Sunday, 31 May 2009

Der Ringworm des Nibelungen

I took Harriet and Beatrice to the vet on Friday night, and she confirmed what my fine eye for a fungal infection had suspected: the ringworm, they haz it. Actually, I prefer to think of it less as ringworm, and more as Athlete's Foot of the ear. I am up to my armpits in antifungalistics, very keen to smash this protozoa in its infancy and not to have to feed the wee beasts the terrible fungicide tablets of doom and liver-destruction.

Top ten impediments to my protozoa-smashing:

1. That Beatrice passionately longs to lick the poisonous ointment off Harriet's ear.

2. That Harriet very reasonably responds to the smearing of poisonous ointment onto her chin by raking her toenails through whatever flesh is nearest (i.e., mine).

3. My aversion to bleach. My floorboard sealant's aversion to bleach. My respiratory tract's aversion to bleach.

4. The size of my borrowed cauldron vis a vis the size of the soft furnishings I need to boil.

5. Paucity of sunny drying spaces for the soft furnishings I have attempted to boil in the too-small borrowed cauldron.

6. That the novelty of combating Athlete's Foot of the ear wears off after about two hours.

7. Delusions of parasitosis, mine.

8. A. S. Byatt's The Children's Book, first 147 pages thereof. More fun.

9. Theological angst. Cf. William Blake's "The Tyger", only substitute "Ryngworm" for "Tyger". See especially the line, "Did he who made the Lamb make thee?", where "thee" = "Ryngworm". I had similar difficulties back in my flea hostessing days, and overcame the apparent problem of evil by recognising the sheer majestic beauty of the flea and its various contributions to the ecosystem.

10. Spores.

On the plus side, Harlot Heights is only 50 square metres when it sticks its tummy out. Fortunately I don't have the misfortune of living in a beautiful four bedroom Victorian weatherboard in Northcote with pressed metal ceilings and antique fireplaces and cedar fittings. Phew.

Saturday, 30 May 2009

Dry-as-dust ivory-towerite comments on raunchophile film review

Steve Jacobs is making a film based on J.M. Coetzee's Disgrace. A risky business, where the ironic gap between the book's narrator and author is so carefully concealed. How do you do that kind of irony in film? I'm looking forward to finding out, or being gleefully disappointed that one of the best elements of the novel hasn't survived adaptation. Meanwhile, yes, yes, yes, I understand that a film borrowing a name and some plot points from a novel can't be expected to reproduce in facsimile the original text, and a good thing, and blah and so on, yes, I understand that, but still, Disgrace says some important things in a complicated way, and it'll be a shame and not very surprising if the film ends up saying the opposite of those important things for sheer want of subtlety.

What's twitching my digits right now is this, from Brian McFarlane's review of Disgrace and Philip-Roth-spawn
Elegy (which I have seen, and which is a very good film if you don't mind having to participate in its lascivious appraisal of Penelope Cruz's legs and its apparently unironic [?] theme song, "When you make love to a woman you get revenge for all the things that defeated you in life," which is the kind of sentiment that makes me want to sign up for a life stint in the local nunnery) – and now returning to my sentence – I am perflexed by this, from Brian McFarlane's review: "An ageing academic myself, I must say in passing how gratifying it is to see these raunchy protagonists as distinct from the dry-as-dust, ivory-tower image more often associated with the profession."

What? What, what, what, what, what? It's gratifying to see oneself represented by David Lurie – despite whose self-justifying narration seems to me to rape his student, Melanie – or David Kepesh, who by his own admission uses women's bodies, his students' bodies, as receptacles for his vengeance? And there's something pleasing, and "raunchy" (good lord!), and pleasingly, raunchily subversive about depicting academics as sexual predators? I've had a few too many friends propositioned by their course coordinators or dumped,
après shenanigans, by their supervisors, and seen too many of the consequences, to feel gratified by the Lurie/Kepesh depictions.

Wednesday, 27 May 2009

Oh, girls just want to have fungi

No thyme to blog because of mad panicked dash towards essay-writing finish-line, except to say:

1. I read today that in the late nineteenth century, a majority of surveyed folks reported dreaming in colour. In the mid-twentieth century, a majority reported dreaming in black-and-white. I happen to think this is a very impressive statistic.

2. I think Harriet and Beatrice might have ringworm. Excellent. Also, whenever anyone says the words "headlice" or "fleas" or, you know, "fungal infection savaging its way across your kittens' ears", I get incredibly itchy. All over.

Feel free to decline my invitation to afternoon tea. I'll understand.

Friday, 22 May 2009


It is a little known fact that today I turn fifty-six, if you round my age up to the nearest fifty-six. Certainly I am nearer to fifty-six than zero, which is not something I could have truthfully claimed four years ago. Just goes to show, if you keep working hard enough at something, you'll get there eventually.

I have been celebrating my birthday by Working At Home, which is still working, even if I do most of it in bed and pyjamas. Before lunch, for instance, I wrote a paragraph towards the 7000 word essay that is due on the 30th May. It's a very exciting essay (oh yes), about the rhetorical exchanges between Decadent poets and late nineteenth-century psych-iatrists/ologists in codifying those conditions now known as synaesthesia, and I wrote the conference paper version of it in January. Now I have to turn it into something that will withstand the buffets and blows of peer scrutiny, with no prospect of distracting said peers from my logical slipshoddery by the usual (my charmingly Australian accent, the light winkling off my spectacles, the blob of dried hummus on my lapel). So back to my day: I wrote this paragraph before lunch, and after lunch I deleted most of it, and then I decided to let the essay moulder at the back of my cranium for another day while I addressed the pressing matter of Monday morning's three hour seminar on Janet Frame. The thing is, and I know I'll sound like Geeky McGeek in saying this, but I can't imagine a nicer way to spend a birthday. Especially if you throw in a couple of cats spilling off my lap, and some interesting things from my sisters in the letterbox, and the knowledge that tomorrow morning the Beagle Express is going to be hurtling down the Hume Highway bearing Wilbur and my parents, who have kindly scheduled a date with a suitcase repairperson so as to excuse the seven hours of driving that will enable them to have a birthday dinner with me.

So what have I learned in my fifty-six years? This: that American exchange students often have names like Brandi and Hunt; that you should always carry a safety pin; that however you cook it, tempeh tastes like it has been prised from the forest floor with a sharp gumboot; that "facetious" contains every vowel in alphabetical order, as does "facetiously".

Monday, 18 May 2009

Because I don't want the ad for Dr Circumcision to remain at the top of my bloglet

Would Madam care for some chalk and cheese? Chef uses Gruyere, with lightly crumbled limestone. Highly recommended, but a slightly dusty aftertaste, so I suggest a good red. Trotsky, perhaps.

Wednesday, 13 May 2009

Buy one, get one free

It's hard to say what's best about this. The quotation marks around "all ages, all reasons"? That it appeared in my letterbox with a take-away pizza menu? That Dr Mohammed Jabbar has proudly made circumcision his life's work?

Home maintenance for the domestic short-haired feline

Everybody knows that cats are remarkably clean animals. It's a knowledge, in my case, gleaned through empirical observation of mesdames Harriet and Beatrice, who make a habit of licking each others' anuses with their antiseptic tongues and burying their poos with such sanitary rigour, such hygienic applications of the poo-burying muscles, that fæcal matter and clumps of kitty litter can be found in every corner of my bathroom - if indeed the first person possessive pronoun pertains in the case of a bathroom overrun by kitten excrement.

So here Harriet and Beatrice (last seen up on the kitchen bench eating the sourdough I left out for my lunch) share with you some of their thoughts about domestic hygiene.

"Clean the sink so it don't stink". Thus runs the old housewifely adage, and sepia-toned Beatrice contemplates a bathroom sink well licked. Note especially her careful removal of the plastic drain pipe cover, which was restored to its rightful place on my pillow.

"Who doth not prance upon the clothes airing rack catcheth no invisible moths" (Mrs. Beeton). What is a clean shirt without a smudgy paw print, I ask you?

"The price of Liberty is Eternal Vigilance." As Harriet reminds us here, the fact that you are licking your sister's forehead is no excuse for not keeping an ear out for the neighbour's chickens. Amateur forehead-lickers, take note.

Also remember that the toilet isn't just for sitting on, it's for falling into. If a job's worth doing, it's worth doing right.

Thursday, 7 May 2009

No boxed gifts please

I've received some pretty fancy wedding invitations in my time, but yesterday's wedding invitation takes the three-tiered cake. First there's the silver envelope, addressed to Ms Harlot. Inside is a silver gauze bag tied with silver silk ribbon. Inside is a map, a reply paid envelope containing a pre-printed RSVP card, and a plastic pocket, wrapped in another silver ribbon on which are printed the names of the happy prenuptial couple. Inside the plastic pocket are twelve jigsaw pieces, on each one of which is a dissevered portion of the happy prenuptial couple's faces and glimpses of what looks like normal wedding-invitationese. I assemble the jigsaw, and find in the bottom right hand corner the exhortation: "No boxed gifts please".

Someone is going to have to remove the toothpaste stain from my party dress.

Wednesday, 6 May 2009


My siblings, Cistern and Malkovski Harlot*, turned forty on the weekend. Cistern**, struck down with sudden maturity, decided to swim one hundred metres for every year of her life. That's 4 kilometres, my fellow sedentarians – 2.48 miles in the old money – a long way by anyone's standards, except Cistern's, who about five years ago decided to become an all-singing, all-dancing athlete-progenitrix-PhD-student. She cast aside her dissipated yoof, tossing off half-Marathons before breakfast, penning award-winning thesis chapters by lunchtime, traipsing the world and co-parenting a truly stellar specimen of nieceliness.

When a person manages to circumnavigate Pacific islands wearing nothing but a pair of goggles*** and when such a person invites her sister to join her in her birthday swim, and when her sister hasn't seen her other sister and assorted other stellar specimens of niecephewliness for yonkers, due to the fact that the sister who is I has run away to make her fortune in the Deep (dank) South, that same sister of course enters into a contractual arrangement with Mr Aeroplane Company and betakes herself to Sydvillea, City of Swimming Pools. And despite the fact that she (I) hasn't swum more than a hundred metres in the last year, she (I) manages to polish off a hundred metres for every year of her (my) life too, blessing her cotton socks for making her 9 years younger than the hero of this story. Rest assured, I have been retrospectively carbo-loading ever since, which is one of the best things about unwonted three kilometre swims.

"But what about the kittens?" you ask. "Where were they while you swanned up to Sydney to loll around in swimming pools?" Well, seeing you ask, they were at home, where internetian superhero and cat-tolerator, Timothy T, was simultaneously entertaining his mother and educating my quadrupeds in the finer points of G. K. Chesteron. At which point it behoves me to disclose that Timothy T is not only as excellent as you ever thought he was, but excellenter. He left Harlot Heights on Sunday night, not only the richer for his cat-wrangling, his G. K. Chesterton appreciation, and a carton of full-cream milk, but also stuffed to the ceiling with what I suspect is his brother's entire tomato crop. Let she who craves ratatouille have it in abundance.

Harriet and Beatrice, if this is possible, were even more lovely by Sunday night than they had been the previous Friday. They are growing in stature and catliness, and have learnt all sorts of magnificent feline skills. To wit: gnawing on the leaves of the potted bamboo; dismembering toilet paper rolls; nibbling on phone bills, and (less pleasingly) library books; mountaineering their way onto the kitchen bench and licking scraps from plates, and then mountaineering their way back onto the kitchen bench as soon as they are removed from the kitchen bench, and then mountaineering their way back onto the kitchen bench, etc; pouncing on things that move suspiciously under bedclothes; gazing wistfully into the loo.

Meanwhile, there remains the matter of my brother turning forty too. If anyone has any good present ideas for a person who likes beagles, sudoku and marzipan, speak now.

* Not their real names.
** Still not her real name.
*** And swimmers. And a cap. And contact lenses.

Monday, 4 May 2009

Or virtue rewarded

If, like me, you are planning to mention Samuel Richardson's Pamela (1740) in your lecture at 4pm today, do not try plugging "Pamela" into Google Image search. It will lower the tone of your powerpoint presentation.