kidattypewriter

Friday, August 31, 2007

Santa Horror!

Ten ways to write a story about the Australian Santa shortage...

1.
HO HO NO MORE

They are the store Santas. This brave band, this comradely crew, this laughing lot of loveable larrikins in red have fought for years to maintain the Santa standards, to uphold the ancient Australian tradition of standing around in sweltering summer conditions and chuckling in a merry manner. And now, each year, their numbers are declining. Why?

It's all because of you...

2.
SAD SANTA

One died, quite suddenly, in his sleep. Another was felled by the cop. Still another, after a lifetime of immunity, was inexplicably dropped by a case of the measles and chicken pox at the same time, while another died of a scratch on his finger.

Time is the enemy for Australia's community of senior Santas...

3.
SANTA AND THE LITTLE TICKET OF OPPORTUNITY!

Not many people know this, but becoming a store Santa opens up many new career opportunities for you!

One store Santa in Brisbane recently became a fitness instructor in a Quambatook old person's home! Another store Santa now owns a chain of internationally-unrecognised box factories! Meanwhile, a third store Santa is well on his way to realising his dream of becoming an astronaut: he is currently in his fourth year studying 'Remedial Science 1A'at the Dunedoo Institute of TAFE.

And now, the Santas are looking for you!

4.
IT'S OFFICIAL!

Scientific studies reveal that becoming a store Santa will improve your sex life, make you healthier, happier, and give a rich complexion to your skin!

The pay isn't brilliant, but you can't have everything...

5.
FREE!

YES! You can have a chance to become a loved and valued member of the community instead of just some schmo who types out random newspaper competition!

To find out more about this exciting opportunity, simply turn to page 54 and read on while filling out the attached coupon...

6.
DISASTER!

The spreading epidemic of resignations among the nation's store Santas has reached plague proportions. The very nation is in crisis, and we may soon reach the point of no return.
"I wouldn't say it's as bad as a cyclone or natural disaster," says one Labor Party figure. "It's much, much worse than that."

A crisis management centre has been set up and the volunteer effort to turn back the tide of Santa resignations has been unprecedented...

7.
SANTAS FOR THE NEW GENERATION

Sleek satin gentlemen - they're the Santas of the 21st century, and they're clad in a series of sensuous scarlet robes for your delectation!

8.
A MODERATE OPINION ON THE SANTA SHORTAGE: THE SCUMBAGS WHO HAVE MADE THIS HAPPENED OUGHT TO BE ASHAMED OF THEMSELVES

... now, I'm not one to overemphasise the seriousness of this Santa crisis, but I really reckon those kids who have traumatised the poor store Santas into resigning ought to be bloody ashamed of themselves.

I mean, crying! At Santa! The nerve!

This country is being overrun by communists, I tell you. It's enough to make you cry.

9.
SIR,

Referring to the story by F J in yesterday's paper, the economy is indeed appalling. Not half as appalling as the state of the nation's Santa industry, though!...

10.
VACANT:
Store Santa

QUALIFICATIONS:
Looking stupid in red 101/Human Relations

MUST POSSESS GOOD PEOPLE SKILLS, EXPERIENCE IN WORKING WITH CHILDREN, AN ABILITY TO THINK ON YOUR FEET, AND GOOD PROBLEM SOLVING ABILITIES...

International House

I've been watching W C Fields DVDs. Each succeeding DVD is in a stranger, more eccentric location than the last. In You Can't Cheat an Honest Man, they're in middle America, heading for Punxsutawney. In The Bank Dick, they're in Lompoc. In It's a Gift, things start in some town in New Jersey, and Fields drives with his family, to an orange grove in regional California.

International House has the strangest location of all, a Chinese town called Wu Hu. Despite this, two of the characters drive there, apparently from America(!), getting lost on the way, apparently in the Sahara desert. (Stop thinking about it so hard, it will get you nowhere.) W C Fields doesn't get there until almost halfway through the film (it's only an hour long, by the way). He spends a lot of the time flying in drunken circles around the world, inadvertently breaking several records. When he arrives in Wu Hu, he wonders aloud whether he's in Kansas, Pennsylvania, or Kansas City. "Where am I?" he asks people at the hotel (he lands right in the middle of the concert hall, don't you know.)

PEGGY: Wu hu

FIELDS: (Leers lecherously at Peggy)

GUY: Wu hu!

FIELDS: (Ripping flower from his vest) Say! Don't let this fool you!

After a bit more conversation, someone asks him if he's lost and wants to know how to get to Kansas. "I'm not lost," he replies, falling over the wing of his auto-gyro and onto the concert hall floor, "Kansas is lost!"

International House is one of the weirdest films hardly anyone has ever seen, but don't let that stop you. Wikipedia describes it as a series of vaudeville acts, which is technically true, but doesn't even begin to describe the way the individual acts go together to make a fascinating whole. (But then, maybe I've always liked films set in train stations and hotels.) The film actually feels like a weekend out at a jazz-age hotel; there is George Burns playing card games in the morning, there are theatrical shows in the evening, and late at night, there's Rudy Vallee singing a nocturne. On the second day at the hotel, there's a stand-out Cab Calloway song:

Oh, have you met that funny reefer man,
Have you ever met that funny reefer man;
If he said he swam to China, and he sell you South Carolina,
Then you know you're talking to that reefer man.

Fields is paired up in the movie with Peggy Hopkins Joyce (who is married in the movie to Bela Lugosi!), the cause for Fields to drawl, at various points:

I'll be right with you, my little Calliope.
... my fuzzy fuchsia

There are several other names as well. Once, Fields attempts to call her his little chrysanthemum and fails.

At the conclusion of the movie, with the entire staff of the hospital against them, Fields drives off with Peggy in his car through the halls of the hotel, down the stairs, into the lift in the hotel lobby, out into the concert hall, and back into his auto-gyro.

International House is a spiffing movie!

Wednesday, August 29, 2007

To be au fart with the fait

Even as the new millennium arrives, farting is still such an anathema that people worry about its effects on their jobs, reputations, and love lives. Believe it or not, many folks resort to the subterfuge of sneaking out farts and then, eyes coyly perusing the ceiling, acting as innocent as bunny rabbits, hoping someone else will be blamed.

Jim Dawson, A Cultural History of the Fart

Pfffft! They're just looking to see where it goes!

Sunday, August 26, 2007

Art with a social message

As anyone would know, genetic modification of the environment is a new and exciting science with great potential to benefit humankind. However, as any unbiased viewing of the New Zealand film Black Sheep will show, genetic modification can have unintended consequences. Also, it will inevitably cause the creation of a new species of flesh-eating wolf-sheep - or 'were-sheep', if you will.



Clearly, we must proceed cautiously.

The film also raises issues of the environment, the precious Maori heritage of New Zealand, the culture of New Zealand's Scottish ancestors, and sheep's testicles. Thank you for your time.

Next week in 'Art with a social message', we will examine the feminist message of Russ Meyer's Beyond the Valley of the Ultra-Vixens! Bye for now!

Saturday, August 25, 2007

Defacebook

Facebook is a social utility that facilitates social harmony by allowing you to stalk people. I can't explain what else it does, and nobody else can either. You sign up to it and then you just sit there. Occasionally you add things called 'applications' which don't apply, annoy people by poking them, or sending them invitations to stupid games like 'vampire' or 'fight club'.

I was at a pub the other night and a guy was telling me and others how on their honeymoon, he and his wife had sat on separate computers playing one another on Facebook's scrabble application - rather than playing it with a board. We were all geeks, and the general consent seemed to be that this was rather romantic.

Facebook also encourages a weird approach to the English language. Occasionally you can 'update your status' with outrageous lies like 'Timothy is eating noodles out of the back of a semi-sentient washing machine' or 'Timothy is a bigger genius than Einstein' or 'Timothy is having sensuous feelings about his W C Fields DVD'. When you add people to your list of contacts, suddenly, mysteriously, Facebook designates you 'Friends', though you may very well be adding an enemy in order to insult them more effectively, or something like that. Also, when you update items on your profile, Facebook updates others, but it doesn't call you 'She' or 'He' or even 'It', it insists on referring to you in the plural, as 'They'. For instance: 'Tim Train updated their profile. They added to quotes...' etc, etc.

In addition to not knowing what Facebook is for, a lot of people seem not even to be certain about its name. I remember hearing on the radio last week a presenter refer to it as 'MyFace', confusing it with its mortal enemy, 'MySpace'. The guy he was interviewing seemed certain that Facebook was the 'new cool place to be', but it also seemed certain that he had no idea what he was talking about, since he couldn't really explain what Facebook was for, either.

Facebook: the perfect tool for the apathetic generation, since it allows you to sign up and do nothing? Perhaps in future Facebook could branch out and offer a range of alternative products:

For Nazis: Racebook.

For hippies: Spacebook.

For feminists: Macebook.

For aglet fetishists: Lacebook.

For lunatics: Nutcasebook.

My derring do don't do it for you anymore

Or, I relate how I came to the City of Lost Souls

Catallaxy reports that, thanks to the efforts of John Thorpe, Sydney will not be getting a bar scene like Melbourne. Thorpe recently came to prominence in this Sydney Morning Herald article, reflecting sagely on the cultural differences between Sydney and Melbourne.

MELBOURNE - a land of skivvy-wearing, chardonnay-drinking book readers - is fundamentally different from Sydney in its drinking culture. So says the NSW president of the Australian Hotels Association, John Thorpe .... "Melbourne is Melbourne. Sydney has a different outlook," said Mr Thorpe ... "We aren't barbarians, but we don't want to sit in a hole and drink chardonnay and read a book." ... "People can sit down, talk about history, chew the fat and gaze into each others eyes and all this sort of baloney but it's pie in the sky stuff," he said. "That's not what Sydney wants." ... Sydneysiders - fit, outdoorsy types who enjoy the fresh air - are more likely to want alfresco drinking, dining and dancing, he says.... "There's a lot more entertainment than sitting there chatting. I think our culture is a little different than Melbourne because they haven't got this magnificent harbour and the Opera House. No wonder they want to sit in a hole in the wall," he said.

Fit, outdoorsy types in Sydney? I'll say. Before I made the move from NSW to Victoria, I was as athletic as they come: leaping tall breadsticks in a single bound! Vaulting steps and doormats with the ease of a Nubian in my journey to the couch! Why, the ease with which I could whip up a spaghetti bologneise was almost equal to that of the Australian Synchronised Swimming team!

Upon arriving in Melbourne, though, things changed rapidly: I became pale and wan and listless; a sad figure who was likely to go to pieces upon opening a book of poetry. (And not at the poems - the mere effort of working myself up to reading the title page was enough to destroy me.) I would dissolve into sudden, unexplained fits of hysterics when struck with the sight of a person wearing their hat indoors.

And instead of walking about the place with a manly stride or a lusty stroll or a vigorous jog, my movements all but disappeared: I took to mooning sadly about, to haunting venues sorrowfully. Now, I hardly move at all: rather, I have almost perfected a process by which I become ever more small and pale, until I dwindle away with a melancholy moan into the nether regions of space/time. It's how everyone moves here in Melbourne, when they don't take the tram.

Why, even my voice has changed! In Sydney and Newcastle, I would manfully occupy a street corner and trumpet cheery greetings to all and sundry. Now, my eloquent waxing and waning has done away with the waxing and is now just permanently waning. Pretty soon it will decline to an endless, peevish whine. (That's when I know I'll have permanently become a citizen of Melbourne.)

People of Sydney! Heed my warning! Don't become like me! (Er, unless you want natty little wine and coffee bars and an excellent cafe culture, that is.)

Friday, August 24, 2007

Wondering...

Have you ever tried to aeronautically navigate a used football sock across the Pacific Ocean? No? Then how do you know it wouldn't work?

Also, would it be possible to get first-class seating on such a flight?

Sic

At work we capitalise words like 'government', 'parliament', and 'senate' if they are used in a specific, not a generic, sense. So:
the Howard Government
the Liberal Government
the Victorian Parliament
the State Government
If the references are not specific, or are plural, then the words are not capitalised. So:
the state governments
the two parliaments
a senate election
Well, at work yesterday I came across the phrase 'Both sides of government', referring to a specific event - I think it was something to do with Australian hospitals. Now, I think 'government' here should be capitalised, since it was clear that they were referring to the federal institution. I got overruled, of course, since it's such an unconventional phrase anyway. Also, more substantially, the word 'government' is most often used in this sense:
The Federal Government
The Federal Opposition
The State Government
The State Opposition
That is, the presumption is that 'government' is a different and separate institution to 'opposition'. And it's true that this is the sense in which it is often used nowadays. But these are the relevant definitions for 'government' in Macquarie Dictionary.
noun 1. the authoritative direction and restraint exercised over the actions of people in communities, societies, and states; direction of the affairs of a state, etc.; political rule and administration: government is necessary to the existence of society.
2. the form or system of rule by which a state, community, etc., is governed: monarchical government; episcopal government.
3. (sometimes upper case) (sometimes construed as plural) the governing body of persons in a state, community, etc.; the executive power; the administration: the government was defeated in the last election.
Now, I think a case can be made that the word 'government' applies to the whole group of democratically elected politicians, both in power and in opposition. I also think there's an ambiguity here when we use terms like 'the Howard Government', since it is not clear whether we are referring to 'the Howard Government' as the body of Federal Liberal Ministers who have the power; or if we are actually referring to 'the Howard Government' as the entire body of ministers, Labor, Liberal, Democrat, Greens (etc) who collectively make democratic decisions on our behalf, and whose most influential faction - as a result of the process known as a Federal election - is that led by John Howard, leading to the term 'Howard Government'.

What do you say, astute citizens of the blog world?

And yes, it did piss me off!

Thursday, August 23, 2007

Jane Austen for Prime Minister!

I can't remember which book it was in, but Jane Austen once had one of her heroes fretfully walk to one side of the room seemingly for no other purposes than to walk back to the other side of the room. That's a great joke, but it's also a great character observation, and it was lines like that that I first spotted when I read her books.

Occasionally I like to refresh my knowledge of her quips by reading over some of the pieces in wikiquote. They have plenty of the best lines from her letters to her sister -
You deserve a longer letter than this; but it is my unhappy fate seldom to treat people so well as they deserve.

In Paragon we met Mrs Foley & Mrs Dowdeswell with her yellow shawl airing out—& at the bottom of Kinsdown Hill we met a Gentleman in a Buggy, who on minute examination turned out to be Dr Hall—& Dr Hall in such very deep mourning that either his Mother, his Wife, or himself must be dead.

I will not say that your mulberry-trees are dead, but I am afraid they are not alive.
It is a truth that should be universally acknowledged that
'It is a truth universally acknowledged, that a single man in possession of a good fortune, must be in want of a wife'
is one of the most overquoted lines in the history of literature, though it's overquoted for a reason. Her line that
The day passed much as the day before had done.
really was an exception to the rule, and Mark Twain really was being a slob when he said that the omission of Jane Austen's books 'would make a fairly good library from a library that hadn't a book in it'. I'm reading Emma at the moment, and that book contains a number of good sorties that Twain would have appreciated. I quite like,
Emma's very good opinion of Frank Churchill was a little shaken the following day, by hearing that he was gone off to London, merely to have his hair cut.
Jane Austen's great. If I had my time at uni all over again, I'd totally be the sole gentleman in Laura's Jane Austen class. Incidentally, I wrote a Jane Austen parody the other day, something I seem to be in the habit of. It's a send-up of the first few lines of Emma:
HAMMER

Hammer Woodlouse, ugly, stupid, and poor, with a rented room and a gloomy disposition, seemed to unite all of the curses of existence, and had lived over 89 years in the world with more than enough to piss him off. He also didn't like kids.

Everyone thought it was a good show when he caught boils and died.
Not half as good as the original, though.

Wednesday, August 22, 2007

Meditations in the bored room

I work as a typist. The company I work for spends its time working for other companies by sending them information about how still other companies view them. Or something. Really, I have no idea what the company I work for does. My job has a point, I just don't know what it is. But the company is very big, and very important, and lots of people pay us money to do whatever it is that we do, so that's all right. And being very big, they occasionally feel the need to make us do very stupid, random things.

So, we had a meeting today. Power point demonstrations were involved. Words were spoken, and questions were asked. Several of the departments at work were mentioned, and it was all very well organised. What was it all about? Let's just say I spent the whole meeting staring at the painting on the wall.

In addition to staring at the painting on the wall, I did the following:

- Thought 'I'm so fucking bored!' in the first five minutes, and then vaguely worried about what would happen if I said it aloud;

- Worked out the verses for a corporate anthem to the tune of Bewitched, Bothered and Bewildered by Richard Rodgers;

- Thought about the awesomeness of the film The History Boys;

- Stared at the bottom of my can of Vanilla Coke and used it to scratch my chin;

- Went up and down on my chair several times;

- Almost fell asleep;

- Thought up a witty response to an email that was doing the rounds of the office at the moment from some dude who was going on a walk for charity, or something;

- And went back to staring at the painting.

My thoughts about the painting were pretty much as follows. I thought at first that it was a typically ugly and boring example of corporate art. But then a few minutes later I concluded that it was a typically ugly and boring example of corporate art, no buts about it. It was just stupid, a square canvas with coloured dots arranged in it in diagonal rows. The dots looked dirty. That was pretty much all there was to it, although it has to be said there was something mesmerising in the ugliness of the dots that made you keep on looking back at it, just to confirm again if it really was that ugly.

I also wondered, in a pained way, why every company in Australia seems to feel the need to decorate their walls with this sort of crap. Though I had to agree, after a minute of speculation, that the painting in its own way was a good metaphor for this sort of company: ugly, boring, random, and showy in a stupid sort of way.

Really, if it wasn't for the money they paid me, I'd... go and work for another company that did pay me money. Hmmm. Not much point to this story, actually.

It was a fucking ugly painting, though.

Tuesday, August 21, 2007

Attention, dictators

Why be drunk with power when you can be drunk with drink instead? It's simpler.

Sunday, August 19, 2007

The Personals

M., 27, of Newtown, Sydney, would like to become the main course for a 10-headed, 20-stomached vampire-demon from the chromium mountains of Xanxor 5. No joke applicants, please: have been burnt before. Must get along with future predator. Would prefer one with a sense of humour.

Review of a bargain bin book



I first saw The Seven Professors of the Far North mentioned in a letter the books' author, John Fardell, wrote to Viz magazine. It went something like this:

This is just a letter to get some free publicity for my book, The Seven Professors of the Far North, due to be published on ____ by Faber. Thanks.

That letter reflects rather well on both John Fardell and Viz magazine, I think.

A lot of readers of Viz will have been familiar with John Fardell's work anyway. He's one of that magazine's best aritsts. Most issues will contain a cartoon by Fardell, probably either The Modern Parents, or The Critics, or Desert Island Teacher. The Modern Parents is his best, and probably most relevant, cartoon: the parents in question - Cressida and Malcolm - are suckers for any and every postmodern trend, a fact of which their kids are all too well aware. They won't let their kids watch football because of the symbolic violence, when they go to find lunch, they abhor fast-food outlets as representative of capitalist imperialism - and so on, and so on. And they also talk about it all the time, boring their poor kids to death. (Fardell's comics are very wordy.)

So about a month before Christmas, when I saw The Seven Professors of the Far North in the bargain bin at Borders, I leapt upon it. Fardell sort of takes up where The Modern Parents left off - this is a book for kids, after all, with a cartoon cover and a ludicrous plot that's about Nazis, or something. Actually, Fardell's aim seems to have pretty much been to write the sort of book he wanted to read when he was a kid. (And you can hardly criticise him for that.) So there's a pulp-style one-page prologue:

STOP HIM! KILL HIM!
A lanky scarecrow of a man tore across the frozen ground...

There's a first chapter in which 'Eleven-year-old Sam Carnabie' is gloomily preparing for a visit to his Great-Aunt Roberta, who 'liked cats and china pictures of cats but she didn't much like children', but which ends with Sam going off on a futuristic motorbike with his uncle, Professor Ampersand, instead (but Ampersand Duck got there first!) Other neat touches include a journey through Europe by a secret underground train network (shades of Eva Ibbotson!) and Professor Ampersand's gadget-filled household, and his loving homage to Fray Bentos canned pies:

'Now, are you partial to the steak-and-kidney pies of Mr Fray and Mr Bentos?' he asked Sam, taking two tins out of a food cupboard.
'Yeah!' said Sam. 'They're my favourite!'

Just starting to re-read it now, I can confirm that the writing lacks a certain something. The prose is workmanlike rather than poetically incisive. But there's no doubt that Fardell's heart is in the right place, and there's barely a passage in the book that could be taken out.

Best bargain bin book I've read for a long time!

Saturday, August 18, 2007

A record of non-existent people I have met

Today my sister and I got harrassed by a Speaker Box at our local KFC drive-thru. I'd heard of such things happening, but I simply didn't believe it was possible. Boxes that bite back. Hmm. Plus, it had three different voices; two female and one male.
ENGLISH AS A WORST-PERSON LANGUAGE,
or,
A record of non-existent people I have met


TRAIN PLATFORM CHAP

I often meet Train Platform Chap while standing around on North Melbourne Station. His voice comes out over the intercom in polite but authoritative tones, addressing you and all the other passengers:
Good evening, passengers.
The next train to arrive on platform 2 will be the 9.10 Upfield.
The next train to arrive on platform 2 will be the 9.10 Upfield.
Remember to validate your ticket before boarding.
Of course, if you haven't validated your ticket, you're likely to shuffle your feet, look at the ground, and swear at Train Platform Chap while he is speaking. If you have validated, then you will unconsciously hold your head up high and feel just a little better for having acted according to Train Platform Chap's moral code.

He'd be awful in other situations, though. Imagine having Train Platform Chap as your Dad:
Good evening, children.
The next dish to be served on table 2 will be the 9.10 Cauliflower.
The next dish to be served on table 2 will be the 9.10 Cauliflower.
Remember to validate your ticket before eating.
Yes: if you're going to meet non-existent Train Platform Chap, then it's better to meet him at the North Melbourne, platform 2, rather than after you get off the train and go home.

MOBILE PHONE GUY
Mobile Phone Guy appears when you are calling somebody else on the phone. You don't want to speak to Mobile Phone Guy, and Mobile Phone Guy doesn't seem very interested in you, either. He says, in broken tones, as if he is reading at random from a long list of sins you have committed:
You have - three minutes - thirty seconds - remaining.
What business is it of Mobile Phone Guy how many minutes you have remaining, anyway? Why does he decide how many minutes you have remaining? How did Mobile Phone Guy get on your mobile phone, anyway, and how can you tell that he isn't actually listening in to your other conversations?

Mobile Phone Guy is a bloody bastard. Worse - he's your bloody bastard.

KODAK PICTURE MACHINE CANADIAN
Kodak Picture Machine Canadian lurks within the depths of the Kodak Picture Machine at your nearest OfficeWorks shop. At sudden intervals, he will bark pointlessly at you:
Share and enjoy your pictures with everyone you know!
He also offers suggestions about what you might like to do with your pictures, while images of smiling families flick past you. You might just as well have come to develop pictures of your sister picking her nose, or something like that, but Kodak Picture Machine Canadian doesn't care. Indeed, there is something altogether too sinister about him: he is guilty of hidden shallownesses. He has a burning desire for you to share and enjoy your pictures with everyone you know, and once you have shared and enjoyed your pictures with everyone you know, he wants you to share and enjoy your pictures with everyone you know. He wants you to be happy, and once you are happy, he just wants you to be happy. (To say he has a one-track mind would be a generous overestimation).

Of course, you suspect that Kodak Picture Machine Canadian harbours another fantasy, that of running off with one of his customers and having it off with them. It's not that he wants to do this, it's just that he wants to want it.

TELEPHONE TIME LADY
We used to have the number of Telephone Time Lady when we were kids. We'd call her up and she would tell us the time. It didn't matter what time it was, but she'd tell us what it was anyway. And we wouldn't get any of that, 'it's bedtime for you!', or 'time to go to school!'. Nope, it was more,
At the third beep, the time will be fifteen minutes and five seconds past three.
God knows what Telephone Time Lady did in the times that nobody called her up to ask her what the time was. Played cards, maybe. Not that she's ever going to run out of material. Hell, there's twenty four hours, sixty minutes in every hour, sixty seconds in every minute, and innumerable beeps to get through.

My brothers and I have since lost the number of Telephone Time Lady, but I strongly suspect that if I ever had occasion to call that number again - say, to find out the time - she'd still be there, reading out the time, in a voice as ageless (and somewhat more inspiring) as an income tax form. Hoorah for Telephone Time Lady!

Wednesday, August 15, 2007

Cryptic, Craptic, Craptacular!

The closest I get to finishing a cryptic crossword is by starting it. I pick up a cryptic, and in two hours, I've finished a grand total of one word (if I'm lucky), and probably got that one wrong (if I'm lucky). I find the damn things infuriating: I don't know how anyone can do them. Pretty much the only reason I published a cryptic crossword on this website a month ago was to infuriate my readers. If I can alienate one reader a day, I'm happy.

So anyway, I was walking along the street with my nose stuck in a Lovatt's cryptic book today, merrily causing the usual screeching cars and traffic collisions, and getting more and more incensed as I read the clues.

8. Brown boy included in study of plants.

That one turned out to be 'Botany'. Okay, so study of plants is 'Botany'. 'Brown' is 'Tan'. But 'Boy' is not to be found 'in' the word 'Botany', though you could possibly - if you were a pervert, a blackguard or a person who compiled cryptic crosswords for a living - say that the 'Boy' was 'around Brown'. It's a stupid clue, and doesn't make sense!

Also, apparently:

24. Drunken central European pedestrian becomes circus performer.

This is 'Tightrope Walker'. 'Rope' is at the centre of 'Europe', you see, and 'Walker' is pedestrian, but what pun or colloquialism am I missing out on that makes 'Tight' mean 'Drunk'?

These weren't the worst, either. 'Spooner conned Dee with beast of burden' was craptacular; the Spoonerism they were looking out for, it turned out, was 'Donkey'. 'Conned Dee' turns into 'Donkey'? Get it? Neither do I. It's the worst pun I've ever read; obviously the guys who wrote this thing couldn't get a job at Channel Ten's 'The Wedge'.

This clue, however, made me shout out loud at its stupidity:

26. Mass emigration from Biblical book.

Not that it was hard - it was easy. Mass emigration, that's 'exodus'. Biblical book, well, that's 'Exodus' too. But why bother jamming the two together? That's not a cryptic clue, it's two normal clues put together in an inelegant fashion to piss the reader off.

Grrr. Grrrr! Grrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrr!!!!

By the way, twelve across: 'Manner of speaking during childbirth'. (As if any mother would be mannered during childbirth...) It's eight letters. Any suggestions?

Monday, August 13, 2007

The alphabet, from H to K!

KNOWLEDGE CORNER

Hello, Lovers of Learning! I'm Jerry Wambaugh, and you might remember me from such books as 'The decimal system, from 4 to 7', and 'A Comprehensive Guide for the direction 'Left''! Welcome to KNOWLEDGE CORNER!

Today, I'm here to tell you all about the alphabet, from H to K. It might seem a little complicated at first, but if you have any questions, just leave them in comments and I'll be happy not to answer them.

Firstly, we start with 'H'. It's not a very exciting letter, but it has its place in the language. If you spoke Swahili and didn't know anything about the English alphabet, then 'H' would be a good place to start, but only if you didn't start with the other 25 letters first.

Secondly, we move on to the letter 'I'. 'I' is a useful letter, since it allows you to refer to yourself, though not other people, so much. Lets look at it in greater detail, shall we?

I,

i,

I,

i


Isn't it a fascinating letter? Interestingly, if you combine the letters 'I' and 'H', you come up with the word 'HI!', which is a way of saying hello to people that you want to seem polite too but not necessarily have a conversation with. It's a very good word to learn if you want to speak the English language, but not necessarily understand it, which is the case of most of my readers.

Now, the next bit seems a bit complicated, but don't be scared. The letter 'J' is one of the strangest letters in the English language, and I don't really have much time to go into why it's complicated: it just is.

So we'll just skip past the letter 'J' and go right to the letter 'K'. 'K' is a very useful letter to learn, since it forms the last part of that common English-language word, 'OK'. However, the letter 'O' that comes before the 'K' is much too difficult for amateurs like you or me to understand, so we'd better not talk about it.

Anyway, isn't language a wonderful and beautiful thing? I certainly think so. It's been fun having this lesson, and next time you pass someone in the street, why don't you say 'Hi' to them? Just for fun!

Be sure to tune in next week to KNOWLEDGE CORNER, when I introduce you to the concept of 'Opening a Door: Lesson One - How to Recognise the Handle'!

Well, Learning Lovers, it's been real - bye for now!

Sunday, August 12, 2007

Rise up! Rise up, my pretty vending machines!

Vending machines are starting to eat children. And about time, too.

Pie of disappointment: an aphorism

Philosophy as a consolation for an imperfectly baked pie

Every home should be comfort-sized; every seat should be pleasure sized; every tree, the colour of beauty; every rose, the aroma of romance. Life is not like that, though: life is something that is never exactly as it should be. Homes are not that comfortable; seats aren't perfectly pleasurable; trees grow leaves that are either too small, or too pockmarked, for beauty; roses fail slightly to produce the perfect aroma of romance.

So, would you like a slice of pie? It's good, but it's not that good.

Saturday, August 11, 2007

Pocket beagles and mitten beagles

Miniature breeds of beagle-type dogs were known from the times of Edward II and Henry VII, who both had packs of Glove Beagles, so named since they were small enough to fit on a glove, and Queen Elizabeth I kept a breed known as a Pocket Beagle... the early 17th century poet and writer Gervase Markham is quoted referring to the Beagle as small enough to sit on a man's hand and to the:
little small mitten-beagle, which may be companion for a ladies kirtle, and in the field will run as cunningly as any hound whatere, only their musick is very small like reeds.
Pocket beagles

Pocket beagles go on hunts
For pocket hares and foxes;
They dine on bacon bits and live
In velveteen matchboxes.



BONUS BEAGLE POEM!
A warning to young ladies concerning mitten-beagles

Take care that your mitten beagles
Do not become smitten beagles,

For the fruits of their love
Will outrun your glove.

Once they become fertile
Place them on your kirtle
And bar them with hurtles:

For L'amour has glamour,
But they can't hurtle spurtles.

Friday, August 10, 2007

Very commonplace book

Bad quotes by allegedly good writers.

In these fair vales hath many a Tree
At Wordsworth's suit been spared;
And from the builder's hand this Stone,
For some rude beauty of its own,
Was rescued by the Bard:
So let it rest; and time will come
When here the tender-hearted
May heave a gentle sigh for him,
As one of the departed.

William Wordsworth, 'In these fair vales hath many a tree'.

The Sun now rose upon the right :
Out of the sea came he,
Still hid in mist, and on the left
Went down into the sea.

Samuel Taylor-Coleridge, 'Rime of the Ancient Mariner'

The day passed much as the day before had done.

Jane Austen, 'Pride and Prejudice'

O, how the wheel becomes it!

William Shakespeare, 'Hamlet'

004:018 And unto Enoch was born Irad: and Irad begat Mehujael: and Mehujael begat Methusael: and Methusael begat Lamech.

004:019 And Lamech took unto him two wives: the name of the one was Adah, and the name of the other Zillah.

004:020 And Adah bare Jabal: he was the father of such as dwell in tents, and of such as have cattle.

004:021 And his brother's name was Jubal: he was the father of all such as handle the harp and organ.

004:022 And Zillah, she also bare Tubalcain, an instructer of every artificer in brass and iron: and the sister of Tubalcain was Naamah.


God, 'The Book of Genesis'

The owl, with all his feathers, was a-cold


John Keats, 'St Agnes Eve'

There's a grevillea in the marginilia!

Cultural Alzheimers

A foreword to a book by a Great Writer

Or, unnotations to some annotations

Death is a painful subject to think about before coffee, and to talk about after. I once knew Jove Claims well enough to talk about such things, but that only lasted until afternoon tea. Perhaps I should have asked him over the chocolate scrolls. Nevertheless, he created a permanent imbalance in every traditional field of subject matter and expression, and was a terribly messy eater besides. So I feel that I am as equipped as any person of mere passing acquaintance to write the foreword to this book. It was either me or Elton John.

***

He once said to me, " F, nothing beats the feeling of an interesting woman being interested in you." Or was it, "nothing beats an interesting woman feeling you?" Then again, maybe it was "There is nothing more interesting than an interesting woman beating you." I have since searched his collected novels and correspondence, to no avail. Interestingly, this may be because he wrote no novels, and had a morbid fear of correspondence, being in the habit of weeping uncontrollably when the postman delivered the bills. Nevertheless, he was a very great writer.

How am I to describe his manifold influence over the western tradition in a few sentences? Perhaps I may be permitted to borrow from his biography on the back flap of this book. He had two cats, both of which were white. The only thing black about them was their whiteness. They both belonged to him, but there the resemblance ended.
He danced the pavanne frequently, but there was no vagueness about him: only indeterminacy. He could do all the wrong steps: they were just in the right order.
He told me I should have trusted his instincts, but I had a train to catch. Besides, he couldn't even pronounce 'Amis', although in other circumstances he could imitate reasonably. He was what he was, or at least what he should in the present tense be, or in the future within the normal field of grammatical speculation become, which is much the same thing.

***

He had a knack for the permanent, but he couldn't avoid it. I am, to this day, unaware why he chose to name his latest book after a type of yoghurt with a brain condition. Perhaps he meant to suggest that yoghurt was a forgettable meal. But he was his own man.

I shall love him until he dies.

Thursday, August 09, 2007

Critics? Pah! What do they know?!!

Got this quote from Tim:
Just as it is inevitable that Throngar the Brave’s plucky little band of misfits will defeat Zograx’s hordes to regain the Chalice of Power, or that Nurse Modest will overcome both rivals and misunderstandings to find herself in the tender arms of Doctor Yearn, so it is inevitable that the hero or heroine of literary fiction will gain knowledge, suffer damage and be moderately redeemed.
Well, I couldn't disagree more. 'Throngar in the Forests of Charn' and 'The Heart of Yearn' are but two shocking examples of critical misinterpretation. There have been many more...

Throngar in the Forests of Charn
Actually, Zograx's hordes gassed Throngar the Brave and his plucky little band, with the exception of Snufflegump, who had informed them of their whereabouts, and subsequently became a mid-level unctionary in Zograx's billion year Reign of Terror, such as the gentle land of Dillypong had never encountered before. This was followed by the dreadful time known as the Aeon of Blood.

The Heart of Yearn
Sadly, after marrying Doctor Yearn, Nurse Modest quickly discovered that Yearn was having an affair with Matron Hussy on the side and, after divorcing Yearn, lived out the final years of her life alone, drinking a type of Latvian cough medicine she had become addicted to, and watching obscure Venezualan dramas on the Soap Opera Channel.

The Night Hour: A Detective Joe Mertz Novel
Billed by critics as yet another exciting thriller in Detective Joe Mertz's beat in the Bronx, in this book, Joe Mertz actually crosses the boys in City Hall one too many times, and gets locked up for five years. By the time he gets out on bail, the Mafia have got clean out of the city, his landlord wants to sell up, and he has a bad cold.

Timmy Has a Cold: With colourful pop-up pictures!
In this book, it is true that little Timmy does go to the hospital with a bad cough, and meets a kindly doctor, but it all goes horribly wrong when the doctor mistakenly performs an amputation on him and Timmy is forced to learn about his 'new life without legs'.

Kingdom of Blood: Book 1
Vergzord The Destroyer decides to declare war on humanity, but in Chapter 2, he stubs his little toe and decides not to. Book 2 in this innovative Fantasy-Horror serial was surprisingly never published.

Pi to four billion places
This handy little chapbook actually has a useful epilogue at the back, so a more accurate title would be Pi to Four Billion Three Hundred and Sixty Seven places.

Pictures of Naked Sexy Women Stroking Iguanadons!
A misleading title, which caused millions of Igauna fans worldwide to buy this book. In fact, there are only six iguanas in this book, compared to sixteen pictures of naked women with komodo dragons, forty-three pictures of naked women with geckos, and twenty-two pictures of naked women with blue-tongue lizards. This book was subsequently the cause of a law suite by the 'Iguanadon Appreciation Society'.

Wednesday, August 08, 2007

On being mistaken for Jane Austen characters...

PHD and POSTMODERNISM,
A novel in three volumes
By the AUTHOR of 'NATION and NOTIONALITY: a Freudian study'

It is a fact universally acknowledged (1) that a student in possession of a large fortune must be in want of a faculty (2).
However little known the feelings or views of such a student upon entering higher studies, this truth is so well fixed in the minds of the surrounding faculties, that he/she/it is considered the rightful property of some one or other of their professors (3).

"My dear Miss Bennet", said her Associate Professor, Smith, to her one day. "Have you noticed that the course on Intertextuality in the Post Grecian World has a student at last?"
"Shut up, sleazebag" said Ms Bennet (4). She had behaved very strangely around him since he had delivered his series of lectures on the Subjectivity of the Male Gaze in the Neo-structural Paradigm.
"But it has," he returned. "Mr Longwinded visited me yesterday and told me all about it. Eventually." (5)
Ms Bennet made no answer.
"Do you not want to know who it is?" cried Smith impatiently.
"You want to tell me, and I have no objection to hearing it," she replied. "Although I'm sure I could find a few in my volume of Russell, if you just gave me a few minutes..."
This was invitation enough.
"You must know, Longwinded says the course is taken by a young student of large fortune from South Yarra; that he came down on Monday in a Prius to see the place; and was so much delighted that he agreed with Ms Morris immediately. There is just the trifling matter of a few papers, an email to the head of the arts faculty, an understandable failure to fill out one of those tedious university entrance applications, and so on, to deal with...."

(EXCERPT FROM PHD and POSTMODERNISM: FOR THE FULL TEXT, VISIT THE UNIVERSITY BOOKSTORE.)

(1) With the exception of the school of Marxist scholars who follow the example of S. Ruttiger (the poor fools!) For a refutation of this position, see the essays by Advar and Etheringham.

(2) "He is so rich, he must be in want of a faculty. In fact, judging from his entrance exams, he is in want of all his faculties, but that cannot be helped." Lervenitov, from her Collected Aphorisms.

(3) See Zerman's paper, 'On The Decline in Funding of Public Education, and the Right to Tax the Rich and Stupid'.

(4) Ms Bennet: Smith was frequently making this mistake - Miss/Ms - to her endless frustration.

(5) "Mr Longwinded visited me yesterday and told me all about it. Eventually." - Which is to say that Mr Longwinded told him eventually. Mr Longwinded was in the habit of visiting frequently, and telling eventually - although his colleagues wished it was the other way around. Longwinded was from the Political Faculty and specialised in speeches.

Tuesday, August 07, 2007

I can't staaaaaaaaaaaaaand it!

"Here I stand," said Martin Luther. "I can do no other."

But how could he have stood there when he didn't know where the there that he was standing was? Perhaps he should have called the Australian Workplace Authority which tells you to "Know Where You Stand". But even if they had told him where he stood, maybe they were just judging where he stood from where they stood without ever really knowing where they stood in the first place.

Perhaps they could have found out where they stood by Standing For Their Rights, along with the union who were standing in for them, but perhaps a stand off would have developed, which would certainly have been difficult to stand. It's certainly hard to come to any understanding of this issue, especially when you don't know what you're standing under, or why you're standing under it in the first place.

And then, there is always the danger that if they stood up, they would have hit their head on whatever it was that they were standing under, which would have hurt. Maybe they should have stood down, though then the problem arises, who are they standing down, and what have they done to deserve standing down? Perhaps they could have avoided responsibility by having a stand in, but that's not a possibility that many people are willing to stand for.

It's all terribly confusing, and on the whole, I'm not sure why I raised it in the first place. Bahhh! This is why I don't talk about politics.

Monday, August 06, 2007

Extra! Artxe!

Performances of 'Oxford English Dictionary: the T-Shirt' to start tomorrow!

'Oxford English Dictionary: the T-shirt'
is due to open for performances on Broadway (Broadway, Sydney, that is) tomorrow, in what is certainly the most underanticipated dramatic show since the 'If you can read this, you are too sober t-shirt' of two years previous.

The t-shirt will be worn by artist Miles Frankly, who has previously appeared in short-running t-shirts, including 'Le Mis: the t-shirt', 'The Producers: the t-shirt', 'I'm with stupid: the t-shirt', 'Fcuk: the t-shirt' and the groundbreaking 'I am wearing a t-shirt' t-shirt that first appeared several months ago, which drew attention to the performativity of masculine cultural traditions, as well as t-shirts.

'Oxford English Dictionary: the T-shirt' will be three acts in duration, with an intermission after the second act, and 58 kilometres in length (63 if the T-shirt goes into later editions).
Attendees at performances of the T-shirt will have full access to the snack bar, and T-shirt related merchandise, such as book, program, the soundtrack of the T-shirt, and t-shirts commemorating the T-shirt, not to mention peanuts.

The production team behind the T-shirt includes sound, lighting, a 70-piece orchestra, fashion designers, 40 t-shirt artistes especially shipped over from the sweatshops of North Korea, 10 etymologists, 5 philologists, two representatives from the RSPCA, one Freudian doctor, and our much-loved Scottish Terrier, Blinky.

The production takes after the bestselling Melbourne performance, 'Oxford English Dictionary: The cheesecake', sold in European delis from one corner of St Kilda to the other. Tickets for performances of the T-shirt go on sale today. Why not buy one for your mother?

Sunday, August 05, 2007

Sit down for your rights!

Perhaps it was the hour, or perhaps it was the fact that I'd just walked from Northcote through Fitzroy to Brunswick, but suddenly I was struck by an inexplicable desire to sit down. It also might have had something to do with the shop window right in front of me, full of seats inviting me to sit down in them in a wide number of enticing and delightful ways.

It is true they were protected by a locked door and a thick layer of glass and a security system. But if a man can't sit down and stretch his own limbs out in someone else's own store, where can he sit down?

Since the dawn of time, one imagines, Man has lived with the strong compulsion to sit down. It is part of what it means to be human. Who knows what we must have done before the epoch of the airmchair, the era of the lounge? One contemplates with mingled curiosity and horror those rude barbaric years, barely perceivable over the vistas of cushions and blankets. Life must have indeed been savage and brief in those years before the armchair was available, and people must have been forced to improvise with whatever was at hand - a stone here, a rock there.

As I gazed at the chairs haloed within the windows of the furniture store, my limbs yearning for comfort, my legs lusting for rest, I seemed to swoon and sigh, and a vision arose before my eyes. I saw myself gliding, unbidden, towards one of these chairs; I saw myself relaxing into their cushioned embrace. Within one hand, I held a book; within another, a pipe from which I took slow contemplative puffs; with a third, I occasionally took sips from a cup of cocoa*. Tears swam unbidden from my eyes as I contemplated the beauty of the occasion. Or perhaps it was the hallucinatory pipe smoke getting in my eyes? It was hard to tell from the other end of my vision.

Yes, I said to myself; yes, I will sit down; I will be at one with that chair, and those pillows: I sounded the barbaric yawp and prepared myself to charge through the glass and sit down - united at last! All things considered, it's a good thing the tram came when it did. Who knows where I might have been forced to sit down if it hadn't? I could have been a second Martin Luther: "Here I sit - I can do no other."

After all, there comes a time in everyone's life when they have to sit down for the rights, and - by heaven or hell, he or she had better take it!

*Astute readers will notice a fantastic element in this vision: in real life, I would wait until after I had finished my pipe before beginning on the cocoa.

Pome

Fatal Hilarity: a two-line epigram

Ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha
Errrrgh.

Coburgia

Every suburb has its eccentricities. In Balaclava, you can walk from the Orthodox Jews on one side of the street right into the transvestites on the other side of the street. In St Kilda, the McDonalds sits almost opposite some of the oldest and best European cake stores in Melbourne. In South Yarra, there are more hair saloons than people have hair. In Thornbury, underpants have a habit of falling into your hands from out ot the proverbial clear blue sky.

In Coburg, we have our fair share of weirdos too.

For some reason, along Reynard Street, there are a lot of goths - kids who, on leaving school and moving from home, feel the mysterious urge to wear spiked collars, wear black make up, and whiten their faces. They can generally be seen walking down the street at night and looking sad.

When I first moved here, there was one guy down the road - he has a house on the corner with garden - seemed to spend all the time in the garden, and none in the house. He'd just stand there, carefully placing himself behind a tree, and wait for you to struggle around the corner with your shopping bags. (He seems to have stopped it now, though.)

There's another house, also on the way to the shopping centre, that has a front garden cluttered with dolls. And they're not Barbie dolls, either - mysterious action figures or cartoon characters, and I have no idea who they are. They're everywhere, sitting all over the verandah and front garden. Their position keeps on changing, too, although I've never actually seen anyone come out of the front door. The dolls used to be dominated by a gigantic Red Indian figurine, that came up to just below my waist height, but he's disappeared.

Another house on the same street had a singing Christmas card lying on the verandah for three or four days. Every time you'd go past it, it would set it off again.

Those places are right next to an abandoned nut factory.

Alongside the train track, that runs from Moreland Road to Bell Street to Upfield, is a bike track that I've walked plenty of times on the way to catch the train to work. There's a Chinese lady there that's often seen walking her dog. She wears sunglasses, a deep Terry Towelling hat, and a face guard. I'm not sure whether it's because she has a long-running cold, or she thinks we have one.

One evening recently, I happened to run into a young Asian couple wandering down the street in a fine drizzle. The guy wasn't overly dressed, but he had his hand on the arm of the girl, who was wearing a voluminous, tent-like rain coat. She was also on roller skates. They continued gliding along the street past me, out of sight.

On another occasion, in the middle of a terrifically hot and dry day in summer, I was walking along the same street. Walking in the other direction was a Japanese woman, carrying a beautiful filigree umbrella (she might have been in a kimono as well, the umbrella caught all my attention) to protect her fine skin from the sun. I'd never seen anything like it before, and I doubt that I'll ever see anything like it again.

Another time I walked passed a guy who was hosing his verandah and front driveway in the middle of the night, possibly a ruse to escape the prying eyes of neighbours (but not bloggers) and elude the water restrictions that were autocratically imposed on us by Steve 'Nice Guy' Bracks. And no, water Nazis, I'm not telling you where his house is.

And this is not to mention the market (where, to this day, a heavily accented Italian guy will harangue you to come in and enjoy the concrete floors, the rapacious crowds of little old ladies, and the forty-two different types of salami!), the cafes (including the possibly tax-evading one that sells incredibly cheap coffee and seems to be run by two gay Lebanese guys and their aunt), several holes in the wall that seem to transport you into mysterious 1980s-style malls, (and one which contains an awesome pie shop), and two Coles supermarkets in incredibly close proximity to one another.

I'm not going to stay in this suburb forever (heck, give me a house with a good rental price and I'll move out tomorrow), but when it comes to odd-bods, freaks and geeks, you can't go better than Coburg.

... though God knows what other Coburg denizens think of the Fedora-wearing, umbrella clutching freak who has a habit of walking through back streets at night, carrying a notepad under one arm and a book in his pocket, and making one-too-many trips to the supermarket...

Saturday, August 04, 2007

A most generous offer

Would you like to pay my gas bill?

UPDATE! - I can give you my phone bill too, if you like. Let no-one say I'm not generous.

Friday, August 03, 2007

Applications for the position of Me have now closed

I feel it's time to make the announcement: over the past couple of weeks, I've held a series of job interviews for the position of myself, a job which I feel certain can be more successfully and productively held by somebody else.

After an extensive interview process, I've decided to grant the position to this radish.



Of course, this radish cannot speak, write, or type, and therefore this blog will be somewhat lacking in my characteristic bon mots, my nonsensical aper├žus, or my insouciant observations. On the plus side, I now grow leaves out of the top of my head.

Please don't do this to me, though. I'm too young to be soupified.

Thursday, August 02, 2007

Minimalist Literature and Maximalist Literature

Minimalist Literature

The!

Maximalist Literature

The end.

Homage to the unknown novel

The book The __________________ of __________________ is a Dickensian fable set in a sprawling Orwellian Britain, told in a portentuous Tolstovian manner and laced with characteristic Dostoyevskian moral ambiguities. The rumbustious plot is positively Shakespearian, bursting at the seams with Voltairean caricatures and superbly-executed Fieldingesque allegories. In essence, it concerns a Joycean and an Austenophile who secretly fall in love with one another while at a Keatsian party of Old Wodehousians. They are tortured by the need to keep their epic, nay, Byronesque love from their fellow Wodehousians, and unaware of each others secret love from one another, the novel takes a sudden, Mercurial/Freudian turn. Wildean bon mots abound, and the centre of the novel is framed by a grandly elegant Spenserian structure, and interlaced with a coruscatingly bawdy plot worthy of Moliere or Chaucer. The sudden diversions into war-torn France give the novel a grand, Homeresque scheme, and the concluding chapters, in which the plot is tied up in an acerbically Popesque style, have a quiet force to them, positively Shelleyean.

All in all, this book can be summed up as a Chestertonian fable, a la Thurber, quasi Perelmanian, and the ne plus ultra of the Faulkneresque. It is a bestseller worthy of King, Brown, Rowling, and Bryson, with a strong dose of Amis/Waugh (Evelyn, not Auberon)/Aldiss/Moorcock/Asimov/Blish/Stapledon, not to mention Tolkien (and we had probably better not.)

It is twenty-eight dollars more than you would consider paying, and one thousand four hundred and thirty-three pages more than you would bother reading. It has been met with wide critical acclaim, all of which can be found on the inside back cover of the book. It can be found in your local bookstore for the next sixty years.

It is, in a word, cabalistic.

Wednesday, August 01, 2007

I am declared a twitty whiner...


Macquarie Dictionary have on their website a Dictionary Wit competition. Every month, the 'Friends of Macquarie Dictionary'* are able to enter the competition with a witty definition of a word, taking after the great Dr Johnson, who was in the habit of making sarcastic gibes about the Scottish and others in his dictionary. (Johnson said of himself: "Lexicographer: a writer of dictionaries, a harmless drudge.") Several previous winners of Macquarie Dictionarie's competition can be found here. The definitions for 'defenestration', 'impotence', and 'politician' are particularly good.

Each month, one of the competition's entrants is given a print copy of the dictionary and declared a Witty Winner!

Well, this afternoon, I got an email:

Congratulations Timothy
You are the winner of July's Dictionary Wit competition.

How about that, eh? I'll refrain from telling you my definition, as they haven't put it on their website yet, but I'll let you all know as soon as it's up.

Excelsior!


UPDATE! - I've always wanted to see my name in lights (yeah, right), but on the front page of a dictionary website will do. I'm up!

*I gather it's a little like being a member of The Argonauts, except there are no radios involved.
Email: timhtrain - at - yahoo.com.au

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Me person. Live in world. Like stuff. Need job. Need BRAINS! (DROOLS IN THE MANNER OF ZOMBIES) Ergggggh ...