Monday, 30 April 2007
Sydney Town was the victim of an unprovoked deluge last week. By the weekend he was glittering and splendid. On my way to the Leichhardt Ladies' Hostel yesterday morning, I chanced upon an advertisement for hair-extensions, viz. "EMPOWER yourself with the HAIR OF YOUR DREAMS, thanks to the WORLD'S BEST hair extensions". That's my Leichhardt: bring me your poor, your tired, your huddled masses, and lo!, I will empower them with hair extensions.
I spent the better part of the weekend at Chateau Wool Spaniel, which was downright lovely. For me. My poor wee niece had to suffer my belting out Handel on the piano in preparation for Wednesday's choir audition. My full-throttled yodel was eventually subdued with her tactful "I think I've had enough of this music". Doesn't bode well for Wednesday, but at least she called it music.
I made a guest appearance at the Finnegans Wake Reading Group yesterarvo, for scoffing of pikelets and assassination of plain English. I'm seriously thinking of setting up the FWRG Melbourne Chapter. I can fit the meetings in between choir rehearsals and Women's Christian Temperance Union assemblies.
* By the mid nineteenth century, dentures were quite the thing in toothless circles. Indeed, the first porcelain dentures were constructed in the late eighteenth by one Alexis Duchâteau (no relation).
Thursday, 26 April 2007
There might not be too much bloggin' round these parts, so – following in the grand and slightly embarrassing tradition established three days ago – I leave you with this minor contribution to the world's collection of Verse About Grammar. You'll love it. It really speaks to the human condition.
Sweat sodden sheets, smeared with penned secretions,
ink dark excrescences and black blot stain,
a splitting of infinitives,
an upset of the syntax,
words wrenched out, wincing, and scratched out again.
In bed (prepositional phrase), in pain,
inside, crazed (past participle), he ached,
and every motion of his nouns bespake
flaming, fretting fever, a throb, the strain
of verb on verb, dread cancer of the vowels,
something unmentionable in his, ah,
adjectives, cleaved and seething, with the drain
of too much of, an excess of, meaning.
Diagnosed with: something past the colon,
prosaical full stoppings of the brain,
a splitting of the hemispheres,
an upset of the cortex,
the death sentence stopper lodged in a vein.
Wednesday, 25 April 2007
She came to chat afterwards, and I couldn't resist hinting that perhaps "feminazi" needed a little further scrutiny. Y'know, that the implied connection with Nazism might not be quite the thing to legitimise one's patriarchy-smashing ways, that the word wasn't exactly coined by Andrea Dworkin's fan club, that, I mean, really, are you opposed to power structures or what?
"Yeah," she said. "But I can't just call myself a feminist or people will think I'm a Cosmo-feminist".
[A "Cosmo-feminist", for those of you who don't regularly dabble in the terminology, is a lass who believes she's at her most empowered in her Playboy regalia.]
Starting to worry that all the folks who've heard I'm a feminist now think of me prancing round on sunday afternoons in a bunny suit, I asked, feebly, "Couldn't you call yourself a radical feminist?"
"But I'm not a radical feminist. I believe in pornography."
I. Believe. In. Pornography. Uttered with all the passionate conviction of nineteen years and some very natty chin piercings.
Here, of course, utterly flummoxed, I retreat. I don't know what language she's speaking, this person who doesn't hold with bunny suits, is fine with "feminazi", has a thing or two to say about Raymond Carver, and believes in pornography.
Anyone who can explain to me what "I believe in pornography" means (something like "I believe in Santa Claus"? "I believe pornography will end the war in Iraq"? "I believe what pornography tells me about the world; it is more reliable than the Encyclopaedia Britannica"?) gets a chocolate frog.
Me, I have to go to my essay marking party.
Tuesday, 24 April 2007
Monday, 23 April 2007
By the Bee Gees.
When your words are wrong and your sentence long,
When subclauses flow and you can't say no.
The phrases swell
And noone loves a
When you're so intense but it makes no sense,
When your paragraph is a dead giraffe
You just have to edit,
Or noone will
Try to geddit.
Word by word,
There's a burning down inside of me,
Burning pain with a yearning that won't let me be.
Down goes my pen
And I just can't take it all alone.
I really loathe this editing, editing
When apostrophes bring you to your knees,
When you insist that it's "its" not "it's".
It's hard to bear
Of "they're" and "their".
When you go to lop down la Malaprop
When you roll your eyes and italicise,
When it's just not right
Unless they use
Chicago-style to cite.
I have cunningly neglected to join a Melburnean pipe band, so my 25th April is free from the annual moral torment of being me, a militarism-sux-and-so-does-nationalism-ist bagpiper with a weakness for rosemary and old men in berets. This year, instead of hanging out in Martin Place with the tartan posse, instead of tripping over my own ideological angst and drooling on my pipes, I'll be living it up in North Fitzroy with a buncha hard-livin', essay-markin' swingers. BYO pencil sharpener.
Who needs red lights when there are red pens to be had?
Thursday, 19 April 2007
Amid the horror at Virginia Tech were tales of heroism during the rampage, including an older professor - himself a Holocaust survivor - who gave his life to protect his students.
Romanian-born Liviu Librescu, a dual US-Israeli citizen, moved two decades ago to the United States where he taught in the Engineering Science and Mechanics Department at Virginia Polytechnic Institute and State University.
Although he was 76, long past the usual retirement age, he was still teaching at Virginia Tech yesterday when chaos erupted in Norris Hall, the campus building where a gunman identified as Cho Seung-Hui, 23, opened fire, killing 30 people people before committing suicide.
Students described how the septuagenarian Librescu used his body to barricade the door against Cho so they could escape by jumping out the classroom's second-floor window. Some broke legs in the fall, but they survived. Librescu was shot to death during the rampage.
An impromptu shrine to the professor was set up on the campus, with flowers and his picture.
Wednesday, 18 April 2007
Later on, as you all know, I turned hip as. I dyed my hair blond, pierced both nostrils, and pursued the surfing/modelling/hard-rockin' line I excel in to this day. Barely a day goes by when I don't overhear some 18-year-old lady telling her friends that in ten years' time she wants to be just like me. You bet she does, what with me being such a cool cat and all.
But it's tough, being the arbiter of avant garde, and in a moment of nostalgia last week for that misspent youth of mine, I decided to audition for a choir. I figured that what I lose in street cred I'll make up for in regular exposure to Handel. That's if I get in, of course. It's been a million years since I was in a choir, and I fear that in my relentless pursuit of cool, I've rather neglected my choral diction.
It's two weeks until the audition, so I have a bit of time to practice. I'm going to do a William Byrd number, "Adoramus te", and then they'll fling something at me I'm supposed not to have seen before. I'm one of the worst sight-singers I've ever met, so my plan is to learn the entire canon of western choral music in the next fortnight.
Tuesday, 17 April 2007
"Self-riotous" is gorgeous. Revolutionary narcissists of the world unite!
Monday, 16 April 2007
NOW not in technicolour. For those who missed it, this page had a brief but stimulating dalliance with green and purple, but due to alarmed advice from my near and dear has reverted to it-doesn't-matter-if-you're-black-or-white.
Saturday, 14 April 2007
it was the most harrowing experience of my life. For over an hour, the lovely Katrina patiently handed diaphanous nothings into my change room. Frocks with no sleeves, requiring strange stick-on bra-things. Frocks of a startling transparency. Frocks in an array of colours, none, disappointingly, turquoise. Katrina listened patiently while I requested garments in an adult-size, while I explained that, proud as I am of my slightly lopsided breasts, I prefer not to showcase their asymmetry, while I dismissed her proferred costumes with vague intimations that I'd much rather run round in a purple kaftan.
I know there are lassies out there who'd sell their pinky toes for the pleasure of spending $1800 at the Alannah Hillery, but I felt strange and denatured. Also, of course, in my typical post-Puritan fashion, altogether alarmed at the profligacy of it all. That rather peculiar ensemble above includes over $600 of Alannah Hill gear, the thing in my hair alone costing $29.
I am being an ingrate and an oddity, even though I am wearing a new pink merino cardigan with lace trimmings and embroidered cherries.
The good news is knee high socks! Three pair.
A treat, but also a source of some consternation to one who has long read her three bears story as an exultation of proletarian struggle.
Here's how it all went, before I bumped into Southey's version:
Mama Bear, Papa Bear and Baby Bear lived in a harmonious forest commune producing organic oats and freerange honey. Peace, porridge and beds for all. Papa Bear ate a big, huge bowl of porridge because he was big and huge; Mama Bear got herself a medium-sized bowl of porridge, because she was medium-sized; Baby Bear had a teeny, tiny-sized bowl of porridge, because he was teeny, tiny-sized. Perhaps the Bear Family tended to buy into somewhat socially constructed notions about the relationship between gender and porridge consumption, but Mama Bear had a higher degree in atomic physics and Papa Bear did most of the domestic work, so it was ok. Sexual politics aside, their porridge distribution policies were firmly rooted in Mr Marx's wise instruction: "from each according to their ability, to each according to their needs."
In flounces Goldilocks, yellow sausages of hair dangling about her ears. The name's a complete give-away. She's ruling class to her back teeth. Gold-i-locks. Wealth and property. And property, as her behaviour suggests, is theft. She consumes the proletariat's labour; she idles around in their beds while they're out working; she breaks one of their chairs.
The Bears return home en bloc. They roar en bloc. Goldilocks, our arch-capitalist, leaps out of bed where she's been smoking cigars and playing solitaire with her Amex cards, and resolves never to exploit bear labour again. It's a victory for ursine solidarity. United, we roar; divided, we are permanently deprived of our porridge.
All, well and good. But then I read Southey's "Three Bears" and I find there ain't no Goldilocks. No glistening hair sausages. No air of curly blond privilege. Southey's porridge thief is variously a "little old Woman", a "naughty old Woman" and an "impudent, bad old Woman". There's no gold on her head. She's altogether in a bad way, oppressed and marginalised, not least by the narrator, who's intent on her defamation. She eats the Bears' porridge and she sleeps in their beds, sure; by the looks of things, she probably needs to. When Southey's bears come home, they're complete bullies. They roar her out of an upstairs window. Writes Southey, "whether she broke her neck in the fall, or ran into the wood and was lost there, or found her way out of the wood and was taken up by the constable and sent to the House of Correction for a vagrant as she was, I can not tell."
He cannot tell, our narrator. But it's pretty jolly clear that he'd be happy with any of them three outcomes. Those are not the words of a good comrade, Robert Southey.
No wonder Coleridge dumped you for Willie W.
Friday, 13 April 2007
In the centre of this possum horde sat an old man, in a suit, with three boxes of Chinese take-away on his lap. He was doling out dollops of rice by hand. Occasionally a scrap of meat. In between scooping up globs of food, and making contact with possums' tongues, his fingers were relaying the odd load into his own mouth.
"They like rice," he told me. "And Peking duck. And pork."
I didn't have the heart to tell him that possums were supposed to be fructivorous. Besides, these possums clearly weren't. One of them, a marsupial with a babysupial in her pouch, chomped down on the man's finger and looked all set to haul him off across the lawn. No blood lost, but it was a sign of the times, possum-human-relations-wise
And there I'd been thinking that the worst the 'Bourne had to offer was the ganglands. Little did I suspect I'd meet with a superspecies of carnivorous possums. They'll be taking our jobs, if we're not careful. And stealing all our take-away. Who knows, this could be the beginning of the end for the human finger.
Thursday, 12 April 2007
Wednesday, 11 April 2007
My dalliances on the world wide web this past week have been almost entirely with folk named "Pso65" and "BobMan", wondering why on earth I am selling, why am I selling this fine, strapping, hulking fifty-inch spunk of a television. Hôtel Harlot, I have told them, is barely fifty inches from wall to wall, but what I wanted to say is this: "Why are you contemplating buying this fine, strapping, hulking fifty-inch spunk of a television? Surely there's an overseas trip you could go on? A lifetime's supply of cashews and dried apricots you could buy? The complete works of Charles Dickens, and the same in talking-book, and enough left over to keep a Somali village in rice for six months?"
That, however, would have been snide. By keeping my snideness to myself, I received communications, like this one, from a chap who lost the bidding, wrote to tell me so, and received my condolences: "cheers for your thoughts and good luck to you lady with an attitude like yours alexis im certain youll go far , cheers again mike". If that ain't the most flattering and unpunctuated sentence ever to pass between two strangers on ebay, then I'm a monkey's aunt.
Tuesday, 10 April 2007
The new habitat is a triple-decker of a beast, looking down on a town best known for losing its leaves and marketing fancy household impedimenta to unwary touristhropoids.
Half of Harlot House (the half that isn't made of steel girders and corrugated iron) is made of glass, through which yours truly, who had had vague notions of nosing the grindstone while she was away, gazed incessantly either at pines
or at these guys, which, for want of more precise botanical descriptors, we'll call "trees".
Harlot House is, of course, home to Wilbur the Wonderdog, whom we see here in a rare moment of activity. He has been spending his days mostly lying on the deck, rehearsing for his future career as a solar panel. He has also been contributing enormously to the gross detached dog-hair product of Bright. It is my belief that a town that thrives by selling homemade tomato relish could easily achieve significant exports in humanely gleaned organic beagle hair.
Indeed, here is the perfect facility at nearby Wangaratta station for storing beagle hair on a commercial scale.
And speaking of scaling, here's a typical sample of Mount Buffalo, as scaled by moi, Bernhilde, Wool Spaniel & co.
We are the champignons.
Here endeth the essay. More soon on Adventures with Plasma Tellies.
Sunday, 8 April 2007
Family Wool Spaniel, Bernhilde and I made a valiant ascent of Mount Buffalo today. Mount Buffalo was disappointingly devoid of buffalo. This being high buffalo season, and buffalo being notoriously bad at hiding, I can only suppose the government has rounded the Mount Buffalo buffalo up and relocated the Mount Buffalo buffalo to somewhere that is not Mount Buffalo. I'll be writing a letter of complaint to the premier down here, Steve Whatshisname, just as soon as I return to Hôtel Harlot and my fancy stationery.
Speaking of buffalo, I've often wondered about the etymology of that hideous adjective, "buff", as used to describe the gentleperson who spends far too much of God's precious time recreationally lifting heavy things - cabers, beagles, volkswagons - with an eye to bicep augmentation. For some years I laboured under the misapprehension that "buff" referred to the colour of bare skin, a colour shared with many manila folders. As many human skins do not correspond with the colour of many manila folders, I found this unsatisfactory indeed. Further reflection suggested that "buff" may have evolved from "boeuf", Parisian for "beef", on account of how a "buff" gent somehow resembles a slab of steak. For various reasons - no need to spell 'em out - I found this version even less satisfactory. Today, wrestling my way up Mount Buffalo, grappling with boulders, struggling with crampons (okay, no crampons, but there was definitely struggling), I felt health and vigour, a raw animal strength, coursing through my veins. Were climbing Mount Buffalo to feature in my daily ablutions, there is no doubt: I would either die very quickly, or I would become, yes, buff. And so, reader, I bring to you to the latest in my speculative etymologies for "buff", a word that obviously derives from buffalo, as in Mount Buffalo, as in, climb it often enough and lo! thou willt grow wiry and sinuous and strong.
Not, of course, that this blog endorses wire, sinew or strength over any of the other humanly virtues, such as aptitude in knitting, knowledge of the Danish national anthem, or skill in beagle husbandry.
Friday, 6 April 2007
So, this post brought to you by V-line, fresh mountain air, and - following a lengthy discussion with my mother about my plans to join the Women's Christian Temperance Union (Melbourne chapter) - a bowl full of brandy and blueberries.
I don't have anything much to say for myself, having spent the better part of the day gawping at pine forests, taking photos of golden willows, and rivers, and willows and rivers. And slurping up brandy. Am feeling consequently sated of sense and ever so slightly brandied of brain. Um. Ummmm. Oh yes: the bidding on the telly has crept up to $1825. Now would be a perfect moment to break into Hôtel Harlot and steal it (but please don't). And oh yes again: Monday will mark the 2 month anniversary of my descent unto the 'Bourne, and I'm proud to announce that thrift and frugality win the day: which is to say, the household (comprising me, and the odd guest) has consumed 9 rolls of toilet paper in those two months, averaging out to one roll per week. Here I think we at Hôtel Harlot set something of a national standard.
Wednesday, 4 April 2007
Following a recent re-reading of Civilisation and Its Discontents, I actually have quite a lot of respect for ol' Siggy, but Schlomo! It explains a lot.
Tuesday, 3 April 2007
and lots of it.
For hundreds of years following its entré to European climes, the tomato was fêted by its fetishists as the apple of love. This is all very well. If squelchy red fruits are your aphrodisiac of preference, who am I to judge? But what concerns me is this: if the tomato is the apple of love, where does that leave the apple? And what of the apple who - stranger things have happened - goes wobbly at the knees and falls strüdel over cider in love herself? Are such apples compelled to masquerade as tomatoes? Must they forsake their core identity?
The tomato's elevation as emblem d'amore is all the more sinister because time was when the apple itself was the apple of love. As all good fruit historians know, back in Elizabethan England (an epoch, clearly, wherein the virtues of a good wholesome sweat hadn't yet been obfuscated by a multi-billion dollar deodorant industry), lassies would keep peeled apples in their armpits, wait til the apples were mightily infused with maidenly perspiration, then pass them on to their equally aromatic beaux. The beaux would tentatively sniff, inhale deeply, inhale once again, and instantly swoon with a languorous ecstasy the like of which no tomato-fancier has ever known.
Elizabeth I's reign ends. Europe goes potty for colonising America. And next thing you know, in flounces the tomato and usurps the humble love apple.
Don't get me wrong: I think tomatoes are smashing. I really like 'em. They go down a treat with garlic and basil. But are they apples? And are they apples of love? Here I must draw the line.
Monday, 2 April 2007
F'rinstance, yesterday, in between fancy hot chocolate on Lygon Street and fancy pacifist shenanigans on Collins Street, we betook ourselves to the Camberwell Markets. The Camberwell Markets comprise three acres of trestle tables, laden with ceramic giraffes, 1950s hats, decapitated Barbie dolls, and second-hand vinyl underwear. I approached this al fresco Temple of recycled Mammon girt in resolution, holding aloft the shield of I-Shall-Not-Buy-Questionable-Nick-Nacks, and clutching the sword of Tempt-Me-Not-Ye-Bric-a-Brac-of-Yore. Indeed, I had informed the Delegation that I would only offer up my hard-earned silver if I saw: (a) a colander, (b) a cheese grater, (c) a first edition of the Origin of Species, or (d) diaphanous turquoise curtain fabric. But most of all a colander. The pasta's been unspectacular for a good month now. This official list was a very sensible strategy, retention-of-pennies-wise, but led to many a wistful sigh as I spurned a succession of 1950s hats.
No colanders were forthcoming, and, strangely, first editions of the Origin of Species were thin on the ground, so, excepting a $5 lapse in the direction of an entirely unnecessary skirt, I left the Camberwell Markets unbesmirched by commerce.
Unbesmirched, but disappointingly devoid of colanders. 'Course, a resourceful spaghetti-artist will find a way to drain her pasta regardless, but everyone loves a colander. Nothing like a colander to beguile one's Thornbury evenings. Always fun to take to Amsterdam, a Hollander colander.
When I arrived home today, I found that the Delegation had contrived to buy me possibly the world's most beautiful colander. A pale blue ceramic job, shapely and shiny and altogether full of holes. How did she know?, I asked myself. Such are the mysteries of friendship.
Three cheers for the Delegation! Never again will Hotel Harlot offer up soggy fettucini. They're jolly nice gals, those Leichhardt lasses.
Even so, they must know that Charlotte Bronte is nothing without her diaeresis, that the ancien regime suffers acute withdrawal pangs, that some of us ethnic minority types from the outer Hebrides can't type out our full nomenclature properly without resorting to the grave (no thanks, Ma & Pa Harlot, bless 'em, for the Gaelic middle name).
Where have you gone, oh cirumflex? Hotel Harlot looks cheap and tawdry without you.