Wednesday, May 30, 2007

Thomson and Thompson

Names For Thomson and Thompson in different languages:

Dupond and Dupont (Belgian)
Schultze and Schulze (German)
Jansen and Janssen (Dutch)
Kadlec and Tkadlec (Czech)
Hernández and Fernández (Spanish)
Johnson and Ronson (Bengali)
Skapti and Skafti (Icelandic)
Dupon and Dubon (Japanese)
Uys and Buys (Afrikaans)
Tik and Tak (Arabic)

In Persian, though, they're just Dupont and Dupont!

The Little Book of Depression

Pessimistic Thoughts For The Day.

1. There's nothing like a little accident to really give you perspective on life. If a lion eats both of your legs, for instance, you'll find yourself thinking, 'Shit. I really wish this lion hadn't eaten my legs!'

Getting your eyes burnt out with hot coals would piss you off, too.

2. In the morning, the sun was shining, and Jeffrey muttered, "Things can't get any worse than this." In the afternoon he lost two of his hands, so that showed how wrong he was.

3. It looks like things are going to be pretty bad from here on in.

4. There's usually someone worse off than yourself. Not always, though.

5. One morning, Patrick woke up and said, "Today is the first day for the rest of my life!" Two minutes later he was dead.

6. Some people die smiling, but that's usually because they've swallowed strycchnine.

7. The train smelled faintly of urine.

8. If somebody laughs, they're probably having hysterics. Call the doctor!

9. One afternoon, Jeremy discovered he had smallpox. All of a sudden, an asteroid collided into Australia, and everybody died except him.

Some people have all the luck!

10. Some people feel pain. Some people are masochists and can take pleasure in their own pain. Then again, some people are ultra-masochists, and take pain in their taking pleasure in their own pain.

Life is truly a vale of tears.

11. Life is truly a rich tapestry of experience. If the doctor tells you you have leprosy, and it can not be cured, for instance, you'll be devastated. But when your nose drops off, you'll be really bloody irritated, too.

12. Today is the worst day for the rest of your life.

13. Laugh and the world laughs with you; cry, and you've probably taken a little too much prozac.

It's Guaranteed to Close On Page Four

The Witches of Eastwick. Performed by the Catchment Players of Darebin. This Thursday. Eight PM.

It's a show so unmissable, I almost missed it!

Tuesday, May 29, 2007

On Still Not Winning The Cholmondeley

Wendy Cope was born in Erith, Kent... in 1987, she received a Cholmondeley Award for Poetry. - Liner notes to Cope's Serious Concerns

Though I wander through streets glolmondley,
And in the cold, my hands twitch nolmondley,
And see people leering dolmondley
At me as I pass by,
I dream of Lords and Ladies colmondley
Laughing primly, laughing plolmondley
At the songs I sing quite rolmondley
That will one day win me the Cholmondley:
Yes, the chumly chaps from Cholmondley
Shall honour me before I die...

My resentments really began to feicester
When I never received the Leicester.

Monday, May 28, 2007

Class Bore

Or, How to be opinionated in five easy columns!

Smarmy gits and Toorak tossers,
Former advertising bosses,
Hearts rise and fall with wins and losses
At footy or the polls;
Their opinion columns are sardonic,
Their capitalism is ironic,
Except when they're on hols.

They don't know bogans, but they like them;
Liberal-voting colleagues strike them
As nice but quite insane.

They know all about your money - how to spend it!
How to keep it! tax it! where to send it!
The economy and how to mend it!
And who and what gets paid off -
While their subscribers all expire,
And advertising rates grow dire -
And some get laid off.

They don't know bogans, but they like them;
They have liberal friends, but they'd like to strike them;
Or make them listen to Jon Faine.

To be postmodern and elite,
They only read Fairfax broadsheets,
And for their gossip, they repeat
The Telly or the Hun.
Like gourmets speak of books on Stilton,
They talk of what the tabloids talk of Hilton
Until the day is done.

They don't know bogans, but they like them;
Liberal-voting colleagues strike them
As an increasing pain.

They attend furtive nighttime courses
In abstract economic forces,
Wearing pink hats yearly to the horses -
And thinking on the future, cry:
Growing ever more conservative and wary,
They wonder who'll write their obituary
When, at last, they die.

They don't know bogans, but they like them;
Liberal-voting colleagues strike them
As nice but quite insane.

Saturday, May 26, 2007

That's Not a Television Station, That's An Acronym!

Television schedule for

"We are a taxpayer-funded station, but we feel bad about it."

Soft-hitting journalism about affairs that were current two or three weeks ago.

Less Rage
Songs that aren't quite cutting edge, singers wearing medium-cut tops and really quite respectable skirts, not to mention socks. Songs that actually have a tune to them, though not a very good one. (No guitars or pianos were burnt in the making of this show. A banjo got bruised, but that's about all.)

Big Brethren
Reality television show. Twelve Amish live together in a house competing for a gigantic prize of thirty goats. In order to make things more exciting, they all take a vow of silence. This goes on until they all get voted off or the viewer switches off.

Doctor Who The Hell Is This Guy I Thought It Said Tom Baker Was On Things Have Bloody Gone Downhill Since Patrick Troughton Came On
Increasingly irrelevant science fiction in an increasingly relevant world. Or did I get that the wrong way around?

A Similarity of Opinion
Jeff McMullen discusses issues of concern with a large studio audience consisting of himself, comes to the conclusion that we all have much more in common than we think, or certainly he does, and concludes the show in an untimely manner by asking himself if he wouldn't agree to an intimate dinner at his place.

The 7.30 Grumble
Hosted by Kerry O'Whine. Rants about various matters of mild unconcern.

Sunday Afternoon Arts
Screening four days every week!

"The DEF will switch to digital in 2010, OVER ITS DEAD BODY!"

Friday, May 25, 2007

Five Reasons Other Than Obsession To Read S J Perelman

1. Because he writes things like this about advertising:
The italics are mine, but the desperation is of the whole advertising confraternity. So all the old tactics have finally broken down - wheedling, abuse, snobbery and terror. I look forward to the last great era in advertising, a period packed with gloom, defeatism and frustration, in which spectacles like the following will be commonplace...
2. These words:
the Founder says so pungently
past the World Wide Noodle Corporation, Zwinger & Rumsey, Accountants, and the Ace Secreterial Service, Mimeographing Our Specialty
I knew he had no connection with the herring caper
a minimum of flubdub
interlards his speech with salty imprecations like "Gadzooks" and "by my halidom".
3. The descriptions of impossible plays:
The library of the luxurious Park Avenue triplex of Mr and Mrs Milo Leotard Allardyce DuPlessis Weatherwax. The furnishings display taste but little ostentation: a couple of dozen Breughels, fifteen or twenty El Grecos, a sprinkling of Goyas, a smidgen of Vermeers. The room has a lived-in air: a fistful of loose emeralds lies undusted in an ashtray, and the few first folios in evidence are palpable dog-eared. The curtain rises on a note of marital discord. Octavia Weatherwax, a chic, poised woman in her mid-forties, has just picked up a bust of Amy Lowell by Epstein and smashed it over her husband's head. Milo, a portly, well-groomed man of fifty, spits out a tooth, catches up a bust of Epstein by Amy Lowell, and returns the compliment.
4. Because when he really lets his vowels loose, there's nothing like it.
The premises were filled with steam and a sickening smell of giblets. Besides the usual covetuous faces, there were several unfamiliar ones - a Free French sailor who mistakenly supposed himself at a radio broadcast and an aged beldame with an ear trumpet who kept asking querulously for the next train to Cynwyd.
Over the hubbub, from the kitchen, floated madame's voice offering to triple the maid's salary if she would stay through dinner. Selecting one of the less revolting young cousins, I sat down by hum and attempted to draw him into conversation. (Etc, etc, etc)
5. Names:
Sidney Namlerep
Whitelaw Savory
Lafcadio Replevin
Rex Beeswanger
the Vigorous and Tweedy School
the Puissant Valve & Flange Corporation

Enough Grope


Do you want to feel like someone important? Go up to a Nobel Prize winner and give them a grope, it's much the same thing.

Thursday, May 24, 2007

More Hard Hitting Photo Journalism

I went to Wunderkammer. I walked up Lonsdale Street towards the Docklands, past a picturesquely vacant Melbourne lane:

It was wedged into a cozy corner of the street, between a bunch of office buildings:

And just opposite a building that seemed to be decorated with abandoned shopping trolleys.

So I went in.

I had barely taken five steps into the building before I found myself face to face with the head of a stag, staring at me balefully with its glassy eyes. Straight off, I backed away, placing my head on the table for support. There was a snapping sound, and I turned to see a hinged human skull attempting to swallow my fingers.

Backing off rapidly, I found myself suddenly encircled by the gigantic skeleton of a python, and I almost skewered my eye on one of the rib-bones. I emitted a polite but definite shriek, and tumbled head-first down the stairs.

Here I found myself in a curious laboratory, surrounded by curious gadgets, fit for a mad professor. Where was the mad professor? I shuddered to think! I collapsed in an exhausted heap at the bottom of a bookshelf, evincing a sudden fall of parliamentary records of Outer Westphalia, or somewhere like that. It's hard to read when books are collapsing in a pile on your head.

I noticed as I brushed the specks of dust and the crumbled flecks of Neo-Platonic texts from my hair that there was an open door leading to a warehouse or similar out back. From the darkness, I could hear a curious, regular mechanical sound, and a faint aroma drifted out, tickling my nosebuds, redolent of - could it be? - human breast milk.

Eventually I managed to claw my way back up the staircase and found myself surrounded by long-dead trilobites, ammonites, fish, not to mention lepidoptera and beetles, all demanding vengeance!

I briefly contemplated buying a dead cockroach as a memoir of my visit, and I think we're all grateful that that contemplation was only brief, hey?

For no reason at all, here's a picture of a place in Fitzroy, on the way to Carlton. It's either an insane asylum, or an ice-cream parlour, or both.

And here's one of my favourite places in Melbourne, the Office of the Consulate General of Spain.

It's a tiny place wedged in between a post office and some sort of fashion/beauty shop on Elgin Street. I think when the Government decided to put the consulate there, their reasoning went something like this:

"Say! This looks like a good place not to have a Consulate General!"

"Good idea! We'll put the Spanish there. Who else is on the list?"

"Well, we need to have a Yugoslavian embassy."

"Hey, let's put them in a tunnel underneath Flinders Street Station! That will work!"


Hard Hitting Photo Journalism

The other day, I was wandering down Lonsdale Street with my camera on my way to Wunderkammer. The day was cold but clear, and the wind felt sharp and invigorating on my skin. I noticed that a bunch of North Melbourne and Hawthorn supporters had gathered in the streets and were having a game of football. They whooped and hollered happily to one another, and the colours of their traditional costumes shone out in the bright daylight.

Naturally, I had to take a picture!

That wasn't all, either. As I continued down Lonsdale Street, I noticed that a group of Geelong supporters were sharing some coffee at a cafe on the intersection with Queen Street. For some reason they seemed rather grouchy, but they consented to take a picture:

I'm not sure what it was, but they all seemed pale of mien and one or two of them had a rather unsettling grey tincture to their skin. Maybe they were unsettled by that blue thingy on the right-hand corner of the picture. I have no idea what it was either. By the way, a rumour that I can neither confirm nor deny has it that one of the chaps in this picture is related to these two bloggers.

More hard-hitting photo journalism to come!

Wednesday, May 23, 2007

Confess! You've Been Using That Carbon-Based Energy Again, Haven't You?

Caz on carbon offsets:

As lots of other people have been telling us, this chap sincerely believes that by “offsetting the carbon emissions” generated in a particular circumstance, the actual emissions are, somehow, reduced to zero. He cited, by way of illustrating the concept, that they would generate carbons, in one city, but they would off-set them in another city, in order to achieve the zero-sum of carbons.

This, of course, is the equivalent of suggesting that it’s okay to eat all of the broken biscuits, because they don’t have any calories....

It doesn’t quite work that way though, does it. Because you pay your $200 and all the while you keep spewing out carbon by going about your everyday life. In the meantime, the trees, that may or may not be planted in your name will take around 30 years to soak up the carbons you were responsible for this year...

Got an idea: I'll start up a carbon offset company. First thing, I'll publicise the Greenhouse Effect by posting up all these pictures of plants belching out Greenhouse Gases with the caption,


I'll also do a round of posters with lots of hellish pictures of a 'post global warming world'. Basically, I'll just pull a whole load of pictures of fiery abysses with people burning up and screaming in pain and what-not. I'll title it:


Then, I'll tell everybody about my service selling carbon offsets. I'd have to give it a catchy name: something like, oh, I don't know,


Then to round things off, I'll have to give my company a catchy name, too. Something like


Don't know what you think, but I reckon this idea could be a goer!

Benefacto, Benefactee, Benefactum

The Company Benefactor came to the workplace today, his gradual approach from more northern climes being heralded for the past couple of days by a flurry of epistles over our mechanical mail system. Group heads dashed off stern perorations to their staff on the importance of Workplace Cleanliness and manners; name tags were handed out to anybody who felt like they might be lacking a name and a good deal of other people to boot; and the law was laid down. 'Be careful how you address the Benefactor,' instructed the memos, (causing myself to wonder why anybody but his mother should be addressing him in the first place.) 'He is to be called MISTER BENEFACTOR' (Mister to his friends, Benefactor to everyone else, I thought?)

Finally, the great day dawned, as great days have a habit of doing, and on the crack of ten (two hours before the crack of noon, except when it is daylight savings) the great Benefactor appeared in the offices clutching a walking stick, being helped from a little palanquin in which he had been carried by several secretaries. Somewhere in the distance, I'm sure I could hear the angelic chorus of a host of cherubic office accountants carolling his arrival. (The Company gelds accountancy babies at birth for such occasions).

Over the next hour, the Benefactor, wizened and shrivelled of appearance, crept nimbly around the office, bestowing his advice and pithy aphorisms upon all who cared to hear. 'When do you turn eighteen?' he jested with L., the red-head sitting opposite me. Turning his attentions to me eventually, he queried whether I was interested in AFL, and on learning that I was not, proceeded to deliver an anecdote on the relative merits and demerits of mail and email. He wished me luck before turning and hobbling to an obscure corner of the office to talk about stocks and bonds and strategies and what-not with the local contacts for another hour.

It was perhaps noon when he prepared to leave: before he did, a great hush fell over the masses of the poor, the starving, the sickly, the oppressed, the meek, the huddled, and all the other people who happen to labour for the Company in order to earn the meagre pittance which we are promised. We swivelled in our chairs towards the Benefactor.

"Something something something something," he said. "But! Something something something something something! Something something? Something!"

There was a brief, pregnant silence during which I heard, in the distance, a fellow bond-slave weeping quietly over the photocopier. Then, as one, we cheered. Hooroar! Hooroar for the dear old Benefactor! Hooroar for the Company! Our white and wond'ring eyes were upturned heavenward, and we waved our arms joyously in the air!*
The Benefactor cast his cheerful eyes over us all, and winked in that way he had. (I later learned that 'That way he had' was a facial spasm he had acquired as a gift from his ne'er-do-well son on his eightieth birthday). He raised his cane to bestow a final blessing upon us all, and slowly but surely began to tip over. If it had not been for the secretaries, watching and waiting to help the cheerful old fellow into the waiting palanquin, I shudder to think of what might have happened.

I heard murmurings late this afternoon that the accountants are restless and planning a revolution: they are disappointed that only some of them have been selected for gelding, and not all. But I don't know if we should be so hasty to overturn the structure of things. If there's anything the Benefactor has taught me, it's that things should be left as they are, especially when they aren't.

*Poets' licence: for the purposes of dramatic effect, I may occasionally engage in hyperbole, metaphor, or lying.

Monday, May 21, 2007

Unquotes of Note

Rebuttal: Cosmetic surgery on one's posterior.

SAMPLE SENTENCE: "What are you in for - facial?"

"Rebuttal. I lost my left cheek when saving a baby from a crocodile farm yesterday."

Qualming Tape: Tape of music and natural sounds (alarms, lawnmowers, etc) recorded for the purposes of instilling niggling doubts and slight anxieties in the listener.

SAMPLE SENTENCE: "Is that your car alarm?"

"Oh, no. It's just my qualming tape. Is it worrying you? Good. I'll turn it up... "

Camembert Quease: Illness-inducing dairy product much loved in rural France. Nowadays it is often eaten while listening to a Qualming Tape (see above).

Relaxative Tape: Musical tape full of farting sounds to aid constipated people, often recorded by the same company who record Qualming Tapes (see above).

Superpreposterousition: A superlative preposterousition - obviously.

Corroberry: 1) Ceremony by which a white Australian pays an Aboriginal Australian twenty dollars for an item of Aboriginal art, and then hocks it off for twenty million dollars on the international art market.

2) False ceremony constructed by Aboriginal Australians for the purposes of fleecing a white Australian Arts Administration body.

SAMPLE SENTENCE: "Oh, what a wonderful expression of your beautiful native culture this Corroberry is! How big would you like the grant to be?"

SEE ALSO: Rolf Boldrewood, "Corroberry Under Arms: My Time in the Colonial Arts Administration."

Bleer: Alcohol that skips most of the stages of drunkeness - tendency to say idiotic things, queasiness, anger, bouts of sleepiness, dizziness, incontinence, morning-after nausea, loss of memory, and the throbbing and lingering headache - and instead goes straight for the devastating sense of guilt and despair you get the evening afterwards, never being quite sure why. (Recommended only for people suffering from crippling excesses of optimism.)

Smartini: Cocktail that comes in a colour to match the socks you're wearing!

K-Martini: A cheap version of the Smartini (above) that is made in China and sold in supermarkets.

Wince: Wine that tastes really fucking awful.

Sunday, May 20, 2007

Urinetown, the newspaper

Inspiration comes to people in strange places, and it came to Mark Hollman when he was going to the toilet. He had to pay to use a public toilet in Paris, and that gave him the idea for Urinetown, a musical about a world where all private toilets have been banned, and control of the public toilets has been outsourced to a gigantic monopoly, the UGC, who spend their time cheerfully passing price hikes through the government. Malefactors who break the law against urinating in public are sent to 'Urinetown'.
A world where everyone is busting to go: it's the kind of sublimely intense idea that musicals were made for.

Last night I went to see a production of Urinetown by schoolkids (from Williamstown High, Diogenes neck of the woods; notch one up for the public education system!) and had a jolly good time. (The toilet filled with steaming dry ice to create the occasional misty stage effect was a particularly nice touch).

The main theme of the play was conveyed in the first scene by a series of front pages from The Age, where headlines described the situation as it unfolded:

'Thirty Year Drought'
'Private urinals banned'
'UGC takes over urinals'
'Offenders sent off to Urinetown'

That sort of thing. Satire based on this idea could be taken in any direction, obviously, but I wondered about the other stories that would be published in a post-Urinetown edition of The Age.

Kenneth Davidson, obviously, would be running a series of articles extolling the older, kinder Australia where public toilets were free, clean, and happy places to be, and where there was a "Lavatory on every street corner!" Although, of course, any moves to reintroduce a 'private toilet' system would be portrayed by Davidson as "a form of theft." Freelance opinion columnist Chris Masters would write a column redolent with nostalgia about this happier Australia, full of gleaming white lavatories, and supplying a charming and obviously relevant anecdote about a media personality called Alan Jones, but let's not go into that. Meanwhile, a guest column by Gerard Henderson, of The Sydney Morning Herald, would staunchly defend the decision by the Government to privatise the public toilets and create the UGC.

At the same time, The Age would also run a feature entitled 'Every little drop counts', with a list of handy bullet-point tips telling readers how to hold it in, and giving publicity to a recent study by the CSIRO into the devastating consequences that could result from our overuse of urinals. The editorial would be mostly concerned with encouraging 'sensible urine policy' on the part of the Government.

The gossip column would mostly be concerned with cosmetic surgery on Paris Hilton's dog (who, by this time, is technically dead, but not taxidermically so), and need not be mentioned.

The letters page would be overflowing (not literally, obviously) with urine. One punter from Malvern would write in with the pithy (he thinks) line "The Government's urine policy is short-term gain for long-term pain!". An elderly gentlemen living in an old person's home in Camberwell pens a dreadful 148-line poem about the current urine-situation, of which The Age deigns to publish three lines:

Pay to pee?
O woe is me!
I do not want to pay this terrible fee!

A number of readers from Fitzroy write letters in which the first sentence makes reference to the Government's urine policy, and then by way of a blatant non-sequitur, go on to talk about the misguided war against terror, the greenhouse effect, the sufferings of the little man, etc, etc, etc. One would note that this would never have happened if the Whitlam Government had been re-elected and instituted a non-existent 'Urinal for All!' policy. And an elderly lady from South Yarra would encourage the UGC's latest round of price-hikes because it kept the ' unwashed masses' out of her local toilet.

Saturday, May 19, 2007

Reader to Writer - Untitle That Book!

A title in a Spencer Street Station bookshop:

How To Become a Great Public Speaker

Why would I want to become a great public speaker? I'm happy with my weight as it is, and I don't think speaking in public would drive me to obesity.

Perhaps the title should have been:

How To Become a Great Good Public Speaker

How To Become a Great Celebrated Public Speaker

How To Become an
Great Extraordinary Public Speaker

How To Become a
Great Marvellous Public Speaker

How To Become a Great Godlike Public Speaker

How To Become a Great Supernatural Public Speaker

You know, when you're writing a book about public speaking, you probably want to get the title right!

Saturday Book Review: The Narnian

I've taken to reading biographies lately. One reason being that I'm an appalling judge of character, so anything that helps me get a grasp on what makes humans tick has got to be good. Another reason is a growing curiosity about people who I only know through books - all right then, writers.

So I've been interested in Alan Jacobs' 2005 biography of C S Lewis: 'The Narnian: The Life and Imagination of C S Lewis' for a while now. Alan Jacobs is a apparently 'Professor of English and the director of Faith and Learning Program at Wheaton College in Illinois', and has a blog here (it's mostly cut-and-paste from other magazines, though). Everyone knows who C S Lewis is, or at least used to be: the writer of the Chronicles of Narnia, and a whole lot of other stuff too. These days, it's mostly the other stuff that tends to interest me: not that I don't love the Chronicles - I do - but after reading the books a certain number of times, your geeky obsession starts looking for other objects of obsession. That's where books like Out of the Silent Planet (the first in a science-fiction trilogy); The Screwtape Letters (Christian satire, in the form of letters written from a demon, Screwtape, to his student); The Pilgrim's Regress (a modern allegory, partly drawing on John Bunyan's writing); or, indeed, any published version of his collected or selected essays that I can get my hands on.

As the title suggests, though, 'The Narnian' is centrally concerned with how and why Lewis came to write the Narnia books. Its release date, in 2006, sort of suggests that the publishers wanted it to coincide with the release of that awful Hollywood version of The Lion, The Witch and the Wardrobe. It's much more than that, though; it ranges from Lewis' childhood, the traumatic loss of his mother, his experiences in the first world war, his encounters with Yeats (in person, twice) and Chesterton (in writing), his strange relationship with Janie Moore, and his late-in-life marriage and romance with Joy Davidman. It's really a biography of Lewis' mind, causing Jacobs at one point to make the curious statement -

... we will soon explore the contours of that inner life. But first, the external world remains to be dealt with.

I'll say! This is written at a point before any of Lewis romantic encounters, and even before his experience as a soldier during the first world war. External events, indeed!

More curious is the statement that comes at the beginning of the second chapter:

... one might very well assume, upon reading this passage, that our author would hold up as a shining counterexample to Experiment House the great tradition of the English public school... but one would be so, so wrong.... And near the end of his life he wrote to a child who had read his Narnia tales, "I was at three schools (all boarding schools) of which two were very horrid. I never hated anything so much, not even the front line trenches in World War I. Indeed the story is far too horrid to tell anyone of your age.

Actually, Jacobs is wrong. In several of his essays, Lewis defended the English public school system, and it would be interesting to know why. One reason would be because Lewis disliked what may have been a modernising tendency of Government schools: but it's hard to know. Jacobs notes at one point that Lewis did not read newspapers or periodicals: this can't have been entirely true, because Lewis wrote a number of articles and essays for publication in these periodicals; his book, 'Mere Christianity' was initially a series of radio talks given on the BBC; and 'The Screwtape Letters' were initially a series written for a newspaper. You wouldn't know it from this book, but he was a committed conservative: this much is clear if you read his essays. It is curious that this part of C S Lewis' mind is ignored. It's not because Jacobs doesn't want to be critical of Lewis. (In the later part of the book, he lays into Lewis for his anti-feminism). Maybe Jacobs didn't want his biography to be too long and complicated; so, examination of Lewis' religious life is in, politics are out. Still, that's no excuse to say things that are untrue.

In a similar fashion, Jacobs dances around Lewis' decades-long relationship with Janie Moore. One onlooker to this relationship says that they are clearly 'devoted' to one another. Lewis' brother, Warnie, detested Moore and the 'mysterious' hold she had on her brother (though he was quite happy to live together with them at Lewis' house, the Kilns). Jacobs never seems to know whether he should tell too much, or too little, and how much he should tell. Do we really need to know what the wife of an academic who once held a talk on C S Lewis thought about his private life? Apparently, we do, even if it is relegated to a footnote. Lewis himself was quite happy to keep his private life private; shouldn't this be respected? However, Jacobs deals sensitively with her decline and death; once he describes her death, he notes 'Nothing more needs to be said.' But later - he can't help himself - he again starts wondering about the relationship between Lewis and Moore. He does a lot of talking about what Lewis didn't want to talk about, that much is clear!

These are minor criticisms. The bulk of the book is an involved inquiry into Lewis' Christianity. Key concerns of Lewis (immortal life, morality, Christian tradition) are examined at length. Then Jacobs returns to the Chronicles and examines how these concerns appear in those novels. It's a curious method; at times, the books are treated almost reverently, as if they are a Biblical text from which the meaning is to be discovered. The arguments are rigorous and the philosophical questions are interesting; it's just a pity that the focus is so narrow. It would be interesting, for instance, to see more of a focus on how Lewis' ideas appear in his science fiction trilogy. (Apart from a few examples of intellectual pulp - the 30 page psalm at the end of 'Voyage to Venus', for instance - they are astounding and original works: Arthur C Clarke with some Milton chucked in).

One more disagreement, and a geeky one this time: Jacobs refers at one point to the respective achievements of C S Lewis and Tolkien, seeming to preference Tolkien's achievement as the greater (couldn't find the page for this, I'll have another look later). I think this is wrong, wrong, wrong: Lewis' literature had a far deeper and more original mind than his great friend, Tolkien, as is shown in the way he comes to grips with many different forms of literature from different ages. Even when Lewis fails to achieve his aims in literature (as in parts of his science fiction trilogy) the ideas are always interesting, and remain as an inspiration for later writers. Try as I might, I never get the same sense of intellectual exhilaration reading Tolkien as I do reading Lewis.


But then, this is the book I paid for. Jacobs writes well about a much loved author, and his book is certainly worth reading.

Friday, May 18, 2007

Breaking News

I Never Knew She Felt This Way About Me - I Feel So Betrayed!

New York:
A gay man began to doubt his wife's lack of commitment to their cold, loveless marriage of convenience today when he stumbled across her looking for pictures of himself on the internet.

"It was horrible!" shuddered Bertrand Gyvish, 39, of Greenwich Village. "She confessed to harbouring secret feelings of love and tenderness towards me. She said she hardly ever had one-night stands anymore, and admitted to growing feelings of faithfulness and commitment to me and our sham marriage."

The couple, who had been on track for a planned divorce late next year, are now "reconsidering their options." They plan to see a separation counsellor next week.

Thursday, May 17, 2007

To Dream The Impossible Dream

The experience is one of intense longing. It is distinguished from other longings by two things. In the first place, though the sense of want is acute and even painful, yet the mere wanting is felt to be somehow a delight. Other desires are felt as pleasures only if satisfaction is expected in the near future: hunger is pleasant only while we know (or believe) that we are soon going to eat. But this desire, even when there is no hope of possible satisfaction, continues to be prized, and even to be preferred to anything else in the world, by those who have once felt it. This hunger is better than any other fullness; this poverty better than all other wealth. And thus it comes about, that if the desire is long absent, it may itself be desired, and that new desiring becomes a new instance of the original desire, though the subject may not at once recognize the fact and thus cries out for his lost youth of soul at the very moment in which he is being rejuvenated. This sounds complicated, but it is simple when we live it. ‘Oh to feel as I did then!’ we cry; not noticing that even while we say the words the very feeling whose loss we lament is rising again in all its old bitter-sweetness. For this sweet Desire cuts across our ordinary distinctions between wanting and having. To have it is, by definition, a want: to want it, we find, is to have it.

C S Lewis was talking about eating in bed - obviously.


1) Monroe's fell on evil days -
His woman and his friend is dead.
Monre's fell on evil days,
Can't hardly get his bread.

In this poem, Langston Hughes writes about a man who can no longer enjoy the experience of breakfast in bed because of a painful family death. It is because of Hughes' committed social poetry that we are aware of these tragic circumstances today.

2) ... but how
Shall we satisfy when we meet,
Between Shall-I and I-Will,
The lion's mouth whose hunger
No metaphors can fill?

Auden, in his philosophical way, discusses the paradox of eating in bed: 'Shall-I' get out of bed to make a meal? Or 'I-Will' stay in bed until my partner brings me a meal: it is certainly a deep philosophical dilemma. But in the meantime, what is to be done with 'the lion's mouth whose hunger/No metaphors can fill?'

3) At the end of three days, moving southward, you come upon Anastasia, a city with concentric canals watering it and kites flying over it. I should now list the wares that can profitably be bought here: agate, onyx, chrysoprase, and other varieties of chalcedony; I should praise the flesh of the golden pheasant cooked here over fires of seasoned chery wood and sprinkled with much sweet marjoram; and tell of the women I have seen bathing in the pool of a garden and who sometimes - it is said - invite the stranger to disrobe with them and chase them in the water. But with all this, I would not be telling you the city's true essence; for while the description of Anastasia awakens desires one at a time only to force you to stifle them, when you are in the heart of Anastasia one morning your desires waken all at once and surround you. The city appears to you as a whole where no desire is lost and of which you are a part, and since it enjoys everything you do not enjoy, you can do nothing but inhabit this desire and be content. Such is the power, sometimes called malignant, sometimes benign, that Anastasia, the treacherous city, possesses; if for eight hours a day you work as a cutter of agate, onyx, chrysoprase, your labor which gives form to desire takes from desire its form, and you believe you are enjoying Anastasia wholly when you are only its slave.

Calvino goes on to explain in detail the long history of the 'Breakfast In Bed Waiters Union' in this city. To labour your long life to bring others breakfast in bed, and never to receive it yourself! It is a most exquisite form of torture!

4) Was it a dreame, or did I see it playne;
A goodly table of pure yvory,
All spred with juncats, fit to entertayne
The greatest Prince with pompous roialty...

This is the beginning of an entire sonnet sequence in which Spenser describes in wondering, elaborate detail a waking dream he had in which an angel brought him breakfast in bed. Could such a dream be possible? He never seems quite sure.

So you see, eating in bed has a long history!

No Money Back Guarantee

Deconstruction Engineers

Trust me. I'm a philosopher. Plus, I smoke a pipe!
- HOUSES put up and taken down again!

- BUILDINGS with no foundations: "It just hangs there!"

- DOORS that open onto walls, CORRIDORS that lead nowhere, WINDOWS in the floor, and BEDROOMS without beds - or rooms!

- SECOND STOREYS in houses that have no first storeys!

- BUILDINGS that double up as everyday objects: The Fridge-Chalet, the Styrofoam-Box-Bungalow, and (our most popular item) the Fruit-Bowl-Shed.
At Trusty Jack Derrida's, our architecture questions the whole foundation of western philosophy! You don't live in our houses, you exist in them. We are careful to make you question the 'household' experience, so that you'll want to do nothing more than to take up a nice, safe residence in Plato's cave!


"When I get my hands on that smarmy prat Jack, I'll give him a kick up his Jacksie with the steel-tipped set of apartments he sold me." - Little Old Woman who Lives In A Shoe

"He made me a straw house and said if I had any problems, just blame the straw man. I'll tell you one thing: this mortgage isn't made out of straw!" - The First Little Pig

"A fine fellow. I can recommend him to anyone." - Mr B. B. Wolf

"Mr J D worked with us on a community housing project a few years back. He built a fine set off postbox houses so that the poor and disadvantaged could have an economical address to live at. An excellent architect!" - Mr S. Bracks

"I am rather pessimistic about this house" - Mr A. Schopenhauer

Wednesday, May 16, 2007


1.Ampersand Duck has an entry up about a rather curiously-named chap, one Manly Banister.

Who was Manly Banister? Apparently, a bookbinder, writer, and, (according to a brief autobiographical piece by by Manly himself, an ex-editor.

Names like this can have a life of their own. Since his name appears on a number of books, it seems fairly safe to assume that the correct spelling is as appears on the books ('Manly', no 'e', Banister, one 'n'). But wait! A google search for 'Manly Banister' returns approximately 34,800 hits. That's a lot, but then, a google search for 'Manley Banister' returns 22,300 hits; for 'Manley Bannister', 48,700 hits; and 'Manly Bannister' gets the most of all at 55,700 hits. Popular opinion, then, seems to fall in favour of the last spelling ('Manly', no 'e', and 'Bannister', two 'n's').

There are red-herrings galore: John Tranter's Jacket Magazine has an 'interview' with Manly Bannister that is fictional - isn't it? Elsewhere, on a fantasy discussion website, fans quibble over the correct spelling of his name

Actually, there was an author named Manly (Manley?) Bannister back in the days of Weird Tales. His most reprinted story is "Eena," about a hunter who falls in love with a female werewolf.

They indulge in a round of bad puns:

And everyone knows a manly bannister is a mannister.

"That's a heck of a manly bannister you've got there."

"Well, we tried installing a womanly stair-rail but the boys wouldn't stop sliding down from morning till night. This seems to have done the trick."

And even invent non-existent relatives of our friend:

Not to be fussy, but isn't it Manly Banister (with one n)?

Fussy Banister was Manly Banister's spinster cousin, who wrote an etiquette column for the Didn't Really Exist Bugle-Picayune.

JMP("Picayunier Than Thou...")

But who was he? Surprisingly enough, there is a brief charming biographical sketch here, by Steve Jackman:

Several weeks ago, I temporarily posted an article on my website from a 1955 Popular Mechanics Home Handyman Encyclopedia which illustrated construction details of several pieces of bookbinding equipment with descriptions of the bookbinding process. When someone offered to post the article permanently on their website, I checked my local library for the original appearance of the article in the August 1940 Popular Mechanics Magazine, hoping for better engravings of the photographs. To my surprise, the byline on the article was by a then 26 year old Manly Banister (the byline was not shown in the encyclopedia article). Although Banister died in 1986 and the copyright on the article was probably not renewed, I am uncomfortable with posting the article while some of Banister's books are still in print. So at the end of the week I will remove the article from my site.

Jackman performed a search under the name:

... and found mixed views on his work. The most condescending was the one that said "Manly Banister is to Book Arts and Printmaking what Richard M. Nixon was to acting".

He also finds:

short fiction in various science fiction magazines, culminating in the publication of the science fiction novel "Conquest of Earth" in the 1950's. He published a science fiction fanzine in the 40's and 50's called NEKROMANTIKON.

In the concluding paragraph, he adopts an elegaic tone - will we ever see the like of Manly Banister again? - before suddenly diverging to discuss bookbinding:

In our current consumer society, most of us simply go out and buy what we need to pursue our interests. Manly Banister belongs to a mostly vanished breed who had to MAKE the tools to pursue their interests. While he may have used Elmer's Glue when he should have used a more archival product, and used alum in his paste when we know now that's not a good idea, his works are a product of his time.

2. Wikipedia has a list of 'Place Names With English Meanings'. (Thanks, Mark!) Included are the towns of Accident, Maryland, USA; Boring, Oregon; Egg, Austria; Kinki, Japan; Wank, Bavaria; Fucking, Austria; and Wet Beaver Creek, Arizona. Not included are the Australian towns of Come By Chance (although the Canadian version is), Mount Debatable, Usless Loop, the electorate of Batman, Melbourne; or, indeed, the suburb of Manly in Sydney.

Wikipedia is un-Australian.

3. Wikipedia also has a list of cakes, including Depression Cake.

I'm hungry.

4. As an afterthought, what sort of parent calls their kid Manly Banister, anyway?

Tuesday, May 15, 2007

Dilemma In Porcelain

There it was, glaring up at me with that fierce and uncompromising glare that only an eyeless porcelain object has. It looked like a toilet - it seemed like a toilet - but what, in fact, was it?

I stood, gripped in the claws of a vicious dilemma!

But let me explain, dear reader. Moments earlier, I had been sitting at the front of the cafe, with my brother and his girlfriend. "The toilet's up the back," said my brother. "It's hard to find," then he gave me a series of directions which I can hardly remember. (I was drunk: I think I had drunk one too many coffees).
I struggled to the back of the cafe, where there was a small hole in the wall covered by a wooden door; through this I pushed my way. I felt already that I had transgressed an indefinable boundary; I had gone where none but the staff could tread. I found myself in a hallway of doors and corners; to the end of this hallway a door opened out on the lane. A member of the staff sat in this open doorway, perhaps having a cigarette. I shuddered, dreading what would happen if she turned around. Perhaps she would say hello! And then, what would I do? I would have no other choice than to say hello back!

I stood, gripped in the claws of a vicious dilemma!

Finally, I found the toilet - it was, indeed, but a small niche in the wall, which led into another niche.
There was a lady there.
I looked to the wall for a sign: there was no sign.
It was a unisex toilet. Or was it?
"Er... um... oooh" I muttered in a quavering voice. "Is this the guy's toilet?"
"I don't know. It might be." said the lady, (in tones surely portending some horrible fate). She wiped her hands on a paper towel and walked past me.
What sort of a toilet was this?

I stood, gripped in the (etc, etc, etc)!

I fumbled my way inwards and closed the door, putting the lock on. I stared down at the toilet. It stared up at me. Was this, indeed, one of those men's toilets, the ones that I had been accustomed to dealing with over the long years, or something else entirely?

I think I thought the toilet was going to attack me. What would I do if that happened? Have you ever been attacked by a toilet? Has anyone you know ever been attacked by a toilet? If such an eventuality did happen, I was surely doomed!

(Stood, claws, vicious dilemma, etc)


Minutes later I struggled out of the niche in the wall. My hands may or may not have been dirty. My eyes could or could not have been wild. My hair was possibly, or possibly was not, unkempt. I may or may not have been dripping with water. I went back to the table at the front of the cafe where L and L were waiting for me.

"Did you enjoy your cake?" said the waitress.

I sat, gripped in the claws of a vicious dilemma!

Monday, May 14, 2007

One person Freudian word association


A Review of two Marx Brothers films

(Delivered in the form of a running commentary during the film by the dude sitting behind me and two seats across. )

Hur hur hur. Hur hur hur hur hur hur hur hur hur hur. Yeah. Hur hur hur hur hur hur hur hur hur hur hur. That was awesome. Hur hur hur. Yeah. Yeah. Hur. That was awesome. Yeah. That was awesome.

Coincidentally, this is also the running commentary the dude uses while he is
a) Reading a book
b) Watching television
c) Doing the dishes
d) Having a bath
e) Having sex (etc, etc, etc)

As for me, I quite enjoyed them.

Sunday, May 13, 2007

Coming soon, to an ocular pleasure parlour near me!

Off to the movies tonight to see two splendid Marx Brothers films, At The Circus and A Night At The Opera. Now that's Marxism I can relate to!

And I want to thank you for all of the enjoyment you've taken out of it.

Before I speak, I have something important to say.

Wives are people who feel they don't dance enough.


One of my favourite writers, S J Perelman, was a writer for two Marx Brothers films, 'Monkey Business' and 'Horse Feathers'. This is what Groucho had to say about one of his books:
The minute I picked up your book, I was convulsed with laughter. Someday I intend reading it.
(Groucho Marx)

A child of five would understand this. Send someone to fetch a child of five.

I married your mother because I wanted children. Imagine my disappointment when you arrived.

I've got the brain of a four year old. I'll bet he was glad to be rid of it.

I'm not a Marxist, but once I used to play chess against a guy called Marks. That doesn't count, does it?

Saturday, May 12, 2007

Office Worker Blues

This one's for all the office workers in the audience.

They're people you run into
On a city street -
Your eyes meet and you say hello but
It's not as if you meet.

It's the office worker blues,
Yeah, the office worker blues.

They're people you sit two seats away
From on a crowded train -
You'd like to say 'Hi. How are things?
Let's go walking in the rain.'
You don't of course. And though
Your train stop is the same
They take the alleyway to work,
You take the lane.

It's the office worker blues,
Yeah, the office worker blues.

They're people make you think of things
You'd like to do and say
Not that things would go too far, of course,
But you'd like to anyway.

It's the office worker blues,
Yeah, the office worker blues.

Because your work life is your work life is your work life
And you both remain
Work mates who who aren't real mates
But sometimes share a carriage
on the train.

It's the office worker blues,
Yeah, the office worker blues.

Perhaps your eyes will meet
Some day across a file
And without knowing it you'll
Either laugh or smile
Like holidayers waving
Across a lonely mile.

It's the office worker blues,
Yeah, the office worker blues.

A Bracing Statement of Authorial Intent

Lynne Truss's book Eats, Shoots & Leaves opens with a bracing statement of authorial intent:

People who use the apostrophe incorrectly should be fucking destroyed.

Well, no. To be fair, Truss uses slightly more invective:

People who use the apostrophe incrorrectly are fucking arseholes and I sodding well say that they should sodding well be hung, drawn, quartered, run over by wild horses, garotted, shot, and destroyed.

These subtle inflexions, I think you'll agree, change the meaning in small but important ways.

It is interesting to think about the career of Truss before the publication of Eats, Shoots & Leaves. Born in the rough neighbourhood of Kingston Upon Thames, she was educated in the mean streets of Tiffin Girls' School, where she learned the ladylike arts of assassin, ninja, commando, and, during a brief but memorable excursion as a school-girl to Cuba during the revolution, paramilitary fighter. 'It was in these formative years,' Truss writes, 'That I learned the way punctuation could influence things in simple, everyday life: for instance, the throwing of Molotov cocktails, fighting against the enemy in the street, and so on.' She goes on to cite an interesting example of a telegram she received from Castro:

'The fascist's centre must be eliminated!'

As Truss points out, when she was attending a tea party with Fidel later, she discovered that the dictator had mistakenly put the apostrophe in the wrong place and, as a result, Truss had directed all her paramilitary efforts at the elimination of one fascist centre; Castro had meant to refer to fascists in plural. 'It was from this time onwards,' writes Truss, 'That I saw that Castro was no better than any of the other abusers of the apostrophe out there. I was utterly disgusted.'
Seeing through the wily old Cuban's public persona, Truss returned, disillusioned, to London, where she established herself as a local hooligan, and quickly rose through the ranks of social class to become chief thug in a local band of vigilante sub-editors who worked for The Times.
When Truss began work on Eats, Shoots & Leaves, she drew inspiration from a charming anecdote her uncle told about an armed and dangerous Panda in a London restaurant. 'If only we could all learn to be like that Panda!' Truss wrote in a letter to a friend and fellow anarchist in late 2002.

Truss's approach to grammar in this book is nothing if not original. In the first 60 pages, she outlines her plans for an 'Armed Vigilante Squad of Grammar Defenders' to roam the streets with balaclavas, batons, truncheons, clubs, swords, and red pens, in order to enforce what she calls 'A New Grammatical World Order'. The scheme is set out in some detail, complete with suggestions about what to do if captured by 'Those ungrammatical fascists in the police force.' She also offers vivid examples from her own experience: at one point, she tells how she encountered a shopkeeper erecting a sign with a comma splice in his own window.

I rammed his sodding head right through that window repeatedly, until he begged me, tears streaming down his face, to forgive him. He cried out to the heavens that he would never splice a comma again, and more: that he would always ensure, from now on, that not a hyphen, no, not even an em dash or en dash would be out of place. 'You'd better not be kidding me, sunshine', I told him, there and then.

Apart from giving several original suggestions for parsing incorrect grammar, Truss also adds the words 'defenestrated', 'decimate', 'rampage' and 'spiflicated' to the grammarians lexicon.

However, the fundamental attractiveness in this book lies in Truss's typical English reticence:

When occasion demands, I can never decide if those people who use double quote marks instead of single quote marks should be thrown into the lions' den, or run over by wild horses. I usually listen to my heart.

Eats, Shoots & Leaves is a well-written book with considerable charm and much to recommend it. However, I fear that I must point out that in the concluding chapter of the book, in which Truss publishes a list of grammar offenders, there is a misplaced period. This error has been reported to a local squad of grammatical panda bears, and they are currently sending out a deputation to discuss matters with Ms Truss.

Nevertheless, this is an important and edifying work that is well worth buying. Four out of five stars.

Friday, May 11, 2007

The Horse Is Sick

I'm reading Lynne Trusse's Eats, Shoots & Leaves at the moment (a review is probably coming up) and here's one of the things she has to say about commas:
Now, here's a funny thing. When the interruption to the sentence comes at the beginning or the end, the grammatical rule of commas-in-pairs still applies, even if you can only see one of them. Thus:
Of course, there weren't enough tickets to go round.
is, from the grammatical point of view, the same as:
There weren't enough tickets, of course, to go round.
as well as:
There weren't enough tickets to go round, of course.
For the grammar fetishists out there, I have taken the liberty of penning the following poem for you to punctuate as you see fit. I've put in three full-stops, but commas and semi-colons and ems and ens and what-not have been left out. Punctuate away!

But Off Course

A horse is a horse of course of course
Of course a horse is of course a horse
A horse is of course a horse off course
Except when that horse is a horse on course.

A hoarse horse of course is hoarse on course
An off course hoarse horse of course is hoarse off course
But of course the cause of the off course hoarse horse
Is the taking the on course horse off of course.

A horse is a horse of course of course
Except when they say that horse is Mr Ed
And of course a horse is neither an on course nor an off course horse
If that horse is of course a horse that is dead
So take your hoarse horse off course of course
And put the poor bastard to bed.

Thursday, May 10, 2007

"Testing, Testing, 1, 2, 3 ..."

Fiddling around with templates. Do not be alarmed if your computer starts flashing weird colours at you, jumps up and down, or attacks the postman.

Don't want to change things too much; that would be weird and uncomfortable. But at least I've got lower case in the titles now. Those upper-case titles were really starting to tick me off. It's like some idiot screaming at your face all day, every day. Also, umlauts! I will die a little happier, knowing that I have achieved what some people only dream of - having a blog where you can use umlauts.

The quote-generator will be back in a few days, hopefully.

UPDATE! - The links are here! Now if someone can just tell me how to get this blog to accept html tags, or, alternatively, how to do links in this new weird XTML language...


From the moment he got up in the morning he felt it: a great, groaning, churning, tightening, feeling in his stomach.

He needed to parse.

He could barely even begin tgo look on his breakfast, let alone eat it. The cornflakes seemed to morph into a gigantic mess of punctuation: commas, ticks, ampersands and semi-colons. He shoved it away. He swallowed down repeated waves of nauseau, never seeming to get anywhere.

He needed to parse.

It did not feel good.

Walking to work, he was overcome with a sudden rush of dizziness. He grabbed on to the telephone pole and closed his eyes and started to breathe in, in great rasping breaths. He felt like a sentence that went on and on and on and on and on without a proper ending or division or even a brief respite.


Work was horrible. Weary and haggard, he staggered from task to task, nightmarish images banging around in his brain of Nazis and demons that morphed into armies of clauses and hyphens and parenthesis and dashes, all arrayed against him in fearsome forces, all incorrect. The flocked around him, surrounded him, engulfed him, in a great black mass. He felt himself being torn apart by them: HE SCREAMED! Then he opened his eyes.
God, what was wrong with him? Oh, yes...

He needed to PARSE!

On his hands and knees he crawled home. He could barely think anymore, let alone breathe:

he needed to parse.

he NEEDED to parse!

he needed TO PARSE...


H.E. N.E.E.D.E.D. T.O. P.A.R.S.E.

HE needed TO parse?

He Needed To Parse

he needed to parse:

'he needed T.O. PARSE'



Then it came! Just when he least expected it - SUDDEN SALVATION! A white writing pad, peeking out of the top of a rubbish bin: he did not know why, but he knew that it would become the instrument of his relief. He drew nearer: closer: it was his!
Casting his rheumy eye over it, he gleefully saw pages and pages of the most horrendous, ungrammatical text ever written.


It came in waves, slowly at first, and then in great chunks: with his red pen, he ticked, drew in commas, scribbed out others. And then, in one great gushing roar*, he parsed one page, and then another, and then another, flipping madly through the reams of paper, parsing everything in site once, twice, thrice, four times, in a cathartic frenzy! Parse, parse, parse, parse - would it all ever be parsed and done with? Finally, he was done; and weeping, he collapsed to the ground, swooning.

The ambulance officers found him there hours later. They shook their heads. Another life: wasted.

MORAL: Parse once every morning. It's safer that way.

*Sound-effects: in real life, parsing may be less dramatic.

Breaking News

Reading through an Australian Postcode Book just for larks (don't we all?) I noticed that, in Queensland, there is a Mount Debatable.

So called, presumably, because there's still argument over whether it's a mountain or just a large mass of earth.

Mount Debatable, or Mass Debatable: the ongoing argument.

You heard it here first, folks!

Wednesday, May 09, 2007

Gorillas In The Must

Next weekend, I'll be launching myself into the wilds of Victoria and heading off to the goldfields town of Clunes for this book fair-thing*.

Personally, being caught between gigantic tottering piles of mouldering tomes, fusty old antiquarian book sellers, and the occasional wild beast**, I doubt I'll survive. But we'll see how it goes.

* Book fair-thing = Book fair.

Wild beast = If the gorillas don't get me, the rednecks will.

Budget Fails Crucial Joe Smith Test

"This budget is all well and good," says Joe Smith of Reynard Street Coburg, "But where's my ten million dollars?"

He's right. In this year's budget, you'll find billions of dollars channelled into health, education, water, energy, and defence, but not one cent has been spent on the vital Joe Smith of Reynard Street Coburg Fund. All over Australia, Joe Smith of Reynard Street Coburg is suffering from this fatal oversight by the Australian Government, but especially in Reynard Street Coburg.

Come to think of it, I didn't get ten million dollars from the Australian Government either. And did you get ten million dollars from the Australian Government? I didn't think so.

Essentially, this blows a hole right through the Government's calculations. If only they had thought of providing ten million dollars for you, me, and Joe Smith of Reynard Street Coburg then everything would have been all right. But nooooooooo, they didn't.

Budget, indeed. This bird could have balanced the books better.

Raymond Chandler

Slight words from tight lips,
And tough ones from rough ones;
Loose lips will sink ships,
And red ones make dead ones.

Flint-hearts have glint-eyes,
Neurotics are mousy;
Dime joints are crime joints,
And hotels are lousy.

Tuesday, May 08, 2007

But Wait! There's Less!

Caz has a great link to an item that you never knew you didn't want, the Mouse Mouse.

In a breaking story that is guaranteed not to be broken elsewhere, I can reveal that the Mouse Mouse is only one in a planned series of new items!

The Verbal Tic - not only does this marvellous parasite suck your blood and inject paralysing toxins into your nerves, it will also recite Does this shop stock silk socks with spots?, The boy stood on the burning deck, and Lycurgus of Sparta's speeches, (complete, unabridged and in the original Greek) when asked.

Slightly Venomous Door Snake - this highly-trained piece of innocuous furniture will keep the cold draughts out at night as well as attack unwanted visitors/flatmates upon your order!

Gay Poof - a beanbag chair that will criticise your shoes, admire the inner decor of your flat, has a secret fetish for purple wall-lining, and would just loooove to talk about the men in your life, daaaaaaarling.

Couch-Potato Couches - Seats that won't let you sit down in them because they're too busy lying down in themselves and watching Couch Football shows on the television. You'll block the view, man.

Armed Armchair - Armchairs that are into weapons training and members of local paramilitary organisation.

Frigid Fridge - It doesn't want to store your food tonight. It's not sure whether it will store your food tomorrow night. It doesn't want to talk about it. It washed its hair. It has a headache. Why don't you ever talk to it? It's the frigid fridge!

Spooning Spoons - As soon as you shut the kitchen drawer on these spoons, they take all their clothes off and start cuddling!

Smoke Alarm Alert - Now you can be alarmed in advance by this handy alert! Just before you Smoke Alarm starts squawking for no reason at all, the Smoke Alarm Alert will alert you to the alarm you are about to experience! Also, why not purchase our Smoke Alarm Alert Alarm, our Smoke Alarm Alert Alarm Alarm, and our Smoke Alarm Alert Alarm Alarm Alarm. They are guaranteed to give 24-hour alert and alarm coverage to the alarm you are about to feel (or at least, would be about to feel if you weren't already feeling it) by the coming alarm!
You need never be unalarmed again!

Toilet Sausage Roll Holder - Essential for all carnivores, omnivores, or sausagevores sitting on the toilet, the Toilet Sausage Roll Holder caters to that when you're sitting on the toilet and discover that you're hungry. Satisfy your disgusting cravings straight away with the Toilet Sausage Roll Holder!

Sunday, May 06, 2007

Kodak Picture Machine And Juliet - A Minimalist Modern Tragedy

A Proposed Miniseries


JULIET: (In voiceover, as images flick by on the screen of her and Kodak Picture Machine at university, drinking together at parties, etc) We were young, we were passionate - perhaps we were too hasty. But I felt myself drawn to Kodak Picture Machine from very early on...

(Scene change: Juliet's house. The Rolling Stones are playing in the background, and Juliet and Kodak Picture Machine are sitting on Juliet's couch, kissing passionately)

JULIET: Oh Kodak Picture Machine! I don't think I've ever felt this way about a man before! But do you think we're taking things a litte too fast?

KODAK PICTURE MACHINE: Share and enjoy your pictures with everyone you know!

JULIET: Kodak Picture Machine! Are you really suggesting what I think you're suggesting?

KODAK PICTURE MACHINE: Everyone you know!

JULIET: Kodak Picture Machine - I like it!

(They both kiss and collapse onto the couch. There is a whirring sound, and a CD rolls from out of the depths of Kodak Picture Machine and into the dispatch box)

KODAK PICTURE MACHINE: Share and enjoy your pictures with everyone you know!


JULIET: (Voiceover) With Kodak Picture Machine, I went farther than I had with anyone else.
(Scene dissolves to an image of a double bed. Beneath the sheets there is a fair deal of rustling.)

JULIET: Oh! KPM, I never knew you could do...

KODAK PICTURE MACHINE: Enjoy! Enjoy! Enjoy! Enjoy! Enjoy! You! You! You! You! You! Enjoy! Enjoy! Enjoy! Enjoy!

(There is the whirring sound of pictures being developed and printed)

JULIET: Yes! Yes! Yes! Oh!

Kodak Picture Machine, that was soooo good!

(Both emerge from under the sheets, Juliet's arms around Kodak Picture Machine)

KODAK PICTURE MACHINE: Share and enjoy your pictures with everyone you know!

JULIET: Yes, me too, Kodak Picture Machine!

KODAK PICTURE MACHINE: Enjoy everyone you know!

JULIET: *Gasps* Are you suggesting...

KODAK PICTURE MACHINE: Share everyone you enjoy!

JULIET: (Stroking his metallic surface) You are...

KODAK PICTURE MACHINE: Enjoy everyone you share! Enjoy everyone you know!

(Close up of Juliet looking extremely thoughtful)


(Fade in to double bed, same shot of rustling sheets, etc. Various voices come from beneath the cover)

VOICE 1: Oh!

VOICE 2: Yes!

VOICE 3: Wonderful!

VOICE 4: Yeah, baby, yeah!

ALL: Yes! Wow! Give it to me! Ah! Oooh! Yeah! (etc, etc.)

KODAK PICTURE MACHINE: Share! Enjoy! Pictures with everyone you know! (Frantic sound of pictures being printed, disks being burned, etc) Share and enjoy your pictures with everyone you know!

JULIET: Oh, KPM, you're not a man - you're a machine!


ALL: Whew, that was great, wonderful, yeehaw, exhausting, I love you guys, (etc).

KODAK PICTURE MACHINE: Enjoy everyone you know!

JULIET: And so did I, honey... so did I!

(After a pause)

BILL CLINTON: Can I have some icecream?

(Fade out)


(Juliet is sitting on the beach in a bikini, with her arms around Kodak Picture Machine, who is sipping a daiquiri)

JULIET: Oh, Kodak Picture Machine - this has been so lovely - and now that we've decided to tie the knot - who are we going to invite to our little ceremony?

KODAK PICTURE MACHINE: Everyone you know?

JULIET: Are you sure?


(They kiss passionately)


(TEXT: Several years later...)

(Scene: toddler boy and girl are fighting over a toy)

BOY: (Clutching toy) Enjoy!

GIRL: (Pulling at toy) Share!


GIRL: No, it's MINE!


KODAK PICTURE MACHINE: Share and enjoy! Enjoy and share! Share and enjoy with everyone you know!

(Reluctantly the boy gives the fluffy toy over to the girl and they start playing peacefully)


(Fade to: Kitchen table, where an older boy and girl are sitting, doing their homework)

GIRL: Daddy - English is hard! What's a preposition?


BOY: Daddy - how do you turn a noun into a verb?


GIRL: Daddy - what's the difference between hieroglyphics and the Phoenican Alphabet?


BOY: Daddy - what's Italian for one?


GIRL: Oh, Daddy - is there anything you don't know?



KODAK PICTURE MACHINE: Share and enjoy your pictures with everyone you know!

(Cut to Juliet, sitting alone in the bedroom, weeping softly over pictures of her and Kodak Picture Machine and the children at the circus)


(Juliet and Kodak Picture Machine are standing by the road, waving, as their children hop on the bus for school. As soon as the bus leaves, Juliet turns to Kodak Picture Machine.)

JULIET: Kodak Picture Machine! You know, we just can't go on fighting like this! It could just be time to...


JULIET: We just can't anymore, Kodak Picture Machine!


JULIET: Oh, we've had some good times together, Kodak Picture Machine - but they're over now! All we do is fight!


JULIET: Kodak Picture Machine, we'll always have the memories. You know we will.

KODAK PICTURE MACHINE: Share and enjoy your pictures with everyone you know!

(Juliet turns away from Kodak Picture Machine so he can't see the tears in her eyes.)

KODAK PICTURE MACHINE: Know! Know! Know! Share and enjoy your pictures with everyone you know!


(Kodak Picture Machine stands alone in front of the bathroom mirror. A dry razor sits on the sink, and hot water runs endlessly out of the tap into the plughole).

KODAK PICTURE MACHINE: Share and enjoy! Share and enjoy! Share and enjoy! Share and enjoy! Share and enjoy! Share and enjoy! Share and enjoy! Share and enjoy!

(Each time he repeats this phrase, another photograph of him and Juliet sitting together at the beach clicks into the box at his bottom. A camera close up on this box reveals that he must have done this hundreds of times).

KODAK PICTURE MACHINE: Share and enjoy! Share and enjoy! Share and enjoy! Share and enjoy! Share and enjoy! Share and enjoy! Share and enjoy! Share and enjoy!


(Kodak Picture Machine stands alone at the top of a cliff. In a desolate voice, he says what any man (or machine) would say in such a situation).

KODAK PICTURE MACHINE: Share and enjoy your pictures with everyone you know!


Saturday, May 05, 2007

Rhymes For Poems About Anxiety

Set your minds at disease. As a public service, I would like to offer several rhymes for use by poets who are writing about anxiety, or anxious poets (either way is good).





Fred Schiepsi






cinema foyer


multiple personality disorder




science fiction


of course

No need to thank, happy to do it.

Spenserian Spelling Of the Day


Sample Sentence: Courtemanche, get your finger out of your nosethril. How many times do I have to tell you? If there's going to be any nosethril picking, then the servants will do it.


While I'm waiting for my New Yorker subscriptions to arrive (they're currently over a week late, and if I don't get at least one on Monday I'm going to dash off an angry email to them), I got a copy of my favourite Tory mag, The Spectator, to amuse myself. The editorial itself is awful - about rubbish collection in local English councils - and full of crazy lines like -

... landfill produces huge quantities of methane, a greenhouse gas 23 times more damaging to the climate than the emission of carbon dioxide from fossil fuels. We need to dump less and recycle more.

Aside from the bizarrely exact claim that methane is '23 times more damaging to the climate than... carbon dioxide' (where did they get these figures from? Since climate science is so full of unknowns anyway, how can you say that so-and-so is '23 times more damaging' than such-and-such and be trusted?), you also have to wonder whether recycling, which is rather energy intensive, wouldn't end up expending a whole heap of carbon dioxide anyway. Frankly, I'd prefer an all-out polemic against global warming rather than this squeamish Tory acquiescence to the idea.

Anyway, it gets better. Charles Moore has a wonderful weekly column, 'The Spectators Notes', headed by a picture of a fox scratching itself outside the door of the Spectator's office in Old Queen Street.

I have always been very sorry that I offended Terry Major-Ball, who died last week, by referring to his brother John Major as 'the son of a failed trapeze artist'. As the Daily Telegraph obituary reported, Mr Major-Ball rang me up at home to complain, but instead found my wife, who charmed him out of his wrath so successfully that he went on ringing her quite often for a year or two. Once or twice I took the call myself, and Terry and I made it up.

Patrick Marnham has an outrageous piece of French-bashing about their presidential elections that begins thusly:

Every nation has its rituals. In Britain, when the head of state opens a flower show, she drives up, alights, puts on her spectacles and reads her speech. But Britain is an anachronistic monarchy. In the Fifth Republic they order things differently. First the police close the surrounding streets 24 hours earlier. Then uniformed workers with security clearance erect scaffolding and a stage. Then they drape the stage in crimson velvet and hang up an escutcheon and nail down a red carpet. And finally a police van drives up with sniffer dogs and a throne - an authentic, gilded, high-backed bronze-encrusted fauteuil straight from the repository of the Elysee Palace - and thye dogs sniff and the throne is carried out of the presidential van and placed reverently in front of the attendant microphone.

Now I'm sure the sniffer dogs are out in force in Britain too, but that detail about the throne is fantastic. Vive la France bashing!

The arts pages are great, opening with a fascinating piece about London's empty houses (the owners buy them up and then don't live in them while waiting for the market prices to rise). Charles Moore, mentioned above, also writes interestingly about 'The bicentenary of the Literary Society', even if the first five paragraphs, virtually, consist of shameless name dropping.

There's also Deborah Ross who, writing about film, somehow manages not to write about film:

I always, for example, weigh myself while holding on to the sink, which is actually a good idea as otherwise I'd probably be fat).

And Jeremy Clarke - the best columnist on board, in the absence of Boris Johnson:

Sharon's hugs are either dismissively cursory or it's like being caught in the death grip of a predatory spider. It depends entirely on how much she's had to drink. Either way it's amazing how insubstantial she is for somebody who has such a devastating effect on civil society.

And the competitions page has a neat variation on Kafka - readers have been 'invited to submit a piece of prose describing what happens when you wake up one morning to find yourself transformed into an insect but not a beetle. Beetles were outlawed so that you weren't scribbling quite so much in Kafka's shadow.' Perhaps proving that the secret of a magazine's success lies in the intelligence and wit of its readers, the answers are marvellous:

Next thing I'm waking up as a sodding flea!

... a female ant. Which means apparently that for no good reason and without my consent I've been plunged into a kind of primitive male-supremacist hell, where I do nothing but work while the blokes spend their time fertilising the queen.... now I'm just part of an eusocial superorganism...

Great stuff. And I haven't even got to the Dear Mary column yet. Is it just me, though, or does the magazine seem a little adrift in the absence of Boris Johnson as editor? Granted, it was always ridiculous to have an editor/feature writer on staff who was not only a Tory minister, but who also started having it off with members of the staff. But he was also a brilliant literary talent. I think the Tories have a lot to answer for in stealing Boris from that magazine and shoving him in the face of the public as a politician, the bastards!
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