Wednesday, December 31, 2008

a cat-free zone no longer

When I started this blog in the middle of the year, I made a secret pact with myself that it would remain a cat-free zone. I decided that facebook is the place for trivial pictures of my cat and other such fluff (iness). The blog would be all academic and thoughtful, filled with my stunning commentary about television and popular culture at all times(some readers may be laughing in a bemused fashion at this point). Anyway, the blog changed and mutated over that time. Sometimes it has been about my research. Rarely has it been about my day job(which is what I wanted, so good).Very often I find it becoming nostalgic and the place where I reminisce about the past, ponder the present and wonder about the future. And I'm thinking this is the way I like it, and surprisingly in some way this reflects the blog title (although this was unplanned when I chose it). As I imagine it, a spiralling shape can be anything you want it to be. It can morph and change as it will. And that's what I like about my blogging. Hopefully, as I continue I will get better at it. Ultimately, my blog is for me first. I know others use their blogs in other less personal ways, but that is the function it serves for me, in my life at this time.

All this is actually a fancy way of saying, that if I want to put a cat picture here from time to time I will.

So see above for the brave tiger, who every morning positions himself under the kitchen mat waiting to pounce on anyone who dares to approach the kitchen sink.

The New Year's lesson from ye olde rocke musick

Patience: Yes I know it's the name of a Guns and Roses classic.

But it is also my New Year's resolution. Except it's not so much of a resolution as it is a daily goal: to be more patient with myself and with others.

So maybe (in spite of the stupid name for their latest and apparently "long-awaited" album) Axl Rose was on to something way back in ye olden days of rocke musicking.

(Please be clear when I say "long-awaited" this does not apply to me)

Watch, Listen and Singalong: Part 5 What Becomes of the Broken Hearted?

Joan Osborne's version of this classic is a belter. I first saw it when I watched the outstanding documentary Standing in the Shadows of Motown and was pleasantly stunned and surprised (given that I had not been a fan of previous songs of hers that I had encountered). It's one of the few documentaries that I have watched more than once, particularly for the musical performances of so many great songs as well as the fascinating story of The Funk Brothers. The Jimmy Ruffin version is fabulous (and quite different to this cover) but there didn't seem to be a good clip of him singing it in its original form. (It does find itself on high rotation on my ipod though!). Anyway, this song is a strong, heartbreaking epic and a killer to sing along with (particularly if like me you've got a secret dream to be a backup singer!). However, if there are no places for singers I will happily learn to play the vibes. That looks like fun as well.

Monday, December 29, 2008

a little wireless happy dance

Well here's some excitement! For me anyway. I am sitting on the lounge with my laptop using the internet through my wireless connection. I know that anybody who's anybody is probably thinking "get with it Wendy, we've all been doing for, like, years" but I haven't.

So do a little wireless happy dance for me.

Sunday, December 28, 2008

Wendy's Week of TV: Part 24 An Explanatory Christmas Edition

Due to well foreseen circumstances (i.e. Christmas) The Spiralling Shape's regularly scheduled post of Wendy's Week of TV was cancelled this week and will return to the so-called "blogosphere" next week. (Why a sphere I wonder? Is there something particularly spherical about blogging. What's wrong with a cube for instance?)

N.B. Wendy did watch TV this week, however, she also shopped, wrapped gifts, cooked food, napped, and generally organised Christmas which meant she didn't get around to writing her usual post. She also became a little obsessed with her other well known series of posts Watch Listen and Singalong and did a special Christmas series within a series. This took some time and a lot of puddling about on Youtube, leaving less time for writing about TV. However, some of the TV Wendy did watch included Iron Chef, Rockwiz Christmas Special, Top Gear, Father Ted, Father Ted Christmas Special, Carols from St Patrick's in Melbourne and the cricket. She is also watching her way through series one of Pie in the Sky on DVD and has read two TV autobiographies (Michael Parkinson (lots of name dropping) and Dawn French (very funny, sometimes sad and at one point made me laugh so much I cried). I recommend the latter.

(N.B. Wendy particularly avoided anything that involved pop or so called TV celebrities performing tortured versions of Christmas carols as she hates that kind of Christmas pap.)

Friday, December 26, 2008

Boxing Day random Beatles' references

"I'm so tired, I haven't slept a wink"

Well it feels like that anyway. Perhaps Christmas was a little too much excitement for me. Thankfully there is now the nothingness of Boxing Day in which to recover. I intend to read a book whilst lying on the lounge with the airconditioning blasting. The cricket shall be on in the background so I can intermittently mock the commentators' poor grammar (Note to Channel 9: Please let Warnie and his strangulated vowels be on the panel).

I shall also place my cat-themed gifts (of which there were a suspiciously high number) around the house. Am I really turning into an eccentric, yet lovable, crazy-cat lady? (No need reply here).

There shall be eating of leftovers throughout the day.

There may also be eating of licorice all sorts.

I shall not, however, be "cursing Sir Walter Raleigh", in spite of him being deemed "a stupid git".

All is in place for Boxing Day.

Thursday, December 25, 2008

Watch, Listen and Singalong: The Christmas Edition 4

Well of course this is not technically a Christmas song, and I was looking for a version of Lennon's So this is Christmas etc, but couldn't find a good one. While some might look back and see the message of Imagine as naive and idealistic, I don't think it hurts to be reminded of the simple things in life. For without ideals and aspirations for peace and goodwill towards others, nothing will ever come to fruition in reality.

That's my little soapbox message for Christmas 2008.

Alternatively, ignore all that and marvel at the beautiful melodic and harmonic combination that, while simplicity itself, resonates with you for some time after listening.

Wednesday, December 24, 2008

Watch, Listen and Singalong: The Christmas Edition 3

Here's a classic...the highest selling Christmas song of all time apparently. Enjoy Bing's whistling and the cute harmony. I wonder why so many of these Christmas songs are so melancholy and nostalgic? I think I prefer these though.

Tuesday, December 23, 2008

Technological Tuesday

Friday afternoon my desktop threw a tantrum and got taken to the computer shop. I meant to ring them yesterday to find out what was going on but didn't get to it. So this morning I call and discover that they guy who had taken it there "only does contract work for them" and hadn't actually told them what was wrong with it or what might need doing. I sat on hold for five minutes while they located it in the shop. Hmmmm....I asked, "And I guess you're closing tomorrow until New Year? Any chance you could look at it today and tell me what's wrong?". Things weren't looking hopeful but a technological Christmas miracle occurred when they rang shortly after lunch to say it was right to go.

So the desktop has now been returned from the computer shop with more ram, and less viruses. So, good, I can use twitter again without shutting down the browser, but I am now using mozilla instead of internet explorer. I don't know if it's that we've used up our quota of downloads (more than likely!) but it doesn't seem that fast, and I am finding the look of it a little bit funny to get used to.

Fingers crossed all is well.

Watch, Listen and Singalong: The Christmas Edition 2

Aah...some 80s nostalgia, Christmas music with a message. How young and innocent they all were and now how many have been in trouble with the law? There are others who have taken up the lute and still others who have maintained the political rage. Others have simply faded into pop obscurity. I'll leave it for you to decide who is who.

Monday, December 22, 2008

Watch,Listen and Singalong: The Christmas Edition 1

What a treat. I have decided to post one of my favourite Christmas songs (excluding actual carols) everyday til Thursday. This is one of my all time favourites, particularly because it goes against the "ho ho ho,isn't everything jolly" trend of so many Christmas songs. From the classic Vincente Minnelli musical Meet Me in St Louis, you can appreciate the skill of Judy Garland in conveying the melancholy of the song (quite similar in tone to Over the Rainbow if you think about it). Anyway, any time I see it's on the TV I'll sit down and watch it, for this song and the other classics The Trolley Song and the title song.
Read more all about it here:

Enjoy, or if it's not your cuppa tea, simply marvel at whatever that is Judy is wearing on her head.

Saturday, December 20, 2008

"Oh what fun".....wrapping presents

I take ages to find the end of the sticky tape

I have poor estimating skills when it comes to the amount of paper needed for wrapping a gift. It's either too much or too little and then I end up doing some kind of weird patch up job.

The same problem occurs with ribbon. Either I cut off enough to go round twice or there's just enough to tie a weak little bow that looks like a shoelace.

Wendy's Week of TV: Part 23

Saturday: Iron Chef

After weeks of arguing with my parents as to whether Iron Chef is rigged because the challenger never wins.....FINALLY....a challenger won. See! See! See! (It was an egg battle). More entertaining would have been if they had just thrown them at each other in true egg-fight style.

Tuesday: Well of course it was all Father Ted all the time as evidenced by my previous post this week on the topic. I still finding myself humming " My lovely horse, running through the fields...." and so on. Even better was Ted and Dougal's actual performance at the Eurosong awards. Just as funny but in a whole different way.

Hamish Macbeth was his usual dour self, Isobel returned and Lachie Jnr found a girlfriend. All this mixed up with an inept Scottish mafia was quite entertaining.

Thursday saw the final two episodes of The Amazing Race. I was devastated when Toni and Dallas went out in the Moscow leg when Dallas left their passport and money in a taxi. Idiot! They really had a shot I think. In the end though it was Nick and Starr all the way, even though if the winners had been based on the how much one partner berated another throughout the whole process Ken and Tina would have won hands down. I couldn't help thinking Ken was making the mistake of his life when he brought out those wedding rings at the finish line. And a final word on Dan and Andrew, the bumbling frat boys. How I would have loved to see them win, but it was never going to happen. It must have taken them hours to get through the memory test (all of which I guess ended up on the cutting room floor). That could have been a whole episode in itself. I'll miss you Amazing Race.

of crochet, bad poetry and pumpkins

I'm now having some time to browse around my laptop (which until this week had sat unopened in the hall cupboard for nearly two years). So far I have found numerous terrible thesis chapter drafts which I think I shall delete, as well as some really awful poetry (embarrassing). I also found I had bookmarked the Crochet guild of America. I can't for the life of me remember why. I also discovered the first picture I ever took with my first digital camera. As you can see it's a mug. There was also a photo of a pumpkin, a plate of soup and lots of flowers. Odd choices really when I think about it.

Friday, December 19, 2008

the trusty little laptop that could: 2

Things I am noticing about my Apple laptop.

1. The screen is very small
2. The keyboard is very compact
3. It's slow compared to my desktop (but I guess give it a break it's five years old)
4. I am having trouble getting used to the minimize,maximize, close down buttons being on the left instead of the right. I had the opposite problem when work insisted I get a pc.
5. It doesn't like anything to do with twitter
6. some of the blogging functions seems to missing - need to do some exploring to see if I can find them somewhere here.
7. I love the ribbon across the bottom of the screen
8. It's great having so much more room on my desk without the great hulking tower
9. The keys make a satisfactory clicking sound (as compared to my keyboard)
10. I must attach a mouse because I am hopeless at using the touchpad thingy and think it will give me RSI.
11. I can't get the airport to pick up because can't remember password. the solution is apparently something complicated about resetting the modem which I think I will leave for another day.
12. Luckily the ethernet (?) cable plugs into the side very nicely.
13. It's cute.

the trusty little laptop that could

It's been a crazy day of computers and other such technical things. As is my wont I started the morning with a healthy dose of laughs with I can haz cheezeburger and then.....da dum!!!! dramatic music....stupid internet explorer froze up. As the morning progressed I found it increasingly difficult to check emails and then open the internet at all. When it did open and didn't freeze up the screen immediately it wouldn't show any pictures of photos - just those annoying little icons. I suspected a deadly virus.

Luckily today was the day I finally got around to taking my five year old Mac laptop iBook G4 to the shop to get some more memory and an airport card installed. They told be it would be ready around Tuesday...but guess what I got it back this afternoon. Very fortunate indeed because my father in the meantime had sent the "computer man" round to my house to check out my desktop. Shane the computer man and I had a lovely chat while I was out shopping on my mobile as I explained in a very inarticulate fashion just what had gone wrong this morning. He has carted the tower away.

So now I am rediscovering the joys of my laptop - the trusty little machine that I wrote my entire thesis on. I have managed to set up my email, get back on to facebook and my blog, although for some reason it doesn't like it when I open twitter and shuts down safari immediately. They were only able to upgrade to OS 10.3.9 (not sure which big cat that is). I was excited that I might be able to use twitterific or some of the other applications but they all seem to require 10.4. Darn.

But at least I am not totally disconnected. Although I do still keep grabbing for my desktop mouse and wondering why the cursor doesn't move on the screen of the laptop. Duh.

Thursday, December 18, 2008


Some things in life strike me as unnecessary.

Today, the winner is an impersonal Christmas email from Woolworths Everyday Rewards.

Is it impolite if I don't respond.?

WWII drain-like gurgling

According to the very helpful resources of the Internet, we did indeed laugh like drains at bookclub last night. We were both coarse and loud. Well I was anyway. I don't presume to speak for the others, but I'm pretty sure it wasn't me making all the noise. And I imagine there was some discomfort caused. Sincere apologies to Anne...but it was very funny.

Although I don't remember any WW2 drain-like gurgling. Perhaps next time....

"what's that about?"

Quote of the night from bookclub last night came when we were discussing what film we would see for our first meeting of next year. The conversation turned to Australia and there was a distinct lack of enthusiasm (and even some mild groaning I believe) from everyone in the room. It's only redeeming feature as a choice seemed to be "well at least it would make me go and see it". If you are made to see a film it's doubtful there's much excitement in the choice.

Then Jinx came up with the suggestion of Frost/Nixon. Everyone was keen except Anne who first wanted to know "What's that about?"

We all laughed like the proverbial drains.

Surely, the title is rather self's about Frost and Nixon.

We laughed like drains just a little bit more and then got back on track.

Anyway, apart from that moment of humiliation for Anne, it was fun night as we discussed The Eyre Affair. Lorraine was the only one of us who had read any kind of science fiction in any detail before...she was questioning of some of the time travel paradoxes but agreed it was a greatly entertaining read. And Jan had found herself having to scurry to secondary sources to get all the literary references. But Anne and I had really enjoyed it and have since bought the rest of the series to share between us. Most wonderful of all was Jinx, a self-admitted non-reader, who found it an entertaining and hilarious book, frequently laughing out loud and finishing it in a day. She's now keen to read the second one. Thus, we deemed the choice a great success for the end of the year.

We also ate Christmas goodies and had a nice all round chat and laugh about many things...not least of all what that mysteriously titled Frost/Nixon might be about.

(A big thanks to the folk at Circulating Library for first alerting me to the existence of the book, of which I was previously ignorant.)

Now I'm wondering where the phrase of "laughing like a drain" comes from....would it be the gurgling noise drains sometimes make? Hmmm...there's my project for the day.

Wednesday, December 17, 2008

Sleigh bells in the night

I'm feeling a little crankification seeping into the leadup to Christmas today. It's an accumulation of a number of things. I really dislike summer, so the hot weather we've been having hasn't been helping my attitude towards thinking about Christmas day. Our family has a cold lunch but we still have it in the middle of the day. So from now until the day we become obsessed with the weather report and whether it's going to be stinkingly hot, or just pleasantly warm with a nice breeze. I start to worry that I've made all the wrong choices for presents, even though I was pleased with them to start with. Not that I want to go back to the beginning and start the present buying again. And the socialising with relatives can be more than a little wearying.

I remember once when I was very young (probably four or five) I went to bed on Christmas Eve and to this day I swear I heard sleigh bells during the night. Now that was some Christmas excitement (combined with a vivid imagination). How to recapture that joyful anticipation some 30 years later, I'm just not sure. There's got to be a way though.

Suggestions more than welcome.

Tuesday, December 16, 2008

My lovely horse

Appreciate the genius that is Father Ted (a little preview of this week of TV). Unfortunately it's only a link as the clip didn't allow embedding (except in another version on youtube which was of very poor quality).

(And apologies to my facebook friends for cross posting...but you can't have too much of a good thing).

Monday, December 15, 2008

Watch, listen and singalong: Part 4 "He ain't heavy"

Keeping with what seems to be my current old time vibe of watch, listen and singalong here's something you can karaoke to as you read. (I'm on holidays today so I've got plenty of time for browsing youtube!) This is a classic ballad and I actually didn't realise it was by The Hollies until Anne and I were discussing live concerts whilst walking on Saturday. The first one she went to was The Hollies at Festival Hall in Brisbane. What's notable here I think is the terrifically slow tempo and that opening where the first line jumps so high, so suddenly in the singer's range. That takes skill (and if you go to youtube you'll see a 1988 version of them singing it on Top of the Pops where time has taken its toll on his vocal agility. They also up the tempo slightly). I like the slower speed. It requires listening patience and asks of us time to appreciate the soaring melody and beautiful harmonies - time that we don't find often required in popular music today.

Sunday, December 14, 2008

Watch, Listen and Singalong: Part 3 "God only knows"

The muzak Christmas police were obviously having a doze this afternoon in Big W. Unless, I was dreaming, there was a moment of respite from the Christmas carol extravaganza and I found myself singing along with this whilst looking for bargains in the women's clothing. (This montage was the best I could find on youtube). Is it a Christmas song and I've never realised it? Whatever, it lightened my weary feet and made the bags of purchases just that little bit easier to carry. Most of all, it's a beautiful, classic song.

Selfish Christmas Shopping Sunday

It's been a weekend of Christmas shopping with more to come this afternoon. Yes, metropolitan readers of this blog, the shops are actually open here on a Sunday. It's wonderful, because it seems many residents of my fine city can't actually break the habit of no shopping on a Sunday, so you can actually meander round quite peacefully looking at stuff and getting distracted by things you either hadn't thought of, or really don't need.

While I have bought a great many of my Christmas presents and am feeling just a little bit smug that I have very little left to get for others, I have also enjoyed rather too much random present buying for myself. That's the real joy of Christmas shopping....buying yourself presents.
So far I have bought:
  • A linen top...which I am wearing today. It is very, very cool (temperature wise that is)
  • Some red glittery thongs (so as to take advantage of 50% off second pair really I was forced to buy them to help out my mother with her present buying of shoes for someone else)
  • Three head scarves (two of which are too small for my large head and have now been given to my sister....see, I am in the spirit of giving)
  • Twenty four tea light candles (how come you just can't buy one tea light candle in Target?) to go in the the boat tea light candle holder I won for my choir secret santa. However, seeing as that only uses up three, I also then bought a Santa tea light candle holder (which uses up one more). If anyone is running short of tea light candles, I'm your girl.
  • Underwear - five pairs. In my defence it's 20% off at Target this week. In the opposite of my defence, I fell for the strange marketing scam of "aloe vera infused underwear". I have no idea what this means, but it was cheaper than the other brands. I have previously fallen for the marketing scam of Target's "organic" underwear. And no, I don't know what the difference was there either.
  • Two bras...which are neither aloe vera infused or organic as far as I am aware. Also 20% off. Bargain.
  • The Graham Kennedy book by Mike McColl Jones. Further to my defence it was 50 % off. Don't know that there's much reading in there but there are nice photos etc. Perhaps I can claim that one off my tax for research purposes.
  • Coffee and cake at Indulge before the buying frenzy. Absolutely essential to build up strength and mental agility for making difficult present decisions.
What excitement awaits me this afternoon when I go to Hinkler Place?

Saturday, December 13, 2008

Wendy's Week of TV Part 22

Part 22? Let's just say Part 22 was not a wonderful week of TV.
I missed Andrew Denton interviewing Ben Stiller because we had our Choir Christmas party. The party was pretty good but there was no blue steel and neither did we sing Wake me up before you go go. Still, ho ho ho.

Tuesday: Father Ted - up to its usual high standard and excellent as usual, especially with the cuteness of Dougal befriending the young rebel priest from the next parish, leaving Ted to picnic on his own. I particularly enjoyed Mrs Doyle's pile of egg sandwiches and the accompanying exchange between Ted and her.
Hamish Macbeth: I got bored halfway through, sad to say and wandered off. I think the quality of this show did diminish as the series progressed. I do like that Lachie Jnr moved into the funeral directing profession, but the rest of it certainly didn't have me glued to the lounge.

Wednesday: I don't think I watched anything on Wednesday...oh yes wait...Long Way Down (not memorable). I perservered because of Ewan McGregor, but I am just not finding this series that fascinating, even though for some reason I feel should. Charley Boorman lighting his fart was a low point. Maybe when they get into Africa it will become more interesting in a real boy's own adventure style. I don't know that I will last that long.

Thursday: The Amazing Race was the highlight of my viewing week. For once Nick and Starr were in last place for much of the leg. Starr was throwing a tantrum...It would have been great to have more footage of this! Tina's eyebrows are scaring me now. It's like they're malnourished. And Dandrew buying new shoes in Kazakstan airport was a lovely moment, especially later when they had to barter with their Moscow taxi driver because they had no money left. I'm not sure what Dan (or was it Andrew) handed over in exchange for the bill. It was hard to see - maybe a mobile phone? And then yay - Toni and Dallas got to the pit stop first after the hellish flour-carting challenge. Needless to say, the bumbling Dandrew came last, but lucky for them it was a non-elimination round. I can't wait for next week...2 hour finale. Get excited everyone!

That was it for the week.

Thursday, December 11, 2008

Thai Takeaway Thursday

The days of the week posts continue so I just couldn't resist a post with this title.
It was yummy. I ate too much. Not much else to say really.

Watch listen and singalong 2: Better be home soon

I did consider following up Birdhouse in your Soul with some later They Might Be Giants, but decided to go for something different. This song is an absolute gem from Crowded House, a band I came to appreciate ridiculously late in my musical life. It's impossible for me to pick a favourite Crowded house song but this is one that I have some strong memories of. In high school my brother and I used to set the video (that's right the VHS) to record the final three hours of Rage on the weekends. We would then spend a fair portion of Saturday watching the video and fast forwarding through the songs we didn't like, or thought were boring etc. This one always got the fast forward and it seemed to be in the charts for ages, so I've watched it in fast forward a lot and didn't listen to it properly until a lot later. The other Crowded House memory I have is of sitting in Year 10 history class listening to a passionate debate between two classmates on which was the better band - The Cure or Crowded House. It was fairly heated and The Cure fan won out, not by virtue of any well constructed argument but because he was talking the loudest. This was also 1988 which would have been the year this song was released I imagine. I'm not sure what The Cure was releasing in 1988? But I look back now and wish I'd jumped in to support the Crowded House fan. It was only when I got to uni that I began to appreciate the absolute perfect simplicity of Neil Finn's songwriting, his beautiful melodies and harmonies, and what I like to think of as the melancholy contentment that infuses so many of his wonderful ballads. (It's also fun when I get out my Crowded house songbook and play and singalong at the piano. Fun for me anyway, not sure about anyone else!)

Wednesday, December 10, 2008

twinkling, fairy light Christmas etiquette

I got my first Christmas card in the post today. And it wasn't from someone that I would ever think to send one to. I'm organised with little treats for the people I work with (but I see them everyday and I think they deserve some reward for putting up with me). Usually I alternate with my feelings about sending Christmas cards. Some years I take a stand and send none. Other years, everyone and their respective pet gets one. I had sort of decided that this would be a non-Christmas card year. Sure, like everyone else I'll be continuing to annoy people on facebook with christmassy good cheer. That's fun, in a cute, time-wasting kind of way. But, now it seems like the Australia Post ball has started rolling. Do I now just send one to people who send one to me? Or do I take control, do a basic list of the usual suspects, and cross my fingers that no more unexpected cards arrive the day before Christmas (making me look like Scrooge because I haven't remembered to send them one).
What is the twinkling, fairy light Christmas etiquette here?
I'm all confused.

fear not (as if)

It's been a little while since I posted an update on the book. Fear not, good people, this does not mean there has been no progress. In fact I managed to stick to my thirty or so pages a day in editing and actually finished getting through the whole thing yesterday. As with all writing, I could keep changing it forever with minor tweaking, but forced myself to leave as much of it alone as I could stand, just changing and revising parts that really annoyed me. So it was a relatively pleasant experience, surprisingly.

The task ahead now is to rewrite entirely the introduction and conclusion, which at the moment stand as detailed "thesis" style documents. I have decided with the Conclusion to make it more of a postscript, incorporating a discussion of We Can Be Heroes and Summer Heights High (instead of boring chapter summaries which I am going to delete - oh so bold!). Because then the last section of the Conclusion, which I read for the first time in some time yesterday, I actually quite liked and will leave it as the ending. The Introduction needs vastly reworking also, with the main aim of making it less boring. I think it can be a lot sharper than it is right now. That will be next - probably the job for January.

It's funny...I am finally starting to think of it more as a book now, rather than a thesis. I know I was supposed to think of it as a book all the way along but that never really happened for me. Finally, also, after eighteen months I am able to read it in an objective way, perhaps finally separating from the emotional and weighty task of completion, which was such a milestone. The telling moment was when I found myself actually enjoying reading it, and thinking, "this might be interesting after all!"

Tuesday, December 9, 2008

Things I don't understand Tuesday

The logic of rock paper scissors

Deal or no Deal

Why the plant in my office is still gets no sun and very little water

The political nuances of the Middle East (or the basics actually if I'm being realistic)

Why people listen to Mahler

Australia's Funniest Home Videos


the ABC Finance report in the 7pm news

why I forgot my usb and book today

anything beyond the basics of Maths (eg. mysterious terms like sin, cos, tan etc)

My growing fascination with naming days of the week

If anyone has any explanations that will help me feel free to chime in.

Monday, December 8, 2008

four thousand holes in blackburn, lancashire

Following John's helpful comment on the previous post reminding me of "Dragged a comb across my head" , I turned to everyone's favourite resource (the internet) to check the rest of the lyrics. Sergeant Pepper's was one of the first albums I ever bought on an LP, well one of the first albums I ever bought. I was at high school and I found it in Target and I think it was like a 20th edition special re-release. In terms of first albums ever bought, let's not count the compilation tape 88 Kix On that included among other things Michael Bolton singing Sittin On the dock of the Bay. We'll leave that in the past shall we? We'll also pretend that I always had wonderful taste in music and never ever went to a John Farnham/ Daryl Braithwaite double bill at the Bundaberg showgrounds while still at school. (In my defence, Bundaberg was a much smaller town back then with limited opportunities for musical entertainments of any kind).

Anyway, even though I listened to Sergeant Pepper's many, many times as a younger person, I discovered now I had remembered A Day in the Life wrongly. It's "Woke up, got out of bed"..not "Got up" as I had thought yesterday during my post on the secret santa buying frenzy. You may not think it makes any difference, but I think it's the small details of lyrics that make the difference between good and great. Anyway, it's a fantastic song (especially with the huge orchestral crescendo bridgey thing) from a fantastic album, so here are the lyrics for your enjoyment. Imagine me singing, or sing along yourself as you read if you like.

I read the news today oh, boy

About a lucky man who made the grade

And though the news was rather sad

Well, i just had to laugh

I saw the photograph

He blew his mind out in a car

He didn't notice that the lights had changed

A crowd of people stood and stared

They'd seen his face before

Nobody was really sure if he was from the house of lords

I saw a film today oh, boy

The english army had just won the war

A crowd of people turned away

But i just had to look

Having read the book

I'd love to turn you on.

Woke up, got out of bed

Dragged a comb across my head

Found my way downstairs and drank a cup

And looking up, i noticed i was late

Found my coat and grabbed my hat

Made the bus in seconds flat

Found my way upstairs and had a smoke

Somebody spoke and i went into a dream


I read the news today oh, boy

Four thousand holes in blackburn, lancashire

And though the holes were rather small

They had to count them all

Now they know how many holes it takes to fill the albert hall

I'd love to turn you on

This may just be the starting point for a Beatles revival marathon. I haven't done that for a while.

Sunday, December 7, 2008

Secret Santa Sunday

Let's see, what did I do today? Sunday is perhaps the oddest day of the can be insanely busy or you can find yourself staring into space for hours on end with nothing to do.

Got up, got out of bed....(Beatles fans feel free to keep singing along here..I can't actually remember the next line)
Hung out washing that had very cleverly washed last night so I could get it on the line early before it got so insanely hot that I didn't want to walk outside. I allowed myself a few moments of being very impressed with my highly organised domesticatedness.
Shower...followed by once a week beauty routine...exfoliating...that's they key people!
Started to worry about stupid secret santa gifts for choir christmas breakup tomorrow night. Because we are going to Baltimore (a restaurant situated at the port) there is a nautical theme. What this has to do with Christmas I'm not sure but it sounds like it has potential for fun.
Racked brain for something under 5 dollars that would be a nautical gift. Decided to go back to Sam's Warehouse (previously The warehouse, previously Silly Solly's) to get three more of these and call them ship's cats. HAHAHAHA...very pleased with own imaginativeness re the nautical theme. Then started to worry that they would have none left, it being a week since I bought mine and knowing that who in their right mind could resist such a cute and tasteless piece of Christmas paraphernalia.
Jumped in car with mother and drove to aforementioned warehouse and like a sniffer dog tracked down what I think might have been the last three in the shop. In the manner of all discount shopping then bought some other bits of cheap junk we really didn't need. Well I bought gift tags which I did need, but mum bought a little wooden Christmas train ornament. I'm not sure they she really needed this, but it was cute in a pinocchio-esque kind of way and was only about 2 dollars.
Pleased with ourselves then we made our way downtown to Indulge which was open on a Sunday for Christmas. Nabbed a table and ate a big piece of citrus cake each (we could have easily shared..but hey, whatever) and coffee. Met Anne and her daughters. Wondered if Target would be open. Apparently not, because here in the regions we have not yet become so enlightenned to have seven day a week shopping all year round. Yes, I know, it's stupid.
Went home.
Turned on air conditioner full bore and wrapped up the secret santas. General tidy up round the house.
By then it was lunch time (peanut paste sandwich and an orange if you must know). Mum and I spent this time loading family photos onto a usb stick as for Christmas grandparents are getting a digital photo frame. Fab idea for a present. We think so!
And lunch nap til now.
Woken by thunder...raced outside to get washing off the line. Some big spots of rain but I made it just in time.
Drinking coffee and thinking I better practice songs for the concert tonight.

It's a full life.

Saturday, December 6, 2008

Wendy's Week of TV: Part 21

Saturday: I watched the Mountain program again with Griff Rhys-Jones. He has a slightly annoying habit of trailing his sentences off into a whisper, so to hear what was going I had to keep turning up the volume. I was impressed that he climbed a sheer rock face, but still if you had something else to do on a Saturday evening (and by that I mean anything), your time would be better spent. Sadly, I did not, emphasised by the fact that I then followed it up with Iron Chef.

Tuesday: Father Ted didn't disappoint, although it was a toss up whether to watch the return of Ugly Betty. I'm pretty sure I made the right decision. The bishops' visit was a delight. Best line (perhaps slightly misquoted because my memory is shot this evening) "That's what so great about Catholicism. It's so vague and no-one really understands what it's about".

Hamish Macbeth: Alright, Hamish enough with the moping and the guilts. I don't like this episode, with the artifice of Hamish running into the lady on the beach who can't move because she's standing on a landmine. Let's just get on with our lives shall we? The comic storyline was a nice one though with TV John leading Macbeth's replacement up the garden path. I particularly enjoyed the McLopez's request for paella (you need to have watched it to appreciate this).

Wednesday: Long Way Down with Ewan McGregor and Charley Boorman. I haven't watched Long Way Round but I did expect that maybe they'd be on the road before the end of the first hour. We spent an immense amount of time watching the background preparation and logistics being sorted out. Not really the most fascinating television, although when Ewan broke his leg that was a little bit of drama. They have an easy and entertaining rapport, so in the absence of any more Wednesday night Andre Rieu marathons I guess I might watch episode two next week.

Thursday: The Amazing Race
OK, so the Kazakhstan challenges weren't really the most interesting. I think they're scraping the bottom of the barrel when one of the choices is dressing in a cow costume and searching for the meat market. Still I was glad to see the back of Terence and Sarah. Poor Terence trying to choke down the meat during the fast forward. Nick and Starr win again. Ho hum.

Friday: Miss Congeniality

I went to bed before the end. Enough said really.

All in all, the television week didn't really cover itself in glory I have to say. But sometimes there are some hidden gems amongst the summer programming. Here's hoping.

Wednesday, December 3, 2008

Watch, listen and singalong 1: Birdhouse in your Soul

After the earlier Ratcat and Hummingbirds posts earlier in the week I have decided to start a new occasional series of posts called Watch, listen and singalong. Here I will show you my fantastic taste in music (read that sarcastically if you want to! I'm writing it that way), lots of it from the olden days. I know I have posted this link before but here is the whole video. This changed my entire view of the music and pop music in particular when I accidentally caught it on the short lived ABC Countdown Revolution, while growing up in little old Bundaberg.

Two things you must know about me and my fandom of They Might Be Giants:

1. Never ever describe them as "quirky" in my presence (real or virtual)

2. Always appreciate the songwriting genius that is John Flansburgh and John Linnell.

The end.

too much triple j was clearly enough

Methinks this is not so good. I will be happy to be proven wrong.
Was it the money?

This was my exciting morning

Disclaimer; Many people who read this will not think it's exciting.

It's funny how things in life connect.

When I left school I went to USQ in Toowoomba and completed a music degree majoring in piano. There I met and was good friends with a double bass player called Murray Gay who had come from Hervey Bay. This was in the days before everyone was facebooking, myspacing, emailing etc so as I result of me being a poor letter writer I lost touch with most people I studied with. I took a detour to UQ and completed a BA in English. At the completion of these two degrees and a large HECS debt later, I found myself jobless and fairly unemployable. So I left Brisbane and moved to Hervey Bay where I taught the piano and strings for three years at an Anglican College. While I was there, I would read the local paper and Murray's father - a local historian, radio man etc was often mentioned in the paper. I would think to myself, I should get in touch with them, seeing as I went to uni with their son. I never did.

Tiring of teaching unwilling year 4 students to hold a violin bow, I left my job and returned to Bundaberg where there was now a university campus, and started an honours degree in cultural studies. I wrote a little dissertation on postmodernity and satire on Australian television. All the while I continued to teach the piano and violin, as I was still fairly unemployable in the real world. I then completed a Phd which eventually ended up being about (amongst other things) selected examples from Australian television comedy from Graham Kennedy through to Kath and Kim.

Then a week or so ago I see the front of the Australian running a story about a Hervey Bay retiree, Henry Gay and some "lost letters" of Graham Kennedy. Hmmmm, I think to myself there is something strange about this story. It sounds like Graham Blundell has found a huge archive of letters and prised them away from Mr Gay. I had some other uncharitable thoughts about this (based on a previous experience) but let them go.

Then this morning as I was diligently working my way through my thesis to book editing I was in the middle of the chapter about Kennedy and these uncharitable thoughts came back to me. I wanted to find out what really happened to all this correspondence, hoping that it was still in the hands of its owner, Mr Gay. So I got out the local phone book and rang them up. Henry wasn't home, but I had a lovely chat to his wife Maureen. To my relief, they have taken good care and protection of the letters and other archival material. They are also slightly suspicious of journalists. I am going to ring back tomorrow to chat further, being very interested to find out not so much about Kennedy's personal life, but if he ever commented on his television work in the same glowing terms as so many commentators, or what he really thought of it.

So, now I'm sitting here at my desk thinking how strange the connections are we are that we make in life. I went to uni many years ago and met someone whose father had a stock of letters from a famous Australian television personality, who 15 years later I would want to contact and talk to because I had written about said personality in my thesis.

And what I also wonder is how this present might be different if I had made that contact all those years ago in Hervey Bay.

But we cannot return to the past, nor should we live our life regretting it. Maybe this is how it was meant to turn out.

Tuesday, December 2, 2008


just because...

I might still be reliving my youth following the ratcat memories earlier this week

(this might become an ongoing series...we shall see)

electronic meowing and yowling

I'm the first to admire people with exquisitely beautiful Christmas decor, with matching and expensive hand-painted decorations and twinkly lights. But part of me thinks that the best Christmas decorations are the somewhat less tasteful ones. Like this cute 3 dollar cat that when you press its tummy as directed, it meows "We Wish you a Merry Christmas" an an electronic yowl. It's so cute, and if you hurry to Sam's Warehouse (here in bundy at least) you can get one too. (They also had pigs and dogs). It never ceases to be funny. Although I guess there are still some days to Christmas and perhaps the novelty will wear off by then. I doubt it though!

Sunday, November 30, 2008

the plot is not the thing

Jinx and I had the privilege of watching a dress rehearsal of Aladdin on Sunday evening. When you describe a pantomime to someone who isn't familiar with the tradition, I can imagine they would look at you strangely and wonder what on earth there is of entertainment or interest to be found there. Surely, they might ask, the pantomime is a dated and anachronistic mode of popular entertainment?

Well, let's see. The central character is the "dame" - a man playing a big, blousy, slightly camp female character - in this case Widow Twankey. And then the title role is usually a male played by a female - in this case Aladdin. And then there are other clownish roles (here two policemen - Bamboo and Typhoo) and an evil Egyptian magician fella (whose name I forgot because it doesn't matter) who is after the magic lamp that Aladdin ends up with, allowing him to marry his princess. There are jokes galore, usually localised within the script, lots and lots of audience interaction, singalongs, chases round the theatre and my favourite of all - the audience screaming "Look behind you!". To enjoy it you must find the child within who has no preconceptions about how the world actually works, and enter a chaotic world of slapstick, colour, movement and dancing. The plot is always thin to non-existent...but the plot is not the thing that's important here.

When I was growing up in Bundaberg we lived in the same street that the Playhouse theatre is now still in. Every Christmas we would troop down in the stinking heat of summer to see the matinee. This was in the days before the theatre was airconditioned, but we would spend a raucous (and sometimes I must say, very long) afternoon doing all the things just described. The most exciting part was when it was all over and the actors would remain in costume and go outside to meet all the children as they filed out the theatre. This was a real thrill, and having been involved in Jack and the Giant (a previous panto production) in 2006, this joy has not changed in the intervening years. Kids are always fascinated (and sometimes I must say, a little freaked out) to see the actors come down from the stage and mingle amongst the audience.

Twenty five years later it's no different. Surprising as it may seem I found myself laughing at the jokes, singing and clapping along, and screaming quite loudly, "He went that way" during the chase scene. I hadn't laughed out loud that much for quite some time. What could be better than that?

"It's been a week, it's up to the cat now": Seinfeld Series 2, Episode 3

The Busboy is another of my early Seinfeld favourites, giving us the opportunity to see Julia Louis-Dreyfus's capacity for physical comedy, and the developing the awkward relationship between Kramer and George.

Food is one of the recurring themes in this episode, with Jerry's first stand up deriding contemporary culture's obsession with food and foodie culture.

Nice too, is the opening scene with Jerry, George and Elaine eating out at the restaurant. George is lamenting his poor choice of pesto, "why do I get pesto?", "where was pesto 10 years ago?" - yes, good question George. I have always found pesto an unsatisfactory meal. Here the Elaine storyline for the episode is also introduced. She's borrowing Jerry's car to pick up her new flame, Ed from Seattle, at the airport.

Jerry: Everyone's moving to Seattle

George: It's the pesto of cities.

Anyway, after learning that Ed is coming to visit Elaine for a week, we witness the real turning point for the episode, when George (somewhat uncharacteristically I think) bravely puts out a fire at the next table, caused when the busboy puts the menu too close to the candle. A sequence of events quickly follows, the busboy is fired, George freaks out because the restaurant manager tells the busboy that George is the one who alerted the manager, and put out the fire, and Jerry reassures George in his inimitable fashion, "He'll probably kill his family over this...lots of excons become busboys".

Back in the apartment George is still hassling over his possible role in the busboy losing his job. Elaine arrives to get the car keys, also bearing the busboy's address. George is now a man on a mission, off to the busboy's apartment to apologise. Jerry thinks it's a bad idea, especially for George to go alone.

Jerry: "Take the K man"
Kramer: (entering in a timely fashion for this suggestion) "Take me where..where??" - in the manner of an excitable five year old, or a puppy that sees its owner get the lead out and realises it's walk time.

So the odd couple of George and Kramer set out for the busboy's apartment. Upon arrival, George nicely asks Kramer to refrain from speaking when they get inside. It's hard to take George seriously here, as he's wearing a cute bobbly beannie. He timidly knocks on the door. Kramer pushes by with a great big confident knock and the busboy appears.

The actor playing the busboy Antonio (and if you're really interested you can look who this is up on wikipedia yourself) does a great job as a silent, threatening presence. George turns to jelly and gives a wussy apology. Kramer makes himself at home, asking if there's anything to drink. And then, the worst moment of all...someone left the door open and the busboy's cat "Perchita" (I'm guessing the spelling here) has disappeared. Now Antonio explodes in anger and rage and George and Kramer are looking in vain for the cat.

Sometime later, the cat has not reappeared, Antonio, George and Kramer are sitting round the kitchen table in some more awkward silence. Kramer gets up to leave, trips over the cord of the lamp and breaks it. He carefully repairs the broken lamp base and he and George make their escape, with George in a characteristic ineffective gesture leaves his business card with Antonio.

Back at Jerry's apartment, he's chatting to George onthe phone as Kramer arrives. On his way through the door he buzzes up Elaine from downstairs.
Jerry: George wants to know when you're going to look for the cat again.
Kramer (typically unconcerned): It's been a week, it's up to the cat now.
Elaine arrives frantic, and desperate to get Jerry's car keys and send Ed packing back to Seattle in the morning. It has not been a successful week. An ensuing discussion about alarm clocks, and the best route to take the airport sets up the following scene, where Elaine and Ed oversleep and Louis-Dreyfus does a crazy comic turn to get Ed up, dressed and out of the apartment. She leaves still in her nightgown, throwing a giant red parka over the top.

Return to Jerry's, where Jerry is testing George on his boast that "Anywhere in the city, I'll tell you the best public toilet". This fascinating discussion is interrupted by Elaine, dejected and drained with a tale of woe after failing to beat the traffic and get Ed on the plane. Then the mood quickly turns to one of glee and excitement:

Kramer: The busboy's comin', The busboy's comin'

George is terrified, imagining Antonio coming for revenge for the loss of his job and his cat.
As Antonio enters in his usual swaggering, threatening manner as George futilely backs away into the corner of Jerry's kitchen. But Antonion arrives bearing good news. The night after he was fired there was an explosion in the restaurant. George getting him fired has saved his life. He has now found a new job and best of all, the cat has returned.
Awkward hugs all round.
But of course, there can be no happy ending.
As the busboy leaves we hear him meet Ed in the hallway. The following confrontation and fight leads us to a final scene in the diner.

George can't stay, he has to go and feed Perchita until the busboy gets out of hospital.
Elaine has to go and feed Ed who is still staying with her until he can get back to Seattle.
Jerry, unaffected by both of their plights, remains enjoying his dinner.

And in a cute final touch, the diner's busboy comes over to clear the table.

Saturday, November 29, 2008

stripey shirts and electric typewriters

Inspired by a friend on facebook reminiscing about 1927 (the band, not the year) I'm remembering the late 80s and early 90s, which for me was the end of high school and the beginning of university. Remember when those stripey shirts looked cool. When we were only just beginning to hear murmurs about Nirvana. When REM's Losing My Religion shifted them firmly into the mainstream. When you couldn't listen to Triple J outside of the regions of capital cities. When I dyed my hair black and in the cold Toowoomba winter wore a black duffle coat (for some reason the term for this look favoured by arts students was "swampy"). When I really wanted, but couldn't afford a pair of doc martens. When I was practising the piano for hours every day. When CDs were new and I paid 120 dollars for a huge and clunky hitachi cd player that could feed into my twin cassette stereo (which was huge and clunky in itself). When the only people I knew with desktop computers were those actually studying IT (and at that stage I'm not even sure if it was called IT. To do my music history assignments I had a fantastic electric typewriter with a very small amount of memory (like a line of text or something that you could see on a tiny little display). When we hadn't heard of the internet (well maybe some people had but I was studying music so the most technical we got was the hifi record player in the music library which didn't have any cds). But we did have to do a compulsory computing subject in our first year where among other things we learned to do very basic programming in DOS, and save things on those huge big floppy disks. When I wouldn't miss The Late Show (with the D Generation), listened to Helen and Mikey's breakfast every morning, and Roy and HG on the weekends. When my favourite shows were Northern Exposure and Seinfeld (and still are). When Cheers finished and I had to miss it because I had an orchestra rehearsal. When the Simpsons was new and I didn't recognise it for the television icon it would become. Best of all, when pop music actually had some hooks and a mild amount of substance even in the one hit wonders.

Wendy's Week of TV Part 20

Saturday: Gardening Australia

No matter how hard they try it's just not the same without Peter Cundall and his blooming lot for the week.

Mountain with Griff Rhys-Jones

I thought we would actually watch Griff climb a lot of mountains, but with the exception of the beginning and the end of this program that didn't seem to be the case. Snowdownia is certainly beautiful and the entrepreneurs making recycled paper out of sheep poo were interesting but low marks for the hour seeming to pass so slowly.

Iron Chef

I watch it because there is nothing else remotely worth watching. The scallop battle. This show is rigged I'm sure...does anyone ever beat the Iron Chef? The panel (including an actress with bizarrely long pearl earrings) seemed to dislike most of his dishes, yet still he was the winner. How does that work? Intriguing - in a non-intriguing kind of a way.

Tuesday: Father Ted

Aaah, Ted and Dougal attempt to rig a raffle for a car to fix their leaking roof. Surely there can't be any comic potential in such an innocent and straightforward storyline. Wrong. I laughed out loud on a number of occasions, particularly at the dancing priest. And, when Dougal finally realised he had the "winning ticket" no. 11. He was just holding it upside down so took a moment to realise it was in fact 11.

Hamish Macbeth

You know in another setting we would have sympathised with Alex, because her cheating, no good policeman boyfriend was in love with Isobel, had been unfaithful and made her look like an idiot for sticking around so long. But when she had the accident in the radio van and died, it was Hamish I felt sorry for. And just a little bit relieved that they finally got rid of such an annoying character. I wonder if that makes me a bad person.

Wednesday: It was my Grandma's birthday which required dinner and more Andre Rieu unfortunately. I've never seen a 45 minute encore before. What I really object to here is that these concerts totally devalue the standing ovation. A standing ovation is for something special, not just playing each song and finishing it. To most likely completely misquote Blackadder the Fourth's telegram to Charlie Chaplin, "please, please, stop".

Thursday: The Amazing Race

Finally, just as I learned their names (Kelly and Christy), the divorcees were eliminated. How ditzy were they in that paintball challenge though? Nearly as stupid as Dan and Andrew and that's saying something. It was pretty funny though when those same two couples kept doing the bleary eyed test and not even seeing the numbers they had to hand to the man with the sewing machine. How nice for Ken and Tina to give them a little hint. Tina's green hair looked great and Dallas and Toni (?) were legends, taking it right up to the perfect siblings Nick and Starr. I'm excited about next week!

Friday: Muhammed Ali documentary on SBS

Now this was interesting, particularly in the setting of Ali's achievements and his journey from Cassius Clay to Ali against the background of the black civil rights movement in the 1960s. The drama of the initial fight with Sonny Liston was exciting. And (as it was all happening before I was born) I hadn't realised the extent of the relationship between Ali, Malcolm X, and the Nation of Islam more generally. Not sure if there is a part 2 next week but I'll be watching.

Note of little excitement: the original BBC adaptation of Brideshead Revisited with Jeremy Irons starts tomorrow night on ABC2 at 7:30.

Wednesday, November 26, 2008

I am all waltzed out

I went to work.
The day was turned upside down - administrivia in the morning, book writing and filing of readings in the afternoon
There was pavlova and profiteroles at morning tea - a farewell for a corridor colleague.
I ate both pavlova and a profiterole.
I reviewed two course profiles for Term 1 2009.
I taught my lovely piano student this afternoon. She brought me a bag of tomatoes and homegrown cucumbers.
The whippersnipper -debussy incident (see post below)
I chased the cat off the christmas decorations for what seemed like the millionth time.
I'm not sure who will break first - me or the cat. The standoff has been going on since Saturday.
It was my Grandma's birthday so she came over for dinner with the family.
There was more Andre Rieu after the cake.
I am now all waltzed out and drinking chamomile tea in recovery.

modern gardening equipment vs piano impressionists

Why does my new next door neighbour feel the need to whippership right next to our boundary fence while I am trying to search iTunes for Debussy's Prelude "the sunken cathedral". It's a very quiet and atmospheric piece. I can't remember the French and so am relying on the little iTunes previews. Whipper snipper is drowning them out because of my computer's fairly ordinary sound system. He has a whole acre of backyard. So why my fenceline at this particular moment in time?
Whipper snipper will win out every time.

Monday, November 24, 2008

rhubarb and apple crumble

It's been a pleasantly productive day. The morning zipped by with a few inquiries and telephone interviews with prospective external students - all of whom were enthusiastic (as usual). I also managed to attend a learning and teaching seminar about theories of leadership and management where it seemed everyone there came to the same conclusion about our institution (I shall leave this implied I think).

Then a quietish afternoon where I waded through some more of the book editing and continued the filing of readings. Big achievement here was staying awake.

All that plus leftover rhubarb and apple crumble for afternoon tea from last night's Christmas celebration made for a lovely day!

Sunday, November 23, 2008

pink rose

Finally, my pink rose has produced a flower.

Saturday, November 22, 2008

Wendy's Week of TV: Part 19

Sunday: The Einstein Factor

The Einstein Factor is really heating up now with the grand final for the year tomorrow night. Sadly, the contestant with Insane Clown Posse as his special subject didn't get through, but his hair was entertaining nonetheless. Please, please, please let Barry Jones be on the brains trust. Please, please, please don't let Jennifer Byrne be on the brains trust. That's all.

Who do you think you are?

Carol Vorderman, not particularly well known in Australia I would imagine, but still an interesting subject given that she knew nothing about the Dutch side of her family. Apparently, one of her ancestors was a potential Nobel Prize recipient, something about discovering vitamins, which as we all know are very important.

Tuesday: Father Ted

Distinguished by an appearance from a younger Graham Norton as a crazed, singing, guitar playing, youth-group leading priest. Ted, Dougal and Jack find themselves sharing a tiny caravan with him and his followers as they try to have their yearly holiday. Hi-jinks galore.

Hamish Macbeth: Isobel has a makeover, Alex becomes even more annoying and the villagers think for a brief moment that they have won the lottery. Thanks to Lachie snr losing the ticket while trying to fix the village bus they haven't. Oh, and something about an evil car manufacturer testing cars in the Highlands woven in there as well. All very satisfying.

Wednesday: This was the night of the Andre Rieu marathon (6-9:15 with no breaks). Schmalzy is an understatement. Sure the guy plays the violin very nicely and his orchestra plays some jolly popular classics and well known show tunes. But do we really need this set against the backdrop of an actual fairytale castle, complete with clowns, dwarves, elephants and all manner of other bizarre props and costumes. Also, note to Andre: less with the narration about how life is a fairytale and just get on with the music. This was especially annoying when the subtitles stopped working and for the last hour we had to guess what the Dutch might be meaning. Please let's never mention this evening again. Ever.

Thursday: The Amazing Race

Gosh it was touch and go there for Ken and Tina.. They really should have chosen the Indian laundry challenge rather than the money necklace at the Indian wedding. Trust Nick and Starr to have gloves in their bags to cope with the heat of he coal fired irons. I do like how the divorcees (whose names still escape me) have started calling frat boys Dan and Andrew "Dandrew". Lucky for Ken and Tina this was a non-elimination round. Phew!

Friday: A mish-mash.

The last half hour of an SBS documentary on the Summer of Love in San Francisco was very interesting and made me wish I'd realised it was on earlier and seen the first half hour. Instead, I was watching Stateline on the storms. I've had it with news of storms (even though it looks promising for one later today here). I then saw Fast Ed and Johanna Griggs make three salads that looked easy and edible (unusual for TV cooking shows). Hmmmm...I might have to buy that edition of Better Homes and Gardens. Later, Harry Potter ate some kind of weed recommended to him by Neville Longbottom (?) and turned into a fish while searching for something in a lake. Then I went to bed. Goodness knows what happened next because I haven't read the book or seen that movie before.

Friday, November 21, 2008

Making plans and doing the sums

I have been doing some sums this morning. If I am going on official holidays on December 15th this means I have about three weeks to get through my book edits once more if I am to holiday without it hanging over my head. So if I have about three hundred pages still to get through, and work on the premise that I can find time for it five days out of seven, then I need to do 30 pages or so a day. That doesn't sound like much. Does it? Actually, 30 times 15 seems to be 450 (according to my trusty calculator). So what I have really done is factored the usual procastinating time, as well as unforeseen events such as getting up in the morning and thinking, "I don't feel like looking at that book draft today". And the fact that when I'm at work I might actually have to do the job they are paying me for (which sadly is not research...don't get me ranting on this).

Thursday, November 20, 2008

I really must improve my filing skills

The reason why I have been unable to locate my copy (for at least 12 months) of John Corner's excellent and very useful article "Performing the Real: Documentary Diversions" (2002) is because it was in the "D" file ( I presume for documentary) rather than the "C"(for Corner which is where it should have been).

In the last few days I have also found a reading by Lyotard in the "B" file and an article by Mimi White in "A".

I really must improve my filing skills.

And my memory.

And my basic knowledge of the alphabet it seems.

Wednesday, November 19, 2008

magic television

I am now up to D in my recataloguing of all readings in my filing cabinet. I have been a little bit ruthless in throwing out articles I can't remember reading the first time, deciding on a closer look that there was no way I was going to try reading them again because they were now very irrelevant, considering the direction my phd finally took. I am looking forward to using the shredder!

I have been enjoying reminiscing over many of the books and articles on 19th century visual entertainments. For while there during the phd process (say for about 18 months) I became very focussed on trying to draw an argument on the connection between very early technologies like the magic lantern and the liveness we find in television. There is so much written about early cinema history and the technologies that preceded it, but very little about television. I had forgotten I had a whole photocopy (ssssh..don't tell anyone) of Barnouw's The Magician and the Cinema, as well as the wonderful books by Jonathan Crary (real not photocopied) and lots of other bits and pieces on Lumiere, Melies, and actuality films generally. In last week's major throwout I found endless drafts of a chapter called 19th century televisuality. In the end, I decided it was too long a bow to draw. I had little access to any supporting archival material and went with the early experimental mechanically scanned TV images instead that I could find as digital reproductions. Still, it's lovely to look back at the pictures of the magic lanterns, the dioramas, the kaleidoscopes, the peepshows, and all the other imaginative names inventors came up with for describing images that moved.

Tuesday, November 18, 2008

with a little help from Foucault

I have spent the morning at work going through our area's Quality Assurance Manual in preparation for Thursday when I meet with the QA officer to make sure what we do in running our program is reflected in the processes in the Manual. At the moment it very much isn't and with a potentially disruptive restructure in the offing we are trying to get things tied down. As well as the delightfully dry language of the manual I have also had the opportunity to go into the institution's policies to check a few things. I managed to resist reading through the "Policy on Policies" (that is not a joke) but did actually find some useful things in the Assessment of Coursework Policy that we can transfer. It seems the key with policy is to be as broad as possible while allowing for every specific eventuality. I don't know, I'm not a policy maker but I'm sure one could write a fascinating critical discursive analysis of contemporary policy and management documents with a little help from Foucault. I shall resist that temptation.

I am also wondering if the fact I now have a headache could in any way at all be related to the morning's reading material.

I am now engaged in a much more interesting task - tidying out my filing cabinet of 8 years accumulated readings and journal articles and compiling them into some sort of final library. Alas, I find myself using the dreaded endnote...but only for compiling an alphabetical list of titles. I am also enjoying preparing a pile of readings for the shredder, of many of the obscure, irrelevant and intensely theoretical readings that were of no use at all, but were continually supplied to me in an insistent manner by my original supervisor.

Hindsight is a wonderful thing.

Sunday, November 16, 2008

pink geraniums

Brightening up my desk. The rose wilted and has now been superceded.

Who figures an immigrant's going to have a pony?: Seinfeld Series 2: Episode 2

The Pony Remark is one of my very early favourites. Mind you I'm not terribly discriminating when it comes to Seinfeld favourites. There are favourite aspects of nearly every episode, but this one is an early treat.

The first thing to like is that after Jerry's opening standup the first scene is devoted to his parents Helen and Morty. Staying at Jerry's they have flown up from Florida for a 50th anniversary dinner for distant relations. Two great old married couple arguments ensue - one over Morty's checked sports jacket which is particularly lairy, and another over who will answer the phone when it rings. When does conversation turn into argument? I get the sense here that the scriptwriters are saying that this is what marriage turns into after so many years. Life is filled with minor disagreements that don't have any long term meaning. In a way this is a comforting thought, but also fits into the regular Seinfeld theme of exposing the difficulties and problems inherent in long term commitment.

Jerry arrives thrilled that his baseball team has made the final for the following Wednesday. It is, he says, the greatest moment of his life. And then in a clever piece of foreshadowing we learn that Morty's greatest moment was when he went to work for Harry Fleming and came up with the idea for the beltless trenchcoat. Stay tuned for a future episode involving Kramer, Morty and beltless trenchcoats that is also a joy.

Jerry's parents try to convince him to come to the anniversary party, bringing Elaine along. His objection is that Uncle Leo will be there, grabbing his arm and tellling him all about cousin Jeffrey who "works for the parks department".

And then perhaps my favourite moment in this episode when Kramer appears with his genius plan to remodel his entire apartment as "levels", getting rid of all his furniture and replacing it with carpetting and pillows, "just like in Ancient Egypt". Jerry is skeptical: "I know that you can't and I'm positive that you won't". They agree on the bet of big dinner if it doesn't happen. Kramer is supremely confident.

The pivotal scene of the anniversary dinner is delightfully staged. Jerry and Elaine are in attendance. Jerry has landed a seat next to Uncle Leo who regales him with tales of Jeffrey's tours of the park; "edible foliage tours". Jerry listens dutifully, while Elaine seated at the add-on "kids table" desperately attempts to join in the conversation: "These peas are bursting with country fresh flavour", "phe-nom-en-al peas". It's all very awkward and becomes more so as the conversation turns to horses. Jerry sees an opportunity to join in, "they're like big riding dogs" and ponies "what kind of abnormal animal is that?". It just gets worse as Jerry and Elaine riff off each other on the ridiculousness of ponies, culminating with Jerry observing that hates anyone who ever had their own pony. Supremely embarrassing moment follows when Manya (she of the anniversary dinner) tells them off. She had a pony when she was a little girl in Poland, and then she promptly huffs off out of the room.

Jerry then, tries to makes amends with some beautiful lines: "Who figures an immigrant's going to have a pony?"; "Who leaves a country packed with ponies to come to a non-pony country?"

It sort of puts a dampener on the party atmosphere.

Next morning at the apartment Jerry is farewelling his parents when Kramer enters. The levels are off. "I decided I'm not going to do it." Jerry wants to know when he's going to get his big dinner. Kramer's logic is stunning: "There's no bet...I'm not doing it."

As the parents leave, Jerry gets a phone call. Manya has died. He hollers to his parents down on the street and they return, now staying for the funeral. Morty is particularly concerned about losing money on his cancelled flights, while Helen despairs once again over the sports jacket, which is particularly inappropriate for a funeral. Together they muse over what caused the death: "the pony remark". Jerry is then in a dilemma, as the funeral clashes with his baseball final. "Who has a funeral on a Wednesday?"

Some stand up on death.

In the diner with Elaine and George. This is a strangely late appearance in the episode for George. While Elaine and Jerry debate the pros and cons of him going to the funeral or his baseball game, George remains completely self-absorbed. He can't envisage any situation where he will ever have sex again. This is totally ignored by the other two as they consider the meaning of life and wasting time. Elaine is concerned, "Can't you have coffee with people?". She is interested to hear that Manya's apartment will be available as Isaac is moving to Phoenix. Three hundred dollars a month.

At the funeral the pony is a big talking point in the eulogy as Jerry shrinks into his seat. "She even had a pony. Oh, how she loved that pony...It was the pride of Krakow."

And the wake is nicely constructed too, with Morty badgering his intern nephew for a doctor's note to take the airline, while Elaine and Jerry engage in an very unsubtle interrogation of Isaac to find out what's happening to the apartment. Jeffrey's taking the apartment. The only good news for Jerry is when it starts to rain. His game will have been postponed and he will get to play.

Finally in the diner, post-game, Jerry is being severely paid out for the hopeless game he played. Elaine suggests it may have been karmic payback for the pony remark.

Last line pre standup: "Who figures an immigrant's going to have a pony?"

giant flowery spikes

These salvia have gone from punnet-sized seedlings to giant flowery spikes in the matter of a month. And I was very excited to see the miniature rose (after I pruned it back to nothing but bare twigs) has flowered for the first time in a year. It's not a great picture but it's orange which is one of my favourite rose colours. What you can't see in this photo is that the weeds are also growing riotously well and this will require some work to remedy. Maybe later this afternoon when it's cooler.

Saturday, November 15, 2008

mild mannered philosophising

Sometimes, particularly before bed, I just have to read books that don't require me to think too much. And in this way, Alexander McCall Smith fits the bill perfectly. That being said, I didn't take to the Botswanan detective agency series where it seemed to me that he hadn't quite struck the balance between his slowly building plots and his mild mannered philosophising of the everyday. I think this is why I like the Isabel Dalhousie series better. Just now bedtime reading is the most recent The Comfort of Saturdays. Don't ask me what it's actually about...some kind of medical/pharmaceutical issue that Isabel is gently poking her nose into. This is what interests me least. What I like are the descriptions of Edinburgh, the architecture, the people, her niece's delicatessen, and the fact that Isabel's partner is a younger bassoonist allowing McCall Smith to write quietly and intelligently about music.

And it is this last topic that he really explores in the most recent La's Orchestra Saves the World. Apart from falling into the trap of the current fad for stupidly long book titles, this one had a slightly weightier theme being set in and around World War Two in country Suffolk, where a young woman escaping a bad marriage sets up an amateur orchestra. There is a lovely review of it in today's Weekend Australian Review. It's was a comforting reading experience, yet it made me think about my own involvement in community music activities in a positive way, emphasising the importance of the arts generally as a complementary salve to other darker and more serious social issues.

Of course the worlds McCall Smith constructs are all very idealised and escapist...fantasies in their own way. And that's why I like reading them I suppose.


My Deals Direct phone bargain arrived today. Well, yesterday actually but because I wasn't home when the parcel man came by tooting his horn, I had to go to the Post Office this morning and pick it up. I was very excited because it was like a birthday present. Needless to say I was quite peeved then that today was the day Ergon Energy chose to turn the power off for six hours while they install new telephone poles up the road. This meant the new exciting toy/ present bought for self had to sit in pieces until 2pm this afternoon. And then, I very cleverly worked out how to put it together and which plugs to plug which cords into (I know this sounds extremely basic but I am not very technical!). And then nothing happened. No lights came on the display, and when I rang it from my mobile - nuffing. Well, the little light on the base flicked but the phone was dormant. So I read through the whole manual which really had not one useful troubleshooting hint in it. Except it noted that if the batteries are really flat it can take a "few moments" for the battery charging icon to appear on the display. After three hours I decided that those "few moments" were probably passed. So, using great powers of ingenuity and deduction I decided there must be an actual problem with the battery. I pulled them out and put them back in again....and it started charging on the display. That wasn't in the manual.

Now, to work out how to turn on the caller ID promised in the manual.

Wendy's Week of TV: Part 18

Sunday: Who do you think you are?
Graham Norton - I've never actually watched his show in full (screening here on ABC2) but he was a delightful subject for this episode. Once more into Ireland dear friends, and then circling back to England.

Monday: Enough Rope with Dawn French
I raced home from choir in time to catch most of this interview. I have actually never been much of a fan of French and Saunders, but did watch The Vicar of Dibley quite religiously (oh how witty I am!). Dawn has written a book about, among other things, her father. I imagine this is why she had agreed to appear with Denton - for a little bit of free publicity. However, she made a wonderful interviewee and her self-confidence and open attitude to life in general was inspiring.

Tuesday: Hamish Macbeth
Ah...the seeds of discontent are now germinating between Hamish and Alex. You can just tell TV John doesn't think she's the right one. And he should know, what with the second sight and all. I do enjoy this episode where Barney and Lachie Jnr cook up a whale-watching scam for the tourists. Nice back story for Agnes with her long lost son appearing out of the blue. A pity this wasn't followed through in later episodes. The frequent mention of tongue sandwiches was a little disconcerting.

Wednesday: Iconoclasts
I neglected to mention in last week's Wendy's Week that I had watched the Paul Simon/ Lorne Michaels episode which was really entertaining. I'm a big Simon and Garfunkel fan. My how Paul has aged. The music retains it charm however. And Lorne Michael's long standing role with Saturday Night Live is to be applauded (even though I have never really found it funny). This week it was Dave Chappelle and Maya Angelou. Less interesting I think because they had never met before the episode was shot. So it was all a bit stilted and awkward with them pseudo-interviewing each other.

Thursday: The Amazing Race
I have become addicted to the Amazing Race. I don't understand why everyone dislikes brother and sister Nick and Starr. They're no more annoying than any of the other couples. But the Frat Boys (Dan and Andrew is it?) are starting to really get on my nerves. I'm going for the separated couple - Ken and Tina? (just learning the names) and going against the divorcees (whose names I forget because they are like interchangeable Barbie dolls). I just musn't have the spirit of adventure because there would have been no way I would waded through that Cambodian lake in search for fish in a trap...even for a million dollars.

Thursday, November 13, 2008

Do we have any incense?

Father Ted repeats return next Tuesday on ABC2 before Hamish Macbeth.

Ted: "Do we have any incense?"
Dougal: "There was a spider in the bathroom last week"

What's not to find funny with that!

Tuesday, November 11, 2008

the internet plus gift vouchers

Items purchased via the marvellous resources of the internet over the last seven days:

Stainless steel kettle and toaster
iTunes Gift Card
Cordless phone
String of rattan Balinese style outdoor lights

I think I might be a convert to online shopping and with Christmas fast approaching this can be no bad thing. I dislike Christmas shopping. The endless list making, the racking of one's brain for the perfect gift and the racking one's brain to try and remember what grandma was bought last year all combine to make late December a little bit stressful. Some people, more organised people, keep a book with a list of the presents they buy each year so they can check it back before they start buying. Others build up a stock of bargains and specials throughout the year so Christmas involves going to the cupboard and matching their large store of gifts to people they know. Both these practices are admirable but I engage in neither of them.

So although three out of the four items above are for me, I see huge potential for quick and painless Christmas gift buying. What with the internet plus gift vouchers I'm set!

Sunday, November 9, 2008

The frog at the front door

Musing on Summer Heights High

Some of this appeared in the Courier Mail yesterday in an piece by Erica Thompson who kindly contacted me for a comment. It seems Summer Heights High is getting rave reviews in the US (as opposed to the critical panning of KandK). Anyway I thought I would post the lot in case anyone is interested. It's really just thoughts in response to some points raised from Erica - that may appear later and be followed through in more academic papers.

Glowing critical reviews do not always translate to high ratings. And sometimes shows rate highly but are critically panned. And then you have something like Kath and Kim which got bad reviews and poor ratings. The shows do seem to be being received differently in the US and it would be wonderful for Summer Heights High to be celebrated as I think it deserves every success. As to the reason why it could be something to do with Summer Heights High’s comic style. The Australian Kath and Kim relies very much on catchphrases and broad physical, visual and verbal comedy. Summer Heights High is closer to the deadpan comedy style of the mockumentary that we see in The Office, where the comedy is somewhat blacker. By this I mean, there are moments that are funny, but there are also a great many awkward, embarrassing, almost cruel scenes which make the viewers cringe in disbelief. Perhaps this kind of comedy translates more easily across national and cultural boundaries, although I imagine the ratings will be the real judge. I also think part of the attraction of Summer Heights High (as with Lilley’s previous effort in We Can Be Heroes) is watching him play all the characters . It’s a real comic tour-de force.

It’s always difficult to say whether programs will translate into other markets. I think it always depends on the people involved in the project. I was very sceptical that Ricky Gervais’s The Office would translate well to the USA but it seems to have succeeded. Maybe Ricky Gervais and Stephen Merchant were able to regain more control than Jane Turner and Gina Riley were able to. I do think that with the right people involved Summer Heights High might have had more of a chance of success in translation as I think it’s characters are more universal types. This is slightly different to Kath and Kim where so much of the comedy is based on the nuances of Australian culture, and clearly it was difficult to capture the essence of this in the US version. I also felt that Selma Blair was miscast as Kim – there seemed to be a hesitation in the US Kath and Kim to embrace the grotesque dagginess of the Australian version. But then, maybe that was one of the aspects of the program that was lost in translation. What I would have really liked to see was an American network take a risk on running the Australian version of Kath and Kim and seeing how it was received. In remaking program I think there is a bigger risk of failure, in that the mystery ingredients of its success might not be able to be recaptured. Top Gear Australia is a good case in point here too. It looks and sounds like the British Top Gear, but the magic of this program is the personalities, not the cars. And it is those personalities who are missing in action on the Australian version.

Airing on HBO the imperative for Summer Heights High to be a ratings bonanza is perhaps not as strong, as it was for Kath and Kim which aired on NBC. Network television tends to look for immediate commercial success in terms of ratings, whereas cable broadcasters like HBO have more room for programs like Summer Heights High which are critically adored but need not necessarily attract a huge mainstream audience. Perhaps Kath and Kim (particularly in its original Australian version) would have been more successful if it had been given an opportunity on HBO or another similar station.

I think it’s too early in his career to label Chris Lilley a genius. However, if he continues to make such incisive satirical black comedy he may turn out to be the modern day equivalent of someone like Barry Humphries, as he builds up a body of comic work and comic characters. I hope he does because his powers of observation and ability to inhabit the characters he creates is something very special and original and not seen on Australian television for some time.

Successful or not, what I think is positive about programs like Kath and Kim and Summer Heights High trying their luck in the American market is that the awareness of the Australian television industry is being raised, particularly in such a lucrative and large market as the US. We have some wonderfully creative comedians working in television and the more opportunities they are given both here and overseas, the better it is for the future of the industry, and for us as TV viewers. That being said, I really hope American audiences are as fascinated by Mr G, J’aime and Jonah as we have been.

And final thought for the day: I'm glad Lilley resisted the lure of the American remake.

Peter Cundall inspired pruning

Last night this was a barely visible rosebud. This morning it was in full bloom. I probably could have left it on the bush, but the rain had weighed it down and it was falling face down into the dirt. What's exciting is there are four or five more buds on the same bush. Some dynamic lifter and Peter Cundall inspired pruning three weeks ago has produced great results.

view from my bridge

After last night's rain my creek is running. This is a garden water feature that didn't require thousands of dollars in landscaping or a surprise visit from Jamie Durie.