Friday, June 17, 2011

In which Ian Rankin does something unusual

Here's a little puzzle for people who habitually read literary journalism, especially in Australia.

What is quite unusual about this piece by Ian Rankin? What does it have that we don't often see in articles about literary favourites and highlights, or indeed in literary journalism at all?

Thursday, June 16, 2011

Because you're only allowed to have your coffee hot if you've done your biological duty

Opposition environment spokesman Greg Hunt says the campaign would be a misuse of taxpayer funds.

"This announcement adds insult to injury for Australian taxpayers," he said.

"Australian mums and dads are being asked to pay for the Government to advertise why mums and dads should pay higher electricity prices."
On the other hand, we are happy to let them gouge those of you who are not mummies and daddies till your ears bleed and your small intestine is tied in a bow around your liver.

Way to keep the Labor faithful faithful, Mr Hunt, even here in this dark forest where the light on the hill is lost.

Quotation is from here, where you'll see that Labor can't get anything right to save themselves either.

Wednesday, June 15, 2011

Silver lining

Long time no post once more, as I am balancing the meeting of deadlines with the managing of health Ishews. If you ever find yourself with the sort of gall bladder that must come out, but looking at some delay as the surgeon is not available for a few weeks, look on what has for me been a very bright side: you will lose six kilos and counting.

This is because, as I was warned by a friend who's been through this particular brand of hell -- is there any other ailment that is this painful and frightening and yet this fundamentally non-serious? -- you get to the stage where merely thinking about eating anything with any scrap of fat or oil in it of any kind (and you quickly discover that this includes about 97% of the food in the universe, including my very favourite among them, cheese. Especially cheese) is enough to make your inner vulture start chewing away at your vitals again. Or, in my case, thinking about eating anything at all.

Over these last few weeks I have been reminded repeatedly of that sketch from, I think, Beyond the Fringe about the couple in the English countryside during World War 2. (In a strong West Country accent): 'I'll never forget the day that rationin' was imposed. My wife came out to me in the garden, her face ashen in hue. "Charlie," she said to me, "rationin' has been imposed, and all that that entails." "Never you moind, my dear," I said to 'er, "you put on the kettle, and we'll have a noice steamin' cup o' hot water."'

Wednesday, June 8, 2011

There's a name for this

But look on the bright side, there's a cracker of a dystopian novel to be written about it.

Tuesday, June 7, 2011

Speedos on fire

Whenever Julia Gillard takes a different position on something from the position on it that she took some time in the past, Tony Abbott and his goons immediately revive the 'Ju-Liar' meme.

But when Tony Abbott does a complete 180 degree turn, it's because 'everything was different then'.

And the reason for this is that, like, um. Because, erm.

Face it, Tony, you've made an utter dickhead of yourself, yet again, and have demonstrated, yet again, that you don't give a rat's arse about the long-term future and all you're interested in is being Prime Minister.

I notice he doesn't explain why 'It was before Copenhagen' (say what?) should explain why he used to be in favour of a carbon tax and now he thinks it's the devil's work. I get the feeling that what he means when he says 'everything was different then' is that a pro-carbon-tax position was one that opposed what Labor was doing at the time, and he's now still opposing what Labor's doing, so what's the problem, I mean what is the matter with you people? I think he genuinely believes that it his job not to have policies, not to have principles, not to have convictions, not to understand stuff and not to represent his Party, but simply to be loudly against whatever Labor is for.

And if I hear one more person say 'The Opposition's job is to oppose' then I will throw up. Of course it's not the Opposition's job to oppose. The Opposition's job is to provide checks and balances, to represent the people who voted for it, and to maintain itself as a viable alternative guvmint. Good luck with that.

Monday, June 6, 2011

Sunday, June 5, 2011

Language corner

Because of reasons, I have perforce made the acquaintance in the last few weeks of a couple of bits of medical terminology with which I was hitherto unfamiliar. Those who, like me, have always regarded medical language as technical, dry and incomprehensible may be as delighted as I am by these two dramatically emotive terms. Trauma to any bit of your body by way of injury or infection is referred to as an insult. And the word for abnormal liver function tests is deranged.

Friday, June 3, 2011

Una selva oscura

This morning I paid the princely sum of $10 for this new book:

I was halfway to the bookshop counter, wallet at the ready, very possibly with Casey's recent lovely post about Dante in the back of my mind and thinking $10 was a really good deal for one of the great classics of literature, even if I did have to read it in unsatisfactory translation (for I've never seen a translation of the opening three lines that seemed to me exactly right, and I don't even speak or read Italian, but I know what I like), when I idly opened it at random to check the print size and found to my great joy that what I was about to pay a pittance for was a parallel text, with Dante's exquisite, lucid, singing Italian -- late-medieval vernacular Italian and therefore linguistically at two removes from me, and yet somehow available to instinctive reading -- opposite the translation.

Five years of excellent teaching and intermittent hard slog at Adelaide Girls' High back in the mists of time has left me with the ability to nut out a little bit of German and quite a lot of French if it is put in front of me, but such Italian as has sunk in, ie almost none (though I still remember the Italian for the first phrase I ever consciously learned: Posso provarlo? 'May I try this on?') has done so by accident and through some sort of process of osmosis.

But it strikes me, not for the first time, that this verse is so beautiful one could teach oneself Italian simply by studying a page of this book a day. A dark wood, in which one has lost one's way: can you think of a better metaphor for middle age?

...Françoise sat down beside me with a volume of Dante and construed a few lines of the 'Inferno' to begin showing me how the language worked. 'Per mi si va tra la perduta gente' - 'Through me you go among the lost people'. A line that crushed the heart, but in the middle you could say 'tra la'. It was music.
– Clive James, Falling Towards England

The opening lines likewise crush the heart -- 'In the middle of this life we live, I realised that I was in a dark wood, and the path was lost.' Or words to that effect. Also words to crush the heart, but look at the paper (or whatever it is) that they were written on.

Cross-posted at Read, Think, Write

Wednesday, June 1, 2011

Papa Cat's progress

My dad, who turned 84 in February, has finally got himself a hearing aid, with the, erm, aid of Vets' Affairs. His 1944-46 stint trundling round the Pacific and then up and down the Queensland coast on a corvette used at the end of the war as a minesweeper (blown up the year after he was demobbed) has assured that he is being well looked after in his old age and just as well too.

I can still remember the summer I was home in Adelaide for Christmas -- 1982-3, I think it was -- when he put the telly on to watch the Melbourne Test, the first day of which I knew my friend Helen would be attending, and I called out from the next room 'Look out for Helen!' and he called back 'Quarter past ten!'

He still drives; he drove for a living for much of his life and is still one of the best drivers I have ever been in a car with. And I got a text (yes, a text, and what's more he has worked out how to do capital letters) from him this afternoon saying 'Practising with my new ears. The car sounds like a truck.'

Yes, I know. I am very, very lucky.

Papa Cat (centre), Princes Bridge, Melbourne, 1944