Thursday, October 29, 2009

Thursday, October 22, 2009

Spider love

It's been nearly eleven years since I moved into this house and over those years I have found redback spiders in a number of places: tucked into grooves in door frames, peeping coyly out from drainpipes, neatly hidden in the inside-underside moulding of plastic garden chairs. (!)

So you'd think, given what a haven my place seems to be for them and given the way that their amazing beauty and elegance lures me close enough often enough to make it very likely that one day I will get bitten on the nose and die a horrible death, that I would know a bit more about their habits, personalities and tastes. But no. None of the following, which I have just found at a perfectly respectable news site, has ever been visible from where I was standing:
It's long been known that the female redback who is roughly twice the size of her male counterpart, regularly eats a number of her male courtiers, although exactly what determines who gets eaten has been unclear.

New Canadian research suggests that it depends on whether the female has been satisfied by the duration of the stimulatory courtship, which entails the male vibrating the female's web for approximately 100 minutes.

I'm not sayin' nothin'.

Wednesday, October 21, 2009

The Kiss

Last night I went to the premiere screening of a new short film by young local filmmakers Sonya Humphrey (producer) and Ashlee Page (writer-director). Adelaide's Mercury Cinema was filled to capacity, no mean feat at 6.30 on a warm Tuesday evening, by a crowd that included some well-known faces.

The film is an adaptation of Peter Goldsworthy's short story of the same name, 'The Kiss', a story I know very well because I chose it to include in the Macquarie PEN Anthology of Aust Lit and have therefore read it about eleven times, if you count repeated proofreadings. Not to be giving away the whole plot, but it's a chilling tale in which two teenage boys, the worse for drink, decide to go for a swim in an isolated underground tank and realise only after they have jumped in that the water level is too low for them to be able to reach the ladder.

Considering that in Page's screenplay the characters are girls instead of boys, which you'd think was a pretty substantial change and a most disconcerting one at first, the film is actually one of the closest and cleverest adaptations of a piece of fiction that I think I've ever seen. Page gets a couple of extraordinary performances out of her two young actors, and a lot of mileage out of the look of rural Australia at night, simultaneously sinister and glorious.

What I've always admired most about Peter Goldsworthy's work (NB if you're wondering, he may or may not be a distant cousin, so this is nepotism five times removed if it is nepotism at all), in any genre, is his ruthlessness in following the logic of the body to its often bitter end; to me at least, all of his best work is firmly grounded in his experience as a GP over several decades, pitting the detailed abstractions of moral dilemmas against the stark, simple, unrelenting clarity of the body and its processes and frailties. The film is very faithful to this particular take on the mind-body problem. One of the most interesting things about watching it was that although I was all too familiar with the story's events and therefore knew what was coming, I still felt chilled and wired by it -- tense muscles, racing heart -- which makes you wonder about the nature of suspense. Another kind of mind-body problem.

Thursday, October 15, 2009

Two things I've learned already today and it's not even lunchtime yet

(1) If you're trying to think through/develop/write a complicated argument about Aboriginal writing and its relationship to ideas about 'literary merit', a 180-word book review being written to deadline is not the place to do it, and anyway you're far better off waiting for your dear friend L, co-author of Intimate Horizons: The Post-Colonial Sacred in Australian Literature, to arrive tomorrow to give her seminar at Adelaide U so that you can pick her brains about the current state, if any, of academic debates around this question and her own ideas about it.

(2) Work really does expand to fill the time available.

Wednesday, October 14, 2009

Faine daining: to tip or not to tip

Ploughing sadly through the various horrors of the Adelaide news this morning, I came across an altogether more frivolous item about SA people being the meanest tippers in the country.

What do people think about tipping in restaurants? Do you do it? How much? Why?

Tuesday, October 13, 2009

Typo schmypo

It's been a long and painful process and even now I occasionally succumb to temptation, but I've learned over four years of blogging that there are certain fora in which you can be as rude, abusive and profane as you like, but the moment that -- having finally snapped at some online wanker's rudeness, aggression or abuse -- you mock someone's grammar, spelling, transcription, typing skills, or any other manifestation of ignorance or carelessness with language, you will be roundly abused for pointing out a 'typo'.

In the book of netiquette, mockery of a so-called 'typo' is somewhere well beyond defamation in the catalogue of sins and even further beyond plagiarism, which isn't considered a sin at all. The word 'typo' is short for 'typographical error' which (while technically a misnomer since it harks back to the days of lead type) is, or used to be, used in media and publishing to refer to any alphabetical or other character misplaced by mechanical accident, formerly as when one misplaced the little metal letters and now as when one tingles up one's fangers in the typing process. But the netizens to whom I refer here, who clearly don't know this and don't care, use 'typo' to mean all manner of error committed through ignorance and carelessness.

They are welcome, of course, but it is sad for them that, since they are not alert to these things, they miss so much unintended online humour. Like this most wonderful comment, comment #3, at this excellent piece on Julie & Julia: 'Stop trying to analize everything.'

That, folks, is not a 'typo'. That is a truly magnificent spelling error and an even more magnificent, if entirely unintentional, pun. It's the sort of thing that makes you hope there's an afterlife, just so that Freud can have a giggle.

Friday, October 9, 2009

Hey hey, who dunnit?

Here's what I want to know: who was it who watched the Jackson Jive act on old Hey Hey footage from decades ago, when the participants were all young medical students, and decided that it would be a good, funny and appropriate thing to do to invite them back? Who thought that was a good idea? Surely this can be tracked down to a single name. But I bet we never hear it.

Unless it was Daryl Somers himself, of course. He certainly appears to be living in the past in every other way.

For the record I think (a) that when it comes to humour, context is everything, especially with parody and satire, but (b) that blackface, whose origins lie in open mockery (and badly-concealed fear and loathing) of African-Americans, is not appropriate, at all, in any context, ever. (And I did enjoy Germaine Greer's comments on Q&A last night comparing the Hey Hey fallout with women's tolerance of men in drag. I've always taken it for granted, especially after seeing Priscilla, that theatrical drag -- as distinct from private or non-performative cross-dressing, which is about something else -- is grounded in ferocious hatred of and contempt for women, but that is true of so many other things, like The Footy Show, that one has to acknowledge it as a norm.)

Part of the context for the Jackson Jive fiasco, of course, was that one of the judges was a guest from the American South. So whoever set the whole thing up either was too ignorant and dim to realise, or did it deliberately. I'm not sure which is worse.

Thursday, October 8, 2009

Brothers, sisters and anthologies : oh the irony

So when I got home this afternoon from fifteen rounds with a sibling -- the ferocious upfront one, all teeth and claws all the time, and no backing down until one of you dies -- so stratospherically stressed out that my eyeballs and teeth were aching and there was a strange metallic taste in my mouth that no amount of medicinal chocolate would shift, I found two things in the mail.

One was a copy, kindly sent by Allen & Unwin, of Charlotte Wood's new themed anthology of specially-commissioned stories by Australian writers about siblings, entitled Brothers and Sisters. The other was my copy of the current Australian Book Review, in which critic Peter Craven continues his attack on the team of scholars of Australian literature (of which he is not one) who edited the Macquarie PEN Anthology of Australian Literature, including moi, that he began in his magisterially and savagely opinionated review of the anthology in the previous issue.

I've been a fan of Charlotte Wood's since I read her novel The Children, in which she shows great interest in the sibling dynamic and great skill in representing it, an impression further borne out by the brilliant, funny, moving introduction to this new book. And after reading the ABR correspondence pages I'm considering the possibility that one way to understand the shifting, endlessly complex dynamics of the literary scene and all its tortured interrelationships is to think of it in terms of sibling relations, where the keynote is intensity for better or worse, and where endless fights for territory, dominance, independence, sentimental vases and Mummy and Daddy's approval all take place in the hothouse arena of shared interests and common experience.

At the very least, I find that thinking about these things anthropologically and psychoanalytically helps me to get some distance on them, to back away from the rage. It's that or the bottle shop, and I have too much work to do tonight for the bottle shop to be an option. Besides, I want to be fully alert when Germaine takes on Planet Janet on Q&A.

Cross-posted at Australian Literature Diary


So, will my Visitor stats hit 60,000 today? And if they do, will I get a special cookie?

UPDATE, 6.30 pm: Yes! All ur numberz are belong to us!

Tuesday, October 6, 2009

Good news for aspiring writers!

Because these days, apparently, you can get any old crap published. Any old offensive, outrageous, barking, evil crap at all.

A taste, if you can stomach it. My emphasis. Note the interesting elision from 'polygamy' in the headline to 'polygyny' in the article, and ponder on whether it was a nodding sub or a deliberate way to make this bilge look more palatable, or what. NOW READ ON ...
Yes, polygyny may lead to jealousy. We are all human. But ... the ultimate in giving is for a woman to give a fraction of her husband's time and affection to another woman who is willing to share with her. It is a spiritually rewarding experience that allows women to grow while the husband toils to provide for more than one partner.

... Many men in Western society complain about their mother-in-law or a “nagging” wife. If his wife and in-laws were difficult, would he seek more of the same? The willingness of a man to take on another wife is in fact a form of praise to his first wife.

While Islam sanctions polygyny, it does not condone threesomes. Islam also does not permit polyandry, a form of relationship in which a wife takes more than one husband. There are many reasons for this. Some are medical, some relate to paternity. Others pertain to the sexual proclivities of the different genders.

Yeah, see, you need to know who the father is. Because that's the most important question in the world. And everyone knows women don't like sex. And 'medical' -- hey, enough said. (It must be enough; he doesn't elaborate.)

Now re-read this article swapping the roles. Try to think of any man you have ever met or heard of who would accept that being one of several men in any woman's life would be a spiritual experience that would allow him to grow, or that he should look on it as a song of praise for him.

I know the blogosphere is particularly scone-hot on free speech so I take my life in my hands here. But this kind of stuff ought not to be allowed to poison our reading air. Speech is action, and some actions are not to be condoned.

Monday, October 5, 2009

Blogiversary post: in praise of blokes

It's four years ago today since I tentatively followed the 2005 Blogger step-by-step instructions and eventually, to my own astonishment, set up my first blog Pavlov's Cat. (I have recently attempted with Blogger's much more sophisticated 2009 machinery to incorporate t'old blog in t'new blog, but I nearly broke my internets and have not been game to try again.)

By the time you get to your fourth blogiversary you need to think a bit in order not to start repeating yourself, so, looking back over the year's posts, I decided on a bit of linkage in celebration of the dudely side of life. As a woman, a blogger and a feminist, if not quite a 'feminist blogger' within the meaning of the act, not only am I often quite rude about blokes (though only when they deserve it) but I tend to write about women's work and women's lives, my own and other people's, public and private, on a weekly and sometimes even a daily basis, with the default focus on the female, as you might expect.

But this year some exceptional men have provided me with some exceptional moments (I'm sorry, I would have liked to have put that another way) and some hi-qual blog fodder. They include:


Barack Obama

Jon Stewart (I hope you can see this; I know some people can't)

Daniel Craig

Grandfather Goldsworthy

Roger Woodward and Johann Sebastian Bach

Samuel Taylor Coleridge

Sunday, October 4, 2009

Trip trap, trip trap

Sorry folks, I have a new troll -- some free-market worshipper behaving the way such types usually behave online, with the emphasis on anonymous, gratuitous, aggressive pig-rudeness to total strangers -- and therefore comment moderation has been enabled until she or he gets bored and goes away. I know it's annoying, but it won't be for long.

For some reason, every blogiversary I've ever had (4th tomorrow) seems to be marked by some unpleasantness of this nature. Perhaps it is merely the blog gods reminding one that blogging is not all Veuve Clicquot and free kittens.

Saturday, October 3, 2009

Some random

Random blog posts I would write if only [insert excuse here]
  • One about the common motivation behind nearly all of the negative reactions I've seen so far to The Macquarie PEN Anthology of Australian Literature, which have included 'I'm not in it! I'm personally insulted! This book is bad!' and 'I wasn't invited to edit it! I'm personally insulted! This book is bad!' and 'My husband / wife / SO /BFF / offspring isn't in it! I'm personally insulted! This book is bad!' and 'My own genre isn't adequately represented! I'm personally insulted! This book is bad!' and 'It hasn't got enough of the things that I think are really good in it! I'm personally insulted! This book is bad!' Etc. Spot the common element here.
  • One about natural disasters and the reporting of natural disasters, with specific reference to headlines like '2 Australians Missing After Volcano Eruption' when in fact 5,000 Sicilians have also been engulfed by molten lava, a fact that appears somewhere in the fourth paragraph if you're lucky.

Random reasons to be cheerful
  • I've just had a nice drive up to the Adelaide Hills to hang out with my best mate.
  • The book I'm reading for work is quite adequately gripping.
  • There are prawns dipped in leftover guacamole for dinner.

Random whining
  • I'm still not at all sure about this haircut.
  • My back hurts.
  • The deplorably illiterate "sneak peak", which I'm seeing more and more frequently, has just turned up on the website of one of the country's major newspapers. Don't people think about the meaning of the words they write and misspell at all any more? It's a peek, people. (And no, 'sneek' is not acceptable either, in fact that's worse, because it isn't any kind of word at all.) A peak is the pointy bit at the high end of a mountain or a soft-serve cone. A peek is a little baby look.