Friday, April 28, 2006

new job

I feel sufficiently confident, having finally received the offer of employment, to confirm publicly that I will have a new job on a very different campus in a month or so and everything will change. No more teaching at least for the remainder of the year and possibly (in fact, probably) a little more interesting travelling. In a sense it's two jobs - I have a four day a week research position till the end of '08 and a shorter research thing for the second half of the year. Both of these might involve going to my favourite state capitals etc. (My favourites are all of them, so that's great). Hopefully there will also be the opportunity to work on a few other projects I am totally committed to, if not overcommitted to... well, of course, definitely overcommitted to.

Now I will make a list of things to do, and later I'll tell you whether I've done them or not

Take paperwork to new workplace
Write a review of the new Church album
Assemble the wheelbarrow (this is not a metaphor)
Check PO box
Do some washing (of various household clothing/bedding items)
Do some washing (of two filthy beagles)
Clean out the fridge
Pick Mia up from airport
Submit some invoices
Submit some essay marks
Make some bread
Do the other things that have to be done which I've forgotten already

Tuesday, April 18, 2006

da vinci code, donnelly river, dogs on a big rock


The Da Vinci Code is a book I had long wanted to read because it has obviously had such an impact on everybody, including whoever it was who wrote the article about American Christianity in Saturday’s Age A2 section (well actually it was Friday’s A2 section, because they put the section back a day for Easter). It is, I have to say, a page turner full of great twists and no-one is really who they say they are or think they are, in fact I think everyone does the twist at some point.

I know it’s sour grapes to say I don’t think it’s massively well written, because I couldn’t write a book like that, and if I could I think I probably would, even if it wasn’t a million seller; I’d just like to write a gripping fictional narrative. But I do think that the lack of realism of the whole thing, I mean in terms of dialogue rather than action, is a bit of a let down. For instance, the scenes where reporters and tv interviewers go in for obtuse interviews and react to everything said, which never happens on tv. I hate that stuff. One thing I do like about it is the way that almost all the action takes place ‘in real time’ so to speak. There’s no break until the last 50 pages or so, even then there may not be a break, it’s hard to tell. As for the central ancient mystery, I am pretty cool on it; I don’t greatly care about the Mary Magdalene stuff except in the abstract. I think Brown falls down on the question of the importance of the MM element. He mentions that it has implications for the perception of Jesus as holy or more than human but as with so many of these things I always feel that if you’re going to have faith you must surely believe that God can make anything happen; the ins and outs of Mary Magdalene are surely a side-story to the central issue.

My airport novel on the way back is going to be Christos Tsiolkas’ Dead Europe (later: it wasn't. It was Ian McEwan's marvellous Atonement. I couldn't find Tsiolkas). For some reason I have suddenly got the big idea I really want to read this book. I am not sure why but I seriously do.

I love staying at Mia’s parents’ house, for many reasons including the fact that I really like them, and also the fact that they feed us very well and make us very welcome, and give us a lot of wine and so on, including the very nice South Australian one I’m drinking right now. They have a great house. It’s about twenty five years old, and on at least three levels – the front entrance is a long way down from the road, and there’s a kitchen/dining room. Then there’s another level, with a kind of sitting room arrangement. Then there’s a level below that, with a study. All of these levels are under the one ceiling. There are verandahs to one side and you can see Perth airport from the sitting room window. Out the back there is a creek which I don’t think I have ever seen running though I believe it does, in the colder months. And you can see the other side of the creek valley from the windows at the back. There are huge rocks everywhere.

This morning I woke very early (well, 6ish which is actually later than I usually wake on a weekday) to the sound of what I was later told was a telephone bird. Millie and Charlie had been completely quiet all night so I went down to see them. I also had a strong coffee. I felt wide awake so I spent some time clarifying various bits of crap on the study guide which I seem to have been working on my entire adult life and which was due a month ago. Or was it two months ago. I also had some muesli. Then everyone else got up and I had a second breakfast. We drove out to Mundaring Weir and looked at it from a distance, from something called I think the Golden View or Golden Lookout or something. It was tops. Then we went to Gidgiegannup Bakery where Laura and Greg were on duty. There was a big misunderstanding between Greg, Laura and an Ian Rilen type at a table there, who had ordered a pie of some sort and had been told that it was just about to come out of the oven. It was hard to gauge, from listening in from another table, what exactly had happened but the point was they hadn’t given him what he wanted and could not establish exactly what he did want. They said they had blueberry pies and he asked if they had a strawberry pie.

Donnelly River (April 21)

We have spent four days at Donnelly River Holiday Village in southern WA. It was built by Bunnings in the early 50s as a settlement for workers at a timber mill on the banks of the Donnelly, a river which doesn’t seem to flow. The town itself was known as Wheatley but it has since been changed to something a little more descriptive. There is no mobile phone coverage and certainly no internet. What there is is loads of kangaroos and emus who like to be fed and will come right up to you with this in mind. Some of the kangaroos are more docile than others and still the very tame ones will get a bit shirty – fair enough. Typing this I realise I have forgotten how to type. Anyway, so basically it is 39 houses that look very 1930s but are actually 1950s, all apparently on the same floorplan entirely, and every time you come back from being away somewhere for a short time they are full of lazy blowflies, but it is really pretty great. Presumably the houses once had fences around them but in the spirit of community and of letting the kangaroos get around, these have been taken down and the houses all just float in the dirt. Most of them are arranged around a central wooded park area. There is a ‘general store’ area and a few other huts including a tv room where a children’s film is shown every night. I did as much research as I could on this area when we were at the Nannup Historical Society the other day and I found that, when the place stopped being a mill (in 1978) it was either sold or let briefly to HomesWest, then it was taken over by a private developer, and by the early 80s it was a thriving holiday camp place. And as well as the general store building there was a shop called Crazee Ladies which sadly is no longer.

I feel now fairly familiar with the surrounding towns, the aforementioned Nannup, Manjimup where I got a way cool jumper yesterday which boasts of my support for the football team the Manjimup Imperials – you’ll be seeing me wearing this a lot – and two shirts, one of which purports to be a Pierre Cardin, and a TransPerth jacket. Another town is Bridgetown which is preparing itself to become the new Margaret River when Margaret River prices itself out of existence. We have spent a bit of time in all of these. Also, yesterday (which incidentally was also my birthday) we went to Pemberton and rode the tram which I believe runs on what was once a logging railway. Very scenic and the tram driver’s commentary ranged the full gamut from bottom humour to risqué front parts of a man humour. He looked a bit like Robin Williams the actor/comedian. He was also an apiarist and sold honey out of the boot of his car when we got back to Pemberton. Mia’s father had once lived in Pemberton in the early 1960s when he worked for the forestry department, he lived in a one-bedroom hut in the forest and chose a particular kind of wood to be used in the construction of the ceiling of Parliament House. He also went out on a few dates with the butcher’s daughter.

For my birthday I was given the first four books of the Number 1 Ladies’ Detective Agency series. My sister lent me the first of these some time ago and I read it quickly but never got round to reading any of the others, so I was very up for it and in fact am close to finishing the fourth. Excellent holiday reading. I don’t know what I am going to do when I finish it but I suppose there won’t be much more holiday anyway, so that’s OK. Back to the grind which includes shepherding a few sleepy and miserable students along to the dawn service on Anzac Day at sparrow fart, myself having had four hours’ sleep. I am sincerely not looking forward to this.

I am such a fan of WA. I don’t know if I would be as much of a fan if I lived here rather than came every year or so but I do really love being here. There is a lot to complain about I suppose not least the ghastly attitudes to race, etc one encounters all the time but you could hardly say that Victoria was exempt from that or anywhere else in the world. In that regard I suppose WA gets a bad rap and in fact got one from me just a few sentences ago. I love the way WA looks, the guppy spark attitude which needs a special word which doesn’t exist, the way you sometimes feel like you’re in another country, and so on. I am right into it.

adam


Adam, K&D's 200-year-old mouse. Quality of life - excellent.

Sunday, April 16, 2006

shadow and a wombat




Millie's older half sister. Is undergoing chemo, hence the hairloss on the back. I keep sticking little talks balloons onto the screen to make it look like she is saying witty things but I can't seem to get them into cyberspace.

We all know people who seem to have scored a rough deal in life. You know, chance and circumstance have left them with that slightly less rewarding career, or other aggravations that they just don’t need at the moment. Heck, sometimes you feel these people have a guardian angel who’s just a little distracted, or perhaps took their case on as a second job…

That’s what Charlie’s like. She’s always getting into trouble, with Millie or us or someone else in the park. Being told off, talked about, dissed. It’s not like she wants to be naughty, it just seems to happen.

Like when, as soon as we arrived in Perth, on being introduced to Millie’s half-sister Shadow, she somehow got into a vicious snarling altercation, and while she certainly didn’t mean Shadow’s claw to get stuck in her collar, it happened, and in fact the claw came right off. So this was probably not contrived as far as Charlie was concerned but I daresay she got some kind of satisfaction out of the whole thing.

So Shadow had to have her paw bandaged up, and Millie and Charlie had to be banished outside (poor Millie must feel she is being forever punished for the shit Charlie does to people, but the fact is Charlie goes spare if she is split up from Millie for instance if Millie comes in the house and Charlie is left outside, which happens very occasionally eg bath day, so what can you do) and Shadow banished inside. The paw bled profusely and it had to be put inside a plastic bag so Shadow (who cheered up almost immediately) had to prance around with a blood bag on her front left foot. Shadow has been undergoing chemo, etc and has a tumour in her neck and has lost a lot of fur on her back, so it’s only understandable that Charlie, being a child of the new millennium, would want to attack her violently.

Rohan, who is Mia’s sister Kerstin’s 10 month old son with her husband Andy, is a successful person who can already walk and say things, which is very impressive, he can also hold a saucer in one hand and bang it with a spoon and walk and eat simultaneously, which I believe is more than Gerald Ford could do at any age (is Gerald Ford still alive? I don’t care). He can also wave. I thought children were born and then just lay there for a couple of years and one day got up, so I was shocked that he was doing all of this so young.

Rohan is very attracted to remote controls and the like, so there has been comment on his technological abilities, I suppose in part something to do with being a child of the new millennium. I said something to Rohan along the lines of how he had such an active day, getting given toys and meeting new people and so on, and that I was looking forward to reading his blog (ho ho what a jolly uncle). Andy said, ‘a blog, what’s that?’ and I said ‘you’ll have to wait for Rohan to tell you.’ And Andy said, ‘is it like a diary you keep on line?’ and I said yes. And Andy said ‘H’mm. I’ve never heard of that before.’ Which makes you wonder where he’s coming from.

This morning we just pushed Shadow out into the back yard (she had pulled her bandage off and ‘cleaned up’ the wound as Mia’s mother put it) and although there was a bit of a barking thing, it all seemed fine. Mia and her father and I went shopping and apparently when we were away Shadow pushed Charlie on her (Charlie’s) back and stood on her, which would be enough for anyone I would imagine. Later in the evening we had more dog conflagration as Shadow attacked Charlie for showing too much attitude. Millie (surprisingly) took Charlie’s side, I assume once again because it is deemed world’s best practice amongst dogs to attack the weakened, sick one. Mia’s father intervened and got bitten on the hand for his trouble. I, never one to learn from either what I see or what I experience, also intervened and whisked Charlie out of the way and fortunately was not bitten. Charlie barked until 2 am.

Dog world aside, we went on three great driving trips. One was a shopping trip, as mentioned above. One trip was to Pickering Brook where Mia’s father keeps his Alfa Giulia alongside the broken and skeletal bodies of various other Alfas. Some are being harvested for parts and others are one day to rise again as proud Alfas. Mia saw her first car there, in a state of decrepitude.

The other trip was a meandering one ultimately to Mundaring but we went to Midland on the way for some reason, where we found an open Salvos and I bought some bowling shirts though I am not sure why. But I don’t regret it. Also a strange Canadian mug. Since that Salvos was open we thought maybe the one at Mundaring would be as well so we went there and it wasn’t. We also dropped in at Mundaring Arts Centre and had a look at their current exhibition which was a high school art exhibition of the type we generally often like. I was particularly up for a picture of a street scene in which all the commuters, passers-by etc were clowns. Good call. Also a picture divided into 9 squares with Howard’s face and ‘Sorry’ written on it, and the other 8 squares images from protests. I really don’t know if the whole exhibition had a theme but it might have.

In the evening I picked up The Da Vinci Code and read two thirds of it.

Friday, April 14, 2006

ghost of easters past

I had a little sentimental nausea earlier today when I switched on the radio and instead of the usual Fran Kelly it was old religious programming. Oh yeah, we're a Christian nation, I was trying to forget and oh, plus, we're not really. But it did remind me of the bad old days when Good Friday was the single most awful holiday you could get, worse even than Boxing Day, because there was absolutely nothing to watch on tv or nothing to buy. It was a pandora's box of absolute ennui. Still is, I guess, pretty much although these days I am a little more able to entertain myself. You know, go out and bounce a tennis ball against the wall, or get Mia to drop me naked in the street a few suburbs away and I have to get back without anyone seeing me.

Wednesday, April 12, 2006

bloody gnawer

Charlie has a distinct interest in chewing on the arm of this very nice chair (the upholstery of which really suffered from the attention of Millie as a puppy, which is why it is now covered in something a nice lady crocheted and gave to an opshop). She really locks her jaw on it and bites, and looks at us on the couch while she's doing it. Yes it is an attention-getting/power-assertion device. Of course it is. However in this case I think she is just resting her head on there without the slightest thought of, I really want to sink my teeth into this mother.

In other news the amount of essays I am churning through is making me quite light-headed. I very nearly responded to a student's email with the words 'cool bananas'. Of course I stopped in time and amended it to 'fuckin' A'.

Monday, April 10, 2006

vintage!!!

Someone out in the street has a totally old-school car alarm. Reminds me of the old days when car alarms were first invented, or popularised, or available or whatever. It was when I just started working as a mail sorter at the Sydney GPO. You can imagine how I remember.

For a very quiet, very suburban street we have a lot of things going on out there. Why people drive down Lorraine Crescent at all is beyond me as it is basically a crescent so all you do is lose a minute of your life you'll never get back which you could have used more constructively if you'd kept driving down Johnstone St. But then again life's all about the journey, that's a philosophy I subscribe to, and it is a pretty attractive street, as long as there are no nappies in it, which I concede there sometimes have been.

I am drinking some nice Margaret River wine and thinking I really should go to bed, as I have an early start tomorrow. But (this is a revolting term but it does seem appropriate) we have broken the back of first semester, and speaking of breaking we have Easter coming up which means a week off, which for sessionals like myself also means not as much money, but fortunately I committed to marking every essay written at the Uni this semester and even though I only get a farthing for each it all adds up dunnit.

'life's a rich tapestry and you do things'

Quote of the year comes from Mr J. W. Howard who is about to not be hauled over the coals over the umpteenth time he has presided over some gross negligence but will get away with it because no-one told him it was happening. But 'life's a rich tapestry and... you do things', as he says. I guess this is the sixtysomething's 'shit happens'/'whatever'.

garboesque

I recall Peter Cook once saying of his own performance as a kind of Greta Garbo that he quite fancied himself in that get up or maybe with that look. I don't think Millie fancies herself in fact for all I know she has no idea who Greta Garbo is but you have to admit she is a very handsomely statuesque individual. She looks haughtier than she really is in fact she is prone to sucking her paws. Luckily she can't read so she won't know I broadcast this fact.

Sunday, April 09, 2006

I decided finally to go all the way

Every Friday I teach peremptorily in South Melbourne, and becuase it doesn't happen until the afternoon and at the end of a fairly overstrenuous week I find myself often running late. The temptation is always too great to drive to the station (or a station) and take the train into town. Last Friday (I was going to say 'yesterday' but I realise it has just turned 10 past 12) I had a long work-related (if you were wondering) phone call around noon and I thought, no, today I can't even drive to the station - I'm going to have to drive all the way to South Melbourne. A minute later I had a song in my head. I realised it was 'Go All the Way' by the Raspberries, and in fact it was the rockin' bit at the beginning, not even the actual chorus where they sing 'Drive all the way - all the way to South Melbourne - down Clarendon Street and park in the ACMI car park in Park St'.

I know I'm not unique in this but it does amaze me how a phrase - not even a spoken phrase but I thought one - will trigger the memory of a song. Is this some distant cousin to synaesthesia?

I have been marking essays all day, with a short detour to Shane and Olivia's housewarming. The same old crap keeps turning up. I tried to explain to my second years (and I think I succeeded) a few days ago that there are weird mistakes that flow through essays each semester in waves. At the moment it's the word 'countries' for 'country's'. A few years ago it was the word 'intern' for 'in turn'. Somewhere in there it was the word 'apart' for 'a part'. These last two infuriating errors still show up but less so. Right now it's countries for country's. It probably doesn't look that horrible when you only see it a couple of times. Try seeing it a hundred times. Try getting to the last page of an otherwise pretty seamless and intelligent exploration and there it is three times in the last two paragraphs. Go on, try.

Thursday, April 06, 2006

reeking havoc


Now I love the Flinders St kiosks as much as anyone else, including you who practically runs a fan club for them. But you have to admit they stink of rancid old oil and when you walk past them you often feel ill. I know I shouldn't complain about things I can't change but these things smell terrible and I don't even have a good sense of smell.

Technical information: Picture was taken through a train window purely for the purpose of reducing glare. Camera was a Motorola V620 on darkest setting. Scratches were caused not by me scraping ineffectually at the air in front of me as I try so hard to show my displeasure but by... something else.

Wednesday, April 05, 2006

it's raining now

Oh how awful I wish it would just go away.
Not really, although I did get pretty soaked in a .3 km stroll from a classroom. It's been so long since it last rained it is quite a shock.
Speaking of shocks Channel 10 showed Neighbours at 6 pm on Monday. This must have been the first Neighbours schedule change for about half my lifetime. It was disturbing. I thought it was the beginning of the end. Turns out that yes, it probably was, but it was only one night, so they could schedule a one-hour The Biggest Loser. I am very confused about Bree's parenthood now, as I have missed about three episodes in a row. Most unusual.

Monday, April 03, 2006

in which I ruminate on offending a farmer and cats in oxfam bags

I appear to have offended a farmer (see comments to previous entry) though only because I believed his or her comment to have come not from a farmer but from one of the two or three occasional commenters who regularly frequent this blog. I apologise to the farmer for calling him/her an idiot although I would prefer not to drive a tractor thanks, in fact I think it would suck. For me.

In other recent news, Bela got inside an Oxfam bag. Mia and I watched most of the first season of The Sopranos and I made a pretty good looking loaf of bread. Oh, and Saturday night.

First was Debbie's exhibition of drawings at that gallery over the road from the Standard in Fitzroy. The drawings were incredible! I remember a while ago she said she was doing some drawings for an exhibition and I kind of had nothing to say as I had no awareness of her artistic bent (I was sure she had one, but I had no idea of its type). Most of the drawings were like picture book illustrations in a picture book where you'd say, too bad even if I do know someone whose birthday is coming up, I'm buying this book for myself. There were some great drawings of axlotls and also some really nice ones of the big animal face sign (as you can see I am vague on the detail though I believe Wayne D has written about this before) in Elizabeth St. And also some animals looking through holes in walls. And Mia brought a terriffic fox one which Shane rather ludicrously described as being a bandicoot. Then we went to Peta and Greg's. Greg has a toothache, Peta made some pumpkin seeds baked (?) in soy sauce which were excellent and Paul and Karla came round and I bored Paul talking about Paul Fussell and Ern Malley (did you know they went out?) and then we went to Shane and Olivia's I'm not sure why but it gave me a chance to present Shane with Kirstie Alley's book How to Lose Your Ass blah blah blah which he seemed to respond too positively to so I took it back. Then we went to Colin's 40th. We gave him a present, Barbara Dane's album I Hate the Capitalist System, mainly for the title, because Colin does hate the capitalist system. So do I actually, but it was his birthday. The party was at the Trades Hall and there was 80s music and a big video screen, and I had a fairly detailed discussion with someone who I won't name we were talking about Broadmeadows station precinct as an activity centre because she was involved in a competition design for the future of B'meadows station area and I was saying how I thought it was a great idea to do a land swap to get a visual connection between Broady central and our open space and how great our space was and that it had a wetlands and she said 'how hard is it to make a wetland? You just let everything get wet'. And turned around and started talking to someone else. Funny. Then we went to a party at 6Hope St, in the house Mia lived in 10 years before, chiefly to have a look around. The theme of the party was The Jungle and there was someone who looked about 10 dressed as a big banana and I was sitting on the arm of a couch and some person with plastic adders in his hair kept banging me on the back with his snake heads. Mia said the carpet used to be orange. The living room had a huge range (the house was probably about 1920) that stretched the length of the wall and contained an old stove at one end, a cupboard in the middle that must once have been something else, and a fireplace at the other end. Very unusual.

Anyway considering I have a massive amount of marking to do I have got quite a bit of that done and more besides.

It was exciting to see that someone out of Troyka are starting a Troyka site (see other comment on previous entry) though there's not much there at the moment, just some pictures/handbills/reviews that take a long time to load if you have dialup.