Monday, June 29, 2009

Oxford Dictionary, first addition edition

gloomph (a, n) 1. Putting an excessive amount of personal effort into becoming depressed. 2. The effort thus deployed.

eg "He's watching a lot of Buffy lately. He's full of gloomph." "At first she was full of spirits and good cheer. But she put a good deal of gloomph into it, so that after reading Sartre's Nauseau for a fifth time, she took to bed and didn't rise up for days."

Sunday, June 28, 2009

Stuff about things, and other very specific examples of current affairs reportage

I vaguely recall reading, some years ago, a little truism that people who read stuff about things in the newspaper were more likely to remember that stuff than people who watched the television. It's a truism that is undoubtedly true, because if I had heard the same thing on television, I might be telling you now that people who read the newspaper remembered more things about stuff than stuff about things. And what I told you wouldn't be telling you much.

I recalled this factoid the other day when I was reading some of the headlines over at the ABC 7.30 Report website. 'Expert warns more tough times ahead for the US' opined one headline - a statement which is true, but which is even worse than that - it's obvious. Or how about this one? 'Young sailor prepares to set sail.' Clearly, the writers for the 7.30 Report had a powerful ability to write things that we would have been able to guess anyway. From reading the transcription of the programs, I might be able to find out the facts of a particular story - but, as anyone could tell you, facts are often the least necessary necessity of the journalistic profession.

If I was going to learn anything new from the news, I might have to go back to the things most unique to the television - the images. Last night, I sat down in front of the ABC news, and did an accurate transcription of the images. Why not? After all, I transcribe words for a living, I had a crack at cat transcription last week, and I even once transcribed the sounds of my flatmate, B. (now former*) at his computer. It would be interesting, I thought, to see what I would learn. And, as it turned out, the thing I was going to learn would be that I would learn things.

In today's breaking news, a house continued to stay put in the ground today. However, elsewhere, an ambulance urgently rushed to a place right in front of the camera, possibly because an important looking man had his face being attacked by a sea of living microphones. A photograph of a man then appeared, which clearly indicated that it (either the photograph or the man,I'm not sure) was deeply concerned with this outbreak of killer microphones. Then there were several more pictures of a man in sunglasses, a truck that wasn't doing much, some dancing people, and an important man in a tie, who was clearly announcing to everyone the important news that he was wearing a tie.

While it is still not known how widespread the killer microphone pandemic is, it's potential impact on the importance of men wearing important ties could be potentially devastating, especially for all those houses that continue to stay put in the ground in spite of the presence of a camera.

Turning to international, domestic, political, economical, military, or historical news, several men struck poses in front of the camera with guns. Then there was a picture of a house, with men walking around it. In the next shot, the house was pulled apart by a truck, which would have been of clear concern to all houses standing still for no reason at all. However, the men, now without their guns, talked unconcernedly among themselves, following which the guns struck a pose for the camera on their oown.

I'm not sure what this story was about actually, but clearly it will be of great concern to the people who are greatly concerned by such things. However, the gun fashion parade was of great success and all guns deserve to be congratulated for the part they played.

This next story appeared to be a power-rock ballad in disguise, since it began with a shot of two people walking barefoot along an empty beach, and continued that way for some time. In breaking developments, lots of people were also standing around in a tent, while an important looking man in glasses was attacked by a large furry microphone. While the plight of important looking men in glasses being sacrificed to savage microphones on deserted beaches by sicko sacrificial death cults remains an ongoing probem in power rock ballads, ships continued to sail about on the harbour in an unconcerned manner.

Shockingly, I was shocked.

This news did not fall into the political, entertainment or sports categories - it fell into a whole other category. Kitten news. First, there was a picture of two kittens, then of one kitten, and then of three more kittens. Men and women are clearly different from kittens, and that's what the next two camera shots established. However, the important thing is that kittens like chasing balls of string and sitting in boxes, as the next shot demonstrated. People reacted to these important developments in the kitten community by standing around and talking, and doing various other things. However, despite these positive signs in the world of kittens, reporters still like walking in front of the camera, talking, and opening and closing their hands in a way that they think makes them look authoritative, but makes them look rather nervous and silly, really.

Nevertheless, the important lesson to be taken away from all these unfolding events is that kittens are cute.

In late breaking news, there was a shot of rats in cages, and then a picture of a person standing in front of the camera. Then there were pictures of people in front of various torture instruments, like an old man in front of a gigantic meat-grinder, and another old man repeatedly banging his groin into a metal instrument along a straight piece of metal. There were more shots of people, and then another one of a rat, and then another one of dancing old people.

Clearly, old people are being harvested for food by evil rats with gigantic throbbing brains and huge intellects.


It was on that positive and uplifting news that we went to the sports and I switched off. It's always best to end with a whacky animal story, I find.

*I mean former flatmate, not former B.

Saturday, June 27, 2009

Melbourne, city of parking lots

"So how do you like Melbourne?" he asked.
"Very much," I replied into the mobile. "It's a beautiful city. For instance, at the moment I'm passing by a really nice little parking lot."

It was a particularly prescient conversation. Melbourne truly is the city of the parking lot. Federation Square makes little sense as architecture or as a public gathering place, but a couple of times every year I've walked past it and seen motorbikes or designer cars parked in it. It does, at least, serve as a decent parking lot. My own flat affords two exceptionally attractive views: to the west, of the corrugated iron rooftops of Thornbury; and to the east, of a particularly ravishing cement-fringed parking lot, including an empty space for the provision of my own car (which I don't have).

And, just the other night, as I was walking through the Carlton Gardens, and past the grand vistas of the Royal Exhibition Building, and thinking how bizarrely triumphant and statuesque it all looked, I couldn't help but notice that it, too, had a spacious car park right around it: you'd never find that at the Palace of Versailles. It felt oddly reassuring: it kept the building down to earth.

Melbourne truly is a fine city for anyone who wishes to park their car. Perhaps you, stranger, in time will come to Melbourne, too, and find a place to park your car.

Sing a song of internet...

The internet, described and summarised, in nineteen lines

This is the internet. Tim has a blog.
John uses Facebook, Twitter, and MySpace.
Jo mostly puts up pictures of her dog.

Jay thinks that she might give her site a flog.
She makes a comment over at John's place.
This is the internet. Tim has a blog.

John says that Jay is just a comment hog.
Kay says John's comments are a huge disgrace.
Jo mostly puts up pictures of her dog.

Jay says that John should just get off the grog.
John says that Kay should say it to his face.
This is the internet. Tim has a blog.

Kym sends a link to Polly and BigBob.
They all join in the comments and give chase.
Jo mostly puts up pictures of her dog.

Confusion falls upon them like a fog.
They shout and sob. It is a woeful case.
This is the internet. Tim has a blog.
Jo mostly puts up pictures of her dog.

Friday, June 26, 2009

Rumours of Jeff Goldblum's life faked

It has been revealed that Hollywood actor Jeff Goldblum, who recently fell victim to fake death notices in the press, has also been subject to a number of hoax life notices in past years.

"Rumours of my life have been greatly exaggerated!" laughs the unliving, non-dead Jeff Goldblum, when contacted over the phone for details.

Goldblum, a non-existent entity currently residing in New Zealand while he shoots his latest film, is now ready to reveal the full details about his lack of existence, which he "did not encourage, but was happy to let pass without comment for the sake of my acting career."

Others in the film industry who have worked with the faked Goldblum, confirm he does not really exist.

"It's true," says one, an actor who does exist, but wishes to remain anonymous for the sake of his reputation. "When I first started work with Jeff, I thought he was just going to be an ordinary guy. But it turns out he wasn't there. I mean, when he arrived on the set, there was just this, kind of... lack where he was. Just a name without a body. You know what I mean?"

Another long-time friend of the non-existent Goldblum adds, "He was very nice about it. Not existing, I mean. Love scenes were always the hardest. I mean, here was this actress trying to passionately kiss a non-existent, but very famous, film actor - trying to make love with a guy who, well, just isn't there. It's only when we looked at the camera shots afterwards that Jeff somehow just, well, appeared. He was professional like that. A real gentleman."

[INSIDE: Goldblum speaks out at last about the long life in the acting profession that he hasn't led.]

Extensive investigations by this blog indicate that Goldblum may not be the only Hollywood actor who doesn't exist. Other potential unliving, non-dead actors may include Danny de Vito, Hilary Duff, and Winona Ryder. Harrison Ford, also a recent victim of the fake death notices, is in fact an elaborate hoax by Hans Solo, who has for the past 30 years been hiding out in this galaxy, far far away from the planet of Quazumi, owing to a dispute with a Xernuxian trader over a box of Zalbrunian snuff.

Thursday, June 25, 2009

You can do everything that's legal, except for the things that you can't do

Shock news of the day is this: tobacco companies are allowed to do things that are legal.

SIMON CHAPMAN: In Australia and every other country in the world tobacco is a product which literally is unregulated. You can put really anything you want that's legal in a tobacco product and not have to be accountable to anybody.

I mean, wow. Fancy that! Being allowed to do things that are legal! There ought to be a law against doing legal things before people get harmed. From now on, the only things done should be illegal.

When they're not boldly speaking out against the dangers of people irresponsibly acting in accordance with the law, anti-smoking groups are also wanting to censor entire words from the lexicon:
Anti-smoking campaign group Quit says the colloquial name of a work break should be changed from 'smoko' to 'quito'.

Quit executive director Fiona Sharkie says fewer than one in five adults smoke, and the term is no longer relevant.
It reminds me of the modest efforts by McDonalds to edit the Oxford Dictionary.

Wednesday, June 24, 2009

Zippy the Zilchead

This entire attack is based on a fake, a fraud, a fabrication, and in fact a forgery... - Kevin Rudd

Zip, zero and none... Kevin Rudd

Rudd's tone oscillates between injured innocence and earnest self-importance, but he never uses one word when a dozen might muffle his point... - Tony Abbott
Has anyone noticed how the Prime Minister has an odd habit of repeating, enumerating, and reiterating the one point in several words, phrases, synonyms? Is the Prime Minister alert, aware, and cognisant of this fact, and does he further understand, realise, and know that this tic of his doesn't necessarily make his point any more worth making? Really, this habit of the Prime Minister's is becoming more infuriating, insane, and insipid every time we hear it.

Perhaps the Prime Minister will be aware of a certain character type,: the sort of person who starts, initiates, and prefaces all their statements with phrases like 'honestly', 'to be frank', 'to be blunt'. In fact, he will be quite close, intimate, and trusting with a certain Minister in his Cabinet who repeatedly says things like 'Let me be up front', 'What I have always said is this', 'Our position is perfectly clear'. This conversational eccentricity, peculiarity, oddity is usually the symbol of a man who wants to give the impression of being perfectly open and honest without being perfectly open and honest: the Prime Minister would surely accede, agree, assent to this point. And yet, how different, distinct, and separate from this is the related Prime Ministerial habit of mindlessly repeating the one point in several different phrases?

Quite aside from anything else, it is inefficient - this waste, this idleness, this thriftlessness; it is a misuse of language, the lexicon, the dictionary. If the Prime Minister is going to use long strings of nouns or verbs to convey his political position, then the least he could do would be to deploy language in order to clarify, expound, expand, and elaborate. Language could be used elegantly to describe, then detail, then debate a particular point, before simply, smoothly, and swiftly moving on to another one. If this is a rhetorical technique on the part of the Prime Minister - and I suppose we can see it as a rhetorical technique, if we look at it in the right way - then it should at least merit some more care and attention in its use.

If this all seems a little vague, and rather artistic to the stern, practical eye of our Prime Minister, perhaps, instead, he could try something a little different: after having made a point, perhaps he could proceed by a series of contradictions? 'Zero, zip, zilch, a bit, something, somewhat, everything, a plenitude, all.' This simple expedient would allow the Prime Minister to state two opposing political positions, both of which contrarily contrarian positions he will undoubtedly be able to hold at some point during his political career. Alternatively, instead of confining the Prime Ministerial language to monosyllabic alliterative phrases ('zero, zip'; 'nothing, nada'; 'a fraud, a fake'), perhaps his Premierness could take a leaf out of the abecedarian hymn book, and begin each synonym with a new letter of the alphabet: 'Amazing', 'Brilliant', 'Classic', etc - working his way, by gradual degrees, to 'WTF', 'XLNT', 'Yowzers', and 'Zany'!

After all, anything would be better than the current phrasebook that the Prime Minister has on offer, which is becoming ridiculous, serious, dull.

Monday, June 22, 2009

Sort-of David versus not-quite Goliath

I am normally indifferent to sport, and the most physical activity that I typically indulge in is my daily power sit in the couch with a book for weight-lifting purposes. But today, over the course of about twenty minutes, I witnessed a sport that had my dander up, my blood fiercely pounding through my veins, and my entire body tensed and trembling with expectation and elation. It was a sport that would have required the combined talents of a race caller, a football commentator, a boxing journalist, a live rally-car compere, and Jeremy Clarkson, to do justice to. You know how rare those talents are - but anyway, you're stuck with a still worse option. You've just got me.

I catch the 86 tram back home from Spencer Street on Monday nights when I finish work. This evening I was on the 86 as it came round the corner of Gertrude onto Smith Street, and I was idly looking out the window wondering how much longer it would take. That was when he came into my view: the unlikely hero of this story. Him and his freakin' bike.

He didn't look up to much: just a scrawny little runt in a blue hoody. He was one of those people that look like they want to look like they're mean. He seemed to leer at everyone in the tram, like he was angry at us all for even existing. I didn't particularly like the looks of him, at first, and I was rather glad that he wasn't in the tram. Then, before we even started going again, he was off: head down, hoody up, legs pumping at the wheels. This kid was going somewhere, and he was going somewhere fast.

Well, the tram overtook him, and stopped, and he overtook the tram again, and I managed to get another look at him. Clearly, this guy meant business: and business, for him, was whopping this tram driver's arse. He wanted to outrace the entire tram! He even appeared to have streamlined his body for aerodynamic purposes: he wore shorts, which were lighter than pants, and his hair had been put up in a Mohawk. Still, looking at him, I didn't think he stood a chance. How wrong I was!

It soon became apparent what advantages and disadvantages each side had. Bike guy's maximum speed was much slower than the tram's maximum speed, and he was more vulnerable to traffic. But he was able to nip in to empty spaces on the road or footpath, and he just kept on going, and going, and going: he only stopped at traffic lights, and only begrudgingly. (When we reached Westgarth Road, in fact, he got a head start on us by nipping across while the lights were orange.) The tram was fast, and it had the 'tram' road lights that let it go over intersections ahead of other traffic; but it had to keep stopping for people to get off, and it was rather ponderous going around corners.

Tram and bike guy were neck and neck to Alexandria Parade, and round the corner to Clifton Hill, with the tram periodically stopping and bike guy periodically racing up past us. He zoomed on ahead through most of Clifton Hill. We caught up with him at the strip of cafes and shops, where bike guy had nipped into some empty carparks and was whooshing through them, avoiding the roadside traffic. He jumped on to the kerb going over Merri Creek, and caught a huge march on us - I began to think we'd never catch up with him again. But still, there was always that bright blue light bobbing in the distance, and coming under the bridge and up to Northcote, we finally caught up with him again at Westgarth Road.

Then he was off again, pumping pistons with his feet, and we were loitering up through Northcote, and naturally, stopping at every damn stop along the way.

But bike guy's ultimate downfall was right ahead. The hill. The Northcote hill is not very steep, but it's steep enough to present a problem to a single cyclist putting pedal to the metal. The tram powered up Northcote hill, and we caught up with bike guy probably at the servo station. Another block, and we were up at the Northcote town hall, and still not stopping; two blocks later, and we had well outstripped bike guy and were humming at Separation Street. It looks like we'd well and truly beaten him, I thought to myself.

But who knows? Bike guy could at any stage have declared a moral victory. He had us on the run there for a while, and if the traffic had been a little thicker - if people had got off and on at a few more stops - he could have outraced the tram right to Bundoora, for all I know. But maybe he actually had just reached his house.

Picture a mite in a duel with a mammoth, a mouse wrestling a mountain, an ant weightlifting an avalanche. That, I contend is the courage, the valour, the sheer unmitigated heroism that bike guy displayed in his thrilling duel with the tram.

And I like to think that, somewhere out there in the night, blue light bobbing up and down like a willo-the-wisp, bike guy has zoomed off, looking for other trams to pursue, and other battles to fight.

Rant, rant, rant

Marketing, at the best of times, consists of inventing a series of non-solutions for fictional problems caused by our overwrought anxieties about non-existent disasters that are always just going to happen; and, having invented these things, selling them to us at the highest price possible. We do not, however, live at the best of times. Instead, governments, supermarkets, community groups, and self-appointed experts bludgeon us continually with a series of hideous euphemisms that often mean the reverse of what they seem to mean, to force us into accepting solutions that solve nothing.

Pundits like to refer to the 'real cost' of products on the market, that 'real cost' being distinct from the real real cost of products on the market. The 'real cost' is marked up to reflect the environmental, social, political, and fictional impacts of the product, and is therefore little more than a series of arbitrary figures made up by the pundit on the spot. The principal effect of a 'real cost' instead of a real cost would seem to be that the consumers would find it more difficult to consume consumables, because they would be more expensive.

Supermarkets sell 'fair trade' labelled products, and use the 'fair trade' label to mark up their own profit margins, and people pay extra both for the 'fair trade' label and for the supermarket.

Governments talk about 'carbon trading' and 'emissions trading', and talk about the need for a 'price for carbon', disregarding the fact that the world already has a price for carbon, that price being the price that people pay for carbon. When people talk about the 'need for a price for carbon', they probably mean 'the need for a price for carbon that is higher than the price that people currently pay for carbon'. This is possibly because they want to cut the consumption of consumables like carbon, though their language is so roundabout it is impossible to say for sure.

But these are all urged upon us as simple. They require no change to our lifestyle, we are told. And it's true, the solutions in each case proposed by these euphemisms are simple, but the implementation of each of these simple solutions is complex, and taken together, all these simplicities become hideously complex beyond all reckoning.

And look, here's another one: 'CO2 labelling'! The idea is that products sold on the shelves of stores and shops should come complete with a list, or at the very least, a figure, that is calculated after the store takes into account the whole process of growing, transporting, packaging, and selling the food, and all of the carbon dioxide emitted in that whole process. Now, when I go into a store normally, I decide if I like something and I look at the price. The decision is, indeed, simple. But does anyone advocating CO2 labelling seriously think that a shopper will compare long, nebulous lists that take into account the whole life of the products they want to buy, and the carbon emissions of all the people and companies who were related to the making of that product? That is just turning a simplicity into a difficulty, and a decision into a non-decision.

And what, in the end, is the idea behind all these hideous marketing euphemisms, the guiding philosophy behind 'real cost' and 'fair trade' and 'emission trading' and 'CO2 labelling'? It just seems to be a statement of the obvious (that we are all born into an infinitely large chain of cause-and-effect), and a lie (we are all morally implicated in everything that has ever happened). Everybody is responsible for everything: and, because of the infinite difficulty involved in making a decision about everything, nobody can ever do anything. But the people who decide what the 'real cost' of a thing is, or who are able to define the difference between 'free trade' and 'fair trade', of course, do decide on these things: you or I are never simply allowed to make a decision on our own. Before we make a decision, our decisions are decided upon by others, and for no good reason.

If the reasoning is spurious, the results are absurd. Imagine if I wanted to buy a hat, and decided upon which hat to buy, and took it to the counter, and the person there told me that I was completely free to buy that hat if I wanted to, but shouldn't I rather look at that hat, over there? And if I continued, and insisted on buying the hat, and they insisted that I was free to buy the hat if I liked, but I should reconsider - then what would the results be? No-one would want to go to a store like that. But that is more or less what devisers of 'CO2 labelling' and such schemes want us to do: to redecide, redeliberate, and reconsider our decisions, deliberations, and considerations according to their idle whims.

If we took 'CO2 labelling', and the other ugly euphemisms that come with it, seriously, it would have this effect: some people that are in business would go out of it; some affordable products would become unaffordable; some choices would be taken away from people; and less choices would be given back.

Sunday, June 21, 2009

Question of the day

Overheard in the Victorian Trades Hall, at their Big Red Book Sale, in a very loud voice:

I always feel that if a question has an immediate and obvious answer, that it should be asked in the loudest voice possible so that everyone in the room can hear, don't you?

One's company, two's a tradition

I was thinking the other day about literary friendships - strikingly different writers who happen to be writing in the same place at the same time, and are friends with one another. What a lot there are!

Some cases that come to mind:

- Samuel Taylor-Coleridge and William Wordsworth
- William Wordsworth (again) and Dorothy Wordsworth
- Alexander Pope and Jonathan Swift
- The Bronte Sisters
- Percy Shelley and Lord Byron
- C.S. Lewis, J.R.R. Tolkien, and Charles Williams
- Jack Kerouac and Alan Ginsberg
- T.S. Eliot and Ezra Pound
- Mike Moorcock, J.G. Ballard, and Brian Aldiss
- G.K. Chesterton and G.B. Shaw

And then there are the marriages/relationships:

- Emily Barret-Browning and Robert Browning
- W. H. Auden and Chester Kallman
- Mary Shelley and Percy Shelley (again)

There are a couple of things that I find interesting about these writers - or those that I know closely, anyway: their styles are so different that most people seem to have a clear preference for one writer over another. Same here: I prefer Coleridge over Wordsworth, Lewis over Tolkien or Williams, and Aldiss over Moorcock or Ballard.

When the friendships or relationships occur across the sexes it might be interesting to see what sort of attention each writer has got: William has got a great deal more attention than Dorothy, for instance. And though Mary Shelley has garnered lasting fame through her first novel, Frankenstein, none of her other novels (she wrote several more) - or her work as editor/collater of Percy's poems for the benefit of posterity - has got as much attention.

Also, while I personally tend to look at these groups as individuals who happen to know one another, I wonder if there wasn't more to it than that? There's a passage in C S Lewis's The Four Loves, which I've just read, which observes that when, in a group of friends, one friend dies, the survivors lose not just their friend, but the part each had shared with their dead friend. (He expresses it by means of one of those weird algebraic equations: 'When C dies, A not only loses his part in C, but B's part in C as well'.) So while I greatly prefer Lewis over Tolkien, of course, one wonders what each brought out in the other, and how that showed in their books? Are each to blame for the other person's writing?

Any thoughts?

Saturday, June 20, 2009

Utterly puerile (and I'm not referring to my blog)

Here's a website that lists one of my favourite icecreams, Streets Golden Gaytime, as one of the 15 most unfortunate product names in the world. Well, if you ask me, that's just puerile. If they think that they can get a schoolboy titter by making fun of the names of some products and drawing crude sexual allusions, then fine. It's rather immature of them, but everyone's free to make their own mistakes.

I do wonder, however, what they'd think of the icecream I'm planning to release on to the market. I'm going to call it Crack Whore Abortion Doodle Graphic Violence Happy Times - Peppermint Flavour!

I guess they'd somehow manage to find a similar schoolboy joke in that name somewhere, but I. don't. care.

Anyone want an icecream?

Friday, June 19, 2009

What's it all about, Alfy?

This year 2009 marks the 200th anniversary of the birth of a great Victorian, twice. Not only was Charles Darwin, naturalist and discoverer of the modern theory of evolution, born on the 18th of February, 1809; but so too, on 6 August, 1809, was Alfred Tennyson, poet laureate, second most quoted author in The Oxford Dictionary of Quotations, and author of some of the finest poems in the English language.

You'll probably have noticed the books dedicated to, and inspired by, Darwin going about. But you don't hear people going on about Tennyson so much, do you? Oh, no! He only revitalised the language; articulated the doubts and hopes of an entire age; wrote an early feminist work, the long narrative poem The Princess; was friends with many, many other fine writers; and was amongst the first to come to grips, in his poetry with - surprise surprise - current theories of evolution. You never saw Darwin write scientific treatises on current poetry, now, did you? Tennyson's got that one up on the old bugger.

Of course, the Victorians might be a little shocked by this treatment of one of their finest sons, but at the same time I wonder if they wouldn't bear the whole news with equinamity. "Time, like an ever rolling stream/bears all its sons away" saith the poet in that slightly smug, complacent way the poet has of saith-ing things that are undoubtedly true. But in the modern fashion, I think we should react to Tennyson's sorrowful neglect by the literary establishment of the day by granting him the victim status that we grant all our heroes nowadays.

And what a victim he was! Blighted from before his birth by a royal lineage, Tennyson's career was tragically marked out in his teenage years, when he first started writing poetry. Even worse was to come, for during his education, he not only attended the finest, and therefore worst, schools around, but he was also recognised at an early stage for his talent by receiving the Chancellor's Gold Medal for one of his early poems. He was treated disgracefully by his peers, when his published poetry was met with widespread acclaim, and he was later honoured, and obviously horrified, with the title of Poet Laureate. This was bad enough, and the fact that his colleagues attempted, at least, to encourage an incipient alcoholism in Tennyson by sending him a yearly butt of sack was never enough to make up for it. By that time, the damage had well and truly been done. Instead of becoming an alcoholic and drug abuser, and therefore an example to us all, Tennyson died, at the sorrowfully young age of eighty three, driven to an early grave by the love and affection of all around him.

Even after his death, the ignominy continued, with Tennyson's poems being read in schools around the world, and anthologised frequently. People couldn't leave well enough alone; many, indeed, have been moved to tears by his shockingly well-wrought and finely crafted verses. It was not until well in the twentieth century, when education standards began to degrade, and people began to forget about the verse forms, that they really began to deliver Tennyson the neglect and lack of appreciation that he so richly didn't deserve. And isn't that a disgrace!

So, drawing to my conclusion, I find, surprisingly, that I agree with you people. Fine! Have it your way. Neglect poor old Alfred, some 120 years after he's dead. See if he cares. It's not as if he couldn't have done with any of that ignorance and abuse when he was alive, after all. As a matter of fact, if you're going to completely ignore Tennyson, why not direct some of that neglect in Darwin's way as well? It's high time, clearly, that he got some of the same treatment as well. Come on, people! It's not as if Darwin's going to come alive again, is it? Neglect him while there's still time! There's so much less we can do for him!

Just be careful, or you might get a statue for yourself in Trinity College, too.

Tuesday, June 16, 2009

The varying grotesqueries of human nature

Am attempting to develop a new facial expression that is part sneer, part scowl, and part smirk. I shall call it the snirkel. Early experiments with my reflection on the bus ride home have so alarmed me that already I fear what havoc my creation could reap if put into the wrong faces.

Things that make you go bloom!

Today is Bloomsday, an annual event in which people celebrate a writer that few people have read and even fewer people have understood by gathering in a bar, and reading the most unreadable passages to one another, and pretending to understand the reason why. Beer, which is a drink that is easier to understand than read - except in the latter stages of beer consumption, at which point it becomes easier to read and somewhat less easy to understand - facilitates this process. This is known as being 'cultured' and 'sophisticated', which is perhaps one reason why, when they are told what it means to be cultured, most people simply turn on the telly and watch the latest episode of Home and Away in preference.

Anyway, to celebrate these celebrations, let's partake in a little James Joyce reading ourselves:

There ensued a somewhat lengthy pause. (World Classics - p. 584)

Wowzers! He couldn't have made this more difficult if he tried! But such culture, such artistic sophisticiation, such complexity buried into every word! Clearly, the only such person who could even begin to unpick such a fine filigree of a sentence would have about as many degrees as the temperature is in Melbourne today, and half the alphabet (half the Russian alphabet), after their name. I'll leave it up to you to interpret as you see fit, but as for me, I've had enough.

Oh, and keep your hands off the beer. I've only got one left.

UPDATE! - Bloomsday, bah! How about we hold another event in which we read the most depressingly boring passages from the pages of accountacy textbooks, and the like? We can call it 'Gloomsday'.

Sunday, June 14, 2009

The cheese inquiry

Ideally, balls of cheese should come out of bronzed vats of creamy milk filled straight from the udders of contented cows via buckets carried by smiling milkmaids. The vats of milk should sit in a cold, dark cellar for months on end until they form lumps, and then for months more until lumps form on the lumps, and then for another year as the lumps congeal into one giant, smelly ball. These balls should smell like old boots, and be kept in congealed globs of candle wax - (or, if you are English, they should smell like congealed globs of candle wax and be kept in old boots). They are then rolled down the top of very high and rather dirty hills for pimply-faced young lads to run after and catch.

But we do not live in an ideal world. We live in a very unideal world, and when we look for cheese, what do we get? We get gobbets of a custard-coloured substance, tasteless, odourless, homogenised*, cut up into geometrical shapes, shrink-wrapped in a horrid plastic, and sold to you in fluorescent-lit stores by spotty-faced teenagers who really could be doing more productive things with their time (like breaking all their limbs by running down high hills.)

Nowadays, it is less likely to come upon a cheese with the aroma of an old boot than to have it cut up into little cubes, and given to you with circumcised cylindrical sections of cabanossi sausage at a party by a person with a face like an old boot. The wine and cheese night sets come to drive out the cheeses of old - the gleaming red waxy balls of Edam, the blue-veined cheese with extra blue-veins, the amoebic blobs of mozzarella so large and soft that you could pitch a tent embassy in it (and frequently did)?

Reclaim the cheeses! Before it's too late!

*'Homogenised' foods, like 'homophobia', should be avoided wherever possible. 'Homonyms' and 'Hommus' aren't so bad, though.

Saturday, June 13, 2009

Breaking news: film made

In what may prove to be a cultural turning point of the century, an affluent middle-class heterosexual male from an English-speaking background and Anglo-Celtic ancestry has successfully directed and brought to the screens his fourteenth film.

Media across the world have hailed this as a breakthrough fourteenth film for affluent middle-class heterosexual males from an English-speaking background and Anglo-Celtic ancestry of all types. A press statement from PM Kevin Rudd’s office reads: ‘Hopefully, this will encourage other affluent middle-class heterosexual males from an English speaking background and an Anglo-Celtic ancestry to go out there and make that fourteenth film at last, the one that comes right after their thirteenth film!‘

Meanwhile, the film has been released aross the country. It has received widespread acclaim from many important industry associations, including the South-Wyong Association of Gay and Lesbian First-Time Filmmakers from an Asiatic Background, who describe the achievement as ‘Amazing’ an ‘Significant’. They say: ‘Our heart goes out to all those aspiring fourteenth film directors who are also male, Anglo-Celtic, English speaking, heterosexual, and from an affluent middle-class background. Hopefully, that will inspire them to turn their drams of a fourteenth film into a reality!”

However, the Cooperative of Disabled Transexual Vegan Afro-Australian Lower-Class Independent Initial Filmmakers (south Geelong), and the Coalition of Narcotic-Addicted Third-World-Lower-Middle-Class-Bisexuals-with-a-mental-problem-first-time-filmmakers (West Wyalong), have teamed up with a loose affiliation of Jewish, Indigenous Australian, Indigenous American, Iranian, Islamic, Sumerian, Pacific Island, and south-west-south-east Asian first-time filmmakers (Shire of Bogan River) have released a joint statement saying, ‘It wasn’t a bad film. We had a good time. The popcorn was a bit expensive, though.’

Thursday, June 11, 2009

Agreeing to disagree over your similarities

That sound you hear is hundreds of Australian radio presenters agreeing with one another. The louder and the angrier they sound, the more unanimous their opinions are likely to be. Some presenters, indeed, are so similar in their similarities, that even their differences are similar. It's like two same sides of the same coin, if that coin happens to be similar to itself.

And look, just look at these two. They're the worst of the worst - Abraham (on the right) and Bevan (on the left). Abraham is the worst of the pair, and Bevan is the same. That's how bad they are. How can you tell them apart? It's like distinguishing between B1 and B2. 'Are you thinking what I'm thinking, Abraham? I think I am, Bevan.'

Still, with my transcriber's ear, I am able to tell you some infallible ways of distinguishing between the two. Abraham, he's the one that sounds like Bevan; and so does Bevan. Sometimes, too, they take it in turns, and swap, so that Abraham, who normally sounds like Bevan, sounds like himself; and Bevan sounds like Abraham too. Also, Abraham occasionally sounds like Bevan sounding like Abraham, and Bevan imitates Abraham imitating Bevan, or vice versa, not to mention vice vice versa versa, and vice versa versa vice versa, too. There. Does that makes sense?

Still, if all else fails, there is one foolproof way of telling them apart (it really is foolproof because it was devised by a fool, and even he couldn't work out what it meant). Bevan is the scrawny looking runt on the left with the glasses. Abraham, the measly putz on the right with the thinning hair. So there you go. Next time you tune into ABC Adelaide, just listen for the sound of glasses (Bevan), and the voice with the thinning hair (Abraham). Simple.

Abraham and Bevan: the two Janus-faces made for radio. God knows what they'd do if they ever disagreed with one another.

'Abhors' are 'Leasers, Oh'!

Anyone who plays Scrabble on Facebook has one of two choices - either the official Hasbro version, Livescrabble, or the alternative Lexulous. Both seemed to appear after the Great Legal Dispute of 2008-2009, initated by Hasbro (who whined that the Agarwalla brothers were stealing their software).

Anyway, the original Scrabulous disappeared, and shortly afterwards the Livescrabble software seemed to appear on Facebook, and some folks joined up with that. Some time afterwards, Lexulous reppared, and some folks joined up with that, too. Because I couldn't make up my mind I joined up with both of them... and I still can't make up my mind.

Check it out: Livescrabble is clunky software that takes a bloody long time to load and clogs up your computer while you do it, and frequently crashes before you make a single move; but as a bonus it also makes infuriating loud noises every time you make a move. Lexulous, on the other hand, is made from simple software that takes a short time to load and doesn't slow down your computer; however, it doesn't make annoying noises every time you make a move. Lexulous is the software you use if you don't mind pressing the refresh button every now and again (and how exhausting it is) to see the state of the game; Livescrabble, the sort of software that automatically refreshes - even when you don't want it to. Livescrabble is the sort of software you use because your friends use it; Lexulous, on the other hand, is the sort of software that you invite your friends to use. What a choice! Yet again, fierce competition between rapacious companies in this consumer-capitalist society of ours has left me in an agony of indecision!

(This post will make no sense to anyone who doesn't use facebook, but anyway... )

Monday, June 08, 2009

Famous penultimate words

(Or, from light verse to trite verse in one easy step)

Here is the grave of Norman Ned -
This man is born, but not yet dead.
His life goes by from day to day
In (more or less) a normal way.

Half a league, half a league,
Half a league backward!
Out of the valley of Death
Rode the six hundred.
"Backward, the Light Brigade!
"Watch out for guns!" he said:
Out of the valley of Death
Rode the six hundred.

Jan stood upon the jagged cliff and cried
"I can't go on! This is the end of me!"
The clouds grew dark. The wind was cold. So Jan
Drove into town and had a cup of tea.

The boy jumped off the burning deck...

Slicing and dicing, with extra Jung

I wonder if you know the myth of Baucis and Philemon? It's quite weird, basically a story about a nice old couple who get turned by the Gods into a tree. It's the sort of story that, elsewhere, you might treat as a creation myth, or a tale of divine wrath (two old farts get turned into a piece of foliage for their sins, happens all the time). Only, perhaps at some point, the Ancient Greeks or Romans or whoever was responsible for the writing of the myth in its current form, tacked on an explanation that explained nothing: Baucis and Philemon get turned into a tree because they have been good, and kind, and generous (whereas everyone else in the village they live in have been inhospitable to the gods.)

It's weird, it's illogical, it doesn't make sense physically or emotionally, and it's one of my favourite myths ever.

I feel the same way about my favourite movie, John Boorman's Excalibur. I was rewatching it last night for perhaps the tenth time, and had an opportunity to remind myself just how ridiculous it is. In essence it's a retelling of the Arthurian romances, starting with the back-story about Arthur's dad, bringing in his twisted family relations, and building up to the war between Mordred and the Arthurian court after a complicated and somewhat silly search for the Holy Grail.

All these plots twists and turns were quite enough to keep me interested in the film the first two times that I saw it, but after repeated watchings, one can't help but notice a fundamental silliness to the whole thing. For one thing, you couldn't really say that the film has a script, so much: certainly not a script in the sense of lines of dialogue which act as expositions for characters feelings and reactions throughout the film. Instead, they're forever stomping through scenes (the wearing of armour actively facilitates their ponderous stomping) uttering phrases about their place in history: "It's not for you, Uther, hearth and home, wife and child." Or: "Arthur - that's you!" Or: "I will build a - round table! And a hall around the table! And a castle around the hall!" Or again: "Now, once again, I must ride with my knights, and defend what once was - and could be again."

Sometimes, when they're not pompously expostulating about whatever tragic and disastrous fate is forever in the process of befalling them, they wax and wane with bizarre eloquence about whatever preposterous new-agey idea Boorman had in his head when he was preparing the script. "A king without a sword? A land without a king!" Or: "You have broken what could not be broken. Hope is broken." Or again: "Merlin! What is the dragon?" "It is everywhere! It is everything!" "Is Excalibur part of the dragon too?" "Oh, yes. I like that. You learn fast!" (George Lucas's Force has nothing on Boorman's dragon.)

All this is not to say that the film does not have a certain tragic grandeur of its own. This tragic grandeur is largely borrowed from other tragic and grand works of art, and tends to make sense only when taken completely out of its original context. When Arthur first meets Guenevere, he asks Merlin if he can make her love him, and Merlin replies with a Shakespeare quote: "This mad distemper which strikes down both beggar and king!" Shakespeare - in the dark ages! Then again, the music is literally Wagnerian: the film is prefaced by Siegfried's funeral music; Lancelot and Guenevere's forbidden, and long unfufilled passion, is described withy the Tristan and Isolde overture; at least Perceval (the guy who finds the grail) gets the overture to Parsifal. Carl Orff's Carmina Burana, on the other hand, is deployed when the knights are in action. Arthur's adoptive father is even played by Richard Bucket, or in his real life persona, Clive Swift. Oh, and though I still don't know what samite is, I'm still pretty sure that the arm that grabs Excalibur at the end of the film, out of the middle of a lake, is wearing it.

When he's not doing stuff like taking obscure fashion tips from the poems of nineteenth century English poet laureates, Boorman is a great director. The scenes where Morgana gives birth to Mordred, or where a child Mordred rides laughing through a forest hung with the bodies of dead knights, or several other scenes throughout the film are absolutely arresting. If you accustom yourself to the perpetual habit Boorman has of borrowing grandeur from other films, you'll find that the results are quite fascinating (if not entirely coherent). The whole film is visually, quite beautiful, and the special effects really rather impressive for what must have been a small budget.

I still remember when I watched the whole thing all the way through, at about two o'clock one night in Newcastle at my parents house - which is probably the perfect time to put all your worries about coherence and Jungian references aside - and how impressed I was by those final scenes, in which Arthur and Mordred slug it out besides a red setting sun while Wagner's music from Gotterdammerung burbles away in the background; and how, for no obvious reason, the final words of dialogue spoken are by Perceval, who wanders up and back on the shore of a blood-drenched lake and hollers, "Arthur! Arthur!" at the top of his voice.

Coherence! Who needs it anyway?

Sunday, June 07, 2009


(This is a true story! Hope you're all having a great long weekend.)

I live in a flat near St Georges Road –
A nice little place; a humble abode;
The neighbours are friendly, the rent isn’t dear:
The shops are quite close, and the transport is near -
So cosily comfortably calming and quiet -
But did I say quiet? The place is a RIOT,
With –


- by night and by day and by day and by night,


All night, every night, ‘til just before light;
As the trains hurry by, and the eager bells cry
The train crossing, train crossing lullaby.

Well they say location, location, location -
In my case in between two FREAKING TRAIN STATIONS!
A masochist’s dream! A sadist’s delight!
Each hour, you get a guaranteed fright!
Perhaps your demeanour is naturally calm?
We’re sure that these bells will cause you alarm!
Bored? Apathetic? Just can’t give a toss?
Our train crossing bells will soon make you cross!
You DON’T care, you WON’T care, but soon you WILL care
When you hear


and you hear


and you’ll wish you weren’t there,
As the crashing trains rush by, and the happy bells cry
The train crossing, train crossing lullaby.

But since we’re all friends, let’s look at our leisure,
Let’s coldly examine this source of displeasure;
Let’s deconstruct, analyse, probe and expoud
On all the neurosis in this simple sound.
Perhaps it’s the way, when you talk to a friend,
It hollers before


before you get to the END,
How, when you’ are talking and meeting and greeting
And –


And your -


(Silently: Fuck!) And your conversation turns into expleting.
Or sometimes, the way it will throw in a


You tense up, expecting the


to go on.
But no! Not one single


can be heard.
At last, you relax and think they’ve just erred,
But then –


- the bells sing out in a tone that’s capricious,
Or possibly maybe just plain malicious.
Or sometimes, the way they will loudly rejoice,
And holler for ages in their loudest voice –


Not to mention –

And while the bells ring and you can’t hear a thing,
Not one single thing that someone is saying,
And they ring and they ring and your ears start to sting,
And you can’t hear a thing, not one bloody thing,

Your friend simply says, “Hey man, there’s no need to yell.”
Or sometimes, again, you’re sleeping in bed,
A curious dream going on in your head:
You’re eating a meal of Bongers and Mash,
With bongcakes for supper, and bongbeer to match,
And bongoing bongoists bonging the bongo,
And old ladies playing Bing-Bong or Bongo,
And BONG!ers and BONG!bing and BONG!ishly BONG!some,
And BONG! BONG! and BONG! BONG! and BONG! BONG! and then some.
You sit up in bed as


rings out in the night,
(And you know by the sound that it’s almost first light.)
So trains madly rush by, and the bells louder cry
The train crossing, train crossing lullaby.

So that, in a nutshell, dear ladies and gents –


That, ladies and gents, is my argument –


My argument, folks, is simple and clear –


It’s clearly the case that sometime this year -


I said, sometime this year, or sooner, no doubt –


Quite shortly, in fact, I plan to move out –

Or the BONGS! will BONG! on while I’m tossing and turning,
My ears will be ringing, my brain will be burning,
My stomach will flip flop, my gut will be churning,
My lower intestine ceaselessly gurning,
I’ll be sickly and ailing, my health will be failing,
I’ll be sobbing and moaning and weeping and wailing,
And howling and yowling and growling and moaning,
And pitifully wretchedly gnashing and groaning,

As the trains hurry by and the crossing bells cry
The train crossing, train crossing lullaby -
The train crossing, train crossing lullaby.

Friday, June 05, 2009

Fudged if I know

Do the figures at the fudge shop fudge the fudge figures, and make the other fudge figures at the fudge shop figure the fudged fudge figures out? Also, what does the figured fudge do to the fudge figures' figures?

It's true

If I had a dollar for every time I heard someone say 'Four purple herpetologists flying in a rectangular ornithopter breaking the latititudinal records for the umpteenth time', then I'd have zero dollars.

Splitting a difference of hairs

Woke up early this morning with this thought: what's the difference between a 'mizzle' and a 'drizzle'? At what point, precisely, does a mizzle become a drizzle? Is it at all comparable with the point at which something 'musty' becomes something 'dusty'? And if rain can either 'mizzle' or 'drizzle', can dogs noses' either be 'muzzles' or 'druzzles'?

Having had this series of ludicrous and pointless thoughts, I decided to go right back to sleep again. So I did, and stayed that way, right up until the point at which the train bells screamed at me, one minute later.

Wednesday, June 03, 2009

This post was brought to you by the letter C and the number 5

Well, over the long years that I've had it (two), I've managed to drop it on its head, swing it around in my bag, spill milk, coffee, water, coffee, water, milk, and breadcrumbs on it; it's sat insouciantly on the top of my bookshelf sneering at burglars as they've broken into my flat; and it's kept on working, losing nothing in the process but a little dignity and the '8' key. But I think my laptop has finally given up the ghost. I spilled coffee on it - again - yesterday morning, and gave it until afternoon to dry out. Half the keys on the keyboard are not working, and the other half are not working like they should. Pretty much the only things I can do on it now are

1) Switch it on.

2) Visit websites I've already visited.

3) Switch it off.

Oh, yeah, and I can also compose a letter that consists solely of the letter 'c', and the number '5'.

I'm the second Ozblogger in the past few days that this sort of thing has happened to. I wonder if there's something in the water? (Coffee, perhaps...)

Anyone want to sell me a laptop?

Words that start with O: ordinary, oligopoly...

If you like your incisive political analysis to come complete with glitz and glamour and flare and without incisive political analysis, why not dip into the pages of Obama Magazine? Graced with front-cover pictures of Obama, centre-fold pictures of Obama, and back-page pictures of Obama, the magazine offers you plenty of opportunities to subject rigorous political scrutiny and economic analysis to his clothes, his hair, the clothes Michelle Obama is wearing and her hair.

But you would be wrong if you thought that Obama Magazine was just an exercise in political narcicissm, the Great Man theory of history as presented by celebrity journalism. No, there's more! You'll also get bizarre photo spreads of Obama's heads of staff, and chunks from his speeches (included purely as light pictoral relief to be set aside from the pictures of Obama).

Is this not, you might be moved to ask, utterly frivolous stuff, the sort of political propaganda that has resulted from a mainstream media that is disinterested in truth, and is solely focused on ratings? Is it not politics for the Oprah generation? Actually, Oprah graces the third page of one of the issues that I picked up in Readings, but clearly, no: the magazine has a clear purpose for the Democratic Party (ie, making thousands of dollars worth of money for themselves), which will allow them to continue to work hard on behalf of their fellow Americans (ie, spending tens of billions of dollars of other people's money).

Obama Magazine! You pay for it either way!

Monday, June 01, 2009

Random comments of a chaotic nature

I'm not sure why it is, but every time I get into a work of a Monday, I feel incredibly tired. It doesn't matter how wakeful and chipper I am before arriving - the minute those doors close behind my back, I start yawning like crazy. The clattering of the keyboards and the sound of telephones ringing has an amazing soporific effect on me; they're like some kind of lunatic lullaby. I want nothing more than to lay my head down on my keyboard and sleep. You'd think that, refreshed and relaxed after the weekend's rest, I'd be roaring like a young lion, going hither and yon and killing people to improve workplace productivity, but no - quite the contrary. As a matter of fact, just thinking about work a few minutes ago, a second round of yawning was set off. It's only because my attention was diverted at the last moment by a banana that I was able to ward off sleep.

And look! Here! Cadbury seriously think that less chocolate is better than more chocolate, and that they can turn purple into green. I mean, this is ludicrous. If they can turn more into less, and purple into green, then they'll also be able to find a round white peg that is black and hammer it into a square hole one fine day in the middle of the night, with the job performed by two dead men who happened to have been the daughters of a flying pig's monkey's uncle. Cadbury needs help. Perhaps they should eat some of these.

Brown Dog has been lolloping and loping happily around his yard every time I go past it, but apparently he's been receiving several other guests than me. One old chap stopped to pat Brown Dog just as I was giving him my attentions, said several things to him in Greek, then said to me that he called Brown Dog 'Bludger'. He does seem to do a bit of bludging. I wonder if you bludge long and hard enough, you can become a bludgeon?

This has been a random post from Tim.
Email: timhtrain - at -

eXTReMe Tracker

Blog Archive