Wednesday, May 30, 2012

Heroic Olympic heroes!

Fastest sprinter over 10 gallons.

Longest high-jumping hour.
Heaviest ampere over the course of four centimetres.

Most patriotic non-Australians living outside of Australia.

Monday, May 28, 2012

How to make cheese

Hello! Welcome to my blog post about how to make cheese! Cheese making is a fascinating process that people have been doing for many many centuries, producing the wide variety of cheese substances that we know and love today, such as Home Brand Tasty, Kraft Singles, and that stuff-they-squirt-on-top-of-the-burgers-at-my-local-shopping-centre-so-that-it-looks-like-melted-cheese. Also, cheese making can often be a puzzling and counter-intuitive process: for instance, when you make the curds out of the milk, you have to heat it up to solidify it. Also, when you are salting the curds, the more salt you add, the less salty the cheese is likely to taste! Isn't that fascinating? Well, that doesn't matter.

Of course, I have extensive experience in cheese making myself, such as the one time I attempted to make mascarpone cheese in my kitchen, which is also the only time I attempted to make mascarpone cheese, which is also the only cheese that I have ever attempted to make. Plus, I have attempted to make this only cheese that I have ever attempted to make just this morning, so this extensive experience is still fresh in my head.

In the process of cheese making, I flooded the stove while attempting for over an hour to get the cream to the right temperature for adding the thickener. Also, the thermometer kept on wanting to topple headlong into the cream. Eventually I just chucked the thickener in anyway, and from a sizeable pot of cream, managed to produce an amount of liquid best described as lying between the miniscule to the non-existent. Then, I got ready to go to work. Then, my pants exploded*. Then, I missed the train.

In conclusion, if you are thinking of making cheese yourself, here's how to do it: don't**.

Traditional Kraft Singles makers at work.  

*This really is true. Please don't ask what I am wearing now, that would be embarassing for us all.

**This goes for the people who make Home Brand Tasty, Kraft Singles, and that stuff-they-squirt-on-top-of-the-burgers-at-my-local-shopping-centre-so-that-it-looks-like-melted-cheese too. ESPECIALLY for them.

Sunday, May 27, 2012

A tale of two lists

Things to do today:
1) Clean kitchen.
2) Make gruit beer.
3) Make mascarpone cheese.

Things achieved today:
1) Made lists.

Definitely definitive

Hello! In this Sunday edition of  'Definitely definitive', we're going to take a sneak peek at the phrase... 'sneak peek'!

A sneak peek is an early look at something. It could be a show, a festival, an unpublished book, or anything, really! Note you aren't just looking at it - that would be just having a 'peek'!

A sneak peak could be one of two things. It could be a shifty mountaintop...

Or it could be a furtive orgasm had by yourself, or someone else. You could call it a 'sly high'.

A chique sneak is a fashionable but untrustworthy person. 

Sneaker pique is a person in sneakers being angry. Or just an angry sneaker.

Thank you for taking a peek at this sneak peak post!

Friday, May 25, 2012

Pink frilly brolly thrills

I have a pink frilly brolly that everyone keeps noticing. It's incredibly good at being noticed, my pink frilly brolly. You might say that, apart from keeping the rain off me, that's its special talent in the whole wide world. "One coffee please," I say. "Nice umbrella," they say. "I'm going to lunch," I say. "Nice umbrella," they say. "Hello," I say. "Nice umbrella," they say. "Robomatic chocolate birdseed," I say. "What are you talking about?" they say.

Well, aside from the odd occasion, that is, people really do keep noticing the pink frilly brolly that I have. And why shouldn't I have a pink frilly brolly with me? After all, it was very wet today. Also, pink frilly brollies are so manly.

I propose that the next time they invent a football team, they make them pink and frilly. With white spots. Just like my umbrella, only better at kicking balls.

After all, everyone would notice them. And pink frilly football players are so manly.

Thursday, May 24, 2012

Lost in a concrete Eldorado

South Morang is what might be called an aspirational suburb: it may or may not exist. Up until several years ago it certainly didn't. Its very name seems to be based upon a geographical absurdity (there is no north Morang to be south of.) For some reason, Whittlesea Shire Council - which Lalor is a part of - decided to put their council chambers smack bang in the middle of this possibly-non-existent suburb. I can't quite figure that one out, but it seems likely that it is a very, very good joke that they've been having amongst themselves.

Suburbs which may or may not exist, as you might imagine, are rather good places to become lost in. Which the Baron and I did, last night. We caught the train line to the station that was not listed yet on Google maps, looking out of the windows upon the rows of suburban houses which we could not see because it was dark, and got off and promptly walked in the wrong direction while looking for evidence of a restaurant that proudly proclaimed itself - or rather, its reality - on the internet. I blame myself for using Google in the first place.

We walked by broad streets, packed with cars driving very quickly in one direction or another, along neat footpaths empty of people, next to immaculately-mown lawns devoid of weeds or trees, and past darkened council offices. We came to a looming Parthenon, festooned in lights; large posters on its side proclaimed it might be a place where we could hold a wedding, or a conference, or an opera. We continued over a watercourse into a narrower street, where houses built last year, last summer, or last week towered up at us, and we wondered whether we had taken the wrong turning down a street that didn't exist yet on the internet, or we had taken the right turning to go to a place that didn't exist anymore. Eventually we concluded that we had gone in entirely the wrong direction.

We flagged down a bus (which, rather conveniently, charged around the corner right at the point when we decided that we had gone in the wrong direction) and held a very puzzling conversation with a heavily-accented (I have no idea what accent his voice was heavy with) bus-driver who was, in turn, very puzzled by us. No, he didn't go along X Road. No, he wasn't quite sure where X Road was either. But he wasn't sure if we should be on this bus either, he turned soon, just after the station. Yes, yes, we protested, that's where we want to get off!

Eventually we were walking in the right direction towards a cafe whose existence seemed increasingly uncertain. We saw a purple sign, shining brightly on the other side of the road, and I wondered briefly whether that might be it. The Baron informed me it was an adult entertainment shop. We marched on past a fenced-off field - the original South Morang, perhaps - hung around with signs which said, ENVIRONMENTAL NO GO ZONE. And then, quite suddenly, around the corner of a rather modest-looking block of offices, we came upon it.

The 'cafe' turned out to be a cavernous hall that may originally have been intended as an an office building. A series of superfluous blue lights, blinking on and off, festooned the exterior, and to get in you had to go through a complicated system of two doors up to a main desk. We marched up to the desk and asked for a 'table for two'. (Looking out of the corner of my eye, I noticed two or three other diners scattered about the vast  interior as I asked this.) The Baron said, rather kindly I thought, "sorry, we haven't booked." The guy behind the desk waved us in in the gestural equivalent of a yawn. Soon after he had dispensed with the customary courtesies (drinks, menus, etc) he went back to the table he shared with a friend, and the two commenced gossiping.

We were left sitting, rather uncomfortably, right in front of the window, in between a bare street,  and row after row of customerless tables. Curiously, the empty street left me feeling as if I should be performing the part of a satisfied customer. The Baron and I did what we could to fill up the void - haggled over items on the menu, surveyed the decor of the cafe, eavesdropped in on the conversation of two others sitting conveniently close by.

At such places, of course, the price is also aspirational: you are subsidising the possibility of future customers. The meal may be wholly incidental; though, incidentally, when it came, it was also rather nice. But was it enough getting lost in a concrete Eldorado for? I suppose that all depends. Though on what it all depends, I have no idea...

Tuesday, May 22, 2012

If I may just take a little of your time

The mushrooms we've been growing in the shower recess for the past few months.

The mushrooms we found that looked like the mushrooms we'd been growing so we ate them but might actually have been a yellow-stainer mushroom though we didn't get sick phew that was a close one.

Yeast, that wondrous eukaryotic microorganism that does... whatever eukaryotic microorganisms are supposed to do to make bread rise, and beer ferment.


Mucor miehei, the wondrous coagulant found in vegetables that makes milk curdle, thus making the process of cheese-making so much easier for you if you don't want to use animal rennet!

The mould that I found growing on one half a lemon I hadn't squeezed yet.


Magic mushrooms! Because it's your own choice but surely there are more profitable ways of using your time?

Thank you for letting me take up just a little bit of your time in order to make this qualitative list of fungi.

Monday, May 21, 2012

A gender agenda to adore a door

I just learnt from Tim that Emily's List is celebrating 15 years by releasing fridge magnets.

Image via the Telegraph.

This is a perfect opportunity for Fridge Magnet Poetry!







I. ME. MY.





Sunday, May 20, 2012

Piano lessons for wimps #1

Get a copy of J.S. Bach's 48 Preludes and Fugues, and only play the preludes.

Wanted: new book to become distracted from

After avoiding reading Sterne's Tristram Shandy for a series of days which turned into a series of weeks which turned into a series of months which became a period of about half a year, one evening on the train, all of a sudden, I finished the same novel, which came as quite a shock. It's said that many men have a mid-life crisis, a point at which they ask of themselves, 'where do I go from here?'. Well it's certainly true that avoiding reading a book over a period of days weeks months half years gives you almost unlimited scope for distraction. When you're me, that distraction entails reading other books, writing a goodly hundred-odd blog posts, finishing off two zines, and starting on a third. Now I've actually finished the damn book I'm not sure what to do with my life. Where do I go from here? Maybe they should ban reading on the trains.

Stuck at a loose end the other night, I picked up a Wordsworth Classics edition of Tales from King Arthur, a version of Andrew Lang's 19th century classic Book of Romance. It's the first lot of Arthurian tales I've read for a while, but of course by now I know all the characters so well, having encountered and re-encountered them through umpteen books - from T. H. White's The Once and Future King through to Edmund Spencer's Faerie Queen. I haven't read the Thomas Malory (that's another book I've been avoiding finishing for about a decade now - my excuse is that I have only the last half. It's easier to start something you can't finish than finish something you can't start, evidently).

Lang's main achievement seems to have been to translate the courtly manners of the original Arthurian stories into contemporary language. This seems to throw up occasional oddities of phrase, though -
While the King was wondering what sort of a beast this could be, a Knight rode by, who, seeing a man lying under a tree, stopped and said to him: 'Knight full of thought and sleepy, tell me if a strange beast has passed this way?'
The old narrative devices can seem very creaky. We learn in opening one story that 'it was the King's custom that he would eat no food on the day of Pentecost, which we call Whit Sunday, until he had heard or seen some great marvel.' For the story to proceed the marvel has to happen, and so 'Sir Gawaine was looking from the window a little before noon when he espied three men on horseback, and with them a dwarf on foot, who held their horses when they alighted.' Some visitors including a person not confined to the conventional height paradigm is a very meagre marvel indeed. Funnily enough, though, this turns out to be one of the best stand-alone stories, with one of the best illustrations:
Lang seems a little embarrassed by the Grail story, starting it with a little essay about the history of the Arthurian myths. There's a lot of obvious concatenation of the various knight's tales that goes on; he uses the phrase 'and they had many adventures' or 'and many more adventures happened to them' an inordinate amount of times during the saga. He doesn't do a bad job, all up, of giving a shortened version of the tales, but he does end up leaving out some of the best parts - for instance, the wholly incidental but very beautiful story of the wounded king, restored to good health by the grail.

We do learn a good deal about the knights and their various imperfections, especially Lancelot, which is all quite interesting given his dalliances with Queen Guenevere. (Lang doesn't go into much detail there, either - he generally seems to proceed by omission, following the opposite approach to, say, John Boorman in his film Excalibur, where he tells as many stories as possible by making everything happen to a few central characters. In Excalibur, Arthur is the wounded king, for instance.)

I quote enjoyed it, on the whole. Trouble is, I've finished it now, and I'm left asking again, er, where do I go from here? Probably should do some work or something. Damn reading on the trains! It only leads to trouble!

Saturday, May 19, 2012

Cat news

Cat news: finally, the media is covering the important stuff
LALOR, SATURDAY - In a development of local, state, federal, national, international, galactic, intergalactic, universal, and multiversal import, Beatrice the cat has sat in someone's lap. She sat in someone's lap and stayed sitting in someone's lap before continuing to sit in someone's lap and then sitting in someone's lap some more and continuing to sit in someone's lap also in addition. After further lap sitting, closely followed up by another bout of lap sitting, she has continued with the lap sitting in order to further continue the lap sitting before sitting in someone's lap some more.

As this situation, with social, economic, legal, artistic, scientific, spiritual, and so on, implications develops, Beatrice the cat has continued to sit in someone's lap before, in a radical change, going over into someone else's lap and sitting in their lap instead and continuing to sit in that lap until she has gone over and sat in the first lap and continued to sit in that lap in an unprecedented bout of lap sitting. (Unprecedented since the last time it happened, that is.)

In related world-changing-life-altering-mind-blowing-community-evolving-etc news Harriet the cat has walked around the house and the garden rubbing herself against things. While walking around the house and garden rubbing herself against things she has continued to walk around the house and garden rubbing herself against things while also walking around the house and garden rubbing herself against things before walking around the house and garden rubbing herself against things. In a radical-bizarre-curious-explosive-and-not-very-different-difference, occasionally instead of walking around the house and garden rubbing herself against things, Harriet the cat has sometimes walked around the garden and house and rubbed herself against things or even rubbed herself against things before walking around the garden and house.

In response, Beatrice the cat has mainly continued to sit in someone's lap.

We'll bring you more on this developing development as it develops. (That is, if it actually does develop.)

OPINION - Is it a lap if I'm lying down? (Panel discussions involving all important experts everywhere)
ADVICE - Good things to rub yourself against. (Harriet the cat's regular column.)

PLUS! Cryptic crossword! 

1.  Backwards pan cooks a nice sleep.
2. Confused act, with whiskers.

Friday, May 18, 2012

Wiggle niggle

Amid speculation about the future of children's rock and roll outfit The Wiggles following the announcement of the departure of three of the original members, children and parents have been left in the dark as to the future of the "Black Wiggle", Horace Greely.

The basic set-design of the Wiggles has not changed for years: Greg is the yellow one, Murray is the red one, Anthony is the blue one, Jeff is the purple one, and Horace is the black one who has for years been involved in covert terrorist training camps in Afghanistan and is suspected of smuggling drugs and weapons into Australia from overseas.

As the much-loved Black Wiggle, Horace was a core member of the Wiggles, and participated in many of their most famous songs: the one about the dinosaur, the one in which Jeff wakes up, and the one in which all the band members sing about how nice heroin is and why don't their audience members give it a try, too.

For many years, Horace has been living in semi-retirement from the Wiggles, possibly because he has been sought by the law for his funding of paramilitary organisations in Latin America. However, he has come out of retirement several times, and speculation over his future in the band now is rife.

FUN FACT! - In Horace's signature song, 'Let's spell P-S-Y-C-H-O-P-A-T-H-Y', use of regular character Dorothy the Dinosaur was dropped because of concerns about a dinosaur being 'too scary' for children.

Wednesday, May 16, 2012

Dens of Sin and Iniquity and Niceness

I am fond of the virtuously named pubs and theatres around Melbourne. There's a lot of them. Actually there's only three I can think of but they're all good. Actually one's not even a theatre anymore, but I'm still putting it in the list.

The Perseverance Hotel
The Temperance Hotel
The Progress Theatre

There's something, shall we say, wistful about the concept of naming a pub after a virtue such as 'Perseverance'.

Perhaps there could be more of them. A few tentative names:

The Chastity Hotel
The Upright Bar
The Soberman Pub
The Candid Venue
The Worthy Inn

UPDATE! - I just remembered, in North Melbourne there's a bar called


The wonderful wide world of transport

Maybe I'm just jaded because I'm only two hours off a crowded peak-hour train, but what is it with forms of transport and grumpy people? People on the train fume about not getting enough space, people driving cars grump about others walking out onto the road, people walking out into the road get into a lather over the scoundrels in the cars, people on bikes work themselves up into righteous rages because of all the slow pokes who are walking (and all of the fast pokes who are driving), and people on trams, I suppose, must get outrageously outraged because someone is speeding past them using their zimmer frame. What a lot of furious people there seem to be, going at various velocities to various destinations, and all directing their civilised ire, their cultivated umbrage, their passive aggression at one another while they zoom onwards!

I would have said that it was different a few generations ago, when everyone went about on horses, but then again, it wasn't really. Instead of passive aggression, they were often aggressively passionate, and went about donging one another with great big broadswords or lances and what not. (Actually, that sounds quite fun. Can we try that on the trams, do you think? Could we pay for the privilege on Myki?)


Meanwhile, I'm finding the occasional sight of police on the trains rather plaintive. I know it's something to do with making the public feel safe or some crap like that, but is it just me who imagines that it's because the force has become so cash-strapped that it has to use public transport? It makes me wonder just what sort of exciting high-speed chases they could get up to: 'suspect is on 5.41 train to Clifton Hilll... he's getting off at Clifton Hill to change to the Hurstbridge line... quick! We'll intercept him at the station! Oh NO! We're at Northcote and a member of the public is holding the door open so his mum can get in... THERE ISN'T MUCH TIME....!'

Hmmm, yeah, I suppose it probably is just me.

Tuesday, May 15, 2012

Monday, May 14, 2012

Readers' Undigest

Varieties of the epicurean sneeze

The drink sneeze - Occuring at moments of great surprise or hilarity. Includes the famous 'I spluttered my coffee all over the computer.' Results often quite unobtrusive, unless someone nearby happens to be spluttered over.

The soup sneeze - More serious, as the results can often be colourful.

The muesli sneeze - bearing a remarkable resemblance to porridge.

The coffee and croissant sneeze - If you must do this, make sure you are not eating a good croissant while it happens.

The pesto and spaghetti sneeze - you are eating spaghetti with pesto, sneeze, and all of a sudden what appears to be a jellyfish, coated in seaweed, violently emerges from your mouth, nose, and possibly one or two other body orifices as well. It is possibly the most horrifying thing that will ever happen to you.

Now which of the above do you think happened to me last night?

Sunday, May 13, 2012

Symptom, symptom, anyone got a symptom?

For some reason I have been signed up to attend another one of those Work Health check thingies. By myself. How do I get myself into these things? Anyway, I guess I need some symptoms, since that's the whole point, right? I get myself a set of symptoms, go in and tell them all about it, and they say I will die in a week? It's so relaxing knowing those doctors and nurses are coming round to our workplaces to look after us.

The Baron has been doing her bit to help, chipping in with helpful suggestions of debilitating fatal diseases that may be in the process of fatally debilitating me. Just this morning I happened to mention that my tongue hurt a bit for some reason, and that it seemed to have a lump on it. Her response was as instant as it was devastating: "It could be an ulcer." "I probably just bit it accidentally," I said. "It's cancer, undoubtedly," she said.

So, in all likelihood, I will die before the Work Health check comes around. Good-oh!

Be good be good because

Be good to yer muvver
You don't have anuvver
Be good to yer muvver
Just don't be as good as Oedipus was
That was a bit too good, 
That was.
Be good to yer muvver,

Saturday, May 12, 2012

Yes, that thing

Way of writing, it's a strange,
Poets who, words rearrange,
Right in the starts, the sentence middle,
Hey confusing, how diddle diddle,
What a frightful really muddle,
Does everyone it quite befuddle,
They out it work, scratch their can't head - 
Let's write it out this way instead. 

Friday, May 11, 2012

Cat scenarios

The cats spend a lot of time at the window, outside, on the fence, across the road, or just anywhere really staring at, stalking, but mostly making funny little noises at the birds around our house. Here's how I imagine the scenario plays out in their heads:
1) They make funny little noises at the birds.

2) The birds fly into their mouths.

3) They eat the birds.

4) Everyone is happy.
This situation all seems perfectly logical, if you are a cat.

Well, this morning the Baron and I were outside with Harriet the Grey, and a plane went overhead, and I fancy I saw Harriet look at it with a similar sort of interest to that with which she looked at birds. Indeed, a similar scenario may have been playing out in her head.
1) Harriet makes funny little noises at the plane.

2) Plane crashes immediately, shards of metal go everywhere.

3) Harriet goes over and rubs herself against a shard of metal.

4) The passengers, all miraculously unwounded, go over and pat her.

5) Everyone is happy.
Hey, don't scoff. It could happen.

Thursday, May 10, 2012

Tuna time

When it comes to music, some people have perfect pitch, some people have imperfect pitch. I personally have cricket pitch. (I may have said something like this before. When it comes to my memory I have cricket pitch as well.) Anyway, despite all this, I also have a piano. It's only recently come to Lalor, from Newcastle, and it sits in the corner. We seem to get on well enough, the piano and me and my cricket pitch. Occasionally I even go and throw a couple of overs at it.

But lately, in spite of my devastating infirmity, I have noticed the piano changing. It sits in the corner, glowering at me. Occasionally it stomps about. Lets out a loud harrumph when I'm looking in the other direction. Yes, it is true: my piano is quickly changing from being well-tempered to bad-tempered.

How to fix all this? Get in a tuna, of course. So that's what we've done. The tuna is coming in first thing tomorrow morning. I've told the tuna not to worry about the balls; if he has a bat, stumps and a bail it should be fine. So we'll see how that works out.

Mettling my mangaphores

A passenger on the train yesterday seemed to be writing poetry in their little notebook. I decided to look at the poetry being written to see just how long it took poetic thoughts to be formulated on paper. (Though in the end I'm not sure how fast poetry should be written, anyway.) The rate seemed to be a bit faster than an autumn leaf slowly and sadly falling to the ground, and a tad faster than a continent morosely drifting through the ocean in that morose way that continental drift has of happening. Is there a scale on which we can describe the velocity of poetic thoughts, anyway?

Anyway, it all seemed faintly indecent, this writing of poetry on trains. It was a bit like seeing someone drink on the trains - just what will they allow next, I thought? Then of course I realised that, in my lap, my own notebook was open, and I happened to be penning a number of thoughts in them as well, at a rate somewhere between that of a languidly-drifting spider-web from one corner of the room to another, and... and... and the ineffable... um...

Bugger it. I'll take up being an alcoholic on the trains instead. At least I'll have a better excuse for mangling my metaphors then.

Monday, May 07, 2012

Butterflies! Dandelions! Puppy dogs! Poetry!

I have decided to invent a new type of poetry*, another variation on the haiku. I will call it the shrieku. Each line will consist solely of modulated shrieks, and of course it will follow the five syllable/seven syllable/five syllable structure of the haiku. Here's an interesting example of the method that I've just penned:


Strangely enough, all the other examples of the shrieku sound just like this one. So the form has some constraints. But that's the point of form, after all - by working within the shrieku form, you are able to say more with less. Well not really. You're not saying anything, you're just screaming. But that really does sum up something important about modern life, don't you think?

Please leave sample shrieks, screams, hollers, shouts, and other ghastly bloodcurdling wails in comments.

*No no, not like that time, or that time either. This time I'm serious.

Dogmatic mutterings of the press

I love the Herald Sun and it loves me, as can be seen by all the recipes it gives me for foods I don't eat from cooking shows I don't watch, and the articles it shows me about people I neither know nor care about doing things I have never heard about before with other people I know even less about. Since I don't care much what happens in the rest of the world anyway, it really is the paper for me.

But the Herald Sun also loves dogs, as can be seen on about page five or so, even third day, give or take. There was the article about the labrador fetching beer from the fridge for its owner (they showed a little picture of the dog doing just that), and then there was the snippet they ran about Australia's fattest dog (accompanied by lots of pictures of this fat dog). Fat dogs, as any good tabloid writer will be able to tell you, are even better and cuter than fat kids, because they allow you to use lines like 'canine obesity crisis sweeping this nation', and 'cries for help from Australia's fat dogs'. (Also, have you ever tried to photograph or pat a fat child? It's dangerous. Sometimes they even bite.) The Herald Sun even ran a follow up article on this corpulent canine several months after, talking about his journey back to good health ('before' and 'after' photos featuring prominently).

But all is not sweetness and light in the world of tabloid dogs, for the Herald Sun also really loves savage dogs, or at least loves the headlines they produce. They have photos for those ones too, so every time 'Killer dog on loose' or 'Pitbull off leash in children's playground' appears in their pages, there's a cute little picture of a snarling dog in studded collar that will pop up, probably on the front page.

To this day, though, the Herald Sun haven't - though I'm sure one day they'll find an excuse - run an article like the following:

... the incredibly cute puppy is a signed up member of Al Qaeda, and is evidence of the canine extremism crisis sweeping our nation... there have been calls for state government to outlaw canine terrorism, before too late...  evidence of 'evil dog' training camps in the Victorian countryside... etc etc

The horror! The horror! Only costing $1 every morning, seven days a week.

Sunday, May 06, 2012

The show's not over until the fat lady whispers

Progress is a wonderful thing, generally speaking; it has put more food on our tables, more money in our pockets, and a wider variety of booze in our fridges than ever before. True, occasionally this onward progression does throw up a curious specimen such as Alan Jones, but my point remains. And we here, at the beginning of the 21st century, live at the most progressive point of that progress which progressively progresses towards wherever it is going. We would seem to be living in an age of miracles.

However, I can not help but note one small anomaly in this supposedly inexorable march onwards to better, bigger, greater, nicer times; a hump in our way; a lump in our... well, our throats. Our throats? Yes, our throats, our mouths, our lungs, our tongues, and all our organs that give us capacity to speak and sing and deliver voluble auditory ornaments unto our fellow human beings. For you would be forgiven, dear reader, if you thought, upon venturing into a pub where a band was playing, or a cafe where a poet was reading, or a library, or gallery, or theatre where someone was delivering a speech, if you fell to wondering that we did not live in a race of giants with the voices of gnats. Nothing else could explain our fondness for microphones, loudspeakers, hailers, and amplification devices of every variety.

The comparison could not be any clearer, really; just one hundred years ago, people packed into capacious theatres and gigantic galleries and libraries of the most vast proportions to hear this person speak, that person sing, and another person recite; somehow, all these artists managed to make themselves perfectly clear in spite of their handicap. These days, no matter how small the venue, no matter how few people there are, the speaker, or musician, or poet will find it absolutely necessary to place between themselves and the audience a small metallic object in order to negotiate their relationship with the audience and facilitate a louder ambience than would otherwise occur.

How can this great change have occurred? In this age of miracles, have our voices miraculously shrunk so that we can only make ourselves heard with a microphone, attached to a sound system, in which all of the knobs and buttons and widgets and dubobs have been manipulated by an expert technician; and in which the volume button has been turned to the top? Are our shrieks no louder than the whispers of previous generations? Consider that only a century and a half ago, Abraham Lincoln somehow managed to address an entire army, without amplification of any kind - and managed to make himself understood perfectly clearly, and have his words remembered until this very day. But we shrink at the task of winning over a couple of drunks in a pub. 

It really does seem strange that, in this great age of onward progress and inexorable miricalishness - an age, moreover, in which few people are above a bit of shameless exhibitionism and self-display - that we should really consider the device known as the 'microphone' to be so necessary. In most cases, a person speaking in an ordinary tone should be able to make themselves perfectly clear to the majority of their listeners.

So Poets! Musicians! McCracken! Throw off your microphones! You have nothing to lose but your chains! (And, er, your pride. But who wants that anyway?)

Saturday, May 05, 2012

Solidarity, chaps!

I have invented a new protest chant, and I think it really cuts to the core of the many difficult issues we are facing. Join with me, comrades:






YOU: C! 

I carry on in this manner for another few letters


YOU: J! 



Following this, you all give me chocolate.

Like I said. It really cuts to the core of the many difficult issues that we all face. Now, anyway, about that chocolate...

A gurning poem

A gurning poem

My darling I'm thinking
Of you and your gurning
I feel a deep yearning
A yearning, a burning,
For your clever gurning,
So tasteful, discerning,
I'm yearning I'm burning
My stomach is churning
Is churning with yearning
Is turning and churning,
Is flipping and turning,
My lover, your gurning
Is turning,


Wednesday, May 02, 2012

Join the zineage revolution

This is a post about zines! Aw, zines. Everybody loves zines! Pity no-one knows about them. Anyway...

There's a particular way of taking one sheet of paper, making a cut in the paper, and folding the paper so that all of a sudden you have a six-page zine. It's quite clever, and is an easy way to create a booklet with few resources, and I'd be a huge fan but for one fact - almost everyone who does this leaves on side of the paper entirely blank because of the way the paper is folded.

Now I'll grant you that this is a small thing, and it might be a concern shared solely between myself and me. (I note on that site I linked they do suggest adding "secret notes on the "hidden pages" that are different for every copy of your zine.") But being economical and efficient with resources pleases me when it comes to zine making.

Occasionally, I'll come across zines that are made out of sheets of paper with print on one side of them only; so half the zine consists of blank pages. That's foregoing a little trouble (working out how to print on two sides of a sheet of paper) and using a lot more paper than you need. Other zines, I notice, the makers will print only on one side, but stick the blank sides to each other somehow - with staples, usually - to make it seem as if their zine has less pages overall. The illusion is interesting - but again I get a funny feeling in my tummy, not the good sort, when I think about all the blank paper, unprinted on.

Somewhere along the way I've become a bit of a zine maker myself - printing out the odd thing here, accidentally putting another strange thing together - and browsing through the various zines I've made (almost twenty), I find that none of them are single-sided, not even the early ones. I didn't like that idea, even then; and there is something about the challenge of making double-sided little booklets that appealed to me.

In order to make a zine this way, you do have to work out, not only the intricacies of the photocopier, but how you arrange the pages on each sheet of paper - okay, I am actually a bit obsessive about this - so that when they are all photocopied, and stapled together, the pages fall in the right order. (For instance, if you take up a book, hold it up the right way, and open it up so you can see the back cover and the front cover, you'll see that the back cover appears on the left and the front cover on the right, though you'll be reading left to right.) And you also have to make sure that you've prepared the right amount of pages, something that fits into a multiple of four. (Again it's all to do with how the pages are folded and stapled together). So periodically, in my writing notebooks, you'll find big lists of numbers like this:

36 1
2 35

34 3
4 33

32 5
6 31

30 7
8 29

And - okay, okay, I am a lot obsessive about this - so on.  And once you arrange all the pages on your sheets of paper the right way, and get the photocopier sorted out, you've got these beautiful double-sided booklets, all efficiently and economically printed out. 

Then, of course, the next part of being economical and efficient is selling the damn things.

Now that part, I'm not so good at...
Email: timhtrain - at -

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