Wednesday, September 27, 2006

What I'm Not Reading

It's amazing how much reading I am not getting done at the moment. Almost every day I'm not reading some book or other; some days, I don't read two or three. Books continue to accumulate, but now I've cut out reading, that time-consuming middle man, they just go straight onto the shelves. How's that for efficient? Among the books I haven't read lately are:

The Broom of the System, David Foster Wallace. I bought this for fifty cents from the library. When I asked the librarian why they were getting rid of it, he said it was because it hadn't been borrowed for ages. I told him that this was untrue as I myself had borrowed it not six months ago. The librarian shrugged and looked over his special librarian glasses at me - and apparently that had to suffice for an answer, because he then became mute and withdrawn. Anyway, now the book is sitting on my shelves, not being read, and the patrons of Whitehorse Manningham Library will have to find their own copy not to read.

Original Bliss, A.L. Kennedy. Another book deemed unworthy by the library that I have rescued from not being read by other people so that it can not be read by me.

The Reader, Bernard Schlink. I borrowed this because Inga Clendinnen writes about it in her new collection of essays, Agamemnon's Kiss, which is a book that I am reading so I hesitate to mention it here. However, not only am I not reading The Reader, I am also not reading Clendinnen's essay on The Reader because I don't want to spoil the book, assuming that I actually get around to reading it sometime. For now, though, I remain a non-reader of The Reader and a non-reader of Clendinnen's reading of The Reader.

Sixty Stories, Donald Barthelme. I can't tell you how many happy hours I have spent not reading this book. Certainly the bits I have read of it have been pretty good, but this kind of book really comes into its own just sitting there collecting dust. Given my equivocal attitude towards short stories, it was perhaps ambitious of me to purchase a book featuring no less than sixty of them. The good thing is that most of the stories are only a few pages long, so it is quite possible to go for months without reading Sixty Stories, pick it up and read it for ten minutes, then go back to not reading it. Once I've finished not reading Sixty Stories I may pick up the companion volume, Forty Stories, and not read it too.

How to Read and Why, Harold Bloom. I'm not reading the absolute shit out of this one, although a cursory glance at its contents indicates that it has plenty of that substance to spare. Seriously considering writing - or possibly not writing - a book titled How Not to Read "How to Read and Why" and Why.

Cross-posted at Sars.

Tuesday, September 26, 2006

Wacky VTACy

Just submitted my Dip. Ed. application to VTAC and I can report that the process, while swifter thanks to the internet, is still as confusing and nerve-wracking as it was a decade ago when I first applied for uni. In common with tax forms there is something about the way VTAC application instructions are written (clauses within clauses, feints within feints) that makes my brain stall. The constant peremptory pop-ups don't help, either. Clearly I ought to have foregone the study of literature, history and philosophy and instead taken a degree in Advanced Form Filling-Out, although that probably would have required me to fill out extra forms.

Anyway, it's done now, fired off into the ether, leaving me to worry whether some piddling mistake or other - failing to tick a box, say, or provide my correct shoe size - might disqualify me. In addition to being frazzled, I'm also a bit annoyed that I had to pay a $33 fee when current Year 12 students get their applications processed for the bargain rate of $24. What possible justification is there for this discrepancy? Yet another reason to dislike teenagers and thank god I'll be teaching primary school. That's if I get an offer.

Saturday, September 23, 2006

Weekend Reading

More links in lieu of actual content...
  • J.G. Ballard on Kingdom Come: "I do tend to moralise. I regret it. It turns you into a kind of salesman. I'm selling this season's hot new line: Psychopathology!"
  • Only days after reading Nicholson Baker's Room Temperature I happened upon this excellent post which is particularly fine on Baker's prose style: "His prose is braided with digression, refusing not to honor a line of thought, unafraid of the flashy neologism or sending the reader straight to the dictionary."
  • I have started keeping an eye on Australian Idol just so I'll be able to enjoy PetStarr's round-ups.
  • Galaxy watches Jamie's Kitchen and Jericho, two of this week's big tv premieres. I was going to write something about these shows, Jericho in particular, but I'm yet to recover from my shock at learning that Skeet Ulrich is not only still alive, but gainfully employed.

Friday, September 22, 2006

Sitcom Dad Looking Forward To Kids' Future Antics

Steve Hart, patriarch of hit US sitcom Where the Hart Is, says he often lies awake at night wondering what wacky antics his kids will get up to next.

"It seems like every week they're getting themselves into strife," Hart says. "Like the time Glenda and I were out of town and TJ and Lucy threw a party that got out of hand - I think we all learned a valuable lesson that day. Then there was the time little Jimmy was getting bullied at school - by a girl! And the twins, well, who knows what kind of identity-swapping imbroglios they'll cook up next, especially once they're replaced next season by more attractive actresses."

According to Hart, the hilarity provided by TJ's ill-fated crush on an older woman helped the family regroup after the recent special double episode in which Hart's father paid the family a visit, reopening old wounds.

"That was a tough hour, minus commercials, but I'm glad that Dad and I managed to work through our problems in a frank and amusing manner so that he could be killed off with his dignity intact. Now if we can just get rid of Maxwell, our zany next-door-neighbour, it'll be pay rises all round!"

Hart says that this year is shaping up to be his family's best yet.

"TJ is a senior now, so I envisage a lot of bittersweet dating comedy, while Lucy's shyness will doubtless conflict with her emerging adolescence, creating ample opportunities for "hart-to-hart" chats with Glenda. As for myself, well, I think this just might be the year that Maxwell and I find ourselves trapped in a basement or elevator where our much-vaunted mutual loathing will melt into something approaching friendship, only to revert to loathing again the following week.

"Frankly, I'm so excited about what's in store for the Hart family this season. There is so much going on we might not even be able to fit in a clip show."

Tuesday, September 19, 2006

Report: Teagan Doesn't Suck Nearly As Hard As Graffito Suggests

A report commissioned by the newly-convened Senate Inquiry into Truth in Graffiti and Stencil Art has dismissed claims made by an unnamed graffiti artist that Surrey Hills teenager Teagan Fitzgerald, 17, "sux hard".

Inquiry chairperson Senator Reg Fishlop told Sterne that although the precise quantity and quality of Fitzgerald's sucking remains uncertain, "the report found that she does not suck 'hard', or at least not on a regular enough basis to uphold the claim made by the graffito in question."

The report's authors also criticised several other graffito, including "Rob bites it", "Kempson is a badass!!" and "Mrs Harrison eats minge".

"Clearly there is amongst the graffiti set a penchant for wild speculation, not to say exaggeration," Senator Fishlop said, "but that doesn't mean anything goes. If you are going to claim that Mrs Harrison eats minge, then you had better hope that Mrs Harrison does indeed eat minge - and regularly - or else you will be brought to account, and potentially have your Posca privileges revoked."

On a more positive note, the report did ratify claims that "Boyd luvs Tania", "Mr Young is a bakery boy", and "Phil S takes it up the arse", although Senator Fishlop pointed out that in the latter case the accompanying figural mural lacked anatomical veracity.

Friday, September 15, 2006

Boy Saved From Fate Worse Than Death

Relieved Papuan authorities revealed earlier today that a child belonging to a local mountain tribe had been rescued from an end almost too horrible to contemplate, and would not be forced to suffer under the righteous ministrations of irreproachable journalist and recent winner of Best In Show, Naomi Robson. Instead, young Wa Wa was protected from the rabid news hound - and, indeed, several years of playground harassment over his unfortunate name - by benevolent tribal elders, who effected the lad's rescue by means of eating him.

"We had a tip-off from airport officials that the Today Tonight team had touched down," chieftan Tok 'Gary' Ongtong admitted to Sterne, when we sought him out. "They couldn't help but notice the entourage, what with all the cameras, microphones and big suitcases full of Naomi's trademark diamante muzzles. Naturally, we were desperately afraid for the poor boy. No-one should be subject to the sort of self-serving, biased and deeply condescending media 'scrutiny' that Ms. Robson regularly dishes out, especially not a child. How could we allow one of our own to be exploited in the name of cheap, yellow-press journalism, merely to make up for everyone laughing at her Steve Irwin outfit with matching lizard? We had to hide Wa Wa, no doubt about it. And our stomachs seemed the safest place."

When asked if this was perhaps too rash a means of safeguarding the child, Ongtong replied, "Not at all. My cousin 'Smithy' Jakyang has a degree in child psychology as well as witch doctoring, and he said that exposure to tabloid media this early in life could only result in permanent mental scarring for the boy, and patronising editorials for the rest of us in the Herald Sun. And Wa Wa seemed happy enough about it - he was smiling as we lowered him into the cooking pot. Or at least I think he was. The apple in his mouth made it sort of hard to tell."

Inspired by the compassion and creativity of our tribal neighbours Sterne has decided to offer our services to shady businessmen, corrupt officials and dole cheats across Australia: should Today Tonight, A Current Affair or any similar piece of glorified infotainment intrude into your tin sheds and dingy backroom offices, we will happily prevent the exposure of your shonky dealings by devouring you. Serving suggestions will be welcomed.

Tuesday, September 12, 2006

No Disassemble Stephanie!

Those who are not hip to the groove or whatever it is currently hip to be hip to may not realise it, but Neighbours' Steph McIntosh is so hot right now that newspaper and magazine editors have been warned that "hot and not" features pointing out Steph's manifest hotness may constitute a fire hazard. For those who don't know - for shame! - Steph plays Ramsay Street's resident "alternative" chick, Skye Mangel, daughter of Joe Mangel, grand-daughter of Harold Bishop, and recipient of Scott "Stingray" Timmins's hyperactive sperm. (With a pedigree like that, one assumes the child will be chained up in Toady's basement, there to feast upon the mutilated corpses of all those characters who have "gone to live in Queensland", as the euphemism has it.) Skye is into underground comic books, feminism, indie music, chaste lesbian affairs, foreign cinema - her frequent references to the likes of Kurosawa and Miyazaki provoke much "kids these days!" wobbling from Harold - painting, culture jamming, and copulating with bogans. Unfortunately, the latter is the only characteristic Steph shares with her onscreen alger-ego; otherwise, she's as vacuous a piece of white bread as ever gazed meaningfully across that famous cul-de-sac.

This year, in an unprecedented move for a Neighbours starlet, Steph has launched a singing career. Her debut album, released last week, is called Tightrope, but don't let that intimation of edginess fool you - the only tightrope Steph's walking is that suspended between credibility and her record company, and the credibility end fatally frayed long ago. Steph's line is bland dance-pop with the occasional bland dance-rock chorus for variety, but that's nothing good marketing can't overcome, and Steph is the subject of some very good marketing indeed.

Of particular interest is The Steph Show which is a show about, of all things, Steph. The Steph Show is an intimate, honest and completely orchestrated look at Steph's "journey" from soap star to pop star. One hopes that having documented Steph's brief moment in the spotlight the show will continue to follow her inevitable post-fame journey through the underworld of celebrity reality shows, softcore porn shoots, a failed comeback single, appearances in cheap horror films and, finally, back to Ramsay Street, career trailing between her legs. For now, though, the focus is on Steph's initial encounter with the music industry, and it makes for fascinating viewing.

Of course, when I say "fascinating" I mean "shit". Steph comes across as incredibly self-absorbed, quite an achievement given there doesn't appear to be much of a self in which to be absorbed. She is merely a blonde with a public profile and delusions of talent being run through a particularly well-greased sausage machine. Steph clearly relishes the role she finds herself in, her every movement and utterance pitched to convey a mixture of girl-next-door normality and self-conscious elevation. By far the show's most cringe-worthy - and therefore best - moments come when Steph is asked for input into some issue or other. For example, there was the recent discussion between Steph, manager Glenn Wheatley, and a record company executive about the possibility of including a secret track on Tightrope. I paraphrase:

Steph: I just don't see why the secret track has to go at the end of the album.

Wheatley and exec stare blankly into the middle distance.

Wheatley (hesitating, possibly recalling a similarly fraught conversation circa 1993 regarding John Farnham's mullet): Um, well you can't really have a secret track anywhere else. Where else could it go?

Steph: Why can't it go in the middle? I mean, if it's at the end nobody will know it's there.

Exec: That's the idea.

Steph: If it's in the middle, people will hear it.

Exec: But the whole point is that it's a secret.

Wheatley: Yeah, it's a secret track. It's a surprise.

Steph: But who will listen to, you know, the end of the last song and listen to, like, the silence and then get to hear the secret track?

Wheatley: The idea is that it's a nice bonus, you know, you might listen to the CD hundreds of times, then one day you leave it running at the end and you get a surprise because there's an extra song there.

Steph: I still think it should go in the middle. Why not after track five?

Wheatley and exec exchange weary look. Steph furrows brow, bites lip.

Oh well, if Steph's recording and acting careers falter at least she'll have her intellect to fall back on.

Saturday, September 09, 2006

Weekend Reading

  • Stephen Mitchelmore continues his investigation into "the despair of popular authors".
  • LitKick's Levi Asher gives a track-by-track account of "the greatest hiphop album of all time", EPMD's Strictly Business. It really is that good.
  • Ben canes the Patrick White Reader's Group's novel of choice, The Vivesector: "...I keep waiting for the first sign that the book is about to truly begin, and rise to challenge a single received idea it has indolently offered us."
  • Meet the World's Greatest Penile Artist. Unfortunately, "Mr Pricasso is good for novelty value only".
  • Claire Messud vs. Henry James: "Messud processes everything in a dull journalistic manner; James doesn't. One is a dreary well-connected hack writer; the other is a novelist."
  • If you are interested in J.G. Ballard or Iain Sinclair - or, like me, interested in both writers - Ballardian's interview with Sinclair is a must.

Tuesday, September 05, 2006

Monday, September 04, 2006

To Osama, With Love

Dear Mr Bin Laden,

Or can I call you Osama? Or Big O? I've seen you on the TV so often these past five years or so that it almost seems you're one of the family (and certainly a more acceptable member than Grandpa, who keeps touching himself in places whenever the Meals-On-Wheels lady comes round).

I thought I ought to take a moment to bash out a quick note for you: now that the government's gone and decided that your alleged chum/sinister minion Jack Thomas not be allowed to write you a letter in case he lets on that Phil Ruddock is a bit of a charmless knob, I figured I'd best exercise my rights and seize this opportunity before it's illegal for the rest of us to mail our thoughts, too. What is this world coming to when it's unlawful for a boy to chat with the leader of a feared terrorist organisation? But oh gosh... I've never written a letter to a celebrity before, and it's so hard to know where to begin!

I realise that you’re pretty busy these days, what with being more evil than Skeletor and making sure the lads keep the cave spick and span, but these are uncertain times, and with the world going in fear of sudden fiery death hidden under every hijab and beneath every burqa, there are issues questions that need to be addressed, and to hell with propriety.

For example: how do you manage to get your beard so luxuriant? I mean seriously, I tried to grow me some facial hair recently, and finished up looking like I’d sticky-taped penicillin to my face. But here’s you, managing to keep your whiskers thick and shiny, despite all the dust and muck you must pick up in spider holes. Do you use some kind of wax? Any tips on the matter would be most appreciated. If the whole super-villain thing doesn’t work out, you should totally sell your own hair care range.

Secondly, since public interest is beginning to wane, and you’re currently considered slightly more popular than smokers and childhood obesity, it might be time to think about a quick PR boost. C’mon dude, you’re falling behind! Might I humbly suggest you announce a brief jihad against Millicent Paige down the road – her dogs keep barking at all hours, and I’m sure she’s breaking at least three of Allah’s laws by walking to the mailbox in grubby a pink dressing gown each morning. She often sneers and calls me a fancy boy as I go past; it is most vexing. Please help solve my problem with violence.

Also, I think maybe it is time to lighten up a bit on the whole women’s rights issue. I know you’re a radical Islamist, possibly even a bodacious one, but it might be pertinent to move with the times on this. Why not let women have a little bit of schoolin’? I know, I know, the poor dears’ brains tend to overheat when you try teaching them how to read – not that there’s much more than compressed air in their pretty heads, anyway – but if you at least pretend that they’ve achieved equality, they tend to be much happier about being oppressed. I started telling my girlfriend that she’s my social and intellectual equal before sending her off to do the dishes, and now she performs her chores so much better, and with a happy smile on her face, bless her little heart.

Anyway, listen to me rattle on! I have kept you long enough, and will let you get back to plotting against the great Satan and other general arseholery. The weather here continues fine, and I remain in good health, so if it’s not too much trouble, please refrain from attempts to alter this. Cheerio!

Jihad Jon.