Thursday, June 30, 2005

Knobbin' Dobbin

Those of you who are anything like me - and I hope for your sake that you all are - and who get a distinct swell of pride (or at least a tingling in the trousers) when contemplating the achievements of Australian Heroes will have been stunned to learn that yet another of our nation's icons stood upon a pedestal built squarely on a foundation of lies.

The publication in last weekend's Kitchener St. Moustache of extracts from the Tufnall Diaries has finally brought to light hitherto covered-up details of the sordid life and untimely death of that giant of the gee-gees, Phar Lap. Reg 'Spider' Tufnall (1911-1994), Phar Lap's trainer during the final decade of the horse's life, has revealed in his recently discovered diaries that while Phar Lap was indeed murdered in 1932, it was not by a sinister conspiracy between bookies and the owners of Equipoise, his arch-rival. Shockingly enough, it was Tufnall himself that poisoned Phar Lap's oats - not in a calculated move to end the champ's winning streak, but to finish his career as a whore-horse.

It transpires that Phar Lap, who had the heart of a nation, also had the sex drive of an hotel heiress. Tufnall had long suspected this: often, as society matrons passed by the barriers before a race, the priapic pony would get a fiery glint in it's eye, a flare in it's nostril, and an erection that was big enough, on one occasion, to seriously injure an unlucky jockey who was tightening the stirrups. The jockey in question, known ever afterwards as Bill 'One Eye' McKinty, is quoted as squeaking, "It was like being hit by a piledriver made of meat. Unstoppable."

But this was not a one-sided attraction. In the end, it was the many appreciative glances women (and indeed, sometimes men) cast at the horse's hard-ons that made Tufnall decide that there was a fast buck to be made, and Phar Lap was put out to stud in a novel and entirely disgusting way. One's natural repugnance and disbelief must take over here, so I can do no better than let Tufnall relay the matter in his own bizarre, faux-cockney manner: "Society dames? They's always bored, an' a'lookin' fer new hexperiences. I offered 'em the ride of their lives, an' once the rumour got round 'bout 'ow good 'e was, well...they was champing at the bit. They said 'e was the best ever, such a giving lover - the Errol Flynn of Flemington; the Casanova of Caufield. And the 'orse? You couldn't 'old 'im back. An' 'e never run better in 'is life."

And rumour of the long-necked Lothario's prowess spread fast. Debutantes, starlets, ingenues - all clamoured for a roll in Phar Lap's hay. The list of famous names in Tufnall's stud book is truly scandalous. An example: a much-debated passage in Eleanor Roosevelt's memoirs is now thrown into new light... "Went for another ride with PL today. A president is no competition. Must find a way to attach sugar cubes to ones bodice..."

It was Phar Lap's fame as a shagger that proved his undoing, however, as eventually Tufnall caught his wife, Edith, sampling the wares that had made him a rich man. Phar Lap's death was a crime of passion; it was an insanely jealous Tufnall, Edith's cries of pleasure still echoing in his ears, that strapped the fateful feed-bag over his equine gigolo's smug grin. Thus ended the sad and positively sickening tale of the horse and his pimp.

Disheartening as it is to discover that another of Australia's sporting legends is just another Shane Warne, the most disturbing thing about Tufnall's diary is the hints dropped in the closing passages that the practice of 'studding' is an ongoing one. Do horsey gels, their significant others either inadequate, away for long periods, or both, still queue up behind the stables for the ultimate ride? I for one hope not, but Bec Cartwright, I am looking hard in your direction.

Wednesday, June 29, 2005

Canada In Gay Sex Romp Shock

Breaking news: Canada has tonight descended into chaos after legislation was passed granting same-sex marriages equal standing with heterosexual unions.

In the past few hours, Canadian society has been rent asunder, its values cast aside in favour of sodomy, paedophilia and high camp disco tunes.

Toronto journalist Mark Neederfies, a prominent anti-gay campaigner, told Sterne that he had warned of such consequences should the legislation be passed.

"I hate to say I told you so, but hey, I did tell you so. Once the sanctity of marriage was violated, God's punishment was inevitable."

Canada is the third country to have its civilisation collapse after passing same-sex marriage laws, Belgium and the Netherlands having already descended into the foul pit of infamy and despair.

Neederfies said that the world must learn from Canada's downfall.

"The only thing gay marriages breed is instability. Legalise these freak shows and you can say goodbye to your society. That's why I'm moving to Saudi Arabia. The only fisting they go in for is the iron fist of dignity and virtue."

Team Sterne Is Go!

Blogging is not all fun and laughs. The constant pressure to produce insightful, witty posts can lead to relationship breakdowns, emotional crises and, in extreme cases, a nasty rash. In order to stave off blog-rot for at least a few weeks, I have invited a friend, Jon, to contribute. I'm sure that his posts will maintain the high standard of idiocy upon which Sterne's reputation rests.

Born in a ditch in 1979, Jon grew up being worshipped as the Chosen One until his parents' cult was shut down by the police. He went on to play a key role in the attempted assassination of Tina Arena, and was present at the infamous Royal Gala Variety Concert during which Cliff Richard threw a dead skunk at the Queen. His hobbies include poking grasshoppers up his nose, and saying the word "clock".

Tuesday, June 28, 2005

Dib Dib Dib, Hack Stab Slash

According to the SMH, "Belgium plans to stop Boy Scouts from slaughtering chickens and other small animals at summer camp, despite Scout leaders' defence of the practice as a lesson in wilderness survival."

I always assumed that causing the slow, painful death of innocent creatures was one of the main activities of Boy Scout troops. All that inane chanting and swearing of allegiance to characters from the Jungle Book would be enough to lead any healthy boy to ritual killings and woggle-abuse.*

A representative of the Belgian Boy Scouts has defended the practice: "These kids have to be taught how to kill an animal in order to feed themselves". (He might have added that it also teaches them scientific method.) Unfortunately for Akela the Impaler and his troop, the Belgian Health Ministry is adamant that the practice is not only cruel, but pointless.

Fair enough. But amid the concern over so-called "animal cruelty" and "inappropriate activities" nobody has asked the most important question - what about the badge? There must be a special chicken killing badge, awarded at the close of camp to the Scout whose hands are bloodiest with poultry gore. Now the government wants to take it away. If Belgian Scouts start hanging themselves with their little ties, I think we know who is to blame.

*Not that I would know. Instead of Boy Scouts, my chosen youth group-cum-paramilitary organisation was the dubiously named Boys Club, run out of a local Anglican church by two clean-cut young Christians who each week would lead us in prayer before spending two hours throwing tennis balls our heads. We didn't go in for animal sacrifice, although we did once have to eat a raw onion, for reasons I have thankfully now forgotten.

A Scholar and a Gentleman

Remember this? Turns out I scraped in with a Distinction. I don't know why I bother studying when even my lamest efforts are rewarded with high marks.

Sunday, June 26, 2005

Baby On Board

Big news. Lady Sterne and I are expecting a baby. That is, Lady Sterne is doing the expecting, I'm doing the sitting back with a satisfied grin contemplating my own virility. The baby is due on 24 February, which seems like a long time away, but it will no doubt fly past. It's all very exciting, and I can't help but tell everybody I speak to - and now I'm telling everybody who visits Sterne. Expect more on this as the story unfolds...

(Although I should point out that I'll still be doing all the crass, immature stuff I normally do. There will be no baby-influenced softening à la several well-known American sitcoms.)

Thursday, June 23, 2005

Bogain: The New Miracle Drug

Feeling tired and elitist? Aspiring to intellectual independence and a wardrobe sans parachute material tracksuits? Understand the word "sans"? If so, you may be suffering from the effects of deboganisation, a crisis of identity sweeping Australia and the world.

Luckily, help is at hand. Bogain*, the first clinically-approved reboganisation drug is now available, without prescription, at all good, and many bad, retail outlets. But don't take our word for it: let's hear what some of our satisfied customers have to say:

"One night me and the missus found ourselves watching that red-haired bloke on the ABC. It was very distraughtening, but the missus got us some Bogain and now we're back watching Ray every night." - Darren, Box Hill

"I didn't feel right, ya know, but it was hard to be pacific about me symptoms. Mum goes down the shops and comes back with some Bogain and it fixed me up nice like. Best thing the old slag ever did for me." - Tahnleigh, Blacktown

As a special introductory offer, each time you purchase Bogain, you'll receive a Free copy of the Herald Sun!

Buy Bogain today, and remember: If it ain't bogan, we can fix it!

*Ingredients: VB (92%), distilled outrage (3%), essence of Jimmy Barnes, radioactive dye #213.

Tuesday, June 21, 2005

"God, these metal legs are cold!"

I have hurt my back. I have essays due. I have a cold. I will not be blogging for a few days. Try not to be too upset.

Thursday, June 16, 2005

The Assassination of Richard Nixon

Stop me if you've heard this before. Lonely, socially-awkward, idealistic white male, frustrated by the corruption of politics and the general degeneration of civil society, becomes increasingly withdrawn and entertains messianic delusions which ultimately lead to an outburst of shocking violence. Niels Mueller's The Assassination of Richard Nixon is the latest attempt to weld some originality to this hackneyed frame, and, for this viewer at least, the question must be asked: why bother? Perhaps Mueller fell under the spell of some Robert McKee-esque figure, and decided to search for originality within an established genre, rather than try something new. As Adaptation's Donald Kaufman might have put it, "My genre is the righteous vigilante thriller, what's yours?"

Mueller's lonely, socially-awkward white man is Samuel Bicke (Sean Penn), an all-round dud who in 1974 attempted to hijack a passenger jet with the intention of crashing it into the White House, specifically that part of the White House containing then-President Richard Nixon. Needless to say, Bicke was as unsuccessful a hijacker as he was husband, father and furniture salesman, but in Mueller's script Bicke is not so much a failure as he is failed, by a political/corporate culture based on lies and deceit. His is a righteous, if misplaced, anger, directed against the most prominent crook of all, the President of the United States.

Of course, it takes a while for Bicke to reach this point. When we first meet him, Bicke is down on his luck, a little shy and confused, but hardly the sort to tape a bowie knife to his ankle and start talking to himself in the mirror. He is separated from his wife (Naomi Watts) and children, and there are hints at tension with his brother, but he is a sympathetic character: in Australia, he would be called a battler. Bicke's descent into madness begins when he is employed as a salesman in the office furniture business run by Jack Jones (Jack Thompson), a male so alpha that he is practically beta and gamma as well. Jones schools Bicke in the niceties of customer service (read: bullshit), pressing upon him the platitudes of Dale Carnegie as the key to success (surely enough to send anybody insane).

Jones is in many ways the film's central figure, the irresistable mass of chronic deceit towards which the poor, the weak, and the idealistic are drawn, whether they like it or not. He provides the link between the upper tier of government and the "little people" represented by Bicke. Morality, if not money, trickles down, the fibs of the great echoed by the masses of wannabe-greats. Nixon, Jones tells Bicke, is the greatest salesman in the country. Jones makes the comparison out of admiration, but all Bicke feels - towards Jones, Nixon, himself - is impotent loathing. What Nixon is selling is the American Dream, the very thing denied to Bicke because (or so he feels) he refuses to lie in order to attain it.

Mueller's argument has all the subtelty of Jack Thompson's beer gut, yet his actual point remains unclear. At one point, Bicke flips his wig and begins screaming at the televised image of Nixon, "It's all about money, Dick!" To which it seems fair to ask, what is all about money? Politics, business, society? Well, gee, I would never have thought of that. Money as the root of all evil - quite an insight! Indeed, the film's agenda appears separate to that of its protagonist, whose struggle is essentially existential, how to live truthfully in a world of compromise. It's not all about money: rather, money is symbolic of behavioural norms that Bicke finds repellent. Mueller garnishes this sub-Camusian waffle with pot-shots at the "American Dream", a concept which has had its seedy underbelly exposed so many times that doing so is about as iconoclastic as suggesting that the Pope might be a bit of a fuddy duddy when it comes to sex.

The Assassination of Richard Nixon is "inspired by a true story", but truth, which the cliche holds is stranger than fiction, is no guarantee of profundity or meaning - indeed, of truth. Perhaps inevitably, Assassination invites unfavourable comparisons with Taxi Driver, a film which manages to capture an atmosphere of utter despair, a nightmare world corrupted by its own excesses, in which there are no easy answers. Taxi Driver is so thrillingly amoral, so blatantly ambiguous, that it lodges in your brain like some ugly, lurid question, seeking an answer that doesn't exist. Mueller's film, by contrast, takes a similar story and injects it with received insights, the illusion of depth. We have, simply, seen it all before. While it is obviously not Samuel Bicke's fault that the sad final years of his life have in the past three decades become a cinematic cliche, it is certainly Niels Mueller's fault that Bicke's story is reduced to yet another suspenseless stroll through the darker reaches of the American mind. From its try-hard shock title to its affected profundity, The Assassination of Richard Nixon is nothing but a big sell.

Wednesday, June 15, 2005

If You Were A Horse

If you were a horse, my what a horse you would be! Hocks and fetlocks to take one's breath away, and cannon that just wouldn't quit. Your gaskin would be among the great wonders of the world, although I confess I am more of a pastern man myself. Out in the fields, I would stroke your flexor tendons, tickle your stifle, run my fingers lightly along your beautiful withers, slowly, one perfect vertebrae at a time. You would whinny and take some feed, and I would laugh merrily, my lips at your throat latch, my hand upon your poll. What a pair we would make, you and I, if you were a horse.

Tuesday, June 14, 2005

Ask Andrew Bolt

Advice and admonishment from the famed Herald Sun journalist, Andrew Bolt.

Dear Andrew,

I have recently started spending the night at my girlfriend's house. Everything is fine, except that she uses a different spoon every time she makes coffee. By the time she has had a couple of breakfast coffees, there are no clean teaspoons left and I am forced to use one of those little cakeforks instead, which is hardly satisfactory as most of the coffee disappears between the tines before I get it to my mug. I love my girlfriend very much, but this spoon business is getting out of hand.

Kevin

Andrew says: Kevin, your pitiful whining is typical of the modern male, brow-beaten and knob-seared by new age mother cults, demoted to second class citizens by authoritarian irrationalists with oestrogen where their brain matter ought to be. It is not your girlfriend's fault - she is merely following the precepts laid down by an elite so besotted with feminist dogma that the mere mention of a penis has them scrambling for a rubber band and a pair of scissors. Furthermore, who are you to say how many spoons she may use? She is an individual, and the spoons are her property. Yours is the sheep-like collective mentality, the kind of "this spoon is your spoon, this spoon is my spoon" mentality that led to millions of deaths in the Soviet Union. Be a man, Kevin. Buy your own damn spoons.

Dear Andrew,

I am the mother of two boys, aged four and six. My husband and I are concerned about the pernicious effect of popular culture, particularly television and so-called "pop" music, on a child's development. However, we are inexperienced with such matters, being blind and deaf (disabilities thankfully not shared by our children). Do you have any advice for us about what, if anything, is appropriate material for young people?

Angela

Andrew says: I am asked this a lot, Angela, but I never tire of answering, for I believe the children are our future, unlike so many on the left who can't help but salivate like so many rabid dogs at the thought of corrupting the natural purity and innocence of the young.

The simple fact is that since 1968, popular culture as entertainment, as culture, has been dormant, perhaps dead. What we have thrust upon us today is the pornographic conclusion to forty years of cultural debasement by an elite which views morality with disdain. The moral marrow has been sucked from our culture and replaced by a rich seem of depravity and squalor. Turn on your radio and you will hear nothing but "rap" music, tone-deaf black men mumbling about "bitches", "hoes", and "motherf**ckers". Satanic worship is common at many nightclubs and music venues, "artists" flouting civilised society's conventions with abandon. My advice is to avoid music altogether if you can.

As for television. above all avoid the ABC, whose touchy-feely left-wing agenda is as blatant in its children's programmes as in its news and current affairs. It is not uncommon to see an Aboriginal woman co-hosting Playschool with a white man, as if this twisted worldview represents reality in any way. I mean, Aboriginals do not represent 50% of Australia's population, so why on earth does Playschool persist in implying that they do? The show has also featured a lesbian family attempting to pass itself off as "normal" - once again, the "morality" of the elite is shoved down the throat of the civilised majority. I don't want lesbians shoved down my throat, Angela, and I am sure you share this sentiment, as you did mention you have a husband. Also, Playschool and many other ABC children's programmes carry subversive messages about "sharing" and "caring for others", which is the kind of mentality that led to millions of deaths in the Soviet Union. So it might be best to keep your boys away from television, too.

Monday, June 13, 2005

QEII: The Rock Opera

In honour of Her Maj's birthday, I am proud to present QEII: The Rock Opera. In other words, here's a bunch of songs which have the word "queen" in their title or which in some tangential way refer to QEII, her reign, and her potential fate. Trust me, it all makes sense if you listen to the songs in order. Sort of. Anyway, happy birthday, yer old bat!

Planet Queen - T. Rex

Buckingham Green - Ween

Casino Queen - Wilco

The Queen and I - K.L.F.

The Kids Are Insane - Urge Overkill

Not Everyone's As Rich As Your Parents - Doctor Nerve

The Man Who Would Be King - The Libertines

The Queen Is Dead (Take Me Back To Old Blighty)
- The Smiths

Skull of a German - The Jesus Lizard

UPDATE: I just tried explaining the "plot" of my little rock opera to Lady Sterne. I suspect she will now call the asylum. Well, it was only a matter of time.

Thursday, June 09, 2005

Born Again

For many months I have felt a need growing deep within me, a spiritual need that could not be fulfilled by fantasising about Livinia Nixon or listening to music or reading The Super League of Upstanding Citizens (formerly the Herald Sun). Living the life of a vaguely hedonistic atheist was getting me down. To whom could I turn to when things got tough? Voltaire, David Hume, Richard Dawkins? No - their sort can provide little consolation to a soul trapped in a purgatory of doubt. Then last night, in a dream, a figure appeared, beckoning me towards a great orb of pure light suspended in an infinite darkness. I moved towards it, feeling my every nerve caressed by a gentle, yet firm, sensation of love, and when I woke I found myself infused with the spirit of the Lord.

Yes, dear reader, I have been born again, this time proceding not from a maternal orifice, but from a benevolent God's love. I trail behind me not a placenta, but the love of Christ, our Saviour. The angelic midwives of heaven have wiped my fluid-slickened soul down, bathed me in a pink plastic tub of Jesus' blood, wrapped me in a warm Holy Spirit, and presented me to my new, loving Father as his everlasting servant. And I feel peace, glorious peace, settle upon my being.

So - on with the renouncing! I hereby renounce all desires of the flesh, especially ones that involve spatulas. I renounce alcohol, and all stimulants, including tobacco, marijuana, crack-cocaine, and Lindt chocolate balls. I renounce non-devotional music, particularly rock and/or roll, and jazz, the music of the heathen black. I renounce coffee and tea, and biscuits shaped like teddy bears. I renounce literature, save that approved by the Church of Moneybag Saints, Box Hill Chapter.

Now for some denouncing. I denounce homosexuals and all who dwell within them. I denounce secular humanism and all other left-wing materialist ideologies. I denounce Voltaire, David Hume and Richard Dawkins. I denounce all other religions, sects, cults, secular societies, and fan clubs, especially those associated with Big Brother, which I also denounce. I denounce all humanity who fail to enter the one true Church, who abjure salvation in favour of a life of sin. When you end up in Hell, I will be sure to send you a telegram from Heaven denouncing you.

I both renounce and denounce blogging in all its forms, particularly the kind of undergraduate rubbish I have been turning out here for the past six months. From this day forth I devote myself to spreading the Word of God. I hope you will join me.

Tomorrow: Denouncing and Renouncing: A Practical Guide
Saturday: What's Up With Other Faiths? They're Going To Hell, That's What
Sunday: Day of Rest

Tuesday, June 07, 2005

Portrait of a Book Shop II

I enjoy looking at and buying books almost as much as I enjoy reading them. Indeed, one of my initial aims when I began this blog was to post regularly about the book shops I visited, providing a Choice magazine-esque discussion of their pros and cons for the edification of my more bibliomanic readers. Of course, I did it once, and promptly forgot about it, but I am resurrecting the concept, because today I find myself basking in the afterglow of a particularly satisfying book shop experience.

If that last sentence reeked of geekiness, hold your nose - it gets worse. For some years I have been troubled by persistent dreams in which my local second hand book store, McLeod's, was transformed from a dingy, stagnant repository for books nobody wants into a vibrant (but still dingy) utopia, bursting at the seams with interesting books. In these nocturnal fantasies, I would make my way from the ground floor (positively dripping with reasonably-priced paperback classics and curious collectables) up a flight of stairs creaking under the weight of stalagmite formations of ephemera, to a top floor where teetering piles of books competed with their shelved brethren for my awed attention. I would stand, gazing upon this mass of - yes, I will say it - civilisation, noble and enticing beneath its healthy sheen of dust. I would exalt in the presence of so many books, wonderfully, chaotically ranged hither and thither, and all potentially mine, all mine...

Sadly, McLeod's resemblence to the book store of my dreams begins and ends with having a creaky staircase. As I am apparently fated to grow old and die in Box Hill, this has always struck me as rather unfortunate. A lifetime frequenting McLeod's is not a prospect to relish, as McLeod himself would no doubt agree, if he could be drawn from his torpor long enough to be questioned on the subject. McLeod's is like a lover taken on grounds of availability rather than desire - it satisfies your essential needs, but can do nothing for your deeper cravings. Short of moving, there seemed to be little hope of ever living near a decent book shop.

Little did I realise that satisfaction was closer than I imagined. Passing through Balwyn yesterday, I stopped in at a book shop I had eyed cautiously for some time, but avoided because I assumed that it would reflect its location and be nothing more than a quaint little hovel stocked with overpriced bollocks for aspiring upper crust matrons to browse amongst while waiting to pick up the kids from Camberwell Grammar. Such are the follies of prejudice! Once inside, I realised what a fool I had been. In addition to being brilliantly named, The Merchant of Fairness corresponds to a freakish degree with my dream book shop. It is two floors of tightly-packed wonder, cramped and dusty, but surprisingly well organised and browseable. There are books everywhere - you would be lucky to fit twenty people in the place at once, such is the prevalence of print. Yes, there are even books stacked on the staircase. The Merchant, it turns out, is my idea of heaven.

What is more, the Merchant is indeed fair. Book prices are very reasonable (most books I looked at were between three and fifteen dollars) and all books are in good condition. The staff are friendly, going so far as to ask me if I required assistance. I got the impression they actually care about providing a service, which will surely result in them being thrown out of the second hand booksellers' league. All of this is by way of saying, I love the Merchant of Fairness, and you will too. Perhaps you won't love it with such disturbing ardour as me, but that's beside the point. Shop smart, shop S-Mart. And by S-Mart, I mean the Merchant of Fairness.

Sunday, June 05, 2005

Benefit Concert Fails To Benefit Concert-Goers

Rock Relief 2005, a benefit concert staged yesterday to raise funds for the fight against gillettefuhrerphobia was, according to many who attended, something of a failure as a concert, despite its noble intentions.

"I was all geared up for a day of public-spirited rocking out," Marcia Parsnip of Ellwood told Sterne. "But the line-up was lacklustre, to say the least."

In a statement released this morning, Jason Partridge, the event's promoter, defended his selection of acts.

"Every effort was made to secure the best possible line-up. If Les Gock, a John Butler impersonator - with authentic dreadlocks and hippy stench - and the guitarist from Skyhooks who wasn't Red Symonds can't move an audience, that's clearly the fault of the audience. I applaud these artists for taking time out from their busy schedule to support this worthy cause."

Gillettefuhrerphobia afflicts an estimated .005% of Australians, causing an irrational and debilitating fear of people wearing Hitler moustaches made out of shaving cream. It is the ten thousandth most common cause of death, and is particularly prevalent amongst women aged 102 to 103.

Yet despite contribution at least $50 towards research into the disorder, many concert-goers remained unsatisfied.

"For the first half hour or so I felt a kind of altruistic buzz, knowing that just by attending I was helping people suffering from whatever that stupid condition is," one man said. "But I was disappointed by the music on offer. By the time they got to the big finale, I was in need of a benefit concert myself."

"Do They Know It's Just Shaving Cream?", a single recorded by many of the acts involved in Rock Relief 2005, will be available in record store bargain bins from Monday.

Friday, June 03, 2005

A Kick In The Balzac

Blessed, I am. Smart, good in bed, modest - who wouldn't want to be me? I wouldn't not want to want that. Would you? Best of all, I've always been good at exams. Where others freeze up and stare at the wall for two hours before shoving a pencil up each nostril and slamming their face onto the desk, a rich ink of blood and brain inscribing a tale of fear and woe across the virgin answer sheet, I am relaxed, working my way through the paper with a poise that others find admirable, if not actually erotic. Yes, I've always been a bit of a one for exams. Always, that is, until today.

Today I fucked up. Big time.

19th century French realism. Three hour exam. Read all the materials, done all the work, got some decent marks - no problem. Once the exam begins, however, my brain dies. Whatever I know about Balzac and the gang has seeped out through my skull while I slept. I fumble at the pages of Old Goriot (it is an open-book exam), searching for a hand-hold, something - anything - that I can grab onto and get the essay rolling.

Twenty minutes later, I am conversant with the spidery biro lines on my desk and the cracks on the wall in front of me, but in no better position exam-wise.

Finally I manage to hack through some, but not all, of the layers of fortified stupidity that are encasing my brain and actually get some words on the page. They are not, unfortunately, particularly good words. In the past few months I've read Old Goriot twice from cover to cover, plus several supplementary readings of key sections, yet I'm writing about it as though I'd never even heard of it before I started the exam.

Two hours in, I've exhausted my surprisingly meagre knowledge of the book, and I am just gagging to get out of there and shoot myself. I quickly read through the paper, but I am loathe to actually revise anything for fear of making it worse. I get up and hand the thing in. As I walk out into the entirely inappropriate sunshine (birds singing, cats licking themselves - bastards!), there is a feeling in my gut akin to the after-effects of being kicked by an elephant.

Ok, it might not be as bad as I think - there's a strong possibility that it is actually worse than that. I don't even know if I made the pass criteria. Worse than that, however, is the odd sensation of failing myself, of having frozen at a crucial moment, and in a situation where I normally feel at ease. What, as they say, is with that?

(Please excuse the introspection. The usual wackiness will resume shortly.)

Wednesday, June 01, 2005

Out To Lunch

Sterne will be on hiatus for a few days while I wrestle with uni work. See you soon.