Sunday, 26 April 2009

The Dark Lady's Wardrobe

There's been not much doing round here, on account of it being high marking season. Thrills all round, really. Take this scenario, fur egg sample:

1. Student writes on Mr W. Shakespeare's Sonnet, the Number Twenty, reproduced below for your all-round edification.

A woman's face with Nature's own hand painted
Hast thou, the master-mistress of my passion;
A woman's gentle heart, but not acquainted
With shifting change, as is false women's fashion;
An eye more bright than theirs, less false in rolling,
Gilding the object whereupon it gazeth;
A man in hue, all hues in his controlling,
Much steals men's eyes and women's souls amazeth.
And for a woman wert thou first created;
Till Nature, as she wrought thee, fell a-doting,
And by addition me of thee defeated,
By adding one thing to my purpose nothing.
But since she prick'd thee out for women's pleasure,
Mine be thy love and thy love's use their treasure.

2. Student explains that Shakespeare considers men morally superior to women because Renaissance men are "not acquainted with shifting change".

3. Student explains that Renaissance women were notorious for shifting change because menstruation and the insufficiency of Elizabethan undergarments necessitated regular changes of clothes, whereas Renaissance men could sport the same pair of pantaloons for months on end.

4. Smitten with this elegantly historicised account of how Early Modern tamponlessness shaped Shakespeare's sexual preferences, your trusty servant retires to her chamber, where she tells her rosary for five hours before she can resume her examinatorial pen with renewed faith in the something something something.

Meanwhile, the ENORMOUS cats (3.8 kg between them, as of their last vetting) had their inaugural experience of the heater last night.

Pleasure with a capital P.

Friday, 24 April 2009

Most Australian Sentence Ever

Overheard on the bus this evening: "I kid you not, Brucie, the band's fucken grouse."

Thursday, 16 April 2009

When laps fail, try laptops

Some of us are trying to get some work done round here.

Wednesday, 15 April 2009

Good Lord.

The Barbara Jefferis Award is offered annually for “the best novel written by an Australian author that depicts women and girls in a positive way or otherwise empowers the status of women and girls in society”.

The Australian Society of Authors announces Helen Garner as the winner of the Barbara Jefferis Award 2009, for The Spare Room.

Tuesday, 14 April 2009

In praise of Wilbur

Someone told me that for their first twenty weeks, kittens are pliable, unprejudiced beasts, that if one intends for them one day to cohabit with salamanders, beagles, small humans, etc, one should introduce them in their malleable youth to salamanders, beagles, small humans, etc. Likewise, if one doesn't want one's cat to demand a lifetime's supply of foie gras and smoked trout, one should acclimatise the gustatorially unworldly kitten to the delights of Iams Growth Formula, a nutritious blend of vitamins, slaughterhouse byproduct, and volcanic rubble. Which reminds me: oh domesticated obligate carnivores, how you confuse my animal rightsbianism!

As I am very, very, very fond of dogs, and occasionally fantasise about a future wherein I work from home on a souped-up steampunk laptop while puppies frolic about my ankles (in this future I have a sprawling garden, and some clever vegan has invented a delicious, nutritious dogfood made entirely from chickpeas and sorrel), I thought it would be a good thing to introduce my pliable young kittens to a sensible specimen of dogliness. And as I was Eastering in Bright, where dwells Wilbur the Wonderdog, the dearest dog who is, I thought it would be a good thing to begin Harriet's and Beatrice's dog appreciation lessons.

I was optimistic about Harriet's and Beatrice's dog appreciation lessons. So optimistic that I expected to be showing you photos of H and B curled up beneath Wilbur's velveteen ears. Optimistic, despite the ill omen of the V-Line website, which prohibits the carriage of non-human animals on all V-Line trains and omnibuses, except where the animal is enslaved as a human prosthesis.

While it turns out - one Budget rental car later - that Harriet and Beatrice are excellent motorists (not only did they not wee on, claw, or otherwise defile the Budget rental car, they slept through the better part of two three-hour journeys, occasionally looking out the window and casting their collective feline eye over bucolic prospects and pastures brown), that is the extent of their pliability. As for curling up under the ear of the world's loveliest dog, pliable is exactly what they were not.

On Thursday night, my kittens learnt how to hiss, and growl, and spit, and do menacing things. Wilbur understood, and politely reversed to a distance of three metres, then sat down, facing away from the kittens, none-too-easy. We put the kittens into a comfy room of their own for the night, in which room they planned Operation Intimidate Wilbur, a series of coordinated manoeuvres including hissing, long-range stalking, sniggering behind their paws, and speaking cat. Wilbur, I am proud to say, bore with all this like the paragon of doghood he is, standing back to let kittens pass, leaving the room on request, sleeping with one eye open for four days. His only consolation was in the unguarded dishes of Iams Growth Formula someone had left on the bathroom floor.

Wilbur, in less molested times.

By yesterday, Harriet was slinking up to Wilbur and sniffing his paws. Wilbur was diplomatically not noticing. He walked me down the driveway to the hire-car yesterday afternoon, making very sure that all my luggage was packed. Baleful ain't the half of it.

Enveloping the reader in a collage of melancholy

I am marking essays.

Sunday, 12 April 2009

Aetheldrida the Tawdry

It's been all stations go round here (hire cars, catportation, trans-quadruped encounters in the bosom of parentville, No Time to Blogge).  I return briefly to the internet right now (from the bosom of parentville, on the parental 'puter) to relay to you important news gleaned  from a senior parishioner of St Aetheldrida Anglican Church, Harrietville, which senior parishioner I met today in the course of my duties as a citizen and offspring.

The important news is this: the word "tawdry" derives from "St Audrey", the Anglicised version of the Saxon St Aetheldrida. The senior parishioner said something about dodgy saint's medallions, but yon trusty OED offers me this:

"As to the origin of the name, it is told, originally by Bæda (Eccl. Hist. IV. ix.), and after him by Ælfric in the Life of St. Æelryth, Virgin (Ælfric's Lives of Saints, ed. Skeat, 1885, XX. ll. 49-60), that St. Audrey died of a tumour in her throat, which she considered to be a just retribution, because in her youth she had for vain show adorned her neck with manifold splendid necklaces, ‘foran e ic on iuoe frætwede mine swuran mid mænifealdum swurbeaum’. In the 16th century, N. Harpsfield, Archdeacon of Canterbury under Philip and Mary (died 1588), after relating the story in his (Latin) Historia Anglicana Ecclesiastica (Douay 1622), adds ‘Our women of England are wont to wear about the neck a certain necklace [torquem quendam], formed of thin and fine silk, perchance in memory of what we have told’. See also, more particularly, quot. 1674 below. Skinner in his Etymologicon (licensed 1668), explains Tawdry lace as ‘Ties, fringes, or bands, bought at the fair held at the fane of St. Etheldreda, as rightly points out Doctor Th. Henshaw’. There is no discrepancy between the two statements. ‘St. Audrey's laces’ would naturally be largely offered for sale at her fair, and though this did not give the article its name, it doubtless made it more widely known, and led to the production of cheap and showy forms for the ‘country wenches’ (see Nares s.v.), which at length gave to tawdry its later connotation."

Wednesday, 8 April 2009

Wherein your author is officially outed as a - gasp - Cat Lady

I did some substitute teaching today for a colleague, while she skived orf to Engelonde to poke around in archives. I get brownies in heaven for doing this, with extra walnut bits.

What kind of substitute teaching?, you enquire, on the edge of your couches.

Ah, well, seeing you ask: it was a fiction writing class. We taught each other how to write dialogue, with punctuation and everyfing, and then we workshopped a couple of bold ventures into the realms of narrative prose, which act of workshopping is the veriest test of diplomacy, critical analysis, and interpersonal skills the modern 'versity offers.

E.g., in one of these bold ventures there was a cat. Actually, an argument about a cat.

"Why an argument about a cat?" I asked. "Why not an argument about the alleged greatness of The Great Gatsby? Or whether people should be allowed to put orange flavouring into chocolate? What's the significance of cat?"*

"Why a ...? What? You're asking ... why ... a cat?" The intrepid scholar squinted at me, the squint of a person who suspects another person might have reached biological maturity without the usual doings in the cerebral cortex. "Because cats symbolise loneliness. You know. She's all alone, with a cat."

"But you're not all alone with a cat. You're with a cat. How can you be alone and with a cat at the same time? Since when do cats symbolise loneliness. I mean, go ahead, convince me. I just haven't heard that about cats before."

So it turns out that the entire class thinks that cats symbolise loneliness. And so I tell the entire class that I have two cats thankyouverymuch, and they're kittens, and they're lovely, and I've never been as unlonely in all my days and I have a rich, full, round, bold, many-flavoured, multicolour, polyphonic ... life. Also, tonight I am going to a boardgames party at a friend's place in Fitzroy, and we will play Settlers of Catan and eat biscuits, and so I'm not certain that the cat is doing the symbolic work the writer of this story wants it to, but if everyone else is convinced, okay, sure, keep the cat, great, and I love the dialogue. Really punchy.

"Oh dear," says scholar #2. "You're not doing your PhD are you?"

"I'm not doing my ...? I finished my PhD years ago. Relevance?"

It's just that he knows three women in their early thirties who are doing PhDs and have cats, and they never leave the house, and they just study, and it's really sad.

"Those women are my best friends."

Yes. Anyway. That'll teach them to not to let their normal tutor sod off to the other side of the world.

In other feline news, Leonard is so freaked out by the ferocious kittens in the flat-next-door she has started hissing at her own reflection in the lobby window. This is not good. Poor Leonard.

* See this dialogue here? Quotation marks and everything.

Monday, 6 April 2009

J'appelle un chat un chat

I know, I know, I know. You've all been eagerly awaiting news on the Progress of Kittenkind. I've been detained, I'm afraid. It's not easy writing a lecture on existential malaise while this is going on beside you:

Speaking of licking, it turns out that water from one's waterbowl is never as sweet as water from people's glasses, from the edges of the shower recess, rasped off one's freshly showered person's shin, etc. It's only a matter of torso length before they're able to dangle by one toe off the rim of the loo and lap up delicious eau de toilet.

Other wisdom: lumps of fresh animal carcass are best carried off to a secret place for immediate and private consumption. Dry biscuity business, meanwhile, can be safely left in one's bowl and/or strewn across the kitchen floor for up to 12 hours.

Beatrice is not as good at Harriet at burying her poo. Harriet must help. This is possibly because Beatrice's mind is on loftier matters.

St Beatrice of Preston, seeing the light.

Harriet is bored by theology. On the other hand, she did put tooth-holes in the corner of Sigmund Freud's analysis of Dora, which for my money constitutes a serious critical engagement with the origins of psychoanalysis.

Beatrice has a mouse. Such are the riches of prayer and contemplation.

If these handsome beasts aren't destined to star in a Rolex advertisement, I will eat my camera.