Thursday, January 31, 2013

High drama on Brunswick Street

The following conversation took place last night on Brunswick Street. The DRAMATIS PERSONAE I shall call ANNOYED YOUNG WOMAN, because she was, and SILLY OLD MAN, because he was, and TIM, because I probably am too. 

SCENE: Tim is standing on Brunswick Street, waiting for a tram. A car comes up, slows down, and SILLY OLD MAN sticks his head out. 

SILLY OLD MAN: Where's the Bar Humbug? 

ANNOYED YOUNG WOMAN: (From the driver's seat) Bar OPEN!

TIM gesticulates vaguely in the direction of the Bar Open. Car disappears into the mists of the night. (Actually it parked round a corner). Nothing else happens. Oh, yeah.... 


I'll hyphen you

A week or so ago I noticed this little story from local UK paper The Kidderminster Shuttle pop up in my facebook feed:
A NEW gate installed on a Kidderminster footpath has been removed days after it was put in - for being too noisy. 
Exciting, I know.

One of the things I find rather touching about this story is the precision with which the quaint journalistic hyphen has been used in the opening sentence. I imagine you'd find similar examples in many newspaper articles about completely non-eventful events - you're reading something about an uninteresting interest rate, someone mowing their lawn, or a person sitting down in their chair, and - all of a sudden, hey presto! - there's a little hyphen, and the sentence has an effective dramatic pause. (Also admirable about this story was the finesse with which the journalist provided a picture, with the caption 'Replaced: The new gate that has been removed'. Observe the use of the journalistic colon...)

Today another exciting example of the journalistic hyphen popped up on facebook. This time, though, the dramatic pause wasn't followed so much by a non-event as a complete non-story. Check this out:
Julia Gillard sports ‘hipster' glasses at National Press Club
PRIME Minister Julia Gillard unveiled more than an election today - she also showed off a new pair of glasses.
The chutzpah with which the Herald Sun reporter there neatly sidesteps from an apparent headline to the actual story they wanted to talk about is quite breathtaking. You can just imagine the journalistic hyphen being deployed in other stories of world-shattering import:

The Fuhrer did more than just annex Austria yesterday - he unveiled a shiny new pair of shoes. 

Not only did Comrade Gorbachev announce Perestroika yesterday - he wore a snappy double-breasted dinner suit. 

Bin Laden attacks America - while wearing a stripey tie! 

Wednesday, January 30, 2013

New devices for feline exploration acquired

Yesterday morning, my new phone fainted, my new computer decided it couldn't receive the internet, and the internet on my old computer decided it didn't work either. Quite propitious really, as on this morning where everything stopped working, I also received an email welcoming me to my new work position - of course, I wasn't able to read it because it was on the internet that was having a bludge on my computer that was having issues. But it did come through.

Perhaps I haven't mentioned that I'm starting work with a new company until now. Well, I am. Today - with everything working better - I dutifully set up my new computer with a new foot pedal and a new chair and a new mouse and a new keyboard on a palatial new desk (purchased from Office Works), sat down, and proceeded to shed hairs all over the (as already noted) new keyboard.

Soon Beatrice joined me, and walked up and down the palatial new desk, rubbing herself pleasantly on several objects, and pouncing on several other objects. (Beatrice, I need hardly remind you, is a cat - though imagine just imagine the implications in that sentence if she wasn't).

So. Work, huh. I remember what that's like.

Saturday, January 26, 2013

Alleged factualities and factual allegednous about Australia

A cold, impassive poem neither for nor against Australia written this Australia Day.


Australia is a land and a continent in the southern hemisphere.
It bears resemblance, faintly, to a headless camel in a fight with an inverted pyramid.
And there is also Tasmania.

As a nation it is only just over one hundred years old,
Which is actually quite impressive
In a meaningless statistical kind of way,
And it gets even better.

We wear our clothes conventionally,
Except for the exceptions.
Trousers in the vast majority of cases are worn in the ordinary manner,
Only more so.
Some of us have hair.
We belong to a variety of races and sexes and creeds
And Tasmania. 

What is the meaning of 'Australia'?
This question has perplexed many great philosophers
Who have pondered the problem and come up with a diversity of hypothetical difficulties
Which arise from Kantian phenomenology,
Although we don't want to get into that at the moment.
Which is not to say it is a bad thing, a good thing,
Or just a thing thing,
Which is not to say that it isn't.
But it is usually agreed that 'Australia' is the name for Australia.
(See me after class if there are any difficulties.)

Do Australians dream?
It is alleged that it seems likely that in all probability they do,
Of the wind and the stars, of the streets and the forests and the elements,
But I could not possibly comment.

In Australia there are many trees.

One plus one in Australia is commonly accepted to add up to two.

The laws of gravity work in a conventional manner.

Also, there is Tasmania.

These are just a few facts about Australia.

Friday, January 25, 2013

The nine muses of social media

First in the pantheon of social-media muses comes Antipathy. It is she who inspires drunken late-night rants on facebook, intemperate blog-postings, fuming and fulmination in the comments. Invariably, she holds an opinion different to you. She disagrees just as much with the rest of the Muses. In fact, somehow, all of her opinions are always different to everyone else's opinions, no matter how paradoxical that may seem. She inspires in her devotees rage, ire, cantankerousness, and feelings of overwhelming self-righteousness.
SYMBOLS: Empty pint glass, the sword.
ASSOCIATED WITH: Ares, the God of war, who, according to some myths, she is having an affair with, although according to other myths, the people who tell the first set of myths are liars and out to be ashamed of themselves.

Long summer days, or late at night in front of the computer screen - these are the times devoted to Procrastina, the happiest of the muses. Her manifestations are extremely erratic, but when she does come her followers worship her at such length, and with such ardour, that pretty soon days, weeks, and even months have passed without their being aware of it. She is said to be amongst the most beautiful of her sisters, and it is perhaps this beauty that seems to inspire her followers to engage repeatedly in what seem the most mundane and pointless of activities - clicking on a link, refreshing a page to see if a comment has come up, looking at video after video after video of gerbils on the internet....
SYMBOLS: A Lolcat chasing a computer mouse, flowers.
OFTEN DEPICTED AS: A person with an empty computer for a head.

Narcissia is commonly depicted as a beautiful muse, the youngest amongst her sisters. She has a full, rich, and complex emotional life, which she is forever posting about, emailing about, taking quizzes about, etc. She takes frequent pictures of herself and posts them on the internet. Her worshippers are many, though they won't talk about it much as they prefer to talk about themselves, in as many social fora as possible.
SYMBOLS: The mirror, a camera. 
ASSOCIATED WITH: Herself, who else? (This can cause problems on certain social media websites with relationship buttons).

The most caring of the muses, Petitia is forever circulating amongst her friends emails, posts, and online forms about various causes, which she herself received from the friend of a friend of a friend of a friend of the dog of a friend of a friend of hers. Her votaries will then circulate on these petitions, recruit others in the signing of these petitions, attend social events to do with these petitions, and so on. Petitia, however, is known to be one of the most easily persuaded of the Muses (less devoted souls might call her gullible) and will perform many favours for her worshippers upon being presented with a petition. She does not care for sacrifices at all - unless people are sacrificing their cash for her causes, that is.
SYMBOLS: A piece of paper and a pen.

Muse of inverted commas, semi-colons, apostrophes, the followers of Pedanticus are always ready to discuss the difference between litotes and meiosis, or weigh a non sequitur and an ad hominem in order to determine the mathematical difference between the two examples. They offer their exacting muse due worship by endlessly correcting friends and enemies, caring nothing for the context; many spend their time in penning emails to local newspapers about minor glitches they observed in the classified column. Although they have sent many emails and letters and made many phone calls in their time, they shun text messages: it is almost impossible to send a sternly-worded SMS.
SYMBOLS: A hair being cut with an axe, an ant being destroyed by an atom bomb, the head of a pin with her followers dancing upon it. 
DEPICTED AS: A question mark for a body, an ampersand for a face.

This mysterious muse is associated with contrasts: private and public, male and female. Her or perhaps his identity is fluid, and even the most knowledgeable amongst the followers of Androgina cannot truly say who she was yesterday, or will be today. The followers of Androgina are not always obvious, even to themselves, and occasionally they will have fights over who is a true follower of the Muse, and who is a fake follower. Many myths tell the story of how Androgina hops, in disguise, from computer to computer, from anonymous comment to anonymous comment, hearing much and revealing little.
SYMBOLS: The veiled cloak, light and dark
ASSOCIATED WITH: Hermes, Tiresias.

The muse of online love, Amoritus, looks upon with favour and blesses all unions made via websites, emails, text, etc. She inspires young men and women to write fervid emails full of fruity metaphors; however, it is said that some of her most devoted followers become cynical and jaded as they age.
SYMBOLS: Turtle doves, chocolates, roses. 
ASSOCIATED WITH: Venus, Eros, Cupid.

To this muse, a million rip-offs, knock-offs, unaccredited quotes, and copied blog posts is considered barely praise enough from her millions of devotees around the world. She is known by many names to these devotees: Plagisima and Imitatimus are merely the most common. She is honoured by repeated pressing of the CTRL + C function. Myths say that she frequently appears in large crowds, and although sometimes being hard to spot, will gradually reveal her glory to one and all.
SYMBOLS: A pair of scissors.
DEPICTED AS: A girl with a cuckoo sitting on her right shoulder and a fox standing by her side.

"O holy and holier/we summon Spamolia" - these are the words of the Spamolian hymn  with which, it is said, followers call Spamolia into the world. Although why they would have done so is a mystery, as, while Amoritus, Narcissia, and Procrastina are said to be the most beautiful amongst the muses - and while even Antipathy seems to have a sense of humour - Spamolia seems downright annoying. She is frequently associated with obsessive and robotic behaviour, and her followers will bear this out by endlessly circulating on to you emails and texts inspired by or written in honour of the Muse.
SYMBOLS:  Endless reams of paper.
DEPICTED AS: A naughty schoolgirl.
ASSOCIATED WITH: The son of the Governor of Ouagadougou, the Princess of Saudi Arabia, and various other dignitaries of fable and myth.

Saturday, January 19, 2013

My new laptop

As already mentioned, I got my new laptop in the mail this week.
I'm still in the setting up phase, and have so far encountered some problems with internet connection, loading up Microsoft Office properly, or just about anything that involves getting off the couch, really. However, my new laptop is surprisingly adept at catching and chewing on my pen, and displays multifunctional stretching and curling abilities, which I'm not sure I've ever seen a computer do before.

I guess we'll just have to see how it goes in the next week.

Friday, January 18, 2013

New South Welsh

This was a new one for me:

"What nationality are you?"

I was walking home from the shops. I see the kid who asked the question fairly regularly; he's always out on his bike and he'll always say 'hi'. All very nice and friendly, the only problem being that it is almost impossible to distinguish him from his two other brothers, who are always out on their bikes, always saying 'hi', and always all looking exactly like one another. Come to think of it I'm not even sure whether there's three of them. For all I know there might be four, or five, or six....

Nationality! I wonder whether it was my beard. Did that make me look multicultural? Or my tropical Hawaiian shirt? Or my dusty black Fedora? It was really rather flattering that he thought of me that way. As it was, all I could think of in reply was "Australian".

Turning round the corner, it suddenly struck me. I shouldn't have answered "Australian" at all. I should have told him the truth: "Nationality, you say? Mate, I come from a country far, far away. They call it New South Wales...."

Thursday, January 17, 2013

Buffy, beards, and brand new computers

The brand new computer arrived in the mail two days ago, as well as the boxed edition of Buffy, seasons one to seven, complete. The latter offered unprecedented opportunities for procrastination, the former was to be used mostly for work purposes. They arrived on exactly the same day. Why do the heavens spite me so?

Anyway, in between setting up the brand new computer, watching Buffy, putting off setting up the brand new computer for a bit, watching more Buffy, and watching more Buffy as a way of putting off setting up the brand new computer even more, I've been privileged to watch the first few motes of domestic cat hair drift idly by and settle themselves amongst the new keys of the brand new computer. I have also contributed to this by letting the occasional whimsical strand of beard unplug itself from my face, drift idly around in ever decreasing circles, and finally settle itself on the same brand new computer.

On another occasion, in another context entirely, I have been known to say on the question of beards and the preparation of food and drink, "beards add flavour, like cat hair." I like to think that this piece of wisdom still holds true, and would be willing to put it to the test in the case of my new computer. However, this would involve licking - and possibly munching away for a bit - at the keyboard. Live electrical circuitry could become involved. There could be difficulties.

I think I'll just watch Buffy instead.

Saturday, January 12, 2013

Miserables, Les?

(In which we continue our fascinating linguistic explorations...)

 Les Miserable.
(From Ozzie News

Less Miserable.
(From the SMH)

Friday, January 11, 2013

How to stuff a potato

Fig 1. Not an opiate.
Potatoes have begun emerging from the old compost bin (where else would you find them?), giving me the chance yesterday to exercise my gastronomic proclivities. One of the potatoes in particular was so huge that I decided to stuff it - any large vegetable ought to be stuffed, in my view, as it gives you the excellent opportunity to replace all that vegetable with something better: meat, for instance. Or chocolate. Or opiates.

Anyway, in the course of this exciting culinary exercise, I discovered a crucial scientific distinction: that between the dish of stuffed potatoes and the dish of potatoes, stuffed.

Here's what I did: I took the whopper potato, and sliced it in half. I dug out the centre with a knife and spoon. I took care to leave a narrow wall of .... well, potato between the edge of the potato and the... er, hole in the potato. I chucked all the dug-out potato in a pot to make mash, and I put the two potato husks into another pot to boil them up and make them edible.

While all that was going on I prepared the filling of meat of chocolate of opiates okay it was cabbage and spinach and onion, to be topped off with some fetta when we put it in the potatoes. Fine? (Mutter mutter mutter).

When everything else was prepared, I looked into the pot of potato husks and saw that one husk was ready for the stuffing. The other, well, it was well and truly stuffed already.

And that, dear reader, is the difference between stuffed potatoes, and potatoes, stuffed.

In conclusion, don't bother with the potatoes. Try opiates instead.

UPDATE! - Guess which one of these is a potato! (Photo taken by the Baron).

Sunday, January 06, 2013

Cliche Poem

Cliche Poem
 (Written after a Facebook discussion about cliches)

O darling o darling your eyes sighs and thighs we flew high through the sky you cannot deny it's just such a pity YOU ARE FULL OF LIES.

All those tears through the years when my worst fears came true (about you)

It was love at first sight yeah right now it's night and the light in our eyes has turned to complete and utter shite

When we walked in the park with the lark hark and then it turned dark fark,

Now it's all doom and gloom not bloom and presume not bride and not groom

And what do I care for your fair hair everywhere and whether or not certain of your body parts are bare?

My life has come to the knife.... Or possibly the fork.


Thursday, January 03, 2013

How to celebrate New Year

For some reason the Baron and I seem to keep getting stuck in the middle of suburbs that don't exist or, at any rate, certainly won't exist in a block or two. There was the time we were marooned in South Morang, and the bizarre adventure we took in the badlands beyond the former Pentridge Jail, ending up.... well, I'm still not sure where we ended up that time.

So. It was New Years Eve, very late at night. The car was piled high with presents, packages, buttermilk, yoghurt, chocolates, cats, a box of chooks, and, oh, yeah, two humans as well.We were somewhere on the highway just out of Melbourne, and it was eerily quiet. We decided to take an early turn off, one which we had taken plenty of other times, although those other times were far earlier in the day, I have to say.

The Baron, sensibly, wondered aloud where we should go to get onto the familiar route. I ventured the suggestion that we ought to go over that bridge, you know, that one over there. As this turned out to be exactly the wrong thing to suggest, we did just that. Pretty soon, we were driving down the streets of one of those suburbs that goes up so fast you won't even find it on GPS yet, which hardly mattered to us anyway as we didn't even have a GPS to tell us that we had arrived at nowhere in particular. Its name* was, if I recall correctly, 'Wallara Waters', which was absurd, as there wasn't any water anywhere (and probably no 'Wallara' either, whatever that might be**); the whole affair of new houses, half-built houses, or blocks about to become new houses, was in the middle of a field.

We did what anyone would have done in these circumstances: we drove around randomly, looking for streets to take us to where we wanted to go. There were very few of these, because everytime we tried to turn down one we were met with big ugly signs saying 'Road Ends'. At one point we even came to a standpoint outside a vacant block with a huge number on it while we debated what to do. I urged the Baron to just drive through it; the Baron, with her rigid sense of propriety and decorum, declined to do so. The cats looked on with the somnolent and brooding air that cats tend to get when they are stuck in a car with humans in the middle of the night in a strange suburb when... (etc etc).

Shortly after the New Year fireworks for that locality went off. We had yet to see any sign of life, mind you, and I was still far from convinced that we were not actually hallucinating the whole experience. However, as the New Year fireworks for that locality actually only consisted of one Firework, we were not particularly perturbed by this experience. A little later, we even came across a few of the Wallara Waters locals. At this point I would love to sound like an anthropologist who had just discovered a new tribe in a previous unknown corner of the world, but I can't. The locals were performing the relatively mundane activity of walking along the road.

Eventually we found our way out of that suburb and onto Epping Road. As we drove on to the turnoff, bizarrely, mist began billowing around our car. On a summer night. I felt as if we were leaving a mythical isle or something like that.

About fifteen minutes later, we were back home. All the fireworks of the New Year had fireworked themselves out by that time. What better way to celebrate the coming in of the New Year by sleeping it off? And so we did. Happy new year, everyone. 

*The first thing to get when you are a new, just-sprung-up-overnight suburb is a name. As they say, 'there's no place like home', and there's nothing like a name to make the no place that was WW feel just like home. 

 ** UPDATE! - The Baron informs me that the suburb is named after a sewerage treatment area. The proud tradition of the suburb of Reservoir lives on!

Wednesday, January 02, 2013

Culinary contemplations

The time has come for me to clarify my thoughts on important culinary matters.

The important consideration of the Christmas Cake to icing ratio
How much icing ought you to have on any one slice of Christmas Cake? Certainly if the slice is all icing or mostly icing then it is too much. But a Christmas Cake with the icing removed is a sad experience. The icing provides a nice contrast to the cake, after all. The white colour is gay and cheering, and the sweetness of the sugar complements the richness of the fruit. Sometimes, one likes to take alternate bites out of the icing and the cake, just to keep things even, and ensure that the right combination of flavours is in one's mouth at any one time. (However, the question of how to eat a Christmas Cake ought to form a separate consideration which will not be entered into today). At other times, one likes to leave the icing aside as a special treat, or to eat all the icing first thing to get to the 'good bit'. It is all a matter of personal taste, and depends on the time and context. Of course, the amount of icing one gets on one's slice of cake depends a great deal on where you cut the slice from, with a side slice of cake getting all the icing going down the side as well as the icing on top; while a middle slice of cake will only get the amount of icing on top. On the whole I like to get the middle slice of cake, simply because I like the amount of icing to be moderated somewhat, and because it feels somehow better to have a larger portion of the 'good bit'. However, the Christmas Cake to icing ratio cannot be expressed definitively, I argue - I feel, rather, it is a question of heart. Look, basically, I suppose I am saying if you want to give me a slice then I'll be happy with any old slice.

The important meditation on Rum and Raisin icecream
'Rum', 'raisins', and 'icecream' are three of the most delicious things on earth. Therefore, it is understandable that 'rum and raisin icecream' forms one of the most crucial food groups in any icecream shop, and they will be judged according to the availability, and quality, of the aforementioned food. However, it can be a tricky thing to get right: one wants to clearly taste the rum without it being too overpowering. And clearly, the word 'raisin' ought not to indicate that the portion of icecream purchased have only one raisin, singular, contained within. (Unfortunately, I have encountered more than one situation where I have found only one raisin, or, worse, no raisins, within my apportioned portion of rum and raisin icecream). As with the 'Christmas Cake to icing ratio', I feel there are no clear rules to be set out here - but there should neither be too many raisins as to leave next-to-no room for the icecream, nor too few raisins that it is all icecream. What one is aiming for is a pleasing balance.

Thank you for listening to my thoughts on these important culinary matters. Please feel free to print them out and take them round to your local suppliers of important culinary, er, food.
Email: timhtrain - at -

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