Saturday, August 31, 2013





Oh hang on what am I even reading this bloody gardening magazine for????!????!?!?!?

Tuesday, August 27, 2013

The tumbleweeds of the underbed, and other hairy topics

Perhaps it is because people, collectively, have much less hair than just about any other mammal wandering about that we spend so much time fretting about it, fretting about not having it, fretting about what to do with it, fretting about how to get more of it, or fretting about how much of it we should get rid of even if nature has done most of the job for us already. Witness the eternal debates about underarm hair, leg hair, beards, moustaches, etc, etc.

Since every person on the world seemingly has a position on hair I have a position on hair too. My position is this: I rather like it. I am interested in the fact that we have less of it than almost all other mammals: how did that happen? Shouldn't that mean we are biologically conditioned to think of ourselves as genetic freaks? And the bits of hair that we did keep fascinate me even more: why did we keep them? Did we make a collective decision as a species to keep head hair, and the odd bit of pubic hair after that? Why is it that men have beards and women don't?

I like hair words: oxter, vellus, hirsute, pogonology. I like all sorts of pubic hair, but especially (pardon my vanity) beards: I like the way our body develops these little forests and groves; their presence seems to provide an appropriate balance and variety to the body - some skin here, some hair there. I like the way a beard can hold objects, pens, pencils, even the odd carrot; and I like being able to thoughtfully yet absent-mindedly rub my beard whenever I feel like it. Why do some centuries like beards and others do not? In the Victorian age, men were required to have a beard, full and flowing; in some cases it was compulsory*. Beards were out in the first half of the twentieth century, and then in for a brief period in the sixties and seventies, and then out again until today.

I even like fake hair: wigs and toupees are a wonderful thing, even - and especially - when they are wigs for pubic hair, merkins and the like. I like how the whole of Western Europe, for a period of some hundred years, became crazy about wigs, so that the sight of a person not in a wig would have been regarded as appalling. How did that happen? Was there an original wig model, a person with wig-like hair, that proved inspiring to the several generations of people that came after him? I like the extravagance that accompanied many hairstyles in the 18th and 19th century with, for instance, patriotic Parisian ladies having their head styled up to resemble great naval battles.

Even if hair is a small subject, it is not a subject that is small; you could go on and on about hair, and truthfully, there is not as little of it on our bodies as we might think. Vellus hair is tiny, fine hair that grows all over our bodies, on both men and women, children and adults. There is even, I discovered to my pleasure some time ago, a special hair for newborn babies and foetuses, lanugo hair, which is eventually replaced by vellus.

If there is anything better than hair on the young, it is hair on the old; I like the dignified tonsure that an ageing gentleman who has been slowly growing old gains as he loses his hair. When they led the Tory Party in the UK, both Ian Duncan Smith and William Hague had this tonsure, and I wondered how the British people told them apart. I also like how some people's hair slowly ripens from brown to a gentle grey to white; this is the kind of family that I come from, and indeed, that process is happening as we speak - though principally on my head and beard; my pubic hair doesn't seem to be ripening nearly so quickly. Indeed, the colour of my pubic hair seems to be quite different to the colour of my head hair, and I wonder if this is the same for everyone. Can red heads have red pubic hair? Or blondes have blonde pubic hair (the idea does seem rather strange)?

Animal hair is fascinating, too, and I like comparing notes with the cats about our whiskers. Cats apparently use their whiskers for balance and measuring up distances; I once heard a story about a poor cat who had its whiskers thoughtfully snipped off as part of a an early experiment in hairdressing, and who had to wait months for the same whiskers to grow back before daring to jump again. I am afraid to say that my beard does nothing whatsoever for my balance, although perhaps this was not the case for upright moustache bearers such as Lord Kitchener.

And I like the way hair detaches from one's body eventually, and floats around the house or the world, perhaps minutely altering the composition of some soup or cheese, maybe finding other hairs to mesh and play with until it forms Slut's Wool, the tumbleweeds of the underbed. So you see, there is very little that could be said about hair, but only because there is too much to talk about in any one conversation. Hair. I like it. 

*I read somewhere that the British army regarded the beard as a protection against the inclement weather, and I find from personal experience that this is true: I'm never troubled by my beard on hot days, but it insulates my face wonderfully against water and other liquids.

Melancholy thoughts upon the approaching spring

The sadly inevitable coming of spring would not be half so depressing but for the fact that so many people hereabouts seem to be actually looking forward to it. "Spring is in the air!" "Hooray!" and other dismal epithets abound. The very little winter that we are able to enjoy in Australia is sorrowfully insubstantial, with few showers, no snow, not as many grey clouds as one might reasonably wish for, and it is all over in a pitifully short time. This is bad enough; but the end of winter also heralds the coming blight of summer - bushfires, 40 plus degree days, and doubtless an influx of young sorts rushing hither and yon under the illusory impression that they are happy.

It is unfortunate in the extreme that, although Australia has inherited many good things from the British - a fine language, parliamentary democracy, the sport of cricket, and a certain propensity towards sombre grey-stoned architecture - the British climate is not one of those things. I'm not quite certain how this can have happened, but it seems to me an oversight on the part of our early Colonial Governors; one wishes that our formative Prime Ministers - Deakin, perhaps, or Barton - could have busied themselves with parliamentary statutes limiting the length and extent of our summers, perhaps, or importing English autumn and winter days where appropriate - but sadly, they have not. It is not simply that such a high-minded and forward-thinking approach would have made life here more comfortable; but it would have made it so much more productive. Autumn and winter are excellent seasons for just about all the good things in life that one could wish for: beer and wine brewing and cheese making. They also afford plentiful opportunity for the eating of porridge and pudding and scones and cakes, and for the occasional promenade around the house in a magnificent dressing gown. The seasons are also highly beneficial for domestic felicity: cats become less inclined to go outside, more predisposed to a cuddle, and are on the whole much friendlier with you and with one another. And, for some reason, it seems to make other people much grumpier and more sorrowful, which is also a plus.

It is probably too much to hope for any change to this appalling state of affairs. We could wish for an education about how nice autumn and winter are - there could be frequent readings of Keats ('Season of mists and mellow fruitfulness', etc) for instance - but it is likely thanks to public education that this rot about summer being wonderful, winter being horrible, started. They may not even teach kids about the 10 Major and 99 Minor Disappointments of Life anymore.

So the world is getting worse and we cannot do anything about it: the best we can do is ruefully admire the masses of gloomy clouds that hang in the Melbourne skies while there is still time. It should help to ease the pain, a bit.

Sunday, August 25, 2013

Taking literally laterally

I was literally sitting down a few minutes ago when the news that "According to the dictionary, "literally" now also means "figuratively"" hove figuratively into view.

At first, I wasn't sure how to take the news. Now that "literally" literally means "figuratively", does "figuratively" also get to literally mean "literally"? Literally? Does this also mean that "literally" figuratively means "figuratively" and "figuratively" figuratively means "literally", or would that be literally taking a figurative, er, figure of speech too far? Could I even trust the literal seat that I was literally sitting down upon anymore? Just how literally figurative are we supposed to take this figuratively literal equivalence, anyway?

Personally, I literally had ants in my pants, was jumping for joy, and was over the moon about this. But figuratively? Well - I suppose I was quite excited.

Stand by for the Clive James centrespread

I'm confused. Okay, I'm always confused and I'm confused about my confusion even more than that, and while my general state of quizzical befuddlement and bemused confuzzlement varies from day to day, I usually start the day off knowing nothing about anything and end the same day knowing even less. Today, my state of confusion, quizzicality, befuddlement, bemusement, and confuzzlement is directed at the brave activists at Honi Soit, the old student rag at my old alma mater, who apparently simultaneously decided to take a photograph of their vulvas and publish it on the cover and withdraw that same edition. Actually, the details are a little vague, but the decision to publish the cover and then withdraw the same cover was apparently taken by the one person, editor-in-chief Hannah Ryan, which makes it all the more of a head-scratcher when you read this piece, by an unnamed Honi writer, protesting against the censorship that it turns out they have undertaken themselves.

But that's hardly all, indeed, a university student paper getting into trouble, or perhaps getting itself in trouble for not getting into trouble, is hardly news. But the confusion multiples, it grows, it keeps coming in great tidal waves of confusion. What exactly was the cover protesting? Surely not the commodification of women's bodies, because mass producing images of vulvas like this - 18 per cover, hundreds of copies of Honi going to print (and then being pulled (but being put all over the net anyway)) is a perfect example of said commodification. Perhaps the cover has an educational purpose, because as one of the writers says, "Until I saw the uncensored versions of the vaginas, I didn’t even realise myself how different they could be." But to present them in this format, disembodied and impersonal - doesn't this kindasorta encourage the objectification of women? Or are we not worrying about that anymore? Will the cover change anything, help anyone, educate girls and liberate women? Is it actually raising consciousness or just encouraging future students to take their clothes off, take photos of their bits, and publish them? Is that good or bad or neither or either or something else entirely? Just how exactly is today's activism much different from yesterday's exhibitionism or tomorrow's participating in the evil patriarchal capitalist hegemony? And for the sake of gender equality, should we perhaps imagine former editors like Charles Firth, Robert Hughes, or Clive James naked as well? Do we really have to?

It's all become a bit of a blur to me, what's right and what's wrong and what to publish and what not. I don't know: if anyone needs me, I suppose I'll be forcing myself to google pics of James supine and naked and fleshy in his London flat: you'll be able to tell where I am by the gently tender yet horrified screaming.

Friday, August 23, 2013

The faintest odour of chocolate with a hint of chocolate

The Baron and I just ate a fine vintage of Freddo Frog. Up until this point I hadn't even been aware that Freddo could have a vintage, but then the Baron bit into her chocolate and said "Freddo tastes good today", and I said "but how could it taste any different from any other Freddo?" and bit into my Freddo and THE BARON WAS ABSOLUTELY RIGHT.

2013 was a good year for Freddo. Vignerons, or whatever the chocolate equivalent of vignerons is, take note.

Thursday, August 22, 2013

A perfectly normal post by a perfectly normal person

This morning I put Barry in the fridge. "There you go, Barry," I said soothingly. "It's all right now." I like to think Barry understood what I was saying, but I'm sentimental like that.

Now I know what you're all thinking, but Barry was two weeks old yesterday. It was high time he went in there. Previously I'd just been keeping little two-week old Barry in my cupboard. What? No, of course I took care of him. I gave him an old towel and all to keep him warm and talked to him soothingly to give him sweet dreams. (Why are you all staring at me like that?)

What? No no no no no no. Barry's not a person. Jeeze. No, Barry is my two week old lager beer, sheesh, I mean, come on people, everyone knows you have to give lager beer a secondary fermentation at 0-3 degrees.

So there you go: Grown Man Keeps Beer In Cupboard, Gives It Towel To Keep It Warm, Tenderly Speaks To It Every Night, and Gives It Name Of Person. Perfectly normal. And besides,it ought to be perfectly clear you don't ferment babies like that.

Saturday, August 17, 2013

TRUTH IN LABELLING STUDY: Arnott's Nice biscuits

For today's Truth In Labelling Study, we examine Arnott's Nice biscuits. Are Arnott's Nice biscuits actually nice biscuits at all? If they don't actually taste nice, it would be wrong to continue calling these not-nice biscuits Nice biscuits, as the very name Nice would suggest that a certain niceness would be inherent in the experience of eating them. Why, the biscuits might be downright nasty, which would be the complete antithesis of nice, which would mean that it would be more appropriate to call the biscuits 'Not-Nice biscuits' or 'Yucky biscuits'. On the other hand, what if Nice biscuits are actually delicious, a sublime gastronomic experience that makes your taste buds tingle and causes you to spontaneously enter a rapturous state in which the meaning of life, the universe and everything becomes clear? Then, too, it would be wrong to call these sublimely delicious biscuits Nice biscuits, as although you wouldn't exactly be disappointed, you might be disappointed by the lack of disappointment. So it is quite important that Nice biscuits are actually nice, I think you'll agree.

To test the niceness or not-niceness of Nice biscuits, recently we bought a packet and gave it a taste test. The Nice biscuits were actually not terrible, but not wonderful either, being pleasing without actually being so pleasing that they were biscuits you might actually want to keep on buying all the time. Nice biscuits actually are nice.


Next week, we stay in the biscuit world and test Arnott's Scotch Finger biscuits. Are the biscuits actually made out of the fingers of Scotch people? Stay tuned for the next exciting installment!

Friday, August 16, 2013

How to ferment everything from your moustache to the flatulence of a goat to the next-door neighbour's baby

In 1991 Sandor Katz contracted HIV and, looking for a change of life, went to live at a cooperative queer homestead in the woods. He milked goats, made cheese, and did whatever you do to cabbages to make them turn into sauerkraut. At some point between then and now he released the book Wild Fermentation and The Art of Fermentation (which last sits in a big fat satisfying lump on my desk) and became, in other people's words, a 'fermentation revivalist' or 'fermentation guru'.

Though maybe he's just an enthusiast. He's certainly enthusiastic about fermentation; there are copious notes in TAOF about fermenting vegetables, meat, fish, milk, growing mould, and performing various other miraculous acts with the aid of various microorganisms, which microrganisms he is very enthusiastic about indeed. He starts off the book with a paean to bacteria and how we interact with them, and goes on to talk about fermentation in reproduction, fermentation 'as a co-evolutionary force' (whatever co-evolutionary means), not to mention agriculture, waste management, and 'skin-care and aromatherapy'. Look, I skipped most of that stuff; this is the sort of book where you (and by 'you' I mean 'me') skip most of the pages and go to your favourite bits.Who cares about aromatherapy when there are generous chapters devoted to cheese making, wines, and beer?

It's all quite fun and less scientific than it sounds; a lot of passages are devoted to Katz's favourite things to ferment - he likes mead and talks about his friend, plant explorer Frank Cook, who he bonds with 'over our shared passion for mead making'. He explains how he used to crush fruits in his meads to start the fermentation, but stopped 'after my biodynamic farmer friend Jeff Poppen explained the philosophy of fermenting fruit: "It's the essence of the fruit you want, not the substance."' Some of the best stories are from friends and readers of his previous book, like the one from the lady who ferments cider by putting apple juice in a bucket underneath the table and letting wild yeast get into it. Katz also tells a story about a friend who is making a Finnish yoghurt culture, vilii, which culture expands and becomes exceedingly gelatinous when it curdles - his friend pours it into a bowl overnight and when he comes back in the morning, finds that the mixture, has pulled itself entirely out of the brimming bowl onto the bench.

Katz claims, unironically, that 'Meads can possess many powerful and magical botanical qualities' and 'Through fermentation, we can reconnect ourselves to the broader web of life, in spirit and in essence, as well as the physical plane'. I don't know about all that, but that's nothing compared to the book Sacred and Herbal Healing Beers (which has become a kind of brewing classic), quoted in here: 'To do so means reconnecting to the ancient tradition of fermentation - to connect to the thousands of wise women and wise men standing over their brewing vessels in small villages around the world calling on the spirits of fermentation to come to the wort and kindle the fire in it'. (The book also suggests that we use a magical stick in our brew each time as a way of calling on those 'spirits').

And I do like Katz's generous approach and his view that the environment for fermentation should be 'clean, not sterile'; he really likes to encourage bacteria. I especially like the excitement with which he describes the process of microbial alteration that goes on in fermentation, and the relish he takes in the food and drink that results. If you read around in some of the other books about beer making or cheese making you'll find they all talk with such fear of microbial infection; mostly, Katz doesn't worry about that. He suggests leaving cultures out in the open and leaving lids off pots to catch any wild yeast that drifts by, discusses the cultivation of bacterial cultures in sauerkrauts with love and tenderness, and you can just imagine the gusto with which he eats the same bacteria. It's not a book for people who get queasy at the thought of anything that's not pasteurised, homogenised, or sterilised beyond recognition, that's for sure.

Not that I want to use it to encourage you all to cultivate bacterias or microflora as pets, mind. And not that I'm saying I'll do the same. But at the moment I have cheese culture in the freezer, a lager beer fermenting away in the cupboard that I call 'Barry', and four other beers in the study that get tenderly wrapped up in a blankie every night. So, maybe if you are the sort to read a book like this, then....

Sunday, August 11, 2013

On the other hand

There's nothing like stopping at the shop counter at the natural food store with a hat in your hand and a bag in your other hand while retrieving the card you used to pay with your other hand and placing the items in your bag with your other hand to make you realise just how useful a third hand would be. Amongst other things, it would excuse the awkward necessity of you having to put your hat on your head while retrieving your card before taking your hat off your head again and putting the items you have just bought in the bag in your other hand before slinging that bag over your back and placing your hat on your head, by which time the queue behind you will have doubled and the awkward smile on the face of you and the shop assistant will have been replaced by awkward glowers of cantankerousness on faces of same.

Then again, there's nothing like stopping to chat on the phone to your mother while you are also involved in an extremely complicated cooking project in which it is extremely necessary to do things exactly in the right way and precisely in the correct order for everything to turn out properly to make you realise that it would not only be efficacious to have a third hand, but it would also be highly desirable to have a second head as well, with which other head you would be able to concentrate not only on talking to your mother but also on the meal you are cooking and make sure everything turns out all right by deftly using the third hand you have discovered whilst at the shops to do whatever stirring, pouring, dividing, separating, and so on, the third hand is required to do.

On the other hand, there's nothing like having a third hand and a second hand to make you look like the undesirable mutation of a freak genetic modification experiment gone wrong. Which might actually be quite fun to look like at the natural food store.

I'm sure you've all felt like this from time to time.

An edifying Sunday evening post

As you may know, I am a supporter of the wearing of ties on the weekend. Unsurprising, then, that I ended up living in Lalor, a suburb where a large proportion of the retired male populace seem to like nothing better than to get dressed up in a nice tweed jacket and a trim hat before catching the train. It seems to me highly likely that these gentlemen, who may also be seen at the shops or playing cards with one another in long, dimly-lit parlours over huge round tables, may indeed have emigrated to Australia for that specific purpose: "come to Australia! The land where you can wear a suit and tie to the train station all you like!" Well, that would do it for me.

Why is it that we have come to have a prejudice against men wearing ties? Personally I have a prejudice against men who do not wear ties: a photograph of a beaming, clean-cut politician* in shirt and suit, but without a tie does not say "fresh!" and "new!" to me. Rather, it bespeaks a certain dishonesty and it looks like the fellow is a little simple minded: if they can't manage a simple piece of neck wear, what else can't they manage?

What could be more edifying than ties? Firstly, there is pleasure in the very act of knotting them; the astute student can devote many hours to learning the tie knots. At the moment, I know two - the  co-half-Windsor and the Balthus - and am learning a third, the Cavendish. My fall-back knot is the co-half-Windsor (Mum taught it to me years ago, and for years I assumed there wasn't any other tie knot); the Balthus has a pleasing name and there is a lovely symmetry to its knotting pattern, with the end knot being superbly fat; qualities which seem to be shared by the Cavendish. I have also tried the Windsor, but - as the Encyclopaedia of Tie Knots informs me - "In the Ian Fleming novels, Bond thinks the Windsor knot is 'the mark of the cad'" and notes that it is chosen by "Huge Chavez, Putin and the Chinese leaders Jiang Zemin and Hu Jiantao": and I didn't feel good about it. Of the other knots, I have also tried the St Andrew, and the Pratt (aka Shelby), (both for their names), while being also attracted to the extreme simplicity of the Oriental and the four-in-hand.Aside from these, I have also learned (and forgotten (and learned again)) the bow tie knot, a skill that frequently finds its way into those lists of 'things every man should know'. Bow ties, I find, are essential wear when you're just popping down to Coles to buy a little something: it's always interesting seeing how the person at the checkout reacts. Other places and times to wear bow ties are to the shopping plaza, or just while going for a walk along the back lanes of your suburb.

Neck ties in general are excellent for wearing around the house (along with the rest of the domestic flaneur outfit, tracky dacks and a mucky dressing gown with a hanky falling out of one pocket), and can sometimes be used to tease the cats. They create a wonderful impression when someone knocks at the door. Or, of course, they can be worn for jolly jaunts into the countryside, or just going on random trips on the train.

As to other questions of tie fashion, I am generally laissez faire. Some people like to tuck away the tapered end of the tie into one's shirt, or attach it onto the little pocket on the back of one's tie; personally, I like to let it flap loose, but to each his own. Patterns are good, but stripey ones generally catch my eye, and I quite like oranges and reds; and of course you just can't go past good old Paisley. I don't think I actually have a spotty tie, but just thinking about patterns now reminds me how years ago, while loitering in a Salvation Army store in a small country town with my parents while on holiday, I spotted a white tie with pink polka dots (or was it the other way around?) and teased Dad saying I'd buy it for him. He eyed it dubiously and said that I'd better bloody well not. He may also have used the word "revolting". Thinking back now, I can't fault his description of the tie in question (it was pretty out there). Even so, I regret not buying that "revolting" specimen: it would be fantastic for when the Mormons come knocking.

*I won't mention any names but let's just say the Greens do this a lot. 

Wednesday, August 07, 2013

A very forward crossword

"Crosswords won't cut it", announces the SMH. "orgasms are key to a healthy brain".

Well now. Depends on the crossword, dunnit?

1. Ooh! Sings twice! Saucy!
2. Take a roll in the hay, right?
3. What did the two chaps have behind the milk bar?
4. Ice sex, minus one, is becoming to officials in short.
5. Close draw for pyjamas! 
6. It takes this to tango.
7. A low slip for bed clothes.

Unfortunately I'm too young to know the answers, or I'd tell you them, for sure.

Tuesday, August 06, 2013

From dunny to din dins, or, there and back again

As you will probably be aware, I have a lot of latest obsessions. Beer, cheese, origami, cheesy origami beer, you name it, I'm obsessed with it. Well my latest latest obsession is toilets - though actually I must admit toilets have been my latest obsession forever. Victorian toilets, Melbourne's underground toilets, a possible business venture taking visitors to Melbourne on tours around Melbourne's best toilets, the toilets in the Astor Movie Theatre, the Sun Picture Theatre, the Windsor Theatre, at Mordialloc Station, and underground on Plenty Road in Preston, the decor and design in said toilets - I've thought about it all at length. I've even periodically thought about launching books or just having roving poetry readings in Melbourne's better toilets, which would be great except half the audience would be shut out.

So I'm rather peeved to see this story (via PWAF), indicating that Sydney has stolen a march on Melbourne in the toilet stakes.
They are seedy and entirely unlovely, redolent of graffiti, urine and filth. But three vacant Sydney toilet blocks may soon be occupied under a plan to turn them into cafes...The City of Sydney has been fielding offers from cafe operators to take over decommissioned public toilets at Taylor Square, Belmore Park near Central Station, and Hickson Road at Millers Point. - The latte lavatories: old toilet blocks facing a cafe makeover
Of course the author gets it quite wrong. The pictured dunnies are entirely respectable, greatly preferable to the stainless steel electrical affairs that city councils use today.

And it's not as if the hosts of these houses of convenience would even have to hide their history. Au contraire; I think they should celebrate it. The cistern could easily be converted into an espresso machine. The metal walls could be polished until they are gleaming and new, and used to hang items of cutlery. The flush chains dangling from the ceiling could be converted into bells to ding when a meal is done. Wall urinals, if any, could be either converted into comfortable seats with the use of a few throw cushions, or receptacles for customer bags. Separate chambers into which people used to retire could be fitted out with a table with a cheery cloth and turned into booths for customers to have quiet conversations. Floor tiles could be polished, happy bouquets of flowers hung from the wall, and it would indeed be a rich cultural experience for all concerned!

Although at some point a customer might actually want to take a piss. No matter: turn them out onto the grassy area with a plastic bag and a '10 per cent off your next purchase' voucher and that problem is easily fixed, too. What a business opportunity these blocks could make!

Monday, August 05, 2013

Supernews! Death causes cancer

Concerns have been raised amongst the community of concerned people following scientific revelations by scientists that death could be carcinogenic.

The possible link between death and cancer has rocked society. "We thought death was harmless," cried one concerned citizen, "apart from it killing people, of course, which as we all know is just a part of life."

Steps have already been taken to curb the incidence of the powerful cancer-causing phenomenon, with the government making moves to "ban death" or at least redistribute the incidence of death amongst society so that poor people are not adversely affected by the rates of cancer it may cause.

The announcement that death may cause cancer follows similar revelations that cigarettes, alcohol, drugs, animals, oygen, water, books, children, the elderly, stress, and everything are also amongst the list of cancer-causing items. Indeed, since cancer causes death which causes cancer, it is only a matter of time before the shattering discovery that cancer causes cancer is made, further elevating the concerns amongst the community of concerned people and rocking the medical world.

This has been another edition of Supernews!

Friday, August 02, 2013

Rigidly repressing my lack of emotions

Man! Manly! Manly men! I'm fuddy-duddyish enough to think that the word 'man' is not only a simple way to describe one gender but is still a perfectly good word to describe the whole of homo sapiens. Good luck with that argument in today's internet, where the generic term is now even more generic than it used to be: we're all 'people', thank you very much.

But anyway. That aside, it seems you can't go anywhere these days without a man mansplaining man-flu to another manly man while trying hard not to hurt his man-feelings, all of which things are things, even when (in the case of man-flu and man-feelings) they're not really. That doesn't make much sense. Nor does the fact that He-Man, who (as his name would suggest) is a very manly man indeed but in spite of the virile masculinity exerting from his every testosterone-drenched pore, doesn't seem to have any pubic hair at all. What's with that, He-Man?

Speaking of man-flu and man-feelings, I was reading this article the other day about a 'crisis of manhood'. (There can be few greater pleasures in a man's day than reading about a 'crisis', or even better a 'scandal' or, best of all, 'a catastrophe about to engulf us all'; it gives me such a pleasing tingle in my man-pleasure centre.) It seems filmmaker Jennifer Siebel Newsom is finishing off a documentary about "the myths of modern manhood" and is looking for "finishing funds" on Kickstarter. "It shouldn’t need to be said, but here goes once more for old time’s sake: masculinity is a feminist issue", writes Clem Bastow, "The model of masculinity that insists that men are not allowed to feel or show emotion is a patriarchal construct. And isn’t the patriarchy what we all banded together to fight in the first place?"

Speak for yourself, Bastow, I reckon. Personally I like nothing more than a bit of good old fashioned emotional repression, a spot of not-talking-about-my-feelings, and a reviving dose of bottling-it-all-up. Why would I talk about my feelings when I can just let my feelings get on and feel things anyway? It seems much more efficient that way. Plus, I have an inkling that getting someone like me to talk about my feelings would be a fraught exercise at best - like the Catholic kid in the confessional inventing sins as a better exchange for the mundane sins that they have actually committed (and/or completely forgotten about) , I reckon I'd just get an urge to start making stuff up. Of course it's hard to compete, poetically speaking, with the likes of Shelley - "I fall upon the thorns of life, I bleed!" - but I'm sure I could work my way up to it.

Talk about my feelings? I've never heard greater nonsense in my life. It seems to me there's an element of prescriptive psychology about all this: filmmaker Newsom, having determined that the lack of emotions that boys are rigidly repressing are wrong, has set out to talk to a bunch of psychologists and sociologists and teachers who think they know what the right emotions are that boys should be experiencing. The end result may not be a society of emotionally articulate men - it may be a society of men acting out emotions to get responses from others.

That's enough out of me. I've got to rigidly repress ten more emotions before dinner, and I've hardly begun on the first one. 
Email: timhtrain - at -

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