Thursday, 29 November 2007

It's all Geek to me

I had the enormous pleasure of sitting at a tressle table in a hall today, notionally in order to field questions from high school English teachers interested in how we can help them hone their skills as lit-critters, but in fact in order to get some of the free food. My favourite question (betwixt morsels) was: "Does your English department offer Gaelic?" Indeed we do, Sir. Amongst our fourteen full-time academic staff there just so happen to be no fewer than seven specialists in regional variants of Irish Gaelic, three of them fluent in Scots Gaelic, and one the author of a doctoral dissertation modestly titled "Rodents and Rowboats: forces for change amongst the Gaelic vowels of the Outer Hebrides". (Now that, lemmings and gerbilmen, is a thesis waiting to happen. You betcha.)

Relevance of title? None. So how about I type it again? It's all Geek to me. Oh yes it is.

Wednesday, 21 November 2007

How to talk to dogs

You are sitting on the toilet. Your underpants are slung low around your ankles. They are white and clean. The newspaper is folded into quarters on your lap, and you are completing the crossword puzzle with a blue biro. You are slowly, satisfyingly evacuating your bowels and you have four more clues to solve. Alfred noses open the door, which you haven’t quite shut, because Alfred and you are the only ones home. You do not acknowledge Alfred’s presence because this is supposed to be a quiet moment between you, your digestive system, and D.A., who compiled the crossword. Alfred tries to get your attention. He does this by dropping a wet tennis ball in your underpants. Your underpants are like a hammock, designed especially for tennis balls. The tennis ball is wet because it has been in Alfred’s mouth and thus marinated in Alfred’s slobber. Other things that have been in Alfred’s mouth over the past four days include sock, stick, wombat dung, raw cow flesh, dog food, your brother's ear. There is now a wet tennis ball in your underpants, possibly bearing microbial traces of whatever lives in wombat intestines. Do you say anything to Alfred, and if so, what?

Tuesday, 20 November 2007

Wisdom Teeth

Quoting from one's students' essays on one's website (yea verily even without their permission or knowledge) is unethical. Forsooth, it is. But as it is high time for tea (or high tea time), and I am still at work marking my students' essays, and there is no prospect of going home anytime in the next - ooh - thirty-six hours, the usual moral strictures do not apply. Also, like Saint Augustine, who prayed for chastity and continence, but not yet, I let my digits clatter away at yon keyboard, hoping that my nobler nature will surface just as soon as I've pressed "publish".

Meanwhile, I give you the tippety-toppety best sentence from the latest bunch of freshperson disquisitions on autobiography. It's this: "I don't write diaries because I saw many movies in which the guy was found guilty by the evidence in his diary, so I don't think writing diaries is a good habit anyhow." I hereby nominate this sentence for the Alumni Association's Excellence in B-Grade-Espionage-Flick-Induced Paranoia Award.

While I'm at it, cast your een over this contender for the Prioritisers' Choice Award: "I myself have often thought that relationships are more important than trivial issues." Yes. I myself have often thought that important things are more important than unimportant things too.

And this heart-rending lament: "Oblivion is one of the greatest gifts God gives to men [...] People with great memories always find it hurts."

And for sheer excellence in noun-to-adjective transition surgery: "As well as the use of the first person, speaking of oneself in the third person can imply a somewhat humility element to the writing."

My head hurts.

Sunday, 18 November 2007

Charge of the Light Wombat Brigade

The silence round these parts has not been the sound of me chewing my silkworm way through the mulberry leafitude of yon collective first year essay. No. It has been the sound of me riding a giant wooden wombat round the streets of Dame Nellie Melbourne.

Ladies and gennelmen, I bring you "The Charge of the Light Wombat Brigade" (one verse only):


Half a league, half a league,
Riding the wombat
Into the burrow of Swanston
Street, unto combat.
"Go, trusty quadruped!"
"Charge for the lights", she said.
Onto the tram, they lept.
Everyone wondered.

N.B. The above photograph is not to be circulated amongst employers, present or future, second cousins, prospective friends, or shown to the man next door.

Friday, 16 November 2007

The No. 1 Getting-Up-My-Goatical Rhetorical Manoeuvre This Election Season

If I see or hear the expression "Make no mistake" one more time this election - especially if it comes out of the mouths of the Citizens Electoral Council of Australia, who insist on enspamulating mine inbox with premasticated policy tripe, and deserve an honorary mention for inventive use of the word, "swindle", as in "the 'climate change' swindle run by the British financial oligarchy and supported by our complicit mainstream media" (pardon? did someone mention olive-garchies?) - I will - I will do something drastic - like phone up the Amsterdam Hilton and ask if they'll provide the venue and the chocolate for a week-long bed-in.

Friday, 9 November 2007

Free the Radicals

I drank some apple juice yesterday, the label on side of bottle of which informed me that I had consumed three times 200% of my Recommended Daily Intake of Vitamin C. Then I ate 5 peaches over an eight hour period.

Take that, scurvy.

Thursday, 8 November 2007

Further thoughts on the horseploitation

1. Next year, I urge you all to observe Melbourne Cupcake Day. If a good patty cake with pink icing doesn't stop the nation, then I'm migrating to Finland.

2. The French word for horse is cheval. The French word for hat is chapeau. Say "chapeau" very quickly and quietly, with seventeen chestnuts stuffed in each of your cheek pouches, and I guarantee that your auditor will think you said "cheval". I know this, because I conducted an independent enquiry in a lab coat.

I have a theory. My theory is that the Melbourne Cup was never meant to be a horse race. It was meant to be a hat race. The inaugurator of the Melbourne Cup, a Parisian milliner, had seventeen chestnuts stuffed in each of her cheek pouches, and a very squeaky voice, and when she said "chapeau", many thought she said "cheval", and proceeded to toss away their hats in exchange for hosses. You will observe, however, that to this day, a few brave participants in the Melbourne Cup still wear magnificent hats: plumed, tulle, three-feet-wide, thoroughbreds of the hat world. These participants secretly know that the Melbourne Cup was meant to be a hat race all along.

Lexicon Harlinski, wearing a hat, possibly digesting a Melbourne Cupcake.

And so I exhort you, good people all, return the horses to their paddocks, and start training your hats. I name mine Inefficient.

Tuesday, 6 November 2007

While boycotting the horseploitation, Harlot's mind turns to ...

One of the occupational hazards in my line o' work is the tendency to turn adjectives into nouns. Yes, adjectives (like "small", "porcine", "Marxist") into nouns (like "Clydesdale", "elbow", "neurosis").

It all began with "aesthetic". "Aesthetic" used to be an adjective, as in "My, what an aesthetic rhubarb!", but now I have "an aesthetic" (not to be confused with anaesthetic), as in "My aesthetic includes rhubarb, but not celery, unless daubed in houmos, which doesn't go so well with rhubarb". Sometimes I have multiple aesthetics. My aesthetics have recently become so nominal (that's "nouny" to you) that I speak of them in nominative, accusative, genitive, dative, ablative, locative and vocative cases, regularly.

Likewise, "problematic". "You are a problematic child", my Aunt Janice* used to say to me, as I hosed her decoupage papier mache pot pourri vase. Nowadays, though, I catch myself speaking of "the problematics of pedagogy", or, sometimes, "the problematics of cooking the mushrooms in a separate pot when it's still encrusted with last week's burnt noodle offering".

Or take "poetic". Long gone are the days of adjectivally bewailing one's poetic soul; now one bewails one's poetic. Or another's poetics. Or we all bewail each other's poetics, which is fun, but it troubles my old-fashioned notions about adjectives and nouns and never the twain shall miscegenate.

The crowning insult to a hypocritical noun purist such as myself is the naming of a horse with an adjective. Efficient, I tells you. I mean, really, couldn't they have gone the extra syllable and made him Efficiency? If this sort of behaviour isn't nipped in the bud, posthaste, Prudence will be renamed Prudent, and Hope, Hopeful, and Chastity, Chaste, and Richard will go all Richardy, and Wilbur will be called Wilburious, and Alexis - God help us - Alexistential (angst, perhaps).

*A fictional aunt. Or perhaps just "a fictional".

Saturday, 3 November 2007

Things I have learnt from the Rt. Rev. Harlot, Esq., my father, Or, Gosh I Miss My 'Rents

1. If caught in public with pants unzippered, say "It always pays to advertise."

2. In case of flatulence, blame the dog. In absence of dog, say "Better out than in."

3. Upon meeting small white dog that looks like Dame Barbara Cartland's slipper, say to the dog's human companion, "That's a ferocious looking beastie". This will generally elicit a condescending smile. If it doesn't, run.

4. Don't trust a man who drives while wearing his hat.

5. In case of request, "Would Sir like cream or ice-cream with his dessert?", reply, politely, "Yes", and then, "Both", and then allude to the deprivations of World War II.

6. Beagles are humans too.

7. Something about negative gearing, capital gains tax, and stamp duty, but I wasn't listening.

8. John Howard is immoral, on all counts. Views on Pig Iron Bob more complex.

9. Always wear a suit and tie to protests.

10. Mrs H. is a paragon of all things excellent.

Thursday, 1 November 2007

Sources of Inordinate Joy

Source of Inordinate Joy #1
The sound of a New Zealandese waiter farewelling her colleagues at Soul Food: "Will, I'm off, so hev a nice shuft and shut."

Source of Inordinate Joy #2
The listing of "louche" directly after "lotus-eater" in the Oxford English Dictionary.