Sunday, March 31, 2013

The Book Book

While I'm in a pedantic mood, what's with all these books called 'Bible' that are not the Bible? Things like the Self-Sufficiency Bible for self-sufficient people, and the Sustainability Bible for sustainable people, and the Gardeners Bible for gardeny people. Really. Does this mean that soon we're going to have to call the Bible (which is, I suppose, the Bible for people people) the Bible Bible just to stop everyone getting confused?

And that is my Easter message to you all.


Read about sectarian violence today in some part of the world. But then again I'm always reading about sectarian violence in some part of the world; no-one ever wants to talk about sectarian peace. Simmering sectarian happiness in Victoria today broke out into outright sectarian peace, with sudden attacks of sectarian niceness and sectarian cups of tea. See? Same goes for anything prefaced by ethnic, racial, and so on: who wants to read about a tense situation of ethnic cheeriness rapidly spiralling out of control into outbursts of racial singing before everyone becomes embroiled in all-out sectarian fairy cake parties? Ugh. Sounds sickening. Like a Disney musical. Makes you want to go out and commit unprovoked sectarian violence against someone. So you can see why the media sorts prefer that to the alternative.

In conclusion, the end.

Friday, March 29, 2013

Flop of the pops

You make me lukewarm baby lukewarm
A bit tepid baby
Lukewarm baby lukewarm

Feelin' just a bit above average temperature but not uncomfortably so
Feelin' just a bit above average temperature but not uncomfortably so...

It's slightly warm in here
Just slightly warm in here
Ev-er so slight I'm gonna make some cheese now

Feelin' just a bit above average temperature but not uncomfortably so
Feelin' just a bit above average temperature but not uncomfortably so...

Lookin' for some temperate stuff baby this evenin'
Lookin' for some temperate stuff baby tonight...
Lookin' for some temperate stuff baby this evenin'
Lookin' for some temperate stuff baby tonight...
(Fade out)

Thursday, March 28, 2013

Film review

This was a film whose theme was issues, and which dealt with the undercover reality beneath the surface truths. The issue-theme developed over the structural organisation of the topical format until it was themed with issues, revealing important subjects over the theme of issues, and important thoughts over the issue of themed subjects. The important importance of the issue of issues was revealed by the revelations which climaxed in the climactic scene, before the plot concluded decisively the narrative, which demonstrated for once and for all that the undercover obvious themes were often hiding the less-evident relevant topics related to the issues. This was a film rich with interpretation, analysis, criticism, and interpretation of the analytical criticisms inherent in previous criticisms of the analytic interpretation. Some of the things explored in this film included: the topic of issues, the issue of themes, the theme of reality, the reality of themes, the analysis of criticism, the criticism of subjective objects, the objective nature of subjective reality, and the format of subjective issue themed structural principles.

I would not hesitate to recommend this ad for Kellogs Cornflakes to anyone.

Wednesday, March 27, 2013

Big Bang Bleary

Bit of a first today: my first beer bottle explosion, that is!

I was just sitting here at the other end of the house minding my own business (or whoever else's business I happened to have at that point) when a sudden bang and a tinkling of glass went through my eardrums.

I immediately leapt out of my chair and into action and/or my pants. Our cat Beatrice had taken the sensible course and hidden deep underneath the purple couch, which I probably would have done myself if there was any room left over, but I couldn't, so I went into the kitchen to see what happened. Glass all over the floor, beer dripping from the bench, and mess everywhere: a bit like a quiet night in the '80s in one of Tony T's old pubs, then.

Another homebrewing success! Drinks of water all round! 

Thursday, March 21, 2013

What didn't happen in politics today, and who wasn't there to make it happen

A poem in honour of the Australian Labor Party, who somehow manage to turn the non-story of Gillard remaining Prime Minister into a complete media disaster for themselves.

The man who wasn't there
The isn't man, he wasn't there,
He wouldn't run, he doesn't care
To be the one who wouldn't win
And ends up writing for the Fin.

He wasn't there a lot today.
I think he hasn't come to stay; 
Perhaps that's why some people say,
'I wish that man would go away.' 

Wednesday, March 20, 2013

Critic critique

The other day, browsing our shelves for a book which I had been reminded of while reading another book which I had taken up in order to distract my attention from a different book which I had been perusing on and off as a distraction from a further book I came across some other book that (and it's okay if you don't follow me, because I don't either) I had purchased years ago and never got around to reading. This book - the last book, the distraction from the distraction used to distract myself from the other distracting distraction - proved to be quite an effective distraction indeed, and I have been reading it on and off ever since. What? Oh, yes. It's The Metropolitan Critic, a collection of the early criticism of Clive James.

" of the books which the reader admires and lays down, and forgets to take up again," said Samuel Johnson of John Milton's Paradise Lost. Well you might say a different thing of any of James' books: they're easy to put down, and easy to take up again. Most of his essays are done with in a few pages, and there is no overall argument; perfect for people like me who are endlessly able to be distracted, really. James is the sort of writer who a lot of people love, and a lot of people love to hate, and, I suppose, I find myself feeling both ways about him. He is a shameless poseur, helplessly vain, sometimes completely untrustworthy. Does he even trust himself? He's even changed his own name. But his ideas, sometimes wrong, are always interesting, and at least he cares about his writing; you get the feeling he spends many long hours agonising over his next spontaneous one-liner. I spent many pleasurable hours myself immersed in perhaps his best work, Cultural Amnesia. It's essentially a collection of essays about people that James' is interested in, although it's only fair to say that there's a complicated argument in there about culture and history and the world wars too; and besides, James' interests are always interesting.

Anyway, this book, The Metropolitan Critic, has stuff from the Times Literary Supplement, and other of the posh papers and journals at the time of writing. James enthuses about e.e. cummings, argues with A. Alvarez, cooks a snoot at Susan Sontag, seems sound on Peter Porter and quibbles entertainingly about A.D. Hope. He also begins haggling with himself; each essay is concluded with a note, about a page or so in length, in which James criticises the critic he was, sometimes patting himself on the back, and often splitting microscopic hairs. This sort of thing can bring out his worst: the obtuse grammarian ('Too many colons and loose 'ands') and the cheap joker ('Can't agree' was an over-colloquial, and hence under-spontaneous, way of saying 'I can't agree'. Wouldn't do it now...') Worse, when he finds one of his arguments (about the once-famous Professor Leavis) lacking, he excuses it in the worst possible way -
When I called his view of history 'enormously complicated', the 'enormously' was the tip-off. I not only didn't really believe it, I thought his view of history was the opposite of complicated - i.e. actively simplistic and misleading. But I didn't yet dare to say what I thought. But I didn't yet dare to say what I thought, partly because not enough people seemed to be thinking it. 
How can we be sure he's not lying now?

This excuse might very well come from a kind of sensitive snobbery James has about the upper echelons of intellectual culture. He doesn't always feel so restricted in his criticism, as his take downs of Alvarez and Sontag show. Or, for that matter, his very funny and completely untrue dismissal of a whole continent, our very own Australia. 'Crazed gangs of taipans have been known to steal cars', he writes, 'and cruise up and down the Pacific Highway, looking for trouble.' Just as Milton Friedman said that the easiest money to spend is other people's money on things for other people, the easiest, (and often the worst) sort of journalism is that written about other people in other countries which your readers will never visit. If he gets away with this one, it's because he is himself an Australian. And his article is funny; very funny.  

I can't help liking Clive James. It's not because of his vanity, or his posing, or his being occasional misleading, but it's not in spite of those things either; they're signs of a deeper personal unease. He gives the impression of being endlessly uncertain about his own identity, just who he is, and where he really comes from, and what he should be doing. As a result he constantly questions himself, and argues with his former arguments, and adopts a position because he hopes, desperately, he'll end up being in the right at last. Sometimes he is, and sometimes he isn't. Basically, though, I think he just wants to be loved - which really is rather lovable. Clive old boy, you're all right.

Wednesday, March 13, 2013

Let me thoughtfully distract your attention from that pile of crap by pointing out this pile of dirt

Our back garden, an unruly place at the best of times, has lately had two carloads of rocks haphazardly dumped on it, for very good reasons which I will not go into right at the moment. Taking this unruliness and adding a haphazard mess on top of it has only added to its tranquil charms, let me tell you. This is not to mention the regular ravaging of the landscape that occurs every day because of the rampaging descendants of the archeopteryx, our three chooks.

While out back we are in the midst of haphazard unruly mess, out front, we have had a pile of decaying matter, a heap of dirt, and a shitload of, well, shit, neatly placed. That is, some bales of straw, dirt, manure and to be added to the unruly haphazard mess. I had in my naivety thought before today that when such material is home delivered it tends to come in bags or boxes, like, say pizza. Nope. Apparently they just put it on your front driveway.

Soooooo, anyway, apart from these examples of landscaping - shit, dirt, dead grass, unruly haphazard mess - tomorrow my parental unit is dropping in for a visit. Apparently its the custom to make the place clean on such occasions, hey? Hmmmm, ha, yeah, we'll see how that works out....

UPDATE! -  Feel a bit funny about leaving big piles of dirt and poo on the front driveway tonight. What if someone steals them? Just how exactly would you go about stealing two big piles of dirt and poo, anyway?

Monday, March 11, 2013

The Shopping Centre Review, Lalor Hub edition

As far as shopping centres out here in Lalor go, we don't have much to choose from, apart from, er, the ones we do have to choose from. Okay! Look over here!

There's Epping Plaza (vistas of concrete and cars driving around endlessly in circles), the Rochdale Shops (a street held up by a milk bar and a Fish'n'Chip shop), Lalor Shops (the place to go if you want to be stuck in a Deli for half an hour behind four old ladies haggling over the price of a fig). And there is the ever-exciting Lalor Plaza - remote, seemingly unchanged since it was built in the '70s, low-ceilinged, consisting of a Coles and not much else. For a place aimed at mass market shoppers, Lalor Plaza seems amazingly inaccessible; for starters, it's hidden from the main road. On one occasion the Baron and I walked past the Plaza, and I noticed how one of their main entrances was buried beneath the street; you had to go down a little passageway until you got to the doors - it was like entering into a tomb. A tomb with fishmongers.

And then, there is the humble Lalor Hub. All over Melbourne you'll find strange little shopping arcades, never quite aspiring to the level of 'Plazas' - arcades that lead their way in little caverns through buildings. Here local hairdressers and computer stores and other small businesses find their natural abode. There's several in Coburg, at least one in Brunswick, and another in Preston. The other day I took myself on a walk past Lalor Hub, which is another example of this general concept - albeit a very strange, dilapidated example.

Its high walls were crumbling; the paint even seemed to be flaking from the proudly painted 'Lalor Hub' title. To one side there was a grocers, with plenty of fresh fruit, but apparently no customers. The proprietor had a little fold out chair and was sitting placidly out the front, apparently the only person there.

I am basically a bit of a stickybeak by nature; I can't help poking my nose into places like this. The door - between the Deli and the Bakery, not one of those electric doors that most shopping centres have; you just had to push it in yourself - lead me into a wide hallway. One store in the corner seemed to be more or less permanently closed. Next to the deli was a window, half filled with paper, saying 'FRESH FISH EVERY DAY'. That one, too, seemed to be closed for good. On the other side was LALOR BUREK: THE BEST BUREK IN MELBOURNE. That was right next to the Macedonian Radio Station, 'The home of the Macedonian community in Australia'. (This Macedonian community seems to mostly live in Lalor - there's a new Macedonian church and wedding reception centre, flanked by plentiful rosemary bushes, just down the road from where we live.)

I went into the Deli and wandered back and forth between the curious looking continental sweets. They were selling one of my favourite products, SLAG - a kind of packaged powder that you can turn into a flavoured cream dessert by adding milk. As I pushed up the back I noticed they seemed to do haircuts as well: they were a combination hairdresser-deli!

Thus concluded my real-life investigation of Lalor Hub. Later as I was browsing on the internet I turned up this ad for THE BEST BUREK IN MELBOURNE.

I also noticed that back in 2011, someone had created Facebook pages for Lalor Hub Burek (10 likes) and Awkward moment when you are craving for a burek from "Lalor Hub Burek" (15 likes; it sounds very awkward indeed).

Here ends today's edition of The Shopping Centre Review, Lalor Hub edition. I'm going to go off and think awkwardly about bureks now.

Sunday, March 10, 2013

Abstruse puns for a Sunday morning

Did you hear the one about the Spoonerist lovers? Instead of billing and cooing, they accidentally set about killing and booing.

What about that Richard Wagner, hey? Now he was one Gessamtkunstjerk!

Saturday, March 09, 2013

Soliloquy of the Bones

A couple of weeks ago The Spectator poetry competition challenged folks to write a Shakespearean soliloquy from the perspective of Richard III's ghost, reflecting on the recent find of his in a Leicester car park. My entry didn't make it. So now in the spirit of being jaded and bitter and twisted, here it is.

Soliloquy of the Bones
Now is the winter of our disinterment.
These few poor feet of asphalt are the stage
In which our glory manifests once more -
A huddled bag of bones against the day.
A car. A car. My kingdom for a car.
I would survey my longtime-widowed realm -
Bare concrete, petrol stations, fish'n'chips,
Land bleak, land cold: the dead amongst the dead.
To be or not to be the next day's headlines,
By rows of slickly-painted plastic faces,
Or in the gallery, a sickly clutter
Of rotting bones to tittilate the kiddies.
I would not have it: cover me again,
With silent earth fill up my private hole,
I'll find my whole in nothingness once more:
Rebury me: these joints are out of time.

Friday, March 08, 2013

Amber reflection

Pub skeptic

The Holy Duo! Fish and chips!
Or is it just Fish Fingers?
The menu says one thing, however
His suspicion lingers.

Confusing myself in preparation for a job interview

The difference between discreet and discrete is discreet, but the difference between discrete and discreet is discrete. 

Affect can effect an effect, but can an effect affect an effect?

Should we hear hear here? Can we hear hear hear here?

Can I have fewer 'less hairs' and less 'fewer hair'?

The stationery stationary on the station. The station with the stationery stationary.

Do I have license to practice, or should I practise licence?

Thursday, March 07, 2013

Being an argument against fun

Against fun

They were out in the streets again, I noticed. On Saturday, streets overflowing with students, revellers, party-goers, clutching beer cans, going from one pub to another, wearing togas, chatting, laughing - people devoted to having that most recondite of all behaviours, fun. Having fun is, of all modern rituals, the most gruelling, the most time-consuming, the most difficult to master, the most exhausting and horrifying, the most exacting and degrading of them all. Maybe it is just me, but it’s not – don’t these people know how healthy it is to have a good scowl? How life-affirming and satisfying it can be to indulge in the occasional moment of social awkwardness, to harrumph misanthropically at nothing in particular, to became inflamed with outrage at a misplaced comma in a local newspaper?

All ages produce a chimera, a false God to mislead the people, an anti-Zeitgeist – a Blightgeist. In Victorian and Edwardian times, it was being ‘Nice’. Being nice was what children were advised to be, what adults were to one another, and what you could describe a cake as being like: a quality shared by children, adults, and cream puffs. By the middle of the 20th century, the Blightgeist was the New: art was new, architecture was new, music was fairly new, and communism and fascism were very new.

Today, we have Fun. The machinery of Fun is Entertainment and Parties; people go to a party, or indulge in entertainment, to have fun; the end result of the having fun is, supposedly, happiness. But strangely, people who are having fun never seem to me very happy, and happy people are by no means the sort who like to go out and have fun.

Entertainment has largely replaced art, but to what end? An entertainment is neither guaranteed to be entertaining or to give fun. It is cheaper to be loud and have lots of diverting special effects than to be properly entertaining; it is easier to imitate entertainments from the past, and lift script ideas from other writers, than to come up with something original and interesting on your own.

There is very little fun or happiness in a party: go to a party, and you will have to spend a lot of energy shouting at other people in order to be heard over the other people who are shouting louder than you in order to be heard over the music that is playing louder than anyone in order to be heard over everyone who is going to start shouting even louder than the music in order to be heard. This is a strenuous activity, and no less strenuous are the other regular exercises you might undertake at a party in preference to shouting at other people, and in pursuit of the never-ending goal of fun – getting wasted, smashed, fucked up, senseless, falling down drunk, or getting into fights. If such activities are indulged in more by the young than the old, it is not because the young are any more likely to have fun or be really happy than the old; rather, it is because they are healthier and fitter and more able to withstand the arduous and monotonous task of modern-day fun without complaining. (If, on the other hand, these activities were indulged in merely for the sake of themselves, they would not be half so harmful; indeed as the example of the Ancient Greeks or Ancient Germans shows, they can be the foundations for a flourishing civilisation.)

If these false deities, Fun, Entertainment, Parties, and Happiness, had a pantheon, then Happiness – the ruling fake God of the Blightgeist – would be the head, the cause of so many errors. Happiness as an idea is both extremely simple and utterly intangible; so that anything that might be said about Happiness, then, can only be taken on faith or rejected on faith. A person may say that they are happy, but they can in no way prove this; there is no pill for happiness, no button to press, and there are no definite results from happiness. A man may be happy because of or in spite of circumstances, and occurrences will occur because of or in spite of a man being happy. In spite of this fact governments concern themselves with happiness surveys, constitutions have been written based on the ‘pursuit of happiness’, and books are written to aid people in the pursuit of happiness. It is rather like thinking you can become unified with God by wearing a certain colour of socks.

It is foolish to think that we can be happy all the time, entertained all the time, and have fun all the time. Life is not lived in a monochrome fashion, consisting of one perpetual state of neverending bliss. Life gains its meaning and piquancy by its different moods, its moments of gloom and times of calm and content; and while it would be infantile tyranny to insist on making other people suffer so that their happiness would be all the sweeter, it is equally facetious to attempt to legislate happiness. Perhaps, though, it is because of the intangible, unproveable nature of happiness that makes fun so utterly all consuming, subsuming the time, the world, the very life of its adherents: the more fun one has, the greater the end result of happiness is supposed to be.

No, we have had enough of fun. It is time to be sombre and sober, melancholy and languorous, mildly cheerful or slightly fretful, pragmatic or pedantic, indulgent or forgetful, moderate or decadent – to lavish in the mild emotions and the moderate virtues; for fun, that corruptor of souls, that destroyer of all that is good and pleasant and noble and joyous and fine, has been the tyrant over our world for too long.

Sunday, March 03, 2013

Odd thoughts on odd socks

For years I have agonised, meditated, fretted furiously, pondered, laboured, and ground my teeth, about, on, over, around, because of, and upon the problem of odd socks. A little portmanteau suitcase in the cupboard is now almost entirely devoted to the storage of odd socks in the house, the number of which seems to keep growing and growing. Occasionally, Beatrice the cat likes to nip into the cupboard and curl up upon the comfortable bed of warm socks provided, and go to sleep, which makes me think she does not fully comprehend the gravity of the situation.

What is this mysterious power that odd socks have, to keep multiplying, as if by some curious generative agency that biologists had previously been unaware of? They are filling a small suitcase today, in a few years they may fill a small cupboard, by the end of my life perhaps the household will be overflowing with these odd socks, their number increasing exponentially. Are all the small niggles and irks and worries and bothers and troubles and woes and quibbles of life likely to multiply in this manner?

Occasionally, it is true, I will unveil a sock that makes a pair, hiding beneath the bed, or underneath the washing machine, or covered by a pillow, or draped teasingly over the back of a seat (am I wrong to think that these socks are 'teasing'? For there does seem to be a sense of purpose to the way they appear and disappear and reappear at different locations in the house.) This is a moment of jubilation, for what can be better than to finally place two socks together again after a long separation? For socks, I contend, were meant to go together, like bread and butter, like tea-cosies and tea-pots, with all the undeniable simplicity of a basic mathematical equation; for just as a plus b plus a is equal to b plus 2a in the world of algebra, so too does it seem absurd for socks to not be in pairs.

But the reality is, as the socks grow older and the number of unpaired socks rises, so too do the odd socks mutate and develop new holes, new crevices, accretions of dust, until their original purpose, that of fitting neatly on someone's foot and providing that foot with shelter and warmth, seems entirely obsolete; they have a new, strange purpose in life, though what that purpose could be, I do not know.

For what reason am I keeping the odd socks? The probability that I will ever be able to perfectly match up all the socks in the houses seems now vanishingly small; perhaps it has been impossible for some years. Is every pair of socks in reality just two odd socks that have been temporarily placed in one another's company, two socks that are for a moment similar but will spend the rest of their lives changing and growing apart? Is the purpose for which socks were designed about to be subsumed, at any moment, into an unknowable, greater purpose? Is this the lesson I should draw from the presence of odd socks in our house? Are they symptomatic of the universal law of entropy, the inevitable tendency of all systems towards chaos? If my little suitcase of odd socks, many differing in colour, some containing curious iconographical symbols on them, were to be discovered by a future civilisation, would they divine some undeniable symbolic meaning to these socks that is for some reason unclear to us now? Why do these odd socks torment me so?

Saturday, March 02, 2013

Time warp cake

An excellent dinner with friends last night at Lalor mansions, for which I cooked and served a cheesecake with a 19th century recipe.

I'll be writing more on the cheesecake thing soon, but in the meantime, here's a little photo of the night:

As you can see, we all had such fun! Something was wrong with the camera though. We all seem to have a lot more ink on our faces and clothes than normal....

More Buffy

We're on to season six of Buffy the Vampire Slayer now, and in retrospect, it seems amazing that a show based on such a fundamentally realistic and unfantastical concept (see title) should so constantly test the audience's credulity, and always get away with it. In season five there were a whole bunch of medieval knights on horseback (don't ask) chasing down the heroes in a bus, and bringing them to a halt by spearing the front of the bus. Yes, right. And then of course there was the sudden and unapologetic way Buffy was given her teenage sister, Dawn - in spite of the fact that Dawn had not appeared in any of the previous seasons.

Season six hasn't had too many credulity stretchers so far - apart from the audacious Once more, with feeling, AKA the one where they did a musical. There was an explanation for it all, of course, but as Byron said, I wish he would explain his explanation.

I'm loving it all, though I do have one complaint. Halfway through an early episode of season number six, the colour on our television/DVD set completely disappeared. And now we're having to enjoy the rest of the season in black and white. All those finely nuanced greys, and fights in darkened rooms, or in graveyards at midnight, the dodgy characters working in shady nooks and crannies, librarians shuffling through dusty lightless caverns in between brooding and sombre volumes of books - the rich, impressionistic artistic palette on which Joss Whedon works, from shadow black to general pre-dawn gloom - we're missing out on it all.
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