Wednesday, 24 December 2008

The (refusing-to-stay-still) cat's out of the bag

As I'm pootling up to Parentville for Yoolfest, Leonard and I had to reschedule our Christmas celebrations to this morning. We exchanged gifts (pats from me, wafty clumps of allergenic fur from her), gorged ourselves on lashings of traditional Whiskas (don't tell the neighbours), and played Ye Olde Festive parlour game, wherein Leonard crouches stockstill in the paper bag from Readings for five minutes, and as soon as I click the button on ye olde festive photograph-machine, she starts pirouetting like a hashish-crazed dervish. Ho ho ho.

On that note, comma-rades, hertzliche Glückwunsch for your holidays. Hope they're grouse.

Tuesday, 23 December 2008

Wherein your sombre blogger emits a puerile titter

I've just won an ebay auction for a second-hand skirt (note: ebayers don't just buy [pah!], they win), which skirt is described by its seller as having "a sweetflowy bottom". I think she was referring to the hemline.

Thursday, 18 December 2008

On the Piddly Morning Herald, the Sexualisation of Carpentry and the Excellence of Judy Horacek

It's almost two years since I moved from Sydville to the Deep South, and still it's The Sydney Morning Herald, not The Age, that I read on-line. It's partly the superiority of the SMH crosswords. It's partly that Sydney's water supply levels fill me with an oceanic calm, whereas Melbourne's make me feel I should be bottling my urine. And it's partly that New South Wales state politics have all the gore and glory of a Renaissance revenge tragedy, while Victorian parliament - despite its Bay dregding controversies and the excellent surnames of its cabinet ministers (Brumby, Helper, Lenders, Batchelor, Wynne) - is as dramatic as genetically unmodified beancurd.

Not that I'd know. I don't read The Age.

Meanwhile, the SMH, in my day a stately investigative broadsheet, is now, online, Cheap Titillation Central. If there isn't a lead story about a man giving birth to twin wombats, you're probably looking at the wrong newspaper. The site is, on the one hand, giving its readers what its readers want (photos of a naked Jennifer Aniston, apparently), but on the other it's educating the reader in a definition of newsworthiness, creating a demand which it has to continue to satisfy with equally (or increasingly) salacious reportage. I worry that (via an exchange I can't actually see and certainly can't speak of with any authority) this is leading real people to supply in real life the sorts of cruelties and illegalities which the SMH and similar media require. At the very least I can say that the SMH is making money out of this and this (two of the five lead stories on the site this afternoon) and in that sense it has a vested interest in more of the same occurring.

And now, as I'm steering my way around the site looking for news, this: Ladeez, vote for Australia's Hottest Tradie. That tradies are not always men and not always heterosexual (sometimes neither male nor heterosexual all at once, quel horreur) seems to have passed the authorities by. If I weren't too busy choking down my indignation, I'd pause to reflect not just on the way this is confirming relationships between gender and different kinds of work, but on the way it's constructing an erotics of handiwork. Those of you game enough to peruse the innards of the link up there will find that you can "send" your favourite tradie to a friend, along with a choice of five jerry-built double entendres. "Do you think his ladder's extendable?" Etc. And what of this? What does it mean to imply that all plumbers will want to check out your plumbing, that sparks are gonna fly with this sparky, that Bob the Builder will get you knocked up any day of the week? It means that we're permitted to suppose that men of a particular class have a particular sexuality: not just a heterosexuality, but a heterosexuality that's effortlessly up for it, ready and waiting, at your service, ma'am.

Equally it's telling Bob that the ladeez aren't interested in his scrabble prowess and don't want him to be interested in theirs.

Tuesday, 16 December 2008

I have warts!

Three, common ones, dispersed across the fingers of my right hand. The pharmacist today was unimpressed when I said proudly, "These are my first ever warts! The beginning of a long and happy relationship."

I will be dunking my hand in a vat of hydrochloric acid shortly.

Sunday, 14 December 2008

Self-portrait with yellow belt

Ah karate, the gentle art of walloping. Last week, Sensei Jo was teaching us a sequence of moves, most of which - the kicks, the punches, the blocks – have obvious practical applications (as when you walk into your local alehouse announcing that Francis Bacon wrote Hamlet, and the Shakespeare crowd turns as one and whips out the knuckledusters). In amongst the kicks and the punches and the blocks, we did a fancy thing with our hands, something like grabbing someone's lapels and then brushing the dust from their epaulettes. And then we did another fancy thing, inscribing a circle with our left hands open and our right hands closed, the circle ending with the fist slammed into the open hand. I asked Sensei if the circle was just for decoration. As he answered I could feel my forehead scrunching the way it does when someone on the tram tells me there are too many foreigners about. "Not decoration," Sensei Jo was saying. "That's for when you grab his ear with your left hand and steer his head so that your fist lands on his temple and you get a sort of nutcracker effect."

So today I'm at my yellow belt grading, with a hundred other kids who I hope are not cultivating violent psychopathologies, and I'm thinking about karate, about how patriarchal it is (nine senseis at the grading today, all men; we bow to them), about how it sanitises and normalises violence, about how I've never actually walked into my local alehouse and said anything outrageous about Hamlet, about how in my real life, outside the Dojo, noone - besides my kindergarten teacher, once, lightly, on the palm of my hand - has ever hit me.

My Belt and I (special thanks to previous owner of Harlot Heights, who left her full-length mirror hanging on the wall)

In the first flush of my karatage, about five months ago, I was walking the streets feeling strong and steely, willing miscreants to fall upon me, just so I could show off my snappy backfist and the clever thing I can do with my foot. I'm warier now, having done some sparring, knowing that I tire quickly and that even if I protect all the bits of me that matter, a fist in the flesh of my forearm still leaves a bruise. If miscreants came anywhere near me, I'd run.

I'm growing more familiar with the mechanics of my body, and movements that seemed impossibly complicated are becoming simpler. I watched the brownbelts sparring today. There were headlocks and kicks thrown high around the ears. Trippings and taps and swift secret jabs below the ribs. They wore mouthguards and genital boxes and padding all along their limbs. I found myself wanting it, that skilled exhausting combat. What evil thing is it in me that wants to fight?

Buy More Stuff

T'is the season of swiping one's credit card through the festive credit card swipe-a-trons of department stores across the nation, and all the more so when one's prime minister tells one that the purchasing of stuff surplus to personal needs is a patriotic duty. In this merry hour, I'm sobered by the label sewn into my shirt:

Nice Profit.

Saturday, 13 December 2008

Beer Theory

I'm more of a cider man than a beer drinker, especially when I've got my pirate voice on (Oi'll juzt be having a noice point o' scrumpy zoiderrrr, thankee), but on beer I have opinions. For instance, beer foam is to beer proper as chocolate is to cocoa powder, as wombats are to wombat dung, as a superior thing is to a not superior thing. This is because it is frothy, bubbly, fluffy, because it licks at your moustache like a schnauzer with a damp nose, because you can almost eat it, because it is like the magic stuff at the tops of the waves when a southerly wind beats across the surface of the sea. Whereas beer is a bit like urine, only more fermented (which is why beer drinkers commonly refer to "being on the piss", partaking in "a piss up", "popping down the pub for a swift half pint o' wee", etc).

Many beer drinkers think that the less foam the better the beer. This is because foam contains fewer molecules of beerness per cubic centimetre than beer proper, so that a pint half filled with beer proper and half filled with foam will comprise less beerness than a pint filled substantially with beer proper and merely garnished with beer foam. Indeed, if your goal is to consume maximum beerness regardless of all else, beer proper will serve your purposes better than beer foam. That seems to me a Philistinish goal.

Friday, 12 December 2008

Ralph Waldo Emerson didn't like tattoos. Or burking.

"Slavery is an evil, as cholera or typhus is, that will be purged out by the health of the system. Being unnatural and violent, I know that it will yield at last and go with cannibalism, tattooing, inquisition, dueling, burking".

- Ralph Waldo Emerson, Lecture on Slavery (1855)

Saturday, 6 December 2008

Beagle Bedfellow Blues

I'm visiting my parents this weekend, which means a much-needed dose of beagle. Wilbur, just to set the record straight, is a Real Dog, well-versed in the noble houndly arts of chasing rabbits, rolling in marsupial dung, excavating his way into the compost bin, and feasting on the suppurating remnants of last month's potato peelings. The reason the record needs to be corrected here is that Wilbur is also the fifth baby my parents never had. When they leave the house for the day, he comes with them, or attends a doggy day care centre, named (like the erstwhile Sydney bordello) A Touch of Class. There (possibly as at the erstwhile Sydney bordello; I have to confess to gaps in my research here), the wards play disheveled rounds of Duck Duck Goose, sit down for craft (last time Wilbur came home from A Touch of Class, he had made a macrame dog-angel for the Christmas tree), and, for an additional fee, have their nails done. (Wilbur, of course, doesn't have his nails done because he is a Real Dog, and he wears his nails down himself by digging up stegosaurus fossils with his Bare Paws.) Also, and this is so self-evidently the right and proper thing it's almost unremarkable, Wilbur sleeps in a human bed. Usually my brother's.

Last night, in honour of my Prodigal Sister Returned to the Fold status, my brother relinquished his Wilbur bedfellow rights and let Wilbur sleep with me. This is how it went:

At 8:45, Wilbur and I pottered off to bed to read Margaret Diehl's The Boy on the Green Bicycle. Wilbur lay stretched out beside me. We were both comfortable.

At 10:00, I decided that I was at risk of falling asleep so I took Wilbur outside to wee. My father helped. My father said "Do wetties" and Wilbur did wetties against a tuft of grass on next door's lawn.

At 10:10, we returned to bed. Wilbur burrowed under the sheet and stretched out alongside me. This was fine.

At 10:27, I rolled onto my side. Wilbur immediately rolled into the space I had vacated.

At 10:33, I was now lying to the extreme right of the bed, clutching the mattress with my toes to save myself from plunging to the floor. Wilbur was pressed against me, snoring slightly. He weighed 146 kg and was immovable.

At 10:34, I got out of bed, and got back into bed on the other side of Wilbur. Wilbur woke up and looked peeved. Why was I wriggling so much? Couldn't I see some people were trying to sleep?

At 10:40, in disgust, Wilbur elbowed his way further down under the sheet and curled up in the space my knees go. I made a me-sized ball up the other end of the bed.

At 11:10, my left leg grew numb and had to be amputated.

At 11:20, Wilbur emerged from his slumber in the space my knees go and came and put his head near mine. I stretched out. I put my arm over him. He snored slightly. We fell asleep.

At 3:25, Wilbur jumped out of bed. I suspected canine urinary urgency, so opened the front door for him. He ignored the open door and ambled into the pantry to check whether anyone had accidentally left a plate of steak Tartare on the floor. They hadn't. We went back to bed.

At 3:40, Wilbur jumped out of bed. My eyelids were stuck together. I heard him patter up the corridor and jump into my parents' bed.

At 6:15, my brother came into my room wanting to know what I had done with the dog.

The End.

I'm going back to bed.

Thursday, 4 December 2008

Leonard vs. The Loo Paper

See this? This picture of placidity, innocence and whiskers? This is Leonard, lying on my belly and contemplating how she can help old ladies across the road, decrease carbon emissions, and eliminate child poverty.

Now see this? This is what remains of a roll of loo paper, tugged from the loo paper house up on the wall, shredded within an inch of its life, abandoned on the floor of the water closet like the unsavoury entrails of a sacrificial warthog.

Harriet the Biped Houseguest denies all responsibility, and I know I have not been ravaging the loo paper with my toenails, which leads me to the improbable conclusion that it was [assume stern stentorian tones] Leonard.

Tuesday, 2 December 2008

All these facts and more are yours for the acquiring, should you loiter at the tram stop

Loiterers at tram stops will be familiar with this dilemma: either one's eye is drawn to the magazine hoardings outside the newsagent, which hoardings announce that an Heiress/Thespian/Songstress-of-the-Night has sequestered twenty-seven highly newsworthy kilos somewhere about her person, or one's eye is drawn to the tesselated slabs of late cow, interleaved with plastic ferns in the window of the butcher's. Whether it's Who Weekly or Fresh Delicious Tripe, my gorge rises, but I have a slight preference for looking in the window of the butcher's shop, being also fascinated by wombats in an advanced state of putrescence, medical miracle tv shows (the tapping of giant tumours especially), and what appears when a scab scrapes off. The fact that I will gaze at the Goat Meat Sold Here does not mean that I am very pleased with the way our society goes about raising beasties in various states of imprisonment, hammering bolts through their brains and chopping them into pieces. But there you go. Were I not looking at internal organs on plastic ferns I would be feasting on the allegedly delicious misery of Britney Spears in sans-serif headline form.

Thus it was, while loitering at the tram stop scrutinising the Minced Quadruped, that I observed an advertisement for this pro-cow-dismembering propaganda site,, and I realised that "the main meal" is an anagram for "animal theme". Which is bloody sneaky, if you ask me. What about, eh? That way it would be an anagram for "crude worm".

(I shared this information with my colleagues yesterday, and also told them that the tram trip from spuniversity to home takes six minutes, and then volunteered the information that I have timed how long it takes me to unbutton a particular pair of trousers so that I can assess the impact on productivity of wearing these trousers and urinating during working hours, and then told them that "Yarra Trams" is "Smart Array" backwards [a friend told me this]. I think they now think I have some sort of obsessive-compulsive disorder relating to time and anagrams.)

Tuesday, 25 November 2008

Excellent anecdote of the week

In 1787 Benjamin Franklin received a letter from Erasmus Darwin, Charlie D's grandpa. It was addressed to 'Doctor Franklin, America'.

Makes you proud to be a postie's sister, that does.

Monday, 17 November 2008

Prolixitas Frustrata

You would think, given the brevity of the posts round these parts, that I have some sort of aversion to putting the old words onefootinfrontoftheother. It is not true! It is not true! I shall wear the bottoms of my trousers through! (And by "bottoms of my trousers", I mean the trouser-component encased around my gallant sit-upon, if you catch my drift, not the trouser-component known in trouser appreciation circles as the trouser cuffs, which trouser cuffs, by the by, show a remarkable impregnability to the agents of trouser-wearing-through-ness.)

No, in short, I love to put the words onefootinfrontoft'other. Macrologue Harlot, they call me down at my local. Show us your verbosititty, they leer and rollick after one too many Pimms 'n' strawberries. Is that a dictionary in your pocket or are you just pleased to ... etc. And if I had my way right now I would be writing great whopping screeds about intergalactic milkpersons, I would be fictivising the history of my bigamous great grandfather (possibly without maternal consent), I would be telling the story of The Time We Towed the Calf Out of His Mother With a Dirty Big Chain Wrapped Around the Calf's Feet At One End and the Towbar At the Other. I might even be dusting down one of my three fustified research projects. Or writing here, on this excuse for a blog.

But no. I am STILL marking. For the nineteenth day in a row. And this is what wears my trousers through.

Saturday, 15 November 2008

Upcat, downpen

Update! In the last two and a half hours, I have defaced five (5) essays, leaving a mere forty-two (42) to do by Monday morning, and Leonard has

1. completed her apprenticeship as a solar panel

2. rolled over.


Her collar says her name's "Tiga", but I'm reasonably certain she prefers Leonard. Beats me how I'm meant to concentrate on my marking while she's practising her poses on my daybed.

Friday, 14 November 2008

Ambiguous Modifier of the Week

"I return to my outdoor setting, badly in need of a lick of paint."

Thursday, 13 November 2008

The Dumbbell Gazette

Not far from the dark satanic treadmill is the exercise bike, whereon today I observed a lass leafing through a magazine while the lower half of her body sawed away at the pedals. That's the ticket, thought I, concocting a summer schedule of simultaneous cycling and Turgenev, with intermittent bouts of Black Forest cake. But then I saw what she was reading - Slimmers' World - and my heart sank as only a heart exposed to two-words-one-of-which-is-world can. Picture, reader, if you will, the Apocalypse: hordes of benchpressers running around in pink lycra eating protein bars. One slimmer is dandy, two are hunky-dorey, three make you slightly self-conscious about your intentions vis à vis the Black Forest cake, but a whole world of them! I haven't felt this anxious since the 1997 release of Spice World, bringing platform shoes and PVC mini-frocks to a primary school near you.

Monday, 10 November 2008

Subliminal advertising

I am about to mark an essay that smells of cigarette smoke. Note that I do not regularly sniff essays. This one came into proximity with my nostrils by accident.

Sunday, 9 November 2008

Last night

A car drove into my apartment block this morning. I woke up to the squeal and crash of it, the shudder of the building, and I thought "That was a car crashing" and then I thought "I'm staying in bed", and then I thought - but it was like swimming through porridge trying to get to this thought - "That was a car crash and someone should go out there" and then I realised someone might have died and I swam out through my half-asleepness, through the front door and down the stairs. I was awake enough to put my glasses on and to take out the telephone with me and to check the time. 3:50 am. Not awake enough to think to wear shoes, which I regretted as soon as I saw the thousands of little cubes of glass scattered across the footpath.

My neighbour from downstairs was already out there, and one of the passengers was on the footpath, shouting at the driver, "Get out of the car, Adam. Get out of the fucking car." There was smoke curling out from the car's crumpled bonnet and a slick of petrol idling down the hill. He was trying to lift Adam out but Adam couldn't put any weight on his legs, and I got as far as asking if someone had called an ambulance, and my neighbour nodded, and while I was trying to work out whether it was more important to get Adam out of the car in case the petrol caught on fire or to leave Adam where he was in case moving him damaged his spine, the ambulance appeared behind me. No siren, no need for a siren because there were hardly any other cars on the road. It felt like less than five minutes between the crash and the angels turning up, though the nearest proper hospital's about seven kilometres away in Heidelberg.

So I went back inside and picked the glass out of my feet and listened to the sound of the miraculous ambulance, then the police, then the towtruck, and my elderly neighbours conferring in Greek, and I fell asleep.

Wednesday, 5 November 2008

Tuesday, 4 November 2008

Stomach Muscles of Rippling Steel

I bought out the remaining months of a student's annual gym pass last week. Student has slipped a disc, her finances are straitened, my finances are adequate, and my fitness level of recent months is best described, in fitness person parlance, as "squidgy". Because this gym pass transaction has taken place behind the gym's back I have to remember that my name is Katrina.

"Have a good workout, Katrina," says Gym Man as he scans my pass and hands me my locker key.

"Ha ha ha!" I say. What sounds like the carefree laughter of a gympig born for benchpressing is in fact a precise arpeggio calibrated to accord with my new name. I try to laugh the way someone called Katrina would laugh, without technically affirming that Katrina I am.

(I've been interested in this form of dishonesty for years, the one where you're deceiving someone's socks off, but you don't say anything untrue. Dad and I had this agreement about ice-creams: "If your mother asks you, 'Did you have an ice-cream?', you should answer her truthfully, but if she doesn't ask, no need to mention the subject. And certainly don't tell her that you had two ice-creams. Unless, of course, she asks." That my mother was wise to all this complicates the levels of deception to a point beyond the scope of my analysis.)

Last night as I was leaving the gym, Gym Man asked me if I'd had a good workout. I don't know if I like the word "workout". Why "out"? Why not "up" or "in" or "beside"? But I didn't say that. I said - because I'm, like, totally down with Gym-Man-ese - "Okay, thanks. Mostly did cardio, and some weights." And he said, "Getting ready for tomorrow?" (Tomorrow, i.e., today, being Smelbourne Cup day.)

"Ha ha ha!" I said, but I'm still not sure what he was talking about. Was he suggesting that I am a horse, fitting in some last minute fetlock-stretches before the big race? Or that I'd need fully-functioning biceps in order to hold onto my fascinator in the wind?

Now I see as through a glass, darkly.

In other news, what about that US election, eh? Eh? 'Course, I don't have unalloyed faith in any of the candidates, but if that Obama wins, I'll dedicate a session on the treadmill to the good voters of Amerikay.

Thursday, 30 October 2008

Bad Thai Pun

Only the congenitally puerile derive amusement from the Thai-English homophones in their local Thai restaurant's menu.

And so, without further ado, I give you ...

Pud Pet Pug, a lightly sautéed medley of


with lashings of tofu.

Monday, 27 October 2008

Choc horror!

I've just harvested a fresh batch of fifteen-hundred word essays from my pigeon hole. One of my students has attached an envelope to his pigeon, and inside the envelope sit forty grams of chocolate frog. If this is what they call bribery, then I have to say I'm all for it.

Thursday, 23 October 2008

Blackguards, be ware!

Am just home from karate, where I was awarded my yellow tip. You may not be familiar with the yellow tip, but let me just say this: if I'm not required to register my feet with the local constabulary in their inventory of Lethal Weapons at Large, I'll eat my hat. I'll eat it with my special karate face. No blinking.

Sunday, 19 October 2008

Yes, I admit I'm a narcissist and, yes, I do have essays to mark

This lady has my name; like, totally, my name. Time was when prospective stalkers could google me and learn that I am a petrochemical engineer and nursing mother from Brooklyn. Now they'll find I'm the world's foremost authority on The Lion King and one of Ohio's sassiest ex-cheerleaders. I can only conclude that this will enlarge my career prospects.

Saturday, 18 October 2008

The sorority

This time tomorrow, one of my sistren will be competing in a ten kilometre ocean swim off Fiji. In solidarity, I will be attempting ten push-ups, dispersed over a three hour period. Stay tuned for further updates on these tests of the Harlot mettle.

Friday, 17 October 2008

Lepidoptera if you please

You see these moths? You see the two millimetres of mothly chastity twixt their sterns?

It's all a pretence. These moths have been fornicating on my parlour wall since breakfast. It's only in the last hour that they've deigned to detach, and I've had the opportunity to photograph them without looking like some kinda arthropod pornographer.

It's not that I'd object to their wanton ways, except that I have a strong suspicion that it's not going to end here. I ain't seeing any prophylactics about their persons, and when I asked them ten minutes ago where they were planning to lay their eggs, Dolores (the moth to the north) looked sort of shifty, and Raoul (the moth to the south) tried distracting me with talk of interest rates.

Thursday, 16 October 2008

My name is now Elphinstone, Baron von Harlot, Director of Knowledge Management (pending)

I don't normally enjoy my Library Liaison Committee meetings. We grind our noses against such consequential matters as whether the daily fines levied against overdue library books should be staggered according to the duration of the original loan. We examine the results of the annual seating survey, which attempts to determine "how heavily each type of seating is used (individual study desks, computer workstations, group study areas, audiovisual study spaces, lockable study carrels, informal/lounge seating, etc) and the peak occupancy".* Noone ever mentions the obvious: that the survey fails to take into account the weight in kilograms of the relevant sitters. Or that "heaviness" isn't really the pertinent criterion, here; what we should be surveying is the raw scholarliness quotient of students relative to the type of seating they utilise (as qualitatively assessed by output of graffiti in proximity to seating type and analysed under a Marxio-Hegelian hermeneutic, lightly drizzled with Lacan). Personally, I would rather spend two hours stuffing sultanas up my nostrils than attend your average Library Liaison Committee meeting.

Today, however, I met the new chief librarian. She has an excellent hair cut, something like the hanging gardens of Babylon, she uses the word folksonomy (which marks her out as one cool cat, in the scheme of bibliotechnical nerderie), and – this, oh my, oh my, oh my – she is a Director of Knowledge Management. I think she may have picked this title up from Paradise Lost; it reminds me of that serpent dude; there is no doubt, at any rate, that "Director of Knowledge Management" dings a decidedly metaphysical ding. I have decided: just as soon as I get m'self redundified, I'm going to set in train Operation Turn Myself into a Director of Knowledge Management. I don't care if the dollar has been completely abolished and noone can afford to have their knowledge managed. I will set up a cardtable on the footpath in Preston Heights and direct knowledge management for free.

In other news, I am thinking of changing my name to Elphinstone.

* A real quotation, from a real Library Liaison Committee report, which I really read.

Sunday, 12 October 2008

My pencil is blunt

This is just to let you know, those of you who have been following the non-event that is this blog with interest, that as of two minutes ago I have finished marking the batch of essays due back with their august authors tomorrow. That there are another sixty sitting in my office as we speak is a matter only the most malicious mind would bring to my attention. Nurse, pass the chocolate.

Sunday, 5 October 2008

Sydney Domestic Terminal, where dreams do come true

I've been in Sydvillea this weekend, for a medicinal dose of sibling, with added niecephews. This was all very lovely - hugs, cake, nephewite saxophone performances - except that I am still in Sydvillea, and tomorrow's a school day. I was meant to leave twenty minutes ago, but a certain airline (let's call it "Jetstar") has deferred my flight by almost TWO HOURS. If anyone's round Mascot and got nuffing better to do, you'll find me in the Safe Internetting Room next to the Travelex, trying to keep it cool with a syringe of www dangling from a minor artery.

The flight north was enlivened by a herd of warthogs AFL players, setting forth on their post-season sojourn to Coogee. According to the warthog beside me, they'd downed two slabs of superior beer before their 9 am flight, and proceeded to buy more from the Flight Attendant of Superhuman and Frankly Slightly Creepy Tolerance. The conversation went like this:

Warthog Beside Me: Hey Protein Bar!

Protein Bar is silent.

Warthog Beside Me: Hey, P.B.! Check out this chick [points to photograph of Jennifer Hawkins in inflight magazine]. She's ridiculously hot. Hey, Knuckles! What are you eating, you dirty bugger?

Knuckles: Chips.

Warthog Beside Me: Don't give any to Protein Bar.

Lock up your daughters, Coogeeans. Here's hoping these paragons of footballitude are with me on the trip home. Another hour and a half of dialogue like that and I'll be writing the great Australian radio play before sun-up.

Monday, 29 September 2008

I feel petty, oh so petty!

To supplement my regular dose of Pugwash's Almanac, The London Philatelist's Review and Pausey's Ladies Entomological Registry, I receive on a monthly basis that pinkest of periodicals, Girlfriend (this month with free bronzer, which, applied according to the manufacturer's specifications, will make me, ahem, tan-u-licious).

Girlfriend connects me to the teenagehood I never had. The one where I accessorize my way to happiness, invest in hypercolour mascara, write a 25-word account of a tampon falling out of my schoolbag in the presence of my BF for the "How embarrassment" column, expose my belly button to all weathers and think that Scorpio boys are super cute. I did the quiz and apparently I'm a perfect match for Michael Cera.

For all this, I am of course grateful. Not so grateful, however, that I will let pass egregious miscalculations from the "13 Bits of Useless Trivia" page:

Australia has four times more sheep than humans. New Zealand may be the butt of all sheep jokes, but their sheep population pales in comparison to our own, which has 70,000 more sheep than humans.

According to the Australian Bureau of Statistics, as of this minute, Australia's human population is 21, 444, 622 persons. If there are four times more sheep than humans, that means that there are 85,778, 488 sheep (yes, indeed), which means that there are 64, 333, 866 more sheep than humans. Take that, Girlfiend.

While we're on the subject, "groak" is only a word if you believe the intertubes. We who snootily regulate our vocabulary according to the OED will snub "groak" at every turn.

P.S. On reflection, it's not Girlfriend's dubious mathematics that I object to, or even its propagation of "groak": rather, its narrative of compulsory adolescent heterosexuality, where a girl's value resides in her eligibility as a girlfriend, that eligibility in turn attained by her spending sixty times her pocket money on unguents and googaws without which she will be hideous.

Friday, 26 September 2008

Things that start with P

Pink Prestonian Porcelain Buses

Thursday, 25 September 2008

Hoary locks

Spotted my first little sprig of white hairs this morning. Six of them, just above my left temple.

I'm almost as excited as when I got my first pimple.

Tuesday, 23 September 2008

Mid Riff

We have thirteen teaching weeks per semester at Mine August Place of Employ, and as of yesterday, we're in Week Ten. Next week is Mid-Semester Break. Did you hear that? Mid-Semester Break. Next week. My question is: does "mid-semester" or does "mid-semester" not denote that portion of time in a semester so situated as to have an equal number of equal portions of time before and aft? I.e., in a world which took the word "mid-semester" seriously, in a world where the semester consisted of thirteen teaching weeks, would the mid-semester break fall somewhere about the sixthish (maybe seventhish) week or would it not? In a world where justice and compassion reign, would the Office Responsible for Scheduling Mid-Semester Breaks think it a very fine thing to subject browbeaten, grindstonenosed, wheelshouldered, elbowgreased, bestfootforwarded gentyll scholares to ten (TEN!) continuous weeks of unadulterated enclassroomination? I think not.

(Not that I'm exactly planning a jaunt to Barbados. A leisurely pootle through a forty centimetre high pile of essays should keep me on the straight and unCaribbean.)

Friday, 19 September 2008

Houdini Beagle

While this blogge deplores dog-breedism and disapproves mightily of eugenicist interventions in the puppitariat's collective sex life, there is no denying: the beagle is a beast beyond compare. Not only can he sniff out decomposing marsupials within a five kilometre radius, not only can he cajole seven times his daily calorie requirements with a single whimper, not only can he melt steely-hearted misanthropes into soft-centred coo-mongers, not only are his armpits bald, but, lo!, he can escape impregnable dog-coops in a single bound. To wit:

(Special thanks to ex-Leichhardtian next door neighbour, Monsieur le Webster, for alerting me to this footage.)

Wednesday, 17 September 2008

In Marmoleum, by Owthread Lawed Tennis Mum

A young scholar has informed me that, square foot by square foot, linoleum is now more expensive than tiling. ("And thus the contemporary English syllabus?" well may you splutter.) In trying to verify this through ye google, I happened upon marmoleum, which, sure, sounds like a dubious breakfast condiment (from the nation that brought you Fluffernutter), but is in fact an amazing brilliant all-purpose wonderfloor, made of linseed oil and jute, antistatic, with antibacterial properties, in an inexhaustible range of colours and flavours, praise be its marmoleal name.

Here's what I predict (you read it here first, internetians): by the year 2017, entire streets will be lined with marmoleum, children's toys will be made of marmoleum, people will eat marmoleum, and the bearers of staphyloccocal infections will take it intravenously.

Friday, 12 September 2008

Crastination prose

Like a man at a jury selection panel wearing a three-piece suit, a monocle, and an "I heart capital punishment" lapel badge (also side-whiskers and spats), when I received my invitation to orate on "study skills" to the young scholars at my local residential hall, I replied immediately, thusly: "Thank you for your kind invitation to speak on study skills at –– College. I should be very pleased to offer a talk on 'How to Procrastinate', in which I will consider in depth the cases of Hamlet, Charlie Kaufman, and P. J. O'Rourke."

Did they realise, then and there, that I was not the man for the job? No, they did not. No, they said, "Excellent! How are you placed for next Monday?" And I, having exhausted my repertoir of evening-oration-at-residential-hall evasion tactics (or was I trying to put off my essay marking?), replied, "Next Monday, c'est parfait". Or words to that effect. I'm sure I implied my dessert preferences somehow.

So, here's the deal, chaps: I am going to sever my attachment to all forms of telecommunication over the weekend, with the possible exception of yon noble carrier pigeon, and when I return on Monday morning, I'd be much obliged to find a 20 minute talk on procrastination lodged under the comments function. In my gratitude, I will have you all over to Harlot Heights for parfait with strawberries, and we will sit around marking my essays together - there being no jollier jape in town. In addition to parfait with strawberries, you will gain from this exercise in the following key learning areas: typing skills, waffling skills, teamwork skills.

Tuesday, 9 September 2008

Baconburg? Porkville?

Arch-critic, Glam Girl, shows the world why it's all wrong about William Shakespeare. Quoth she, speaking of some overwrought, underpunctuated, johnny-come-lately excuse for Renaissance tragedy, "I think it's an ok book but needs to be improved on structure and also punctuation and sentences do not make sense to me. If it is to long people won't be bothered to read it and also it is boring so why would they read it in the first place."

Fat and scant of breath.

Friday, 5 September 2008

Oh adjective, my adjective

You know what tickles my fancy? This: when the vastly underappreciated etymological relationship between nouns is revisited in their adjectivisation. You forget that "parable" and "parabola" suckled at the same teat (or adjacent teats), until you come across "parabolic". Likewise "genus" and "genre" with "generic". Speaking of parables, one of my all time favourite noun-to-adjective thingies is "fable" to "fabulous". Truly, all other pleasures pale.

A right good kettling

This week's award for Stoicism & Service in Time of Need goes to – da da da daaaaa! – my kettle!

That's right, you, kettle, have won this week's award, and in recognition of your excellence in boiling beyond the call of duty, you and an electrical appliance of your choice will be flying on an all-expenses paid trip to [no, sorry, can't remember where exactly, we'll get back to you].

Meanwhile, back in the bathroomy bit of Harlot Heights, we are now nearing the end of the Sixth Daye of Yon Waters That Be Notte Heated, and I am fast developing a resistance to personal epidermal scum, malodorousness and typhus. Bill and Mitch popped by this morning to offer their professional opinion on my water heater, and it turns out that their professional opinion is that it is a perilous and illegally installed pile of poo that should be cast into the wilderness while they plug in something much schmankier for $2500. That's just a rough estimate, mind you. They said they'd send me a proper quote soon. Perhaps this one, by G. K. Chesterton: "I believe in getting in hot water; it keeps you clean".

That said, I would like to put on record my solemn refutation of that old adage, "Cleanliness is next to Godliness". This is simply propaganda put about by the people who sell bath towels. Max Weber wrote about it in Die Protestantische Ethik und der Geist des Kapitalismus, which I deem an irrefutable authority on the subject. The alleged proximity of the clean and the godly is a lie (John the Baptist and his foot-washing an exception, of course, though I'd be very surprised if the water he used was completely free of camel dung).

Tuesday, 2 September 2008

Monday, 1 September 2008

Not in hot water

I've had two months of glamorous second storey living in Preston Heights and now the hot water system has kicked the bucket. Fortunately, I have another bucket, and a kettle, and a washer, and this morning I was able to arrange a human cleansing apparatus in the kitchen. Bathing out of a bucket is good water conservation practice. Indeed, I'm about to draft an official recommendation to the Brumby government: bucket-based bathing, the optimal solution to Victoria's water shortage. I'm not convinced that I have obtained the levels of personal enscrubbedness which polite society requires, but if rancid body odour was good enough for Rasputin, it's good enough for me.

Friday, 29 August 2008

Oh, oh, and also!

Lovely as the 'Bourne is, what with its pots instead of middies, and its trams, and its castles that rhyme with tassels, and its superabundance of cunning facial hair, nonetheless, the AFL obsession is calculated to wear a sportophobe from oop north down. I am aware that AFL is a subgenre of football, that it probably derives from an ancient Celtic fertility rite entailing the kicking of a severed sacrificial head back and forth between two plague-infested hamlets, but that, quite frankly, is all I care to know. Thus, when a young scholar tells me – in ecstasies – that his sister, a fourth year podiatry student, has just got a job as apprentice masseuse to the toes of the gentlemen from an AFL team – which team I will not name for fear of finding myself on the pointy end of an AFLoony's google search (though "Essen" and "don" may give discerning readers the pertinent clews) – I cannot share his rapture. Indeed, I can think of few places I would rather my sister not approach than a footballer's bunyon.

Nose to the wheel, shoulder to the grindstone

That essay, due tomorrow. Here's a sneak preview of a paragraph that may or may not survive the next twenty-four hours of editing:

The Victorian obsession with bowel functions and the Victorian obsession with thrift, hard work and laissez-faire social policy meet in few places so telling as the autobiography of Herbert Spencer. Two volumes and over a thousand pages long, the Autobiography, posthumously published in 1904, is a case study in Victorian literary incontinence (its nineteen appendices signaling the excessive prolongation of Spencer’s authorial digestive tract). In its thrifty recycling of letters, reviews and journal entries, it is also a testimony to Spencer’s remarkable capacity not to let anything go to waste. Simultaneously displaying Spencer’s tendencies to conserve and needlessly to overflow, the Autobiography reveals the analogous tension between its author’s faith in theoretical capitalism and his personal unfitness for success in a capitalist economy.

Speaking of incontinence, Ken the plumber popped round this morning to unblock my bathroom sink. Ken is a performance plumber - "Roll up, roll up, ladeez and gennulmen, and behold the plumbing of the vanity unit! Watch me put my arm down a toilet! See these leaks? Completely vanished!" I think he was a bit disappointed not to have a bigger audience.

Monday, 25 August 2008


Drop everything! I have just discovered that clue originally meant "a ball of yarn". Thread, the very stuff that Ariadne told Theseus to dangle after him through the labyrinth. Wow, gosh, and gee-whizzelly-wee! And this, all the better because yarn is also a synonym for story. There were those who thought I shouldn't bother getting out of bed this morning, but you shewed them, Poxford English Dictionary, oh yes you did.

Saturday, 23 August 2008

And now it's time for some ...

I gave a conference paper back in May about what happens when you take the principle that an autobiographer's identity is not just constructed and conveyed by what is narrated in an autobiography, but by how it's narrated - what happens when you take that principle, which encourages one to find meaning even in the slipshoddiest and hapdashiest of autobiographical utterances - and you drive it up against an academic creative writing subject called "Writing your own life 101", where however loath you are to set yourself up as an aesthetic authority or to dole out normative observations about the "craft" of autobiography-writing, these are exactly what your average student wants - or needs, given that your aesthetic authority and normative observations are going to be in full flight come assessment time. (How anyone can claim aesthetic authority when she routinely writes in sentences of more than one hundred and fifty words, I know not.) When I gave this conference paper, back in May, it went over pretty well (i.e., polite tittering), and this I attribute to the facts that (a) I began with a lengthy anecdote from Freud's analysis of "Dora", wherein he deduces from the way she handles her purse that she is a pathological masturbator, (b) I said unkind things about Victorian mutton chops (it is a well established fact that everyone loves a good laugh at the expense of nineteenth-century tonsure), (c) half the audience was made up of personal friends of mine, (d) noone noticed that I didn't actually reach any sort of resolution (despite the fact that I had instructed myself, in my notes, to "insert intelligible conclusions here"). (N.B., including this sentence, we are now up to sentence no. 4.)

I'm turning this conference paper into an essay, yes I am, and it's due by the end of the week, and I'm even more confused about it all than I was in May, and I'm not sure that unkind comments about Victorian mutton chops are as amusing in print as they are in a windowless seminar room when the alternative to unkind comments about Victorian mutton chops is an 8-line Judith Butler quotation. Hence the chocolate, known for its wholesome restorative properties. To those who say otherwise: have you ever seen a dead Belgian?

Friday, 22 August 2008

Hello, blog

I have been too busy at karate class, learning how to make people fall over, to outline here my solution to the Israel-Palestine problem, my cure for the common cold, or my new peacan chocolate brownie recipe; nor have I had time to share with you my "Ode to the Hens Next Door", or document the many-splendoured variations on noodles that have lately sated the Harlot paunch - oh! and neither have I mentioned the Doris Leadbetter Poetry Cup, which I glimpsed across a crowded lawn bowls club last Saturday night as it was whisked off by a wordy young lovely bearing no resemblance to my self (which Doris Leadbetter Poetry Cup, I now draw to your attentions, is the most bovinesquely named poetry cup in the entire world [no offence to Doris Leadbetter herself, whom I'm sure wouldn't have been seen dead scratching her ear with her back hoof]), nor, for that matter, have I regaled you with the antics of Wilbur Harlot, which have been many and dogly, and which my parents communicate to me along with photographic evidence on a thrice weekly basis by e-pistle. But I am now able to make people fall over.

Friday, 15 August 2008

Bunyons and their discontents

Last night, instead of going to this excellent talk by my very favourite philosophrix, I went to Il Trobo's pan-residential-college awards ceremony dinner - a far less peculiar affair than the equivalent at Sydney (where fully grown adults perform the Banging of the Dining Table With Spoons).

Here I make two appeals. Firstly, if anyone heard Elizabeth Grosz speak, please refrain from telling me how brilliant she was. Secondly, and this because I have no way of ensuring that what happened to me last night won't ever happen again, I'm seeking contributions for an anthology of Things to Say to Earnest Podiatry Students Over a Three Hour Period, bearing in mind that my "Disquisition Against Winkle-Pinchers" was not well received (possibly because, as my mother has just pointed out over the telephone, "winkle-pinchers" are actually called "winkle-pickers").

Wednesday, 13 August 2008

As a wise speaker once spake, "Underneath our clothes we are all naked"

As a scholar and baron's mind is wont to do, mine turned this morning to the pressing subject of couture. In particular, mine. In particular, what I was wearing at the very moment I initiated these very thoughts, on my way to work at 8:27 a.m. Here is a catalogue of my habiliments then - and now - with an account of said habiliments' points of origin. To wit:

1. One pair knickers, inherited from Cistern Harlot, who kindly got herself up the duff a couple of years ago, and bequeathed me almost her entire wardrobe
2. One bosom wrangling apparatus, inherited from Cistern Harlot (see above)
3. One t-shirt (see above)
4. One scarf, knat by Cistern Harlot (my acquisition of which probably unrelated to Cistern's pregnancy)
5. One pair socks, remnants of primary school winter uniform, not worn by me in its entirety since 1990
6. One crocheted vest-cardigan hybrid affair, inherited from ex-housemate upon her migration to Germany
7. One perfectly servicable brown velvet jacket, former property of Mrs Dog, whose dog I used to walk and who has a curiously off-handed way with velvet jackets
8. One pair trousers, purchased with Big Bad Department Store gift card
9. One pair gloves, gift of ex-paramour
10. One watch, gift of Brother Harlot, last Christmas
11. Spectacles, promoting superior vision since 2006
12. Very Spendy Sensible Shoes, made entirely out of dead vegans, and procured from Vegan Wares while my inner treasurer was on long-service leave
13. One haircut, self-administered with the kitchen scissors on Sunday afternoon
14. A hat

What can we conclude from all this? Here is what we can conclude, in order of height:

1. The subject was fully clothed at the time in question
2. The subject has cultivated friends and relations relatively unattached to their own clothes
3. The subject's friends and relations are probably naked right now
4. The subject is a veritable second-hand clothing vortex, and should be stopped before she assumes a fifth dimension

That is all. I have to eat dinner now.

Sunday, 10 August 2008

Zoological mastermind, Dr Wilbur F. Harlot, assesses Homo Carrotus for signs of dog-compliance

Those of you who follow this almanac devoutly (hello, mum) will be aware that last weekend I betook myself and my trusty carpet bag up to the Ancestral Lands, hoping not only to see my progenitors, a sibling, and this noble hound, but also to prance around in the snow. I packed my mittens and everything. But despite reports all Winter long of snow this and snow that, when I arrived, the only snow to be seen was on the tippy-tops of the alps, and they were up to their armpits in cloud anyway. Then, this, today, e-thinged by mon frère, pictorial evidence of the snow that waited for me to hop on the train back to Melba, and of Wilbur, who can always be relied upon to hone in on the nearest root vegetable.


Among last week's Groundbreaking Scientific Revelations comes news that dogs practise the empathic yawn, formerly believed (by nongs who have clearly eschewed the common Harlot passtime of anthropo-kynoid collaborative yawning) to have been the preserve of humans and similar primates.

Firstly, why didn't I devise a research project that would require me to yawn at twenty-nine dogs? Secondly, did the researchers give these dogs unfettered access to the biscuit jar in the staff common room? Thirdly, do the dogs get credit towards their degree programs in exchange for participating in the survey?

Quoth the BBC, "The researchers explained that along with floppy ears and big soppy-eyes, humans have selected dogs to be obedient and docile. The results from this study suggest the capacity for empathy towards humans is another trait selected in dogs during domestication". Yar, yar, yar, it's common knowledge that we have been interfering with the reproductive lives of dogs in ways so egregious they make China's one-child policy sound like a human rights triumph. We decide who has puppies, and we decide whom that puppy-haver has puppies with. We generally decide when a mother is separated from her puppies, and whither those puppies go. This we do in order to ensure maximum convenience to humans in the human-doggly partnership. Sometimes human convenience is so perverse and whimsical that we deliberately breed dogs who have difficulty breathing and giving birth.

But - you heard it here first, evolutionary theorists - I put it to you that dogs have been selectively breeding domestic humans in order to maximise canine-compliance* for centuries. Not for nothing does a wise pup urge her human out of the house for walkies. Nay, it is to increase the human's chances of meeting a potential breeding partner. It's a Scientific Fact that a human walking with a dog is 478% more likely to interact with other members of their own species than a human walking without a dog, and, of course, the humans who interact in the presence of the dog will, in the majority of cases, both be dog compliant. If one of the humans is not dog-compliant, the presence of the dog decreases the chances of the humans interacting. Thus the dog dramatically raises the likelihood of his or her domestic human meeting potential mates, reproducing, and - this is key - reproducing with another dog-compliant human.

Relatedly, anecdotal evidence suggests that dogs regularly interfere with the reproductive activities of the humans with whom they share their home. A judiciously placed wet nose can effectively disrupt any attempts at reproduction that a dog feels will jeopardise the prospect of dog-compliant offspring.

I will be forwarding these observations to the biology program at Birkbeck College forthwith, and recommending that they redirect their research energies into investigating indices of dog-compliance in the domestic human.

* While definitions of dog-compliance vary, common attributes include low resistance to requests for food, willingness to handle soggy tennis balls, and a relaxed approach to upholstery cleanliness.

Friday, 8 August 2008

In the immortal words of Pa Harlot, "It always pays to advertise"

The lolly-pop lady has expanded her range of helpful services. This morning: "Hello, duck. Your fly's undone."

Friday, 1 August 2008

St Lexicon's Epistle to the Band of Robbers

I'm going away this weekend, to visit my progenitors, my brother, and the trusty hound. My work friend - let's call her the Wholesome Yogic Vegetarian Work Friend, to distinguish her from all the other louches - told us yesterday that her smaller sibling used to leave notes in drawers threatening burglars with decapitation. I'm drafting something similar:

Dear Burglar,

Thank you for your patronage. The baked beans are in the top right hand cupboard, and I keep a stock of Naprogesic and sanitary pads in the bathroom drawer should you find yourself in need. Remember to flush the toilet after use. As I'm yet to arrange contents insurance, I'd appreciate your confining your theft to items of negligible value, such as the telephone directory.

Yours faithfully,

Baron von Harlot

P.S. I have had four karate lessons.

P.P.S. And I have a tattoo on my right bicep.

That is my arm, that is.

Tuesday, 29 July 2008

Philately will get you nowhere everywhere

I bought some stamps yesterday, on accounta having a letter to post, and lo!

Barack Obama's face may be heading straight for the next run of quarters, but it's rightly yon glorious beagle who rides the envelopes. Australia Post, epistolary pro-dog-propagandists par excellence.

Sunday, 27 July 2008

Seams, madam? Nay, it is.

Yesterday I came by a free pair of tweed trousers, and I have named them the Asspirational Pants. This, because for them - or me - to sit comfortably, their size relative to that of my noble posterior (or "ass", as they say in the land of Thoreau and Plath) has to change. Today I discovered a reliable source of vegan tiramisu biscuits (they're also gluten-free, if that interests anyone). I think it's clear that my noble posterior ain't going nowhere. Nurse Pattison, hand me my seam-letting gadgetry.

Thursday, 24 July 2008

All day, all week

It's the 24th day of July, 24/7, and I'd like to take this opportunity to remind everyone that we owe the seven day week to God. (And Judaism, bless it.) What, on the other hand, has Niche ever done for us by way of convenient time divisions? Eh, Niche? What?

Awright. I'm off to karate.

Wednesday, 23 July 2008


I've just glanced down at the ingredients list on tonight's prefabricated soy nugget package, and it appears that I have ingested a hearty dose of Rhizopus Oligosporus. I knew there was a reason for sticking to lentils.

From the wall of the cubicle of the downstairs gels' bogs at work, a conversation

"God is dead." - Niche

"Niche is dead." - God

Who the hell is Niche?



If you say that God is dead then you have to believe in God. God is immortal, so if you believe in God then you have to believe that God can't be dead.

It's a metaphor, dummy!

Monday, 21 July 2008

Felis felis and the moral quandary

As I let myself in an hour ago, X from next door scampered out of the cold cold night and into my (comparatively) warm warm flat. (Emma and Erin, who dropped by for breakfast on Saturday, suggested X might be called Janet, with a Wellingtonian accent, thus Jenut, so hinceforth, X wull be known es Janet-pronounced-Jenut.) Jenut hes been mountaineering over end through my furniture iver sunce she slupped un. Ectually, she's just made a nist un thus morning's bath towel, but before thet she was doing ixtraordinary cellusthinuc manouevres on top of the bookshelf. I'd be iver so heppy for Jenut to sleep over, only I don't want to make Her Nixt Door jilous, or worried, or whusker-diprived. Her Nixt Door hes a fraught rilationshup with Hum Nixt Door, end I suspict Jenut may be the one beam of sunlight un en otherwise binighted life. (I em basing thus observation, your Honour, on en argumint I heard through the wall two weeks ago.) Uf I put Jenut beck outside, I wull be diposuting her straight unto the maws of Siberia, which nonsinsucal mitaphor us to say: the rain ut raineth, cold and frostily.

Friday, 18 July 2008

Wednesday, 16 July 2008

Inter-mammal socialising

As my first houseguest at Harlot Heights, X (I didn't quite catch her name) enjoyed certain privileges, viz., scratching the armchair, sitting on the bookshelf, licking a blob of mushroom risotto on the kitchen floor, privileges that will not (I repeat, not) be extended to future visitors. Pipped at the post, comrades. Sorry about that.

Monday, 14 July 2008


One of the manifold delights of Harlot Heights is that it's 45 minutes by foots from kitchen to office. I canter across the Big, Bad Road, and then amble down the hill past Prestonian rose gardens, then amble some more through the badlands of Reservoir, then amble up along Darebin Creek, over a bridge, round a lake, across an oval, through a tunnel, until - ta da! - the Ivory Tower riseth before me, dew-bespangled and beige-bricked in the morning sun.

This morning the school kiddies had school, for the first time since Harlot Heights and I joined forces. And thus the lolly-pop lady. The lolly-pop lady is as tall as my armpits and as old as my Great Aunt Gerty and she wears a fluorescent yellow jacket and a white hat. She stood by her crossing, watching me amble down the street, portmanteau on back, spectacles on nose, rubber soles beneath my feet. She saw me and she thought, "Now here's a young ducky who doesn't know one end of a horseless carriage from t'other", and she pluckily marched out into the street brandishing her lolly-pop stop sign. She stopped traffic. Just for me. And then she said, "Have a good day, love."

Sunday, 13 July 2008

I miss Wilbur

My brother sent this picture of intrepid Wilbur Harlot yesterday, and my heart went pit-a-pat. I miss him so. The one problem with beagles is they're not very good with the telephone.

Expensif Twaddle du Jour

If you thought Girlfriend mag peddled some of the most inane piffle in the history of tweenagehood, you would be correct. Here is your A+; the medal's in the post.

Many are the questions one might table for the contemporary adolescent's attention: chess club or recorder consort? which flies faster, a peregrin falcon or a Boeing 747? if your school were to stage a play about the Periodic Table, which element's part would you audition for?

Does Girlfriend put any of these questions? Does it? DOES IT? No. It does not. It is too busy expatiating upon the hawtness of Keira Knightley's boyfiend, the apparent necessity of bringing to one's formal an ipod, a small mirror, a kiwi-and-mango exfoliating scrub and the Hello Kitty collectors' edition of Das Kapital - it is too busy, I say, - asking "Are you a BINGE thinker?" (l'horreur!) to ask the questions that matter. Like: if "seven dog years equal one human year", when should beagles get the vote? I mean, really, these people are the legislators of tomorrow; we need them to start thinking about the issues now.

As for binge thinking, what, I ask you, is the point of parodying a magazine that dismantles its own credibility with such dizzying skill? Gels, do not, I implore you, do not think. It callouses the elbows so. And does terrible things to the bikini line.

Thursday, 10 July 2008

Just wondering

What's the onomatopoeic term for a herd of rampaging fleas suddenly launching onto one's shins like a hundred little iron filings sucked up by a giant magnet?

Wednesday, 9 July 2008

Louse in da house

I've never been to a Tupperware party, partly because I don't trust a product that specialises in marital aids for sheep, and partly because there are only so many airtight plastic containers a baron and amateur philatelist needs. I like the concept, though: if Tupperware parties were two-chocolates-for-the-price-of-one parties, or bagpipe appliance purchasing parties, or turquoise long john parties, I'd be in like Finn. (Flynn? Pnin? Whoever it was who was in.)

While we're talking communal japes with a consumerist twist, cast your een over this fine proposition, clipped from my local paper:

Headlice removal in your home! Discount for groups of three or more! If this doesn't lead to the rise and rise of Friday evening delousing parties, complete with canapes, then I'll eat my gnat.

Sunday, 6 July 2008

At the markets

Me: Are all these shoes made of leather?

Shoe Chap: Absolutely. These are all one hundred per cent leather.

Me: Only, I'm looking for shoes that aren't made of leather.

[I'm a vegetarian; I don't eat leather shoes.]

Shoe Chap: Oh, well these ones aren't leather ... or these ones ... or these ones ... or these ones ... [x 20].

Friday, 4 July 2008

I am Baron, hear me roar!

I can't think of anything much more self-indulgent than posting photos of my spinster pad, but this is a blog, afterall. Self-indulgent is its middle name. And so, budding interior decorologists and turquoisophiles, girls and boys, step this way. I present to you "Harlot Heights", forty-nine square metres of dubiously-financed manor house.

This, here, is all the Florence Broadhurst wallpaper I could afford; frame by Target; picture rail by John the Handyperson.

And this here is the wee tilt I'm not mentioning to the bank:

And here you can see that Harlot Heights is superbly equipped with all the essential features of modern indoor living: floor, walls, and ceiling.

To say nothing of a pink loo, all the better for the plonking upon of one's posterior while the rest of one leafs through back issues of Country Home and Tweed magazine.

Here is a fine figure of a hatstand, flourishing in close proximity to my very own front door knob.

Here is my bedroom, and a bicycle wheel. Note that this is a distinct and separate and different green from the turquoise in t'other room. Let noone say that I don't do variety.

And here are five plastic animals on the kitchen window sill. They offer, I like to think, an eloquent commentary on the current state of the quarter acre block.

Thursday, 3 July 2008

Really big fly!

Lucy Tartan's recently republished Giant Spider Pictorial reminded me of the fine feathered fly I met last summer. To those who doubt reports of steroid-abuse in the fly community, I say: that is my finger; I was there; there is no photoshoddery going on here; that fly really is as big as my distal phalanx.*

It is for reasons such as these - invertebrates on androgens - that I can truly say I am glad that I signed up for karate classes. I may be congenitally uncoordinated, unfit and inflexible, I may lack martial spirit and whatever it is that enables a person to ensure that the two ends of her belt are of equal length, but by golly, the next time a fly like this swings my way, I'm going to have the best bowing technique in town.

Meanwhile, it appears that the internet and I have been reunited, and I promised photeaux of mine house. I reiterate that promise. There will be photos of mine house (awright, my two rooms), I promise.

* I have this term on the good authority of Wikipedia, s.v. finger.

Monday, 30 June 2008

Oh where in the world is my world wide web?

Still no internet at Harlot Heights. I languished for the ether all weekend, forced to read things on paper, with no links, and write things on paper, with no links, and see Kung-Fu Panda, down the flicks, with no links. Late yesterday afternoon someone knocked on my door. It was a man selling karate lessons. Faint with lack of html and inspired by the kung-fu panda, I signed up. For karate lessons. Which start tomorrow evening. And so I must go home, where there is no internet, and mend my tracksuit pants so they are bright and shiny for karate lesson numero uno.

Friday, 27 June 2008

Moving behaviour

I know it's been looking pretty quiet round here, but in fact what you've been not witnessing is the ultrasonic rumble of Lexicon Harlot vacating Hôtel Harlot (2 star accommodation for the peregrinating Sydneysider) and moving to Preston Heights (home to the Bourne's northernmost subterranean his-and-hers coordinating public toilets [did I mention?]). I would have notified the public earlier, only the internet won't be reaching Preston Heights until Tuesday. As soon as it does, there will be pictorial evidence, my oh my there will. Yes indeed.

In the meantime, rather than explaining how I managed to flood my bathroom within three hours of moving in on Wednesday morning, let me wax incredulical about the Starbucks logo.

This, citizens, is the Starbucks logo.

Even had I not mentioned that it be* the Starbucks logo, and even had you never seen the Starbucks logo before and/or identified it as the Starbucks logo, you could probably gather, here and now, just by looking at it, that it is, yes, the Starbucks logo. This, thanks to the word "Starbucks". And thanks to the word "Coffee", those of you unaquainted with the pre-frothed lolly-water that Starbucks merchandises will also deduce that Starbucks sells coffee. Thus far, the Starbucks logo is a paragon of relevance. But who, pray, is that sitting there in between the words "Starbucks" and "Coffee"? Is she, as I suspect, a mermaid with two tails, doing the splits, and wearing Sydney Opera House on her head? Or is she - I'm ready to be persuaded - a tousle-haired angler with an upside-down tuna in each hand? Either way, what is the relevance to coffee? Everyone knows coffee doesn't come from the sea. It grows underground.

* I am experimenting with the subjunctive mood. Please be patient.

Monday, 23 June 2008


Today, in unrelated incidents, I stubbed a toe, chipped a toof, and scalped a knee.

Sunday, 22 June 2008

I was flagging but I Preston.

Only three more sleeps til I removal into my strata title bungalow (floorboard installers and removalists willing). My strata title bungalow, as I may have mentioned, is at the further-from-the-city, cheaper and less caffeinated end of Preston, the end which I choose to refer to as "Preston Heights". Today, while waiting for the tram in Preston Heights, I was asked by a couple of locals if I could spare three bucks for a drink. This, in my opinion, is the up-and-coming entrepreneurial spirit of Preston Heights writ small. It's only a matter of time before bold young souls like these turn Preston Heights into the Precinct of Posh it is clearly destined to become.

Preston Heights boasts:

1. Arguably Melbourne's northernmost his-and-hers coordinating subterranean toilets, literally just a stone's throw from my strata title bungalow.

If these do not become the most photographed loos north of the Yarra by 2010, then I am not the infallible prognosticator I think I am.

2. A matrimonial surveillance shopfront! Literally just five minutes' walk from my new strata title bungalow. What better way to save your marriage than have the professional spies of Preston Heights stalk your partner? This, and many other essential services (e.g., custom made screen doors), yours for the buying in Preston Heights!

3. Cad plotting. I'm not sure exactly what these words mean, and this sign was actually in lower Preston, but believe you me, cad plotting is coming soon to Preston Heights.

Three more sleeps. Begorrah.

Thursday, 19 June 2008


A couple of dudes drove past me this afternoon and yodelled "slut" in my general direction. I can only attribute this to the sheaf of library liaison committee papers I was clutching provocatively in my right hand, or possibly my sexay backpack filled to its decolletage with first year essays. Naturally, I was deeply flattered, and added these dudes to this week's list of Way Cool Chaps I Would Like to Have in My John Milton Reading Group. There they join the carpenter who arrived on Monday morning to install my windows, took a gander at my paint job, and cooed, "Who's been a busy little girl then?"

Monday, 16 June 2008

Hemi-Auto-Antonym of the Day

Your essay is outstanding.

So please submit it now.

Sunday, 15 June 2008

Premium Investment Opportunity

Typewriter sale, today, 660 Plenty Road, Preston, from 11 a.m. As a merchant banker and investment adviser of international renown, I say sell your teapots now and get into typewriters while you still can.

Tuesday, 10 June 2008


Forget rolling a big rock up an underworld hillock for all eternity. Try reaching 4:30 with more unmarked essays than you had at 9:00 a.m.

(My name is Sisyphus. Sisyphus Harlot. Why are you giving me that funny look?)

If you're not as excited about my flat renovation as I am, do not read on

I just got a phone call from the Alphington Joinery and this is what the Alphington Joiner said, "Alexis, your window frames are ready."

(To fill you in, those of you who missed the preceding chapters to this merry tale: I bought a second-storey spinster pad, cheap as chips [approx. 30,000 kilos of chips, the majority of which technically still belongs to el Banko], and my second-storey spinster pad was benighted with rotten window frames. Rotten in the "if you'd like a toothpick, just peal one off the window" sense of rotten. Also in the "look at the interesting orange fungus previously only sighted in the densest woodlands of Bolivia" sense of rotten. So I got this joiner to swing by and tell me how much for Brand Spanking New Unrotten Window Frames, and he quoted a figure which four years ago was a quarter of my annual income, and I said "Bally ho!" and here we are today.)

The Alphington joiner is going to drop my Brand Spanking etc. round on Thursday arvo and carry them up into my flat, I'll paint them over the weekend, the scaffolding will arrive next week, the Alphington Joiner will install the windows into the wall, the glazier will glaze, and Bob mine uncle shall be. This is excellent. This has made my day (though, of course, thanks must also go to the earth, for its ongoing dedication to rotating in relation to the sun).

Saturday, 7 June 2008

Yessir, marking essays is sewwwwww much fun

My favourite bit is where they confuse "role" and "roll": "Gurov has a vital roll in the story". That would be the one with the poppy seeds and the avocado, no?

What shall we do with the drunken painter?

This morning I turned this (note maroon suede-finish feature wall and 100% free dining setting, now sold on ee-beigh) ...

into this ...

I really wanted Bristol "Dragon" green, just because it was called "Dragon", but this here "Canopy" looked poifect on the paint card, even when pressed against the pinks of the new Harlot mess hall. Now it's up there on the wall I'm getting the cold foots. Would Dragon have been better after all? That's a lot of unrelieved Canopy for one room. I'm wondering whether I should soften it with a floral potato-print in white.

(Also! I ripped up several hundred dollars worth of almost new carpet in a couple of minutes! And there I was thinking that essay marking was fun.)

Wednesday, 4 June 2008

The penguin is mightier than the sword

Great hordes of Harlots descended upon Melborneo last weekend, bearing gold, frankincense and birthday cake. And so (yes, birthday cake does this to a Harlot), all twelve of us set off for a night's penguin spotting on the beaches of Phillip Island. The "Phillip" of Phillip Island is a phonetic corruption of "fill up", the mating call of the male rare helmeted V8 racing car driver to his petrol-tank monitor. The rare helmeted V8 racing car driver is, of course, one of the sole remaining strains of indigenous fauna on Phillip (née Fill-up) Island, in turn home to the world's oldest naturally occurring bitumen grand prix racing circuit. Conservationists have been concerned for several years now that the introduction of the highly destructive Little Penguin to the fragile habitat of the rare helmeted V8 racing car driver may jeopardise breeding programs.

Like many a threat to motor racing, the Little Penguin is waddly and nice. I was reminded of the penguin chick I saw in Tasmania several years ago. Her sibling had died, but her parents persisted in fishing and feeding for two. She was a sumo wrestler among penguins, a fine advertisement for your average one child policy.

I try not to complain, but my three siblings and I have suffered unspeakably from overpopulation in the Harlotarium. Not once has either of our parents regurgitated so much as a pre-masticated pilchard into my mouth. It is to this that I attribute my terrible emaciation.

Doctor! Doctor!

I had dinner last night with a lady who has two PhDs. If you ask me, this cheapens the doctoral currency.

Saturday, 31 May 2008

Persons of great skill and few watches

Glazier: said he'd arrive between 8:00 and 11:00; arrived at 11:45.

Joiner: said he'd arrive at 8:30; arrived at 9:05.

Floorboard merchant: said she'd arrive on Wednesday at 9:30; phoned at 9:35 on Wednesday to reschedule to Friday. Said she'd arrive on Friday at 10; arrived at 11:15; said she'd bring back the invoice at 3:00; brought it back at 7:10.

Moral: always bring something to read, e.g., the complete works of Charles Dickens.

Wednesday, 28 May 2008

Seeking Old Stick

Latest advice from my Aged Ps on the tirelessly interesting subject of home renovation: "Keep an eye out for a bit of wood to stir the paint with". If anyone has a nice stirring stick to spare, I'd be v. grateful if you could pop it in the post with my name on it. Why there isn't a stick rental outlet on every street corner I've no idea. We live in a fallen world. With too few sticks.

Saturday, 24 May 2008

Pig Ma Lion

I'm supposed to be writing a review of My Fair Lady, as envisioned by Opera Australia and spectatified by me last Tuesday night; My Fair Lady, the one about Hispanic precipitation patterns, lots o' glottal-stopping choklit, and the misogynist linguist with the unexamined belief that lah-dee-dah English is objectively more euphonious than Cockney. I was supposed to write this review on Wednesday, then Thursday, then Friday, but things kept coming up. Emails to answer, seminar papers on androcentric food-guilt in modern Indian literature to audit, tradespersons of great skill and few words to usher through one's baronetcy and instruct in the wicked ways of the rotten window sashes. But tonight, so committed am I to writing this review, I have capitulated to early-onset Winter and lugged down the electric heater even though it's still only the 24th May and I made a public pledge somewhere to leave the heater on top of my wardrobe til the 1st June, I've resigned myself to not watching the Eurovision Song Contest, and I'm - as you can see - all - ready - to - write - my - review. Now here's a thought: is "Lots of chocolate for me to eat/ Lots of coal making lots of heat" the Eliza Doolittle redaction of £500 and a Room of One's Own?

While you're pondering the marriage of Virginia Woolf to Lerner and Loewe, two more questions for your nimble minds:

1. Is the word "parrot" related to the word "parody"?

2. Fancy a dining setting? Genuine leather-look olive-green vinyl upholstery!

Note: I am not procrastinating. Not I.

Friday, 23 May 2008

Menstruation Awareness

This is my art installation out the back of Hôtel Harlot on the communal clothes line. It's, like, an exploration of the tendentious connections between female biology and domestic labour (e.g. doing the laundry).

Where is my Arts Council grant, I ask you.