Monday, May 31, 2010

Another day, another blog

Loth to let the litblog thing go altogether, though one has tried and failed to keep it up at more than one site, one is having yet another go. Now that I've learned to export and import on Blogger, this newish blog incorporates all of Australian Literature Diary (2005-2010 on and off) and all (three whole months but gee it was fun while it lasted) of Ask the Brontë Sisters (May-July, 2007).

I originally called it 'Read, Write, Think' but on reflection decided that sends a terrible message, as one should think before one writes. It might be better entitled 'Read, Think, Write, Draft, Edit, Proof-read, Argue With Editor, Review, Fisk [which we of literary academe used to call 'close reading' before it began to be frowned on as ideologically unsound, and were taught, compulsorily and unrelentingly, to do many years before blogging was born or thought of, harumph, you kids get off my lawn, etc], Rave About Writers You Like and Whinge and Bitch About Other People's Terrible Ideas and Excruciating Spelling, Grammar and Style', but this should do to be going on with.

It's meant to be a sort of journal, in which track is kept of what I read and write from day to day, what I notice in the reviews pages, little magazines, trade journals and lit gossip columns, and what I hear from my mates. Much like this blog, in fact, except without the cooking and cats and gardening and Tony Abbott and so on. Whenever there's a new post over there, I'll put up a link from here.

Thursday, May 27, 2010

The good life

One of Joni MItchell's relatively early songs begins like this:
Papa's faith is people
Mama she believes in cleaning
Papa's faith is in people
Mama she's always cleaning
When I first heard this (opening lines of 'Let the Wind Carry Me' on For the Roses), I related to it at once, but on further reflection I think my own version would go
Papa's faith was Mama
Mama she believed in people (also cleaning)
Not only have I not inherited my mother's genius for good housekeeping, which she combined with a firm belief that everyone was Christopher Robin till proven guilty and which provided a husband and three children with clean, quiet, orderly comfort, good meals, clean clothes and good health on a daily basis for quarter of a century, but I have reacted the other way and tend to live in squalor. I haven't yet been dug out from under a pile of garbage like those people in the news yesterday, and care is taken in bathroom and kitchen, but I live a paper life and most of its detritus is in tall, dusty piles around the house. Ma really did believe that cleanliness is next to godliness and I fear that by her standards I am far from being a good person.

The very entertaining Robert Dessaix was talking at Adelaide Writers' Week earlier this year about the way that writers he's written books about -- Turgenev, André Gide -- thought it was important to live a good life. Not the good life, as in wine, women and song, nor yet the 'goodness' of church on Sunday and no sexual irregularities please, but what Robert called a beautiful life, one with depth and content and meaning.

Here at Chez Cat Hair today, a good life would consist of the following:

1) Get weekly copy written and filed ASAP and vow to catch up and stay caught up with proper deadlines.

2) Visit father.

3) Plant tulips.

Finishing and filing the copy is vital. No excuses, no shortcuts, do it now.

If I don't actually visit my father, I will at least be calling him for a long chat as per our weekly routine, which I think suits him more and more as he gets older.

Perhaps I'll put the tulips in the fridge to get properly cold before they go into the temperate Adelaide earth.

Note no mention of vacuuming.

I really want to do the vacuuming. It's just that I think the deadline, the father and the tulips all matter more.


Time to go to the optometrist. Yes yes I've been saying that for a while now; I was hoping to outlast the fashion for rectangular retro-National-Health post-horn-rims that I just know are going to make me look like a serial killer. But when you inadvertently type 'that' as 'shat' and then don't see it while you're proofreading, the whole necessity thing ramps up a notch.

Lunar lights

Beyond the fact that s/he appears to hail from Sydney I have not yet (not that I've tried very hard so far) found a clue to who the Loon Pond blogger actually is. It's clearly only one person but s/he signs him/herself Dorothy Parker so that's really not much help is it. Whoever s/he may be, the prolific and very sharp and funny Dorothy P. of Loon Pond is now on the blogroll here at Still Life With Cat and here's a sample that has already given me a larf on this demanding morning:

Meanwhile, the Liberals shed the likes of Petro Georgiou and keep the likes of Julie Bishop. It's a funny old world ...

Wednesday, May 26, 2010

Liberal schmiberal

Malcolm Fraser has left the Liberal Party, and poor Margaret Simons, who as the co-author of Fraser's political memoirs has known for four months but promised not to say anything -- which as a journalist must have really, really hurt -- is finally liberated.

Like many old enough to remember, I've got one of those sharp 'where were you when' memories of Fraser's spectacular catapult to the top of the Australian power tree on the day of the Dismissal. I'd just come out of the Adelaide U English 3 exam, during which I had concentrated excessively on Persuasion at the expense of Anna Karenina, and was being picked up outside Centennial Hall (now pulled down and replaced) in the Wayville Showgrounds, where university exams were held, by my dear friend J in her little blue Anglia, the dead spit of the one owned by the Weasley family except that it couldn't fly, though on occasion it certainly felt as though oh never mind. We drove away to the tune of the ABC fanfare for the midday news and then the sound of a shellshocked newsreader.

Twas a day of blues: my memory of Gough Whitlam's outraged and infinitely imitable voice saying 'Because nothing will save the Governor-General' is all tangled up with lines of powdery lavender-blue flowering jacaranda against the lacquered blue enamel of an Adelaide November sky.

We were all so outraged that none of us had a good word to say about Fraser, but I remember noticing even at the time, and certainly later, that he was consistently good on race and racism. His harshest criticism of John Howard was on the subject of boat people. And his resignation from the party now seems to have been triggered by Tony Abbott's bluster about closing the borders and so on. (Hello, Budge, Australia's an island. We don't have borders.)

How Fraser is feeling can only be imagined; apart from anything else, I bet he wouldn't talk about it. Imagine being 80 and deciding that an institution that has had your loyalty all your adult life is something to which you can no longer bear to belong.

Tuesday, May 25, 2010

Hi ho and so on

Is there some even more than usually sinister plot in the media to use language to confuse and discombobulate the populace? I refer, of course, to the word 'miner', which some time in the last eight weeks or so appears, at least in Australia, to have substantially changed in meaning.

Since when were obscenely rich mining companies making obscenely rich profits called 'miners'?

Miners are the people that Margaret Thatcher brought to their knees in the 1980s. Miners are the dudes with the pickaxes, the dirty faces, the high mortality rate, the not-high-enough salaries and the really really terrible lungs.

Andrew Forrest is not a 'miner', and neither is any of his sorry ilk.

(In the process of checking the date of the UK miners' strike on Wikipedia, I found this, which is too good not to share:
On 13 November 2009, rumours of Thatcher's death were erroneously circulated within the Canadian Government whilst they attended a black-tie dinner, after transport minister John Baird sent a text message announcing the death of his pet tabby called Thatcher. The news was reported to Prime Minister Stephen Harper as the death of Baroness Thatcher, and almost caused a diplomatic incident between Canada and the United Kingdom, but the Canadian Government rang Downing Street and Buckingham Palace to seek verification.)

Damn it, sorry

For the second time in as many weeks I have hit the 'publish this post' button instead of the 'save as draft' button, exposing my terrible typing and failure to put in links till the very end. Sorry. Please disregard. I can spell 'obscenely', really I can.
Edited version available shortly.

Wondering what gay men around Australia are thinking this week ...

... after last week, when the David Campbell ministerial car gay sex club Channel Seven revenge thingy broke in Sydney on the same day that Jason Akermanis 'wrote' a column for the Herald Sun (I mean, really) in Melbourne saying that gay men in footy would make life uncomfortable in the locker room.

One hopes that one's gay friends and acquaintances have been heartened by the public response to both of these things, which has been mainly scornful of both Akermanis and Channel Seven not only in the press but also in the comments threads at the media websites and blogs, usually a sink of Neanderthal sewage. Even Miranda Devine came out defending Campbell, sort of; as one blogger remarked, the day you find yourself agreeing with Miranda Devine is the day you know Channel Seven has done something really, really bad.

But the Akermanis thing has me thinking. Anyone who has ever seen him talking on the teeve knows that Jason Akermanis is pure Id -- no mediating ego or controlling superego, just a direct line from gut to mouth, with similar results to those you get when that route is not a metaphor. It makes for good, occasionally great, football: don't think, just do it. But in this case Aker's subconscious spat forth a notion far more common in, oh, 1950 than it is now: the conviction held by a certain sort of man that everyone who fancies men at all must therefore want to have sex with him personally. It's the same assumption that underlies Tony Abbott's classic 'homosexuality makes me feel threatened', and in both men it seems grounded in and overweening and clearly visible physical vanity combined with a failure (albeit for different reasons) to keep up with the tenor of the times.

Commenting over at Adelaide from Adelaide's blog on the Akermanis thing, it occurred to me that an assumption that everyone wants to have sex with them is probably what lies behind such men's attitude to and treatment of women (looking at you, Wayne Carey) as well. And it explains something that has always puzzled me: the common conviction among men of a certain kind that if a woman wants to have sex with one man, then she wants to have sex with all of them. They believe, apparently, that the sexually active Other, whether female or gay, has no discrimination, just a kind of sexual omnivorousness.

It would certainly explain why Aker and Abbott think that if there are poofters about then they need, in the good old army phrase, to keep their backs to the wall.

Wednesday, May 19, 2010

On disappointment

Several days ago I told myself that if I'd heard nothing by lunchtime on Wednesday then I would give up, and then I would refocus and move on. And here we are.

Can't go into details, but details aren't important. This is more about a psychological trajectory.

I've been around long enough to rack up quite a few disappointments over the decades and develop various strategies to deal with them, some more self-deluding than others but all more or less effective. They range from 'You're not being napalmed' and 'Suck it up' through 'Oh well, I didn't really want it/him anyway' to 'Hey, it was a learning experience', or 'At least I won't have to [insert description of tiresome condition(s) attached to object of thwarted desire here], or 'Next!' which is pretty much the mood I'm in at the moment. Thank God I have a truly lovely major project to be getting on with. Can't really talk about that either, yet. Yes yes I know it's irritating, sorry.

Like the last biggish disappointment I experienced, this one is exacerbated by the knowledge that the process hasn't been entirely fair. Although I would say that, wouldn't I. And considering how often I admonish both of my sisters and some of my friends for talking and acting as though there were actually somebody in charge of the universe, bleating 'It's not fair' seems particularly pathetic and I'm trying to get on top of that one as we speak.

But the whole idea of 'getting past it' -- or, as footballers' managers say when their charges have been caught grabbing strangers' breasts in the street, king-hitting little drunks and/or doing lines of cocaine in the nightclub toilets, 'putting it behind you' ('Yes, he drugged and raped twelve virginal teenage fans, but he's going to put it behind him') -- has always seemed to me to be not just useless but positively harmful.

If you put bad stuff 'behind' you then you will simply do exactly the same thing next time. You can't learn, grow or thrive as a human being unless you actually take your failures, crimes and misdemeanours and their consequences in: assimilate and transcend, as I used to say many years ago to an earnest feminist friend who had no intention of giving up lipstick and perfume but used to agonise about it constantly. You have to let everything sink in and become part of you, or you'll just keep repeating yourself. Even disappointment and failure. Especially disappointment and failure.

One of the many consolations of ageing is that if you resist going into denial about the bad stuff, if you take it all in and process it, transform it into something useful, then the mind and the heart and oh all right the soul all go on growing even while the bod is in regrettable but unstoppable decline. It's the alternative to becoming a caricature of yourself as you age; you become instead a deeper, darker, richer and more complex brew. Certain good friends and certain favourite writers rise wraithlike before me as I write this and remind me of how true it is.

But one thing it did take me ages to work out is that this kind of internal process of assimilation and regrouping actually takes a huge amount of effort and energy. Like other kinds of psychological effort, it can make you really, really physically tired. So when I drag myself out of bed tomorrow morning feeling as though I have been hit by a train, I'll know why. I just wish it hadn't taken me half a century to work this one out.

Tuesday, May 18, 2010

Six figures!

Some time in the last few hours, the visitor stats here (not unique visits, of course -- my freebie basic-level counter doesn't do anything that sophisticated) went over 100,000, counting since I started this blog on September 13th, 2008, as you can see if you scroll right down to the bottom of the page. I don't pay all that much attention to stats, but I do think 100,000 is a nice number. If only it were my income.

Actually, I'm learning a lot from Tony Abbott

What I'm mainly learning is the extent to which political tribalism blinds most of the populace to the actual facts of a politician's actions and words. Take this report in this morning's Age.

How very easy it would have been, were one inclined that way, to run this story under an even more damning headline. I'm a Liar, Says Abbott. But you wait: the spin will start any minute*, if it hasn't already, and the tribally conservative among us will simply see this story as more evidence that Abbott is a frank truth-teller besides whom Rudd looks etc etc blah. Abbott Truthful About Telling Lies.

Abbott seems to believe that if he does or says something then that something is, by definition, okay. It must be okay, because Tony Abbott did or said it. So therefore they can't be, you know, lies. Not really.

His comments as quoted in that Age article shed some light on the way he sees his own behaviour:
Mr Abbott said: 'I know politicians are going to be judged on everything they say. But sometimes in the heat of discussion you go a little bit further than you would if it was an absolutely calm, considered, prepared, scripted remark - which is one of the reasons why the statements that need to be taken absolutely as gospel truth [are] those carefully prepared scripted remarks.'
By 'you' here, of course, he means 'I'. But people should understand that, right? As for the heat of discussion, yes, sometimes, in the heat of discussion, you [sic] do indeed go a little bit further. But in my experience, the heat of discussion tends to propel you further towards the naked truth, not further away from it.
'All of us when we're in the heat of verbal combat, so to speak, will sometimes say things that will go a little bit further.'
All of us do that. So I'm no different from everyone else. I'm just a bloke. Not like that other bloke, you know, the robotic bureaucrat blah blah blah.

Also, it's combat. Because I'm a man's man, you need to remember that, so I see everything in terms of fighting, and talking is fighting, right? And the point is to win, not to muck around with nancy-boy ideas like telling the truth.

God I hate nancy-boy ideas, they make me feel threatened.

See, I didn't mean that last bit. Not really. Only sort of. And people should know that.
He said his parental leave promise 'wasn't absolutely consistent with what I said the month before'. Many people had pointed out the inconsistency 'and I accept that.'
He accepts it, see? Taking his responsibility like a man's man. He accepts it. Now move on, please, nothing to see here.
He hoped when the budget returned to surplus, a Coalition government would not have to increase the tax burden, 'but nevertheless it was the least bad way of proceeding at the time.'
And anyway, it's Labor's fault.
Mr Abbott used the same rationale to explain his assertion that the argument on climate change was 'absolute crap', later saying he had been loose with his language while trying to make a case for Liberal policy to an audience in regional Victoria.
Ah, there you go; he only said that to keep the Duelling Banjos happy, so it was all right, right? He wasn't lying, you see. He wasn't even 'misspeaking'. He was loose with his language. Why was he 'loose with his language'? To endear himself to those hicks from the sticks, of course. The ones whose votes he needs so badly.

It's astonishing that a Rhodes Scholar couldn't see that one coming, but this remark makes him look abominable either way. Either he really does think 'climate change is crap', in which case he's lying in an ABC interview for all to see, or he's lying to rural voters, a big chunk of his heartland and crucial to his grab for power, because he holds them in complete contempt.
When challenged last night about how the public could know whether what he was saying was rock solid or not, given the climate change incident, Mr Abbott said: 'Well, again, I think that most of us know when we're talking to people or when we're listening to people … when we can put absolute weight on what's being said and when it's just the give and take of standard conversation.'
No, 'most of us know' that when we're talking to normal people they're usually telling the truth. This may be because most normal people don't have all that much to hide.

In any case, the public pronouncements of a politician -- no matter how 'unscripted' -- hardly qualify as 'the give and take of standard conversation'. And even if they did, most of us are reasonably sure that when we're in a standard conversation, we are neither giving nor taking lies being spouted in order to pull the wool over our, or their, eyes. At this point you really have to wonder what Abbott's personal and social life is like, if he thinks 'the give and take of standard conversation' is about lying.
Asked whether he made core and non-core promises, Mr Abbott said this was a subject that was run up and down the flagpole lots of times in March 'because you are not the first person to have noticed what you think is a serious inconsistency.'
What you think is a serious inconsistency. Because of course it's not really. We all know a non-core promise is a still a promise. It's just one that you make but don't mean, and you do it so that you'll get what you want. Everyone does that, right? What is your problem?

UPDATE: This, via The Poll Bludger, is entertaining and informative. Note date of article. This part is my personal favourite: In late August [1998] Abbott set up the Australians for Honest Politics trust ...

*UPDATE 2: And apparently it has. Here's Bernard Keane in today's oven-fresh edition of

'The best spin I've seen about Tony Abbott's disastrous 7.30 Report interview is the fact he's willing to admit he lies reflects a commendable honesty, much better than most politicians who lie without ever acknowledging it. Abbott has boldly broken down the fourth wall of politics, turning to the audience and pointed out that he's just working to a script, not actually saying what he means.

In short, Abbott is authentic and honest because he admits you can't believe him. Nice.'

Thursday, May 13, 2010

In which the Leader of the Opposition replies to the Budget

It was hard, particularly as the radio was on in the car on a shopping expedition so I only caught bits of it, to concentrate on what was actually being said in Tony Abbott's formal reply to last night's Federal Budget. I did take in the unrelenting negativity, and pick up a few linguistic infelicities (the misuse of 'shirk', for example, and the weird construction 'class war envy', which suggested to me that Abbott isn't especially familiar with either 'class war' or 'class envy' as concepts) and a number of clichés ('crystal clear') and tedious catch-phrases: is 'Great Big New Tax' already even more annoying than 'Working Families'? You decide. Why oh why, etc.

[UPDATE: two other things I've just remembered:

1) This gobsmacking moment when Abbott talks about health care as though it were just another for-profit commodity whose providers' profits should be protected as a top priority:
More GP “super clinics” sound like a good idea too except that 36 were promised at the last election and only two are actually operational. In fact, fee-for-service under Medicare has already produced hundreds of private sector equivalents and these don’t deserve unfair competition from government-funded rivals. (From here),

2) the disgraceful, repetitive, harping dog-whistling about China, a country that of course everybody knows you can't trust, because they're, you know, Chinese, and communists, and anyway Kevin knows a lot about them and can talk to them in a language that real Australians don't understand, so that must be really bad, right? I mean, who knows what he's saying to them?]

In any case, I was constantly distracted from the substance of the speech, such as it was, by the voice delivering it. As a child of the twentieth century and indeed a direct product of the Second World War, I tend to react quite badly to nasal, high-pitched, hectoring, aggressive, negative, bludgeoning male politicians' voices. They remind me of something I can't quite put my finger on.


Comment moderation has been turned on.

Temporarily, I hope.

Don't Call Me Mrs Redux

It's getting worse.

Two days in a row now: yesterday the cold-call charity, today the podiatrist.

Is there anyone out there in either the public or private sector who has had direct experience of how and why the formerly commonly used 'Ms' has been actively ditched by businesses and organisations in reversion to 'Mrs' as the default term to refer to any adult woman, since any adult woman is, presumably, married and using her husband's name, and if she isn't then she ought to be, what a disgrace, disgusting feminists etc etc splork? Can you tell me how and why? Who is behind it? I suspect John Howard myself, but perhaps this is a global backlash.

Gordon Brown didn't help the other day when he referred in his resignation speech to husband-and-fatherhood as the 'most important job in the land'. Oh well, there goes 51% of the population. And those of us who are independent and/or childless presumably are no longer to be valued even for our work. Sad.

In the meantime, to whatever individuals might stray into the Venn diagram overlap between my blog-readers and people who ring me up to ask me for money and/or who work at the reception desk of various personal-maintenance professionals, utility providers and so on, here are the options in order of preference:

1) Kerryn
2) Ms Goldsworthy
3) Dr Goldsworthy

'Mrs Goldsworthy' is my mother, sadly now no longer with us. Or my grandmother, also no longer with us, though less sadly. If you really cannot live without addressing any adult woman as 'Mrs', I believe (as I've said in that earlier linked post) that even as a divorcee of long standing I am still technically able to be legitimately addressed as Mrs Insert Surname of Child Husband Here.

But I wouldn't do that if I were you. I really, really wouldn't.

Monday, May 10, 2010

What is he on?

The man who might be our next Prime Minister by the end of the year is telling primary school students in my own home city of Adelaide, which somehow makes it worse, that the planet was hotter when Jesus was alive. (NB the begged question in this pronouncement.)

Mr Abbott appears to have provided no evidence to back up his gobsmacking remark. Nor does he say whether he meant it was hotter in the Middle East than it was in Adelaide when Jesus was alive. Nor did he, apparently, point out to the bemused Year Fives and Sixes that there was no Adelaide when Jesus was alive, nor that the Middle East tends to be hotter than Adelaide, hard though it may be to believe that there is anywhere hotter than Adelaide, when Adelaide is hot, whether Jesus is there or not. Then. Or now.

Mr Abbott probably thought it best to dispense with this sort of epistemological complication, as being beyond the minds of the impressionable young. No doubt he likewise thought it unnecessary to distinguish between verifiable facts and Tory-god-botherer thought-bubbles of pure methane, which, as we all know, doesn't hurt the environment whether produced by man or beast.

Because, of course, he understands that distinction.

Doesn't he.

Wednesday, May 5, 2010

Classist narcissist gets the arse

Catherine Deveny, in the course of 'standing by her Logies tweets' (and now that I've typed that out, excuse me while I go and have a hot bath) (razor blades optional but tempting), has said 'I'm edgy, I push the envelope.' Apparently this is the correct description of publicly humiliating an eleven-year-old child and making 'jokes' about a tragically early death. Because everyone knows that paedophilia and breast cancer are funny, right?

Sorry, Dev old bean, but my understanding is that if you're still using words like 'edgy' and 'push the envelope', both of which went out with big hair (well, maybe the year after), then clearly neither of those things is the case. 'Vile', on the other hand, is a word for which there will always be plenty of uses.

To me the most revealing thing about Deveny's remarks in that linked piece is her self-identification, in the course of her catastrophically inaccurate view of Twitter -- 'It's passing notes in class' -- as a naughty child.

The Deveny-defenders burbling on about freedom of speech don't seem to have grasped the equally important concept of taking responsibility for your own actions, or the principle of cause and effect. Deveny has, and has exercised, freedom of speech. Nobody is going to arrest or fine her. And the Age has its own freedoms, one of which is the freedom to employ whomever they choose.

As it happens, I agree that the Age shouldn't have sacked her, but my reasons are pragmatic: clearly she has a huge fan base, at least in Melbourne (I don't think anyone else cares very much), and in these parlous times for newspapers they should be hanging on to whatever makes money for them.

UPDATE: something I should have made clear in the original post: I do think that the various people (Meanjin editor Sophie Cunningham, theatre critic Alison Croggon, Crikey's Bernard Keane and several online others) arguing that there is a gender agenda in this sacking are definitely onto something. Kyle Sandilands, Andrew Bolt, Wil Anderson and Sam Newman, just to name an XY* media cross-section of comparable 'celebrities', would probably all have got a pay rise from their respective employers. On the other hand, none of them are employed by the Age, and in any case it wouldn't exonerate Deveny. But the wider point holds: we live in a culture that rewards men and punishes women for the same kinds of behaviour.

*the chromosomes, not the generations

Monday, May 3, 2010


A paradox: when you're in the grip of literature -- of poetics, rhetoric, narrative, drama, symbolism, metaphor, style, grammar, diction and micro-nuance in all its lovely rise and fall, its innuendos and insinuations, its expeditions into the brain, its commando raids on the heart and its ambushes of the understanding -- when you are in that lifelong grip, it's bloody hard to write a document for legal purposes the way such a document is supposed to be written.

My dear, stern legal friend D took one look at my first draft and clicked her tongue and rolled her eyes. Said No no no, the court doesn't want to know How it All Went Wrong. I said But that's the interesting important stuff, and she just looked at me pityingly and clicked her tongue and rolled her eyes some more, and re-wrote the first few paragraphs for me in legalese on a paper napkin, before we turned to the more interesting and pleasant pursuit of doing the Saturday morning Crossquiz, with the help of Google courtesy of the iPhone of Last Resort.

So because she is very very good and experienced at this stuff, and because I am supporting a loved one's application for divorce and want to do it effectively and properly, I've just re-written it the way she told me to re-write it. But I don't think she realised quite how violently the clunky legalistic style would go against my grain.

I've already done my 2008-2009 tax preparations tonight, a mere nine months late, and may have been asking too much of the ageing psyche, trying to do this affidavit as well on the same night. I need another Scotch and I know that's not a good idea; if I keep this up I'll be fronting up to the accountant tomorrow morning with a sickening hangover, not for the first time, but at least my current accountant does not suffer from the BO of the former one so that should help. Yes yes, too much information. Sorry.

(Then of course there's, you know, work. Deadline, book reviews, that kind of thing. None of which I've done today except for the 30 pages of vampire splatterfest over morning coffee. Thank God for Alexander McCall Smith, who has yet another charming title out -- The Dog Who Came In From the Cold -- and can be read with great pleasure and no effort in the blink of an eye.)

What I've just printed out for the court may be the most wooden document I've ever written in my whole life, with the possible exception of my own application for divorce, back in my child-bride days. I can barely bring myself to admit that I wrote it. And all I can see is the pain between the lines.