Wednesday, June 29, 2011

Thought for the day

Do elephants pick
Their nose with a stick
Because there's so much
Of their nose to pick?

Monday, June 27, 2011

Language is a funny old thing

Thrush, boobs, tits, coots. Four things which are guaranteed to give a little thrill to bird lovers the world over.

They give a thrill to non bird-lovers, too. But for rather different reasons...

A handy definition for a very common occurence

Somnambulance drivers - people who for some reason go about driving ambulances while they sleep until they find an emergency to attend. (Possibly an emergency caused by people who go about driving ambulances while they sleep, etc etc...)

The propriety of impropriety

Worthy of contemplation:

Go the fuck to sleep.

All women really want is a cup of fucking tea.

Considering these two examples yesterday at the airport, and considering the loud profanity I had uttered at quite an early hour in the morning (on dropping a box of asparagus seedlings), I couldn't help but come to the obvious conclusion: the thing is, inappropriate words are appropriate pretty much all the time.

Saturday, June 25, 2011

Culture for a Saturday morning

This song adds a sense of terrible yet inexorable conquest to even the most everyday of tasks, whether it's putting a hatbox in a cupboard, taking the compost out, or slipping your feet into a pair of socks to keep them warm. True, it is a little incongruous and perhaps inappropriate playing it while doing simple activities, such as crossing the room to get to the other side, but that can't be helped.

As you can imagine, it's also quite useful to add that sense of terrible yet inexorable conquest to an occasion such as, say, terribly yet inexorably conquering an important European country.

This song, somewhat less so.

Thursday, June 23, 2011

A list of holes

1. The hole that I put myself into in the bed. A very warm and comfy one, that.

2. The holes in my clothes, getting so numerous now (the holes) that I'm getting really really confused as to what limb I should put where, when in order to get optimum results out of the clothes.

3. The hole in my stomach when I get up out of bed in the morning, the principal reason of getting out of bed which is to fill up the hole in my stomach with breakfast.

4. The hole in my head that is satisfyingly filled when I read a pleasant sentence from a writer.

We need more doors

Just before or just after reading this article in the New York Times about a guy who'd once come out as being gay coming out as an ex-gay Christian (thanks Steve), I read this story on Catallaxy about a free market economist coming out as a woman after previously being a man (I don't know whether she'd ever come out as a he, but probably she had) - and the fears of a colleague that she was actually going to come out as a socialist. Really, it seems like you can come out about anything to anyone these days - it's gotten to the point where you expect several people you know to come out about something significant or insignificant every week. Just a decade or two after young men and women started coming out about being gay - and barely a few centuries after young women started coming out into society (God knows from where the young women came out from - the card drawer in the deal cabinet, perhaps?) coming out has got to the point that pretty soon, everyone will have come out about everything to everyone else, and they'll all have to go back inside again.

Amidst all these general comings-out, there is at least one thing you come out of that you don't need to make a declaration about. And that is the door. We ought to have more of it, I say.

Tuesday, June 21, 2011

Yoof-um-ism song

Can you eat a knuckle sandwich,
Mountain oysters on the side,
Can you drink some liquid courage,
Will it keep you warm inside,
Have you ever spied a camels toe
With your eyes shut wide,
Have you met a pig with wings,
Has it given you a ride,
Is there much pie in the sky,
Is it in the Good Food Guide?
Have you ever laughed your arse off
While sitting in a chair,
Can you put it on again and
Have you got another spare,
And if you have to break a leg,
Do you ever break a pair?
Have the French sent you a letter,
Have you mail from a snail,
Has the cat left you a message,
Have you heard the Pony Tail?
Have you slapped the turkey back,
Does the monkey spank you too,
If you've ever chased a cock,
Does the cock chase after you,
Have you water in the closet
For the turtle's head to view,
Are there knuckles to your moose,
Are they pink or are they blue,
Who was it took the piss,
Where did they take it too,
If you give the goose a bridle,
Will any wigwam do?
Is this song as longer, wider, higher
Than a piece of string,
Is a tonne of feathers higher
When time is on the wing,
Is it like a chocolate jellyfish
Painting square a lilac ring?

Or is it like a broken pencil,

Monday, June 20, 2011

On a certain splurg

While we're on the very specific subject of things, I drank a milk thing this evening. You know, one of those splurgs of coloured milk that they put in rectangular pieces of cardboard and sell at train stations and 7/11s and the like.

As splurgs of coloured milk go it wasn't bad, but what really struck me about it was the labelling. I would have been happy with just the name, you know, FUNKY BANANA (disclosure: the name of the product was not FUNKY BANANA) and the ingredients on it, but oh no. Not this package. It insisted on having the name, and the ingredients, and a description of the ingredients on it as well. It said something like this:


Of course it's that combination of 'banana-flavoured' and 'real banana' that puzzles, so I turned to the ingredients and found

Banana concentrate (four per cent)
Banana flavouring
Random stuff

(Disclosure in addition to the disclosure above: the ingredients did not say 'random stuff' and 'things' on them. They were more specific than that.)

A couple of things about this: 'banana' to 'banana concentrate' probably stands in pretty much the same relation as 'a breakfast table' stands to 'a breakfast table chopped up into little pieces and put through the wood mulcher and then packed into a little box and put in the bin at work'. And if they had so much faith in this 'banana concentrate' then why'd they chuck it in with the 'banana flavouring' as well? (Not that I have anything against fake banana flavour, though. Some of my favourite bananas are fake bananas. Fake bananas taste real good.)

Anyway, what kind of person do you have to be to keep on coming up with ideas for new brands of banana-flavoured milk that, strangely, taste very similar to the brands of banana-flavoured milk that preceded them? Can you just imagine a milk-company CEO storming into his executive meeting and shouting, 'For too long, customers have had to put up with this inferior brand of banana-flavoured milk, the one where they have to shake the carton before opening it. WE HAVE TO INVENT A BANANA-FLAVOURED MILK THAT CUSTOMERS DON'T HAVE TO SHAKE. Oh, and tell customers how good it is on the packaging. WE'LL MAKE A KILLING ON THE MARKET!' I mean, it's never going to cause the revolution, is it?

And then I stopped thinking about it and drank the rest of my splurg of coloured milk before catching the train.

Yeah, that thing

You know that thing where an old friend you haven't spoken to for ages rings up and asks you how things are and even though lots of big things have happened to you between now and when you spoke to them last, those big things happened so long ago that they don't seem like new big things anymore, and you can't specifically remember them off the top of your head, and so you um and you aw and you ah and you end up talking about how nothing much has happened, really? And then you ask them how they are and they pause uncomfortably and they aw and they ah and they um and so on, and this goes on for ten minutes, before you actually remember one of the big things that you did, and because you don't want to make a big thing of the big thing you just throw it out casually, and sound awkward before telling it, and sound embarrassed after it, and make a bit of a joke out of the whole thing, just to not make a big thing out of the big thing? And so you just go back to the umming and awing? Yeah, that thing. That's a really weird thing, isn't it?

Friday, June 17, 2011

An ode to Newtown

Bit of fun over at Tim's with the announcement that Clover Moore is looking to pay an official Sydney poet. So far we've seen Betjeman send ups, a couple of limericks, a modern version of Mackellar, and a bunch of (well - two) poems by me. This is my second:

A non-rhyming poem about Newtown

Newtown! Newtown!
What a wonderful... spot.
Where house prices are high
And the students are ... too.

A place of perfection,
An upper-class slum
You can wax philosophique
While scratching your... head.

Newtown! Newtown!
With bookshops and the Dendy!
Where the bars are all funky
And the cafes are expensive.

Where everything's easy,
And free, and okay,
And that guy at the nightclub
Is probably going to bloody punch you in the bloody face if you bloody look at him like that again, he bloody swears!

Newtown! Newtown!
What a wonderful... spot!
Where house prices are high,
And the students are... too.

Thursday, June 16, 2011


The best poetry slams I ever went to were run by Crazy Elf. He'd encourage people to insult poets, say things like 'love the poet, hate the poem', and usually end the shows with him getting pelted by a Ninja (who shall here be referred to as The Ninja, because, well, she is). It was just so validating as a poet to be insulted - at most other poetry events I had known to then, the typical response people gave to poems was 'interesting' and 'meaningful'. And besides, I figured, if a roomful of drunk people who were predisposed to say you sucked could be won over, you wouldn't be doing too badly.

But I've been to a few other poetry slams, and heard of even more. There've been slams in town halls, and slams in libraries, and 'exhibition slams', and slams for school students, and sort-of slam events like the various Poetry Idol competitions that they run each year. Slam, slam, slam, all over the country. Which is kind of why I was pleased to see this on Wikipedia the other day:

...I hated it. And it made me really uncomfortable and... it was very much like a sporting event, and I was interested in poetry in large part because it was like the antithesis of sports.... [I]t seemed to me like a very macho, masculine form of poetry and not at all what I was interested in.

So I went to the slam poetry page on Wikipedia, and found another bunch of critics, and then I went to slam founder Marc Smith's page, and saw that even he had been critical of slams, as they have become. I also found this quote:

The very word 'poetry' repels people. Why is that? Because of what schools have done to it. The slam gives it back to the people.... We need people to talk poetry to each other.

And that's just it, isn't it? Poetry slams have gone from being a reaction against poetry taught in schools, and a reaction against the establishment, to something that happens in schools, and something funded by, and endorsed by, the establishment. Oh, I value the people that I've met at slams all right, and have enjoyed most of the ones I've been to - but the transition of slam poetry from being a fresh and exciting movement to something less than that has been quite rapid, really.

I'd still go to Elf's slams, though.

Terrifying true tales of encounters with wildlife

Just the other week, I was lying on the couch minding my own business, when a FEARSOME MINIATURE LION leapt at me and savagely CURLED up in my lap, ROARING in a subdued but TERRIFYING fashion while I attempted to subdue it by offering it a back massage.

The lion in the wild - nature photography taken by the Baron.

But that's not all. My brother came round on Monday, and he was accompanied by a HORRIFYING BLACK WOLF, with WHITE PAWS. This wolf proceeded to TEAR UP TREES WITH ITS BARE JAWS, and HURL them about before running up to me looking exceedingly THREATENING and DANGEROUS. I then attempted to distract the wolf by hurling the trees back into the park repeatedly, but it didn't work - THE WOLF KEPT BRINGING THEM BACK!

And it gets worse. Our backyard has been colonised by GROTESQUE DINOSAUR LIKE REPTILES, with DAGGERS INSTEAD OF MOUTHS, and WINGS IN THE MANNER OF PTERODACTYLS, only somewhat FLUFFIER. And over the past couple of days they have retreated to their FOUL REPTILIAN DEN occasionally and lain several MONSTROUS CALCITE OBJECTS, which over time may hatch into something even MORE monstrous. We are attempting to subdue this process as best we can, by storing the eggs in safe keeping. In the fridge.


Tuesday, June 14, 2011

The conclusion I have drawn from the long weekend

One must try not to eat all of the pear and rhubarb crumble before one adds it to the oven. Or adds the pears to it. Or rhubarb. It's just not the thing to do.

Saturday, June 11, 2011

On the pleasures and dangers of naked bike riding

(For Randall, who may be attending)

We mingle and sing
And we go ding-a-ling
As we slide and glide past
I ride past with my thing;

And I sing as I wing
Tra la la I'm the king
My whole body tingles
As I fly with my thing;

Not a thing can go wrong
As I pedal along
And go hammer-and-tongs,
Just me and my thing;

But if I should angle
The wrong way and dangle
Right into the chains
And make my bike prang,

Yes, if I get tangled,
I could get very mangled
I'd be strung out and wrung out
And hung out to dry,

Yes, if I should prang
I should shout Sturm und Drang,
And hang on in pain
To what's left of my thing....

But not a thing can go wrong
And I go ding-a-ling
As we slide and glide past
I ride past with my thing...

Thursday, June 09, 2011

Answers for aspiring concert pianists

Q: Franz Liszt wrote some of the most difficult and complicated music in the world, music that many great pianists have been unable to master. How can I play his music?

A: On the CD.

Q: How do you spell Tschaikovsky?

A: Exactly the same way you pronounce it, with a great deal of difficulty.

Q: Is it actually possible to play Chopin's Minute Waltz in a minute?

A: For you, he meant one note every minute.

Q: Triple time, or common time?

A: Only in the European football leagues. Here we have quarter time.

Book suggestion

A handbook for veganism titled The Life of Pie. Pack it with as many lurid, blood-spattered details as possible, following the complete production of a pie from beginning to finish. Then get people in pie shops to sell it for you.

UPDATE! - Also, a movie suggestion. Tofu Panda, the harrowing tale of a Panda Bear who overcomes the scorn of his family and friends, and gives up the rapacious bamboo food industry in favour of a more ethical diet based on that blubbery white stuff wot they sell in the supermarkets.

Wednesday, June 08, 2011

Pink psychological horror

I went to the zine fair on Saturday, and the guy I was sitting next to at the zine fair on Saturday was selling a book that he called "dark psychological horror". I couldn't help but think: "as opposed to what? Pink psychological horror?"


Yesterday, Marcie came home from the work and found that the painters had painted her bathroom in entirely the wrong shade of pink. It clashed with the toilet so violently!

And the horror and despair of that terrifying incident remains with her until this very day.

Tuesday, June 07, 2011

Musical notations for life


blearioso - the blurry quality of life in general after one has drunk lots of alcohol.

blurto - suddenly saying something embarassing

blurto blurtissimo - extremely embarassing.

colorectura - manner of speaking after an enema.

groan colour - the sound quality of a groan, moan, whine, whinge, or grizzle that distinguishes it from other groans, moans, whines, whinges, or grizzles.

grumposo - stomping about in a grumpy manner.

grumposo ma non troppo - grumpy stomping, but in a placid and contented way.

molto agitato

- not being sure what to say about something, while you are saying it.

mumbleato - speaking inaudibly.

hmphoso a soso - making non committal noises.

shizzicato/shizzicati - sounds punctuating a conversation while one is on the toilet.

tumpani - playing melodies on someone's stomach.

xbfjqwflgggggggavotte – the curious dance the cat performs on the computer when you are typing an important email up, putting in a whole string of meaningless letters into the email.

xbfjqwflgggggggantarella – the frustrated dance you perform when, after typing those letters into the important email, the cat concludes proceedings by somehow sending the email off into the ether.

Too late to be too late

Today, I finally got around to pulling the washing out of the washing machine, one day after it had been washed. I got around to it because my memory finally got around to remembering about it, twenty four hours after it was supposed to remember about it. This convenient lapse in the memory of my memory meant that I began putting the washing out on the day that the weather decided to put off the sun for another three months or so, thus ensuring that the washing would, in turn, do its best to delay any drying out that might previously have been planned for it - on, say, the day I happened to put it in the washing machine.

So it was that all the procrastinations performed by the various parties came together to form a beautiful procrastinatory whole, and it was a beautiful thing to see.

Thursday, June 02, 2011

And so, with a self-satisfied smirk, the poet lays down his pen, having set down another epigram to irritate posterity

Poetry is the complicated art of saying simple things.

Loudspeaker loudspeaker loudspeaker man

There's something about a voice coming from a loudspeaker that always makes you sit up, pay attention, and do as you're told, and by 'you', I mean 'me'. After all, when you're a kid you never get given a loudspeaker to speak out of yourself - your own speaking is plenty loud without it. Being in possession of a loudspeaker is always the special prerogative of teachers, and prison guards, not to mention people who work on public transport, and they are generally a combination of the other two categories anyway.

This all leads me easily and naturally to the subject of Melbourne public transport, which I'm not going to talk about except for in this rest of this post. Because, if there's anywhere that you'll see, by which I mean 'hear', the authority conveyed by the loudspeaker more thoroughly abused than on Melbourne public transport, then I'd like to see (hear) it for myself.

On North Melbourne Train Station, where I get off to go to work, a particular sarcastic chap seems to have control of the loudspeakers, who hectors those who make minor infringements on platform 5 crankily whenever he has the opportunity. Taking the tram to Fitzroy once, a chirpy official announcement about validating your ticket (or something like that) was broadcast through the train, in a cheery Kath and Kim accent. Once, when we were walking along Brunswick Street, the Baron and I even witnessed, to our amazement, a tram driver somehow switch on a loudspeaker operating outside the tram in order to harrumph crankily at the person driving the car slowly in front of him.

Not to mention this, that occasionally when I catch the early morning train in to work, an old dude with a positively ancient voice quite frequently seems to be driving it; and this old chap likes nothing better than to switch on the loudspeakers and have a chat with the whole of the train. He pretty much has a captive audience - sometimes, when we're waiting between stations for the line to clear up, quite literally captive. I've had him several times; last Christmas when we were drawing slowly in to Flinders Street Station, he turned on the loudspeaker and talked about family Christmases, and the joke he would have with his father in law. This Wednesday morning, he switched on the loudspeaker, and began a long and meandering conversation that seemed to be heading nowhere (kind of like catching the trains, in fact), before remarking casually that there were hot air balloons in the sky that could be seen through the window.

It was this last comment that really did me in. I've had people use loudspeakers to tell me to do this, do that, validate this, and go to that; but never have I had them use loudspeakers to chat casually about things like hot air balloons floating around in the sky.

People speaking over the loudspeaker will never seem the same again.

Wednesday, June 01, 2011

Grumps, waffles, farts, snorts, and harrumphs: assorted notes

Victoria has had laws against swearing since 1966. Recently the Victorian Government has been tinkering with laws regarding how offensive language is going to be punished, but they haven't made any radical changes - swearing was illegal, and still is illegal. But 'Things stay just as they were before' doesn't sell papers, so the papers have all been looking for angles: 'Aussies to be fined for swearing', cries Breitbart, while The Age waffles 'Big fines for those who cry foul'. And to be fair there are questions to be asked on this story - for instance, why it's a story at all. Labor introduced the laws on a two-year trial basis. Could it, y'know, be political bias in the papers?


All in all, it would seem to be a pretty effective non-story story -but then papers are full of that sort of stuff. Not only the papers - Geoff's been getting his knickers in a knot saying the Victorian Government has banned swearing, which of course they haven't, and then uses this false premise as an excuse to go on a long political rant, filled with as much swearing as he can get away with (lots, as it turns out.) I strongly disagree with the basis of this essay - you shouldn't ever use an excuse for swearing. Swearing is much too important for that. Swear words deal in concepts ranging from sex to cursing to the body to prayer: you shouldn't ever excuse yourself for talking of those things.


Meanwhile, the Great Big New Ban That Isn't Actually New on swearing is also inspiring poetry by cranky young men, and a big protest. But then, just about everything the Victorian Government will do would inspire a big protest - they're the Liberals after all, and, hey, you might as well start ranting and raving now before they actually do stuff too terrible, just to stay ahead of the curve. It might actually end up helping the Liberals stay in, but then, hey, all the better - so much more excuse for ranting and raving.


I suppose you haven't been following the story about plain paper packaging on cigarettes, and nor have I. But despite my not following the story my ears did prick up when I heard someone from anti-smoking group ASH talk about this (I heard them when I wasn't listening to a story about plain paper packaging, you understand) -
Health and child protection organisations have urged the Liberal/National Parties to reject tobacco industry threats and support health legislation mandating plain tobacco packs.
And there's that word again -
The call follows threats by the head of British American Tobacco Australia that the country will be flooded by cheap cigarettes if the health policy to reduce tobacco advertising goes ahead.
The threat is apparently they will cut the price on cigarettes! Man, I wish a chocolate company would threaten me right now. Maybe I could get some French creperie's to threaten me, too. That'd be sweeeeeet. Go on, you bastards, I can take it!


There's nothing do gooders like better than taking bad jobs off people in developing countries and leaving them with no jobs instead. Even so, I was a little surprised by this ad for Z Energy, a New Zealand petrol company, in which they proudly proclaim they are returning call centre jobs to New Zealand. There are two sorts of people who might have problems with this - the people getting the calls (no-one wants to speak to a call centre), and the people doing the calls (it's a massively horrible job). Z Energy appears to be giving one bunch of New Zealanders a chance to yell and rant and fume, and another bunch of New Zealanders a chance to be yelled and ranted and fumed at. Next up, they might declare a minor civil war. That'd really be the shit, hey?
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