Thursday, January 28, 2010

I have seen the light

One of my favourite and most evil friends is systematically attempting to convert all those within her sphere to vegetarianism.

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

The book I have most reread

Years ago, before children and Sydney and Responsibility, I enrolled in a PhD. It was my dream, to be a tenured whatsit in a university, left largely alone in my first floor office writing pointless stuff (let's be honest) about books I loved.

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

[by way of apology]

A big thank you to Maddie and Leilani for sharing their top five rereadable books last week.

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

All good things really do come to an end

I read an article ages ago about a man who had read all of Jane Austen's novels except one. He considered himself to be one of Jane Austen's greatest fans yet despite this (or because of this) he wasn't prepared to read the last novel (Pride and Prejudice, as it happened).

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

A little less than bright, that star, eh?


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

And we have a winner

A hearty thank you to Mad Cat Lady and Ramon Insertnamehere for their excellent suggestions of fish monikers.

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.

What a pair

Every now and then fate throws together two souls destined to make an impact on the social, political and cultural fabric of the day.

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.