Saturday, October 29, 2005

Thanks, Internet!

Here are just a few of the things that I had to restrain myself from shouting in the middle of my bizarre goal-setting meeting earlier this week. Not sure which would have been worse in the long run.

  • Punch in your weightclass, you backwards ass mountain man.

  • Ka-boom! Here we come! Whose woman parts are next?

  • Duodecimal duodecimal duodecimal. (Repeat endlessly.)

    Academia is not well-suited to management-speak. The gaily coloured form, with its columns for "Goals!" and "Action Items!" and "How will you know when you have made tangible progress towards your Goal?" ended up full of things like "Broaden area of knowledge", "Read things", and "Talk to collaborator". My subconscious sprang into action with rapid-fire edited highlights of all the euphonious phrases I've read during the past few days' idle blog inspection, and I began to chew on the sides of my tongue while making a "thinking" face.
  • Friday, October 28, 2005

    No Vision, No Future, And No Ketchup

    I presume this was intended as a joke.
    Look at the way we live now, in the west. We grow up in increasingly fragmented communities, hardly speaking to the people next door, and drive to work in our self-contained cars. We work in standardised offices and stop at the supermarket on our way home to buy production-line food which we eat without relish. There is no great misery, no hunger, and no war. But nor is there great passion or joy.
    Dylan Evans is having a rough week, and it's the fault of liberal democracy. Perhaps he needs a change. He could go and talk to his next-door neighbours, perhaps, or find a job that interests him more than lecturing at the University of the West of England apparently does. Alas, his society is lacking a philosophical infrastructure that would enable him to do so. Instead he is forced by an uncaring system to write appalling nonsense like:
    More, Campanella and Bacon all agree that everyone must work. When work is shared out between all members of society, Campanella calculates that each person will have to work no more than four hours a day. That would leave plenty of leisure time, as well as energy to use that time wisely by, Campanella suggests, attending lectures.
    It's about time we got that sorted out. Only four hours a day if we all pitch in and help with each other's jobs? Good job, Tommaso Campanella. I'm glad this figure was "calculated" - as opposed to "pulled out of your ass" - otherwise I might doubt its real-world applicability.

    The problem with the utopianism/consumerism binary is that Evans is wrong about the paucity of utopian thinkers. There are more of the bastards than ever. What he's actually complaining about is that there's no single utopian ideal to which we're all forced to subscribe. The beauty of consumerism - invisible to Evans as he drives his self-contained car home from his standardised office, munching on a production-line sandwich - is that everyone gets to have a shot at implementing their own utopian vision for themselves. Our success rate is every bit as dismal as the society-wide utopian thinkers', but at least we get to go to the bar in the evening instead of listening to lectures. (And besides, if he was already at the supermarket to pick up the production-line food, couldn't he have bought some relish as well? Even if you're trapped in a depraved consumerist wasteland, there's no need to deprive yourself of condiments.)

    Possibly A Reference To The Utah Jazz?

    After disappearing into thin air with an enigmatic yet polite request to Bring [his] Cake Back, and just in time for the NBA season, it's the triumphant return of Billups. We can only hope that this will result in more season previews like this one.

    On another note, reading the Blogger comment spam that plagues the non-Haloscanned among us, there is some absolutely unhinged niche marketing going on. At time of posting, the last comment on the "Please Bring My Cake Back" Billups post is for "white power small business consulting".

    Thursday, October 27, 2005

    (No, Seriously)

    In Other News: Goth Suicide Pact

    It's interesting to contrast the local reportage on the Iraq imbroglio with the American news, since the papers over here are marginally less concerned with US electoral point-scoring. The press here seems to report the whole mess as a battle between an occupying military and a nationalistic insurgency fighting to remove said occupying force. Perhaps this is fair enough, but it strikes me as worth mentioning that the principal US policy goal relating to Iraq involves removing the military as soon as things stop exploding. If the goal of the insurgency is to get US/allied troops to leave Iraq, then it's the worst idea ever, since without an insurgency the US/allied troops would have left already. This leads one to suppose that this is not actually the goal of the insurgency, and that there is a bit of projection going on.

    Meanwhile, another enjoyable feature of the local media is that crazy people with books to promote don't feel obliged to say that "of course I support the troops etc etc..." going instead with:
    The defeat of America and its allies in Iraq is vital to ensure...
    etc, etc.

    Oh, well. Enough of this nonsense. Back to the novel.

    Wednesday, October 26, 2005

    A Non-Profit Organization, But Not For Want Of Trying

    Apparently, with this blog, and a buck fifty, I can buy a cup of coffee.

    That's actually not as bad as it sounds because, um, coffee is very expensive in Australia. Besides, it's much easier to make a sincere pledge never to sell out if you're armed with the knowledge that nobody's buying.

    Coulter Swallows Own Tail

    Well, this had to happen sooner or later:
    They're always accusing us of repressing their speech. I say let's do it. Let's repress them... I'm not a big fan of the First Amendment.
    Not to take Ann Coulter seriously, or anything like that, but I think this is a cry for help: she's bored of the shtick and now the best thing for her career would be for someone to lend her credibility by actually trying to shut her down. If she has to do it herself, though, it'd be amusingly similar to the time a shipment of Andrea Dworkin's books was destroyed at the Canadian border after falling foul of the draconian anti-speech laws Dworkin herself co-authored. Maybe there's a provision in McCain-Feingold that will save Coulter the effort, although I doubt her adoring public will cooperate:
    She's a little raw, but I think she balances the left's Michael Moore.
    Why the fuck does Michael Moore need balancing? Just let him fall over.

    Monday, October 24, 2005

    Australians, Australian Decried By Same

    I really don't understand what's going on here at all, but who cares? Fight! Fight!

    This is how I deal with moments of brain death in the afternoon: randomly click around until I find a decent scuffle, then watch it unfold in slack-jawed wonderment. This one is also pretty mind-boggling, although some responsible moderator has been through and excised a lot of the most horrifying bits.

    Sunday, October 23, 2005

    The Even Bigger Chill

    Most of the weekend has been spent carrying fridges around Bondi Junction and its environs. In amongst all the toing and froing of fridges, the plan was, I ended up with one of my own, since the people I was assisting had bought some number of fridges surplus to their requirements. It was not unlike a heist movie, only with less running and more swearing. Protagonists of heist movies would be well advised, in my opinion, to stick to diamonds and the like. A heist movie centered around a cunning double-cross involving multiple indistinguishable fridges would have to be about four hours long. Also, it's hard to come up with decent one-liners when you're halfway up a flight of stairs trying to keep from being crushed by a freezer compartment.

    At such times, I could really do with a forty-two ounce margarita of doom. Alas, the original recipe is the other side of a large body of water. However, now I have a place to keep the fixin's appropriately chilled, and my apartment stands prepared to become a full-fledged margarita lab as the weather improves. It has been about five years since I have had enough space and privacy to set up a proper scientific cocktail facility, and I miss the little homelike touches that they provide. The bubbling flasks, the fluorescent liquids, the mysterious explosions in the dead of night - it doesn't seem right without them.

    Wednesday, October 19, 2005

    Ladies And Gentlemen, Your New UN Ambassador!

    I'm by no means an expert on Australian parliamentary procedure, but there do seem to be a few features that recur down the generations:
    Mr Tripodi had been speaking in Parliament last night about the Pacific Highway when Mr Fraser lunged at him and grabbed him by the throat.
    I travelled all the way around the world to be closer to stories like this, and it was worth every minute. Be sure not to miss the Hansard transcript; it actually reads rather like one of Harold Pinter's more recent poems:
    I should have asked you about the 13 deaths. You tell us about the 13 deaths, you bloody clown! Get in here! Come in here and tell us about the 13 deaths.
    Come to think, it's too metrical - it's more like one of those T.S. Eliot fragments where somebody's going on about dissolving women's bodies in bathtubs. A high point of modern politics, either way.

    Monday, October 17, 2005

    Guilt By National Basketball Association

    Who knew the Village Voice would turn out not to be big NASCAR fans?
    Not all of America loves NASCAR. It's mostly those who live in the "red" swath of middle America, an area that includes the South and the Southwest and that helped elect George Bush last November.
    NASCAR is incredibly tedious and I approve of anything that works to diminish its popularity, even equally tedious knee-jerk Village Voice pieces insinuating that fans of the sport are racists. Is there some way we can allege that they're child molesters, as well? I'm hoping this tactic will be the one that finally works for golf, as an increasing number of adolescent girls start turning pro.
    As opposed to the NASCAR driver presented in 3 [Dale Earnhardt], a white man who leathers his hands working with tools and relying on his daring to earn victories, the American Sportsman/black athlete squanders his God-given talent and is loud-talking and brash. He is a millionaire whiner who complains about how inadequate is his pay (Latrell Sprewell), or who brawls with paying fans (Ron Artest). He is lascivious, perhaps even a rapist (Kobe Bryant). And there's reason to think he's a cheat (Barry Bonds).
    I kind of get where he's going with this, but the trouble is that Spree is a millionaire whiner, Artest is a headcase, Bonds is, if not a juicer, a hard man to root for, and the less said about Kobe the better. The list of black American athletes who exemplify the virtues the writer spends much of the piece being snippy about - Donovan McNabb, Kevin Garnett, Dwyane Wade, Byron Leftwich, Priest Holmes, etc, etc - is a much longer one, but for some mysterious reason he doesn't get around to mentioning them.

    In snarling defiance of a country that seems to have an endless supply of indistinguishable rugby variants (and don't get me started on cricket) I have also been keeping up with this.
    Fuck an endowment, campus, thousands of alumni. . . this is between three people: the coach, his former star, and, uh, a large state university... Even if it makes absolutely no sense, he wants Cincinnati to face him like a man.
    Good stuff from the always-entertaining Kenyon Martin. Now there's a fellow who could make NASCAR highlights worth watching.

    Thursday, October 13, 2005

    High Finance For High People

    Penury beckons, as the very long number issued to me by my bank two weeks ago turns out to differ - subtly yet crucially - from the number they're actually using to keep track of my ducats. It seems that changing that final 0 to an 8 really fucks things up. The helpful young man who I've spent most of the afternoon waving my arms at in panic seemed quite proud of the system whereby customer account numbers never differ by just one or two digits - so my paycheck hasn't been credited to some undeserving person, it has just disappered into the ether. Not only did this not reassure me very much, it makes me think that this error-detecting property has made them complacent. One manifestation of this complacency is that now their new clients are apparently only being told approximately what their account numbers are.

    Perhaps it's some kind of new security system. If so, it's working perfectly: no money in, no money out. Meanwhile, it seems I am going to be drinking wine in a box and panhandling for a little while longer.

    Wednesday, October 12, 2005

    Snoop Dogg Takes The Fifth

    What hath Scotch and soda wrought? This, for starters, courtesy of the scintillating superluminal Dan Atkinson.

    If Bob Dylan (or, more likely, someone holding a grudge against Bob Dylan, possibly Big Joe Turner or one of his relatives) were currently looking for legal representation, I think this post establishes Atkinson's bona fides and expertise on the subject beyond dispute. Sadly, I don't think he is. One side or the other in the Leonard Cohen dispute, on the other hand, might very well be. I don't have the song to hand, but I suggest something along the lines of:

    Leonard Cohen:
    - has a secret life in a mirrored room.
    - has run out of people to torture.
    - has ordered his baby to lie beside him.
    - has made a number of ancillary demands, including but not limited to crack, anal sex, the Berlin Wall, Stalin, St. Paul, and miscellaneous other historical figures, religious icons, and modes of Biblical knowing.
    - is unfamiliar with the meaning of the word "repent".
    - nevertheless claims to be the little Jew who wrote the Bible.
    - has seen nations rise and fall.
    - has listened to their stories most assiduously.
    - has been instructed to say, clearly and coldy, that it's over.
    - does not like children.

    - do not now, have not in the past, nor will ever know Leonard Cohen from the wind.
    - are being beaten by the Devil with a riding crop.
    - are about to have a packed social calendar.
    - also do not like children.

    Your woman:
    - is about to be suspended in midair, upside down.

    - will slide in all directions.
    - will be unmeasurable.

    The blizzard of the world:
    - has crossed the threshold and overturned the order of the soul.

    The hole in your culture:
    - has a tree stuffed up it.

    Monday, October 10, 2005

    Wish I Was In Heaven Sitting Down (Slight Return)

    Sartre, or someone who might as well have been Sartre, once described Hell as perhaps nothing more than a room with a chair in it. After much inconvenience and brandishing of credit reports, I finally have this angle covered. Even better is the fact that, unlike some places I have set up shop in the past, there is nothing overtly Satanic about the chair, unless its being from Ikea counts. (Between the chair and the bed, I have four pieces of metal and six screws left over. Nothing is collapsing when I sit on it, and now I get to make a bonus collage!)

    There you have it: the thrill ride that was my weekend. I have also discovered that there is an annual limit to the number of blogs I'm allowed to read in my office, a limit that I could quite easily exceed (and maybe already have) during the course of an average afternoon's procrastination. This means that the room will soon be a room with a chair and a wireless modem in it, and all the more hellish for that. Hell with nice views and a balcony, though, mind you. Got to have standards.

    Friday, October 07, 2005

    And If We Do, What's That Number We Dial Again?

    The U.Syd campus is home to a large number of motivated postering professionals. I was honestly intending to hit the "Marx and the Anarchists" discussion on Tuesday - the rubric implied that the purpose of the meeting was to unite, not divide, the two groups, and that had definite comedy potential - but the next one could be even better. Alongside a sinister musclebound silhouette of pig, in threatening posture, with truncheon raised, the question is posed:
    I don't actually think you're the ones being asked, lads, but by all means consider the question.

    Thursday, October 06, 2005

    It Certainly Seemed Like Multiple Mad Jacks Bradshaw To Me

    Speaking of goths, just saw the Nick Cave-penned Oz-western The Proposition. It's fine stuff - soulful Irish hero, venal, genocidal English villains, and all - the kind of film where you're surprised to learn, watching the credits roll, that there was only one character named "Mad Jack Bradshaw". It also does its bit to further raise the profile of the funny-looking and suddenly-ubiquitous Danny Huston, which I think is a good thing.

    Curiously, there was a warning before the film that it might be offensive to viewers of Aboriginal or Torres Strait Islander heritage. I'm not sure if this is something done regularly in Australia, or if I'm missing some serious point, but to display a warning aimed specifically at the delicate sensibilities of one section of the audience seems like a bit of a cruel spoof of PC. (On the other hand, in the cruel-spoof-of-PC stakes, I don't think there are any restrictions on the display of imagery associated with pigs over here.)

    Tuesday, October 04, 2005

    Still No Escape But The Tomb

    You can tell a lot about a city from its free alternative weeklies; they're like a seething vegan id. For instance:
    This month Enmore's Gothic community reveals its dark heart with the Under The Blue Moon Festival Kicking off at 10 AM and running well into the witching hour this festival is designed to please everyone with well planned events catering to all ages and dress sensibilities. Through the day there are many worthy sights to behold including Goth pavement artists; Gothic kid's treasure hunt; LIVE Stonemason; Goth Artists' Exhibitions; Hair Design Display by Doppelganger; Goth Wheel of Misfortune and [newspaper torn in half and flung across room]
    What I have learned, in this instance, is that I am not going to live in the district of Enmore. The electric thrills of live masonry might not quite make up for the other factors, shall we say.

    Monday, October 03, 2005

    Gutter Journalism Ain't What It Used To Be

    From the book of splendor alluded to below:
    Cock-a-hoop with [winning a libel case, albeit with a total award of one farthing], Norton plunged into a great booze-up. For weeks he was in a state of helpless, hymn-bawling drunkenness. Truth was without an editor and the difficulties of its staff were aggravated by Norton's practice of lurching around the office with a revolver, firing off a few chambers when the caprice seized him... When Norton was officially told of his dismissal he was too drunk to understand what it was all about. The new editor had occupied the chair for more than a week before Norton sobered up sufficiently to realise he had been sacked. He took the sentence philosophically, even admitting to [owner of Truth, more or less] Crick that it was justified, but immediately took steps to frustrate it. He was still, by the original chicanery of the organisation, registered proprietor of Truth. He directed the Post Office to divert all its correspondence to him, and [hilarity ensues]
    It's virtually all like this; chapter after chapter of blackmail, bribery, physical violence, and shockingly bad editorials set against a background of three or four distinct decades-long bilious feuds between the various principals, most of whom were elected members of Parliament in addition to being part-time media moguls. If you ever, anywhere in your travels, find a copy of this book I cannot recommend it highly enough. Most of the source materials are apparently archived here, so I'm going to pay a visit as soon as is convenient to pick up some pointers.

    Slightly before the book's serialization in 1958, a descendent of the Norton in that excerpt attempted to sue the publisher for a kind of retroactive libel, using a freshly-minted Act of Parliament believed to have been drafted precisely for that purpose. It didn't quite work, but the law remained on the books. I hope it's not still there. I may be wrong, but I think even in England you can't libel the dead.

    Sunday, October 02, 2005

    All That's Missing Is The Edible Da Vinci Code

    The apartment hunt goes not so well, so here's a new plan: camping out in the cavernous, desolate local history sections of area bookshops, of which there are a dizzying number. Copies of John Pilger's collected works will be burned for warmth; or, if warmth is not required, they will be burned on general principle. For a pillow, a copy of Cyril Pearl's wonderful Wild Men of Sydney, which will hopefully make me a better writer by osmosis:
    The barrenness of the political scene [in Sydney in the 1890s] can be measured by the fact that Sir Henry Parkes still dominated it. A mature community would have soon wearied of the predatory, vain, and mediocre politican behind the Elder Statesman's aureloe of whiskers.
    I'm not done with the book yet, but it's entirely possible that this is the nicest thing he's going to say about anyone in it. Australian politics seems to have been quite a lot of fun:
    Violent behaviour and violent language [in Parliament] were condoned or scarcely rebuked; fights between members were not uncommon and the sight of a drunken statesman falling off his bench during a debate excited amusement rather than indignation.
    This is a model to bring up the next time anyone starts wanking on about getting young people involved in politics.

    In other news, I wish Sydney Craigslist wasn't so dead. I need someone to give me furniture, even if that means I have to start occupying some of the contemporary literature aisles.

    Saturday, October 01, 2005

    Take Me Down To The Infirmary

    While wandering around downtown in an hours-long mission to be denied health coverage, I found myself in the middle of a giant parade of shirtless men painted red and white. A Sydney football team has apparently just won something or other for the first time in a while, and was being presented with the keys to the city. I am now in an ideal position to become a bandwagon fan. Go Swans, with your spectacularly un-macho name.

    Speaking of healthcare, I've now been given three completely different and mutually contradictory reasons why the healthcare reciprocation treaty between Australia and the UK doesn't apply to me, two of which I know for a fact are bogus. I suspect they're making this shit up, and I'm going to keep calling the Melbourne office back until I get someone - perhaps a janitor - who won't say absolutely anything in order to get off the phone in under thirty seconds.

    Oh, and I'm buying a digital camera as soon as I start getting paid, if only so I can post the view from my office window. It is, as Flog would say, a pisser.