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.