Thursday, February 25, 2010

Australia's blarneyest bloke. This is a reality TV series I thought up yesterday after telling my business partners in an email that I felt Damien Leith was "gunning for the title of Australia's potato king". I also like Potato King as the name of the proposed series. I tweeted it and everything, but got NO TWLOVE.

Anyway, Australia's Blarneyest Bloke/Potato King would be a competition among Irish-Australians for who was the Irishest. It could be hosted by Jimeoin, or perhaps Delta Goodrem's bloke, Brian 'Potato' McFadden. Potential game show segments could include:

– Riverdance obstacle course
– Potato eating contest
– Guinness drinking contest
– Pub improv challenge: walk in with Englishman and Scotsman, invent joke
– Leprechaun-tossing: how far can you throw a midget dressed as a leprechaun
– Sing-off to 'Oh Danny Boy'
– Blarney challenge: who can tell the funniest/most entertaining yarn
– St Patrick's challenge: how many snakes can you remove from game area within time limit?

Potential guest stars could include Irish celebrities. Guest Irish comedians could do "BlarneySpots"/"TaterSpots", and guest Irish bands could play.

I think this show would be best screened during summer, with the grand finale screening around St Patrick's Day.

Saturday, February 20, 2010

Blog child. Probably the shop I visit most often is the op-shop around the corner from my house. There I have bought clothes, shoes, CDs, jewellery, homewares, and most of all, books. I always love to see what they have in there. Anyway, the other day I spied this ludicrously titled novel:

This young adult novel came out in Australia on 1 April, 2008 – unfortunate timing for a book with such an absurd title as Bog Child. Here is the blurb, fiddle-dee-dee potato!
Digging for peat in the mountain with his Uncle Tally, Fergus finds the body of a child, and it looks like she's been murdered. As Fergus tries to make sense of the mad world around him – his brother on hunger-strike in prison, his growing feelings for Cora, his parents arguing over the Troubles, and him in it up to the neck, blackmailed into acting as courier to God knows what, a little voice comes to him in his dreams, and the mystery of the bog child unfurls.

Bog Child is an astonishing novel exploring the sacrifices made in the name of peace, and the unflinching strength of the human spirit.
That's all very well, Random House, but it is called Bog Child. BOG CHILD.

The worst part of all is that the author, Siobhan Dowd, died of breast cancer in 2007, having spent her entire career as a published author fighting the disease since her diagnosis in 2004. She published two novels for young adults, A Swift Pure Cry and The London Eye Mystery, before her death, and had completed two more. Bog Child was the first of these, and it won the 2009 Carnegie Medal – a bittersweet triumph, as Dowd's previous novels had made the 2007 shortlist and the 2008 longlist.

It is truly appalling to considering the mortally ill Dowd bashing feverishly away at her keyboard – she wrote the novel between January and April 2007 and died in August of that year – to create what turned out to be a great book. And yet it is called Bog Child. Imagine her calling up her agent and saying, "I've had a great idea for a novel – I'm going to call it Bog Child!" Imagine her publisher emailing her going, "So, how are you going on Bog Child?" And her friends – perhaps fellow children's author Meg Rosoff, who has also fought breast cancer – would come over for a cup of tea and say stuff like, "I'm really looking forward to reading Bog Child." Dowd blogged about how near she was to finishing Bog Child, so the worst part is that Dowd herself saw nothing wrong with calling a book Bog Child.

Was it because she was so ill that nobody wanted to break it to Dowd that Bog Child was a terrible name for a book? And after she died, did they want to honour her memory by keeping its ludicrous title?


Tuesday, February 09, 2010

The catch-up. Further to my idiotic thoughts about fag hags from last year, I just saw a blog post that alerted me to the fierce (pardon my pun) debates being fought over the authorship of male/male slash fiction.

Is it a queer practice, even if the authors themselves do not identify as queer? Do you have to "write what you know", or can you successfully "write the other"? Are women offensively appropriating gay male culture, or is any attempt to police female-authored erotica just another attempt to police female sexuality? And is writing about sex between male characters simply a reflection of internalised misogyny – that the writers don't deem female characters interesting enough?

I don't really have any answers to these questions, and honestly, I feel uncomfortable even trying to participate in these debates. I don't write fanfic (indeed, for me it's one of the more acutely embarrassing fan practices), and am unfamiliar with the current state of identity politics.

Generally these days, my thinking roams over a pretty wide terrain. I tend to skim over the surfaces of topics in search of ideas, and then when I need to explain a certain idea at length I tend to immerse myself in it. I've always felt very keenly the need to mount unimpeachable – or at least impressively coherent – arguments. It's my nightmare that I will be jeered at for being ill-informed, so I tend to spend time making sure I am impregnable on this front.

This is why it takes me so long to write even the most superficial story. This is why late Sunday night I was boning up on Aarne-Thompson's and Propp's respective classification schemes of folk tales, and on Homeric notions of xenia, the ancient Greek ethic of hospitality, to ensure I nailed several paragraphs in an essay. These paragraphs ended up being edited out. So there you go. My research was wasted.

But anyway, my point here is that I can tell when I am in danger of being absorbed by a topic and wanting to spend all my time learning all I can about it so that I can write about it with some authority. And I know that if I embark down some queer politics wormhole, I won't have time to do any of the thinking and writing I need to get done in order to make my living.

Sunday, February 07, 2010

My cat circus dreams – SHATTERED. Yesterday I was in Clifton Hill picking up some plant pots I'd won on eBay, and as I walked down Alexandra Parade I saw a wire hoop on the ground. I thought to myself, "That will be useful for some reason unclear to me right now!", picked it up and took it home.

That evening I took the hoop out and started thinking what I could do with it, and Graham became very interested in it. That's when I had the brilliant idea of founding a CAT CIRCUS! Or at least, of somehow training Graham to leap through the hoop so I could impress my friends.

Cats can totally be trained. Check out the Moscow Cat Theatre:

Look at 'em go!

Anyway, I should have known my dreams were going to be crushed. Graham was much more interested in attacking the hoop than in leaping through it, and I am not an especially patient trainer.

Sorry if these images are blurry: it is surprisingly difficult to photograph a fast-moving cat with one hand using a mobile phone. So I guess we are back to our mundane lives of typing stuff on the computer:

That is actually Graham's computer usage from one time I got up to go to the loo.

Tuesday, February 02, 2010

Cat among the chickens. I am up much earlier than usual today. I have allowed Graham to get into a bad habit in which, at any time between 5:45 and 6:30am, he decides he wants to go outside, so he wakes me up by jumping on my desk, pulling the pins out of my pinboard with his teeth and knocking things onto the floor. The latter is not especially his fault, as my desk is currently so loaded with crap that I'm writing this from my kitchen table.

He knows that because I hate this behaviour, I'll leap out of bed to chastise him, at which time he can express his desire to go out by running frantically to the back door. Sometimes I get mad and simply shut him out of my room, but his trump card is to bang and scratch on my door, miaowing lustily, which is so annoying that I will usually let him out just so I can get another hour or two's sleep.

The upshot of this is that I have developed the ability to wake up instantly at the sound of rustling noises. So this morning at around 5am when I heard the sound of rustling, I figured it was Graham making his way through the drifts of plastic shopping bags that I "keep so I can use them later". I duly leapt out of bed and stood by my desk in the dark with hand outstretched, which is usually enough to entice Graham out. But no.

So I turned on the light, and I couldn't see that damned cat anywhere in my room. And as I stood there, puzzled, the rustling started up again, directly outside my window.

I knew it wasn't Graham because I always keep him inside after dark. I realised the sound was coming from the garbage bins that are kept on the verandah outside my room, and began to picture some hobo going through our rubbish.

Or – and I blame my mother for instilling this paranoia in me – an internet identity thief trying to find some old bills or other documents with which to assume my identity. Actually, I don't only blame my mother. My former co-worker Cassie actually had this happen to her. The garbage-rifler then went on to use Cassie's name to establish a bogus backpacker hostel that accepted overseas travellers' cash only to leave them homeless when they got to town. Cassie discovered this scam because she has an unusual surname, and one of the poor backpackers had looked her up on Facebook to find out what was wrong. This is the reason why I rip bills, bank statements and other documents into tiny pieces before putting them in the garbage.

Anyway. So I decided to sneak into the hallway and, in one swift movement, open the front door and turn on the verandah light, thus catching whoever this was red-handed. Click! and I was staring at an empty garbage bin with a plastic bag sitting limply on top. Could it just have been blowing in the wind?

Then I saw the cat. Crouched warily on the footpath, staring at me. It was fluffy, tabby-and-white, wore no collar, and had what I can only anthropomorphically describe as "a tough face". As the cat and I continued our Mexican standoff, I smelled chicken. I realised the cat had been foraging through a chicken carcass Paul had put in the bin earlier that night.

My housemate Paul eats a lot of roast chicken. He buys entire cooked chickens, strips the carcasses, and eats the meat. I think he just eats it by itself – it's a protein thing. He had put the latest chicken carcass straight into our outside bin, which has no lid. It must have seemed like such a jackpot to this cat.

Problem solved, back to bed, eh? Sadly, it was not to be, for as I turned off the verandah light I heard an inquisitive jingling that could only be Graham coming to check out what was going on. Thus I triggered his usual "I-wanna-go-out" behaviour an hour early, and I couldn't get back to sleep. Hopefully this is the start of a productive day.

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