do they always go down like lead balloons?
* And finally, what does the winner of a poetry slam competition win, in addition to global public adoration, millions of dollars and a (hybrid) sports car?
I went to my first theatre sports night last weekend and mercy! I wish I'd thought to prepare for that before the show.
Poetically Challenged, Sydney.
Wednesday, November 17, 2010
Monday, November 15, 2010
2. Bringing the washing in.
3. Twisting your hair while looking at the ceiling in the right-hand corner of the room for a story idea.
4. Lying across the desk, prostrate-like, after the ceiling in the right-hand corner of the room has refused to give up any of its ideas.
5. Wondering whether exercise bikes can be used for exercise as well as hanging small pieces of hand-washing.
6. Deciding whether the saying 'Why put off until tomorrow what you can do today?' has any merit and confirming no, no it doesn't.
7. Miscalculating the number of items a procrastination list needs before you feel justified in going to bed.
Saturday, November 13, 2010
I don't think it's overstating the point to say I hate it when people rebuild their houses and that people who rebuild their houses and take 18 months to do so are worse, morally speaking, than Sarah Ferguson.
I remember the day the original house was demolished. It was awesome. There were sledgehammers everywhere. The whole thing was down in about 25 minutes. What I didn't realise, flushed with demolition excitement, was the disproportionate relationship between the pull-down and the put-up. By my best calculations, as of today, the ratio of demolition to remolition is 1:31,104.
Such a ratio augers poorly for said chappy's neighbours, namely freakin' me.
To make matters worse for the slow chappy the people two blocks to the left started a re-build on their place too. It's now almost finished after, ooh I don't know, five weeks. I love the people two blocks to the left; they are my new knock-down/rebuild heroes.
I think, though, I've figured out the slow chappy's problem: while the two-blocks-to-the-left people have been building their house by attaching one bit to another bit, the slow chappy must have started with a single chunk and is carving out his house bit by bit from the inside with a hand-held grinder.
At least that's what I'm sure it must be; he's been grinding away for 18 months now. Bastard.
Thursday, November 4, 2010
While there are many people who love to get the most out of each and every birthday, I'm probably ok not starting mine at 4:30am.
Thank you, dear son, for gifting me a full two hours more 'awake' time for this year's birthday. Really darling, you're too kind.
One of the best bits about rolling onto the anniversary of your birth is that you get to choose 'special birthday food' all day.
Today, for a special birthday early lunch/late over-sized (savoury) morning tea I selected home-made pizza with glasses of milk and Berocca. Why? Because I can, that's why.
On reflection, it wouldn't have killed me to use a slightly larger plate. Oh well, next year.
Parts three through five:
...involve the fish tank at the chemist's, Eastgardens Westfield, rhubarb and polenta.
Suffice it to say they were all very good, and sometimes I worry I'm a partial bogan trapped in a social democrat's body.
Dinner and a movie. Still to come...
Tuesday, November 2, 2010
Thirtysomething blogger realises chance of becoming Senator 'slim to non-existent', returns to blogosphere for comfort, companionship
It's been a goodly while between postings, so a hearty thank you to the four dear people who have persisted, like kind parents, checking in each day. If you are not already Australians of the Year, prime ministers or MasterChef finalists you deserve to be.
What has the space of two months brought? Many a goodly thing:
1. I have started a collection of miniature driftwood. This piece is currently my favourite:
Sorry about the blurriness at the centre of the photo; I think my camera has glaucoma?
Anyway, this delightful piece of driftwood is sitting on the kitchen windowsill. I have chosen to present it, in this installation, next to that fine example of twentieth century technology, the 'rubber plug', for scale.
There are other pieces of my miniature driftwood collection rattling around the glove box, and others still in the cupboard under the fish tank. I haven't so much told Mr Kettle about my new collection yet as not told him, but I'm sure when he does finally realise all the shitty bits of wood around the place are *precious* to me he'll be stoked.
2. I have survived my histrionics about having the 'flu.
3. I have partaken of the berry of the mulberry bush (which isn't a euphemism for anything; I actually tried mulberries for the first time).
4. I made it all the way through Wuthering Heights again without wanting to kill myself.
5. I have discovered The Ukulele Orchestra of Great Britain (but not, unfortunately, purchased my own ukulele yet).
6. I have spent a few giddy moments wondering anew why my letterbox is shorter than a standard letter.
7. I have listened to some very, very good music and wondered anew (again) why I bought tickets to see Holly Throsby this Friday night.
8. I decided I wanted to write a libretto for a rock opera then woke up the next morning with a hangover and realised it was just a hideous drunken dream.
9. I have spent innumerable happy hours imagining what the builders responsible for the renovations in the three houses across the street can do with their freakin' sanders and grinders.
10. I have learnt that 'landfall' does not mean the moment your boat or space ships lands on Terra firma (which I have been espousing energetically) but the moment a storm reaches the shore. Who knew? Not me. But now I do.
But I go on. Tell me, what's been happening with you?
Saturday, September 11, 2010
We were not a pet family. Sure I had fish, and at one point a rabbit (Mum and Dad, what did happen to Jenni the (male) rabbit?), but I never had a dog, or a guinea pig, or, for shame, a cat, all those perfectly normal pets every child at primary school has.
This absence of furry creatures (barring Jenni the male rabbit) from my life lead, inevitably, to an obsession with such creatures, and so it was that my best friend in year five, Katrina, and I performed 'Mungo Jerry and Rumpletezer' (from Andrew Lloyd Webber's musical Cats, of course) for the 1985 talent quest at my primary school. Ahem.
Fast forward to September 2010 and I'm happy to report that quite the opposite is now the case re: furry cat things. I find myself today fairly inundated with cats. Sure they're less in the physical form than the poetic form, but cat-related they are nonetheless.
Here is a marvellous cat poem by the very fine internet poet, Mad Cat Lady:
I have a cat
She is fat
she broke my hat
which I'd careless left lying on a mat
and as is commonly known, cats
are much attracted to sitting on mats
and the combination of hat and mat
was too much for the cat
she squashed my hat flat
its now rather like a hat shaped mat
so sod her if she thinks shes going to be getting any pats
feckin fat cat
Marvellous, Mad Cat Lady! Your poem (and a bottle of shiraz) helped me remember a childhood effort of my own, entitled 'My Neighbour's Cat'. It read:
My neighbour's cat
Is rather fat
For he loves his food.
He's white and black
With a high-arched back
And he gets in a fiery mood
When his owner is late
To bring in a plate
Piled with steamed and smoked fish.
When I come to play
He stalks away
And curls his tail with a swish.
T.S. Eliot's Book of Practical Cats probably comes close, quality-wise, to Maddie and my poems, don't you think? If you too have a cat poem that you feel would be right at home here please do send it to me.
Squib, Ramon, Ms Catast, Words and Wine, I have no doubt you have extraordinary cat poems just waiting for an appreciative audience; that audience is here! That audience is now. Let's hear your feline lines.
Wednesday, September 8, 2010
They were magnificent, those serving suggestions, and far beyond what any actual parent would create for their child, regardless of how much they loved said child. I became convinced, over the course of the eighties, there was nothing you couldn't achieve in life with an olive pinned delicately to a fold of prosciutto, provided that it rested upon a bed of goats cheese and sat atop a Salada and was arranged just so.
What I liked so much about the Salada serving suggestions was that you knew they were the creme de la creme of cracker flavour combinations; they were the Julia Gillard of the biscuit world; they were the best there was.
Knowing this about cracker serving suggestions, when a CD of images for non-verbal communication that I ordered finally arrived today I figured the images chosen for the CD cover were similarly the creme de la creme of non-verbal communication images, representing the best and most complex sentences that can be communicated with such images.
Here is the cover:
If we take the string across the top we have:
Which I take to mean:
"I want, most in this world, to put on my grey t-shirt with the picture of the fusing/exploding atom so that my sweaty back will stop sticking to the vinyl couch I've been sitting on for a large part of this unseasonably warm day so that I may continue playing video games upon my video game system and become the ultimate lord and master of Toggle Quest, which I would like to achieve before my harp lesson with Mr Jeffries at the Con at 4pm."
Cool. That not only makes sense to me but impresses me as a very fine example of just how much can be communicated by such a pictorial communication system.
If we take the string of images across the bottom of the disc cover, we have:
Which I think you would use to say:
"Remember that big storm we had last week? Well the power went down and everything in my freezer was ruined. Thing is, I haven't just got one freezer: I've got two. One of them is a separate extra storage one, which I probably use most at Christmas, and the other one is part of a fridge-freezer combo which is more for everyday food. Anyway, so I found out later that the storm was caused by global warming and you know that Ross Garnaut fellow? Yeah, he lives down the road from this church which is in the same suburb as where that idiot on the bike knocked me off my scooter when he swerved to miss that pothole. Bastard. Anyway, so I was listening to this podcast on the bus of Ross Garnaut and I had my headphones in but seriously, the guy behind me was going on and on about pomegranates, my GOD he wouldn't stop and he was so loud and I couldn't concentrate on the podcast so I listened to it again when I was at yoga."
Again, that not only makes sense to me but is clearly another fine example of the complexity of thought that can be communicated with this system.
Here, now, is a string from the back cover:
I don't think we need to go through this one; it's pretty clear, isn't it? Ahem.
So my finding for today is that there really is no product that can't best be demonstrated with a 'serving suggestion,' an example of the product showing it at its very best. I can't wait to see what the hemorrhoid industry comes up with for their packaging.
Tuesday, September 7, 2010
Saturday, September 4, 2010
And since we're still waiting to hear who will actually govern the country and thus have so cruelly and unnaturally been denied the opportunity of sharing a late-night, post-wedding, pre-Father's day political rant I have chosen what I'm sure you'll agree is the next best thing: a late-night, post-wedding, pre-Father's day list of ten very good things about people who you like very much getting married.
So here we go:
1. You get to see your pals all dressed up/wearing shoes/using serviettes.
2. You get to do a reading as part of the ceremony that starts: "Marriage: why bother?"
3. You get to dance to The Village People and the soundtrack to Grease without appearing mentally unstable.
4. You learn stuff (I had not heard the term 'fluffer' before tonight).
5. You get to eat all the things you bought for the babysitter that she didn't touch.
6. You get to add items to lists that are wholly unrelated to the topic under discussion: I'm very much enjoying The Avett Brothers' albums Emotionalism and I and Love and You at the moment.
7. You get to bail out of a list early if you're too tired to write anything else and just want to post one of those cacky "Let's take a photo of ourselves with my phone, yeah yeah! Because that'll be hilarious" kind of photos:
Oh, and if you're wondering whether our 'new' government is sorted out yet, this site will keep you up to date:
Thursday, August 19, 2010
Here are my top six Melbourne discoveries, made during my weekend sojourn:
1. Melbourne trams have absolutely no suspension. Gave me a new understanding of how my son experiences the ride when I plonk him in a shopping trolley.
2. People in Melbourne have some kind of magical waterproof covering. I saw not a single person with an umbrella during my stay, despite what felt to me like mid-scale torrential rain.
3. Owners of wine and cheese bars who let you sit inside and read your book when it's cold and raining and windy despite the fact they're officially closed are very good people indeed.
4. Calling a laneway or side street a 'hidden treasure' then referring to it in every tourist brochure and guidebook means it's not actually hidden.
5. Discovering a wacky vegetarian restaurant you've been looking for all long-weekend while you're on the tram on the way out of town is less useful than discovering said wacky vegetarian restaurant on the way in to town.
6. Having twelve hours of uninterrupted sleep is freakin' awesome regardless of the city you're in.
Ah holidays: better than real life any day.
Friday, July 30, 2010
The green colander seaweed forest was awesome:
My darling friend Nonesqua liked this, which she assured me was called 'Modern-day Easter Island Statues - With Nose Rings':
My boy liked the puddles:
There were exploding cars:
But my personal favourite was this: a Coalition campaign dogsbody appears to have confused Tony Abbott with Sir Joh. Oops!
Thursday, July 29, 2010
Tonight I was pulled over on my way home from an autism communication course; this time I got a fine. Ironic, yes, because really the worse crime was going to the Grease Wrong Prom but so it is and I now have $512 to pay.
The stupid thing is I'm possibly the world's least threatening driver: pedestrians happily step out in front of me because they know they won't get hurt; bees and small spiders cling to my windscreen wipers (and enjoy the ride, man) because they know I won't squish them; and there's no-one who shows speed humps more respect than me.
Bah. I reckon the next police-person who pulls me over should just take me out for a cup of tea and explain the evils of Wrong Proms.
Wednesday, July 21, 2010
I made this rule many years ago after a book signing with a very famous Australian writer. I waited in line, I thought about what I was going to say, I even tried my bit (witty! Erudite! Faultlessly worded!) on my fellow queue friends.
Then I got to the head of the queue and what I ended up saying was: "Yeah hi. I really like your stuff. It's ... um ... good."
Then my moment was over and I was left to begin despairing over the magnitude of my dim-witted-ness.
Since then I've steadfastly held to the rule that I only acknowledge celebrities if they acknowledge me first, and since none ever have I've been left to ignore all of Australia's celebrities completely unhindered.
When I walked past Tim Friedman on King Street in Newtown (looking marvellously rock and roll) I said nothing; when I saw Senator Faulkner at the Sydney Writers' Festival, nothing. Today, at my son's swimming lesson, when I noticed the instructor was a former Aussie TV great I SAID NOTHING!
Nothing to her, that is, but when we walked past the desk on the way out I said to the staff: "Oh my God, do you mind, can I ask? We just had a lesson with [insert name]; was that really [insert name]? Seriously? From TV? Oh my God I remember her! From TV! Yeah yeah! Oh man, cool. Well, ahem, see you next week."
I'm so very not cool.
Tuesday, July 20, 2010
Saturday, July 10, 2010
I love Tim Cahill.
If it doesn't work out between me and Ben Whishaw, or me and Senator Faulkner, I'm going to marry Tim Cahill.
Here's a photo I took of Mr Cahill tonight:
I'm not entirely sure which one he is, but I reckon he must be one of these six chappies:
No matter. What matters is that he was there, somewhere, and he did stuff on the court that may or may not have contributed to Everton's basket, whether because of or despite the inclusion or absence of leg breaks or spikes.
That didn't sound right, did it? That's because nice looking, football-playing boys (ideally who read poetry) distract me no end from the game they're actually playing.
That's why I love Le Tour de France so much: never have I seen a pretty cyclist. I can sit perfectly upright, utterly sober, watching hour after hour of Le Tour and discourse freely on the mechanics of the peloton provided Cadel Evans is in the leaders' pack.
As long as Cadel stays up front it's just a matter of time until SBS contacts me to commentate the race. Just a matter of time.
Monday, July 5, 2010
Freakin' A, Mr K!
Thursday, July 1, 2010
While I thought, immediately following the trip, that a happy life was one lived without such a trip, I'm delighted to find that finally, finally it's serving some kind of useful purpose.
You see, during the course of the day we did actually visit a rather nice vineyard, with real life wine makers and everything. At this vineyard I bought one of their signature wines, a shiraz viognier. For $75 a bottle I just bought one, and we opened it at the next auspicious occasion (i.e. when the balding middle-aged John finally dropped us back at the hotel).
And the wine? It was red. It tasted like wine. It was gone quickly and we slept well.
A couple of years, a different city and a tank of goldfish later, Dan Murphy's has opened one of their hyper-global-mega wine stores a couple of blocks from my house.
They sell plenty of bottles of wine. Some very expensive, some very inexpensive. Some, like Bowler's Run Cab Merlot 2009, for an embarrassing $2.89 a bottle.
When we saw this surprisingly inexpensive bottle during a recent visit we had a very large laugh then quickly picked up half a dozen of them. For just $17.34 we were the proud owners of six bottles of Bowler's Run's finest.
And the wine? It was red. It tasted like wine. And we had change from a twenty.
The point of all this is that I've decided it's more fun to blog like a $2.89 bottle of wine than to wait for $75 bottles to come your way. I can't tell the difference anyway.
Monday, June 21, 2010
Blog post the 176th, in which we meander through a range of fairly ordinary, barely related topics before I retire, respectfully, to bed
These lost hours can, I'm afraid, lead to one of the most shameful of blog sins: Lying Through Heading.
In these sorry situations you'll find that whatever idea you had when you launched so cocksure and forthright into your heading has departed you, leaving nought in its place but troubling thoughts about the shape of catshark eggs and whether you really need a canopy on your banana chair.
Canopy: necessity or luxury?
So it is that I have indeed lied through heading as I no longer have any topics (fairly ordinary or barely related) knocking around in my head to meander through.
If you have any thoughts re: canopy or no canopy, I would be most grateful to hear them.
Wednesday, June 9, 2010
Invented the system of finger printing, he did, as well as a few other tidbits like created the first weather map and came up with the phrase 'nature vs. nurture' (as well as pioneering the concept of eugenics - whoops).
Despite this last monumental lapse of good manners and shocking disregard for those of us more on the dysgenic rather than the eugenic end of things, Galton was a rather interesting chap, and I am, despite his less charming characteristics, a bit of a fan.
Why? Because Francis Galton had a foolhardy determination to prove his scientific hypotheses by conducting experiments on himself.
Amongst his more endearing experiments were his investigations into whether you can change breathing from an involuntary to a voluntary process (yes), and whether you can read the newspaper for long under water (no).
Why you would do these things, I don't know, but I thought tonight I would try a Galton-esque experiment of my own.
My hypothesis: That it's possible to change the need for sleep (involuntary) to a voluntary process.
My method: To drink enough coffee and slap my cheeks enough times to stay the hell awake (with the larger purpose of finishing four pieces of work due Wednesday and to study for an exam on Thursday).
1. Lying down on the couch at 11pm "just for 10 minutes" is not conducive to finishing work.
2. Waking up at 2:30am and finding no work has magically been completed while you slept is disappointing, and surprising.
3. Plaiting, un-plaiting then re-plaiting your hair will not aid in the process of idea generation.
4. Wishing you were somewhere else doing anything else will not make it so.
5. Vegemite toast tastes 63% better between midnight and 4am than at any other time of the day.
And what erudite conclusions can I draw from these vigorous investigations? That:
1. Messing with sleep is bad,
2. Going to bed is good, and
3. Galton was a very silly man.
Revelatory, I know. I've certainly learnt something today.
Wednesday, May 26, 2010
1. Don't set your alarm for 4:30am so you can get some work done then wake everyone up in the process of getting up yourself. Remember there is an inverse relationship between the number of people awake in the house and the amount of work that can be done.
2. Don't balance your coffee on the arm of the couch if you're likely to knock it off straight away.
3. Don't forget your lifelong clumsiness (especially in relation to drinks) when balancing your coffee on the arm of the couch.
4. Don't wait until the rain is at its heaviest before walking to the corner for another coffee.
5. Don't fool yourself into thinking a dress you wore 10 years ago will a. still fit 10 years later, and b. be suitable for a charity ball you're going to in a fortnight's time.
6. Don't leave yourself a fortnight to get organised for a charity ball.
7. Don't sit next to someone for half an hour before they mention their wife and child are at home with hard-core gastro. Open every new conversation with a question on this topic.
8. Don't allow yourself to become disheartened by Kevin Rudd. Remember the Labor party still has Senator Faulkner and he's rad.
9. Don't be surprised, if you attempt to toilet train your child in the course of a single day like I am today, when you step repeatedly in little piles of wee around the house.
Won't you add to the list? I clearly need your help today.
Saturday, May 15, 2010
While fish and politicians share many characteristics (they're both slimy, for example), fish are better at forming coherent arguments and are infinitely more endearing than your average Tory backbencher.
But while we have a name for the UK's new prime minister, we don't yet have a name for our new fish. Will you help?
Here's some footage to get your creative wires humming (please note: the new fish is the one that doesn't look like Count Vronsky or Karl Marx, which are the other two fish):
Sorry, I should have warned you about the clarinet. There's nothing like a small range of sample music in a video editing program to help you torture people in cruel and unusual ways.
If you can forgive me the clarinet, what say you for a moniker for this magnificent orange Carassius auratus auratus?
Wednesday, April 28, 2010
Happy, happy pool days.
Well, mostly happy pool days. Sometimes, like today, the pool planets fall out of alignment and deliver us nothing but floating bandaids and hairy-man-backs, leaving us with a very unhappy happy pool day.
So what was there not to love about the pool today? Here's the list:
1. Aqua nappies. A perennial complaint. There's no leakage barrier I really, really trust.
2. The mothers who were milling around in the wading pool wearing their waist-length designer caftans and ignoring their children except to screech the occasional "For God's sake don't splash me! I don't want to get wet!"
Go back to your mansions, ladies, and spare us all.
3. When the lifeguards turned off the jets in the wave pool when we were half way around the circuit. It felt like what I imagine it must feel like to lose an erection: one moment everything's rocking along, then pfzz, nothing.
On the plus side, the chips were still good and the sauce divine; and who knows, the Caftans might be back at the factory having their touch-ups during our next visit. We can only hope.
Sunday, April 18, 2010
We've just returned from a quick trip to Canberra to see the 'Masterpieces from Paris' exhibition for the last time.
I don't mind a bit of art; in fact some of the nicest afternoons I spent while travelling around Europe were spent in art galleries, especially when it was raining and our tent was wet and we couldn't find a Maccas.
So despite a clear sky and the complete absence of camping gear (wet or otherwise) I found myself at the National Gallery in Canberra on Friday, with at least 15 trillion other people, checking out a truck-load of Gauguins and one or two by that other guy, whatshisname, van Gogh.
My Mum, who is actually a painter and knows many a thing about art, sacrificed three hours of her life to come with me, knowing full well the time would be filled with such un-funny gags as "Pointillism - what's the point?" and "Impressionism - I'm impressed."
Mum, I owe you a beer.
But while my comments may have been inane, they weren't altogether mystifying, unlike those I heard passing between another mother and daughter team. "Look!" said the younger one, "Lean forward, Mum, right up close! You can actually see the canvas under the dots; seriously, the canvas!"
I still can't figure out what else they thought might be there.
Monday, April 5, 2010
Apologies, he's not just a well-lit cheekbone with a great ride, he does actually have a name: it's Matt Smith, and he's being hailed by critics in the UK as potentially the best Doctor ever.
I'm sure you're very good, Mr Smith, and I wish you all the best for your stint as the Doctor, but I'm afraid this man was The Best Doctor EVAH:
Oops! How did that get in there?
I meant of course to post this:
And, of course, this:
Sadly I'm no philosopher so can't tell you what beauty actually is with any authority but I do know it's got something to do with nice boys with brown hair. Look! Here's another one:
Oh Mr Whishaw, you would make a simply lovely Doctor.
But all nice boys with brown hair must come to an end so that we can get on with whatever it is we're supposed to be doing. So here's a little something less dreamy to help bring you back to earth:
Right then, pass me those spreadsheets.
Saturday, April 3, 2010
Finally, realising we were ignorant of not only the Romance languages and German but most likely Bothno-Ugaric tongues as well, they decided to try English.
While they actually said: "Do you speak English? Can we borrow your rubber mallet?" I'm sure what they wanted to say was:
"Do you poor idiotic types perhaps know a few words of English, the native tongue of poor idiotic types everywhere? And do you linguistic amoebas have a rubber mallet we could borrow for a few moments to complete the sturdy erection of our award-winning European-designed tent?"
It was the moment I realised just how impoverished we are not sharing borders with any other countries, and just what a good thing immigration is.
Since that humbling experience I have tried to learn a few bits and pieces of various languages and am happy to report that if someone ever says to me: "El cajero antomatico se ha tragado mi tarjeta de credito," I can answer, with all confidence, "Tengo un pinchazo."
But none of this European phrasebook readiness prepared me for reading Anthony Burgess's A Clockwork Orange, which I can describe, with all confidence, as vastly incomprehensible.
May I give you the opening sentences?
There was me, that is Alex, and my three droogs, that is Pete, Georgie, and Dim, Dim being really dim, and we sat in the Korova Milkbar making up our rassoodocks what to do with the evening, a flip dark chill winter bastard though dry.
O...kay; I thought perhaps the second paragraph might make more sense:
Our pockets were full of deng, so there was no real need from the point of view of crasting any more pretty polly to tolchock some old veck in an alley and viddy him swim in his blood...
I did what I always do in situations of complete incomprehension: I quickly downed several glasses of wine and skipped to the end of the book.
Bugger, plenty of 'itty' and 'oddy knocky' and 'profound shooms of lip-music brrrrrr' there too.
For all I know A Clockwork Orange is a book about the rise and fall of rubber mallets in a post-apocalyptic Florentine camping ground. I only wish there was an Anthony Burgess phrasebook.
Monday, March 22, 2010
It was a veritable goldmine of all that is craptastic, that backpack, and we spent hours pulling out all sorts of marvellous plastic treasures, from miniature stethoscopes to Zhu Zhu pets (perhaps better known as Go Go Hamsters, of course).
And while the cheap plastic novelty items gave us several minutes of entertainment, it was the cheap CDs I really wanted to get to. Ah China, before MP3 players and downloadable music changed the face of piracy forever, you were the motherland of knock-off CDs.
With great anticipation I took the first CD from the pile: Pink Floyd's The Wall, a two-disc set. Sure there was some separation of colours on the CD cover, and sure this particular set had two copies of disc one (but two copies is better than one, right?) but I still believed. I still believed that in the moments following the closing of the slot and the first fine spin of the disc (either one of the disc ones) I would hear, in all its Pink Floyd glory, track 1, 'In the Flesh?'.
Track 1. "Oh my God what is this? Seriously what is this shit? Oh God don't tell me, no no no please don't be. Oh bloody hell! It is! Shit! This isn't Pink Floyd; it's the freakin' Beach Boys!"
There's nothing quite as disappointing as expecting something good and getting something shit. Pink Floyd = good; Beach Boys = shit.
Similarly, The Picture of Dorian Gray by Oscar Wilde = good; The Picture of Dorian Gray by Oscar Wilde, as retold by Jill Nevile (abridged) = shit.
This is all by long way of saying I grabbed what I thought was Wilde's Dorian Gray off the library shelf on Saturday but, failing to look at it properly managed to pick up Jill Nevile Does Dorian Gray instead.
And because I like to share, I thought I'd pass on a little something of both Wilde's and Nevile's work. First, Wilde:
The studio was filled with the rich odour of roses, and when the light summer wind stirred amidst the trees of the garden, there came through the open door the heavy scent of the lilac, or the more delicate perfume of the pink-flowering thorn.Now, if you'll bear with me, the same passage under Nevile's reductive eye (it won't take long, trust me):
From the corner of the divan of Persian saddle-bags on which he was lying, smoking, as was his custom, innumerable cigarettes, Lord Henry Wotton could just catch the gleam of the honey-sweet and honey-coloured blossoms of a laburnum, whose tremulous branches seemed hardly able to bear the burden of a beauty so flamelike as theirs; and now and then the fantastic shadows of birds in flight flitted across the long tussore-silk curtains that were stretched in front of the huge window, producing a kind of momentary Japanese effect, and making him think of those pallid, jade-faced painters of Tokyo who, through the medium of an art that is necessarily immobile, seek to convey the sense of swiftness and motion. The sullen murmur of the bees shouldering their way through the long unmown grass, or circling with monotonous insistence round the dusty gilt horns of the straggling woodbine, seemed to make the stillness more oppressive. The dim roar of London was like the bourdon note of a distant organ.
Through the open windows of the room came the rich scent of summer flowers. Lord Henry Wotton lay back in his chair and smoked his cigarette. Beyond the soft sounds of the garden he could just hear the noise of London.The only good thing about this kind of pared down re-writing is that it only took me 23 minutes to read the whole 'novel'. Thank you, Ms Nevile; you left me with enough time on Saturday to listen to the whole Beach Boys Do Pink Floyd album. Fan-freakin'-tastic.
Thursday, March 11, 2010
I'll be back next week, most likely Thursday, with a whole load of twaddle just ripe for twaddling. See you then.]
Monday, March 1, 2010
I maintained during our long journey that it was better not to have expectations because being expectation-less left you free to experience something for how it appeared to you in the moment. She maintained the wrong, oops, I mean the opposite view. This made for many interesting hours in our very-tiny-close-proximity-oh-my-God-I-can-see-your-nose-hairs 1.2 litre Renault Clio (not to mention in our two-person tent).
The Renault Clio, seen here in relation to the equally minute and irascible common house fly, or Musca domestica.
So I've always thought I was foot-loose and expectation-free but I've started to realise, to my horror, that I do indeed have expectations and they're rather easily upset.
And how have these hideous expectations revealed themselves to me? Why through an innocuous little misnomer.
I recently bought a book for my son: The Dangerous Book for Boys. I expected practical suggestions for jail breaks and jewellery heists (or, more usefully, jewellery heists followed by jail breaks), for how to escape a grizzly bear by sawing off your leg then using said leg to hit said bear, and surviving in a post-apocalyptic (i.e. Liberal/Coalition) world. So dangerous + a pile of folios folded, assembled and glued + son (fun for).
What did I get when I opened The Dangerous Book for Boys (so newly purchased and so erroneously titled)? 'The Greatest Paper Plane in the World,' 'Understanding Grammar - Parts One, Two and Three,' and my favourite, 'Five Pen and Paper Games'. So lame + lame + lame.
I expected something good and realised I'd paid top clams for, well, 'Some Australian Trees' and 'Growing Sunflowers'.
So what did I learn from this foray into the world of expectations? That it really is better to be perennially mildly ambivalent than deeply, personally disappointed.
Sunday, February 21, 2010
While it's theoretically possible that the first silly local council-type (the one who left the sunny yellow fine notice under my windscreen wiper) was a. primarily concerned for my welfare, and b. a thoroughly reasonable person, it's highly unlikely, so it is that I call on you to join me, dear comrades, in overthrowing the local council parking dictatorship!
Sure the revenue raised from parking fines goes towards maintaining essential services, planting trees, saving baby fur seals et cetera, but couldn't I contribute in some other way than paying $84 for parking the wrong way around in a car spot?
Yes, that was my hideous crime. I did this:
When I should have done this:
Once more in case you missed it (unlikely, I know, given the intense danger inherent in the situation); this:
Mercy, I'm lucky to be alive. Imagine if Obama got it wrong just once and parked front-to-kerb instead of rear-to-kerb; heavens! The whole world would collapse.
So now I have to steal enough plants from local council gardens beds then sell them at the local council markets on Saturday in order to pay my $84 local council parking fine.
Ah-ha! So the system does work after all.
Monday, February 15, 2010
There was rather a large carry-on at the time about how all the situations Morissette describes in her song are more just dirty rotten bad luck than ironic, and for the reductiveness and stupidity of the debate I blame Reality Bites entirely ("Can you define irony?" squeaked a nymph-sized Winona Ryder; "It's when the actual meaning is the complete opposite from the literal meaning," threw back the silly, bum-fluffed Ethan Hawke.)
Yes yes blah blah, one of the definitions of 'irony' is where the actual meaning is the opposite of the stated meaning, but irony can also mean an incongruity between what is expected and what actually occurs, thus it is (by this definition) ironic that you should find a black fly in your chardonnay (you didn't expect it to be there, did you?), and that you find yourself (or, more accurately, someone else finds you) dead the next day after winning the lottery.*
(*Please note, I'm assuming here that your death was unexpected to you, unless of course you had planned to commit suicide, or you were scheduled to be a sacrifice to some deity or other. In these cases it's not so much ironic that you won the lottery then died as rather bad timing. Or you have the wrong friends.)
Point is, the debate about irony surrounding the Morissette song, however imprecise and illogical it may sometimes have been, has kept the concept of irony front of mind so that when stories like this appear we all know what it reeks of:
Anti-Immigration Ex-Politician Pauline Hanson Set to Emigrate to the UK.
What's that, Pauline? There's something black floating in your frosty, hard-earned beer? Oh that's a fly, I put it there earlier. No it's not ironic; you must have expected it, surely?
Monday, February 8, 2010
We had a quiet but productive morning, passing the occasional comment about the tennis (our appreciation of Roger Federer's fine legs, for example) and telling the odd joke about Descartes and politicians.
It was all going fine until we were about to break for lunch; at that point it all went hideously wrong.
I looked across the table at her and said, "Would you mind passing me that ... um ... thingummy. The little ... with the ... oh bum, you know, with the [insert hand gesture] ... Oh man, what's it called? The the the ... you know, to hold the ... with the ... MY GOD! To hold the freakin' paper together?"
She stared at me (as though I'd been babbling incoherently), and said, droll-as, "You mean ... paperclip?" Then she laughed so hard she snorted and had to put her foot up on a chair.
After she'd finished laughing her arse off, said "oh dear" a few times and coughed once or twice (for effect), she said, "I'm glad to know you have senior moments too," then she leaned forward confidentially and whispered, "You might want to see someone about that, before it's too late," and roared with laughter again.
So after this disastrous brain malfunction I'm pretty sure I'm experiencing the early stages of early onset senility.
But it's ok, I'm onto it: I've diagnosed myself via a range of trust-worthy forum-based medical websites, I've bought a jumbo-sized container of fish oil capsules, and I've made sure my Power of Attorney includes the words "reduced capacity" (it does). So all I have to do now is get started on this pile of Sudoku, crosswords and mind-bending challenging logic puzzles (as any good current affairs show would recommend).
Think you might be going senile too? Come stave it off with me; here, sit. We can share my puzzle book. Let's do that one, the one about the shopping. I'll read it out (have you got a pencil?): "Susan, Stephen and Stephanie helped their mother to carry the shopping home. Each child had seven pieces of fruit in his or her bag..."
I'm feeling better already.
Wednesday, February 3, 2010
With all these new stations there's the predictable mix of crap from yesteryear (like the Flintstones; die, Barny, die) and more present-day bafflers like that extraordinarily bouncy version of basketball from the States that involves very tall men and trampolines.
Anyway, while most of the new stations are fairly unimpressive from 6am to midnight there is one that's gold all day: Teachers' TV. Oh my lordy it's like porn for nerds.
The first time I watched it there were shows about bullying, about leadership in the classroom, about how to survive (and thrive!) as a substitute teacher. Sure it took me a few minutes to figure out what 'permanent exclusion' meant when the Strategies for Inclusion show started, but I knew exactly what was going on in the show about Sue, the maths teacher from Birmingham, who had a bit of teacherly coaching from some mentor guy and then taught the best lesson of her life. Wow! What a ride.
The first time I tuned in I watched for three hours straight; I was enlivened, I was inspired, I wanted to enrol in a Dip Ed straight away.
Then I happened to flick over to Teachers' TV again about a week later and what ho! The same shows were running, the bullying, the classroom leadership, the substitute teaching. Sure I was glad I knew what 'permanent exclusion' meant this time, but I couldn't believe Sue was back there peddling her insecurities then soaring again to teach the best lesson of her life!
Teachers' TV: back on the streets as soon as you enrol in that Dip Ed.
Thursday, January 28, 2010
Every couple of weeks she sends an email with a link to some heartbreaking video about baby fur seals being clubbed to death by cage-laying hens at some pig farm somewhere (if I understand right) and I send her back links to this kind of twaddle:
Most of our email subject headings include the word 'propaganda' with various combinations of capital letters and exclamation marks, usually culminating in "Now THIS is Propaganda!!!!!"
Sure we waste a lot of time and probably should be doing other things, but for all the to-ing and fro-ing of emails and Propagandising!!! her point is starting to make sense to me. Maybe it is time to lay down my steak knife, to say "No more!" to beef chow mein with crispy noodles, to demand a better life for bacon and all the other magical cuts of meat. Maybe it's time to go meat-free.
These were my thoughts tonight as I made a delicious and nutritious chicken stir fry (with ginger and garlic and Tamari sauce). At one stage, right towards the end when the snow peas were warm but still crisp and the Bok Choy was delicately wilted, I accidentally flipped a piece of chicken out of the pan and it landed, plop! on the stove top.
But all was not lost. With my newly emergent concern for animal rights I knew exactly what to do: I popped the chicken back into the pan, mixed it in thoroughly and said "I owe it to you, chicken, not to waste you. Amen."
So, does that make me a vegetarian?
Friday, January 22, 2010
I worked on my thesis for years. I wrote drafts, I researched, I even went overseas to do things in archives, but in writing every chapter I came to the same point: "Blah blah blah... [nothing]".
There's nothing worse than nothing.
So the book I have read the most, ever, was the subject of chapter four: The Biographer's Tale by A.S. Byatt. It is brilliant and awkward and short and boring but every time (of the fifteen? Twenty times?) I have read it I have found something new, had that experience of the sublime; a sentence here, a paragraph there, that is not in any way special but says something to me.
And I know that I am but one humble reader, but in that moment of reading the sentence is there just for me.
[With a good sleep I promise I'll be less melodramatic. Forgive me.]
Wednesday, January 20, 2010
Also, a big apology to you both for not responding sooner. All manner of things have conspired this week to wrench me away from the bosom of this blog, but such wrenchful things are almost at an end and I envisage a speedy return.
But also, and I say this in the most friendly, well-meaning way, damn you for undoing the very fabric of my being! Such a delightful, innocuous little question, like a spaniel with its head in your lap, looking up at you with its big doggy eyes, gently wagging its tail for a pat: what are your top five rereads, and can you scratch me under the chin?
After many days staring at my book shelves I can't say! The spaniel is a wolf and is hunting me down! What makes a good reread? How many rereads makes a book eligible for a top five reread list? What about books you've loved, reread and loved again, then reread and no longer love? What about books you were luke-warm about at first then reread numerous times (for study, say) and came to love immensely? What of books you haven't read yet but you're pretty sure will be friends for life? What of them!
And what makes a good book anyway? Why do people even write? Why are we here? Why oh why are we here?
Anyhoo, this is all by way of saying thank you, Maddie and Leils, for your lists and sorry it's taking me so long to do mine and damn you for posing this question!
Tuesday, January 12, 2010
At the time I thought the guy was a bit of a loon; why deny yourself the pleasure of reading every word published by your favourite author? What can't be gained by drinking deep of the Pierian Spring, etc?
It appears a great deal can be gained by not drinking deep, at least not at a second helping.
As a recent sufferer of nostalgia I've been revisiting some books and movies from yesteryear and found them to be, sadly, not what I remember them to be.
First I re-read what I thought was one of my favourite books, Possession by A. S. Byatt. While I loved the fictional poet (see my obsession with lovely poet-boys as per yesterday), I struggled with the heroine, the postmodern hurdy-gurdy, the late '80s fashions.
Then I watched what I thought was one of my favourite films, or trilogy of films, Three Colours: Blue, White and Red. It turns out they're a bit boring (except Blue, which still moderately bewitches me thanks to Juliet Binoche).
And don't even start me on music. An evening's home-DJing on New Year's Eve left me with no illusions as to the music I used to love.
So where to from here? Books will only be read once, films seen once, music listened to until I don't wake up each day dying to hear it again. At that point I'll put it all in a box and take it up to Newtown to sell at the Saturday markets.
So that Ian McEwan, nice hard-cover, hey; in fine condition too. For you? $3. What do you say?
Monday, January 11, 2010
I've got this thing for poetic boy-types. Isn't he lovely? It's Ben Whishaw playing John Keats in Jane Campion's new film Bright Star, which I took myself to see yesterday (primarily because no-one would come with me; "Are you kidding? That looks like shit" being the most frequent response to my "Wanna come with?").
The best things about the film were:
1. Ben Whishaw playing John Keats
2. Ben Whishaw's lovely eyes and great hair, perfect for playing Keats
3. Ben Whishaw's ink stained fingers playing Keats (bless!)
4. Ben Whishaw reading 'Ode to a Nightingale' during the closing credits (after playing Keats), and
5. The 119 minutes the film gave me to look at Ben Whishaw.
Apart from Ben, the film was largely disappointing. No historical or literary context, no introduction to Charles Armitage Brown (or Fanny Brawne, for that matter), no pulling on the heart strings (and come on, this was Keats for chrissake: brilliant, dead at 25, great hair, and etc.).
Bright Star is a love story that didn't make me fall in love with Keats-and-Brawne (just Ben Whishaw).
Have you seen it? Would you see it?
Wednesday, January 6, 2010
Not only were the names they offered excellent in and of themselves, but I also suspect Rosalind, Orlando, Marx and Engels would make for a thoroughly good night out.
But the naming rights of our newest family members have been awarded to Squib who suggested Anna Karenina and Count Vronsky. Hurrah!
Not only is the suggestion of inevitable death appropriate for anything fish- (or plant-) related in my house, but we already have Anna's train, ready and waiting for her final leap!
In a crazy example of life imitating art, I can see now we were just waiting for 'Anna' and 'the Count' to drop into the tank.
So thank you, Squib; now I owe you for the Darwin badge AND the fish names.
Across the world stage has danced such pairings as Kevin and Julia, Antony and Cleopatra, and Torvill and Dean, changing forever the state of social democracy, dramatic irony and spangly leotards (in no particular order).
Another such pairing has occurred of no less monumental import, and it is this to which I draw your attention today: this Christmas saw the arrival in our house of a duo of masters of the watery aesthetic, a couple of purveyors of aquatic order, a brace of caretakers of C class aquariums. This is they:
The only difference between this pair and, say, Achilles and Patroclus is that while the latter have names the former currently do not, and it is in this regard that I turn to you today. Two such fishy heroes must have names; how else will we refer to them in the annals of history?
So, what say you? Do they look like a Napoleon and Josephine to you? A Mork and Mindy? A Bang and Olufsen? Suggestions most welcome.