Monday, December 31, 2007

Great philosophical debates presented in the form of food

1. An ontological proposition about the tastiest blancmange

- There is a blancmange that is defined as tastier than all the rest.

- Something that exists is tastier than something that does not exist.

- Therefore, the tastiest blancmange exists.

2. The meeting of Hume and Rousseau

HUME: Strawberries and cream! I put it to you, my dear fellow: you can choose to accept it or not!

ROUSSEAU: Whipped cream?

HUME: No, straight from the cow.

ROUSSEAU: Sacre bleu! I prefer mutton chops!

HUME: Sausages, perhaps?

ROUSSEAU: On these points, a compromise must be found. Potatoes with butter stuffing?

HUME: Pumpkin, I think.

ROUSSEAU: Pumpkin it is then.

3. Nietzsche's complex relationship to sponge cake

The sponge cake is gone. The sponge cake remains gone. And we have eaten it. How shall we comfort ourselves, the murderers of all murderers? What was holiest and mightiest of all that the world has yet owned has disappeared under our knives: who will wipe this cream off us? What water is there for us to clean ourselves? What festivals of atonement, what sacred games shall we have to invent? Is not the greatness of this deed too great for us? Must we ourselves not become sponge cakes simply to appear worthy of it?

However, Kierkegaard later modified Nietzsche's 'we must become as the sponge cake was' theorem to 'we all live in the eternal sponge cake. It is so much more sponge cake than we can ever be. Let us all eat it and rejoice.'

4. A recipe for Plato's Republic

- Take a liberal serving of philosophers.

- Sprinkle lightly with Socratic dialogue, marinate.

- Stew them in their own aphorisms.

- Serve, as philosopher kings, with cheese and a dash of salt.

5. Syllogisms

- Only fools eat snot.
- Heinrich is a fool.
Therefore: Heinrich eats snot.

- Some bananas are green.
- The supermarket frequently stocks yellow bananas.
- Marilyn buys only green bananas.

Therefore: Marilyn does not buy bananas from the supermarket frequently.

- Hedgehogs taste the best when made with Arrowroot biscuit.
- Esmerelda's hedgehogs are not made with Arrowroot biscuit.
Therefore: Esmerelda's hedgehogs do not taste the best.

6. Aphorism

- Those who can, eat; those who can't, nibble.
- Man cannot live his life on bread alone, but with jam things look pretty bright.
- How many creaming sodas must a man pour down before he can go to the toilet?

See also: Thus Ate Zarathustra, by Woody Allen

Sunday, December 30, 2007

Pious in the skious

(The other day I managed to get a high-scoring word, 'Theogony', on the board while playing Scrabble-meister Lexicon. I promptly wrote this song, originally with that word 'featuring prominently. Though the meaning didn't quite fit, so I changed it to 'theology'. This is dedicated with gratitude to her.)

(As performed by the Bee Gees)

When omniscience just makes no sense -
When you can't sort out your testaments -
When you're not sure
If you're agnostic
Or just a gnostic...

When you can't relate free will with fate -
When you're parables are terrible -
And the psalms
No longer calm
Is there a first cause...

Book by book
There's a questing down inside of me:
Questioning -
With a doubt that won't let me be -
And I should have known -
I really should be knowing you
Knowing you knowing you
Proving you...

When you can't tell your losses from your prophets -
When you can't tell your angels from your hobbits -
I just can't see
I think I'll take up

When you really need a decent creed -
When you're going blind but you don't mind -
And Paul says, Well
You ain't en route to hell
But just to Damascus...


Saturday, December 29, 2007

By the terrifying power of blog comments, I condemn you to poverty

Check this out.

I made a comment the other day on Tim Worstall's blog about how it's probably not a good idea for five-year old children to be forced into slave labour. The comment is subject to a slight ambiguity, which is why I got challenged by another commenter. After making two short clarifications, I get subjected to a huge blast in which I'm accused of 'moral preening', 'trying to force third-word economies into your Procrustean mold'*, of 'condemning not merely legions of children, but legions of their children to misery and poverty' and making an attempt to 'keep poor people poorer for longer'.

I love the internet.

*Not sure what this means, but how do you do this by making a comment on a blog?

Friday, December 28, 2007

The sorrows of young Pacman

Facebook has an application that lets you play Pacman!

As you probably know, Pacman is a game from the 80s where a little yellow guy (Pacman) gets to go around and around a maze eating little dots and outrunning differently-coloured little goombahs (you lose a life if you touch them). Occasionally, Pacman eats a big dot and all the goombahs turn blue for a short time - whereupon he gets to eat them, too.

Unfortunately, Facebook doesn't give you the option of playing some of the more modern versions of Pacman. Let me explain...

In this version of Pacman, instead of going around a circle outracing differently-coloured little goombahs, Pacman sits down with the goombahs and attempts to enter negotiations with them. Pacman asks himself the question 'Am I really different from these goombahs?' Pacman tries to discover the root economic and social causes that have led these goombahs to turn to goombah-dom. If he discovers the right economic and social causes, the goombahs all turn blue and Pacman eats them.

In this game, the goombahs form a committee and divide the dots equitably amongst themselves and Pacman. Pacman becomes a citizen of the goombah state subsisting on a meagre diet of one dot per life. The goombahs set the large dots aside as part of their plan to 'redistribute wealth'. Then they eat Pacman.

Pacman blames Saddam Hussein for causing the goombahs and invades Iraq. Then the goombahs eat him.

In this version, the goombahs set up a committee to lobby the government about what they call 'Pacman's excessive consumption of dot resources'. Another committee of goombahs express concerns about the problem of childhood obesity in the Pacman community. Another commitee of goombahs prepares a petition asking for an inquiry into the environmental effects of Pacman's overuse of dot resources. Another group of goombahs bicker amongst themselves over how the natural effects of Pacman's use of dot resources can be minimised.

While they are all arguing amongst themselves Pacman eats a big dot, the goombahs turn blue, and he eats them all. He then becomes anxious about his own excessive over-consumption of goombahs, becomes goombah-bulimic, and checks himself into a public hospital run by a goombah committee, who eat him.

This is the latest version of Pacman. In this version, Pacman goes on a strike until he receives a greater pay ration of dots for the number of blue goombahs that he eats, and the goombahs hold a stop work meeting, arguing that they should be protected from being eaten by Pacman. When the game player replies that this is a stupid game, and that Pacman should just get back to eating dots, both Pacman and the blue goombahs eat the player. Then the game starts again.

NT notes...

On first arriving in Alice Springs

Went to a cafe. Then, at my brother's urging, went to see a film about a dude called 'Mr Magorium' whose principal dramatic function was to have a name that rhymed with 'Wonder Emporium'. Then went to have lunch at a Subway.

The natural sublimity and awesomeness nature of this place is almost overwhelming...

Attack of the Slightly Outdated Murals!

I remember when I was a kid, one year at Balranald Central School they made us all walk two blocks to the town oval and paint a mural on the big water tank there. Another time they made the entire Year 8 art class paint the wall outside the woodwork and technology building, perhaps to add a decorative effect to the gigantic square of concrete that it bordered.

Driving into Alice Springs I was reminded of this - the town was covered with these sort of murals. One random back-street wall had Astroboy and the Powerpuff Girls in prominent positions. Most garishly of all, the Todd River Mall was graced by a gigantic painted mural of an Aboriginal in a loincloth.


EUAN: I need a battery.

LACHLAN: You need a what?

EUAN: I need a watch battery.

LACHLAN: A watch badger? What is a watch badger?

TIM: A badger who watches. Just like a watch dog.

LACHLAN: Oh yeah, obviously. I dunno. Is there any place in Alice Springs that sells badgers? Tim, you have watch badgers in Melbourne, don't you?

TIM: Oh yes. I have given birth to badgers.

LACHLAN: We'll get some badgers after lunch. At the local badgery.

Random observation

If on Christmas Day you decide to go playing frisbee in the pool, don't be too surprised if the dogs join you. Also, they may just be better than you at catching the frisbee.

From henceforth, I shall be known as Tim 'Bested By A Dog' Train.

Holiday conversation

LACHLAN: Would you like another beer?

TIM: Errrrrr....

LACHLAN: I'll take that as a yes.

(For time of conversation, please insert the words 'Christmas Eve', 'Christmas Morning before breakfast', 'Christmas morning during breakfast', 'Anytime during Christmas day', 'Christmas evening', or any combination thereof.)

Local observations

- There seem to be a hell of a lot of places up north that are, quite literally, holes. Seriously. They all have names like 'Gap' and 'Gorge' and 'Chasm', and there's even, simply, 'Ellery's Big Hole'. My mother has a photograph of herself by 'Helen's Gap', and on Boxing Day, we all went on an excursion to 'Emily Gap' and 'Jessie Gap', basically a hole between two hills. My father at one point made the stunning observation about Emily Gap that 'these rocks are probably metamorphic'. Having performed the rather unimpressive feat of climbing one of the hills at this Gap, I can find nothing to contradict his observation.

- Large indigenous population in Alice Springs. Lots are sitting around on town corners and the like, but there's one place that I noticed about thirty or so indigenous people sitting around. The name? 'Aboriginal Employment Centre'.

- Ever the model of adaptability and thrift, the Alice Springs police station, on renovating their building, simply set up shop outside with a single police van and fold up card table. They work hard, those police force, all right!

- When I asked my brother a bit about the local alcohol laws since the much-touted Federal Government intervention, he explained that many of the indigenous population went outside the border of the town to drink (there's a law against drinking in public places). Alcohol was also banned in Aboriginal communities, for some reason. (I'm guessing because some are based around community housing, and hence designated as 'public place').

Favourite northern linguistic innovation

Wallaby = Wobbly

Thursday, December 27, 2007

Seen on the noticeboard of the Alice Springs IGA



Me: Can I buy those in bulk? Do you get many orders at Christmas?

Sunday, December 23, 2007

Craption contest two!

I'm going up to Alice Springs for a couple of days over Christmas. I'm telling here not just because misery loves company, but also to let you know I'll probably be offline for a couple of days.

In the meantime, maybe we'll have another craption contest. Here's a couple of pictures of a local yokel who lives around here. Can you think of an uninteresting and uninspiring caption to go with each of them? Cheers everyone, and merry Christmas!

Atheist Christmas carols

Away in according to certain popularly held myths a manger

Away in according to certain popularly held myths a manager
No crib for a bed,
The little according to a number of outdated superstitions regarding the existence of supernatural authorities Lord Jesus laid down his sweet head.
The cattle are lowing,
The baby awakes -
The little according to a number of outdated superstitions regarding the existence of supernatural authorities Lord Jesus,
No sound does he make.

No joy to the world!

No joy to the world!
The Lord hasn't come!
Earth won't receive her king!
Let every heart not prepare him room!
And heaven and nature not sing!
And heaven and nature not sing!
And heaven, and heaven and nature not sing!

Silent night, normal night

Silent night, normal night
All is (relatively) calm, all is (as far as can humanly be expected), quiet:
Round yon non-virginal person, mother and child
Ordinary non-holy infant, so tender and mild:
Sleep in unheavenly pea-eace!
Sleep in unheavenly peace.

Hark the herald hallucinations sing

Hark the herald hallucinations sing
Glory to our newborn King non-democratically elected dictator.
Peace on earth and mercy mild:
God Heavenly entity who doesn't exist and human reconciled.

O come all ye faithless

O come all ye faithless
Joyless and triumphless:
Come all ye, o come to see
Christ (who isn't) the Lord!
Come all ye faithless,
Joyless and triumphless:
O come let us not adore him -
O come let us not adore him -
O come let us not adore him -
Christ (who isn't) the Lord!

We wish you a merry pagan festival

We wish you a merry pagan festival that has come to be known as Christmas,
We wish you a merry pagan festival that has come to be known as Christmas,
We wish you a merry pagan festival that has come to be known as Christmas,
And a happy new year!

Good tidings we bring
To you and your kin
We wish you a merry pagan festival that has come to be known as Christmas
And a happy new year!

Thursday, December 20, 2007

Just ask the hat

A Pithy Helmet.

The Hencyclopaedia Britannica.

Mumble Pie.

Babbage's Indifference Engine.

Tuesday, December 18, 2007

Addicted to quitting

"I tried to stop!" cries John H. "I really did! But how can I give up giving up? It's just too confusing!"

John H. has a problem: he is addicted. Addicted to quitting cigarettes!

Addiction to quitting is a problem of increasing concern in Australia today. Everyday, millions of people like John H. give up cigarettes, often not for the first time. Before they know it, they quit cigarettes again and again and again, sending themselves into a spiral of quitting. They find themselves unable to admit to their addiction to quitting their addiction, and as a result are unable to quit their addiction to quitting for good.
"I tried to quit on Tuesday" says Rebecca. "Then I took it up again on the weekend, and had to quit all over again on the Monday morning. The stress was really ruining me!"

"My fellow workers were all scowling at me when I went outside to light up," says Leanne. "So I decided to quit. It took me weeks of pain and repeated attempts to give up cigarettes before I realised the reason all my fellow workers hated me was - they were trying to quit as well! It was ridiculous!"
Now, help is at hand. The 'Don't Quit' line is open for business, 24 hours a day, 7 days a week. It's there to help smokers not give up just because of 'peer group pressure' and 'social influences' which cause them to put so much strain on themselves and others. It reminds smokers of the feeling of calm satisfaction and pleasure they get when they light up, and of the simple benefits of camaraderie and sociability that smoking gives them. The 'Don't Quit' line currently has a 60 per cent success rate in getting quitters to quit their quitting and reaffirm their commitment to their addiction. But they can go even better! So why don't you call the 'Don't Quit' line today?



A seasonable song

O plastic tree! O plastic tree!
Thy leaves are so unchanging!
O plastic tree! O plastic tree!
Thy leaves are so unchanging!
They're green in summer, winter drear
Because they're made of polymer!
O plastic tree! O plastic tree!
Thy leaves are so unchanging!

O plastic tree! O plastic tree!
Much pleasure thou can'st give me!
O plastic tree! O plastic tree!
Much pleasure thou can'st give me!
Your bark is toxic styrofoam!
And marked 'keep out of reach of children in your home'!
O plastic tree! O plastic tree!
Much pleasure thou can'st give me!

Monday, December 17, 2007

A piece of the distraction

I was reading this post on Dot and Mars about how Mars almost had an epiphany. Which is to say, she had a series of random thoughts about unrelated matters that almost led up to a deep and profound discovery about the nature of life, but then got distracted and didn't make the discovery after all.

Now, I have to say, that out of all the things that don't happen in the world, an almost epiphany is one of the nicest. Why, there must have been times in all of our lives when we've thought a series of random thoughts that almost led up to a profound discovery but then we got distracted and didn't. Almost epiphanies come in all shapes and forms: there is the revelation that you didn't quite have about String Theory and quantum physics on the evening after dinner last week, and the sublime insight into the nature of God that you were distracted from having today at work. Sometimes you might be idly pondering cows, and your pondering might cause you to almost-but-not-quite solve Fermat's Last Theorem. At other times, you might be contendedly meditating on sausages, a meditation which will all of a sudden just fail to give you a stunning insight into Freud's theory of the subconscious.

Interestingly, there's no telling what sort of form your almost epiphany will take. Your random thoughts about Fermat's Last Theorem might just as well lead to an almost-but-not-quite epiphany about cows as the other way around, for instance. And a series of unrelated thoughts about an abstruse chess problem, frogs and puddings might suddenly lead you to almost make a curious discovery about a complicated origami design, or even stunning thoughts about grass. It all really depends on just how you choose to get distracted at the time. Which, paradoxically, you can't.*

The nicest thing of all about almost epiphanies is that it doesn't matter who you are - you'll have them anyway. Ethical philosophers may be paid to philosophise ethically, but that niggling almost epiphany about black cats is just one thought away. And theoretical particle physicists may fulfill a vital need by laying out the laws of the universe, but even they can't help stumbling on not-quite profound thoughts about lemonade.

I'll see you all later. I'm off to have a disconnected series of thoughts about orange shoes that may or may not reveal to me the secrets of existence.

*If you find yourself getting distracted by this distraction business, just remember what Douglas Adams said about flying: all you have to do is fall to the ground and miss it. Or, alternatively, don't.

Sunday, December 16, 2007

Self-defeating ideas

Ku Klux Klan Diversity Sub-committee

Sending Braille messages by telegram

Surgical decapitation

Elevators on top floors

Having a dwarf president to look up to

The Individualists' Society*

Peace negotiations between dog-kind and cat-hood

Sunglasses for evening wear

Turning up early for a Prevaricators Party

God, the atheist

Vegetarian cannibals

*But not The Individualist's Society.

Saturday, December 15, 2007

Bark, the feral angels sing

So, Christmas carols, then. I like them as much as the next weirdo, but what do they actually mean? The bloody things are full of paradoxes: 'Hark the herald angels sing' is all well and good, but are we meant to hark to what the herald angels are singing, or are the herald angels just singing hark for the hell of it? And just what is all this harking business, anyway? It sounds like an onomatopeaic rendering of a common bodily function. Again, it's easy enough to understand what 'Fa la la la la la la la la' means (even if you don't agree with it), but how does one 'troll the ancient yuletide carol'?

Some carols are so full of 'Joy' and 'Merry' and what-not that you actually feel slightly ill after listening to the words. You'd think that only a chronic optimist could come up with the words of 'Merry Christmas':

We wish you a merry Christmas
We wish you a merry Christmas
We wish you a merry Christmas
And a happy new year.

Enough with the merry! It's basically like the 'Happy happy joy joy song' gone bad, but it gets worse:

Good tidings we bring
To you and our king...

Those good tidings being -

We wish you a merry Christmas
And a happy new year!

Clearly, we are dealing with a monomaniac of some intensity. This psychopathology, as disturbing as it is, pales in insignificance when it is compared to the mother-of-all stalker songs, 'The 12 days of Christmas', when the obsessive - tagged with the somewhat ironic soubriquet of 'My true love' - sends to his victim, in quick succession:

A partridge in a pear tree
Two turtle doves
Three French hens
Four calling birds
Five gold rings.

Not to be outdone with five gold rings, he follows this up with -

Six geese a-laying
Seven swans a-swimming

And then, hoisting caution to the wind, concludes with

Eight maids a-milking
(Presumably with complementary cows, as the maids have to be milking something)
Nine ladies dancing
Ten lords a-leaping
Eleven pipers piping
Twelve drummers drumming.

Though, from the words of the song, it's not entirely clear whether he is content with sending her one partridge, two turtle doves (etc) for the whole period of the twelve days of Christmas, or whether he sends her one partidge on the first day, one on the second day, two turtle doves on the second day, two on the third day (etc, and the same for all the other gifts - which would, in the end, number in the hundreds). Either way, he's clearly insane, and hopefully the police have got him now.

Personally, I like to steer clear of the later Christmas carols, where Santa Claus, that bearded old loon with a beard and a 'list' that he's 'checking twice' to see whether you've been 'naughty or nice'. What the hell is he, the hallway monitor? Anyway, he's not the only one with a list.

So, reader, what's your favourite Christmas carol - or, to put it another way, your least unfavourite? Mine is possibly 'I Saw Three Ships' or 'God Rest Ye Merry Gentlemen'.

Friday, December 14, 2007

Blood, sweat and tears - with bonus kid!

For no reason at all, a random kid just ran through my workplace shouting 'Ah! Ah! Ah! Ah! Ah! Ah!' in a repetitive and flat tone of voice.

What an intelligent child. Some day, if I stick with this job and work very hard, I might become like that.

Tuesday, December 11, 2007

An unemergency of some urgency

Headline seen yesterday:

No emergency declared on K_______ _____

(The story concerned bushfires in an area of Australia, and the decision by fire authorities not to declare a state of emergency.)

One's heart goes out to all those media agencies out there: this imminent lack of disaster would have been particularly disastrous for them. However, it's heartening that in the unfolding non-emergency they rallied together to write this headline. As this terrible uncrisis continues over the days and weeks to come, it will remain a test of their skill and stamina to deal with the situation. With a little luck and ingenuity, not to mention a few deftly-worded headlines, however, it could be that they will turn the complete absence of catastrophe into merely a moderate absence of catastrophe, thereby transforming a tragically happy state of events into a happily tragic state of events.

Even though the media community is undoubtedly reeling from this horrifyingly moderate lack of emergency, I have every confidence that they will be able to get back to wonderfully bad stories and gloriously gloomy outlooks in no time at all.

Bertie Wooster on human sacrifice

Bertie Wooster steps up to the podium and orates:

Hallo, old beans and sausages. My old pal Auberon 'Ruggles' Rafferty asked me to stand in his place here for the sake of old Balliol, and all that, while he settlesa few, ah, business transactions. He may be away for a while - and I don't mind saying, just between you and me, that he's in a spot of bother.

So now you've got me, Bertie Wooster. I'll be presenting the lecture today on - now let me see, where are those paper - AH! - no - no - here it is - "Hum-an Sacri... HUMAN SACRIFICE!" Gor blimey! Er, that is to say, in the words of the poet, YAWP! I never knew that Ruggles went into this sort of business!

Ahem. Anyway, as I was saying, human sacrifice is an old English tradition - so old that it goes back to at least the time of that blighter - what's his name? - yes, Nelson, that's right. If not before.

It's not an easy thing to do, as a chappie, go up to another chappie, shake their hands and look them in the eye, and say, "Look here, old bean. We're going to have to take you down to the sacrificial temple and take your life, for the sake of the Celtic Twilight or the Great Saxon Breed, or some such tommyrot." So why did our primitive Irish ancestors do it? Eh, don't ask me. I'm not an expert. Anyway, one imagines such laudable sentiments as Love of Country or Commitment to Progress would have had something to do with it. Also, that Irish poteen is something else, what? But the answer to the question is, fundamentally, lost in the histories of mystery. Er, that is to say, lost in the mysteries of hist. I mean, the hists of time... oh, dash it all!

And now, we come to one of my favourite parts of the lecture. Every time I give a lecture (and this is the first time) I look forward to this part: the practical! Now, do I have any volunteers from the audience to be a human sacrifice? How about you, young Blandish? No? Anyone else want to offer their blood upon this sacred podium as a meet sacrifice for the pagan Gods? So, see what I mean? Practically nobody wants to do it. Which I'd say is a pretty good demonstration of how much we've moved on since then.

You have to wonder how these chappies did it. Well, being ancients, they would have run one another through with lances or donged one another over the head with hauberks, or some such. Maces might have had something to do with it, or swords coming into contact with jugular veins. Maybe consult your local GP about it. There would have been a bit of blood and what-not, but the blighters that performed these sacrifical duties were hard, flint-eyed types who would later turn into the sorts of chaps that are bookies at the races, or those whey-faced semi-criminal types at the Internal Revenue Service. So the blood wouldn't have bothered them a bit.

Human sacrifice was inapplicably linked - eh? - inextricably linked, I should say, with the history of Celtic Britain. So once they had performed a sacrifice for the week and caught the blood in a golden cup or whatever, they'd go down to the Irish club and play a bagpipe and tell rousing tales about Cuchulain and read poems by Yeats until the cows came home. (Though some of them were already there.)

However, nowadays, human sacrifice is as rare as bagpipes at your local Vicarage Musical Evening, and a good deal less popular, though I prefer the cinema myself. And a jolly good thing, too. Except for, of course, the occasional throwbacks, such as my Aunt Agatha who eats broken glass and likes to sacrifice a servant each morn before tea.

And that is all about human sacrifice you bally-well ever need know.

NEXT WEEK: Bertie Wooster orates on the Tropic of Cancer, and the summer resort town of Ebola!

Saturday, December 08, 2007

A belated report on hearing Germaine Greer lecture on the previous week

How pleasant to know Ms Greer!
Who has written such volumes of stuff!
Some think her ill-tempered and queer,
But a few think her pleasant enough!

Her mind is concrete and fastidious,
Her output admired, and prolific,
Some critics have called her 'invidious';
But to fans she is 'Simply t'riffic!'

She has written on Female Eunuchs,
And fusty old 18th-century tomes,
And pro-crocodilian polemics,
And a number of Enlightenment poems.

She has lectured on the novels of Austen
To all her Australian peers;
And her fans as one all declare
'How pleasant to know Ms Greer!'

Employment pages

Non-Sequitary (PT)

The Coburg Non-Sequitarial Agency is currently accepting applications for the position of Non-Sequitary for a leading media company. You must be strongly qualified in typing, filing, computers, banking, accounts, taking meeting minutes, shorthand, and isn't that a nice tie being worn by Mr Jones today? I don't think Mr Jones has worn a tie like that before, do you think Mrs Jones bought it for him?

Call Sidney at the Non-Sequitarial Agency to discuss the job, other opportunities available in the world of non-sequitarial employment, training options, and isn't it nice weather we're having today?

Deceptionist (FT)

Front desk position. Duties including lying to the boss about the staff; lying to the staff about the boss; lying to clients about what the company sells; lying to the company about what clients are interested in; lying to the management about the staff, the boss, what the clients are interested in, and what the company sells; lying to the staff, boss, clients, and company about the profits the management aren't making; lying about the weather, lying about the news, lying about elephants, and lying about lying.

Our motto is that dishonesty and hypocrisy are the foundation of all modern business, and we must all stand by this!

Call Ms Maud Jenkins at Deceptions International now! 1800 ORISIT?

Quantum Mechanical Engineer (FT)

To become the head of the Postmodern Construction Agency, specialising in buildings that suddenly appear out of nowhere, offices that vanish just as suddenly (perfect for businesses who suddenly find that the tax office is just a little too interested in them), trains that get to the destination instantly (so long as you don't worry about how fast they're going), and train stations that don't exist (perfect for the budget-conscious Department of Transport, though a little troublesome for the passengers).

Very Personal Assistant (PT)

To assist the manager in the regular, day to day process of filing, meetings, meeting minutes, corporate lunches, management of corporate affairs, management of extra-marital affairs, management of clothes, underwear, baths, medical appointments, family disappointments, and bedroom. Looking for the right job applicant, with a view of upgrading the position to...

Too Personal Assistant (FT)

Duties include assisting manager with divorce proceedings, calling incessantly several times a day, leaving spiteful messages on his phone, possessing intimate photographs of the manager, assisting manager in protracted and spiteful court case, typing, and photocopying.

God (PT)

Your duties will include existing in an omniscient manner, smiting, blighting, and supervising the company collection of Plagues and Locusts.

Wednesday, December 05, 2007

Not a winner of the ARIAs

Christmas is i-cumen in!
Lude sing 'O No!'
Big fat men in big fat suits
Wheeze and whine 'Ho ho!'
Sing 'O No!'
(Lude sing 'O No')
Sing 'O No!'
(Lude sing 'O No')

- Medieval Australian Carol

Monday, December 03, 2007

The ancient lost art of telephonics

Previously, I've been the recipient of letters to people no longer at this address, letters sent to my parents address, phone calls to wrong numbers, and phone calls to the right number from phone survey workers. But I don't know if I've ever, before, got a phone call to the wrong number, been the wrong person to speak to and become, by default, the right person.

Or, to put it another way...


TIM: Hello?

MAN: (In an official and business-like tone of voice) Hello, can I speak to Mr I. R. please?

TIM: No.

MAN: All right. I'm A_ from AAMI Car Insurance. How's it going?

TIM: Good.

MAN: Do you know when Mr I. R. will be back?

TIM: No.

MAN: Is there a good time to call Mr I. R. back?

TIM: No.

MAN: Is there another number I can call Mr I. R. on?

TIM: No.

MAN: Is Mr I. R. in the house?

TIM: No.

MAN: Are you Mr I. R.?

TIM: (Laughs) No.

MAN: Well, we have another number on which we can call him on.

TIM: Okay.

MAN: Thanks for all your help, Mr I. R.

TIM: Goodbye.

I suppose I could have really been a bit more helpful there, but Idon't think there's really any reason to beat myself up about. The guy just stuck to his script and I didn't see any reason to say anything else. As for Mr I. R., I wouldn't be surprise if he's very glad indeed not to be hearing from AAMI Car Insurance.

So I guess being negative can be a positive after all!

Suggested names for Satanist children















Sunday, December 02, 2007

A curmudgeonly film review

I went and saw the film The Jane Austen Book Club the other day. It's not a very good or a very interesting film, but it's different from all the other not very good or interesting films out, and that's the most you can hope for nowadays.

As the title suggests, the plot is about a group of people who get together to read Jane Austen. That's pretty much it, apart from the usual litany of couplings and uncouplings that you get in this sort of romantic comedy: Allegra who breaks up with one girlfriend and gets together with another; Prudi, who is thinking of having an affair with one of her students, but doesn't; Sylvia, whose husband breaks up with her, and then gets back together with her; and Jocelyn, whose deep moral insight by the end of the film consists in her learning that people are just as important as dogs.

The film has layers, but you could say the same thing about the styrofoam cake in the window of my local cake shop.

Occasionally, while all this sort-of plot is going on, ambient not-quite music wafts around in the background like a soundtrack that has escaped from a Woody Allen movie and doesn't know what to do with itself. The characters read tracts out of Jane Austen and exclaim in an enlightened fashion about how it relates to their life, and, zombie-like, develop an insatiable urge to bring in other friends into the club.

If sado-masochists enjoy non-spanking sex, then I enjoyed this film. Two non-committal stars out of five.

Saturday, December 01, 2007

My entry for the 2008 Foot In Mouth award

A few days ago, Tim (the other Tim) was having a bit of a go at the 2007 Bad Sex in Fiction Award, noting that it was "ironic that the organisers of an ironic writing award can't seem to recognise ironic writing."

Well, yep. This sent me googling to find that other bad writing award site, the "Foot in Mouth" award by the Plain English Campaign. In previous years, they have presented awards to various daffy film stars, and Donald Rumsfeld, for his remarkably stupid "Known Unknowns" speech. Fair enough, then - but I was more than a bit baffled by their selection of this quote from Boris Johnson, on a news quiz program on the BBC:

I could not fail to disagree with you less.

That's bad, but is it really remarkably bad? It sounds like a Boris attempted a witticism but it went wrong: repeating yourself for rhetorical effect often works, but it's just a pity that in this case, the repetition became a triple (or is it quadruple?) negative.

"I could not fail to disagree with you less." The more I think about that statement, it really is something that I could not succeed to disagree with more. Or perhaps it is something that I
could not fail to disagree with more? It's certainly something that I could never be robustly and wholeheartedly non-supportive of, and I must say that I can not fail to sympathise with the argument less, although some of my ideological opponents may take issue with me there.

It barely even matters what Johnson is agreeing (or, to put it more accurately, failing to disagree less) with. As a matter of fact, in these times when there is so much division between left and right, I could only wish that people would fail to disagree with one another in a friendly fashion more often. At the very least, they could agree to disagree with one another less, or perhaps even agree more to not fail to disagree less (whichever comes first).

Indeed, I would go so far as to say that it is a failure to not fail to disagree with one another less that is the principle failure of modern times. In other words, it is not so much a failure to communicate as an unfailure to not communicate less with one another.

And that, ladies and gentlemen, is the real failure.

PS - Please feel free to disagree with me less in comments. Or at least fail to do so.

Monday, November 26, 2007

The great short shortage

Today, I went to buy some shorts. There are people who say I should not have done it, and that they are a needless expense, but those people are mostly nudists.

UPDATE! - After rectifying this shortage of shorts by shopping for shorts at the short shop, I am wondering if I should shop for shirts at the shirt shop, or if shirt-shopping at the shop for shirts is a task I should shirk. Also, I am not sure that I am as short of shirts as I was short of shorts.

And please don't get shirty.

Pustules of purple Jenkins-shaped fungus

I've been sneezing a lot at work lately. Maybe it's because I've got a cold, though it could also be because Jenkins in administration is pollinating. One sign could be the fine haze of white mist that surrounds him when he goes to the photocopier.

If I get pustules of purple Jenkins-shaped fungus forming over my body in the next couple of days, I'll let you know. Thank you for your time.

The person I'm not, and you probably aren't either

People say you should be happy with what you are, but I think that's crazy talk. It's much easier to be happy with what you aren't. Take me, for instance: I'm not Saddam Hussein, and I couldn't be happier. See how I did that? I'm also not John Howard, and I'm cheerful about that; I'm not Adolf Hitler, and I'm over the moon about that; and I'm certainly not Richard Culvers-Jenkins, a man who you have never heard of, possibly because he isn't - and I'm absolutely ecstatic about that.

As a matter of fact, you could take this theory further. Not only should you be happy with the way that you aren't, but you should also be happy with the way that you weren't and the way that you won't be. That way, you get three for the price of one. You could also add to that list feeling positive about the way that you haven't been, being upbeat about the way that you will not be, and feeling relatively good about the way that you mightn't be, but let's not get too confusing here.

That way, whatever achievements you don't achieve tomorrow, and whatever mistakes you did not make yesterday, you can feel happy about it. And isn't that what we all want?

And remember: today is the first day in the rest of the life of the person you aren't (and possibly who he or she isn't, either). The end.

Thursday, November 22, 2007

A street map for getting lost, and how to get the train ticket back again

Once I gave someone directions to the Melbourne Town Hall on the corner of Elizabeth Street and Bourke Street. Although, as it turns out, the Melbourne Town Hall is a block away, on the corner of Swanston Street and Collins Street: I had accidentally given them directions to the Melbourne old post office.

Though I have to wonder: did I give them the wrong directions to the right place, or did I give them the right directions to the wrong place? In such circumstances, I'm tempted to act a little like W C Fields does, in the film International House, when he attempts to fly to Kansas City and ends up in China. "I'm not lost! Kansas City is lost!" he cries, and helps himself to some nearby liquor. If I was in an expansive mood, I could claim that I wasn't the one who was mistaken, merely everyone who had built the GPO and the Town Hall, named the streets, compiled the street directories, (and so on).

And you have to wonder. This is a city where even the trains will lie to you: "We are now approaching Richmond Station!" the train will say, with all the confidence of brainless idiocy. You might be approaching Anstey, or Flinders Street, or Camberwell, or Dandenong, or Box Hill, or you might even be approaching Richmond: (they get it right once in a while, despite all their efforts to the contrary). Occasionally, you find yourself on a train that announces the stations you will get to in a couple of stops, but not the station you are arriving at now. "You are now approaching Flemington Bridge!" the train chirps in your ear, as you stop at Jewell. "Now approaching Macaulay Station!" the announcement will be, as you stop, most decidedly, at Royal Park Station. When the train actually does pull into Flemington Bridge, the announcement will be: "You are now approaching North Melbourne Station!"

But then, it's easy to get confused with the train stations; after all, we have a Richmond Station, a North Richmond Station, an East Richmond Station, and a West Richmond Station, but no South Richmond. What happened to it? Does this mean that South Richmond does not exist? That be a little like a man with an amputated left-hand saying that the direction 'left' does not exist. But where did it go? You can't lose a part of a suburb just like that. Has it been temporarily misplaced? Will it one day appear back into fully functional existence, a train station where previously there had been none?

Once, tantalisingly, I took a trip on the Upfield line into the city, only to be informed as we wound our way slowly down that track, "You are now approaching North..." The train never completed its message. It was probably referring to North Melbourne, but with that level of ambiguity, it could also have meant Northcote; North Richmond would fall into its list of possibilities, as would North Brighton, or even North Williamstown. Maybe we were even, amazingly, approaching the abstract concept of 'North' itself, that mystical place that lies somewhere to the north of the north pole. You can never tell with Melbourne public transport...

Melbourne's streets are, as someone once said to me, 'deceptively straight', and Melbourne's suburbs are equally guilefully named. We have suburbs named Fitzroy, and Brunswick, and St Kilda, and we have a Fitzroy Street, a Brunswick Street, and a St Kilda Road. But Fitzroy Street runs through St Kilda, and Brunswick Street runs through Fitzroy, and St Kilda road runs through neither (well, to be fair, it touches on the outskirts of St Kilda at one point*). Brunswick even boasts a Sydney Road.

Anyway, the possibilities for confusion here are obvious, and epic: it would be easy to direct someone mistakenly to the Brunswick Street, on the corner of Sydney Road and Fitzroy, or to St Kilda Street, on the corner of Fitzroy Road and Brunswick, or even to Brunswick Road on the corner of Coburg and Sydney. Nothing would be stranger than to find the city of Sydney nestled in one of the suburbs of Melbourne, but I wouldn't put it past my city...

All of which is to say, I guess, that I should never be trusted to give directions. If I ever end up giving you directions to a location in Melbourne (or elsewhere), just do something different, and you'll probably end up in the right place.

Take it from me.

*Be quiet, pedants! For the purposes of this post it does!

Tuesday, November 20, 2007

My day so far, as a conceptual free-verse poem























h... ooooooooooooooooooooooh, wait.


Still hot.

Sunday, November 18, 2007

Don't hedgehog your bets, and other helpful advice

At work the other day, somebody was saying, "A. has been badgering B. all week, so B called A back...". Although they probably meant that B was being persistently annoyed by A all week, I immediately had an image of A hurling live badgers at B until they got a response. And let's face it, throwing badgers at someone would be annoying. (Not just for the badgers - for the people, too)

I then got thinking about other phrases like this. If you or I are described as being 'dogged by rumours', it could either mean that

a) we are annoyed by stubborn rumours,

or b) that those rumours have actually turned us into a dog.

Although, in the case of b), to be entirely accurate, you would have to say that you or I have been "Beagled by persistent rumours", or "Poodled by persistent rumours," or "Chihuahuaed by persistent rumours," or even "Braque du Bourbonnaised by persistent rumours."

When we 'beaver away' at something, this is commonly understood as applying ourselves to a task with thoroughness and hard work. Though it could mean that we are simply giving birth to beavers while supposedly applying ourselves to the task. "How is the photocopying going, Fred?" someone would ask. "Oh, I'm beavering away," Fred would say as another beaver wriggles out of his shirt. Or, as was recently pointed out to me, you can 'squirrel something away' as well: meaning that you either store it away or put it in charge of an official at the local Squirrel Bank.

And so it goes. People who sell things in the street are sometimes described as 'hawking their wares' (turning them into hawks?) Cowardly people are 'chickens', though I'm not sure how many develop feathers and lay eggs. People who gloat are 'crowing', so it's good to encourage others not to crow too much: otherwise they might turn into one.

And who knows? Maybe there was a time in the development of the English language when burghers in various villages and hamlets and homesteads would throw badgers at one another, or go about beagling or chihuahuaing their friends, or spontaneously give birth to beavers. It's undoubtedly something for the etymologists out there to look into.

Though I wouldn't hedge, or even hedgehog, my bets on it - the currency would have an annoying habit of crawling away (or possibly sprouting foliage.)

Saturday, November 17, 2007

Concrete poetry

On concrete architecture

Many fine buildings
Are constructed from concrete.
Some are in Russia.

Beauty and concrete

Concrete, that sublime
Mix of cement and pebbles:
It makes my heart sing.

My favourite bit

My favourite bit
Is the bit where they put the
Pebbles in it.

That sweet word

When you say 'Concrete',
That sweet word, I want to dance
And sing hymns of praise.

Concrete has some slight drawbacks

Once, my car got caught
In wet concrete. But that was
More my fault than its.

A heartfelt wish

I would like to make
My bed out of concrete, with
Slag for a blanket.

Need I say anything more?

Concrete. Concrete. Con-
crete. Concrete. Concrete. Concrete.
Concrete. Concrete. *Sighs*

101 Poems About Concrete, published by Harper and Snellsbury, is available in all construction poetry vendories now. The above poems, 'The concrete haiku', were written by labourer Bob Slugdman, who earned minor infamy for his much-publicised and controversial 'The Love Sonnets of a Brick'. They will be published in serial form on this blog on the 31st of this month.

Friday, November 16, 2007

McCrappy Day

Bad morning, everyone. I'm at work - just got here at two minutes to seven. First thing I know, I'm greeted by the leering visages of the Channel Nine morning show presenters and their fatuous quizzes. This morning, apparently, they are asking their viewers,

What is your favourite piece of useless information?

Useless information? Feck off!

I can't wait for lunch. Then I'm going to slouch off up the street with my copy of Tory magazine The Spectator and weep at the downfall of western civilisation.

I'm not even in a bad mood - it just feels good to sound cranky. I hope you all have a day as good as mine, if not even worse!

Thursday, November 15, 2007




When -

However (


And then:

All of a sudden;

So -

The end.

(Part of a long-running serial. Second episode coming soon - as soon as I get a thousand pounds of chocolate in my post box, that is.)

Important breaking news of importance

Well, it's been several weeks, but finally the big media are starting to ask the serious questions in this election campaign:
Howard reveals secret of walk

Prime Minister John Howard has revealed the secret of his regular morning walks, telling an FM radio crew: "You just put one foot after the other".

"It's very, very simple. Anybody can do it," Mr Howard told the DJs, who became the latest to gatecrash his pre-breakfast exercise.
Hopefully, in days to come we will get down to brass-tacks analysis of John Howard's controversial 'one foot after the other' policy, with a focus on the ramifications of this policy for the future of Australia. We can expect, too, to see Opposition Leader Kevin Rudd come out with a similar-but-different Labor Party Walking policy, focusing on 'letting one's left and right feet alternately fall to the ground.'

On the one hand, it is true that John Howard has a tried-and-true walking policy, tested through several elections. On the other hand, it may be that we can not let him go on walking as he always has, or who knows what he might walk into? The country's future is at stake here.

However, as a wise man once said, "In the land of the blind, the one-legged man has one leg." Or, to put it another way, "If you want to walk the talk, then don't forget to put your shoes on." And I think that just sums it up nicely, don't you?*

UPDATE! - I just asked my flatmate the following question: "If John Howard came and did your dishes and your ironing, would you vote for him?"

He laughed and seemed uncertain, which gives some indication as to how uncertain the results of this election still are!

*Don't answer that.

Monday, November 12, 2007

Morish sentences

1. You have reached the end, go ahead.

2. To say I am indifferent would be an exaggeration.

3. These underpants are growing on me - I think they're still alive.

4. Some people say a lot with a little, he says a little with a lot.

5. Do exoskeletons have underwear?

6. Climacterix, meet Asterix.

7. Better out than inverterbrate.

8. Quod erat demonstrandum, reductio ad absurdum or vice versa?

9. I don't go in for abstinence, it's addictive.

10. Tomorrow never comes, yesterday is late, lunchtime is all-too-infrequent, and eleven o'clock never seems to go away.

11. Mr Crowe, for your next role, we would like you to play a Thinly Veiled Portrait of yourself.

12. "I wish I could say the same for you," I said to myself.

13. I never thought it was possible, but those underpants are an overstatement.

14. Sorry to convenience you, I'll be sure to disorder things more thoughtfully next time.

15. Vice, meet versa.

16. Dr Zandig pointed the gun at him, and everything came to an abrupt.

17. She was so coy that even her unconsciousness wore underpants.

18. I am known by many names: two, to be precise; three, to be exact; four to exaggerate.

19. So, you say you're God, hey?

20. For viol crimes against fiddling, he died, strung out on his own dischord...

21. Once you have reached the beginning, please stop.

Not good, not advice

Are you sitting uncomfortably? Good. Then we'll begin.

Well, we're approaching Schoolies time again - yes, that time of year when thousands of school children, from right across the nation, happy and jubiliant after having finally conquered their end of year exams, flock to the Gold Coast in order to get pissed, wasted, blasted off their heads, high, trippy, stoned, coked, snowed, or spaced in a completely responsible and adult fashion. Yes, it's certainly an exciting time in your life when you have finished school, and made even more exciting by the incredible stress that you've been through in the past year, as well as the fact that you've probably already become fixed, baked, bombed, totalled, tripped out, smashed, plastered, or ripped in order to get into the cheerful atmosphere of fun and frivolity that Schoolies has always been associated with.

But apart from getting zonked, zoned out, smashed, dazed, stonkered, blind, charged, narked, unconscious, delirious, potted, psyched, hyped, or junked up, you'll also be finding that you'll have to make some important choices, and those important choices will have to be the right ones, otherwise there's a strong possibility that they may be the wrong ones. I mean, sure, you're there to have some fun, and maybe make some friends, and certainly, as responsible and caring adults it's okay to hug, kiss, fondle, grope a bit, pash, go down, go up, go around, go to bed, go behind, on top, below, sitting, standing, kneeling, spooning, piledriving, or leapfrogging, but only if you have a condom on (you can get one from your teacher, though before you do that, stop and think - it might be a better idea to get several): and more importantly, only if you respect one another in the morning.

And after all, it's important to realise that your actions have decisions. So as the Schoolies make their way through the Gold Coast, you'll have to try to remember a few important rules:
Vomit thoughtfully, with all due respect to the people you may be vomiting near, besides, above, below, around or onto.

Drugs can be dangerous, so it's important, if through no fault of your own, you or your friends get stoned, zonked, wasted, shitfaced (etc, etc), do so in a moderate, adult-like and considerate fashion, so that you have one or two brain cells left over for the morning.

Remember, other people on the Gold Coast may be trying to peacefully live their lives, so if you must run riot, vandalise, smash cars, public monuments, statues, or town halls, or put graffiti on walls, in halls, on famous works of art, hoot like hooligans, shout, sing football songs, throw rocks, or just smash stuff with bricks, do so in a loving, creative, sensitive, cultured and peaceful way that emphasises your commitment to civil society, and in such a way earn your fellow citizens' respect.

Think before you urinate, and then urinate.

Importantly, don't smash stuff up and burn it unless the fumes aren't toxic.

And of course, as in all such events, there will be a mean-minded and nasty few people who try to take advantage of the circumstances and join in the celebrations even though they are not schoolies, so don't be afraid to dob these people into the police. Of course, others will simply have been doing year 12 for the last 20 years after having blown their brains out at every schoolies celebration. These people are fine and upstanding citizens and worth getting to know, as they probably have a wealth of worldy knowledge (and other things) to share with you.
So basically, Schoolies are the end of an important period of your life, but they're also the start of other important periods of your life. Some people at Schoolies will go on to university, a place of learning and knowledge and culture where people gather in bars and clubs and get stoned, zonked, pissed, stonkered, blasted, wasted, tripped out, happy, high, or smashed, as well as kiss, hug, fondle, grope, go down, go up, go around, in small friendly groups of ten or twenty at a time. Others will enter the university of life, and find a job which pays respectable wages that barely enable them to pay off rent while maintaining a happy and productive party lifestyle in which they get pissed, wasted, bombed, baked, blissed, while making boning, schtupping, copulating, fooling around, getting caught in flagrante delicto, making the beast with two backs, mateing, procreating, and so on.

Schoolies, in other words, is a time for choices. It's a time for respect. It's a time for growing up . And learning. And loving. It's a time for breaking out. It's a time to challenge conventions. It's a time for self-esteem. A time for fluffy bunnies. It's a time for... (sorry, I got carried away there.) And remember, even though there are some strange weirdos who choose not to go to Schoolies, and stay at home, and read books, or study, or get ready for uni, it's a valid lifestyle choice, and one to be understood with compassion and empathy while you carry on with zonking your brains out and getting wasted and coupling up and... (etc, etc)

And finally, in the words of your parents who care for you and love you (and probably pour craploads of money into your account to fund your natural youthful ebullience), "It's all fun and games until someone loses an eye".

So don't lose an eye.

Sunday, November 11, 2007

The bookshelfless

My first bookshelf in Melbourne was mostly books without shelf. I just put the books on the floor, that little known item of the house we mostly use to walk on. It served the purpose well, apart from the fact that books started spreading about everywhere and tripping everyone up as they came and went.

My second bookshelf I got just a few weeks ago, from IKEA. It hung together, in a sense, but more importantly, it had actual shelves for the purpose of shelving the books. Up they went, in no particular order, and they stayed there, more or less. The bookshelf seemed to serve its purpose adequately, albeit with a somewhat curious habit of creaking when the north wind blew, and growling at odd hours of the night*.

Today, I got about to the task of reshelving the books, sorting them in alphabetical order according to author. It's a habit I got into in Newcastle, principally because it allowed me to file the Bible away under G, for 'God' . As I was putting the books up this afternoon, all of a sudden, I found the shelves developing a rather alarming proclivity to display floor-like tendencies. That is, they all tended to fall towards the floor, presumably for the purpose of becoming one with the floor.

It's disturbing to think what would happen if the floor suddenly thought it was the ground, or the ceiling suddenly thought it was the walls, or the walls suddenly thought they were both. One tends to assume that common household items like floor and walls and shelves stay where they are and serve a single purpose. Maybe I encouraged the bookshelf to develop it's floorwards tendencies by my original habit of doubling up my floor as my bookshelf, but I ask you! Is it really too much to get a bookshelf from IKEA and expect it to stay that way?

It really does make you wonder whether it's better to have a bookshelf entirely without shelves, or maybe a shelf entirely without books: a bookshelfless or a booklessshelf. (Either way seems a little pointless.)

Anyway, in the process of restacking my books and my shelfs (which I for the moment did eventually get done), I racked up some interesting statistics:

- An impressive collection of works by S J Perelman, got over the period of little more than two years, and including one almost-impossible-to-procure edition of a Perelman musical written in collaboration with Ogden Nash**;

- Two editions of Hillaire Belloc's 'Cautionary Verses', one with illustrations by Belloc himself, the other with illustrations by Quentin Blake.

- A decent collection of James Thurber books - but by no means large enough.

- Two books by Flann O'Brien, which may have to be remedied (by which I mean, I need to get more, not that I need to give the books medicine).

- A growing collection of Raymond Chandler mysteries. (I would get more but for the fact that Chandler died before he could write many more of them.)

- A decent collection of works by C S Lewis, omitting some of his most tedious Christian apologetics.

- Poetry by Edmund Spencer, Wystan Hugh Auden, Langston Hughes, Wendy Cope, Walter de la Mare, Sophie Hannah, Edward Lear, and others.

- A growing collection of 'New Yorker' magazines, and assorted issues of ' The Spectator', 'Viz', and 'The Bulletin'.

- Various zines.

All in all, not bad for three years without shelves but by no means without books.

*Which is cool, because everyone knows if something like a bookshelf falls on you in your bed, you don't die, you just get all flattened out, like Flat Stanley. Which is cool.

**They really do look natty, what with their 50s and 60s covers and fonts. Plus, two have illustrations by Al Hirschfield. Do I sound like a wanker yet?

Saturday, November 10, 2007

This is not a word game

Prime Minister John Howard has accused Labor of playing word games over whether he should apologise for this week's interest rate rise. - The Age
Well, I for one am glad that the playing of word games by our Federal Politicians has finally been exposed for everyone to know about it. The corruption of word games has reached endemic levels, and it's not clear what, if anything, we can do to stop it.

When questioned on the Prime Minister's charge of 'word games', Mr Rudd stated: "For the record, I am no cunning linguist, but nor is the Prime Minister a master debater. This is just another one of his cunning stunts, but so is he - and spooner or later, he will be found out."
Recent examples of the playing of word games include the frequent use of 'Animal, Vegetable or Mineral' by Federal Shadow Minister for the Environment, Peter Garrett, when questioned on Labor's policy for the environment.

Meanwhile, upon appearing at a recent debate between the Industrial Relations Minister, Joe Hockey, and the Shadow Industrial Relations Minister, Julia Gillard, Abbott delivered a series of anagrams upon Julia Gillard's name that he had been working on.

"Did you know that JULIA GILLARD rearranges to LAUD JAIL GIRL? No? How about DUAL JAR GILL I, LARD JAIL LUG I, DIAL RAJ GULL I, or even A JAG LURID ILL? No? Well, it just goes to show why the Coalition's Industrial Relations Policy is better than Labor's" said Hockey. "Thank you very much."

Horrifyingly, when asked to comment on the rise of word games in politics, Mr Howard and Mr Rudd failed to comment, as they were locked in 'tightly fought' games of Scrabble with their respective members of staff, apart from saying that 'The next game of Scrabble will be hard fought, and a close match...'

It is possible that the playing of word games by our Federal Politicians may finally be reaching a crisis point: upon attending a launch of a school for blind children recently, Tony Abbott offered to play 'I Spy, with My Little Eye' with several of the children present. Not realising his mistake instantly, he even began to offer them a game of Pictionary, but pulled himself up at the last minute.

However, we may also be on the verge of a new era of decadence. If proposals by prominent members of the Labor Cabinet are acted upon, we would see Labor policy in future released as a Findaword, allowing people to pick out only the policies which they find popular, and leave the rest.

Only time will tell...

Friday, November 09, 2007

noitnetta ot gnidnatS

On my way from work yesterday I noticed a statue of a soldier standing to attention horizontally in the back of a ute. It was there again this morning, still standing to attention horizontally. Standing to attention horizontally for the term of your natural statue life seems a rather sad fate. Why not standing at ease horizontally, or lying to inattention? If the soldier is not careful, he'll graduate from standing to attention horizontally to standing to attention upside down, which nobody wants.

I thank obsessively. Which is to say, I found myself today sending a lot of emails to work contacts using the term

thanks very much guys!

How many times can you thank somebody in the same way before it doesn't mean anything? You can go 'thanks heaps' or 'thanks a lot' or 'thanks a million' or 'thanks a bunch' or just 'thanks'. You can say 'thanks awfully', but how do you thank someone in an awful fashion, and wouldn't that be rather awful for all concerned? You can offer 'thanks terribly' or 'thanks frightfully', but wouldn't thanking somebody frightfully involve a ghost? Could somebody help me with this frightful dilemma? Thanks frightfully, guys...

Apparently someone from work today was resigning. 'She will be sadly missed' said the email.

'Sadly missed'? Maybe she had an office nemesis, which would suggest that, instead of being sadly missed, she would be happily missed. If she had left because of coming into a small fortune, she would be enviously missed, or perhaps even green-with-enviously missed. If she left owing other people money, she would be angrily missed; and if she left with someone else's boyfriend, she would be furiously missed.

Though in the case of myself and most other people at the office, we didn't so much know her, but had encountered her at the office occasionally, and although we are aware of her physical absence, it doesn't affect us much either way. So really, she will be indifferently missed.

Bet the soldier is still standing to attention in that ute now.

Stupid soldier.

... and then I did the Thesaurus...

I've been playing charades. Charades is a game where one player imitates a famous book or a movie or a famous person or a famous person's dog, and the other players imitate interest. When one of the other players guesses what book or movie or person or dog you are imitating, you swap, so they get their turn to imitate somebody, and you get your turn to imitate interest*.

Say, for instance, you were to imitate Hemingway's famous book A Farewell to Arms. One way to do this would be to have your arms drop off.
"Oh my God, your arms have dropped off!" will shout one person.
"Get a doctor!" shouts another person.
"Hemingway!" shouts a third. "A Farewell to Arms! Good one, old bean!"
There is, however, a slight danger that one of the other players could mistake your gambit and think you're imitating the medical textbook, 'So - you've lost an arm', or that famous marital handbook, 'Marriage: is it worth losing an arm and a leg for?'** And then, what have you got, but a ruined game of charades and a pair of arms in the wrong place?

Some titles present quite a challenge to the ordinary charades player. For instance, if you were given the book The Old Man and the Sea, you would first imitate an old man and a sea, and then you would imitate a a definite and an indefinite article, and then the other players would imitate losing interest (easier than imitating interest). Then again, if a player is given George Orwell's 1984, all they have to do is imitate the number 1984, (or the number one, one thousand nine hundred and eighty four times), and the title will be easily guessed.

Once I was playing charades with a person who was given the title Oxford Modern English Dictionary to imitate. In turn he took on the character of a famous English college, something Modern (I'm not sure what, I think it was by Dali), an English man, and you don't want to know what he did for the word 'Dictionary'. Later, he was given An Illustrated History of the Great Wall of China, and he did give a performance as a Chinese-speaking wall, but it wasn't that great - and so he had to sit down.
On another occasion, he attempted to convey to us (through a series of tableaus involving money and facial expressions) Jane Austen's Sense and Sensibility. But we mistook 'Sensibility' for 'Sentimentality', and so he failed there, too.

This same person once gave the single most bravura performance I have ever seen: he was given the book title A Children's Alphabet, and proceeded to successfully imitate every single letter in the alphabet in succession, only to get transfixed on the lower-case 'v'. By this time, however, every other player had become bored and were doing quite a successful imitation of Raymond Chandler's first novel.

On the whole, I don't think charades has too much to recommend it, but it's still an enjoyable game. I'd play it again, but whenever I suggest it to others, people suddenly seem to have a sudden, inexplicable interest in the sport of lawn bowls. Such is life.

*Imitating interest is not as easy as it doesn't look, that's all I can say.

** A mistake often made by dyslexic people, and quite dangerous too - as it often doesn't leave me with a leg to stand on.

Wednesday, November 07, 2007

Exchange of unpleasantries

Go forth and stultify.

Live short, and don't prosper.

Spank you very much.

How wonderful to leave you at last.

Nice to eat you.

Your reputation precedes you, as does your smell, by approximately 20 metres.

I the opposite of love you.

What a good boy you aren't.

O what a horrible morning,
O what a terrible day,
O what a vomitous feeling -
I wish you'd just go away.

When they write the book of your life, I'd buy it - mainly to enjoy the ending.

Come in, come in. Cup of tea? One lump of poison, or two?

Monday, November 05, 2007

More sentences

1. I was about to interrupt, before I was interrupted...

2. "I prefer neurotica to erotica," she sighed, gazing into his eyes in search of an incipient trauma.

3. I am second place getter in a second place getter competition!

4. That was a nice mistake, let's make another.

5. Don't say it: the sentence is longer than your mouth.

6. These shoes are appallingly useless: they have a hole in the top big enough to put my foot through!

7. A pleasure to eloquise with you, my loquacent friend.

8. Animal, vegetable, mineral, or me?

9. If you go fishing for compliments, the compliments you get are fishy.

10. I ate the original can of Campbell's soup.

11. In the beginning was the sonnet: the sequence that followed was just a bloody rip-off.

12. Dies irae, dies illa, solvet saeclum in favilla, teste David, cum Sibylla, and did I mention I bloody well hate spring?

13. Life-threatening medical syndrome in search of a doctor to be named after: contact via email.

What your trousers say about you (behind your back)

I don't know much about clothes and clothes don't know much about me. (Then again, I'm that stupid that I often find nudity ambiguous.) But after a recent conversation, I've started to notice something strange: the amount of clothes with oddly descriptive names, with an emphasis on the odd.

Now, don't go on at me, please: it's not just things like 'underwear' (that you wear under other clothes), or 'dresses', (so called because you dress in them). There's a whole class of other items of clothing with stranger names.

Witness, for instance, the 'jumper': a type of dress that you jump up and down in, like a trampoline. Also: 'sweaters', which are actually items of clothing that perspire whenever you walk into the room. 'Saucy Underwear' are underpants with a wide variety of chutneys and mayonaisses in them; 'pantaloons', on the other hand, are pants with an idiot in either trouser leg. (And 'Pom Poms', obviously, are a pair of British citizens who sit on your head.)

There are 'rings': jewellery that you put on your fingers that perform phone calls. There are 'pants' - things that you put on your legs that make a noise like a dog. 'Singlets', obviously, are what you wear when you don't have a boyfriend or girlfriend to pair up with; and 'doublets' are what you put on when you find one. 'T-shirts' - as my father's recent missive undoubtedly indicates - are actually 'tea shirts', clothes that you wear, either when drinking ceylon tea or eating dinner.

Some types of clothes appear to perform useful household functions. There are 'sweeping necklines', which are necklines on your dress that sweep up the dust from the corners of the room with a broom and deposit it in the bin; and there are 'plunging necklines', which are necklines that take to the sink or the toilet with a plunger in order to clean the pipes out. Clearly, 'knickers' are lacy underwear that thieves put on before going out to steal rare diamonds from the museum. They don't wear anything else except, perhaps, 'sneakers', to facilitate their sneaking. Private investigators would wear a 'watch' frequently, since not only would it tell the time, but it would keep an eye on their suspects as well. 'Holey socks' - or, to put it more accurately, 'holy socks' - on the other hand, are only worn on Sundays, and the wearing of them makes one closer to the Holy Lord.

It's pretty obvious from all these names that clothes have plenty of hitherto undiscovered social purposes and powers, and that if only we donned our sweeping necklines when doing housework, or our saucy underwear when dining, then things would go fine. You wouldn't want to get confused, though. After putting on their knickers (to knick things), thieves would have to be careful not to put on a pair of 'slippers' on their feet (since they would be sure to slip up). 'Saucy underwear' would clearly be fine at a dinner party, but would be rather more difficult to use in the bedroom when making love. And it's unclear when your 'pantaloons' - your twin pair of idiots in either trouser leg - would be socially useful. (Perhaps never).

However, it's clear that a plumber can't go far wrong in wearing a 'plunging neckline', just as a cleaner would never go wrong in wearing a 'sweeping neckline'. It's all a matter of context.

So please don't get shirty with me and sock me in the face - I'm just reporting the facts!

Saturday, November 03, 2007

Socks! Socks! Socks!

Would you trust a man who wears socks like this?

Plenty more socks where these came from, in the latest Will Type For Food periodically periodical periodical.

Yes, that's right - I've got a new zine out! The Coburg Sock Lovers Quarterly, containing the best and the worst (but mostly the worst) of this blog, plus with bonus crap, including a Sock Crossword, a page of Sock Facts, the Sock of the Month, an opinion column by a radish, and a Nazi Gerbil. Coming soon, to a post office box near you!

Think you might be interested in this publication? Write to me, at

timhtrain at

Alternatively, you could just run screaming for the hills. Whatever makes you happy...

A disquisition concerning eggs

This is an egg:

Eggs are commonly produced out of the bums of chickens, or, in the technical parlance of the egg industry, 'the bums of chickens'.

Typically, eggs are small in size and ovular in shape. This is because chickens bums are small in size and ovular in shape, and so it all fits nicely. It wouldn't make much sense for a chicken with an ovular bum to lay a cubic egg, would it? However, if God ever invented a geometrical species of bird with a square bum, we might expect to see cubic eggs being laid. (Similarly, a triangular-bottomed bird would lay pyramidical eggs; and it is just possible that a bird with a perfectly circular bottom might lay perfectly cylindrical eggs.)

It is not known what thoughts go through the chicken's head as it lays the egg. This is because very few thoughts go through a chicken's head at the best of times, and they never know what they are thinking anyway - so how could we have any chance of doing better?

Eggs, therefore, are an extempore production by the chicken - an incidental production of their chicken-ness. The chicken does not sit down and think 'I am going to lay an egg'. Rather, it turns its mind to other chicken matters and clucks in an ovular manner*. Then, a feeling of utter satisfaction comes across the chicken, and the egg is produced. (If this is pointed out to the chicken, it will be faintly surprised.)

After this, the chicken is free to go off and perform other chicken activities, like pecking at seed, or standing and clucking in an aimless fashion for 19 hours or so.

It is not known how eggs first came about. One theory goes that at the dawn of time, a God-Chicken first laid the Primal Egg, from which the entire race of chickens were produced. However, this theory is disputed by another scientific school, who maintain that the God-Chicken itself came from an Uber-Egg. A third theory holds that in the beginning was Eggs Benedict, then Benedict went home and all that were left were eggs.

In other egg-related facts, my fridge used to have an egg in it, but I ate it.

Thank you for your time.

*'...clucks in an ovular manner': this helps to add to the ovular nature of the egg.

Wednesday, October 31, 2007

Screw the government!

I just completed my tax return.

This conversation with my mother just occured.

ME: I just completed my tax return.

MUM: Good.

ME: I did it electronically.

MUM: Oh, yes - B. does that.

ME: So jolly hockey sticks, eh?

MUM: Yes.

ME: Well, must rush - off to Fitzroy...

MUM: That sounds very hockey sticks indeed.

ME: Yes. Off to play hockey.

MUM: All right.

ME: Cheerio!

MUM: Chip chip!

ME: Toodle oo!

Sometimes I rather doubt the old girl's sanity, but she seems to be on the ball tonight, what?

Tuesday, October 30, 2007


The song of the second snowflake of winter

You don't know me.
I'm merely the second snowflake of winter.
Not like the first snowflake,
That bloody glory hog,
Always getting those songs and odes written about him,
Oh, no.
Neither the first nor the last, that's me,
Just an ordinary snowflake,
A schmuck, a schmoflake,
Just part of a long series of snowflakes.
Humble old me.

If you're looking for the sort of snowflake that is the herald of winter, the symbol of beauty,
Piss off.
And I'm not the sort of snowflake that makes children look up and poets gasp
With enchantment at the wonder of winter either.
Oh, no.
I'm not one of those fuckers.
I'm more the sort of snowflake that falls on your finger and causes frostbite,
Or falls on your nose and is the cause of a slight case of pneumonia,
Or falls on your car window and adds to the frost and fog so that you can't see where you're going on the roads, and sends your car screeching to a sudden...
Hey, don't mention it.
It's part of my job.

Unique and individual snowflake, my arse.
I am not 'precious' or 'wonderful',
Or a 'delicate beauty'.
Oh, no: that's the sort of crap that gets said about the first snowflake -
That bloody whoopsie.
Once the first snowflake comes down, let's face it,
You people lose interest.
You wouldn't notice me if I caused the death of your dog, your cat, your goldfish, and your mother, all at once.
(Well, maybe not that last one).
Though that probably wouldn't happen anyway -
I'd probably land on the ground and have you shove a hoof in my face,
Or squash me beneath your greasy buttocks,
You arsehole.
No, the second snowflake,
And everyone that comes after,
Never got noticed anyway.
Don't mention it.

Perhaps, one day,
Some wild-haired cretin,
Wearing a caftan, maybe,
Having doubtless ingested too much of one drug or another,
And carrying a book of Marx,
Will come along and pen a 'Song of the Second Snowflake of Winter',
Full of dark and despair,
And gloomy reflections on the state of the working classes,
And ennui, and terror of death,
And a generally miserable outlook.
And all in free verse (the fucker).
It will be the first song ever written
About the second snowflake of winter -

If I'm lucky.

Monday, October 29, 2007


Kids - say yes to drugs!

No, no, never, never, never, never, never - well, sometimes.

What do you mean, there's a gigantic arachnid standing behind my...

What interesting opinions you have: they resemble mine.

You stand there and look like an actor, and I'll look non-descript.

Try to blend in with the place by making a noise like a brick wall.

Uncle Melchior - please don't eat that!

Don 't trust numbers, you can't count on them.

Don't use words - say what you mean!

You are mediocre, at best, at being mediocre - I'm much better...

Saturday, October 27, 2007

Fastest underwear in the west

Connex is complaining about people who do their make-up on the trains, but I don't think there's anything wrong with it. All day, every day, half-formed moues and pre-plucked pouts are whizzing around the city at incredible speeds! Such is the wonder of our modern public transport system that now, people going to and from work can glower and grimace and sneer at one another at faster speeds than ever.

Other things that are zipping between train stations on the public transport system include pink frilly knickers, top pockets, green-scented handkcherchiefs in velveteen waistcoasts, and stubble. It's certainly a wonder the stubble doesn't fall out of people's faces altogether, considering the speed at which some trains go.

But we don't really think about this when we think of public transport, do we? It's more about getting to work, or escaping from home, or whatever.

It's worth noting, also, that another thing that public transport carries along with us as we go from A to B are our thoughts. A survey, recently completed, of Passing Notions Held By People Who Use Public Transport turns up the following examples:

"I like dogs!" - 17 counts

"I am very hungry, and I just ate breakfast." - 43 counts.

"I have a secret desire to lick twenty-dollar notes. I hope nobody finds out." - 2 counts.

"Why do I keep repeating myself? I don't know. Why do I keep repeating myself?" - 2 counts.

"Sex." - 103 counts.

"Why do I keep repeating myself? I don't know. Why does he keep repeating himself? He doesn't know either." - 4 counts.

"Sex - the word rhymes with ex! Ha!" - 1 count.

"It's the ten minutes of peace on the train every morning as I go to work that keep me from committing suicide." - 721 counts.

"I am not really reading this book, just turning the pages surreptitiously in a pathetic effort to make the other passengers think that I am keeping myself amused during this interminable train trip." - 4 counts.

Think about that next time you practice your champion sneering on the trains!
Email: timhtrain - at -

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