Saturday, May 12, 2012
Cracks in the road. Wellington Road, Lindisfarne. April 2012.
This poem by James Wright really is one of my all-time favourites. I've waxed lyrical about this poem to quite a few people over the years, and more than a handful struggle to believe that the image of a frog destroyed by a car could ever be interpreted romantically. I assert that it is! [SPOILER ALERT] This is a poem about risk. Sometimes, just sometimes, the risk is worth it.
Small Frogs Killed On The Highway, James Wright
I would leap too
Into the light,
If I had the chance.
It is everything, the wet green stalk of the field
On the other side of the road.
They crouch there, too, faltering in terror
And take strange wing. Many
Of the dead never moved, but many
Of the dead are alive forever in the split second
Auto headlights more sudden
Than their drivers know.
The drivers burrow backward into dank pools
Where nothing begets
Across the road, tadpoles are dancing
On the quarter thumbnail
Of the moon. They can't see,
Friday, May 11, 2012
Even dead trees carry life. The Hastings Caves State Reserve, Southern Tasmania. April 2012.
Three quite different books finished this week, an eclectic mix very much more accident than design on my behalf.
The first is the latest from one of my favourite contemporary writers, This Is Life by Dan Rhodes. A complicated and convoluted novel that interweaves the story of a young art student, a (seemingly) abandoned baby, a women so beautiful that all of her ex-boyfriends (and their mothers) tend to kill themselves or stalk her, the upstanding proprietor of Paris’ last genuine cinéma érotique (who has a particular fondness for sophisticated ‘girl-on-girl’ films and a lesbian daughter), a pair of Japanese tourists and their hapless translator, the world’s most acerbic art critic and perhaps the novel's finest creation, the mysterious performance artist Le Machine whose global smash-hit production Life has returned to his home town of Paris.
Rhodes's novels have always tended on the blackly comic sides of life, so it’s interesting to see that This Is Life is anything but a tragedy. This is actually an uplifting book about love and if you have the read the eviscerating short story collection Don't Tell Me the Truth about Love, yes I am pretty sure that this book is by the same Dan Rhodes.
This isn’t the perfect novel by any stretch. If I were the editor, I would have pruned a good hundred pages here and not damaged book. I’m primarily thinking of the sections that amount to little more than a dig at (now-former) President Sarkozy, Carla Bruni and Lady Gaga, and the asides that are in jokes and allusions to earlier books. However, it remains a really good book.
The macabre atmosphere of Rhodes’ earlier books has not been abandoned, and the wide cast of colourful, idiosyncratic characters benefits from an author that has chosen to be generous and forgiving to them (much more so than earlier works).
I very much enjoyed the evisceration of much of the modern art world. The proliferation of wanky conceptual ideas – “recontextualising found objects", "appropriating the now", "subverting the zeitgeist” – at the expense of “doing something really good and beautiful” annoys and frustrates me as much as it does the author, and for alone this is a worthwhile read.
Ultimately, this is an uplifting tale with plenty of positive messages and an (inevitably) happy ending. Highly recommended.
Second up is a classic, The Big Sleep, a hardboiled crime noir from 1939 by Raymond Chandler. I suspect that more people are familiar with one of the film adaptions than they are the novel, but would recommend people give this one a look. The story is a complex one, packed with a cast of characters constantly double-crossing each one another as the central character ¬– private eye Phillip Marlowe – with a host of dark secrets exposed throughout the narrative.
I won’t spoil it if you don’t already know it, but I do have to reflect on the irony of the central (opening) plot device of the book, that of the damage that can be wrought by the existence of a single nude photograph of a wealthy (but dim) young heiress. Ultimately, this leads to the death of multiple people and thousands of dollars exchange hands to keep the photo from coming to light. These days, ‘leaked’ dirty videos seem the standard course to reality TV ‘stardom’. Highly recommended.
Last up is On Bullshit an essay by philosopher Harry Frankfurt published in book form. The premise of the essay is an attempt to define a theory of bullshit, defining the concept and analysing its applications. Ultimately, bullshit can be true or false but bullshitters seem to primarily aim to impress and persuade an audience, and in general are unconcerned with the truth or falsehood of their statements. I agree with the author that although the bullshitter is faking things, this does not necessarily mean he is wrong about them.
This is an interesting read to anyone that has to work in a climate of bullshit (that would be most of us), and will probably resonate with most readers. Recommended for those interested.
Thursday, May 10, 2012
Theme Thursday and I still haven't posted?
Hekmatyar's? Gulbuddin Hekmatyar???
For crying out loud, NEIGHBOURS!!!
I don't know why I am, just that some days I am.
Wednesday, May 09, 2012
Tuesday, May 08, 2012
Children are remarkable for their intelligence and ardor, for their curiosity, their intolerance of shams, the clarity and ruthlessness of their vision.
Hen and Jen exit the bunker to inspect Ezra's handiwork in refitting and refurbishing the big guns and lining the sights etc etc...
This week's Tuesday Q and A is a little different this week. In a shocking turn of events, I have not resorted to stealing the questions from Sunday Stealing! Instead, long-time lurker and erstwhile commentator Dr. Hallam volunteered this motley (but challenging) set of queries for me to tackle. As ever, if this kind of thing is your bag, I'm happy to tackle any such examinations! Just let me know in the comments or send me an e-mail.
To the questions!
1. What do you think your children will be like when they are 30? How will they be different from each other?
It is very difficult to guess what they'll be like in quarter of a century. There are just too many variables to factor in. I expect that they will continue to be different though. Ezra has the sharper temper and a far more ruthless (and daring) streak to him. Henry is a little more sensitive a seems to require more external validation. One imagines that this will set them on slightly divergent courses. As to what else, who knows? All that I really hope is that they embrace lifelong learning, remember that they are not the centre of the universe and try to be halfway decent people.
2. You win 50 million dollars. Do you tell anyone apart from your family? Do you give any away?
I see no need to tell anyone. (Lots of) money seems to attract as many problems as solutions (so I'm told). I'm sure that I'd give some share of it away, although I have a natural conservatism in that kind of thing. I'm not inclined to give money for someone else to fritter away. I'd be demanding a decent business plan.
3. If you had a female child, would you raise her any differently to your boys?
Not drastically so. Any differences would be about personality more than gender, although one imagines the two are related.
4. How would you try to ensure that your female child did not consider feminism to be a dirty word? Is this primarily a mother’s job?
Feminism isn't a dirty word. I couldn't imagine even countenancing the concept. It just is. Just like it is with my boys, I would imagine that any discussion of feminism is simply about framing it as sound common sense justly applied. Any excesses around the edges - i.e. the S.C.U.M. Manifesto etc - (as with any concept) are just that, excesses.
5. Any tips on how to cope when the kids are being purposefully naughty and you’re tired and little left in the tank to deal with it?
If we are talking past dark, move bed-time forward a bit, give them a stern talking to and grit your teeth and aim for the immediate goal. This too will pass.
6. Should cannabis use be legalised and then regulated in Australia, like tobacco or alcohol?
Given the hopeless mess we have made of 'regulated' alcohol and tobacco, and the incredible cost they have on the Australian community, I'm always bemused by the notion that they should be held up as a model for cannabis. I'm more a 'decriminalise' person than a 'legalise' it, and I'd feel a bit of a fraud advocating that the punter should be sold one drug when I've spent a good few years advocating the curtailment of a bunch of others. Just be clear, this has nothing to do with a moral judgement, more a look at the health economics and societal effect.
7. Have you ever been depressed?
I have had my ups and downs. I'm not sure that I've ever had anything clinical though. You're not human if you've never felt depressed in your life though.
8. If you were paid to give Julia Gillard some advice today, what would it be?
Don't let the bastards get you down.
9. Ever made a good apple pie?
I make a halfway decent apple pie, but and even better apple and rhubarb one...
10. Is self-loathing, to any extent, a driver of misanthropy?
I don't think so, but one can over generalise. Plato reckoned that misanthropy was all about thwarted expectations, and there might be some truth to that. The concept of self-projection is more akin to Satre, which is typical French self-absorption really. I suspect that the road to hating one's species has many paths.
11. Ever ridden a skateboard?
Many, many years ago. A silly past-time, in my opinion. Given that you can't ride the bugger on sand and grass, at some point you are going to learn that concrete is very unforgiving!
12. With no limitations on affordability or practicality- describe your perfect house.
Spacious. Space space and more space. Big rooms. Massive central living area. Fitted-out kitchen with all mod cons right next to main living space. Many quiet corners. A sound proof library. A heated pool (25 x 10 metres 2 metres deep) with retractable roof. Finnish sauna. Lots of massive windows with sun-lights. By the beach. Nice yard. A good size with manicured native shrubbery. Tended by someone unseen. Always just the right temperature. Great big beds. Wireless super-fast broadband. Shit-hot A/V system all connected to a central mainframe.
13. As far as colours go, does red or grey please you more?
I like shades of most colours. 'grey' and 'red' are a bit hard to generalise about though. I like 'battleship grey' and 'rich carmine' equally.
14. What do you think will cause the eventual demise of the human race? External forces- such as alien invasion, giant sharks from Venus or asteroid? Or is it more likely to be self-inflicted, such as war, environmental disaster or person-made virus?
We will end in the same way as most things do. In the past 540 (or so) million years, there have been five major events when over fifty per cent of species died. Odds are it will have something to do with a reduction of surface sunlight that hinders photosynthesis. Most likely, it will involve an asteroid or volcano. If we hang around long enough, global cooling will do is in more certainly than warming. A gamma ray burst from a supernova could do us in, so you’d never rule that out either.
15. If a musical (obviously done by an alien somewhere in some other time) were to be made of this event- what would you call it?
Prelude To Another Beginning.
16. How much to make love with Morrissey? Come on, be honest now.
He’s getting on a bit. I’m sure that we could come to a satisfactory arrangement somewhere around the $20k mark.
17. George Michael or Andrew Ridgeley?
’86 George by a good few furlongs. A quick glance through Google Images tells me that even though George looks decidedly un-human these days, Andrew looks just plain sad with that bald head of his.
18. How much to take George Michael (current) in a toilet block?
Depends what he wants. I’m sure that we could find a price.
19. If you had to choose a religion to follow which one would you pick?
As a modern man of science, I’d have to trump up for a cop out answer like ‘Socialism’. Religions as a rule are pretty naff without the ‘faith’ part. I’ve never managed to procure/ fake ‘faith’.
20. What does tomorrow bring?
Unfortunately, more work.
Monday, May 07, 2012
It's my birthday and I'll cry if I want to. Howrah Beach. March 2012.
Normally I would be at work and you'd already have seen a Compendium of Click-throughs for Monday Morning, but I didn't today.
Instead, I had a very pleasant morning strolling to school with Henry, and then promenade around the waterfront with Ezra and Jen.
A very nice way to spend your birthday!
Sunday, May 06, 2012
Ezra impersonates Clint Eastwood. Mount Wellington, Hobart. April 2012.
I figure that for today's Sunday Top Five we may as well try and be useful. Today I present to you My Top Five Quick And Easy Tips To [Hopefully} Take Better Photographs!
As with any list of 'rules', they are flexible. Every camera is different and flash ranges and focus depths will vary. Muck about with your camera. Take the same shot a dozen ways and see what you have. Shoot with the flash when you normally wouldn't, without a flash when you would. Get in close and get down low. All of this will allow you to get to know your camera's strengths and limitations and [hopefully] you'll soon be able to judge any given shot intuitively.