Friday, March 30, 2007

Highway Child

While you’re here, head on over to No Commercial Potential, a fine weblog which may even belong to a fellow Australian (g'day there), scroll down a bit, and download the Oxford Union Speech delivered by Gerald, er, Gerard, Hoffnung, an extraordinary piece of oration, timeless in both content and delivery, which I was only once previously exposed to, some twenty or so years ago.

There I was, back at the farm, where I had spent the weekend in order to get away from college food for a couple of days, killing time on Sunday afternoon before catching the bus back to Melbourne, when there came a knock at the front door. At Fish Creek, nobody ever knocked on the front door. There on the doorstep stood Doctor Jim, whom we have previously mentioned in these pages, and the now missing-presumed-reclusive Michael Clark. They had spent the weekend at or in the vicinity of Wilson’s Promontory, and had kindly detoured on their way home to see if they could give me a lift back to the city.

Of course they could! The bus trip from Leongatha to Melbourne was always a dispiriting affair. If you weren’t covered in cigarette smoke (not all nostalgia, you see, is rose-coloured), you found yourself sitting next to somebody who knew somebody who knew you, and who wanted to talk about their personal problems for two hours when all you wanted to do was absorb yourself in “Midnight’s Children”, or “The Name of the Rose”, or “The Dispossessed”. Then, when the bus pulled into Spencer Street Station, after dark on a Sunday evening, the city was a desolate wasteland. This may seem hard for today’s young city-apartment dwellers to understand, but as recently as the mid-1980s Melbourne’s central city was almost entirely devoid of people from 1pm Saturday, when the shops shut, until Monday morning. The only signs of humanity on a Sunday night were fellow travellers returning to Melbourne after a weekend with the folks in the country; the permanently drunk; the presumably up-to-no-good; the mentally infirm and/or homeless. This made waiting for one of the infrequent connecting trams all the more depressing, and often caused one to choose to walk the lonely mile to one’s University digs.

So, this once, I was spared from that ordeal. Instead, an entertaining drive back to Melbourne ensued, featuring Hoffnung’s very silly “lecture”. I don’t know how many times we listened to it in that 90-minute journey, but it was certainly enough that, on my reacquaintance with it however many years later, it feels like being reunited with a long-lost, and much missed, friend.

Friday, March 23, 2007

Errant apostrophe of the week

Or month. Or century.

There it sits, prominently, at the foot of page two of this week's Sydney Morning Herald TV Guide, waiting to be seen by many, in striking, large, white-on-black letters, using a very attractive sans serif font. In an ad for some kind of navigation system. It says

Overtake the Jones'

Just like that. It has taken me a few days to determine whether, in my state of flabbergastedness, I was overlooking some kind of elaborate joke or pun. But no. It is, I am sure, wrong in every possible way.

Whichever advertising agency was involved (it looks too professional to be in-house) obviously wasn't able to use the navigation system concerned to find their way through the wild and tangled woods of the common apostrophe.

Monday, March 19, 2007

Pour Down Like Silver

Current listening

All eight discs of the complete Miles Davis live at the Plugged Nickel, 1965. They make it seem all so easy, you can be fooled into thinking that you could do it.

Various live recordings of Richard Thompson, legitimate and otherwise.

Second albums: “Portishead” by Portishead (about which, if work ever gives me a chance to do some writing of my own, more soon); “Secondhand Daylight” by Magazine (I was such a big big fan of that band; missed them by a year when they toured Australia, but then “Play” was released, easing the pain a little; could never understand the Roxy Music comparisons that seemed to permeate the English weeklies - I necessarily came late to Roxy (first album came out when I was eight years old - although my crazy Melbourne cousins had copies of “Siren” and “Country Life”, the covers of which were of some interest), and couldn’t be at all objective re Magazine, but could they not see beyond the fact that both bands had someone who could play the sax?); “Heaven Up Here” by Echo & the Bunnymen.

“The Wonderful and Frightening World of The Fall” by The Fall, which I had always relegated to the “second-rate Fall” category on account of its being swamped by the twin peaks of “This Nation’s Saving Grace” and “Bend-Sinister”. I now realise I made a big mistake, and have some catching up to do. There are passages that can only be describe as "beautiful". Who'da thunk it?


I spent today at work notwithstanding it was a public holiday in Canberra, so I took the boys in with me, one at a time, to provide some respite on the home front. Julius and I had a brief wander over to the National Gallery. He is fascinated by the Sidney Nolan series of “Ned Kelly” paintings upstairs. When we got back to my office he sat down and drew his own, very convincing, Ned Kelly picture using various shades of highlighter pen. He asked one of Justice Kirby’s associates to give it to the judge. Justice Kirby is known to the boys only as “Kirby”, as this is also the name of a Nintendo character. I wonder what kind of mental picture Jules has of the judge.


If anybody has an MP3 or equivalent of “Coward of the County” as rended (sic) by Alvin and the Chipmunks, you will find our email address on the right-hand side of this page.

Sunday, March 04, 2007

How To Do It

1. Do not tear this package.

2. Find the object. Break the small water-bag inside the package which will be full of air immediately. Drop the bag beside the object.

3. When the bag pop and air.

4. Eating prohibited.

The above being the instructions printed on the packaging of a mature and sophisticated "novelty" item, the Fart Bag ("BOOM"), which the boys brought home from a recent birthday party (thanks Lyn, thanks Rob).

Instruction 2 takes on added significance when the user realises that he has no idea what is the "object" referred to. I can read instruction 3 over and over with no diminution of pleasure. When the bag pop and air. That about says it all, really.