Friday, June 30, 2006


New Yorker cartoon by J.C. Duffy, originally published 05 September 2005, available through The Cartoon Bank.

Have a happy Friday, please.

Thursday, June 29, 2006

Singin' like a mavis

More from Robert Louis Stevenson (writing from Stobo Manse, Peeblesshire, Scotland in July 1882 to W.E. Henley):

Old Mr Pegfurth Bannatyne is here staying at a country inn. His whole baggage is a pair of socks and a book in a fishing-basket; and he borrows even a rod from the landlord. He walked here over the hills from Sanquhar, "singin'", he says, "like a mavis." I naturally asked him about Hazlitt. "He wouldnae take his drink," he said, "a queer, queer fellow." But did not seem further communicative. He says he has become "releegious," but stills swears like a trooper. I asked him if he had no headquarters. "No likely," said he. He says he is writing his memoirs, which will be interesting. He once met Borrow; they boxed; "and Geordie," says the old man chuckling, "gave me the damnedest hiding." Of Wordsworth he remarked, "He wasnae sound in the faith, sir, and a milk-blooded, blue-spectacled bitch forbye. But his po'mes are grand - there's no denying that." I asked him what his book was. "I havenae mind," said he - that was his only book! On turning it out, I found it was one of my own, and on showing it to him, he remembered it at once. "O aye," he said, "I mind now. It's pretty bad; ye'll have to do better than that, chieldy," and chuckled, chuckled.


Tuesday, June 27, 2006

Vagueness descends

Police Chief Wiggum:
This is Papa Bear. Put out an APB for a male suspect, driving a... car of some sort, heading in the direction of... you know, that place that sells chilli. Suspect is hatless. Repeat, hatless.
The Simpsons
From Homer's Triple Bypass written by Gary Apple and Michael Carrington.

I noticed the impact of tiredness today, after watching the soccer overnight (1-3am AEST) and then getting up a few hours later. And the idea that some people live with this kind of impairment - not just once in a while, but permanently - is kind of horrifying. I felt sick and shaky and sad all day, couldn't concentrate, and didn't care, and that was after just one night's lost sleep. Feeling like that every day would lead to trouble, wouldn't it? Depression? Aggression? Accidents?

I don't know how widespread insomnia is. But that's not the only thing robbing people of sleep: it seems like there's a plague of perpetual busyness, and it's cultural, not inevitable. My sister (the non-J one) used to be employed in an industry where the normal conditions - in Australia - saw her working practically every waking minute. Yet her colleagues in the same industry in New Zealand leave the job at 5:30pm every day and (at least in summer) have time to relax outside after work. They go to cafes. They go bushwalking. They wander home and watch the sunset. Maybe they even get a good night's sleep. And yet their industry hasn't collapsed, the work gets done, and the city runs on time. Miracle!

I don't know, though. Maybe I'm falsely simplifying something that is much more complex. If so, apologies.


Monday, June 26, 2006

On the World Cup, early-morning television, and a nationwide outbreak of "the crowd goes wild": can Australia beat Italy?



Alternatively, no.


But it was close; they played well.

Sunday, June 25, 2006

Cold start

I got up this morning and thought, "I've got to do something fun today," and immediately followed it with, "Ohwww... (ie. whinge, whinge, moan, hiss, growl and snarl, et cetera)"

Maybe it was the "got to" ("... got to do something fun...").

Or maybe there was something in the air. Brain-deadness:

The dogs were just standing there like that. Staring out to sea. Except there is no sea.

Or maybe it was just everyday morningness. Mornings are a health hazard. Surely somebody somewhere will have scientifically and incontrovertibly established this.

Alternatively, and thinking a bit more, maybe it was just this,
or that,
or here,
or there,
or this thing,
or the other thing,
or all of them.

Geez, I'm a pain in the arse. And you spotted that right at the start, didn't you, reader? Hahaha. Genius.

I'll tell you what's fun, though: this. Doing this. I Love Blogging (today). Yay!

Quick! A snap test!

Question: Can you list 20 things you like to do?
Answer: (tick tick tick ...)


I couldn't. And apparently that's not unusual, so there's every chance you're just as hopeless or worse ;)

That's all I wanted to say, really. Thanks for reading.

This page (attached to the link above) argues that doing the things we enjoy builds up resilience. And I'm posting this because:
(a) resilience is good, and
(b) enjoyable activities are good (so if the two are connected that's double-good) and
(c) I've been sitting here for over four hours trying to find something to say. Yes, it's me, today's biggest dreary dearie. It's a good thing tomorrow is another day.

Saturday, June 24, 2006

The long and whining road

Grampa: Are we there yet?
Homer: No.
Grampa: Are we there yet?
Homer: No.
Grampa: Are we there yet?
Homer: No.
Grampa: Where are we going?

The Simpsons
(from Lisa the Vegetarian, written by David S. Cohen)

Friday, June 23, 2006

Help them Rove!

Remember J? She used to comment here. The poor dear had to flee the country though, and now lives in dire circumstances on a sun-drenched Pacific island. Life is tough there. The passing whales make so much noise. The threat of death-by-falling-coconut is ongoing. Lying in a hammock is actually really tiring. And realistically, there's only so much tropical scented air a person can take, you know? And seafood?! (Don't talk to her about seafood.)

And yet, she battles on. The calibre of the woman is revealed when I tell you that she recently managed to make contact with the outside world (via carrier-pigeon-assisted email) and, instead of trying to help herself, she was desperately trying to help somebody else instead. (Oh, reader! Wipe away those tears! Come now! It's moving, I know, but blubbering like that? Sssh. Please.)

Here is what that angel J said:

I have been asked to pass on this link - young uni students with a bit of time on their hands, looking to involve Rove's tv company in their next adventure! The link below is to a website some Qld uni students have set up outlining their plans to take the ultimate trip around Australia at the end of the 06 uni year, as ambassadors for Rove Live. I have known one of the boys, Alex, since he was a toddler - you couldn't find a nicer person, so I have agreed to spread the word as far as my limited address book will allow. Please pass it on to any you know who may help with sending emails to Rove...

Best wishes,


And here are the lads themselves:

I don't know Alex, but that's him, third from the left. From all reports (and I've heard a few - he's the brother of the best friend of my niece/J's daughter, Surfergirl) he's a genuinely lovely chappie, so I hope his mates are equally support-worthy.

Does their project have legs? I think it should. They'd be answering an urgent need in the Australian community - it's quite obvious that we don't have anywhere near enough Rove ambassadors. So what's a nation to do? Answer: Get some! Please help if you can.

(Next project: "Operation Rescue J")

Carefully recording the moment

Yay!! Australia goes through to the second round of the World Cup thanks to a nail-biting 2-all draw with Croatia. And thank God they equalised the score, because otherwise our poor goalkeeper (having had a momentary lapse of concentration, shall we say) might later have been hung, drawn and quartered.

I really like the way Simon Hill (SBS-TV) calls these games, and when he said something amusing about coach and miracle-worker, Guus Hiddink, I scrawled it down:


"G.H. stands [- - - ??] againts [sic] the dugout as if waiting for a bus. 88 minutes [into the game]."

Yeah, well. I know he said it. And it was funny.


IMPASSIVELY!! "G.H. stands impassively against the dugout..."

Well, phew! That threatened to haunt me until the end of time. (But how on earth is that a "p" in there?! Huh?? Can I actually write at all?? That down-stroke looks like the end of a "y".)

In hindsight, this quote may not the funniest thing ever said. However you need to see it in the context of the times: Hiddink's opposite number, the Croatian coach, seemed to be suffering some kind of wild paroxysm for the full 90+ minutes. Hiddink's bus-stop calm was amusing in comparison.

Wednesday, June 21, 2006


It's midwinter's day here in the southern hemisphere - June solstice - and I've got nothing nice to say about it. From tomorrow the days start getting longer, the nights start getting shorter, and we go into that inescapable ... [something]... towards summer again. I can't find the "something" word but you know what I mean.

It's inescapable, we are on the way to summer again and there is no escape. (Yes, technically anybody with brains, means and gumption could skip summer by going to the opposite hemisphere, but that's not what I wanted to say.)

Realistically I know there's no point getting upset about the turning of the seasons because such change is inevitable, it's ongoing, it happens every damn year, so reacting against that is just stupid. But I do it anyway. It's like I'm standing on a beach yelling "Turn back the tide! Turn back the tide!" even as the water is lapping at my ankles. It's stupid. I am stupid to do it.

But on the other hand, part of me admires lost causes, the hopeless fights, striving against inevitable losses, blah blah etc. I like imagining myself standing on that beach screaming at the sea. It's a very romantic notion, not least because in real life I'd never do it.

And maybe that's what's going on: a dispute between a romantic need for expression ("I hate summer!! boo hoo!!") and a rational need to consider actions and consequences (there being no point in whingeing about summer because it's coming anyway). And looked at in that way, this whole post is silly because there's no need for a dispute. The romantic action of screaming at the ocean would have an entirely legitimate and rational outcome: I would feel better. It would only be a stupid thing to do if I expected it to change the shape of the ocean. And I wouldn't. So! No problem!!

Gee. That was so easy! Thanks, reader. Nice doing business with you.

The origin of "get off your ass"?**

Indeed, I think it would be tantamount to an astonishing revival of religion if the people would all walk to church on Sunday and walk home again. Think how the stones would preach to them by the wayside; how their benumbed minds would warm up beneath the friction of the gravel; how their vain and foolish thoughts, their desponding thoughts, their besetting demons of one kind and another, would drop behind them, unable to keep up or to endure the fresh air! They would walk away from their ennui, their worldly cares, their uncharitableness, their pride of dress; for these devils always want to ride, while the simple virtues are never so happy as when on foot. Let us walk by all means; but if we will ride, get an ass.

- John Burroughs, "Winter Sunshine" (1875)

** Ass, dopey, I said ass.

Tuesday, June 20, 2006

Black cockatoos

I saw some black cockatoos today and it was fantastic. I love these birds, I love the way they fly (it looks like they move in slow motion) and I love the screechy raucous noise they make (though I've got no idea why - it's really quite hideous). If it weren't for wedge-tailed eagles, black cockatoos would be my favourite birds.

So I've been trying to get a photo of them for my birds list. The problem is, they don't live around here, they seem to just fly from one horizon to another, and only pass by here occasionally. When they do appear, usually (a) I don't have the camera, or (b) I've just filled up the memory card, or (c) I do have the camera and do have enough memory, but the birds are too far away and the lens won't get them in focus.

But! Today was different! I was walking the dogs to the creek when a black cockatoo sang out from trees nearby. I raced over, looked up, and there it was!

Hahaha. Yes. After all this time I FINALLY get a close view of these birds, and this is the photo I come up with.

Please take one or all of the following excuses. (Go on, please. They're free.)

- I was so excited my hands were shaking.
- I was too busy looking at the bird to look at the viewfinder.
- I was cold and shivery.
- My eyesight malfunctioned.
- My camera chucked a wobbly.
- The light was too low.
- The bird was too high.
- The tree moved.
- The bird moved.
- A dog lead (with attendant dog) was attached to my wrist, and the dog moved.
Or (my favourite):
- I was making an artistic statement about time, nature and reality. This required blurriness.

I ended up putting two pics in the list - this one and this one - but they're not much better.

Anyway, off-camera there were about five birds altogether, and they were all tearing bark off the tree branches with their beaks. I don't know why. Here are two possible explanations:

1. They were ripping up bark to get to the insects living underneath it.
2. Black cockatoos are reputed to be rain heralds, always flying ahead of wet weather, but it's been showery here for a few days already, so these birds weren't able to herald anything. They were too late: the rain had callously overtaken them. So they sat in a tree and tore at the bark, their bird-hearts filled with rain-rage.

8:30 am

Fog. This morning. It was nice.

Sunday, June 18, 2006

I begin to go all right

More from Mr Stevenson (in a letter to Mrs Sitwell):

Barbizon, April 1875

MY DEAR FRIEND, - This is just a line to say I am well and happy. I am here in my dear forest all day in the open air. It is very be- no, not beautiful exactly, just now, but very bright and living. There are one or two song birds and a cuckoo; all the fruit-trees are in flower, and the beeches make sunshine in a shady place, I begin to go all right; you need not be vexed about my health; I really was ill at first, as bad as I have been for nearly a year; but the forest begins to work, and the air, and the sun, and the smell of the pines. If I could stay a month here, I should be as right as possible. Thanks for your letter. - Your faithful
R. L. S.

Half his luck, of course; we can't all go to France to drift in the smell of the pines. But maybe the restorative power of a place is more about our love of being in it, rather than the characteristics of the place itself. Maybe you can feel just as restored in a favourite corner of a room, or in a shop or a library or cathedral, in a boat or a park or your car, or someone else's car, or on a sports field or on a train or on flights of fancy in the most fantastic daydream you can come up with... (I don't know. I'm just trying to find a way to argue we don't all have to go to France.)

All I really want to say is Go the Socceroos (playing Brazil at the World Cup). Nothing to lose, so much to gain. Yay.


Brazil 2-0


The Socceroos played well, though. And in some inexplicable way, the fact that one of Brazil's goals was scored by someone called Fred makes it seem less bad. (Good one, Fred.)

Anyway, the most impressive thing about the whole event was the crowd's enthusiastic hollering of the Australian national anthem at the start, lurching badly out of time quite early on, but thundering home regardless. Hahaha. I was so impressed. Go Australians! We're so cute :)

Saturday, June 17, 2006


Courtesy of A Resourceful Person, here's a list of anime style emoticons. They're good because:
(a) you don't need to go to all that effort of turning your head to one side in order to understand them, and
(b) they're just better. Look:
frustrated: (>_<)

sad: (<_>)

grumpy: (=_=)

dazed: (@_@)

ashamed: (._.)

sleeping: (-.-)zzZ
I may be the last person on the net-earth to discover these things, but still: \(^o^)/

Friday, June 16, 2006

R. L. Stevenson

I was trying to find the source for Robert Louis Stevenson's famous quote,** but got sidetracked: Letters, Volume 1.

2 Sulyarde Terrace, Torquay, Thursday (April 1866).

RESPECTED PATERNAL RELATIVE, - I write to make a request of the most moderate nature. Every year I have cost you an enormous - nay, elephantine - sum of money for drugs and physician's fees, and the most expensive time of the twelve months was March.

But this year the biting Oriental blasts, the howling tempests, and the general ailments of the human race have been successfully braved by yours truly.

Does not this deserve remuneration?

I appeal to your charity, I appeal to your generosity, I appeal to your justice, I appeal to your accounts, I appeal, in fine, to your purse.

My sense of generosity forbids the receipt of more - my sense of justice forbids the receipt of less - than half-a-crown. - Greeting from, Sir, your most affectionate and needy son,


Let's hope his dad was impressed :)

** Anyone can carry his burden, however hard, until nightfall. Anyone can do his work, however hard, for one day. Anyone can live sweetly, patiently, lovingly, purely, til the sun goes down. And this is all life really means.


Cartoon by Tohby Riddle, "Good Weekend" magazine, Sydney Morning Herald, 18 October 2003, p.11.

=^.^= is a Japanese smiley cat and, in trying to find a list of them to link to, I found this little gem:


Do you know what it is? If not, you get three guesses. Go on. (Are you guessing?)




Answer: a pig. How cute is that?! '@'
(From the "Japanese-style pets" list over here.)

Monday, June 12, 2006


There was an interesting article by Stephanie Dowrick in last Saturday's Good Weekend magazine (part of the Sydney Morning Herald). Nothing earthshattering, she wasn't saying anything new, but her argument is relevant to blogging: humans need stories, we need to tell them and to hear them.

Storytelling brings us straight into the heart of the human community. Often it makes our own lives richer as we come almost simultaneously to understand our own concerns a little better while tuning in to those of other people.

In fact, it is the sharing of stories - the opening of windows into our own and others' lives - that shows us how like others we are in our needs and yearnings, as well as the ways in which each of us is unique and entirely special.
I can't find a copy of the article online, not even at Ms Dowrick's website, so I put a rebel copy of it over here, neatly typed up by yours truly, Friend of The Reading Public.

Sunday, June 11, 2006

A new view

I've been searching for more family photos, and yesterday found this one:

My mum's parents (location and date unknown; click on the image if you want a larger view.)

They married in 1932 and had seven children, but apart from this I don't know much about them, particularly my grandfather. He died before I was born and the people he left behind didn't talk about him. I can't remember my grandmother ever mentioning him, not even once, and I never asked.

And during my grandmother's lifetime I was too selfish to ever see her except in relation to myself: she was my grandmother, my mum's mum. I didn't wonder about her life as an individual or a woman or the remaining half of a couple until it was too late to ask. I don't know how she felt about her life or about the years spent with my grandfather. From what I've heard, their lives were quite hard, and I've always wondered whether perhaps they were tied together by financial circumstances and family obligations more than love.

So it's something special to see them sitting together on a sunny hillside, a bit stiffly maybe, but considering the time and their upbringings, they were probably being daringly affectionate. That photo lets me believe that for one brief moment at least (and I hope it was longer), they really liked each other and were happy. So here's me saying thanks to the anonymous photographer and all the people responsible for bringing that photo through the years and into this house. They've changed my view of history.

Wednesday, June 07, 2006

Thinking & squinting

Following on from the last post, while uploading all these old photos to Flickr I've been wondering about the whole concept of images. Most of the people in these photos have been dead for decades, yet here in my computer their appearance (as it was captured on film, at least) lives on. Their pictures are recognisably "them" in a way that other things they might have left behind are not.

I wonder whether it would be okay to publish their photos publicly, rather than just archiving them, when really I should be asking whether they'd want them kept at all. And of course the answer is that it probably depends on the person and the photo. Who in their right mind would want to be immortalised like this, for example:

Devil Children
From left to right: me, cousin S, sister J
(Photo presumably taken in the aftermath of a combined hissy-fit, because up close you can see we've all got puffy eyes. And I swear I never ever looked like this, though I wouldn't mind having those legs now.)

I'm not sure how to be responsible with these old pictures or what "responsible" means in this context. And it bothers me that I have all this power over the use of other people's images, yet have steadfastly avoided ever posting my own.

So. Damn it. Look out.

It looks like I'm wearing a clown shoe on one of my feet, but sadly no, it's just a wayward sock. And yes, I can also see (now) that I'm sitting in quite a weird way, but it was getting chilly and my hands were cold :)

Sunday, June 04, 2006

Back me up, Flickr

Years ago I was enthusiastic about doing family history research and scanned lots of old photos into the computer. Then my interest waned and I forgot about all these files - many of them irreplaceable and none of them backed up.

Bloody hell.

I've only just realised that Flickr can archive them. If you pay for a Pro account (US$24.95 per year) you get unlimited storage and can upload up to 2GB per month. Also, you can nominate whether each photo is public or private - the latter seen only by anyone you've nominated as a "friend" or "family" contact. Brilliant.

Today I put up some public photos (things found in an old Bible), but on the way there found the following postcard. It won't be going public on Flickr but I want to show you because you're so special, reader. Kissie kissie.

No. Seriously. I just think it's cute. Written when I was nine-and-a-half and apparently having lots of trouble with ink control:

Friday, June 02, 2006

The way it goes

1. First I write this:

Have you seen the film Love Actually? It was on TV here a few weeks ago and I was thinking about it again this morning, specifically the character played by Emma Thompson ("a comfortably married woman suspecting that her husband is slipping away..." according to the official web site, which takes years to load). More specifically, I was sitting in the bathroom and crying about how I've become exactly like her. To set the scene, you need to know that even when I'm desperately trying to impress myself with how extremely miserable I am,** there's still one small part of my brain functioning in an almost-sensible manner. And it kicked in this morning:

ME: I’ve turned into the Emma Thompson character! (boo hoo hoo!!)
ME: It’s obvious!!
BRAIN: You have a husband like hers?
ME: No.
BRAIN: You have children like hers?
ME: No.
BRAIN: You have friends like hers?
ME: No.
BRAIN: You have a house/context/life like hers?
ME: No.
BRAIN: Then how are you like her in any way??
ME: She cries in a room on her own and she's got fat thighs!

Oh Lord give me strength.

PS. ** I'm not talking about healthy crying for healthy reasons. This is different: it's stupid crying for melodramatic reasons, even (or especially) if the drama queen is the only person there to appreciate the performance. If you're similarly inclined to such theatrics (because I really really really hope I'm not the only one) and you want a way to snap out of it, try this: in the middle of sobbing, you must say out loud, preferably with big arm gestures of despair: "BOO HOO HOO!" You'll be laughing in no time. Because yes, you're a fool. And it's funny.

2. Well, I thought it was funny. I was laughing at myself, put it that way, and was hoping you'd also see the funny side of it. But then - looking for something else - I found this in The Simpsons Archive:

[Lisa is meeting her fiancée's parents]

LISA: Beautiful dinnerware, Mrs. Parkfield.
MRS P: Thank you, Lisa. They were made for the finest family in Britain.
MR P: I don't know how we ended up with them.
LISA'S BRAIN: Uh oh. Should I laugh? Was that dry British wit, or subtle self-pity? Ooh, they're staring at me, better respond.
LISA: [laughs very tentatively]
MR P: Oh, it's good to hear a boisterous American laugh!
The idea of "subtle self-pity" suddenly seemed not all that unfamiliar. See, perhaps, Step 1. Was I just being self-pitying there? Trying to be funny, but in fact saying Oh Poor Me? Hmmm... Well... Hmmm... Well... Damn it all to hell, in fact, yes!

Self-pitying. Damn. It's so.. you know, pitiful.

So I can't publish that post, damn it! I don't want anyone thinking I'm pitiful! DAMN!! And if I keep overusing the word "damn" in this manner, it's quickly going to turn ugly, instead of those cutesy earthy overtones I'm trying so hard for.

3. Then I remember this:

Tohby Riddle, Good Weekend magazine, Sydney Morning Herald, 10 August 2002, p.11.

I really like that hat. I've always hoped she went out wearing it.

4. And so here we are at Step 4, and the self-pitying post gets published. What the hell, I'm thinking. Pitiful it may be, but that's not the whole of it, or me. And that's the way it goes, and that's the way it should go. Funny hats are good.