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.)