Friday, 31 August 2007


Early onset Spring has set up shop in my nostrils, so this is what I want to know: is it possible for a very talented person to earn a living entirely through sneezing? I mean, I take your point (preemptively): anyone can sneeze, but my sneezes are something else. I think of Tchaikovsky's 1812 Overture, I think of Niagara Falls, I think of whatever it was (Napoleon's cannonballs perhaps) that blew the nose off the Sphinx, and then I think of my sneezes.

While other children were toilet trained, I was coached in sneezing excellence. "Great big grandfather blow", my mother would say. "Great big elephant blow." My prowess in the pneumatic expulsion of particulate matter from the nasal cavity is - I don't mean to boast - pretty darn prowessy. Surely there's an Arts Council grant with my name on it.

Style Sheep

Sheep, in Yorkshire, discussing next season's fashions over a mouthful of low-fat herbal grass.

Far be it from me to disdain a bold attempt at bilingualism, but I cannot resist this. The website of the Journal of Humanities of Taiwan's National Central University directs potential contributors to its "Style Sheep". Enough with italics and single spacing; today's writers want to hear the latest on waistcoats. (Sheep, you understand, know about these sorts of things in advance.)

Tuesday, 28 August 2007

Regency Sundae

Commercially made ice-cream was first sold in New York in 1786. That's One-Seven-Eight-Six. I make no further comment.

Sunday, 26 August 2007

Attack of the Maltipoo

Now I'm not one to speak ill of the dog. The dog is a fine figure of a mammal. It's true, I prefer a dog with a bit of a woof and a tendency to roll in cow manure to a dog who looks like Dame Barbara Cartland's left slipper, but I'm really not fussed. Dogs are grouse (so grouse, in fact, that I wonder why we say "grouse" [as in "Lamingtons are grouse"] and not "dog" [ as in "Lamingtons are dog; I think I'll eat a dozen"]).

Dogs, I like 'em. Nevertheless, it is no service to my good opinion of the dog to find that amongst the dogly multitude exists a canine subculture of maltipoos. If someone had come up to me yesterday on the street and offered me a maltipoo, I would have handed her a plastic bag, gone home, and washed my hands in lemon juice. Today I learn that the maltipoo, somewhat like the labradoodle, is the offspring of a poodle and his less woolly paramour.

Let me not to the marriage of true hounds admit impediments. If a poodle and a Maltese terrier like the look of each other, then more power to them, I say. It's the eugenicist perversions of dog breeders that trouble me (here I must, reluctantly, include the breeders of beagules), and the strangely infantilising names they bestow on pups who want nothing more than to gallop valiantly across the tundra and bring down whole herds of wildebeests with a single paw.

Friday, 24 August 2007

FiFi & Me

Lock up your money boxes, Mammonites. Not only was my last mastercard statement completely undastardly (thanks to my new doo-dah abstinence policy), but it came with a wee leaflet instructing me on How To Win Something. They told me banking could be fun, but did I ever believe them? More fool me.

I'm a serial game-show contestant, a recovering high school examination-addict, and I play scrabble on-line, which is to say: one sniff of a competition and I'm heart-poundingly, giddily there. "Win a year's supply of horse manure!" I'm there. "Confederate Flag Boxer Shorts!" Yes, please. "Half expenses paid trip for two to glorious Cesstown!" Beam me up, Scotty.

So what's going down with young Master Card? Well, this.* Each time I buy something with it, I'm entered into a competition to win a day with Madame von FiFi, celebrity stylist, and $5000 wherewith to be styled. I know for sure that FiFi and I would hit it off terrifically. "Fantastic," she'd say, "The natural leg hair look! I have just the handkerchief in mind." But more to the point, $5000 to frivol away on clobber! I could have a different hat for every day of the year, which has long been one of my more noble aspirations. When the critically-acclaimed $20 jeans de la Kmart I bought last year finally wear out, I could get NEW ones! Two hundred and fifty pairs, to be precise.

The downside of all this is not that I may not win my day with Madame von FiFi, but that I may win one of the thousand consolation prizes: a six-month subscription to Shop Til You Drop, the magazine for people who like to pay money solely to read advertisements. I cannot imagine a world where this would be an appealing prospect. Except our world, of course, where apparently it is.

* If any of you acquire mastercards because I have drawn your attention to the FiFi-o-rama, I will, in remorse, eat my entire hat collection.

Wednesday, 22 August 2007

The Reign of Terrapin

Turtle in the moat at work!
Turtle in the moat at work!
Or possibly a tortoise.

Tuesday, 21 August 2007

In the words of The Carpenters, the Partridge Family, and Lenny Welch ...

"Breakfasting up is hard to do."

Breakfast, quoth the Wikipedians, "is the first meal of the day, preceding lunch or dinner, and is typically eaten in the morning." Such, meine Damen und Herren, are the great profundities of life, and we here at Lexicon Harlot Inc. are dedicated to plumbing their conceptual depths with all the scholarly rigour of the western world's finest conceptual depth plumbers. Why, f'rinstance, do we speak of today's breakfast preceding today's lunch or dinner, and not of today's breakfast as pursuing yesterday's lunch and dins, or, for that matter, of today's lunch and dinner as preceding tomorrow's breakfast? Does this rhetorical breakfast-centricity not reflect a certain temporal prejudice, a confusion of chronological relatives with chronological absolutes? What if I have no lunch or dinner, so that my breakfast does not precede 'em? Is it no longer a breakfast?

On another, but related, matter, this morning, faced with a superfluity of superannuated soy milk, I elected not to consume it in all its fermented glory on my muesli, but to disguise it in pancake batter - to which end, I battered me the best batter ever. Oh yes I did. I bet a better batter bar none never was.

And now, all you wanted to know but never dared ask! (Steady on, soldier.) Yes, without further ado, I present to you the ingredients: wholemeal self raising flour (rest of packet), No Egg (yes, yes, I know), soy-linseed-almond mix (left over from my sister's trip to the nut providore up the road last June), poppy seeds (coupla spoonfuls), tahini (a bold addition, but by Jove, a good 'un), dried barberries (not for them with child), and a goodly slosh of thoroughly alcoholic soy milk. Slop into sizzling frypan, cook, eat with your pancake condiments of preference. Lunch, a flash of sandwich in a crowded hour, didn't hold a candle to my pièce de crêpe (as opposed to my piece of crap, if you'll pardon my English).

Now seems as good a time as ever to spread glad tidings of great joy: yes, "ante-jentacular" is a word. Good mates with "post-prandial".

Sunday, 19 August 2007

Vegetarianist agitprop

"Small retrivers"? Small retrievers? Small golden retrievers? I hear that it's a dog eat dog world, but really, this is getting way too literal for me.

Saturday, 18 August 2007

Sweet Charity

Thornbury's opportunity shops are fighting crime the nice way. For years, the Melbourne mafia have terrorized footpaths with their off-cast ceramic ashtrays and bags of contraband second-hand dressing-gowns. No more! The Thornbury Lions Club is reclaiming the badlands with a security camera and a simple message: smile.

The incidence of out-of-hours footpath donation has decreased by 94% since the implementation of Operation Smile, but it remains to be seen whether the Lions Club's softly-softly approach will reduce the effects of trolley "borrowing".

We're giving you the benefit of the doubt, Sunil. Of course, you merely "borrowed" our trolley, and perhaps we weren't clear on the loan's duration. But hear us loud and clear, mister, if you don't "please" return that trolley soon, then your "borrowing" days in this town are over. This ain't any old shop; this is a Charity Shop.

Tuesday, 14 August 2007

Wherein the author gets all sentimental

Dinner with my illustrious 'rents tonight. Just how illustrious, you may well ask. Well, cop a load of this: my dad, as I was telling folks the other night, enjoyed a brief stint as Sydney's foremost amateur potato-sexer,* shares a name with the erstwhile chair of the sewerage management committee formerly known as the NSW Waterboard, and has entertained countless international audiences with the antics of his false tooth; me mum does cryptic crosswords in the time it takes lesser mortals to tie their shoelaces, has the world's most fascinatingly webbed toes, and - I think this is true, correct me if I'm wrong - wrote the Complete Works of William Shakespeare. They are, additionally, two of the loveliest people in the whole world.


* Potato-sexing, Pater Harlot-style, performed by dangling a nail by a piece of string above the suspect potato. The trajectory of the nail's gyrations will indicate the potato's sex.

Sunday, 12 August 2007

Specialite de la Maison

I'll have my usual, thanks. Oven-baked staying up late preparing tomorrow morning's class lightly drizzled with chocolate sauce.

Saturday, 11 August 2007

Critters with teeth, lack thereof

Why aren't there more Patagonian chinchillas in my life? In fact, what's with the total absence of rodents? There is a whole bowl of apples sitting, exposed, on my dining table, chewable electrical cords all over the shop, ample fluff, suitable for the nesting therein, delicious soap in the bathroom, more paper than a self-respecting mousie would know what to do with. This place is rat paradise. But do I see so much as a vanishing tail? A small pile of dried poo? A toothmark on the kettle cord?

I read somewhere once that there were five rats for every human in Moscow. Send some of them here! There are fifty humans for every rat.

I was always going to be a guinea pig wrangler when I grew up, but I don't think I've even seen a guinea pig in the last five years. There were a couple of dismembered mice in the back garden at Leichhardt (here's looking at you, Bruno), but mice don't cut it when there's a question of guinea pigs - or Patagonian chinchillas.

Friday, 10 August 2007

Notes from the Deep South

As British English "gyratory circus" is to American English "roundabout", so be Melburnean English "pot" to Sydneian English "middy" (both of which, for those of you not au fait with Australingual beerology, are the words you'll be using when you order y'rself a swift half pint of full-cream dairy-milk mead down the pub). When it comes to fronting up at a bar and specifying my desired volume of liquor, I prefer asking for a pony: "I'll 'ave a pony of shandy, please - lashings of lemonade". This would be so regardless of the pony's size, simply because "pony of shandy" sounds seventeen times better than "schooner of shandy" or "jug of shandy" or "tot-glass of shandy" or even "thimbleful of shandy". Most people down here in the Deep South buy their beer by the pot, so, in the interests of cultural assimilation, I've learnt to suppress my philoponyism and take my shandies pot-size.

I wasn't always so at ease with the ways of the southern publican, though. Shortly after I arrived in this here smokin' town, I noticed that my local establishment proudly offered a $10 Tuesday night "Parma and Pot Special". In New South Wales, the Parma is a breed of wallaby (that's macropus parma, to you) and pot's, well, this, so you'll understand why I thought $10 was awful cheap. It didn't take long before I came round to the pot concept. It was just a matter of tinkering with my lexicon. Middy equals pot does not equal this. But "parma"? The Oxford English Dictionary, my tour guide and travel companion of choice, suggested "Parma" as an abbreviation for any of "Parma violet", "Parma ham", or the aforementioned "Parma wallaby". None of these, on reflection, seemed likely candidates for the Tuesday night special.

In fact, it turns out - and I've only gleaned this by virtue of extensive fraternisation with the natives - "Parma" is Victoria's national dish, the gustatory anthem, the salute to all things Melburnean and publy, and consists of a slab of dead beast, crumbed, deep fried and bedaubed with red sauce and cheese. They eat it down here like Newtowners eat Thai tofu green curry. Which I mention, lest any of you are under the impression that this whole inter-state migration thingy is just a walk in the park. They speak a whole different dialect down here. And they eat Parma instead of tofu green curry (inexplicably). And their middies are called pots. And their castles cassells. This cross-cultural encounter fandango, it's not easy.

Thursday, 9 August 2007

Hindus and don'ts

My pal next door at work took one look at my aura of harriedness last week and informed me that I would be joining her for lunchtime yoga. All I have to do is say the word "yoga" and I'm awash with feelings of wholesomeness. It rolls around my mouth like a gobbet of wholebran organic vegan muffin, premasticated by unionised freerange indigenous marsupials. I feel my toenails growing thicker, my eyebrows bushier, my gluteus maximus hardening into something that Michelangelo would carve in marble. The word "yoyo" does not inspire the same effect.

Today was Welcome to Lunchtime Yoga day. Though my spine is stretched, I have biceps, and I'm feeling almost indecently relaxed, the best thing of all were the sentences like this 'un: "This position is downward-facing dog, which is called adho mukha svanasana in Sandscript". Ah, Sandscript, sacred language of the Oil-Rigveda.

Tuesday, 7 August 2007

Apologia pro vita mea

Dear comma-rades, it's been a week, and I've missed you all. I've been fending off tribes of nomadic first-year students, all keen to pitch camp in my overpopulated autobiography course. I gave the course reader a hot-pink cover. The young folk saw it there in the campus bookshop. It spoke to their collective inner Barbie-doll fetishist, and before I knew it, 80 new converts were trying to squeeze their way into my lecture hall (only to discover that I talk inordinately about the painting of dead Japanese fish).

Note that I do not mention members of the Australian Football League. My self-restraint surprises even me.

So, it's been all quiet on the blog front, while I've bulldozed my way through a wall of solid administrivia, armed with nothing but cocoa solids. My sense of vocation was reinvigorated this morning when one of the young scholars told me I looked like a Jane Austen character. "It's the spiky hair and the knee-length skirt, isn't it?" Well, no, I look like a twentieth-century Jane Austen character, she said. Mr Collins in drag, perhaps?

Wednesday, 1 August 2007

But I can still hit the semi-colon key

Four lectures down; fifteen to go; have lost my will to type.