Saturday, January 31, 2015

Who needs Simon Schama?

Let's face it, there's nothing the BBC likes better than to send bespectacled history boffins out into the fields to stomp around in the mud, to frown portentously while wading through a mire, to intone solemnly while sloshing through a bog, and generally have a lovely time splashing and splattering their way through millennia of British history. Cut from a shot of the historian looking brooding and intense about something important to a shady murky camera shot of someone in a bad costume waving a sword or a parchment or an old greasy pair of undies about and then back to the historian shaking their head at the sad and sorry irony of it all, and that's a wrap, ladies and gentlemen.

It's all great fun and quite harmless, and if the British didn't occasionally release their historians out into the wild then who knows what would happen to them? They'd probably get all sorry for themselves, sitting in their little boxes and looking in a brooding and intense manner at a wall, or something like that.

But what about the non-historians? What about the rest of us who did arts degrees in one obscure subject or another, and now spend our time shaking our head at the sad and solemn ironies of the decline in fortunes of the Lydian mode, or intoning solemnly about the state of semiotics pre-Ferdinand Saussure to no-one in particular? Why isn't there a television network ready to release the experts in the Theodosian code or the Freudian/Lacanian interpretation of Christopher Marlowe's later plays into the wild, to wallow in galoshes through the slough of some bog, to utter grand soliloquies about some confusing philosophy or another? For, it must be admitted, even though no-one watching the television would have the faintest idea of what these people are talking about, no-one knows what televisual historians are talking about most of the time anyway. Who honestly remembers anymore details from Simon Schama's History of Britain than the fact that a) it had a title b) it was about Britain and c) it involved some dude called Simon Schama?

I think it would all be quite grand. What better setting for postmodernist philosophical thought than a pile of sludge? What other visual metaphor of the state of thinking in the modern humanities than a gigantic dirty swamp? We're on to something here, I think, by sending these professors of quibbles and obfuscantism out into the bogs and the moors. Sure, they are shy creatures and may be a little timid at first in front of the cameras - but with a little encouragement, and perhaps a scone here or there, they could become quite healthy.

Picture it now: a windy heath, a grey sky, a shadow looms on the horizon. And then a grizzled and cantankerous voice growls out: "I'm Judith Butler: and I'm here to talk about the prehistory of the subject and its role in modern gender binaries....."

And CUT!

Tuesday, January 27, 2015

This is just to say...

This afternoon Beatrice the cat did a really whopping turd. An absolute stinker. The capacity of these small, rather attractive creatures to produce such gigantic piles of excrement never ceases to amaze me. "Little messages" is the quaint euphemism Mum uses for cat and dog poo. Well, this one wasn't so much a little message as a positive essay, with fully developed argument and points and an elegantly restated thesis in the conclusion to round things off nicely. I think I can still smell the toxoplasmosis in the air even now.

Beatrice, take a bow. In years to come, poets shall write of this poo and where they were when it happened. Eaux, the memories!

Okay, that's all I wanted to say.

Friday, January 23, 2015

Your ABC and the dreaded Cucumber Sandwiches Brigade

I've been listening to a lot of ABC Classic FM lately. (Though perhaps 'listening' is the wrong word; no single word seems to encompass the rich diapason of experience that is 'turning on the radio to perhaps listen to a piece or two, and then forgetting about it, and then doing other things and remembering the radio is on, and then not bothering to turn it off).

Anyway, each radio station has their own presentation style, as I learnt to my frequent annoyance during my seven and a bit years at the place of old employ. Some stations have as few presenters as possible, and will probably replace their existing staff with digital voices as soon as the artifical voice technology is up to scratch (thus making the experience of listening to them indistinguishable from the experience of dialing up a multinational company and being put on hold for three hours). Some stations have the newsreader read a few cursory announcements about road accidents, and such, over a persistent 'doof doof doof' beat, which can't be good for the anxiety levels of those listening to it. At the ABC's sister station, Triple J, the newsreaders persistently and insistently colloquialise the normal newsreading style - abbreviating every word they can, throwing in lazy youth culture phrases, so: "The Prime Minister's said he's not cool with that" - in a manner that is more irritatingly formal than any old-school BBC-style newsreader. In short, each have their own ways of infuriating the listener (if they are actually listening, and they may not be - see my first parenthesis, above).

But ABC Classic FM would have to be the most bizarre of them all. Announcements are made in the manner of regretful sighs and languid coos; orchestral harpists are given the afternoon shows and when they speak they actually sound like harps. (Walter Pater said "All art aspires to the condition of music" but this is ridiculous.) I remember there was actually one point when they started playing bird song in the morning; could the point where they discover whale song actually be far off? Occasionally they have an 'ABC is your emergency services broadcaster' announcement, and when they do this they have lovely piano arpeggios over soothing homophonies: I know it would be wrong for them to try out the Lance-Corporal Jack Jones' line "Don't panic! DON'T PANIC!", but honestly, this way they make imminent catastrophe sound like a garden party.

I suppose at some point in the distant past, some ABC Classic FM programmer made the fatal decision that this is what the station would all be about: niceness, somnolence, calm, the aural equivalent of cucumber sandwiches and Pimms. Which, you know, isn't that bad a thing, but when it comes to a musical tradition that contains duellists, murderers, and revolutionaries, doesn't seem entirely appropriate.

So I suppose that means I should turn the radio off then.... and I will.... in a bit....

Sunday, January 18, 2015

Onomatopeia I have used or invented in the past few weeks

Wingle wangle
gedonk gedonk
bekadonk bekadonk bekadokkily donk

UPDATE! - Pop quiz (that probably nobody will answer at all). Can you guess what any of these sounds refer to? (No prizes or anything. I mean, just for the sake of general merriment and stuff).

How it all works

The 1 per cent report to the alpha male.
The alpha male answers to the lizard people.
The lizard people network with the Illuminati.
The Illuminati are secretly run by the bourgeois middle classes.
The bourgeois middle classes are in the grip of Big Tobacco.
Big Tobacco is in cahoots with Big Oil.
Big Oil is run by the Omega Man.
(Charlton Heston, not Will Smith).
The Omega Man is controlled by the Patriarchy.
But the Patriarchy have just had their season cut short by the Fox Network.


Saturday, January 17, 2015

Naughty Amish

The topic of the Amish came up in conversation (and why wouldn't it?) with the Baron last night as we toddled our way to the Coles to fetch some cat food.

"I like the idea of being Amish", said the Baron.
"Well, you get to have your own horse."
"You'd need to buy the horse first," I objected.
"True," mused the Baron. "We'll have to become rich. Let's get rich and then we can be Amish!"
"Hm," I said.
"And then we could compost the garden with horse poo", finished the Baron.

But by the time we'd got the cat food and were on our way home again I'd rather come round to the idea. This was because we'd just discovered the concept of 'naughty Amish', which is what I think I'd end up being.
 Here's how I imagine it goes. Regular Amish go about looking all serious and eating bread and doing farming and stuff. Meanwhile, Naughty Amish hide pencils in their beards, and snap one another's braces in a roguish manner. Regular Amish practice frowning and harrumphing (pretty essential life skills, I'll have you know). Naughty Amish, meanwhile, tie pom-poms to their horse's tails, and make castles out of their mashed potatoes. Regular Amish spend time selecting the most stern bonnets and sombre black fedoras they can find. Naughty Amish while away the hours racing cheeses down the hill and juggling bread rolls.

See what I mean? There must be some naughty Amish out there, and I think I'd fit right in. Any openings available in the Amish community, do you know? After all, I've got the beard and the fedora....

Wednesday, January 14, 2015

I blame everything

We all need something to blame, and I blame particularly the permissive society, the declining morals of today's youth, the social effects of communism, global warming, Tony Abbott, the Labor Party, the second Banana in Bananas in Pyjamas and poor education in our public schools. I blame them for everything all the time, obviously, but I especially blame them for my current obsession, an online game allowing me to slot columns and rows of brightly coloured rectangles into other columns and rows of brightly coloured rectangles until I have run out of columns and rows of brightly coloured rectangles to use. This game, a highly intellectual exercise with columns and rows of brightly coloured rectangles, is called Columns, and I'm sure you'll all want to play it now. My response to that is: don't! Don't! For the love of all that is good and holy, don't!

But anyway, at certain points during my stimulating endeavours to slot columns and rows of brightly coloured rectangles in with other columns and rows of brightly coloured rectangles, it is true, I start to wonder just what the fuck I am doing with my life and couldn't I be fucking doing something more productive instead? And there is great truth in this asseveration, as I acknowledge to myself while deliberating that I will do something else shortly - just after I finish the next game. Of course, "Tomorrow never comes", as the old saw goes, and it is curious that "the next game" is just as elusive.

Soon there will be nothing but columns. Just as in the past I had the experience of playing - well, overplaying - Tetris, another infuriatingly pointless game which never seems to end, and going to bed afterwards with images of Tetris blocks still slotting together in my head. Well, it's the same with these blinking columns. Every time I close my eyes, there they are. Sometimes they're there, too, when I keep my eyes open. Soon the world will be nothing but columns, columns, columns, everywhere, brightly coloured rectangles slotting in with other brightly coloured rectangles and I'll think, ooh, if I just press the left arrow button then....

Aaaaaaaaaaaaaaargh! Save me! Save me!

Thursday, January 08, 2015

Second helping

Same subject as before....

On that extra second
I thought that I needed a second
To do all the things that I thought
I could do if I just had a second
But the second's a second too short.

Wednesday, January 07, 2015

In a second

The year of 2015 will be one second longer, with the Paris Observatory announcing a leap second will be added on June 30 when clocks will read 11:59:60pm.

ABC - Leap second to make June 30, 2015, a longer day, Paris Observatory announces

Thank heavens at last we have that extra second that people have always been talking about. "I'll get round to it in a second", they say. "I'll do that in a second," they say. "Wait a second," they say, only to, on all three occasions, be distracted in a second from the thing they said they were going to do in a second, and so when another second has passed, forgotten completely that two seconds ago they said they were going to do things in a second.

In order to make people further appreciate this extra second, I have introduced

WillTypeForFood leap second saving policy

Here's how it works. By laying the extra second you receive at the end of June, and saving it up till the end of July, instead of getting 30 days and one second, you will get 31 days and one second, much more time to get around to using that precious, valuable, extra second that adds so much to all our lives.

Don't thank me. Thank the Paris Observatory, those hard working individuals who toiled away for so long to produce this extra second to benefit all our lives.

Saturday, January 03, 2015

Am I only screaming?

I fell off the True Blood bandwagon sometime ago - what with the 'Sookie loves Bill.... no wait, she doesn't.... no wait, she loves Eric... no wait, she loves both....' there seemed little point continuing. It had a brilliant first season, an okay second season, but by the third season it seemed to be becoming more or less indifferent, with the characters blending into one another (in a series of increasingly creative, or at least hot and sweaty ways).

The Baron's enthusiasm for this televisual phenomenon remains undimmed, however, so while I slouch around this hot house in this hot weather looking for more icecream to eat, she reclines in leisurely fashion, en couchant, with the computer in front of her working her way stoically through another episode. I haven't really seen what's going on: but I've certainly heard. In this way I think I've inadvertently worked out what the secret of the show's success is: screaming and heavy breathing.

That's about it, really. Combined with the occasional spot of naked flesh, soft lighting and shadows, I think we've almost got the entirety of seasons 1-7, right there.

In a way it's a triumph of minimalist art, the way a little (PANT-PANT-PANT-PANT) here and some (ARRRRRRRRRRRRRRGHGLGGHGLGHGHGLIYEEEEEEEEEEEEEE*) there can be creatively combined to bring meaning and timbre and elegance to such a simple storyline. As an added filigree, with a very little actorial effort, a bloodcurdling scream in the middle of battle can easily shade into a sexy panting in the boudoir as Eric gets hot and heavy with Sookie/Jason/Pam/whoever.

Way back when I actually watched the show (about one and a half years ago, actually) I wrote a poetic summary of the first season. For some reason I can't find it on my blog (though I'm pretty sure I did put it up there). So I'm going to put it up now:
A poetic summary of season one of True Blood

Bill loves Sookie.
Sookie loves Bill.
Puppy dogs and vampires -

*I think that's the right way to spell it. Or did I have one too many Es**?
**As they said back at the raves in the 1990s.

Friday, January 02, 2015

ABC considers releasing an adult version of a much-loved classic

Say hello to Bananas. No Pajamas - designed to appeal to nudists and naturists across this nation.

"Are you thinking what I am, B1?" "I think I am, B2! It's pole-dancing time!"
Email: timhtrain - at -

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