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Richly Noted And Here Justified.

In March, I was thrilled to be a part of Noted, Canberra’s first writers’ festival, an offshoot of YouAreHere.  Noted unofficially began on Wednesday the 18th of March, a highlight of which was the reopening of my favourite teenage hangout (the East Row incarnation of Impact Records) as YouAreHere Headquarters.  There I’d spent much of my time and all my money for a decade – I bought my first Manic Street Preachers, Belle and Sebastian, and Beatles albums; my first Alan Moore, Neil Gaiman and Warren Ellis comic books.  Impact was also instrumental in me meeting a girl with whom I would go on to have a six-year relationship.  For better or worse, it shaped my musical, literary and social life into whatever it is today.  And it thusly gets a nod in The Life Of Ted No (more about which will be forthcoming, lower on this page.)  Also on that Wednesday, the Phoenix hosted BAD!SLAM! vs Feminartsy vs the Festivals, at which Beige Brown was the night’s featured artist.  Before her first standing ovation, Beige delivered an ode to our Skywhale which included the unforgettable (for me) couplet “The chaotic confusion she engendered/(Pun very much intended).”  BAD!SLAM!NO!BISCUIT! is one of Canberra’s regular slam poetry nights, and differs from some more-conventional slams in that the scores can go as low as minus-∞.  I was one of the judges, but I don’t think I gave anyone a score lower than π.  (Maybe I did, I was kind of drunk.)  Once those scores were tallied, Noted artist Raph Kabo won that element of the slam, which led to an incident involving at least two deadly sins and culminating in a coalescence of tomato sauce and My Little Pony cards.

On Saturday the 21st, I was one of the panellists for Lit Hop: Stuck in the Middle, a literary quiz at Lonsdale St Roasters.  Think QI meets Spicks and Specks meets Rockwiz meets Good News Week meets Talkin’ ’Bout Your Generation meets The Chaser’s Media Circus, and then unthink any of those thoughts that might have required a budget.  The teams consisted of J.M Donellan and Rosanna Stevens (plus Stefanie from the audience) versus me and Tasnim Hossain (with Kira as our audience ring-in), and Yen Eriksen as our host.  The first round was Wanker Bingo, for which I had to write and recite “a gushing review of an imaginary future novel by a notoriously existential or ‘wanky’ writer”.  Ergo, I wrote and read the following:

“In the annals of history, a mere handful of luminary writers have had their names immortalised as eponymous adjectives: Shakespearean... Byronic... Marxist... Fergalicious.  2015 marks a centenary since Franz Kafka’s most Kafkaesque work was first not published.  In fact, in 1915, Kafka instructed his friend and confidant Max Brod to ‘burn the scheiße out of it’.  Fortunately for posterity, Brod failed to incinerate the novel, instead using it to prop up the wonky leg of his dining table for the next half a century, until both the table and manuscript passed into the hands of Brod’s secretary and mistress Esther Hoffe.  This month - after a protracted legal battle between Hoffe’s heirs and the National Library of Israel - Kafka’s magnum opus finally sees print in English in a translation by Hoffe’s nephew, David Hassel-Hoffe.

Das Sauerkraut tells the tale of Übermut, who awakens to find he is imprisoned in a cell on death row, and also that he has been transformed into a cabbage.  Confounded by the faceless bureaucratic infrastructure of Kuddelmuddel Reich Auf Naschkatze Sie Kummerspeck Yacht – or KRANSKY – Übermut struggles to determine exactly what his method of execution will be, all the while dealing with the newfound afflictions of living out the rest of his existence as a literal vegetable.

In this definitive English translation, Hassel-Hoffe inevitably loses some of Kafka’s semantic mileu.  Übermut is now German-Y, KRANSKY is now BALONEY, and Das Sauerkraut is now The Cabbage.  Nevertheless, this long-awaited release of Kafka’s quintessential surreal masterpiece is a magisterial achievement.  A lachanomorphic allegory of the sociopolitical zeitgeist of Germany during World War I, Das Sauerkraut is arguably the seminal 20th Century Germanic novel about being transformed into salad.

A triumph.”

During all of this, members of the audience were equipped with ‘bingo’ cards, and would shout “wanker” when I used words like “zeitgeist”.  Which is fair enough, really.  Other rounds included trivia about literary animals, and the most insidious game of charades ever concocted.

Yes, we had to guess that.  (Also, that’s Lucy Nelson, who did an incredible job of putting together the whole quiz.)

At that point we all went to the bottle shop and BYOed it across the road to The Hamlet – Canberra’s unique street-food village, where we put our lives in the hands of infamous pony-saucer Raph Kabo.  Donning a Russian accent that only his mother couldn’t love, Raph had come back from the future to put me, Rosanna, Tasnim, Beige, J.M., Patrick Lenton and Emma Jones through a series of literary board games.  Through Poetic Device Twister, Wall Scrabble, and Erotic Fiction Memory, Mr Kabo was a thoroughly entertaining host, despite (or possibly enhanced by) being hopped up on cold medication.

We then had a couple of hours to fill with more drinks and conversation, before YouAreHere’s Ill-Advised Night Out, at Canberra Museum and Gallery, running from midnight to 7 o’clock on Sunday morning.  Then, in the CMAG theatrette, equipped with two laptops, and a microphone, Paul Heslin ran Karaoke of Cruelty.  I opened the night, singing Taylor Swift’s Blank Space, as it was curiously remixed and resequenced, live, by Paul.  To a gathering crowd, I met Paul’s Bonetti with Capo Ferro, Thibault with Agrippa, and then we both revealed we were actually right-handed.  The first fifty times I’d sung “it’s gonna be forever,/Or it’s gonna go down in flames”, I’d been assuming that there was actually some way for me to ‘win’.  Paul would let me reach the end of the song, he’d graciously smile, shake my hand and say, “well played.”  By about the nineteen-minute mark, I came to the realisation that this was never going to happen.  Like, ever.  By twenty-one minutes, the crowd began to clap and cheer, and I retired at 21:30.  It may be my life’s greatest achievement, and I totally want to put these non-sequitur review quotations on the back of my next novel:

“The greatest event in the history of YouAreHere is happening in the CMAG theatrette...  The audience engagement is instantaneous and wholehearted.  A 20 minute version of Blank Space” - Nick Delatovic.

“...stand-out performances of the event were a Taylor Swift song which lasted for 21:30 minutes” - Joel Swadling.

From there, the night became more chilled – looped ethereal chanting, followed by watching television, as if we’d just crashed at our homes after a night out, and were flicking stations between late-night movies, SBS and Rage.  Our first half-hour was devoted to vampire-themed video footage – the highlight of which was this. In the videos chosen (and not “curated”) by “Canberra poetry luminar(y)” Zoë Erskine, she simulated that feeling where you’re half asleep in front of the television, and unsure if what you’re listening to is even in English.  [Aside – please ignore the rest of this paragraph if you’re either bored by etymology, or a devout Christian.]  For part of Zoë’s set, we listened to different versions of The Lord’s Prayer.  And it’s notable that there’s one word in that prayer that keeps mutating.  In the oldest Biblical texts, it’s “φειλήματα” (basically “debts”) in Matthew, and “μαρτίας” in Luke (“hamartia” – the fatal flaw from Greek tragedy – to shoot, but “miss the mark”).  In Zoë’s videos, I noticed that in Old English they chose “guilt”, and in Middle English it was “debts” again.  Compare those to modern English, in which it’s been “sins” and now “trespasses”.  This is the one prayer the Christian church compels everyone to chant, yet no one can actually decide on how to translate it into English.  Parishioners are told it’s the word of a god from 2000 years ago, and not just the Inner Party changing the words based on which opiate it wants the masses to swallow.  Which is pretty messed up.  [End of Aside.]  And then, at 5 AM it seemed time to call it a night.  Or a morning.

Thus, taking a cue from countless luminary writers, I managed to get almost no sleep the night before I actually had to get work done.  Yes, Sunday was my day to take over from Candace Petrik and Kate Iselin, and write the third and final act of our Twitter novella, A Day In The Life Of Ted No.  We’d individually decided to fly by the seats of our respective pants and had communicated no plan or plot – Candace just wrote the first day, Kate read that, then developed the plot for Act Two.  Which meant I actually had to read the first two thirds of our story before I could finish it.  So I did.  Our protagonist, Ted No was unsubtly an anagram of Noted.  Peripeteia is the reversal or turning point in Ancient Greek (and subsequent) drama.  Candace had providentially written a character called Pete into the story.  I twisted the plot with the reintroduction of Pete Iaperi (yes, another anagram) as our second tweeter.  I set up two adjacent computers, logged into a different account for each, and began a split-personality dialogue for the rest of the day, tying up the tale.  The whole thing is online here and well worth the read.

And with Ted’s final words at 10:29 PM on Sunday night, Noted was over for 2015.  I’d like to thank (and so I shall) Ashley Thomson for soliciting and trusting me, Candace and Kate to write something magical.  Thanks again to Ashley, Lucy, Farz Edraki, Yasmin Masri, Chiara Grassia, Duncan Felton, Andrew Galan and Zoya Patel for producing the festival.  To YouAreHere for having us.  To Erica Hurrell and Nick for the photos above.  And to Tasnim, Candace, Raph, Kate, J.M., Rosanna, Beige, Yen, Patrick, Kira, Emma, Aly, Stefanie, Paul, Lynda, Steph and Zoë for all the fun.  I hope we can all do it again in 2016.


Life in Outer Space Book Review.

Life in Outer SpaceLife in Outer Space by Melissa Keil

My rating: 4 of 5 stars

Life in Outer Space by Melissa Keil is a book about teenage film geek Sam Kinnison. As such, it’s a mid-eighties John Hughes film plot set in the 21st Century, replete with spring dance ‘prom scene’ that would flourish on the silver screen. Like a Jane Austen novel, LiOS successfully grips the reader with the fear that things are not going to work out. Then there are the cultural references. They’re not as clunky or ubiquitous as the comic references in Keil’s The Incredible Adventures of Cinnamon Girl, but they’re a major part of the novel. And a lot of them seemed to be lacking an editor with general knowledge. “The X-Men had an invisible chick, but still” (p. 68) is the subheading of Chapter 7. I assume Keil meant The Fantastic Four. (At a ridiculously obscure push, this could be a reference to Alisa Tager/Cipher, but she was never really an X-Man.) Camilla Carter’s music journalist dad says that a band “Completely ripped off early Pulp... I almost wanna contact Pulp’s management and tell them to get their copyright lawyers onto it. I mean listen to the bridge on that track!” (p. 124.) Pulp formed in 1978. They didn’t release anything good until 1992. Nobody would rip off anything from Pulp’s first fourteen years, and if they did, Pulp would think it was a joke - even Jarvis Cocker has said that having the first three albums in the public sphere is embarrassing, like if somebody made a display of an artist’s finger paintings from kindergarten. I suppose it’s theoretically possible that ‘early Pulp’ is what Henry Carter means, or that he’s mistaken and means early-nineties Pulp. For the theme of the spring dance “It is decided that 1980 will be the official Old Hollywood cut-off.” That is, all costumes must be from 1980 films or earlier. Two of the main characters come as Jabba the Hutt and an Ewok, neither of which were in a film before 1983. Jabba is mentioned in 1977’s Star Wars, so I guess it’s excusable, but it is ridiculous in a book about a film geek that the costumes pass without their anachronisms being commented upon. And so on – I truly believe the manuscript was a worthy winner of the Ampersand Project, but the lack of editorial fact-checking kept drawing me out of reverie as a reader. Nevertheless, Life in Outer Space has genuine laugh-out-loud moments and I truly cared about the fates of its protagonists. Four outer space stars.
(Eleanor & Park is the St Edmund’s library Book of The Month on our intranet – here’s my review for everyone outside the school network.)


One of the St Edmund’s library’s latest purchases is by Rainbow (her real name: [hippy parents]) Rowell.  She’s the author of three great novels: Attachments is about adults in their late twenties; Fangirl is about university students; Eleanor & Park (the book that’s now in the library) is about students who are your age, in their mid-teens.  It’s set in the Eighties (1986 to ’87), so if you’re a current Eddies student, all of the ‘references’ are from at least ten years before you were born.  For me, the only reference that stood out as potentially anachronistic was “After dinner, they all watched Back to the Future on HBO”.  I’m not an expert on how American cable television worked in 1986, but Back to the Future was only released on videocassette at the end of November that year, so I’m surprised that the Sheridan family could see it on TV without a flux capacitor.  But maybe that’s my mistake - as an Eighties ‘period novel’, Eleanor & Park does an amazing job with contemporary references.  Once you’ve read the book, hopefully you’ll be catching Eighties (and pre-Eighties) references like your name’s Corey and you were born sporting a permed mullet.

Before it’s a novel about characters falling in love with each other, Eleanor & Park is a novel about falling in love with music.  Of ‘Love Will Tear Us Apart’ by Joy Division, eponymous protagonist Eleanor Douglas says, “I just want to break that song into pieces... and love them all to death.”  The Eighties were a time where people made mixtapes (like sharing Spotify playlists), and other protagonist Park Sheridan does so for Eleanor, introducing her to The Smiths, Echo and the Bunnymen, U2 and The Cure.  In turn, Eleanor repays that ‘debt’ by exposing him to The Beatles.  In the chronological first line of the novel, Park uses music “for drowning out the morons at the back of the bus.”  Similarly, Eleanor uses her Walkman (the eighties equivalent of an iPod) as a way of drowning out her life.  Eleanor’s home life is one not just of poverty, but also of deprivation of her basic rights, and those of her siblings.  The novel is a reminder of how powerless teenagers can feel and how sometimes (as comprises Chapter 47) it can be like they’ve run out of options.

‘The girls are all so stereotypically girly and passive.  Half of them just think really hard.  Like that’s their superpower, thinking.  And Shadowcat’s power is even worse – she disappears.’
‘She becomes intangible,’ Park said.  ‘That’s different.’
(Eleanor and Park on the female X-Men.)

Eleanor & Park is a piece of literature, and as such, it tends to allude to other pieces of literature.  One of the main conundrums of the novel is a literary one.  How can a writer make a love eternal without killing off at least one of the lovers?  The most obvious parallel is to “the most beloved play of all time”, which is discussed by Eleanor and her English teacher Mr Stessman.

‘Romeo and Juliet are just two rich kids who’ve always gotten every little thing they wanted.  And now, they think they want each other.’
‘They’re in love...’ Mr Stessman said, clutching his heart.
‘They don’t even know each other,’ she said.
‘It was love at first sight.’
‘It was “Oh my God, he’s so cute” at first sight. If Shakespeare wanted you to believe they were in love, he wouldn’t tell you in almost the very first scene that Romeo was hung up on Rosaline... It’s Shakespeare making fun of love,’ she said.
‘Then why has it survived?’

Park suggests that the reason for the immortality of the Sixteenth Century play is “because people want to remember what it’s like to be young?  And in love?”  Eleanor & Park does this to a consummate tittle, and as John Green has been quoted as saying, the novel isn’t just a reminder of “what it’s like to be young and in love with a girl, but also what it’s like to be young and in love with a book.”  A related tangent is whether one really can find or recognise true love as a teenager.  Park argues that “Bono was fifteen when he met his wife, and Robert Smith was fourteen” (Bono is the singer from U2, and Robert Smith from the Cure.)  Juliet was thirteen.  This also isn’t the first time that Rowell has referenced R&J.  In her previous novel, Attachments, the male lead’s ex-girlfriend says Romeo and Juliet “would have broken up if they’d lived for the sequel.”  This idea supports Eleanor’s thesis - Romeo and Juliet meet on a Monday, get married that Tuesday, spend the night together, never have another conversation after that and are both dead by Friday – it’s not hard to sustain passion over a few days, but can it really be done for a lifetime?

Eleanor and Park bond over a love of comic books.  These include Watchmen, X-Men, and Swamp Thing.  Watchmen is a limited series of twelve issues – like a self-contained novel such as E&P or play like R&J, that’s all there is.  (Yes, I’m ignoring the Before Watchmen comics released in 2012, and so should you.)  On the other hand, X-Men and Swamp Thing are serials.  To this day, X-Men comics have had an unbroken run since 1975.  When reading X-Men, Eleanor “didn’t get everything that was going on there; X-Men was worse than General Hospital.  It took Eleanor a couple weeks to figure out that Scott Summers and Cyclops were the same guy, and she still wasn’t sure what was up with Phoenix.”  Eleanor catches up on up to twenty-three years of X-Men comics five at a time, including the Dark Phoenix saga, from 1980.  Like the idea of Romeo and Juliet breaking up in a sequel, true passionate love is difficult to maintain in serialised fiction.  Jean Grey knows that while she lives, she will continue to become the cataclysmic Dark Phoenix, so she sacrifices herself because of her love for Scott Summers.  (Again, because it’s a serial, ultimately Scott meets and marries Madelyne Pryor – a clone of Jean who turns out to be, of course, evil; then apparently Jean was never actually Phoenix and is revived from a cocoon at the bottom of the sea; Jean and Scott marry; Jean is killed by being shot into the sun; and yet she’s still in current stories, since Jean’s younger self has been brought forward in time to the present.  But let’s ignore that too.  Incidentally, Scott and Jean were sixteen when they met, as are Park and Eleanor.)  Basically, great love stories are usually all about the build-up, and once they’re consummated, the best way to ‘preserve’ them (like in a cocoon) is by killing one or both of the lovers.  This concept and its practicalities are addressed by Rowell (and Eleanor and Park by proxy).

OZYMANDIAS: I did the right thing, didn’t I?  It all worked out in the end.
DR MANHATTAN: ‘In the end’? Nothing ends, Adrian.  Nothing ever ends.
(From Watchmen #12, paraphrased in Eleanor & Park Chapter 57.)

Park “wondered what Dr Manhattan meant when he said, ‘Nothing ever ends’”.  Although, perhaps this review seemed like it might never end, it’s nearly there.  If you made it this far, you should borrow the book – it should be in the fiction section, under ‘ROW’.


So, I finally watched Joss Whedon’s newish film, Much Ado About Nothing.  The movie's not bad, but the dialogue isn’t up to Whedon’s usual level of wit, and sometimes it seems like characters are just speaking for the sake of adding polysyllables to the script.  Some even speak when no one else is around, breaking the fourth wall to explain their motivations instead of just showing us through their actions.  Despite this device, it can still be hard to follow what’s going on.  As far as I could tell, the plot is as follows:

Wesley Wyndam-Pryce and Illyria hate each other, probably because she’s taken on Winifred Burkle’s form permanently, even though he told her to “don’t ever be her” in ‘The Girl In Question’.  Wesley, Topher Brink and Mr Dominic have put Dr Simon Tam and Cheryl from Buffy in cable ties (for some reason) and they all go to Agent Coulson’s house.  Topher has a crush on Coulson’s daughter, so he gets Mr Dominic to ask her out for him.  They then decide to trick Wesley and Illyria into falling in love.  Simon convinces Topher that Miss Coulson is promiscuous, so he’ll be a total dick to her during their wedding ceremony.  Then Illyria, Agent Coulson and Wesley hatch a plot to convince Topher and Dominic that Miss Coulson is dead.  Captain Mal Reynalds and Andrew from Buffy show up, Cheryl calls Mal an ‘ass’ and they all prove Miss Coulson’s chastity.  They have another attempt at a wedding - Miss Coulson finally marries Topher, and Wesley marries Illyria.  The title is a good description of the plot, as ‘Much Ado’ is created ‘About Nothing.’  Also they make a big deal about Wesley shaving off his beard, presumbly because it demonstrates he's finally over his guilt for betraying Angel in ‘Sleep Tight’.

Overall, the film is mostly a device to demonstrate that Buffy and Angel, Firefly, Dollhouse and Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. all exist in a shared universe.  Despite its flaws, mischaracterisation and retcons, I look forward to more crossovers like this one.  (I think the sequel is called King Lear - I hear Cordelia's in it, so it should be interesting to see how Whedon brings her back from the dead.)

Round and Round: The Full Soundtrack.

(Photo credit: David Pye.)

Each of my stories has a soundtrack - songs I listen to while writing, or that somehow encapsulate aspects of the plot.  (Annalise also drew inspiration from the songs for her artworks, not least of which for her triptych [as seen at our RAW exhibit] which literally and figuratively represents the lyrics for 'There Is A Light That Never Goes Out'.)  At the Round and Round book launch last Thursday, the novel's soundtrack was playing in the background.  Below, that soundtrack is broken up, chapter by chapter, over three CDs.  You can listen to it as you read the book, or listen to it afterwards, or not listen to it at all.

CD1.  Round and Round Chapters I-VI: The Soundtrack.

1.   ‘Do You Want To Play?’ by Jewel.
2.   ‘Fred Jones Part 2’ (live) by Ben Folds.
3.   ‘Berlin Chair’ (acoustic) by Smudge.
4.   ‘Somebody Told Me’ by The Killers.
5.   ‘I’ll Try Anything Once’ (‘You Only Live Once’ demo) by The Strokes.
6.   ‘A Design for Life’ (Stealth Sonic Orchestra Remix) by Manic Street Preachers.
7.   ‘Everybody’s Changing’ by Keane.
8.   ‘Prettiest Eyes’ by The Beautiful South.
9.   ‘Cattle and Cane’ by The Go-Betweens.
10. ‘Purple Sneakers’ by You Am I.
11. ‘I Don’t Like Mondays’ by Tori Amos.
12. ‘Dirty Dream Number Two’ by Belle & Sebastian.
13. ‘Cherish’ by Renato Russo.
14. ‘Rhythm And Blues Alibi’ (Pre-Mellotron Version) by Gomez.
15. ‘June Gloom’ by The Like.

CD1.  Round and Round Chapters I-VI: The Soundtrack.

I: The Wheels on the Bus Go.

1.   ‘Do You Want To Play?’ by Jewel.

“Are you only half-alive?”

2.   ‘Fred Jones Part 2’ (live) by Ben Folds.

“The passengers change,
They don’t change anything:
You get off,
Someone else can get on.”

3.   ‘Berlin Chair’ (acoustic) by Smudge.

“I’m the rerun that you’ll always force yourself to sit through.”

4.   ‘Somebody Told Me’ by The Killers.

“Heaven ain’t close in a place like this.”

5.   ‘I’ll Try Anything Once’ (‘You Only Live Once’ demo) by The Strokes.

“To go through school,
Either you’re noticed or left out.”

II: The Hand That Rocks the Cradle.

6.   ‘A Design for Life’ (Stealth Sonic Orchestra Remix) by Manic Street Preachers.

“Libraries gave us power,
Then work came and made us free.”

III: Mortal Coil.

7.   ‘Everybody’s Changing’ by Keane.

“Try to understand that I’m
Trying to make a move just to stay in the game,
Trying to stay awake and remember my name
Because everybody’s changing
And I don’t feel the same.”

8.   ‘Prettiest Eyes’ by The Beautiful South.

“Well the bus shelter’s always okay
When you’re young.”

9.   ‘Cattle and Cane’ by The Go-Betweens.

“A bigger, brighter world:
A world of books
And silent times in thought.”

IV: Environmental Reasoning.

10. ‘Purple Sneakers’ by You Am I.

“Do you need somebody
To feel somebody?”

V: Controlled Damage.

11. ‘I Don’t Like Mondays’ by Tori Amos.

“I want to shoot the whole day down.”

12. ‘Dirty Dream Number Two’ by Belle & Sebastian.

“In a town so small there’s no escaping you.”

VI: The Fall.

13. ‘Cherish’ by Renato Russo.

“Romeo and Juliet -
They never felt this way I bet.”

14. ‘Rhythm And Blues Alibi’ (Pre-Mellotron Version) by Gomez.

“Try anything twice.
Chasing after stories that have already been told.”

15. ‘June Gloom’ by The Like.

“Looks like the end of days
But it takes so much more
For anyone to say
We need another way.
But if we wanted one
We’d do it just the same.”

CD2.  Round and Round Chapters VII-IX: The Soundtrack.

1.   ‘In Your Car’ by Kenickie.
2.   ‘Unsent Letter’ by MGF.
3.   ‘Everyday Is Like Sunday’ by Morrissey.
4.   ‘Tranquillizer’ by Geneva.
5.   ‘Bobby Fischer’ by Lazy Susan.
6.   ‘A New England’ by Billy Bragg.
7.   ‘Little by Little’ by Oasis.
8.   ‘Incomplete Lullaby’ by Lisa Mitchell.
9.   ‘Butterflies & Hurricanes’ by Muse.
10. ‘A Sorta Fairytale’ by Tori Amos.
11. ‘Release Me’ by The Like.
12. ‘Hey Jupiter’ (The Dakota Version) by Tori Amos.
13. ‘Dig Your Own Hole’ by Gotye.
14. ‘St. Swithin’s Day’ (live) by Dubstar.
15. ‘Perfect Day’ by Lou Reed.

CD2.  Round and Round Chapters VII-IX: The Soundtrack.

VII: Objects in Mirror are Closer than they Appear.

1.   ‘In Your Car’ by Kenickie.

“I get so tired of walking.
I’m in heaven:
I have been told.
I’m in heaven.
I’m too young to feel so old.”

2.   ‘Unsent Letter’ by MGF.

“With a girl who seems all right
And another one who’s better.”

3.   ‘Everyday Is Like Sunday’ by Morrissey.

“Come, Armageddon, come!”

VIII: Parental Guidance Recommended.

4.   ‘Tranquillizer’ by Geneva.

“Until it all seemed pointless,
We lifted up the mattress
From underneath the window seat.
Is this what checkmate means?”

5.   ‘Bobby Fischer’ by Lazy Susan.

“If I don’t concentrate
She’ll have me at checkmate.”

6.   ‘A New England’ by Billy Bragg.

“I saw two shooting stars last night.
I wished on them, but they were only satellites.
Is it wrong to wish on space hardware?
I wish, I wish, I wish you’d care.”

7.   ‘Little by Little’ by Oasis.

“My god woke up on the wrong side of his bed.”

8.   ‘Incomplete Lullaby’ by Lisa Mitchell.

“A second look;
Like a burning leaf of an open book.”

IX: The Butterfly Effect.

9.   ‘Butterflies & Hurricanes’ by Muse.

“Change everything you are
And everything you were.”

10. ‘A Sorta Fairytale’ by Tori Amos.

“Like a good book, I can’t put this day back.”

11. ‘Release Me’ by The Like.

“You’re a boy that I could love
And all I do is run
And still I keep you hoping someday soon our day will come.”

12. ‘Hey Jupiter’ (The Dakota Version) by Tori Amos.

“Sometimes I breathe you in
And I know you know.”

13. ‘Dig Your Own Hole’ by Gotye.

“In the end,
You just repeat yourself again.
When you don’t know who you are,
You dig yourself the hole you’re in.”

14. ‘St. Swithin’s Day’ (live) by Dubstar.
“I miss the thunder; I miss the rain,
And the fact that you don’t understand
Casts a shadow.”

15. ‘Perfect Day’ by Lou Reed.

“Such a perfect day,
You just keep me hanging on.
You just keep me hanging on.
You’re going to reap just what you sow.”

CD3.  Round and Round Chapters X-XII (plus ‘1A’): The Soundtrack.

1.   ‘The Saturday Boy’ by Billy Bragg.
2.   ‘Juicebox’ by The Strokes.
3.   ‘Something’s Got to Give’ by Kenickie.
4.   ‘Regret’ by New Order.
5.   ‘Gone’ by Ben Folds.
6.   ‘Older Than You’ by Eskimo Joe.
7.   ‘Live Forever’ (live) by Oasis.
8.   ‘There Goes the Fear’ by Doves.
9.   ‘History Never Repeats’ (live) by Crowded House.
10. ‘The Girl Who Wanted To Be God’ by Manic Street Preachers.
11. ‘Summertime’ by The Sundays.
12. ‘From a Balance Beam’ by Bright Eyes.
13. ‘Distant Sun’ (live) by Crowded House.
14. ‘There is a Light That Never Goes Out’ by The Smiths.
15. ‘Belinda’ by Ben Folds & Nick Hornby.

CD3.  Round and Round Chapters X-XII (plus ‘1A’): The Soundtrack.

X: Clash of the Titans.

1.   ‘The Saturday Boy’ by Billy Bragg.

“I never made the first team - I just made the first team laugh,
And she never came to the phone, she was always in the bath.
In the end it took me a dictionary
To find out the meaning of unrequited.”

2.   ‘Juicebox’ by The Strokes.

“Old time grudges will die so slowly.
I know you miss the way I saw you.”

3.   ‘Something’s Got to Give’ by Kenickie.

“This is no way to live.”

XI: Noah’s Ark.

4.   ‘Regret’ by New Order.

“Save it for another day –
It’s the school exam
And the kids have run away.”

5.   ‘Gone’ by Ben Folds.

“If you think that you feel nothing at all –
If you don’t
Then you don’t.”

6.   ‘Older Than You’ by Eskimo Joe.

“I chose to take this moment
To tell you I’m leaving.”

XII: Full Circle.

7.   ‘Live Forever’ (live) by Oasis.

“Maybe I just want to fly.
Want to live,
I don’t want to die.”

8.   ‘There Goes the Fear’ by Doves.

“Don’t look back when you break all ties.
Think of me.”

9.   ‘History Never Repeats’ (live) by Crowded House.

“I was so young, too blind to see,
But anyway, that’s history
And I say history never repeats.”

10. ‘The Girl Who Wanted To Be God’ by Manic Street Preachers.

“Black out the words, for the blind have eyes.”

11. ‘Summertime’ by The Sundays.

“Have I read too much fiction?”

12. ‘From a Balance Beam’ by Bright Eyes.

“You have waited for this day and finally
You are free.”


13. ‘Distant Sun’ (live) by Crowded House.

“It’s easy to forget what you learned
Waiting for the thrill to return -
Feeling your desire burn
And you’re drawn to the flame”

14. ‘There is a Light That Never Goes Out’ by The Smiths.

“To die by your side,
Well the pleasure, the privilege is mine.
There is a light and it never goes out.”

15. ‘Belinda’ by Ben Folds & Nick Hornby.

“I met somebody younger on a plane.”

Greetings, citizens of Canberra.  Did you know that the Department of Home Affairs received 764 suggested names for our fine town?  And that “Canberra” got twelve votes while “Austral City” received eighteen?  We should be living in Austral City.  How cool would that be?  I’d feel like I was living in a comic book.  Other potentials included “Eucalypta,” “Kangaremu,” “Eros,” “Thirstyville,” “Cookaburra,” “Paradise,” “Captain Cook,” “Shakespeare,” “Myola,” "Wheatwoolgold,” “Emu,” “Opossum,” “Gladstone,” “Cromwell,” “New London,” “Victoria Defendera Defender” and “Sydmeladperbrisho” (which, when spoken aloud, may sound a little more like a sexist slur than an appropriate name for our nation’s capital.)  Another of Canberra’s would-be titles was “Olympus”.  Which segues me to Round and Round.

Round and Round is, at its core, a novel about growing up in Canberra.  Waratah High is Telopea Park School, Narrabundah College and Canberra Grammar.  Tartarus airport is Canberra airport.  The Flower Man is the guy on the side of the Cotter Road who’s now been selling flowers to Canberrans from his van for the past twenty-five years.  The Poseidon Bus Service is ACTION.  Unless you are a lawyer.  In which case all bus services appearing in Round and Round are fictitious and any resemblance to real bus services, good or bad, is purely coincidental.

Both the writer and illustrator of Round and Round will be displaying their (our) work at RAW Canberra next Wednesday the 4th of September.  (More information here.)  If you buy a ticket for RAW Canberra in support of us (under the not-at-all-pretentious name of ‘The Elysian Mysteries’) then you will receive a $16.65 discount on the paperback version of Round and Round when it goes up for pre-sale in... about a week.  So if you were planning to buy the novel anyway, you get a free ticket to RAW.  And if you were planning on going to RAW anyway, you get a free discount on Round and Round.  Bargain.

In order to sign up for this amazing offer, you’ll need to buy your ticket at some point over the next two days from here:

And that's it!  We hope to see you at RAW.


So I've come up with my top twenty songs by different artists that came out in the past twenty years and got into previous Triple J Hottest 100s.  I've also come up with a top fifty (including thirty songs that didn't quite make it in.)  The two conspicuous absences are Muse and Oasis.  For Muse, it's too hard to pick a single song, except Butterflies and Hurricanes, which didn't make it into a Hottest 100 and thus was against my self-enforced rules.  And likewise, the wrong Oasis songs made it into Hottest 100s. The top 20 I voted for (and then 21-50) in alphabetical order, not order of achievement are:

1. Ben Folds - Not The Same
2. Blur - For Tomorrow
3. Coldplay - Yellow
4. Crowded House - Distant Sun
5. Eskimo Joe - Older Than You
6. Gomez - We Haven't Turned Around
7. James - Laid
8. Lana Del Rey - Video Games
9. Manic Street Preachers - If You Tolerate This Your Children Will Be Next
10. MGMT - Time To Pretend
11. New Order - Regret.
12. Operator Please - Get What You Want
13. Pulp - Common People
14. Radiohead - Fake Plastic Trees
15. Snow Patrol - Chasing Cars
16. Suede - The Drowners
17. The Sundays - Summertime
18. The Verve - The Drugs Don't Work
19. Tori Amos - A Sorta Fairytale
20. You Am I - Berlin Chair


21. Ash - Goldfinger
22. Billy Bragg - Sexuality
23. Bob Evans - Don't You Think It's Time
24. Dandy Warhols - You Were The Last High
25. Death Cab For Cutie - I Will Possess Your Heart
26. Florence And The Machine - Spectrum (Say My Name)
27. Garbage - Vow
28. George - Bastard Son
29. Gerling - Enter Spacecapsule (Guitarsarecool Remix)
30. Gotye - Somebody That I Used To Know
31. Hole - Celebrity Skin
32. Kanye West - Runaway
33. Lily Allen - Everything's Just Wonderful
34. Lisa Mitchell - Spiritus
35. Little Birdy - Relapse
36. Machine Gun Fellatio - Unsent Letter
37. Mark Ronson & The Business Intl. - Bang Bang Bang
38. My Chemical Romance - Welcome To The Black Parade
39. Pet Shop Boys - Can You Forgive Her?
40. Regurgitator - ! (Song Formerly Known As)
41. San Cisco - Awkward
42. Spiller - Groovejet (If This Ain't Love)
43. Supergrass - Alright
44. Teenage Fanclub - Sparky's Dream
45. The Killers - Somebody Told Me
46. The Smashing Pumpkins - 1979
47. The Strokes - You Only Live Once
48. The Ting Tings - That's Not My Name
49. The Vines - Highly Evolved
50. Travis - Why Does It Always Rain On Me?

With hindsight, I shouldn't have voted for The Drowners since it came out in 1992, but... it's Suede.



I've come up with my twenty favourite songs that actually made it in:

1 (99): Lana Del Rey - Video Games (2011)
2 (23): Muse - Knights of Cydonia (2007)
3 (75): The Killers - Somebody Told Me (2004)
4 (66): You Am I - Berlin Chair (1994)
5 (49): Florence + the Machine - Dog Days Are Over (2009)
6 (41): Coldplay - Yellow (2000)
7 (9): Gotye - Somebody That I Used to Know {Ft. Kimbra} (2011)
8 (83): Pulp - Common People (1995)
9 (13): Radiohead - Paranoid Android (1997)
10 (22): Blur - Song 2 (1997)
11 (64): MGMT - Kids (2008)
12 (70): Regurgitator - ! (The Song Formerly Known As) (1998)
13 (87): The Kooks - Naïve (2006)
14 (39): Nirvana - Heart Shaped Box (1993)
15 (1): Oasis - Wonderwall (1995)
16 (53): Placebo - Every You Every Me (1999)
17 (21): The Smashing Pumpkins - 1979 (1996)
18 (48): The Strokes - Last Nite (2001)
19 (51): The Dandy Warhols - Bohemian Like You (2000)
20 (38): The Temper Trap - Sweet Disposition (2008)

The order above is based on the order the songs have been played on my iTunes, which hasn't been cleared in the past two years.  Obviously that doesn't judge how often I listen to them on CD or listened to these songs for the other eighteen years of the past twenty, and it's a bit confused by 'doubles' but it's a start.  The number in brackets is where it came in the Triple J voting. After not voting for Muse due to having to make a decision, it turns out that Knights of Cydonia is actually the ninth most-played song on my iTunes.  (It could possibly be supposed to be even higher than that since I have it twice on my iTunes and apparently seem to listen to both versions without a clear preference.  Also, I was even harder on Oasis, since Little By Little made it into the 2002 Hottest 100 and is the sixth-most played song on my iTunes.  Video Games is #1, so it wins above.)  I was thinking it was weird that there was only one Nirvana song in the countdown, and then realised Kurt hasn't been alive for nineteen years.  And that reminded me of my own mortality.  Sweet Disposition and Naïve didn't originally fulfil my voting criteria, but now that they've made a Hottest 100, they do.

There are six songs so mind-numbing that if I've actually heard them before, my brain has wiped them from my memory to prevent me from going into a coma.  I couldn't pick out these songs from a line up if they'd just gone Dexter on everyone I know right in front of me.  Which they wouldn't do because they're too boring. How they be anyone's favourite song from the past twenty years is beyond me.  They are: 61: The Black Keys - Lonely Boy (2011), 67: alt-J - Breezeblocks (2012), 73: Edward Sharpe & The Magnetic Zeros - Home (2009), 89: TV On The Radio - Wolf Like Me (2006), 57: Bloc Party - Banquet (2004) and 81: Angus & Julia Stone - Big Jet Plane (2010).

And the ten absolute worst songs in the Hottest 100 of the past twenty years are:

33: The Cranberries - Zombie (1994)
28: Red Hot Chili Peppers - Scar Tissue (1999)
30: Red Hot Chili Peppers - Californication (2000)
93: Soundgarden - Black Hole Sun (1994)
26: System Of A Down - Chop Suey! (2001)
43: John Butler Trio - Betterman (2001)
4: Hilltop Hoods - The Nosebleed Section (2003)
88: Something For Kate - Monsters (2001)
63: Grinspoon - Chemical Heart (2002)
10: Powderfinger - My Happiness (2000) and 8: Powderfinger - These Days (1999) (Since these are basically the same song with different words, they can share a place.)

"We're going to write one album, sell sixteen million copies and then split up." (Nicky Wire, 1991.)

Twenty years and ten studio albums later... that clearly didn't happen.  Nevertheless, Generation Terrorists, Manic Street Preachers' first album is still one of my desert island discs, and for its 20th anniversary Sony has made it even better.  Or at least even longer, with two bonus CDs of demos, rarities, B-sides and one extra track on top of their already-drawn-out 18-track début.

As I wrote earlier this year: for some questions, I'll never know the answer.  Like "where will you be in ten years' time?"  Or "what's the actual definition of a sport?"  Or "where does a snake's tail begin?"  Like "do you drink soup or eat it?"  Or "why is there a light in the fridge but not the freezer?"  Or "who'd win in a fight between a shark and a crocodile?"   But "What's your favourite song?" is a question I can answer (and often have answered) in an instant: 'Motorcycle Emptiness'.  Track four and the high point of Generation Terrorists, 'Motorcycle Emptiness' is an anti-consumerism anthem, loosely based on Rumble Fish, one of S. E. Hinton's young adult novels that I read in primary school.  Musically it's a combination of two very early Manics songs, one of which is included on CD 3.  Bizarrely, the home demo of 'Behave Yourself Baby' is the Manics sounding like The Seekers crossed with Belle & Sebastian and a sixties girl group rather than the Guns 'n' Roses of Generation Terrorists, but it's where the Middle 8 of 'Motorcycle Emptiness' originated.  'Go, Buzz Baby, Go!' isn't here on the album, but it made up much of the rest of the song, and it totally sounds like Ratcat. Finally, there are a couple of stories about how James Dean Bradfield came up with the most uplifting guitar riff ever.  One is that he dreamt it, the other is that (like the piano hook from Oliver's Army by Elvis Costello) he ripped it off Dancing Queen.  Put it all together and you have the greatest song ever written, about youth culture as a product and as an alternative to the mainstream.

"We'll never write a love song, ever.  Full stop.  Or a ballad."  (Nicky Wire, 1991.)

Yes, ultimately, they did both of those things, but on Generation Terrorists, 'Motorcycle Emptiness' flows straight into 'You Love Us' - not a ballad, and not actually a love song unless the line "throw some acid into your face" is able to be included in a love song.  Live, this is one of those songs where the pogoing audience shouts along - does the crowd love the Manics or do the Manics love the crowd?  (Both.)  The better original Heavenly single release is now included on CD 2.

As became a Manics tradition, in the liner notes each track include a quotations from the likes of the Futurists, Rimbaud, Sylvia Plath, Camus, Confucius, Ibsen, George Orwell, Nietszche and Chuck D.  For protest-singing punks, the early Manics music didn't always preach in a transparent fashion - between James's diction and Nicky and Richey's lyrics, some of the protests can be downright unintelligible.  On the other hand, Nat West-Barclays-Midlands-Lloyds is clearly about banking.  It's either a Nostradamus-like prediction of the GFC, or Nicky ranting about the fact that the banks wouldn't give him a mortgage.  One of the most intriguing things about Manic Street Preachers songs is that there's rarely any rhyme or metre and yet somehow it works.  There's only one rhyming couplet in all of Little Baby Nothing - written to be a duet with Kylie Minogue but instead was sung with Traci Lords the then-24-year-old retired porn star.  At the time the song was recorded, Lords had started her career in porn nine years before.  The fact that a teen actress and teen porn star were both appropriate for the song is intriguing, but both of them fit.  Kylie did finally sing her part live fifteen years later at the Brixton Academy.

Finally, for the 20th anniversary version, the Manics' cover of 'Suicide is Painless' is a nineteenth and bonus track.  In a bizarre coincidence as I sat here writing this review, Channel Ten's The Project played James Dean Bradfield's guitar riff from that version of the song over a report on the mental health of employers.

Generation Terrorists is far from a perfect album.  'Repeat' lives up to its iterative title as both track 8 and track 13, and GT also breaks my own rule about albums not having cover songs on albums (their thankfully more concise version of 'Damn Dog', from the film Times Square.)  The original album didn't even include 'Motown Junk', one of the highlights of early MSP and stronger than most of the tracks that made it in (it's now on CD2.  Twice.)  It's not even the Manics' own best album, or even in the top two.  Like Caesar, the early Manics were hopelessly ambitious and hubristic.  On vinyl, Generation Terrorists was a double-album that they wanted to release with a sandpaper sleeve so it would gradually (or instantly) destroy itself and the albums shelved beside it.  That also didn't happen.  What it was released with was a cover image of Manics lyricist and air-guitarist Richey Edwards' torso and bicep, his Useless Generation tattoo airbrushed into the album title.  Interestingly the shot didn't include Richey's forearm where he'd carved the words '4 REAL' with a razor during the infamous interview in which Steve Lamacq claimed they weren't.  In 1992, the Manic Street Preachers really were the pissed-off alienated youths they claimed to be.  Their passion was real - they never set out to be anyone's second-favourite band.

So I now own two copies of Generation Terrorists.  It's not sixteen million, but it's a start.

Why Be A Teacher?

“I have to write 500 words on why I want to be a teacher.  Any things I should say?”

I was asked this by my sister this afternoon.  As well as being a crucial part of the first sentence above, the word ‘why’ also happens to be one that Beth hears a supernumerary amount of times a day from my toddler nephew.  As infuriating as that can be, ‘Why?’ is a question I never want Finn to stop asking.  And that’s why I’m a teacher.

As the students I’ve taught would no doubt tell you, I tend to go off on tangents.  When Beth and I were teenagers, we wanted to call our band Ampersand.  See?  Tangents.  If I were talking to an adult, I would have to assume that he or she knows what an ampersand is.  And assume that they know why it’s called an ampersand.  And assume they know why it looks like an ampersand.  And generally, if I had been talking to an adult, even if he or she didn’t know one, some or all of those facts, it’s unlikely that he or she would ask.  Because we live in a culture where adults would, generally, rather be ignorant than appear ignorant.  Where they have stopped asking ‘why?’  And I hate it.

As my wife would testify, my sentences still often begin with the phrase ‘Do you know why...’  There are two versions of these sentences:

A.) the ones where I know the answer and desperately want to tell her, or
B.) the ones where I desperately want to know the answer and hope she can tell me.

Unfortunately, she seems to have worked out how to defuse these questions, by habitually using these ingenious responses:

A.) “Yes” or “I don’t care.”
B.) “No” or “I don’t care.”

And I am foiled.  But one of the best things about teaching is that I get to tell people things without feeling like I’m pontificating or being condescending or - hopefully - anyone else feeling like I’m talking down to them.  I get to answer questions from people who still care and still want to know ‘why?’  I want to be able to engage with a generation of adults who care ‘why’ or know ‘why’ or can tell me ‘why’, and I don’t think that’s going to happen unless we help create one.

So that’s why I’m a teacher.

Why do you think an ampersand is called an ampersand?  And why do you think it looks like this: &?

There are no wrong answers.  The question is why you think so.  Brainstorm!  Here’s some thinking music from Belle & Sebastian (yes, you probably see ampersands every day!  They’re in Barnes & Noble, Ben & Jerry’s, Black & Decker, and that’s just some of the ‘B’s!)

So what did you come up with?  Great!  (The ‘real’ answers are possibly just as apocryphal.)  Ampersands began back when there was no printing press, so everything was handwritten, mostly in Latin.  The Latin word for ‘and’ is ‘et’, and it (like our ‘and’) had to be written a lot.  So people got lazy, and along the way it evolved into something that was easier to write: ET Et et &.  Which is ironic, since these days most of us find it almost impossible to handwrite an ampersand, but we do pretty well with ‘e’s and ‘t’s.  And why ‘ampersand’?  Well, there was a time when &s were just called ands, and were treated as letters of the alphabet.  As such, they would be rote chanted by students learning that alphabet, which ended with X, Y, Z, &.  Now imagine singing the end of alphabet song if that were the case.  “Double-u, ex, wy, zed and and.”  (Or, if you’re so inclined “double-u, ex, wy, zee and and.”)  Kind of confusing.  So in the hope of ameliorating the confusion, teachers got students to end their alphabet with “and per se: and.”  Meaning “and by itself: and!”  And, as anyone who has ever heard a child sing the alphabet knows, like the origin of the ‘&’ itself, the letters seem to slur into each other (to the point where it sounds like there’s a letter called ‘elemeno’ between ‘kay’ and ‘pee’.)  And that’s how “and per se: and” became “ampersand”.

That tangent was to demonstrate how teachers and students can change the world.

& that’s why I’m a teacher.

“The World Wide Web is wonderful if you’ve got something to sell
But opinions often summon up a focus group from Hell.
It’s best not to be distracted and stay focused on your goals,
And take my advice: don’t feed the trolls.”

So sang Billy Bragg last night at the Canberra Theatre in the modernised version of his 1988 protest song, ‘Waiting for the Great Leap Forwards’.  The new lyrics also refer to European bailouts, the Occupy movement, The X-Factor and World of Warcraft and were a highlight of the show - a reminder that one of the great protest singers of the 20th century is still fighting for the 21st.  On the other hand, as much as we might like to think it, some lyrics may not necessarily translate too well to the kind of Canberrans who can pay $85 for a seat and fill a 1000-seater auditorium.  Before I get to the bit where my opinions could well lead to “the focus group from Hell,” the concert was one of the rare cases where between-track banter is as enjoyable as the music itself.  And it all culminated in a crowd singalong of the extended version of ‘A New England’.  Fantastic.  And so...

1986’s ‘There Is Power In A Union’ is self-explanatory, about - as Bragg sang with his fist aloft to still-reverberating chords - ‘The union forever/Defending our rights.”  When he croons, “Who’ll defend the workers who cannot organize/When the bosses send their lackeys out to cheat us?” he is rhetorically praising the British unions who fight for real issues with working conditions - danger, health, truly unfair pay, etc.  On average, those of us in the ACT are the highest paid (and least unemployed) in Australia.  By contrast, I spent four months this year working on the floor of an auto parts warehouse in Yorkshire for minimum wage.  (That’s £6.19 an hour [$9.50AU], not the equivalent Australian minimum wage, which is $15.59 per hour.)  Every day I listened to the grievances from workers who were not represented by a union and actually had some justifiable issues to complain about.

My only experiences with a union in my life have been with the Australian Education Union.  It doesn’t appear to do much except be infuriatingly self-satisfied that every few years it rejects the government’s wage offer and encourages teachers to strike and sacrifices some aspect of conditions in order to settle for a salary that appears strikingly similar to the offer from the government in the first place.  It certainly argues that money is the best way to attract the best teachers.  Which is interesting, since I would have thought that money attracted people who like money, and not necessarily people who want to teach.  I became a teacher because I wanted to educate students.  I’m pretty sure no one ever became a teacher because they liked money, but I am willing to be corrected.  So, yes there is power in a union, but there is also power in a chainsaw, a tank or a sandwich - it just depends what you choose do with it.  (We do know there is lots of money in a union - just ask Craig Thomson.  Allegedly.)


“Something to sell”:

The Death Of Drama.

For the past half a year I haven’t had a mobile phone.

Well, technically I’ve had one, but only the left ‘column’ works, which means I can answer phonecalls and read messages but nothing else.  I can’t call out or reply to those messages because of the lack of functionality rendered by the 83% of the phone’s fascia that doesn’t work.  It may also have something to do with the fact that I’ve never put any credit on it.  I can’t even ‘lock’ the phone, which is why I leave it at home to avoid the embarrassment of a woman in my pocket ordering me to “say a command!”  Tonight it struck me that perhaps not carrying a mobile phone in this age might be seen as similar to leaving the house without any pants, but for me it works.  (The phone thing, I mean.  I generally do remember to wear my pants.)

I know that people reading this may be thinking ‘well in my business/life/household/etc. I couldn’t live without a mobile phone.’  And perhaps that’s true.  Have you ever accidentally left your phone at home all day?  How did you react?  And when you got home how much had you missed?  I think a lot of what people are usually tethered to all day can actually wait until they get home, but we like to feel like we’re not missing anything.  And maybe there’s a certain liberty that can ensue from not having a phone for at least a day.

I also have no ‘landline’ phone, but I suspect that many of you may be less concerned by this, since a landline these days is a bit like the cigarette lighter socket in the car.  You might almost never use it for its actual purpose but it’s a requisite launchpad for technology.  So yes, on the subject of technology, not having a phone also means not having the Internet/a GPS/eReader/iPod/Twitter/Facebook/personal organiser/alarm/solitaire/Smurf farm/whatever-else-is-on-a-smartphone on me twenty-four hours a day.  And that too is not a problem, although people do tend to find it odd that I constantly carry a clipboard and pen around with me, and I suspect it scares off people who think I’m conducting a survey, collecting for charity or trying to convert them to Scientology.


(For the unofficial prequel to this post, two years ago I blogged about the death of my previous mobile phone.)

No, Not *That* Big Brother.

Have you ever had a revelation that seems so obvious with hindsight that you’re not sure if it was something you once ‘knew’ but had long since forgotten?

I was thinking today about George Orwell’s Nineteen Eighty-Four.

Winston Smith lives in a world in which the larger-than-life Big Brother (who Winston sometimes doubts is a real person) is always watching.  BB is everywhere and can apparently even tell what one is thinking.  Winston and his lover Julia get naked in the scenic countryside where she gives him black market chocolate, the taste of which stirs thoughts that he was happier repressing.  They rent a room where they believe they’re free to talk without Big Brother and read aloud Goldstein’s book of banned knowledge - The Theory and Practice of Oligarchical Collectivism.  Winston and Julia make love and wander around the flat naked and unselfconscious about it.  They eat jam and their neighbour sings what she remembers of the nursery rhyme about now-forbidden fruits ‘Oranges and Lemons’ and on the wall of the apartment is a massive engraving of the Church of St Clement.  It turns out that Big Brother has been listening all the time - there is a telescreen behind the image of the church.  They are made to stand uncomfortably naked before the BB and the Thought Police before being forcibly removed from their haven and punished.  Winston and Julia each blame and betray each other, but - in the end - at least they love Big Brother.

Since I studied this twice as a student and have taught it at least twice as many times as a teacher, shouldn’t it have come up at some point that the book is a retelling of ‘Genesis’?  Because this afternoon, the idea struck me like a rat in the face.


Jerry Maguire and Joey Potter.

A married couple - for the sake of their privacy, let’s call them Jerry Maguire and Joey Potter - is getting a divorce.  Apparently one of the prominent reasons for the divorce is that Joey doesn’t want their six year-old child to be raised in Jerry’s religion.  His religion claims that seventy-five million years ago an extraterrestrial alien dictator murdered hundreds of billions of his people on this planet by blowing all (except a handful) of them up in volcanoes with nuclear bombs.  The souls of these dead aliens attach themselves to modern humans and by paying the church lots of money you can potentially go through rituals to have them removed.  Consequently, the almost unanimous consensus from the public is that it is a good thing that the girl will not be reared as part of this cult.  However, surprisingly few people seem to have an issue with the fact that Joey is now going to indoctrinate their daughter in her religion.  Her religion claims that the universe and everything in it was invented six thousand years ago by an omnipotent extraterrestrial dictator who later murdered all the people and animals on this planet (except a handful) by flooding the Earth with water.  To this day, anyone in the cult who disobeys the alleged rules of the immortal dictator must go through rituals to have these faults removed, and the church has ‘collected’ so much money from its parishioners that it is the richest entity in the world.  Does anybody else feel that there is something not quite right about this scenario?

Almost all parents raise their children to believe things that are not true.  [Warning: life spoilers for people who are not yet ten years old...] Santa Claus, the Easter Bunny and the Tooth Fairy are not real.  However, convincing children that these beings exist opens up the possibility for other ‘magic’ to be true.  Hence, many people grow up believing in astrology, ghosts, curses, reincarnation, luck and superstitions, and continue to believe in these as adults.  Many believe in prayer, at least one god and an afterlife which can be good, bad or indifferent.

In my opinion, it’s wrong for any parent to convince their children that any of the above is true.  Children grow up believing that they are being constantly watched by divine beings, that they can change their life by worshipping or pleading to these beings and that after this life there will be another one of eternal reward or torment.  This is utterly irresponsible, because it rears children who are not aware that their lives are in their own hands, that they need to take control of their lives and do so now - no magic gods are going to do things for you, no matter how much you beg or praise.  Children need to know that they don’t need to be afraid of ghosts or demons or monsters or gods - they just need to be the best people they can be.

When Jerry and Joey’s daughter is old enough to make the informed decision herself, she should be free to choose to join a religion or cult if she wants to, but neither parent should be raising her as part of one.  The same should apply for every other parent and child on the planet.


"So... you're the people who couldn't get Stone Roses tickets."

Last night, while Ian Brown swaggered to 70,000 fans in Manchester that, "yeah, as you see we still got it", another Britpop frontman took more of a self-deprecating approach.  Mark Morriss's opener, 'Keep The Home Fires Burning', set the tone for the evening with its first lines: "Can I stay at your house?  I'll sleep on the floor."  This was an intimate gig at Leeds's Northern Monkey, before a crowd a thousandth of the size of the one at Heaton Park, and according to Mark, if he doesn't sing these songs, "no one else will."  Which wasn't exactly true - by the time 'Bluetonic' rolled up, four songs in, the night had become a full-on singalong around the bloke with the guitar.  Despite some "wooly" sound problems, Morriss marched on because he's "a professional".  Some, possibly unkindly, inferred that this was a not-so-subtle indictment on the sound engineer - by contrast - being an amateur.  To be fair to all, Morriss almost didn't even need the amplifier or microphone except to drown out the latest episode of Have I Got News For You (until he convinced the bar staff to switch off the television) and the always-unfathomable members of the audience who would rather buy tickets or pay a cover charge to talk loudly to each other, infuriating performers and punters alike (instead of... I don't know... talking to each other somewhere else for free?)  Oh, and the guy who shouted "'Slack Jaw'!" after every song.  Morriss counselled him to be patient.

As we approached the middle of the set, Mark announced another "new one.  I have high hopes for this one."  (It was in fact Barbara Streisand's 'Woman In Love', which The Bluetones had originally recorded as a b-side to 'After Hours'.)  After 'The Day That Never Was', Mark told "'Slack Jaw'!" guy that every time he shouts that, the chances of it being played diminished (but the singer did inevitably acquiesce).  It became a potential request-fest at this point, although Morriss claimed that he couldn't play 'Autophilia (or How I Learned to Stop Worrying and Love My Car)' because "Every time he writes a new amazing song another amazing song leaves his head."  He did give 'A Parting Gesture' a grand attempt, but after forgetting the exact chord progression it mutated into another singalong, this time of K.C. and the Sunshine Band's 'Give It Up'.  After an amusing reggae 'Ziggy Stardust', it was time for Mark Morriss's signature song.  Just as Judy Garland "sang 'Over The Rainbow' 40,000 times", 'Slight Return' is his 'Over The Rainbow' (Morriss meant this in the most pessimistic way possible, although he promised not to think of crossword answers while he mechanically went through the motions.)  After a brief "Vegas" crooner version of the track, he sang The Bluetones' only Number Two hit (kept from the top spot by... sigh... 'Spaceman' by Babylon Zoo.)

The planned encores had included a cover of The Shins' 'Pink Bullets' and 'The Fountainhead', but instead we had another 'request' - the appropriate 'Carry Me Home'.  After one final 'Sleazy Bed Track' (possibly creating new Bluetones fans through its use as Scott and Ramona Flowers's makeout song in Scott Pilgrim Vs. The World) it was time to call it a night.

Despite his cynicism, Morriss created a truly crowd-pleasing gig (at least for the first few rows of the crowd that actually wanted to be pleased).  Unlike some other Britpop frontmen's tedious solo shows of only 'new' material, the man knows how to put a set together.  This was a night of a couple of new solo tracks, a couple of old solo tracks, a few covers and nearly a dozen Bluetones songs spanning fifteen years.  Appropriately, I was originally introduced to the wonder of The Bluetones in the nineties by a friend of my sisters, who put a single Discman headphone in my ear and said "Listen to this* - they sound like The Stone Roses."

I've heard Ian Brown sing - Mark Morriss sounds better.  And, in the end, he promised to relearn 'Autophilia' for next time.

I'll be there.


Approximate setlist:

Keep The Home Fires Burning
A New Athens
It's Hard To Be Good All The Time
So It Goes
Marblehead Johnson
Woman In Love
The Day That Never Was
Low Company
Slack Jaw
Ziggy Stardust
Slight Return
I'm Sick
A Parting Gesture/Give It Up
Carry Me Home
Sleazy Bed Track


*(It was 'Are You Blue or Are You Blind?')

Following on from the previous blog entry: my life as summarised through the lens of five years of Facebook status updates...

What's on your mind?


Hapax Legoman "is, therefore he thinks."
Read more...Collapse )

Hackneyed Hack: Swings and Roundabouts.

My most-abhorred cliché at this moment is ‘swings and roundabouts’.  It seems to have resurged of late, despite the fact that it makes no semantic sense to anyone who is either hearing or speaking it.  The phrase tends to be used by economists and businesspeople and politicians, such as this statement last week by ousted Queensland Minister for Women, Karen Struthers: “Those are the swings and roundabouts.”  To use a far better cliché: WTF?

The full expression is along the lines of ‘what you lose on the swings, you make up on the roundabouts’ or, alternatively, ‘what you gain on the swings, you lose on the roundabouts.’  Do you want to take a guess at what it literally means?  Click ‘play’ below for thirty seconds of thinking music while I wait...

Did you get it?  Something about... losing speed driving around roundabouts when you could be bitten by a radioactive spider and swing from buildings instead?  Or... the money the government spends on making playgrounds comes from road tolls?  Or... the kinetic energy you gain while swinging on a swing in a playground is lost when you go on a roundabout?

The reason the cliché is so misused in the 21st century is because it refers to a practice that you and I have never done - paying to use the kinds of swings and roundabouts that you find at the local park.  To use a contemporary example, let’s say you go to Luna Park and don’t get an unlimited ride pass, you just pay for what you use.  On some days the Moon Ranger might be more popular than the Tango Train.  But there’s only so much money to go around, so although Luna Park might ‘lose’ money on the Tango Train, it ‘gains’ it on the Moon Ranger.

The phrase comes from P. G. Wodehouse’s 1910 novel Psmith in the City:

“‘How curious, Comrade Gregory,’ mused Psmith, as they went, ‘are the workings of Fate!  A moment back, and your life was a blank.  Comrade Jackson, that prince of Fixed Depositors, had gone.  How, you said to yourself despairingly, can his place be filled?  Then the cloud broke, and the sun shone out again.  I came to help you.  What you lose on the swings, you make up on the roundabouts.  Now show me what I have to do, and then let us make this department sizzle.  You have drawn a good ticket, Comrade Gregory.’”

Which is still about as transparent as a brick, so a more comprehensible use of of the phrase might be the hundred year-old poem ‘Roundabouts and Swings’ by Patrick Reginald Chalmers:

It was early last September nigh to Framlin’am-on-Sea,
An’ ‘twas Fair-day come to-morrow, an’ the time was after tea,
An’ I met a painted caravan adown a dusty lane,
A Pharaoh with his waggons comin’ jolt an’ creak an’ strain;
A cheery cove an’ sunburnt, bold o’ eye and wrinkled up,
An’ beside him on the splashboard sat a brindled tarrier pup,
An’ a lurcher wise as Solomon an’ lean as fiddle-strings
Was joggin’ in the dust along ‘is roundabouts and swings.

“Goo’-day,” said ‘e; “Goo’-day,” said I; “an’ ‘ow d’you find things go,
An’ what’s the chance o’ millions when you runs a travellin’ show?”
“I find,” said ‘e, “things very much as ‘ow I’ve always found,
For mostly they goes up and down or else goes round and round.”
Said ‘e, “The job’s the very spit o’ what it always were,
It’s bread and bacon mostly when the dog don’t catch a ‘are;
But lookin’ at it broad, an’ while it ain’t no merchant king’s,
What’s lost upon the roundabouts we pulls up on the swings!”

“Goo’ luck,” said ‘e; “Goo’ luck,” said I; “you’ve put it past a doubt;
An’ keep that lurcher on the road, the gamekeepers is out.”
‘E thumped upon the footboard an’ ‘e lumbered on again
To meet a gold-dust sunset down the owl-light in the lane;
An’ the moon she climbed the ‘azels, while a night-jar seemed to spin
That Pharaoh’s wisdom o’er again, ‘is sooth of lose-and-win;
For “up an’ down an’ round,” said ‘e, “goes all appointed things,
An’ losses on the roundabouts means profits on the swings!”

The next time someone uses the phrase ‘swings and roundabouts’ in your presence, ask them what they think their sentence means.  Or even better, before they get the chance to say anything just shake your head knowingly while throwing out the line “it’s Moon Rangers and Tango Trains”.
Hamlet is William Shakespeare’s longest play.  (Well, unless The History of Cardenio or Love’s Labour’s Won was longer.)  For anyone who didn’t read or see Hamlet at school or sometime since (or for anyone who was supposed to read it for school but was actually busy doing something important), here are the HapaxNotes:

Act I scene i.

BARNARDO: A ghost!  Scary.

Act I scene ii.

CLAUDIUS: My brother had no pre-paid funeral plan.  Selfish!  So his widowed Queen and I decided to make it a wedding-funeral.

Act I scene iii.

LAERTES and POLONIUS: Ophelia, don’t be a tart!

Act I scene iv.

HAMLET: A ghost!  Sca...  Dad?

Which brings us to the noteworthy Act I scene v.

HAMLET'S FATHER'S GHOST: If thou didst ever thy dear father love...  Revenge his foul and most unnatural murther.

HAMLET: Murther?

FATHER'S GHOST: Murther most foul, as in the best it is; but this most foul, strange, and unnatural.

HAMLET: Oh...  You mean murder!  Haste me to know’t, that I, with wings as swift as meditation or the thoughts of love, may sweep to my revenge.

FATHER'S GHOST: The serpent that did sting thy father’s life now wears his crown.

HAMLET: My uncle?


So, Hamlet finds out that his father was murdered and says he’s going to avenge him immediately.  And what does he immediately do?

HAMLET: I’ll wipe away all trivial fond records, all saws of books, all forms, all pressures past that youth and observation copied there, and thy commandment all alone shall live within the book and volume of my brain... O villain, villain, smiling, damned villain! My tables! Meet it is I set it down that one may smile, and smile, and be a villain; at least I am sure it may be so in Denmark. [Writes.]  As I perchance hereafter shall think meet to put an antic disposition on...  The time is out of joint. O cursed spite that ever I was born to set it right!

HapaxNotes translation:

HAMLET: I’m going to wipe my brain of everything except revenge.  Because of that smiling, damned villain.  Ooh... that’s a good line.  I’m going to put that in my notebook.  “That... one... may... smile, and... smile, and... be... a... villain.”  Great stuff.  And this is a brilliant chance for me to use my acting skills - I’m going to pretend to be mad.  Yeah!  I wish I didn’t have to avenge my Dad... that’s really going to get in the way of all my writing and acting.

It takes Hamlet another four acts (or fifteen scenes) to avenge his father.  Which is about three hours for people watching the play, and couple of months in Hamlet-time.  So... why does he take so long even though he says he wants to do it?  It’s just to create drama isn’t it?  In real life if we want to do something we just do it, right?

Except we don’t.

Sigmund Freud came up with a structural model of the psyche, built of three theoretical constructs - the id, ego and super-ego.  But that’s a bit too cerebral and highbrow for us.  Instead, let's just type “I want” and “I want to” into Google to see what phrases it will predict.  Some are song lyrics (“I Want to Hold Your Hand”), some are clearly ‘how to’ or health enquiries (“I want to adopt a baby” or “I want energy”) and some are memes, YouTube video searches, TV shows, etc.  Nevertheless, below is a sample of the most typed “I want” phrases according to Google’s autocomplete.

Some seem simple:

I want pants
I want pet food
I want to name my car
I want to play a game

Some seem to me to be not too hard, with a bit (or a lot) of money or a trip to the doctor, optometrist, dentist or local drug dealer:

I want bees
I want braces
I want drugs
I want food
I want green eyes
I want furniture
I want girl-scout cookies
I want glasses
I want her dress
I want new teeth
I want nice things
I want red hair
I want to quit my job
I want to quit university
I want to travel
I want Vicodin
I want weed
I want white teeth
I want Xanax

Some may just need a bit of time or effort:

I want grey hair
I want my own room
I want really long hair
I want six pack abs
I want snow
I want to act
I want to be a billionaire
I want to move to America
I want to move to Canada
I want to open a bar
I want to own my own business
I want to be skinny
I want to change
I want to join the army
I want to join the police
I want to put on weight
I want to quit smoking
I want to quit sugar
I want to volunteer
I want to write a book

Some are closer to impossible:

I want dimples
I want everything
I want Kevin Rudd back
I want Ron Paul to win
I want to live forever
I want to yawn but can’t
I want zombie apocalypse to happen
I want zombies to be real
I want Zooey Deschanel’s hair

Some are disturbing:

I want death
I want junk mail
I want to be anorexic
I want to cut myself
I want to die
I want to eat people
I want to end my life
I want quadruplets
I want revenge
I want to join the Illuminati
I want to kill everybody in the world
I want to vote for Ron Paul
I want veins to stick out
I want viruses
I want XP back

Some are sad:

I want a boyfriend
I want bigger hips
I want death
I want friends
I want girlfriend
I want her
I want her back
I want him back
I want kids he doesn’t
I want out
I want to escape
I want to find love
I want to leave my husband
I want to quit drinking
I want to tell you
I want to vomit

And some are things that shouldn’t be too hard to do, but we tend to Hamlet out:

I want to ask a girl out
I want to change my life
I want to do something with my life
I want to eat healthy
I want to party
I want to talk about me

If you have time to complete an exercise: try being your own Google autocomplete.  Write or type “I want” and “I want to” as many times as you like, filling in the rest of the sentence with what you want.  When you’ve finished, have a look.  How many things are simple?  Not too hard?  Need time or effort?  Close to impossible?  Are disturbing?  Are sad?  Why is there a gulf between desire and action?  And ultimately, how many of the things you want are you actually working towards?

I have a to-do list.  The stuff on it is not too hard, and yet - like Hamlet - I’d rather write in my notebook than do the things on my list.  Or, in this case, write a thousand-word blog entry.

So maybe Hamlet is such a long play with good reason.
Bemoaning Canberra is a national pastime, both from within and without.  As my stepmother has often told me, she is “worried that Canberra is defined by convenience. This is not a good reason to live in a city.  Give me another reason to want to live here.”  I have had a good think about this, and decided that it is more practical to approach the argument rhetorically from the opposite direction - why waste so much of your life in a city that is inconvenient?  And thus I bring you Three Fantastic Reasons to Live in Canberra.

1.  Yes, Convenience.

In Australia, for every ten people there are six cars.  Thus, in my two-person household, it is not unreasonable that we have our statistically-normal solitary car.  In Canberra, having a car is ‘convenient’ and there is a reason for this.  Construction of Canberra began in 1913.  Then World War II began the next year, delaying development (although Canberrans did take the opportunity to build a classy Prisoners Of War camp for 3,500 Germans and Austrians.  Sadly, even the POWs couldn’t be bothered to come to Canberra, and only 150 ever turned up.  Which is a shame, since the POW camp is now known as Fyshwick - noted for its brothels, pornography and [until recently] fireworks – so the European detainees would probably have enjoyed themselves.)  After the war, building continued only to be flooded by the Molongolo river in 1925 and then hit by the Great Depression in 1929, which was immediately followed by World War II.  So Canberra really didn’t start to hit its stride until after 1945.  Which means it was built as a city that understood a simple fact: people have cars.

For the past three years, I have lived in Sydney, a city settled in 1788 without the common-sense foresight to assume people might actually want to drive somewhere.  Specific suburbs in which I have lived include Rose Bay, North Sydney and several locations around Potts Point.  One of these houses had its own driveway, which was rendered completely useless 50% of the time owing to @%$&holes parking in or across it.  Another property also had its own driveway, but tenants were not actually allowed to use it, and instead had to park somewhere else in a suburb of 1-2-hour street parking, necessitating car movements every couple of hours or parking tickets every couple of days.  My most recent location only has the option of street pay parking at a rate of $4.40 an hour - Sydney City Council’s very own carbon tax.  In Canberra, driving is very much an individual thing – you just get in the car and drive to your destination.  In Sydney, driving is like a martial arts film where you’re the protagonist attempting to innocently go about your own business when suddenly you’re surrounded by two hundred ninjas who you have to defeat before you can go on your way.  I never got road rage in a decade of driving in Canberra.  In Sydney, I have it before I’ve even hit third gear (in the rare event that the traffic actually allows me to reach third gear.)  In Canberra, a car horn has a single function as something to be beeped lightly in the suburbs as a signal that your ride has arrived.  In Sydney it seems to be a kind of constant tool on which to squeeze out the words “#^@* you!” in Morse code.  So, why choose to live somewhere inconvenient?  Living in Sydney is like having a relationship with someone who's tempestuous and high-maintenance - it might seem like a great idea at first but after a while you’ll probably get sick of the whole thing.  Which brings me to reason #2.

2.  Ideas.

“Great minds discuss ideas, average minds discuss events, small minds discuss people.”  Unfortunately I haven’t been able to have a single idea for the past three years, because it’s been too noisy.  But I have met heaps of famous people - artists, performers, writers, comedians, musicians, actors, etc.  I've shaken hands with Noah Taylor and Joss Whedon.  I’ve been accused of attempting to give pneumonia to the 83 year-old Edward Albee.  I’ve started a campaign of hatred against Geoffrey Rush for his IT illiteracy.  Although I did have the self restraint to not strangle Edward De Bono with my red thinking hat, I was amused that he lacked the lateral thinking skills to deduce exactly how to get out the front door.  A friend and I had great difficulty getting away from a intoxicated Michael Caton while he tried to teach us the ‘triple take’.  According to him, “it’s like a double-take only funnier.”  It’s not.  Genevieve Lacey has shown me a greater variety of recorders than your average primary school.  Amanda Palmer signed one of her husband’s graphic novels for my sister’s birthday.  Celebrities who deserve special mentions just for being lovely people include Julia Zemiro, Mark Trevorrow, Aravind Adiga, Eloise Mignon and Nico Lathouris (Nick’s dad from Heartbreak High!)  Plus there’s pretty much every cabaret, circus and burlesque performer who’s come to Sydney.  These are just the people I’ve verbally interacted with face to face, not the ones I've seen in passing.  And yet, in twenty-eight years in Canberra, I met… um… a couple of Prime Ministers, Jackie French, Neil Gaiman, Laura Imbruglia and Chanel Cole.  Amusingly, one day in Canberra I was chatting with my former housemate/colleague who’s from Adelaide, and he said, “I expected to see more famous politicians here.  The only one I ever see is that guy with dark hair who’s always on Lateline - he eats his lunch at Minter Ellison.”

I replied, “Um… do you mean the former political advisor to the PM?  Sounds a bit like Darth Vader when he breathes?”

“That’s him.”

“Yeah, that’s not a famous politician – it’s my dad.”

And let’s face it, even politicians don’t want to be in Canberra – most of them are only there because they have to be.  So, going back to the proverb about minds, ideas, events and people.  In Canberra, there’s more chance for a mind to become great.  Not only are there no people to discuss, but - as everyone always says - “nothing ever happens”.  So ideas are all that’s left.  Plus it's quiet - as I said, I can’t think in Sydney.  And so we segue to...

3. Me.

I’m moving back to Canberra in a week.

Seriously, what other reason could one need?


Some Stuff I Love And Don't Love.

Some Stuff I Love Unconditionally:

1. Lukewarm coffees with two sugars.
The smell of my current hair conditioner (Schwarzkopf Extra Care Hair Repair Liquid Silk® Gloss Conditioner For Brittle, Dull Hair.  I don't think I necessarily have brittle, dull hair - it was just the best value conditioner I could find.)
3. Specific friends and family.
4. The
four-minute instrumental at the end of the Derek And The Dominos version of Layla.  Fifteen years ago I would sit on the carpet beside the record player listening to that on repeat.  Which involved moving the arm of the record player back to the right spot in the vinyl every time the song finished.

Something I Don't Love
(...as as aside, my high school French teacher [who may have later been sacked for embezzlement] once told me that his young daughter [who was raised bilingually], when asked if she would like some beans would say [in English] ‘No, I don’t love beans’.  It’s cute if you imagine it said by the Yoplait Petit Miam French girl.)  Anyway... Something I Don't Love:

1. People who ask “How X is it…?” where X is an adjective stating something obvious or a comparative opinion of the speaker.  For example, I have been asked numerous times today, “Man, how hot is it?”  Do I look like some sort of listening and speaking thermometer?  It’s 41 degrees Celsius in the shade, but I’m fairly sure they don’t actually want their question answered – they don’t mean “How hot is it?”, they mean “it is hot.”  Likewise, someone just asked “How good is it that Y Z A B C?” where Y Z A B C is something that I don’t care about at all.  I don’t know… moderately good?  Not very good?  Doubleplusungood?  Where does ‘completely insignificant’ fall on the scale-of-good?  The latter form of “How X is it…?” isn’t even a rhetorical question, it’s a way of stating an opinion as a question in the hope of some sort of validation or approval from others.

(Something that *is* loveable is that in the 16th and 17th centuries, there was actually a rhetorical question mark.  It was the same as a normal question mark, only vertically flipped.

How cool is that؟*)


*Actually, I think it's so cool that it requires an interrobang.  What is an interrobang, I don't hear you ask?  Well, you remember when your annoying English teacher told you to stop ending your sentences like this!!!???  Because it doesn't give your questions any more impact, it just makes you look illiterate????!!!!  Well an interrobang does the same thing, only in a single character.

How cool is that



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