Thursday, February 28, 2008

The only problem is, surely, when you've run out of it

I feel I have blogged about this before but book titles are all important. Oh okay maybe not all important but they are important, damnit. Even more so these days when the Dan Brown's of the world, resplendant with their shiny covers and dull titles, sometimes threaten to overwhelm the rest of us.

Titles like The Man Who Mistook His Wife for a Hat or the similarly titled but very very different The Man Who Was Thursday are the equivalent of movie trailers: they wet our appetite and make us want to pick up the book in question. At least they do for me.

So I have enjoyed this year’s shortlist of contenders for The Bookseller’s so-called diagram prize for the oddest book title of the year, my favourites of which must be I Was Tortured by the Pygmy Love Queen, How to Write a How to Write Book and Cheese Problems Solved.

Possibly still not a patch on last year’s winner (The Stray Shopping Carts of Eastern North America: A Guide to Field Identification) but somewhat amusing nonetheless. And has anyone got a copy of that that cheese solving one?

Monday, February 25, 2008

Casse-toi, alors pauvre con!

Today really has been the kind of day that makes you want to staple your eyes closed but that is no excuse for getting all mopey n' shit on the blog. So let's all take a deep breath and enjoy a French hottie who knows how to swear.

You know what really grinds my gears?

I am sitting here trying not to be negative. I am trying to be a warm ball of pure light and not a simmering mass of rage and despair but… seriously? Dude? You’re a cock. I can take your long, smug self-congratulatory ‘explanations’ whenever you think I don’t understand something or (more likely) have just fucked something up because I couldn’t give a shit about the fucking profit box but I can’t take… oh wait, not I CAN”T take those fucking patronising waffles served up as helpful pointers and guaranteed to answer 20 questions I never asked and ignore the one I did. And that sort-of-weary-hard-done by look? Yeah THAT ONE. I fucking hate that too you oxygen thief. And, hey, the next time you want to lay some wisdom on me why don’t you get up from behind your fucking computer and COME OVER TO ME. I don’t appreciate being called like a dog and treated like a child. I don’t appreciate your HUMOURLESS fucking refusal to understand when I’m making a joke and I really don’t appreciate you kinda bullying me a bit, just a bit maybe, because you know you can get away with it. It’s people like you who make me want to kill myself, then everyone else around me. It’s people like you who deserve to be run down in the street and buried in an unmarked grave it is most definitely people like you, you MOTHERFUCKING WASTE OF SPACE, TIME AND ENERGY, who should crawl the fuck back up your mother’s c*nt and fuck off already. Oh and it’s definitely people like you who grind my gears.

SIDEBAR: Apologies Alley Cat and Ruthie for using the c-bomb. I feel it was justified but I have starred out the u just for you two.


When I am imagining how other people see me, as I am sometimes prone to do in an incredible but (until now) private display of egocentrism, I like to think of myself as a loveable curmudgeon. That Kate, I might even imagine them saying in my lamer moments, she may be a seething mass of undirected rage, self-induced failed dreams and petty pettiness but isn’t she great? The answer, sadly, is no, as people seem to be rushing to tell me lately. No you weren’t passionate and articulate at Saturday’s curry party – you were a boozy bore too busy congratulating herself on winning an argument to realise her opponent was a frightened German tourist. No, unfortunately, you weren’t being all Nigella Lawson when you lounged about in your bathrobe eating liquourice the other day – you were being a lazy glutton.

The latest shitcake in my life to tell me what I’m doing wrong is my body. Uppidty fucker. In fairness to the body it has been a long time since I put the effort into the old girl. It has been at least four months, for instance, since I did any concerted, regular exercise. It has been about three weeks, at least, since I did a proper grocery shop – the kind that means you have fruit and vege in your fridge and no excuse for idly eating frozen samosas on the couch while reading outdated furniture catalogues. The excuse for both of these things is time, of course. I’ve lost my work/life balance. Can’t think where I put it.

And the body has had enough. I believe the final straw came several weeks ago when I inadvertently ran out of my thyroid meds and completely neglected to get a new prescription. Eh, she’ll be right, I said, what is all this ‘medication’ and ‘illness’ and ‘your metabolism will shut down’ nonesense anyway? All in the mind, power of positive thinking and all that. Shall we have another wine?

Hmm. Didn’t go down a treat. All in the mind is it? My body said in the kind of icy cold voice usually reserved for frightfully polite people when they just discover you’ve backed over their child in the driveway. I’ll show you all the mind… and blahmo a huge weird lump in my neck. Disgusting neck cysts eh? I mused, whatev, I can deal with that. Again: big mistake. For on came absolutely crippling lower, upper and middle back pain. Followed by semi-frightening sharp stabs of pain in my back and chest. Coupled with all this I have been super, super exhausted and suffered from weird leg cramps for the past week or two. Yeah. Not really an awesome sign.

Now perhaps I’ve just been spooked after dear Andy came home from basketball claiming to have gone semi-blind but I’m starting to suspect I might be getting old. And feeble. And crippled. And perhaps I can no longer afford to do exactly what I please and still wake up feeling perky and none-too-shabby. So what’s the answer? Start exercising again? Eat more healthily? Do things like meet friends for walks instead of drinks and spend half an hour at the park in the morning before work instead of reading in the bath? Eh, maybe. But isn’t it just easier to quit my job and become a goat farmer? Yeah I think so too.

This is a public service announcement

  • If someone left a pair of silver glasses at my house the night of my housewarming… er, I have them.
  • My mobile is fucked. Again. Not my fault, honest. Oh wait maybe it is.
  • I don’t have cancer of the neck.

Saturday, February 23, 2008

And it's too late to say you're sorry

I have very mixed feelings about once-great bands that get back together.

It's not exactly because I think music is a young person's game, at least I hope not. Although I am fond, as has been well documented on this blog, on a scrawny hottie with an instrument in his hands, I would still line up around the block to see Nick Cave or Leonard Cohen or someone similarly brilliant and distinctly... not young. (If I'm being honest I also would, and indeed have, pay to see Morrissey any day of the week. Shut up.)

I think the problem is the reforming part. With someone like Cave or Cohen they've been around for so long they have a huge list of songs and even though it might be the predictable old hits I look forward to hearing from them, there's not the sense that, say, Famous Blue Raincoat or The Mercy Seat is all these guys have. They might play their old stuff because people ask for it but they've evolved since then and don't mind showing it.

So I don't know what to think when I hear The Zombies have reformed. On the one hand Odessey & Oracle is a great album and listening to the hook of "She's Not There" still does the job but... eh, they split up 40 years ago. And in the interim it sort of sounds like they've just been wandering about selling insurance or something. Working down the road from you probably. And, from the sound of it, they're not quite sitting on a wealth of new material. Presumably, their comeback gigs will consist of playing the entirety of their old album.

So... I don't know. Wouldn't it be better to just listen to the record instead, really?

But because I'm such a contrary bint I am still much excited by the prospect of seeing The Jesus and Mary Chain play in April at the otherwise slightly cruddy looking V Festival. Nooo I will probably not be turning my eyes towards Smashing Pumpkins - even if I used to like them and I still kinda think Billy Corgan is a stone fox - or, Heaven Help Us, Duran Duran, but I will call loudly for all the greats from TJaMC.
Why does this not bother me when the Reid brothers are now officially in Old Fuckers territory? No it's not because I'm a hypocrite who can't make a point without contradicting herself, honest. It's because, well, they produced their last album Munki in 1994(ish) - a mere 14 years ago. And that was a brilliant, interesting and catchy album. Compared to The Zombies that's recent bloody history. And, so far as I know, they haven't spent four decades working in insurance. Thugh I would have enjoyed seeing that if they had.

Friday, February 22, 2008

In other news I have cancer of the neck

At the time of writing I have a lump on my neck the approximate size and consistency of a frozen blueberry. Has anybody else seen that movie How to get Ahead in Advertising where Richard E Grant grows a second head? Yeah, it’s pretty much like that.

Thursday, February 21, 2008

In which I reveal myself as a self-delusional snob with a disturbingly large collection of fantasy novels...

I remember hearing a bit on the brilliant Ricky Gervais podcasts awhile ago when they were taking the piss out of a national poll that deemed ‘serendipidy’ to be the UK’s favourite word. Now, there is nothing wrong with the word serendipidy. It has a certain quiet musical quality. It has a pleasant meaning. If you can erase the abortion that was the same-titled John Cusack/Kate Beckinsale movie from your collective consciousnesses it is, in fact, a rather pretty word. (Sidebar: I once overheard the kind of girl who I previously imagined to exist only in my hate-filled mind describe Serendipidy as her favourite romantic comedy of all time. In public. I would have mocked her but I figured that with brains like that she’ll probably bang a hammer through her cerebral cortex any day now). Anyway the point Gervais was making is that it was a bit doubtful the people of Britain had come up with this one on their own and spontaneously voted overwhelmingly in its favour. He had his doubts, I guess.

Now you’ll swiftly note that the above story is mostly irrelevant but the idea of serendipidy being voted a country’s favourite word stirs in me much the same reaction as the news that Australian’s have voted Pride and Prejudice as their favourite novel of all time. I sigh, I roll my eyes a little. I die a little inside.

Easy there, tiger, I like P&P. I think it’s a very good book – amusing, romantic and very well written. More importantly it spawned the BBC adaptation that put Colin Firth in form-fitting jodpurs, thus providing years worth of high-class wank material to millions of women and men around the globe. And that’s sort of my point. Have all those people who voted for P&P actually read and loved the book all that much? Or have they seen the adaptation, possibly even pouty-pout-pout-faces stupid movie version, and voted for it with the weary recognition that it Is A Good Book?

I remain unconvinced. The fact that Lord of the Rings, The Power of One, Magician and, god help us, The Fucking Da Vinci Code, all come in further down the list, calms me somewhat. Not because I think these are the best books every written (for the record: I love Magician and it’s one of the best fantasy books every written and a sterling achievement but top 10? I think not. And do I really need to go to my dark place of rage to speak of The Da Vinci Code?) but because there’s something honest about admitting you love these books. And it makes me weirdly happy to know people do actually read and feel strongly enough about what they read to vote in a stupid poll conducted by a second-rate bookstore.

Hearing the populace at large bleat on about Austen is the same feeling I get when other people say they think the best authors of all time are Proust or Joyce and I think, fine, that’s a very reasonable possibility but are you saying that because you actually enjoy reading them or because you have In Search of Lost Time on your bedside table and you tried to read it once or twice back at uni?

Am I being a terrible, terrible snob and a hypocrite? Of course. Am I suggesting I have simultaneously better reading taste and get more humility than the greater Australian public? Erm, well, no, I couldn’t possibly say such a thing. And yet… you know that I kind of do. Am I also considered going home to reread Magician with the help of a delicious glass of wine? Don’t mind if I do…

No comment

So, um, everyone seen page 3 of The Aus, then?

Tuesday, February 19, 2008

When Max, 19, hit the road

With much thanks to UK Judd for alerting me to the existence of this travel blog, written for The Guardian by an unfortunate skinny-jean-loving twat of a 19 year old who is probably hanging himself right now. The poor lad, "Max, 19" has been given a blog to chronicle his thought about a trip to India. Unfortunately his thoughts, much like the plannned trip, is a cliche sandwich and the blog reads like... well, read it for yourself. Then cringe and remember you were once young and stupid but not stupid enough to blog about it. Oh wait... Anyway Max has been blasted for it, prompting facebook groups, wikiepdia entries and some of the funniest comments I've read on a Guardian column since possibly ever (my favourite? Cross between "You're everything I hate about everything" and "Who knows, maybe he'll meet one of these "blacks" I keep hearing about..."). Personally I can't wait for the next installment.

UPDATE: Tragically Max, 19 will not be returning for blog number two. I am being quite serious in saying I'm genuinely sorry. I think he would have won a bit of respect if he'd sort of plugged on in the face of it all or, even better, spent the entire blog returning fire, but there you go. Kids today just don't have the stones for it.

Tippling Points

A friend of mine is reading a book called The Tipping Point. I forget exactly what it’s about but I do remember thinking, when she told me about it, that it sounded awfully interesting. However, it’s not the book that has been on my mind today but the title. Because I think I had a bit of a tipping point of my own at the weekend. A tipping point being – and this is my own shoddily assembled working definition - that moment where you get to a crossroads of some sorts, where you know that if you go just a little bit further in one particular direction the balance is going to be upset and you’re going to have Gone Too Far.

The subject of this TP was, perhaps not unsurprisingly, boozing habits.

I do indeed, as has been well documented, like a tipple. In the past six months, in particular, I have really dedicated myself to my drinking in a way that would be admirable if all that energy was being direction towards, you know, curing cancer or learning another language. But although my drinking practices would probably horrify my mother and have given many shitty Saturday mornings and a face like (to steal a favourite of mine) a bloodhound’s funeral I’ve never really seriously thought to myself ‘oh you might actually have a problem here’. Until the weekend.

In setting the scene let me just say that I was loafing on the couch, alternately watching Sunset Boulevard and reading my book, not achieving much, really, and enjoying some wine with my cheese and crackers. A rather nice way to pass an afternoon/evening, I thought. That night I was due to head out for dinner and a movie with a friend and the time tricked along until I thought ‘oh I should probably get ready soon’. And so I did. Then the time came when I thought ‘ooh I probably have just enough time for a last glass of wine’. As indeed I would have. However, it occurred to me, another glass might just push me over the limit when it came to driving. Not really worth the risk, I thought, as indeed it wasn’t.

The TP came when, and yes I blush as I type this, it also occurred to me that I could TAKE the remainder of the bottle of wine with me IN THE CAR, drive to meet my friend and have that last glass once I had parked. Yes: in my car. Drink. Alone. In My Car. Possibly from a bottle. TP indeed, eh? I didn’t do it but I did quite seriously consider it, which is a worry in itself.

The point, however, is not that I have a drinking problem (let’s leave the jury out on that one, thankyou) but how easy it is to come to our own tipping points and tumble over. It doesn’t really matter what your vice is or what sort of bad habits you indulge in. Whatever they are and however serious they are I think we all do come, at some point or other, to a place where we have a clear opportunity to go one way or the other: to do something that will push us over the edge or to not do it. Sadly I have failed in many of these TPs – I have let friendships hit the shitter when I could have failed them. I have let cases of the blues spiral into full-blown down-in-the-dumpsville. I have done many things I regret. Really, if I detailed the rest of the times I have Gone Too Far you’d all be here until next week.

But no more. From now on I am all about moderation. Not in the sense that I will restrict myself to a glass of wine on Sundays or will start to eat yoghurt and berries for breakfast but in the sense that I will no longer allow things to get out of control. I will no longer Go To My Bad Place. At least I’ll try not to. And you, my reader(s) stand as my witnesses. Unfortunately you also have to be witness to the sad fact that my personal growth ambitions at this point pretty much add up to Do Try Not To Become An Alcoholic and Avoid Wrist Slashing While Bathing If At All Possible. Still: this, my friends, is what progress feels like.

Monday, February 18, 2008

The Gatsby Chronicles

We shook hands and I started away. Just before I reached the hedge I remembered something and turned around.

“They’re a rotten crowd,” I shouted across the lawn. “You’re worth the whole damn bunch put together.”

I’ve always been glad I said that. It was the only compliment I ever gave him, because I disapproved of him from beginning to end. First he nodded politely, and then his face broke into that radiant and understanding smile, as if we’d been in ecstatic cahoots on that fact all the time. His gorgeous pink rag of a suit made a bright spot of color against the white steps, and I thought of the night when I first came to his ancestral home, three months before. The lawn and drive had been crowded with the faces of those who guessed at his corruption—and he had stood on those steps, concealing his incorruptible dream, as he waved them good-by.

I thanked him for his hospitality. We were always thanking him for that—I and the others.

“Good-by,” I called. “I enjoyed breakfast, Gatsby.”

(F.Scott Fitzgerald, The Great Gatsby)

A little higher, Julio.... thaaaat's right...

Although I have been known to dabble and do, as you may know, enjoy having smoke blown into my face I am not, technically, a smoker. Nor have I ever been, exactly, a smoker. However I do object to both pub smoking bans and the way it’s apparently now quite acceptable to lambast people for smoking and, judging by some recent performances from friends of mine, either pluck a cigarette out from between their lips or hide their packet of cigarettes in an unknown cupboard in a kitchen full of cupboards (yeah, tiger, I’ve forgiven you now but… really).

The issue, obviously enough, is one of freedom and civil bloody rights.

So Charlie Brooker (yeah I know this blog is rapidly becoming an Ode to Brooker but he has a window into my soul, damn it) has my vote when he suggests the it’s-for-your-own-good regulation brigade could be getting a smidgen out of control. The catalyst for this week’s rant is a proposition by Health England chairman Julian Le Grand to require smokers to carry smoking permits. Over to the future Mr Emery:
“Good news for smokers: Le Grand reckons said licence should cost only £10. Bad
news: he wants to make the application process as deliberately complex as possible. You'd have to fill out a lengthy form, attaching a photograph, proof of age and a fee, and send it all to a central Smoker's Permit processing centre and wait for your licence to come back, by which point, let's face it, you would have probably died. Oh, and the licence expires after a year, so you have to apply all over again each time it runs out. Why leave it there? Why not make it expire every 24 hours, so you have to
reapply each morning? Or include a Sudoku on the application form? Or force the tobacco companies to sell cigarettes inside complicated Japanese puzzle boxes? Or change the name of the brands each week, without publicising the change, while simultaneously making it illegal for a shop to sell you anything you haven't asked for by name, so you have to stand at the counter fishing for codewords for an hour?
Or here's a good one, Julian: make it a requirement for smokers to walk around with a broomhandle stuck through their sleeves, running behind the neck, so their arms are permanently splayed out, like a scarecrow's. To spark up under those conditions,
they'd have to work together in pairs, flailing around in the outdoor smoking area like something out of It's a Knockout.”

Of course smoking is bad for you. As are hard drugs, trans fats and waking up every morning to perform rote-learned tasks at a soul-destroying job but you don’t see anyone legislating this stuff do you? Oh wait, yeah, you kinda do for the hard drugs bit but I think you see my point. Possibly. Anyway…

“(Julian’s) paper, incidentally, also proposes "incentives for large companies to provide a daily 'exercise hour' for staff". Welcome to your future life: having struggled into work suffering withdrawal pangs because today's smoking licence didn't arrive in the post, you're forced to spend 60 minutes doing squat-thrusts in the car park. And each time you start crying, a man in a helmet comes round to gently remind you that it's all for your own good. Through a loudhailer. If that sounds like a nightmare, don't worry: you can still wriggle out of the squat-thrusts, provided you're carrying a valid Laziness Licence, whose application process involves climbing a ladder to reach the forms (stored at the top of a 200ft crane), ticking 900 boxes with a 7kg pencil, and finally posting it into a motorised mailbox that persistently runs away from you at speeds of up to 25mph. In other words, you still have freedom of choice.

"Provided you're carrying a valid Freedom of Choice Permit, that is. Getting your hands on a Freedom of Choice Permit is pretty straightforward. The application
form requires only your name and signature. Admittedly, you have to deliver it in person to the Freedom of Choice Licensing Agency, which is open only between 4.15am and 4.18am, and is based in an unmarked office in the Falklands, but nevertheless, thousands have already applied, if the queues are anything to go by. The current waiting time is a mere nine weeks, although you'd be advised to get there early and guard your place in line because there have been reports of disturbances.”

Brooker is, as ever, quite ridiculous, but the point is a good one. Where do you draw the line when you start regulating behaviour? I think it’s quite preposterous, frankly, that illegal drugs are, you know, illegal. Whose business but mine is it if I want to squirt heroin into my eyeballs or have a lithe 20-something cabana boy blow cocaine up my arse? There are social consequences to drug use and abuse but if it wasn’t illegal it wouldn’t so expensive and I wouldn’t need to turn tricks to get it. If it wasn’t illegal I might actually know what goes into it and might not, you know, die.

And when you get down to it why do we want all our citizens to live forever anyway? What good has an ageing population ever done for you eh? Can’t we allow ourselves to burn out, not fade out? Why not let us clog our arteries, destory our lungs and generally mess our bodies about if that’s how we prefer to pass our leisure time instead of, say, sitting at home with The Bill and a hot cup of tea. Well we can do all this, says Brooker, because even in this New World Order your rights are carefully protected – so long as you’ve got your papers in order.
“Anyway, once you've got your Freedom of Choice Permit, you're free to do as you please, within reason, provided you notify the Central Scrutiniser six days in advance of any unapproved activity, quoting your 96-digit Freedom of Choice Permit code in full, which isn't printed anywhere on the permit itself, but is given to you once and only once, whispered quickly into your ear at the desk in the Falklands, by a man standing beneath a loudspeaker barking out other numbers at random. The permit itself, incidentally, is shaped like a broomhandle, and is designed to be threaded through your sleeves at all times. If you couldn't be bothered with all that, you will just have to do as you're told, which isn't that bad, to be honest. There's a compulsory exercise hour or five, and an approved list of foodstuffs, but that's about it. You will still have at least 10 minutes a day to do as you please, although we've just banned
violent videogames, which are bad for your head, and there are one or two ideologies we'd rather you didn't discuss with friends or on the internet, which is why we're not issuing any Freedom of Speech Permits for the time being - although if you'd like to be notified when they're available, simply book yourself into one of our underground holding pens and remain there until your name is called, or not called, or time itself comes to an end. Whichever takes the longest.”

Saturday, February 16, 2008

Don't mind if I do

"Poe was perhaps the first great nonstop literary drinker of the American nineteenth century. He made the indulgences of Coleridge and DeQuincey seem like a bit of mischief in the kitchen with the cooking sherry." (James Thurber)

Friday, February 15, 2008

Black Watch

I will leave the analysis to Lindsay but if you happen to have the chance to snap up a ticket to see Black Watch you must take it. Absolutely brilliant.

Thursday, February 14, 2008

Vending my rage...

People are great, aren’t they? Oh come on – you know they are. I’m not talking about, you know, The Apology, nor even the ordinary every day sort of awesome people who do loads for others without asking anything in return, just to make the world a better place. I’m talking about the dude who helped me batter a vending machine to retrieve a packet of crisps.

Yes, today I suffered that most frustrating of all snacking-related pitfalls. Caught out without my lunch and loathe to sample what the work canteen somewhat optimistically labelled ‘vegetarian noodles’ I put my money into the vending machine in search of some crisps. Just salted thanks. And, of course, the fuckers got stuck. So I put in another $1.80 – intending the packet behind to push it clear. Sooo the second packet got stuck too.

It was about here that I'm ashamed to confess I may have launched into a bit of a tirade, fuelled by low bloody sugar and a now-empty wallet. I may have called the machine, its manufacturer and, dare I say it, the chips themselves, a pile of terrible cunts. As I say, low blood sugar does terrible things to a girl. So as it happens some random guy was passing by and, no doubt shocked and disturbed by my outburst, offered to help me shake the machine. He was wearing sneakers and looked sort of sporty so I accepted the offer. We did that thing where you try to rock it back and forward without looking like a total criminal. The crisps were released. All was good. I bid the kindly fellow good day.

Now you might suppose this is a) merely a story about my own gluttony and b) a disturbing little insight into how I spend my time at work, but I’d argue it’s more than that. Yes that’s right - it’s a flipping metaphor. Hmm, yeah, I know, I know. You see life, I got to thinking, moments after this little incident took place as I wandered back to my desk with two packet of crisps, is often crappy. Shitty things – worse, even, than being denied a packet of crisps – happen all the time. Every day. There aren’t always randoms around to help us beat ten types of shit out of an inanimate object, granted, but, generally speaking, other people are the best things about life and the only thing that really make it worth living. And if you’re not prepared to get to know them, to interact with them, and to love at least a bunch of them, then there’s bugger all point at all.

At the same time, however, it’s worth remembering that it was also a person who designed the incompetent boob of a fucking vending machine in the first place so, you know, contrarily people are also at the root of pretty much everything that’s shit about life too. Just in case you thought I’d turned into an optimist or something.

Wednesday, February 13, 2008


I was nervous about today. I voted for Rudd, he's made a few tentative steps in the right direction on some issues but I was trying to brace myself for a watered down 'we're sorry even though it wasn't our fault really and we're certainly not going to pay out any cash' kind of a speech. Instead I thought it was brilliant: heartfelt, apparently sincere and exactly what a lot of people have been wanting to hear for a long time. I burst into tears last night listening to the basic bit tabled in parliament and today's speech only built on that. This is a day that I'm going to remember forever and I hope that everyone who doesn't support the apology listened to it closely and thought about why they felt that way. Whatever happens, Government-wise, after today, this is an amazing day.

Meanwhile, Brendan "rat face" Nelson has never looked so out of his depth.

Tuesday, February 12, 2008

What we have here is a failure to communicate

How can it be that in an age where we can put somebody on the moon, cure, um, well a whole bunch of stuff I'm sure and give people pig hearts we have not yet found a proper way to express silent scorn. Sure, sure we can give out withering looks until ye olde cows come home but if the object of our disgust isn't looking where does that leave us? I want a way, no I need a way to say 'fuck you, you fucking fuck, can't you tell I'm ignoring you because I loathe you'? I think I'm starting to understand how the unabomber felt.

Monday, February 11, 2008

VD: An epidemic that must be stopped

Of the 25 Valentine's Days I have lived through I have clear memories of two. One of them involved going to a seminal gig that happened to fall on February 14th with a friend (who, admittedly, I had my eye on at the time), the other involved going out with my then-boyfriend. One of them was brilliant, the other was shit and I'll leave you to figure out which was which.

I know I shouldn't be a Valentine's Day scrooge because, one of those previous memories aside, it hasn't really done anything to me. In theory any excuse to eat heart shaped chocolate and get a bit squiffy should be brilliant, right? Yeah except no.
Over to Charlie Brooker, who lovingly describes VD as "the only national occasion dedicated to mental illness":
"For those in established relationships, it's a perfunctory, grinding ceremony. On February 14 restaurants nationwide play host to joyless couples begrudgingly sharing an overpriced meal in near-silence, each of them desperately trying to avoid a row because, well, it's Valentine's Day, and nothing says "I sort of love you, I think, although I can't really tell any more" quite like the ability to sustain an awkward, argument-free detente for one 24-hour period a year."
That, in a wee nutshell, is why I don't like it. Not because my now dear boyfriend and I are incapable of having a fun dinner out but because it's never going to happen on VD. On VD everyone knows why you are there. It's VD. You have to be there. Staying home on the couch watching Avatar: The Last Airbender (which, by the way: awesome) feels like defeat so you slap on a rictus smile, pop on a dress and go out to show everyone how happy and in love you are. But of course you can't just go out and have fun you have to have Extra Super Fun because it's VD. You can't say I love you because you do, you have to say it because it's VD. Heaven forbids to have a wee shag because you're in the mood - you have to blah blah blah.

Single people should be grateful they don't have to take part in this macabre charade, but of course they can't just sit home and be happy can they? Brooker doesn't think so anyway...

"And, of course, if you're single, it's a thudding reminder of your increasingly desperate isolation. You're stranded somewhere out on Thunderbird Five, picking up chuckles and kissy-sounds from the planet below, separated from the action by the cold gulf of space. It's especially sharp if you've just been dumped and are feeling pretty raw about it, thanks. Under those circumstances, it's a cruel joke: you're like a one-legged man on National Riverdance Day."
The solution is, I think, quite simple. I wouldn't go as extreme as Brooker (who proposes an Unvalentine's Day, including it's own set of themed cards, particularly a range aimed at disillusioned long-term couples with greetings such as I CAN'T TAKE MUCH MORE OF THIS, IT REALLY ISN'T WORKING or my personal favourite DYING INSIDE) but what about ignoring the whole thing altogether? Simple but, I think you'll find, blindingly effective.

So this year I shall, as it turns out, be having a brilliant night out with someone I love but there will be no heart-shaped chocolate of any kind, no forced 'I love yous' or (here's hoping) reluctant sex. Instead there will be soldiers, war and (fingers crossed) a few manly tears. Happy VD indeed.
NOTE: If you’re not a bitter, twisted creature doomed to wind up living in a haunted mansion with 12 mad cats by the time she’s 30 like me you can read Dave or Rachel’s slightly more saccarine approaches to VD. Of course you’ll want to throw up afterwards but, hey, I can dig romance and shit.

Friday, February 8, 2008

Aw has the widdle baby thrown his rattle out of the pram?

Former PM John Howard says he won't be attending the 'sorry' ceremony next week...

What about Kate Does Kansas?

In what is shaping up to be a bloody good start to the year movie-wise (I am almost wetting my pantaloons in anticipation of seeing my beloved Mr Daniel Day Lewis in There Will Be Blood – the title of which alone gets me every time) one of the more amusing-looking movies is the latest Jack Black vehicle Be Kind Rewind.

I’m not the world’s biggest fan of Mr Black (I sat through the truly dire Envy and sadly lived to tell the tale) but this premise of this one tickles me. If you're not a nerd like me and don't have a little part of your brain solely responsible for accruing various entertainment-related information, the idea is that he plays a video store clerk whose entire VHS stock is inadvertently lost when it gets magnetized through his friend’s buffoonery. This, naturally enough, leads to the two of them shooting their own homemade ‘remakes’ of a series of classic movies (Ghostbusters, Driving Miss Daisy etc) in order to rent them out.

As I say this ideal appeals to me - and not just because I want to see who gets to play Morgan Freeman’s role in DMD. No it’s the way it’s got my mind wandering on which movies, and which roles, I would like to remake. So here I go.

1. Y Tu Mama Tambien. I play the saucy Spanish wench. Gael Garcia and Diego whatshisface reprise their roles as the horny teens but in this version we don’t really get out of bed.

2. The Neverending Story. I get to play the awesome Atreyu and, in my remake, get to beat the shit out of the sooky-sooky-wa-wa Bastian. Gael Garcia Bernal takes on the role of my faithful steed Artax.

3. The Princess Bride. I take on the role previously portrayed by Fred Savage. Sacha gets to play the giant (because you’re tall, sweetheart, and that’s it, I swear) while Lindsay takes on the role of Princess Buttercup, who has suddenly become considerably more buxom. Wesley will, of course, be played by Gael Garcia Bernal’s less attractive brother. Mr Bernal himself is busy entertaining me in the bedroom.

4. My Neighbour Totoro. I play Totoro, the weird animated owl-cat-non-existant-animal creature. Gael Garcia Bernal plays the part of my tail.

Come on readers – can you do any better?

Thursday, February 7, 2008

If this is a man

You who live safe
In your warm houses,
You who find, returning in the evening,
Hot food and friendly faces:
Consider if this is a man
Who works in the mud
Who does not know peace
Who fights for a scrap of bread
Who dies because of a yes or no.
Consider if this is a woman,
Without hair and without name
With no more strength to remember,
Her eyes empty and her womb cold
Like a frog in winter.
Meditate that this came about:
I commend these words to you.
Carve them in your hearts
At home, in the street,
Going to bed, rising;
Repeat them to your children,
Or may your house fall apart,
May illness impede you,
May your children turn their faces from you.
(Prefatory text to the brilliant Survival in Auschwitz by Primo Levi)

SIDE BAR: Next week represents the 66th anniversary of the day the first transport of Jews from Bytom in German-annexed Upper Silesia to Auschwitz. Everyone on the first transport was killed almost immediately upon arrival with Zyklon B gas.

Moments of madness

Every now and again I catch myself doing something that would, to an uninformed observer, look completely mad. Last night - as I struggled to carry a large pine desk through my garden in the middle of the night and in the pouring rain, naked but for a giant fluffy bathrobe flapping in the wind - was one of those times.

Wednesday, February 6, 2008

There's a hole in the world like a great black pit, And it's filled with people who are filled with shit...

Most of the time it’s quite reassuring to discover that some people know you very well. Like warm milk, episodes of sitcoms you’ve watched too many times and PG Wodehouse it’s sort of comforting. Mostly. At other times, however, it can be a smidgen embarassing. Like last night. Sitting in a darkened cinema watching the possibly batshit crazy Helen Bonham Carter onscreen in Sweeney Todd I was distracted by the lovely Alley Cat leaning over to whisper something to me. “You want that hat and her entire outfit, don’t you,” she said.
Indeed that had been exactly what I was thinking at the time. Shit.
My slightly shameful penchant for awesome hats and raggedy black outfits that are one part old school madam and one part I-might-bake-people-into-pies aside I thought Sweeney Todd was brilliant.

Unsurprising, perhaps, given my undying fondness for everyone involed (let's all just pretend the remake of Charlie and the Chocolate Factory never happened, shall we?) perhaps but probably also helped along by some mixed reviews flying around the place, which had suitably lowered my expectations. So I was ready for Alan Rickman’s pretty dire “singing” and the occassional song that needed to be put out of its misery and ignored/sniggered at them accordingly.
What I wasn’t ready for was the truly awesome cinematography, gorgeous gorgeous colours and Johnny Depp’s brilliant brooding. Oh, sure maybe (to bastardise the famous quote about Marily Monroe by someone whose name escapes me) saying Johnny Depp is good at brooding is a bit like saying a midget is good at being short but my God he is good at it. And forget his awesome razors – he could shave his customers with those cheekbones. Plus, revenge plots, like cupcake icing, satay tofu and SSB are simply delicious - Sweeney Todd is really, effectively, The Count of Monte Christo with better clothes. And singing.

So from now on my standards for determining whether a movie is good or not will involve one simple question: Can it present me with a gruesome twosome plotting to murder kiddies and bake randoms into pies and still leave me come out whistling a jaunty june? Well... can it?

Tuesday, February 5, 2008

I have been doing an absolutely atrocious job on the mission I, among others in the blogging fraternity, embarked on at the tail end of last year to make our way through the winners of the Man Booker prize. Not only have I lost my list of the winners but I have failed to read a single one of them (excluding those I’ve read before obviously) until last week. Laziness is a curse, I know.

Last week, however, I was fortunate enough to pick up Alan Hollinghurst’s The Line of Beauty and, gosh, wasn’t it pretty. The title refers to a phrase coined by William Hogarth in his rather famous The Analysis of Beauty to describe a certain S-bend that, in Hogarth’s mind, gave us a jolt of visual pleasure (well I’m paraphrasing but that’s my interpretation). This book gave me several jolts of not-so-visual pleasure...

You can read the full entry at the CNG Lending Library site if you care to.

Words in MY Dictionary

MIRROR SLIDE: The downward trajectory in ones self esteem when, while out and about and assuming one looks great, one is confronted by a mirror to deflate such assumptions.

Monday, February 4, 2008

The Spendy Years

In William Leith’s very good book The Hungry Years, which I’ve written about before on this site and which you should really read as it’s great, Leith talks about the moment when he drops the latest piece of food (which, he says, seems suddenly tiny) into his open mouth (which is, of course, suddenly huge). I can’t be sure I remember correctly just how he describes it and I don’t have the book here but I think it’s in terms of blinks. As in: blink. One piece of apple pie. Blink, blink, it’s all gone. Blink, a month goes by and he’s fatter than ever.

I’ve been thinking about this today, not in terms of food but in terms of shopping. Internet shopping. Of course here the appropriate work is click: click and I have a t-shirt being sent from overseas. Click, click and the judgemental arses at who delight in sending me unasked for books about depression have something new to pop in the post. Or, as I recently discovered, click click and you’ve just spent more on music in the past ten minutes than you have in the past six months. Bloody itunes eh?

I blame iinet. No, really. I have been internet free since I moved house thanks to these geniuses and their incompetent boobery. So, naturally, when I happen to nip home to use my parents’ computer I think oh I’ll just have a little look and… oooh only $1.69 per single eh? Well that seems reasonable… click, click, click. Ooh I like that song with the drums. Mmm The National – I’ve heard good things, click. Click. Click. All well and good at the time, of course, and you don’t even have to put your credit card details in if you’ve got an account but then there’s the unpleasant matter of the bill. Much like in a restaurant, by the time the bill arrives you’ve already consumed the product and are probably already looking onto the next meal or song. And for some reason itunes appears to have a two-day delay, meaning by the time I receive an email to tell me how much I’ve blown I’ve practically forgotten buying it in the first place.

The other problem is, of course, my atrocious maths. “Outrageous,” I say to no one as I open the bill. “I don’t remember this. I bought a whole bunch of singles at $1.69 – surely they can’t possibly add up to this.” Hmm, quite.

The danger of internet shopping is, obviously, that it feels all a bit fake. Like monopoly. “I will give you $500 for Pall Mall,” I would confidently tell my brother or sister in the old days, well aware that I didn’t have $500 just as they didn’t own a piece of property. “I have three children,” I’d tell my opponent in that underrated boardgame The Game of Life, equally sure that I would drive my little fake car with its tiny plastic inhabitants into the nearest river if the wee pieces of pink plastic actually represented real children.

“I will pay you $100 of my fine fake dollars for whatever goods you can post to me,” I tell internet site after internet site, assuming, of course, that they realise I don’t have the money: I have, instead, a credit card debt, a mildly acquisitive nature and no self control.

Unfortunately, of course, they’re not playing.

If the body does not fit, you must acquit

Several questions arise in my mind when I read this story about the long-missing wife and mother basically chopped up in a drum at the family home.
A MAN has told a Victorian court he was convinced the remains of his ex-wife's missing mother were inside a drum his father-in-law kept at the family home.
Frederick William Boyle, 58, of Carrum Downs, who is on trial in the Victorian Supreme Court, has pleaded not guilty to the murder of his wife Edwina Ruth
Boyle 25 years ago. Mrs Boyle, then aged 30, disappeared from the home she
shared with her husband and two young daughters, Careesa and Sharon, at
Dandenong North, in Melbourne's outer southeast, on October 6, 1983. Mr Boyle
claimed she had run off with a truck driver named Ray. Michael Hegarty, the
former husband of Mr Boyle's eldest daughter Careesa, told a court that he had
had a fixation with a drum kept in the backyard of the Boyles' home since 1990
when he met Careesa. "It gave me chills and I was positive I knew what was in
it," Mr Hegarty told the court.
Question the first might be why it took him SIXTEEN YEARS to open the drum if he thought it contained HIS MOTHER IN LAW’S CORPSE. Jesus, I can’t even stop myself from opening a present before my birthday, let alone contemplate letting ol’ Billie Hadfield’s cold, dead, murdered body rot in a drum in the backyard. Nevertheless things only get weirder…
“Mr Hegarty said that he decided to finally open the drum on September 16, 2006,
during a clean-up of the family home in Denis Court, Carrum Downs, in Melbourne's outer southeast. "I had a thing about the drum for years," he told the court. "For 16 years I thought Careesa's mum was in that drum and I was cutting it open." When he cut the drum open he found women's clothes, including underwear and a large hessian bag, Mr Hegarty told the court. But he did not look inside the hessian bag and later thought that Mr Boyle had loaded it and the other contents of the drum onto a trailer to be taken to the tip.”
Mmm hmm. So you think there’s a woman’s body in the drum. You find A BAG and women’s clothing in the drum but you don’t open the bag? Right, right… So eventually…
“He said two weeks later he found the same hessian bag in a wheelie bin in the
garage of the house, so he decided to look inside it.”
So the husband who may or may not have murdered his wife put HER BODILY REMAINS into the family wheelie bin? Okay, okay. And things get even fucking weirder…
"Defence lawyer Jane Dixon, SC, told the jury her client did not dispute that his wife died on the evening of October 6 and appeared to have been a homicide victim. Ms Dixon said Mr Boyle did not dispute that he concealed her death and body for 23 years and falsely claimed she left him for a truckie. "What is disputed is he cause her death and had any part to play in it,'' she said. Mr Boyle never took "that logical step'' of destroying his wife's remains and had no motive to kill her.
The “logical step” of destroying his wife’s remains. Logical. Step. Hmm. This genuinely intrigues me. I’m no vulcan, nor a wordsmith, but I would like to dispute the use of the word “logical” in this context. Is it fair enough to freak out if you find your wife’s murdered body? Shit yes. Is it reasonable to lose your shit? Yes. Is it understandable, even, to do something stupid and lie about it afterwards? Sure. Is it logical to chop up your wife's body, mash it into a barrel and leave it in your backyard while pretending she'd run off with a trucker? Hmm, good luck selling that defence, buddy...

Friday, February 1, 2008

Heard in the Office

“Anyone who writes in upper-case for three pages is mad.”

In which I learn life lessons all over the place

Yesterday, for the second time in two days, I had to do something that made me feel uncomfortable as part of my job.

Not just because I had to be a real bitch to a couple of people, though I did, but because I didn’t like what I was doing. It’s hard to say more – I wouldn’t want to get in trouble if someone from work stumbled onto this puppy – but I do rather feel that, for the first time, I actually understood one of the prices that has to be paid for working here. And I didn’t necessarily like it.