Friday, 31 July 2009

How I amuse myself on the weekends

Whenever anyone appends "ass" to an adjective (e.g., "She's a real short-ass", or "You're totally bad-ass"), I mentally translate "ass" into "bottom" (e.g., "You're totally bad-bottom").

Tuesday, 28 July 2009

The intranet is having kittens

The rhetoric of the grumble gets far too much space on these here intertubes - yea, it is the bread and butter, the tofu and potatoes, the long johns and the flannel spencer of your amateur internetian. There's a reason for this. Waxing vitriolic is far more fun than waxing your legs. Clinical research demonstrates that grumbling releases endorphins, which taste like chocolate. And so loathe as I am to pollute the shades of Pemberley with symptoms of my displeasure, for the good of my health, here goeth ...

1. The silly old vet - let's call him the Archfiend – forgot to unpick one of Harriet's stitches last night. And this, after she'd suffered proximity to Maltese terrier puppies, the clammy thermometer-wielding hands of the Archfiend, and being gassed for the preservation of his, the Archfiend's, dermal integrity. She clambered onto my lap this evening, and snip-snip said my nail scissors, ping-ping said the forgotten stitch, and "Good grief, I should have done all of your stitches myself and saved you the unutterable horror of going to the vet I'm so sorry you poor gel", said I.

2. They just don't make felafel rolls down here like they do oop north. Where I come from, a felafel roll is hommus and tabouli and onion and chilli sauce and felafels wrapped in flat bread and toasted. Where I come from, a felafel roll makes you want to buy a carpet and wear a fez and summon up whichever other Orientalist cliches swim your way, to yodel in Yiddish from the Golan Heights, to sail to Byzantium, to farm chickpeas, to bathe in tahini and rosewater. Down in the 'Bourne they appear not to have heard of the unleavened loaf, and the felafel roll is less roll than festival of yeast, soft fluffy mounds of bread, tiny felafels embedded in doughy embonpoint. Melbourne and Sydney may only be 800 kilometres apart, but they are separated by a great culinary gulf. Melburnian felafel roll? Schmelafel roll. If I were the litigious type, I'd souvlaki.

3. The special-intranet-thingo at my place of employ has chosen first week of semester to go splendidly bung. Poor students (can't access their readings for next week), poor me (pleading with tech support persons, apologising to students), poor tech support persons (sending out emails telling me that my problem has been resolved, i.e., they have identified a systemic problem, it is not just my problem, and they are working ten thousand hours in a row to try to fix it).

Thursday, 16 July 2009


My heater's gone bung. If I don't do something fast, Harriet and Beatrice will move next door.

Saturday, 11 July 2009

This spay tonight

Beatrice and Harriet and I have spent today at home, recovering from yesterday's non-consensual ovarohysterectomies and trying not to gnaw on our stitches. Harriet was so non-consenting, by the way, she bit my hand, drew blood, and then sank four envenomed fangs into the vet's hand. The vet shoved her back into her box and told me that I had a naughty cat who would get her sedative later in another form (ominous) and I should show it who's boss because if it were a German Shepherd then I'd be in real trouble. (Too right. And if she were a sabre-toothed diprotodon ...) I should practice disciplining Harriet, apparently, by devising and enforcing rules (like "No scratching the furniture", which sounds completely fascist to me; what is furniture for if not scratching?). I sympathise with the vet's aversion to having his hand bitten (gosh, I do), but I was secretly cheering Harriet on. If someone tried poking a cold thermometer up my bottom without asking, I'd like to think that I'd draw blood too. And as Harriet is a civil and delightful person at all other times, I say "naughty" my aunt's bottom.

For those of you who've been wondering why the world's overrun with delinquent children, the answer's clear: it's femo-anarchist parenting and a permissive approach to sofas.

Today was meant to be quiet day - a day of heaters, laps, computers, and not chewing on our stitches - but instead there's been a deluge of tele-interuptions. They go something like this:

Poor telemarketing blighter: "Good afternoon, Mrs Harlot. I'm ringing from Blah-Blah Sunshine Blah Corporation to tell you that you have been specially selected for seven nights holiday at any major Australian city for only blah blah hundred dollars blah."

Me: "Thanks, I'm not interested."

Poor telemarketing blighter: "You do not like to take holiday?"

Me: "No, thanks. Bye."

Poor telemarketing blighter [indignant, incredulous]: "May I please ask why you are not interested in taking holiday?"

Me: "No."


Poor teleresearching blighter: "Good afternoon my name is Blah and I'm ringing from blah blah Scientific blah Research blah to ask you some questions about hair-thinning and balding do you or does anyone in your household experience hair-thinning or balding."

Me: "No."

Poor teleresearching blighter: "Are any of your friends or family members experiencing hair-thinning or balding."

Me [overcompensating for the fact that I'm about to not mention the majority of my close male relatives]: "Well, I'm quite young, and most of my friends are quite young, so we're all too young to be experiencing hair-thinning or balding, so no, none of my friends are experiencing hair-thinning or balding. Byeeeeeee."

Poor teleresearching blighter: "Could I please speak to your mother or father?"

Me: "Byeeeeeeeee."


Blighter: "Good evening ma'am, and how are you this evening?"

Me: "Very well, thank you. How are you?"

Blighter: "I'm wonderful. Thank you for your concern. I'm ringing about the Motorola blah blah from Optus blah with free blah. It's an excellent deal."

Me: "Thank you, but I'm not interested."

Blighter [shocked]: "Don't you use a mobile phone?"

Me: "Have a lovely evening."

I wish I could pull off my father's trick, which - regardless of the day or time - consists in muttering, in wounded, righteous tones, "Making telephone calls on the Sabbath! Not in my day. On the Sabbath. Well, I, never."

Thursday, 9 July 2009


... clichéd dubiously-appetising pre-fab microwave meal. E.g., shrink-wrapped chicken Kiev and rice. Free packet of frozen baby carrots for the best suggestion.

Tuesday, 7 July 2009

Painted ladies

For about a year I've been conscientiously ignoring the raw timber window frames I had installed - about a year ago. I've been trying not to think about their gradual disintegration, the westerly sunshine, the westerly frosts, the westerly winds bearing the westerly rains, or the fact that I installed them to replace window frames so rotten they'd sprouted fungus. My timber window frames stand six metres above the ground in their stockinged feet, and as I lead a ladder-free existence, I knew that the only way I could do the right thing by 'em was to recruit the services of a professional painter with a ladder. Thus the year long delay. Professional painters with ladders do not grow on trees.

Happening upon a painting consortium run by teh ladeez last month, I figured that this was the painting consortium for me. Their "98.5% testosterone free" slogan sounded a bit second-wavey for my tastes, but as I discussed self-priming acrylics with a deep-voiced lass called Jay on the telephone, I decided that maybe they weren't as biologically determinist as all that.

Jay turned up this morning at 7.15am and it was clear that on all salient criteria, Jay was not a lass. I have nothing against gentleman tradespersons - indeed, a wiser person than myself would befriend as many as possible - but Jay's undoubted mandom kinda undermined my attempts at affirmatively-actionizing the world of outdoor painting.

As it happens, Jay did a super job, and as he was leaving, his eye fell upon the half a page it had taken me six hours to write. We discussed what kind of work it is I do, and the fact that I'm from Sydvillea, and then Jay apologised for the Bourne. It used to be beautiful, he said, and safe, but that was before all these multinationals came. They’re the ones causing all the trouble. The Indians have been fighting the Mormons for thousands of years, and then they bring their fights over here. He doesn’t mind the ones that work hard, but these ones who come over and think they can just be like anybody else, they've really stuffed things up for Melbourne.

These remarks caused some consternation in feline quarters.

Beatrice closed her eyes and gathered her thoughts. "It's wrong for the Indians to fight the Mormons," she said. "They should just learn to get along. But don't you see, Jay? You are succumbing to the same impulses as those Indian-hating Mormons. You are making generalisations about the moral status of an entire people, and your empirical claims are slightly dubious."

Harriet was a tight knot of disapproval. "Jay," she said. "Jay, you should try to cultivate empathy. Race is discursively constructed, and if you reframe your discursive practices, your analysis of modern-day Melbourne will be quite different. Take it from me, Jay. Beatrice and I are living proof of these principles."

Monday, 6 July 2009

What I Did Last Summer

You might have noticed a certain silence around these parts, a silence punctuated only by my deep disgust at certain northern hemispehereans who think that 32 degrees on the ol' Celsiometer deserves a spot on the front page of the national newspapers. (As some wise philosopher has opined, this is perhaps no more disgustworthy than the channel 7 weatherboy who puts on a ski-suit and tells us to dust down the snowplough and affix the medicinal liquors to the necks of the St Bernards for an overnight low of 11 degrees. To such opinations, I say, "Pass me my vegan eggnog, Smithers," and, "They just don't make St Bernards the way they used to".)

So what have I been doing with myself?, well may you ask. Firstly, I went to this ripper of a symposium where people talked about mimetic representations of the temporal affect of memory (Bart: Is that a real thing? Lisa: Yes.), and ate muffins. And this person was there, and this person, and this person, and amazingly, despite the presence of some of my all-time antipodean academic superheroes, I managed not to gush. And then I marked a buncha essays that reached up to my armpit. And while I was doing that I read Annabel Crabb's Quarterly Essay on Malcolm Turnbull, and consequently was glistening with freshly applied Turnbulliana just in time for his recent acts of political autocannibalism. Meanwhile my Pa had that hip replacement surgery, which went swimmingly, as far as the hip was concerned, but plunged his kidneys and his heart into conniptions of such conniptedness that he is still in hospital eating jelly almost two weeks later. This was pretty scary for a day or seven, particularly as these parental brushes with mortality remind a person that her parents rate extremely highly on the most beloved people in the universe scale. Then there was this three-day quasi-compulsory-but-actually-not workshop on How To Be A Better Lecturer. The answer - you never would have guessed this - is to think about how students learn best. Personally, I've always thought that shifting into a Cornish pirate voice every seven minutes should suffice. Dad, at this point, is still alive and bantering at full pelt with anyone who's up to it. I pick up the essay I haven't touched since February, the one that's due at the end of the month, on cyborgs and slavery, and start googling "automaton"+"spartacus", which turns out to be a disappointingly fruitless research tactic. It rains a bit; Melbourne's water storage is up to 26.3% of capacity. I see Disgrace, which thank-heavens uses John Malkovich rather than Ralph Fiennes as David Lurie, but nearly vomit when a chuckle runs through the audience as Lurie's putting the moves on Melanie. (The capacity to elicit that chuckle - the "this is a romantic comedy, isn't it? and that reluctant girl will actually fall for him?" chuckle - was one of the best things about this film, which of course is not a romantic comedy, but grim and harrowing, as the chucklers must have found out to their horror.) And here I am, disgorged by the past fortnight, with a Beatrice on my lap and a Harriet near my feet, and great pools of unplumbed internet for me to continue to ignore as I get on with this next bit, of life.

Wednesday, 1 July 2009