Saturday, 31 March 2007

That old chestnut

King Lear is the new Hamlet. Boys with floppy hair and tight black jeans aren't soliloquising about suicide; they're wondering what they'd do if they got their eyes poked out. What's hot: sibling rivalry, storm scenes, and existential angst. What's not: the Oedipus complex, Denmark, and jumping into other people's graves.

Personally, I've never liked Lear much. I'm put off right from the start by the fact that the daughters are all named after venereal diseases: Chlamydia, Gonorrhea, and what's her name. And then there's all that business with the eyes. I know there's a fine literary tradition of eye-gouging out there, what with Samson and Delilah, Odysseus and the Cyclops, but I prefer not to have to think about ruptured eyeballs in anything but the most abstract sense.

The reason I mention King Lear, on this thirty-first day of March, is its Fool. He's a clever piece of work, if ever there was one. Given that His Maj is, in turn, a selfish and stupid git, ye wise Fool is begging to be embraced as the Shakespeherean mascot of all Anarchists and Anti-monarchists with Early Modern Thespian Tendencies.

Tomorrow is April Fools' Day. As it is also Palm Sunday, I will be abstaining from my hilarious repertoir of japes and criminal offences out of respect for Jesus. ('Though that means withholding rumours about the multi-species parentage of sheepdogs.) Nonetheless, I've often wondered about April Fools' Day. Who is the Fool? The fooled or the fooler? King Lear's Fool is insightful, in a sybilline kinda way. Certainly he ain't the one getting his eyes gouged. But what if he'd tried to tell Lear about sheepdogs? Indeed, did they even have sheepdogs in ye olde Albion? If not, how did they herd sheep?

More pressingly, what is the relationship between an April Fool and a Strawberry Fool? Is it legal to garnish an April Fool with almond flakes? Or should I use hazelnuts?

Which reminds me, I bought a dozen chestnuts from the Thornbury veg market yesterday. Do I roast them with their skins on?

Friday, 30 March 2007

Oh the footility

Some weeks ago, the Kerry Packer free-to-air Memorial Channel gave me a Very Large Telly to reward my pressing a buzzer and saying the word "triangle". So theatrically captivating was my buzzer-pressing and so uniquely skilful was the way I manipulated my vocal organs that I now have no moral qualms at all about possessing a VLT and/or all the filthy lucre it will fetch on ebay.*

The Very Large Telly people phoned today, and arranged to deposit the VLT at Hôtel Harlot next Monday morning. While I am, of course, looking forward to meeting it, I'm also keen to move it along quicksmart, not least because of the fellow on the aeroplane who virtually promised, nay, downright threatened, that eligible bachelors the world over would besiege me with offers of romantic devotion in exchange for a widescreen plasmarised view of the footy.

Now, I've known an eligible bachelor or two in my time - indeed, some of my best friends are eligible bachelors - and I'm fairly certain that none of them are persons who start salivating at the onset of the AFL season. Armed with this knowledge, I did not believe, nor did I wish to believe, the words of my aeroplane interlocutor. But today, shortly after negotiating VLT delivery, I read this in the Sydney Morning Herald, wherein an unashamed sports bore proclaims, "I'll trade it all - the job, the girlfriend, the life expectancy. I'll trade it all for a gigantic plasma television and unlimited, non-stop sport." Maybe N. Salter and I could enter into some kind of bartering arrangement: I get his job and his life expectancy and his girlfriend** - perhaps he'll throw in his soul? - and he gets my VLT.

Egad. I'm sure we used to squander our passions on less inane inanities. Soap collecting, playing the spoons, philately. Whatever happened to the manly pursuit of flower pressing? When did the N. Salters of this world stop train-spotting and start lusting over televised footy? What this chap needs is a shed, with lots of bits of wood, and a hammer or two. And I need to feel that my transactions on ebay won't turn me into Mephistopheles.

* The qualms only kick in if I recollect that the retail value of the VLT could feed an undiscerning family for a couple of years, that it is an aesthetic smutch on domestic interiors, and that the VLT will no doubt spend the rest of its days guzzling electricity and exposing spongy young minds to pixelated moral toxins. Right. I have qualms.

** Whom I would, of course, immediately restore to her natural habitat with a suitcase full of improving literature.


Saturday, Thornbury: The Age reveals "Elite AFL footballers are being asked to lend a hand to lift the nation's sperm supplies." ("To lend a hand"? Is that what they call it these days?) Methinks I spy a sinister eugenics program in the offing. Those who watch the AFL are leaving their gels in droves, thereby significantly decreasing their own reproductive potential. Meanwhile, those who actually play are being called upon to propagate a high-kicking übermensch with muscular thighs and gross motor skills. Mark my words, in twenty years' time, there'll be no little N. Salters propping up the plasma tv market, just a whole herd of kids with crew cuts and mouthguards. By this stage I will have defected to Norway, where I intend to popularise the noble art of apple bobbing.

Tuesday, 27 March 2007

The Draught Sausage Adventures, cont.

Regular perusers of this chronicle will know that on Sunday morning I failed to find a door snake at Kmart. On Monday morning I complained, en blog. By Monday evening I was committed (a) to making my own door snake, and (b) to ensuring that, henceforth, the once and former door snake be known as a draught sausage by all my heirs and successors unto the seventh generation. Hear that, heirs and successors? Draught. Sausage.

Amongst my worldly goods, I keep a geriatric and slightly temperamental Singer (TM), whose temperamentality I forgive - nay, even rejoice in - because the cranky old beast fell into my arms for a song (a $10 song, to be precise) some years ago at the Rozelle markets. My Singer was unusually obliging this evening, and in five minutes flat, between putting on the kettle and dissolving the cocoa, we had whipped up this rather smart draught sausage case:

A fine beginning to homemade-draught-sausagedom, but as any draught sausage connoisseur knows, a draught sausage case alone doth not a draught sausage make. No ma'am. This draught sausage case needs a-fillin'.

Being something of a lentil-fancier, my thoughts had naturally turned to lentils. Being congenitally miserly, they had then turned to rice, which is cheaper. Copper Witch wisely pointed out that lentils and rice both favour small creatures, or that small creatures favour lentils and rice, and my draught sausage was at risk of being eaten from the inside out. She suggested sawdust, as the lesser of two weevils. (Ha! Get it? Weevil pun, and there are plenty more where that came from. Just ask me. Please.)

But sawdust? In this day and age? When furniture is made out of recycled lemonade bottles and houses begin as prefabricated plastic pallets? I can't remember the last time I saw sawdust. The pet supplies shop down the road sells woodshavings - by the box - but sawdust, no.

Happily, premature Winter seems to have gone into recess, so the draught sausage's services are not immediately required. But I dare not presume, in these strange southern climes, that the weather will continue to be undraughty. Meanwhile, I will hunt high and low for sensible quantities of sawdust and continue to audition other substances for skills in draught-sausage-stuffing and weevil-retardance. The homemade draught sausage will prevail.

Monday, 26 March 2007

Me. Just in case you were wondering.

Further to this morning's namedropping efforts, here's a photograph of a photograph of Germaine Greer avec moi. (Thanks, esp., to Wool Spaniel, who did the original honours a couple of years ago).

In preparation for the above, thunk I, "Now here's a lark! Photos of photos of me being a shameless poser in my misspent youth. Jolly good!" And so:

Me in a dinner suit playing bongo drums on the inner west trainline from Redfern. This was back in the days before commuters had access to the terrorism hotline.

Impersonating a chesspiece.

First stage in the twenty year plan to steal all my mum's scarves.

Wilbur the Wonderdog. Proof that the scarf trend has caught on.

Cold feet

Northcote Kmart appears not to stock door-snakes.* It does, however, stock stockings, in abundance. Thwarted on the doorsnake front yesterday morning, I dallied amongst the hosiery, and was alarmed to discover that the so-called Footless Tight has edged out the infinitely superior Knee-High Sock. You'd have to live in a world quite bereft of spry young lasses not to have realised that the Footless Tight is the preferred legwear du jour. I see dozens of Footless Tights getting about every day, worn under shorts, mini-skirts, the tail-ends of overhanging cardigans. They enable your typical spry young lass to negotiate that troubling territory between nudity and beclothedness. (This, of course, is one of the long established virtues of semi-opaque lycra.) The trouble is that most Footless Tight wearers have feet. And as the season is upon us when idle minds turn to door-snakes, the Footless Tight wearer's foot is liable to the assaults of Antarctic breezes and miscellaneous chills. The Footless Tight wearer, like any other anthropoid, needs something snug about her ankles and toes, but, as the fashionistas will tell you, the Footless Tight can only be worn with thongs, or possibly sandals, or, at the very most, some kind of slip-on job vaguely resembling a shoe but providing minimal insulation. Mark my words, fashion-followers, there'll be a frosty-ankle pandemic within the week, or my name's not Elspeth McHarlot.

Knee-High Socks, on the other hand, are wonderful. They are stylish, sanitary and snug. The last (and only) conversation I had with Germaine Greer devolved around our shared affection for the aforenamed sock. Germaine Greer may not actually remember this conversation, but it occurred. My sister has photographic evidence. All in all, a ringing endorsement. Kmart may have surrendered to the Footless Tight imperative, but that doesn't mean that we must too. I am ordering in a bale of nylon, and will start knitting forthwith.**

* I will make my own, dammit. Just call me Lexicon "Low-Tech Heating Solutions" Harlot.
** After I have made my door-snake.

Sunday, 25 March 2007

To the Lentil

Tap tappings on thy tambourine!
Make musics instrumental!
Lift praises to the blessèd bean
Known as the humble lentil!

She's good for the digestive tract;
She won't cause damage dental.
She's easy for to swallow,
And rather ornamental.

Dressed with salt and sautéed leek
She's quite the continental,
Or add a coriander leaf,
This pulse turns oriental.

The lentil's cheap and good for those
Undone in matters rental.
Let no tongue claim this lovely bean's
To purses detrimental.

Some will say that words like these
Are over sentimental.
They'll say the hero of this rime
Is nowt but flatulental.

Such folk are arrant philistines!
I say they're downright mental.
For verily the bean we praise
Is true and good and gentle.

Ask anyone – your dad, your aunt,
Your forebears grandparental –
They'll all affirm the lentil is
A seed quite transendental.

Lentils! Lentils! Rah rah rah!
Lentils! Lentils! La la la!
Lentils! Lentils! Rum pum pum!
Lentils! Lentils! Yum yum yum!

Saturday, 24 March 2007

Jo psephology and the amazing technicolour dream vote

I'd be wishing all New South Welshfolk well as they flex their enfranchisement today, but it doesn't take a professional psephologist to tell you that Team Iemma will be returned, not because anyone thinks they're any good, but because the Liberals look thrice as bad. Unless something truly stupendous happens minor-party-wise, this isn't going to be a shining moment for democracy. You heard it here first, vote-spotters. Actually, you've probably been hearing it for the past three months. The only real point to this paragraph is its conspicuous use of the word "psephologist", which enables me to make my dad-ism about the silent pee, as in psurf.

Speaking of my dad, and in other news of national significance, my 'rents, my brother, and Wilbur the Wonderdog are migrating today from Sydville to the Victorian alps. This will put them practically within visiting distance, in the three-hours-on-a-train-from-Spencer-St-station- followed-by-a-60-minute-car-trip sense of visiting distance. But that's close enough. It's been a long time since I've seen the Wonderdog (not to mention my nexts of kin), and I'm keen to up and at 'em.

Friday, 23 March 2007

I wandered lonely as a sod

They were falling over themselves this week with the gorgeousness of W. Wordsworth. "Sure, this is all gorgeous", I says to them. "I like a warbling linnet as much as the next man, but really! Doesn't it trouble you a little that this poem that pretends to be about a chronically depressed widow dying of poverty is actually about our Willie's enormous, stupendous, gargantuan Soul?"

Here they remind me of Wordsworth's tragic love affair with Annette Vallon, and how scarred he was by having to up and leave. Not scarred enough by half, in my opinion. I burst into a little homily to the effect that if you're ever transported back to the 1790s, regardless of what your mates are doing, you do not go round getting French gels pregnant when you won't be able to stick around and help out with the nappy-changing. They're unmoved. Or, rather, they're moved the other way. They see Will's broken heart in every line.

I bring out the big guns (you've got to fight the Western literary canon with itself these days). "Hear ye", I say, "How Wilberforce Wordsworth describes himself: 'a man speaking to men: a man, it is true, endowed with more lively sensibility, more enthusiasm and tenderness, who has a greater knowledge of human nature, and a more comprehensive soul, than are supposed to be common among mankind'. How'd you like that, eh? He's telling you his soul is more comprehensive than yours. Doesn't that get your goat up?"

Their goats remain down. They love Wordsworth, more comprehensive soul, paramour-and-baby-desertion, and all. I decide to change tack before I'm lynched.

They don't call these people Victorians for nuffin'.

Wednesday, 21 March 2007


Monthly phone bill just arrived, and with it came a wee leaflet telling us a few home truths about the parlous state of our nation. Home truths like this one: "Australia is being left behind the world in high-speed broadband." Quelle horreur! No, really, says my leaflet, we are lagging, abysmally, in Broadband Penetration. I'm not entirely sure who is penetrating whom here, but I can see from the graph that, of thirty developed countries, Australia is only seventeenth in broadband penetration. Yes, we do happen to be out-penetrating Germany, Spain, Italy, Portugal, New Zealand, the Czech Republic, Ireland, Hungary, Poland, Turkey, the Slovac Republic, Mexico and Greece, but is that good enough? Is it really satisfactory to be less penetrative, broadband-wise, than that poky little Scandinavian backwater, Denmark?

No, it's not, says spokesactivist, Rupert Murdoch, for the Telstra Broadband Australia campaign; "In Australia we only have a couple of million people on broadband and they don't even get 1Mb. I think it's a disgrace."

Damn straight, Rupes. I used to think that keeping refugees imprisoned in the desert was a disgrace, and I suspected a spot of disgrace over in the indefinite and illegal detention of David Hicks department, and I had my suspicions about the disgraciousness of slurping up to the US in its invasions of Vietnam and Afghanistan and Iraq, but this is where real disgrace resides. I feel sullied just thinking about it. I will be joining what Telstra calls its grass-roots campaign (to demand that "government and regulators ... give Telstra a fair go") forthwith. Seventeenth, I tells you. It shames me as an Australian.

Monday, 19 March 2007

Brussel Sprouts and then some

Monday night, dinner time, and my thoughts turn - as the thoughts of all good manual labourers do - to the question of food. Last Thursday, for a rock-bottom bargain-basement deal-of-the-century sum, I bought myself 3kg of Brussel sprouts, allegedly winner of the 2002 "Britain's Most Loathed Vegetable" title. I don't like Brussel sprouts much either, nor sea cucumbers. Never have. But I'm not one to let mere matters of palatability stand between me and a good deal.

Since Thursday, I have eaten a prodigious number of sprouts. I have eaten them at home. I have eaten them at work. I have even eaten them in the pub. I have carried sprouts with me at all hours of the day and night, lest the slightest hint of hunger should assist me through what is starting to seem like an undemountable mount of Belgian leafmatter.

My association with the steamed Brussel sprout has so permeated my life over the past few days, that I'm not sure I even want dinner. Those of you passingly acquainted with my customary feelings about dinner will understand that this is dire news indeed.

Thinks self, Why not dress 'em up a bit? Who says a Brussel sprout has to be steamed and naked and sitting atop a large pile of Brussel sprout comrades, emitting a solely Brussel-sproutean whiff?

I consult my cookbooks.

The Classical Cookbook, an inimitable compendium of Odyssean banquet receipts and Pompeian fishcake-making instructions, alludes to no such thing as a Brussel sprout. There's a recipe for Athenian cabbage, but cabbage is altogether a different - and preferable - beast.

Thai Feasting Vegetarian Style, likewise, entirely devoid of Brussel sprout recipes, although I'm thinking that with enough Massamun curry paste, the Brussel-sproutiness could be comprehensively disguised.

The Pooh Corner Cookbook (that's "Pooh", as in Winnie the, not "pooh" as in après-dinner-need-I-say-more): Tigger likes cheese tartlets; Eeyore advises in favour of scalloped potatoes; Rabbit enjoys apple coleslaw, with cabbage. To reiterate: cabbage is not Brussel sprout.

Middle Eastern Cooking: yes, cabbage; no, Brussel sprout.

Chocolate: chocolate almond cake, chocolate tray bake, chocolate and orange cake, chocolate cake, chocolate and vanilla loaf, saucy chocolate pudding, chocolate fudge pears, chocolate zabaglione, white chocolate truffles, chocolate caramel squares, pain au chocolat, blackberry and chocolate flan, oh chocolate, my chocolate. Needless to say, despite Chocolate's several savoury deployments of chocolate (veal in chocolate sauce, for example, which sounds like a downright waste of good chocolate), there is no Brussel sprout.

The Amazing Tomato: tomatoes, in salsas, sauces, and riding aboard onion and blue cheese quiches, but where is the green Brussel sprout? Where is it, tomato? Yes, I'm talking to you, where'd you put the Brussel sprout, eh?

My Fun to Cook: no Brussel sprout.

Sarah Brown's Vegetarian Cookbook: I flick to the index, and sure enough, "Brussels sprout", see page 235. There, on page 235, I find the Brussels sprout sitting in a column headed "food profile", where I read that for every 100 grams of Brussel sprout, I get 2.8 grams of protein, 1.7 grams of carbohydrate, 2.9 grams of fibre, a trace of fat, 18 calories, and vitamins A, B2, Fo, and C. Thanks, Sarah Brown. Sounds scrumpy.

Now is the time for all patriots and gourmands to advise. Is there such a thing as a savoury Brussel sprout, or do I compost forthwith?

Sunday, 18 March 2007


On closer inspection, I note that the last post was actually #99. This is the hundredth. Yay arithmetic! More hedgehogs here.

Lucky 100th Post!

Dear scholars and internetians,

This is Lexicon Harlot's Grand One Hundredth Entry, and to celebrate, here's a picture of a hedgehog ...

Aw. And to think that you can find them just across the Tasman Sea.

Thanks for your patronage. It's been a blast. Stay tuned for more incisive commentary on the things that really matter (Thai eggplants, etc).

Yours to hand,

Saturday, 17 March 2007

More Interior Décor Tips from Homemaker Harlot

Last night at the pub, a Jesuitical gent, with a beer, asserted that Thornbury would never gentrify. He did this with all the emphasis of a man given to speaking his mind and thoroughly up on the vagaries of the property market. Not especially fancying a rent rise, I've no desire to object to such prognostications, only I can't help thinking that a suburb boasting this much Greek pastry, stocking "fresh delicious tripe", and smack next door to Melbourne's latest real estate prodigy, ain't long going to hold out against bourgeoisification, boutique cheese merchants, and blithe young couples keen to get a piece of the federation cottage action.

In the interests of low rents and community diversity, of forestalling the bourgeois creep along High Street, I've been keeping Hôtel Harlot as ungentrific as possible. But tomorrow night I'm having my Carltonian friend round for supper, and - not that she's one to impose her style standards on we feckless Thornburians - I've felt moved to spruce the place up a bit.

So, Style Tips for the Stingy.

Bare table? Why not dress it up with this tasteful Thai eggplant and brussel sprout arrangement? Cheap, colourful and biodegradable.

Don't waste money on original artwork or another Gustav Klimt print. Sticky-tape wrapping paper to your wall. Cheap, colourful, and almost biodegradable.

Tomatoes looking a bit lacklustre? Dress them up for the night with your favourite brooches. Remember to remove jewellery before cooking.

Conceal unsightly musical instruments under piles of hats. "My, so many chapeaux," your guest will say, oblivious to your cunning ruse with the harp.

If all else fails, clutter. It's a décor genre all its own.

Friday, 16 March 2007

Bear Wee the Mides of Arch

I spent the whole of yesterday being ware of the Ides of March, and not so much as a whisper of assassination, let alone a plot, let alone an attempt, let alone a full blown being-done-in came my way. Sheesh. That'll teach me to get my weather forecasts from Shakespeare.

Thursday, 15 March 2007

Appealing, if not appealingly

Dear Dweebs,

I'm compiling a slender bibliography of science fiction texts - flicks or books, it don't matter which - that address questions of false memory, repressed memory, lost memory, [adjective of choice] memory, or epistemological angst in general. Any suggestions from those of you more au fait with the lit, I'd be most grateful to be receivin'. You'll get your reward in Galaxy 9. (I also perform private bagpipe recitals, where required.)

Yours beggily,


Wednesday, 14 March 2007

Cuff medicine

This morning, as is my wont, I was ambling my way through the Sydney Morning Herald website over breakfast. I keep passing edicts against mixing crumbs and keyboards. I keep flouting these edicts too, but at least I don't mix crumbs and keyboards with bedsheets. No. I refuse to sink that low.

The Sydney Morning Herald website, these days, is a maze of lurid sensationalism, through which one navigates one's compass off to locate decent coverage of the NSW election. Occasionally, as today, I find myself lured down one of the lurid byways: the lurid byway, in this morning's case, was one of those far-too-patronised-for-its-own-good SMH blogs and it did its enticing with the promise of my instant indigation and by using the phrase "sex etiquette", which promised instant indignation plus a French word almost rhyming with petticoat.

So I was lured, and there was nothing for it but to plough ahead, and savour my indignation. It came awful quick. The blogmeister's first paragraph was enough: "Modern manners are in strife. Chivalrous men are a dying breed, atrocious table manners are no longer shrugworthy and mobile phones have given a new meaning to sloth."

Atrocious table manners, I can take 'em or leave 'em; mobile phones, they're the tool of Beelzebub, although it's unclear how sloth fits in; but this mourning of the death of chivalry: puh-leeeaassse. You want courtly love, lady? It's all yours. I, for one, am just as happy to trade sitting on a pedestal and having my hanky retrieved for being allowed out of the house on my own. Chivalry schmivellry, I say.

Obviously this particular rant could be a lot longer, could refer to the blog's repeated use of the phrase "biological clock", could be generally rantier, but instead I tell you this: muttering invectives against this far-too-patronised-for-its-own-good SMH blog, I chomped down hard on my orange. Orange juice sprayed in all directions, bedaubing my poor keyboard, and my equally poor eyelid, which immediately set up an angry red protest, as if citric acid weren't good for sensitive skin or something. I stumbled towards the bathroom. The cuff of my shirt sleeve caught on the doorknob, and tore, and I fell, and conked my knee on a malignant bit of furniture. This, I tells ye, this I blame on the lurid byways of the SMH website. The price I pay for not just buying the newspaper.

I'm just lucky there wasn't any shining armour lying around. My trouser leg, someone else's greave: a potentially lethal combination.

Tuesday, 13 March 2007

The Tyler

Tyles! Tyles! Small and bright,
That cover bathroom floors at night.
Having my nocturnal wee,
I contemplate thy symmetry.

Each small tyle, he is a square.
Beside another, they're a pair.
But try to count him, one by one,
He'll trick you, this dread polygon.

Long I sit on toilet white,
Counting tyles through the night.
Nine squares, you know, are three by three,
And thus the tyles go multiply.

Though I count them one and all,
When they fetch against the wall,
The units of this bathroom graph
Are broken by the wall in half.

Thus my count, it baffled be.
This, the bane of midnight wee.
She who the tyles doth contemplate
Will thus be left disconsolate.

- Wilhelmina Blake

Sunday, 11 March 2007

Decline and Fall of the Roaming Empire-line

It is now officially a month since I abandoned the warm bosom of the Leichhardt Ladies' Hostel and moved into my neon-carpeted spinster pad. I have, of course, gone completely to seed: waking up in the late afternoon; gnawing cheroots in bed; gin for breakfast and beer nuts for high tea. Occasionally I'll have a troupe of burlesque dancers round for supper and we'll quote Oscar Wilde at each other until 4 in the morning, whereupon I realise I'm all out of kippers and they leave in disgust.

Amidst this formidable moral decay, and along with my intense nostalgia for all persons Sydney (dog and cat persons included), I have slowly started to notice the advantages of batching. There are three advantages. I will list them here.

One. The toilet paper lasts longer. I am currently on my fifth roll for the month. There is nothing wrong with my digestive system.

Two. Complete liberty in culinary experimentation. Tonight I plan to add pickled capers to a red cabbage and sesame seed based stir-fry. I would not do this if there were anyone else around. I did once bake zucchini and pecan muffins in company, and noone complained, but that's because baked pecans trump any conceivable objection.

Three. All the mail is for me! Gone are my days of coveting housemates' correspondence with the Law Society and the Commonwealth Bank.

The more analytical amongst you will note that my list is not very long. Which is to say, I like living in kibbutz, and I think you should all come and visit now - or soon, anyway - and I promise not to put capers in your dinner. Unless it's a capery sort of dinner, in which case, they'll be the best darn capers this side of the border.

N.B.: title slightly misleading. My empire-line is not roaming, or declining, or falling. Indeed, I do not wear an empire-line, my embonpoint being better suited to the three-piece ensemble, plus shoes.

Saturday, 10 March 2007

Signs about town

Is this a good thing? Should I be feeling pleased, or slightly singed?

Quite right too. Best use of the imperative I've seen all year. No wonder they're so law-abiding down here, give or take the odd gangland murder.

There's a belfry that knows its own mind. Nice work, belfry.

Hubble wrap

Yesterday, this arrived. "Whoohoo," quoth I. "A box! My favourite!" I opened it up, and inside I found six smaller boxes. "Not just a box," I said to myself, "but a cardboard fractal!" I opened up one of the smaller boxes, and lo and behold, it contained even smaller boxes! This was getting good. I saw a future in which I opened ever tinier boxes of boxes. I saw the infinite reduplication of boxes. I saw my life as a kind of boxy mise-en-abyme. Had I been reading too much French theory? Playing with too many Russian dolls? Not getting out enough?

Then I opened one of the other six boxes, and there, inside, was this (NB: I strongly advise you to follow that link back there; it takes you to one of the best sources of mindless procrastination the world wide web has to offer; no actual plastics will be harmed). Yes, bubblewrap, item number three in my list of top ten all-time favourite inorganic materials.

I sat in a sea of boxes, popping my way through acres of bubblewrap, wondering how to organise things so that this kind of cultural endeavour gets to count as paid professional activity. And then I saw it, beyond the cardboard, beneath the layers of bubblewrap, my very own personal one of these:

Okay, not a duplicate of the Hubble, exactly, but an optical telescope, complete with lots of little lenses and a tripod and a screwdriver.

It's sitting right now in the middle of my loungroom (and I'm about to go out, so if ever you wanted to nick a telescope, now's your chance). It looks mighty flash in my loungeroom, but the opportunities for astronomy and the like are fairly limited. My options, as I see 'em, are these:

  1. Keep telescope in loungeroom. Could be good way to make friends. "Hey, want to come round some time and see my telescope?" definitely a line to sort the sheep from the goats. (Whatever that means. I quite like goats.)
  2. Keep telescope in fifth floor office at work. Spy on persons up-to-no-good on the lawns. This may be illegal, or just anti-social, although, as Penny says, a bit of civic-minded voyeurism never went awry.
  3. Take telescope to parents' new alpine chalet for use on customised viewing deck. This, in keeping with a long tradition of exploiting parents' capacity to store stuff. May help parents to practise civic-minded voyeurism too. Probably not entirely in parents' interests.
Whatever, I'm feeling closer to Galileo than I ever have before. I'm also feeling closer to the neighbour's fence than I ever have before. Egad, every splinter writ large.

Friday, 9 March 2007

Who has Anna kissed?

Why do anarchists drink herbal tea?
Because proper tea is theft.*


* Thanks, Catri.

Thursday, 8 March 2007

Power Pointing

It's International Women's Day today and the undergraduate feministas round here have done their bit for the sisterhood by hosting Pancakes Against Patriarchy. What Pancakes Against Patriarchy may lack in political rationale, they amply make up for in alliteration and butter.

Pancakes Against Patriarchy coincided with my class. If they hadn't, I would now be sporting that post-pancake glow and idly musing on the interconnectivity of race, class and gender. But as I had NO PANCAKES, I am bitter and hungry enough to ask: is there any correlation between dispersing pancakes amongst university students and generating resistance to sexual violence, workplace harrassment, Sydney Anglicanism, Barbie dolls, cosmetic mutilation, Tony Abbott, pole-dancing kits for five-year-olds, and the state-mandated Brazillian wax? Is there? Is there really? I suggest, yes I do, that next year the young feministas consider distributing Fortune Cookies Against Patriarchy, so that the rapturous pleasures of eating free sugar can be accompanied with pithy little readings from bell hooks and Shulamith Firestone.

Meanwhile, in the absence of pancakes, I was delivering my First Ever Powerpoint-Supported Lecture this morning. No mean feat, this. Admittedly, my nephew has been submitting school projects via powerpoint since the age of 8, but I - who prefer to use my computer solely for looking up pictures of hedgehogs on the internet - had to leap a whole herd of techno-inhibitions before I could so much as open the powerpoint application. Once I was down with my control panels, there was no looking back. Indeed, the hours I have spent over the past week selecting font colours and manoeuvering graphics finally explain that great powerpoint riddle: why the virtuosity of the visuals is in inverse proportion to the meaningful content of the talk.

I surprised even myself with my astonishing competence yesterday when the tech support chap helpfully told me (upon enquiry) that my ibook would "need an adaptor for the VGA 15 pim". Rather than buckling at the knees under this violent assault on my powers of comprehension, I managed to ask around until an adaptor for the VGA 15 pim made itself available.

Powerpoint presentation, hear me roar.

Monday, 5 March 2007


There is a two-year-old labrador in my office! Happiness incarnate!

Sunday, 4 March 2007

Land of the Flea, Home of the Brave

Here is the carpet in my two-room rent-a-home.

It soothes me in my most savage hours (not that I'm particularly afflicted by savage hours, but sometimes I catch a glimpse of the spraycrete ceiling in my two-room rent-a-home, and the aesthetic shudder is so awesome it's a wonder I'm not immediately driven to excessive consumption of Pimm's No. 1 Cup; although, in fact, there's no need, because the carpet, as we've established, soothes me in my most savage hours).

Note: bottle of Pimm's unopened; your trusty correspondent looking, nonetheless, distinctly unsavage.

The carpet conjures up visions of Louis Bougainville, in a wig, with a frangipani behind one ear, of owls and pussycats, of limpets and barnacles, of Johnny Depp waxing piratical. It's as briney blue as carpets come, minus the brine. IT EVEN MATCHES MY SPECTACLES, which is a rare feat in a carpet indeed.

It has one flaw, and one flaw only. It harbours this.

La bête noir! The bane of ankles! The piercer of skins! The monger of plagues! The facilitator of John Donne's amorous adventures!

Yesterday I bought a rather smart vacuum cleaner from the Northcote K-mart-arama, and with it I rampaged the length and breadth of my abode. Against all my inclinations, note, which tend against buying boring things like vacuum cleaners and against doing boring things like vacuuming. What, then, do I reap from this tremendous labour? I wake up with a flea bite ON MY FACE. You can see it, just above my left eyebrow, in the photo above (not to be confused with the incipient pimples, which I blame on a prolonged adolescence and the joys of Haigh's chocolate frogs).

This is a serious matter. This is war. That Pimm's ain't gonna last out the week.

Saturday, 3 March 2007


So, last night, dear Julieanne from oop North came round for dinner, and this is all I can say on the matter:
Oh Haigh's Chocolate Frogs, where have you been all my life?

Friday, 2 March 2007

Show us your genteelia.

They said that folks in the 'Bourne were more genteel than folks in Sydney, and by golly, they were right!

We near the end of the First Week of a New Year of Pedagogy and Scholarship, of which I have been in the thick, so it's no surprise that on two separate occasions this week I have found myself wandering through college initiation antics. How, you may well ask, does one know when one is amongst college initiates? Firstly, as one nears the suspects (who happen to be on a public nature strip, near one's homebound tram stop), one hears a chorus of scholarly young women chanting "The Glennie Girls are on the piss again, hoorah!" (in A minor, approximately to the tune of "The ants go marching two by two [in my pants]"). Secondly, one sees upwards of thirty empty brandname vodka bottles strewn across the grass. Thirdly, one looks up to spy a young gentleman doing his bit for the water conservation effort by urinating copiously against an unprotesting shrub. Fourthly, one notes three chaps, stark bollocky naked, prancing around the grass and at considerable risk of testicular sunburn. Here one wonders, "Should I cross the road? Would it be wise to avoid this drunken, uninhibited assortment of charming youngsters?" And one decides, "No! I will not be intimidated! This is a public footpath, we are in Melbourne, and Melburneans are famously genteel." It's a plan that could easily have backfired. Indeed, I fully expected it to, and was bracing myself for a medley of exhortations to "Show us your mammaries", but no, this is Melbourne, where drunken college boys are gentlepersons, and the closest I came to being asked to bare the proverbial bosom was when one of the less attired fellows asked if he could borrow my hat. Undoubtedly his need was greater than mine, but I was too shocked to think the matter through, and politely refused before charging off for my tram.

There was further evidence of a whole new level of Melburnean civility last night, when I hopped onto tram 86 along with twenty or so collegiates in fantastically witty matching t-shirts, proclaiming "Will buy drinks for sex". Ah, post-modern irony, thought self; bright young minds! Further commentary on the subject of my hat ensued (it's a fine hat, no doubt about it), and then I overheard one of my fellow travellers observing that he and his compatriots were on "a pub tour". Did you get that? Not a pub crawl, a pub tour. Ah, Melbourne. So genteel.

A curious postscript to my week's encounters with the college fraternity: at the end of my journey on tram 86 last night, my new friend Lyn and I passed a group of caffeinators sitting on the Bourke St footpath. Two steps later, Lyn observed, "That was Helen Garner back there, looking disapprovingly at your hat."

Thursday, 1 March 2007

Visitors from Sydville

Anna the Activist spent last night at Hôtel Harlot after a hard day of saving the world, board meeting style. The accommodations at Hôtel Harlot are still primitive, on account of my delayed acquisition of spare beds, but we managed to find a foam mattress stuffed above my wardrobe, a sheet or two, and this morning Anna politely claimed to have slept well. I think what she meant was, "as opposed to John Howard, and his league of inveterate misanthropes, whose sleep, by rights, should be troubled by the beating wings of a thousand sleep-sucking remorses, but quite frankly I'd have been more comfortable if you'd chopped this foam mattress into small flakes and fed it to me for breakfast".

Or perhaps, in fact, she slept well. You never know with these Sydney gals. They make 'em tough up there.

Anna the Activist spearheads a mass influx of temporary visitors to Hôtel Harlot: modernists, Australian-Literatologists, and poets. I am planning a rolling menu of typical Melburnean cuisine ("Peach Melbourne", "Crown Casino Lentil Casserole", and "Yarra Valley sun-dried beer nuts glazed with jus de Carlton Lager"), with which I hope to lure them into permanent migration.

Amongst my various visitors, it turns out, have come the freeloading fleas of doom. Ctenocephalides felis was dining on my lower leg this morning. I didn't mention to Anna that she'd been sharing a room with him, although her democratising proclivities may have forbad objection. Me, I'm not so sold on the sorority of woman and flea, and I object. Vehemently. I object so much that come saturday morning, I and my various parasites are going to go buy ourselves a decent vacuum cleaner.