Wednesday, 26 December 2007

The Knight of the Burning Pestle

Happy Christmas, everyone. I spent the day improving relations with my parents' neighbours by tuning a set of sore-neglected bagpipes. My brother harmonised with the whipper-snipper. If anyone is to blame for this, it's the aforementioned parents. They bought the bagpipes (18 years ago). They bought the whipper-snipper (this month). They produced the offending offspring (at various junctures between 1969 and 1978). Moral: if you don't want noisy descendants, don't have any; if you do have them, buy them quiet toys.

Meanwhile, back in the land of pottering around the internet, I've just become aware of The Knight of the Burning Pestle, first staged in 1607. Why I've never heard of The Knight of the Burning Pestle, but I hear on an almost weekly basis of King Lear (which first rolled off the presses the following year) beats me, unless it's something to do with branding. (That's "branding" as in "marketing-a-brand", in this case, Shakespeare TM, not "branding" as in burning one's initials into a wee calfie's back leg or nuffing.) King Lear, I hereby declare, at the risk of alienating whole generations of Higher School Certificate students and Harold Blooms, is a dud. It's nothing but eye-gouging and bad parenting and wise-guy/fool inversions and threatened incest and battles and sibling rivalry and existential angst and malicious weather and discrimination against kids whose parents weren't married and lines like "Out, vile jelly!", which shouldn't be spake directly after lunch.

The Knight of the Burning Pestle, on the other hand, has pestles. You can download him here. I will give a dollar to anyone prepared to stage this play. If your name is Baz Luhrmann, I'll make it two dollars.

Monday, 24 December 2007

The Gentle Art of Eating Christmas Cake

When I left the parental abode for the Leichhardt Ladies' Hostel #1 (before it became the Petersham Ladies' & Periodic Gent's Hostel, then the Leichhardt Ladies' Hostel #2, Slightly Closer to Annandale), it was a December. I was wide-eyed and giddy at the prospect of kibbutzing it up with three comrades, a cat and the über-roaches of the Inner West. Me mum (blessed be her name) was convinced that I would starve to death within days, and so she brought into being the biggest, brandy-soddenest, almond-studdedest Christmas cake the world hath ever known. It was my sharehouse dowry. I put it on the kitchen table in the Leichhardt Ladies' Hostel, and repaired into my room to discuss Schopenhauer with the local arthropods. The next morning, three layers of glad wrap had been gnawed away by a feline tooth, the top of the cake bore catmouthsized depressions, Max purred plumply from a kitchen chair.

This year I have lived on my ownsome. No cat, no cockroaches, no fellow house-citizens. And me mum (blessed be her name) made me the same old Christmas cake she's made every year for the last seven years. She said something about my taking some in to work. And feeding it to my neighbours.

Neighbours? Colleagues? Pah! Here lie the remains of me mum's Christmas cake 07, the entirety of which was consumed over a two week period within the walls of Hôtel Harlot. I say this with pride. This was a sturdy cake.

Naysayers: marzipans at twelve paces.

Thursday, 20 December 2007

Buy FIFTEEN; get ONE free!

Good old FlyBuys. For a year's worth of card-swiping every time I buy lentils and dried shitake mushrooms at Coles, I've racked up a grand total of 876 points. Just another twenty-one thousand one hundred and twenty-four points and I can fly for free to Adelaide. By my calculations, assuming a steady rate of grocery purchasing over the next few decades, I'll be in Adelaide by the year 2032. Those who are tempted to despair at these figures should despair not, because as a special seasonal gift to me, FlyBuys will post me a $20 voucher if I spend $300 at Coles in the merrie month of December. Check out that ratio, ladies and gees. 1:15. Merry Christmas.

The Language of Goethe

Which is better: "safely stops your dog with just one click", or "stoppt ihren Hund sicher auf Knopfdruck"?

Henceforth this blog shall be known as Die Lexikonische Dirne.

Wednesday, 19 December 2007

The Citizens Electoral Council of Australee Strikes Again

Tell Bali to pack up and go home. News just in from the Citizens Electoral Council: "Argentine scientists say sun, not humans, behind climate change". Thank goodness for that. And printed on 100% recycled email too.

I suggest we excise a suitable portion of the sun (exact quantities to be determined by Argentine scientists), seal it in lead boxes and bury it at Maralinga or send it to another solar system or something. Then we can stop all this nonsense about peat bogs, and get on with solving real problems, like how to protect small children from the terrorist recruitment cells infiltrating myspace.

Who are these people and how did they get my email address?

Sunday, 16 December 2007

I move in elevated circles

I was chatting to my friend Quentin yesterday, when suddenly, halfway through a mouthful of watercress, he asked, "Is it possible for someone to be an impostor as an impostor?" What did Quentin mean, you may well ask. I wasn't sure either, so I telephoned Tama, a logician with the philosophy department at Melbourne University, whom I happen to know because his cohabitrix makes a damned fine chickpea bake. I intercepted Tama right in the middle of some philosophising, even though it was a Saturday. Someone should notify the union. Meanwhile ...

"Tama," I said, "Is it possible for someone to be an impostor as an impostor?"

"What do you mean?" he said.

"Good point," I said.

"Instead of thinking about impostors imposting as impostors, why don't you think about George Bush's coinage, 'misunderestimation'?" he said.

And so I did. I'm still not sure if "misunderestimation" means falsely underestimating, and thus estimating correctly (or perhaps overestimating), or whether it means it's high time they had their next presidential election, those Americanians.

Unrelatedly, today I saw the name of the vicar at Moonee Ponds Anglican Church: the Rev. Bill A. Beagley. I would pay cold hard cash to have Beagley as my surname.

Tuesday, 11 December 2007

Sneak Preview

I am doing a book about William Blake. Most of the book was written by dead people. I am prefacing their observations with my own observations, wherein I observe what I think they're observing and why I think they're observing the way they do and I explain how they knew Billy B., or (more commonly) how they came to know of him, and I venture generalisations about the fate of the Blake Question (visionary, madman, or darn-tootin' ironist?*) throughout the nineteenth century. It's meant to be (so say the publishers) a run of the dark satanic mill reference book, this book, but to me it's a biographies' biography, festooned and metatextualated to its back teeth.

Here are some things (they make good Christmas presents):

1. In 1824, Bernard Barton wrote to Charles Lamb to ask if he had written Blake’s 'The Chimney Sweeper', which Lamb had contributed to an anthology for chimney sweepers. Try to find a book like that in Borders these days. They just don't do anthologies for chimney sweepers the way they used to.

2. In Algernon Charles Swinburne's exposition of Blake's sexual libertarianism, he insists that there is "no prurience of porcine appetite for rotten apples ... [in this] sensual doctrine". If my surname were Swineburne, I'd watch where I put the word "porcine".

3. George Bernard Shaw calls Blake "an avowed Diabolonian". "Diabolonian" means "Satanist", but it's hard to take seriously a word that sounds so much like "abalone". I'm wondering if this was Shaw's point. (Probably not, for the record.)

* They don't tend to notice the irony in the nineteenth century. Their Blake's either stark bollocky (naked in the back garden with Mrs B.) mad or the clairvoyant's clairvoyant. Later on, when the Victorians start getting all art-for-art's-sake-ish, they coopt him as the patron saint of a cult of beauty, which seems to miss all sorts of points. But fair enough. It takes a lot of mental energy to wear velveteen knickerbockers.

Friday, 7 December 2007

The Aged P.

In honour of the Pa's birthday (yesterday), here's a ditty selected at random from his repertoire of Quotations for All Occasions:

Up on the mountain
Green grows the grass.
Down came a billygoat
Sliding on his - overcoat.

(Best served aloud, in the presence of eight-year-olds.)

Monday, 3 December 2007

Grumpy old Harlot exceeds 100-character limit

God curse the mobile Phone,
Sony and Ericsson,
God curse that Phone.
Drop it - splash! - in the loo,
Bash it with four by two,
Store it inside a shoe:
God curse That Phone.

O Lord, how to express,
In just an SMS,
What I disdain?;
Is it the ring tones six?,
Phone-induced nervous tics?;
Or nudie voda-pix?:
Oh Lord, the pain.

Oh God, thou hear'st us grown
Bring back the telephone,
The landline phone.
People wrote "you", not "u",
Did not ring from Peru*
To ask about shampoo:
God kill the Phone.

* Not that I'd mind being texted from Peru. If you're in Peru, please send me a text. Don't ask about shampoo, though. Ask about William Blake or something.

Sunday, 2 December 2007

A note to the keepers of the almanac

This website is one year old today. Happy birthday, this website.

Upon Being Invoiced by the Australian Taxation Office for LOTS OF MONEY, payable by the 14th December: ways to console oneself

One of this continent's great and glorious institutions, the Australian Taxation Office, recently informed me that I owe the nation a hefty lump of mine filthy lucre. Here, let me not overstate the lumpeness or filth, or, indeed, lucrativity, of my filthy lucre, which is not such that I own any or all of: a house, motorised transport, a food processor. I like to think that, were my owings on account of some good and right tax (like an income-indexed income tax), I would have greeted this correspondence from the Australian Taxation Office with a little leap, a quiet joy, the thought that I too could give something back to the nation at whose teat I've suckled. But nay, my owings are on account of a wicked and perverse tax, and even though my filthy lucre will dribble into the same, one, great, transcendent treasury, I will not feel spiritually cleansed by the dribbling. I will feel like a lettuce leaf nibbled round the edges by slugs. I will briefly contemplate purchasing private health insurance so as to avoid paying the wicked and perverse tax, even though I visit a doctor approximately once every two years, and then I will remember that the only reason this tax is wicked and perverse is because it tempts us to buy private health insurance and so deprive the state of the money that the wicked and perverse tax extracts from us.

Here is how I will console myself:

1. I will think about the words "thrift" and "penury". These are two of my favourite words. If my son, Witlof, should ever acquire siblings, I will call them Thrift and Penury.

2. I will find the button that fell off my trousers in the wash. I will do this by looking in the washing machine. Then I will sew it back on again.

3. I will read this article about how schools in Amerikay were forced by underfunding to cut the past tense from their language programs and I will be glad that I am possibly funding antipodean language programs, even if via a wicked and perverse tax instead of via a good and right tax.

4. I will remind myself that many people who do not own food processors lead full and happy lives.

5. I will receive my telephone bill and it will tell me that I am in credit (this is my plan, anyway).

6. I will loudly deplore the wicked and perverse tax, while simultaneously preaching the merits of the income-indexed income tax, and I will say things like "The tax bracket into which I fall should be taxed at a higher rate, but the wicked and perverse tax should be abolished", which I may come to regret later.

7. I will eat marrows, ostentatiously, perhaps for lunch at work.

Taxing times

I've always been in favour of tax, much as I've always been in favour of taxidermy. Any system that can redistribute wealth and fund the ABC's screening of the National Chess Championship and embalm one's late ocelot for the benefit of posterity gets my full and unreserved support. Actually, scrap that about taxidermy. Taxidermy can get stuffed. (No! Me? Plagiarise a pun? Surely not.) Meanwhile, seeing we're qualifying, let's just amend my enthusiasm for tax and say that there are taxes (like income-indexed income tax) and then there are taxes (like the medicare levy surplus), and some of them (like income-indexed income tax) are good and right, as, by the way, are mangoes, puppies and well-turned rhyming couplets, but some of them (like the medicare levy surplus, which you don't have to pay if you get private health insurance, even if the cost of your private health insurance is less than the tax would be) are wicked and perverse, like black puddings, intestinal parasites, and sentences of undue convolution. These taxes, the wicked and perverse ones, are used to persuade high income earners to fling their money at private health insurers rather than giving it to the government, whence it could funnel into the public health system. Another thing: I prefer being taxed when I suspect my money's being spent on walking frames, Bogong moth husbandry, and maths teachers; I'm altogether less enthusiastic about being taxed when I suspect the dosh of which I've been brief custodian turns into landmines, prime-ministerial eyebrow pruning, and concentration camps for refugees.

Saturday, 1 December 2007

In my marrow

Summer tiiiimmmmme, and the livin' is queazy, partly because I just bought a kilo of marrows for fifty cents down the Thornbury Veg Emporium and now I gotta eat 'em. While I was there I acquired my first ever witlof, a little leafy number shaped like a tulip. Depending how it responds to sesame seed oil, I'm thinking Witlof could be the name for my first born.