Saturday, September 30, 2006


Q: I want to become a role model for conservative men. How do I do it?

A: Ditch your fiancee and children and get down on bended knee to propose marriage to a famous pop-star.

Update: You'll slip somewhat in their estimation once word gets out about the fiancee and kids.

Op-Shop Book Corner

As the Twig is Bent by Terry Lane (Dove Communications, Melbourne 1979)

This book (ex Aquinas College, Ringwood) was actually a genuine find. In it, Lane presents interviews with sixteen prominent Australians about their childhood. One of them is the historian Manning Clark of whom Lane writes:

…Manning Clark has become an outspoken critic of Australian Society in his books, articles, speeches and broadcasts, expressing a profound pessimism about the future. The events of November 1975, ‘that year in which the money-changers and accountants – the men with a passion for interest rates as dionysiacal as the passion of some men for "other things" – were to have their terrible day of triumph’, have left him deeply disturbed. Because of his defence of the Whitlam government … there was a storm over his commission to broadcast the Boyer Lectures on the ABC in 1976. An attempt to censor the lectures before they were recorded was thwarted when it was made public.

Of course that sort of thing couldn’t happen in these comfortable and relaxed times. On to an excerpt from the interview – Clark’s gloomy concluding remarks:

Perhaps my childhood was always at my elbow, as it were, helping me to dream the dream that one day I might put down on paper the story of why we are as we are and why, wherever I am, whether in Moscow, London, New York or at Harvard, I know deep down where I belong and that Australia is always for me the ‘shire for men who understand’.

But it is also a place where many people seem to belong to a different world from mine. Some of them are provoked to great wrath by what I try to say. That too has been part of what Henry James called my ‘complex fate’. There is one side of me which believes all those shouters and mockers will gradually fade away, but another part tells me they are with me forever in Australia – that Australia belongs to them.

Some days I feel the same about the blogosphere. Others, I’m embarrassed to find myself counted among the shouters and mockers. That’s just part of my ‘complex fate’.

(Cross-Posted at Larvatus Prodeo)

Half a Leg

I was hanging around the street, a little way up from the entrance to the pub where I go for the trivia quiz on Thursday nights. It was one of the breaks between rounds so I’d slipped out for a smoke and a chance to think over a remark I’d made in conversation with a team-mate. I’d just discovered a belief that I didn’t know I had and it seemed to be a good time to start thinking over how to fit it in alongside the old ones and which of the old beliefs were going to need clearing out to accommodate it.

A friendly female voice called out to me "Are you OK there." I’m a sucker for friendly female voices. I replied "Yeah, sure," and tried to pick up my train of thought, but she wasn’t any of that.

"Just had to ask," she said, "Because I’m that sort of person – y’know, when I see someone who might be having a bit of trouble, I’ve got to do something, y’know?"

"Ah-hah." I said, and wandered away up the street a little, still pre-occupied with the new belief problem. She wasn’t having any of that either.

"Hey, don’t take yourself so seriously," she said, "It’s not worth it. I know about these things. See, I’ve got half a leg."

I was starting to regret lighting a second cigarette but I was also fascinated. It’s not every night you meet a drunkenly cheerful extrovert who’s a bit deficient in the leg department. She was blonde and not entirely unattractive as well so I was temporarily endeared to her.

She’d made it clear that, whether I liked it or not, we were going to have a conversation, so I put on my friendly face and moved a little closer. While I did, I took stock of her legs – one foot in a running shoe, the other in a white sock and a sandal with a velcroed strap. I made the count one and a half legs at least but, given what they can do with prosthetics these days, I wouldn’t be surprised if I overestimated by a whole leg.

"I mean, these people here with their trivia, they take it so seriously, y’know? They need to get a sense of perspective …"

I knew what she meant – since I was one of those people there for the trivia but I decided to keep quiet about that.

"… It’s not that important and I should know – I’ve got half a leg!"

"What is it with these people? Why do they take it so seriously?" she asked, "We were sitting at this table and someone asked me to stop copying her answers. So I told her it wasn’t that important – she needs to get a sense of perspective. Look, I said, it's not that important. I should know – I’ve got half a leg."

One and half legs, I corrected her silently. And as it happens I know someone – distantly – who’s only got one leg and a stump and she doesn’t carry on about it the way you do, as far as I know she doesn’t use it as an excuse to crib at trivia nights and maybe she’s smart enough to leave people alone when they want to be left alone too.

I didn’t say any of that, of course, because the last thing you want to do when you have a drunkenly cheerful, egocentric extrovert on your hands is turn them into a drunkenly angry, egocentric extrovert. I took another drag on my ciggie – the sooner I got it smoked down to a buttable length and got back inside, the better but I didn’t want to provoke any "Wazzamatta? My not good enough for ya" stuff either.

A young buck came out of the pub, walked round to the driver’s side of the car we were both standing beside and fished in his pocket.

"Oh shit!" He said, "I’ve left the keys in the car."

"No darl’ – you left them on the table inside."

"No, I’m pretty sure they’re in the car."

"I saw them on the table, I’m sure of it. Go back and have a look."

He complied – he obviously knew better than to contradict her too. I looked at my cigarette – nearly there. Close enough to risk an attempt to channel our mainly one-side conversation onto a less touchy topic than trivia buffs who take themselves too seriously because they’re over-leggy.

"Men, eh?" I quipped. Before she could respond, her buck came out of the pub again.

"No they’re not on the table." He said.

"Well where are they then?"

By now he’d reached the driver’s side of the car. He looked in the window.

"They’re in the car – I can see them on the driver’s seat."

It was a perfect chance for me to bugger off, before I got dragged in any deeper. I took it.

Friday, September 29, 2006


How can I tell if my cognitive functions are coming back on-line after a long down?

A good test is to make a cup of coffee. If you fill the kettle from the tap because it feels too light, then pour the water straight into the cup, you may still have a little way left to go.

Thursday, September 28, 2006

Simply Irresistible

The Oz lobs a banana peel onto the pavement of public debate ...

prat falls ...

and blames the fruiterer for selling the banana.

Pure Chaplin!

Tuesday, September 26, 2006

Word of the Day: Equanimity

We haven’t had one of these for a very long time, have we? According to Zeppo Bakunin’s old Concise Oxford, equanimity is:

Evenness of mind or temper; composure; resignation, acceptance of

It’s a mood that I’ve learnt to treasure, especially in times when gladness, joy and happiness have seemed hopelessly out of reach, thanks either to external circumstances or internal brain-chemistry. When equanimity is as good as it gets, you take it, not gladly of course but equably. With equanimity.
Sometimes I’m foolish enough to accept an inferior substitute – an afternoon of deluded hope perhaps, or the false equanimity of the writing mood, giving an account of that afternoon and subsequent events, distanced from them emotionally by the role of author. This false equanimity doesn’t last – when you’ve just sent off an E-mail asking someone to post a snarky comment on a blog, under your blog persona because your net connection isn’t working too well or you have an "Oh for crying out loud! Can’t you read!" attack at a comment on a recent post – the counterfeit becomes obvious.

An obvious counterfeit immediately loses its value. So I’m not exactly writing this in a mood of equanimity either. So I’m off to lie down and let the sadness and despair wash over me for a while until I’m comfortably numb again. Then maybe I’ll be able to tackle the topic of what "welfare dependency" looks like from the inside. Starting with the obsessive, but very necessary habit, of asking every time you see a potential exit from the maze, "Am I going to lose money by going this way?"

Postscript: in between writing the rest of this post and publishing (or re-publishing) it, I did the sensible thing and called a friend to invite myself over to her place. I got coffee, empathy, a sense of perspective reboot and a brand new hand me down wok. As soon as it’s cleaned up I plan to get in some serious pleasant activitity therapy involving chicken, vegetables, rice stick noodles and various condiments and spices.

Bonus Kitchen Tip: the Stanley 65-549 screwdriver is very handy for separating chicken thigh fillets that have frozen into a solid block.