Friday, May 29, 2009

Where have all the monologues gone?

I have had a sudden attack of nostalgia for the monologue this afternoon on my way home from work. I seem to remember in the 1990s the monologue was the thing, the one and only thing, to be listening to and watching. For all I know, of course, the good people of the world are monologuing merrily and plentifully, but alas I do not get out much.

So in the 1990s, when I did get out much, I did like a bit of fine monologue action. Stand out moment of live monologue for me, of course, is William Yang's Sadness. Words and pictures, brilliant. Despite only ever hearing one voice, Yang's Sadness is a conversation, a party, a dream but punctuated with moments of solitude, loneliness and tearing grief. The piece, in my memory, is watched over by the twin ghosts of Yang's mother and Patrick White, watching and waiting to see what the outcome would be.

I also remember vivid moments of Penny Arcade at the Melbourne Comedy Festival, which was the wrong place because her work was as far from stand-up comedy as it is possible to be while standing up in front of a crowd of people and frequently making them laugh. Penny Arcade was not on stage alone. She was accompanied by burlesque dancers. There was a lot of flesh on display. But when she finally shed her own clothes and stood naked in front of the audience there was no sense of titillation; I just wanted to hear more, to hear more stories, more about her, to understand more about the kind of person she was and what she wanted to say. I was attached, compelled and distressed to think that the stories would have to come to an end.

There were monologue movies as well - Spaulding Gray's Monster in a Box stuck in my mind more for the look on his face when he tried to front up to the book on the table than any of his words. And Sandra Bernhard singing and mugging, but still managing to convince me that I wanted to know more, more, more.

Wednesday, May 27, 2009


I was going to blog something about Sol Trujillo. But I didn't have to because the adjectives over at Sorrow at Sills Bend are ninety gazillion times better than the ones I could have come up with.

Saturday, May 23, 2009

In which a columnist's unexamined assumptions are mildly irritating.

Michael Coulter of The Age writing about the difference between student poverty and 'real' poverty.

He assumes that all students are young, and have parents who are willing or able to offer them extra financial support. He assumes that working 15 to 20 hours a week has no impact on the student's ability to study. He assumes that students have no other dependants. He assumes that no one struggling in poverty at university will be so stressed, underachieving and anxious that they will drop out because they are so, so tired. He assumes that none of these students are suffering constant illness because of their lack of nutritious diet and lack of warm, safe shelter.

He assumes that students never have unexpected costs or medical emergencies that put additional pressure on their studies and their incomes. He assumes that their families are not struggling in poverty themselves.

If he'd made an argument that income support should be increased for students who desperately need it, while somehow distinguishing from those who don't I might have a little more sympathy. But I've seen enough students struggle so hard because of their financial situations that they end up dropping out and so lose that opportunity to earn more that Coulter thinks makes up for a few years of unsafe housing, poor nutrition and lack of participating in the community.

I do understand his point, and it's not so much that I think he's wrong, that he misunderstands the problems that some students face because of their poverty. Assuming that there is no such thing as real poverty among students is just one more barrier raised in front of people already struggling to get an education.

Friday, May 22, 2009

In which I find myself rather concerned

about the new haircut of the young fellow in Silent Witness.

Wednesday, May 20, 2009

In which I am grumpy

Partly because I finished The Children's Book this afternoon on the way home from work. Although I should be quite pleased, because it lasted until the stop before mine which was excellent timing.

So now I am thinking about parenting and sentimentality and expectations and the things we steal from each other whether its deliberate or not. By which I mean our attitudes and beliefs and hopes and dreams rather than bar mats.

When I was a lassie, perhaps just starting high school, my dearly loved Dad said to me that it was lucky that people like him and me did not want to become singers and go on television talent shows and embarrass ourselves by singing badly in front of other people. Despite a lifetime of casual insults from other people, and many other oddly hurtful remarks from those who love me, that one sticks in my mind as a terrible moment of pain as well as disillusion. I can laugh at myself now, but it's only a very recent thing. For years and years it has hurt whenever it has come back into my mind. Partly because I do so love to sing, and it pains me that my singing pains other people instead of giving them the same pleasure that it gives me.

If I was AS Byatt I would take this feeling and do a bit or a lot of research and write a sharp novella or a 600 page dragging-you-down-into-the-sea novel about it all.

But since it's me I won't.

And maybe I can't quite forgive AS Byatt today, but I'm sure I'll be back on the horse again tomorrow.

Wednesday, May 13, 2009

Wonder junkies, by Angela Slatter

What six impossible things would you like to believe in before breakfast?

A learned think about writing, and stuff like that.

Tuesday, May 12, 2009

Book requests

Some customers have trouble remembering the right name of the book they want. Care of Emily at Riverbend. Thanks Emily.

My favourite book request was from campus bookselling - the customer would turn up and say, you know, it's a computer book and it's red.

Every single computer book we had was red, because that was the colour of the publisher's computer book bindings. All of them. Hundreds of the damn things, all exactly the same - bright red, white stripe and white title.

You'd be amazed how many students would just grab the nearest one and buy it, against all advice, begging and screeching as they walked out of the shop. An alarming amount of them never never did come back again. I guess those students didn't get jobs at microsoft.

Jiggety jog

Some extremely tired people have made it home to the heart of the nation. Extremely tired because we had so much fun that we couldn't quite bring ourselves to stop having fun. Also, I think we were worried that if we stopped being busy we might notice too much that we were missing the husband who stayed at home to be the responsible parent.

But everywhere the Noodle and I went the hospitality, friendliness and joy were laid on. Down at the Rosebud pier we saw a little penguin swimming about rubbernecking, a sting ray (very badly camouflaged on the sandy bottom but would've been invisible in weed), many seagulls and two birds that I intend to believe were albatrosses. They had curved bright yellow beaks with reddish tips, they were big, they were in the ocean and they chatted to each other by saying 'yerp yerp yerp yerp'. I liked them immensely, whatever they were. Monster ships also obligingly took themselves along the channel for our entertainment, and on the beach we found all kinds of shells and the Noodle essayed paddling even though it was *ahem* coolish. And did I mention the penguin?

While down on the peninsula we also ate ourselves senseless thanks to an outstanding Thai restaurant in Macrae. Across the road from a realio trulio lighthouse. The lighthouse looked like it should be bolted on a rock somewhere in the north sea rather than in the middle of a genteel beach resort, so it was a great aid to imagination. I think the restaurant might, in fact, be called 'The Lighthouse Cafe' if you find yourselves in those parts. Heartily recommend the rockling and the duck salad.

On other days we tootled down to Sorrento and up to Arthur's Seat and played in the mazes which was amazing!!! Geddit? I drove all the way to Sorrento without nearly killing anyone, and then drove to Red Hill and nearly killed us all - I am most grateful to the other drivers with good reflexes and a kindly attitude. Yah boo sucks to Give Way signs. I vote for Stop signs for all intersections.

We met some fellows on the train between Frankston and town, one an aged Carlton supporter, and one a much-less-aged Saints fan. Both were against Monday night football, which conversation entertained us mightily all the way, with brief looking-out-the-window breaks for unfamiliar suburbs. For a girl from the outer-east training in from Frankston was quite the adventure.

In town the Noodle and I visited Haigs and the counter person gave the Noodle a very generous sample bag. Which he very generously shared with his old and shamelessly grasping mother. Yum.

Finished up with a day at the museum and a night visiting the nearly-newly-weds in Brunswick. It was a pleasure to see them in their natural environment being all productive and charming and entertaining. And ate even more tasty food.

Deep inside is an awareness of how unfair it was that the husband had to stay home and missed out on all the fun, but it's buried beneath layers of toasted sandwiches, chocolate and cherry cake, cherry flummery and cauliflower and parsnip soup. No one would want to excavate through all that, now, would they?

We did bring him home some chocolates from Haigs, though. That must count for something.

Wednesday, May 6, 2009

A few days off


The Noodle and I are traversing south to visit my aunty. I am hoping that my work will miraculously finish itself in my absence. This is unlikely, and will give rise to false expectations. But I can't help wishing it nonetheless.

The husband is remaining in the heart of the nation to ensure that young people can fulfil their desire to become writers of short stories, and to supply books to those residents of the heart of the nation who cannot live through the weekend without new novel or insightful political tract.

Presumably everyone else will be going about their business. Good show, everyone else.

Sunday, May 3, 2009

In which Bram Stoker makes life more difficult than it actually needs to be

So last week on school library day the kid comes home with a new library book. Which is a good start to the story because sometimes the whole library process seems a bit daunting to the kid. Despite the general love of books and niceness of school librarians.

So the kid gets the book out of the library bag and it looks like your standard DK kind of non-fiction jobby with the pictures and the white space and the big words on the front. And the big word says 'Dracula' and the picture is of a pale green guy with a moustache that is weirdly like fangs, or fangs that are weirdly like a moustache. One or the other.

And I'm thinking to myself, 'hmm, this is so not a good idea'. And also, 'I guess this'll be a test of my no-censorship approach to parenting'. And I'm also thinking, 'how can I get it away from him without him noticing, so it's not a big deal, and also Not Censorship, because then he'll just forget about it until library day and that'll be just avoidance, which is a perfectly fine approach to parenting'. And I think a bit more, but then I forget all about it because (as the whole Aslan thing shows) I am a bad mama when it comes to scary things in books.

So he read it, and he didn't complain about it being scary or ask any questions or talk about it at all and I thought to myself 'what a weird little fellow, he's frightened of the incredibly badly written hags in The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe, but Dracula doesn't bother him. Heh.'

And then we fast forward a few days. In which we have nice times with Nana, visit some art galleries, eat a lot of dead cow and dead sheep, plus a few dead squids and also buy some cheese.

And then tonight, as it starts to get dark, things just become a little bit more difficult. Tears about a cat that died when the kid was but a babe in arms, tears about Nana's dogs who died of old age, tears about the death of the oldest person in the world. Followed by a quiet comment, 'I'm a bit afraid of the dark, actually'.


Mr Dracula has been banished from the bedroom and will be returned to the school library immediately. The kid has now issued instructions for me to advise him on the scariness of library books so that he can decide not to read them if they are likely to be more scary than Dracula (so long as I don't describe the scariness in scary ways). I explained to the kid that he is highly unlikely to find a book more scary than Dracula, even in the abridged and apparently child-friendly version from the school library.

The kid and I now have a mutual respect for Mr Stoker's ability to scare the socks off people for more than one hundred years. We decided that Mr Stoker would be well chuffed at this result. The kid also figures out that Mr Stoker would be more than 140 years old, which is clearly bothering the kid, what with the whole undead thing and such.

Coincidentally, I am also scared that one of the husband's characters, who may or may not be the narrator or indeed even the author of one of his short stories, is sneaking up behind me even as we speak, and not being as fictional as he damn well should be. Which is a problem because the husband (who is really the author) isn't home for another half an hour, and I'm afraid he'll give me a fright when he comes in.

The Noodle is asleep with the covers over his head. I am going to sit at the kitchen table and watch the back door.

You all have a lovely evening.

Saturday, May 2, 2009


There are shops and cafes in Braddon! Who knew?