Sunday, November 30, 2008

Dialogue line of the day

'Waiter, can we have another bottle of Pinot Grigio? Things have taken a turn for the worse here.'

-- Maeve Binchy

Friday, November 28, 2008

Hard to believe now

And as if the subject of the previous post were not enough gobsmackery from the headlines for one day, here's another: Rolf Harris telling Aboriginal people they need to get over themselves. The context: his attempts, decent in themselves if largely failed, to erase from recordings the verse of 'Tie Me Kangaroo Down, Sport' that goes 'Let me Abos go loose, Bruce, let me Abos go loose / They're of no further use, Bruce, so let me Abos go loose.'

I am old enough to remember when this was universally regarded as funny. By 'universally' I mean, of course, 'by white Australians'. (Compare and contrast with Barry Humphries' brilliant and savage line about the word 'Moomba': 'It's an Aboriginal word for "Let's get together and have fun". They didn't need it any more.') The real point of even mentioning this unpleasant little lyrics-based episode in Australia's cultural history is to express my admiration for the headline on this item, the best headline I've seen for quite a while, courtesy of some inspired sub at the Sydney Morning Herald: Cut the Bigoted Verse, Perce.

Even so, it was quite a contrast to the event I was at last night: a brilliant lecture on 'The Many Futures of Our Digital Lives' by Adelaide's newest Thinker in Residence, anthropologist Genevieve Bell. The event began with a Welcome to Country by Kaurna elder Auntie Josie Agius, who after demonstrating her expertise in bending the mics down to her diminutive level, lifted her head and ringingly addressed the audience in Language. We were smack in the middle of Kaurna land and you could practically see the shimmering electric line connecting the words to the ground.

Throw out those nanna pants or take the consequences, bitch

Check it out.

As they sometimes say over at Hoyden About Town: I have no words.

Actually I do have a few words. The hilarious line being taken by this man's lawyer is a defence based on the concept of diminished responsibility. That's the one that goes 'Well of course I raped, strangled and dismembered her, I'd had 19 Tequila Slammers, so it wasn't my fault.' It's the kind of thing that makes you think they haven't yet quite ironed out all the bugs in the judicial system.

I see from the last paragraph under the heading 'Discussion' in this handy Wikipedia entry that there's an urban legend regarding the alleged precedent for the line of defence being used in the nanna pants case: it's a kind of reverse version of the 'Twinkie Defense'.

Wednesday, November 26, 2008

I don't understand it, therefore it must be rubbish

Here's a little something for the foam-flecked anti-post-modernist brigade.

Tuesday, November 25, 2008

Post post

There's a lively discussion going on at Larvatus Prodeo about the term 'postmodernism', which in spite of its derailment in various directions by a handful of usual suspects is galloping along vigorously and providing some thought-provoking ideas and information.

For example: for someone like me whose (fairly limited) exposure to the work of French feminist cultural critic Luce Irigaray has been strictly within the context of feminist psychoanalytic theory, it's been an eye-opener to discover her being denounced under the banner of postmodernism -- not least because both feminism and psychoanalysis are even more irresistible targets for Loud Denunciation from the anti-intellectual brigade than postmodernism itself.

It all began when The Australian, fearlessly pursuing an agenda it has had for some time, published yet another rant about postmodernism by someone who clearly hadn't bothered to do his own research about what it actually is. (This surprised me, actually, as I know the culprit a bit from way back and he is no fool -- although, thinking about it, his form has always been to spray first and negotiate later, which is how I first encountered him, in an intemperate letter to the editor of Australian Book Review, who was, at the time, moi.)

What I wish people would do (apart from the reading. Do the reading) in these debates is remember what, in these sorts of constructions, the prefix 'post' actually means. It doesn't mean 'after the end of'. It means 'in the wake of', as in Post-Impressionism: a development that could not possibly have taken place without being based on the thing it names. The concept of post-feminism, for example, makes no sense at all unless you see it as a consequence and development of feminism. 'Post-' implicitly attempts to answer the question 'What now?'

All of which is to say that I think people ought to pass a test and get a licence before they're allowed to talk about postmodernism at all. And one of the things you'd have to do to pass the test would be to demonstrate some knowledge and understanding of modernism. Without which, etc.

An important anniversary

When I was seventeen it seemed that most Australian adults were smokers, or at least most of the ones I knew. Both of my parents smoked and had since they were teenagers in uniform. And like my friend J, I took it up myself in the November of 1970 when we were studying for our matric oh all right Year 12 exams, in my case because it was a preferable alternative to the absent-minded stress-induced scarfing up of biscuits while I tried without much success to get cell division, irregular French verbs, the battle of Thermopylae and the European revolutions of 1848 straight in my head.

I became a seriously dedicated smoker and remained that way for nearly two decades, except for one interlude in 1983-4 when I gave up in order to spare the person I was living with at the time.

What with all the excitement and fanfare and brouhaha of the federal election this time last year, I clean forgot to notice the anniversary of a day that changed, and very likely saved, my life. And this year it's even more significant than it was last year. Because as of approximately 3.30 am tomorrow morning (I was sitting up at the kitchen table drinking and fighting with someone about the SA election of November 25 1989, which Labor controversially won by a shred of a whisker), which was the last time I smoked a cigarette, I will have been a non-smoker for longer than I was a smoker.

Actually I'm not a non-smoker. I am a recovering smoker.

Monday, November 24, 2008

Hard-rubbish Wombles please note

You are welcome to anything in the pile. If I wanted it, it would still be in the house or shed, not out on the nature strip.


If I chuck stuff out, it is because the stuff is no longer viable. Anything I don't want that is still usable goes to the Red Cross or the Salvos. So:

-- That office chair is broken. If you sit on it, it will immediately tip you out sideways on your backside, if not somewhere less well padded.

-- All those plastic garden pots are brittle and cracked.

-- After three globally warmed summers in the otherwise uncooled living room, that portable evaporative air conditioner/fan whatnot now emits a foul stench when in use. Something to do with Adelaide water. Intensive inner cleaning and a replacement straw insulation thingy will not help.

As I say, take whatever you like. But please, please, re-stack what's left neatly and don't leave rubbish scattered all over the nature strip.

And finally: most of this stuff has been in the shed, which harbours a fascinating array of insect life. Sometimes, some of said life is black and pointy with a big red stripe. Just so you know.

Sunday, November 23, 2008

With apologies to Oscar Wilde

To lose one pair of prescription sunglasses, Ms Cat, may be regarded as a misfortune; to lose both looks like carelessness.

On being overwhelmed

They say if the task in front of you looks too big to tackle then you should break it down into smaller components and then do them in an orderly fashion one by one. The weakness of this method is that if you break it down into manageably small units then you will almost certainly look at the number of small units and then get overwhelmed by that.

Using this method I now have a list (in order of urgency) that says I have to finish all these things by the time I go to bed tonight:

Pages to read (in 3 different books/theses): 360

Reports and/or reviews (anything from 180 to 400 words) to write: 8

Cats to feed and clean up after: 2

Urgent financial issues to chase up: 3

Machinefuls of laundry to wash and dry: 3

Sinkfuls of dishes to wash, dry and put away: 1

Book covers to scan, crop and convert to emails: 4

Stacks of hard rubbish to gather from various places around the house and yard and organise neatly out on the nature strip for the non-negotiable early morning collection date, after having made sure nothing is longer than 2 metres and having put all small objects in boxes and removed all visible rusty nails and anything else with which recyclers official and unofficial could hurt themselves: 1

Saturday, November 22, 2008

Clinton (H.) set for Secretary of State

Read all about it (and check out the fantastic photo) here.

That should keep the right-wing bloggers and the Oz's op edders happily Loudly Denouncing for weeks.

Tragicomic, bittersweet and other internal contradictions

When British then-schoolboy Adrian Mole first saw the light of day he was fourteen thirteen and three-quarters. Over the years his creator Sue Townsend has updated us on his tragicomic condition and for a while there it was more tragi than comic. But the current offering, The Lost Diaries of Adrian Mole 1999-2001, is making me laugh a lot. Adrian is 33 (the age Jesus was when he died, something Adrian is happy to point out) and is living as a single father with his two sons: Glenn Bott-Mole, son of Sharon Bott, and William Mole, son of Adrian's Nigerian ex-wife JoJo.

In spite of Adrian's lifelong literary ambitions it's clear to everyone (except Adrian) that his son Glenn at fourteen is considerably more gifted than he, being able among other things to write verse that scans and rhymes. Witness the personal message in his Mother's Day card to Sharon, who now suffers from depression (as you would):

Best wishes on your special day
I love you more than words can say
You're always miserable and sad
And that is why I live with Dad.

Thursday, November 20, 2008

LOLcat of the week

Is this family working?

During the lead story on tonight's 7.30 Report about the extensive recent storm damage in south-east Queensland and the high likelihood of more, the Prime Minister and the Treasurer both took advantage of the mics under their noses to say the word 'families' as often as possible, as in 'providing help for families'.

Any visitor to these shores idly watching the teeve in his or her hotel room could be excused for thinking that the single and the childless were expected to sod off and fix their own roofs, re-wire their own houses and clean up all the tree branches and sinister floating typhoid-harbouring garbage themselves. The homeless, of course, are not burdened with roofs and therefore require no attention either.


Caught by surprise tonight, when without warning the opening chords of 'Shelter From the Storm' came on the teeve as part of the drama of the drama.

I don't know what it is about the violence with which music retrieves memory, but I suppose we did play Blood on the Tracks all through the summer of 1975-76, till it wore out (we're talking vinyl here) and I could probably still sing every song for you all the way through. But just those first few bars were enough to bring down a flood of remembrance: white silk dress too much whisky lying on the seagrass matting reading Crime and Punishment in Adelaide heat crazy lover too much whisky singing in the folk club concerts sitting round the kitchen table too much whisky.

Those were the days.

Wednesday, November 19, 2008


Life as a word nerd has some remarkable moments, as when, emerging from the fog of anaesthetic some years back after the same operation from which Ampersand Duck is currently in the throes of recovery, I had a kind of dream in which the actual word PAIN, in sharp, spiky capitals, was inhabiting my innards, the points on the A and the N in particular sticking very nastily into the tender flesh of my surgically ravaged interior.

It was a very vivid sensation, halfway between a dream and a hallucination, and I remembered it the other night when I had a dream in which people were talking about me (always a horrid sensation) and one of them -- someone I'd thought liked me -- said 'Oh no, not her -- she's turned into a nightmare.'

This was so intensely distressing that it actually woke me up, and I only figured out the next morning that my dreaming subconscious was telling me this was a nightmare and I should wake up out of it sharpish.

I have great faith in my subconscious. So now that I'm sitting here working up the other end of the house from the kitchen late at night and could swear I can smell coffee, I'd very much like to know what metaphorical coffee it is that my subconscious wants me to wake up and smell.

Boundless plains to share -- not

Whatever your plans for this evening may be, see if you can fit them around watching this program on SBS.

As Philip Adams remarked last night on Late Night Live, of course it ought to be on the ABC, but we all know what's happened to them. Brian at LP has a good post on this doco here.

"If I'd been released maybe I'd be a good person, in Australia."

Monday, November 17, 2008

Happy birthday!

Many happies to the friend, regular reader of this blog and fellow Chinese Water Snake whose birthday it is. You know who you are.

If it happens to be anyone else's birthday, many happies to you too!

Sunday, November 16, 2008

Word Nerd Corner (now with bonus nostalgia and film critique)

And today we have two:

1) "Fraudster"

Where did this bit of nonsense excess come from? It looks like tongue-in-cheek vaudeville Yiddish, or possibly Lolkitteh, whose construction is based partly on the addification of superfluitude. Whatever happened to the perfectly good, indeed lovely, word "fraud"? By this logic I could write you a list of some of my favourite blogs: The Viewster from Elsewhere, Hoydenster About Town, Pea Soupster, Baristaster, Humanities Researcherster ...

2) Socialite

In yet another cautionary tale about over-trustful reliance on the spell-checker, this week's TV guide, courtesy of News Ltd via the Adelaide Advertiser, contains a plot précis of tonight's ABC movie A Room With a View: 'Much to the disapproval of her chaperone, a young woman is drawn to the son of a socialite while visiting Florence in search of adventure.'

Now I wrote an Honours thesis on Forster back in the mists of time and to this day remember whole chunks of A Room With a View by heart ('Most excellent Honeychurches, but you know what I mean') and this does not sound to me like Forster's plot. For a start, the heroine is already engaged to the son of a socialite (a strange way to put it, I thought) and her arrival in Florence precipitates the new romantic direction away from him, not towards. And secondly, her chaperone, far from disapproving, is in fact excited and inspired by her new romantic adventure.

[UPDATE: well, I've watched it now and I take some of this back. What I was remembering was the chaperone Charlotte's own repressions and projections; chaperone is indeed outwardly over-horrified about Lucy's attraction to George but later proves to have been excited and stimulated by the romance, and a friend to it in the end. That was what I was remembering, not helped by conflating the character of the chaperone with her friend the novelist Miss Lavish, who finds it all terribly romantic and colourful. My bad. NB although I could sort of see what Davies was doing turning so many of the subtexts into super-texts (one of which in particular Forster would have been relieved to see end its long sojourn in the closet, so props to Davies for that) and obliterating others altogether, I thought this new version pedestrian, heavy-handed and literal-minded, though some of the casting was good, the music was nice, and Florence was Florence even though the cinematographer tried very hard to make it look ordinary with a palette of bleached Dickensian greys.]

I thought I'd solved the first mystery after two minutes' thought when I recalled that the new love interest is the son of a socialist (something Forster barely mentions in passing), and either some twelve-year-old sub had never seen the word 'socialist' but was intimately acquainted with the life and works of Paris Hilton, or (slightly more likely) they simply hadn't bothered to check. After all, it's not so long ago that I used the word 'interiority' in a book review and was subsequently horrified to see it rendered in both the online and the dead-tree edition of the paper in question as 'inferiority', which still made a kind of sense but, as you might expect, grotesquely changed the meaning of the sentence. (Both 'socialite' and 'inferiority' in these instances are variations on the theme of the eggcorn.) However, I remained bewildered by the chaperone part.

The TV guide gives the date of this production as 2007 so it is clearly not, I thought, alas, I thought, the substantial, sumptuous and multiply-Oscar-nominated Merchant Ivory adaptation of 1985 with Daniel Day-Lewis, Helena Bonham Carter, Judi Dench, Maggie Smith, Rupert Graves and Denholm Elliot.

No, a quick Google revealed that it is this adaptation by the ubiquitous Andrew Davies, who for reasons best known to himself has decided to change the ending in a way that would have Forster turning (or, more probably, knowing Forster, smiling gently) in his grave. And for all I know, not only has he made the chaperone disapproving but he's turned the love interest's father from a socialist into a socialite. Heck, why not.

Just as well I Googled it, or I would be spending an hour and a half tonight intermittently tearing my hair out and screaming at the TV. But Forster, as I say, is beyond caring. And as though to underline the point about spell-checking, up there in that last paragraph I originally typed 'smiling gently in his grace'.

Knowing Forster, that too.

Friday, November 14, 2008

Still Life With Cat #eleventy squillion

Thursday, November 13, 2008

And in my nightmares ...

Never mind all this insert Tab F in Slot G and glue at Point H and where are the batteries and have you got the sticky tape, this is what Christmas chez la famille Pav is going to be like if somebody* doesn't get a wriggle on.

*Looking at you, sisters

Tuesday, November 11, 2008

The grandfathers, together in 1947

Leslie Reid Goldsworthy, 1893-1969

Army, 1915-1918: France

Gassed, frostbite.

George Allen Kay, 1897-1970

Army, 1916-1918: France

Gassed, hearing-impaired, shot.

More here.

Monday, November 10, 2008

The curriculum, again

In the days following the US election there's been considerable discussion both online and IRL about how bad Barack Obama's inspired victory speech made our own Prime Minister's style (and content) of public speech look by comparison.

I thought this was a little harsh, particularly in the light of the Apology to the Stolen Generations speech and the sincerity and passion with which Rudd delivered it. I also think we are suffering from short-memory syndrome, considering the much starker contrast between Obama's public presence and performance and that of our own former Prime Minister.

It can't be denied, however, that the contrast was a little painful. The last PM this country has had -- and indeed the only PM it has had in my lifetime -- who like Obama combined charismatic physical elegance with powerful oratory and highly-developed on-his-feet verbal skills was Paul Keating, and even Keating spoiled it: the public speaking skills were habitually undermined by the coarseness and cruelty he was capable of (and really enjoyed) when speaking on his feet, and his considerable physical elegance was likewise marred by the great big chips on both shoulders, which completely spoiled his line. At his best, however, he was mesmerising.

I don't know who wrote Obama's speech, but had Keating made a comparable one it would have been written, or at the very least shaped, by Don Watson, a man who has written history, biography, lectures, essays, comedy and screenplays, and who therefore understands better than most the importance of structure as the starting point for most kinds of writing. Rhetorical skills are not just about word choice; they are also about understanding exactly what you're saying, why you're saying it, and what you hope to achieve by it -- and then by very carefully structuring your essay or speech to create the audience effect that you want.

During my years as an academic I learned just how much ferocious resistance there is among people who are passionate readers but not writers to the idea that a rousingly emotive piece of writing might actually have any kind of cool thought behind it, much less any close attention paid to writing technique. As with feminism, people who know little or nothing about rhetoric tend to use the word as a term of abuse, giving it connotations of insincerity, as in 'empty rhetoric'. This mistrust of rhetorical skills is reinforced by such events as the savagely moving and, for the British royal family, utterly humiliating eulogy given at his sister's funeral by Charles Spencer, who appears to have barely seen his nephews since.

There's a strong capital-R Romantic desire for moving words to have been spontaneously generated, a desire that probably has something to do with the notion that the only authentic utterance is that produced by spur-of-the-moment gut-spilling. But genuine gut-spilling is, as Fran Lebovitz once remarked, just exactly as charming as it sounds, and is very unlikely to produce either an exquisite and heartbreaking lyric poem in complex metre or the speech that Obama gave on the day of his victory.

I think the point I'm struggling towards here is that rhetorical skill, as with so many other kinds of skill, is a neutral entity that can be used for purposes either noble or nefarious, but given that a large part of rhetorical skill involves persuading other people to your point of view, it deserves to be looked on with some degree of suspicion even when you are on the practitioner's side.

Or perhaps especially when you are on the practitioner's side. Obama's speech was carefully calculated to produce that Evangelical call-and-response effect -- and it was the one thing about his speech that made me very, very uneasy. I am a child of the twentieth century, and the sight and sound of fifty thousand people in one place chanting the same thing -- even when it's 'Yes we can' -- is always going to chill me to the marrow. Perhaps the mistrust of rhetorical technique is grounded in a well-founded fear of being manipulated. Some of us really, really hate having our tears jerked.

These are deep waters, Watson, and any minute now I'm going to start wittering on about art and affect and the fact that the word 'aesthetic' is the opposite of the word 'anaesthetic', words to do with feeling and not-feeling. In the meantime the subject of Kevin Rudd coming a bad second to Barack Obama came up again yesterday over lunch, and my friend R, who spent six years living in New York, had a very simple diagnosis. 'The Americans teach Civics and Rhetoric as a matter of course,' she said. 'And we don't.'

Saturday, November 8, 2008

Awards (various)!

These three things have turned up out of the blue over the last few days.

-- From the lovely Lisette at Textile Seahorse:

-- From Hey Dude, a nomination in the category 'Best Hidden Gem' (I love the category almost more than I love the nomination) for:

The 2008 Weblog Awards

-- And finally, and from furthest out of left field, something that turned up the other day in the newsletter I still get sent by my friend L from the Adelaide Philharmonia Chorus, the choir I left at the end of 2005, which was almost two years after we sang in this:

Friday, November 7, 2008

Whole lotta bloggin' goin' on ... not

Not around here, anyway. Because here is my deadline calendar for the next couple of months:

Nov 12: 900 word total -- short reviews of 4 novels

Nov 14: 8-900 word review of 216-page book

Nov 19: 900 word total -- short reviews of 4 novels

Nov 21: Six MA theses in Creative Writing due back with grades and examiners' reports (not yet received, I have to pick them up this afternoon)

Nov 24: Ten Honours theses, on assorted subjects, due back with grades and examiners' reports (seven received so far, three still MIA)

Nov 26: 900 word total -- short reviews of 4 novels

Dec 3, 10, 17, 24 and 31: 900 word total -- short reviews of 4 novels

Jan 1: 18-1900 word review of 714-page biography

Jan 6: Return 1400-page manuscript to publisher, proofread

Jan 7: 900 word total -- short reviews of 4 novels

And that's only if nobody offers me any new work between now and then, which would in itself be cause for alarm. At all times, but especially in times of economic panic, the freelancer must make like the ant*, in preparation for the time to come when grasshopper behaviour will be the only available option.

At least those dates are staggered. As opposed to moi, what am staggering:

As one form of time-saving, but also for nobler reasons, I shall be doing most of my Christmas shopping out of the Oxfam catalogue. Actually it is such a ripper this year that I might devote a whole nother blog post to it, thereby avoiding all of the above for another ten minutes or so.

*Except for the nyerdy nyer part at the end, of course.

Thursday, November 6, 2008

The highest court in the land

I hope I'm not contravening any laws in passing on the gist of yesterday's Get Fuzzy, but I really cannot resist ...

SATCHEL POOCH: So you're telling me that there's a "Supreme Cat" sitting around every day making laws?

BUCKY KATT: Yup. Well, I mean not every day ... When she feels like it.

SATCHEL: And people call her the "Supreme Cat".

BUCKY: Yeah, but again, don't expect her to respond to it. She might be supreme, but she's still a cat.

And here's a book to buy/read

Not that I've read it yet; I'm not even sure it's in the shops. But it's being launched in Melbourne on November 11, and here's the (much more than usually thoughtful and substantial) blurb:

By Christos Tsiolkas
Category: Literary Fiction
Published by Allen & Unwin 7 November 2008, RRP $32.95 Tpb

At a suburban barbecue, a man slaps a child who is not his own. For those who witness the incident, the consequences have reverberations that will affect all their lives, splintering families and friendships. What unfolds is a powerful, haunting novel about love, sex and marriage, parenting and children, and the fury and intensity - all the passions and conflicting beliefs - that family can arouse. Told from the perspective of eight people present at the barbeque, the slap and its consequences force them all to question their own families and the way they live, their expectations, beliefs and desires.

Christos Tsiolkas is a writer who loves to take on taboos, and believes his writing to be a form of activism. His work is often controversial, but it engages with and challenges the reader in a way they WANT to be challenged, forcing them to see a new perspective.

In The Slap, Tsiolkas dissects what “middle class” means in Australia now, and questions their aspirations and fears in this post-feminist, post-political, post-multicultural era. What are the responsibilities of parenthood? What are the limits in relationships between adults and youth? Is a slap ever forgiveable? What future are contemporary families creating?

Tsiolkas's writing gets up people's noses and shocks them badly, but he's an excellent writer and a passionate thinker, and this book sounds like a ripper. As someone with no kids I've often found myself on very shaky ground with OP's: the kind of behaviour that one parent has thanked me for ('It's such a relief that you have your own relationship with him and deal with him directly and don't expect me to do it or implicate me'), another parent has reacted to with suppressed outrage and sarcasm ('Rebuke administered?' Translation: 'That's quite enough from you, how dare you not let my child get away with being outrageously rude to you!')

Both of these women were close friends. It mattered, quite a lot. I'm a big fan of Helen Garner's novella Other People's Children, which examines similar dilemmas at the height of the 'alternative' age, and it looks as though Tsiolkas is picking that baton up from the same Melbourne backyards in which Garner put it down, though from a very different personal perspective, and a generation later.

UPDATE (with props to Mindy who called it to my attention): there's a cracker of a review by Tsiolkas's fellow-novelist Gerard Windsor, an excellent read in itself, here.

'I know that kind of man ...'

Every now and then as I soar gracefully or churn doggedly through my working week's quota of contemporary fiction, some sentence or paragraph will leap off the page as though someone had switched the power on. The words go up in lights, as on Broadway, and I hear a sort of 'BING' noise about halfway between the seatbelt-fastening bing and the bing you hear when you've hit the target and won the stuffed tiger. Sometimes there's more than one bing. There can be up to five.

So there I was on Page 8 of Howard Jacobson's The Act of Love, still blowing on my coffee and barely settled on the sofa, when ...

How you can tell on so brief an appraisal (and most of it from behind) that a man is an absentee libertine, that he lights fires and doesn't stop to see them blaze, that at the last he'd sooner withhold a sexual favour than confer one, I can't explain. Perhaps that sort of sexual sadism shows in the curvature of the spine.


Wednesday, November 5, 2008

Champagne if he wins, battery acid if he loses

Around 9 am, certain hardy persons, clearly well young enough to be my children, were asking on one of the LP election threads what people are drinking. That is my answer.

It's now 10.46 am and I am still in my dressing gown (hooray for being one's own boss, etc), glued to the computer. The admirable and ever-reliable Possum is liveblogging the election for crikey and has made this truly remarkable observation there:

With an estimated 75% turn out in Virginia, the down ballot Senate race already being called for Dem Mark Warner, the first handful of results in Republic districts in Virginia will tell us if Obama has won the election. If they are close or even leaning Obama then Virginia goes Democrat and the election is effectively over.

There are some fantastic other links from that, erm, link, including to the wonderful US map with closing times for each State and the Australian EST equivalents. If I have done my Adelaide time zone arithmetic correctly, voting closed in Virginia about 25 minutes ago, so there's not that long to wait.

There will be a major moment about five minutes from now when voting closes in 21 states, strung out all the way along the political spectrum. Somewhere between now and the champagne/battery acid I'm going to have to get out the Scotch and have what my friend Steve used to call a teensy triple. Possibly in my dressing gown.

Tuesday, November 4, 2008

Brand new eggcorn never heard before (at least not by me)

This evening on Radio National's Australia Talks (and I wonder if that's next for the axe): 'We're not going to pamper to them ...'

(She meant pander.)

And speaking of pandas (see what I did there?), a bonus beautiful phrase: charismatic megafauna.

Story of my life

Blogosphere, playground of the Id

At the moment there's a lively, interesting, well-informed discussion going on at Larvatus Prodeo about today's Melbourne Cup. And yesterday in the middle of it, someone popped up to say 'Oh, is there a horse race on this week?' or some such drecky smartarse remark.

It's reminded me of something very similar that happened (also at LP) a couple of weeks ago when a light-hearted Kasey Chambers Appreciation Post went up and in the middle of, again, an enthusiastic and knowledgeable discussion, someone suddenly turned up to say something like 'Oh, this is reminding me of the tedium of country music.'

Would these people walk up to a group of strangers at a party having exactly the same conversation and say exactly the same thing? Would they be aware that such behaviour is beyond the realms of the pig-rude? And if they wouldn't do it IRL, why do they do it online? I would really like to know what other people think this kind of behaviour is about.

I know what I think it's about; I think it's about the sort of wankery that's involved in implicitly declaring one's own superiority over the people discussing the topics, and, by extension, of all of the topics' enthusiasts. I wish I could say I think the mindset that goes 'I know nothing about this, therefore it must be crap' was a product of our times but I fear not; it seems rather to be a particularly unattractive aspect of the human condition, possibly enabled by educational fashions in recent years that have encouraged children to think self-expression is more important than anything else.

Now it's perfectly all right to be not interested in stuff. I myself break out in hives whenever people start talking about renovations. The difference is that I try not to rudely say so in the middle of an enthusiastic discussion of renovating, being conducted by people who are far more knowledgeable about it than I am.

With the LP threads as aforementioned, I feared for a while, before I'd thought this through a bit more, that there may be an unspoken and probably largely unconscious class dimension. Country music and horse racing are so, well, you know. On the other hand, for some reason people also feel compelled to behave in this way during discussions of Harry Potter, a topic I would not have picked first up as a signifier of boganville. He does, however, have mass appeal, so I suppose the expressions of contempt there are to do with the speaker's desire to express her/his own unique distinction from the common herd. It's really more about self-definition by disownership. People given to this kind of behaviour do seem to reserve a special virulence for particular topics, but those topics also include feminism, literary theory and opera.

These online expressions of contempt for other people's enthusiasms, right in those people's virtual faces, might be somehow related to road rage. Perhaps the de haut en bas dissers feel safe in the knowledge that they're not doing it face to face.

Which raises the question of the power of physical presence. Do people actually fear they will be hit or spat at if they behave like this in the real world? And if they do think that what they have to say might provoke physical assault, is this not an indication that they understand exactly how offensive they're being?

Which leads me to the inescapable conclusion that they do not care. But if these people are so gosh-darned fussed about what other people think of them that they feel the need to express their superiority to a bunch of strangers, it's astonishing that they don't think twice about their manners.