Friday, June 30, 2006

that old trope

What am I, some kind of obscurist trendy or something? Yes, of course, and that is why I am back on my 'I want to learn Korean' kick. This follows from an accidental visit to the Korean grocery in Elizabeth st. Here are the pros and cons:


I am fascinated by Korea, Koreans and the Korean language
Learning is a good thing


It will be hard
It has no practical purpose, that I can see at this point
It will cost money
It might take me away from other things I can do better

I can't think of anything else but I just took my vitamin pill so I may come back and revise.

Wednesday, June 28, 2006

workers united will never be defeated

Big protest march in the city against the foul, corrupt Howard government and its ludicrous unproductive divisive stupid IR laws.

I was late and got there around a quarter to ten, but in fact I was not late as apparently it started at 10. There was time to explore the new cafe at the SLV, Cafe Tulk or Tulk Cafe or something similar. I made sure that Tulk didn't stand for 'The Universal Lair of Klansmen' by asking who or what Tulk was and apparently he was the first SLV librarian and the cafe is in the Tulk building. I seem to recall the SLV once had a cafe decades ago, back when that part of the building also displayed the sailors unrolling the banner from Coles Book Arcade (where are those sailors now?) (Here). Now they have another.

So then I saw my brother Michael and I got a purple NTEU flag and a purple NTEU balloon and a bigger placard, and eventually we went walking, and we ran into Amanda Kerley, whose best friend Michael apparently sits next to at RMIT, and then we saw Colin, Claire, Simon, Col, Anthony, Patrick, Monica... I'm sure there was someone else but I can't presently remember... I am pretty sure I saw Pete from Sodastream from a distance... and we saw Wayne's Tony... I think that was it... oh, we also saw Barry Jones. It was an inspiring and rousing morning, especially as we were very close to a large chinese drum which was being beaten mercilessly at any and every oppportunity. I really think that there is quite a good chance that the workers united will never be defeated.

Tuesday, June 27, 2006

Sunday, June 25, 2006

yahoo serious

At time of writing I am 9 exams from finishing all my exam marking. It certainly doesn’t get any easier. In a marking session I can knock over 5 or so in rapid succession, then it gets progressively more difficult as I go on, as they all say the same thing and it’s hard to concentrate on specific essays/ even on paragraphs, as they are all so repetitive. It’s like listening to twenty mixes of the same song and being asked to rate them.

Last night New Estate played along with Worlds End Press and Tugboat. It was a really good night at the Empress. I first asked Mia out at the Empress 9 years and 11 months ago. I have fond memories of the Empress for other reasons too – a lot of good times had there. It is a pretty good place overall.

Yesterday Mia and I went to look at a large 1950s building in the middle of the forest, once known as the North West Hospital. I figured out where it was in the Melways and we drove past it on Providence Road and saw a gate and a security guard, which seemed ridiculous, so we went into the adjoining park and walked across, we did not go past any signs or fences but once we had walked all the way around this remarkable – though it has to be said rather creepy – 1950s building we were stopped by security guards who made Mia delete all her pictures. Freaky. Annoying too. The picture above is from the National Trust site.

I wonder what happened to Yahoo Serious. I just watched a 1989 interview with him, when he was poised for success I suppose. He was an interesting filmmaker I think. I wonder how posterity will judge him. Some of the humour was pretty corny. Some of it was quite good. I think I was too old for it. I think he made three films. I wonder what he’s doing right now and if he’s still married to Lulu Pinkus, whose name I saw in another film from the 70s or early 80s recently though I cannot remember what it was. It might have been something that included one of the Reyne brothers’ naked bottoms. (Later: no, after checking IMDb I realise she played the part of 'Wendy' in Snapshot, the Sigrid Thornton 'thriller' we saw a few weeks ago. I don't actually remember the character of Wendy, but I suppose she was one of the cohabitants of the photographer's house. IMDb also tells me that this film was marketed in the USA as both The Day Before Halloween and The Night After Halloween although, as the sole reviewer notes, Halloween is not mentioned anywhere in the film. They also idiotically wonder whether they have pumpkins in Australia, another way of saying 'I'm ignorant, and it's someone else's fault for being potentially complex'.)

Thursday, June 22, 2006

i don't just make this stuff up you know

I am psychic. This afternoon I had lunch with my brother in the marginally trendy cafe on Grattan near the IT area where Greg works and also the Australia Centre. Once there I was on the lookout for people I know (not Greg as he is in Qld) and I saw a guy who I thought looked very familiar but I couldn't place him.

A few hours later I got a call in the office I am temporarily occupying from the husband of the occupant, could he come and pick up a book for her. I said sure. When he got there it was the man who looked familiar. He works in the IT area on the other side of campus. I am not kidding. I had never seen him before (or at least, he had never been identified to me previously). But I had heard of him and I recognised him.

come on lorraine crapp

Lorraine Crescent is named for Lorraine Crapp, an Australian olympic swimmer of the 1950s. She rose to prominence in her late teens, and was presumably still a teenager when the Housing Commission named Lorraine Crescent for her. For more information on Lorraine Crapp see this.

Wednesday, June 21, 2006

films in broady

We have lived in Broady two years now and other than friendly exchanges with most of the neighbours, we are not exactly part of any great social scene here. It's testament to my own narrow understanding of what makes a community prosper, that all I can really imagine is that it needs a cafe strip or something. I know this is ridiculous but it's the extent of my imagination on this kind of thing. No doubt in fact there are all kinds of social networks here we could potentially tap into and no doubt for that matter the biggest impediment to this is that we still see our social network as being the inner city because our dumb old friends have this banal attachment to those kinds of places.

One of the really crappy things about Broady is the crappy Hoyts. If it was just a Hoyts that would be OK but it's lowest common demoninator Hoyts. Showing this week for instance are: Cars, which, OK, I wouldn't mind seeing really, Click which I also wouldn't mind seeing - it sounds like The Fermata; Just My Luck, Stick It, Take the Lead and The Break Up, four films the titles of which mean nothing to me, Omen 666 for which all signs point to crap; The Da Vinci Code which doesn't interest me, Over the Hedge which actually looks pretty good, and The Fast and Furious: Tokyo Drift and X-Men: the Last Stand, which I am probably not the demographic for. So you see the problem. When we want to see a film we end up going to the Nova, which I was whingeing about only a few days ago and which others have also found troublesome recently.

I suppose we should try the drive-in.


Last night I declared to Mia (as I do periodically) that today was to be the start of a new regime. Of course (why of course?) I use this term with irony as it was something my mother would periodically say to us, 'OK kids, new regime'... we'd have to start doing the dishes in the morning or there was no eating in front of the television, or something (our house was a bit like Italy, the new regimes never lasted long, except there was less democracy). Anyway I DID manage to wake up at a reasonable hour and get to work also at a reasonable hour (though might I say Broadmeadows station didn't make things easy by continuing to broadcast the wrong train departure platforms/times on its new screen; although in a way it did make things easy, as I used common sense rather than take any notice of the screen). As yet I have managed to hold out against the overindulgence in coffee (cutting down, yes, it bores me as much as it bores you, the point of this post is not what the new regime is supposed to be but how it has already messed up) But what I DIDN'T think to do was check whether I had my laptop and I didn't. I know exactly where it is, too, and that's annoying. So I have to become creative in my pursuit of new efficiency, which is fine, I do have a lot of crappy things I can do without the laptop, but of course it serves not just as a way of taking notes 'in the field', but also a measure of where I'm already at, etc, so I'm going to have to tread carefully today so as not to repeat myself. Also, I'm wary of too much photocopying as it is so much a way of avoiding reading things you actually need to pay attention to.

Tuesday, June 20, 2006


On more serious topics, commiserations to Kathryn and Deirdre who lost Adam last night. You may recall my report on him in April. Apparently he succumbed to his illnesses/old age. He had a very good life, and as they are well aware, as a hairless little mouse he was pretty definitely destined to be a snake's dinner before they rescued him a few years ago and gave him a mouse mansion, so in that sense, every one of his days was a blessing. This is the picture K. sent out with her announcement. The relevance of the pants and vest are unclear - at least that is what he seems to me to be thinking.

sands through the hourglass

I can't say I love this new template but having gone to all the trouble of selecting it I will stick with it for a few days.

I was not feeling well (something to do with that healthy juice I had at Melbourne Central around 6:30) so I dozed and then awoke at midnight to watch the final Six Feet Under. Great ending. I don't feel I can discuss it too extensively here since practically everyone I know is up to series 3. I can't really understand why this is so, but it is so. Then I couldn't sleep for hours, not probably because of the excitement of the ending of 6FU but just because I'd had a little sleep and then was intending on more of the same. Mia says my body was confused but how does that figure? My body knows what's going on, or it should, that's why it has a head and brain on it.

Meanwhile Neighbours is at this point going through a heavy teen pregnancy schtick which I am not particularly up for. I suppose I know why teen pregnancy is so important to a show like Neighbours but I also had hoped we had all moved on from this kind of stock issue. It seems so moralistic and conventional. I would rather have the Robert/Cameron thing or Katya/Toady - that was top stuff.

Sunday, June 18, 2006


What would be the most interesting theme when I fill in for Alison tomorrow night on 3CR? I am vacillating between:

boys and girls
the sea

Saturday, June 17, 2006

we LITERALLY went to town

We went to the big red book sale at the Trades Hall and I bought the following (nothing over $2) :

Ronald Frankenberg Communities in Britain: Social Life in Town and Country (Pelican 1966)
J C Horsfall The Liberal Era: A Political and Economic Analysis (Sun 1974, big picture of handsome young R G Menzies on the cover)
Arena #26 (1971) inc. John Docker 'James McAuley: the poetry and the attitude'
Michael Dransfield Drug Poems (Sun 1972)
Michael Liffman Power for the Poor: the Family Centre Project, an experiment in self-help Allen and Unwin 1978
Arena #23 (1969) inc. Demos Krouskos, 'Filthy Penguins'
Home Buying? Beware the Hidden Dangers! A B.W.I.U. ppublication No date
Eric Aarons, The Steel Octopus: the Story of BHP Current Book Distributors 1961 (which is where the picture above is from)
Bernie Taft, Inside Bolte's Utopia A Communist Publication 1964
R E Pahl Patterns of urban life Longmans Green 1970
Refractory Girl #8 March 1975 inc Paula Lake, 'Marion Mahoney [sic] Griffin: Architect'

I should write down everything I buy, I would probably buy a lot less stuff that way. Or I should just go to confession. Anyway, most of the above (anyway - petulant!) were for work. The only one that really wasn't was Drug Poems and I enjoy having Dransfield around the house though I can't say the poems there grab me hugely though I am sure they were very revolutionary at the time (everything seems to end with him thumbing his nose at convention by making some hardline junkie affirmation).

I also bought a couple of records, nothing to write home about:

Tactics compilation CD - already forgotten its name
Marc Hunter - Communication an album I've been looking for for a long time

And we bought some sheets and I bought some vegan desert boots, or rather put a down payment on some because they didn't have my size. So you see it was one of those spend the new paypacket days.

Oh and Mia bought a t-shirt and we bought Pip a dictaphone so he can record what seem to be rather offensive horny stories he is making up. Funnily enough Drug Poems is dedicated to Pip.

this post probably only of interest to dogs

But I will give you (human) a quick rundown of the activities. Charlie and Millie were up the back of our yard. Millie climbed the treestump (Charlie didn't). Charlie buried the squeaky football in a secret spot and her nose was then dirty. Later, they both lay down in front of the heater.

Friday, June 16, 2006

broady trip

I have never been caught by ticket inspectors on public transport, touch wood, which I can’t at this point because I am betwixt platforms three and four of Melbourne Central station, which reminds me, what would Shakespeare or… Henry Bolte, let’s say Henry Bolte, say if he turned up in Melbourne today? He’d say Melbourne Central? Southern Cross? He’d probably say ‘what the fuck’? So might Shakespeare, they’d both be flummoxed, trying to figure out where Princes Bridge ‘station’ had gone to. Anyway, I have never been caught by ticket inspectors on public transport, though I have sometimes been without a ticket, for various reasons, not all of them justifiable in a court of law, some of them perhaps, well maybe not in a court of law, but in a court of decency and fair play anyway. But ticket inspectors rile me because they use the worst weapon, they are so unfailingly polite and courteous. What does this cost them in health and happiness I wonder.

Anyway they struck me today, and they struck me yesterday. I usually think that if they strike me (even though – isn’t this funny – I don’t believe at all in probability. In fact I think it is quite as probable as anything else that Shakespeare might appear before me, askin’ whither the line to Craigieburn had been electrified yet in thyse modernely futurish tymes) they won’t strike me again for a while, which doesn’t mean I’m necessarily reckless after a strike, although I do of course throw my ticket away for the rest of the day. Prix.

The train to Broady is always crowded, it seems, as far as Essendon and then not at all crowded thereafter. This seems to me to be a damn good reason to make some of the morning trains expresses, and since there will have to be a timetable change when the line to Craigieburn is electrified in 2044, maybe this is something the powers that will be might wanta consider (sorry about this slacker talk, I’m just feeling lackadaisical).

Everyone always assumes the Broady line is a bit like the Bronx (whatever that, strictly speaking, is – some kind of Hollywood invention, fear of east coast USA?) or Mad Max or something but in fact it is always sweet and mild in my experience except a couple of days ago when a youth jokingly insinuated he wanted to steal my laptop, or at least I think that was what he was saying, I couldn’t quite make it out but his friends immediately assured me he was a good boy and wouldn’t do such a thing. It was all a bit stupid. It made me realise what my few years of on-the-hop/job teacher ‘training’ had got me. A number of possible responses ran through my head, all of which seemed too much like engagement. So I smiled and simpered and did not get into a discussion. So easy and nice to do. They were actually quite friendly types, they were going to Olsen Place to play pool I think (or at least they said they were. This might have been a bit of local humour). So I wasn’t scared of them at all so I don’t know why I mentioned it. Probably because the human equivalent of Lyle from Achewood just walked past me, all sweaty and dressed in black.

There are some grouse stations along the Broady line. Kensington station is a gabulous (I meant fabulous but gabulous says it better) piece of gothickery. Newmarket is very up in the air and close, should you ever be in the vicinity and feel like reading a bad book and drinking some chai or whatever, to the Verb CafĂ© and ‘my’ accountant who I really should visit sometime. Ascot Vale station reminds me of nothing and I don’t want to even think about it (it’s coming up next and I’ll have to think about other things so I don’t have to think about boring old Ascot Vale station… ho hum… hey there’s a picture in the MX being read by the person in front of me of some deer licking a cat, I bet there’s a wild backstory like, the deer brought the cat up from a kitten, or they’re all good friends, or the cat has deer food on it. There’s an interesting headline, ‘Cup the goal for robotic Ronaldos’, just in case I thought for a second I really did understand the modern world.)

Following Ascot Vale is the redoubtable Moonee Ponds. MP is tops, and I did indeed spend a very pleasing time a few days ago at Fletcher Jones there in Puckle Street. MP is a vintage 19th century station (at least on the eastern side; on the western side it looks like an upmarket Launceston bus shelter). Then there’s good old Essendon. Essendon is one of those many Melbourne suburbs with a charming German name which escaped being renamed in WWI despite some moves towards this (already too entrenched as innately as Melbourne as Brighton or Sandringham). The station looks Edwardian as per Camberwell and has some of the same structural features as Auburn and Glenferrie too but it couldn’t have the same rationale as these were built when the Ringwood line was raised and lowered to avoid level crossings, and Essendon has a level crossing right next to it. Huh. Glenbervie station is a new, 70sish station without too much going for it from my point of view, although it is in what seems to be quite a *nice* area, with a largely esoterically tenanted shopping strip on the western side coming off at an angle. Strathmore station is itself as undistinguished but whereas Glenbervie is brick, Strathmore is wooden. If you think you see a logical progression here – or, I suppose, recession – you’re quite right. Because Pascoe Vale, which follows Strathmore, is made completely of straw. It is flimsy, shabby and has to be rebuilt every couple of days, particularly if the Seymour train blows up a gale going past making up for lost time. Pascoe Vale itself has an intriguing 1920s row of shops with a vaguely art nouveau frontage of a style that appeals, though the shops themselves don’t look very interesting I mean speaking as someone who buys stuff out of shops. New paragraph? Yeah, ok. <>After Pascoe Vale comes Oak Park. Once again, a good little shopping strip coming off Oak Park station perpendicularly to the east, and you can get a bearable salad roll there between the hours of 12 and 12.15 (pm). Pebble mix everywhere. 70s or something. Glenroy is another station of this era, more in the baby turdy brown brick and not much to write home about (unless someone at home likes reading your blog, in which case…) there are some girls in the other half of the carriage giggling hysterically over something one of them seems to have recorded on their mobile phone (‘where did you get it?’ says one and some young guys asks them what it is) Glenroy is a great place to shop though, and it has the Polish delicatessen and the pacific island grocery which I have to admit I’ve never been to, and a not bad Vietnamese restaurant called the Huyen Linh, which I recommend, particularly if you like overly sweet bean drinks etc. (You can even make that great joke, ‘waiter, what’s this?’ ‘it’s bean drink sir’, ‘I don’t care what it’s been…’, they love that joke there). Jacana station, which Brad has shown me a photo of in the 70s when it was the site of a terrible train accident, is pretty darn ugly. I first alighted the Jacana station platform in probably around 1982/3 when I went to visit a nice girl called Margaret who lived in Glenroy but Jacana was the closest station. That was before they built the western ring road so she and her parents backed onto a huge strip of open land.

Broadmeadows station deserves a post of its own someday. The day before it’s pulled down, perhaps.

Wednesday, June 14, 2006

where it's at this week

This one will run and run.

now i know whirr to next

I have taken the time to reflect on my earlier post on the appalling spelling and grammar of students. Of course, none of us are exempt. I have reflected (no, no-one put a gun to my head) on the awful situation of my first and to date only book, wherein the last words of the editor assigned me were along the lines of ‘now we need to talk about page 77 [can’t remember the actual page, and there is no way on earth I am going to go and look at the book now]’ and my reply, ‘no, I’m happy with that as it is’ and she ‘well, if you’re sure’… What I thought was, she was objecting to some pompous pseudo-analysis I had been attempting on that page, which of course I was determined to keep. In fact, she was objecting to my un-deliberate attempt to break the record for the most typos on the one page of a regular paperback. It is to the discredit of all concerned, but me most of all, that this actually went to press. In fact, this same page was singled out by a couple of reviewers as completely incomprehensible. Like any published author of course the horribleness of those reviews still peer over my shoulder every waking moment (yes, I have read Paul Fussell on being reviewed – and as I have already inidcated, I am aware I brought the whole thing on myself, and that’s not the point). So it’s all very well for me to rail against students who didn’t care much about their spelling or grammar or presentation when they knew their only reader was me; I have presented a page 77 to thousands of people (NB the work in question has subsequently been revised and only has two errors, one of fact and another of reason, in it).
This is not meant to be some kind of public mea culpa. I just wanted to it out there to contextualise my own irritation at others’ lack of regard for research or presentation or expression. We all do it (I admit I did it a little more publicly than many, but hell, I write a lot). I actually blame English.

What else could one blame? Even if you get your English perfect, as I often don’t, you’re still spending far too much time doing so. Though more or less monolingual (barely scraped by in French in HSC) nevertheless I am well aware that most languages have rules, and even if they are very difficult and strange rules, that make them read most oddly when translated into English for us to scoff at, we know that they do have rules. English’s rules are all rules made to be broken when the exception proves them. We contort ourselves trying to get our English right, or showing that we don’t care if we do or not, and in either case we still don’t understand each other. I am sure many wonderful ideas, nuances and ambiences are put forward daily in the wrangle with English, and I am sure even more misunderstandings are perpetrated at the same time.
English is a language where you can say reams of nothing just by using its form with no content. I just did it, see. I mean I know (at least, I was told by the advertisements the Rosicrucians used to run in the Green Guide) that we use only 10% of our brain power, and if we’re using that 10% to run English we’re wasting a lot of space. Even if English runs on a separate system, I still think it’s too much effort.

There are people all over the world who wouldn’t dream of eating off broken dishes, or walking around with their pants busted or their feet sticking out of their shoes, but they appear happy to use a language that is all of that and more. It is a whole lot of languages grafted onto each other very poorly, like bad plumbing. There are people around who try to make this a positive, like each everyday transaction is rich with meaning and a link back to Chaucer and Shakespeare (as if! And so what?). But in fact what we have are a bunch of crappy words that we don’t know how to pronounce and if they have some kind of rich crisp background to them we never reflect on this even if we know what it is.

Look at the way we write English. We have an alphabet of 26 letters. One of these can only make the same sounds as one or the other of two others (yeah, C, I’m talking about you) unless it’s added to another letter at which point for no good reason it usually makes the ‘ch’ sound. Another letter has the sound of two other letters put together, and is effectively completely useless (let’s call that one ‘x’). And so on. We have a completely unreasonable alphabet, ill-suited to our language anyway, even before we consider the separate question of spelling. Now it’s true that even if we wanted to spell words phonetically we couldn’t, because we don’t have enough letters. But our spelling scheme shoehorns practically any bizarre bunch of letters together for the purposes of making a particular word, and with entirely no rationale.

So here we are, speaking and writing in the most widespread and universal language in the world, and it sucks. No-one is seriously suggesting it has any inherent advantages – well, I know some have claimed that things like a range of synonyms make it more interesting, but surely this is also a good example of what makes it more difficult to understand. The argument against language reform seems to be an Anglophile distaste for the few differences between American English and Anglo-English (losing a few ‘u’s and using ‘z’s for ‘s’s) which are I believe centuries old but are of course generally regarded as some Richard Nixon anti-art economy campaign; and of course the spectre of Orwell’s newspeak, by which language reform makes it impossible for you to think radical thoughts. As if we are not already hamstrung by the language we have.

I know the above is boring. I know things will never change. I also know I have shifted from my original point. But I would bound these up into one by saying once again that the language we speak is ludicrously and needlessly complicated, and it’s all very well for those who have mastered it a little better than others to tut-tut about bad grammar (I acknowledge that I am the only person here who has actually done this), but it has to be taken within the context of understanding that English is the language equivalent of Trout Mask Replica and about as daunting even for those who were brought up in it.

Cross-posted with Sarsaparilla

Monday, June 12, 2006

we went and saw the neil young film

We went and saw the Neil Young film. As Mia suggested, no-one really needed to see up Neil Young's nose, but we all did (all did see up there, I mean). It was at the Nova and they started showing us the wrong film then when they fixed it we had to sit through the ads (sorry, previews) again. The film was OK but I had expected a little more backstage, or something, and everyone was really old, including everyone in the cinema, and including of course me. I suppose that's what the world's like these days. Old.

Brad came with us and afterwards we went and had a coffee (I had a short macchiato - you read it here first) and Brad told us he didn't think the Buffalo Springfield box set was that all that good.

nuptials and etc

So we went down to Barwon Heads on Saturday for the purposes of witnessing the joining together of Mark and Bianca in holy matrimony at, appropriately, the Holy Family church in Hitchcock Ave Barwon Heads. The ceremony performed by Father Mick was entirely appropriate. FM is a guy who knows how to play to his crowd, though whether anyone felt personally singled out by his apparently impromptu riffing on the topic of the prostitutes of Corinth is between them and god and Father Mick. The reception afterwards was a big bash and the speeches, not least by the redoubtable best man Matt Green were a smash. The food was good and the wine flowed freely. Continued proof that I am getting old or wise came when I voluntarily abandoned a 3/4 full bottle of cab sav that I had been (without really thinking) determined to finish. We went back via the Barwon Heads Hotel at which we saw a bald-headed old man cover band closing their set with Ben Lee's hit single, and a bouncer (hmm, I accidentally typed 'bounder') onstage who not only surveyed the crowd with a steely glare but also had a bit of a bop.

The next day we awoke in our hosts' very cosy granny flat - actually, I awoke long before Mia probably a little worse from the effect of the let's-just-call-it-claret and went for a stroll up Sheepwash Road before being driven back by light rain that threatened to become heavier. We were reunited with Michael, Nicola and Laurie in the Barwon Heads car park and had a big breakfast at Beachnik's before driving back via Ocean Grove and etcetera.

We got back to our house and baby things had to be done (by MN&L) but I had the pleasure of taking Laurie out to see Millie and Charlie who liked to sniff his face and I will long have fond memories of sitting with Laurie up at the back of our property on the spool with Millie by my side and Laurie grabbing little fistfuls of Millie's back hair. I was patting her too just in case his attentions weren't enough.

I had had a fitful sleep the previous night so I slept some more fitfuls in the afternoon and then we went down to the Old Bar for the Grey Tapes/Jessica Says/Human 6 Billion show. Grey Tapes played pretty well I think. We had three new songs and I had not (why this is even worthy of comment I don't know - I haven't written anything close to complete let alone decent lyrics in about three years) really completed my side of the bargain but whatever. At least if you're a drummer and a singer when you're not singing you can look like you're very involved in your drumming (qv my cover for the Sleepy Township/Cannanes 7", 'I'm not drumming I'm eating chinese food') and no-one will hold it against you except those who were already predisposed to holding something against you. Jessica Says was basically Jessica (I don't know her second name; when she was filling out her hobbyist form afterwards to get paid I tried to focus my eyes on her surname just because I need to know everyone's name if I possibly can, but I couldn't see it and I didn't want to seem nosey even though obviously I am) with a keyboard and Geoff with some shakers, so kind of the Sly Hats but the dynamic was different. Afterwards Mia and I discussed the similarity in sound to Kate Bush but decided this was probably an organic process and in no way deliberate or probably even an influence. She was apparently very nervous but why is anyone's guess as she clearly has an incredible future (as I said to her afterwards, in a spiel that probably sounded as patronising as it looks here but was meant to be slightly more Sunday-night-in-the-Old-Bar philosophical, 'you'll go a long way - I've come a long way and I've ended up here' or something similar.) Alright, that does read pretty wanky but praise for others has never been my strong suit.

Human 6 Billion were also amazing. I had heard an earlier recording they'd done (not with the present band) and I said to Peter 'it's exactly the kind of music I love - literate, philosophical [shit, there's that word again, and I use it in the dumbest way] and also funny' which it is. I might also have put the word 'wordy' in there too, maybe not, but it would have been appropriate. Anyway, the addition of the rhythm section was a genius move as they really add to the dynamics of the whole thing. H6B actually won the crowd over, something I have rarely seen done at any level of performance. People were talking through their first couple of songs because I guess of the tried and true attitude of 'who are they? I don't know. Better use this opportunity to chat to my friends loudly' - kind of territorial chatting I guess. Anyway they'd all shut up before long.

By the end of the night I felt nauseous. Actually I had already felt nauseous earlier and had devoured a pack of quick-eze but it hadn't done much good. Mia thought it was an after effect of the claret combined with non-stodgy food the night before (although our breakfasts had been pretty rich). Anyway we came home and ate a bowl each of Kraft macaroni cheese deluxe, which just goes to show, life is good.

Friday, June 09, 2006

on the job

My new job, as research fellow at a leading Australian if not the world university, is going beautifully so far. I have spent hours poring over old volumes of Housing Commission publications in the library at Latrobe University, read many archaic and somewhat ridiculous theses, lugged books from under-the-house into my new temporary office, and so on. It's been great so far. I have also been chased out of the stationery room by an irate admin person, got an ugly ID card (it would have been ugly even without my ugly photograph on it) and an after hours swipe card to a building in which I do not yet have an office. I have also borrowed a lot of books and even photocopied three pages of stuff. Hurrah! Or even huzzah!

Tuesday, June 06, 2006

whirr to next?

A few years ago I decide it was time to compile all the ‘howlers’ I was encountering during my usual descent into the despair of essay marking. This activity was rather like being a gold miner a kilometre underground, except any gold I found down there I got to keep myself. I had enough for a great three pages of hilarity (sometimes you have to contextualise the howlers and sadly, while you’re doing that you do start to realise that whatever you’re expecting your students to have down pat, you couldn’t expect even your close friends to have a clue about - and so some of the funniest stuff wasn’t quite as funny as it seemed and you also end up slightly admiring your students for half-way understanding what you had trouble explaining in brief). I had my three pages, and I sent them out to a few close friends, realised how unethical it was, panicked, followed up with an imploring email to destroy the evidence, and feared for quite some time after that somehow something would get out and somewhere along the six degrees of separation a student was going to recognise their own awful work and shoot me down from a high tower or something.

It is unethical to poke fun at your students’ bad English and I was wrong to do it, but it’s very hard not to, particularly after the fiftieth essay that spells ‘where’, ‘were’ (or ‘where’, ‘were’), the interminably ghastly use of ‘intern’ (or ‘inturn’) for ‘in turn’; and so on. It’s the cumulative effect, really, which of course the students themselves can have no knowledge of, so it’s hardly fair on them. (This paragraph would be much more entertaining had I been unethical enough to fill it with recent examples of bizarre claims from the essays I’ve just finished marking, but you’ll just have to take my word for it).

The general gripes about arts students have remained the same all the time I’ve been teaching in the tertiary field, and it’s hard to separate the eternal gripes (an earthropologist from Alpha Centauri would use a special machine to understand what the academics are really complaining about, eg ‘They’re young! So young! We’re old! How can it be!’) from the genuine indicators of future decline of literacy, language etc. However, if I may I’ll just put forward a few personal observations that I think do have ramifications for the future, even though I’ll probably end up tempering them to death…

It’s certainly true that most students don’t want to read, and won’t, if they can possibly get out of it Of course, there are the exceptions who you practically want to rescue from their gruesome cohort lest they be tainted, but in the main it’s true. Students don’t read the papers - I mean, I have intelligent close friends who don’t read the papers too, because they believe it’s all propaganda after a fashion, and I can relate to that idea although I do read at least one newspaper every day because of my addict’s notion that it’s not affecting me, I just want to know what everyone else is being told. But these kids (hah! When I was 18 or 19 there was nothing worse than being called a kid!) not only don’t read the papers, they believe everything they hear or see from any other media source. That said, when I was 18 or 19 I didn’t read the papers much and I wasn’t really that au fait with political process, etc. I felt very disconnected from democracy, too. It was all stuff being done to me and others by those in charge.

Presumably because students don’t read, they get all their language from what they hear, so they end up mangling the written language Every semester, a new range of misspellings flow through the system like a virus. The abovementioned where/were has been very prevalent in the last 18 months (but before that, I don’t remember it at all, except perhaps in isolated instances). Whether/weather is another one. Intern/in turn is one of those ridiculous ones that really gets my back up, particularly I suppose because most Australian students would not know what an intern was (or would not use the word that often, anyway), though that actually should be more of an excuse for this misuse than a condemnation in itself. Another oddity I have encountered for the first time I remember in recent months is ‘predominately’ for ‘predominantly’. You’d be surprised - I was - how often students actually want to use the word ‘predominantly’. And how often they are unable to.

Plagiarism is still where it’s at At the beginning of every semester I want to tell the students that if they plagiarise they’ll get caught. Every time I get scared and don’t tell them because I fear hoots of derisive laughter because no doubt they’ve all dunnit and they all know someone who didn’t do a jot of work themselves their entire university career and the teecherz were too dumb to find out (note my middle class middle aged fears rising in my deliberate misspellings). On the other hand, it does seem to be true that it takes at least as much skill to plagiarise properly as it does to write something original. More likely plagiarists get through because they’re squeaky wheels and the poor lecturer/tutor/assessor just wants to get his/her marking done (and in many cases, get the money for the marking) and lets junk through that a more idealistic educator might not. That said - just like they used to say crooks want to be caught - a lot of plagiarists seem to be begging to be nabbed, particularly when they hijack large slabs of text from the internet but don’t bother to reformat it. (My favourite, long enough ago to be usable I guess, was an essay that ended along the lines of ‘that is why we’re standing here today to honour the memory of…’ i.e. the student had ripped paragraphs from the transcript of a speech and not bothered to read it before printing it out).

I do have a couple of plagiarism cases going on right now which I can’t discuss, I suppose.

Is all of the above really a problem? I think the rise of email in the last 10 years has done a lot if not for literacy exactly at least for the continuation of written expression (this from the person who first heard of email via that Dean Kiley novel!) There are tons of other examples of similar new media that no doubt have equal validity in this regard. Perhaps it’s the system of assessment that’s the problem (I have found, for the first time and I’ve only recently started to wonder if it’s indicative of a more wide-ranging development, that the most articulate and interesting students in class are often handing in seriously poor essays). All of the above is probably too broad and partial to be anything other than interesting, really. And of course if we go back fifty years we’ll find educators up in arms about slack standards, and to some extent the kids (sorry kids) have always used their wits to get around the pointless rules and regulations.

One terrific thing about the whole shebang is I’m not teaching again for at least 8 months or so, if not longer. I look forward to investigating what crazy misspellings they’re on next time I mark an essay.

Cross posted with Sarsaparilla

Monday, June 05, 2006

fed dogs unable to feign lack of interest in what's happening in the kitchen

You should always feed your dogs after you eat. This gives them the illusion that you, the benevolent overlord and protector, are no longer hungry and are allowing them the scraps. Last night we didn't eat till 9ish so they were already fed when we let them in. They found this to be an unbelievably fascinating state of affairs. In this picture we see Charlie stretched out on the beanbag acting like she just happened to be facing in the direction of the kitchen and Millie keeping her head fully twistable for any unusual - or just any - sound that might indicate someone about to put a large plate of something on the ground and then say 'we give in to your superior talent, eat everything you can'.

Sunday, June 04, 2006

paris dans rue mickleham

We went out for breakfast yesterday to Mickleham Road, Tullamarine, not to Cranky Moe's or whatever it's called, but to the huge bizarre pizzeria Fieste which does breakfast from 7:59 am (is this some kind of absurd licensing/ zoning arrangement? No jokes about achey breaky etc thanks) and not bad either. The large fibreglass gargoyle out the front has a light pink tongue, and was presumably once holding a big pizza shovel but is now appearing to play air guitar. The whole thing is on a delightful street cafe setting next to a six lane main road. They play hits n memories radio through a sound system that accentuates the drums, so you could barely hear 'Every Little Thing She Does is Magic' through the Copeland rattle, though I liked it better that way. 'Most People I Know Think That I'm Crazy' on the other hand is almost drumless, I now realise, though there's one or two flourishes.

And the inside of the front door has the 'h' missing from the 'push' sign.