Wednesday, August 30, 2006

iQuit

I am having a mid-Booker longlist crisis. Symptoms include: not wanting to read any more fucking Booker novels. Sure there are some good books on the list, Mother’s Milk for instance. Looking at the remaining novels, however, I am filled with a nameless despair. Is it really worth reading all that just so’s I’ve got something to dribble on about here? Probably not, no. Especially when I could be reading stuff I actually want to read. As Amazing Race host and inspiration guru Phil Keoghan says, “I like chocolate pudding”. He probably also says stuff about life being too short and that.

So I resign from Bookerblog 2006 effective from the end of this post. The two nominees I have read but not reviewed can be summarised as follows: Carry Me Down by M.J. Hyland is a well-written, slow-burning tale of incipient juvenile madness that I found convincing, bleak, and ultimately well worth reading. Not the kind of thing I’d normally pick up, but I don’t regret the time I spent with it. Beth has a more detailed review. Seven Lies by James Lasdun represents the dark side of the Booker. This Cold War thriller sans thrills is not as bad as Get a Life - little is – but it is nevertheless bland, unimaginative and completely in love with its own faux-profundity. Also, the narrative voice is poorly rendered. The narrator is supposed to be a German émigré living in New York but he sounds more like a middle-aged English-American creative writing teacher. What’s that, James Lasdun is a middle-aged English-American creative writing teacher? What a coincidence!

Enough. Let us never speak of the Booker again.

Tuesday, August 29, 2006

Six Degrees of Nazification

Scientists including Einstein* have long argued that any person can be connected to Nazism via a chain of no more than five intermediary acquaintances or beliefs. This so-called “Six Degrees of Nazification” is not a new concept: the term was first used in 1906 by Swiss spocktologist Pierre Swille, but it was not until the advent of the Nazi Party in 1920 that it made any sense. Since then, the concept has been used primarily as a parlour game, as well as forming the basis of a short-lived 1986 gameshow hosted by Maurie Fields.

“Six Degrees of Nazification” is in fact a misnomer. As Tagenflagenbelde notes in his 1957 book Schlechter Deutscher Für Schlechte Deutsche the “six” is redundant as by virtue of its Nazi status the last or “goal” degree would on principle have driven the other four degrees into the woods and machine gunned them prior to the connection being made. Thus a typical example of the six degrees takes the form of a simple syllogism of the kind beloved of people with glasses named Aubrey:

Paul McCartney is a vegetarian
Top Nazi Adolf Hitler was a vegetarian
Paul McCartney is a Nazi

John Travolta is a pilot
Top Nazi Hermann Goering was a pilot
John Travolta is a Nazi

This simplified version of the formula is highly popular amongst those wishing to smear their political opponents:

Senator Bob Brown wears suits
Top Nazi Josef Goebbels wore suits
Senator Bob Brown is a Nazi

Schmitt, in his 1975 paper “Aber beklecker nicht das Sofa, Sofa” refutes the validity of this stripped-back formula, although the Japanese translation is said to arrive at the opposite conclusion by way of several highly dubious recipes for home-made old people’s food. McRammstein takes issue with Schmitt in his 1981 paper “Ich bin freddy Quecksilber”, but we all know McRammstein fiddles with pigeons so his views can be disregarded.

In short, Six Degrees of Nazification is something that exists and you should probably know about it. Apparently there is a film in the works starring Will Smith. Whether he will play the Six Degrees or the Nazification is unknown, but we can confirm that Donald Sutherland has signed to play Anne Frank.

Finally, we turn to Wikipedia to completely contradict everything said thus far:
Six Degrees of Nazification is a board game from Frown & Andrews. Players must move counter-clockwise while manipulating a special orb (Hitler's "ball") upon which images of Walt Disney films are projected, interspersed with random gore from Rob Zombie's remake of His Girl Friday. The first player to eat another player's big toe wins.
* Gerald Einstein, V.C.E., Warrnambool

Sunday, August 27, 2006

Booker Review: Mother’s Milk, Edward St. Aubyn

Nothing makes writing more fun than the imposition of strict rules governing form and content, so before I started blogging this year’s Booker longlist I decided to formulate some guidelines. I was initially tempted to introduce Oulipo-esque restrictions (eg. reviews comprised entirely of four letter words that, when read sequentially, would solve Bezzel’s eight queens chess problem and give the value of pi to a thousand decimal places), but recalling my unsuccessful foray into abecedary fiction (sample: “A brougham came down every fortnight to…goddamn it!”) I decided against such contrivances. Instead I settled upon the simple methodological rule that I would review each novel within twenty-four hours of reading it and/or throwing it across the room in disgust. This, I felt, would create a sense of immediacy in keeping with the I’m a dog I’m a dog this is my number…Oops, sorry, listening to the new Thom Yorke album as I write. Anyway, the plan was to read ‘em and review ‘em, but there was a problem: I’d read Edward St. Aubyn’s Mother’s Milk well before the longlist announcement and so by the time I found out it was on the list I’d forgotten pretty much everything about it, and of course I hadn’t taken any notes, and I didn’t really want to read it again so soon, even though I greatly enjoyed it, so when I finally got around to reviewing it I thought why not just write a long, rambling introductory paragraph and hope that readers, if any, will give up and not read the remainder of the review, which will of necessity be “phoned in”, as it were, did I fall or was I pushed and where’s the blood and where’s the blood. Sorry – Thom again.

Anyway: Mother’s Milk. I ought to point out that the novel is not in any way related to the 1989 Red Hot Chili Peppers album of the same name. Just in case you were wondering. Incidentally, what’s going on with that band? They were like the coolest band in the world for about six months in 1991, then they dropped off the planet for a while only to resurface as the 21st century’s answer to The Eagles. On Mother’s Milk, though, they were still doing that funk/rock thing that they did so well, although by that point their sound was more rock than funk. There’s a few dud tracks, but the cover of “Higher Ground” still sounds great and “Magic Johnson” remains the best song ever written about a commercially available marital aid.

Turning once again to the matter at hand, Mother’s Milk (the novel) is a stand-alone sequel to St. Aubyn’s Some Hope: A Trilogy about which I know nothing other than that it is the stand-alone prequel to St. Aubyn’s Mother’s Milk. Is this the first time a sequel has been nominated for the Booker? Probably. I don’t see that it should matter. After all, The Godfather Part II won the Oscar for Best Picture and is, some say, a better film than the original. I disagree – comparing the two is like comparing apples and some other kind of apples. Same thing with Alien and Aliens. Two completely different films, each complementing the other, that can be enjoyed in isolation or in tandem. Why this manufactured conflict between originals and their sequels? Why must Police Academys two through seven have to constantly bear comparison with their predecessor? I can tell you from bitter experience that it hurts to have an older sibling’s achievements continually rubbed in your face. But I got my revenge. They’ll never guess who laced big bro Kevin’s Milo with snail pellets, especially since Kevin, the only one who might have suspected, was reduced to a foam-spewing mess immediately upon ingesting the deadly concoction. What’s that, Kev? Something about me poisoning you? Couldn’t hear you through the bubbles, mate. Can I get you a bib?

Getting back to Mother’s Milk, I note that it is that rarest of birds, a funny Booker nominee. My memory is not what it used to be – ten straight years as a Guess Who? Grandmaster has its price – but I don’t recall a single amusing moment from last year’s longlist. Lit fiction of the Booker variety doesn’t do humour, does it? I suppose Rushdie can be funny in a way, and doubtless there are other exceptions to the rule, but in general humour is anathema to Booker. I mean, Tom Sharpe’s never been nominated, has he? I’m not being facetious – I’ve read Wilt at least six times but I’ve never even heard of 1976 Booker winner David Storey. Not that Mother’s Milk is broad like Wilt, it’s more Wauvian, Evelyn not Steve. That equals good in my book.

Well, I obviously have nothing much to say about Mother’s Milk. In the time it’s taken me to write this “review” I could have looked through the book, noted some salient features, and written a proper review. As my Uncle David used to say, hindsight is a wonderful thing, as is the sight of certain hinds. He was a filthy bastard, and I'm glad they locked him up.

Friday, August 25, 2006

Why Are They Now (So Ugly)?

It’s not often that I feel sympathy for others, and when so rare an event occurs, I feel moved to record it. Not that I’m stirred to compassion by the truly needy, mind you – the truly needy make me physically ill. Would the starvelings of Africa kindly shut up? Take your fly-blown faces and distended bellies elsewhere, please. So your village is poor and malnourishment and dysentery are causing you to shit yourself to death, but quite frankly that's just shitting me to tears: be off with you. No, the sob story that has plucked my heartstrings and piqued my curiosity today is the plight of former child stars.

But surely I haven’t been moved to pity by a bunch of mere has-beens, have I? Well, no. That former child stars may currently be suffering because they’re out of work, have been tossed aside for a newer model by an industry renowned for its callousness and an audience notorious for its short attention span; that they are are having trouble coping with the psychological ramifications of their earnings, not to mention childhoods, being stolen by exploitative parents…that interests me not one whit. Stiff bloody biscuits, hacks. The possibility of obsolescence is something all actors have to deal with. Given that the roles they played were predicated on their youth, this facet of their problems is simply one of temporal physics. My breadth of knowledge on that subject being on a par with my mastery of sanskrit, they’d be better off crying on Stephen Hawking’s shoulder than mine (not that he'd feel it, mind you).

No, the sympathy and fascination I feel towards child stars is due solely to their tendency towards extreme ugliness when grown up. The social maladjustments and self-destructive behaviour pale by comparison. Seriously, it’s as if they used up all their allotted cuteness quotient in one go - crammed a lifetime’s worth of good looks and winning ways into the short period of their fame, and had the lens of the camera melt away their beauty like a knob of butter dropped down Satan’s Y-fronts.

Consider Macaulay Culkin, and the face so adorable it launched a thousand appalling sequels to his original execrable smash-hit – now closer in physiognomy to a sweaty, hairless horse with worms in place of lips.

Adorable

And Lindsay Lohan… do you really think it’s the partying, drugs, statutory rape and overbearing father that have changed a once attractive though unremarkable girl into this?

Winsome

The list is of course endless: Britney Spears (now a trailer-bound mound of flesh); Blossom (fat, nose like wicked witch of the west); Haley Joel Osment (currently resembles a squinty-eyed hobgoblin); even the Olsen twins (you only see the one these days, since Mary Kate has been forced to use Ashley for spare parts). And it’s not just a modern thing. Paris audiences were reportedly disappointed with the adolescent Mozart who, despite his obvious musical genius, failed to entertain due to a deficit in ruddy cheeks and dimples which he’d displayed when performing there as a child. Instead he now bore a striking resemblance to a rather splendid fistula on the Emperor Joseph II’s left buttock – a likeness which the benevolent ruler was happy to confirm whenever drunk.

No, the malediction appears universal among former child stars – with one stupefying exception: Gary Coleman. Diff’rent Strokes is a show notable for the curse it bestowed upon its actors. Willis fell foul of drug abuse and crime, Kimberley of porn; and Mr Drummond of course recently took his own life, remarking in his suicide note that he could no longer stand being referred to as 'that old guy from that sitcom. You know the one' by everybody, including his wife of forty-seven years. But Ponce De Coleman just keeps on going, looking almost exactly the same now as he did twenty years ago (bearing in mind the fact that he was an abnormally wizened little homunculus to begin with, albeit an adorable one). Scientists and assorted eggheads are still tossing about unsatisfying explanations - mostly to do with cosmic radiation - but I for one know witchcraft when I see it, and shall happily construct a dunking stool for to prove my hypothesis.

Eternal

What remains to be seen, however, is what will happen as children gain celebrity status younger and younger. Already rumours are surfacing that the once rosy-cheeked Apple Paltrow has developed in a manner so equine that at her last birthday party, a confused member of the entertainment staff tried to saddle her and offer the other kids pony rides. Admittedly, the poor filly may simply be reverting to genetic type. The same excuse cannot be made for Suri Cruise, who reputedly received so much media exposure while still in utero that she must now be hidden from the public eye at all costs, lest the world discover that instead of a face she has three arses. I consider such deformities a concealed blessing, however. Sure, it's sad for the kids, but to be perfectly frank, the more useless, parasitic luminaries that are forced to retire from the limelight prematurely, the better off we'll all be. And they can still find jobs in freak shows after all, or indeed wherever normal children gather to poke an anomally with a stick, so everyone's a winner.

Monday, August 21, 2006

Booker Review: Get a Life, Nadine Gordimer

I had only read two pages of Nadine Gordimer's Get a Life when I began to wonder who was the halfwit responsible for the translation. Unfortunately - and obviously, given Get a Life is nominated for the Booker - Get a Life is an original work in English, so Gordimer herself must take full responsibility for sentences like:
Parents are responsible for bringing into the world their progeniture whether deliberately or carelessly and theirs is an unwritten covenant that the life of the child, and by descent the child's child, is to be valued above that of the original progenitors.
Gordimer's assault on grammar and syntax doesn't end there. Practically every page contains some such monstrosity. Sometimes Gordimer is merely awkward:
The tall heavy woman, ageing gourd filled with a life of many troubles, rather than a delicate yellow flower, who had never before been called into the livingroom to sit down and talk with her employers, nevertheless gave them the uninhibited attention their good relations, her considerate working conditions and excellent pay, she found naturally called for.
Sometimes she is, well, even more awkward:
For the first few moments there, eyelids alternately squeezing and lifting wide at the immersion in that benign illumination, of the sun, birds who ring out like mobile phones.
Sometimes you find yourself reading the phrase aloud to loved ones so they too can bask in its finely-wrought badness:
Hearing this apparently general reaction to overwhelment by splendour beyond skylines he doesn't tell, no, you have to endure being in it: a menacing part of it.
Often, though, you have to set the book aside while you wipe tears of laughter from your eyes:
Could you have ever interrupted your selfhood - yes - for an unthinking primitive gratification of some sort, a child gobbling a lollipop.
Considerations of "style" aside, Get a Life has little to recommend it. The story tells of Paul, a young South African ecologist, who is diagnosed with thyroid cancer and treated with a kind of radioactive dye that forces him into quarantine under the care of his parents. Gordimer follows various strands - Paul's parents' marital difficulties; his work as an anti-nuclear activist; his wife's career in advertising - each less interesting than the last. The narrative voice is as dry as an unbuttered Salada, the characters are tedious bores, and the political angle is as poorly-handled as political angles in literary novels tend to be. Gordimer's prose style provides some unintended comic relief, but otherwise Get a Life is sodding dull.

I'm as cynical about the Booker as anybody, but it still staggers me that shitty writing like this is rewarded with a spot on the longlist. How does it even get published?

Thursday, August 17, 2006

Booker Review: Theft, Peter Carey

I have a long-standing aversion to Peter Carey. His short stories annoy me, I count his first novel Bliss as one of the worst books I have actually managed to finish, and the bits I have read of later novels like Oscar and Lucinda and The True History of the Kelly Gang have done little to disabuse me of the notion that he is a competent but dull writer with little to say and a not particularly interesting way of saying it. This is not deliberate iconoclasm: I have tried to enjoy Carey’s books, to glean some idea of his appeal, but I have consistently come away disappointed. Given the abiding negativity of this opening paragraph, you’ve probably guessed that Theft failed to reverse this trend.

Writing about books is hard, but books like Theft are particularly problematic. It’s not like it’s an unmitigated disaster, and if you are tapped into the Carey mindset, as so many apparently are, then you will probably enjoy it. It’s not bad as in awful, but then it’s not actually good as in good either. Reviewing such a novel, it’s easy to simply descend into snark, which of course can be quite amusing, but then people get upset and the next thing you know there’s a mob on your lawn threatening to beat you with a hardback Jack Maggs – or worse, make you read it. However, that’s a risk I’m willing to take: I don’t own a pack of Dobermans, a cricket bat and an aquarium full of rare Japanese shurikenfish for nuttin’, you know.

So, on to the obligatory crap story synopsis (“crap” in this case designating both story and synopsis): Butcher Bones is a formerly-famous Australian artist charged with the care of his mentally disabled brother, Hugh. Butcher is recently divorced, estranged from his young son, and, when the book begins, eking out a less-than-honest existence with his brother on a bush property owned by his patron. Through what appears to be a coincidence, Butcher meets Marlene Leibovitz, daughter-in-law of his artistic hero, Jacques Leibovitz, and finds himself drawn into an international art intrigue. He also falls in love. Ho hum.

Theft is one of those alternating narrator arrangements, Butcher and Hugh taking it in turns to relate the tale with all due irony and parallel unreliability. It’s a device with a lot of potential, mostly potential to be screwed up. Carey does just that, and we’re left with not one, but two supremely unconvincing narrators. Given they’re also the two main characters this presents something of a problem. Butcher is an artist, but he is also a bloke, so he has to say “bloody” and “shitty” and “fuck” and even “cunt” a lot. He’s a self-aggrandising dick, and presumably we’re supposed to see the artist, the father, the brother, etc, underneath that, but what we see is more self-aggrandising dick – self-aggrandising dick as far as the eye can see! Hugh is an idiot savant with the emphasis on idiot and comes out with phrases like “We are Bones, God help us, raised in sawdust, dry each morning”. And that’s just his first line, God help us! There’s a forced muscularity (masculinity?) to the writing, lots of “we brothers” and “we two big men” and so on. I was tired of these two big men by about page thirty. Pity there was another 240 pages of them.

What else? Well, what else do you need? If the voice is broken, the novel is too. I didn’t find the story particularly engaging, the plot was slack – too much hanging around in the bush, waiting for Marlene to turn up and kick-start things. She’s another thing: a typical female character, oblique and ambiguous in the traditional manner, but only really valued for her relationship to the male protagonist, her maternal nurturing, woman as artistic and sexual stimulus: a muse crossed with a mummy (not the bandage sort). Physically she is the Hollywood stereotype – lithe, small-breasted. Why not a fat outrageous snob? An anorexic ex-porn star? A quiet mousy girl sitting in the corner knitting socks for orphaned hippos? Anything, even outright misogyny, would be better than this piss-weak male fantasy of a character.

Theft is an inauspicious start to my Booker reading. It’s not so much a bad book as a poor book, which is somehow worse. Bad books can be good books gone wrong, or even good books themselves in a perverse way. Poor books are just poor – dull, tired, flat. Theft is all this and less.

Monday, August 14, 2006

Shit Happened One Night

Given the desperately low quality of Australian television in general, it seems unfair to take one particular night, hold it against the wall and have Roman Polanski slice its nose open. Yet if ever an evening of tv deserved such treatment it is Sunday night. I realise that later in the evening you might strike it lucky with a mini-series on the ABC or an episode of Curb Your Enthusiasm, and those with a taste for elaborately disassembled corpses are well served by the eight hours of CSI Nine routinely schedules, but for sheer density of televisual shite, Sunday night between six thirty and eight thirty is hard to beat.

Take last night. Come six thirty, one could either be enlightened/terrified by SBS's World News, or one could have one's brain removed from one's head with a straw by a quartet of truly sucky programmes. Reading from left to right - but not necessarily from smart to dumb, even in relative terms - the ABC served up another suspenseless instalment of The Einstein Factor, a game show hosted by a man with no obvious comedic or even English language skills in which contestants face off against a panel of alleged celebrities with alleged brains in order to win, well, bugger all, actually. Apparently the title of the show was suggested by the famous paradox used to illustrate special relativity in which one twin travels into space at almost the speed of light, leaving his brother behind. When the space-travelling twin returns to Earth, he finds that his brother has aged faster than he has, yet they are both still significantly more talented than Peter Berner.

On Seven, Kochie and Mel asked Where Are They Now and, unfortunately, received an answer every time. Guess what - Rick Springfield is still not dead! And the woman who played Liesel in The Sound of Music is...somewhere! Doing something! Fascinating stuff, but if nothing else Where Are They Now demonstrates what you can do with CGI these days - for a moment I was fooled into thinking the slavering gibbons in the studio audience were actual people, but surely that can't be true. Nine ran a repeat of 20 to 1, an arbitrary countdown through a loosely-themed collection of iconic phenomena, "iconic" in this sense meaning whatever was nearest the door of the network archives when they were assembling material. Bert Newton must be so pleased to have returned to prime time hosting not one but two absolute turkeys. And what happened to Bud Tingwell? Perhaps that's a job for Kochie and Mel.

The less said about Ten the better. Something called Girlband was followed at six thirty by Australia's Brainiest BB06 Housemate, yet another squeeze of an already-wrung-dry chamois. Then, at seven thirty, the coup de merde was delivered with Australian Idol, which doubtless featured yet more "hopefuls" warbling whatever shite it is they're all warbling this year. Utter crap.

Of the other channel's seven thirty offerings, forget 60 Minutes (tripe), Lost Worlds (probably tripe) and In Search of Myths and Heroes (given it was hosted by Michael Wood, I'd say almost definitely tripe). No, the big premiere last night was Seven's new quiz show You May Be Right. Taking its cue from (read: blatantly ripping off) the likes of Spicks and Specks, RocKwiz, and Good News Week, You May Be Right managed to combine comedy, music and trivia into something you might consider taking home to mama, if your mama was Myra Hindley. I only watched it until the first commercial break, but that was long enough for me to recognise You May Be Right as the single dodgiest new show on commercial tv this year, even worse than Clever and Yasmin Wants To Get Pimped By A TV Station, or whatever it was called. Put it this way: it's hosted by Tod McKenny, the poor man's Hugh Jackman, and features the Scared Weird Little Guys, a combo who manage to simultaneously perpetrate crimes against both music and comedy. Ugh.

See what I mean? Two hours of crap viewing on all channels, at the precise moment end-of-weekend lethargy kicks in and other entertainment options - reading a book, listening to music, restoring an antique sideboard - cease to appeal. All you want to do is plop down and watch some tv, yet there is nothing watchable on. That's why, when God rested on the seventh day, he made sure he had his DVD player set up. That way he could watch Chinatown for the hundredth time, instead of having to deal with the folksy smarm of Mel and Kochie. Not even the Lord is that tolerant.

Thursday, August 10, 2006

Hypothetical

Sometimes, just for the quiet pleasure it affords me of an evening, I like to pretend I'm Geoffrey Robertson. Imagining myself in a well-tailored pinstripe three-piece that I wouldn't be able to afford without giving up eating for the next year or so, I stalk up and down the living room, elongating my vowels and posing tricksy hypothetical questions to the furniture.

If your cruise ship were sinking, and you had room in the lifeboat for either a basket of doe-eyed kittens or the limbo contest co-ordinator, but not both, who gets saved?

If you could travel back in time and warn Joseph and Mary that they needed to teach their son not to get all up in the faces of the Romans and Pharisees, would you?

As a world famous cardiologist, would you save the life of a cholesterol-choked murderer, or would you seize the opportunity to devour his delicious, still-beating heart in order to gain his strength?

Bollocks of that sort.

Thus far, the furniture has proved rather less than apt at analysing the pros and cons of these ethical conundrums, as has the cat, who finds licking his own arse to be more interesting than considering moral dilemmas. As my social circle has become otherwise limited thanks to the terms of my house arrest, I needs must therefore turn to you, oh agile-minded readers, to appease my G. Robertson QC fantasies, and explore this ethical poser in three parts, inspired by my recent encounter with a rather flustered elderly gentleman on the Saturday morning train. Riddle me this:

Q1. If you are on public transport, and find yourself 'caught short', is it necessary to announce this fact loudly to your fellow commuters?

Q2. If you are, in your own words, "busting to piss", should you accept reasoned advice to alight at the next station, or should you with every sign of happiness cave to the encouragement of a group of hardened bogans, and micturate down the middle of the aisle?

Q3. In the process of freeing your genitalia from the confines of your ill-fitting trousers, and while you shout, "I'm going to piss now!", you spot a pair of women a little way down the carriage who appear sympathetic to your plight but rather revolted. You freeze, quivering, with your dick half out of your pants. If you have already decided that the best of all possible solutions to your regrettable situation is to relieve your unfortunately crowded bladder on public transport, in a packed carriage, while supplying the process with stentorian commentary - if you are already enthusiatically committed to this ethically and hygienically questionable course of action, should you still feel dismayed at the prospect of peeing in front of a member of the opposite sex?

Send me your thoughts on this Gordian issue, post haste.

Wednesday, August 09, 2006

Wikipedia Is A Dirty Slut

But maybe my subject header is not explicit enough? Possibly my all too subtle meaning was ill-conveyed. Let's try again: I am taking this opportunity to liken the Wikipedia to a common trollop - a fusty, profligate slattern ready to doff it's undergarments with unseemly haste at the slightest nod from the first passer-by, be they never so mean. Wikipedia is a harlot; a slattern; a cheap, cheap whore; sordid, tawdry, loose, low. It is the Lindsay Lohan of the interweb.

Wikipedia wouldn't have sex with you for money. It would have sex with you for a quick drag from a soggy cigarette.

But before you correctly dismiss this heavy-handed jeremiad as just another hyperbolic slanging session from a sweaty-palmed bloggist with sex on the brain and a penchant for controversy, pause a moment and consider. Wikipedia's degenerate ways are a threat to intelligent folk everywhere; and how could you, a reader of Sterne, be anything but?

The more insightful among you may have realised by now that I am a bit of a smartarse. I make no bones about this. I list the fact prominently on my resume, and have had a special name tag made up for public occasions. I'm therefore well aware not only that knowledge is power, but that it was Francis Bacon who first wrote that, and that in fact he wrote it slightly differently. And being well-versed in the most petty interpretations of cliched aphorisms, I have until recently been able to enjoy the splendid isolation associated with being one of the proud, pedantic few in possession of such trivial gems as the exact length of a cubit (originally the distance from an average man's elbow to his middle finger), the sex of Paul Revere's horse (female), and the current record holder for the smallest penis in Australia (Kyle Sandilands).

But then five years or so ago, in trounced Wikipedia. Wikipedia: where 'democratic, interactive repository of knowledge' is synonymous with 'ready to give it all up for pretty much anybody'. It used to be, in those high and far off times of the year 2000ish, that if some slope-browed mouth-breather wanted to reach up from the excrement of their daily existence and pluck a juicy treat from the tree of knowledge, they needed to go and do some research, quite possibly in a library. And if that involved learning to read, or write, or use a catalogue, or speak in words of more that one syllable, then so bloody well be it.

Sure, I enjoy the view from my ivory tower, I really do (it looks right into the girl next door's front room, and she takes a liberal approach to clothes), and it bothers me that my lofty pinnacle is being crowded out by the ramshackle apartment blocks of semi-literate ignoramii, who need only insert a poorly spelled term into the search engine twixt Wikipedia's splayed legs, and have access to a fairly concise, usually accurate approximation of the wisdom of the ages. (Some might argue that search-engines like Google did the same thing earlier, but there was always a 70% chance that instead of the information you wanted, your enquiry would turn up a polemic on Zionism or pictures of goatse, instead.)

This shared approach to scholarship? Prostituting poor Pallas on the altar of the masses? It smacks of Communism, I tell you. Boycott Wikipedia, friends. Boycott it for the pinko strumpet that it is. I know I shall maintain my stance until one of us is gone.

Or until Wikipedia stops deleting the entry for Sterne that I keep submitting for inclusion (or at the very least allows me to add the term 'boy's winkie' to the entry on Queen Victoria). Some knowledge is meant for all.

Tuesday, August 01, 2006

Him Don't Sleep So Good

Last week I was bitten by a spider, and the world being what it is, I've waited patiently for either an horrific death or the onset of super powers. Or both. Fortunately, neither fate appears to have manifested. Breathe easy, people: you've been spared the twin indignities of searching for something nice to say at my funeral and/or being rescued from Crimes by your heroic correspondant, clad in a pair of highly revealing tights. This latter failing in my spidery foe's assault has actually left me faintly relieved. Whilst the ability to climb up walls and sense evildoers, or whatever, could be pretty useful, super strength would be wasted on me (I'm already pretty buff), and quite frankly the idea of shooting a viscous column of bodily fluid from my extremities at thugs and ne'er-do-wells sounds unhygienic, not to mention morally dubious.

I was, therefore, going to thank Jah that my arachnid enemy only bestowed upon me a small abscess and a painful itch, all cleared up now (that's right ladies, he's guaranteed pus free)... but then a particularly specious exercise in syllogistics led me to realise that the eight-legged fucker had in fact landed a more subtly pernicious blow: since the time of The Biting, or thereabouts, I have been rendered largely unable to sleep. So to the little list of adjectives that your tiny minds already associate with the name Jon - bon vivant, raconteur, pokemon master, world-class shit - you can now add the epithet 'whinging insomniac'.

Inability to sleep? It ain't no fun, as you may be aware. But if you aren't, and were about to say something along the lines of, "But it must be wonderful to have all that extra time on your hands! Just think of all the things you could do," why not save yourself the verbal drubbing I'm about to mete out and kindly cram it. Insomnia stifles any creativity, rationality, or indeed cognitive function that you might once have laid claim to - stifles it like an over-bearing, domineering parent, passive-agressively overcompensating for the martini-fuelled ruin of their third marriage and failure to land yet another promotion (don't mind me, just working through some issues here). Any ability to write, think, read, create or even form entirely coherent sentences goes straight out the window by about night two (you can consider this post exhibit A), and considering I've never been any great shakes at those skills, you might sense my mounting concern. One more week and I will technically qualify for zombie status, which definitely has its perks (brains), but inevitably means another form to fill in come tax time.

On the average morning, around half three in the anti-meridian, the pile of meat formerly known as Jon may be found shuffling around ring-eyed in an unwashed pair of pants and a dilapidated dressing gown, amusing the tattered scraps of his consciousness by pretending to be a character from a Bukowski novel - an act which tends to fail through lack of booze about the house (drinking milk from the carton and swearing at the cat are about as close as I can get). The only upside to my situation is the intellectual feast provided by late-night television. If you haven't watched the Quizmania program on channel 9 yet, you're robbing your soul of the chance to experience a horror far beyond the dreams of Kurtz and Co. I'm especially comforted by the fact that no matter how lobotomised my current state, I still retain more life in my thought-meats than the lavishly coiffured Aspberger's poster-children hosting this show, which takes your pre-conceived notions of the word 'imbecilic' and laughingly hawks a great gob of phlegm on them from a height. But it's not all mind-numbing hi-jinks in late-night TV land, oh no. The tube in the wee hours can be educational, too. Recently they broadcasted a movie documenting the truth about the soccer match organised by Michael Caine and Sylvester Stallone against the Germans during WWII. Bet you didn't know it was Pele who scored the winning goal against those cheating Nazis, did you? Bet your so-called history books didn't teach you that.

Rants like those contained in the last few 'sentences' are the reason why, in mild desperation, I turn to you, O blogland. Sleeplessness is surely a quality shared by many of you beknighted internet devils, even if it wasn't instilled by way of a spider with a chip on one of it's many shoulders. Before I go all Tyler Durden, is there anyone out there with a viable, or at least distractingly amusing, method of countering sleep-loss? C'mon people: I'm falling apart here!