kidattypewriter

Sunday, November 26, 2006

The Potato

I am an impatient cook. My al dente pasta is very dente indeed; and my steak is so rare that it's an endangered species. Pretty much all of my meals are underdone - to the extent that some people wonder if I've done them at all.

But sometimes, amidst the hustle and bustle of this modern life, we must occasionally prepare ourselves a decent meal. Which is just what I plan to be doing. In the next hour, I shall be cooking a potato: indeed, it's on the stove at the moment - the water's just heating up. It makes a nice metaphor, really: in this fast-paced modern world, shouldn't we all set aside some time for a potato?

I'll let you know how it goes.



This is not my potato - it's just a sample potato I found growing on the internet. Perhaps when the time is ripe, a person will come along and boil this potato too. I'm sure it will make them very happy.


POTATO UPDATE 1! - The water has just reached boiling point. If this potato had feelings, I imagine it would be feeling a lot of pain right about now. Also, if the potato had a mouth and could speak, it would probably be screaming in agony. "HEEEEEELLLLLP MEEEEEEE!!!!" it would be saying.

POTATO UPDATE 2! - Waiting for this potato to be boiled is a little boring.

Have you or a family member had a special time with a potato? Please share your precious potato stories and experiences in comments.

RANDOM POTATO FACT! - The conflicting economic philosophies of the 20th century can be easily summarised with reference to potatoes. Under communism, every man is entitled to one potato; and the government concerns itself with equitable division of all the potatoes in the land. Under socialism, every man is entitled to two potatoes, although this number drops down to half a potato in times of hardship. And under capitalism, there is no regulation on the amount of potatoes a man can cook and eat - so long as they earn the potato themselves, through their own hard work and labour.

Ask any economist and they'll tell you I'm right.

POTATO UPDATE 3! - In a dream once I thought I was a potato. Then Mae West appeared and began to stroke my dusty carapace in a sensuous manner. I was wearing nothing but my pyjamas at the time. It was a very disturbing potato dream.

By the way, lightly fried onion goes well with potato, doesn't it?

POTATO UPDATE 4! - Potato's boiling away very nicely. I can't wait to sink my teeth into it.

POTATO UPDATE 5! - I just added some mushrooms and steak to the frying pan. When the steak was seared on both sides, I made a little sauce by adding some beer and turning it down to simmer. Although this, of course, is all as a side dish to have with the potato. Speaking of which, I think the potato is almost ready, but you can never be sure. I'm getting hungry ...

By the way, I had been planning to see a film tonight, but this potato seems to have taken precedence. Not that I regret it. We have spent a very special time together, this potato and I.

POTATO UPDATE 6! - The potato is boiled! Thank you all for being with me during this very special, and dare I say, formative experience in my life. I shall cherish it always.

POTATO UPDATE 7! - I have just eaten the potato; it was delicious. Did you know that there have been many famous poems written about potatoes?

Shakespeare loved them:

Shall I compare thee to a summer's potato?

Alan Ginsberg had a somewhat fraught relationship with food-stuff of a vegetable matter, as did his fellow beatniks:

Howl (Of a Potato)

I have seen the best potatoes of my generation dragged starving, hysterical, naked

The Bible has the following stern injunction:

Go to the potato, thou sluggard: consider its ways, and be wise.

When introduced to potatoes by Coleridge, Wordsworth wrote the following masterpiece:

Surprised by potatoes! Impatient as the wind -
I turned to share my transport - but with whom?
But thee - fast buried in the silent tomb,
That spot which no mere boiled root could find ...


And of course, we should never forget Coleridge's immortal contribution to potato literature, 'The Rime of the Ancient Potato'.

Saturday, November 25, 2006

Oh No, I Voted For a Politician

It's the state election here in Victoria, and I thought I'd take this opportunity to explain some of the lesser known terms and concepts to Australian democracy.

Election Roll

The Election Roll is a ceremony undertaken by the winning candidate after all the votes are counted. It's an eccentric practice, bizarre, and often frankly barbaric; and therefore eminently suitable to Australian Democracy.



Alfred Deakin takes part in a roll down the hill in the early 20th century.

Political Party

A Political Party will occasionally join together to try to turn a person into a politician. The process of person turning to politician is a dangerous one, and often irreversible: indeed, some politicians die that way. However, with gentle reassurance and care, they can gradually be turned back to normal people.

Many parties are in fact almost indistinguishable, including Labor, Liberal, the Democrats, the Democratic Labor Party, and the Liberal Democratic Party. As a matter of fact, about the only party with clear policies is the little known Party For The Worship of Gaknor The Magnificient, which stands on a platform of Death, Destruction, a Reign of Blood, Fire, Torment, and More Public Transport, which is why I voted for them.



Photograph from recent campaign launch by the Party For The Worship of Gaknor The Magnificient.

Opinion Pole

The Opinion Pole is a Polish person who lives in St Kilda, a suburb of Melbourne. He has no idea about Australian politics, or any other politics, for that matter, but for some reason, the newspapers keep on running columns by him. No-one knows why.



The Opinion Pole in traditional Melbourne costume.

Advertising Slogans Suggested



We're quite big in Newcastle!



Buy Dick.



First-class second-rate chicken!
Not as bad as KFC.



Family First: Preserving your precious loin-juices.

Tuesday, November 21, 2006

Exciting

(I kind of sort of stole this idea from a joke by Desci, so if she wants to kill me, she can)









Monday, November 20, 2006

Of Piglets and Love

The pamphlet informed me,
Nothing says I love you like a piglet!
It's this campaign Oxfam has going at the moment. You buy a pig for a third-world family and then you give your mother a card telling her about the pig. Or something. It's lame present-giving for the modern generation who think that 'feeling good' is it's own reward. Fuck that, I don't want to feel good, I just want money - or chocolate. I'm not fussy!

But anyway. What a difference a few grammatical markings make: later, I walked past the pamphlet, and it brazenly told me,
I love you like a piglet!
What? The pamphlet didn't even know me, but it loved me anyway? And it loved me like a piglet? What kind of crazy kinky shit was this? I didn't want it to love me like a piglet, and I didn't want it to love me any other way! Screw this for a joke! I threw the pamphlet down on the floor and left the room in disgust!

A while afterwards I wandered threw the room again and the pamphlet looked me in the eye - I don't know how it did it, but it did - and it declared straight away:
Nothing says 'I love you' like a piglet!
O God. It was the freaking piglet that loved me now. And it was a bloody talking piglet! I broke out in a cold sweat; I think I had visions of myself being raped in a seedy back-alley barn by hundreds of pink-skinned piglets, all squealing in sepulchral tones 'I love you! I love you, Timmy!'
I felt claustrophobic. I crumpled the pamphlet up, hurled it to the other side of the room, and ran howling outside.

But I still didn't buy the fucking piglet.

Welcome to the Internet

Someone got to this blog once by googling 'Natalia's ass'. Which Natalia? What ass? Is it someone you know, or did you just hear a generic story about a Natalia who left her 'ass' on the internet? Where - can I see? If you're looking for this Natalia, then you will find a lot of general information about her, but not much specific information about her ass.
Welcome to the internet, stranger. Did you mean to come here, and can I show you around?

It's both the precise and haphazard nature of google searches that get to your site that really perplex you. A person once reached my website by typing in something like this:

AAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAARRRRRRRRRRRRGGGGGHHHH!!!!!!

Boggled, that's what my mind was, not to mention hornswoggled. If this person had typed in one more A or three less Gs, would they have been taken to a different site entirely? Did they find what they were looking for? Are they alright?

Here's what my last twenty search strings look like. Make sense of them, if you will:

Last 20 Searchengine QueriesUnique Visitors
20 Nov, Mon, 14:39:11 Google Images: funny cartoons about food
20 Nov, Mon, 14:50:48 Google: semaphore lady first
20 Nov, Mon, 15:01:33 Google: "beware of geeks bearing gifts" "who said?"
20 Nov, Mon, 15:10:48 Google Images: Marty Worrall
20 Nov, Mon, 15:19:17 Google: LINKA AND WHEELER
20 Nov, Mon, 15:21:14 Google Images: boo bah
20 Nov, Mon, 15:24:08 AOL Search: How to be silly with a woman
20 Nov, Mon, 16:01:04 Google: difference between oxymoron and paradox
20 Nov, Mon, 16:01:41 Google: 3A
20 Nov, Mon, 16:27:35 Google: etymology "toe rag"
20 Nov, Mon, 16:30:24 Google: John Keats – “To Autumn” clouds bloom the soft-dying day
20 Nov, Mon, 16:30:57 Google Images: butt
20 Nov, Mon, 17:01:11 Google Images: butt
20 Nov, Mon, 17:05:59 Google: meg ryan michael parkinson interview youtube
20 Nov, Mon, 17:12:06 Google Images: aragorn
20 Nov, Mon, 17:13:36 Google: Mathaletics
20 Nov, Mon, 17:33:25 Google: delta goodrem conspiracy
20 Nov, Mon, 17:50:03 Google: meals in train
20 Nov, Mon, 18:18:45 Google: mathaletics
20 Nov, Mon, 19:15:19 Google: what type of food did the english bring to england


I can't claim to be a magnet for many pornography search strings like a few other websites (I think I have to up my quotient of sex and swear words to get that sort of thing), but my most common search is probably Google Images: Butt. This is the butt that comes up, not this butt or this butt; it's not a bad butt, just an ordinary, everyday butt.

I guess that's the internet for you: No ifs; plenty of butts.

Sunday, November 19, 2006

Miss Perkins is the Energetic Secretary of the Women's Anti-Socialist League

Last night I went to see a play at a theatre nestled in a laneway off Westgarth Grove, behind the Northcote Town Hall. The Time is Not Yet Ripe, by Louis Esson, is a political satire from early 1900s Australia, and a very strange one, too.



Doris Quiverton, son of Prime Minister Joseph Quiverton, is contracted by Miss Perkins, "The energetic secretary of the women's anti-socialist league," to run for the Melbourne seat of Wombat. By the sort of unlikely coincidence that all romantic comedies are made out of, she turns out to be running for the seat against her lover, the socialist Sydney Barrett. We get an idea what sort of socialism he stands for after the interval, where he gives a rousing but meaningless speech. "I believe in everything you are too stupid to understand!" he says, encouragingly, to the masses. That's about the clearest political statement you get from him, and no clearer is the statement by Sir Quiverton, speaking on behalf of his daughter (who makes no campaign speeches of her own, but apparently spends her time arranging the design of campaign cars 'painted out with dear little union jacks and stars'). "I say, we will go this far, and further!" says Quiverton, before stepping down from his podium.

It was wonderful to see an Edwardian costume drama, with all its trappings. Joseph Quiverton's mutton chops were impressive; equally impressive was the Lady Pillsbury's neuralgia, which she always seems to be coming down with. I rather liked the bit characters, especially the impassioned 'Violet Faulkner, BA, LL.B', who first appears as the officious stenographer for the Women's Anti-Socialist League. Doris Quiverton, who has just discovered she is running against Sydney, bursts into the Anti-Socialist League offices and declares that she is ready to give up the campaign. Violet proceeds to exhort Doris in the name of progress and feminism to carry on with the fight; this being done, she slips on her white cotton gloves and her hat and proceeds to the doorway.

The character list should give a fairly good idea of the sort of humour you get in the play. Here it is:
Sir Joseph Quiverton, Prime Minister of Australia

Doris, his daughter

An English Butler

Sir Henry Pillsbury, Attorney-General

Lady Pillsbury

John K. Hill, Chicago businessman

Sydney Barrett

Miss Perkins, Secretary of the Anti-Socialist league

Members of the socialist party:
- Otto

- Harry Hopkins

- Peter Jensen

- Arthur Gray

Bertie Wainwright

Violet Faulkner, BA, LL.B
The show is playing next week at the Northcote Town Hall Studio, and it's definitely worth seeing. As for me, I've got another play lined up Thursday next week: Babes in the Wood, at the Malthouse. Oh, and apparently yesterday, some folks went along to the big protesty thing happening in the city.

I think I got the better deal!

Saturday, November 18, 2006

The Cold Dark Matter of Life

Or, Looking Upon It Philosophically

When I am just about to eat a jam-and-cream-filled English scone,
My experience is quite ruined as I realise that in ten billion years, this universe will be gone.
Whereas yesterday, I could enjoy a simple fish fried in batter,
The taste today turns sour when I think about our universe just filled with cold dark matter.
I used to eat quite often a sundae with syrup, whipped cream, icing, chocolate chips, and topped with glace cherry,
But now I meditate instead upon our probable collision with an object cometary.
Yes, my delight in things like sponge cakes, ginger snaps, hedgehogs, and puftaloons these days are
All but gone when I contemplate that sooner or later we'll all disappear into a gigantic intergalactic quasar.
And even of an evening, when I enjoy my coffee and my schnapps,
I see sudden horrific visions of the universe's imminent entropic collapse.

Why is it that our enjoyment of topics gastronomical
Is all but swallowed up in subjects astronomical?

Thursday, November 16, 2006

Post Humourous

Tas Govt asked to hasten fox eradication

The Federal Government has welcomed Tasmania's decision to increase funding for fox eradication.

However, it has questioned the 10-year time frame

Federal Minister for the Environment, Eric Abetz, says he is pleased the State Government has decided to increase funding to eradicate foxes, but says the 10 year time-frame is too long and the fox needs to be eradicated in the next few years.

Senator Abetz says the Federal Government supports the Fox Free Task Force, but says the evidence needs to be reassessed in two years to see how successful it is.

"If they're serious about the fox, they'll be front-end loading money now so we get rid of it and we won't be talking about the fox in 10 years' time," he said.

The potential damage a fox population could cause is an estimated $20 million a year.

The new eradication plan includes a state-wide scat survey and baiting.
What do YOU think of this plan to eradicate the Tasmanian Fox? We've asked several foxes strangers from the street for THEIR opinion.

FOX POP

REYNARD, PARIS, FRANCE

"Ze proud and noble breed,
Le Fuchs, shall never give in to these Australian people! NEVER!"
MR FOX (first name FANTASTIC), SURREY, ENGLAND

"Ha! You Australian swine will never catch cunning old Foxy at his work!

(Ooh, look, some tasty chickens!)"
FOXY LADY, FOXWOOD, IOWA

"Well, hi there stranger. Why don't you just come on over here while I paws you a whiskerful of gin? Come on, don't be shy. Now, what were we talkin' about again ...?"

Wednesday, November 15, 2006

End to the Weekend

Misha has a good post on her blog about how she winds up her week. I thought it was an interesting question, and worth extending here.

***

For some people, Saturday morning starts at 1.00am, and they still think it's Friday until about 3.00pm, when they disappear into bed, amidst shards of broken glass, used condoms, and an alcoholic stupour. For others, Saturday morning begins on Saturday afternoon, which is the time they wake up. It's all up to the individual, really.

For me, Saturday mornings begins at 7.00am. Because I am afflicted with nine-to-five syndrome, I wake up too early in a haze of anxiety. I spend the next hour or so deliberately making myself fall asleep, and the whole thing is so exhausting that I actually succeed. Later I will spring out of bed with my customary alacrity (meaning I will disappear further into my blankets and curse the day with many creative imprecations and unholy words) and make breakfast for myself. (Usually a cereal sloshed with milk, closely followed by two cups of coffee).

After loitering over the cereal, lingering over the coffee, and lollygagging over the television, I will stroll down the street to get myself a copy of the Saturday papers. My parents have always bought the Saturday papers, but for some reason, I am the only one amongst four brothers stupid enough to continue the tradition. Perhaps I will pick up a donut or some croissants on the way.
I will spend the next hour or two studiously ignoring the important political stories, reading the obituaries to see if any of my enemies have died (I don't have any enemies, but I'm sure the obituaries will provide me with a few), and most importantly, going over the book reviews (in preference to actually reading the books - it's much more convenient that way).

I do my shopping Saturday evening, (preferring the possibility of being mugged by Upfield bogans to the certainty of being trampled on by fat Lebanese mothers looking for beans: for some reason, they all shop at the Coburg Supermarket around midday. I personally lay the blame on the staff for being open at such eccentric hours.)

Having got all the shopping out of the way on Saturday, Sunday morning will be spent tricking my flatmate into believing that it's his turn to do the cleaning up, which I usually do by the simple expedient of lying. This achieved, I will continue to lie about the house and read a book, perhaps with some music on. In the afternoon, I will go and see a movie. As I don't have a cinema in my neighbourhood, this usually means taking an adventure on the trams. (Although 'adventure' perhaps isn't the right word, unless you classify 'adventure' as "Bold Acts of Derring-Don't on the Public Transport as Tim Braves the Bogans and the Alcoholics.")
In the evening, after having arrived at home, I'll usually finish off with a beer or two, a steak sandwich, and a book.

And the wind-down to the week? I do the wind-down with a rusty old lever I keep stowed in my cupboard for just such an eventuality. Shortly after, I will disappear into bed and dream sweet dreams about murdering my boss or seducing my co-workers, before waking up in a haze of anxiety ... such is life.

Monday, November 13, 2006

Further Gloatations

Gloatation (gloat+quotation) = 1) A gloating quotation.

Smugful (Smug + Mugful) = 1) An article that causes you to splutter over your morning coffee/tea.

Smarmed Forces (Smarm + Armed Forces) = 1) Combined forces of gloating pundits and opinion columnists.

The Smirkus (Circus + Smirk) = 1) The Smarmed Forces in a celebratory mood. 2) The Costello family.

Saturday, November 11, 2006

What I'm Reading

"I would, indeed, have this work - which, if I should live to finish it, a matter of no great certainty, if indeed of any great hope to me, will be probably the last I shall ever undertake - to produce some better end than the mere diversion of a reader." - Henry Fielding, Journal of a Voyage to Lisbon.

Henry Fielding was the writer of Tom Jones, a classic comic novel. He authored at least two historic spoof-novels: Jonathan Wild, a parody biography of a notorious 18th century criminal; and Shamela, a send-up of Samuel Richardson's popular novel Pamela. He was apparently a dramatist in his youth (I'd love to read some of his plays), and in his middle age he was a Justice of the Peace.

I wasn't sure what to expect when I bought his Journal of a Voyage to Lisbon last week. As it turns out, it's a diary of some of the last months of his life. Written in mid-1754, it was published in early 1755 - after Fielding had died.
Fielding takes the voyage because of his health. He has, he tells us dryly, a 'complication of disorders' which necessitate an odd sort of treatment: 'By his advice I was tapped, and fourteen quarts of water drawn from my belly.' He is told to go somewhere warm during the winter, and so Lisbon becomes his destination. He has to be carried on board the ship; whenever this happens, he makes lugubrious comparisons between luggage and passengers.
On his voyage, he travels with Mrs Fielding, his daughter and her 'companion' (I'm not sure what he means by that), and some servants.

The voyage isn't a happy one. His daughter appears to be constantly suffering from seasickness; and Mrs Fielding from an aching tooth, which she repeatedly tries to have drawn:
.... such was her resolution, backed with pain, that he was obliged to make the attempt, which concluded more in honour of his judgment than of his operation: for, after having put my poor wife to inexpressible torment, he was obliged to leave her tooth in statu quo; and she had now the comfortable prospect of a long fit of pain, which might have lasted her whole voyage, without any possibility of relief.
"In these pleasing sensations," he continues, "of which I had my just share, nature ... resigned her to rest."
There are passages of interest aplenty. Fielding sees a great deal, and tells it all. There is, for instance, the following instance in his ship's cabin:
While we were at dinner this day in the cabin, on a sudden the window was beat into the room with a crash as if a twenty-pounder had been discharged among us ... the sash, which was shivered all to pieces, was pursued into the middle of the cabin by the bowsprit of a little ship called a cod-smack, the master of which made us amends for running (carelessly at best) against us, and injuring the ship, in the sea-way; that is to say, by damniong us all to hell, and uttering several pious wishes that it had done us much more mischief. All which were answered in their own kind and phrase by our men, between whom and the other crew a dialogue of oaths and scurrility was carried on as long as they continued in each other's hearing.
He follows this passage up immediately with the following reflection:
It is difficult, I think, to assign a satisfactory reason why sailors in general should, of all others, think themselves entirely discharged from the common bands of humanity, and should seem to glory in the language and behaviour of savages! They see more of the world, and have, most of them, a more erudite education than is the portion of the landmen of their degree.
There are also political and legal reflections, observations on the beneficial nature of trade, thoughts about tea and tea-drinking, encounters with a thirty-year-old soldier who greets his uncle with phrases like, 'D-n me, Dick!', and the following single-sentence diary entry:
Friday, July 12. This day our ladies went ashore at Ryde, and drank their afternoon tea at an ale-house there with great satisfaction: here they were regaled with fresh cream, to which they had been strangers since they left the Downs.
I find it hard to explain why I feel so sad knowing that this is written in Fielding's last days of life. It's essentially the diary of a an illness which carries Fielding to his grave. Perhaps it is because of the simple elegance of his writing, and his enjoyment of all the things of life, even in his infirmity: he seems to be alive to us. But that's not really a good enough explanation; Fielding is now 250 years dead; why should it seem so sorrowful when it is an established fact?

Fielding is one of the funniest and smartest bastards to have ever lived on this planet, as even a single glance into Tom Jones will show. I'd like to meet him, though that seems somewhat unlikely at this stage. In the meantime, we can all meet him halfway through his books; I'm doing it at the moment, in his Journal of a Voyage to Lisbon.

Word of the Day

Gloatation (Gloat+Quotation) (noun.) 1) A gloating quote. 2) The ability to be gracious in defeat and fallacious in victory.

Gloatation in action:
"Actually, in 2002 Wolcott did write something worthwhile; he mentioned "the acerbic and hilarious Tim Blair". That was before BDS kicked in."

"Howard, the commentariat, deluded RWDB bloggers, and others who want to deny the good sense of the American people and the expression of their democratic will can shriek all they like."

Classic Gloatation:
"This is the sweetest victory of all." - Paul Keating.

The Extremely Cultured Yoghurt

(A further further fable about arts funding)



Once there was an Extremely Cultured tub of Yoghurt. If it had been any more cultured, it would have become expert in a highly unlikely musical style, like Tuvan Throat Singing. So one morning it decided to do just that.
"Me me me me me me me!" sang the Cultured Yoghurt for an hour.
"Doh re mi sol fa ...", it continued.
"Don Giovanni, Leporello, Don Giovanni, Leporello, Don!" it carolled.
"Shut up!"shouted the Shishkebab.
"Call in the guards! Call in the army!"yelled the Salami.
"It's driving me barmy!"added the Pastrami.
"I'd put my fingers in my ears but I don't have any," said the Margarine.
"Put them in mine!" said the Pigs Ears from the freezer.
"I don't have any fingers either," said the Margarine, mournfully.
"I'll help!" shouted the Fish Fingers in a helpful tone.
When it heard this chorus of discontentment, the Cultured Yoghurt said, "I'm sorry! Is there something you'd like me to perform?"
"Cole Porter!" squealed the Coleslaw.
"Tom Lehrer!" put in the Tomato.
Everyone in the fridge had something to suggest. The Lasagna was fond of Wagner, the Chives liked Charles Ives, the Sachet of Chutney liked Satchmo, and the Bocconcini wanted a little Boccherini (or perhaps some Puccini).
"Well, sorry, but no," said the Cultured Yoghurt. "I don't do any of those. My heart has been set on Tuvan Throat Singing. Allow me to demonstrate ..."
And with that, the Cultured Yoghurt proceeded to give a rousing demonstration of all the greatest Tuvan Throat Singing hits, including, "My love! My love is coming down the mountainside!", "The King arrives, bring out the Ghee!" and "Alas, for my Goat has died."
"That's terrible!" said the Salami. "You don't have a heart!"
"You can't do that!" added the Pastrami. "You need a Tuvan Throat to perform it properly!"
"And you need to be able to sing!" grumbled the Alfalfa.
And so the fridge rattled and rumbled and shook with Tuvan Throat Singing and the sound of various protesting food stuffs, late into the night.

***

Once there was an Extremely Cultured tub of Yoghurt. It was so cultured it could perform Tuvan Throat Singing. If it had been any more cultured, it would start performing obscure dance styles, like the 18th century French Pavanne. So one morning, it decided to do just that. It began flexing its non-existent limbs, leaping from shelf to shelf, setting the whole fridge a-rattle.
"Stop! Stop! You're making me so nervous!" quivered the Jelly.
"You're making me incredibly bitter," grumbled the Butter.
"And you're making me even more sour!" howled the Sour Cream.
"Stand STILL!" shouted the entire fridge, as one.
"Well!" snapped the Cultured Yoghurt. "Perhaps you would care to suggest a dance style for me to try?"
"Russian Ballet!" sighed the Mustard de la Calais.
"Ginger Rogers!" gasped the Ginger Pieces.
Everyone had something different to suggest. The Mango wanted a tango, the Tagliatelle preferred the Tarantella, the Custard Roll voted for some Rock, and its friend the Rocky Road agreed, but wanted some Roll as well.
"Those are all good dances," agreed the Cultured Yoghurt. "But it has always been my eternal passion to dance a 19th century French Pavanne, especially since this morning!"
"That's an oxymoron!"cried the Pastrami.
"As well as a tautology!" added the Salami.
"Not to mention a lie!" put in the Noodles.
"Please STOP!" chorused the entire fridge.
But nothing could stop the Cultured Yoghurt. It pirouetted here and paraded there, and everyone else roared out their general oppobrium and disdain; and the fridge rattled and shook late into the night.

***

Once there was an Extremely Cultured tub of Yoghurt that could perform Tuvan Throat Singing and dance a 19th-century French Pavanne, and sometimes both at once.
One day, the Cultured Yoghurt decided to give it all up.
"I will devote my life to Zen Buddhism and Higher Things," announced the Cultured Yoghurt to no-one in general and everyone in particular. "I will tell meaningless Zen parables, like the time when the Zen master picked his nose and achieved sartori. And now, in order to attain Nirvana, I will sit here and be silent for the next year."
The entire fridge breathed a sigh of relief.

The owners of the fridge were so surprised at the fridge's silence that they thought there was something wrong with it, and they threw it out straight away. They even left the food in it. They were rich, after all, and like most rich people, worried much more about their money than they did about their food.

MORAL: Culture - those who can't afford it still pay for it. Those who can afford for it couldn't be bothered paying for it. But it's still worth making a song and dance about.

Friday, November 10, 2006

The End of the End of the World

Children of Men is a film about the end of the world. People have lost their ability to reproduce: humanity has, literally, no future. The people that are left are the ageing remnants of the human race in it's million-odd-year existence: they are mentally and morally exhausted, subscribing to any number of outdated ideologies (we see ferals, hippies, and Hizbollahs in the film). They begin to tear into one another with unremitting savagery, perhaps because there is nothing else to do; as the film ends, London is being bombed.

Children of Men is a fine film; you can read reviews of it here and here and here. It's a pity, though, that such a well-made film should put across such a comprehensively nihilist view: that when humans are faced with this future, they will turn to savagery and crime, and destroy their own way of life, maybe out of no other reason than boredom.

Apocalypse and end-of-the-world fantasies have been written about by SF writers for centuries; H G Wells did it in War of the Worlds and The Time Machine, Byron did it in his poem Darkness, and Mary Shelley did it in The Last Man. But it's worth remembering that there are other, gentler fantasies that have been written about time, fantasies that see mankind (or other races) cheerfully adapting to different circumstances; fantasies about the construction of new ways of life rather than the destruction of old ways of life. I reckon it's time we read some of these again ...


***


"How beautifully clear the water is!" said Lucy to herself, as she leant over the port side early in the afternoon of the second day.
And it was. The first thing that she noticed was a little black object, about the size of a shoe, travelling along at the same speed as the ship. For a moment she thought it was something floating on the surface. But then there came floating past a bit of stale bread which the cook had just thrown out of the galley. And the bit of bread looked as if it were going to collide with the black thing, but it didn't. It passed above, and Lucy now saw ythat the black thing could not be on the surface... "It's our shadow! The shadow of the
Dawn Treader," said Lucy. "Our shadow running along on the bottom of the sea ..."
...
They had passed the city and the sea-bed was still rising. It was only a few hundred feet below the ship now. The road had disappeared. They were sailing above an open, park-like country, dotted with little groves of brightly-coloured vegetation. And then - Lucy nearly squealed aloud with excitement - she had seen People.
There were between fifteen and twenty of them, and all mounted on sea-horses - not the tiny little sea-horses which you may have seen in museums but horses rather bigger than themselves. They must be noble and lordly people, Lucy thought, for she could catch the gleam of gold on some of their foreheads, and streamers of emerald- or orange-coloured stuff fluttered from their shoulders in the current.

- C S Lewis, Voyage of the Dawn Treader


***


Here we saw huge figures riding upon vultures of a prodigous size, and each of them having three heads. To form some idea of the magnitude of these birds, I must inform you, that each of their wings is as wide, and six times the length of our vessel, which was about six hundred tons burthen. Thus, instead of riding upon horses, as we do in this world, the inhabitants of
the Moon (for we now found we were in madam Luna) fly about on these birds. The king, we found, was engaged in a war with the SUN, and he offered me a commission, but I declined the honour his majesty intended me.
Everything in this world is of extraordinary magnitude; a common flea being much larger than one of our sheep: in making war, their principal weapons are radishes, which are used as darts; those who are wounded by them, die immediately...
As to the natives of the Moon, none of them are less in stature than thirty-six feet; they are not called the human species, but 'the cooking animals', for they all dress their food by the fire, as we do, but 'the cooking animals', for they all dress their food by fire, as we do, but lose no time at their meals, as they open their left side, and place the whole quantity at once in their stomach, then shut it again till the same day in the next month ...
Their eyes they can take in and out of their places when they please, and they can see as well with them in their hand as in their head! and if by any accident they lose or damagbe one, they can borrow or purchase another, and see as clearly with it as their own. Dealers in eyes are on that account very numerous in most parts of the world, and in this article alone, all the inhabitants are whimsical: sometimes green and sometimes yellow eyes are the fashion ...

- Baron Munchausen


***


Whether Armilla is like this because it is unfinished or because it has been demolished, whether the cause is some enchantment or only a whim, I do not know. The fact remains that it has no walls, no ceilings, no floors: it has nothing that makes it seem a city except the water pipes that rise vertically where the houses should be and spread out horizontally where the floors should be: a forest of pipes that end in taps, shouwers, spouts, overflows. Against the sky a lavabo's white stands out, or a bathtub, or some other porcelain, like late fruit still hanging from the boughs. You would think that the plumbers had finished their job and gone away before the bricklayers arrived; or else their hydraulic systems, indestructable, had survived a catastrophe, an earthquake, or the corrosion of termites.
Abandoned before or after it was inhabited, Armilla cannot be called deserted. At any hour, raising your eyes among the pipes, you are likely to glimpse a young woman, or many young women, slender, not tall of stature, luxuriating in the bathtubs or arching their backs under the showers suspended in the void, washing or drying or perfuming themselves, or combing their long hair at a mirror. In the sun, the threads of water fanning from the showers glisten, the jets of the taps, the spurts, the splases, the sponges' suds.

- Italo Calvino, Invisible Cities


***


Then I drew over me a rich, heavy, purple cloth that was beside me; and, lying still, knew, by the sound of the waters, that my little bark was fleeting rapidly onwards. Finding, however, none of that stormy motion which the sea had manifested when I beheld it from the shore, I opened my eyes; and, looking first up, saw above me the deep violet sky of a warm southern night; and then, lifting my head, saw that I was sailing fast upon a summer sea, in the last border of a southern twilight. The aureole of the sun yet shot the extreme faint tips of its longest rays above the horizon- waves, and withdrew them not. It was a perpetual twilight. The stars, great and earnest, like children's eyes, bent down lovingly towards the waters; and the reflected stars within seemed to float up, as if longing to meet their embraces. But when I looked down, a new wonder met my view. For, vaguely revealed beneath the wave, I floated above my whole Past. The fields of my childhood flitted by; the halls of my youthful labours; the streets of great cities where I had dwelt; and the assemblies of men and women wherein I had wearied myself seeking for rest. But so indistinct were the visions, that sometimes I thought I was sailing on a shallow sea, and that strange rocks and forests of sea-plants beguiled my eye, sufficiently to be transformed, by the magic of the phantasy, into well-known objects and regions. Yet, at times, a beloved form seemed to lie close beneath me in sleep; and the eyelids would tremble as if about to forsake the conscious eye; and the arms would heave upwards, as if in dreams they sought for a satisfying presence. But these motions might come only from the heaving of the waters between those forms and me. Soon I fell asleep, overcome with fatigue and delight. In dreams of unspeakable joy--of restored friendships; of revived embraces; of love which said it had never died; of faces that had vanished long ago, yet said with smiling lips that they knew nothing of the grave; of pardons implored, and granted with such bursting floods of love, that I was almost glad I had sinned--thus I passed through this wondrous twilight. I awoke with the feeling that I had been kissed and loved to my heart's content; and found that my boat was floating motionless by the grassy shore of a little island.

- George MacDonald, Phantastes


***


Near the Cimmerian country is a cave, deeply recessed, a hollow mountainside, the secret dwelling-place of languid Sleep, where the sun's rays can never reach, whether at his rising or at noon or at his setting. Dark mists are breathed out from the ground, and the half-light of evening's gloom. No crested cock summons the dawn with wakeful crowings, no anxious dogs break the silence, or geese, shrewder still than dogs. No wild beasts are head, no cattle, nor is there any sound of branches swaying in the wind, or harsh quarrelling of human tongues. Voiceless quiet dwells there: but from the depths of the rocky cave flows the river of Lethe whose waters invite slumber as they glide, murmuring over whispering pebbles. Before the doors of the house poppies bloom in abundance and countless herbs from whose juices dewy Night gathers drowsiness and sprinkles it over the dark earth. There is not a door in the whole house, lest some turning hinge should creak, nor is there any watchman at the threshold. In the midst of the cavern stands a lofty couch of ebon wood, dark in colour, covered with black draperies, feather-soft, where the god himself lies, his limbs relaxed in weariness. Around him lie empty dreams, made to resemble different shapes, as many as the corn ears in the harvest, as leaves on the woodland trees, or sands scattered on the shore.

- Ovid, Metamorphoses



***


Feel free to add some of your own favourite quotes in comments.

Thursday, November 09, 2006

Gourmets are just confused Grommets

James is looking for recipes, apparently, and while my own culinary skills are rather lacking, I can at least suggest a few simple dishes.

The following recipe comes straight from the Motherland, Russia, although it has, sadly, fallen out of popularity there of late. However, it has had a popular revival here in the west, in cafes and restaurants in such popular inner-city suburbs as Newtown (Sydney) and Fitzroy (Melbourne).

ROAST RUSSIAN COMMUNISM

You will need:
- One tablespoon of conspiracy theory (the most popular nowadays are Anti-Zionism or Anti-Capitalism, and can be substituted for one another if necessary)
- Half-a-cup of discontentment
- 4 cups of poverty-stricken masses, diced and chopped
- Ten well-preserved slices of post-Hegelian economic theory
- One Russia-sized nation.
- A pinch of salt.

Preparation:
1. Take the conspiracy theory, wrap it in tin foil, and half bake it in a pre-heated oven, toaster, or microwave. (It doesn't matter great which, but all the best conspiracy theories come half-baked.)
2. While the conspiracy theory is baking, pour the poverty stricken masses into a frypan at medium heat. Gradually fold in the half-cup of discontentment to the mix until it is simmering. Add the post-Hegelian economic theory, one by one, to the mix.
3. Add the salt.
4. Leave to cool. Serve with the Russia-size nation and the half-baked conspiracy theory. Enjoy!

For those with more refined tastes, I offer the following recipe:

TERRINE OF FOIE GRAS AND ARMAGNAC without TERRINE, FOIE, GRAS or ARMAGNAC (but with an EGG).

Preparation:
Take an egg
Fry it.

You can enjoy all the subtle sophistication of the French-sounding name without actually bothering to cook the damn thing! I highly recommend this recipe!
Here is a slightly more difficult recipe that is perfect for the late Australian spring, especially in Perth:

CUISINE A LA IPSO FACTO

You will need:

A frisson of gesundheit.
Seven cups of gestalt.
Three heaped tablespoons of vague anxieties.

Preparation:
1. Take the vague anxieties. Melt them slowly over a low heat.
2. Sift the frisson of gesundheit over the top of the vague anxieties, folding them into the mix. Bake until al dente.
3. Leave to cool. Whip the seven cups of gestalt until frothy.
4. Mix the vague anxieties and frisson of gesundheit into the gestalt and place in the fridge until cool.
5. Serve al fresco with a side serving of al crisco and al capone. Enjoy!

The final recipe is perfect for a treat. I call it:

PAPA SURPRISE

Preparation:
Take your father's credit card.
Go to your nearest high-class restaurant.
Imagine how surprised he'll be when he sees the bill!

Of course, when it comes to matters culinary, maybe we should all consult Ogden Nash on The Strange Case of Mr. Palliser's Palate ...

Once there was a man named Mr. Palliser and he asked his wife, May I be a gourmet?
And she said, You sure may,
But she also said, If my kitchen is going to produce a Cordon Blue,
It won't be me, it will be you,
And he said, You mean Cordon Bleu?
And she said to never mind the pronunciation so long as it was him and not heu.
But he wasn't discouraged; he bought a white hat and The Cordon Bleu Cook Book and said, How about some Huitres en Robe de Chambre?
And she sniffed and said, Are you reading a cook book for Forever Ambre?
And he said, Well if you prefer something more Anglo Saxon,
Why suppose I whip up some tasty Filets de Sole Jackson,
And she pretended not to hear, so he raised his voice and said, Could I please you with some Paupiettes de Veau a la Grecque or Cornets de Jambon Lucullus or perhaps some nice Moules a la Bordelaise?
And she said, Kindly lower your voice or the neighbours will think we are drunk and disordelaise,
And she said, Furthermore the whole idea of your cooking anything fit to eat is a farce. So what did Mr. Palliser do then?
Well, he offered her Oeufs Farcis Maison and Homart Farci St Jacques and Tomato Farci a la Bayonne and Aubergines Farcies Provencales, as well as Aubergines Farcies Italiennes,
And she said, Edward, kindly accompany me as usual to Hamburger Heaven and stop playing the fool,
And he looked in the book for one last suggestion and it suggested Croques Madame, so he did, and now he dines every evening on Creme de Concombres, Glacee, Cotelettes de Volaille Vicomtesse, and Artichauds a la Barigoule.

Ladies and gentlemen, Voila!

PS: Stay tuned tomorrow for more culinary matters in The Fable of the Extremely Cultured Yoghurt. In the meantime, I suggest you try something fun like Bombe Alaska. Yeah, that sounds tasty.

Tuesday, November 07, 2006

A Disquisition Concerning the Amount of Silly Hat Wearing Women In Melbourne

It has come to my attention that in the past week or so there has been an dramatic rise in the quantity of Silly Hat Wearing Women in and around Melbourne. This is not alarming as it might seem, as any number of sightings of Silly Hat Wearing Women has occurred in the previous hundred years.
The first question that may occur to one concerning these Silly Hat Wearing Women is philosophical: Why? Why do these Silly Hat Wearing Women do it? What conceivable reason could they have for their custom? Are their motivations primarily ethical (Is it right to wear a silly hat?), metaphysical (I wear silly hats therefore I am), existential (I do not wear this silly hat, this silly hat just happens to be on my head) or aesthetic (I like wearing silly hats)? A scientific approach suggests itself: what are the motivations and causes that have resulted in the exponential rise in Silly Hat Wearing Women in the city? One is almost tempted to write a Natural History of Silly Hat Wearing Women, but for the fact that although the wearing of silly hats has a history, it is probably not going to be a natural one.

One is tempted to ask the Silly Hat Wearing Women. However, you are likely to get a reply along the lines of, 'I wear this hat because it goes with my shoes', or, 'I got this silly hat at a wonderful price at the silly hat store, so it would be silly not to wear this silly hat', or, 'I don't know, but this silly hat looks nice, doesn't it?' After all, you can hardly be expected to a sensible answer out of a person who wears one of those things on their head.

And it is true that it is a silly time of year. While it is the custom at this time of year of some women to wear silly hats on their heads in Melbourne, other denizens of this antipodean city have equally curious habits. What, for instance, would drive an ordinarily sensible person to drop into a TAB office, pay a large amount of money on a particular horse, only to have that horse promptly lose? Not only, it seems, is it a time for Silly Hat Wearing Women, it is a silly season all round. So when it comes to the question of Silly Hat Wearing Women, let us not be supercilious.

***

The undeniable quantity of Silly Hat Wearing Women in and around the city gives rise to any number of problems of manners:

1) B. gets on a tram that is filled with Silly Hat Wearing Women. There are two seats left, one next to a Silly Hat Wearing Woman whose hat is a lifesize model of a pelican. The other Silly Hat Wearing Woman has a hat that is very silly indeed; some might even say it is a Downright Ludicrous Hat. Does Bob sit next to the pelican woman, or the woman with the Downright Ludicrous Hat? Does he remain standing? Or does he get off the tram instantly and decide to walk to work?

2) In preparation for a day at the races, H. places a silly hat on her head and asks her husband F. for his opinion of the silly hat. Does F. answer truthfully, and say that the silly hat is silly, or does he compliment H. on her choice of a silly hat? What does he do to get himself out of this dilemma?

3) Should men adopt the custom of wearing of silly hats, in the name of equality of the sexes?

4) A., B. and C. are all friends wearing silly hats. It is very hard to tell who is wearing the silliest hat of all. A's hat has a rose garden sitting atop. B. is wearing a ridiculously oversized Picasso replica on her head, and she also carries an umbrella with her. C. is wearing a silly hat of relatively average size. However, this silly hat has a hole in the middle of it. Suddenly, it begins to rain. As it turns out, Bs Picasso offers adequate protection from the rain. However, the rain that falls upon A. is absorbed by the roses and the mud, and consequently, As silly hat becomes very heavy. Cs silly hat, on the other hand, lets the rain through the hole, and consequently, C becomes very cold.
Does B give her umbrella to A or C? Or does she decide that her own Picasso replica must be protected at all costs?

***

It is therefore difficult to come to any firm conclusions about the wearing of silly hats. It is a practice which defies all orthodox philosophical or scientific questions, and the questions of etiquette it raises are profound and disturbing. In short, it seems, some women wear silly hats in Melbourne because some women have always worn silly hats in Melbourne. Indeed, the history of Silly Hat Wearing Women in Melbourne goes back to its very foundations.


SILLY HAT FACTS!

- In 1933, Mrs Brumpshire-Brumpshire, originally of Wollongong, put on a silly hat that stretched from Prahran to Werribee! It won second prize in the 'Very Stupid' category of the Greater Melbourne Silly Hat prize of that year, and was later dismantled and used around the city in various public monuments. The south-easternmost tip of Mrs Brumpshire-Brumpshire's silly hat can be found in the Melbourne Museum.

- Silly hats have been made out of a number of silly things over the years, but one of the silliest silly hat materials ever was invented by Melbourne haberdasher Madame la Goolch, of Camberwell. The material in question was woven solely out of butterfly hairs. Most of her silly hats, however, were quite unimaginative, and consequently, her sole innovation of genius was never recognised.

- Some silly hats worn over time include: a goldfish tank (complete with live goldfish), a seven-storey silly hat crafted by silly hat designers from Paris, and one silly hat that bore the entire text of James Joyce's Ulysses!

- Silly hat figures: in 1900, there were an estimated 772 Silly Hat Wearing Women in Melbourne. By 2000, this figure had risen to a whopping 4779 Silly Hat Wearing Women! For the first quarter of the century, the number of Silly Hat Wearing Men hovered around the 10/20 mark. This had risen, in the late 1990s, to approximately 972 (according to the most recent Australian Census, over 5000 Australian males declare their religion as 'Silly Hat Wearers')
The creation and export of silly hats to other parts of the world forms an estimated 0.001 per cent of the Australian economy. Our biggest customer apparently lives in Latvia!

Sunday, November 05, 2006

Religious Sunday To You All

Jesus rocks!



Buddha stoned!



Papal piss!



The Holy Profit!



Hairy Krishna!



Mo's Mo!



UPDATE!

One for the Pagan worshippers.

Saturday, November 04, 2006

An Observation Made; and A Moral Drawn

It's a race day here in Melbourne - I can't remember which one - but it's a day when all the blokes go along to have a bet on the nags, and all the girls go along to nag them on their bets. No, that's not really true; on these occasions, the girls like to get dressed up in gauzy frocks and strange hats. I'm not sure why.

***

I've just made it back from Port Melbourne, where my old workplace was having an office sale. With a tape deck in one hand, a power board in the other hand, a power cord in my pocket, and a book under my arm, I struggled up Rowse Street to Victoria Street, where the trams to Brunswick stopped. The tram, as it turned out, was packed with pleasure seekers and race goers, and I somehow squeezed my way between a bunch of hat-wearers to a seat.

Two seats across from me, facing to the front, sat a woman wearing what seemed like an upturned black-and-white collander on her head. There was a woman dressed all in pink standing beside me, with a gauzy stole wrapped around her shoulders. She had a green purse that was too tiny to carry anything in one hand, and some plastic pink feathers wrapped into her hair by way of a hat. A pair of black sunglasses hung from her cleavage. I couldn't really see past her, but there were more. The tram swayed onwards, in that odd rhythm they have, alternating between an elegant glide and jerks as it came in to a stop. At one point two women, doubtless in weird hats and flowery frocks, shouted out to the tram to stop and raced along the footpath in their stilettos. No mean feat (although it probably was mean to their feet).

Finally, we stopped at Flinders Street Station and someone shouted "Train station! Get off! Get off! Train station!" One by one, the race goers filed out the doors until the tram was relatively empty.
By this time I'd worked my way to a more comfortable seat, and I looked out the window at the departing crowd, mingling with the Saturday morning central Melbourne flock. A slight, cool breeze tugged at the slight dresses.

The pink plastic feathers on the head of the woman from the tram started to whirl in the wind. Faster and faster they whirled, until they were in ceaseless motion, like a hummingbird. Slowly - ever so slowly; she couldn't notice it happening, I'm sure - the woman in pink elevated above the crowd. Then, I'm not sure how - the feathers took flight. The woman in pink looked down to the ground below and screamed! But the feathers had taken control now. They were waving furiously, causing little eddies and gusts of wind to tug at the hats worn by the women below. The woman in pink bobbed higher and higher, beyond Flinders Street station; the feathers seemed to be flying, rather determinedly, in a direction towards Collins Street, over the cathedral. One old guy took the opportunity to have a perve at her knickers.
Deciding she couldn't do anything else, the woman in pink - rapidly diminishing in size - slipped the sunglasses from out of her cleavage and put them on. Then the tram rolled on and I lost sight of her.

I thought I'd seen the last of her, but later in Carlton, as I caught another tram, I saw her far away, a tiny pink dot in the sky just over Royal Parade. I think the feathers in her hair had either been coming in to land at a tree or alighting from one. I hope she was all right.

***

Of course, the conclusion to be drawn from all this is obvious: fashion is dangerous, and you should all stay right away from it. Right? Right.

UPDATE! - Some of you might doubt that this actually happened in the way that I said it happened: you might think, in short, that it is just a fiction. Well, I'll have you know that I saw it all for myself, and this story is completely, utterly, and undeniably true, except for one or two minor details which may have been slightly exaggerated, overemphasised, stretched, confabulated, or made up. So there.

Friday, November 03, 2006

An Idyll on the Idle Ideal, or, Not Striving to Meet the Unchallenges of Tomorrow

There's a lot of folks out there at the moment who are arguing that art should be challenging and provocative. I give them this:
To Autumn - John Keats

SEASON of mists and mellow fruitfulness!
Close bosom-friend of the maturing sun;
Conspiring with him how to load and bless
With fruit the vines that round the thatch-eaves run;
To bend with apples the moss'd cottage-trees,
And fill all fruit with ripeness to the core;
To swell the gourd, and plump the hazel shells
With a sweet kernel; to set budding more,
And still more, later flowers for the bees,
Until they think warm days will never cease,
For Summer has o'er-brimm'd their clammy cells.

Who hath not seen thee oft amid thy store?
Sometimes whoever seeks abroad may find
Thee sitting careless on a granary floor,
Thy hair soft-lifted by the winnowing wind;
Or on a half-reap'd furrow sound asleep,
Drowsed with the fume of poppies, while thy hook
Spares the next swath and all its twined flowers;
And sometimes like a gleaner thou dost keep
Steady thy laden head across a brook;
Or by a cider-press, with patient look,
Thou watchest the last oozings hours by hours.

Where are the songs of Spring? Ay, where are they?
Think not of them, thou hast thy music too, -
While barred clouds bloom the soft-dying day,
And touch the stubble-plains with rosy hue;
Then in a wailful choir the small gnats mourn
Among the river sallows, borne aloft
Or sinking as the light wind lives or dies;
And full-grown lambs loud bleat from hilly bourn;
Hedge-crickets sing; and now with treble soft
The redbreast whistles from a garden-croft;
And gathering swallows twitter in the skies.
Now that is about as far from challenging as you'd hope to get.

There's some people, of course, who would argue that Keats wrote it in order to strike a blow against the puritan work ethic, or to 'challenge' the 19th century moralists who distrusted pleasure. That's just stupid; why would you take something so fundamentally unchallenging as this and turn it into a challenge? When you take a poem so pleasurable as this, and turn it as a weapon against the puritans and moralists - why, then that pathological obsession of yours would just take all the pleasure out of the poem. You'd become as bad as the puritans, or whoever you wanted to argue against.

Interestingly, I've just finished reading a book that comes very close to doing the same thing. It's called 'How To Be Idle', and it's by Tom Hodgkinson.



The title is a mistake. If you have to be told how to be idle, then you will end up missing the point. The book quotes Oscar Wilde approvingly ('Doing nothing is hard work', says Wilde); but the only trouble is, being idle is not about doing nothing - it's about doing what you want. It's not about avoiding duty - it's about seeking pleasure. It's not about bludging, loafing, shirking, procrastinating, or avoiding work - it's about fun, fun, and more fun. That's the problem; if you try too hard to avoid the work ethic, then you end up being the worst example of the work ethic. Hodgkinson realises this - he's too smart not to - and in the final chapter of the book, where he fields readers questions, we get an answer - of sorts:
Q: You say you're an idler but you must have put a lot of work into this book.

A: Well, I only worked for three or four hours a day on it. So it wasn't really like doing eight hours in a call centre. Also, I was working at home, so when you cut out the commuting hours, too, I calculate that I was doing six hours less work a day than the average job-worker.
And it was something I had chosen to do, a hobby, really, it did not feel like work.
So if you do a job that you like, then it doesn't feel like work. Well, duh.

It's impossible not to like Hodgkinson. He's a whinging pom, sure, but it's so easy to share the pleasure he takes in the simplest things. He writes about smoking:
I must say I would recommend the pipe to the student of idleness. If you can withstand the ridicule and admonishments of loved ones, then taking up the pipe can be a way of flying back to a lost age of gentlemanly reflection. Pipes require time and leisure. I occasionally smoke one. My girlfriend, Victoria, hates it. When I asked her why - perhaps she did not like the smell? - she replied: 'No. It's the attitude.' I suppose she can't stand to see me idle. She has said I am allowed to smoke it as long as she never has to see me doing it and as long as I don't send any photographs of me smoking it into the public domain. This is a great shame, as I would have liked to have been smoking a pipe in my author photograph.
Or about having lunch:
The midday meal was an occasion to be deliberated over, shared with friends and colleagues, savoured, taken over two or three hours. It was a time for gossip, laughter, booze. It was a dreamy oasis of pleasure which took the edge off the dreary afternoon and was to be looked forward to during the busy morning. It might even involve a stroll around town ...
It all sounds so nice and English, doesn't it?

When he talks about people going to work, of course, he puts away all these leisurely adjectives and nouns ('Oasis', 'Occasionally', 'Stroll', 'Shared'). Instead, we get a whole new set of words pulled out: 'Trudge', 'Tedious', 'Bore', 'Sigh'. That's pretty much the Hodgkinson technique in a nutshell, actually - make some things appear better or worse than they are by the liberal application of adjectives and nouns. It's all very precise and careful, though he is equally precise and careful in making sure that it doesn't appear to be that way. His words are deliberate, his metaphors are firm, his paragraphs are rigorous, and his chapters are decisive.

Putting on my editors hat, I'd like to suggest a few changes to the book. We could start with the title. Instead of:

How to be Idle

We could try:

Be Idle.

The end.

Thursday, November 02, 2006

Application To Perform a Play

APPLICATION TO PERFORM A PLAY AT THE MALTHOUSE THEATRE

Title:
Insurrection: Corruption: Resurrection

Synopsis:
The play opens with two men in a room behind two plate-glass walls saying meaningless things to one another. As the play continues, the men continue to say meaningless things to one another behind the plate glass walls, increasing dramatic tension. For no real reason, a woman in dominatrix costume (who doesn't say anything at all) wanders on and off the stage. Then the play ends.


Analysis:
Insurrection: Corruption: Resurrection is an incisive analysis of the latent geopolitical circumstances of the occident, or of the current discursive tendencies of western democracy (depending on how you feel at the time.) It's also about communism. Through the expressive medium of two men saying meaningless things to one another behind plate glass walls, we hope to provide a dadaist metaphor by which the effect of communism and anti-communism on the western world.

Props:
Props and sets would be cheap. Here is a list we have drawn up:
- Two plate-glass walls.
- Two rubber penises.
- One gigantic paper-mache head.
- One large transparent cabinet.
- One red guard costume.
- One pair of handcuffs.
- One puppet of a naked woman.
- One dominatrix costume.
- One syringe.

Cost:
The actors have said that they will supply the syringe, plate-glass walls, rubber penises and gigantic paper-mache head themselves. The rest of the props should come in fairly cheap, under $100.
Oh, and the actors come pretty cheap too. Got them at a bargain basement price at the Victorian Academy of the Arts ...

NOTES/COMMENTS/THOUGHTS:
As ideas for plays go, I have to say that this one is ABSOLUTELY FUCKING FANTASTIC!!! With a plot like that, how could it not succeed? I'll give you one week - no - TWO weeks! No, two and a half!
PS I'm not sure about the name. We need something a little more plain to get the punters in. How about, 'Now That Communism is Dead, My Life Feels Empty'?

UPDATE! - I actually did see this play on Thursday, and, to steal a phrase from Tim, it was all this and less. I'd been thinking of posting a review of it in the last couple of days, and this came to mind. When I was doing a search on google for information about the play, I learned that it was actually written in 2001 by an international writer called Richard Foreman - not written for the Malthouse at all. So now I am telling you. In the interests of disclosure, and journalistic integrity, and stuff. (Mostly the third category).

Wednesday, November 01, 2006

The Seven Habits of Highly Defective People

The company that I work for has a newsletter that's circulated via the internet to staff members. It has crappy articles with titles like "Persistence is the key to success: John Smugs tells how he secured the vital Blerg account!" and "Pointers to Improve Your Phone Technique!" Anyway, I thought that I might submit an article to them, from my experience as a lowly transcriber/typist. Here's how it goes.

***

YOU WILL BE HUNTED DOWN LIKE DOGS

I don't know whether any of you have experienced a bad day, but if my experience the other day was anything like the worst experience you could experience, then that's an experience you don't want to have. It started off with me doing the transcript of a boring politician, moved on to an insignificant bureaucrat, and included an unimportant accountant talking about not-very-interesting things. So how do we cope with these 'horror' days? How do we get through these days when we just seem to be 'staring into a black pit of abject terror and despair'? I've evolved several very successful psychological techniques by which I'm able to keep fit and motivated and complete the job for our much-needed clients!

Here's a quick run down of how I approached my day:

BORING POLITICIAN
My thoughts: Please kill me. Please kill me now.

INSIGNIFICANT BUREAUCRAT
My thoughts: I must kill HIM. I will hunt this man down and kill him. No - I will DESTROY him!

UNIMPORTANT ACCOUNTANT
My thoughts: Everyone else must be destroyed, too!

So, by a gradual process, I moved from unhealthy thoughts about suicide to homocide to genocide, and bombs, and other weapons of mass destruction. Later, I moved back to suicidal thoughts again. I like to call it my vicious non-cycle. Perhaps you might like to try it some time.
But anyway, it's the people that really make this job worthwhile. As I complete another meaningless media transcript and send it off via email to the address of a government person and/or entity who will never read the transcript anyway, that's what I remind myself about. It's the people that you meet that it's all for.

In conclusion, comrades, I leave you with these thoughts: success is the key to persistence. In order to overcome our overwhelming positivity, we need an underwhelming dose of negativity. And productivity is our watchword!

By applying these simple rules, I believe we can make substantial gains on the income we have earned in the coming quarter!


***

So, are you inspired yet?
Email: timhtrain - at - yahoo.com.au

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Me person. Live in world. Like stuff. Need job. Need BRAINS! (DROOLS IN THE MANNER OF ZOMBIES) Ergggggh ...