Friday, September 29, 2006

Not TV Week

So much for the planned blog series about my television viewing this week. I thought the task was going to be easier than it turned out to be; that’s what I get for underestimating the energy it takes to watch television and write about it critically. I think I got slightly overwhelmed thinking about a particular aspect of television in relation to my thesis work, so my attempts to write something about my everyday viewing pleasures during my leisure time resulted in a slight brain melt-down. More than slightly, actually. ‘It’s not that easy to explain’.

From Milkbar: An Australian Journal of Small Press

Anyway, I hear there are no rules when it comes to this blogging caper, so perhaps ‘TV Week’, the series will be published over a few weeks. Meanwhile, I’ve been inspired by Tim Sterne’s post at Sterne and cross-posted at Sarsaparilla about the books he isn’t reading at the moment. I do have a couple of stacks of books, mainly of the not-generally-interesting scholarly imprint variety, but rather than list those, I thought I’d stick with the medium of television and tell you all about the television I haven’t watched this week.

ABC News

I’m fibbing a bit by listing this one, because I did watch it on a couple of occasions—it is my preferred news bulletin—but the news often has the effect of infuriating me, and that wasn’t the best thing for me this week. My ire is usually raised when the news reports on John Howard’s pronouncements. For example, I see that Howard is capable of exercising his power against mining and environmental destruction when it threatens the sites which he holds to be sacred, like the Kokoda Trail in PNG. If only he so vigorously defended the values of all the citizens of Australia he represents.

The other news item that caused my blood pressure to elevate was the Qld Police Union’s reaction to the State Coroner’s finding about the Aboriginal death in custody that sparked the Palm Island riots. The sophistry they engaged in upon learning the coroner’s finding that the police were responsible for Mulrunji’s death is more than distressing. I was interested to note the ABC’s wording which went something like ‘the police officer blamed for the death of ...’. ‘Blamed’ seems to me to be a curious word in this context; doesn’t it suggests a hint of over-reaction and irrationality of behalf of the coroner? Why not say ‘the police officer was found responsible for the death of ...’. Wouldn’t that wording be far less emotive and therefore more appropriate for a news service?

Four Corners

I had a meeting with my supervisor this week and we spoke about how viewers come to define whether a programme is a ‘quality’ programme or not. I had just read a chapter of a book that discussed an audience survey where viewers were asked to select from the top-rating shows those that they nominated as ‘quality’ and those that they ‘appreciated’. There was a disjuncture between the figures attributed to each of the two categories, showing that viewers used different criteria for their nominations in the two categories. The author speculated that because the viewers made a judgement about the ‘quality’ programmes they therefore must have watched them. I expressed to my supervisor that I didn’t necessarily agree with the author’s assertion, and the example I used to explain my position was Four Corners. I have barely ever watched Four Corners, but I know it is ‘quality’ investigative journalism. I know this because of the way it is framed in the ABC’s promotions; the way, over the years, the reports have been used by other news’ services as a primary source; the way it has sparked Royal Commissions—in particular the Fitzgerald Inquiry in Qld and the AWB Oil for Food Inquiry; and the way it is discussed by intelligent and learned people around me. If I was asked, I would say unequivocally that it is ‘quality’ television, but I certainly couldn’t claim that I had ever ‘appreciated’ it.

Conversely, in view of the comments about Bones that have appeared on this blog over the last few days, I can unequivocally state that Bones is not ‘quality’ television, yet I would rate my appreciation of it quite highly.

Enough Rope

I’ve never been a regular view of this programme. I watched it in the beginning, but then it clashed with two other programmes I liked better. More recently, I’ve watched it when someone I’m particularly interested in has been interviewed: James Blunt, Lily Tomlin and Jamie Oliver, for example.

I’m not all that enamoured of Denton’s interviewing style, although, again, I know it’s considered to be very good, afterall he’s won a Walkley Award. I’ve also had the experience of being able to have a conversation with any academic sort I’ve ever encountered at the post-seminar coffee sortie, if I mention that week’s guest on Enough Rope.

If I had to articulate what makes me wary of the show, I would say it’s the sort of therapeutic probing of his guests that Denton undertakes. I feel slightly uncomfortable and embarrassed on their behalf, I think. Does a ‘good’ interview necessarily require this kind of messy, emotional surgery? I suppose for that reason, I’ve rather enjoyed it when, on the occasions I’ve watched it, his guests have refused to be drawn into what seems to be Denton’s therapeutic imperative. On the one hand, James Blunt’s refusal to provide the graphic details of his role in the British peace keeping forces in Kosovo was appropriate. On the other hand, Lily Tomlin was just delightful when she demonstrated she hadn’t even stepped foot on the psychotherapeutic planet that Denton’s interviews inhabit.

Tuesday, September 26, 2006

TV Week: Monday

Australian Idol: Live Verdict

Another evening of cross-platform, network, former Idols, and product promotions. Marcia's got a new album out; the Young Divas and Guy Sebastian will be turning up at a Westfield near you; Channel 10 is the home of the AFL; surely there was something in there about the website and the mobile TV programme too? It seems the elimination of Country-inflected contestant Klancie Keough was the least of the Live Verdict's concerns.

Is there any point being being cynical about the marketing vehicle par excellence that is the Idol phenomenon? I would argue: not really, you might as well condemn commercial television all together... Oh, wait!

The way I understand Idol is not as a Reality television programme, or even a Reality/Game Show. It puzzles me that Idol has generally been placed in this genre by journalists and scholars alike, when it seems closer in its format to the Variety tradition of television. Perhaps Inside Idol, the behind-the-scenes show of previous years, might be characterised as a Reality programme, but even that seems vastly different to me than the fly-on-the-wall nature of something like Big Brother or Survivor.

Returning to the main programme, I'm reminded of the format of other shows that combine the talents of a host or hosts, intercut with musical and comedy performances, and various pre-recorded clips. Remember The Donny & Marie Show? What about The Sonny and Cher Comedy Hour? For an Australian example, there are the antics of Graham Kennedy and subsequent hosts of In Melbourne Tonight, a programme that's remembered in part because of the unique style of Kennedy's advertorial deliveries. Even contemporary show's like Video Hits hosted by former Idol contestant, Axle, are a continuation of the Variety-Musical-Comedy Sketch Show that Idol's format is indebted to.

Perhaps what's different about Australian Idol, from the shows mentioned above, is the proliferation of the ways to generate income from the programme. Even then, the interactivity of sms voting and commenting creates another kind of live audience. Another development in the genre is the multi-platform smorgasbord that accompanies the free-to-air programme. I've certainly visited the website--how quickly was Klancie's face shaded in the elimination shroud? It seemed indecent--but I'm yet to see the behind-the-scenes mobile delivered programme.

I miss Inside Idol from previous years. I liked seeing the contestants work with Erina and John, and seeing the care afforded them in the house by Simon. It's wanting to know about these aspects that will probably lead me to watching the mobile-delivered material (is it a programme?) at least once, perhaps more if it's not as expensive as I imagine it will be.

But first I have to recover from the disappointment of Klancie's elimination; and the confusion of recognition that people actually want those cookie cutter 'RockGods' Mutto and Chris to stay in the competition. WTF.

Sunday, September 24, 2006

In The Midst Of Life

Today was a candle buying day. I considered catching a bus to the city—okay, further into the city—but I was really craving a visit to Sol Breads so I could sit in the window alcove and look at the weathervane and the strange patterned shapes of the newly blossoming trees against the sky. I also wanted to eat an almond or chocolate croissant, accompanied by ginger and lemon green tea, since I’d had two cups of coffee already upon waking.

I decided to forgo the CBD, thinking I could easily get a new candle from one of the many small gift and home-wares shops between my flat and Sol’s, and the moment I thought that I decided I would much rather support a local, small business than a large corporation.

I wandered into one of the new shops that seem to have proliferated in this area recently. Its displays were organised according to colour rather than product type. There was a woman standing in front of the pink section and there were people looking at the green section in between us. It was too difficult to see if there were any pink scented candles because a long table had been placed in the middle of the shop, making for a very narrow walkway on either side. I was likely to knock something very valuable off its perch with the newspaper I had in a bag over my shoulder if I attempted to squeeze past anyone.

My only option was to look at the beige/neutral section, where I had spied some promising-looking candles. The candles looked nice but it turned out they were made of paraffin, and I can’t abide them. They create too much smoke, no matter how vigilant you are with trimming the wick.

I left that shop and made my way to one that sells organic and fair trade products. The first thing I saw when I walked through the door was organic drinking chocolate and since I’ve been missing organic cocoa for a while, I thought I would try the drinking chocolate. I chose a variety laced with chilli and cinnamon: Xocolatl, which the label advises is pronounced ‘Choco-la’tl’. The label also offers that this beverage has been formulated to ‘re-initiate [chocolate] to a status of reverence and respect’, à la its role in pan-Mesoamerican rituals and festivities.

Well, I love chocolate, but perhaps I’ve treated it more like a concubine subject to my whims, than with the reverence afforded it in the ritual of the marriage vows of the Mayan tradition. Sipping the prepared Xocolatl drink now, I think the heat of the chilli will garner due respect for the beverage from me forthwith. Still, I will probably draw the line at heating my milk on a stovetop and ‘stirring in a continuous clockwise circle eleven times, [followed by] eleven counter-clockwise stirs’. And not only because I ruined my smallest saucepan a few weeks ago.

With my impulse purchase out of the way, I turned my attention to finding a candle. I decided on a hand-rolled beeswax candle that promises to burn for 70 hours. This candle is a palimpsest; it’s a scroll where the hexagons of the honeycomb are traceable beneath the painted Latin inscription, which reads: Aliis volat propriis. I’m not sure what that means, or even if those are double ‘i’s and not ‘ü’s. I strongly suspect the Latin might have something to do with a quote I found on the inside of the card packaging wrapped around the candle: ‘Do not follow where the path may lead. Go instead where there is no path and leave a trail’ Ralph Waldo Emerson.

At this point, I think I have to have a small rant about all this neo-liberal individualist new age shite I have to ingest along with my ethically produced purchases. I’m happy that the Xocolatl is ‘Certified Organic by International Certification Services, Inc.’ and, that since I’ve purchased a FAIR TRADE CERTIFIED™ product, I’m ‘directly supporting a better life for farming families through fair prices, direct trade, community development, and environmental stewardship’, but I do not want to read that one of the ingredients, in addition to ‘evaporated cane juice, cacao powder, unsweetened chocolate, chilies [sic], [and] cinnamon’ is ‘of course, love’.

If I could be sure it wouldn’t attract a bunch of deviants to my blog I’d type a string of expletives here. I’ll leave my exact words to your imagination.

Now, I’m convinced of the importance, nay the imperative, to ensure that as a consumer I use the limited power I have in that role to support, where I can afford to, those employers and organisations who are committed to environmentally sustainable practices and to the genuine well-being of their employees and their communities, but why does a beeswax candle need to contain ‘passion’ (oh, do not get me started on the evacuation of ‘passion’!), and why does its cotton wick need to be woven with ‘integrity’?

I suppose I’m curious as to why a commitment to socially accountable practices isn’t enough of a marketing device, which is, after all, what presenting this information on the various labels is about, when such practices should be de rigueur? Why does social accountability need to supplemented with rather dubious spiritual advice in which ancient civilisations are Romanticised and individual ‘journeys’ are paramount? To take the Emerson quote literally, though I’m sure it wasn’t meant to be, one could argue that taking your 4WD off the beaten path is destructive to the environment and everyone would be better off if you took a group tour. Hmmm, perhaps all I’ve succeeded in demonstrating with that argument is the malleability of quotes to suit any position you might ever wish to promote.

Still, I’ve been annoyed for a while now with the hijacking of movements for social and environmental sustainability by every self-appointed, flunky guru out to make a quick buck. Even while I was eating my breakfast at Sol’s, I picked up a magazine from a stack of the same and started to read about the author of a book Higher and Higher who asserted that the only important thing in life is the inner journey, or words to that effect. I nearly gagged on my croissant. The first ‘Higher’ of the title referred to the author’s days of drug addiction, while the second ‘Higher’ was about his spiritual evolution after giving up drugs. Suddenly I was transported back to the Religious Education classes I attended at school, where every now and then we were visited by recovering drug addicts from America, who to my mind were inappropriately excited about the compulsory nature of these classes in the Queensland public school system.

From where does the assumption arise that because you care about the ethics of what you eat, you’re also open to this creepy propaganda that preys on vulnerabilities?

Next time, if I haven’t finished reading The Vivisector, I’ll take that with me to read instead. Even bloody old Hurtle Duffield who takes perverse pleasure in prodding at the wounds that are other people’s weaknesses would be better than the vampires of the new age. Hurtle never makes any claim that he is doing anything other than satisfying his own need to paint—which is at least honest in comparison to those who set themselves up as higher authorities and promise salvation all for the price of a book purchase.

Okay, so that wasn’t such a small rant. Apologies.

Here’s what remains of the slice of fetta sourdough pizza I thought I could also fit in my belly after I finished an almond croissant:

Here’s a picture of the walnut loaf I bought the last time I wrote about Sol’s. It’s topped with cheese and the beetroot chutney from The Red Elephant Shop:

On the way home I looked up and saw a dead possum, frozen in limbo, stretched, between two electricity wires.

Friday, September 22, 2006


Oh, Blogger’s down for maintenance. There goes the big stick of the immediacy of being online for my writing exercise posts. It’s back to composing in Word, so I can get these thoughts out in a timely manner. Still, since I am online—in a pathetic kind of dial-up way—at the moment, perhaps between checking email and Bloglines I can still retain the same sense of urgency.

So many new television programs have started this week and last week on free-to-air, that I’m in something of a tizz. How do people cope with Pay TV, I ask you? There is already too much to watch.

I missed the first episode of Jamie’s Kitchen: Australia last week. I’m not sure why. Something to do with that being the day of the thesis prospectus presentation and collapsing in a heap for a few seconds before picking myself up and marking that stack of assignments. Anyway, I watched the second episode last night, and I remembered my thoughts when I watched the first Jamie’s Kitchen. Bloody hell, some of those kids have lived the worst lives, no wonder they’re so spitting mad. Of course, being a chef won’t be a life of glamour. Crap hours, crap pay, not so great conditions of employment, and the discerning public?—well let’s not go there.

In a way I feel like I’m watching my brother’s trajectory. When my mother remarried, after me and my sisters had left home, she chose a right bastard, a freakin’ sociopath. Suffice to say, my brother’s life wasn’t that great and he ended up leaving school and home. He got work as a kitchen hand and managed to turn up to work often enough to prove himself capable of committing to an apprenticeship. He was helped by some really good people and so he became a chef. I think that’s why I have a soft spot for this show and the work Jamie Oliver does. But it also seems to me that the whole Fifteen concept is just a good, socially-committed thing to do.

I know it’s wrong to begrudge the prospective students the oysters they spit out during the tasting sessions, but I am weeping for the unappreciated briny, creamy morsels. Give them to me! Give them to me!

By making the decision to watch Jamie’s Kitchen, I had to forgo Celebrity Survivor. Normally I would tape one show while watching the other, but it’s a long sad story about the DVR, the resurrection of the VCR, and the stack of videocassettes I threw away a long time ago. I still haven’t watched the last episode of Boston Legal; I’ve got half of Rome to watch and all of the first episode of the latest season of The Sopranos to watch—even though I’ve already seen the first three episodes of this season. I make no sense.

After Jamie’s Kitchen, I switched over briefly, and caught the extinguishing of Guy Leech’s torch. No tears from me. He and Wayne, the former motorcycle champion, got my goat the way they were always plotting to get rid of the women. There was such a sense of entitlement about their own right to be there, as if it was obvious the women should go. Not to me. It always fascinates me about Survivor that perceived physical strength or lack thereof is the sole criterion for wishing people off the island, as if the challenges don't test mental acuity and balance and flexibility, which women are pretty good at. Witness the challenge where the contestants had to stand on a beam in the middle of the ocean. The object of the exercise was for each person to take a quoit from one end of the beam to the other, while making their way around their team mates standing along the beam. Who made the bright decision for Imogen to sit that challenge out? Tiny and flexible would have won the day, instead that (unmentionable) David Oldfield thought he would go first and clearly he isn't terribly balanced. (Well, I amuse myself). It has been quite interesting watching Oldfield the politician at work I think.

Another program I missed the Australian season premiere of this week was Oz. Again with the cassette problem. I'll have this worked out by next week. Of course, Oz has been over for years in the US; it's probably for sale on DVD at some ridiculously discounted price.

I switched back to watch the premiere of Jericho, just in case it turns out to be must-see-TV. My first impressions are that it's a strange amalgam of Cold War and post-9/11 paranoia. The Cold War aspect arises from the premise of a nuclear explosion (possibly multiple) and the notion of the post-holocaust survivors trying to come to grips with their fears. In terms of its tone it reminds me a bit of Z for Zachariah, even though there are a lot of survivors. It could be the children.

The post-9/11 paranoia aspect is evident in the representation of the town of Jericho as a microcosm of contemporary America after a devastating attack. Politicians bicker amongst themselves; emergency service personnel are ubiquitous; and the buzzword is 'terrorist'. At this stage there are a couple of outsiders who have already displayed great leadership potential. Jake Green played by Skeet Ulrich is the estranged son of the town's mayor. His father deems him a wastrel, and we're not quite sure of his past, but we know he saves a bus load of children, so he's alright. The other mysterious character who has an air of competency about him in the aftermath of a nuclear holocaust is new-to-the-town African-American man, Robert Hawkins played by Lennie James.

Jericho also borrows from Lost, which itself borrowed from Survivor, in the creation of an 'island' community and trying to solve a series of mysteries, while ensuring their personal survival and that of their civilsation.

This post will be finished soon, but I couldn't stop without mentioning how much I've come to love Bones. Yes, it's very much in the vein of a gazillion other forensic investigation shows, but it's the characterisation that makes this one stand out. Dr Temperance Brennan is an unapologetic over-achiever and even when she shows emotion it's not in the context of sappy sentimentality àla the two episodes of House I've watched. Her involvement in her cases arises out of her intellectual curiosity rather than clichés about emotional females.

I've also had a bit of a fan moment with the appearance of David Boreanaz as FBI agent, Seeley Booth. Of course I liked him in Buffy and Angel, but seeing him play a regular guy—one that eats and drinks, no less, to say nothing of going out in direct sunlight—well, I love his comic ability. It's perfectly suited to drama.

Roll Credits.

Tuesday, September 19, 2006

Fyling Circus

There was a fierce competition between possible titles for this post tonight. You see, I've finally finished marking that stack of ninety-seven assignments, and amongst those 97,000 words + bibliographies and appendices I've read there has been a lot of material to inspire a week's worth of pun-filled blog post titles about the process of marking.

I decided on 'Fyling Circus' for this post, because there has been something rather Monty Pythonesque about the last few days. It has been a whirl of coloured folders and encroaching numbness, interspersed with bursts of brilliance from outstanding student researchers and writers, followed by moments of unintentional joy brought about by typographical errors overlooked in hastily printed essays and malapropisms from young people still honing their vocabularies.

Ha! Monty Python wish they had thought of the 'Fyling Circus'. I imagine John Cleese sitting on an ergonomic chair with wheels and pushing himself from one side of an office to the other, using his very long legs, showing off his sock covered ankles, in a frenzy of confusion about where to file the folders he is gripping in his hands. I'm sure the room would be filled with stacks of folders, and he'd probably end up crashing into them or running over someone entering the office. Either way, the sketch would end with Cleese screaming and buried underneath a mountain of files.

But perhaps I shouldn't be laughing so heartily. Afterall, the reason why I rejected the other options for blog post titles was because I didn't want to be a hypocrite. I decided against 'There, Their, They're', which would have been a reference to the comfort I needed after wading through these assignments, because just yesterday I posted a comment to another blog and after I clicked Publish, I realised I'd written 'there' instead of 'their'. D'oh! (The assignments were on television, so I've given myself permission to make lame references to The Simpsons).

It just goes to show you can never relax when it comes to spelling, punctuation, grammar and expression. One must be eternally vigilant, even if you fancy yourself quite good with words.

Another possible title that was soon discarded was 'Ethically Diverse'. This title would have alluded to my debate over whether to mark in pencil, which would have allowed me to review any grades where I felt I'd been too impatient in the moment, or in pen, in which case I would have to stand by my first impressions. The dilemma for me arises because before now I have always marked in pencil, just in case I make the wrong decision. On this occasion I decided to mark in pen because I really couldn't afford the time to second guess every mark for every criteria for every essay and meet the deadline. It turns out that taking up the pen worked to focus my thoughts; there was no going back when I wrote in a margin about the need to provide evidence from the text to support the rather general claim being made. Once I'd scribbled a directive about how to improve the argument, there was no opportunity to reward the glimmer of evidence found, only after a third reading, that perhaps, alright, some specific detail had been mentioned.

In the case of the proposed 'Ethically Diverse', the student had clearly meant 'ethnically diverse' when describing the student population of Heartbreak High. 'No doubt, that too', I wrote, 'but I think you mean ethnically'. I could have used this as a title, as it turns out. I just had this moment of doubt when I wondered whether 'ethnically' worked the same way as 'publicly', which I have been know to misspell as 'publically'. There is a word 'ethnical', so 'ethnically' is okay. Phew! In fact there is a word 'publical', but it hasn't really been in use since 1440 according to the OED.

Sigh. It's all so tricky this English language business.

I hope I haven't revealed any information that might be identifiable to the general public about specific students. I don't mean to laugh at students, it's just that coming across these blips provides some welcome relief amid the chore of marking, which, truly, isn't all that fun. That said, I think even the student who wrote that 'Days of Our Lives gyrates around the Horton family', will forgive me my reaction to the mental image they provoked of a scantily clad Chippendale shaking his bootie in old Alice Horton's face! An image like that will sustain me until the next round of essays is delivered.

Sunday, September 17, 2006

The Dogpossum Tour

This is another of those writing exercise inspired post, where I sit down for a set period of time and just write about whatever comes into my head. Well, actually in the case of this blog, the conditions are a bit more restricted. Here, I'm trying to produce posts that will capture my thoughts about a specific thing or event that I think you might be interested in. I'm experimenting with writing this way, because I spend too much time composing posts, which is not a bad thing in itself, but if I want to post more than once a week at the moment, in the middle of marking and other deadlines--and I do--then this is the only way I'll manage it.

I wanted to post about the day Dogpossum's Squeeze came to town. It was yesterday when he turned up on my doorstep in Brisbane. I 'd talked to Dogpossum the night before, while I was standing on the corner of Adelaide and Edward Streets waiting to meet Dr. H, before we went off to a house party in honour of one of our friends who has completed his PhD. It can be done, I hear. Dogpossum's just submitted too, did you know that? Anyway, there I was talking into my phone, which is exactly like the one all the girls on Australian Idol have, organising for DP's Squeeze to contact me. I think I must be fifteen years old at heart--whenever I hear those disparaging descriptions of adolescents and their text messaging antics, I feel an uncomfortable sense of self-recognition.

I spent yesterday morning marking, and then I heard from DP's Squeeze. Suddenly I had to put on my 'Welcome to Brisbane' tourist guide hat. Where would he like to go? I alighted on the idea of 'The Dogpossum Tour of Brisbane', which involved going and viewing various places that Dogpossum frequented during the time I knew her in Brisbane.

The first stop was The New Farm Deli for some breakfast for DP's Squeeze and some lunch for me. Fancy sandwiches and spaghetti were consumed. I spotted DP's honours supervisor at one point, as she came from the supermarket, but I wasn't quick enough to catch her attention and introduce DP's Squeeze to one of her intellectual/teaching heroines. We looked at the big cheeses and the hanging salamis in the window of the New Farm Deli as we ate. There's nothing I can show a Melbourne person about mediterranean food. There was a bit of sushi and where to find excellent Thai food talk though. I haven't mentioned the effect DP's Squeeze's t-shirt had on the waitress. She approached our table and read: 'In Case of Emergency Break Dance', before bursting into laughter.

It was a pretty crap day weather wise. Queensland didn't live up to the promise of its tourist slogan, but no-one who lives here cares about sunny weather anymore. It just means we're heading towards Level 4 water restrictions.

Continuing the Dogpossum Tour of Brisbane, I got DP's Squeeze to drive past her old flat. On the way, I pointed out the place where Dogpossum first took up swing dancing. Okay, the sequence in which we saw these sights is a bit unclear. We had a look at the Brisbane Powerhouse, but it was pretty uneventful. We went to West End, where I pointed out the building that caused such a fuss when it first went up, the harbinger of the suburb's gentrification in all its excessive, attempted multicultural mish-mashed referenced glory. I showed Dogpossum's Squeeze, the famous Mick's Nuts, the squishy little bulk supply shop for all the olives I could ever consume. The service is old-fashioned. You stand there and they gather things up for you. Sometimes there's an old man sitting on a chair near the fridge recovering from the effort of his walk to the shop. I thought we would be able to see the University from the West End ferry stop, but we couldn't. I pointed in the general direction and we talked about the bends in the river.

We ended up at South Bank, walking through a man-made rainforest and running for shelter under a Nepalese Peace Pagoda, while the rain bucketed down. Inside there was what appeared to be an impromptu poetry reading, perhaps it was part of the Writers' Festival. We had a look at the man-made beach too. The wading pools smelled strongly of chlorine, but the seagulls and ibis didn't seem to mind. We walked along the award winning arbour, covered in bougainvillia, but recently savagely trimmed. I've always been reminded of a kind of sinister yellow-brick road and dangerous Hansel and Gretel inspired woods whenever I've walked along it before. I refrained from sharing my impression of with Dogpossum's Squeeze. Anyway, I think it's been transformed for me by Jaya Savige's poem about Brisbane which I read recently in the first issue of the ALR supplement of The Australian. What a wonderful rambling, expansive Brisbane poem.

By this time I was ready for a coffee, so we went and ate sweet dessert type concoctions, decorated with sprigs of lavender, and looked at the rain. The rain in Brisbane is warmer according to Dogpossum's Squeeze. If it were Melbourne, he wouldn't have been sitting there in a t-shirt. And he tells me that people don't run through the rain without any protection the way so many seemed to be doing. See, you're not likely to freeze in Brisbane when you're wet.

The day ended with a great big walk along the river at South Bank. We walked over a small bridge, curious as to where it went, and onto something called Picnic Island. At that point I wanted Dogpossum's Squeeze to play the ring tone on his phone for me again. It's a song about pirates. 'I'm a pirate, dum, de, something... Ahoy!' I tried to think if I knew anything about one of the buildings across the river that Dogpossum's Squeeze was asking about. I didn't, but said 'Look at the pedestrian bridge. It was built for the Goodwill Games'. Earlier I had attempted to explain Expo '88.

The students whose papers I'm marking might want me to give up my day job, but I don't think it'll be to become a tour guide. Still, if I don't mention the hire car, I think DP's Squeeze had a nice day. I was glad to be able to return the favour for the generous hospitality he's shown me when I've turned up on his and Dogpossum's doorstep.

Thursday, September 14, 2006


Tonight, I've come home and decided to sit at the computer and blog about something, anything. Why? Well, it's time to end my self-imposed ban from blogging that I declared on Monday. I'm just going to sit and write here for fiteen, maybe twenty minutes, and whatever ends up written down I will post. This is the kind of exercise I did when I took a writing class at the youth theatre I once attended. We'd be given the task of writing whatever for a really short period of time, not as long as five minutes, if I recall correctly, and the object of the exercise was not to censor yourself. It's quite a difficult thing to do. Even now, every now and again, I'll do a quick series of backspaces to delete a half thought word that I've decided won't do. There, I've just paused and read back what I've written so far. I'm sure that wasn't allowed when I did the exercise before.

I suppose the trouble is that I've been censoring myself all week. This is part of the reason why I had the blog moratorium. Not just for my own blog, but others as well. Until this afternoon I hadn't checked my bloglines subscriptions for days. Is this making any sense? I don't think it does, but I'm trying not to read back what I've written at this point. It's so difficult. My eyes keep straying. I decided not to read any other blogs or post on my own because I can't help getting caught up in the whole social activity of blogging, and this week I had to work on my thesis prospectus--a kind of rehearsal for the confirmation--that I delivered today. It went well. People seem interested. My supervisor said nice things to me. My project is 'meaty'. Heh.

So, everything is all calm again. In fact I'm feeling quite wide awake and I shouldn't. I've spent all week stressing about trying to give a perfect presentation. Lot's of 'Oh my Gods!' and 'I don't have a thesis statement!' and 'What the hell is this about again?'. Days have flown by and all I've been doing is censoring myself. Crap. Crap. Crap. Crap. Crap. Apparently the effect of all that stress rendered my presentation as something that had been very thoroughly worked on. Now all I have to do is mark eighty assignments. They're short ones, but still the deadline for that is close. What am I doing sitting here blogging?

Well, the Brisbane Writers' Festival started yesterday and I really didn't think I'd get the chance to go to anything, but then I read my emails and there were some free tickets on offer to the one session that I really wanted to see. So that's where I've just been, at the Brisbane Powerhouse seeing John Tulloch talk about his experience of being on the London Underground when it was bombed on the 7th of July last year. He was turned into a bit of a poster boy of the victims of 7/7 in the UK media, and now he's written a book about it, the bombing and the media use of his image afterwards. I will probably write more about this at some stage. But I've less than five minutes left to write before I promised I would stop, and now tiredness is setting in. I ran into my associate supervisor when I sat down with a friend who I had run into earlier on the ferry and discovered he was also going to the event. Running into A/Supe was fortuitous since I would never have talked to John Tulloch afterwards if she hadn't drawn A and I into a discussion with him. He is appalled at The Australian's review of his book, he believes it misinterprets and misrepresents his work. I am not surprised.

Oh, my eyes are straying back, over what I have written. All those long sentences. Very Virginia. I wanted to relate the story of the ferry travel. We got off at Sydney Street instead of New Farm. We had to run past the joggers who were out for exercise, in order to make the session in time. We were 10 minutes late, and the session didn't start for another 15, leaving plenty of time to order a nice tall flute of sparkling wine.

Friday, September 08, 2006

Training Tiara


'Alright, I'll try it on'.


'It's a bit tricky keeping it on straight.'

'Not moving seems to work.'



Friday, September 01, 2006

Tardy Book Meme

I have not been keeping on top of my blog reading and as a consequence I missed a meme tag that was issued to me earlier this month by Lucy from Always Listen to Your Pig-Puppet. But now on this rainy day, when I should be doing my thesis, I thought I would catch up on some blog reading and take up the meme challenge. With profuse apologies to Lucy for my tardiness.

One Book That Changed Your Life
The dictionary, or rather becoming aware of how to use the dictionary effectively. It's more than a spelling aid, it opens up worlds of meaning when you encounter unfamiliar words in your reading. I remember my favourite English teacher talking about the word 'cicatrice' from My Brother Jack, and how she had looked it up in the dictionary to discover it was the most perfect word in the context it was used. I wanted to have experiences like that.

One Book You Have Read More Than Once
I tend not to read books more than once. Here I have to resort to books I've written a thesis chapter on: Loaded by Christos Tsiolkas, Praise by Andrew McGahan. I've recently re-read The Great Gatsby on a voluntary basis, but I don't think I really read it properly the first time.

One Book You Would Want On A Desert Island
When ThirdCat did this meme, I was very impressed by her answer, which was some kind of manual on desert island survival. I think if I could have only one book, that would be my preference too, but if the matter of surviving was taken care of then Don Quixote because in it there are stories within stories. And if I were that isolated, I would probably finish it.

One Book That Made You Laugh
The Blindman's Hat by Bernard Cohen. Oh, that fluffy little white dog, Muffy!

One Book That Made You Cry
Lucy said that Markus Zusak's The Book Thief made her cry, and it had the same effect on me too. Another book that elicited strong emotion from me was Siri Hustvedt's What I Loved. I have wanted to write about this book in more detail, but I truly don't think it's possible without ruining the experience for someone else. I've just had a look at my bookshelves and was reminded that it took me two days to recover from reading Candy by Luke Davies.

One Book You Wish You Had Written
I don't know that I really think this way. Perhaps I can offer that during the time I fancied myself as a potential writer of novels, there were a couple of authors who used to make me think I had something to say: Milan Kundera, especially The Joke and The Book of Laughter and Forgetting; and Paul Auster, particularly The Invention of Solitude. I could also probably add Roddy Doyle for Paddy Clark Ha Ha Ha and The Barrytown Trilogy (The Snapper and The Van, more than The Commitments).

One Book You Wish Had Never Been Written
That Eye the Skyby Tim Winton. It put me off Tim Winton forever. I hated the way the women were punished thoughout the narrative after expressing the vaguest of feminist sentiments: the grandmother went mad in a rocking chair in the back room, while the daughter harmed herself with self-inflicted cigarette burns before going off to meet a dubious fate in the bush that hinted at sexual assault. Meanwhile, the father who had been injured arose Christ-like from near-death out of a baptismal-like bath, reborn to take his place at the head of his family; and the son kept seeing prophetic visions in the cookie jars, because his naive view of the world, unsullied by any l institutional mediation, was apparently clear and true. All that self-appointed prophet, I-don't-believe-in-organised-religion-but-I-am-the-leader-of- my-own-spirituality made me want to drink Kool-Aid. I have a particular objection to Tim Winton's linking of white, male spirituality to the land in a kind of psuedo-envirnomentalist way. It just looks like another vile mutation of colonialism to me.

One Book You Are Currently Reading
The White Earth by Andrew McGahan

One Book You Have Been Meaning To Read
Next on my list, after The Vivisector, is Tuvalu by Andrew O'Connor. If I could get hold of Wegener's Jigsaw by Clare Dudman, or Siri Hustvedt's other novels, The Blindfold and The Enchantment of Lily Dahl I would like to read them too. This is the problem when you don't have a credit card, you can't just order things online, you have to rely on bookshops. The bookshops in Brisbane haven't been very good on these books, they tell me that Wegener's Jigsaw is out of stock, but I learned from the author's blog that it's about to be remaindered!

Dear readers of Galaxy, if you find any of these books on your travels, please think of me. I will gratefully reimburse you.

Now Tag Five People
Everyone seems to have done this already, but if you haven't and want to, consider yourself tagged. Let me know if you take up the tag after reading this post.

I noticed that Lucy has since posted another book-related meme, so I thought I'd do that one too:

• Grab the nearest book.
• Open the book to page 123.
• Find the fifth sentence.
• Post the text of the next four sentences.
• Don't cheat by looking for a book with more literary/intellectual credibility.

The book on the desk in front of me was A Plea For Eros by Siri Hustvedt; clearly I'd half imagined a blog post on it, celebrating the fact that she's done a PhD on Dickens and is crazily smart in the way that I like. I think she might qualify for nerdy nerd status. I was also going to reflect on the topic of self-revelation, wondering about what seem to me to be the similarities between published books and blogs.

Anyhoo, the fifth sentence on page 123, and the following four:
An acerbic, often cynical film reviewer for The New Yorker ended his column with a heartfelt statement about love. He seemed to mean it. My brother-in-law, a sculptor, reported a conversation that he had with fellow artists who said they were rethinking their work. For a brief time, photographs of firefighters and policemen replaced pictures of celebrities in the tabloids and on magazine covers. The news channels dropped commercials from their coverage, as if they knew that alternating film footage from the site, where rescue workers were digging for pieces of the dead, with ads for dish washing liquid or an allergy drug would be unacceptable.
I want to reveal the next sentence as well:
But by now, this talk of a cultural sea change is mostly gone.