Tuesday, May 31, 2005

Arguments R Us

I went to the races on Saturday with Ven and some of his friends from work. The day started innocently enough with a glass of champagne at a friends place. Of course, two bottles of champagne between three people is always entertaining and while Ven's friend was getting ready, Ven and I ended up having an argument about the Amish of all things.

I really can't even remember what the argument was about, but, suffice to say, Ven is the most argumentative person I know (even more argumentative than me, I mean). He will argue any point of view, just for the sake of it. But most of all, he likes to argue about something that he doesn't even know anything about. He really loves coming up with a contrary point of view, especially if it is offensive, and will hammer home his point until you will agree with anything in the hope that he just shuts up and gives you some peace.

It's very entertaining to watch other people's reactions when he starts an argument about which kitchen drawer the spoons should go in.

Saturday, May 28, 2005

My favourite book - a cure for disjointedness (is this a real word?)

Recently I've been feeling a little below par - not quite depressed - but not quite the usual killer-Laziest Girl. I've been bitching and moaning to all and sundry to no good effect. And I've just realised what the problem is. And, suprisingly enough, it isn't that I didn't attend my high school prom (ok, so who hasn't watched Pretty In Pink an absurd amount of times?).

Some time ago, my God-Sister (Kiwi-doc) (her parents are my God Parents) came up from Melbourne and stayed with us for the weekend. She's a lovely girl and is currently working as a doctor in Melbourne. Anyway, when she left, I gave her my copy of my favourite book for her to re-read.

My favourite book is The Secret History by Donna Tartt. I just love this book and I must have read it about 50 times - it's like comfort food. When I say I've read it about 50 times, I'm seriously not joking. I often will pick it up and start reading at random.

One of the themes in this book is the idea that people have a fatal flaw that runs beneath the surface. This flaw, or supercharged character fault, can be the aspect of their personality that can tip them over the edge of reasonable behaviour. This is a pretty common idea in a lot of books and is quite prominent in murder mysteries - especially - Ruth Rendell, PD James and Elizabeth George (to name a few). I love this idea and spend a great deal of my contemplation time wondering what fatal flaw is possessed by my friends and acquaintances (please don't be totally freaked out by this).

Anyway, the point of this is that I love this book. The characters in this book are so realistic that I feel like I know them. As I've given my copy of the book to the the Kiwi-doc, I haven't been able to re-read it lately. And I miss them.

How sad am I? I miss characters in a book. I know that they are not real but I still feel like I know them and miss them. Clearly the only solution to this is to buy another copy of the damn book and be done with it. Honestly - if I was stuck on deserted island, this is the book that I would take.

Friday, May 27, 2005

Have you ever wondered why the Mormons are so keen on genealogy?

We got a letter today (at the day job) from the Genealogical Society of Utah requesting a bunch of stuff . Wait a minute, I thought - aren't they part of the Church of Jesus Christ and the Latter-day Saints? So why is LDS so interested in genealogy? Well, I'm glad you asked.

The LDS church teach that families are incredibly important and in order to stay together for eternity, families are encouraged to make covenants (like a special promise) in temple. Members of LDS also believe that once a person dies, their spirit goes into a kind of spirit world where they wait for the day of judgement.

So, if you can identify your ancestors - you need their whole name - you can make covenants to them which they can accept from the spirit world. Hence you can spend eternity with your ancestors.

If you don't identify your ancestors, presumably they shrivel up in purgatory somewhere all the while cursing you for not trying hard enough to identify them.

Friday, May 20, 2005

Nice day for it.

And we had a huge storm last night that flooded our building at work. Here is picture of the huge pile of hail that was still on the grass at work this morning. There were three huge piles at the front of the building and more smaller heaps in the carpark (but the light wasn't too good for pictures). This particular pile was about four foot in diameter and about a foot high at the centre. I know the pic isn't very good (because I took it with my phone) but I am actually holding a half melted handful of hail stones the size of small marbles. They came down last night at 6pm and this pic was taken this morning at 11am. So much for the weather forecast yesterday of 23 degrees and fine.
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shall I wear my beret now, or just take it with me in case?

In other news, I got 40 out of 40 for my recent 2000 word essay for my meditation subject. This means that (a) I am a previously unrealised intellectual giant, or (b) Blondie (our tutor) is an easy marker. Frankly, you guys are lucky that I can fit this blog into my busy schedule of contemplating string theory and discussing Euripedes while drinking absinthe with my bohemian, but intellectually brillant, pals in a smokey cafe/bar.

rats or running water?

Venerable and I might be going to India together for two weeks at the end of the year for a friends wedding. Although the idea is still in embryo (and Ven's friend hasn't actually confirmed a date yet) - I'm a bit excited. My only fear is that Ven will spend all of his money on drugs on the first day and we will end up staying in some rat-infested slum-like hostel without running water. The worst part of this is that Ven will be too stoned to care about the rats and I will be too sober to legally claim extenuating circumstances when I throttle him.

Thursday, May 19, 2005

What have I been reading?

I've just finished reading two Jodi Piccoult books in quick succession and I have to say, they are pretty good. Her ideas are really interesting and I like the way she structures her story and then winds up the loose ends. I actually bought her new one "Vanishing Acts" and read it in about two days. It's about a little girl whose parents are divorced and her father takes her and absconds after telling her that her mother is dead. They move to a small town and start new lives with new names etc. The story starts when she is in her late twenties and it tells the story of the trial and her reunion with her mother (a recovering alcoholic). It is a little predictable, and I found the story of the father in prison a little distracting, but it was very enjoyable. Each chapter is from the perspective of each character - which was good - but did slow the novel down a bit. It was interesting to hear the different takes on each situation, but it did get a little bit repetitive - but I would recommend it as an enjoyable and easy read.

I then got "Keeping Faith" from the library and read it in about the same time frame. This one is about a little girl who sees and speaks to God and gets stigmatas. The romance between the girls mother and the atheist TV presenter is a little unbelievable, but on the whole it was good and it wraps up well.

Tuesday, May 17, 2005

the non-crazy mofo

Just between you and I, if someone is going to have a sticker on the back window of their car that says "Crazy MoFo", you'd think that they would have the common decency to at least drive like a crazy mofo and not drive 65 in an 80 zone.

Hoax Resurrection Exposed

I went to a seven year olds birthday party on Sunday and I learnt something new that I thought I'd share with you all. One of the birthday gifts this seven year old received was a Sea Monkey kit. Now I've never owned any sea monkeys, but I understand that they are actually little brine-shrimp. Very simple - take water, add purifier, add eggs and - hey presto - sea monkeys. But the most startling thing about sea monkeys is the little information page that comes with them. It gives advice for replacing the water, aerating the water, what to do in case of plague and, here's the scary part, what to do to bring your sea monkeys back to life. I kid you not.

Always eager to discover a technique for a credible resurrection I read the leaflet carefully. If all your sea monkeys die, simply allow all the water to evaporate over two to three weeks. When the empty tank is dry, just add more water and water purifier and your sea monkeys will come back again.

But they don't. Well, not the ones that actually died in the first place. New ones hatch from eggs that remained dormant on the bottom from the first tank. Apparently, there are three generations of sea monkeys in each packet of eggs. I didn't want to see new sea monkeys - I wanted to see the ones the died come back to life. I was very disappointed.

(Marginally) Interesting Sea Monkey Fact Number One:

Solar Ponds are common in the Murray Basin area and consist of large ponds with salt water in them. The water gets hot from the sun and then is pumped out and the heat is exchanged to dry out the water, leaving salt remaining. The salt is then sold as high quality salt. "Sea Monkeys" are in fact used in Solar Ponds to eat the algae which forms, to keep the water clear. So a little eco system with "Sea Monkeys", actually operates in solar ponds.
(source - www.hydrogen.org.au/decentralised-power-production.htm)

Sunday, May 15, 2005

Table for four?

You know, I never really thought that I was a very predictable but it turns out that I am, very much, a creature of habit. How do I know? Well, I'm glad you asked.

I was talking to the Gorgeous Tall One the other day and she made the comment that if I was ever running late for dinner at a restaurant, she thought that she could order for me and choose the same thing that I would. Hah, I thought, you fool.

Ok, she says, you would have the Atlantic Salmon for mains, with a glass (or three) of Savignon Blanc, and the Creme Brulee for dessert. Damn it - she's right. And my only defence is that I really like Salmon.

But if Salmon is not on the menu, things get really ugly. I don't eat red meat but I will eat chicken and fish so I'm not really a vegetarian. Handsomest is a lot more careful than I am about the red meat thing - I have been known to eat a ham, cheese and tomato toasted sandwich if he is not looking. I'm also allergic to leeks and fennel and I don't really like rosemary or sundried tomatoes very much. And I won't eat prawns if I have to peel them (I just can't stand their wiggly little antennae and the way they look at you). Nor am I keen on anything with tentacles.

In most restaurants, this tends to thin out the menu somewhat. And the worse part is that I'm one of those hideous people who ALWAYS asks for something that is not on the menu. Handsomest reckons that when we go into a restaurant, a big red flashing light goes off in the kitchen and the chef walks out the door, refusing to work under these conditions.

Anyone for dinner on Saturday night?

Thursday, May 12, 2005

Oh God, I'm sooo ashamed.

Last night at Uni, some more members of the class gave their seminar presentations and Owen was one of the lucky volunteers. I can't remember what his topic was because I didn't understand a word of what he said. He was a bit nervous and was talking at a break neck speed. I asked him slow down a bit, which he did but then sped up again and became unintelligible. It didn't help that Georgia (he's from Georgia - that's not actually his name) and I got the giggles halfway through and embarrassed Owen further.

After class, we caught up with Owen on the way out and I copiously apologised for giggling like a five year old through his presentation. He said it was ok, he was trying to speak slower but he was very nervous. Apparently he was also trying to overcome a stutter that he gets during public speaking. Great. Now it looks like we were laughing at the stuttering guy. Luckily, Owen wasn't upset or offended and promptly hared off - probably for a medicinal whiskey at the student bar. I was so mortified that Georgia and I immediately collapsed in hysterics.

It wasn't that I actually was laughing at Owen, it was more the kind of laughing that happens when you are desperately trying not to laugh. I'm not really evil.

Wednesday, May 11, 2005

The Crazy Woman on Campus

Last year, when Venerable and I were doing the same Islam subject, there was this older woman (about 45) in our class who's name shall unspoken (but we shall call her Bernadette).

Last year, we all had to give individual class presentations on our essay topics as part of our assessment. Ven wrote his essay on homosexuality in Islam and it was a really great essay and seminar. At the end of his presentation, we all got the opportunity to ask questions and someone asked about safe sex and using condoms. So Bernadette pipes up with the comment that HIV/Aids is God's punishment for people being gay. Ok. I'm stunned. The lecturer is stunned. Everyone is sitting there gapeing at her, and for a split second, we are all speechless. So the lecturer asks her to qualify her statement - obviously hoping that we had misheard - but no, that's exactly what she meant. And she keeps talking along the same lines - absolute virulent crap.

Venerable just about leaps across the desk to strangle her, I'm giving Ven the evil eye (if he throttles her - he'll never graduate) hoping he'll stay put. Most of the class are talking at once trying to figure out where the hell this conversation strand has come from and if she is actually mad or just stupid. Finally, the lecturer ends the discussions and throws us all out before we come to blows with the moronic Bernadette.

After class, we repair to the cafe and bitch about Bernadette. I've got to go home, but Ven meets up with friends for dinner in the student union bar. They grab a table and Ven starts to tell them all about this mad woman in his class and her insane beliefs. There is much mirth and ridicule. After bitching long and (very) loud ( because Ven doesn't actually have a volume control), Ven gets up to buy another round of beers and notices Bernadette sitting (inconspiculously) at the table behind him.

Now Bernadette is in my Buddhism class and I have spent the entire semester to date, waiting for her to cut loose with her idiotic comments. So far, she hasn't said anything the least bit controversial. Has she learnt her lesson? Or is she just waiting for the final lecture?

Nick Cave - an Australian Living Legend - can we give him a medal or something?

Last night we went and saw Nick Cave and the Bad Seeds play. And it was fantastically good. He is incredible.

We had really good seats, about six rows back to Nick's right, and the place was pretty packed. Cat Power was the support act and she was a bit of a let down. Admittedly, I only recognised a couple of songs, but she has zero charisma. She played well enough, but scored as "really, really dull" on the trusty old "dull-o-meter". Plus she was wearing a pair of ankle-high pull on white leather boots that were exact replicas of a pair I owned at 13.

But as soon as Nick walked out the atmosphere went almost electric. He was fabulous in the extreme. They played heaps of old stuff as well as some of the new stuff. He also played Deanna (which is one of my favourites) in the first encore which was unexpected.

After the show finished, we got up to leave when Jay spotted a guy from his work sitting down the front. Jay and Becc-with-two-c's went to say hi and we then realised that he was sitting with a bunch of people with back-stage passes. Apparently this guy's daughter is dating Nick's son. Unfortunately that didn't score backstage passes for any of us.

Still, we had a fantastic time, saw a lot of people that we knew and sculled warm beer at intermission. You can't get better than that.

Saturday, May 07, 2005

Australian Book Review - May 2005

Every month I receive in the mail a little magazine called the Australian Book Review. This months issue has an interesting article in it about blogging by Richard Johnstone. There have been a plethora of articles lately about blogs (it must be the new slasher film) but I this article really interested me - on several different levels.

The bit that really stood out was Johnstone's observation that "Blogs, like home pages before them, are choc-a-bloc with favourite songs and films, as though taste were the key to the self".

And he's right. Taste is how we define ourselves in a blog. By listing our favourite books, movies, songs, hobbies, food we are effectively locating ourselves within a particular group. Our favourite things are how we orient ourselves - my favourite films include "Three Colours - white, blue and the other one", therefore, I am an intellectual. My favourite writer is Dostoyevsky, therefore I am an intellectual. My favourite music is some obscure dance music that you will never have heard of, therefore I am cool. My favourite singer is Britney Spears, therefore I am (well, you can fill the rest in).

This is all a bit of wank really - like some bizarre sociology experiment run rampant. We've become like kids in the playground "hey, my favourite colour is blue", "so's mine", "yay, let's be best friends". But how else can we define ourselves? Your 'very essence' isn't a transmutable thing. Do we need to define ourselves? Why would we care at all if a reader thinks we're dumb, strange or pointless.

Because no matter what our interests are, no matter what we choose to write about, none of it is really 'us' because we are still writing for an audience. Therefore we are choosing a persona to present to the world. We are choosing what we want to be, not what we are.

Wednesday, May 04, 2005

a long story without a point

My friend Nell, who looks remarakably like a fairy tale 'Snow White', told me a story which I'd like to tell you.

But first, a bit about Nell. I've known her for about five years and we first met when I started working for the government and we were seated within desks of each other. Initially, I was found Nell to be a bit intimidating - she always looked so professional and generally together. She always looked beautiful - absolutely immaculate hair, clothes, make up - and I usually look a bit like I got dressed while still asleep. But, when I got to know her better, we became fast friends. We would have lunch together every other day - go shopping or just read our books in the tea room. My nickname for her is Miss Priss - which is meant in the nicest possible way.

Anyway, because we worked in the city, Nell used to catch the bus to and from work every day which was about 20 minutes each way. When she's on the bus, Nell, like most people, doesn't generally like to chat to people. She just wants to sit on the bus and read whatever trashy book she is reading at the moment (sorry, Nell but they are trashy. Oh, come on, the Nanny Diaries is so trashy). But back to the story - so you can all picture Nell, with the whole Snow White thing going on (you can put vaseline on the lense if it would help), sitting there reading her book every morning and every evening.

One day after work, our Heroine, gets on the bus to discover that there are not empty seats except for the "vacate for the Elderley or Disabled" seat at the front (just behind the driver). so she sits down on this vacan seat and a few stops later, an elderley woman gets on the bus with all her shopping. Before the gracious Nell can vacate this seat for the "Elderley", the woman sits down next to her. this isn't the nice, grandmotherly type of old woman who smells like rose water and has a tarten shopping trolley. Oh no, this old woman is one of those slightly deranged looking old women who forage through rubbish bins and shares their sandwiches with pigeons. This is the kind of old woman who forgets to bathe every day and keeps her money under the mattress.

So there's Nell - squashed against the window with half of the old womans plastic shopping bags (filled with other, spare plastic shopping bags) on her lap. In fact these plastic bags are pressing against her Oroton handbag and her twenty dollar stockings. As if the mere physical presence isn't enough, the old woman turns around slightly and begins to engage Nell in idle chit chat.

"So dear, are you Jewish?" Ok, that really came out of nowhere.

"Uh, no, I'm actually Catholic".

"Ohhhh, you don't look Catholic", says the old woman, slightly dismayed. But the interrogation continues.

"Are you married dear? Did you get married in a Catholic Church? How long have you been married?" Is she sizing Nell up to be a potential adopted grand child? But no, she's just lonely and she begins to tell Nell about her life, her family and her interests. With a lot of ahh-ing and ohh-ing Nell manages to keep the idle chatter polite without having to contribute anything else.

As the bus nears her stop, Nell begins to think that she just might escape this unscathed. But no. "Ohhh, my back is terribly itchy dear, I don't suppose you could scratch it for me, could you dear?"

Oh God. Only 500 metres until the bus reaches her stop and Nell can escape the horror. But, of course, Nell scratches the old ladies back. Being a well brought up Catholic girl, what else could she do? "So I scratched her scungy old back until we reached my stop" (this is a direct quote).

When Nell told me this story, I was in hysterics at the imagery. The beautifuly Miss Priss trapped and then scratching the back of a complete stranger. Now I just feel uncomfortable that I found this story so funny. Clearly I am totally lacking in the empathy stakes as I failed to understand the depths of this woman's loneliness. See, no real point at all.