Sunday, November 30, 2008

the oysters were had

we had them last night. half a doz coffin bays. delish. off the shell, no lemon, just like i promised. then we had seafood pasta - pan fried salmon fillets, broken up, baby clams sauteed in spring onion, garlic and vodka (no white wine) and large, fresh, green prawns - then all tossed through the spaghetti with olive oil glugging out of the 4-litre canister.

as dorothy michaels put it so well: heaven, sheer heaven.

in other news:

1. princess was introduced to animal farm. i do believe she enjoyed it the most out of all the cinema 101 offerings. she liked the fact that there was a story she could get a handle on (animal liberation) and tolerated the idea that there was a deeper, political allegory at work as well.

2. in west wing we are up to the bit where donna has fallen for the christian slater character, josh seems to be suffering some sort of un-articulated wistful lovey stuff towards donna, she has, i think, just left in the snow on a chopper to make her connection for getting away on her well-deserved holiday. i smell disaster.

3. i have the most beautiful arrangement of fushia-pink peonies, and a few white ones. they are so pretty i can't stop looking at them, and they make me shudder with delight.

4. i am really, really happy that we have a bit of a clothesline now, out the back, hanging off the edge of my balcony. we live in apartment, it's a funky secret life of them apartment, and with 5 of us in here, plus a gigi, it's at times like living on a ship, which also doubles as a chinese laundry, with clothes-horses galore and racks over the bath with lines of shirts and school dresses. we are bursting at the seams, and my mind keeps turning to our wedding presents, and my books, all in storage along with a ton of other stuff.

5. i have a mad, crazy-scientist type plan to renovate. and go up. we are top floor in the building. things are happening in this direction, ie i am making enquiries, i have an architect friend who is starting to do some drawings, and i had a builder come and look. he said "anything is possible." i like this builder, because he didn't laugh at my idea and more importantly, seems to want the business. the people next door to us are also keen to explore this possibility. i promise now if i can make this thing happen, i will have achieved a great thing. i also promise to invite you for champagne should i be able to pull this off.

6. we have gold class tickets and i am insisting we use them to go and see australia. i know there's a lot of bad talk around it, but i am determined to see it, and fairly determined to like it. i know everyone's banging on about nicole kidman, everyone's come out of the closet and are saying how detestable she is. i admit i haven't been one of those nicole-haters, in the past i couldn't see why some people would get so riled about her. but now, i can see that she seems a bit past her use-by date. that's the best way i have of putting it. she has jumped the shark and i hope she doesn't ruin the movie. for i do love baz and his shows. we'll see. oh, and please no comments about the movie if you've seen it. let's wait until i have, then we can have a free-for-all.

7. lately, i am missing old blogging friends. bevis, for one, has dropped off the radar. he had a new baby recently and that's great, and i suppose i should go and chase him up more, but i miss him being around. and he was always very around. yesterday i was browsing through some old i'm not craig posts, the earlier ones, and it's like reading other people making comments. so witty and fresh. now, it's different. still good, but different. i miss sublime, and rowena and steph and m_m.

i miss fluffy and ms fits and aleks.

i miss groverjones and ladycracker and nadine.

i miss cotton.

but most of all, i think i miss gianluca di milano.

yes, there are new friends. but still, le sigh.

Friday, November 28, 2008

passion, cont.

this started as a comment underneath the previous post. it got too long, so i decided to make it a post.

well, we all adore books, a few of us like oysters, most don't like lending books, a couple don't mind, only one hard-hearted bitch doesn't give money to beggars - moi. (where do you live, squib? is there a scarcity of beggars? are they lovely old ladies or smack addicts with shifty eyes? i figure if they have the impertinence to ask, i can also be impertinent, and say no. but i'm always polite.)

so, to oysters. tonight we shall have them. plain. i'm not even going to squeeze lemon juice on them. i shall throw back my head, dig it from the shell with my tongue, and bite at least once, before swallowing. i always bite. i don't understand the oyster-eaters who just swallow. they are faux oyster eaters, and not wanting to admit they don't really like them. for them, it's like taking medicine. for me, mmmm. the sea.

i also wonder whether there's another type of oyster eater. the restaurant oyster eater. why pay for them in restaurants when you can get them from the market - superb oysters - for $13, 14, 15 per doz. opened. at prahran market you can get them shucked in front of you.

these restaurant oyster eaters are clearly only doing it because it's a public act, they can be seen to consume the intimidating mollusc. it's like a statement of bravery or something.

save your money. eat them at home. have the bombe alaska instead.

ah, the bombe.

soon, it's my birthday and we are going somewhere fancy-pants. they have bombe alaska on the dessert menu. earlier this year, on our anniversary (coincidentally, the birthday of dearly departed ms fits, RIP, and the demise of her blog) we went to mirka at tolarno, and had the bombe glacee. it was so good, we had to return a couple of months later (it wouldn't leave my mind, you see, it kept calling me, from down the road) and have a glass of champagne perhaps it was, and a bombe each in the bar.

so, i'm looking forward to that next week.

in other news, princess has been home this week. we are both of us pretty pathetic. i've been nursing cluster-type headaches (not real cluster aka "suicide" headaches, i don't think) for the last 3 days (went to dentist, he thinks it's referred pain from sinusitis. i just don't know, i told clokes maybe it's a brain tumour. i figure if i joke about a brain tumour, it won't be one.) she is still getting over her virus and we have both descended into a malaise which is, really, as i've said, pathetic.

continuing the cinema education of princess course which i began last week (she passed romeo and juliet with flying colours, failed wuthering heights ("i'm never watching that movie again" was the exact quotation), this week saw us in front of 2001 - a space odyssey. please bear in mind it's about 25 years since i last saw it.

it went something like this.

mg: [starts dvd]

[black screen, classical music]

[black screen, classical music]

[black screen, classical music]

mg: i think this is part of it.

[black screen, classical music]

[black screen, classical music]

princess: is there something wrong?

mg: [starting sweaty palpitations, memories of timothy dalton's heathcliffe flood back, starts to rethink movie choice]. no, i think this is the introduction.

[black screen, classical music]

[black screen, classical music]

[black screen, classical music]

princess: this is weird


[black screen, classical music]

[black screen, classical music]

[black screen, classical music]

[movie starts]

mg: i told you, it was just the introduction

p: weird

* * *

p: are they people in monkey suits?

* * *

p: does anyone talk in this movie?

* * *

p: [on sighting of black monolith] what's that?

mg: see how they're touching it? i think it's a symbol of how they're going to develop know, of knowledge, you'll see some changes

* * *

p: there's no changes

mg: wait, it's coming, see how he's playing with the bones? in a very thoughtful manner?

* * *

p: so they saw the pole of wisdom and started to use tools?

mg: [happily] yes!

* * *

p: [at 25 minute mark] thank god they're talking? what the hull? what's she wearing?

mg: she's a flight attendant. they're going to the moon.

p: what the hull?

* * *

p: look at those chairs! retro!

mg: yeah, the funny thing is that when this movie was made, those chairs would have been so way out, futuristic, cutting-edge, and now here we are, 50 years later - god is it 50 years? lemme see the box - anyway, and you are saying how retro they are, and that people have those today.

p: yeah

* * *

p: so they've found a pole of wisdom on the moon? what the hull? aliens?

* * *

p: why's he running in the space ship?

mg: for exercise. they're on a long voyage to jupiter now. see those guys in the sleeping chambers? they are in suspended animation

p: like hibernation!

mg: yep

* * *

p: which one's dave and which one's frank?

mg: was it frank or hank?

p: frank! god mum, you're so deaf

mg: that's dave there. and don't be rude to me.

* * *

mg: so, what do you think about HAL. what a freak, hey? do you think he's suspicious?

p: [not really that interested but going along with it for my benefit] yeah.

* * *

p: i thought you said this was a fantastic movie, mum

mg: no, i didn't say fantastic

p: yes, you did

mg: no, i said i thought you should see it

p: you said it was fantastic

mg: did i?

* * *

p: i hate that sound, the breathing - WAA, OOH, WAA, OOH. it's driving me mental. why do they have to put all those sounds in it?

mg: [turns down sound, from level 56 to 35. feels deaf.]

* * *

[during scene with space pod and craw hands]

mg: let me move my craw hands in this pod, look at my craw hands, see how funny they are!!

p: ... ... ...

* * *

p: so HAL made the pod knock frank to go spinning out into space, but why did dave go to save him. he's already dead! what's the point?

mg: well, they are comrades on a mission. maybe he thought he should collect his body, in a moral way, maybe he thought he could find out what happened to him. i don't think he saw the pod craw arms bang frank. we didn't.

p: so HAL is evil? EVIL HAL. EVIL COMPUTER. i like HAL.

* * *

p: that breathing is driving me crazy!! turn it down!!!

* * *

[during hallucinogenic, lsd-trippy colour sequence with dave in pod going god knows where]

p: where's he going?

p: freaky

p: weird

* * *

[massive fast-forwarding through hallucinogenic, lsd-trippy colour sequence, including bits of planets and landscapes]

p: what the? where is he?

mg: looks like a palace, like the palace of versailles, or something

p: this movie is so weird? who made it? who was the director?

mg: a very weird guy. everyone thought he was weird.

p: they were right.

* * *

p: so, maybe HAL didn't kill frank. maybe dave went mental, and killed HAL and now this is him dying, or after he's died

mg: [awestruck]

* * *

and i think that is quite possibly the sanest interpretation of 2001 i've ever heard.

happy weekending to you all.

update: well, the "sinusitis" tuned out to be a motherfucking huge root canal requirement and 2.30 [NOT A FUCKING PUN] saw me writhing in pain on my bed, unable to speak, paralysed like some stroke victim down the left-hand side of my entire face, taking 2 nurofen pluses, it just smidging the edge of the pain, then me driving carefully to pick up small boy-child from school, driving back home, throwing him out onto the street to go up and be let in by bigger sisters, driving on, in pain, to dentist, only to arrive, park the car, pain disappears like that [snap] and then go in, and dentist drills and begins the first of FOUR ROOT CANAL SESSIONS. it's ok, i've had one before, but never, never, pain like this, comrades. but the first root canal session is the best one, because it's quick, and it ends the pain, finito. it was tough, but now i have wine, ice cream is on the way, and a weekend planned of goodtimes. clokes is now out shopping for certain lovely person's birthday present, let me share with you my list of wants:

1. chanel studs, there's no way he'll find them, i couldn't even see them in the paris chanel store.

2. nice cleanser, and moisteuriser and eye cream. if you are a woman, you know this information is completely inadequate for a man to make a good selection. i said so in my text, i said i'd need to choose.

3. bubble bath - to replace the l'occitane rose one i already have, there's about one more dribble-worth in the bottle. he also won't know which one it is without writing it down or taking the empty bottle.

4. book voucher - $1000

5. Dexter - Season 3

6. Sex and the City collection DVD. NOT THE MOVIE.

7. tea cup and saucer and cake plate trilogy - vintage.

8. set of flat champage glasses. you know the marie antoinette breast ones. they have been "out" for ever so long, in favour of the flute. i'm bringing them back in.

9. a set of nice, german knives - messermeister would be nice.

10. a kitten.

Tuesday, November 25, 2008


if i had to state my one, true, enduring passion, for something, not someone, it's books and reading.

i have lots of books. i am not precious about whether i buy them new, or second-hand. i don't like writing in them in pen, that is a no-no, but i have made notes in pencil. i stopped lending them to friends because i had to then make a list of what went where, and then often-times ask for them back. in the past, i've lost copies of books, so now i have to say "i'm sorry, i don't lend my books to anyone" and it's a similar line to the one i give the beggars on the streets, "i'm sorry, i don't give money to people on the street." they don't quite know what to do with that one. i give them full eye contact, and there is sincerity in my voice. somehow, though, i've managed to misplace my copy of hemingway's the sun also rises. this annoys me, because despite my non-lending policy, i don't have it here. and i bought it overseas last year, second-hand in florence, and it was here. where is it?

other people who lend me their books, indeed foist them upon me, well, what can i say? i accept, i read, and i return. meticulously. i make sure their names are in the front cover, and i make sure i don't keep them too long.

i actually found a copy of one of my books in a friend's book-case years after i'd obviously lent it to him. there was my name in the front cover.

so i think i've mentioned this online used book ordering service called you can search and order books from all over the world. i haven't failed in one of my searches yet. another one was in the letterbox today: food, a history.

this is another book i've had written down on a scrap of paper for years, and i can't remember where i saw it, what specifically made me want it. it arrived today from syracuse, ny, and this is in chapter 1, the invention of cooking. while i am omitting all footnotes, i note where they occur to show that the claims and statements made are supported by other works. this is scholarly, but oh so readable.

"It is no way to eat oysters. You see the fastidious eater-out fiddling with them in restaurants, coating them with lemon juice strained through muslin napkins, or dousing them with bizarrely flavoured vinegars, or sprinkling them with glowing strains of vermilion tabasco or some other blindingly, chokingly hot liquor. This is deliberate provocation, designed to refresh the bivalves before death, a little mild torture under which you can sometimes feel that you see the victims wriggle or flinch. Then the diner manipulates spoon and scoop, prising and sliding the oyster out of its bed onto a curl of cold silver. As he raises the slick, slippery molusc to his lips, the sheen of the creature clashes with the shine of the cutlery.

Most people like to eat oysters that way, but it means they forfeit the full, true oyster moment. Unless you discard the utensils, raise the half-shell to your mouth, throw back your head, scrape the creature from its lair with your teeth, taste its briny juice, and squelch it slightly against the palate before swallowing it alive, you deprive yourself of a historic experience. For most of history, oyster-eaters enjoyed the slightly fetid, tangy smell of the inside of the shell, undoused with the disguising sweetness of aromatic acids. This was the was Ausonius liked them, in 'their sweet juice, mingled with a sensation of the sea'. Or in the words of a modern oyster expert, your aim is to receive 'some piercing intuition of the sea, and all its weeds and breezes... You are eating the sea, that's it, only the sensation of a gulp of sea water has been wafted out of it by some sorcery.'[fn]

For almost uniquely the repertoire of modern western cuisin, the oyster is eaten uncooked and unkilled. It is the nearest thing we have to 'natural' food - the only dish which deserves to be called 'au naturel' without irony. Of course, when you eat oysters in a restaurant, the shell has been barbed and unclamped with all the panoply of civilization by a trained professional, wielding appropriate technology, an inviolable ritual and a stylish flourish. Before that, the oyster was reared underwater on a stone tile or wooden trellis, herded in an oyster-bed, grown for years under expert eyes and harvested by practised hands - not plucked from a rock-pool as a prize seized from nature. Still, it is the food that unites us with all our ancestors - the dish you consume in what is recognizably the way people have encountered their nourishment since the first emergence of our species.

Even if you are one of those people who think they hear the scream of the pear or peanut as they seize it and munch it raw, you will still find virtually no food in modern western cuisine as convincingly 'natural' as the oyster, for, with very few exceptions, such as some fungi and seaweeds, the fruits and vegetables we eat - even the 'wild' berry picked from the bramble - are the result of generations or aeons of selective breeding by man; the oyster remains a product of little modified natural selection and varies markedly from sea to sea. Furthermore, we eat it while it is still alive. Other creatures have more food of this kind. Australian Aboriginals [sic] guzzle witjuri grubs, prised from gum trees, plump with half-digested wood-pulp in their guts. Nenets chomp the living lice lifted from their own bodies, 'like candy'. [fm] Nuer lovers are said to show mutual affection by feeding each other lice freshly plucked from their heads. Masai drink blood squeezed from wounds in live cattle. Ethiopians like honeycombs with the young larvae still alive in the chambers. And we have oysters. 'There is a dreadful solemnity' in eating them, as Somerset Maugham observed, which 'a sluggish fancy cannot grasp',[fn] and which would surely make the Walrus weep without hypocrisy. What is more, oysters are fairly unusual among raw foods because they are generally ruined by cooking. To put them in steak-and-kidney puddings or skewer them wrapped in bacon, as the English do, or smother them in various kinds of cheese sauce, as in the dishes called Oysters Rockefeller and Oysters Musgrave, or to stuff them in an omelette, as in the signature dish of the regional cuisine of the Chinese province of Xiamen, or to chop them for stuffing veal or big fish, is to smother their taste. Inventive recipes can occasionally be more successful: I once had an impressive dish of oysters at the Athenaeum, in London, lightly poached in wine vinegar and pasted wtih spinach-flavoured bechamel. Such experiments are justified for fun but rarely advance the frontiers of gastronomy.

The oyster is an extreme case, but all raw food is fascinating because it is anomalous - an apparent throwback to a pre-civilized world and even to a pre-human phase of evolution. Cooking is one of relatively few odd practices which are peculiarly human - odd, that is, in the scales of nature, judged by the standards of common approaches to nourishment, as evinced by most species. One of history's longest and most luckless quests has been the search for the essence of humanity, the defining characteristics which makes human beings human and distinguishes them collectively from other animals. The effort has led nowhere and the only objectively verifiable fact which sets our species apart from others is that we cannot successfully mate with them. Most of the other features commonly alleged are inadmissable or unconvincing. Some are plausible but partial. We arrogate 'consciousness' to ourselves without knowing quite what it is or whether other creatures have it. We claim unique powers of language - but other animals, were we able to communicate with them, might dispute this. We are relatively inventive in problem-solving, relatively adaptable in our ability to inhabit varied environments, relatively dexterous in our use of tools - especially of missiles. We are relatively ambitious in our works of art and in making embodiments of our imaginations. In some respects, in these connections, the gaps between human behaviour and that of other species are so enormous as to qualify, perhaps, as differences of quality. We are genuinely unique in exploiting fire: although some apes can be taught to use it, too, for limited applications like lighting a cigarette or releasing an odour of incense, or even keeping a fire alight, this only happens under human instruction and only people have ever taken the initiative in harnessing flame. [fn] Cooking is at least as good as all the other candidates in an index of the humanity of humankind - except for one serious qualification: in the vast span of human history, cooking is a late innovation. There is no possible evidence of it that is more than half a million years old, no absolutely convincing evidence from more than about 150,000 years ago.

Of course, it all depends on what one means by cooking. Cultivation, in some eyes, is a form of cookery - 'terram excoquere', as Virgil called it - exposing clods to the baking sun, turning the earth into an oven for seeds. [fn] Animals with suitably robust stomachs prepare their food by chewing the cud: why should this not be classed as cooking? In hunting cultures, the men who make the kill often reward themselves with a meal of the partially digested contents of the stomach of their prey: instant replacement for the energy expended in the hunt. This is a kind of natural proto-cookery - the earliest known incidence of eating processed food. Many species, including ours, make food edible for infants or the infirm by chewing and regurgitating it. Warmed in the mouth, attacked by gastric juices, pounded by mastication, it acquires some of the properties of food processed by the application of heat. The moment you rinse your food in water - as some monkeys do with some nuts - you start to process it, and indeed there are real raw-food freaks who like to leave on the dirt. Like Farmer Oak in Far from the Madding Crowd, they would 'never fuss about dirt in its pure state.'

As soon as you squirt lemon juice at your oyster, you are beginning to alter it, to apply changes which affect texture and taste: a generous defintion might call this cooking. A marinade, applied for a long time, can be as transforming in its effects as the application of heat or smoke. Hanging meat to make it gamy, or just leaving it around to rot a little, is a way of processing for texture and digestibility: it is obviously an older technique than cooking by means of fire. Wind-drying, which is a specialized form of hanging, works a profound biochemical change on some foods. So does burying - a technique, once common to induce fermentation, rarely used in modern western cuisine but commemorated in the name of gravlax: literally, 'grave-salmon'. Burial as quasi-cookery is also recalled in the dark tint now chemically applied to kinds of cheese which were traditionally preserved in the earth. Among some horseborne nomads, cuts of meat are rendered edible by being warmed and pressed in the horse's sweat under the saddle on a long ride. [fn] Churning milk is a process of almost alchemical magic: a liquid becomes a solid, white becomes gold. Fermentation is even more magical, because it can turn a boring, staple grain into a potion that can change behaviour, suppress inhibitions, conjure visions and unlock imaginary realms. Why should cooking with kindled flame be privileged among all these startling ways of transforming food?"

i'll stop there. the above passage finishes halfway through page 5. PAGE 5. can you imagine what delights await me?

it has occurred to me over the recent years that i have some sort of fiction-fatigue. i've read so many novels, that they all seem to, while not the same, follow similar plot lines, like commercial movies do. it surprises and delights when i read something that is different, unfamiliar and unpredictable. i know there is different fiction out there, but it just seems hard to commit at times. it's like making new friends once you're over 40. i just can't be bothered, really.

non-fiction, like that above, is fresh and unpredictable. i can find out things i didn't know, find out more about topics i know a little about.

my reading has bothered people over the years. once, my ex-husband ripped up a couple of books in a fit of rage, i wasn't paying him enough attention perhaps. he hated my reading, so much. it was a continual source of conflict between us. but did i stop reading? no.

if i could, i would lie in bed all day, day after day, reading. if it were the olden days, i would be one of those spinsterly women, slightly sickly, who sits and reads, because it's all she has. i would take to my bed regularly, withdrawing from the world and all in it, and read. hell, i do that now.

can you read too much? i think so. my daughter is way more of a reader than i was at that age. my reading obsession didn't really kick in until i was in my mid-to-late teens. sure, i read heaps before then. all the standard books, and some non-standard. i remember climbing onto my parents' bed and riffling through the cupboard, i found a novel called the fan club, by irving wallace, a story about a fan club of misfits and psychos who kidnap a movie actress who is part marilyn monroe, part sharon tate, and the hottest, sexiest star in all of hollywood. from memory, there were four guys in the fanclub, one was like a nice guy, one was like a loser-nerd-creep premature ejaculator, one was a bastard woman-hater, and i can't remember the other one. it's a very misogynistic book, as the men all take turns raping her (the rapes in great detail) and basically she gets smart, and realised that she has to make them think she is falling in love with each and every one of them, but they all have to keep it secret from each other. in the end i think she escapes, possibly she kills one of more of them.

my dad liked erotic literature, so i read his emmanuel books, the story of o, as well as the fan club one. i couldn't have been older than 13 or 14, because it was around then that my parents split, so the books wouldn't have been there after that. i can see the scene, dad like steve martin as the jerk, i don't need anything, well, just my irving wallace, that's all i need, my irving wallace and oh, this story of o. that's all i need as he shuffled out the door, suitcase in hand.

i have over the years tried to find a copy of the fan club. i wonder if it is still as erotic as i remember it. i'm wanting to get some david foster wallace books (as a result of an article in the current monthly, oh what a good publication that is). maybe if i order a couple david fosters and the irving, the bookseller won't notice that i'm ordering crap with my quality.

reading at the moment: bio of princess masako of japan, the duchess, the seven words you can't say on television, steven pinker, barack obama's dreams of my father.

doing: the age quick crossword and avoiding doing a letterbox drop for unchain st kilda, make sure you vote council out!

Thursday, November 20, 2008

robert altman

so the first mistake was choosing to do a robert altman retrospective.

is there anyone else who thinks his layering of voices effect extremely tedious and impossible to understand?

i enjoyed short cuts*, but couldn't hear any of the player, so i decided we should do a retrospective. we're all about retrospectives at the moment. we are also doing coen bros, and wes anderson, and i know both will be more satisfying than mr altman. and even with movies i've had trouble hearing in the past either because of loud music or inarticulate speech, i figure i can catch what i missed because we use... subtitles.

clokes loves saying "for the hearing impaired" when i remind him to put them on. so maybe i am a little deaf. i like to think it's because of all those bands i saw as a youngster, rather than my advanced age.

i do realise using words like "youngster" does not help my youthful image.

anyway. we started with number 1 which is beyond therapy.

if you have seen this, i would love to hear your thoughts.

if you haven't seen this, don't waste your time and money. we turned it off after about 10 mins of hoping it would "get better".

reasons why it was atrocious:

1. jeff golblum is not leading man material. sure, he was funny in the big chill when he had to sleep in the aeroplane bed. BUT THAT'S IT. the fly = no. the tall guy = no. jurassic park = no. the only decent thing this guy's been in is the life aquatic, but that wasn't because of him.

2. julie haggerty - never was there a more annoying actress on the face of the earth. she was annoying in flying high, why could someone think she would be good in a rom-com? it was like robert altman had visions of her as some diane keaton-annie hall manifestation.

wrong. wrong. wrong.

3. "it's like a porn movie, without the sex" this is what my husband said about 30 secs before we turned it off.

4. trying to build interest in the characters by having all these nutty people in a restaurant is just nutty.

i don't have any more points. i've wasted too much of my life already with even writing this much.

we are back on west wing.

* the irony is short cuts is apparently not available on dvd in australia.

Wednesday, November 19, 2008

tragedy 101

today i read that a pram with a toddler, plus an older child, plus a man went into the water off a wharf in nsw last night. the three people died, and someone else who tried to help is in a critical condition.

apparently, the older boy may have accidentally pushed the pram into the water.

as i thought to myself what a tragedy, it reminded me of how people often misuse this word.

anything to do with sport, especially the australians losing the cricket, is NOT a tragedy.

shane warne retiring from cricket IS NOT A TRAGEDY.

ian thorpe not being able to swim at the athens olympics, is NOT a tragedy.

disappointment DOES NOT EQUAL TRAGEDY. even sadness does not necessarily equal tragedy.

the bali bombings, on the whole, were not a tragedy. if you, however, were someone who had battled and beaten cancer, say, and you were in the sari bar that night celebrating your remission, and got killed, that is kind of tragic. but if you were just some heavy-drinking punter out for some cheap bali pussy/beer/dvds/pool action, then that is not tragic. it's not right that you be killed by terrorists, and it's definitely sad for your family and friends but somehow, it's not tragic.

siev x was a tragedy.

a elderly man who steps in between his daughter and the mugger and gets knifed, that is a tragedy. something about his vulnerability, his bravery, his self-sacrifice. if the daughter had been on her own, gotten mugged and killed, to me, that's not so tragic, if at all.

the above incident with the young boys and father, is a tragedy. what makes it particularly tragic, if degrees there be, is that the young boy may have caused it all by pushing the pram. there has to be some chance involved, some real darkness, twist of fate or occasion. malice doesn't come into it. and i'm not even sure the traditional shakespearean human flaw can be seen as tragic, or causing what i would call tragedy.

for me, it's that little bit of extra something that makes your heart wrench when you hear about it, and you go oh no, how terrible.

Tuesday, November 18, 2008

the verdict

so, our two-day movie-thon of all things romantico have concluded.

the verdict is that princess prefers the camped-up bazzy modern romeo and juliet remake to the zeffirelli 1968 one. i am so surprised. that she would prefer a movie made in the 2000s, with modern sets, modern costumes, modern music, a fish tank meeting, guns, lsd tabs and more-accessible orientations such as gang warfare and pool halls. that she would prefer that kind of movie over a gay 1968 rendition of r&j where romeo looks like a certain current teen-star, or a wild, dark gothic "psycho-romance" 1970 version of wuthering heights, where timothy dalton can't act to save his life, and the direction is so ordinary that in certain scenes, the actors are upstaged by the stagnant rocks and moors themselves.

during romeo and juliet, a comparison between the two versions:

p: what are they wearing? what are those? tights? i don't like this! HE LOOKS LIKE ZAC EFRON, YOU CAN TURN IT OFF NOW!

me: you don't want to see them kiss?

p: NO!

we did, however, get through wuthering heights. it was the timothy dalton one, it was awful, and again, she didn't like it.

p: he's a psycho, he's going mental!

me: well, it is darker, i told you.

p: but he's going mentallllllll. i don't like it very much.

me: it's pretty gothic, er goth-


me: the book's good, it's much better. this isn't really that good.

p: no. they're both mental!

and later -

p: are you crying?

me: i was before.

p: [looks at her mother in disbelief]

so, not a complete failure, she's seen romeo and juliet, she knows the story a bit more, and she's now discovered leo di caprio.

my work here is done.

Monday, November 17, 2008

when to introduce your daughter to shakespeare, or are you old enough?

there are two shakespearian works that i love. romeo and juliet and macbeth. both were studied at school, so both were meticulously de-coded and understood and enjoyed.

my 12-year-old princess is currently obsessed, along with all the other girls in the world aged tween to teen, with four books called the twilight series. they are better written than the harry potter series, and the love story that is central appeals to girls. there are references throughout to pride and prejudice, wuthering heights and romeo and juliet.

princess has read the four books, all hefty tomes, in their entirety, about 6 times. the movie comes out on dec 11 or something, i am slated to take her and her friends to see it on saturday the 13th. i'm not allowed to watch with them, i have to drop them off and leave.

so when princess starts asking questions about wuthering heights (also studied year 12 english lit) and romeo and juliet, and when princess is sick with a bad virus for 6 days and counting, and has nothing to read other than the fucking twilight series, what's a mother to do?

why, she goes to the video store, borrows wuthering heights, also the zeferelli version of r&j and settles in for a bit of culture transfusion with her somewhat precocious daughter.

so an hour and a half later sees us both on the same couch, crying at the end of luhrmann's romeo and juliet. she didn't like it, she wanted the happy ending. i tried to explain that it would not have been such a strong story, the best of all romantic stories, powerful, moving, emotional, etc, without the tragic ending. of course, luhrmann has drawn it out, not just having romeo finding juliet "dead" and then killing himself, just as she wakes, but with her moving her hands, fluttering her eyelids, opening her eyes just as he is taking the poison. and he sees she is alive. this all added terrifically to princess' hysteria, as she sobbed, said she didn't like it, but refused when i suggested we turn it off.

me: it's not a bad thing to cry, and let movies make you sad. they're not real, after all.

p: i don't care. i don't like it.

me: it's such a beautiful story.

p: well, it's like poetry, the way they talked, but sounded like gibberish

me: yeah, i couldn't understand it either. i need the subtitles.

p: i don't like it. i don't think i'll ever watch it again.

so, she'll be home again tomorrow. i don't think she'll be able to take zeferelli's r&j - i was thinking we could do a comparison and see which one we preferred. and i think she'll be wary of wuthering heights.

p: so is wuthering heights sad?

me: um, not in the same way

p: [silence]

so, i might have to rethink tomorrow's activities. maybe a boardgame would be safer.

Sunday, November 16, 2008


this morning i woke up in tears. i'd had a dream, where i'd been walking down a cobbled lane, and out of an old dark terrace house came a small child. she grabbed my hand and dragged me and whoever i was walking with (mother? sister) into her house. in there, was a family in mourning. it was a large family, with many children, most older than the girl who'd taken me inside. she was about 4 or so. she didn't talk to me, just showed me the reason why everyone was so sad.

in her hand was a tiny, dead baby. the girl gave it to me, and it fitted neatly in the palm of my hand. i tried to convey my sympathy to her, without words. it was as if she was too young to be able to articulate her pain, and so would be too young to understand me. i think i tried to utter a few words, so sorry, such a beautiful baby, and smiled at the little girl.

then i became more aware of the other people in the room. there was a grandmotherly person, who was the only one of the others who seemed aware of the little girl, the dead baby and the grief. older children were watching television, or sitting - none of them as upset as the little girl. the grandmother was there supporting the little girl, but distantly. i felt the little girl had come out onto the street, to find someone to show her pain to.

i felt she was showing me her pain.

when i woke up, i wondered what this dream meant. very quickly i realised that i am that little girl, and on this blog, at times, i am showing people my pain. even though the diaries are old, way old, they are real. last night when i posted the latest entry, for the first time i left out something, something hurtful which i felt was just too hard to reveal.

i sense a connection between that omission and my dream.

i need to think about it, and work out what this means for me. as the diaries progress, they become more and more personal, painful, and i am revealed as a very vulnerable and at times stupid girl. there's nothing major - no rape, no murder, no theft. but there is lying (not me, others) and drunkeness, drugs, and later violence (not me, others).

why do i feel i have to say those really bad things come from others not me? why do i care what you all think? is this why i am blogging? to get some sort of approval from my audience?

i write, it's a big part of me. it's something i can't not do. just like reading, i have to do it. but i think i might regret it if i think that i am using my very personal inside diary stuff, my at times very painful past bits (which, let's face it, we all have) to entertain and amuse people i've never met. i don't know.

i'd love to know people's thoughts on this. i feel i'm at a cross-roads. the dream has resonated, and made me consider something that might be important. am i guilty of exposing all, is it inappropriate? reading my old diaries has been cathartic - it is, i think, a part of me leaving all that shit behind. a reconciliation, maybe. a realisation. and if i can learn more from it, then i would never not want to learn. but if the lesson is going to be regrets about publicising all this stuff about me, and then it's there forever, then that's not the learning i want.

Thursday, November 13, 2008

for your viewing pleasure, see i'm always thinking about your needs, dear reader

this week, we have watched into the wild and the secret of the grain.

i won't bother rhapsodising.

just see them.


hafsia herzi in the secret of the grain. french with english subtitles.

scene from into the wild. screenplay and direction by sean penn. always a good start in my opinion.

Tuesday, November 11, 2008

yes i am mostly happy, yes i am mostly content, but leaving scotland broke this lassie's heart

so about a year ago we were in scotland. i had never been and always, always wanted to go. yeah, edinburgh was nice, a beautiful city, rah rah.
but the country-side. och, the country-side.
we drove up from edinburgh to loch ness, and stayed in a little bed and breakfast right on the lake. we did a boat trip, and it snowed while we were out there. they had this piped music on the boat, and it was all scottish reels and the like. i loved it, and my heart was bursting and even though it was so fucking freezing and everyone else went inside, i had to stay on deck and watch the dark waters, and the clouds and really, my heart was bursting with happiness.
princess gave her teddy, oscar, a surname. we became clan mc donald and got him a beer-can kilt. we ate haggis, we ate fish and chips. we drove to the isle of skye and i saw a sign that took me back to childhood, with my dad insisting i stay up late, at about the age of 8, and watch the best movie of all time - brigadoon.
as we drove, i played a cd of bagpipes that i had found in a shop in edinburgh. i wore my tartan scarf which had cost about 200 fucking dollars. cashmere. and i sang oh you take the high road, and i'll take the low road, and i'll be in scotland afore ye! and never will i see my true love's face again on the bonny bonny banks of loch lomond! over and over and i was driving everyone mental.
but i didn't care, because my heart was bursting with happiness.
we got to loch lomond, i pulled over, and said i'd just be a minute. i scrabbled down the banks, sat beside the lake, hearing the water lapping and just amazed that i was there. after about 3 minutes, voices, and next thing i knew, there were the three kids, plus oscar the teddy, joining me and ruining my moment. but i'd had it. i'd had my moment.

loch lomond

memorial to the mcdonald massacre, or was it the campbell massacre. anyway, it was really significant to oscar.

sign on isle of skye.

eilean donan

breakfast at our b&b - loch ness

look at the scotch. can you see the nessie-shaped ice block? look more carefully.

the heart-bursting boat trip.

the boat.
there are lots of good things in my life, particularly a readerly-affair with hemingway at this moment.
but there's no scotland.

Friday, November 07, 2008

yes, i know, i know. time for something of substance.

while i've been going on orgiastically and self-indulgently about fabulous dictionaries and the like, and buying myself new season peonies at the market, and getting pissed off at the amount of bread we go through each week (4 loaves plus. doesn't include fancy-pant d.chirico loaf or two on the weekend), i am aware, dear readers, of the momentous unfolding happening over the seas, in the usa.

like most other people being vocal about it, i am thrilled that obama has won. new era, fresh start, first black president, victory for minorities; it's all fantastic. i'm guessing the kkk and other bovver-booted, shorn head nazi-typepeople are gathering in dark corners, plotting something. i do fear for barack.

and today in the paper, a small article caught my attention.

i am going to be watching this man closely:

it's rahm emanuel. first pick for chief of staff. a lot better looking than leo mc garry, and with a shit-eating grin that promises some good times. with clinton experience, that can only mean good in the oval office, and good on the hustlings. apparently he also swears alot, and can use his favourite expletive as a verb, adjective or subject, depending on the context. and this is his only flaw? i think not.

so, is it goodbye to "diva, whack-job" sarah palin? the george negus nightline show the other night had a commentator who suggested 2012 will be hillary vs sarah. quite serious he was.*

will mccain get a head reduction? i did like his gracious acceptance of defeat and his good wishes to the obamas, though. there was no evidence of the snark we get in australian politics, the bad loserish sour grapes crap.

i do feel they've got it quite in hand, we can all relax. what a handsome pair.

and back here, with mr rudd, i have to say i'm sick of seeing him with his arms around people, looking all matey matey. it gives me flashbacks to howard; small man, glasses, trying to be popular and "down-to-earth." while i'm ok with rudd thus far, and i think his handling of all things recessionistic/financial etc is pretty good [insert technical jargon here] i don't like the way he's picked up on howard's way of responding to issues using the expression "i think i can speak for the majority of australians when i say..."

i also didn't like the way he reacted in such a strong and personal way to the henson thing, and more recently didn't get what keating was on about re gallipoli. i got it - why couldn't our prime minister? am i smarter than him?

also, i heard george negus refer to barack as "the boy" during the program. not quite as bad as the bert newton slip way back when, but still, i cringed and i'm sure negus did too. and all the producers. and the panel sitting there. he would have been referring to obama's age, but it sounded bad.

Thursday, November 06, 2008

Heaven, sheer heaven. A magnum opus of triviality and titbit.

One of my overseas, second-hand book purchases arrived today.

And thus i present to you, Brewer's Dictionary of Modern Phrase and Fable.

I couldn't find a picture of the elusive Rev/Dr. Brewer, but let's imagine maybe a man with a pipe, in 1864, carrying his manuscript to London publishing house Cassell, Petter and Galpin. He is a retired school master, and had already published a few books, titles such as Guide to Science, which have obviously been relegated to dusty shelves of yore.

But this reference work, oh, it is glorious.

As the intro says, the book (on its publication in 1870) "immediately found a wide market eager to learn from its 'improving' mix of linguistic, and general knowledge, and to revel in the pleasures that Dr Brewer's 'alms-basket of words' afforded to the casual browser. The dictionary not only sold 100,000 copies of its first edition, but remains very much alive and kicking 130 years and sixteen editions later."

I have realised that the book I am now proud owner of, is the modern version, and is a compilation stretching only from 1900.

Now I realise too that I need the earlier edition, the non-modern one.

Listen to this, again from the intro:

"Anecdotes testify to a character in which genial eccentricity allied with mild testiness of the habitually excellent scholar, and to working methods that bespeak the highest standards of industry and diligence. In Brewer's study at Edwinstowe Vicarage, there was... 'a long wooden box arrangement" with an open front 'divided into pigeon-holes lettered from A to Z in which were the slips of paper on which were written the notes he made and continued to make daily.'

Ah, a man after my own heart. While his filing system utilised a proper wooden box, with dividers, and mine was just lists on scraps of paper and slips of bits, all shoved anywhere and everywhere, I find it deliciously ironic that his book was on one of my lists, and his book was birthed from his lists on scraps and slips of bits.

Are you following me?

All right then, it's not that earth shattering. But I am just excited to present you some snippets from the dictionary. The man himself described his work as " 'a sweep-net of a book' drawing in 'curious or novel etymologies, pseudonyms and popular titles, local traditions and literary blunders, biographical and historical trifles too insignificant to find a place in books of higher pretention, but not too worthless to be worth knowing.' "

I give you, randomly, a list of entries on pp 88-89:

Bobbsey Twins
Bobby socks
Bodmin Moor, Beast of.
Body, The.
Body art
Body bag
Body beautiful
Body blow
Body count
Body double
Body language
Bodyline bowling
Body piercing
Body popping
Body search
Body Shop
Body stocking
Boer War
Bofors gun

and pp288-289:

Golden parachute
Golden Raspberry
Golden Ring of Russia
Golden Share
Golden Shot, The
Golden Triangle
Goldfish bowl
Golightly, Holly

* "The US film producer Samuel Goldwyn (1882-1974) is credited with uttering a number of unwitting witticisms, often in the form of an absurdly mixed metaphor or a colourful contradiction. Some are undoubtedly apocryphal, but the following is a selection of the better known...

Include me out.
A verbal contract isn't worth the paper it's written on.
In two words: im-possible.
Every director bites the hand that lays the golden egg.
Anyone who goes to a psychiatrist should have his head examined.
I had a monumental idea last night but I didn't like it.
Tell me, how do you love my picture?
We have all passed alot of water since then.
I'll give you a definite maybe.
We're overpaying him, but he's worth it.
I never liked you, and I always will.
Don't talk to me when I'm interrupting.
I may not always be right, but I'm never wrong.
The scene is dull. Tell him to put more life into his dying.
This book has too much plot and not enough story.
It's more than magnificent - it's mediocre.
A bachelor's life is no life for a single man.
Go see it and see for yourself why you shouldn't see it.
It's spreading like wildflowers!
If I could drop dead right now, I'd be the happiest man alive!
You've got to take the bull by the teeth.
This makes me so sore it gets my dandruff up.
When I want your opinion, I'll give it to you.
Colour television! Bah, I won't believe it until I see it in black and white.
I read part of it all the way through.
William? What kind of a name is that? Every Tom, Dick and Harry is called William.

I've just flicked through a few more pages - the diversity of topic is vast. Anything that has four pages of Second World War operational code names as well as referring to "Slick Willie", "the Comeback Kid" and "the Oral Office" in Bill Clinton entries is my type of tome.

God I love this sort of stuff.